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Farm Tales by Miriam

Dear Eric,

Let’s complete the largest project of our Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign: the maintenance garage!

Please give now to make the maintenance garage a reality!

If you gave already this summer, then THANK YOU!

We are putting an end to the days of doing brake jobs and oil changes in freezing January weather on our backs in the gravel. We are saying “so long” to our cramped tool room, hidden at the end of a circuitous basement hallway, with insufficient space to fit all the tools necessary for our growing home repair program. We are finished with leaving work trucks out in the elements and taking time scraping snow and ice off windshields each morning before service can begin. With your help we can do better!

The garage/tool barn/wood shop/picnic shelter will support the service with the local community aspect of our mission. It will be a 5-bay garage, with a vehicle lift, tool storage, wood shop, wood splitting shed, and picnic shelter for group prayer or community meals. A recent redesign (above) includes a more effective site and a 24-foot trailer shed. Having a structure for the proper care and repair of our work site vehicles and for the effective organization and storage of tools will make us more efficient, effective, and resilient as we extend our reach further into the local community. Learn more about the project at www.bethlehemfarm.net/learn-more. Please include any name suggestions with your donation.

How You Can Help Support These Programs

We need your help to build it! The total budget for the maintenance garage is $380,000. Heading into spring, we had raised $170,000 toward the project. Then, great news arrived: we received word in May that the Ray & Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust would be granting us $50,000 for this project! We raised an additional $18,000 this summer when people responded to the print and online appeals. Now, we only need to raise the last $142,000 to construct the maintenance garage! Donate now to make it happen!

Please help us build a “home-base” for our low-income home repair program with your gift for the maintenance garage project, through a donation or pledge, to bring this essential project to completion!

Highlights of the Maintenance Garage:

· Vehicle storage: extended vehicle life means donations reach even further in our community

· Trailer storage: extended life for trailers means virtually eliminating the replacement cost

· Tool storage: tools stored along the garage walls and in the loft will make for easy truck packing

· Heated high bay with vehicle lift: savings on vehicle repairs could reach $5,000/year

· Lawn equipment storage: will allow for regular upkeep and easier access to the grounds

· Wood shop: a dedicated wood shop will be safer and more efficient for a myriad of Farm projects

· Pavilion: will provide a nice setting for evening prayer, a beautiful sunset view of the pasture, refuge from a rained-out campfire, and perhaps a location for meals or large gatherings

· Wood splitting shed: a useful and inexpensive staging and splitting area for firewood

· Parking lot expansion: will allow for safer and quicker departures, especially in an emergency

How will we raise $142,000?

With donations or pledges at the following levels:

Why Now?

Now is the perfect time for this project:

·        Very few groups are able to come this year, so it is the best time in the past 15 years to tear things up and do major work, which will allow us to hit the ground serving that much more effectively once large groups are able to return to Bethlehem Farm.

·        Fuel prices are low, which means gravel, concrete, and other materials may also be lower.

·        In a distressed area like Summers County, it would be a gift to be able to employ local people on a project that will benefit the poor of the county over the long run. We could be that one big project that keeps a local contractor going (and employing people) through tough economic times.

Progress Update:

As you can see in the photos below, the site has been graded and foundation work has begun. With your help, we can:

  1. Complete the foundation
  2. Purchase the steel I-beam building kit
  3. Pay for the labor to erect the building
  4. Finish the interior!

Donate now to this crucial project.

Net-Zero Farm

By Gemma, Caretaker

“Y’all are extremely competent,” was the compliment Clay, the solar installer from SonLight Power, gave us the first day of our solar installation week. That first day, we installed 38 new roof solar panels—a task not scheduled until day three. I can think of a few things that propelled us forward on solar week.

First, our eagerness to reach net-zero energy use has been around since long before my time as a Caretaker. When the solar expansion was delayed last summer, we began searching for a partner who could take on the massive project of adding more power to our system and integrating a battery backup system to keep us off fossil fuels when the grid goes out. The Wheaton Franciscan Sisters provided us the opportunity to act on our aspirations to go Net-Zero through their Ministry Fund Grant. All we needed was an installer.

The first call we had with Clay at SonLight Power left me feeling relieved. Not only does Clay possess impressive technical experience and expertise, but he also has a heart to serve for Christ. We quickly realized how lucky we were to be able to work with someone who could answer all our questions, offer advice patiently, and teach us how to optimize and care for our solar energy system. His leadership empowered our team to work quickly and effectively.

Finally, the Caretakers and Summer Servants are indeed a competent crew. We can jump from gardening to roofing to caring for chickens and build our skill set with each task. We may make mistakes, but these setbacks become important lessons learned for the future. With each day spent working at the Farm or a worksite, we develop new competencies and gain deeper insight. Some of our crew showed up at 6 am on solar week knowing little about solar panels, but that certainly did not inhibit our progress. Transferring our knowledge of power tools from the home repair site, employing our ability to listen to and absorb instructions in the garden, and harnessing our passion to care for God’s creation allowed us to accomplish great things. “Extremely competent”? You bet!

Our new solar panels bring us to net-zero, meaning we will produce more energy than we use over the course of a year. The battery backup gives us the peace of mind with the assurance our food won’t spoil in the fridges and freezers, keeping us free to continue work towards the mission when the power goes out. Furthermore, the Caretakers have a basis of solar knowledge that will help us execute the Green Neighbors Program. Solar week was a barrage of hard work and learning, but the benefits are absolutely worth it.

"Farm John"

by Summer Servant John

During my twelfth and final week as a Summer Servant, I had a conversation with Caretakers Gemma and Molly about a new version of myself I felt I had grown into during the summer. A person who feels whole and complete exactly as he is. A person who fears for nothing. A person who I call Farm John.

Farm John danced and ran and yelled in the rain with Summer Servants Nanci and Andrés on his last Friday afterwork. He started a deep conversation about peace and human fulfillment with Caretaker Steve and volunteer Cassie on the worksite during Adult Week. He gardened barefoot for his last month as a Summer Servant and laughed without reserve more than once. He saw God in Keeney Mountain, the bees buzzing in the buckwheat, the garlic harvest, the food on his FiestaWare plate at dinner, his community members, and whenever he took a centering breath during his day in the garden.

Yet why should I write this in the past tense? I am Farm John, even as I’m living in Boston and am not physically present with Caretakers and Summer Servants. Farm John is my deepest self, my truest self, my most fully alive self, which is always there, even if I don’t feel the same happiness I felt quite often during this summer. I guess I do agree with what then Summer Servant, now Caretaker Pat said to me during my final covenant meeting, “The Farm is in you.”

The gift of my time as a Summer Servant was discovering this person. The community of Caretakers, Summer Servants, and volunteers created a space that allowed me to encounter God and the light that resides inside me and every person. The Farm really made the divine tangible and visible for me during my twelve weeks, and for that I am deeply grateful. Now, I hope to figure out what it looks like to be Farm John and see God in all things outside of Alderson. That’s quite a joyful challenge in my eyes!

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