In response to the community’s need for locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables, the Philipsburg Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church grasped the opportunity to launch a kitchen garden-planter box ministry. An active 2017 hurricane season damaged plants and crops and dampened the enthusiasm of farmers and gardeners – thus, the Health and Youth Ministries Departments of the congregation collaborated to stimulate more community interest in healthy eating and living (as promoted by the SDA Church.)

During the launch on Sabbath, May 19, 2018, Pastor Vashni Cuvalay, Coordinator of the SDA work on St. Maarten and pastor of the congregation, remarked: “We regard this as a health ministry. Everything is natural and God-given. We call it God’s diet plan.” The team leading the ministry is intentionally seeking to help the community re-establish an interest in eating what families can grow. One team member, Sherryl Carty, elaborated, “For many Seventh-day Adventists, healthy eating is a part of their faith. We believe in health promotion and [the Word of God], Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2, AKJV)

The Church’s Health Ministries Leader and Director of the community ministry, Sister Jacky Barry commented: “This initiative is geared toward stimulating the members and visitors to growing your own kitchen garden regardless of the size. Growing your own food has many health benefits: It helps you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. . . Vegetables that ripen in the garden have more nutrients than some store-bought vegetables that must be picked early. Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food and make better choices about what you put on your plate.”

Components of the tri-part ministry included the Kitchen Garden Project, Come Grow with Me, and Build Your Own Planter Box. The Kitchen Garden Project segment offered each attending family a gift bag which held a cup of soil with a seed. Families were asked to nurture the seed and regularly report its growth progress to the team.

For the Come Grow with Me component, the Departments teamed with two (2) local, small farmers of the church for an informative presentation on how garden-grown crops benefit the human body. One presenter, Elder Alphaeus Tatem, asked attendees to identify several seeds and commented on their extensive knowledge: “Many of our church members are expert gardeners who produce bumper crops each year and can provide great gardening tips for those of us who are novice gardeners.”

The sunset, outdoor segment, Build Your Own Planter Box, was courtesy of a partnership with one of the leading hardware stores on St. Maarten, Kooyman, which provided free lumber, nails and hammers on-loan. The opportunity was given to 75 families to build and sand their own planter boxes. Sixty six (66) boxes were prepared and completed with the available soil and seedlings. Dr. Ruth Douglass, who attends the Cole Bay SDA Church, elaborated on this segment: “The planter box gardening project is the perfect way for people to grow their own food, ensuring the produce is rich with nutrients. The gardens can grow on roofs, balconies or patios and take up 20% less space than a conventional row garden.”

Since the SDA Church was founded in 1863, the majority of Adventists have sought to adhere to its lifestyle-enhancing guidelines which promote a healthy and fulfilled existence. These guidelines encourage members to worship God, serve fellow human beings, care for their bodies and protect the environment. Local ministry leaders anticipate that this ministry initiative will contribute to the harmonious relationship between the St. Maarten community and the SDA Church.

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