tap that root

 

Being a YAV at Ferncliff has been an amazing opportunity for me to grow creatively and professionally. The staff and camp community are very supportive and encouraging so we all get to try things that are new to us. Plus, the work dynamic can be engaging and fun. The YAVs are given quite a bit of autonomy and responsibility over our own projects since the year-round staff is small. Because of all of this, we can create new programs in our respective areas of interest in addition to facilitating ones that already exist.

One of the greatest projects I have been able to work on this year as a YAV in conjunction with Ferncliff has been Taproot Tuesday. Designed to provide upper elementary students an opportunity to get outside and explore nature during the school year, Taproot Tuesday is a great program to get kids more actively engaged in the environment.

Definition of taproot

noun | tap·root | \-ˌrüt, -ˌru̇t\  

  1. a primary root that grows vertically downward and gives off small lateral roots
  2. the central element or position in a line of growth or development

The program began as a comment from Joel, something he had said he would like to see put in action. After some time, I just ran with it. As such, it was pretty much up to me as to how TRT played out.

Will it be held at camp or at a park?  What time will be best? What activities will we do? What games will we play? What ages are welcome?  How many participants can be there? What will it cost? Will we provide snack?

Since the program was meant to be exploratory (for me as the creator and for the youth as participants), there were neither wrong answers nor right answers to many of these questions.

So I thought about everything, did some research, and I made up the answers:

TRT will be located at a park, one that is centrally located with a lot of green space and does not require a group reservation. It will start once schools let out with time for parents to drive, so 4:30. Activities will centered around a weekly theme: plants radish and carrot seeds to talk about actual taproots, hiking to learn about and identify native plants and trees, “kickin’ and pickin'” (collect and observe macroinvertebrates in the creek) so we can talk about the Biotic Index and water quality, playing woodland bingo to encourage active observation of nature, identifying cloud types and making tornadoes in bottles to learn about weather patterns and the sky. Games were pretty easy: learn one another’s name and have fun and engage all youth. The age range was based on grades, so I just picked a group that would be old enough to understand our activities. With myself and another facilitator, there could be up to 12 kids enrolled. I researched other after school programs and what they charge for extracurricular or after school activities, wrote a budget, and eventually decided that ours would be an opt-in pay system. Obviously there would be a snack.

Eventually I would like to see Tap Root Tuesdays become an outreach program throughout the academic year so it can be taken to all public elementary schools that provide aftercare. With that sort of approach, more children and youth would be actively engaged in exploring nature and better understand the importance of protecting our environment.

Yesterday, two campers who participated in the inaugural session of Taproot Tuesday were here as  summer campers at Ferncliff playing basketball by the lake . They waved and smiled, told me “Hi!,” and asked if we’d do some other nature studies while they were here. It was incredible to hear them talk about hikes and activities we did outside during April and May for Taproot Tuesday.

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On disasters and being a neighbor

disclaimer: There is a lot of content packed into this post. The theme of being a neighbor is one I’ll come back to this year.

PDA

(not *public display of affection*)

In our case, PDA is Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Because Ferncliff has such a close relationship with PDA, it has been an ever-present part of our year here. Two members of the PDA National Response Team have been training the Little Rock YAVs in how to serve and act when in a disaster-afflicted area. A lot of what we learned in the training sessions was centered on how to be a neighbor to those we meet. Because every person is unique, there is no exact equation or recipe on how to be a neighbor. Being a neighbor, we concluded, means being present and being compassionate.

These sessions led up to a week-long PDA deployment with other members of the National Response Team and seasoned PDA volunteers. Clad in PDA’s blue t-shirts and armed with paint brushes and various tools, our team headed to a neighborhood that flooded in August 2016. The entire week, I worked in Tonya’s home where she has been living in a single, unfinished room of the house. Transitional living in response to this flooding was often a shelter in place situation, meaning families would live in part of their home while it was being rebuilt.

After several feet of water poured into their homes, residents like Tonya were at a loss about how to go about putting their lives back together. Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge is a local non-profit that grew to fill the need of rebuilding homes like Tonya’s. With the aid of volunteer groups like ours, AmeriCorps teams, and other residents who volunteer after their own home has been rebuilt, Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge is able to live up to its name. In Tonya’s neighborhood, our PDA team worked on projects of every magnitude in at least five homes.

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Tonya and the team

DAC

Disaster relief is part of the Ferncliff culture. It was not just a single week in Baton Rouge.

On the north end of camp is the Disaster Assistance Center (DAC), a 10,000-square-foot warehouse. There you’ll find upwards of 23,000 kits that have been donated and will be repacked for distribution in areas affected by natural and man-made disasters. In partnership with Church World Service, the DAC is one of two warehouses in the nation where congregations, secular groups, and other organizations can send supplies for hygiene kits, clean-up buckets, and school kits. Annually, at least fifty volunteer groups come help out at the DAC. They inspect and repack all donated kits to maintain consistency and quality control before supplies can be prepared for distribution. Katie’s YAV position is centered around the DAC and PDA. She spends time each day receipting boxes of donated supplies as they arrive, directing all of the volunteer groups in the DAC, and working in conjunction with PDA’s national response team members. Additionally, Ferncliff was home to the PDA call center before the office started operating remotely just last year.

With the capacity to store and receive large shipments, the warehouse allows Ferncliff to accept donations that smaller community organizations would not have the ability to access. Because of this, the previous Executive Director now fills a part time role in expanding Ferncliff’s relationship with Good360 to become a redistribution partner for the greater Little Rock community. The DAC  and Ferncliff are a part of a “circle of good” that helps to increase the positive impact of community partners.

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DIP

This year Katie has done some awesome things with DAC programming and it has been exciting to help her out. Most recently is the Disaster Immersion Program (DIP) that is a fun and interactive weekend experience for youth groups to explore how to prepare for a disaster as well as how to be a neighbor to those that have experienced one. A local Presbyterian youth group agreed to be our pilot group and it went very well.

In order to simulate some of the distress survivors have experienced, we woke the youth up with a siren early on Saturday morning and they had to start the day without any preparation. It was very important to maintain a balance of keeping all of the participants safe while encouraging them to expand their comfort zone. For example, there was no designated breakfast time that morning but every person got a granola bar and teams had to complete a scavenger hunt to locate fruit, muffins, and bagels around camp.

Other sessions during the weekend included: games, team-building activities, putting together disaster preparedness packets, solving puzzles, scavenger hunts, assembling kits in the DAC, setting group goals, time for individual reflection, preparing meals together, and more. We want to develop education through exploration which means giving them the tools to reach their own conclusions. At the end of the weekend, we had a quiet evening of reflection at the labyrinth to consider healing and how to move forward.

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Escape Room

Alrighty, I am out of three-letter acronyms.

Another part of program expansion has been the creation of the DAC Escape Room called Master of Disaster. Designed for nearly any type of group, it is a fun introduction to what role the DAC plays in responding to disasters. Like other escape rooms, Master of Disaster is an interactive problem-solving and team-building experience but with the addition of volunteer service and education. The scenario guides groups through assembling donated kits and exploring infographics posted in the DAC while they locate clues and solve puzzles. Creating an escape room was such an incredible project to head that I’m working towards creating another one in the Eco Center.

Postscript:

The day we were scheduled to drive back to Ferncliff from Baton Rouge, a wind storm left dozens of massive trees downed all around camp. Our power was out. All of the out buildings at the farm were swept away, including the tool shed, the feed sheds, the sheep house, and the garden gazebo. The rabbit enclosure was rolled around and all of the animals were pretty shaken up. Normally peaceful and healing, parts of camp seemed broken. While we knew the buildings and shingles could be easily replaced, the trees will not regrown but new saplings will find a home in our woods. We are thankful to have our own neighbors to help us as we continue to rebuild.

piglets & spriglets

piglets

We have two of them!

From the top: In mid January we went over to see the goings-on at the Urban Farm that is part of Heifer International headquarters. There was a new litter of Juliana miniature pigs, a pair of kids (baby goats, not the human ones), adult goats and pigs, sheep, alpacas, chickens, et cetera. We joked light-heartedly about bringing baby animals to the Ferncliff farm, especially a pig because at one point in the autumn we thought one might be bringing one in who couldn’t stay in her home at the time. After two more visits to the Heifer Urban Farm, we (read: Katie and I) were in love with the little piglets.

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love at first sight

We soon found out that we were not the only ones who wanted lovable piglets to live at Ferncliff because last week, Rachel (the Ferncliff Nature Preschool director and fellow pig lover) told us that Heifer Urban Farm was look for places to adopt pairs of the 8-week old Juliana piglets. Dibs. The next day Chris, Katie, and I loaded up in to the 15-passenger Ferncliff logo van and drove downtown with a crate full of straw and brought two scared little pigs home with us.

After a week at the Ferncliff farm, both of them seem to be settling in well. Hopefully each of them will continue to be more outgoing as they grow more comfortable with their new home. They live in an enclosure with two goats  and a duck where everyone has space to play, forage, and sleep. George the goat is now worried that he is missing out on some attention though.

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first day of foraging in their new yard

Juliana pigs are one of the smallest breeds and they are often marketed to people as mini or teacup pigs. They are often known as painted miniature pigs due to their characteristic dark spots. We are hoping that our two Julianas will help educate our visitors and campers about the realities of raising animals. These pigs can live indoors, but when fully grown they will still weigh around 70 pounds and have the natural instinct to root and forage, meaning their environment should allow them to do so.

spriglets

I think I made up the word spriglet, but I am using it to refer to young or small things while still rhyming with “piglets”. The seedlings, the saplings, and the preschoolers are all spriglets. Ferncliff has a lot of spriglets around.

On and off over the last few weeks I have been scouring the edges of the wooded areas of camp for saplings that may not make it through summer in their current location. It happens when several saplings are too crowded, and so they are competing for light and water underneath the canopies of the mature trees. Some of these I have decided to transplant to other locations around camp where mature trees have been lost or woodland health needs to be improved. Transplanting saplings requires me to identify the tree species and what sort of conditions it would do well in so that it can flourish in a new location.

Since the Nature Preschool wanted to plant a tree as the inaugural class, they have been identifying species of saplings and deciding which ones they’d like to transplant. We have been using Eco Hour to plant loblolly pines, one of which will be marked as the Nature Preschool tree. I am hopeful that two oak saplings that have been transplanted  will grow to be shade trees for benches near the edge of the water.

This season Chris has decided to start nearly everything from seed instead of buying transplants from the store. While this will be incredibly rewarding to harvest tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, greens, and more later in the year, this also means more gardening work. It also means that anything that needs special care as a seedling is currently in our shared YAV office under grow lights. One tray even has a desktop fan blowing a gentle breeze over the seedlings. More than once I have expressed annoyance about the state of the office because there is stuff everywhere. Really though, it is nice to have a couple hundred tiny plants in the room.

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I seriously love compost

December and January were chilly and gray. It was undoubtedly winter. At the start of my YAV year though, we wondered if autumn would even arrive at all. Summer seemed to linger far too long. Yesterday just a handful of wispy clouds floated across the bright blue sky. The sun was shining, bidding January 2017 a warm farewell.

Nothing much grows in the wintertime, but that doesn’t mean it is a season of death. It is the season that allows plants and animals to close the loop of production. It is a season to conserve energy and store nutrition internally, gearing up for the bursts of springtime. It is the calm and the quiet that every living being needs. Trees shed their leaves and plants their colorful blooms. The discarded brown bits, over time, feed right back in to the earth at the roots of these plants. All of the loss eventually helps plants to grow better later.

be-patient-with-yourself-nothing-in-nature-blooms-all-year

While poetic, this tumblr-worthy jpeg is not necessarily true. To turn a plant life cycle into a metaphor for the human experience would be to ignore some gaping holes. What about annuals, whose life cycle ends in winter? Or what about cacti that flourish in continually stable climates? Every person is different. But then again, so is every plant.

But we can still talk about what it means to be a human in wintertime. We can’t always expect continuous production from ourselves. We can align our goals with the season. Nature is the purest inspiration so take a look at the trees, the gardens, and the animals. We can take our wintertime to bulk up, like the livestock out here at Ferncliff. We can fill our internal stores and focus on input instead of output. We can use winter to shed our dying leaves of last season. We can slough off all of the unnecessary things weighing on our hearts and minds. We can prepare ourselves and our work for springtime.

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Sheep enjoying fresh straw in their newly-fenced area

Winter is a good time to compost

I have been focusing a lot of my effort this winter on compost. It was not necessarily my intention two months ago, but it makes sense for now. Compost has an enormously important role in the lifecycle of plants and we can so easily guide it to successful fruition. All of the leftovers we generate don’t have to be thrown in landfills. I have been reading articles and books and other print information on- and off-line in an attempt to become a resident expert on composting. I’ve met with some local professionals who make a business of composting and rely on compost for their own urban agriculture productions.

I read to the Nature Preschoolers here, too. We practice deciding what goes in the recycling bin, what goes in the trash can, and what can be turned in to compost for our garden. What I learn is only valuable as long as I can share it. The preschoolers don’t yet know the science of decomposition but they’re starting to understand that it has a role in our Earth’s life cycle.

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Reading “Compost Stew” to the Nature Preschool
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Becoming responsible recyclers and composters

Second Presbyterian Church has an active Environmental Stewardship team that has welcomed me as a participant in kicking off the church’s composting efforts. To begin, Environmental Stewardship purchased a top-of-the-line rotating, insulated compost tumbler. They also gifted a matching one for use at Ferncliff. In discussion about how to implement responsible composting practices, SPC invited me to introduce composting to the Children’s Choir. (Environmental Stewardship made the front page of the newsletter, so I’ve saved that at the bottom of this post as well.)

A rotating composter makes composting so easy. There is no shoveling involved to aerate the pile. Because it is insulated and locking, pretty much any food waste can be turned in to compost. Traditional compost piles are generally just fruits and vegetables because waste that contains meat and dairy smell or attract unwelcome animals. Our rotating composter is only part of our efforts to reduce waste and divert organic matter from the landfill. At Ferncliff we practice three methods of composting: hot compost, cold compost, and vermicomposting.

Hot composting, like our rotating tumbler, is very active. We maintain a loose 2:1 ratio of browns (paper, dried leaves, straw) to greens (food waste, grass clippings). It requires moisture and oxygen which is why hot compost piles need to be turned once or twice a week to stay heated and fully functioning. A cold compost pile more accurately mimics natural composting. Layers of greens and browns are left to decay at their own rate but the organic matter is still diverted from ending up in a landfill. We leave the largest quantities of compostable material in a cold compost pile to add to hot piles when needed.

Vermicomposting means utilizing worms to generate worm castings as a type of compost. Worms process food waste and organic material fairly quickly, leaving compost that is remarkably low in contaminants and high in nutrients. In December we welcomed new batches of Red Wigglers to restart two Worm Farms. While relatively low maintenance, vermicomposting does require quite a bit to get started. Once conditions in worm farms are stable and safe, it is easy to keep up.

Composting is slow and messy; it is not glamorous. It is not the sexiest way to help conserve our natural resources. Composting is simple and straight-forward; it is not difficult. It is super accessible to families and communities. I love how much I have been learning and sharing. It is amazing that so much waste can be turned into something to help our world grow.

 

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Composting with Environmental Stewardship at SPC

 

compost

 

peas on earth

from Nov 20

John 6:1-15New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.[a] A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages[b] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they[c] sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Food is at the heart of this story. Food is at the heart of our own stories. I have heard it said that food is one of God’s love languages. We eat every day, most of us here probably eat more than once a day. Eating is even a chore sometimes, as if we have fallen into a mundane routine. But is food unpleasant? Is eating boring? If it is, then we must not be doing it right. There is so much delicious food to fill and nourish our bodies. Some more nutritional than others. Especially this time of year.

With Thanksgiving coming up this week it is easy to get caught up in planning travel arrangements or the logistics of who is frying the turkey and who is baking the pies and which cousin is a vegetarian now. We reserve Thursday as the day to enjoy the food and our family or friends. Why do we only have one day to celebrate sharing a meal when we eat every other day too?

As a Young Adult Volunteer, I live in Intentional Christian Community with other YAVs. We receive a small stipend as well as a monthly budget for food. Our food budget each month is $60 per person each month. An average of just $2 per day. Needless to say, we live simply. We make sacrifices when it comes to food choices because the three of us have decided to pool our $60 monthly for a total of $180 and go grocery shopping together. We plan out our meals and make lists of ingredients.  We often share 2 or 3 meals a week with church members or at other community events. It is a special occasion when we get to eat in the Ferncliff dining hall where Jim the chef serves us second helpings and there is a salad bar.

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Food is imperative in any community and ours is no exception. We sit down at the table almost every night for supper. We come back to the house at midday for lunch together on weekdays. So much of our time is spent sharing meals. Most of our vegetables come from our own garden and all of our eggs are fresh from our farm too. Having such a strict budget limits our meal choices and means we hardly ever let food go to waste. I don’t think anything has stayed in our fridge long enough to go bad. If something doesn’t get eaten, it gets composted and goes right back into our garden.

Sharing food together is healthy for the body and it is healthy for the soul.

The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is one of only two miracles that appears in all four gospels, yet how often do we read it? Many of us may not have heard it since we were children.

Why were the 5000 coming to see Jesus? Was it because they were hoping to be healed? Was it to witness the spectacle of his celebrity? The author lets us in on the fact that Jesus of Nazareth must have been making a name for himself because the crowd gathered already knew of his earlier miracles. They must have read the news headlines. It doesn’t seem that anyone came expecting to be fed. In fact, Jesus is the one that brings up food for the 5000 in the first place. It is only after this hospitality is extended that the disciples and readers notice a scarcity of resources.

What about the miracle of multiplying a mere five loaves of bread and 2 fish into enough to feed the multitude of people gathered on the hillside? Not only are they fed, they are full. Verse twelve is clear that everyone ate as much as they wanted, not just as much as they needed. There we also read that another twelve baskets were filled up with all of the leftovers. That is more than what we started with. Jesus is gathering up everything left that can be shared “so that nothing is wasted”.

We can linger on the test of Philip’s faith that is verse six. Jesus already knew. He knew what he was going to do. He knew these people had come to see a show, to perhaps be convinced themselves that he was really the promised King. He knew that a child came bearing a small quantity of food. And most importantly, he knew that people come together over food. He fed their bodies with bread and fish but fed their hearts and souls with the word of God and the company of one another.

I would bet that hundreds of new friendships were forged that day on that hillside. It is hard to walk away from that many people with a full belly but without new friends.

Less than a month ago I was in Honduras with the mission team from the Presbytery of Arkansas. I had met a few of the team members before but I wouldn’t have called us friends. We were representatives of half a dozen churches from all over the state, plus met dozens of people from Central America. Our team went to contribute towards the building of houses in Rincon del Buey outside of a tourist town near the Guatemalan border. There, Heifer International is facilitating community development in small communities.

In Rincon del Buey, 11 families were in the process of building 3-room cinderblock homes. Our team brought willing hands, open hearts, and much-needed funding to the project. None of us are construction professionals so we learned more than we taught. Every day we were at the work site there, we carried a big ice chest with us. It was full of bottled water, Gatorade, and all of the fixings for ham and cheese sandwiches. A couple of us would stand over the ice chest at midday, make twenty or so sandwiches, wrap them in napkins, and pass them around to our Honduran brothers and sisters before any of us served ourselves. All of us would then sit on some old boards on the ground and eat together.

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We had no physical table. We had an ice chest and a few dirty boards. We came together any way.

The last day we were preparing to head to work and our Honduran host shared with us that we would not be picking up groceries to make sandwiches that day because the members of the community Rincon del Buey had extended an invitation to us for a farewell lunch. They had had half a dozen mission teams from the United States come through their town, and not until ours arrived had any other visiting group invited them to share lunch. They wanted to extend the love of Christ right back to us and so made pupusas for everyone the last day we were on the work site. Pupusas are thick corn tortillas stuffed with melted cheese and a vegetable. Like the previous days, we laid out those boards and instead of napkin-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches, we all gave thanks to God with hot pupusas in our hands.

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Pastor Juan Bautista Rodas traveled with our team most of the week and he doesn’t speak English. Because of my academic background, I was most often the translator for our team. I repeated his blessings each day over our lunchtime sandwiches. I sat next to him at almost every meal and shared in his conversations with other members of our team. Most often he wanted to talk to other pastors and learn about their work which meant that I learned so much about theirs and his as well. His last meal with our team before returning to his home was breakfast. That morning, he told me not to say goodbye to him or he would cry. Pastor Juan and I are friends. Needless to say, none of us left those meals with empty bellies and all of us left with new friends.

There is a word in Spanish that has no equivalent in English. It is Sobremesa. “Sobre” is over and “mesa” is table. It translates literally to “over the table”. It is a time, after everyone has finished eating, that they sit around the table to enjoy each other’s company and digest the meal they’ve just shared. It happens on holidays, it happens at dinner parties, it happens at business lunches, it happens every day. There is even a separate word for when it happens over coffee.

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Jesus calls upon us to share our food, not to just feed the hungry. He calls to invite them to our meals and share our table. Jesus knows what can happen when people have full stomachs and are sitting with one another at a table. Jesus knows the peace in people’s hearts when they are at a table. There are tons of tables, literal or metaphorical.

Come to the table to eat, to make peace, to savor food and friendship. Sharing food together is healthy for the body and it is healthy for the soul.

 

listen up, y’all

Sunday morning at church was a pivotal moment in the kick-off to my YAV year. I have been searching for a story to tell, for a profound thought to share. I realized this morning that this world has no shortage of profound one-liners from inspirational people. What we are missing, instead, is the ability to listen to others to hear (not to respond). I don’t always need to speak; I always need to hear.

Sunday morning, I was hearing. I was listening to Antwan Phillips as he read a brief passage from Joshua that gives form to some thoughts I have been having.

Joshua 1: 12-15

But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

Antwan was a guest speaker at a Sunday school series that focuses on public education and the Little Rock School District or LRSD. The historic claim to fame by LRSD is the story of the Little Rock Nine at Central High School that frames the start of intentional desegregation. Decades later it seems the entire city is experiencing a modern-day pattern of economic re-segregation in the midst of a takeover of the school board by the state.

It is interesting to come into this conversation as someone who has never been part of LRSD. On Sunday someone asked how we, members of the community with no children in LRSD, can be helpful. Another listener asked Antwan what the biggest problem in LRSD is and he responded with, “The biggest problem is that everyone keeps telling us we have a big problem.” He admits that there are issues, as with any school district or multi-faceted entity. There is no doubt that funding is scarce and test scores are lower than desired.

These inquiring individuals stood out to me as people listening to hear while others where listening to respond. A few were more specifically listening to respond with their own opinions and suggestions. Lost in all of these voices, no students spoke up.

Scroll up and read the quoted passage from Joshua again. Hear the words.

You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest

Joshua is made to realize that his own liberation, happiness, and freedom is inseparable from the liberation, happiness, and freedom of his brothers and sisters in Christ across the river. He cannot enjoy his own life while people are still suffering in theirs. Understanding and accepting this is imperative for all of us.

You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest

Are you hearing this?!?

Consider this quote from Lilla Watson that I will come back to again and again this year:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest

because your liberation is bound up with mine

Lilla Watson is a leading activist for the rights of women and indigenous peoples. Today is a national holiday named for Christopher Columbus. He symbolizes the genocide and theft that indigenous populations have battled since Europeans learned of their existence. His “New World” belonged to hundreds of peoples who have been forgotten and downtrodden. Recently, there is growing support in favor of changing the federal holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. It is astounding to me that this is only a recent change.

You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest because your liberation is bound up with mine. 

Listen to hear the cries of those across the river from yourself. Listen to hear. Listen to hear because you are to help them until the Lord gives them rest because your liberation is bound up with mine.

You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest because your liberation is bound up with mine. 

Let us work together.

a warm welcome

Offering a welcome is habitual and polite, if not always authentic.

Centuries ago, the word was supposedly two separate words that designated the guest as a desired one, a “willed comer”. Maybe the invite is that you come well, bringing hope and happiness with you.

Our YAV house was briefly a scavenger hunt of welcoming, with dozen of notes hidden in the cupboards and in chair cushions, I doubt we’ve found them all even after two weeks in the house. One read, “welcome!” The misspelling in crayon made me smile. It gave me the sense that the young author wished us well and considered the YAVs to be desired guests and “willed comers”. It was authentic.

So far we have only been the guests. We have received the authentic, warm welcome of a community who wants us here but we do not quite belong just yet. I’m not sure who I am here at Ferncliff and where exactly I fit. That is okay. I am excited to figure it out.

At orientation it was made clear that we are not needed as volunteers; we are not meant to save the world. While several new YAVs were jaded by hearing that, I already knew it. I know I might be a nuisance to train. I know I have a lot more to learn. I know I don’t know everything.

A Call to Worship used at orientation really stuck with me. It ended with: “All of you is welcome. Each of you is welcome. Most importantly, all of each of you is welcome.” This reminds us that every person is God’s person and we are here to welcome them. We are all welcome. We are welcome regardless of our race, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, birthplace, citizenship status, religion or lack thereof.

It is hard to welcome someone else when I am a guest myself. Most guests have limited responsibilities. I like having responsibilities, so much so that some would call me bossy. Responsibility gives me a sense of ownership over my work. Here at Ferncliff I am figuring out what my responsibilities are and what I can do to welcome others. I want to let them know that each of us is a “willed comer” and all of us is welcome. Here I am, with hope and happiness in my heart. Here I am, to welcome any and all.