Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Review: 2014 in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden

As has been done in previous years, this is a review of 2014 for the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. From my perspective on a wintery morning in December, this is also my last review.

"The flowers danced
To the beat of the wind,
Sometimes gently,
But no one knew.

The woodland birds sang
As the woodpecker knocked,
And the Canada geese glided,
But no one knew.

The sun moved slowly
Replacing the morning dew,
And the rainbows called,
But no one knew.

The Lord waited patiently
Hoping to see,
A woman praying,
Or a man on his knee.

Then one came to visit,
She heard it was nice,
But she did not stay,
Something not quite right.

A chipmunk scampered
About here to there,
No one to bother it,
No one seemed to care.

The gardener stopped by,
To tend to the plants,
Admiring something new,
God's creation at best.

The peace of the garden,
As few only would know,
Would be seen with the cross,
Yet our Lord does know.

Goodbye to my friend,
To a special place,
Where you my Jesus,
Met my heart and we danced.

I toiled and toiled,
For what, I do not know,
Except the hope that more
Would stop by to pray."
Thomas B. Clarke, December 11, 2014

There have been some people that have used this garden for prayer, but they have been few in number. Despite the size and the beauty of this garden, it is hardly known and seldom used.

In September of this year, my wife and I decided to start looking at other churches. We now feel comfortable at a new church plant in Auburn. Therefore, 2014 is the last year I (Tom Clarke) will be maintaining the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. I am now retired from this prayer garden.

For several years, I had been asking for water and electricity to be extended from the building to the prayer garden. Praise God, this was accomplished prior to our decision to leave – I did not want the next generation of caretakers to have to lug those heavy hoses across the parking lot. The conduit for electricity into the garden has also been installed – if money becomes available for lighting, then the conduit is in place.

What will happen to this garden? Good question and one that I don't have an answer to. The church has decided to use a volunteer staff to maintain the garden under the direction of one key volunteer individual.

The effort to maintain this one-acre garden is fairly labor intensive. So how does a group of volunteers maintain this garden's tranquility? My recommendation is to plant large amounts of ground cover, possibly myrtle, in the mulch beds. If planted bare root in April, these ground covers typically take 3-4 years to become fully established. The advantage is that the mulch would not need to be refreshed every two years, weeding would be dramatically reduced, flower maintenance would be restricted to those few flowers that remain, and the tranquility of the garden would largely remain.

Some have asked what will happen to the flowers, shrubs and trees that have been dedicated to others. Again, that is up to Faith Chapel. I know, for there is a large tree in memory of my dad, a shrub as a prayer reminder for my older daughter, and seven flowers as a prayer reminder for my other daughter. There also is:
  • a tree dedicated to the church's founding pastor,
  • another tree in remembrance of one of the elders,
  • a third tree to remember the husband and son of a distinguished church member, and
  • a pair of trees to remember a set of twins that passed shortly after they were born.
In addition,
  • a flower bed was prepared in memory of a son,
  • the rose bed was inspired by the passing of a man's wife,
  • a rose planted for a deceased mother,
  • some benches purchased to honor loved ones, and
  • the metal trellis to show respect to a man's mother.
The stone altar, as has been previously published, was placed there by many church members as a remembrance of what the Lord did in helping build the initial church building.

Through this garden, God has revealed a deeper understanding of love to me. That is my most important memory, and it is documented in my book A Garden of Love. As a Christian author, I now will have much more time to write and I am encouraged by the thought of doing so. My hope is to devote the time spent in this garden to writing/publishing.

More importantly than my writing is the increasing care that I am giving to my wife. Nancy's legs are weak and she is having a difficult time standing. She can still drive but she has limited strength and stamina. I no longer can spend long hours in that garden. I would appreciate your prayers for her health.

Thank you, Faith Chapel, for allowing me to develop and maintain this prayer garden. It was truly an honor that you would allow me to express this hope and peace for all to enjoy.