Situated in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains stands Brookhill Wesleyan Church (BWC). Founded on October 16, 1983, in Forest, Virginia, the original charter members determined that BWC should be God’s lighthouse, a place where people could find God and be a haven of rest for the family of God. The vision, prayers and commitment of that original handful of charter members have been blessed by God to grow into a vibrant and growing body of believers.
BWC is comfortably located between the cities of Bedford and Lynchburg along Highway 221. It serves a people from the rural setting as well as from the urban population of a large university city. A high percentage of the county’s population is married, well educated, professional and home-owning families. Yet the area also includes a significant number of people living well below the national poverty line. Incredibly, nearly 60 percent of the county’s population resides within a five-mile radius of BWC.
About 140 people worship the Lord weekly pastored by Rev. Brian Cook, who has served there for more than three years.
Two year ago, BWC began growing a community garden. Pastor Dominic Alvey and his wife, Kendall, along with a spirited group of volunteers, faithfully tend the garden, sharing fresh vegetables with the community and supplying the local food bank. Last year, 700 pounds of vegetables were distributed from Brookhill’s garden, including tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, kale, lettuce, radishes, beets, cabbage, corn and potatoes.
Alvey, the children’s pastor at BWC, said, “The gate is always open, and there is plenty of work to go around. You do not need to be a member of Brookhill to take part in the garden.”
Made up of two parts, the garden includes a community portion that is cared for by the church and community members and a raised bed section that is cared for by individuals and families who can adopt beds, for a small fee or in exchange for volunteer hours in the garden, prior to the planting season.
“When we started out, we asked the Lord to help us create a place where people could experience the faithfulness that is required to plant, tend and harvest a garden,” said Cook. “God has done so much more than that. Through these last two years we have seen the community grow around this project. From families adopting raised beds, to church and community members volunteering, to people just stopping by to see what is going on. With all these aspects of the ministry we have been able to share what has been grown with our church and community and it has given us another platform to share Christ.”
BWC began looking for another way to minister in the community when the COVID-19 pandemic began. It had become apparent to Cook that what was needed most was not found on supermarket shelves. What was needed most was hope.
Cook’s wife, Martha, had seen a report about a New Jersey church that had started an outreach called Boxes of Hope. The BWC leadership team decided to partner in that work.
Boxes of Hope provides goods and supplies (e.g. canned meats, rice, cereal, oatmeal, soups, stew, personal hygiene products, laundry soap, soap, dishwashing soap, mac and cheese, peanut butter, jelly, coloring books for kids, devotional book and letter from pastor), a tangible example of hope, directly to people’s doorsteps. Each box is meant to be a tangible way of stretching out a hand of encouragement to those who have been affected in some significant way. Through these boxes, BWC leaders and congregants seek to communicate God’s love and that recipients are not alone.
“The world all around us may change, but God’s love remains the same,” said Cook. “This is the hope we have to share. We are eager to get these boxes out to neighbors in need. The vision for these boxes is to see hope spread faster than COVID-19.”
One BWC Boxes of Hope recipient recently wrote: “I want to thank you and your church for the lovely box of food that you sent me. I’m disabled and on social security, so you know very well how much this box helped me. I also loved the book that came with it. I have been reading some of it, and it is very comforting in this time of need. With all that’s going on in the world today, I find joy and peace within this book [God Will Use This for Good, by Max Lucado]. I want to wish you and your church love, safety and peace. May God bless you.”
“Together, Boxes of Hope and the Community Garden provide not only encouragement and hope to those in need, but also present the church with ample opportunity and fertile ground to grow together as we serve the needs of our diverse community,” said Cook.
“Brookhill’s missional heart for their community is a vital ingredient in making disciples for Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Gregory Reynolds, district superintendent for the Shenandoah District. “Under Pastor Brian and Marti’s (Martha) leadership the church is loving, serving and teaching the claims of our Savior.”