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A Prayer Garden for IBC

By Debra Fournerat
In eLetter
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Debra Fournerat, IBCer

I got the idea for a butterfly garden one day in 2021 when I parked near IBC’s outdoor prayer area by Cuppa. I had just finished a project with Keep Irving Beautiful and Friends of Irving Gardens to restore a pollinator garden at Bird’s Fort Trail Park, so when I saw this place, I saw its potential. It was easy to imagine how lovely and full of life it could be if we replaced some Bermuda grass with perennial flowers and added a few small trees and butterfly host plants.

I did not know how to start or who to approach with the idea. In fact, I had just started attending Irving Bible Church regularly in 2018, and the pandemic had left me feeling disconnected—like a spectator rather than a participant. I was struggling to figure out if or how I fit in at IBC.

I attended an event to promote reconnection in the fall of 2021 and felt so awkward and out of place until Pastor Barry shared a story of a man who came to Christ by taking walks along the lake behind the church. The man saw the cross sculpture and became curious enough to attend church, eventually coming to know Christ.

At that moment, I knew I had to share my vision. I believed that planting the butterfly garden would help wildlife, provide a comforting place to pray, and invite the community to our campus.

I took measurements, drew sketches and prepared a proposal. I grew some zinnias from seeds and used extra seedlings of wildflowers like sunflower, blanket flower, evening primrose, yarrow, goldenrod and late boneset from the Bird’s Fort Trail or from our home project to minimize the number of plants I would need to purchase.

IBC leadership approved the project.

We broke ground on the garden that spring, coordinating a work day with IBC’s youth ministry to start digging up the soil. Digging that hard, dry clay was like trying to bust up concrete! A kind IBCer came with a tiller the following week, making much more progress.

Kyla, an IBC staff member, put the word out for another workday to plant the first beds. I was so excited to have help both from IBCers like Jose and Leticia as well as from my neighbor Fatema and her friends. I bought salvia, Gregg's blue mistflower and lantana for hardy native plants that supply abundant nectar, plus milkweed because it is a host plant for monarch butterflies. Butterflies lay their eggs on the host plant, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves.

Having nectar sources, host plants, trees for shelter, a pond nearby for water, and a commitment to avoid pesticides in the area would make the garden an oasis of life to butterflies and other wildlife in the city. I registered the Shalom prayer garden as a certified wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation & Texas Conservation Alliance and as a monarch waystation with monarchwatch.org.

I love the diversity of flowering plants, tall and short, yellow, orange, blue, pink, purple, red and white, and the diversity of species the plants attract. I feel that diversity represents the IBC vision to be a multiethnic movement of disciples. When I needed to fill in a bare spot with bright flowers, I chose marigolds for their importance to Indian and Mexican culture to honor our love of cultural diversity.

I love walking to the garden after Sunday morning service and thinking about the message while I pull a few weeds, playing a praise song on my phone while I watch the flutter of wings, and praying in that peaceful place. My prayer for the Shalom prayer garden is that it would be a place of peace and delight to IBCers, guests and wildlife, and that it inspires all of us to be good stewards of the earth.

If you want to learn more about pollinator gardens, you are welcome to come to the garden on November 11th anytime between 10 and noon for a seed and plant exchange. You can meet other garden enthusiasts to exchange ideas, plus we will have some extra plants and seeds from the garden to give away. Or if you’d like to help tend IBC’s garden by pulling weeds, planting, and putting down mulch throughout the year, you can email [email protected]. We’d love to put you to work!

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