Pepe and the Vacant Lot

The Kineo Community Urban Farm sits on a large block of land in Central Phoenix. Next door to the property is an equally large vacant lot. On the far corners and the back of the lot sits three other small farms. Two of them have horses.

20131123-112807.jpgThis morning, as I was sitting and enjoying my coffee I saw a beautiful cream-colored horse utilizing the vacant land. He was eating and playing. I went out to get a closer look. His owner was standing at the far end of the lot, calling the horse down. The horse, who the owner called Pepe, was frolicking but would only come half way down the field.

I stood there for about ten minutes and I noticed that Pepe spent most of his free time in the back corner of the property, closest to his home. As hard as the owner tried, Pepe would only gallop to the middle and back towards home. I found this very intriguing and pondered how Pepe was given more freedom, but tended to stay just outside of the boundary, not seeing that there is more available. Or maybe he did see and was afraid. I began to philosophy and make assessments about Pepe and his fear of the unknown. Mind you I know nothing about horses. His owner walked close enough that I could share my insights. His name was Sean, a Mexican caballero from Zacatecas, Mexico. His specialty is the lasso.

I shared my observations and he smiled, it was a generous smile. He gave me, “it’s possible” in his eyes but said very simply, that Pepe knew that home was where the people were, and the other animals. Of course! It was community that kept him close.

20131123-112819.jpgI rested in this wisdom. Maybe my perspective was off, maybe instead of representing freedom, the field really was a an overflow of community. Maybe, community is where the real freedom is found. For, if Sean wouldn’t have come over to have a chat, I would have walked away from that moment with my ideology in tact. I would have continued on in my limited understanding of horses, ultimately making parallels to our humanity in a rhetorical way. I would have walked away arrogantly thinking I understood something I really didn’t.

We need each other. As the wise old proverb says, “Your face mirrors your heart. You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another. 

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The Chicken Coop

Hey! We built a chicken coop at the Kineo Community Urban Farm.

Bet you thought this was going to be some philosophical ranting about how chicken coops have something to do with anything…

Actually, maybe I could ramble a little…

20131110-133627.jpgThe farm was given one mama chicken a few weeks ago.  She was a roamer and seemed content bossing around the goats and mothering the bunny. We were told that she was old and no longer producing but decided a coop would be a good addition to the farm, as there was a hope for more chickens. As we began to build the coop we noticed that she was watching and seemed to be anxiously waiting. Always close by, clucking and poking her head through the mesh.Then today, she was really creating a racket, so we picked her up to offer some comfort. She got really quiet and began to make a purring or snoring sort of noise. Moments later, she LAID AN EGG. It hit the ground with a splat, the bird dropped to the ground and in a flurry we were trying to scoop up the egg so she wouldn’t eat it. (Apparently, chickens eat their eggs if they are not trained)

And so, I ponder the question of home, what is home? Does a chicken really need a home? That chicken could probably live out a full live roaming the farm-yard with no coop, but we saw that the hope of a home provided the stimulation to actually be who she was created to be, an egg layer.

I’m not sure if the chicken coop analogy applies to us as humans but, we do see the value in the idea of home. However, our idea of a home is has changed over the past two years of nomadic life. Home, for us, has become where ever we are. Maybe though, like the chicken, we don’t know any different until that coop starts being built and our souls are stirred, and our physical beings are awakened to the point that we can not contain our joy.  It reminds me of that old hymn, Softly and tenderly.

We have a longing for home, there is no doubt. That longing is not for a physical structure   or place but for a peace that passes all understanding, and for the restoration of our souls and communion with those who travel this road with us. Home.

ECM and Casa Shalom

IMG_8380In the center of the East Central neighborhoods of La Mesa and Trumbull there is a light that shine brightly. This highly transient, low-income neighborhood is vulnerable to devious activity but with a deep commitment to the ministry of reconciliation and a persevering spirit, East Central Ministries offers an alternate reality to one of Albuquerque’s most violent and poverty-stricken areas.

ECM was developed in the spring of 1999 by John Bulten as a inter-denominational missions ministry in Albuquerque.  John spent the first two years walking the streets, talking to our neighbors and the relationships that he built during that time continues to be the foundation of the ministry today. In the summer of 2001, ECM moved into a boarded up building that was being used as a drug house. They renovated the property and opened with two community programs, “Wings of Eagles” youth leadership program and the Community Food Co-op.

Over the past years ECM has evolved in several directions and has become a vital part of the community. However, ECM primary focuses continues to be to build long-term lasting relationships with their neighbors. This is a unique approach in a “social service” organization because they actually encourage people to participate in their programs/community on a regular, long-term basis.  They are committed to long-term development and economic projects within the community as well as providing community led classes and initiatives.

We met John when we arrived for our tour. His welcoming presence and enthusiasm for his work and neighborhood was apparent. We met Morgan who runs the Urban Farm, Becky and Katina who facilitates the community youth programs, Louise, Shirley and many others who live at the Housing cooperative, Casa Shalom. We also met Bob who manages Common Goods Thrift Store and the staff at the Community run health care clinic, One Hope, which is the primer work site for medical students at the University of New Mexico.

There was a lot going on at ECU! We observed vibrant life and a people with a commitment to continue to work out relationship struggles. That openness to seeing cracks, discord and seeking reconciliation was most encouraging to us. It’s one thing to care for the community around you, to have great programs but we believe to be a people willing to nurture and seek reconciliation in the most intimate relationships brings true life to the community around us. We know that commitment is what will sustain them through the years. We are blessed to have met these “Tillers” and look forward to more times of community with our new Albuquerque friends. We also encourage you to connect with them along your way. Visit http://www.eastcentralministries.org for more info. Give them a call, they are your global/local neighbor.