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Today is January 27, 2022

Every day feels like Christmas at The Mustard Seed

By Steven Ward

Every day feels like Christmas at The Mustard Seed

This mural of “The Seedsters” hangs on a wall behind the cash register in The Mustard Seed’s gift shop. The art was painted by former Mustard Seed employee and current volunteer Loris Nejam Davis.

It’s easy to find The Mustard Seed’s booth at the annual Mistletoe Marketplace in Jackson each holiday season.

Just look for the longest line.

Shoppers line up each year to buy Christmas ornaments, ceramics, paintings, and other artwork by The Mustard Seed’s residents and day program participants.

On the first day of this year’s marketplace, the booth was packed with shoppers eyeing potential gifts while Mustard Seed resident Logan Chew, 37, sat quietly and painted ceramic angel after ceramic angel.

About an hour and a half after the marketplace opened, Logan finished painting eight angels while sitting at the booth.

While Logan painted, her mother, Cindy Chew of Madison, stood by and watched, smiled, and answered questions.

“She started going to The Mustard Seed’s day program when she was 21. She loved it so much she moved into the group home. She was always scared she was going to miss something. She just didn’t want to leave at the end of the day,” Cindy Chew said.

Founded 40 years ago, The Mustard Seed is a Christian community for adults with developmental disabilities in Flowood.

“Many of them do not have many options for ‘life after 21.’ That’s where The Mustard Seed enters their lives. “Seedsters,” as our clients and residents are affectionately called, can become a part of the Mustard Seed when they are 21 or older,” said Mustard Seed Community Relations Director Mandy Sisson.

“Many of our Seedsters compare their time here to college or work. Seedsters are enrolled as a day client or a resident. They come to work every day with their friends/ coworkers/roommates, and they take such pride in the feeling of independence that The Mustard Seed provides for them,” Sisson said.

Sisson said many of the Seedsters have watched their brother, sister, cousin, or neighbor move out, go to work, and reach milestones.

“It’s such a natural desire to want to have your own work and friends outside your family. The Mustard Seed provides this,” Sisson said.

The Mustard Seed name comes directly from the Bible. Matthew 17:20 says that “if ye have faith even as small as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move and nothing will be impossible to you.”

Sisson said the group’s aim is to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of adults with developmental disabilities by providing a loving and protected Christian community with meaningful activities that allow the participants to fulfill the potential that God has created within them.

The Mustard Seed is a private 501(c)(3) and does not accept state or federal funding. Families pay a monthly tuition. Fees for services generate approximately a quarter of the annual operating budget while the remaining amount is generated through tax-deductible contributions, donations, and proceeds from ceramic sales.

What is a typical day like at The Mustard Seed?

There’s devotional time, painting and class time, a break with snacks, more painting, lunch and rest, more classes, clean up time, and chores.

There is a group home for men and one for women. Ten Seedsters live in each home while 20 other Seedsters participate in the day program.

Seedsters hail from all parts of Mississippi as well as other states.

There are weekly activities including the Man Group on Monday afternoons, Reading with Peg on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Birthday Bashes once a month.

Fridays are earmarked for off campus activities — restaurants, movies, baseball games, or bowling.

Seedsters also have the choice to enroll in classes. They can choose from watercolors, rock and roll history, yoga, photography, creative writing, nutrition, coffee club, drama, Christmas carols, and hand-building ceramics.

“I think people sometimes don’t realize how happy the Seedsters are to be here. I know for a fact that people misunderstand the group homes and how proud the Seedsters are to live there with their other family,” Sisson said.

The holidays are always a special time for The Mustard Seed.

Besides selling Seedster artwork at Mistletoe Marketplace, the site’s gift shop, which is open Monday through Friday, stays busy with Christmas shoppers at a steady clip.

“We paint ornaments and Christmas ceramics all year. For every $7 it takes to run The Mustard Seed, $2 comes from our ceramics art program. That’s a huge number and a huge outreach tool for us,” Sisson said.

Each piece of artwork sold by The Mustard Seed has the name of the Seedster who worked on it on the bottom of the piece.

“In a way, each piece of artwork has its own story,” Sisson said.

“We love to hear stories about how someone was gifted a mug and didn’t know about us, but then they turned the bottom of that mug around and saw Logan Chew’s name on the bottom and then looked her up on our website and learned about her and then wanted to write her a letter or come and meet her.

“That is special. Logan is an artist. This is her work. This is her job. She is talented, and there is no denying that. And then the fact that someone bought that mug for you and you feel this connection to Logan is such a neat thing to be a part of,” Sisson said.

One of the pillars of Christmas is giving. There’s an enormous atmosphere of giving on The Mustard Seed’s campus. There’s a feeling of warmth and giving to the Seedsters who thrive in an environment of creativity and everyday life.

The Seedsters represent giving through their artistic talent and gifts, both personal and literal.

Sisson said people should volunteer or visit.

“I think people want to get involved; they want to ask questions; they want to bring their children here, but they are sometimes intimidated or aren’t sure where to even begin. Call us, come shop, schedule a tour. Let us show you around and meet our friends. If you don’t like hugs, then this isn’t the place for you,” Sisson said.

“The Seedsters’ joy for life and friendship is infectious. You may want to come out here to bless us as a volunteer and you will — we are so grateful for our volunteers and their time and gifts they share. But I think volunteers  will be blessed far more by the Seedsters who I believe remind us how to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To love unconditionally and not see what makes us different.”

Visit mustardseedms.org or call 601-992-3556 for more information about volunteering, the gift shop, or donating.

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