JOPLIN, MO – Watered Gardens is a local, faith-based organization ministering to poverty-stricken people in Southwest Missouri. Many are homeless. Almost all feel hopeless. In fact, conversations with people living in extreme poverty, regardless of where in this world they live, reveal that neither homelessness nor nakedness nor hunger are the heaviest burdens they bear.
Their most commonly shared sense of desperation is loneliness. They have no trustworthy relationships. Relationships are established based upon our individual sense of value in another person. The unwelcome truth is that people entrenched in poverty have learned – and even been told – that they have less value than others. The more we are told that we are worth less than others, the more we believe it. This happens regularly to the extent that some people are convinced that they are, indeed, worthless. At some point, their life turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The staff and volunteers at Watered Gardens believe that the Bible teaches that each of us was created by God and in His image. “Not one of us has any less value than another.” The Bible reveals that our Creator loves us and that He wants to have an intimate relationship with us. Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for our sins but also to make a personal relationship with the Father possible – and to share His riches and glory with us forever.
The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. – Isaiah 58:11
In many ways, Watered Gardens resembles other faith-based inner-city missions with its Outreach program that includes a food pantry, a thrift shop, and connections to other community services. Overnight Shelter includes dinner and breakfast, as well as access to showers and laundry. Participants in the shelter program attend chapel services, Bible studies, and Care Coordination that helps them transition back into healthy relationships and a self-sustainable life.
Our sense of worth is often dependent upon knowing that others consider what we are doing is worthwhile. Watered Gardens established Project Worth to provide “an opportunity to be creative and endeavor to build products that go to market. The purchases of Worth-Shop items in our community are reminding the “least of these” that they have something to offer, that they have the ability to earn and that they have worth.”
Project Work items are even available online at the Worth Shop.
Forge is a 13-15 month program that helps men who are struggling to develop virtue and a strong work ethic. Watered Gardens’ website warns that Forge is not for the faint of heart; that it takes courage to be forged in all five phases of refining. Participants learn self-discipline, good habits, and valuable work skills “to go from being jobless and dependent to self-supporting and responsible.”
- The Service Phase is dedicated to helping participants develop appropriate relationships with the staff and in community service.
- Phase One is dedicated to instruction in clean living, education, and classwork.
- Phase Two is dedicated to working readiness and a “work practicum.”
- Phase Three is dedicated to employment and transition to independent living.
- Phase Four is dedicated to independent living and making healthy choices.
Watered Gardens was the grand prize winner of the World News Group’s Hope Awards for Effective Compassion. WNG described Watered Gardens as a place that teaches the down and out to regain their self-worth and to work for their room and board.
“An hour of work earns groceries for a week, and 12 hours a week earns a bed. Those who have worked there for three months can move on to the Forge Center for Virtue and Work, which by teaching Biblical truths and work readiness helps residents to transition to financial independence combined with dependence on God.”
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