Running into the Coronavirus Crisis with Lettuce and Love

So, What’s in Your Hand?


John Stonestreet

David Carlson

Mr. Rogers used to say that in a time of crisis, we should always look for the helpers. Throughout history, in times of crisis, Christians have been among the helpers and, often, leading the efforts and innovation in order to bring relief and healing to victims. In the early days of the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan, China, Christians were helping. Today, American Christians are helping their neighbors.

For example, when Rev. Charles Cheek of the Peninsula Baptist Association in Hampton Roads, Virginia learned that local homeless shelters were closing on account of the pandemic, he and his church “started a community donation drive to help get food for those who are impacted.”

Another example is the Alabama megachurch, Church of the Highlands, who turned their parking lots into drive-through coronavirus testing centers. Within two days, nearly 1,000 people across the state had been tested for the virus in an effort staffed by two doctors and church volunteers dressed in protective gear. This effort was not wholly unexpected for this church who, since 2009, has operated a health clinic that sees 18,000 patients a year.

And then, there’s a remarkable story happening in my backyard. Not only in Colorado Springs, but about a stone’s throw from my house, my friend Josh Imhoff and his group YWAM Emerge is being used by God to bless my community… through lettuce…thousands of heads of lettuce.

As Josh told me on the latest episode of the BreakPoint podcast, YWAM Emerge works in 15 countries around the world teaching orphanages, churches, widows’ homes, and more how to grow self-sustaining food through aquaponics. Aquaponics is a system for growing vegetables that involves raising fish, whose waste produces fertilizer for growing vegetables hydroponically, and the plants, in turn, purify the water for the fish.

YWAM Emerge has sustained its ministry of training others through their own lettuce production. Their greenhouse produces 2,700 heads of lettuce a week which, until just a few weeks ago, was sold to restaurants and colleges and other local ministries and businesses. But when the coronavirus hit, and restaurants and schools had to close down, nearly all of their accounts were cancelled within days. As Josh told me, “We lost a lot of money.”

Fearing he’d have to shut down the operation, Josh went to God in prayer. “Actually,” Josh admitted in our podcast interview, “I went in to cry and give up.”

As he prayed, Josh’s mind was turned to Exodus 4, where Moses was protesting his new job assignment to God. God replied, “What do you have in your hand?” As Josh told me, “Moses had a staff. And I looked, and what we had in our hands was lettuce. A lot of lettuce.”

Josh became overwhelmed with the idea of giving the lettuce away to the community. “We’ve been blessing other countries,” he told me. “It’s time to bless Colorado Springs. To bring hope, and to turn something bad into something good.”

One of the most amazing parts of this story is how Josh and his team managed to pull this off in just a few days, not only pivoting from business accounts to food distribution but doing it in the middle of a snowstorm! Hundreds of cars arrived at the YWAM Emerge property to pick up two heads of lettuce: one for themselves and one to give away to someone in need.

The YWAM staff were there, with hands washed and gloved and, in a socially distanced way encouraged people, took prayer requests, and served them lettuce. “I would have elderly people driving in with their masks on,” Josh said. “You could see the fear in their eyes. But so many told us, thanks for giving us hope.”

Of course, Josh doesn’t think he can feed a whole community with lettuce. But this week, several churches will be involved in serving the community, providing volunteers to help Josh and his team, to encourage and to pray for all those who ask for it, a while picking up their lettuce. And, this has pushed YWAM Emerge to expand operations, so that when sales resume, they can continue to bless the community.

Don’t miss Josh Imhoff telling this amazing story of how God is using lettuce to bless Colorado Springs. It’s the latest episode of the BreakPoint Podcast. Come to to listen, or subscribe to the BreakPoint Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever podcast service you use.

Sometimes being a helper is as simple as asking: What’s in your hand?

And I want to alert you that on Tuesday March 31, Ed Stetzer will be with me online to talk about how Christians can love their neighbors during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s part of our next online Short Course. Sign up for it here.


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