This spring I planted a vegetable and herb garden. I used to plant tomatoes and a few herbs each spring, but we moved to a new part of the country a couple years ago and I wasn't sure if I should try a garden here. The weather is different, the soil is different, and besides....my gardening wasn't all that successful in recent years.
But I gave it a try anyway. WOW. It was a massive garden. I had sent in a soil sample to my area Extension Agent and my husband accordingly tilled in some lime. He built support trellises for the tomatoes and cucumbers, we also planted marigolds, basil, parsley, rosemary, banana peppers, Brussels sprouts and a couple cabbages. Oh yeah, and a couple butternut squash plants. Turns out, the bugs LOVED the sprouts and cabbage very much (I didn't get even one). There were so many tomatoes and cucumbers that I couldn't give them away fast enough. And that afterthought of a butternut? Sheesh. It took over the whole plot.
Back in early June when the garden was just planted, I had to do rather a lot of weeding. This vegetable garden had been long neglected and was covered in pasture grass (a rather tough variety which my husband just mows in the rest of the back yard). In order for the vegetables to thrive, we first had to till several times and then I had to be vigilant about hand weeding around the new plants. It was a mucky task, out there each morning, digging carefully so as not to disturb the vegetable and herb seedlings and their growing root systems.
One morning I noticed that each time I reached for the weeds against the tomato plants, my arm would brush up against the basil, and its lovely scent would fill the morning air. As I moved down the row to weed the squash, the same thing happened - my arm brushed the rosemary and its woody, fresh scent filled the air. The scent of those herbs were aromatic anticipation of the delicious food to come.
As I pulled weeds gently away from the vegetable sprouts, it occurred to me that weeding the garden is a necessary task similar to a post-mission trip reflection or debrief. Once home from a mission trip - whether across state lines or out of the country - it is important to do a little reflecting, to nurture the new spiritual growth that comes when we put faith into action. The fragrance of missions reminds us that no matter how difficult the subjects we face in a debriefing session, God is with us, deepening our relationships with each other, with those we went to help, and with Jesus Christ.
A mission team that went to do hurricane recovery had some difficult weeding to do. As they got to know the people they were helping to rebuild homes and schools, they started to think carefully about the relationship between the US (where they were from) and the country in which they were serving. One man pointed out that he had many of the same questions about climate change and economic structures that kept people in poverty after his hurricane recovery work in the US as well as internationally. Another person asked about international trade laws and how that affected the ability of a small nation to obtain adequate resources. The weeds of colonialism, capitalism, globalism, and economic inequality really bothered this team, even though they hadn't talked about it much during their work or travel days. Back home though, each of them was thinking about it individually, and didn't think anyone else was as stressed out as they were. But talking about it together made the task of weeding out larger problems easier. As they talked, they also remembered relationships formed, and the people who prayed for them and with them during the trip. This was the fragrance of missions, that reminded them how important it is to examine the mucky things, to weed them out of our own hearts, and to look courageously at where we have benefited from unjust structures. It is difficult work, but the fragrance of the blessing of relationships makes it work worth doing, and strengthens your own spiritual root system.
If you're home from a summer mission trip, and there are heavy questions weighing on you, you're not alone. If you'd like to have a guide walk your team through a debrief, let me know. There are fall and winter dates open for retreats, either in person or via videoconference. Contact me today for more information. And may the fragrance of your mission trip be a blessing to you and all you helped.