Already our 9th week at the village—over halfway through our time here. It seems hard to believe and it definitely invokes a bittersweet feeling. After our trip to Midland last weekend, we started the week pretty tired. As I mentioned in the last post, there is no way we could have accomplished everything without the help of our family. Even this week they were hauling out trash and making sure that we got everything. We can now officially say that our old house is completely empty and we are set to close on the sale next week.
We made our way back to Austin on Monday, listening to the book Same Kind of Different As Me by Denver Moore and Ron Hall. It had been recommended to us by several people from church, so we decided to give it a shot. It took me back to our beginning in homeless ministry, when I had no understanding of homelessness. I assumed they were choosing to live that way and that they should just get a job. I now know how wrong I was. The story is about an upscale arts dealer who has a life-changing encounter with a homeless man after his wife pushes them to volunteer at a local homeless shelter. It reminded me a lot of my previous misconceptions of homelessness and the stories of the people on the streets who forever changed my perception. The beauty of my personal journey is that I have been given the gift of being able to walk people like my former self down the road of understanding homelessness. A true picture of Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Hearing the full life story of a man who has experienced a life of chronic homelessness will change your heart. When we get to the bitter roots of homelessness we find broken families, injustice, and tremendous suffering. One of our friends here at the village ended up on the streets alone at the age of 7 after his parents abused him and forced him to use drugs and alcohol. These stories are the reason we can no longer drive by people on the street corners avoiding eye contact. These are our brothers and sisters, and as Christ followers we have a responsibility to love and care for them.
On Tuesday we got back to work in our serve duties and shared a Mardi Gras feast with our Community Corps group complete with a king cake. I was fortunate enough to find the bean, representing Jesus, in my slice. As a kid, we never participated in any Lenten activities and it is not widely observed in the Baptist tradition, but since Briana and I married, we have always made a practice to observe it in our own way. Basically we fast from some meaningful things and commit to intentionally remembering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It has always been a sweet time for us and we would encourage people of all denominations to find a way to use the Lenten season to prepare for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. It can be a very worthwhile experience.
We have a lot of exciting things in the works for our return to Midland! I am itching to share them all right now but until the time is right, I will just have to keep you on the edge of your seat. I want to reemphasize our gratitude for your prayers for us and for The Field’s Edge. Know that along with us, you are participants in some amazing things that the Lord is doing. One thing I can share with you is that God is working out the details for The Field’s Edge to start lifting people off the streets in the next few months.
These developments have knocked our socks off and we have found ourselves a little overwhelmed with all of the decisions to be made. We would appreciate your prayers in that. Specifically right now we are seeking wisdom in housing choices. Long story short, we will not be able to live in our RV if the current plan continues to develop. The possible initial location of our community is not suited for RVs so we are looking into different housing options for ourselves and for several others to be lifted out of homelessness. That said we have found some really amazing possibilities and are excited to get back home and make it a reality, Lord willing.
Friday night we got to experience our first full movie night at the village. There were probably a couple hundred people who came out to the village with their families to watch The Incredibles with their formerly homeless brothers and sisters. These movie nights are yet another microenterprise opportunity for residents of the village to work and make a dignified income. Truma and her friend chased each other around the amphitheater all evening. The rodeo is going on at the nearby expo center and we got a free firework show. It was beautiful to see the joy of Truma and her friend as they jumped up and down and shouted out the different colors they saw in the sky. When we got home, we found that our dog was not as big of a fan of the fireworks as Truma, and he was anxiously pacing around the trailer. Poor Waylon!
My amazing wife signed me up for a blacksmithing workshop called “Post Apocalypse Toolmaking” on Saturday morning. I spent the day learning some of the history of blacksmithing, pounding on steel, playing with fire, and eating rabbit stew—a dream come true for me. We forged one of the basic tools of blacksmithing called a center punch out of a coil spring from a car. It was so much fun and I hope to have more opportunities for blacksmithing. The forge is another amazing microenterprise for residents of the village to learn a craft and earn a living. Another thing we are praying specifically about are the possible microenterprises we will set up The Field’s Edge. Right now we do not really have anything concrete so if you have ideas we would love to hear them.
Sunday we were back at Austin Stone. I was very thankful that the Lord heard my prayers to prepare my heart for worship and I was able to lay everything aside and focus on Him. We had another amazing message from 1 Peter 1, this time calling us to action in verse 13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I know I sure need help with that charge; it is a daily battle. My sinful heart is constantly putting things before God, misplacing my hope, and focusing on myself. Fortunately, as Christians, we have been blessed with the Holy Spirit to help us and I am so grateful. Alone I am incapable, but with God all things are possible.
Monday morning we had a quick family outing to New Braunfels to look at some more possible housing options for the start of The Field’s Edge in Midland. It was a nice drive and we saw some good options. One of the highlights was seeing a huge Great Dane at a place that sells cabins. Truma loved on a dog 5 times her size and she chased it all over the lot. Briana had Danes when we met. She has a special connection with them and I can see why. They are gentle giants and one of the best feelings in the world is having those big faces against your own, feeling their warm breath, and getting Dane kisses.
It has been a great week and we are so excited for what is coming. I will admit that it is hard to take a step back from that and remember that we also need to focus on the present. We have nearly two more months here and I know that God isn’t finished yet. This week, and every week, we are intentionally praying for the right balance of looking forward and being present.
Thank you for following along with us on this journey. It really means a lot to us that you care to read these posts each week and pray for us. Specific prayer requests this week :
· Several of our friends here at the village who are seeking God but do not have personal relationships with Christ.
· Our own focus on Christ as we observe Lent.
· Decisions in housing and clarity in the development of our vision for Midland.
· The people God intends for us to lift off the streets of Midland.
· Smooth closing process on the sale of our house next week.