Community Service Yields Vegetables and Friendship
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
In the shadows of the Kirtland Temple, missionaries serving in the Ohio Cleveland Mission put on their yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts on April 27 to work with leaders of the Community of Christ to clean and construct 50 raised garden boxes for use by the community over the summer.
What was meant to be a way to serve in the community turned out to be a wonderful harvest of produce—and friendships—that grew and developed over the summer and into the fall.
“The people who worked in the garden had great experiences—both the senior couples and the young missionaries,” said Elder Robert E. Sorenson, director of the sites and Historic Kirtland Visitors’ Center. “It is to help provide for the members of the community who are in need.”
In the spring, eight young elders worked together to build a garden shed, while 16 sister missionaries helped to build an enclosing fence, cleared and leveled the site, and filled the garden boxes with soil in preparation for planting. Vegetables were planted, and over the summer the garden produced beans, carrots, beets, and corn.
Although the spring and summer months are a busy time for missionaries as they guide thousands of visitors through the Church’s sites, an important part of their work as missionaries is done through serving and building relationships with the community.
“The experience working hand in hand with Community of Christ leaders and our fellow missionaries in such a worthy project was one that we will remember,” said Elder Merlynn Jones, who is serving as a missionary at the Historic Kirtland Visitors’ Center. “We were very pleased when told that the harvest of the garden would be given to those in need in our community.”
For the missionaries, it is an opportunity to provide service like many of the early Church members, such as Newel K. and Ann Whitney, who helped those who were gathering to Kirtland in the 1830s.
“Just as the Whitneys did a feast for the poor, we had a combined effort with [the Community of Christ] and provided a garden for people in need,” Elder Sorenson said.
Helping create the garden was more than a way to help the community; it was an opportunity to work together with the Community of Christ—a partner with the Church in providing spiritual experiences to visitors in such a rich area of Church history.