More of the beginnings of the journey

In trying to answer the question – How does my life affect everything else? – I started making small changes in my lifestyle to leave a better impact on the world.  I did the easy things first.  I changed my lightbulbs to more energy efficient ones, I started using biodegradable soap for washing myself and my stuff, I used baking soda and vinegar to clean my place, I rode my bike to and from work more often, I rode my bike to get groceries and to go over to friends places that were close by, and I bought organic food.  The more things I did to be “green” the more I wanted to do and the more I talked about it as my friends quickly realized, haha.  I decided to try out being a vegetarian and that was sort of a big deal for me because I ate a lot of meat.  It was much easier than I thought it was going to be.  Basically I replaced meat with grains and beans to make a complete protein and pretty much everything else was about the same.  Lots of stir fried veggies, variations of potatoes, pasta, pizza, and rice and beans and stuff.  Even eating out at restaurants was easy.  Pretty much all restaurants have a couple of options for vegetarians, which makes choosing what to eat a lot easier, haha.  And, in the places that didn’t have veggie options, I would just look for something that sounded tasty and ask them to make it without meat, and they always were able to work something out.  I didn’t really feel much different, but I did lose the 10 pounds that I had gained when I graduated college to get back to my ideal weight for that part of my life (I think it took a couple months to lose the weight and then my weight stabilized for a long while).

So, in the midst of these lifestyle changes to leave a smaller footprint on the planet, I was still working in the oil industry at a job that I didn’t particularly enjoy all that much.  Somewhere in the middle of these initial changes to my lifestyle, I got really involved in the Axis Ministry of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL.  This turned out to be a really important part of my life for about a year.

The Axis ministry (I’ll just called is Axis from now on) is a ministry for 20-something aged people.  When I first got involved it was in the midst of a total rebuild of everything about the ministry.  That was a big reason why I got so involved, I saw a need for committed people to make this thing work, I liked what I heard about the mission and vision and I really liked the people that were involved.  The leader was an especially great person that was a lot of fun to be around, he was a very motivational person and he was serious about his relationship with God and he genuinely cared about people.  The vision of Axis was to bring the church out in the world to where people were instead of just waiting and expecting people to come to church.  We formed these things that were called Missional Community Hubs.  Contemporary evangelical churches like to put catchy names on things to appeal to more people, whatever.  So, the Hubs were located in apartment complexes all over the chicago area.   It started with 6 hubs and I was the leader of one of them.  I moved into an apartment complex in Wheaton where a friend of mine that was also involved in Axis also lived.  She became a co-leader with me of this thing.  So these hubs were missional communities that met and did things out of a specific location, a.k.a. the hub.  They were missional in that they had a mission to be the church wherever they were.  Being the church meant sharing the love that God has for us with each other and with everyone that we meet.  So, it started out pretty small, myself and the other co-leader and about 5 other folks.  We met once a week to have dinner together and to study parts of the bible and talk about what they had to do with our lives and how we could be more loving and friendly and welcoming to people and how we could make this world a better place.  We also met once a week on friday nights to hang out and just have fun (and we did).  We quickly grew to the point that we were regularly having about 20 people coming to our dinner / bible study discussions each week.  This was getting to be too many people so we split to have two different groups on two nights of the week.  I led one group and the other leader that I mentioned earlier (her name is Jordan) and another guy, Jared, led the other group.  This worked out well for a while, but then things started to not be so good so we went back to having just one night a week and things were pretty good after that.  Oh yeah, and we also helped out at the Northern Illinois Food Bank or Feed My Starving Children about once a month.

So, at this point, I was working a demanding job, I was leading a Missional Community Hub, I had a couple groups of friend that I hung out with on weekends and I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with the rest of my life.

My search for a different life pointed me to sustainable agriculture, permaculture, and intentional Christian community.  Agriculture…..?  Does that mean I’m gonna be a farmer….?  Man, that sounds like a lot of hard work, and like I’d be wasting my college education, right?  Permaculture, what the heck is that?  Intentional Christian community, dude, what are you talking about?

So, yeah, this stuff was all really new to me too.  And being a farmer doesn’t sound so bad.  Working with my hands, providing good food for myself and other people, working with cool animals…. SWEET!  And about the wasting my college education on that, there’s no way that that is at all true.  Typical industrial agriculture requires very little education and very little thinking because the government and the agri-business people tell you how to do everything.  But with sustainable agriculture there is a lot of critical thinking involved and there is a huge amount of information and skills required to do it well.  Permaculture is basically sustainable agriculture to the next level.  I’ll let you look up more about what Permaculture is, there’s a lot of stuff on the internet about it.

Intentional Christian community is a combination of two things: intentional community, and Christians.  An Intentional community is a group of people that have made some sort of commitment to each other to share some part of their lives together.  Some live together, some share some of their stuff with each other, some work together, some share everything.  An Intentional Christian community is an intentional community made up of people that are surrendered to the will of God and have put their trust Jesus and are committed to living according to his teachings.

The combination of sustainable agriculture and intentional Christian community eventually led me to Koinonia Farm (formally called Koinonia Partners, Inc.).  This whole process took over a year and a half and eventually I was ready to follow God’s call for me.  So, I quit my job and moved to Koinonia Farm, a small intentional Christian community in rural southwest Georgia that was in the beginnings of transitioning to a more sustainable agriculture and more sustainable life.

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