July 3, 2019 | HUG |
A fountain sits in the backyard of Mike James — pieces of it a long way from their origins in Greece but with the most special significance. For almost five years, Mike and Beth James’ home was Athens, Greece, where they served as the directors for the Harding University in Greece (HUG) semester-abroad program from 2010-2016.
During their first semester abroad, the James’ began to study the significance of ancient Greek rocks and mounds and their purpose as a symbol to say “we remember this place.”
Beginning with their first group in fall 2010 until their last group in fall 2015, they collected about 452 rocks, one rock to represent each student at HUG and their semester at the Harding University Austral-Asia program and Scholars Abroad. Mike would find a rock representing each male student, and Beth would choose one representing each female student.
“These rocks were collected from places like Israel, the Dead Sea, the Nile River, the Sea of Galilee or even the place where Jesus was baptized,” Mike said.
The students did not know about the James’ rocks representing each of them until the end of the semester when they talked about each of the rocks.
“We would pick up each rock and say something about that student and put their rock into a pile,” Beth said. “They could see all of them collectively and each one individually, making it just a little more meaningful for us and them.”
In addition to hand-picking them, Beth wrote the students’ names on each of the rocks.
“Over time, the names on the rocks began to fade, so I’ve had to rewrite the names on each of the rocks, which has been a fun time for me to reflect on each [student] and what they mean to me and part of the story,” Beth said.
After coming home in 2016 and settling back into life in Searcy, the James’ recently used the rocks to construct a fountain in their backyard. When thinking about the rocks biblically, the James’ reflected on when people like Moses or Aaron would travel to a place, gather several rocks and create a mound as a commemoration.
“This is a more meaningful thing than just a rock in the garden,” Mike said. “Each one of these are very special.”
The James’ said when you’re far away from home and sharing common experiences like traveling and living together, you become as close as family in such a short time, creating unique bonds.
“I can wake up every morning, look out my bedroom window, and there’s the water spilling over the fountain,” Beth said. “It brings happy memories to me.”