Talking Rocks

Photo: Nik Hold

New hiking trail developed with Total Community Involvement

For anyone who has gotten lost hiking Weimar Institute’s 14+ miles of trails in the Sierra-Nevada foothills, trail signs are a welcome sight. And now hikers will get some encouragement along the way as well in the form of what one author calls talking rocks.

During the first semester of the 2020-21 school year, for the safety of staff, students, and our community, Weimar College followed COVID-19 protocols and did not go out into the community for Total Community Involvement (TCI) as they have for the past three years. Still wanting to serve their community, they came up with a creative way to do so while staying on-campus.

Before the beginning of the school year, Weimar Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor and TCI founder, Pastor Don Mackintosh, came up with the idea of renovating and improving an on-campus trail so that the community could enjoy it in the future. This idea was approved by administration, and at the beginning of last semester, TCI groups went to work. Each group was assigned a certain section of trail to cut back as well as clear overgrown brush and remove blockages in the stream that flows along the trail.

Another part of the trail renovation plan was to use the trail to give a message through boulders etched with text at various points along the trail. Rather than historical and botanical information, the idea was to build upon what other Adventist institutions have done in creating a Sabbath trail. Thus, the boulders would have short passages about the Biblical doctrine of the Sabbath.

The first step in the process was two-fold: to create and finalize the wording for each boulder. This would determine how many boulders were needed and determine how much of the existing trails were needed for the boulder placement. Also, an etcher and boulders relatively near Weimar needed to be found.

After some research, Clive Coutet, Weimar Institute’s media department manager, found an etching company in San Diego that was capable of completing the project. OurTCI director, Narlon Edwards, then contacted the company and arranged for the etching to be done. However, before the etching could be done, Weimar needed to purchase boulders and have them cut by another company.

Each boulder took a day to be carefully cut in half. Once they were cut, the text could beetched into each half-boulder. They were then trucked for eight hours from San Diego toWeimar. Last week, in conjunction with the 2021 Weimar College Colloquium and Board Weekend on March 26-28, the etched boulders were installed.

When asked what inspired the idea of working on a trail for the community, Pastor Mackintosh replied: “The reasons for the Sabbath trail were: 1) We wanted to keep focused on doing something for the community with our TCI times, even though we could not for a time go out into the community. 2) We noticed the people from the community were still coming to visit our trails; in fact, the traffic increased. 3) We thought, “Let’s do something to reach the hundreds who frequent our trails.” 4) We thought, “What do people need to hear about at this time in earth’s history?” – and of course, the Sabbath came to mind. 5) We involved students and staff in writing the script that is seen on the stones. It was a collective effort – by design.”

The project also gave students a healthy change of pace. “Working on the trails gave me the opportunity to take a break from studying and get to know the whole student body, while also serving the community…” commented Daryl, a first-year pre-med student from Indonesia.

Not only did working on the Sabbath trail strengthen campus connections, it also acted as a reminder of their Creator. “The Sabbath trail will provide a reminder to those who come to seek the refuge of nature that the Sabbath is part of nature…” acknowledged Nathan Hold, a third-year, pre-dental student from Georgia “As hikers use the trails to find restoration of the soul, they will be reminded of the Creator who alone can restore all things,” he noted.

For others, the project highlighted the value of their experience here. “TCI embodies the reason why I’m at this school,” Atieno Mpyisi, a senior pre-med student from Kenya explained. “The diverse experiences such as working at an elementary garden, giving EQ lectures at homeless shelters, or cleaning someone’s house have shown me the practical side of Christianity. The ability to be constantly in touch with the community for almost three years has made me feel more connected to other people’s experiences: their joys, their pains, and their victories in a way that I probably couldn’t have otherwise had.” She added, “While I missed going out last semester, it’s neat to finally see the tangible fruit of the hard work that everyone put into this trail. Working on the trails has shown me that circumstances should not hinder our ability to help. I hope the Sabbath trail will be one of the defining features of Weimar’s property that people point to, and that will point them back to God.”

During the Spring 2021 Weimar College Colloquium, Sherlyn Bryant, author of the book Rocks that Talk, expanded on this thought. Sharing via Zoom, she spoke about the importance of tangible reminders of God’s involvement in individual lives and collective communities. Referencing a story from the Bible in which the Hebrews set up a stone, which they named “Ebeneezer,” to remind them of God’s deliverance, Mrs. Bryant shared her thought process from her book: “This Ebeneezer stone … it was a stone of help, proclaiming God’s goodness; how He had helped them thus far… That’s the way God is with all of us. He’s helped us thus far… and He’ll continue to help us as we trust in Him.”

For the students, staff, faculty and administration, these rocks will be a perpetual reminder of how God has led in the past and how He will continue to lead in the future. And with His leading, those lost can find their Way via these talking rocks.