This is the weekly ‘Sip of Culture. It’s a partnership between Mississippi Today Magazine and The Sip Magazine. Visit The Sip’s website to see more stories like these and to subscribe to the ‘Sip. Rebecca Bratley starts her day by reading a devotional before she gets up in the morning. She then dives into art, usually painting or using ceramics. She eats lunch, does exercises, attends classes, and meets with volunteers. She finishes her day with chores, relaxes, and plays on her iPad. Bratley is nearing her 40th birthday. Although she has Down’s syndrome it hasn’t stopped her living a happy and fulfilled life thanks to The Mustard Seed. A group of parents worried about their children with special needs who were leaving the public school system 35 years ago gathered together. Mandy Sisson is The Mustard Seed’s community relations director. They were looking for something to do with their children after school ends. So they bought a house near Lakeland Drive in Flowood so that their children could work at night. This is how The Mustard Seed was born. The Mustard Seed now has 42 “seedsters”, some who live there full-time, while others attend a weekday program. They aren’t alone for the first time in their lives. Sisson stated that they are on a campus with everyone just like them. “It’s heartwarming to watch these parents come onto campus and find a spot in their seedster,” Sisson said. The 14.5-acre campus includes two residential homes and a gift shop, workshop and multipurpose activity center. There are also classrooms and a ceramics lab. The seedsters don’t create pottery just to be busy, they make it to keep the studio open. They sell the artwork that they create and the money goes towards the operating budget. This helps to keep tuition costs down compared with similar places. Sisson stated that 60 percent of the program’s operating budget is funded by donors, while 20 percent comes directly through ceramic sales. Sisson stated that a large portion of our budget is funded by donations. However, some people may not be able to donate monetary funds, but they can still support us by purchasing ceramics. It helps us share our mission with people all over the world.” Rebecca Fountain, a Minnesotan woman, saw an advertisement in a magazine for two hand-painted ceramic goblets. She decided to buy them. They were purchased by a friend, who also started her Mustard Seed art collection. Fountain made Memphis her home and was a regular at the program for a few more years. Fountain stated, “Each visit, I’m in awe at their unparalleled talent combined with their unbridled happiness.” “The Mustard Seed is an exceptional place that spreads love acceptance, compassion, grace and grace to all. “My heart is full and my spirit revived every time I step through the doors of the Mustard Seed.” People from all over Mississippi love Mustard Seed artwork. Handmade ceramics are very popular for gift-giving occasions. A woman ordered 200 ornaments to be used as favors at her wedding. They even made it to the Miss America Pageant. Sisson explained that Miss Mississippi competed at Miss America years ago and she had to take one thing from her State to give each contestant. She gave each one a Mustard seed ornament. “She could have picked so many other things but that’s a testimony to how special Mustard Seed ceramics were.” Sisson stated that it is Mississippians who make the program successful, including volunteers who help with gardening and teach classes, painting fingers, and making casseroles. She said that Mississippians have been so kind to us, through their financial donations, their time and gifts as volunteers, as well as their support for our gift shop, purchasing ceramics, and their prayers for our sweet seeders. Mary Bratley’s mother Rebecca says The Mustard Seed has been a lifesaver. She said that Rebecca has been able to continue her spiritual and mental growth through The Mustard Seed. She continues to grow in independence and responsibility. Bratley stated that when Rebecca was born, the family had no idea of what 40 would look like. However, they trusted God to guide them. We thank God every day for Rebecca. And we thank Him everyday at The Mustard Seed, where Rebecca and her friends have the opportunity to live in Christ. The Mustard Seed is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. The Open House will take place from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. December 3, with Bells of Faith performances at 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. The gift shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays through December 12. Visit mustardseedinc.org for more information.