Grace Chapel student ministry focuses on science, sustainability

Ian Howard | Staff Writer

With its student-led humanitarian efforts, Grace Chapel in Mason is unafraid to incorporate science into church, according to Senior Pastor Jeff Greer.

Photo contributed

Behind the ministry’s humanitarian initiatives abroad and in urban areas are two non-profit organizations, Back 2 Back Ministries and Self-Sustaining Enterprise, according to Greer. Self-Sustaining Enterprise sends workers to set up and train locals how to operate them aquaponics systems, which are systems of symbioticfish farming and vegetable growing.

According to Greer, Grace Chapel hopes to incorporate this into student mission trips later. The typical response of humanitarian efforts is to simply send money, Greer said, but through scientific developments such as aquaponics, the church can create jobs in Nigeria and Mexico.

“Our church is not the normal traditional church,” Greer said. “From my perspective, [aquaponics systems are] as much godly as anything else. This [effort] isn’t secular, this is sacred; this is right thing to do.”

Junior Hailey Bollinger, a student in the ministry, said that the church’s efforts are not typical. The difference transcends ideologies into the church’s efforts abroad, according to Bollinger.

“I was really interested in the group because instead of just going out and talking about helping people, we’re actually doing a long-term kind of process,” Bollinger said. “We’re giving communities benefits that are going to help them long-term.”

Aquaponics already form important mainstays in Nigeria and a more compact urban method is in the making, according to Greer. The relatively new method of self-sufficiencycan provide jobs for third world countries, as well as food, Greer said, which is why the church supports it.

Grace Chapel has its own small model of aquaponics processes, made up of fish tanks sitting next to rows of cabbage floating on a smaller elevated trough. Greer said that when he feeds the fish, a group of electric pumps sends the water up to the higher trough via tube. Then the feces of the fish fertilize the cabbage as the pebbles at the bottom of the trough filter the water providing fresh waste-free water falling back down to the fish. Greer said that the purpose of the aquaponic system model at the church is to inspire children.

Environmentalism is also a key staple in mixing science with faith, according to Greer. Greer said that the student group plans to create a house in Mason that is a model of self-sufficiency. The house, which Greer said will be painted symbolically green, is a foot forward in the involvement of students with the church’s effort.

“The environmental movement is not a secular endeavor,” Greer said. “As Christians, we are called to take care of the environment. So why not create something where students can come and do projects that they could not do anywhere else?”

Although Bollinger said that there are specialized professionals that help most of the ideas and initiative come from the students.

“It’s definitely a student group, but there’s the youth ministers and some other people that are helping us out that have specialties in certain areas,” Bollinger said. “We’ve got a guy that knows everything about gardening and growing crops. It’s basically the students coming up with the ideas.”

Learning the occupations of people in his flock, Greer said that he can utilize the talents of many different industries such as electrical engineering in researching solar power for the house and businessmen to teach Nigerians.

Through Grace Chapel’s many unconventional methods inspiration of future generations at the church is a major priority, according to Greer.

“There will be students in here that will rebuild this system [of aquaponics and improve it] because they have a scientific mind and they’ve been engrossed in it so they’ll know how to do it,” Greer said.