I learned yet once more, as I have had to do many times, that nothing "just happens." Certainly, there were some significant answers to prayer, particularly for them the donation of the land needed for the garden. But good gardens only happen with a lot of work.
So do good churches. Churches where people actively live out the "one another's" of the Christian faith--giving, serving, honoring one another, forgiving, bearing with, encouraging, admonishing, inviting, going to the cross, reproducing healthy, vibrant offspring . . . those kinds of places only come from hard, hard work, all carefully supported on the foundation of prayer and willingness to live by the mandate, "God's will be done."
I've spent many hours this spring as well in my own garden. I look at the mistakes I've made there, the plants in the wrong places, some of which I'm going to have to dig up, the inadequately prepared ground in some areas, the seeds scattered that never came up, and the ones that came up nicely, but were quickly eaten by whatever interesting little critters inhabit the soil. I also look at plants that are healthy, lovely, some already flowering, others starting to reproduce good things that nourish the body.
Yes, just like the church--the garden is an art form. I can listen to the experts, learn from them, but I still have to create my own space, with the soil here, with my specific weather patterns.
After we had toured the gardens and I ran an errand or two, I was heading home listening to This American Life on NPR. Ira Glass had done a fascinating story on why it was that 10,000 NGO's in Haiti have been unable to do anything to raise the standard of living there. Enormous obstacles arise over simple things that would help enormously. The story is worth listening to and can be found here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/408/island-time. It's Act One, 10,000 Brainiacs.
In so many ways, this reminds me of the work of the church: the obstacles to getting even one simple thing done can be huge. Yet, we can do it. We can stand firm against evil; we can work together even when we disagree on so much; we can say "yes" to God with the offer of salvation, both now and for eternity. We can. But we will never do so without huge challenges. That's the nature of both churching and gardening and anything good that we set out to do. It is only evil that comes easily, that "just happens."