God teaches all of us through His Creation

Written by Tom Bryce, C.R.E.A.T.E. volunteer

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

When First Baptist Church member Pat Gibson came to the FBS James Island Campus to teach us about Monarch Butterflies and their amazing life cycle and migration journey, I started my own “new” journey! As a fisheries biologist, I’ve always been fascinated by fish. From a young age of learning how to fish with my father, to being an aquarium keeper of tropical fish, to volunteering at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s Division of Fishes in high school and then pursuing a career in fisheries management, I became a life-long lover of fish. But little did I know that my heart would be captured by a butterfly at age 67! Instead of me catching a butterfly in a net, the Monarch butterfly caught me!

In early March, when many of the First Baptist high school students were traveling to different destinations during “Travel Week”, those of us with the school’s C.R.E.A.T.E program, hosted a “Nature Break Week” to engage the students that stayed locally. Our objective was to invite students to participate in a few outdoor activities on the campus and take a couple field trips. With the help of science teachers, Mrs. Crawford and Mrs. Jackson, members of the school’s C.R.E.A.T.E. Club led our 7th and 8th grade science classes in exploring the trails, fields and pond on the James Island campus. The highlight came on Friday, when Mrs. Gibson brought us several potted milkweed plants and taught us all about the Monarch butterfly! Mrs. Gibson is a Master Gardener and quite the Monarch butterfly enthusiast! The 7th and 8th graders prepared the flower bed and planted the five gifted milkweed plants. She taught us that milkweed is critical to the butterfly’s survival as the caterpillars feed exclusively on their leaves in preparation to them metamorphosing into the next generation of adult butterflies.

Then came the Coronavirus and the closing of all schools. With no students around to help with the care of this new butterfly garden, I took on the task of periodically watering the plants. The day my heart got “captured” by the Monarch butterfly was when I went to water and noticed that many of the leaves on the 5 milkweed plants had “disappeared”! My first thought was that “someone” maliciously plucked all the leaves off the stems! I knelt down to take a closer look and to my surprise and delight what do I see? A large black, yellow and white-striped Monarch caterpillar! Then I spotted a 2nd, and a 3rd, and after examining the 5 plants, I counted a total of 5 caterpillars! The Monarch butterflies that flew up from Mexico earlier this Spring had found our school and found our plants! WOW! God is quite the amazing “conductor” of His symphony orchestra we call creation!!

My 1st question was, “How did adult butterflies from Mexico find these small, inconspicuous plants to lay their eggs in this wee small corner we call First Baptist High School on James Island, South Carolina?”