Eight-year-old Jaicee was visiting my South Dakota home with her family from Montana. She gazed silently in wide-eyed wonder at my collection of rocks and fossils arranged on bookshelves throughout the basement.
"Grandma, did you find all these?"
"A lot of them," I answered. "But some have been given to me, some I traded for, and some I purchased at rock shows."
"I wish I could find a rock like these," she whispered in a plaintive sigh.
"Ask Jesus about it," I suggested. "He loves to give surprises."
The next day I noticed a neighbor walking her new puppy. Wanting to get better acquainted, I walked across the street to chat with her for a few minutes. Jaicee came with me. When the conversation ended and we prepared to head back home, Jaicee queried, "Grandma, what's that?" She was pointing toward a stone nestled in a small patch of gravel nearby.
I reached down, picked it up and knew immediately what I held in my hand. I handed it to Jaicee.
"Jaicee, Jesus answered your prayers because this is a very special rock!" I exclaimed. "It's a Fairburn agate. Let's thank Jesus right now and then ask the property owner if you can have the rock."
"She found it, she can keep it," was the owner's immediate reply.
Little did I know then that it would help Jaicee capture an even bigger dream of Adventist education.
Two years had drifted by when I decided to take part of my rock collection to the Fairburn Agate Show and Swap Meet near my home. I had already determined to donate the earnings to Christian education or perhaps disaster relief. As I went out the door with my selections, something prompted me to run back inside and grab Jaicee's Fairburn agate. Maybe someone at the show would be able to tell me what it was worth.
I mustered up courage at the first table to ask the dealer if he would mind taking a look at the agate.
"This is a nice agate," he replied. "You should be able to get $350 to $500 for it."
"What? Really?" I exclaimed. "I was thinking it might be worth $30 to $50."
I continued around the "wagon circle" of individuals selling off their unwanted excess of material: agates, petrified wood, ammonite, fossils, and various rocks and minerals.
Two-thirds of the way around the circle, I again ventured to ask an opinion on Jaicee's agate. When I brought it out this time, several men gathered 'round. "Wow" was frequently heard. "May I take a picture of it?" was another frequent query. This is getting exciting, I thought.
People wanted to know who found it and where. They got excited when I told them how my granddaughter, just 8 years old at the time, prayed to find a rock and how she casually found it in a neighbor's landscaping gravel. One man encouraged me to take it to Roger Clark, an expert on Fairburn agates. His vehicle was down a little farther.
Of course I went to see him. "Can you tell me what you think this agate is worth?" I asked.
"Are you wanting to sell it?" Roger responded, reaching out to take the stone from me.
"This is an exceptional Fairburn, certainly museum quality. If you're wanting to sell it, I'd start the bid at $600 or $700. You might get more. There are some serious collectors here."
It was time to call Jaicee to see if she wanted to keep her agate or sell it. "Sell it," she said.
"This is a very special rock, Jaicee," I replied. "The money should not be used for just anything. It should go for something really important."
"Grandma," said Jaicee firmly, "I want to go to Mount Ellis Academy really badly. We just started a savings account with my birthday money. I have $50 in my account so far. We could use it for that."
With that motivation, I doubled my efforts, taking the agate to first one and then another serious collector. I was convinced I was at the right place at the right time to encourage Jaicee in her goals.
The agate was sold to a Rapid City collector for $1,525. He said, "When you find something in the top five percent of what you are collecting, you go for it. This is like the Hope Diamond of Fairburn agates. You can look your whole life and not find an agate like this. I've been collecting since 1960, and I have not found a Fairburn of this quality."
What I didn't know at the time was the day before I called her from the rock show, Jaicee and her dad had been discussing Christian education. When she told him how much she wanted to go to Mount Ellis Academy, he had replied, "Honey, it's very expensive. Don't get your hopes up." So that night, when she went to bed, she asked God to help her save money for high school. No wonder she was so eager and emphatic the next day that I should sell the rock, and she knew exactly where she wanted the money to go.
There may come a day when Jaicee wishes she still had her agate. But I'm also quite certain that as she considers the value of her Christian education she'll remember that special answer to prayer. And she will be glad she sought a higher purpose and plan.