Last year’s gardening initiative at Hornby Community Ministries took a further step this year into a number of community gardens.
One garden is at a local Anglican church, another is a glasshouse on a private property, and another is part of a 42-hectare farm property at Selwyn Downs, east of Rolleston, 20 minutes’ drive from the Salvation Army centre.
This year’s development has been named ‘Kai Mahi—food for the people’, and is under the visionary leadership of Nigel Carr. The workforce for Kai Mahi is made up of young volunteers and people coming to Hornby Community Ministries to work off a debt of community hours.
Nigel and his team have also taken on some private yards, helping people move house, lawn-mowing, trimming, clearing, demolishing, building—whatever is necessary to tidy up a section.
At Selwyn Downs, a greenhouse and large area of garden have been worked over and planted with vegetables. The initial clearing of the ground was done at the end of June by a group of students from Hornby High School as part of a Project K (mentoring) programme. Since then, the Kai Mahi team have prepared the ground and now planted it out. It is a landscape in process of transformation.
Vegetables are not the only things growing strong under Canterbury’s sun and God’s good favour. Another deeper transformation is also taking place. Something significant is happening in the lives of the team as they work together. The banter between them, the sense of belonging, even ownership, is wonderful to see.
Hugh, working out a stint of community hours, has been put in charge of the greenhouse. Nigel tells the others, ‘Don’t change anything in there without Hugh’s permission.’ Hugh grins.
Aaron, only 17, his arms decorated with tattoos, is small, wiry and energetic. I asked him what he would be doing if he was not doing this. With eyes wide, he says, ‘I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be good.’ His work with gardens and learning horticultural and building skills will hopefully open up a pathway to employment for Aaron. That’s the plan.
Jack, a Turkish man who had lived in a tiny cabin room for almost a year, isolated and lonely, has recently become part of the team. ‘This is my new family,’ he says, beaming.
Nigel is himself a man in process of transformation—his new smile says it all. After long years of living on the wrong side of the law, involved in gangs and surviving by street smarts, he has now found a place to belong and people who will listen to his dreams. The skills of building, gardening, forestry that Nigel learned in his lean years are now flourishing and being put to great use around the local area. This is surely the redemption of God at work. Nigel keeps saying, ‘I’m the happiest man in the world!’
Out on the south-west side of Christchurch, transformation is taking place these days. Rough ground is being turned into garden plots. And once-rough men are finding a new purpose for living and the opportunity to make a real difference in the community.