by Linzi Anderson, Asheville Youth Mission Director
It’s 10:30 on the Tuesday after Pentecost and we are headed to the vast parking lot of the abandoned Bi-Lo in Black Mountain. We pull in behind the Starbucks and see the familiar green canopy tents going up in the back corner. We make our way across the asphalt to the Bounty and Soul truck and start unloading tables. The six footers are easy to haul, but I am pretty sure I will always look like an awkward toddler anytime I attempt to haul an eight foot table by myself - that doesn’t stop me from trying though. Karla is there to greet us and is ready (as always) to point us and our tables in the right direction. This begins a flurry of activity involving Trader Joe’s flowers, yellow and white gingham table cloths, black crates and cardboard boxes brimming with produce, hand packed diapers, the bonus table getting loaded with bread and watermelons, and Claudie’s white van unloading locally grown goodness.
By 11am folks are arriving and packing into the cooking demo tent to see one of this week’s suggested recipes. Francisco gets the music going as the community continues to gather. The playlist is a millennial’s dream! As the music flows and the community gathers there is something in the air that makes my heart smile. A collection of wagons and banana boxes have appeared by the welcome table, ready for community members to load them up when the market opens. As the cooking demo wraps up and 11:30am rolls around the shopping begins. Together we are reclaiming good food and tapping into our interconnectedness. Folks walk around the market greeting one another and picking up onions, okra, oranges, salad greens, peppers, kale, herbs, and squash, to name a few things. When crates and baskets get close to empty Ruben makes sure a second and then a third wave of produce get’s unloaded from the refrigerated truck to replenish supplies.
As I empty another box of bread onto the table and take it all in, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, I can’t help but think of Pentecost and the life of the early church. Good news is being spoken at the Bi-Lo. Good news is being spoken in English, and Spanish, and in hugs, and in full bellies. This free market proclaims the good news that another way is possible, that we don’t have to accept the lie of scarcity, that together we can live in a way that means our whole community has enough. This gathering is a place where all people are welcome and where our diversity is celebrated as a gift. I can’t help but think that this holy chaos is an echo of that Pentecost day. From the soil of local community farms, to the sorting hub in an industrial estate, to this market in a Bi-Lo parking lot, to the cooking and gathering around tables, all of this work is sacred and healing. As I help sort the rye from the sourdough my mind wanders to the refrain of a favorite hymn of mine: “Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again, pass the Word around, loaves abound.” For me this hymn and this market proclaim the same hope that we need; the hope that abundance can be found in seeming scarcity, the hope that even in the face of oppressive systems the people have power, the hope that life and connection always find a way.
It’s 12:45 and the market begins to wind down. The watermelons are long gone, only a few loaves of bread remain, and the last of the produce is being gathered into baskets and wagons. As tables get emptied the gingham cloths are wiped clean and folded before the tables begin to get loaded back into the truck. The parking lot slowly empties as we load up the sandbags that were weighing down the green canopies. I direct my taller friends to undo the velcro loops at the top of the tent (because I am too short to reach) as we collapse our shaded shelters one by one, ready for Francisco to load into the van. Shortly after 1pm all traces of the market are gone from this parking lot, but I know that this community’s commitment to show up for one another continues to leave a mark on each of us. We are sent out from this place reminded that we are not alone, that we belong to a community of care, and that together we have more agency than we realize.