Someone once shared these wise words with me: while raising kids, the days are long but the years are short. This week mirrored that same paradox. Each day seemed so long and yet it’s already time to write another blog.
Tuesday was Valentines Day and I wanted to make it as special as I could. Since we rarely leave the village and there are no nearby grocery stores besides JD’s Supermercado, Truma and Briana were with me when I bought their flowers on an outing to Super Target; real romantic I know. We talked all week about having a steak dinner and I knew that JD’s had meat. I figured I would just run down the road to get a couple of ribeyes in between serve duty and Community Corps Bible study. I arrived at the meat counter and I was surprised to find that there were not any familiar cuts of meat. There were two semi-grillable cuts called “seven steaks” and “New York steaks” each about ¼ inch thick, full of bones, and not at all what I was looking for. Nonetheless, I grabbed a couple along with some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla and sugar cookies and headed back to the village. The meat tasted about as good as it looked, below average, but Truma liked it and we had fun laughing at our failed attempt. It’s about the memories anyways right?
Briana and I had to make some schedule adjustments to accommodate Truma’s napping schedule this week which helped alleviate some of the chaos. Truma is doing so well with her potty training and we have thrown away the diapers for good. She is speaking in complete and sassy sentences and constantly doing anything she can to get us to laugh. She amazes us every day and we are honored to be her parents.
On Wednesday we ran into one of the residents at dinner who I will call Tom to respect his privacy. I mentioned him in the last blog post as one of the folks that was having a hard time adjusting to community life. Papasitos catered the meal thanks to a generous donor and we had chicken fajitas, queso, and filet mignon. The filet was much better than our “steak” from Valentines Day and the best thing was, everyone in the village got to enjoy it together. While we waited for the food to be ready, Briana and I talked to Tom and he seemed to be doing so much better. He apologized for the things he said and the way he talked to some of our other neighbors. We assured him that we would do our best to support him as he continues to adjust. We overheard him apologizing to others and watched as they hugged each other and ate together. Since then he has continued to struggle with the adjustment so please pray specifically for him.
I got to participate in what’s called a Healthy Living Walk on Thursday. It is a joint effort between Property Management and Resident Care designed to ensure that neighbors are living in healthy and safe conditions. A great deal of effort is put in to ensure that this is not perceived as a “shake down” and that the point is not solely to look for rule infractions. We spent about 15 minutes at each randomly selected home checking to make sure there were smoke detectors, clear paths to the exit, and a healthy environment but that’s not all. The true driving force of these walks is to work with our neighbors and help them not only with maintaining a clean and safe home, but also to have conversations about their general well being. These conversations help us find out if there is any other ways we can care for them better. I will admit that I was not sure these would go well, but I was pleasantly surprised that we were welcomed into each home and had many productive conversations.
If you ever have the privilege of going on a tour here, you will be asked what percentage of the residents you think have mental illnesses? Most will guess 60 or 70 percent. I’ll give you the real answer so you can look smart; every single one of us suffers from mental health issues. Some people suffer with more severe issues but we are all broken in some way or another. Many of our formerly homeless brothers and sisters are wrestling with baggage from years of trauma, despair, addiction etc. and things can get a little messy sometimes.
The truth is that the very same messiness exists in every neighborhood in America, only behind closed doors in the privacy of our suburban houses. In the suburbs, it’s rare that we know if our neighbors are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, but it’s all around us. When issues arise out here in the village we all notice because we are deeply involved in each other’s lives. This closeness enables the community to come together to support those who are in need of care. If it has been a day or two since we’ve seen one of our neighbors, we go knock on their door and check on them. It is beautiful and I wish there was a way to have this kind of closeness in every neighborhood. However, this way of life requires us to be vulnerable and sacrifice the comfort of our protective bubbles. The beauty is that when we celebrate joys or go through trials, our neighbors will be right by our side. Living in close community, there is bound to be friction, but it is far outweighed by the goodness.
We had a great Community Corps book discussion on Thursday. We talked about the characteristics of the Church and how it can be described both as the Body of Christ and a family. It is amazing that because of Christ we can come together in our churches with people that we have nothing in common with. Through Jesus we are brought into the family. We will always have relatives we don’t care for but nonetheless we are united in Christ. Each individual church is also a sub-family and boy are we thankful to be a part of such a great one in FBC Midland. For grins, imagine with me what it would look like if you lived in a tiny home village with the members of your church. This is interesting to think about because it is a tendency for us to compartmentalize our lives. We separate work, play, etc. Our goal should be to come together as the Body of Christ, working towards the common goal of reaching the lost with the Good News. While I know we don’t live in a perfect world, we are learning that intentional Christian community can empower the Church to fulfill its role as a family and the Body of Christ.
We had a little fun on Friday and got to experience our first Community First! Cinema night. Typically people from the Austin community are welcomed into the village to watch a free movie alongside the formerly homeless. This particular event was for residents only, so I cant wait to see what the full-scale movie night looks like. We had a chili cook off and though a winner was not declared, I maintain that Briana makes the best chili on the planet. The meal was followed by a screening of one of my favorites, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in the 500 seat outdoor amphitheater. Truma ran around the amphitheater giggling and playing with our neighbors until she tuckered out.
We had several friends come to visit us at the village this Saturday. Several of the people were from a Midland non-profit organization walking alongside us in our vision to bring a village to Midland. They are focused on feeding the hungry and are working on putting together a food truck operation. They had the chance to see how Mobile Loaves and Fishes feeds the hungry on the streets of Austin. My colleague and his lovely girlfriend came out to the village as well and it was a pleasure to see their eyes light up at the wonder of this special place. We would love it if all of you would come out, see, and catch the vision with us. It is impossible to put into words how wonderful it is so please come.
We were running late Sunday morning and went to the late service at Austin Stone. I was having a hard time getting my heart right for worship. I have embraced the traditions of being a good Baptist and sitting in different seats and running late threw me off. I was annoyed by people coming in and out during the songs, talking, texting, and singing off key. I just kept praying for help to worship in spirit and in truth. I was still struggling through the sermon and I was caught a little off guard when I heard that we would be taking Communion afterwards.
I thought of 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 and knew that I needed to examine myself and be sure not to observe the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, so I continued to pray. As I walked up to partake, I was hit hard when the woman handed me the bread and said “the body of Christ broken for you” and the man said “the blood of Christ, shed for you” For me?! A guy who can’t even pour his heart out in worship because the circumstances aren’t just right? Yes, even me. Overwhelmed that Christ died for this busted soul, the tears came for the 7th Sunday in a row. I hope that all of you reading this know what it is like to have a relationship with Jesus. There is nothing more wonderful and I would love to talk with you about it anytime.
We were then shown a video called The Gift of Cerebral Palsy. I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch this truly humbling story. It is about a man named Roger who suffers with a debilitating disease and views his circumstance as an opportunity to serve the Lord. Briana pointed out in the video that one of Roger’s friends is an employee of Mobile Loaves and Fishes and Missional Resident here at the village named Ben. Ben is a quiet, hard working, and kind man dedicated to following the Lord and it shows. We haven’t had a chance to get to know each other very well yet, but I am inspired by his humility, his work, and his relationships.
Just last night we were in the middle of some pretty severe weather. I was just about to go to bed and heard a weather alert on my phone. It was a tornado warning and my mind started to flash back to April 27, 2011 in Tuscaloosa as it always does when the weather gets bad. I hated to do it but I woke Briana and told her that we needed to seek shelter in a sturdier structure than our RV. We got Truma out of bed and loaded up in the car with our panicked dog. We spent about an our in one of the restrooms of the bath house. The winds were gusting well above 50 mph and my heart was pounding, but I held it together the best I could. I never paid much attention to severe weather before, but since experiencing an F4 I’ve really struggled with anxiety when it comes to bad storms. The Lord has helped me to cast those fears on Him more and more and for that I am very thankful.
The warning expired at about 12:30 AM and we went out to find downed trees, light scattered debris, and an overturned motorcycle. There was no confirmed tornado; only a radar indicated funnel but the winds made quite a mess. We loaded back up in the car and as we were about to pull away, there was Ben walking through the village checking to be sure that everyone was ok and scouting the damage. Ben is one of the many people we have met here that lives out the Gospel with his selflessness.
The thunderstorms continued through the night so we ended up getting about an hour of sleep total which made for a rough Monday. Today we will head back to Midland after our serve duties to move the rest of our belongings out of our house. Again we thank you for praying with us as we waited for 10 months to get an offer. We are thankful that the Lord has clearly and concisely brought an end to the wonderful season of our lives spent in that house. Though there is much uncertainty for what our return to Midland will look like, we trust that the Lord knows and He loves us, and that is enough.
· Quick approval of our 501c3.
· Our friend Rick.
· Continued prayers for Dr. Wood as he begins treatment for his cancer.
· Our friends here that have an incredible knowledge of the Bible but no relationship with Christ.
· A good place to stay in our RV when we get back to Midland at the end of April.
· Land and provision to start this village.