This post was written by Jim Hart, Director of Christian Education and Campus Pastor.
Part of Cottage Parent training at Crossnore is learning about our Spiritual Life programing. Every Monday morning at 9am new cottage parents (CPs) show up at my office door, papers in hand, ready to hear how the Christian part of our mission statement is woven into our sanctuary of hope and healing. I imagine their excitement when they learn about things like our Bible program, YoungLife ice cream Olympics, JungleLife, Winter Jam, spiritual life retreats, Thursday Chapel, and Sunday Church.
The reality is most CPs are coming to see me on the last day of their first seven-day shift living in a cottage 24 hours a day for 7 days. Hearing about spiritual life at 9:00 a.m. is probably as exciting as van training and marginally more engaging than medication training. In the midst of words like required chapel, Bible programs, and host churches, through the fog of fatigue and their thoughts of, “He doesn’t look much like a preacher. What is all this talk about being in a ministry of presence,” I am prayerful the one thing they take away is that every day, we are planting the seeds of the Gospel in the children we serve. It is in the planting of those seeds of love that there is hope and healing. Each day, we plant seeds that we pray will break the cycle of abuse and trauma that many of our kids have experienced. We plant seeds in fertile soil that for so long has been neglected.
Fertile, but neglected, red, crusty, filled with rocks and weeds, too many years have passed sitting forgotten on the back of campus. Clover and dandelions were the prevalent crop visible from my office window. A faded plastic play castle stood among the creeping clover and dandelions as a strange reminder that something greater used to stand here. For years, that greater thing was Roadman Cottage. It stood as a castle of hope and healing, a home for those in need for 58 years. Now replaced with beautiful new homes with beautiful names like Yandle and Florence, there was nothing left to remind those passing by but a remnant of a rock foundation and a small plaque, “Site of Roadman Cottage. Built in loving memory of Roadman Hollander (May 17, 1926 – May 2, 1940). Served as a cottage for Crossnore children from 1949 to 2007.”
What was a home of hope and healing for many years is now a community garden of growth and daily change. A reminder that God does provide for the seeds planted in love. On a warmish April afternoon, with soiled hands, dirty toes, and a prayer, we planted potatoes. Amid the rocks and weeds, we gently placed each cut potato into the furrow, making sure their eyes were facing up. A subtle reminder that even where only rocks and weeds once flourished, life is possible; a reminder that after being cut away, life springs forward from warmth, care, and from looking up.
Still, I was not so sure, so I told the 30 or so kids and staff who came out to dig and plant and laugh, “If we get any potatoes at all, let’s be happy!” In the back of my mind, I did not hold out much hope. We had too much working against us. Too many too manys. Too many years in the dark under a cottage; too many years of neglect; too many years of clover and dandelions — weeds; too many rocks; too many years; too much neglect; not enough care.
How Love burns through the putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its ways and shedding the
Robert Frost, “Putting in the Seed”
Despite the “too manys.”
Today as I sit in my office and look out my window, I still see some dandelions and some clover and some unknown weeds. There seems to be a bumper crop of grass creeping up in the corn. But, I also see onions and carrots. I see beautiful green cabbage and peppers. Best of all, I see potatoes, lots of potatoes. Despite the too manys we had against us, we have potatoes. Despite my lack of faith, my doubt, we have potatoes. Even as I doubted, the potatoes were sprouting.
Frost was right when he wrote, “How Love burns through the putting in the Seed.” At Crossnore School & Children’s Home, we plant the seeds of love each and every day. We plant the seeds of the Gospel by living in a ministry of presence as a community and in our community garden. With the right care, I know those spiritual and physical seeds will grow, but I still worry. It seems the weeds grow so readily and so easily. It seems as if the rocks reproduce where rocks were cleared, so many obstacles to overcome to bear fruit. Yet, we plant and we nurture and we offer grace, peace, and love to our children knowing that love overcomes all the weeds and rocks that try to squeeze their way in.
A standing reminder.
Our community garden at Crossnore stands as reminder that we must have faith. Faith that planting potatoes on a warmish April afternoon will result in beautiful potatoes. Faith that in planting and loving seeds there will be new life where there was nothing but neglected, rocky soil, and faith that God’s provision is enough. I invite you to come visit our community garden, experience the laughter and joy over fresh radishes and leaf lettuce. Be amazed that goodness grows even when we doubt and worry. Come see first-hand the new growth.
To find out how you can help with projects like these, visit crossnore.org/ways-to-give.
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