Surrender14: Walk Alongside

The opportunity to sit at the feet of a stranger is a gift. It takes an exercise of willingness, a movement of the mind and a softening of the heart for both the listener and the giver. When these moments happen there is an intense infusion of unity into the body and both walk away knowing that God is the one who weaves this body together.

As a family, we seek out these opportunities to be both the listener and the giver. And, thanks to a friend, David Neville Cook’s (Anglican Oversea’s Aid) referral we were gifted with a chance to be stretched further than we ever have been. We reached out to him asking if he might know of any kinfolk we could connect with while we were in Australia, specifically we wanted to learn from and about the Aboriginal people. He put us on to the  Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of folks doing amazing things in their communities, from hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world to intentional communities. We wrote the directors and asked if we could be involved in any way and they said yes! The theme was “Walk Alongside” which suited us, being that that is really what we do as we travel, connecting with communities, to learn from them and walk alongside, sharing in whatever way they desire.

Photo credit to UrbanSeed.org
Photo credit to UrbanSeed.org

The day began with an Aboriginal welcoming ceremony in the courtyard. The Elder from the Wurundjeri people welcomed us to his country and there was a traditional blessing, dance and then the floor opened for others to say a thank you to the elder. Many other Aboriginal people from all over Australia stood to say thank you for welcoming them onto his peoples land. Then others followed including a Cornish man, who gave a blessing. A group of New Zealand Māori’s shared their Haka dance, there were folks from Africa that offered a word, Matt LaBlanc Director of IEmergance, representing his Canadian indigenous people and gave a traditional thank you, and there were many more.  To experience the depth of culture during this ceremony was an honor and the perfect way to start our weekend journey learning and listening.

We played plenty of music but the goal was to be present and allow the Spirit to work in our hearts and minds.

14 yrs ago Craig and I merged our cultural backgrounds, foods, music and customs, ideals and beliefs. Craig’s music collection is enormous, eclectic and one of the things that attracted me to him. He introduced me to the music from his land. Bands like the Dirty Three, Nick Cave, and some of the beautiful indigenous music from Australia. I fell in love with one particular band from Victoria called Tiddas, which is Koori for the word sisters. Their music was filled with emotion, tender harmonies and intense lyrics that told the story of their people. One of my favorite songs that they sing was a traditional called Inanay. I learned the song and began to sing it to our daughter at a very early age. I introduced the song to my mother and the three of us would showcase the song in three part harmony at family gatherings and performances. The song had become an interracial part of our journey as mother’s and daughters. And so, as I was sitting across the table from Tracie and Denise, two aboriginal women, I asked them about the song. Wondering if they knew the history or origin? They knew it and were pleased that I did too. It is a song sung by mothers to their children but they were unsure of the origin or language as there were over 250 seperate Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia.

Wycliffe AustrailaThrough the course of the weekend, we listened to different folks share about all different sides of “coming alongside.” We heard advocates from Wycliffe share about the 35 year journey of translating the first ever indigenous scriptures in Australia, which mean 30,000 Kriol-speaking indigenous Australians (and countless generations to come) now have the ‘Holi Baibul’ in their own heart language.

I went to a session on how good intentions are not always in the interest of those we are trying to care for. I heard a woman named Hannah share her story of growing up bi-racial, her mother was Irish and her father Māori. She shared about difficulties that it brought but also the joy of being able to move cross culturally with understanding and grace. We learned from many Aboriginal people how folks have failed in the past at “coming alongside” of them and were gracious in sharing traditions and customs to better help their “Whitefella” counterparts to have a better impact. Personally, it was difficult to listen at times, as pride would well up or my own victim stance would try to cloud my ears. Insecurities would seep in when I would have conversation and at times I felt like a fumbling little child. However, I pressed on, releasing my need to be in control and literally made room for the new information in my brain.

Surrender 2014Meanwhile, Craig was also connecting, sharing story, listening to and meeting new friends. The kids were also taking it all in, each in their own way. Our daughter, is more of an observer but found herself in a position where her heart was moved and experienced a very personal moment with God. Our son, is more hands on and always looking for mates to hang with. He brought out his drum during the first late night session and was invited to jam with a mob from the Gold Coast. (Mob is a traditional word for clan or tribe) It was a joy to see them include him like a brother all weekend. They included us too.

As we were jamming, I became aware that they were rehearsing for Indigenous night, where all of the clans would share their music. And, as it turned out they invited us to share the traditional song I mentioned earlier. What an honor to be included in their special night, to be able to feel like we were part of their mob.

At the end of the day, us Hollands really do believe we are one body. And, when we can begin to look deeper into the tie that binds us all together we see a richness of culture, creed and custom. We see the blood of Christ. We see reconciliation as a miracle and not something we can white knuckle. We see the body as God sees the body and that is worth more than our pride or opinions about politics and borders and who’s who, and what’s what. It’s a beautiful thing to experience a little bit of heaven on earth. It’s a precious thing to be apart of this great big tapestry of humanity.

PS. We captured a little video of us singing Inanay and will post it soon.

Midsommer in Bishop Hill

DowntownBishopHill.jpg

There is something quite delightful about small town USA. Homespun shops, beautiful gardens, rich history and interesting architecture. Bishop Hill is no exception. This little town sits between Moline and Galesburg, IL and you have to be purposeful to visit the historic site as it’s not on any of the main highway routes. It’s worth the effort to make a detour however.

TheHollandsBishopHill.jpgWe were invited by the Bishop Hill Arts Council to perform at their Midsommer Music Festival, a summer solstice celebration filled with music, dance and the traditional decorating of the Maypole.

We rolled into Bishop Hill the night before our performance and thanks to the Heritage Association we parked our bus next to the Livery Stable. We were tired from a days travel and hungry, and on recommendation we went to the Filling Station for dinner. Linda, the owner, struck up a conversation with us and invited us to dine on the house. The meal was hardy and Linda was a fantastic host, funny and down to earth.

On our walk back to the Livery Stable we took a side trail to the grave yard. We noted many of the grave stones dating back to the early 1800’s, probably of settlers that were actually born in Sweden. There were buzzards flying over head as the sun was setting on the horizon and air was still.

Blackhawkpipesanddrums.jpgAfter a good night sleep we awoke to the brilliant sounds of the Blackhawk pipe and drum band wafting throughout the air.  The beginning our exploration of what has been frequently been called “Utopia on the Prairie” was off to a good start. Our first stop, the Bishop Hill Bakery and Eatery where we found the most amazing old world cinnamon roll you can imagine. After breakfast we explored many of the historical buildings including the Blacksmith Shop, home to the Prairie Arts Center and VagnHall Galleri. We met Jeffrey Goard, the potter, we met a broom crafter, and a luthier named Gary Carey, who makes beautiful mountain dulcimers and other lovely instruments. We also met a  fella who was showcasing photography from his time as a field worker (missionary) in South America. It was inspiring to hear his story of travel and service to the widow, orphan and poor.

Steeplebuilding.jpgNext we visited the Steeple Building, where we learned about the Swedish heritage and history of those that settled in this area. We learned that this little town of 125 was established in 1846 as a commune by 75 Swedish settlers led by religious radical, Eric Janson. Nearly a quarter of the Colonists died that first winter and about four years later Janson was murdered by a member for not allowing a marriage to take place. Despite other set backs, they colony persevered and grew to about 600 members until dissolving in 1861. A hundred years later, in 1961, the Bishop Hill Heritage association organized and the town was designated a National Historic Landmark and is on the National register of Historic Places. We also visited the Bishop Hill Museum to take in one of the most renowned folk artists, Olof Krans. His paintings provided a fascinating glimpse into the story of the first Old Settlers Reunion in 1896.

In the afternoon, we performed for delightful crowd despite the heat of 89 degrees. Our performance was followed by the crowning of the Midsommer Queen and the decorating of the Maypole. A gent in his 80’s played rollicking traditional tunes on his accordion while we marched the Maypole to the old School House. Craig was invited to be one of the Maypole carriers. Three blocks later the Maypole arrived at its destination where it was erected and the dance ensued. There were a few folks dressed in Scandinavian garb who lead the processions around the pole. After about an hour of dance the leaders lead a snake line of participants into the School house for a light supper. Later in the evening we attended our first barn dance, held in the old school-house. Many there were learning for the first time and the band/callers were very gracious in teaching us all. The night was filled with laughter and joy. It was what one might call, ‘good, clean fun.’ The night concluded with a stroll by moonlight back to the bus and a final farewell to this darling community. Until we meet again.