“They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem.
They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts—
the abundant crops of grain, new wine, and olive oil,
and the healthy flocks and herds.
Their life will be like a watered garden,
and all their sorrows will be gone.” -Jeremiah 31:12
In the heart of Greenville, tucked away on an unassuming street, sits Miracle Hill’s Renewal Center. It’s a place where women come to heal and recover from life-dominating addictions. It is here on this property that a hidden gem lies. It’s a sanctuary for guests in the six-month, inpatient program. It is where life change transpires and hearts are forever wrecked for Jesus. It is a garden where salvation is found and the harvest is plentiful.
Cultivating the Soil
It all started five years ago with a dedicated ministry volunteer. Phyllis Thomerson was leaving a Renewal graduation one evening when she noticed an empty plot of land beside one of the houses the ladies live in during her stay. With the experience of starting a church community garden under her belt, Phyllis got to work creating something special.
The garden beds were built by Eagle Scouts and house organic fruits and vegetables that produce a harvest sustaining the ladies at certain times of the year. They enjoy fresh lettuce and kale for salads. Tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers and carrots are all grown here. You can also find a variety of other homegrown delights ranging from fresh green beans to peppers. There is even a small garden bed for herbs and spices the ladies can use for cooking.
It is a garden where vegetables aren’t the only things growing.
A garden is a planted area where fruit, vegetables and flowers are cultivated. Cultivated. In a garden, cultivation consists of breaking up and digging into the soil in preparation for planting or sowing. A gardener might use a tractor or other tools, such as a shovel to turn the soil and help loosen it up while helping control weeds. For the Renewal ladies, cultivation can come with long days, lots of tears and counseling sessions led by the Holy Spirit.
As the ladies chip away at the spiritual crust that has enveloped their hearts, the turning of the “dirt” in their own lives paves a way for the seed to fall and take root. As the bushes are cut to remove diseased and damaged branches, God ushers these precious women into a season of their own pruning in which new life springs forth and healthy growth becomes reality. Our Heavenly Father is the gardener that uses many tools to accomplish transformation in these women. His Word can always be trusted to bring nourishment to the soil, and as Jesus serves as our Living Water, we can count on being like a well-watered garden.
Blossoming and Bearing Fruit
While blueberries are growing in the garden, the fruit of the Spirit grows in the ladies living there. Just as the vegetables grown provide sustenance to the guests, so does the truth of God’s Word as they sift through the enemy’s lies they have built their lives on. Through classes taught by staff and volunteers, wisdom from Godly women is poured out upon these ladies while encouragement and accountability are staples in community living here.
One of the most beautiful sights of a garden is the flowers. These women are the forgotten flowers who never deserved to be neglected and deprived. Here they have a chance to heal. These resilient ladies begin to spiritually mature, and as they realize their beauty in Christ, they bloom into the daughters of the Most High God they were called to be. While colorful flags adorn the garden’s fence, hand-painted signs made by a Renewal graduate line the beds and bring character to the property.
It is a refuge of peace for the lady who comes to Miracle Hill in turmoil and chaos. For the lady who can’t turn off the “noise” from her past, the outdoor haven provides quiet spots to escape and find stillness under the shade of trees. After a tough day of dealing with past trauma, extending forgiveness to an abuser, or working through Christian recovery principles as a new believer in Christ, the garden is a welcome retreat for guests to pray, rest or fellowship. Just like Jesus did at Gethsemane. It also provides a change in scenery for outdoor classes when weather permits.
Transforming From the Inside Out
If the Renewal Program were to have a mascot, it would be a butterfly. The journey of recovery in Christ is much like the metamorphosis a butterfly undergoes. Renewal provides a safe cocoon for radical transformation to take place, as beauty is built from ashes. Just this spring, Phyllis created a butterfly garden that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also benefits the ground and attracts pollinators to the property. How fitting that the women have a place where butterflies roam the grounds, serving as a whisper from the Lord to the lady who sees them.
“Most ladies don’t know about gardening when they get here,” Phyllis says. “They’ve never seen blueberries growing on a bush or a blossom turn into squash. For most, it’s their first time being exposed to gardening. I think they just really like the experience of seeing things grow and what that’s all about.” Phyllis also loves to cut the flowers and put them in small vases around the property for the guests. She hopes some of these ladies will go on to have gardens of their own someday. “I am the luckiest person on the planet to be able to be there,” Phyllis says. “I get to do what I love and do it for them. I get to give back to them.”
Without giving back, there would be no garden for the Renewal ladies to enjoy. Faithful ministry champions, Landscapers Supply, send mulch and wood chips for the garden. Phyllis spends much of her own time and resources to add to and improve the area every season, often recruiting her own family to help.
Tending the Garden Of Your Heart
Renewal Director Venus Dixon also recognizes the garden’s value to the guests. “Ms. Phyllis is an excellent master gardener, and she has created a therapeutic environment as well as a source for healthy eating at the Renewal Center.” Venus added that the garden has produced fruit and vegetables that help make up the daily menu during spring and summer months. “We were all amazed at the amount of produce that the garden generated. Over 3,000 meals included blueberries, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, bell peppers and herbs which came straight from the Renewal Garden.”
Following the right steps to creating a successful garden are similar to the steps program guests learn in their recovery and pursuit of Jesus. Ladies learn how planning and making good use of resources can help bring desired results. They are taught to recognize good seed and how to care for the soil on which they are building a foundation on. They discover how to keep weeds and pests out of their gardens – understanding that disease can attack roots beneath the soil, if not detected, and suffocate the new life growing. As ladies graduate the program and move on, they know how to tend to the garden of their hearts. They can be assured that the tools they gather from their stay in the Renewal Program will lead to lasting change and freedom in Christ.
Post submitted by Sarah Kastner, Stewardship Officer at Miracle Hill Ministries. If you would like to tour Renewal or the garden, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.