Meeting God in the Garden
by: John Dykes
[John Dykes volunteers at Brady’s Stone Soup Educational Garden on Gifford St., and shares his story, his thoughts, and his faith]
I was born and raised in Syracuse in the 15th ward on the corner of Burt and McBride. Across the street was Cooper Metal. In 1968 I moved over to the East Side. I was introduced to Brady through my grandchildren; they were involved in the Saturday programs, Sunday Service and Vacation Bible School.
I will never forget the day Kevin and Emily came to my daughter’s house in the midst of a family crisis. God took care of that emergency through the two of them. Shortly after, I started coming to church and helping out in the Stone Soup Education Garden by cutting grass, watering the plants everyday and taking care of clippings and weeding.
The soil was so dry due to no rain, as fast as I would water the plants, the ground would soak it up. Spending time in the garden has been a very nice experience for me – I enjoy it. There’s something very special about being in God’s creation – when I go into the garden, I feel the presence of God and I receive peace of mind.
Growing up, I had a head start in God’s work because my mother was Christian and she taught me to learn from and to respect God’s work and what God created. My religious background has helped me appreciate what God has put here.
As a child – the word of God kept me out of jail by helping me stay away from what is wrong and hurtful. I was taught to simply go the other way and leave it alone. Looking at the nature in the garden – points to a supreme being that created all this – it didn’t just pop-up! Nature points to “the more” in life. It reminds me that nothing happens by mistake and that things happen in my life for a reason.
God has brought the garden in my life as part of my protection. Where I live is a crime-ridden area with a lot of negative distractions, sometimes shootings take place around me. Whenever there is gunfire, life is threatened and it’s like rolling the dice, you just don’t know what’s going to take place. It’s hard to feel safe, protected and peaceful in this environment. It’s in the garden that I feel peace of mind and security. For just the couple hours that I am there, I am reminded that life is good and I will be fine.
The children are really excited about being in the garden. It definitely gives them a place to be that they really enjoy. They are intrigued with the plants, they have something so positive to do and you can see their enthusiasm. In the garden they are eager to learn about nature and see and experience where their food comes from. In the garden the children are taught appreciation.
In the garden I experience the presence of God. You can’t see the wind but you know it’s there when you feel it against your body and see the plants and trees move because of it. It’s in creation that I feel the creator and God’s presence. Most people go to services to experience God, for me it’s in the garden that I experience church at its best – that is God in me. My mom always told me that you have to have God in your heart – when I’m in the garden – I feel God’s presence in my heart.
Sometimes I get stuck rehashing the same problems in my mind over and over again. Instead of learning and growing from my struggles, I just keep hitting the rewind button on my problems over and over again. For me the garden is a place of serenity and a place to find mental rest. For a couple hours, I’m not thinking of all the problems that I have. I come out of there and can function a lot better mentally. The garden makes life a little bit more easy. Often, I come into the garden feeling not to good, uptight, with problems on my mind, I leave the garden feeling very uplifted, and I see my problems and what I have to deal with in a different light. My problems haven’t changed but how I am now able to deal with them has changed.
I am so thankful to return to the faith I grew up with as a child. No longer do I put my faith on the side and backburner of my life. In the Garden I walk and talk with God.
When people walk by and look at the garden, they tell me that they’ve never seen this before and they tell me it looks nice. They ask what they can pick and I tell them what’s available and to go ahead and take some, but not too much so that others can enjoy it as well.