Mum Jones

12249731_10153326378984053_6258699912709864565_nDebra Jones was known to many as “Mum Jones,” a mentor and Mom in the tribe where no one is left out. She was a voice in the wilderness, brave, kind, soft yet fierce, and she stayed the course, diving deeper and deeper into her faith, giving up more and more of herself. In June of this year, Debbie passed on through to the other side and although she may never be canonized by a religious institution, I dare say that the tribe she’s impacted along the way would deem her a Saint through and through.

I met Debbie’s husband, Andrew Jones, in 1998 at Cornerstone Music Festival. He was speaking to a group of raver kids called FoundKids that my cousin and I happened upon. We were taken in by the whole scene but I was specifically inspired to hear about Andrew and his families nomadic lifestyle. His stories of wandering around the globe with the intent of just showing up, to be available, encouraging the marginalized. His stories stirred something deep inside of me and a seed was planted that I believe has had a significant influence in our journey.

417872_10151463524703121_2043070706_nAt the time, I was a single mom and longed to hear from a mother’s heart. So, I asked if I could visit with his family.  My hope was to sit with his wife Debbie and ask her questions about her journey into this radical surrender to Abba, trusting Him with her five children and with all of her needs. Back then, they were living out of an old RV and were temporally parked in a suburb of Chicago. They invited me over for an afternoon and as we sat outside of the RV talking, the kids all running in and out, I felt a sense of peace come over me and knew that whatever may come, I had found an example of a life well lived. I had found one of my mentors.

We would only have that one meeting face to face but I followed the family over the years and as my life intersected with Craig’s and we married, I told him all about these kindred spirits. We kept tabs on them and when the time came for us to take our leap of faith, they were the first family we looked to for encouragement.

Over the years, we kept up with them at www.tallskinnykiwi.com and via Facebook. In 2014, we had a few lovely interactions with Andrew and a few of the children, now adults while we were parked in Austin, TX. Each visit bringing with it a deeper sense of camaraderie. Then, in our most recent inter web exchange Debbie reached out to coordinate a meet up but in the end we found ourselves on different continents and hoped to look toward 2016 to unite. However, she did mention that if we made our way to Bulgaria, they’d be happy for us to borrow “Maggie,” their current rig, which was quite tempting. 🙂

Recently, we watched on as Debbie and Andrew split, like a cell, to cover more ground. It would be the first extended period of time that they would move on different continents. Debbie had a missional impulse towards developmental aid in Africa and Andrew felt a pull towards refugee relief in Europe. We were absolutely amazed as we witnessed their courage and discipline and were blown away by their supernatural trust!

11390519_1619216628316768_3253796670653706618_nThen, just two months ago, as they were making their way back towards one another, an urgent prayer request came in. Both Debbie and Andrew were in hospital, one in Ghana and one in Ethiopia, both in critical condition. The prayers poured in, but not even twenty-four hours later we learned that Debbie had passed, her final words, “I am here.” Andrew, who is slowly recovering, writes about it in his memorial blog called ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More. Andrew states that the words are actually quite moving, as the “phrase points to the strategic impact of actually turning up and being fully present with people in their context.” It was a phrase that she learned while loving alongside the Ethiopian tribe called “Ashanti.” He says that Debbie “felt that nomads, like herself, offered a special gift in turning up to the hidden places and evaluating the real needs and formulating a holistic and sustainable result.” As a fellow nomad this resonates wholly!

12234975_10207502130131979_4625256212437588854_nDebbie surrendered her own body, with its particular itinerary, desires, and even needs, to become one with the breath and message of God. And, this is why she will forever be a Saint in my mind.

Our hearts are heavy and yet, rejoicing, longing for that day that we will meet again.

Blessing to the Jones family and all of the many kinfolk around the world who have their own beautiful stories to tell about this precious woman. May the stories continue flow, to inspire and bear much lush fruit.

To read the full article by Andrew visit ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More.

Read it, you’ll be inspired too.

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When Worlds Collide

The plan had been in place for months. Craig Greenfield and his Alongsiders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia had been in conversation with a group from Singapore about hosting a round table discussion about the heart of God for justice and how that translates to our worship. It would be a sort of meeting of minds, an opportunity to gain perspective, learn and have eyes opened and hearts reshaped. At the same time, we wrote Craig about a potential visit to Cambodia. We met Craig two years prior at a social justice conference in Australia called Surrender. We were taken by his story and stayed in touch with him. When our vision shifted from bus life to backpacks, South East Asia came on our radar and we reached out to Craig. He responded to our request stating that our dates lined up with the gathering he would be hosting and invited us to participate. He asked us to put together a few ideas for workshops and began preparations around the subject at hand. He painted a picture of what to expect when we arrived explaining that we, along with a handful of kinfolk from Singapore, would be staying in Phnom Penh for a few nights and then taking a van south to a small village for a weekend homestay, learning about local life and faith. It would be during this time that we would be sharing our workshops with the local villagers. He explained it all, however no words could have really prepared our hearts for what we would experience. We had no idea that we were about to experience the ministry of reconciliation.

imageWe arrived on a Sunday evening and were welcomed by one of the Alongsiders staff, Darath. It was late and dark, our least favorite time to arrive in a new land. But Darath was very helpful in getting us acclimated to our new surroundings. The next morning we rose and met the Alongsiders staff, as well as, the Singapore team (KCC) at the office for our first of many Khmer meals. The meeting was surreal. It was pure joy to be in the same room with so many saints from this side of the globe.

Over the next two days we would all ride tuk tuk’s (local form of taxis) to the Killing Fields and to S-21 Prison where we would take a tour and learn about the recent Cambodian history and genocide. Our first stop was the Killing Fields  and the mood was sober as we all donned the headsets and began our way through the horrifically descriptive and heartbreaking tour. The emotion felt after learning about the Khmer Rouge left us all dumbfounded, angry and sad.

imageFor those who haven’t learned about the Cambodian Genocide in school, the basic gist (and, this is very basic, and in no way is meant to minimize or justify, it’s juswhat we gleaned from our visit. So please investigate more if you feel led) as I was saying, the basic gist involves a rebel party of farmers and men from the countryside who felt city folks were exploiting them and had esteemed goals of transforming their country under a communist ideology. They fought the existing Government for five years, simultaneously during the Vietnam war. In 1973 the Vietcong tried coming down through Cambodia to attack South Vietnam and to stop them the US launched bombs on Cambodian soil, killing thousands of Cambodians. This strengthened and fueled the rebels as they believed the US was in bed with their oppressive government. In 1975, the US pulled out of Vietnam and subsequently out of Cambodia, leaving a hole in the armor and the Capitol city for Slaughter. At that point, one of the rebel leaders, Saloth Sar emerged as sole leader (killing off some of his inner circle), renamed himself Pol Pot and declared himself Prime Minister and leader of newly named Democratic Kampuchea. He renamed his rebel forces Khmer Rouge and set out to systemically purge his country of anyone he felt opposed his views, really anyone he felt like killing. Most of those murdered by Pol Pots Khmer Rouge were educated city dwellers but many country folk were killed as well. Over time, the KR soldiers began to doubt the sanity of their leader as they saw their own family members, who were meant to be protected, murdered. And in 1979, the Vietnamese had had enough of the Khmer Rouge threatening their borders and in the name of liberating the Cambodians they initiated an assault and swiftly defeated the Khmer Rouge. They were ruthless in their “liberation” and for a period conditions did not improve but eventually, the Cambodian people pulled themselves up out of the ashes and began a slow, even to this day, rebuild. In the end, the Khmer Rouge murdered 2.2 million of its own citizens. Pol Pot was never brought to justice, in fact from 1979 till his death in 1998 he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand, where they clung to power, with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful government of Cambodia.

Sounds like a nightmare right?! Like something from another dimension, another time. But it was only 40 years ago. Only 40. And, although we were horrified to see the evil man can fabricate, it is really nothing new. It happened to the Jews and many more in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Guatemala, East Timor, in the US and Australia to its First Nation peoples, and even today in places like Tibet, Iraq, Syria and Ethiopia.

It’s more than heartbreaking, it’s paralyzingly. It’s one thing to engage and learn, but something wholly other to awaken awareness and empathy for those oppressed. So, what do we do with the emotions evoked by such evil? For starters, our family, had to sit down over dinner and talk about the feelings we had. They ranged the gamut from sadness, fright, paralysis and when we heard that no justice had come for Pol Pot we had to admit feelings of rage and thoughts of murder in our own hearts, our own depravity staring us in the face. Which then, forced us to remember the aged old story since the fall of man and seek something more, something beyond ourselves. We turned our focus to Love and read the ancient text that promises justice, promises that death will be swallowed forever. We read texts that declare that God is Sovereign and will wipe away the tears from all faces and remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. And then, we had to dig deeper and find more of the story.

It’s one thing to look at the history, read and visit museums but to meet those who have lived through the travesty and find out from them how God was proving faithful is an important part of the process. So when we met Rev Chea, who pastors a little church in the slums of Phnom Penh, and heard his story of losing his family and fleeing the Khmer Rouge, then life as a refugee. To hear the story of a victim finally finding grace and forgiveness was a significant piece of the puzzle.

imageThen we met Pastor Kong, we actually stayed in his home in the little village south of Phnom Penh. He and his family welcomed us to their home, village, and parish for three nights. It was here that we were meant to lead our creative workshops, which we did gladly. But something else was going on in our hearts and souls during our time in the village, specially after hearing Pastors story. This time we heard from a man who was once a soldier with the Khmer Rouge. We heard how he was seduced by the ideology of a better life for he and his family. We heard about his disillusionment after finding the leadership riddled with lies and corruption. We heard about his families decision to flee and life as a refuge in Thailand. We heard about his families decision to return to their village to reestablish a broken but new life. He told us about a man, who was also a refugee and sent to Canada. It was there this man was introduced to Jesus and the redemption story. The man spent the next years in seminary and finally in 1990 this man came back to Cambodia to tell his people about the God of all gods. In fact, during this time thousands of refugees who had had encounters with God in their host countries, returned to Cambodia to testify of Gods grace. And so it was with the man who walked into Pastors village and shared this good news. Pastor, his wife and six children were one of three families that turned their hearts toward God. They experienced forgiveness and mercy for the first time in theirs lives and made radical decisions to become beacons of light in their village.

We were absolutely wrapped in his story but honestly really had to grapple with the fact that he was originally the enemy, yet standing before us was a man genuinely transformed. Pastor Kong was once lost but now found. The words of Jesus rang in our ears, “love your enemies.” And, here standing with pastor, hearing his story, it all made sense. Love your enemies for they may one day become your brother! We glimpsed another piece of the puzzle. It’s true, we can’t see the whole puzzle yet, emotions are still high but we do know God is faithful, even during the darkest hours.

I don’t think either pastor would wish to go back to those dark days of genocide again but I do know that through it all they both found God and in finding God, they found each other, and in finding each other they found us. And, we are one. And, that is a miracle!

Fatherly Wisdom

IMG_9327When I was young at my father’s knee, the pride and joy of my mother, He would sit me down and drill me: “Take this to heart. Do what I tell you—live! Sell everything and buy Wisdom! Forage for Understanding! Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch! Never walk away from Wisdom—she guards your life; love her—she keeps her eye on you. Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Throw your arms around her—believe me, you won’t regret it; never let her go—she’ll make your life glorious. She’ll garland your life with grace, she’ll festoon your days with beauty…., take to heart what I’m telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life. Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. That’s right—if you make Insight your priority, and won’t take no for an answer, Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt, Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours; you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

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Happy Fathers Day to the Wisest person I know. Thank you for teaching me and for leading me to the source of wisdom.

For those looking for encouragement, inspiration, and to glean wisdom from an elder, please visit www.jerryprice.net or www.2brealmen.com

 

 

 

The Clock Maker

antique pocket watchAs the hands of time move freely around the face of the clock we find harmony in our day. But say there is a catch in the second hand, and it ceases to move the way it is meant. We may not notice at first, but when an appointment is missed because our clock has let us down, we would surely take it to the clock maker to repair the glitch; for the watch can not repair itself. So it is with the heart of man. We are created to function in love, justice and truth and when there is a glitch in those areas it takes an open mind to seek healing through community and creator.

Recently we rallied with another bus traveling family on a large plot of land adjacent to a nature preserve. The plan was to come alongside and neighbor with the traveling family of six and the property owners who had a family of four. We arrived Easter weekend, just in time for a Seder Celebration (Jewish Passover Fest) held in the barn on the property. Our hosts, welcomed us with bright smiles and open arms. Once we settled the bus we got our musical gear together and made our way over to the Seder, where we shared in community and song with about 50 kinfolk from the surrounding area. That evening we met a handful of the crowd and were excited about the week ahead.

In the morning we all gathered in the bus for coffee. Immediately, conversation and story ensued and over the next 48 hours, barely stopping to eat or sleep, we all shared testimony after testimony of God’s faithfulness in our lives. Even the children were invited into the conversation and we were all blessed by their willingness to share. At one point, we all made note of how the week felt like a mini-retreat and by day three, we were so filled up with goodness and satisfied in community that we were ready to enter into “task” with a mind full of grace. Our plan was to help with some much needed maintenance and building projects on the property, as well as, prepare for a wedding the next weekend.

As the tasks were being completed, many started to realize that there was a relational storm brewing. And yet, we continued on, waiting, praying and all sharing our hearts openly. It was near the end of the week that a meeting was initiated and we all gathered to discuss the “glitch in the second hand” so to speak. We had all tasted the beauty of that initial connectivity and although the tendency would be to move back towards the beginning by brushing over the conflict, our hearts were stirred for more. We all agreed that we were divinely put together for this moment and recognized that God was offering, through these relationships, liberation and restoration. And so, over the course of the next few hours we fought towards unity as we hashed out interpersonal communication issues, ever aware of the masters presence through it all.

Honestly, we have all traveled this road and there are times it does not end with liberation or restoration. Some times it ends with pride and closed thinking. But, this moment was different, this was difficult and unnerving at times but in the end, this was life giving. In this situation, we all chose to move through the storm, with confidence that God was going to put us back together. What we found, as the glitch was being repaired, was not just function, but hope. That hope ushered us into a weekend of wedding celebration, which as we look back, was quite symbolic of the joyful “times” to come.

“The end of the matter is better than the beginning and patience is better than pride.”

“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

As we continue on, we give humble thanks for the ways we are woven together with kinfolk, and the willingness of others to to allow us to be used in a way that encourages and liberates.

Over The Hills And Thru The Woods

216285_4304624772516_1857801823_nAs I was growing up, there was an emphasis on Christmas family gatherings, specially on my mother’s side of the family. For as long as I can remember until my late twenty’s we drove long hours through blizzards on icy roads. All making our way to Fisk Street in Muskegon, Michigan. It was a modest home filled with all of the smells and sounds of Christmas.

My Grandmother was a quilt maker and made all thirteen of us grandchildren stockings. She would fill them with all sort of goodies, including toothbrushes and home-made slippers. We’d make up plays and musicals in the basement while the Aunties and Uncles played card games. And of course, we’d share a traditional dinner.  Some years, we would go to the Muskegon City Rescue Mission to serve the Christmas meal to those with no place to call home. There was the occasional ice skating escapade and in later years, we would include a jaunt to the local movie theater to see the latest Christmas block buster.

Then my grandmother died and everything changed.

I suppose it’s probably pretty normal, the natural progression of time. As the grandkids got older and started having their own children, the aunties and uncles began to nurture their own traditions with their immediate families.

It was a pretty good run. I was in my early 30’s when the Christmas of my youth passed away, always to be remembered and cherished but never to be replicated.

SiblingsI’m the oldest child in my immediate family. I have a brother and a sister. My brother and his family live in Wisconsin.  My sister and her son live in Colorado and our parents live in Arizona.

This year, we all made the trek to Colorado for our family Christmas, and for the first time, in a long time, we were all in the same place. We decided to converge in Estes Park, Colorado.

Our five days together were beautiful, incorporating some of the old, as well as, each individual families traditions. We wrapped presents, made cinnamon rolls (the gluten-free didn’t go over as well as I had hoped), papa read a story about the Christmas child and nana carried on her mother’s tradition of all of the little stocking stuffers for the grandkids. We went to see the Hobbit at the local movie theater, enjoyed ice-skating, hiking and playing our favorite card game, Hand and Foot. Technology made a strong appearance this year with Minecraft as a favorite among all of the cousins, I-Phone’s posted photos to Instagram and Facebook, updating all those who cared to have a gander at our family fun. It was a beautiful week together.

There is a longing in all of us to replicated what is good in life. That’s what traditions tap into, right? However, if there is any lesson learned from past experience or from our nomadic journey, it would be that each moment, each experience, is its own. If the future holds another go round, we will embrace it fully. We cherish these moments, savory them while they are happening, all with a healthy understanding that we know not what tomorrow brings.

Rocky Mountain National Forest

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.