Carriers of the Story

It has been four years since our last roll down the west coast and we were excited to reconnect with some of our kinfolk Oakland, California. We were meant to park our bus in the Bekaert’s driveway but found that the already tight squeeze was made impossible by surrounding parked cars. Nic had a “Plan B” for us to park with a friend down the street who owned an auto shop. We were super grateful for the hospitality but the initial let down of not being next door to our friends, on top of trying to get remember our city street smarts, left us a bit unhinged. All that to be said, after the first day, we found our bearings and started to engage with the colorful world around us.

We began our week by making scones and tea for our host, Tane and his wife, Keo as a thank you for allowing to park in their lot. Over the course of the next few days, we visited with them several times, sharing story and encouraging one another.

Tane, shared a bit about his hard road growing up in Oakland. He said his life was consumed with anger, with self and he had very little hope. Then, he had a moment where time stood still and everything came into focus. He was riding in his car and flipped on the radio to a station where he heard a sermon about God’s forgiveness through Yeshua. Forgiveness was not a word that was familiar or comfortable for him. However, in that moment, it all began to sink deep into his being and he knew he needed this forgiveness and he knew he needed to offer this forgiveness. And so he began to move towards this truth, one step at a time. He talked about how this forgiveness transformed his mind, strengthened his marriage and family and gave him a vision for the future. He was a top end mechanic, working at a dealership and had always wanted to start his own business. So, he and his wife began to pray and things started lining up. In May, they bought the mechanic shop on the corner of Foothills and 27th. They call it Community Auto Center, a name that symbolizes everything Tane and Keo are about; community.

We also had inspiring conversations with Keo. Born in Cambodia, fleeing as a child during the war, Keo shared the journey of faith that led her towards healing and reconciliation. A part of that journey was a trip back to Cambodia with a handful of other Cambodian women. The trip offered the ladies an opportunity to reconnect with culture, to heal past wounds, to encourage and be encouraged by their families and fellow Cambodians in the reconciliation process. This process requires deep lament and also a movement towards Thanksgiving. In his book, Out of the Depths, Anderson suggests that “laments are really expressions of praise, offered in a minor key in the confidence that Yhwh is faithful and in anticipation of a new lease on life.”

Though out the week we had non-stop visits from many of Tane and Keo’s friends and neighbors. We found that in many of their stories, as refugees, that they are still actively living out lament, stuck in a posture of deep sadness and for some, anger. Having been to Cambodia and experiencing the subtle transition from lament to thanksgiving amongst the locals that we met, we were able to participate in active listening, allowing the speaker to really confess the horrors, pain, and sense of betrayal they still feel bound by in their lives.

Yet, when they learned of our visit to their homeland, light-filled their eyes and they wanted to hear a new story. It was awesome to be able to encourage them by telling them stories of our friends, their fellow countrymen, who have walked through the same horrors of war and who continue to live in a hostile world but who have hope. We shared stories of those who, through the power of forgiveness have begun to mend relationships with those who once were their oppressors. We shared stories of those who live out this hope by loving God and loving their neighbors. Thought it all, some of them were inspired to begin to move towards healing, towards forgiveness, Thanksgiving, and hope.

We travel full time, all over the world, we sit with people and listen to their stories. If nothing else, we are finding that the further we go the more these stories interweave. There is a tie that binds us all in love and it is an honor to carry these stories for such a time as this. It is an honor to be welcomed in as the stranger and find such rich treasures waiting for us.

If you’d like to learn more about Cambodia’s recent history with genocide and war we highly recommend the Netflix movie, They Killed My Father.

During our visit to Cambodia, we spent much time with Craig Greenfield and the Alongsiders, learning and listening. We visited the Killing Fields and asked anyone who was willing to share their story.  We were struck by our new Cambodian friend’s tenderheartedness, sober-mindedness, and their joy. We were encouraged by their commitment to making their world a better place by serving one another, caring for the hungry, the wounded, the warring, and the dying. While there we learned a sacred song, one that resonated so deeply in our souls that we have carried it with us and share it with those longing for healing and restoration in our world. It is a song that was actually written by a Mennonite named Tom Wuest, who visited the Alongsiders prior to us and was so inspired that he wrote a whole album of sacred songs. This was one of them. It is called May Your Kingdom Come and it is a prayer based off of Yeshua’s prayer;

9 …Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matt 6.9-13)

You can download Tom’s song at https://tomwuest.bandcamp.com/track/may-your-kingdom-come

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Refocus

20130930-160911.jpgAbout every three months or so we have a “dream talk”, a sort of come to the table talk as a family. Our hope is to refocus, hear each other’s longings, dreams, desires and frustrations, placing them on the table and offering them up to the author of our journey.  We want to be obedient, we want to be good parents, we want to be good stewards of our finances and we want to succeed. However, this isn’t always an easy task as we each often come with different agenda’s.

Our latest table talk exposed a few twisted ideals. We found that we’ve worked so hard this summer, playing shows, releasing our third album, and toiling in the music business that we’ve drifted towards self-sufficiency rather than interdependence without even noticing. We also found that our dream talks were becoming angsty with both of our children making demands about their expectations and us feeling guilty for not meeting them as parents. Needless to say, it has been an emotionally exhausting couple of months. And, although we have seen some beautiful parts of the country, explored rock caves, beaches, forests and rivers, we have forgotten our first love. We have learned that humility is not something we have until humbling ourselves is something we do. We have been isolated much of this time and we are longing for community and purpose beyond just playing music and exploring nature. (Although, we do love both!) Ultimately, this past table talk revealed that we needed to go back to the beginning, to remember where we came from, why we made the life choice we did to swim upstream, and who the author was. We needed to lay down our pride and revisit our vision statement:

“We are The Hollands! We are a Mother, Father, Sister and Brother. Bound by blood and vision to travel about this earth, spreading a message of reconciliation through LOVE. We make our way sharing the gifts and talents given us; Music, Craftsmanship, Mentorship and Instruction, Merrymaking and Community building. Our desire is to connect with those we find along the way and encourage community and growth in relationship.”

With this new focus we are anxious to enter into our next chapter of service and although we don’t know exactly how we will be used we know that we will be used well.

As we make our way down the coast of California we will be connecting with our friends at New Hope Community in Oakland again. They have just experienced the tragic loss of their youth pastor, Jose. He was helping to push a car that was broken down to the side of the road when a drunk driver hit him. He was rushed to the hospital but did not make it. We are prayerful as we make our way to them and however we serve, our hope is to bring a tenderness and strength to our time with them.

The second week of October we will be serving alongside a new community in Monterey, CA. We connected with Brian Bajari through a mutual group on Facebook called The Parish Collective. (on a side note, we also met New Hope through this group.)  We are looking to meeting Brian and his community Gathering By the Bay, learning about their work with the homeless and helping any way we can. We are also keen to learn to surf and Brian has offered to introduce us to that world.

By mid-Oct we will be in San Diego with our hosts, the Penley family. We met them when we visited with our friends and their family in Colorado Springs, CO. They gave us an open invitation. My grandfather was stationed in San Diego and I have always had a fondness for the city. This will be our first time there and we are excited to neighbor with the Penley’s.

The end of October takes us to Arizona, where we will park for seven weeks and work alongside our Kineo Community in Central Phoenix. This will be our second long-term stop since we launched in 2011. Our longest was our first stop in Sister, OR where we stayed for twelve weeks, serving at Vast Church and building our bus.

We are so grateful for our Kineo community’s commitment to us and to all of those around the country who have encouraged us on our way. We are thankful for God’s amazing grace and patience. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desires of our hearts.

The Real Raiders

Love Your EnemiesThe idea of visiting Oakland, CA. really wasn’t on our radar, however after a brief shout out on a group forum via Facebook we found a welcoming host, Josh Harper excited to have us come to his New Hope community.

Oakland, isn’t that the city we always hear about in crime reports? Highest murder rates per capita, gangs, drugs, sex trafficking, homelessness, orphans, violence, immigrants, and extreme poverty. I mean, who just goes to Oakland? And yet, as we learned from our visit, there are a handful of highly educated, doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers and teachers that have moved purposefully from their exterior, safe, comfortable lives into this dynamic and dangerous neighborhood. They have moved here intentionally to live in community with one another and with those they feel called to engage, inspire, and protect. These saints are the crux of our story about Oakland. These saints are the “Real Raiders.”

Celu'havenThere is something intriguing that happens when we pull our big ol bus into a tight city block, it takes all of the neighbors efforts to make it happen. This means, that all of the normal ‘hello’s and get to know ya’s” have to take a back seat, because there is problem solving to do. And, so when we finally settled into our little nest of a driveway (let’s just say we had about 6 inches on each side to spare) we were already fast friends with our host family, the Bekaert’s. They are precious people who just returned from four years in Guatemala. Nic, a frenchman and social worker, and his wife Mo, a nurse, Layla and Gabriel. Prior to Guatemala, The Bekaert’s lived in the New Hope community for about 15 years and are considered “pillars” of their community. They are wise beyond their years, they are generous and they are kind.

The Bekaert's The Harpers

Along with the Bekaert’s welcome, was the fella we had been corresponding with via the world wide web, Josh Harper. Josh is the ultimate host. He is an organized, highly social visionary and his wheels are always spinning. He’s the husband of Marjie and the father of Lucy ad Beatrice. He’s also the National Coordinator of Urban Projects for a group called InterVarsity. However, you would never know that he’s the “big dog” as his focus is often on listening and meeting others needs. If not for his willingness to hear, we probably would not have connected in the deep way that we did. There are kinfolk and then there are “Kinfolk.”  The Harpers are “Kinfolk.”

Josh knew exactly how to plug us into his community. In the five solid days that we were with them, we shared a movement and song class with the pre-school that New Hope runs, and we offered a workshop for third-fifth graders on “Sound scape.” We also performed a house concert and shared our gifts of music on Sunday morning at Sacred Space. We enjoyed meals within the community, enjoyed encouraging and rich conversation and learned much about the history of New Hope’s vision to care for the “poor, orphans and aliens” by living and engage in an area where there are obvious consequences. Sometimes in life we feel stuck in the place where we are at. Here, in Oakland, with the New Hope Community, it felt quite the opposite. It felt vibrant and purposeful.

On our final full day together we shared an intimate moment where everything about why and what made sense. Sunday morning, we gathered to worship in unity. The morning started out with prayers. Specific prayers for this community, this neighborhood. It was tender to hear prayers for individual teachers from the local school, for specific people enslaved by poverty and hopelessness, for International Blvd. which borders the neighborhood and is where much of the sex trafficking in Oakland takes place. Their were prayers for specific neighbors, for local government, for peace to come over their neighborhood and for unity. It was deep, meaningful and reflective. During that prayer time, it all made sense, why 60 or so educated folks would move into this neighborhood, why they would risk safety and give us monetary gain. If not for their purposeful decision to engage, their prayers would have been second hand. Their is nothing wrong with praying for communities far off, but there is something profound about living out the message of reconciliation in and with those you pray for. To see the gospel manifested in a way where the sacrifice was apparent, humble and in it for the long haul. That inspires us! And, we look joyward to more times with these “Kinfolk.”

Lake Michigan

Crossing over that great Mackinaw Bridge was one of the most spectacular things we have see on our journey’s thus far. We’ve been over the San Francisco bridge in a car but there was something magical and dramatic about going over this bridge in our bus. We moved slowly at about 25 miles an hour, the sun was bright and life just stood still for a moment.

The coast line along Lake Michigan holds a special place in my heart as it is my birth state and where I spent my formative years. Folks can argue all they want about the best beaches in the world and we have seen a few, from the beaches along Hwy 1 in California, Hawaii to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, The Panhandle, Virgina Beach, and then some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia but the beaches along the Lake Michigan shore line are the one’s that hold my heart.

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Hospitality in Los Angeles

Rest fell upon us in the most incredulous of all places, Los Angeles. It’s not where I think to go to when I’m looking to relax. It’s crowded, fast and it takes forever to drive anywhere. However, our couple day stop at the Halula abode in Montrose, turned out to be one of the most pleasant and unassuming times we’ve had. We meet Jenica and Wes Halula at the Holland House Gallery night in 2007 and thought they were some cool cats. They run a production company called Happy Fun Time and they are the kind of friends we call “kinfolk.” We kept up here and there, on Myspace and then Facebook and who knew that we’d be camped in their front yard four years later. It was the most challenging drive way we’ve, or I should say, Craig has managed. But, with the help of Banjo and Wes, it was conquered and we set up shop.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun and the surrounding mountains, we were able to tackle some good school days, get some groceries and enjoy company with old friends, Michelle and Kevin. We also hosted our first dinner party with the Halula’s as our guests. It was such a pleasure to finally be able to share in hospitality using our space.

On a side note; we have been blown away by the constant provision from God, through those with compassionate hearts. Always in the neck of time too.

When we arrived in LA we realized that we were down to our last fifty dollars. It had cost us $1100 in Gas to drive these last twenty days. Needless to say, our hearts pattered a few beats as we realized that our gigs we’re still a week away and we had no income in sight. With in a day however, we had two spontaneous gifts given to us, that allowed us to refill the tank and get our groceries. We still can’t figure it out. Nobody knew, we hadn’t put out a prayer request or set up a fundraiser and we didn’t do some special service project or anything noble. It just happened or did it?

Now, there is the prosperity gospel and there is the poverty gospel, both of which we don’t aspire to. We just don’t believe in a “woe is me” manipulation so those around us feel sorry and give to us, and we surely don’t believe that we’re doing something so significant that we are warranted some great reward. We’re just living life. We are however, learning that this journey isn’t about us at all, that our needs being met isn’t even the point, but rather that we are apart of a bigger picture, we are one big “body,” like the “sea pens,” and our motion is connected to others motion. No, things don’t “just happen.” We really believe there is a beautiful tapestry being woven and we are all apart of it. So, as hard as it is, our focus remains on serving and trusting. And, although it has been humbling and hard to learn to receive, we have had such graciousness and mercy bestowed upon us that we can’t hardly wait to pass it on.

Golden Gate

2/15-2/17   Excited to visit with dear friends, we pulled in and set up shop in the little sleeper town of Vacaville, CA. It was our first stop where we were parking on the street and we were unsure about it all. The first night went smoothly and after our experience at the camp ground we were becoming old pro’s at leveling out Celu’haven.  However, the next morning we had a run in with a cadet who told us we had to move. And so, after much debate we ended up packing our bags and bedding and parking at The Mission, a church down the road from our friends. That afternoon we were enjoying a little hula hooping in the driveway when a squad car rolled by. He had a confused look on his face, rolled down his window and asked if this was a certain address? We answered yes. He glanced back and forth and then said, “Hmm, I don’t see a bus. Was there a bus here?” We laughed and said yes, that it was ours and it was moved a few hours ago. He smiled and asked what it was all about. We told him our story and he was delighted. He shared about his travels with the military, about his joy of music and wished us well. And that was that.

  

Besides the initial excitement our time in Vacaville was quiet and refreshing. We had time to just rest, do laundry, school and enjoy everyday life with dear friends. The kids picked fresh oranges and lemons from the tree in the back yard. We played a few songs with Kathryn Grace, meet some really lovely kinfolk and we watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is a new family favorite. Yep, that’s one cuss of a movie.

2/18 SAN FRANCISCO- Although we were on a tight budge we had a wonderful day filled with sites, sounds, culture and fantastic overstimulation. We did the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, watched the seals swim and frolic, road a trolley downtown, admired street performers, walked  Lombard Street, Chinatown and Haight-Ashbury. The only places we didn’t see was Alcatraz and Ghirardelli Square and that is unfortunate because we love rebels and we love chocolate.  But there is always next time.

  

We spent about half the day in Chinatown. It was rich in unique smells, colors and flavors. As we wandered through the park there was traditional music blaring over the loud speakers as the old fella’s played their pipas, yuehus, dizi and tonggu. There was a man and a woman singing along to the ancient sounds as men and women were huddled in groups of five to eight. They were each playing a gambling game of some sort. Across the park there were folks practicing Falun Gong. We sat for quite sometime taken by the sights and sounds.

  

Later we made our way down the main drag and found ourselves in a long line in front of the Golden Gate Bakery. We asked what all the fuss was about and found out this particular Asian Bakery specializes in Custard Tarts. So, we we’re hard pressed to leave our spots and found our way to the ordering counter. They were worth the wait and we enjoyed those tarts! Later that evening we decided to take google’s advice and eat at Sam Wo’s. That was quite the experience. I felt like I was in a Jerry Lewis film as we walked through the kitchen, up the stairs and to our table. The waiter made is orders and lowered the ticket down through a little dumb-waiter. When the order was ready a buzzer would sound and the waiter would pulley up the meal and serve it up. It was a dirty little hole in the wall but it was unique, the food was good and we didn’t get sick afterwards. So, maybe we’d go back?