Hector Gonzalez steps out to the garden to show his friend Joe Bollinger, a missionary with Cru, what’s growing in the Florida heat this summer afternoon. After finishing an online Bible study with Joe, Hector holds his phone up to potatoes and the little tomatoes he grew from seeds. “What do I do now?” Hector asks Joe.
Hector caught Joe’s passion for gardening. Joe loves agriculture and nature, and his interest led Hector to embark on his own horticultural adventures. Gardening is now part of their friendship, as is learning from Scripture together in Bible studies and conversations. Hector and Joe both want to grow in their relationships with Jesus. “Like everything in life, whether it’s with gardening or your relationship with Christ, you have to take the time and effort to take care of it,” Hector says.
After Joe (photo on the right) harvests produce such as lettuce, peppers or spinach, he and his wife, Keijo, give away the abundance to others, using the garden to fuel their ministry with Cru City. Joe and Keijo meet people who might not enter the doors of a church. Joe calls it the “ministry of availability.” Joe and Keijo opened their home (before COVID-19) to share the good news of Jesus and spiritually mentor people in their city.
Joe’s neighbors receive the fruits of his labors, which are an overflow of his passion for gardening and Jesus. Some neighbors appreciate the vegetables and the chance to stay home instead of venturing to the store during the COVID-19 pandemic. One neighbor treasures the vegetables because they help her stick to the vegan diet she began with chemotherapy. But beyond stocking their fridge with veggies, Joe connects on a personal level and starts conversations, which helps cultivate fertile soil (Matthew 13:1-9) as they get to know each other.
As Joe talks with neighbors, he notices the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives, catching comments related to spirituality and asking questions. He asks to talk more with them about deeper life and faith topics, and his schedule fills with phone calls, Zoom meetings, texts and Facebook messages that open up opportunities for the gospel.
Joe shares, “There are people who truly want to know God, so when we find them, we connect over a mutual sense of discovering God through prayer and living it out, through practicing what we’re learning.” Pray for Joe’s ministry and for his neighbors as the gospel is lived out in Joe’s neighborhood.
Thank you for your faithfulness in helping share the gospel of Jesus Christ to neighborhoods all over the world.
Yours in Christ,
Steve & Robin