When the first flush of spring and summer flowers bloom, who doesn’t want to stop and smell the roses?
So a rose garden planted lovingly as a heartwarming invitation to a church is surely going to be a welcoming sign, and an opportunity to witness to the beauty of God’s creation.
Enter Bethlehem Lutheran Church, in suburban Perth, nestled amongst a sea of houses in Morley. Four years ago, the large grassed block received a magnificent makeover. The natives shrouding the front of the church had grown straggly with age. But from the few rose bushes hidden in their midst, an idea grew to develop a rose garden.
Foundation members Ewald Schmidt, known as Wally, and his wife Ruth felt a push from Creation’s Chief Gardener to build the rose garden in a well-used thoroughfare to the local primary school and a beautiful local park.
’The church garden looked a bit sad and it brought tears to our eyes’, said Ruth.
‘And God said “don’t stand there, do something”’.
So despite professing no green thumbs, the retired couple aged 86 and 83 respectively, did just that.
‘We took it on bit by bit’, they recall. This work continued until the entire garden was renovated.
‘As we are not fenced off from our neighbourhood, not only is it a testament to all the beauty of God’s creation, it provides a lovely wider witness to caring for God’s creation and the joy God gives us through serving each other’, says Bethlehem’s Pastor Matt Bishop.
‘Moreover, on a late-October day when the roses are in their first full flush of the season, you can smell the delightful scents all around our block. Accordingly, we’ve had many positive comments from our neighbours, even from the local councillor.’
Who would have thought that a garden ministry could be created simply from proud perfumed stands of roses? From Double Delight to Cardinal and even Pope John Paul 2 varieties, the fragrant and sometimes cheeky choices now create a delightful and welcome experience for passers-by.
And with 66 years of marriage under their belts, the Schmidts are inseparable in their weekly toil – pruning, trimming, fertilising, watering and tidying.
‘We get an old pillow and kneel side by side – never too far from each other’, says Ruth. ‘We’re not good gardeners but we like to tidy up! And you’re never too old to learn.’
And they certainly feel like the Chief Gardener is with them, as they have learnt along the way how to care for the roses. ‘We are just presenting God’s creation’, says Ruth. ‘They are easy to manage and ever so beautiful.
‘When we come home, we are not tired, we feel great. We’ve been working in God’s creation.’
Powered by God’s blessing of good health and strong work ethic, they ‘trust and obey’, in the words of a favourite hymn, knowing God will be there to guide them.
‘It’s been a privilege to work in the church grounds’, says Ruth. ‘We don’t have a walking stick yet. We just use a rake and a broom.’
The couple met in January 1954, when both were working in the timber town of Bridgetown in southern Western Australia. Both were refugees from World War II
– Ruth from Lithuania and Wally from Germany. It was a whirlwind romance and they were married by that August. They have been blessed with three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandson. They were Morley members since its inception and Wally was among the men presenting the ’sacred vessels’ at the dedication of the present church site in 1972, captured in full-page spreads in the 23 October 1972 edition of The Lutheran!
In September, the Bethlehem congregation honoured the Schmidts’ work with a little plaque in the rose garden, noting their loving nurture of the garden to the ‘Glory to God’.
As Pastor Matt reflects, keeping gardens looking good is not without challenges though, so it’s great that others are pitching in, such as long-term pastoral assistant John Zadow, who for decades has kept on top of all the mowing and edging. He’s also one of the Morley team which provides a breakfast ministry to a local school (featured in this column in 2018).
The humble service that keeps the flowers blooming is not only a blessing for the Morley community but also the gardeners.
Ruth and Wally reflect how the Lord has blessed them, echoed in their favourite Psalm 103.
‘It’s not about us, it’s God’s creation. We are just going along, not wasting our time. He looks after us and gives our health as we present God’s creations.’
Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.
Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor firstname.lastname@example.org
This feature story comes from The Lutheran December 2020. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.
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