After feeling that this past week was fairly uneventful and that I wouldn’t have much to write about, Briana and I went over the events that took place and we realized that our week was actually very rich and full of wonderful experiences. I sometimes take for granted the conversations I have with our neighbors as I go out to walk the dog or do laundry but when we leave the village and head out into the “real world” I am always struck by the reality that not many people know what it means to live in true community. In town, we are lucky if someone will wave back at us, let alone truly engage us and care to ask our names. At the village, the pace is a slower. We all stop and talk to each other, so much so that I budget an extra 15 minutes if I need to be somewhere so that I don’t miss out on seeing how my friend down the street is doing, listening to someone’s amazing story of redemption, or being an ear for someone to share their struggles. We have experienced a taste of what being a neighbor really looks like and it is truly amazing. If the second greatest commandment in scripture is to love our neighbors as ourselves, shouldn’t we intentionally make time for it every day?
One of our wise neighbors is constantly strolling through the property on her electric wheelchair and though she is legally blind, she can identify people by their voices. Not only that, she has an amazing gift for remembering everyone’s names and literally everything you ever talk about with her. She is constantly buying goldfish for Truma and Truma waves and smiles when she sees her. Sometimes I find her sitting and drawing outside the Market where Briana works. No matter what the subject of her drawing, she always uses it to tell about the amazing grace of God in her life. She is probably the best advocate for the village and greets every new volunteer or tour guest with the most genuine welcome.
We have met people here with amazing gifts, college degrees, talents and skills that continue to bust the stereotypes of homelessness. We often find that we are being ministered to more often that we minister to others. It is a beautiful and life giving environment to live in. Not to say that it is some sort of utopian dream, of course this is not Eden, however it feels much more how home should feel; neighbors that love and know each other. We are fortunate to be blessed by a wonderful church home and deeply rooted Christian friends in Midland, just imagine a place where you see your closest friends every time you walk to the restroom.
Our neighbor across the street had a birthday today and when he woke up there was a new bike on his doorstep with an anonymous note. As we walked up with some cinnamon rolls, other neighbors were coming by to wish him happy birthday. These kinds of things just didn’t happen in the subdivision we used to live in. We had great people living near us, but the environment just isn’t conducive to being close and vulnerable with each other. The best way I can describe it to you is like staying in a campground with your Sunday school class every day of the week. It’s beautiful.
Our friends and documentarians came to town this weekend and stayed in one of the tiny homes at the Community Inn. Hopefully they got some good footage but mostly we just like hanging out with them. We went to Threadgill’s and ate chicken fried steak and pie. Staying a few days, I think they got a dose of what life really looks like here and that really is the only way to do it. Reading this blog or watching the videos just doesn’t do it justice. That said, if you have any interest or you feel called to walk with us as we seek to build a village in Midland, come see this place. We are happy to show you around personally but there is an event called Symposium for Goodness Sake that is held several times a year that is a jam packed information session over several days. Matter of fact, I went to one last May and it’s a big reason why I am here. Contact us if you’re interested.
Saturday night we were invited to one of the new neighbor’s housewarming party. He planned the event and posted a schedule on his Facebook page. He hosted a tour of the village, a potluck dinner, and a drum circle. This particular gentleman is a talented glass blower and one of the most interesting people I’ve met. It really speaks to the culture of this place that he felt comfortable to host such an event, and also that lots of neighbors attended. I bet there were 30 people at the drum circle and it was incredible! The crowd was full of missional residents, new friends from town, neighbors, and staff members. We sat around the fire and played along together. In that time, there was such a sense of equality, community, and just genuine fun. Disclaimer for our friends back home, we haven’t turned into Austin hippies, but I think we can learn a lot from experiences like these and maybe think about other ways to engage and develop relationships with our neighbors.
Sunday morning we went to Austin Stone again. Every time we go there to worship, it just feels like my brother and sister-in-law are there. Since it is their sending church, it helps us to feel close to them even though they’re so far away being missionaries in Southeast Asia. Not to mention the video they showed before the sermon about the missionary conference they were at in Barcelona. We did not actually see them on the video, but it didn’t matter, we cried, both from missing them, and also in awe of the work that the Lord is doing through them and the others in the field.
The sermon was from 1 Peter 1 again, reminding us that we are “elect exiles”. It was about hope for God’s people even in the midst of tremendous suffering. While on the surface that doesn’t seem like a very cheery sermon, the truth is that life is hard and we will suffer. Regardless, there is always hope in the knowledge that our suffering brings glory. Second Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” God never leaves us or forsakes us and we can rest in the knowledge of Romans 8:28, that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Hard times are here and they will continue to come, but we serve a God who loves us and is bigger than them all. That’s good news for all of us!
Sunday night at the village there is a group called The Gathering. We met outside at the Alamo Drafthouse movie amphitheater (yes you read that right). We had praise and worship, a message, and the Lord’s Supper with our neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ. The beauty of remembering Christ through Communion is one of the most perfect ways to remind us that no matter our socioeconomic status or past mistakes, we are all sinners whom Christ gave his life for.
My brother-in-law and his family came out to the village to see us yesterday and Truma had a blast playing with her cousins. It was a day of celebration for some praiseworthy news, not to mention they brought us P. Terry’s cheeseburgers. Some of our neighbors just so happened to be working in the various microenterprises today. One of our neighbors works in the blacksmithing forge and he gave an impromptu presentation. Another neighbor told us all about the timber framed building they are working on with only hand tools. These microenterprises serve to provide a dignified living for our neighbors and as the MLF motto says, “empower communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless”. They want to develop human-to-human heart-to-heart relationships with volunteers. This is the key to the success of the village and something we want to intentionally emulate
Friends, God is working in and through us here. He is slowly chiseling away at the hard places in our hearts and giving us eyes to see how He sees. It is a painful and lifelong process, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. We are doing our best to seek God’s will for our time here and we are finding more and more that it is less about learning how to start a village like this than it is about being immersed in a culture of brotherly love and the longing to bring that culture back to our friends on the streets of Midland. Besides, finding land, building and operating a multimillion dollar tiny home community for the formerly homeless is far beyond our capacity anyways. We have to trust the Lord, and there is no one more trustworthy.
· That we would remember that there are no neutral moments and that we would pay close attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit in every moment of our days.
· JM’s Mom waiting on test results from cancer check up. Praise God she has been in remission for 11 ½ years and we are praying for good results and that she won’t have to go through the check up each year anymore.
· Some dear friends of ours are seeking wisdom and discernment for a potential adoption.
· Praise that our friend Walker is home and our community is coming up alongside him to help him build a sustainable life with Christ centered community.
· That we would be patient for our house to sell.
· Land and provision for our return to Midland and peace in the uncertainty of what happens when our time in Austin comes to and end.