by Elizabeth Blondia
For three mornings this past week, ten adults, seven middle schoolers, and 12 young participants from Grace Church met at Art and Linda Schubert’s beautiful farm in Leelanau County to search for and find Treasures in God’s Good Earth. The weather was beautiful, the flowers were blooming, the garden was flourishing, and God’s love was abounding. On the first day, when the children were asked why they thought God created our world, one of the responses was “I think God made all the wonderful things so we could have a good life.” This belief in God’s goodness was just one example of the many touching and special comments we heard from our young Grace Church members throughout our time together.
Each of the three days began with music and singing, prayer, and storytelling, all focusing on the Creation story from Genesis. Kids, middle school helpers, and adults then split into three groups that continued to embrace the themes of God’s love and creation.
In the garden, activities included eating raspberries, carrots and sugar snap peas, and digging up beets, lettuce and onions. The children harvested and prepared fifteen pounds of onions and 24 bags of lettuce for the Grace Church pantry. They looked at bugs and plants under the microscope, including a soil microbe. Discovering chrysalises amidst the plants and learning about the beauty and awe of living things was made easier with the aid of 10X magnifying glasses the children could call their own.
Under the arts and crafts tent, kids made sand globes with the words “God gave us the gift of water, dry land, and green growing things” written on them, they created suncatchers made from
plants, flowers, and other things they had gathered on the nature hike the day before, and they made homemade bird treats. At this station, children were also given the opportunity to ride Tilly, one of the Schubert’s gentle horses. This was a highlight of the three days for many of the children. For those that chose not to ride, they happily fed Tilly and her friend Bandit fresh carrots and other goodies from the garden. On the last day, Art hooked Tilly up to their cart and took everyone on a ride, complete with sleigh bells!
The third station was a nature hike along a trail on the Schubert’s property that used to be an old railroad. Along the trail, kids listened and looked for things that God made and things that God did not make, they did a scavenger hunt looking for plants and animals commonly found in the woods, and they played games related to the Creation story. A favorite on the nature hikes was looking for “clinkers” – remains of burned coal left behind by the trains. I was struck by the level of curiosity our children have about the world around us and how important it is to take the time to ask and to answer those questions.
Each day ended with us gathering together again for music, reflection, and rest. We were reminded of God’s example from the Creation story – work hard, but remember to rest. As we all laid on our backs looking at clouds and listening to the birds sing and the children giggle, we were all reminded how blessed we are to live where we live, where the abundance of God’s creation is evident wherever we look. Our final prayer – “Dear God, thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for creating the world and everything in it. Help us learn to be good caretakers of your creation. Amen” – is a good reminder to us all.