Something about being outdoors breathing the aroma of pines on a slightly chilled spring morning can make you feel naked before God even if you’re wearing a sweater.
Sunrise services on Easter can sometimes be a little chilly. For many decades a number of George and Greene County folks spent Easter morning at Palestinian Gardens. The first one was in April 1960 when Presbyterian minister Rev. Harvell Jackson opened the gates to a slice of paradise he chose to place near Lucedale.
White shoes and egg hunts are steadfast traditions, but many locals also ranked sunrise service at the gardens on the top of their list of Easter memories. For many families, watching the sun debut among blooming dogwoods and azaleas as trumpets blew “From the Grave He Arose” was an annual tradition. The gardens not only provided a place for sunrise services, but also served as a venue for numerous weddings and bible studies. Sunrise services here were discontinued about five years ago.
Tourists can still visit this little Holy Land where stories of the bible come to life. The Jacksons sold the property to Don and Cindy Bradley in the 1990s and the Bradleys renamed it Palestine Gardens. The site is an authentic scale model of the land of Palestine as it was when Jesus walked there. A tour covers the life of Christ from Bethlehem to Calvary. It was the dreamland of the late Rev. Jackson and his wife who researched biblical geography for 25 years before beginning the project. They sought a specific terrain to establish their garden and found the perfect spot on the George and Greene County line in the Vernal Community.
Miniature replicas of cities like Jerusalem and Jericho line paths accented with sweet olive and palms native to those lands as well as wisteria and other south Mississippi foliage. The walking tour is designed along a scale where a yard equals one mile. Jackson’s precision put the Dead Sea at the lowest point on the 20-acre grounds. For information about tours and directions visit the web site at www.palestinegardens.org or call 601-947-8422.
Sweater or no sweater you may still feel exposed being outdoors underneath the heavens in this holy place. Yet a certain presence can be assurance you’re not walking alone.