In January of this year we were in Pai Thailand and met a young backpacker named George, who was from Sydney. We exchanged contact info and when we arrived in his hometown we reached out and he invited us to a gathering in an inner city suburb called Glebe. He said it was a potluck and sometimes they would jam, so bring a dish to share and our instruments.
We were welcomed by a house full of darling young ladies whom lived in the home and all of their many friends. We were taken aback by their kindness and generosity and by the eclectic mix of kinfolk from around the globe. Naomi, Georgina, Madison and Kirsten shared their story of friendship and commitment to host a potluck meal every Monday night for their neighbors, friends and family. Their story resonated with our heart for hospitality and of course we love a story that includes a little serendipity. You see our friend George had met some of the ladies while on a trip to Alice Springs. Once the ladies found out that George lived in Sydney they immediately invited him into the fold, and because of that invitation, we now found ourselves in their company and what joy to be included!
We stayed in Glebe for six weeks and every Monday we made a point of going to the Gleebox Dinners, finding that each week there was a different mix, enjoying the festive vibe of a house breathing with creativity and kindness as well as the quieter evenings chock full of intimate conversation. There was a comfort and familiarity to the evenings that made us feel like we were more than just guests, we felt like family.
Sometimes when we think of hospitality we think of fancy dinner parties and Martha Stewart but when we think of hospitality as a gift rather than a talent, we find a wholly other experience. We find a sense of home. Actually when you break it down, the word derives from the Latin hospes, meaning “host”, or “guest.” Hospes is formed from hostis, which means “stranger.”
Every culture has their understanding of hospitality, but we especially are drawn to Ancient traditions found in the Hebrew and Celtic customs. For instance, in Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or “welcoming guests”. Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment to their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey. Celtic societies also valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person’s request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter to his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.
What a gift for us weary travelers to call Glebe home for a time. And, what a gift to find such a lovely and safe welcome by our new friends at the Gleebox house. Here’s to all you kinfolk out there that offer up your time, talents and homes to foster community and friendship!
Not sure if you knew this about me but I’m a human connection junkie. I look for opportunities at every corner to connect whether through a smile, conversation about the weather, sharing of story or deeper moments of spiritual formation. Some circles call people with this trait an empath, others call it extroverted. Whatever you call it, traveling full-time suites my thirst for this connectivity. I know and trust that seemingly random moments are divinely orchestrated and I wake up with great anticipation of seeing and experiencing these amazing moments of exchange. Security, comfort, and money are unfruitful drivers and I tend to spend little time thinking about them, trusting that my daily bread will come. I wake up longing to speak words of peace and affirmation over those I meet and when needed, to share a hard word of truth in love. I wake up open to receive. I have learned over the years, that filtering (discernment) is essential to being healthy in my gift set. I have learned that I must allow for times of quiet and solitude in order for the Holy Spirit to fill up my empty vessel. It’s important for my well-being and those I am surrounded by.
And so it was, thanks to Abba’s faithfulness in weaving us together with the Saints, that we were gifted a week of solitude on a beach in South Australia.
We met Jacia, a beautiful young soul, in Northern Thailand and shared a night of song and story. Before we parted ways, Jacia mentioned that if we ever needed a season of rest, that her family owned a little beach shack and would be happy to share it with us. We exchanged info and tucked it away for a time that only Abba could bring; for South Australia wasn’t yet on our routing pattern. However, that timing came to fruition sooner than we thought as it proved to be the soft landing spot after a tender return from the US where I was caring for my mother.
We arrived to what truly was the cutest little beach shack, and a warm welcome from Luke and Diane Hopton, Jacia’s parents. They had us over for dinner and we were delighted by their faith stories. We found a few other times to connect with them and with some of their dear friends, but my normal capacity for friendship was low so as tempting as it was to fill our week up with meals and visits, I reluctantly declined.
The honest truth was that I was wrecked in my spirit, numb really. I tried to force any sort of feeling in the physical, nearly attacking my husband with affection, dancing wildly on the deserted beach, convincing my sweet son to walk miles and miles with me searching for seashells, trying to work up a sweat, just trying to feel alive. But it was in the stillness of the evenings when the sun was setting that benevolent rays of mercy would shine on me. Craig would bring out the guitar and strum gently or make a lovely cheese platter and we would just sit, quietly, night after night, watching the sun set on the horizon. It was in those moments, that I laid down my pride, laid down my sorrow, emptied myself out and opened up. It was in those moments that waves of Abba’s unending love and faithfulness came rolling in; dividing my soul from spirit, exposing the attitudes of my heart, and washing over me with precious words of healing.
*The Great Physician is a faithful healer and can be trusted with even the most aggressive aliments. Tonight’s tonic included an epic sunset in the South Australian sky.
*In the stillness… in the quiet hour… You are with me.
*Faith is not a feeling. Faith is not an event. It is not a mystical or magical experience. Faith is not hope. Hope operates in the natural. Faith is the language of the supernatural. It the tether between us and the living God.
*Abba sees the things you and I can not see. You are going to recover. There is a level above science, there is a level above technology. It is the level where faith hovers and with the Creator of the Universe all things are possible.
*Faith goes into the future, secures the future, comes back to get you and leads you into that future.
I’ve written songs about the beach, about the living water that sustains me, and I’m so thankful that my Creator knows that this is a place that really fills me up. I love going to the beach with God! I’m also thankful for kinfolk like the Hopton’s who graciously care for us along the way, allowing us the time and space to allow the Spirit of God to care for us along the way.
Singapore! What a fascinating place! This small but robust country is located at the southern tip of Malaysia, about 85 miles (137 kilometres) north of the Equator. Singapore Island originally was inhabited by fishermen and pirates, and it served as an outpost for the Sumatran empire of Srīvijaya which was a maritime and commercial kingdom that flourished between the 7th and the 13th centuries, largely in what is now Indonesia. Of course, there has been loads of history from then until now making this little fishing village one of the worlds most prestigious and innovative cities/countries in the world.
If you talk with a local they will tell you with great admiration that the modern progress and peaceful nation is due to their founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. They will tell you stories of a father who traveled around the world to progressive countries, seeking counsel and knowledge from world leaders, on what worked and didn’t work for their societies. He then took the best of the best ideas and began implementing them in Singapore. He would walk the streets with a notepad and pen in hand, jotting things he saw in need of replacing or repair, as well as, taking note of flow. They will tell you he was meticulous and lead by example, that he cared about order, efficiency and cleanliness.
As visitors we sensed the importance of everyone going with the established flow and a vigilance on behalf of its citizens to keep law and order. It was actually quite enthralling to see such order, to tilt our heads in wonderment at how one gets a whole society to move with such calculated accuracy. The sociological anthropologists in us couldn’t help but asking questions, not with the desire to compare or judge but with complete curious fascination. The architecture and roadways lent to the flow of life but more that was the established rules in place; rules that were at first glance overbearing but after further review actually lent to the harmony one felt when walking the streets. There were camera’s everywhere and on more than on occasion our hosts explained with pride that the crime rate was very low in Singapore because of these cameras. There are eyes everywhere both from the cameras and from the citizens who all worked together in keeping the societal flow strong.
Some of the rules that we found sort of interesting, “no chewing gum.” You won’t see a single black mark in the sidewalks of Singapore. “No eating in undesignated areas” was another one. We actually learned this rule by accident, as we had brought granola bars with us on one of our outings and while waiting for the train, our son pulled one out. He began to eat it, but was shielded by our host, who let us know under his breath that we were breaking a rule. We all sort of chuckled at what seemed like a silly rule to us but saw our hosts desire to protect us and the plea in his eyes for understanding and out of respect immediately put the snack away.
“No peeing in elevators.” This was most interesting to us from our cultural perspective, as the idea of even having to make a rule regarding this issue seemed absurd. However, it was not uncommon throughout SE Asia to see men urinating in public spaces. And, migrants were bringing this norm into Singapore. The migrants may have learned that was not allowed in public but still found ways to relieve themselves outside of a designated toilet blocks. The elevators became a hot spot for those looking to take a quick and quiet leak. Now, you have to understand that there are loads of elevators in Singapore. Most of the dwellings in Singapore are massive high-rises and each building would have multiple elevators. And so, to address this issue the Government installed a sensor in each elevator which upon impact of liquid would lock down and not reopen until the police had arrived. I’m sort of cringing and grinning even as I write this as it’s such a clever idea and as you can imagine, very effective.
The layout of the city was impeccable and easy to navigate with a wonderful train/bus system. We were able to enjoy a day at the beautiful botanical gardens, share meals with our hosts, including one of their favorites, Singapore Steamboats. Similar to Chinese Hotpots, the soup pot sits upon a small fire and has two sides of broth, one spicy, one mild. Then throughout the meal you add your selected ingredients to the broth. Ingredients like thinly shaved pork or beef, cubes of chicken or tofu, noodles, veggies, etc… The food was awesome but even more than that was the amazing welcome we found in Singapore.
Our hosts were gracious enough to not only show us their land but to allow us to stay in their space, sharing customs and encouraging each other in community. They even allowed me to cook in their kitchen, teaching them how to make one of my favorite Tex/Mex dishes and serving it to all of their friends and family.
We do not take for granted the gift of hospitality and our friends in Singapore made us feel more than welcomed. They allowed us to explore and ask questions, helping us to make sense of their land, and showering us with kindness and warmth.
We all have our places where we feel most at home, most comfortable and being with our kinfolk through out SE Asia would be high on our list. But, if you ask our son where his favorite stop in SE Asia was, he will tell you hands down, it was Singapore. He loved the food, as well as the high-tech, modern and hospitable nature of the place. As we continue on our travels, he often is on the lookout for restaurants that cater to the Singapore palette and talks of going back there one day.
We pulled into the Yangon Central train station at 5:45am. We were just in time to see the majestic sun waking up. We’d come from Bagan on an overnight bus and were quite the sight. We still hadn’t solidified logistics with our host in Yangon, so were feeling a little unsettled.
While at that train station we began to take in our surroundings, noting that the main hall of the train station was filling up with local travelers, many of them wearing the traditional longyis, and yellow paint of their faces. There were many side rooms in the station, full of people, sleeping on floor mats, just rising from a long night sleep. We went to the bathroom to try to refresh. There were two ladies sitting outside of the bathroom waiting for me to pay them a few coins to use the facilities. Once in the bathroom, I thought it unusual that one of the stalls was converted into a sleeping room and realized that it probably belonged the ladies manning the door, that this was actually their house. So, we decided to wait until we got to our host home to really clean up.
We were hungry and found a local vender selling these delicious pastries that you dipped in a coffee like substance and eventually the four of us reunited back in the main hall. Craig had already negotiated our tickets and we had finally connected with our host and boarded our train.
As we boarded the train a few things caught our eye. First, the train car we boarded said “Ordinary Class” on the side of the car. We thought that was pretty funny that we were riding the ordinary car. Second, we were fascinated by the many riders with unusually red mouths. They were chewing something and would spit long streams of red dye out of the window of the train car. When they would smile we could see a twinkle in their eye, however, seeing their teeth was another story as most them were missing. There was one man who strolled through our car with a round metal tray filled with all sort of nuts, white powder stuff, leaves, and little bowls to crush stuff in. We later learned that he was selling a sort of chewing tobacco, called Betle. We learned it was quite addicting and besides the loss of teeth, it’s also a leading cause of mouth cancer. The tradition runs 2000 years deep, so even with the new health information it will probably take a long while before it’s looked down upon in the common land.
We finally found our way to our host home and stumbled in about 9am. We were exhausted but excited to meet our new friends and hear about their journey from Phoenix AZ to Yangon, Myanmar. Mother/Daughter duo, Brenda and Nola, founders of the organization R.A.T (Run against Trafficking) based out of Phoenix AZ, have worked for the past three years and raised thousands of dollars advocating for programs that assist victims of human trafficking. Through a series of events including a visit to Myanmar in 2013, they solidified their desire to come over and implement a similar strategy to raise awareness through their 5K R.A.T race. Three weeks prior to our visit they had facilitated their first run, which we learned was the first non-profit run in the history of Myanmar. It was a huge success and opened many doors with local leaders. We enjoyed hearing their stories of near misses and moments of divine orchestration at exactly the right time.
One afternoon, Brenda and Nola introduced us to their friend Rick Chase, who told us his story of working in refuge camps back in Canada and hearing the tragic stories of the people of Myanmar. He said, these stories inspired he and his family to give up everything in Vancouver to try to make a change. After doing a bit of research, Rick found that helping to meet a nutritional need was one ways he have a major impact. He decided to take a risk and start a local soy milk business called Snowball Soy. He shared his struggles of starting a business in a foreign country but his vision to feed one million people, orphans especially, across Myanmar, seemed to rise above the struggles. He’s brought over a Canadian invention called a Vitagoat soy food processing machine. The machines are inexpensive to set up and can be run without any electricity, which means a Vitagoat can be used not just in urban areas, but in refugee camps and the middle of the jungle.
While at lunch with Rick, we made note of his language skills and he said that it was a necessity to learn the language and learn it well. He said he felt that it was a major contributing factor in the success of his business. We concurred and enjoyed the benefit of having someone with us that could communicate in the native tongue as our food seemed to taste better and arrive quicker than normal.
On another occasion, in our little neighborhood, we were invited by Mai, the owner of the condo apartments we were staying at, to perform a concert for the locals on her front porch. As we set up our instruments, people from up and down the street began to gather around. Music is a universal language and for that one hour we all spoke that same language and sang our hearts out. Merrymaking on the streets of Yangon was a highlight to be sure and meeting sweet Mai, her family and all of her neighbors was a sheer delight.
As the week progressed, I found myself ill and in bed but Craig and the kids continued to explore. Craig was quite popular on the streets of Yangon and found welcome in most places with his huge mustache and bright smile.
As he wandered the streets, he was especially fascinated with the construction process, tools and crews. At one point, he was watching in wonderment as a crew build a three-story building. One of the workers noticed him and waved him up to the third floor take a closer look. Language was a barrier but the smiles and hand gestures were enough to understand the process. The manual labor component was intense as they would mix the concrete by hand below and then take turns carrying the loads in metal bowls, on their heads, up to the third floor, in flip flops on uneven surfaces. Craig was especially in awe of the women on the crew who would carry the same weight on their heads as the men.
Then, on one occasion, Craig popped into a convenience store looking for a calendar of the infamous Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. As he entered, the young man behind the counter quickly ran to the back of the shop to hide behind a curtain. Soon a few heads were peaking around the corner at Craig, hands to their faces to hold in their giggles. Eventually, they pushed a young girl forward and she slowly walked to the counter, eying Craig up and down with a big smile on her face, making a gesture with her hands above her lip clearly communicating that he was quite the sight. He got a kick out of their playfulness but didn’t find his calendar there. However, later, Mai from the condo, handed Craig a gift and it had a lovely calendar for him.
On another occasion, Craig was walking near the train tracks and saw an old-fashioned train control center. He began to poke in and around the building and was eventually invited by the two fella’s manning the booth, to come in.
He was excited to able to get up close and have a good look at the vintage mechanics of using levers to change train tracks. He walked in with his shoes on, which was a no no but the fella’s graciously gestured for him to remove them. Once again, despite the language barrier, these fella’s seemed quite happy to have Craig’s company for a little while; they admiring his big red mustache and he admiring their lever system.
And of course, you can’t go to Yangon without stopping by the ancient billion dollar pagoda in the city center. Craig and the kid went to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, known asthe most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. It apparently contains relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. These relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama. According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was constructed more than 2,600 years ago, making it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. Out of respect, no one can wear any clothing that shows their knees, so our son, who had gone in shorts, had to purchase a traditional longyis and wear that throughout the grounds. He rocked it out.
History, traditions and legends aside, it was the immense amount of gold and jewels in the temple that really made an impact on the kids. When they returned they told me of the grandness of the pagoda, exclaiming that it’s worth was upwards near US$4 billion dollars. My mind couldn’t grasp what $4billion dollars in a constructed building would look like but they described it well telling of the half a tonne of gold in Shwedagon’s umbrella alone. Then there was the 5500 diamonds – the largest of which is similar in size to one that Sotheby’s auctioned for $10-12 million, and gems galore, including 2300 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, in the main spire and 4000 golden bells. Then there was the gold, jewels, and 21st-century LED displays that swirls around many of the Buddhas. Actually, it was quite overwhelming to even think about. With all the jewels abounding, we could imagine a hilarious Pink Panther movie being filmed here!
Near the end of our stay in Yangon we met Polly, a shop owner across the street from where we were staying. Her little sewing shop was called Gold Rose Design and Creation and she had about eight young ladies working for her. I decided to pop my head in and see about having my pants altered before we flew to Singapore the next day. She assured me they would be finished by evening and asked me to stop back then. I went back to our host home to pack and prepare for the journey ahead. We shared our last meal with Brenda and Nola at a local joint across the way and then went back to get my pants from the Gold Rose. It was about 10pm when I arrived and some of the girls were working on a beautiful beaded piece, others were cleaning up for the day. I sat down on one of the stools and began to chat with Polly, who spoke english fairly well. She shared a little bit of her story stating that she, her husband and little daughter owned the humble little sewing shop.
The more I listened, asked questions and navigated language, I realized Polly’s business was a creative way of caring for her community. She was providing a safe environment for her students and workers to learn and grow. Her sewing shop was a wonderful beckon of light and offered Polly and opportunity to nurture and train up young women by equipping them not only with a skill set but with a beautiful understanding of self-worth. As I went to pay for her service, she waved her hand and said, no, this is a gift for you. Then she handed both my daughter and myself beautiful scarves as a gift as well. I was in tears by this point feeling the love that comes when we are showered with gifts. It’s meeting people like Polly that gives us hope. And, that’s what I would say about the most of the Myanmar people we had the delight to encounter. They were authentic in their interactions and genuinely hospitable people. They cared for us in their kind looks/gestures, guided us across busy streets, smiled at us with friendly amusement, and they blessed us with radical hospitality.
What a joy to be able to catch a glimpse of all the inner makings of the local people in places far off and lands of wonder. I hope that one day, we will be invited back and that when we come that we can bless our friends in Myanmar as much as we’ve felt blessed by them.
Bonjour, Bienvenue au Québec! (Hello, Welcome to Quebec!)
The French Provence of Canada embodied the spirit of hospitality and the moment we crossed over into the eastern Provence of Quebec, we felt right at home. Yes, all of the street signs were in French, and we don’t know French, but there were welcome signs everywhere and all along the way, the people met us with smiles, even the construction worker on the highway waved us through with enthusiasm. And, the efforts the locals made to meet us where we were at, openly sharing the richness of their culture, food, family, and the delight of community, really made our trip through the area a fantastic memory we hope to revisit again someday.
Our host family, Vann & Chantal and their awesome children welcomed us to their tiny hometown of Saint-Séverin, where we would park for a week, and enjoy life through their local eyes.
Our first night in town, we drove up the road to Saint-Frédéric, for a “Tent.” Local life in the summer means all the little towns in the area create a rotating tent that rolls through a different town every weekend. It includes a fundraising night of festivities, a beer garden and a rock band, usually a cover band, to come and play music. The night that we went a Bon Jovi tribute band took the stage, and let me tell you, they looked and sounded just like Bon Jovi. Craig got a bit of loving that night for his epic mustache. Dudes were enviously staring at him all night, and one bloke actually came up to him and began to enthusiastically reach out to pull his mustache, stating “j’aime ton pinch.” Which translated I love your mustache. We were all a little taken aback by the fella’s forwardness but it was flattering.
The next night we performed in Vann and Chantal’s barn for a good handful of their friends and neighbors. The barn was a fantastic venue, with twinkle lights, candles and a great sound system. They had a potluck style dinner and performed two sets of Hollands songs but continued sharing music in the round well into the wee hours of the night.
Sunday morning we roused for mass at the local parish just a block from the house. It was lovely to be so close. The service was all in French but we had enough experience with the format to be able to follow along. Our favorite part though was the beauty of the cathedral. Although just a small town of 250, the cathedral was grand. Actually every single little town we drove through had an iconic cathedral in the heart of the city center. After church Chantal took us an hour drive up to Quebec City, where she toured us around the famous walled city. It was awesome having a french translator to help us get a lay of the ground. However, everyone was quite friendly and happy to speak to us in English as needed.
Monday the warmer weather drew us to a local secret watering hole. We enjoyed cooling off in the little stream, walking rocks and especially loved the challenge of swimming upstream against the waterfall current. It was relaxing and lead to an evening dinner, and later while the fella’s played a rousing game of poker in the barn, the rest of us sat around a fire and talked well into the night about all the important things of life, like why are we here, who is God and why do bad things happen to good people.
We spent a few more lazy days with our host family, doing laundry, getting groceries, sharing meals and story. Chantal cared for my health by offering to share her gift of Chiropractic with me. Her office was lovely but more than that, her gentle and healing spirit straightened me right out.
On our last day with them, we took a stroll down the road to a local garden owned by an eccentric millionaire. We wandered around the gardens and enjoyed the fresh air and kind companionship.
It wasn’t easy to say good-bye when it was time, as these kinfolk in the Northwoods and rolling hills of Quebec had become family.
And, even now as I write this a few weeks later, we all pine to get back. Specially Craig, who decided although Australian of Scottish decent, that he must somehow be French because he felt so at home.
So I don’t doubt that someday, we’ll roll back through!
Over the course of a few weeks we rolled our way through the northern tip of West Virginia, Harrisburg, PA, through Amish Country finally arriving in Philadelphia. Every stop we reveled in community, seeing old friends and making new friends, learning and experiencing history, culture and the inspiring ways folks do life.
Our first stop was with the Bannister family. Craig’s old music mate from Australia, Keith, and his family, welcomed us to their storybook town of Shepherdstown, WV.
They invited us to explore around their area, visiting the historical Civil War battlefields, Harpers Ferry where we learned about abolitionist, John Brown. We enjoyed an afternoon walk in the downtown district, shopping and getting a flavor of the local tea and coffee vendors. A favorite was the little ice-cream shop, Nutters Ice-cream, where they served up two huge scoops of homemade ice-cream for $2.00! Best of all, we were able to catch up on all the amazing life stories that had come our way, and theirs, over the past seven years since our last visit. Our last two days with them sickness came our way and it was in that moment that were so grateful to neighbor with kinfolk, able to find a comfort and hospitality.
Our next stop was in Harrisburg, PA Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, sits near the middle of the large state. Once a thriving city, but was recently bankrupted by a former mayor. None the less, we found there was a sense of pride and community effort that seemed to keep the city alive. A few of our favorite things we noticed about this city, specially near the downtown area, was the community gardens and Broad Street Farmers Market. We also found the amount of children playing in the streets and folks sitting on their porches, neighbor to neighbor, enjoying the warm breeze and the company of each other, to be invigorating and most encouraging.
Our host in Harrisburg was the Compton family. We met Jake Compton a few weeks prior in Frostburg, MD when we played a show with Jon Felton and his Soulmobile. Jake played in Jon’s band that night and after the performance he invited us to his hometown.
He, his wife Sommers and their darling children, live inner city and are engaged community builders, encouraging their neighborhood by actively caring and connecting, as well as, impacting their greater community through the arts. They invited us to share meals, story and song at their performing space called the Harrisburg Improv Theatre. They use this space for concerts, performances and to teach improv classes. They are a creative and innovative family, always looking for ways to invite other into life. This young couple expressed a desire for a story like ours and shared their uncertainty about their purpose, feeling like maybe they were missing out, wondering if travel might be the key. But what we saw, was that their life was already full and they were already living the dream. Travel would just be the icing on the cake.
Later that week, we took a day drive out of the city and enjoyed a taste of Amish Country. We stumbled upon a little town called Intercourse and couldn’t help ourselves but to stop and have a photo taken by the town sign. Yes, we were those tourists. Ha! Really though, who names a town Intercourse, unless they were referring to the dictionaries first definition of the word which is “communication or dealings between individuals or groups.” Even so, we had a good laugh.
Once we got over the name, we sat back and enjoyed taking in the Amish way of life. The neatest thing about this area is the opportunity to see from a birds eye view how they farm and live. It was absolutely mind-boggling how hard they must work and so close to the earth, with the whole family involved. We admire and respect this culture and are thankful for the opportunity to see it unfold, even if from afar.
Our final destination on the “Kinfolk Road to Philly,” was Philadelphia, where we connected with kinfolk, Tevyn and Jay. We’ve had many mutual friends for years, and had run in similar circles but this was the first time we connected and shared story with Jay and Tevyn.
We met them at Fanny Lou’s Porch for coffee and immediately felt like we were with family. We learned about their community, Circle of Hope, and their circles of ten that meet weekly, encouraging one another in faith and love. We visited the communities thrift store, coffee shop and were invited into one of their gatherings.
We also learned about Tevyn and Jay’s creative dreams and endeavor with the Carnival de Resistance, a traveling arts carnival and ceremonial theater company, a village demonstration project exploring ecological practices, and an education and social outreach project; all focusing on ecological justice and radical theology. We enjoyed meals, and conversation about traveling and shared stories about mutual friends whom we all love. Yes, we were talking about you, Joby, Seth and Jon. 🙂
We did a little sight-seeing, exploring the cities historical sites, including the Liberty Bell, the remains of the home of George Washington and we saw the statue of William Penn, all of which was just like the text books described but our most exciting day was spent at a local African heritage event on the South side of Philly, called the ODUNDE Festival.
The festival boasts the largest African-American street festival in the US with over 500,000 attendees. The festival, whose concept originated from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa, celebrates the coming of another year for African-Americans and Africanized people around the world.
Our day was filled with amazing dance, music, and fool. We’d highly recommend this festival to anyone visiting Philly in June and looking for a fantastic educational and cultural experience.
While we don’t miss the snow and cold, we are missing our homeland of Wisconsin lately. Mostly the people with whom we developed close community.
We moved to Green Bay, WI fall of 2006 and lived there until 2011. We picked a lovely old Victorian home in Astor Park, the historical district of this sports crazy town. It was an awesome neighborhood to live in, as the neighbors were quite happy to participate in community, sharing resources, shoveling each others path, advice about gardening and sharing an occasional meal.
The Hollands Haus was the perfect place for us share our gift of hospitality and creativity. The old Victorian had two levels and the downstairs held 5 separate spaces, including the country kitchen. We held all sorts of gatherings in our home from musical jams, dinner parties, Settlers of Caatan nights, house concerts, spiritual gatherings, and our beloved Holland Haus Gallery Night.
Winters are long in Green Bay, WI, lasting sometimes until May and once football season is done, most folks start to go stir crazy. So it made since that Gallery Night was always in February, for one saturday night only, we would host 12-15 visual artists and a handful of singer/songwriters in our home. We would strip all of our artwork off of the walls throughout the whole downstairs and move most of the furniture to the back attic room. Each artist would drop off 3-7 pieces the night before the event and Craig and I would put the puzzle together. We’d arrange the pieces to not only to complement each other but also, thinking about the artist in each room and how they might interact with one another. Our hope was to build community, and so it was most important to us that the artists that participated or came, had an opportunity to continue relationship if they wanted.
The hanging process really suited us, with Craig being more on the logical side and me being ascetically sensitive, we complement each other well. The next morning, Craig and the kids would clean the house and set up the sound system for the musicians. Meanwhile, I along with a few girlfriends, would make food creations. Cheesecake was the highlight of the night (as the Galley night also doubled as my birthday) The house would buzz with energy and excitement as we waited for the guests to arrive at 7pm. They were always on time!
The first year we budgeted the event into our giving fund, paying for all of the food and wine but with 65 guests, it was to expensive continue. And, so our second year we asked for a $5 suggested donation. It was our lowest attended year, at 42. So our third and fourth years, we decided to ask guests to bring a bottle of wine/beer or a hunk of gourmet cheese. You have to specify the cheese in Wisconsin or you might end up with five pounds of cheese curds. None the less, that seemed to be the ticket, as the next two gallery nights would each host over 150 guests. All up, we hosted four in five years, taking a break after the third year, with our final year being the most epic.
How did we meet the artists you ask? Well, it started with one, Natalie Vann. I met Natalie on Myspace of all places. That was back when you could search zip codes and add criteria and then folks that fit that description came up. It was six months before we moved to Green Bay, and I was looking for friends, specially friends in the arts. Natalie was kind and welcomed me to Green Bay before I arrived. She introduced me to a few other artists as well. At the same time, we were apart of a spiritual small group and a few in our group were artist. Through conversations at those gatherings the idea to create an opportunity for artists both established and up and coming to show their work in a non-threating environment with no fees was birthed. The added bonus was inviting artists from all walks of like to commune, share resources and bring their extended communities together.
There is really nothing more exciting than seeing different world views, ideologies, income levels, ethnicities and creative styles come together in unity. That was what Gallery Night was for us. We were just the bridge. Our hope is that folks in the Green Bay area are continuing to see the value in creating and connecting with each other. I hope that we inspired those we met to be more hospitable. To reach out to those who are “visitors” and bring them into the fold.
We are grateful for our time there and although the bus offers a whole new way of community and connecting we will always remember Gallery Nights with such fondness. And, when we are feeling alone and uninspired we just look upon our walls, at the few pieces of work that we were gifted or purchased by some of our favorite Gallery Night artists and we remember.
When one thinks of Carmel, California, images of surf beaches, movie stars, a playground for the elite arise, and to some extent it is. However, there is a whole underbelly of kinfolk who live and work in this region who are desperately trying to hold on to life. There are those who work 3 jobs to pay the bills, trying to uphold the standard of the upper middle class. And, there are those who wonder the shore line without a home, looking for work and a place to lay their heads at night.
The economic divide is vast and yet there is a rising up. The rhythms of the “hidden community” beat stronger and stronger. There are kinfolk in all walks of life, doing the hard work of community. They are committed to the trials that come when one is trying to bridge two worlds. They are committed to the ministry of reconciliation.
The Bajari family is part of that hidden community and they invited us into the fold, to experience the local struggles and joys, and to share their radical hospitality with us. Brian is involved in the global conversation as the executive director for Care Corp International, a NGO that specializes in trauma counseling for refugees around the world. His beautiful wife, Suzie is as a counselor for youth who have experienced extreme violence and trauma in the neighboring town of Salinas.
On a local level, Brian Bajari has a heart for the marginalized in his area and has made efforts over the past five years to build community amongst these weary friends and travelers.
Originally the youth paster at one of the wealthiest churches in Carmel, Brian left the secure position to engage the greater community in a conversation about humanity and what it means to care for one another. He, along with a faithful team of volunteers, build bridges with the city councils in the surrounding areas by attending meetings, they listen and they advocate for the homeless. They communicate with the area churches about drops for the homeless, places that they can bring goods and meals. They also facilitate Gathering by the Bay, which meets every weekend at 9:30am, beachside Monterey, across from the McDonalds, and is open to the public.
Brian leads a simple time of prayer/meditation, sharing stories from the week and an encouraging word, he opens it up for a song and at the end, they share a meal. We were invited to participate last Sunday and our time with them was precious. When we arrived there were a handful of homeless gathering around a few picnic tables on the beach. Cars with boxes of supplies, socks, sweatshirts, pants, shoes, toothbrushes, etc were unloaded. Michael and Tia brought a home made meal and by 10am the beach was filling up. A bicycle race was just finishing up and families were making their way for a day at the beach. All the while, the Gathering by the Bay continued.
We stood in a large circle, with room enough for others to enter in, if they wanted to. Passers by would stop and have a listen or sing along, engaging at all different levels. It was humbling sharing sacred space with those who have but the shirt on their backs. The thing we were most impressed with was the authenticity of it all. Brian’s motto on caring for others, “It’s not about fixing or solving, its about being present.” And, that is what we felt when we were on the beach with them, presence. There was no agenda for outcome in the way we have seen others approach the poor or homeless. There was a trust and understanding between his crew and those that they were caring for and most importantly there was permission given to the homeless to care back. In a results driven missions economy, this open approach was refreshing.
We spent a ten days with the Bajari’s, jumping right into the rhythm of their lives, sharing meals, story, and friendship. Our first night in town they welcomed us by hosting a BBQ with their neighbor Dan at the helm. We parked/plugged in our rig, just down the hill from their home on a patch of land owned by the city. All of the neighbors were welcoming. Our twelve-year-old and their twelve-year-old hit it off immediately and were inseparable the whole visit, making swords and shields for an epic battle, video gaming, playing ping-pong, boogie boarding at the beach and exploring the woods and river where they caught craw dads. The two youngest delighted us with songs and their sweet smiles. Our high schooler’s took a little longer to warm up, but once they did, it was a blast to see such a rich connection. Craig did a few handy things around the property and I was able to have, Ellis their elderly neighbor, over for afternoon tea.
We also met Justin and Maddie who welcomed us by offering to teach us to surf, connecting us with local folkies, Anne and Pete Sibley, and putting together a fantastic bonfire on the beach for our final farewell.
Justin, who grew up in Carmel, was genuine, kind and down to earth with a passion for youth. He invited us to sit in with him at Carmel Presbyterian after we finished at the Gathering by the Bay. So, with four minutes to spare we hoped on stage and joined he and his congregation is a few songs. It was such a trip to go from one extreme to another that morning, from the homeless church on the beach to such great wealth in a bright, new building. In the end however, we’re all made of the same mud, we’re all one. What a joy to be with the Saints!
After the service, we got to chatting with British artist Simon Bull and his wife Joanna. They invited us to lunch where we engaged in fantastic discussions about the momentum in the body, about the hidden community and the faithfulness of the Lord.
We met some fantastic friends in Monterey and can’t wait to get back. Plus there is that beach thing!
We made our way across the great state of Kansas with a stop in Hays, Kansas. Home of the Fort Hays State University Tigers and Buffalo Bill Cody. Our purpose was to perform a concert at the downtown Hays Public Library. As we were working out logistics for where we were going to park for the night we found that there were no local campgrounds or RV parks in Hays. So, we called the Hays Visitors Center to see if they could direct us anywhere. The kind lady on the other line suggested the hospital had two spots for guests of the cancer ward. We didn’t really fit that criteria but thought we would risk rejection and give it a try.
The first fellow I spoke with was tentative at first but the more I explained our situation the more he softened and referred me on to his boss. I left a message and an hour later his boss called and to our delight, welcomed us with open arms. He explained the directions and let us know if we needed anything to give him a call.
The hospitality we experienced at the Hays Medical Center was more than generous. We were able to fill up our water tank, enjoy an inexpensive meal in the air conditioned cafeteria and have a safe, good nights sleep before heading on to Colorado.
Our time at the library was just as welcoming with staff meeting us at the door to lend a helping hand, a laid back spirit and a house full of kinfolk to enjoy the show.
Thank you Hays, Kansas for taking care of us. We look forward to seeing you again down the line!
Photos taken by Colleen Davick at our Hays Library performance. Colleen rode with us from Aug 14-29. She is a mother, wife, gifted photographer and joined us on flute/harmonies for our performances across Il, KS, and CO. We are grateful for her support and for capturing moments during these two weeks.
Small Wonders Farm sits nestled among rolling hills just north of Grand Rapids, MI. Matt and Dorothe Bonzo founded the farm about 12 years ago and have grown it into a booming CSA servicing over 30 families. Their life is full, purposeful and content.
Funny how connections happen. So, we met them through our friends Troy and Amy who reached out to the Bonzo’s to work the farm for the summer. We contacted Troy and Amy to see about a visit and they suggested that we come and stay with them on the Small Wonders Farm. For the Bonzo’s traveling/workers/visitors was a new experience and we were excited to be their first guests.
We enjoyed hearing their story, sharing community meals, jam sessions, learning about the CSA and helping with harvest. The kids learned target shooting and went on nature hikes where they found large vines that they turned into a jungle gym. Our son had an extra helping of fun when the Bonzo’s son took him fishing.
Thank you Matt and Dorothe for your kind hospitality. We hope more kinfolk find their way to your Small Wonders Farm.