As part of our weekly chapel service PSR students, faculty, and staff came together with Eli Mata’afa’s family and church community to celebrate the dedication of the Isamaeli (Eli) Mata’afa Community Garden. Eli was a master of divinity (MDiv) student at PSR, set to graduate in May of 2023 before his life was taken in a senseless act of gun violence.
The garden, which began as a project in the fall semester’s Spiritual Formation for Leadership class came to fruition on Tuesday as a tangible way to celebrate Eli’s life and continue his legacy.
Speaking at chapel, current MDiv student and part of the team behind the community garden, Michael Goos shared this reflection:
Paul tells us “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”
Each one of us is a seed, nourished by the light and warmth of God, which is wisdom and love, and once nourished we bear fruit for the whole world. Eli has borne much fruit. He has inspired people who never even met him, and he touched the lives of so many in his community. The theme of our garden is Seeds of Dialogue. Not only is the physical garden intended to be a focal point for community bonding, but we ourselves are to be seeds of dialogue, providing opportunities for healing and connection through our engagement with others. By opening up about our hopes, our fears, our pain, and our joy, we blossom, and allow others to blossom as well, and share their stories.
We hope that this garden fosters a love of community that encompasses all living beings. We hope to live in ways that are emotionally, spiritually, and physically sustainable. To do so, we must hear everyone’s voices. We must learn to speak with nature, to hear its needs, and to respond as we would to a beloved friend. This garden is a humble and heartfelt step towards that compassionate future.
Describing the way enlightenment spreads throughout the world, the Buddha has said,
“That it is as if a great cloud
Arises in the world
And covers everything.
This beneficent cloud contains moisture
And bright lightning flashes from it.
The sound of its thunder shakes the earth afar
And gladdens the people.
It conceals the sun
And cools the earth.
The spreading cloud hangs so low,
As if it could be touched.
Everywhere, equal, and immeasurable
The rain pours down and moistens the earth.
Grasses, herbs, large and small trees,
All kinds of crops, seedlings, sugarcane, and grapes
Growing in the depths of the mountains,
In rivers and in precipitous valleys,
Are all watered and completely nourished by the rain.
The Buddha is exactly like this.”
May our care and our love for one another be equally nourishing.
Najon Sania, Eli’s cousin, and a fellow MDiv student shared a video celebrating Eli’s life and speaking about the mission for Seeds of Dialogue, the larger initiative for which the garden is just the first iteration.
You can learn more about the Isamaeli (Eli) Mata’afa Community Garden and how to support its continued growth here.
All are welcome to participate in a blessing ritual for the garden taking place on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22nd, 2023.