Today I had the opportunity to talk with Berry Stephens about his time working the grounds here at PVUMC! Berry and I were friends at Hoggard High School - although he is much older than I am! One of the many blessings of coming to PVUMC was getting reacquainted with Berry and his family. It is amazing to see what God has done with our lives since then! What a gift to have Christian friends!
Like our long-time friendship, Berry said the best part of working the grounds at PVUMC are the friendships. Berry has shared his gift of landscaping for over 25 years! One of the men that showed up to work years ago ended up knowing his father and uncle and Berry knew the man’s daughter. While doing yard work, they visited every week, for years, and they have become lifelong friends.
I knew Berry probably liked working the grounds because he enjoys the outdoors. When I asked him why he likes to be in charge of the grounds he answered quickly. “Because I don’t have to write.” I laughed and then he said, “because I don’t have to speak in front of people.” His third answer was, “because it takes minimal organizational skills.”
I laughed when Berry first said he would not have to write because that is what I love to do. When he said he would not have to speak in front of people, I was on board with him! Then he mentioned the organizational skills and that is one of my strengths….sometimes to a fault! God can use us all - it takes all kinds! We all have different strengths and gifts. 1 Peter 4: 10-11, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms….If anyone serves they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”
One of our neighbors who lives close by would speak to the people working on the PVUMC grounds. He would offer his equipment and visit. According to him, the church members were so nice and welcoming that a few years later when he and his wife decided to look for a church home they visited here and have since joined. Another woman, who Berry sees walking her dog, always stops and speaks. One day she stopped and helped him put out pine straw! Now he sees her at church! This is a ministry!
I also talked with Tom Nunalee who used his gift serving in our church yard from 1970 until 2016! Tom shared memories of friends who had certain jobs for various reasons. Some had issues walking but could ride the lawn mower, some loved flowering annuals and that was their specialty. One man trimmed all the shrubs in one day while Tom went behind him picking up the clippings. When the gentleman aged out Tom took over the trimming. He intended to do all of the trimming in one day but it took him 3 days! Everybody used their gift! Tom also mentioned that picking up litter seems so menial but what an important job that is! Can you imagine what our church yard would look like if we never picked up the litter?
According to Tom, PVUMC has saved a lot of money through the years having volunteers do our yard. This is a church being wise stewards of their money. Serving is a great form of generosity and an awesome way to honor God! When we serve we worship God by stewarding our time and talents for Him. Serving with others is a blessing. When we’re working side-by-side with other people, bonds are formed. This was part of God’s plan for how the church is supposed to work. Hebrews 10: 24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
When we see the ways God uses our service to bring glory to Him our faith grows. Meeting people in the church yard while we are working and then seeing them visit and join the church increases our faith. Ephesians 3: 20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….”
Gardening is a great source of exercise. You can burn calories, build muscle mass, maintain bone density, reduce blood pressure and obesity, etc. Studies show that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease stress and depression symptoms. And you can do all of this while working outside (getting vitamin D) in God’s beautiful creation. And make friends!
What an important ministry this is for PVUMC! Our grounds show that we care about God’s yard. Berry needs a lot of help with mowing, blowing, edging, raking, etc. If Berry can get enough help, then people would only have to sign up to work once every eight weeks! If you are interested in sharing your heart and time with this ministry, please contact the church office and we will get you in touch with Berry Stephens.
- Jill Jarrell Newsome