Community First Village: Week 10

Thank you all for praying that we would find a balance on looking forward and focusing on the present. As usual, I did not expect it to happen the way it did, but it happened nonetheless. It has been a grueling week, with some beautiful bright spots no doubt, but I feel like I just went 6 rounds in a boxing match with 6 more to go.

Last Wednesday was one of those days at work where it seemed like the world was off axis. It was most definitely not a calm day of paperwork, walkabouts, and pleasant visits with neighbors as we sometimes are blessed with. Before most people were up and about, one of our friends was suffering from a severe mental crisis. As we have said before, everybody including us suffers from mental health issues in varying degrees, but this friend has a particularly challenging battle. The truth is, these kinds of events probably happen behind closed doors in your neighborhood. Long story short, it was ugly and very sad, continuing on through the afternoon until the person walked out the gate seemingly for good after many friends and caseworkers sought to intervene.

Later on that evening we arrived back from supper to find another friend having a similar yet slightly less elevated moment of crisis. Another friend and I prayed with this person but it didn’t seem to have any effect. This is not the norm here by any means; most days are calm and pleasant. However, it seems like when things hit the fan, they happen all at once.

Mental health issues are horrendous. When people have no control over their thoughts and emotions, it is absolutely heartbreaking. Fortunately, we have some of the best staff and mental health professionals in the world on site to address these situations, but when someone you have come to call a friend is suffering like that, it hurts to watch. My heart has changed tremendously since being here. Before, mental health issues scared me, and they still do to some extent, but not in the same way. I had no understanding of mental health and that caused me to lump people in the category of being dangerous. When left untreated and alone, these health issues can become dangerous, but in my opinion community is the best setting for these things to take place. Community provides the structure and resources for suffering people to receive the love and care they need.

That same day we got some news that the plans we had been making for getting The Field’s Edge started in Midland had hit a snag. We have not yet sorted that out so again we are completely up in the air on where we will live and how we will begin lifting people off the streets. It’s funny how God works. We ask him to give us patience and instead of simply bestowing it on us, he gives it to us through experiences that are sometimes not so pleasant. We asked for a balance in planning for the future and being present and we were given a clear answer through all the mess—“Trust Me.”

Oh let my trembling soul be still and trust Thy wise, Thy holy will. I cannot Lord thy purpose see, but all is well since ruled by Thee.
— Charles Spurgeon
Truma eatin a carrot she harvested

Truma eatin a carrot she harvested

Thursday was a blessed day of rest and distraction. The first half of my day was spent in a CPR and First Aid class that I was graciously invited to participate and become certified in. Some people wouldn’t be super excited about sitting through a 7-hour class and practicing CPR on dummies but it was right up my alley. We made it fun and cracked jokes at some of the scenarios.

I got back to the village early in the afternoon and Briana’s cousin from Seattle had come out for a visit. She was in town to work SXSW with her company and we had a lot of fun chatting with her on our “patio” and showing her around. We just so happened to be right on time for the McCoy’s Maintenance and Operations Building dedication which was just beautiful. The McCoy’s Building Supply family has been an integral part of making the village a reality and it was like a big family gathering. One of our resident artists painted a beautiful rendering of some of the tiny homes as a gift to the McCoy family followed by hugs and tears. It is so awesome when people see this place for the first time and have their preconceived ideas completely blown away. It blew my mind coming here for the first time and the invitation stands for any of you readers to come see for yourself. It will rock your world.

A giant party bus arrived at the village at 5:30 on Friday morning with flashing colored lights and music blaring. About 40 staff members and neighbors piled in to head downtown for an event to promote Community! First and Alan Graham’s new book Welcome Homeless. After eating some breakfast tacos and a moving speech from Alan, we headed towards City Hall with cardboard signs that said #WelcomeHomeless. It was my first time to ever “fly a sign” as they say on the streets and I was a little nervous.

Several hundred people joined us and we lined Cesar Chavez St. in front of City Hall with our signs waving and smiling at the rush hour traffic. One of the formerly homeless residents hung with me all morning and we had some wonderful conversation as we panhandled for community. He told me about his checkered past and how he came to know Jesus. Some people waved or gave thumbs up, some avoided eye contact all together, and others were not so nice. One man in particular deeply affected me with his response.

While my friend and I were talking about the amazing redemptive love of Christ, this man drove by in his new white BMW convertible throwing us the bird and hatefully yelling expletives at us. Apparently he did the same thing to every one of my friends who was holding a sign down the street, we just happened to be the first ones he saw. My friend seemed completely unaffected, hardened by years of this kind of abuse. For me it was shocking as I haven’t often been treated like that, but mostly I was heartbroken for that man in the convertible and all the others like him that are missing the beauty of the Gospel. It was a raw moment and I held back tears as I thought of the hardness of that man’s heart. I said something to my friend next to me about it and he simply said, “That’s alright man, we will pray and let God sort it out.” Before I could even process what happened, my formerly homeless brother in Christ forgave a man who had just treated him like garbage. This is a perfect representation of the phrase “Gospel con carne” that Alan Graham coined in his new book.

A flower from Mr. Jim

A flower from Mr. Jim

I am about seventy-five percent through the book and though I have some differences of theological opinion, me being a reformed Baptist and he a Catholic, I wholeheartedly agree that God’s amazing love for us through the death and resurrection of Christ calls us to radically and sacrificially love our neighbors. A friend of mine once said that 80 percent of our personal theology is correct and we wont know which 80 percent that is until we enter heaven. Throughout history there have been splits and divisions in the Church, sometimes for very good reason. All we can do is earnestly seek to understand and live out the Word of God with the help of the Holy Spirit and do our best to be the capital C Church in a world marred by sin. One of the most beautiful things about Community First! Village is that Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Hindus, Muslims, and even Atheists are drawn in to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves whether we know it or not. We look for opportunities to share the Gospel while we live it out. That’s our job; the rest is up to God.

What have especially impacted me are the stories Alan wrote about the specific individuals he met on the streets that changed his heart forever. Some of those people live across the street or several RVs down from me. I see them every single day. To know the depths of their broken lives that led to homelessness, the suffering they’ve been through, and the healing that has taken place is a stunning portrait of God’s love. Like me they are sinners in need of a Savior; people in need of love. They’ve made us tamales, had us over for a beer, and welcomed us into this stained glass window of intentional Christian community.

Monday I woke up feeling like garbage. I couldn’t tell if I was coming down with something or if I was just exhausted. We went into town to print out the closing documents for the sale of our house in Midland and everything seemed to be going wrong. Traffic was bad, the FedEx store didn’t have a notary, etc. We finally got that all sent off and headed back to the village. I stayed home to avoid infecting my coworkers and try to get some rest but I decided to try to get my truck inspected. It was a fiasco that resulted in no inspection and no rest. I got home to find that our health insurance assistance was denied because I have no official documentation to prove that we currently have no income. It has been one thing after another.

This week has taken all of my energy and I am realizing now as I sit here writing at 11:30 PM that I am running on empty. I felt that way going in to church on Sunday morning but I was reminded in worship of how amazing my God truly is and I am reminded again now. On Sunday morning I did not feel at all like singing until they started playing the song “Jesus is Better”

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

We serve a God who not only is better than anything we can think or imagine, but who also helps us believe its true. How amazing is that?! God is still on his throne. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This may have been a rough week for us, but in comparison to others I know, it’s been a cakewalk. I am so grateful for the many good things that have happened this week and for my sweet wife and baby girl. Most of all that I am thankful to be saved by the grace of God. All I know is, He is using all of this for our good. Jesus is better-- make my heart believe.

To those of you who are going through trials and looking at our week thinking, “Man he has no idea how bad my week has been”, I hope this scripture will encourage you just the same and help you to cast all of your fears and anxieties on the Lord. He is big enough and He cares for you. If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus please don’t be afraid to reach out to us or someone else you know. It will be the best thing you ever do.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.- 1 Peter 1:6-9


Prayer Requests:

·      Our Pastor at FBC Midland Dr. Wood as he goes through cancer treatment.

·      A homeless friend of one of our neighbors, Douglas Edwards, who fell off a bridge and is in critical condition.

·      Rest (I know I need to go to bed earlier but I have trouble turning my brain off)

·      Trust that God already knows the plans for The Field’s Edge and acceptance of our inability to see them yet.

·      People in our lives that do not know Jesus.

·      Healthy pregnancies for our friends and family expecting children.

·      Provision of land for The Field’s Edge and a place for our family to live when we get back to Midland.