By Ella Althoff

I recently participated in a mission trip. Our youth group decided this year that instead of going someplace out of the state we would help out in our own city, Spokane. The theme of the week was justice. How can we, with our actions, provide justice to the community?

We worked with a group called Growing Neighbors. We restocked mini food pantries all around Spokane, made house deliveries and did a lot of weeding. This group is run out of Shadle Presbyterian church. At their church we helped them put a large garden bed to rest. This is the idea that after a garden has been producing food or growing plants for a while it needs a rest. The garden is tired and in order for it to continue producing all of the great things that it did, it rests for a couple years. The soil soaks up all the nutrients and basically hibernates.

To do this project, we started by clearing all of the stray grass and weeds out of the bed. Then we laid down a layer of compost from the church. We then went to stores around the church and collected cardboard boxes, broke them down, and layed those on top of the compost. The final layer consisted of mulch. This experience really taught me about the other side of gardening. You don’t garden to glean as much food as possible and tire the garden out. You do it to take care of the earth and use what God has provided. When we use things, we have to take care of them, as well. As I thought about justice during that day, justice to the earth came to mind and providing food to those who were either unable to get it or didn’t have any felt like a justice to them. No one deserves to go hungry.

A couple days later we worked with a group from Spokane called Family Promise. Family Promise provides temporary housing for houseless people. We started at their Infant home where mothers and their children can live when they’ve recently had a baby. While we were there, we weeded all around that house and otherFamily Promise homes. We mowed lawns, trimmed trees, and cut back bushes. While I was weeding I was wondering to myself, How is this justice to these people? I concluded that our help was giving them justice in that they had a sense of pride in the house that they were currently living in. We got to make the home that these previously houseless people were living in look pretty spectacular on the outside.

During our lunch break at the house, I went inside to wash my hands and saw these little kids playing with cars on the living room floor. They called me over to play with them. I sat with them for a little while participating in some crazy car races. I realized in the moment that these kids are just normal children. You wouldn’t know because of the way they look or the way they act that they have started their lives without permanent housing. Taking care of creation includes taking care of the people that God created. The insight made me so thankful for organizations like Family Promise that are reaching out to the people who don’t have a permanent place to live and giving them help.

Overall during the week, I reflected on what providing justice for the community looked like and how it could present itself in various different ways: justice for the physical earth and justice for the people who inhabit it. Both are very important. I also learned that working for justice is not very hard. It just takes an hour or two out of your day to tend to a garden, fill a pantry, offer to weed someone’s yard, or give someone who doesn’t have reliable food a granola bar. If everyone does just a little bit, together our actions can and will add up to big changes in our world.

Ella Althoff is a junior at Lewis and Clark High School and attends Hamblen Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington. She got involved in creation justice through working with her grandparents, Bob and Anita Dygert-Gearheart, on the climate-crisis curriculum, Wake Up World.