Painted Rocks Spread Joy During the Pandemic

June 09, 2020 | Church | Lizbeth Geary

There was a winter storm warning on Sabbath, March 14, 2020. A women's ministry event had been scheduled that night at the Bozeman Adventist Church. The uncertainty and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting to take off, and we wondered if we should be canceling our much anticipated evening altogether. No regulations had yet been set in place. But with a quick clearance from our pastor, we decided not to cancel.

We are so glad we didn't. Little did we know that would be the last Sabbath we would enjoy Christian fellowship together for a while. March 14 was the last time we would congregate as a church before strict social guidelines came out followed by shelter-in-place orders and all the chaos that ensued.

Ironically, our evening's goal was to focus on spreading joy, hope, peace and uplifting others up via a "Painted Rocks" movement. We called ours #joyfulrocks. We decorated otherwise plain river rocks with colorful designs and messages of encouragement, sealed them for protection, and hid them for strangers to find in the community. The idea is not new. A couple of years ago, our family had personally experienced the joy of finding one of these treasures some 1,200 miles away on a snowy patch at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as Nebraska.

The evening started with a delicious "haystack" feast with plenty of sweet treats to clean the palate in between servings. Just over a dozen ladies braved the snow. As we meditated on our opening verse found in I Thess. 5:11 about encouraging one another and building each other up, a projector flooded the dining hall wall with many ideas to go about this. Soon everyone was painting.

All the ladies seemed to enjoy the craft well past the planned adjourning time. Even then we could hear a few saying they could have done it all night. In a couple of hours we produced about 30 rocks. Upon wrap up, there was a general consensus to repeat this activity not only as a church but in our own families also.

We sprayed the rocks with a protective coating and left our masterpieces to dry at the church for the night. We had planned on picking them up the following Sabbath for our community placement part. Then life as we knew it stopped for the coronavirus pandemic, and all has felt a bit like a blur since then. 

Exactly six weeks later, when Montana started carefully lifting up some restrictions and our church had its first safe service with strict social distancing rules, we were able to set all the rocks in the foyer for everyone to enjoy and for their owners to retrieve. And the #joyfulrocks were a blessing all over again.

We knew it is more blessed to give than to receive, but we never expected the blessing would return to us threefold. We are very much looking forward to hiding these rocks and praying they will bless others as they did us that March 14 evening and again on church reopening date.

We hope to be able to track the rocks' progress and trajectory on Instagram using #joyfulrock, but as there are no strings attached. We simply just hope these stones will share the love of Christ and encouragement with others.