Moving on — onto the farm!

The first potato

Since leaving my position as president of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Foundation in Atlanta in June of 2010, and tossing a perfectly good six figure position right out the window I have: lived in a relative’s basement one door away from dogs, camped on friends’ couches, lived in a bartered house, a few hotels, and a part-time parsonage.  All part of the odyssey to create, grow, and live on the farm known as Healing Springs Acres.

“Massy” plowing potatoes

Soon I will become the first full-time human resident at the farm in over 40 years.  This marks a major evolution of the ministry from its beginnings as an experimental garden plot to becoming a living, breathing ecosystem to grow food and give it away.  Healing Springs Acres is coming to life.  Not just as a farm, but as a community of generosity.  In our first two growing seasons over 50 people have come together to give away over 10,000 pounds of food.  That’s about 20,000 meals worth from just a little over an acre.

Freshly dug ‘taters ready to pick up

We’ve barely gotten started and we can do so much more: Planting generosity, Providing food, Proclaiming that others can do the same.

Tex Sample proclaims that one cannot build the relationships necessary to do substantially effective ministry among “survivors” and “hard living” folk by visiting them.  You have to join them.  Incarnation.  In a loose translation of the Hebrew word which corresponds to the idea of incarnation, he calls it “pitching tent.”

Bending and stooping and bending and stooping

One of Jesus’ less inviting sales pitches to would-be followers was, “foxes have their holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  The tag line to this brilliant recruiting pitch was his oft offered invitation, “follow me.”  If that’s the standard of comparison, I’ve succeeded.  By any measure I am now poor and have nowhere to lay my head.  Well, that’s not technically true.  It is essentially true though and the technicalities which keep it from being actually true are tenuous at best.

Johnny The Hippie

In a little over a month I’ll finish my work as interim pastor in Elkin, NC and move on from the part-time parsonage which has become a full-time residence this last month as I transition from one housing solution to another.  Ultimately, I have a place to go – eventually – but timing is going to be an issue. The actual residence on the farm will not be ready by the time I need it to be.  Earlier this week I finally finished snipping through the pile of civic red tape which had previously bound up tangible progress toward getting water, a driveway, a septic system, power and some of the other ingredients essential to establishing residence on the farm.  The way is now clear, but there is still a ways to go.

Home sweet Allegro

I have access to an RV which will serve as a temporary way point on the way to establishing residence on the farm.  The only problem with that is that it’s illegal in my county to “live” in an RV other than in an officially designated campground.  So, technically, I won’t.  I’ll literally “pitch tent.”  As far as I can tell, there’s no law against plain ol’ camping – just RV camping.

Oh, I’ll use the RV – but I won’t “live” in it.  It will be hooked up to appropriate water and sewer resources and will have power as needed through a generator. Basically, it will be a glorified bath house and camp kitchen.  I have a perfectly good Kelty tent I’ve looked at wistfully for years wishing I made more time to use it.  Now, I will.

Yukon Gold!

The last time I used the tent was living in the Gulf Coast heat for a week while helping rebuild after the hurricanes.  It already has a few miles on it in service of a worthy mission.  May as well keep up the pattern.  I’ll “live” in the tent and use the RV for storage and cooking.  If that’s illegal, then consider this my official notice of intended civil disobedience in pursuit of a good cause.

Many of you will be sitting is some form of whatever you consider to be comfort as you read this.  You will be tempted to feel sorry for me as I weather this little timing glitch between residences.  Don’t.

Not quite half of the harvest

Those of you who have known me longest will recall that I spent my last year of college debating whether or not to get married right away or thru-hike the Appalachian Trail which, of course, is really just a six month migratory camping trip. It’s not like this sort of thing doesn’t appeal to me in all kinds of ways.  To quote Hank Jr., “A Country Boy Can Survive…

I’ll be fine.  I’ll be on the farm.  It’s what progress looks like in this situation.  It’s Incarnation.

A Farmer and a Preacher

What’s important is the ministry that happens at Healing Springs Acres.  The pictures you’ve been looking at as you’ve read this far are what really matters – this year’s harvest.  Ten of us gathered two weeks ago to pick up the potatoes we planted back in April.  We harvested over 2,000 pounds of white, yellow, and red potatoes.  Those potatoes were on the streets within days serving people who don’t have better options for a meal.  They were distributed by at least five different feeding ministries which are still serving them.  That’s what matters.

Double checking

A few months ago a pastor friend who knew of the housing related issues with which I was wrangling asked me what I was going to do.  I said, “I’m going to keep working to make Healing Springs Acres a reality until there just isn’t any way to keep going.  I’m going to grow food to give away to people who are far worse off than I am.”

End of the row

As bothersome as all this sounds, I still have plenty of workable options.  Having options, and the wherewithal to choose among them, makes one wealthy in ways not everyone gets to experience.  There are still plenty of folks out there worse off than me – and I can still do something helpful about that.

Maybe you can too…

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Chere on August 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I am so amazed. Many best wishes to you, and your farm, and your ministry.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jean W. on August 6, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Don thrilled to catch up on your effforts with this ministry. I will keep you in my prayers…

    Reply

  3. Wow this is such a excellent concept I would love to come and see the place and help out any way I can!

    Reply

  4. My good friend Russ Williams shared this with me. I stand amazed at your love for Christ and His followers. You are an original God-called minister who explains Incarnation in a beautiful way and brings everything down to “earth.” You have my prayers, my friend.

    Reply

    • Thank you Martha Jean! Any friend of Russ’ is a friend of mine.

      I do have to defer to my teachers and mentors though. The “pitching tent” image for incarnation is borrowed straight from Tex Sample’s worthy work. Even in his usage it is more a Biblical translation than an original idea (though he has many of those…). For me, it is just one of the images of incarnation which resonates the most deeply with the heritage of ministry I inherited from folks like Jack Partain and Will Campbell.

      The Gospel is at it’s least powerful when it is abstracted as ideas and precepts. Unless “good news” comes in a tangibly particular enough form to be tasted, to rest in, or to get a little dirty as it roots out the bad news it encounters, I wonder how much use its goodness is. But maybe that’s just me…

      Always a pleasure to meet someone in whom a resonance with that sort of Gospel runs similarly deep.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Bobby Rains on August 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I am glad to know that there are people in this world that will still make the sacrifices you’ve made to do something good for others. Lots of people talk…you’re making it happen!

    Reply

    • Thanks for the encouragement Bobby. I have a lot of generous help. Here’s hoping something about the farm inspires you to a project of your own…!

      Reply

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