Planting the seed

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sweet corn. Watermelons. Ice cream and grilled burgers.

All this and more will be offered July 7 to raise money and collect supplies for Hope Seeds, a national organization that sends quality garden seeds to help people in starving nations grow their own food.

St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jackson is spearheading what the organizers call "Mission Possible: Uganda Orphans." Churches of all denominations have joined to make it a community project.

The community is welcome to drop by the church to enjoy bratwurst, hamburgers, sweet corn, watermelon, ice cream and more. Baked goods will be for sale, and gardeners can buy potted plants and container gardens.

Throughout the day music will be provided by the Teen Challenge Choir, Heartland Pops Chorus, Elev8 Praise Band and other church choirs. Those who like to test their skills can participate in a watermelon seed spitting contest and a contest to see who can produce the cleanest corn off the cob.

The churches are also collecting what they hope will be enough items to fill a 20-foot shipping container with gardening and hand construction tools, sewing kit items, linen and cotton fabric, sheets and blankets, school supplies, clothing and shoes, tarps, tents, cots and toiletries. The container will be combined into a 40-foot container to be filled with items from a St. Louis Lutheran charity and will be shipped to orphans in the African nation of Uganda.

"Uganda is a country of about 28 million people and 1.8 million orphaned from the ravages of civil war and AIDS," said Judge Gary Kamp, a spokesman for St. Paul Lutheran Church. "We hope to be able to improve the lives of between 800 and 1,000 of these orphans in Uganda."

Hope Seeds was founded by Gary Mueller, who Kamp said is originally from the Bertrand area and whose family owns a nursery that will provide Saturday's sweet corn. Hope Seeds is similar to the Heifer Project, which teaches impoverished people to breed and care for livestock in an effort to become self-sufficient. Hope Seeds sends seeds to people to teach them how to plant and cultivate crops and turn them into an income as well as nutrition.

Mueller is expected to be at the event to share his experience with his ministry.

Kamp said several parochial schools have committed to starting a competition among their students to help collect notebooks, pencils and other basic school supplies to the Ugandan orphans.

Opportunities are there for other individuals and groups to participate. What is really needed, Kamp said, are new or used hand tools for gardening and building.

"There is such a dire need," he said. "Whenever they have a hammer or a screwdriver they put it in the city treasury. If someone wants to use it, they go in and sign for it."

Because there is no electricity, power tools are not needed, but they do need shovels, rakes, hoes, hammers -- things people here acquire so easily but are so treasured there, instead of the crude handmade tools they now use, Kamp said.

"I asked one person if they had much trouble with stealing some of this stuff," Kamp said. "He said they don't because everybody respects everybody else. It's such a wonderful blessing to have this stuff that they share and work together."

Kamp said the participating churches hope to collect the majority of the needed items Saturday, but will continue to accept donations through December. The filled containers will leave port in January.

"We would love for the public to come out and participate," Kamp said. "I've really become enlightened with this project. It's the top charity my wife and I support."

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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