The Kinfolk Road To Philly

Road to Philly JPGOver 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.

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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.

IMG_2882Our 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.

IMG_2920Later 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.

IMG_3017Our 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. ūüôā

IMG_2972We 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.

 

 

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Tie That Binds

IMG_2559I want to tell you about our awesome time in Frostburg, MD; sharing in community with Jon Felton and his kinfolk at the Savage River Farm. And, I will tell you of all the practical ways we shared during our time with these friends, but first I need to get out a few poetic musings about community. For, as we travel, we are continually blown away and encouraged by the ways we are “put together” with others.

So, if you’ll bare with me…

Blessed be the tie that binds… There is a beautiful community out there, hidden yet available, woven together with a tie that binds our hearts in love. The deepest love possible, the love of One who would lay down his life, lay down his life for every tongue, tribe or creed. This love is unfaltering, secure and safe. It is a tie that brings freedom, not bondage. For this gift, we are thankful.

The tie allows for the flow of life to transpire, like that of the interdependent relationship of vine and branch. We stay close to the source waiting with anticipation for opportunities to be united with kinfolk, in order to exchange the witness of our creators goodness, faithfulness and grace; slow to anger, quick to love. When these moments happen, we are filled with such amazement and joy, and our cup runs over.

Honestly, I could geek out about community all day. None the less, our cup surely did run over in Frostburg, MD and continued on through Harrisburg, PA, Shepherdstown, WV and Philadelphia.

IMG_2569We’ll start with Frostburg. Our host was Jon & Leslie Felton, who we had know about for years. Many of our friends, spoke of this “Jon Felton” and when we were coming through this area, we knew we needed to spend time with his¬†family. So, we reached out and his response was welcoming and encouraging. He invited¬†us into his community, linking us up with friends at Savage River Farms as a place to park our bus and neighbor alongside for the week.

We arrived on a sunny afternoon and settled into our field at the farm (which later we had quite the adventure getting stuck and unstuck). We sat down with Ben and Hana, the owners, and came up with a plan that allowed us to learn, serve and share in community with them.

IMG_2570The fella’s got busy in the fields, replanting and pulling weeds.¬†It was fun to see our bus rider, Chris, get his hands in the dirt for the first time, soaking in the goodness of growing food. The guys also learned about how shiitake mushrooms are grown, including¬†holes drilled into logs, a spore paste lathered into the holes and once in that position, a solid years of rest. Then, moving the logs to a water source where they soaked for 24 hours, were stacked like lincoln logs, covered and with in the next few days, mushrooms began to burst forth!

Meanwhile, Graciana and I spend most of our time in the farmhouse kitchen, making meals for the crew. The farm, about three years old, offered much to do, and with the longer summer days, the crew was making hast to get things done. Needless to say, meals seemed to be the last thing on anyones mind. So, it was natural to offer this gift. Plus there was nothing more pleasing that seeing the smiles on folks faces after they enjoyed a meal, refreshed and ready for more hard work. We also helped Hana with the Farmers Market, setting up, selling, meeting town locals, and packing up.

IMG_2603Mid-week, we went to the school that Ben and Jon taught at and we shared our merrymaking, encouraging the youth in identity, reconciliation and moving towards a life that is filled with joy and love.

Later, we spent a little time in Jon’s studio laying down gang vocals for fellow creative, Mark Van Steenwyks book, Wolf at the Gate. 

At¬†the end of the week, we moved the bus to downtown Frostburg,¬†city of¬†about 8,075 residence and home to¬†Frostburg State University. We hit the area just after school let out, so got more of the local feel for the place. We learned that¬†Frostburg was originally called Mount Pleasant until 1820, when the government developed a postal service, and the town was renamed Frostburg. We also learned that¬†the town was one of the first cities on the¬†‚ÄúNational Road,‚ÄĚ US 40. But most of all we learned about Jon & Leslie Felton and their love for their family and community. We learned about Jon’s involvement in a¬†traveling arts carnival, “demonstration village” experiment, and education and social outreach project,¬†call Carnival de Resistance. We also met many of his kinfolk and one evening we all shared a foraged meal sourced and served up by local chef, Horvey.

IMG_2649At the end of the week, we shared in song at Dante’s Bar, a local establishment on the main drag. We opened the night with a song circle, then a Holland’s set and Jon’s band, Soulmobile finished out the evening with a rollicking set of originals! That night we met, fellow band mate, Jake Compton, who invited us to his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. So, we exchanged info and set a date!

As our week came to an end, we took a moment to soak it all in, the goodness that comes when we engage in community, entering into that interdependent relationship, and caring for one another. We are thankful for moments like these where we are woven together with  kinfolk in ways we never dreamed possible. We are forever bound to these friends and look forward to the day we get to roll back to through.

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