The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Growing in faith

Bonsai gardener learns patience

David Wertz tends an amazing garden in his Columbia, S.C., backyard. The retired English teacher spends about two hours every day caring for 50 trees. He’s concerned with how they grow, rather than how big they grow.

David Wertz tends one of 50 bonsai
David Wertz tends one of 50 bonsai trees in his Columbia, S.C., garden. The lessons he’s learned in growing the miniatures, he says, “parallel the process of spiritual growth.”
Wertz is a bonsai gardener, fascinated by the art of cultivating dwarfed trees and shrubs that the Japanese developed. The literal translation of bonsai is “plant in a tray.” Achieving the desired shape and form in the miniatures requires skill—wiring, pruning and root containment—and patience.

“I’ve learned patience from my bonsai collection,” says Wertz, a 29-year member of Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Columbia. “I’ve also learned openness and the willingness to accept what nature gives us. These lessons parallel the process of spiritual growth. Being open to God and accepting God’s will are disciplines that require patience.”

Wertz became interested in bonsai in 1984 after a visit to the collection at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. He was drawn to the idea of how bonsai expresses nature in microcosm. He took his first class in bonsai gardening in 1992.

“Perhaps it is cliché,” Wertz says, “but I really do see a connection between tending the garden of the soul and tending a literal garden. I feel God’s presence when I’m working in my garden, and I enjoy the sounds and sights of nature.”

At Ebenezer, Wertz sings in the choir and has been involved in bringing classical concerts to the church. He also delivers Meals on Wheels and works with a soup kitchen in the city.


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