When we take on a major task that can only be done a little at a time, it is sometimes hard to remember what things looked like when we began. It is helpful if there are pictures that can remind us, every step of the way. This is the case at our church flower beds.
When I first started going to Church on the Move here, the flower beds were in a serious state of disrepair. In fact, they were downright ugly. Before sharing pictures of what it looked like back then, I should explain about our church.
Church on the Move is an Assembly of God church. It was originally a tiny building not capable of holding more than 20 people if it was crowded. They held three services on Sunday. Nobody thought much of the crowded conditions because there are other churches in town and there are only 800 people in town.
That was a little over 20 years ago. Then a man named Jim Sinclair moved to town with his family. Jim was totally new to the ministry and wasn’t even a pastor yet, but he’d heard the call of God, so he moved. He prayed about everything and was given a vision of a much larger church.
By trade, Jim was a timber faller, but he started building a church, directly across the street from where the old church was. It was a labor of love, primarily a love of the Lord. For anyone who isn’t Christian, bear with me, because all of this pertains to the eventual journey I’m going to be sharing.
Jim spent time building the church, though he knew nothing about building. He had a lot of help from local people, but Jim had a huge task. He wanted to build a church that had a sanctuary that could hold 200 people. It took time and he was often working in the snow and rain, but he finally did build the church. It can actually hold 250 in the sanctuary and on more than one occasion, it has been filled to capacity. People often travel here from towns 30-70 miles or farther away.
As an aside, this church has become a role model of many other churches in the nation and overseas. That is due to the many ministries and services the church performs for the community, from firewood for needy families, a food bank, a clothing bank, and a soup kitchen.
Along the front of the church, actually the side but the part that was seen from the road, they put in a sidewalk and retaining wall. Between that low retaining wall and the building, they put in fill dirt; very low quality and not really suitable for growing anything except weeds. To cover that, they hauled in loads of river rocks to put on top of the dirt.
Two buildings were actually built, both with similar rock-filled dirt. The sanctuary building is about 125 feet long and the other building, referred to today as the Soup Kitchen building because that is where the soup kitchen is, was about 75 feet long. It was originally the youth center.
That all leads us up to the “modern era” and 2015 when I started to go to church here.
This is what the flower beds looked like prior to the spring of 2016. I asked pastor Jim at that time if I could have his permission to clean it up and he was thrilled. I'd received my own calling and at that time, it was something along the lines of, "This does not glorify MY house."
Note that there are a lot of rocks there and that is just one of the two buildings.
This is what most of the flower beds looked like, closer up. The green growing plants you see between the rocks are all weeds, mostly dandelions, henbit, wild mustard, miner's lettuce, chickweed, and mallow. Nothing else would grow there, in part because of the rocks and partly because of the poor soil beneath. There was also a lot of trash, cigarette butts, broken glass, and so forth.
Here is another picture that is close up. Some of the rocks are small and some are larger, weighing over 10-15 pounds, but none of the rocks indicated the beauty to be found inside this place of worship. In fact, without the signs, it didn't look like a church and the appearance no doubt turned a number of people away.
Following Jim's example, I prayed over every step and the first step was to remove the rocks. I did this by using a wheelbarrow and good, old-fashioned elbow grease. It took me a couple of weeks to remove all of the rocks and countless wheelbarrow loads. I later guessed that I ended up moving in excess of 3 1/2 tons of river rocks.
The next step was to remove all of the weeds. That took as much time because the weeds were well-established. Still, the weeds needed to be removed before I could plant anything and I wanted to at least get something growing there that was pretty.
Many hours after I started the task, I was able to plant the first flowers. In the picture, there is a marigold and a pansy. There is also a weed that I initially missed. Notice how poor the soil looks. That isn't deceiving. The soil was nothing but fill dirt, but the heat of the summer was beginning and I wanted to get some flowers in before it got too hot to work.
Even then, I knew that I would have a lot more work ahead of me. For one thing, along the other building, there were three massive clumps of irises that hadn't been separated for 20 years and they were surrounded by rocks. As it turned out, the roots were five layers deep. It did, however, mean that I'd have irises to plant alongside both buildings once they were separated.
This is the same view as the initial picture, with all the rocks, weeds, and garbage removed and some plants planted. The green that can be seen around my car in the upper right is weeds and that is part of the parking lot.
I should mention that Pastor Jim gave me complete control over what was done in the flower beds. The way he put it, "You can't make it look worse than it did when it was nothing but rocks and garbage." I agreed with him and told him that no amount of water or fertilizer would make the rocks grow or bloom. I set out to make it beautiful, not for me and not even for Jim, but for God.
This is a view along the soup kitchen building after removing the rocks and separating the irises. Some of the irises have been replanted and some were planted by the sanctuary building, but I ended up giving away about 150 pounds of iris tubers. As I said, that was a 20-year accumulation. Of note in this picture, a little beyond the first windows that can be seen, there is a Russian sage growing. It is still growing there today and I have since planted another beside the sanctuary building. I love the multitude of deep purple flowers of Russian sage.
In this flower bed, there are still a lot of weeds growing. I was having trouble getting ahead of them because the heat of summer was upon us.
The caption in the picture says "today", but this image was taken in July, 2017, a year after I started this ongoing project. The irises I transplanted to this side are growing well and there are marigolds, purple pansies, and pink, white, and red petunias growing. I put in some annual snapdragons, but the didn't produce much in 2017, until late in the year. I've also put down bark mulch by this time, which looks far more attractive than the dirt, which I've also enriched. On the far end, there are some daylilies growing, though they didn't bloom in 2017. Neither did the transplanted irises
The daylilies came from in front of the original church, which also hadn't been separated for a couple of decades. I planted a number of them along both buildings
This image also shows that I've made some inroads into killing the weeds in the parking lot.
At least by this time, it was starting to look more like real flowerbeds.
I've shared this image a long time ago, but this gives a great before and after perspective after only a year. Mind you, I refuse to take credit for the difference. I put in the effort, but I planted what God wanted me to plant and He made everything flourish, despite the conditions.
The second part of this will show what the flower beds look like today, in June 2019. I think that you'll agree that the change is fantastic, especially as compared to the left frame of the image above. I should also mention that in 2017, the snapdragons were still blooming on Christmas, despite temperatures that had been -30 F and snow.