Refugees come to this country filled with hope – for community, connection and opportunity.

In response, Arrive Ministries is helping churches grow gardens for – and with – their refugee neighbors.

“Along with the Karen Organization of Minnesota, we connect refugee-serving organizations with area churches that provide plots of land for gardening,” said Bob Oehrig, Arrive Ministries Executive Director, “In 2013, participating churches helped a total of 1,269 gardeners, including Karen, Bhutanese and Hmong refugees and immigrants who were able to grow vegetables for themselves and for sale.”

He continues, “The Karen group, specifically, are a more recent arrival to the Twin Cities, coming here from refugee camps in Thailand. They come from an agrarian society with a deep attachment to the land and a desire for self-sufficiency through food production. Some of these families go to the gardens early in the morning and actually spend the whole day there, even if they’re not gardening the whole time – culturally, they identify with their gardens.

“Not only can the families grow some of their own, culturally appropriate foods that would be too expensive for them to buy in specialty stores, but they can also sell their foods – and thereby also share some of their culture – at community farmers markets.”  As a result, Twin Cities residents benefit from fresh local produce, global perspectives and relationships with their new neighbors.

As a means of building friendships and preserving human dignity by helping refugees to help themselves, Arrive Ministries and its partnering organizations and churches advocate turning lawns into gardens.

Dennis Murnyak, Arrive Ministries’ gardening coordinator, and a team of volunteers have helped Twin Cities’ churches realize the great reciprocity of gardening projects. “It’s a win-win,” said Oehrig. “Refugees gain social support, as well as a means of contributing to their own well-being and that of their neighbors. And we’re enriched, too, when we recognize the many ways in which refugees can contribute to the resilience of our communities.”

“Participating churches see the gardens as a form of outreach ministry,” says Murnyak, “and a way to build relationships and understanding among church members and refugees.”

For more information on community gardening, different types of gardens, and how to get started, visit Gardens of Eden.

For more information, contact:

Bob Oehrig

Executive Director


[email protected]