Saturday, 15 December 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.

 

Church in the Dirt A Place to Worship With Your Hat On

November/ December 2018

 


 

 



Blair and Molly Lilly are the co-pastors at Church in the Dirt in Homedale. They're also award-winning musicians.  (Photo by Steve Jones)

 

By  Gaye  Bunderson

For  people  who  attend  the  Church  in  the  Dirt  in  Homedale,  there  are  strings  attached.  Fortunately,  those  strings  are  on  a  guitar,  and  they're  the  only  “strings  attached”  you'll  find  there.  

“Our  church  is  come-as-you-are  —  and  that  means  more  than  what  you're  wearing,”  said  Blaine  Lilly,  co-founder  with  his  wife,  Molly,  of  Church  in  the  Dirt.

“We  don't  really  realize  how  many  people  fear  going  to  church,”  Molly  said.  

“We  get  people  who  don't  want  to  go  to  stained  glass  window  churches,”  Blaine  said,  while  Molly  explained  she's  had  people  tell  her  that  if  they  went  to  a  church  like  that,  “the  roof  would  fall  in.”

For  those  believers  who  thought  they'd  never  hear  of  a  place  of  worship  called  Church  in  the  Dirt,  rest  assured  it's  everything  a  church  should  be:  God-inspired,  Christ-centered,  and  full  of  faith  as  well  as  some  darn  good  music.

The  Lillys  are  longtime  singers  and  musicians;  Blaine  plays  the  guitar  and  Molly  plays  the  keyboards.  They've  entertained  throughout  the  country,  together  and  separately;  in  fact,  that's  how  they  originally  met.  Both  of  them  were  performing  at  a  Wounded  Warrior  Project  event  at  Fort  Sam  Houston  in  San  Antonio,  Texas.  (Blaine  is  originally  from  Texas,  while  Molly  was  born  and  raised  in  Jordan  Valley,  Ore.)

Blaine  said  he  and  Molly  spoke  to  one  other  at  the  San  Antonio  event,  but  nothing  happened.  “We  talked  and  then  went  on  our  way.”

They  ultimately  met  up  again  while  performing  in  Branson,  Mo.  —  two  years  after  their  initial  conversation.  They  didn't  recognize  each  other  at  first,  but  Blaine  jokes  that  after  he  realized  he  knew  Molly  from  a  previous  meeting,  “That's  when  I  chased  her  all  around  the  building.”  A  friend  had  told  him  that  if  he  didn't  go  after  Molly,  he  was  a  fool.

The  couple  married  seven  months  later  and  hit  the  road.

“We  threw  it  all  together  really  fast,”  Blaine  said.  “We  joined  our  ministries,  and  it  worked  out.”

That  was  8½  years  ago.  They  traveled  extensively,  performing  country  gospel-style  music  together.

“My  daddy's  a  preacher,  and  my  granddad  was  a  preacher  —  I  come  from  a  long  line  of  preachers,”  Blaine  said.  “I  grew  up  in  church.  I  always  loved  music,  and  sometimes  at  age  12,  I  was  music  worship  leader.”

Unfortunately,  musical  instruments  weren't  allowed  in  his  childhood  church  denomination,  so  hymns were  sung  'a  cappella.'  But  Blaine  taught  himself  how  to  play  the  guitar  at  age  14.  “Music  was  the  love  of  my  life,”  he  said.  “I  wrote  songs,  like  1960,  1970s  country  music.”

Meanwhile,  across  the  U.S.  in  Oregon,  Molly  was  having  her  own  “strict  denomination”  experience  in  another  church.  It  helped  that  her  mother  started  sneaking  out  of  that  church  and  attending  what  Molly  calls  a  “Spirit-filled  church.”  That  had  a  pivotal  influence  on  her,  along  with  her  brother's  salvation.  Her  male  sibling  had  gotten  a  reputation  for  wild  living  and  troublemaking  in  the  family's  hometown,  but  when  he  turned  his  heart  to  God,  Molly  said  he  underwent  a  visible  transformation  that  affected  her.

Molly  admits  that  both  she  and  Blaine  had  a  few  of  their  own  oat-sowing  years.  Blaine's  career  originally  started  out  in  bars  and  similar  venues.

“We  had  our  wild  times,”  said  Molly,  “but  we  both  thought  there  must  be  more  to  God.”

Despite  the  limits  of  their  youthful  church  experiences,  a  seed  of  faith  was  planted  that  never  died.  Molly  eventually  attended  Rhema  Bible  Training  College  in  Broken  Arrow,  Okla.  After  she  hooked  up  with  Blaine,  he  attended  the  Domata  School  of  Ministry,  also  in  Broken  Arrow.

After  recording  a  CD  in  Nashville  at  one  point,  the  couple  was  heading  to  Idaho  to  perform.  

“My  mom  kept  praying,  'Use  Blaine  and  Molly  mightily,'”  Molly  said.  But  her  mom  would  also  insert  a  request  in  her  prayers  that  her  daughter  and  son-in-law  would  be  used  mightily  in  this  area  and  not  so  far  away.  

Molly's  mother  now  lives  in  Caldwell,  and  once  while  visiting  her,  Molly  said  the  Lord  spoke  to  her  early  in  the  morning  —  He  told  her  to  get  up  and  go  for  a  drive.  She  drove  to  Homedale,  and  when  she  got  to  the  small  community  of  roughly  2,600  people,  she  felt  a  strong  “turn  here”  message.

While  she  drove  around  town  thinking  “What  am  I  doing  here?”,  she  came  upon  Badiola  Arena.  She  knew  the  Lord  was  telling  her  that's  where  she  and  Blaine  belonged.

Blaine's  part  of  the  story  goes  back  roughly  12  years.  In  about  2006,  he  said,  the  Lord  told  him  he  was  going  to  plant  a  cowboy  church  in  the  West.  It  was  a  profound  feeling,  but  it  left  him  a  little  baffled.  He  was  traveling  all  over  the  country  performing  his  music  and  wasn't  quite  sure  how  a  church  plant  vaguely  “in  the  West”  was  going  to  come  about.  When  Molly  found  Badiola  Arena,  suddenly  he  knew.

“I  thought,  'This  is  God's  plan.'  I  felt  perfect  peace,”  Blaine  said.  Things  fell  into  place  and  a  lot  of  people  started  getting  involved  in  the  new  church.

That  was  two  years  ago.  Services  were  held  in  the  arena,  but  when  bad  weather  set  in  and  the  arena's  heating  wasn't  sufficient,  Lori  Badiola*,  owner  of  the  Tango  Saloon  /  Moxie  Java  Bistro  in  Homedale,  invited  the  Lillys  to  bring  their  church  services  indoors,  and  that's  what  they  did.

“The  Tango  Saloon  is  classy,”  Molly  said.  There's  no  smoking,  and  it's  a  nice  atmosphere.  Church  fits  well  there  on  a  Sunday  morning.  There's  even  a  Lil  Buckaroos  program  for  children  led  by  Destry  Campbell,  associate  pastor  at  the  church.

Molly's  mom,  now  94,  is  a  church  regular  also.

“This  has  been  a  lifelong  prayer  of  my  mother's,  that  the  cowboys  would  be  reached  for  God,”  Molly said.

If  you're  not  a  cowboy,  you're  still  welcome at  Church  in  the  Dirt.  Though  many  attendees  love  the  country  gospel  sound  that  permeates  the  services,  Blaine  said  some  of  the  people  who  show  up  “probably  like  heavy  metal.”

Also,  anyone  who  attends  may  wear  a  cowboy  hat,  or  any  kind  of  hat  for  that  matter.

“When  I  was  growing  up,  you'd  go  to  church  and  hang  your  hat  on  a  hook  and  pick  it  up  after  service;  now,  I  wear  my  hat  the  whole  time,  unless  there's  prayer,  and  then  I  hold  it  over  my  heart,”  Blaine  said.

The  Lillys  perform  their  “kickin'  country”  music  at  rodeos  and  fairs  and  have  won  Country  Gospel  Music  Association  awards  as  Vocalists  of  the  Year  —  Blaine  winning  top  male  vocalist  four  times  and  Molly  getting  top  female  vocalist  one  time.  But  their  emphasis  is  always  on  using  their  talents  for  God  and  others.  Their  come-as-you-are  church  seems  to  be  working.

Church  member  Wade  Black,  equine  instructor  at  Treasure  Valley  Community  College,  said:  “Blaine  and  Molly  have  been  obedient  to  their  calling,  and  their  passion  and  love  for  people  is  contagious.  In  the  Kingdom  it  is  all  about  surrendering  to  Jesus  and  allowing  the  power  and  presence  of the  Holy  Spirit  to  work  in  and  through  our  life.  Blaine  and  Molly  model  this  in  their  worship  and  the  message  spoken  at  Church  in  the  Dirt.”  

“Cowboys  come  to  God,  get  a  strong  heart  for  God,  and  grow  in  the  Word,”  Molly  said.  “Jesus  came for  the  ungodly,  so  none  of  us  are  unqualified.”

Church  in  the  Dirt  Times,  Dates,  Places  &  Events

The  Church  in  the  Dirt  meets  every    Sunday  of  the  month  at  9:30  a.m.  at  the  Tango  Saloon  /  Moxie  Java  Bistro  at  406  U.S.  Hwy.  95  in  Homedale.  

Also,  church  members  meet  every  Thursday  night  at  7  p.m.  at  324  Hwy.  95,  which  is  the  lumber  yard  building  next  to  the  Tango.  All  are  welcome.

The  church  holds  an  annual  Outdoor  Christmas  Concert  (the  Lillys  are  professional  musicians).  This  year  it  will  take  place  at  6  p.m.  Saturday,  December  15,  in  the  parking  lot  at  Badiola  Arena,  402  U.S.  Hwy.  95  in  Homedale.

According  to  Molly,  there  will  be  a  “huge”  bonfire,  with  kids  roasting  marshmallows.  There  will  also  be  s'mores,  hot  chocolate,  eggnog,  and  chorizo  wraps.  Santa  will  be  passing  out  old-fashioned  candy  bags,  and  there  will  be  hayrides  for  everyone.

For  more  information,  contact  the  Lillys  at blainelilly@hotmail.com or  call  them  at  208-504-8564  and  830-834-0994.  

*Husband  and  wife  Ben  and  Lori  Badiola  own  the  Tango  Saloon  /  Moxie  Java  Bistro,  as  well  as  Badiola  Arena,  in  Homedale.

 

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. 

 

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