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Fresh Fruit Outside Leads to Fresh Faces Inside

Who would have thought crisp, tangy, juicy apples picked fresh from the tree would be key to an effective church outreach!

Jonamac, Cortland, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith are all names of some of the varieties of apple trees a visitor would find at Orchard Hill, located about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee. But Orchard Hill isn’t a business, it’s an Assemblies of God church and on Oct. 1, Pastor Micah Roberts and his wife, Megan, led the small, but growing congregation in hosting an outreach to their community that had visitors defying the weather to attend. 

According to the Robertses, who began ministering at the Mukwonago, Wisconsin, church about 15 months ago, they quickly realized that Orchard Hill was aptly named, as it has about 40 to 50 producing apple trees on its property and is adjacent to a much larger commercial apple orchard. They’ve also seen the church more than double its size as they now regularly have 40 people attending. 

Micah explains that in the past, the church’s apple orchard was utilized by church members for their needs, as a fundraiser by picking apples to sell by the bag or as caramel apples at a nearby farmer’s market, and some years, the neighboring commercial orchard would buy the right to use the trees for its customers.

“As a small church, we don’t have a lot of financial resources,” Micah says. “But this year, we decided to use the resource God has given us to impact our community.” 

As a result, “Bash at the Orchard” was born. The event offered visitors free games, inflatables for the kids, bluegrass music, a petting zoo, and — something most outreaches don’t offer — free “pick your own” fresh apples from the church’s orchard. They promoted the event on social media and through fliers, newspaper ads, and posters. 

Everything seemed set for a fantastic outreach, but when the day of the event arrived, so did the clouds and the rain. Who picks apples in the rain? 

Evidently people in Wisconsin do!

“The outreach went even better than expected,” Micah says. “It rained off and on the entire time, but we had at least 100 people who were not from our church show up, pick apples, and enjoy the event.” 

“Our prayer was that people wouldn't just come and pick a bag of apples and leave,” says Megan, who is also the church’s music minister, “but that we could provide them something they could come to, stay for an hour or so, enjoy themselves — so we could be a service back to our community.” 

Megan’s desire was fulfilled as groups of moms and kids came and stayed for several hours, picking apples, enjoying times of conversation and interaction, while their kids played and enjoyed the petting zoo. 

And Micah says it was fun hearing old time gospel music being performed in bluegrass style with a steel guitar. “We also had opportunities to pray with people and share our testimony,” Micah says. “It was really fruitful that way — this year went so well, we’re planning on making it an annual event.” 

But perhaps the best news of all was that the following day, seven new faces were in attendance at Orchard Hill as a direct result of their “apple outreach.” 

“There are still plenty of apples remaining on the trees, and we’re hoping to pick them and drop them off at a food pantry,” Megan says, “But our real hope is that in the future, as this event grows, all the trees are picked bare!”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.