sharper focus “Following to lead”

By Linda Manhardt, Major

 I had been dreaming about it for weeks, and had it all planned out. The cadets were enthusiastic and we had a whole day to make it happen.

Behind the Philippines training college is a hill that expands over the entire width of the compound. From this wilderness of weeds, rocks and lemongrass, we were going to create a prayer garden. A week earlier, we had placed a rough wooden cross at the highest peak to signify that this place would be centered on Jesus, and that all that would happen here would be centered on the cross.

And now, we were ready to begin.

I asked one artistically inclined cadet to grid the entire area so I could assign a space for each of the 16 cadets to cultivate. I planned to drive stakes and crisscross the hill with string so they could identify their individual area of the garden.

As Cadet Winnie began to draw, I slowly became aware that the other cadets were already at work weeding and clearing the hill. I, too, weeded and removed trash as I watched the garden evolve.

I noticed that the cadets had migrated to three different areas of the hill—center, left and right—and were now engaged in creating paths up the hill that led to the cross on the highest rock. All paths led to the cross. Right. Good. As it should be.

But wait! The work was not going as I had planned!

As I watched them talk and work and laugh and be generally excited about what they were creating, I abandoned my plans. I realized that we didn’t need them.

They were making it happen even more beautifully than I ever imagined they could. They rushed out to other parts of the compound to find plants and flowers to transplant. Two of the men created a rock wall to line the whole front of the garden. It was hard work, but they kept at it the entire day.

I laughed at my silly idea of measuring and plotting and assigning individual areas, as I realized that it was not my job to micromanage the project.

It was my job to inspire the cadets to create something beautiful and meaningful.

It was my job to work alongside them, encourage them and care for their needs (rest, water and snacks).

It was my job to supply them with what they needed to do the job, like a new green wheelbarrow, tools and lots of plants.

It was my job to celebrate with them at the end of the day, which we did with a great feast that evening.

Several weeks have passed since that first day in the prayer garden, and the enthusiasm has not waned. Each day, the cadets spend time clearing, planting and weeding.

We now have a permanent concrete cross and a waterfall with a pond. We have benches, a covered area for the herbs, stairs leading to the cross and a sign in front of the prayer garden.

As I write, two cadets are completing a traditional “Nipa Hut,” which will serve as a prayer room.

They are happy, invested and proud to have created the “Resurrection Garden,” and through this experience I have learned that sometimes in order to really lead, you have to follow.

Yes. I believe God is already using that garden!

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