The amount of grassroots, efficient, and sustainable Kingdom work happening in North Carolina is astounding. People across our state are working together in various communities to promote health and wholeness. People care about health. People recognize that our lives and families depend on us caring about health. Communal work is happening all around us, to help people live fuller and healthier lives. Most of all, if you take notice of these various efforts, you will also see the spirit moving in each of them.
I was able to see this sacred work firsthand while visiting the Reverend Richard Joyner at Conetoe Family Life Center. It is obvious that God is working within this center and farm to bring health, wholeness, and healing.
I had the sincere privilege of being invited to tag along with another friend, the Rev. Bob Hudak, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, for a catch-up between friends. Rev. Joyner and I had already met through other clergy meetings and happenstance greetings, but this was spending time with him and Bob, a trusted colleague, in his backyard.
Many know Rev. Joyner from being named a 2015 Top Ten CNN Hero and the far-reaching work of Conetoe Family Life Center. However, Rev. Joyner told me the story of establishing the center and shared the initial desperation and systemic need of his congregants. I didn’t realize how challenging things were when Rev. Joyner received, what he is quick to say, a vision from God on what to establish in the community. He faced a lot of tension and deep resentment in his community because people didn’t want to change. But he knew that the systemic dependencies found throughout generations in Conetoe, was killing his congregants. Rev. Joyner felt called to bring healing to his community by growing food.
Rev. Joyner shared some of his theology while giving me a background on the ministry, casually stating deep theological connections between faith and food. He shared empirical wisdom on issues such as poverty, God’s provisions, human development, and our need to reconnect with creation and neighbor.
The Conetoe Family Life Center provides an oasis for neighbors to feel known, prevent chronic illness, live healthier, help youth grow into proactive community members, offer dignity to all participants, and learn about the importance of healthy eating. This work happens through their classes, events, and mentorship. Lives in rural Conetoe are being transformed by growing food together, learning how to cook healthier, understanding the risks of tobacco use, and spending time outside with others.
If you want inspiration for your own food ministry, I suggest visiting Conetoe. Partners in Health and Wholeness has the privilege of collaborating with this sacred work throughout our state. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved! Our regional coordinators are statewide and would love to connect you to the amazing work that is happening all around us.