By Doug Hoagland
The Shalom Club at Fresno Pacific University promotes a deeper relationship with God and his creation through dirty hands.
Working in the club’s community garden is one of those hands-on experiences. Shalom Club also sponsors nature hikes, hosts potluck dinners with an environmental theme and makes it easier to get organic produce from local farms on campus.
Shalom means peace. “But it’s a much more holistic peace than most people imagine,” says Katie Isaac (BS ’19), club president in 2018-19. Shalom involves fostering right relationships with God, the environment and other people, she says. Shalom also includes inner peace, Isaac adds.
Sara Gurulé (BA ’19)—club secretary in 2018-19—says participating in Shalom Club gave her “the opportunity to do ministry in unconventional ways. I have had to do things I was not always sure I could do. It has been a humbling experience as well as one of growth . . . ”
Both Isaac and Gurulé appreciated working in the community garden, located behind Heaton 4 on the main FPU campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno. “It sounds simple, but getting my hands dirty while having a peaceful experience is very positive,” Isaac says.
The garden connected Gurulé to good memories of her grandfather’s ranch in New Mexico. “Being a part of this club and different environmental activities has given me the opportunity to live into that again with more of a purpose,” she says.
The community garden produces broccoli, cilantro, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, parsley and peas. The bounty can be picked directly from the garden or procured at the Sunbird Pantry, which also supplies nonperishable food items and is located at Heaton 4. Like the garden, the pantry is operated by FPU students and is free to students, staff, faculty and community residents.
Nearby is the Commuter House (Heaton 6), which is a drop site for Ooooby Fresno, a nonprofit organization that delivers boxes of certified organic fruits and vegetables throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Ooooby (ooooby.org/fresno) stands for Out Of Our Own Backyards, and its produce is locally grown. Boxes vary in size and prices range from $19 to $40. Participants can customize their orders and get a box each week or vary their weekly drop-offs. Gurulé, who arranged the FPU drop site beginning in January 2019, says campus participation is growing and averaged six or seven boxes during the spring 2019 semester.
During that same semester Shalom Club hosted two Shalom Hour potluck dinners, where students from different campus groups shared experiences in nature. “We got a wide range of responses,” Isaac says. “It was a very edifying, beautiful and constructive time with one another.”
The club also has organized nature trips to Pismo Beach and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. “Bringing others closer to God and helping them experience God in new ways fulfills some of what I believe I’m called to do,” Isaac says.
The history of Shalom Club goes back to the 1970s when it was called the Peace Club. In the early 1980s, students re-energized the club and renamed it Shalom Covenant, based on ideas of peace and community from the Old and New Testaments. “It was primarily a club to advocate for peaceful government resolution of conflict,” says Ken Martens Friesen, Ph.D., associate professor of history and international studies.
He was one of the students in the ’80s. Other Shalom Covenant students who are now FPU faculty are Larry Dunn, Ph.D., professor of peacemaking and conflict studies; Kevin Enns-Rempel, M.A., director of the Hiebert Library; and Bret Kincaid, Ph.D., associate professor and program director of political science, pre-law and individualized M.A. studies. Students in the Shalom Covenant demonstrated in Fresno to protest war taxes and American involvement in Central American conflicts.
Almost 40 years later, the Shalom Club provides connections and a sense of belonging for environmentally conscious students, says club advisor Michael Kunz, Ph.D. He is a professor of biology and environmental science and program director of environmental science and environmental studies. The club also makes an important faith statement, Kunz says: “It challenges stereotypes regarding Christian faith, which in many circles is viewed as a conservative, anti-environment, anti-justice religion.”
Meanwhile, students returning for the 2019-20 academic year want Shalom Club to remain a vital presence. Erika Enomoto, a senior double majoring in business management and environmental studies, says she would like the club to host more potluck dinners to seek “shalom in our relationships with each other and the environment.”
Enomoto, who devoted many hours to the community garden in 2018-19, says participating in Shalom Club is important: “It gives me the opportunity to live out my values and connect with others in a way that gives me hope for humanity in this broken world.”
PHOTO: From left—Sara Gurulé, Erika Enomoto and Katie Isaac (FPU Syrinx)