Ask pastor Nathan Gritter of Community Christian Reformed Church in Saginaw, Mich., how a church of about 25 families serves over 2,000 people with clothing, food, and a place to play, and he might say it all started with a question: What should we do next?
It was a question he asked during a congregational meeting six years ago as members considered what outreach program they might next participate in. Seeing the possibility of filling a gap in community services, Anita Collins, a member of Community CRC asked “Why don’t we do our own thing?” and suggested they begin a clothing ministry.
Members of the small church wondered where the supplies would come from, but Collins, who owns a business called Growing Years Christian Schools, was one step ahead of them. “Let me approach my (students’) parents,” she said, thinking there would be plenty of toys and clothes to donate. She was right. “The parents stepped up,” and the Community Caring Closet was born.
Shortly after, the church turned its attention to food, and wondered about starting a garden. The church owns some farmland, and the congregation thought a garden could be a great way to teach families with young children how to make healthy meals.
“We want to share the love of Christ while helping them with their needs,” Collins explained. So when it was time to plant the seeds, Collins told the children who would help her, “God’s giving us the seeds we need to grow food, just like he gives us seeds of faith. And we are taking what we’ve grown and giving it back to the community.”
Soon, a playground was built, but it is no ordinary playground. It is a natural playground with a waterfall, logs, sand, and dirt. This, too, is a way to praise God. “It’s a fun way to play with the natural elements he gave us,” Collins said.
Church members have also built a pavilion where Gritter said they hope to host events. This spring until the weather was warm enough for planting, it served as storage for nine raised beds, one for each fruit of the Spirit.
“Everything starts with a seed,” Collins said in regards to how Community CRC has been able to cultivate so much. “Don’t worry about it being far out of what your reach is. If God is in it, it’s going to happen.” That bore out in some of these projects when the church was gifted the services of a grant writer and received funds from Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation, the Wickson Link Foundation, and the Saginaw Community Foundation. They were also given money from the Van Mastrigt Memorial Fund to build some of the infrastructure that now the whole community can enjoy.
About the Author
Callie Feyen is a writer living in Ann Arbor, Mich. She attends First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. Callie writes news for The Banner and contributes to Coffee+Crumbs, and T.S. Poetry Press. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is the author of The Teacher Diaries: Romeo and Juliet, and Twirl: My Life in Stories, Writing, & Clothes.