Melva Lowry has found something “precious” with patients and staff

Visitors from Immanuel United Church of Christ (Pennsylvania) and Seventh Street Christian Church (Virginia) visit Precious (left) in a community garden at the Greenwood Life Center in Baltimore. —Melva Lowry

Melva Lowry has found joy in service where she least expected it. Lowry is one of two young women selected for the first yearlong fellowships with Hands and Feet, an initiative launched by the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Nelson’s idea is to strengthen the church’s mission efforts through partnerships and mission involvement in cities hosting the General Assembly.

Lowry and Olivia Thomas are working with The Center, a mission outreach of the Presbytery of Baltimore, which is hosting the 224th General Assembly in 2020. Adult and youth mission teams across the U.S. are given the opportunities through the center to work alongside churches and nonprofits in the Baltimore area.

Recently, Lowry took part in one of her first weekend mission visits to the Glenwood Life Center in Woodbourne-McCabe, a methadone clinic working to treat people addicted to opioids. She spent time with a patient advocate named Precious, who is also a patient herself.

“She is very open and forthcoming about her story and the process she has gone through to get where she is today,” said Lowry. “Plus, Precious always comes with smiles and hugs.”

Lowry says Glenwood offers a lot of opportunities to help patients overcome their addiction through resources, counseling, art projects and group meetings. On this day, Lowry is joining Precious in the community garden, another project to promote healing.

“When you enter the garden, you feel as though you are in a completely different setting. The chill in the air and the mist of light rain does not matter as you begin to dig, pull, turn over soil within the garden beds,” said Lowry. “The plants are her babies, each one a sign of hope and optimism. This garden has helped feed more than 1,300 people with produce donated to the local farmer’s market and food pantry. To watch Precious and volunteers work in the garden is to experience a small taste of the impact the garden holds for this community.”

Lowry says she is excited to see Precious’ vision for the garden come to light. The two have worked to clean and prep the garden beds for winter growing.

“Precious has a special touch and way with planting seeds that produce in the unlikeliest of conditions. This is literal and figurative,” she said. “Precious has already planted a seed within me about understanding the difference between the addiction and the treatment of opioid abuse. She has become a friend, making me pinky promise that I would call her if I ever needed assistance getting around the city. She makes it comfortable to enter and interact with the staff and patients.

Lowry says she would never have thought working in an addiction treatment clinic would be the highlight of her work.

Lowry graduated last spring from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and is an elder at Rice Memorial Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

Hands and Feet is an initiative that highlights and strengthens local and national efforts by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to facilitate change and communicate God’s love. It’s funded by Per Capita dollars and individual gifts. Click here to receive an e-newsletter. More information is available at