Urban Farms Update

It continues to amaze Amber and I how the different pieces of this Urban Farms puzzle keep coming together. Nathan has really trusted God in this risky, oversized endeavor and it's fun to watch! He's gotten himself in over his head and those are exactly the places where God likes to show up and bring glory to His name.

Just to think: five months ago there was nothing on paper and now we are approaching the development of a full-scale agricultural development project for this neighborhood that will provide vital agricultural job training, local produce, a redemption of abandoned space, a connection to creation for urban dwellers, a reconnection to the land for some of our agrarian refugee neighbors, etc.

The city of Memphis is eager to support this work and Brewster elementary school is equally enthusiastic and has some great vision to provide a real world garden laboratory for their students. Presently, we are trying to gather input from our neighbors: current purchasing habits, type of produce desired, location of farmer's market, etc.

So, on Saturday, our friends - the Cooks - hosted a T-shirt release party for the Urban Farms that will be soon underway. Many votes were cast for different designs, but the vote was so close that Nathan had to finally ask the opinion of a trusted individual from the neighborhood ... and the winner is:

Amber even won a door prize - a garden starter kit. It pays to be married!


"Most men die at 27, we just bury them at 72." - Mark Twain

Here's to a new year.

His Arms

Today I had the opportunity to escort a refugee mother and daughter to the clinic for their initial lab work visit. When a refugee arrives in America, they must first go to the doctor to have blood, urine and stool samples taken, a TB scan test and then a follow-up visit within 48-72 hours to have the TB test read and to receive a full physical.

Today wasn't an ordinary visit.

First, it was odd that it was only a mother and a daughter. We are accustomed to large families from this people group.

Second, the daughter was a paraplegic. When fleeing their homeland, she was shot and the wounds left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her widowed mother now takes care of her. They had a medical escort to the US, but they were greeted by a new home that is not handicapped accessible. As a Westerner this of course feels like a great injustice, and I hope that she and her mother will soon be transferred to more appropriate accommodations.

Because she is sedentary, she is also overweight, and it proved to be a new challenge to get her into my car. Throwing caution into the wind, I stepped in and put my arms under her arms, lifting the majority of her body weight into the front seat of my Buick Century, as her mother guided her legs into the vehicle. Without much forethought, we got her into the car without dropping her; although, at one point, I wasn't sure if we'd make it.

After returning home from the clinic and repeating this procedure once more, I was thankful to be a part of helping this young girl, who is living a very different existence than I. She is dependent on others in ways that I can't imagine. She recognizes her helplessness in a very tangible manner that exposes the ugliness of my own soul. How independent and selfish I am! I did not create myself; naked I came into the world and naked I will return, yet I don't like to admit my helplessness.

I sat back down in my car, and this song was playing:

"Only You Have Come", 100 Portraits of Waterdeep

Only you have come to find me
Only you have come to pull me out
Only you have come to save me
Only you have come to wrap your arms around me

I sat silently and reflected on the events of the morning. Me wrapping my arms around this girl, hoisting her from her wheelchair and into my car and back again. I thought about His arms. His arms that have saved me, continue to save me and will save me. I need His arms. And then I thought about the passage from John's gospel:

"I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except...with My arms."

Re-engaging in Memphis

My posts have thinned out over the past couple months, as they often do toward the end of the year. But, it's a new year and I'm never above fresh starts. I would like to rekindle my efforts to scribble occasional updates about our life here in Memphis.

Amber and I returned to Memphis late Saturday evening after a nice, long holiday with our respective families in Illinois. We were thrilled to have such a lengthy visit with our families, but we were eager to return to our new home here in the mid-South (and we certainly didn't complain about the 30+ degree spike in the temperature).

We pulled in our driveway late and noticed that our next door neighbors, a Vietnamese couple that we had begun to build a very minor connection with (as much as possible without a shared language), had cleared out over the holidays. Only a few strands of Christmas lights and some potted plants remained. I was surprised at the emotions that rose in us as we lamented their exit from the neighborhood.

To be honest, our return to Memphis didn't start off with a bang. Although we had a great deal of excitement about our fresh re-engagement following a restful holiday, the first two days started out with a lurking loneliness. Part seasonal, post-holiday blues; part reality check. We were quick to recognize the reality of our brevity here in this city. Only four months have passed. Yes, four months filled with incredible memories and beautiful people, but it has been a tidal wave of newness. We've adjusted well, but we are now facing the looming need to develop deeper relationships in our new land.

We don't know what is in store for the future, but we know that we will be here for at least seven more months and we don't want an absence of relationship to be an excuse to skip town. We have so much to be thankful for in our neighborhood. We've heard from more than one brother or sister in our community that the enemy is using a creeping and deceitful separateness to isolate us and confuse us. But we are resolved to courageously and faithfully embrace new friendships and new community.

God is moving here. His Spirit is sowing seeds of life and beauty. His mustard-seed kingdom is advancing. Pray that a lack of oneness and joy doesn't rip out the roots.