Monday, 19 November 2018

Micah & Nancy Smith - Under Dark of Night, a Trip into Syria

Jul/ Aug 2018

 


 

 

By Gaye Bunderson

Syria  may  be  the  last  place  anyone  would  want  to  find  themselves  in  these  days,  but  when  the  ravages  of  war  depleted  medical  supplies  for  citizens  of  the  beleaguered  country,  two  organizations  stepped  in  to  fill  the  void:  Nampa-based  Hands  of  Hope  Northwest  and  Global  Gateway  Network.

Micah  Smith  is  president  and  founder,  with  his  wife  Nancy,  of  Global  Gateway  Network.  The  nonprofit  is  a  group  of  volunteer  professionals  who  travel  the  world  caring  for  the  sick,  building  homes  for  children,  drilling  wells,  teaching  agriculture  skills,  literacy,  and  much  more  (globalgatewaynetwork.org).

It  was  Micah  and  Nancy  who  slipped  across  the  border  from  Israel  into  Syria  earlier  this  year  in  the  dark  of  night,  while  the  jackals  howled  in  the  distance.  Their  mission  was  to  accompany  10  tons  of  medical  supplies  to  the  Syrian  people.  The  supplies  were  provided  through  Hands  of  Hope  NW  and  included  everything  from  gauze  to  surgical  supplies.  

All  of  the  Boise-area  people  involved  in  this  endeavor  acted  out  of  a  sense  of  Christian  compassion  as  people  of  faith.  For  Micah,  now  62,  that  faith  began  at  the  age  of  23,  and  it's  over  the  course  of  the  intervening  years  that  God  brought  him  and  Nancy  to  a  connection  with  Hands  of  Hope  NW  —  a  connection  that  would  critically  benefit  the  people  of  war-torn  Syria.

“I  don't  know  what  word  you'd  use,  but  when  I  was  'saved'  or  'born  again'  in  the  late  '70s,  I  was  a  farmboy;  I  never  dreamed  I'd  be  doing  what  I'm  doing.  But  a  year  later,  I  was  in  Stuttgart,  Germany,  preaching  with  a  translator  on  a  street  corner,”  he  said.  “I  have  an  adventurous  spirit;  I'm  highly  curious.  I  want  to  see  what's  over  the  next  mountaintop.”

He  originally  attended  a  vocational  school  and  became  a  journeyman  pipe-fitter;  later,  he  studied  for  the  ministry  through  Jack  Hayford's  School  of  Pastoral  Nurture  at  King's  Seminary.  He  led  a  church  in  Richland,  Wash.  where  about  500  people  attended.  The  congregation  was  full  of  Ph.D.'s  and  engineers who  captured  the  vision  of  what  Micah  wanted  to  do  in  his  “next  mountaintop”  ministry:  dig  wells,  build  schools  and  orphanages,  and  help  the  disenfranchised  around  the  globe.

“At  one  point,  I  told  the  congregation,  'Don't  give  me  a  raise,  send  me  overseas,'”  he  said.

Thankfully,  there  were  many  in  the  congregation  who  not  only  wanted  to  support  him  but  also  join  him,  and  who  could  bring  the  requisite  skills  to  dig  and  drill  and  build  throughout  the  world.

At  one  point,  Micah  learned  about  what  is  called  the  10/40  Window,  an  area  that  includes  North  Africa,  the  Middle  East  and  Asia  approximately  between  10  and  40  degrees  north  of  the  equator.  Within  this  range  are  billions  of  citizens  known  as  “unreached  peoples,”  and  that  includes  many  groups that  Westerners  may  not  be  familiar  with,  such  as  the  Shaikh,  Yadava,  Turks,  Moroccan  Arabs,  Pashtun,  Jat  and  Burmese.  These  people  are  predominantly  Muslim,  Hindu,  Buddhist,  animist  or  atheist.

“The  area  holds  60  percent  of  the  world's  population,  but  only  8  percent  of  Western  efforts,  resources  and  energy  are  going  into  preaching  the  Gospel  in  that  part  of  the  world,”  Micah  said.

Nancy  stated,  “These  are  hard  places.”  They  are  full  of  the  poor  and  uneducated  who  struggle  to  meet  basic  daily  needs,  who  are  not  guaranteed  a  modicum  of  moral  or  legal  rights,  and  who  may  live  in  the  throes  of  military  conflict  or  government  upheaval.

“We  want  to  reach  the  unreached,  with  compassion  and  humanitarian  needs  and  with  no  strings  attached  based  upon  Matthew  5:16,”  Micah  said.  “We  want  to  meet  people's  physical  needs.”

He  explained  they  are  also  ready  to  help  meet  spiritual  needs  but  do  not  put  pressure  on  anyone  to  convert  to  a  religion.  “God  is  not  a  marketing  tool,  and  people  are  not  consumers  competing  for  the  best  deal,”  he  said.

Micah  was  invited  to  attend  Billy  Graham's  Amsterdam  2000  event,  where  evangelists  from  all  over  the  world  —  including  the  developing  world  —  convened  and  were  involved  in  finding  ways  to  reach  the  unreached.

“Every  day  in  a  think  tank,  we'd  sit  at  different  tables  and  identify  unreached  people  groups,”  Micah  said.  He  started  to  focus  on  three  specific  groups  that  he  wanted  to  reach  with  his  own  ministry.  They  included:  

  • The  Hill  Tribe  in  Vietnam  and  China  (the  Kim-Mun)
  • The  Albanian  Tosk  in  Egypt
  • The  Urdu  speakers  of  Europe

In  all,  there  were  10,000  people  from  90  nations  at  the  event;  a  lot  was  going  on,  and  Micah  prayed,  “Lord,  put  me  with  the  people  You  want  me  to  meet.”

He  said  event  organizers  served  lunch  in  a  huge  dining  area,  feeding  one  large  group  after  another  in  a  very  efficient  way.  In  the  gathering  of  10,000,  there  were  only  11  Egyptian  evangelists  in  all,  but  three  times  Micah  sat  by  an  Egyptian  during  lunch.  The  odds  of  that  happening  other  than  supernaturally  were  pretty  slim,  and  he  began  to  see  the  Lord's  hand  at  work.

After  he  narrowed  down  the  focus  of  his  ministry,  he  began  to  seek  out  information  about  the  people he  set  his  sights  on.  His  sense  of  adventure  was  stirred.  “We  researched  all  the  people  but  found  little  information,  so  we  got  on  a  plane  to  find  them,”  he  said.

Nancy  would  frequently  accompany  her  husband  abroad,  except  when  their  five  children  were  small.Others  in  the  group  would  be  the  vision-catchers  who  wanted  to  help  minister  and  build.  Their  global  searches  produced  results,  as  they  met  and  worked  to  provide  for  the  unreached  people  Micah  chose  while  in  Amsterdam.  Their  work  has  taken  them  to  North  Vietnam,  Burma,  Thailand,  and  Egypt,  all  in  accordance  with  Matthew  25:40:  Whenever  you  did  one  of  these  things  to  someone  overlooked  or  ignored,  that  was  me  —  you  did  it  to  me  [Jesus].  (The  Message)

Thousands  have  been  fed  and  clothed,  provided  with  medical  services  and  clean  water,  and  given  shelter  and  hope.  More  than  50  teams  have  been  sent  out  all  over  the  globe.

Micah  and  Nancy  came  to  the  Treasure  Valley  from  north  Idaho  two  years  ago  to  care  for  Micah's  mother,  who  has  Parkinson's  disease.  She  was  once  involved  in  ministry  herself,  living  in  Israel  for  10  years  and  working  with  Bridges  of  Peace,  a  Jerusalem-based  Christian  organization  supporting  Israel.  Micah  fostered  connections  with  Israel  through  Global  Gateway  Network.  “We  have  projects  there,”  he said.

The  couple  visited  Vineyard  Boise  Christian  Fellowship,  and  around  that  time,  had  two  pivotal  meetings.  They  met  the  leadership  team  of  Vineyard's  i61  program,  a  global  ministry  for  justice  and  compassion,  and  met  Hands  of  Hope  Northwest  board  member  Gwyneth  Bledsoe.  Meeting  Bledsoe  eventually  led  them  to  meet  Hands  of  Hope  NW  Executive  Director  Debbie  Wheeler  (now  retired).

Hands  of  Hope  NW  wanted  to  find  a  way  to  get  medical  supplies  to  Syria  —  a  huge  challenge,  considering  the  turmoil  in  the  country.  Even  a  route  through  Israel  presented  obstacles.  “Israel  is  a  difficult  country  because  of  its  security  protocol,”  Micah  said.  Other  problems  included  getting  medical shipments  to  Israel  despite  high  tariffs  on  imports,  and  insufficient  infrastructure  in  moving  anything  from  Israel  across  the  border  into  Syria.

The  Smiths  were  asked  if  they  could  help  Hands  of  Hope  NW  find  a  way  to  overcome  the  obstacles.  Ultimately,  the  answer  was  a  third  nonprofit  —  this  time,  one  in  Israel,  a  volunteer  humanitarian  non-government  organization  that  provides  lifesaving  aid  to  communities  affected  by  natural  disasters  and  human  conflict  but  that  wishes  to  remain  anonymous.

“Two  U.S.  nonprofits  worked  with  an  Israeli  nonprofit  to  help  Syrian  Muslim  refugees,”  Micah  said, aware  of  the  counterintuitive  nature  of  his  statement.

When  a  Hands  of  Hope  NW  shipment  of  supplies  left  Seattle  for  Israel  late  in  2017,  with  the  ultimate goal  of  reaching  Syria,  Micah  and  Nancy  were  there  to  accompany  the  shipment  across  the  border.

“We  were  cautious;  we  were  in  vehicles  in  a  secure  zone.  We  had  a  team  of  snipers  with  us  for  protection;  young  Israeli  soldiers  were  all  around  us,”  Micah  said.

The  following  information  was  taken  from  the  Hands  of  Hope  NW's  “Heartbeat”  newsletter  and  is  inMicah's  own  words:  “Nancy  and  I  traveled  at  dusk,  then  under  the  cover  of  darkness  to  the  border  where  the  supplies  are  transferred  one  item  at  a  time  to  a  waiting  truck.  The  work  is  done  in  darkness  because  of  the  constant  threat  of  snipers,  and  the  items  are  carried  individually  by  the  Syrian  rebels  across  a  short  buffer  zone  to  prevent  any  vehicles  that  might  be  armed  with  high  explosives  from  getting  too  close  to  the  delivery  team.

“Each  night,  when  this  operation  takes  place,  if  needed  the  critically  wounded  are  brought  on  Israel’s side  of  the  border,  then  taken  to  hospitals,  while  medical  supplies,  coats,  baby  formula  and  diesel  fuel  are  transferred  to  the  Syrian  side,  where  they  are  dispensed  at  field  clinics.  This  is  a  humanitarian  disaster  that  is  exacting  a  price  on  innocent  children  and  families  of  non-combatants.  Israel  is  allowing  30-50  Syrian  children  to  come  in  for  treatment  every  week.  The  hospitals  that  have  not  been  bombed  are  severely  lacking  in  equipment  and  supplies.”

Though  the  nation  of  Israel  is  under  constant  threat  from  jihadists  (Islamic  militants),  there  are  people  in  all  Middle  East  countries  who  simply  want  to  live  in  peace.

“Israel  learned  it  must  have  a  strong  defense,  but  they  are  the  people  of  Abraham  and  want  to  be  a  light  to  the  world,  they  want  to  be  good  neighbors,”  Micah  said.

The  Smiths  went  to  Israel  and  Syria  in  January  and  did  not  return  until  March.  They  praise  others  involved  in  getting  medical  supplies  to  those  facing  profound  suffering  within  Syria.

“The  Israelis  have  low-profile  medical  field  clinics  in  Syria  that  they  man,”  said  Micah,  who  then  gives  credit  to  HoHNW  for  its  work.  “Debbie  and  Hands  of  Hope  NW  did  a  great  job.”

The  Smiths  aren't  done  with  their  travels,  nor  is  Hands  of  Hope  NW  done  with  medical  supplies  provision  for  Syria.  In  late  April,  a  fundraising  tea  was  held  to  raise  money  for  another  shipment.  At  the  Tea  for  Hope  at  Chateau  des  Fleurs  in  Eagle  on  April  28,  host  Claudia  Weathermon  Tester  spoke,  followed  by  the  new  executive  director  of  HoHNW,  Todd  Durbin,  and  then  Micah.

“From  A  to  Z,  from  Nampa  to  the  Golan  Heights  in  Israel,  it  was  a  miracle,”  he  told  the  audience  regarding  the  Syrian  shipments.  A  miracle  of  compassion,  hard  work,  and  God's  love,  he  said.  With  that  trifecta,  as  well  as  the  generosity  of  people  in  the  Treasure  Valley,  many  nations  will  continue  to  be  blessed.

For  more  information,  go  to www.GlobalGatewayNetwork.org, Hands  of  Hope  Northwest  Inc.  on  Facebook,  or  contact  Micah  Smith  at globalgatewaynetwork@gmail.com.

Shipments  Update With  the  money  raised  from  the  Tea  for  Hope  and  Idaho  Gives  Day  events,  Hands  of  Hope  NW  is  now  ready  to  send  two  more  shipments  to  Israel.  One  will  be  distributed  by  Global  Gateway  Network  and  the  other  by  The  Joseph  Project,  an  organization  that  imports  aid  into  Israel  from  charities  worldwide.The  goal  was  to  raise  $30,000  between  the  Tea  for  Hope  and  Idaho  Gives  Day  2018.  A  total  of  $27,810  was  raised  through  Tea  for  Hope,  including  event  donations,  silent  auction  sales,  ticket  sales,  and  sponsorships,  and  $2,625  was  raised  on  Idaho  Gives  Day,  held  May  3.The  HofHNW  warehouse  is  full,  and  six  shipments  of  medical  supplies  were  in  the  works  as  of  late  May.  More  shipments  are  planned  for  Israel/Syria,  as  well  as  shipments  for  Gambia,  Nigeria  and  Guatemala.  Note:  This  information  is  taken  from  the  May  Hands  of  Hope  NW  “Heartbeat”  newsletter.

 

Peter Vasquez Making the best of his second chance

May/ June 2018

 


 

 



Peter  Vasquez  built  a  replica  of  the  high  security,  solitary  confinement  prison  cell  he  once  spent  4½  years  in.  Today,  as  founder  of  Second  Chance  Grace,he  takes  the  cell  around  to  show  others  what  life  in  prison  is  like.  (Courtesy  photo)

By Gaye Bunderson

 “ I  thank  Christ  Jesus  our  Lord,  who  has  given  me  strength,  that  he  considered  me  trustworthy,  appointing  me  to  his  service.  Even  though  I  was  once  a  blasphemer  and  a  persecutor  and  a  violent  man,  I  was  shown  mercy  because  I  acted  in  ignorance  and  unbelief.  The  grace  of  our  Lord  was  poured  out  on  me  abundantly...”  —  1  Timothy  1:12-14

Peter  Vasquez  has  undergone  a  full-scale  life  remodel,  with  help  from  the  ultimate  Carpenter.  A  hard-core  gang  member  in  his  youth,  Vasquez  spent  time  in  California's  San  Quentin  State  Prison  and  4½  years  in  solitary  confinement  in  the  California  State  Prison-Corcoran  SHU  or  Security  Housing  Units.  The  units  are  “the  most  high  security,  restricted  cells in  California's  prison  system.”*  

To  make  it  into  the  SHU,  an  inmate  has  to  be  part  of  a  dangerous  prison  gang  and  a  high  threat  to  other  prisoners.  Peter  Vasquez  fit  the  profile.  Look  at  some  of  the  photos  taken  of  him  during  those  years  and  you  see  a  tough  guy,  a  violent  guy.  But  ask  Vasquez  to  describe  himself  now,  years  later  at  age  47,  and  he  says,  “I'm  the  little  ladybug  from  California.”

He's  been  rebuilt  from  the  ground  up  by  his  Savior,  and  he  lives  every  minute  of  his  life  now  to  tell  his  story  to  others.

“I  got  saved  in  a  prison  cell,”  he  said,  “in  the  same  place  where  they'd  send  Charles  Manson.”  

Sirhan-Sirhan,  Robert  F.  Kennedy  assassin,  also  spent  time  at  Corcoran.

Vasquez  said  no  one  was  allowed  to  visit  residents  of  the  SHU;  it  was  a  cold  existence.  His  feelings  toward  God  were  very  negative.  His  earthly  father  had  been  a  prisoner  —  Vasquez  only  saw  him  once  in  his  life.  A  stepfather  had  been  an  abuser.  Vasquez  grew  angrier  and  angrier  over  what  he  calls  “the  heartache”  of  his  life.

“My  dad  was  the  founder  of  a  notorious  gang.  I  had  love  for  the  father  I  never  knew,  but  I  hated  God.  I  flipped  off  the  sky  in  anger  toward  God,”  Vasquez  said.

But  the  Holy  Spirit  is  able  to  penetrate  prison  walls  and  prisoner  hearts.  A  friend  of  his  father's  managed  to  get  a  prison  Bible  to  Vasquez,  a  special  edition  written  specifically  for  inmates  and  titled,  “Free  on  the  Inside.”  The  friend,  named  Julio,  wrote  in  the  Bible,  “I  hope  you  find  the  peace  I  have  found  in  Christ  Jesus.”

Vasquez  didn't  read  the  Bible  right  off.  “I  hated  myself,”  he  said.  “I  thought,  'Who  am  I?  What  am  I  here  for?'  My  nickname  was  Sniper.  Here  I  was  in  a  wicked,  evil  place.  You  could  feel  the  evil.”

But  one  day,  out  of  the  blue  a  fellow  inmate  at  the  SHU  yelled,  “John  14:6!”  Just  like  that.  No  other  words.  “Jesus  answered,  'I  am  the  way  and  the  truth  and  the  life.  No  one  comes  to  theFather  except  through  me.'”

Vasquez  picked  up  his  Bible  and  found  the  verse,  and  after  reading  it,  he  said  he  fell  to  his knees,  verbally  spewed  out  his  sins  and  asked  God  for  forgiveness.  It  was  a  deeply  spiritual moment  of  grace  and  salvation,  as  well  as  the  beginning  of  the  softening  of  a  very  hardened  man.

“When  I  met  God,  He  became  the  most  beautiful  thing  in  my  life,”  said  Vasquez.  “I'm  still  on  fire  now,  just  as  I  was  then.”

Vasquez  came  to  Idaho  in  2004  to  attend  a  school  operated  by  the  Idaho  Commission  for  the  Blind  and  Visually  Impaired.  He  suffers  from  retinitis  pigmentosa  and  is  legally  blind.  He  cannot  drive,  and  yet  he  travels  frequently.  At  one  point  in  his  life,  he  prayed  to  God  for  a  wife,even  giving  Him  specifications  for  the  kind  of  wife  he  needed.  That  included  someone  to  join  him  in  his  work  —  not  just  to  drive  him  around  but  to  be  a  full-time  partner  in  his  ministry.

Amazingly,  God  chose  for  him  a  woman  who,  at  the  time  of  the  couple's  first  meeting,  was  not  even  saved.  But  Christine  is  everything  Vasquez  prayed  for.  In  a  story  full  of  incredible  twists  and  turns,  Mrs.  Vasquez  became  a  strong  believer  —  in  both  God  and  the  work  of  the  man  she  married.

“I'm  not  with  him  just  as  a  wife  but  as  a  supporter,”  she  said.

Looking  proudly  at  his  co-partner  in  life  and  ministry,  Vasquez  said,  “That's  my  prayer  warrior.”

At  present,  it's  a  powerful  but  small  ministry,  which  they  named  Second  Chance  Grace.

“The  ministry  is  just  me  and  my  wife,”  Vasquez  said.  

But  the  strength  of  their  mutual  commitment  to  each  other  and  to  the  Lord  cannot  be  understated.  Vasquez  frequently  speaks  for  free  whenever  he's  asked  because  the  work  is  so  important  to  him.

“It  hurts;  I've  got  to  support  my  family.  But  I  still  do  it.  I  do  it  because  it's  my  heart,”  he  said.“We  don't  have  any  money,  but  when  I  speak  for  free,  I  speak  like  I'm  getting  paid.  It's  a  hard  way  to  live,  but  we  trust  the  Lord.”

He  has  some  donors  who  support  him  and  an  occasional  job  speaking  in  schools.  He  isn't  allowed  to  say  “Jesus”  in  secular  schools,  but  he  instructs  the  students  on  “what  to  say  'yes'  to  and  what  to  say  'no'  to.”  

He  said  it's  challenging  because  “what  works  for  me  is  Christ  —  but  I  can't  say  'Christ'.”

So  he  stands  as  an  example  of  what  can  be  overcome  in  life  and  how  a  person  can  be  transformed  to  contribute  to  the  betterment  of  society.

He  speaks  once  a  month  at  church  services  at  Idaho  Juvenile  Corrections,  the  Idaho  State  Correctional  Institution,  and  the  Idaho  State  Correctional  Center.  He  also  holds  a  church  service  for  women  on  work  release.

“I  want  them  to  parole  with  a  Bible  in  their  hands,  to  parole  with  faith,”  he  said.  “Helping  people  parole  that  way  is  better  for  the  community  and  better  for  the  ex-prisoner.”

When  he  speaks  one-on-one  with  prisoners  or  parolees,  he  gives  them  his  full  attention.  He'll stay  as  long  as  they  need  him.  An  example  of  Christine's  commitment  is  that  she  frequently  waits  for  him  outside  in  their  vehicle,  for  as  long  as  it  takes,  so  she  can  drive  him  home.  And  she  usually  waits  with  the  couple's  daughter,  a  toddler  named  Danisia  Agape.

Vasquez  has  been  asked  by  professors  at  both  Treasure  Valley  Community  College  in  Ontario  and  the  College  of  Idaho  in  Caldwell  to  speak  to  students  whose  career  paths  will  lead  them  to  places  where  they  will  encounter  people  turned  bitter  by  their  experiences.  He  speaks  about  the  difficulty  of  growing  up  with  an  absent  parent  who's  incarcerated,  and  living  in  a  household  with  an  abuser.

“It  gives  them  an  understanding  of  dysfunction  and  how  it  affects  you,”  Vasquez  said.

He  built  an  exact  replica  of  the  cell  he  lived  in  at  Corcoran,  and  he  takes  it  around  for  young  people  to  look  at  as  an  object  lesson  of  what  to  avoid.  “Kids  are  very  visual,”  he  said,  explaining  his  motivation  for  building  the  cell  —  it's  a  warning  of  what  a  miscreant  life  can  lead  to.

The  ministry  also  includes  tattoo  removal.  The  Vasquezes  work  with  board-certified  family  nurse  practitioner  Gia  Swope,  or  Dr.  Ink-Off,  and  ERMA  (Eagle  River  Medical  Aesthetics).  Vasquez  still  wears  the  tattoos  of  his  past  life  because,  he  said,  board  members  of  his  nonprofit, Second Chance  Grace Inc.,  told  him  to  leave  them  on  for  credibility  with  convicts.

“They  all  open  up  to  him,”  Christine  said.

The  couple  feels  the  Lord  has  even  bigger  plans  for  the  ministry,  possibly  taking  it  national  and  allowing  Vasquez  to  speak  throughout  the  country.  He  likes  to  use  colorful  phrases  in  his  presentations,  such  as:  “Try  Jesus  for  a  week  or  a  month,  and  if  it  doesn't  work,  Satan  will  give  you  back  your  misery.”

He  seeks  to  comfort,  strengthen,  encourage,  and  leave  people  with  a  sense  of  hope,  he  said.  He's  done  the  work  for  12  years  and  has  spoken  to  thousands  already.  One  of  his  favorite  scriptures  is  1  Timothy  1:12-14  about  a  violent  man  saved  by  God's  love.  He's  not  only  read  it.  He's  lived  it.

For  more  information,  go  to www.2ndchancegrace.org.

*https://www.scpr.org/news/2013/10/08/39613/inside-corcoran-state-prisons-security-housing-uni/ 

The Brighter Side Spyglass Gardens: More Than a Mustard Seed

Sept/Oct 2018


 

 

 

Wendy and Steve Smith grow produce at Spyglass Gardens in Meridian. (Photo by Heather Kern/ HK Photography)

By Ronald Kern

The  world  we  live  in  moves  very  fast,  with  the  emphasis  oftentimes  being,  “the  bigger  the  better.”  We  not  only  expect  big  and  wonderful  things  in  life,  but  we  want  them  right  now.  In  reality,  many  things  that  end  up  great  and  long-lasting  start  small.  This  is  true  in  business,  relationships,  and  even  our  walk  with  God.

Steve  and  Wendy  Smith,  who  founded  Spyglass  Gardens  18  years  ago,  remind  me  in  many  ways  of  the  mustard  seed  parable  in  the  Bible.  It,  and  the  lesson  it  teaches,  appears  three  times  in  the  Bible,  in  Matthew,  Mark  and  Luke.  Luke  13:  88-19  says,  “What  is  the  Kingdom  of  God  like?  To  what  shall  I  compare  it?  It  is  like  a  grain  of  mustard  seed,  which  a  man  took,  and  put  in  his  own  garden.  It  grew,  and  became  a  large  tree,  and  the  birds  of  the  sky  lodged  in  its  branches.”

Although  knowing  each  other  for  10  years  prior  to  dating,  it  was  a  blind  date  that  set  the  course  of  the  Smiths'  future,  in  both  their  relationship  and  business  —  both  starting  out  small.  The  connector  (the  person  who  arranged  the  date)  said  to  Steve,  “You  would  be  great  friends  so  call  her  and  see  what  happens.”    

What  happened  is  a  lovely  story  that  yields  many  lessons  and  has  brought  joy  to  so  many  people.

Wendy  was  brought  up  Christian  and  had  a  love  and  faith  in  God.  This  wasn’t  necessarily  the  case  for  Steve.  Steve  was  brought  up  in  Salt  Lake  City,  Utah,  and  while  he  always  believed  in  God,  he  wasn’t  very  confident  in  the  church  he  was  attending.  He  left  that  church  when  he  was  14  years  old.

Early  in  the  Smiths'  relationship,  Steve  needed  a  physical  and  Wendy  referred  him  to  a  doctor  who  frequently  spoke  about  God  during  visits.  Ironically,  Steve  was  the  one  who  asked  Wendy,  “Would  you  like  to  go  to  church  with  me?”  In  2007,  he  was  saved.Steve  had  some  acreage  which  had  a  little  garden,  and  he  invited  Wendy  over.  She  thought,  “This  might  be  pretty  fun  to  do.  ...  I  think  God  started  working  on  us  right  from  the  beginning.”

Within  a  short  time  period,  she  explained,  “A  guy  just  showed  up  and  plowed  our  field.Then,  due  to  road  construction,  all  vehicles  from  Meridian/Kuna  highway  were  detoured  on  a  path  that  took  them  right  past  Spyglass  Gardens,  which  allowed  us  to  sell  all  of  our  produce.”

Now  people  knew  where  they  were  and  what  they  offered,  and  with  each  passing  year,  the  business  grew  and  grew.

After  eight  years  of  running  this  business  with  zero  issues,  Ada  County  got  involved  and,  long  story  short,  told  them  to  cease  operation.  (County  officials  did  the  same  to  two  other  farms.)  Steve  and  Wendy  had  long  ago  obtained  all  required  permits  and  paperwork,  but  due  to  a  small,  obscure  and  rarely  enforced  rule,  the  farm  business  was  halted.

The  year  was  2008,  the  recession  had  hit,  and  they  felt  that  perhaps  God  was  testing  them.  Having  the  farm  shut  down  was  indeed  a  large  test  of  faith,  but  what  came  next  was  an  even  bigger  test  —  but  also  a  blessing.  Do  you  ever  question  God’s  timing?  That  same  year,  Steve  was  diagnosed  with  prostate  cancer.    The  doctor  who  helped  him  through  this  was  a  great  Christian  man.  The  same  doctor  who  “preached”  to  Steve  during  his  physical  exam  also  was  involved.  People  from  their  church  were  supportive,  as  well  as  the  many  clients  and  friends  they'd  made  over  the  years.

Due  to  the  farm  ceasing  operation,  Steve  had  more  time  to  focus  on  his  health.  His  prostate  cancer  was  not  a  traditional  type,  so  if  he'd  been  prescribed  the  normal  course  of  action,  “he  would  have  been  dead  within  a  year,”  Wendy  said.  The  cancer  was  in  an  unusual  location  and  had  God  not  been  involved  and  time  not  made  available,  this  story  would  not  have  a  happy  ending.  One  might  surmise  that  the  reason  the  farm  was  shut  down  was  so  there  wouldn’t  be  any  distractions  for  Steve's  recovery.  His  cancer  was  eliminated  and,  as  of  today,  he  continues  to  be  cancer-free.

As  Wendy  sat  down  at  the  computer  and  searched  how  to  sell  their  farm,  something  popped  up  that  caught  her  attention:  CSA,  which  stands  for  Community  Supported  Agriculture.

The  website  had  free  downloads,  information,  and  all  that  they  needed  to  pursue  a  new  direction  for  the  farm.  Sending  out  an  email  to  their  client  list  to  test  the  waters,  35  people  signed  up  for  their  newly  formed  CSA.  Being  one  of  the  first  to  have  a  CSA  in  the valley,  you  could  say  they  were  pioneers  of  what  has  become  a  very  popular  program  over  the  last  decade.

(Information  from https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture: “Community  Supported  Agriculture  consists  of  a  community  of  individuals  who  pledge  support  to  a  farm  operation  so  that  the  farmland  becomes,  either  legally  or  spiritually,  the  community's  farm,  with  the  growers  and  consumers  providing  mutual  support  and  sharing  the  risks  and  benefits  of  food  production.”)

Ten  years  have  gone  by  and  the  CSA  continues  to  flourish.  Interestingly,    the  vast  majority  of  their  CSA  members  are  Christian.  This  certainly  isn’t  a  prerequisite,  but  when you  visit  the  farm,  you  will  encounter  a  strong  sense  of  calm  and  goodness  from  all  directions.  While  picking  up  produce,  the  CSA  members  find  it  a  natural  occurrence  to  have  discussions  (fellowship),  and  the  Gospel  is  oftentimes  a  topic.  Isn’t  it  interesting  how  God  works?

With  weekends  oftentimes  being  spent  in  Cascade,  Idaho,  the  Smiths  found  a  church  in the  area  and  joined.  Oddly  enough,  this  church  decided  that  there  was  too  much  “Bible  talk”  and  changed  how  sermons  were  led,  and  things  just  weren’t  the  same  —  it  became  foreign  and  strange.  Steve  and  Wendy,  and  countless  others,  left  that  church  and  started  meeting  together  in...you  guessed  it...a  small  way.  This  small  group  has  now  grown  and  turned  into  another  new  church,  which  doesn’t  have  restrictions  on  “Bible  talk.”

In  addition  to  a  variety  of  farming  skills  they  have  acquired,  Spyglass  Gardens  uses  open-air  ditches,  drip  systems,  and  a  settling  pond,  which  means  the  water  used  actually  leaves  the  farm  cleaner  than  when  it  came  in.  They  don’t  use  chemicals  or  pesticides  either,  allowing  you  to  know  exactly  what  you  are  eating  when  you  get  produce  from  Spyglass  Gardens.  Although  their  farm  is  not  certified  “organic,”  it’s  fresh,  all-natural,  and  as  close  as  you  can  get.  What  most  people  don’t  realize  is  the  definition  and  requirements  of  being  organic  in  the  USA  are  not  the  same  as  in  other  countries,  although the  FDA  claims  to  be  cracking  down  on  food  coming  into  our  country.  This  is  a  big  deal,  considering  a  bulk  of  the  fruit  and  vegetables  you  see  in  the  grocery  store  are  from  other  countries.

Wendy  spends  the  morning  in  prayer  in  their  greenhouse,  and  Steve  talks  to  the  plants  and  prays  over  the  food  during  his  morning  walk  of  the  farm.  They  appreciate  what  God  has  provided  to  them,  which  in  turn  provides  such  amazing  things  to  others.  When  they  tried  to  use  all  of  the  acreage  to  farm,  “something  always  would  fail,”  Wendy  said.  “It  didn’t  matter  if  we  had  12  people  helping  or  5,  we  found  that  you  have  to  give  something  back.”      

Giving  something  back,  such  as  leaving  one  acre  fallow  as  they  do  each  year,  is  another  lesson  from  the  Bible.  “It’s  not  how  much  you  plant;  it’s  how  well  you  take  care  of  it  and  nurture  things,”  Wendy  reminded  me.

In  addition  to  providing  fresh  and  all-natural  food  to  people,  the  Smiths  offer  classes  on  planting,  canning,  preserving,  and  bulk  orders,  and  are  heavily  sought  after  for  custom flower  pots  and  baskets.  They  also  sell  eggs  from  the  chickens  they  raise,  and  the  list  just  goes  on  and  on.  A  certain  portion  of  their  yield  is  donated  to  help  feed  others,  a  program  they  have  had  in  place  for  years.

Whether  you  end  up  buying  anything  from  them  or  not,  I  would  highly  recommend  stopping  by  and  introducing  yourself.  What  you  will  find  in  Steve  and  Wendy  are  genuine,  loving,  caring,  and  giving  people.  When  taking  a  walk  around  their  farm,  I  might  have  “accidentally”  picked  a  few  things  and  sampled  them  right  then.  Their  little  slice  of  heaven  provides  so  much  for  people  on  an  individual  basis,  but  also  they  are  a  huge  asset  to  the  community.  When  you  tour  their  farm,  you  absolutely  will  leave  in  a  good  mood  and  will  likely  have  two  new  incredible  friends.

You  can  consistently  count  on  Steve  and  Wendy,  and  Spyglass  Gardens,  to  bring  back  your  faith  in  humanity.  This  couple,  brought  together  by  God,  proves  that  when  you  listen  and  obey  God,  amazing  gifts  overflow  in  your  life,  which  blesses  others.

You  can  visit  their  website  at www.spyglassgardens.com.

A  multi-business  owner  in  Meridian  for  more  than  20  years,  Ronald  Kern  and  his  wife  sold  their  businesses  in  2013.  Ron  is  a  serial  entrepreneur,  personal  and  professional  consultant,  author,  columnist,  motivational  speaker,  and  philanthropist. 

 

Christian Living Magazine

Email:

boisechristianliving@gmail.com

Phone: 208-703-7860