Just the People in the Neighborhood, Part 1

Johnnie Mae Farm, Fort Wayne, Indiana

I realized something important on Monday. Sometimes what goes on is just the people in the neighborhood helping out one another. Colorless. Selfless. And precious. Here’s what happened.

Interviewing our local extension educator is always a mix of spontaneous fun, fascinating information about the topic at hand, and stories that reflect her love for the people she is positioned to serve. Such was my experience once again as I toured an urban farm on the southeast side of our relatively small town.

The deeper into the neighborhood I traveled, the more I felt conspicuous. A lady driving alone in a shiny bright pick-up truck is tough to miss on a hot, sunny afternoon! Well maybe not in Indiana farm country but this was south of the tracks in the roughest zip code in our town of about 300,000. Nonetheless, I was there to learn more about a non-traditional farm that serves the residents of what is called a food desert: an area where it is difficult to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

Johnny Mae Farm provides just that alongside members of the surrounding neighborhood, in addition to food and nutrition classes in the renovated former Firehouse #9. The building is adorable and the 3/4 acre farm area behind it was constructed with everything that is needed to produce hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each growing season. The hoop house employs the latest and some experimental farming techniques including raised beds, container gardening, and ground-level drip irrigation systems. Outside is where you will find dozens of mounded beds arranged in long rows to minimize contamination from the soils underneath laden with by heavy metals. Three homes in this neighborhood were purchased then demolished to create the farming area, divided from the firehouse/education center by an alley road of hard-packed gravel. Homes surround the farm in addition to a boarded up VFW hall across the street that is as old as dirt. (Well at least the sign out front was anyhow!)

I learned a lot that afternoon. I have come a long way in my knowledge of vegetable gardening since moving to Indiana and becoming a Master Gardener. But it takes actually growing things in your own space and learning from the locals to really get any production above a few salads and meals. This farm is wildly successful, even with alkaline soils recently discovered in those mounded rows (and to be amended in the fall); all of this is because of the organic farming experience and horticulture knowledge of our Extension Educator, Terri. Three Sisters plantings of corn, beans, and squash. Yes they have them. Companion planting? Well done I must say. Native flower pockets along the fence to attract pollinators. Check! And so much more. I left not only with enough information for at least 4 articles in the Master Gardener monthly newsletter (Across the Fence) but tips I could immediately put to use in our own veggie gardens. Cool beans I say, literally.

The real education came as I was leaving. And that will lend itself to Part 2 of this story. It’s going to get real personal from here . . .

3/4 Acre Johnnie Mae Farm consists of a Hoop House and dozens of mounded beds that produce hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each season.

The Waiter Went the Other Way

So we thought we’d have a little meal delivered

Just the hubby-n-me tonight, no special reason

Placed the order with the coupon of the month

And settled into the night with tummies a grumblin.’

We took care of a little of this and that

Caught up on the news of the day

He has a canoe race tomorrow, me a treatment

Both will go forward on a rainy Saturday.

Surely the restaurant

Was busy or somethin’

As the hours wore on

We hoped we were not forgotten.

But abandoned we were

And the manager had no order

The delivery service never came

And no one got to bother our dog.

Soooooo,

Unfrozen brats and canned green beans

A little granola, some almonds oh yeah

Just add a pat o’ Irish butter dear lad

To fill the bellies ‘fore bed a wee bit unhappy.

The Waiter did not make his Way

To our doorstep this night as hoped

The dog will just have to scare another soul

Or munch the bonus treat they’ll need to bring tomorrow.

And there he was

Dr. David Jeremiah, life beyond amazing, tour, Fort Wayne, coliseum, event, Christian, Blackhawk Church, believer, inspiration

My husband, Steve, and I recently attended Dr. David Jeremiah’s A Life Beyond Amazing event in our town.  I enjoyed Dr. Jeremiah’s presentations:  first to get acquainted with his family life then his message on enduring life’s challenges as unto the Lord.  However I must say that the fundraising prayer by one of his staff was tacky!  The music was loud, motivating, and moving.  Overall I must say that it felt good to be worshiping and learning in the company of fellow believers in Jesus Christ again.

I really wanted to meet Dr. Jeremiah after the event.  No problemmo as just one of about 10,000 people in attendance, right?  Very carefully we made our way to show center from the nosebleed section of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.  My balance was a bit off from the sensory overload from many directions as I still battle Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.  Nonetheless, I was a woman on a mission and soon found ourselves in front of the stage talking to the gifted musicians still lingering around.  I complimented Dr. Jeremiah’s granddaughter who sang in the worship team and asked where I might find her grandfather?  “He had to leave for a fundraising dinner,” was all she said.  I was disappointed but understood.  Fort Wayne, Indiana was the starting place for Dr. Jeremiah’s ministry and many members of the church he had founded here were in attendance; surely there were special activities going on to which Steve and I were not invited!

We tried to find some restrooms that were not swamped by the crowds still leaving the arena.  Having been there for shows many times before, when we headed down an open hallway where some smaller meeting rooms were located.  We encountered the vocalists again and saw a meeting room bustling with people just before we found our destination.  The hallways were virtually empty except for a few late-comers headed to what looked like a reception.  Then just before I turned to go into the lady’s room, I saw him!  Dr. Jeremiah was walking with his wife headed for that same room and it was becoming clear that we had just passed the room where his post-event activities were to take place.

This was my moment and I stepped up to it.  I walked up to Dr. David Jeremiah with my arm outstretched to shake his hand.  He accepted it and looked into my eyes briefly as I said what I had rehearsed in my mind ever since I had expressed a desire to go to the event days beforehand.  It went something like this:

Hi.  My name is Julie ____.  Several years ago you gave a message that included the teaching that God’s man in the middle of God’s will, will not perish until the Lord God ordains it.  I wanted to tell you how much that message has meant to me as I have battled a serious illness with seizures every day for the past 5 years.  Thank you.  Keep doing what you are doing!

His spoke words that followed mine as I finished the sentence from his audio tape, as if he had just given the message yesterday and not over 10 years ago!  He thanked me and quickly continued to his destination with his wife.  I continued to my own destination with a sense of wonder and amazement.  That moment was ordained by God for sure, just for me, just for him.

My spirit was calm and full as I thought about all that had transpired over the past 2 1/2 hours.  Steve and I drove home lightly chatting along the way, mostly quietly in our own thoughts.  I would be very sick with convulsive episodes within the hour of returning home and showering.  My senses were completely overloaded from the loud music, close proximity to other people, and the effects of some new treatment ramping up.  For the first time I did not feel traumatized by the serious illness that I have been selected to endure.  My own words provided the comfort I needed to get through the darkness of the night.

God’s woman, in the middle of God’s will, will not perish until the Lord God ordains it.  He has a plan and purpose for our lives even in the midst of suffering.  And should I finish well, the tasks before me no matter how difficult, there may be reward someday but first there certainly will be a closeness to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that transcends my understanding.  I want that.  And touch points in life like these will help me to craft my own life beyond amazing.

I’m up for that.

JJ