Planning for, and then guiding the kids on, Mission trips was a huge part of that role and, as daunting as it was (and, I’m sure, still IS) having responsibility for 25 extra teenagers, I LOVED it.
For someone who dreamed of being a Peace Corps volunteer, going to remote places, working under adverse conditions and discovering the universality of human feelings and experience while being within vastly different cultures, is a dream come true for me.
Truth be told, it’s why, when I stopped being a leader for the high school group, I instituted a Mission Group for Adults!
One of the places I traveled to, with both the senior high AND the Adult groups, was Caretta, West Virginia - a coal mine community deep in the ‘hollers’ of McDowell County, one of the poorest counties in the United States.
During one of the trips, another leader and I, both avid gardeners, noted huge banks of wild roses blooming along the road side.
We excitedly reckoned if they could bloom, untended, in the rocky, shale ground of southern West VA under blistering conditions, with only mountain ‘runoff’ from sporadic summer rain, MAYBE transplants would survive in the dry clay soil, under the Missouri sun in August – in other words, in the outer ring of Dante’s hell.
Using spoons, gloves and reclaimed glass jars, we dug up cuttings to bring home.
I made the mistake of planting the ‘start’ in amended soil, enriched with all kinds of additives and nutrients - and, not surprisingly, my ‘Caretta’ rose promptly died.
As disappointed as I was, I accepted failure, mowed over the poor, dead single stick that remained and forgot about it.
But three years later, I noticed there was a new start of rose coming up in the exact same spot.
I had no idea why, after lying dormant for years, a deep root should start growing again.
Not wanting to repeat my earlier mistake, however, I dug it up and placed in it the crummiest dirt I had – the ‘garden’ in the front, created when a new retaining wall was filled in with dirt from construction sites, with only an inch or two of decent topsoil.
A decade later, this plant specimen has not only grown, but flourished, and has almost completely taken over the area.
It has exquisite clumps of blooms and, best of all, the same plant, the same ‘root’, puts out flowers of different colors!
Deep and pale pinks and every variation in between.
Honestly, I've never seen anything like it - and judging from the comments of people who pass by, neither has anyone else!
Even if we’re all ‘rooted’ in Christ, we're different.
We don’t look, act or perform in the same way.
Our gifts are not the same.
We don’t bloom at the same time; some of us are in full flower and others are still buds, waiting for the right conditions before bursting forth.
We don't need special additives; we've been given all we need to thrive, we just need the right circumstances - and some of us are our most beautiful under adverse conditions.
And, for some late bloomers, those who might not even know what gifts they have to offer, sometimes a move to a new location is exactly what they need before they can spread out and come into their own beauty.
The Caretta rose always serves as a vivid reminder of important truths before heading to Rosebud Reservation and it's a wonderful way of tying together two places I hold deep in my heart.
For me, the plant is a powerful sign of Gods own perfect timing which, not surprisingly, isn't the same as ours.
Unlike Moses, I don’t need a burning bush to tell me that all the ground I walk upon is sacred…I just need a brambling one that blooms!