Soil, Seeds & Rocks

Karla Zimmerman Profile
Article by Karla Zimmerman

When you think of Gateway Woods and the children we serve what comes to your mind? Hope, healing, turning lives around? So what happens when we don't see healing, we lose our hope, or our measure of success isn't being met?

Let me tell you a little story about a boy named Joe and a girl named Kate. Both Joe and Kate came to us with different stories, traumas, families, and personalities. Time passed and relationships began to build. We began to know these two with a deep love and care as we learned more about who they were and where they had been. On the surface, they looked like everyone else, but we weren't prepared for what was underneath.

Our muscles ached and we didn't know if we had the strength to pull one more rock.

As treatment for Joe and Kate progressed, slowed, and then reversed, we began to feel stuck, wondering if these were two teens that wouldn't benefit from our program. Instead of choosing defeat, we dug deep, and over time discovered a few rocks that were blocking the seeds from really taking root. As time went on, the rocks we were pulling became larger and larger. Our muscles ached and we didn't know if we had the strength to pull one more rock. We, as a team, felt completely overwhelmed and unable to provide the level of care necessary for Joe and Kate. Feeling like failures, we struggled to accept that we weren't equipped to meet the needs of these children we cared for deeply. Children we had laughed with, cried with, built relationships with, for over a year.

Often times, we forget that in order for seeds to be planted and take root, the ground has to be worked. In gardening, this is the worst job. It's back-breaking work: digging up the soil and pulling out the weeds and rocks, not even able to gauge how hard the work will be until you are fully invested. We have learned that our job sometimes requires us to be tillers and rock-pullers rather than planters. Sometimes, we are called to make things a little messier to prepare the soil for planting. Sometimes, we are called to step back and allow God to use others to plant.

So, we find hope: hope that Joe and Kate's stories aren't over. We find healing: praising God for using us to work the soil to prepare the way for seeds He has coming from some other facility, agency, or person. And we give thanks that an all-knowing God chose to use us to begin preparing the way for His word to turn around the lives of the children He loves.

Karla is a former Houseparent at Gateway Woods with her husband Jesse and their family.