I had the privilege of being a crew leader for Crew #7 on the San Diego Week of Hope trip (July 9th-15th).
When we arrived to our first work site of the week we were immediately greeted by a man asking if we were the "garden crew." We happily all said, "Yes we are!" He then laughed, gave us a goodhearted smirk and said, "Boy, you guys are going to wish you had gotten a different job by the time you leave here today."
Not a great first sign. I thought to myself, "God, that didn't sound very encouraging, sounds like we're really going to need your help today..."
The man then lead our Crew along with Crew #8 to gather up the tools we would need for the day; wheelbarrows, gloves, shovels, weed whackers, and other miscellaneous gardening essentials. I thought to myself, "Hey, we're at a church, right? So we will just be weeding in rose gardens and little flower beds, it can't be that bad. The guy must have just been pulling our leg."
Oh no. To my great shock we were lead to the back of the church were there was a MASSIVE community/church garden with raised beds and walking paths... only it had been ignored for the past 2 or 3 years, thus the weeds made the garden look like an impenetrable thicket. The weeds were taller than the chain link fence surrounding the garden, and the roots for each weed easily exceeded 5 inches once it was painstakingly and aggressively pulled from the dirt.
I looked at the task in front of us and thought, "Seriously God? How disappointing that on these kids' first day we are barely going to make a dent in this garden. These kids are so young, most of them in 7th and 8th grade. God, I just tried yanking one of these weeds out and it took a TON of my strength to do it. How on earth are we supposed to accomplish clearing these weeds out so that the garden beds are visible again??!"
Irritated, but trying to remain as peppy, upbeat and encouraging as I could be, we started pulling weeds. Nearly each weed required the help of someone to dig and two to pull the thing out. I watched as these kids, all mostly strangers to one another at this point, started to work together... then they really started working... then it became a matter of pride. Like a well oiled machine, Crews 7 & 8 attacked this garden, which we nicknamed the Garden of We-Eden (get it haha), with such determination and energy that by lunch time we had cleared 75% of the garden's weeds. I was flabbergasted. This was a Goliath of a task put before these young teenagers and they absolutely came together, made it fun, worked without complaining, were covered from head to toe in dirt, and amazingly, worked for 5 hours in the San Diego sun without getting sunburned. About halfway through we announced we would have a competition: "Whoever found the Tallest weed and the weed with the Longest roots, would win a candy bar of their choice on the way home." That just brought one more element of fun to the weeding, and as you can imagine the competition became more and more hysterical as they competed for first prize for most impressive weed.
By 3 o'clock David, Emily and myself (the adult crew leaders) stared in awe at the garden. There were 8 raised wooden garden beds that we had no idea were even hidden in the weeds when we began... and you could see completely through the fence, whereas when we began there was zero visibility through that thicket of weeds.
We just looked at one another and said, "Wow." And in my head I just laughed and said, "Wow God. Day one and you just helped these incredible kids knock down a Goliath of a task put in front of them. You could have asked these kids to move a mountain today and they would have succeeded. God, you are amazing, this was amazing, our crews are amazing. Thank you God. Wow."
Watching our crews come together with such compassion, determination and willingness to serve/get their hands dirty/sweat nonstop/get poked by thorns all day/work side by side with other young adults they didn't know/remain so happy and upbeat in the face of this huge physical challenge, was one of the COOLEST God Sightings I've ever experienced. I was humbled by my God and by these young adults. It truly was an incredible way to start the week.
Wow God. I will never forget the Garden of Weeden.