The ST Rocks team journeyed to Mason’s Sapphire and Ruby Mine in Franklin, North Carolina. Our rock hunting adventure began as we crossed a bridge over a picturesque stream. The trek led us to the ugly sheared off face of a mountain scraped bare by construction equipment. Huge mounds of dirt extracted from that mountainside were littered with shovels we used to fill two buckets with dirt.
The surprisingly heavy buckets were carted back across the bridge to a flume and sifting station. Cold water flowed rapidly down the wooden flume. Each “miner” dumped a handful of dirt into a sluice, which looks like a flat colander, and smeared those contents. The device was placed in the water. Using both the velocity of the water current and our hands to shift the mucky contents, the dirt and grime was swept away and would leave behind loose rocks and stones. The process was repeated multiple times until all of the gunk was removed. If you were fortunate, what was finally left in the sluice was a precious gemstone.
We found sapphires, rubies, and quartz. Lily, on her birthday, found a sapphire that was over 16 carats and Mr. Vreeland found another that was over 9 carats! All of the stones looked rough….more like an ordinary rock than having the appearance of a treasure. To become a prized possession the rock would require the attention of a master. Such a professional would carefully cut and polish the object to bring out the beauty of that stone without damaging it or diminishing its value.
As the fun, but exhausting day of mineral collecting ended, we gathered to reflect upon the activity and the team drew some incredible spiritual parallels to God’s word.
One student who found five (smaller) sapphires marveled at how from a bucket of dirt and grime, things of such beauty could be found. She considered that the yucky conditions of the bucket of soil could be an image of our hearts before we accept Jesus as our savior, and the polished and cut stones as the treasures He cultivates in us in a similar refining process.
Another commented that there was much hard labor involved in transporting and heavy buckets of soils, and standing for lengthy time periods sifting the dirt from stones in a flume of icy cold water. The discomfort was abated by the expectation that the toil would produce a positive outcome. He noted that rarely are things of value or importance attained without determination and sacrifice, and considered that we should remember this principle from Mark 16 which is being reinforced this week as we are (or we are being trained) to go “Into the World.
Another connected the passage recounting God speaking to a prophet in 1 Samuel 16:7, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” The student marveled at God’s ability to see beyond our surface, akin to the grungy, mucky soil, and recognize the gifts and talents often indiscernible or underestimated. Our gifts and talents are like the precious stones that once discovered and honed can greatly impact our world and eternity. The student expressed awe and gratitude that God alone can look beyond the external to see the beauty that lies in each of us, his creation.
One student shared that he labored stringently for over two hours getting muddy, wet, and exhausted. He (in total honesty) confessed that the result of only finding two tiny gemstones, so small that he deemed these to simply be useless rocks, was waste of time and energy. This account provided an opportune moment to reflect upon Luke 12:34, ” For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Another contemplated what should truly be the object of value in the activity today. Being one who had minimal results in finding an impressive, coveted stone, he wisely noted that despite the intended goal of finding a treasure not being achieved, other benefits were gained today. He expressed gratitude for a time to reflect upon God and his holy word, and was also thankful for the opportunity to form relationships with other believers.