WINSTON, Ga. — In 1933 Erskine Caldwell wrote a best-selling novel entitled God’s Little Acre. The book is about a destitute Georgia farmer named Ty Ty Walden who gives one acre of his farmland to God to support the church.
The book sounds like an inspiring treatise on stewardship, but is actually all about greed, murder, betrayal, lust, and rage. Although the book sold more than ten million copies it was censured by the Georgia Literary Commission and banned in Boston.
The story of “God’s Three Acres” is the exact opposite of Caldwell’s book. If right and left, night and day, small and big stand in contradistinction to one another, God’s Three Acres at Ephesus Baptist Church in Winston and Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre are as antithetical and paradoxical as it gets.
Billy Godwin, pastor of Ephesus Baptist Church has found multiple ways to urge his congregation to be “rivers, not reservoirs.” Consequently, a significant number of church members have found ways to use their spiritual gifts and talents to flow like a river to bless others and honor the Lord.
Chris Waldrop, who retired from the Norfolk Southern Railroad, declared, “I was baptized when I was young, but I did not make a true profession of faith until I was fifty years old. My heart’s desire since then has been to serve the Lord and become a river, a channel of blessing to others.
“God gave me the knowledge and ability to cultivate the earth and grow crops. Each spring and summer I watch in amazement as He produces the corn, squash, and zucchini on our three-acre farm at Ephesus. He then gives me the energy to help bring in the harvest; and it is great being a partner with God in planting, cultivating, and harvesting the crop.”
Several years ago, the church acquired 39 acres of land across the road from the church campus. The property, once rich farmland, had become covered with kudzu, but Waldrop thought a portion of it could be turned into good agricultural property once again and in 2017 led an effort to grow produce for the benefit of others as a ministry of the church.
On Wednesday, July 12, Waldrop, and other church members gathered just after dawn to pick bushels of corn produced by the three-acre garden.
The vegetables gathered by the church members go to the Good Samaritan Center in Douglasville, a Christian organization that partners with other Douglas County churches, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and several large retailers to provide a variety of nutritious foods for families in need. The Good Samaritan Center’s stated goal is for every client to see the love of Jesus during their visit to the Center.
Food from the Ephesus Garden also goes to KidsPeace, an 80-bed facility in Bowden, Ga., that provides help to teenagers with a range of mental health, substance abuse and behavioral issues.
Some of the food is taken to The Pantry in Douglasville, a service organization that helps relieve the discomfort of those experiencing hunger, pain and want.
Ephesus Baptist provides a mobile food pantry for those in need on the first Wednesday of every month and serves approximately 160 families in that ministry. In the summer, the garden at the church provides produce to those who avail themselves of the mobile food pantry, but the greatest portion of the food comes from the Atlanta Food Bank.
Recipients of the vegetables provided by the Ephesus Garden frequently express their gratitude to Waldrop for the benefits he provides through his produce ministry. He explained, “People are always demonstrating their love and appreciation for the fruits of our labor, and I tell them about the Lord and the joy and fulfillment from being a part of our church.”
Godwin described Waldrop as a humble man with a desire to serve God by being a blessing to others. “I don’t think he feels called to stand in front of a group of people and teach the Word,” explained the Ephesus pastor, “but he has proven himself to be a faithful servant of God. Chris’ primary desire is to glorify the Lord. Last Sunday I preached from Deuteronomy 32: 3-4 where God is described as ‘the Rock.’ Chris indicated that the glory for anything he does for the cause of Christ or to help the church ‘belongs to the Rock.’”
According to Matthew 25:34-40, the day will come when Jesus will say to those who fed the hungry, “Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.”
When you fill a man’s stomach, you often open his heart to receive the food that provides eternal nourishment.