Category Archives: Rocks18

Rocks – Thursday – 3.29.18

The group visited Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, North Carolina.  This site was formerly operated by Tiffany Jewelry.  In an educational tour, we learned that this facility is host to more than sixty different types of naturally occurring gems and minerals.  Many of these are very rare, including emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, garnet, topaz, amethyst, citrine, rutile, and tourmaline, along with an abundance of world class smoky and clear quartz crystals. Hiddenite is also famous as being one of the few places on earth where the very rare gemstone “Hiddenite” can be found!

Following the lesson, students were allowed to dig buckets of dirt or simply search the ground for treasures.  Yes, valuable gems and minerals could be found just laying in the dirt; however, these were usually very small.  Our students who were now experts in sluicing, used the water in a flume to sift the dirt from rocks and potential treasures.  The students then engaged in a new form of mineral collecting: creeking. In a picturesque stream, they waded into mostly ankle deep water and used their sluicing box to “pan” in the way most people visualize the process used by gold miners. It was a great way to end our eventful and educational week: on a lovely and warm spring day, we could delight in beauty of God’s creation in the wooded setting enjoying the sounds of a water rushing over rocks.

For their final reflections, in a quite fatigued state, the students offered these pun filled geology related observations:  

Udochi:  Don’t take this ST trip for “granite!”

Jake;  This trip rocks!  It showed me how exciting playing in the dirt, hauling HEAVY buckets of soil, and playing in water, whether in a sluice or picturesque stream, can be.  If you didn’t like it, you’d be a stone-cold human being.

Noah:  The bus rocked a bit as we rolled for hundreds of miles to mines and caves in three different states.

Nikita:  I’m rich!  (But only because the geologist picked up the hundreds of dollars of valuable stones, including a large sapphire, I tossed in the dirt!)

John:  This trip at times was as hard as rock because there was a lot of difficult labor.

Ansley:  I’m rich because I found lots of valuable rocks, but I am even richer because of the experiences I was able to enjoy on this ST and the people I now know better.   

Nathan:  We persevered through tough conditions and challenges like Rocky training to defeat Apollo Creed.    

Eddie:  I rocked at embracing new experiences on this ST trip.  

Lily:  My birthday ROCKED this year.   

Mrs. Heitz:  How earth shattering to learn that when I enjoy some of my favorite treats, M&Ms and Skittles, I am consuming the mineral titanium dioxide!  

Mr. Vreeland (while ankle deep in the middle of the creek): Wow! Did you guys find as many awesome rocks as I am locating?  

Rocks – Wednesday – 3.28.18

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.

Rocks – Tuesday – 3.27.18

ST Rocks began the day by serving our community offering assistance in beautifying downtown Acworth by undertaking some landscaping projects.  The city representative said that in 45 minutes the labor of our eight industrious students accomplished the tasks of a full time Acworth Parks and Recreation employee for a whole work day!

We then travelled to Raccoon Mountain Caverns in Chattanooga for a rigorous caving excursion.  Several students made spiritual observations derived from this amazing opportunity:

God’s glory was made real by the magnificence of the caverns which took thousands of years to form.  

The cave excursion  leader’s advice can be compared to God’s guidance in our life because without such guidance we would be completely lost and without hope.

The beauty of Raccoon Mountain Caverns is a testimony of God’s creation.

Others offered some advice and considerations for anyone considering a spelunking experience:

  • Get physically fit BEFORE you go caving!
  • Be prepared to be completely exhausted.  
  • We crawled through tiny spaces, stepped in lots of puddles, and  got very muddy. It was tiring, but it was such a great experience.  

And here are some interesting facts we learned today:

  • Salamanders are amphibians; there is one special kind that has no lungs and breathes only through its moist skin.
  • Stalactites are formations that hold tight to the ceiling of the cave.
  • A stalagmite grows from the floor and if you’re not careful, you might trip over it.
  • A column is created when a stalactite and a stalagmite meet to create a formation from the floor to the ceiling in a cave.
  • A shield is a circular medallion formation held by a tiny section which appears to be melting off off of the cave’s ceiling.  There are only 80 of these located in all of the United States.  (That might seem like a lot until you realize that in Tennessee alone there are more than ten thousands caves!)
  • A chandelier is a grouping of stalactites close together.  If these get too heavy, the section breaks away from the ceiling and leaves a mark called a scab.   It might take more than 100 years before another formation begins in that area.
  • Contrary to popular belief, bats don’t typically spend much time in a cave.
  • Fluids from a human (saliva or airborne moisture from a cough) will collect inside the cave and form a growth that looks like cotton candy.  Despite being attractive, this is toxic and can cause a serious infection called caver’s lung contracted by those frequenting the area.
  • Raccoon Cavern is home to the Crystal Caverns Spider that is not much bigger than a grain of rice.
  • Crickets are most often near a cave section with an opening to the exterior.
  • Because of the oil deposit from skin, a momentary touch by a human can stunt the growth of a stalactite or stalagmite for more than 10 years.
  • Total darkness, which can be truly experienced in a cave,  is really, really black….even if you think that you can see your hands, it is just your brain tricking you.



Rocks – Monday – 3.26.18

The Rocks team visited Hogg Mine in LaGrange, Georgia.  We marveled at the beauty of God’s creation as we encountered a host of rocks and minerals. Students enthusiastically dug through mounds of dirt searching for treasures.  Others patiently sifted through what had been washed out with the recent rains. Each carefully examined their finds seeking to find a precious stone hidden by the gunk in which it was encrusted.

Later, we visited Escalade Climbing Gym to scale manmade cliffs.  For many students, this was an entirely new experience and each bravely attempted the venture.  I watched as a student ascended halfway up the wall, and froze. I watched for her progress, but observed that she suddenly was paralyzed by fear.   From below, I offered encouragement, but to no avail. Quickly our climbing expert Simon, called to the student, “I’m on my way up! Wait for me and we’ll do this together! It’s a lot easier when I show you how!”  As Simon came alongside the climber, he queried, “You’re looking down, right? Don’t look down. Instead look up!” With his instruction and encouragement, Simon was able to quell the student’s fears and together they journeyed to the pinnacle.  

As a believer, I was struck by the expression, “Don’t look down.  Instead look up!” I pray that in all we do this week, we are continually looking “up” to the higher plans of the Lord.  I am also excitedly anticipating the formation of relationships for the members of our team. I know that this week each one will have an opportunity to do as Simon by coming alongside another to offer encourage.  I hope that in those moments the objective is to “look up” heavenwardly and I pray that these relationships and behaviors will endure.

— Angela Heitz


Here are a few random summations of day one from the ST Rocks crew:


Jake:  We pushed rocks down a hill like a Looney Toons character


Nathan:  We SHATTERED boulders!


Nikita:  I found a piece of rose quartz


Noah:  “I got a rock!” Charlie Brown.


John:  It was fun to see what was beneath the ground.


Eddie:  My new favorite rock: tourmaline.  I found the largest beryl crystal!


Ansley:  My favorite rock was aquamarine and I found a lot of these.


Lily:  All of the rocks were awesome!


Udochi:  It was fun to be outside.


Mr. Vreeland:  This is the best Spring Term I’ve ever taken.

Mrs.  Heitz:  Students, sledge hammers, and pickaxes, oh my!