Carriers of the Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

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

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

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

Advertisements

Learning to Fly in Oakland

Our second round with our Oakland crew was just as rewarding as our first.

IMG_3708We parked with our Nic and Moe our host family and settled in for a week of whatever might come. It’s one of the most unpredictable neighborhoods we visit and a very difficult place for us to park, with only a 10 foot drive and a tall iron fence on each side. Craig pulled it off though and we were so thankful to be with them again.

Josh and Margie welcomed us with a meal and Josh prepped us on the weeks events. We shared a song workshop with the pre-school and spent time in community with new and old friends, including an invite to one of the community meals, tea with our friend Carla and her baby girl, and jamming with Lono, our wise elder from Hawaii. We also shared sacred space at New Hope’s Sunday gathering.

We travel with tools on board and it’s always a blessing to be able to offer his gifts in craftsmanship. This time around Craig was able to help Nic and Moe with a tile project.

For homeschool/roadschool we visited Berkley. We toured the campus and went to hear Burmese poet, Zeyar Lynn, which was a real treat. And, the best part of the week came when Josh invited Craig and Banjo to learn how to build and fly an RC plane.

 

Not a typical hobby for one who lives in the hood but for Josh this hobby has turned out to be a fantastic tool to build connection with his neighbors. Josh and Margie live on a very dangerous block between International Blvd and Fruitvale. They neighbor with pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and refugees from around the world. Josh researched inexpensive ways to build the RC planes and purchased supplies. Through conversation with some of his neighbors he found an interest in trying to build a plane and learn to fly. That lead to a Fly club which meet regularly.

This commitment to the long haul is what we admire so much about our friends at New Hope. Their commitment to knowing God, loving others and really pressing into community is such an encouragement to us. In one of the darkest places in our country they offer a vibrant light of love to the community around them.  And, it is a joy to partner with them even for a short time.

Refocus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real Raiders

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

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

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

The Bekaert's The Harpers

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

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

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