Sunday, March 11th, 2012...11:33 pm
West Virginia, Days 1-7
Hello everyone! Sorry for the absence of updates from our trip, but we had no access to the Internet on our trip so the blogging starts now.
These were the words we were greeted with when we stepped out of our van and were immediately embraced by the staff of Nazareth Farms. Though surprising and confusing at first, these were the words that we came to hear each and everyday and their intentions became a reality. Nazareth Farms was our home for those 7 days along with groups of college students from Loyola Chicago, St. Francis University PA, Le Moyne NY, and Walsh University OH. Our relationships we built with this community at Naz Farm created this homely, welcoming environment, full of hugs, laughter, service, and reflections on our relationships with God.
Nazareth Farms is built on the foundation of 4 cornerstones:
Prayer, Simplicity, Community, and Service.
PRAYER: Each day we would pray in the morning, before each meal, at the worksites, and at the end of the day. Reflection services were held in the mornings and at night and were put on by different groups. Our time spent in prayer was amazing and opened doors for reflections, discussions, and encouragement. SIMPLICITY was a very unique experience. No TV, radio, cell phones, iPods, etc., may sound crazy at first but it provided more time to tune-in to each other, to God, and to the beautiful nature around us. Conserving the nature was part of simplicity. Energy was conserving when at all possible. Lights turned off, outhouse use encouraged, limitation of 3 showers per person (2 of which were outdoor bucket showers which, though they may sound crazy, were awesome!), biodegradable and other nature-friendly products were used, recycling, etc. COMMUNITY was brought about by our interactions with each other through chores, service sites, meals, prayer, and just hanging out. Many games were played, songs sung, and thought provoking conversations initiated. Friends of the farm in the community were even driven over Tuesday night to enjoy an evening of games, food, and prayer service. Also all products and produce are purchased locally to support the community and local farmers. Friday night we attended a Fish Fry at the local Catholic Church and were able to meet its members and take part in a Stations of the Cross service. SERVICE often in the form of home repair is done for people who cannot afford the labor or cannot make the repairs themselves. The homeowners are only charged for the materials and not the labor and are given lots of flexibility of when they can complete payment. Service through the local community was a beautiful thing and the people were very nice and grateful for our help.
Each day at Naz Farm consisted of: morning chores followed by breakfast, group prayer session before departure to worksites, service at the worksites which included lunch, a welcoming return home for dinner and evening prayer session followed by evening activities and games. This may not look like much, but if I filled in all the details of the days it could fill many pages, there was just SO MUCH that went into every day at the farm that made each day special and amazing. I’ll just highlight some parts from my experience:
Monday we went on a nature walk up the mountains. It was a long walk. When it looked like we reached the top we would only discover there was more mountains to climb. When finally at the top there were these huge boulders that we climbed up and sat on. While we were there the staff member who was with us read the story of Elijah on the mountain from 1 Kings 19. As she read it snowed huge flakes of snow and the wind blew and we all just sat there in awe. And as the story came to a close so did the snowstorm. We all took some time taking in the view a bit more before venturing back down the mountain.
Tuesday the group I was part of (called the Jolly Jonah’s, nicknamed after Jonah which was a son of one of the staff members) got the wonderful task of homecrew duty! Which meant we got to stay home, send off everyone to their service sites, make breakfast, pack everyone’s lunch coolers, make dinner, greet the returning groups, lead a prayer session, and do some household chores inside the farm (which was nice since it was a colder day). Working in the kitchen with Kristina was a blast, and we made delicious home cooked meals! We also planned a prayer session with the focus being on “Let Go and Let God.” We also had plenty of time to plan our review of the day skit, which was a big hit and always a highlight of the day for me.
Wednesday the Jolly Jonah’s went off to Pennsborro, WV to visit Connie and build a roof over her porch. She had difficulty getting around so we contributed to the multi-day project of building the roof. We put up rafters, beams, some siding, and covered it with flat boards on top. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, when we got back we had dinner outside on picnic tables and enjoyed fun evening activities.
Thursday we went to Butch’s barn down the street from the Farm and got to split some wood. Maulers were awesome axe/hammer combo type tools we used to split wood. They were super heavy and tricky to get the hang of, but once you did and heard that sweet sound of the wood splitting all the way through you were addicted. After lunch the afternoon got rained out so we hauled the split wood over to Butch’s barn to unload (after getting his truck unstuck from the mud…)
Friday we went to Beth’s farm, which was very far away and way up windy mountain roads. Beth was a really nice lady who takes in abused and abandoned animals. Her farm had suffered from a recent flood which created quite and mess and even caused the loss of some animals. The animals she had included: 2 giant sheep dogs, 1 cute goat named Clover (who was about as tall as she was wide and acted like a cat), 3 other dogs, 6 horses, a few peacocks, 2 flocks of different geese, and she was expecting even more animals this week! We cleaned up the pasture where the horses were kept; at one point Grace and I were followed and then given death glares by four of the horses who after a long stare-down let us be (we were about ready to run for it). All our work there consisted of hauling hay and debris to a burn pile. It was very muddy work. That evening was the Fish Fry and Stations of the Cross service.
Saturday we cleaned up, packed, had breakfast, a final prayer service (put on by the staff, which was a very beautiful and emotional send off), then pictures outside, TONS of hugs all around and finally our departure back to this other place we call home.
Nazareth Farms was one of the best trips I have ever been on and it has left me with great memories and amazing new friends I will cherish forever. The trip was so much more than I could have imagined and it was very hard to leave. Like the ASB motto states: “It will change the way you view the world.” Nazareth Farms definitely fits this motto. There is so much more I could say about the trip but I think I’ll just close with this saying from the farm
“Expect a Miracle”