Community First Village: Week 2

 Photo by Briana Echols

Photo by Briana Echols

Last Wednesday we officially started our serve duties and we have been getting acclimated in our work since. Briana and Truma have been serving in the Community Market each day. The market is not only a place to buy necessities; it is the central hub of the microenterprises here at Community First. All of the items created in the different microenterprises are sold there so it is one of the central connection points between residents and citizens of Austin. They sell art, hand forged bottle openers, hand carved candleholders, and more. The market is such a neat way to break down stereotypes and show that the formerly homeless are uniquely and wonderfully created in the image of God, just like the rest of us.

My work has been split between Property Management and Resident Care. Some days I am working in the office, and others I am moving furniture. Our schedules have worked out for the most part that I can go by and pick up Truma for lunch and have a daddy daughter date with her at the playground; one of the best parts of my day. In Property Management I have been able to catch a glimpse of how this place operates and really see the nuts and bolts of the village. I had the privilege of sitting in on a meeting where one of the property managers walked a new resident through a lease agreement. It was an incredible and informative meeting full of respect for all of the neighbors here and an invitation for a new friend to be a part of these 27 acres of dignity. What is truly amazing is that the people who work in every facet of this place, whether they are administrative staff or physical laborers, all understand and live out the creed that every person here is valuable and deserves dignity.

Briana and I have struggled with our focus and have had a hard time not looking too far ahead, specifically pertaining to our return to Midland and what that will look like. How will we design our village? How will we support ourselves? Will we have land when we get home? What are the things that make this place so special that we want to replicate? What will we do differently?

We had to come back to Midland this weekend to get Briana’s car. It was finally ready after our little fender bender a few weeks ago. We also were able to go to our nephew’s birthday party, we had a house showing, an open house, and we got to go to Church Under the Bridge and our home church and see our people. In sharing with our friends about how the first week went, it hit us both that we needed to ask the Lord to help us focus on the present. Our time at Community First is not just about preparing us to replicate a successful model of lifting homeless people off the streets. We are here in Austin to be the hands and feet of Christ and to learn more about Him each day so that we can love and serve Him more. We have begun to realize that there are no neutral moments here and that as much as our minds want to jump ahead to building our village in Midland, we need to be present here.

One of the fruits of being in the moment here is absorbing and understanding the culture of this place. It is truly heart changing to witness the command to love your neighbor lived out on a daily basis. That is why God has called us here. Not to learn about how to manage a tiny house village or coordinate the manufacture and sale of artisanal goods, but to be immersed in a place where each person is cared for with the utmost love and respect. This is the way that God is showing us how to love our neighbors as ourselves.

After returning from Midland on Sunday night, we experienced our first severe thunderstorm in the RV. It was pretty unnerving but Truma slept through the whole thing. Our dog Waylon was the one who needed special attention so we swaddled him in a scarf and snuggled him in bed until the storm passed. Fortunately we received an enormous meaty dog bone in our welcome basket from our program director and that soothed him enough to go to sleep.

Staying in our house in Midland was pretty weird. I kept telling Briana that I felt like a tiny person in such a big house. It felt more like a vacation house than our home; like we had rented an Airbnb or something. There were bare closets, a bare pantry, almost sterile, ready to be shown to a prospective buyer at a moments notice. It was so wonderful to have time with our families in Midland but we have realized that home is not simply defined by a familiar house. What matters are the friends and family who make up our village and the purpose we have been given to love and be loved by them because Christ first loved us. We are blessed to have a family who loves us and friends who would do anything for us at the drop of a hat. We believe that homelessness truly is a catastrophic loss of family, so we will continue to pray that the Lord will mold us and shape us to be that community and to cultivate home for those who have none.

Prayer requests this week:

·      Our friends who have a very weighty decision to make.

·      Trust that the Lord is preparing the way for our return and slowing down to appreciate and savor each moment here in Austin.

·      Developing deeper relationships with the many neighbors here.

·      Rest amidst a very busy schedule.

·      Our friends on the streets back home.