The Skinny on Finances

20130515-183702.jpgFolks often ask how we make our way.  In 2010 we started off with ideals that involved becoming self-sustainable, working on ways to market and expand our trade. The simple explanation is that we book shows that offer payment for our performance. Of course, through our travels we have found greater purpose in connecting with and serving communities, involvement in social justice and helps organizations and encouraging kinfolk to live their dream; all the while, still performing.  And, although our original business model only generates about 70% of what we really need to be sustainable we’ve experienced something bigger than us. We’ve experienced the gift of faith and generosity.

On our journey, when troubles have come, there always seemed to be someone who without knowledge or very little knowledge of our situation, that would bless us with just enough to keep us on our way. These moments are beyond our comprehension and we don’t take any credit for them. We didn’t market or try to convince anyone that we were worth it, they were unconditional gifts. Through these experiences we have learned that there is another economy that we can be apart of. It’s not capitalism, socialism, communism, utopianism, prosperity gospel, or even karma.. We call it the divine economy. We think the crux of it is listening, openness and to be genuinely others focused, not in a “pay it forward” sort of way, which says if you give, you’ll receive, but it’s an “even if there is no return, I will give, even my life for another.”

We aren’t taught to operate this way in the business world. Even in vocational ministry, we are taught to have flashy marketing and newsletters proclaiming our mission statement and worth in order to receive tax-deductible donations. And so, two months ago we began a quiet relationship with Modern Day, which allows kinfolk to give to us through their site. They keep a record and at the end of the month they process the tax-free donations, deposit it into our bank account, minus a very small %, and send us a statement. At the end of the year, they send out all of the tax paperwork to both us and our donors. We had planned on introducing our partnership with Modern Day in a smooth, thought out way. However, that graceful introduction was muddled when our bus broke down in Chattanooga a few weeks ago.

Already a difficult month, traveling a new territory with very little income coming in, we were beyond our means and struggling to find community or hope. We were also wrestling with the little things that start to pop up in nomadic life. Things like the discomfort of four people living in 300 sq ft, not having hot water, or the ability to have power without being plugged in, and we were trying to finish up the last month of school.  So when the bus broke down, our hearts sank. There was a moment where doubt crept in and we wondered if we made the right decision to link up with an organization, taking us in a more traditional route of fund raising. We wondered if we had stepped out of that divine economy. We were significantly in the red and we needed a miracle.

A miracle is exactly what we got! What we found was that through the traditional system of giving, the divine economy superseded and yesterday Modern Day sent us a statement with a $2200 in donations.  We had no idea that kinfolk had given to our need until they sent the statement. And, the exciting thing is that the amount donated covers almost all of the bus repair!  We are so absolutely humbled and grateful for that support!

The process of trying to communicate needs doesn’t come natural for us but at the end of the day, whether we have flashy marketing or don’t say a word, it doesn’t really matter. The divine economy is active and incorrupt despite all of us. Palms open, hearts soft, and to God be the glory!

Family, Wine and Cats

This weekend we were invited to perform at the Snus Hill Winery in Madrid, Iowa. Set in the rolling hills of Iowa’s farmland, the award-winning family owned winery is a welcoming property surrounded by the bright colors of the autumn leaves and red barns.

The land was originally purchased by Swedish Immigrants, Charles and Hanna Larson, in 1878 and the winery stands upon their original homestead. On the hill-top of moraine soils left from the receding glaciers, the vineyards of Snus Hill were started in 1999 when John & Diane Larson planted the first acre of Frontenac and Marechal Foch. Each year was followed with another acre planted of a different variety. In 2003 and 2004, the dream of a commercial vineyard became a reality when Snus Hill Vineyard sold grapes to Summerset Winery. In 2005 and 2006 more of the Larson family joined the venture including John’s sister, Linda Melin and Linda’s daughter Melissa, her husband Chris and their children.

Chris was our host along with employee’s Sasha and Clayton and they graciously toured us around the facility. We were inspired by the family history and especially by Chris’s story of “coming home.” Married to Melissa, educated and working in Tampa, FL. With a child on the way, the couple faced a crossroad to the future. They had to decide if they were going to further education towards a safe career or enter the mystery and live the adventure of the unknown by joining the family winery. They chose to move to Madrid, IA and from what we could tell, they made the right choice. Chris shared about the learning curve, quality of family life and a dream for the future. Community minded, the Larson’s also share their facility for training purposes, and are involved in many community events.

The Snus Hill Winery name is reflective of the family’s Swedish heritage and their love of cats. Snus is the name of John and Diane’s affectionate and beguiling tobacco brown Burmese cat. The cat got his name from an old Swedish chewing tobacco (Snus). The white cat on the labels was chosen to represent their platinum Burmese cat.

Our favorite Snus Hill wine was the Marechal Foch and was exactly as they described…

“Earthy dry red wine with aromas of anise and mocha over dark berry fruits. This is an acid-driven wine which makes it naturally food-friendly. This wine can pair well with lamb, steak, and certain spicy foods.” Although, it was quite pleasant to enjoy on its own.

We look forward to another round through Iowa come Spring and we’re happy to call these folks are our global/local neighbors. Visit them at http://snushillwine.com