The Story of an Overgrown Garden | World Challenge

The Story of an Overgrown Garden

Rachel Chimits
October 24, 2019

God brought a husband and wife from the Dominican Republic to minister in one of the United States’ poorest cities.

When Cesar first asked God to take over his life, he felt as if God called to mind his Kendo lessons then said, “I have given you a new sword: my Word.”

Rhode grew up in a Christian family, and she trusted God from an early age. An opportunity rose for her to start a singing career with a label in the D.R., but she felt as if God said, “No. This is not the plan I have for you in this moment.”

Confused, she waited, wondering what God had in store.

Cesar and Rhode met and attended a crusade in the Dominican Republic, one where David Wilkerson was speaking. Rhode thought to herself that she wanted the Holy Spirit to move in her the same way it seemed to in David. Both of them were challenged to a new spiritual level.

When they married, they agreed that they wanted God to use them for ministry and missions, but they weren’t sure where he would take them yet.

Eventually, he and Rhode felt that they might be called to move to Canada as missionaries, since it has a notable Hispanic population. However, an opportunity in the United States opened up instead, and they moved, uncertain what they would face in this new country.

Listening for the Lord to Speak

Coming from a lovely home in cosmopolitan Santo Domingo, Cesar and Rhode were shocked by the poor conditions of the town they’d moved to in Pennsylvania. After asking around and doing some research, they found out that Reading has the U.S.’s highest population of those living in poverty.

They were also surprised by how many Spanish-speakers they had in their new neighborhood, an opening God had created for them to connect with their community.

They began doing door-to-door evangelism but quickly found that people were seldom open to these invitations or conversations. It was very frustrating.

Cesar suggested a new tactic, connecting to the community through social media, specifically YouTube. They began making videos to reach new people and invite them to the church where Cesar and Rhode had settled. The videos saw some success bringing people to church, but as they prayed about how to continue, they felt God say, “Do nothing.”

Do nothing? Surely that couldn’t be right.

The more they prayed, however, the stronger they felt that this was correct. They began the wait, anticipating God’s next move.

Soon they met Wade Copland, World Challenge team member, through the Transformative Solutions Network. He shared with them the vision of more sustainable missions and ministry through community connection and practical life-lessons. This was a direction that was very much on both of their hearts, and they were eager to pursue what this might look like for their church and neighborhood.

A Tale of Two Earthworms

Together, Cesar and Rhode went to a local elementary school to become volunteers. The principal asked for help with many projects, including the school’s neglected gardens that badly needed cleaning.

For Cesar and Rhode, this was the perfect opportunity to do something special for the school, above and beyond just cleaning a couple of garden beds. They cleaned the gardens then proposed a community project involving students and their families.

Parents could volunteer to work in the garden together with their child. Children could learn more about natural science—and the Lord who created it—along with growing their own plants.

One of their friends in ministry, seeing what they were doing, began talking to Rhode about her worries for many of the students who were on the verge of middle school.

Many of these students, she explained, would be expected to sort out their schoolwork and social life on their own once they moved out of elementary school. For many working class families, this was par for the course. Parents had no time to help children with homework, or they couldn’t read the English assignments and instructions.

Rhode began planning out a bilingual book, centered around two earthworms in the garden. The hope was this book would be a connection point for parents and children, offer children guidelines for having to work more independently, teach values and character building, as well as open opportunities to discuss God.

Together they are building relationships with this community and two generations who are thirsty to know their maker and heavenly Father.