This summer our church planted a garden. This was not your typical garden, although there were some familiar things in it. It was a Bible garden filled with a lot of the vegetation mentioned in the Bible.
Our church is located in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area. We had begun to realize that many of our children had never seen a garden and definitely had not seen a fig tree with real figs on it. Or seen grapes growing in a miniature (two vines!) vineyard. We decided some of our land should be developed into a Bible garden.
There are lots of ideas for Bible gardens on the internet. Ours has four raised beds and several trees and grape vines. One bed is for herbs, one for grasses and reeds, one for flowers and one for vegetables. We tried to plant a lot of perennials in three of the beds. A special shout out to the nice woman who works at Pike Nurseries for helping me figure out which plant was the mallow plant that gall is made from and which grasses and flowers matched up to the list. (She’s still trying to help me locate a hyssop plant!) It’s not clear in the Bible exactly what some of the plants are. We tried to take the best guesses of people and match it to what grows currently in Israel. Luckily, our climate is mild, but I have seen plans for gardens as far north as Indiana.
Eventually we hope the garden will also serve for prayer and study. Someone donated a nice park bench, which now has palm trees planted on either side. Permanent signs will tie scriptures to the plants that are in the garden. Hopefully the next time the children study about the fig tree that didn’t bear fruit, ours will be bearing fruit and they can see and taste what a fig actually is. God pruning us like the grape vines are pruned will make a lot more sense after the children have actually seen the vines pruned and understand why they are pruned the way they are. Once I figure out which part of the mallow plant is made into gall, we may even try to make a batch ourselves!
If you don’t have the space or inclination to plant a Bible garden, try taking your child to the farmers’ market in your town. Our local grocery store even carried fresh figs this summer. Try a fig or some dates. The next time you drive by a vineyard ask the owner if he will explain the pruning process to your child. Try cooking some foods like couscous and unleavened bread. There are lots of recipes online.
It may be easier for your child to imagine how Jesus lived on earth when she has tasted some of the main foods Jesus ate. Maybe some of those stories will even have deeper meaning now that she knows how really bad gall tastes (or how good a fig tastes when you are really hungry!). If nothing else, others will be blessed by the produce from your garden. The melons and cucumbers mentioned in the Old Testament graced quite a few tables this summer. Or while you are at the market buying figs for your child to taste, pick up some extras and make some homemade fig cookies for someone who could use a little cheer. The important thing is to take this opportunity to make the Bible come alive for your child. This time you can even make a meal out of it!