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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.