California, here we come!

The Morning Star Ranch is an intentional community that is part of a larger collective of communities called the Twelve Tribes.  They consider themselves Gods’ people that are seeking to bring about the fulfillment of the prophesies laid out in the book of Revelation in the Bible.  They consider themselves as servants of their master, Yashua.  Yashua is the Hebrew name for Jesus and that is what he actually would have been called back in the day.  Jesus is an english interpretation of the Hebrew name Yashua.  There are around 3000 people in the Twelve Tribes and they are spread out around the world.  They have split up the world into twelve different regions, each region being designated as part of a tribe.  The names of the tribes correspond to the names of the twelve tribes of Israel as written in Revelation and the names of the twelves tribes of Revelation are slightly different than the original tribes of Israel from the Old Testament.  I learned a good deal about these people and their beliefs while I was there and I was very intrigued as I’d never heard such a detailed interpretation of Revelation before.  The people were very alive and passionate about what they were doing and that made them all the more intriguing.

The Morning Star Ranch is in Valley Center, California about an hour north of San Diego.  There are about 70 people that live there and they have a 60 something acre farm.  They bought it about 8 years ago and have lived there ever since.  On the land when they bought it were some houses, some farm buildings, about 20 acres of avocado trees, about 20 acres of grapefruit trees, and about 3 acres of persimmons.  Since being there, they set up some paddocks for grazing dairy cattle, expanded a barn for dairy goats, built a chicken house, fenced in a chicken yard and established a 6 acre organic vegetable garden.  The produce is all organic, the dairy cows eat mostly grass and hay, the goats eat mostly hay and the chickens eat mostly purchased grain feed and occasionally have access to grass.  This stuff all sounds pretty good, except the chicken operation could have used some improvement.  It sounds good, but when you consider that the property is in a semi-arid climate, it begins to appear not so good.  Avocados are tropical trees and as such require lots of water.  Grapefruits are sub tropical and also require lots of water.  A vegetable garden also requires lots of water.  Maybe these things weren’t the best choices of what to be growing in that climate, maybe not.  I’m of the opinion that they aren’t.  Irrigation does marvelous things in the short term, I mean, wow, you could grow Avocados in the desert… at least for a while.  When the well dries up, the trees will die.  If the well lasts a long time, the dissolved salts in the well water will build up in the soil and eventually turn it into unusable desert wasteland.  But that’s long term, and who thinks long term these days?  Right, pretty much nobody.  I’m not just ragging on the people at Morning Star Ranch, I’m mostly just using this as an example to illustrate the flaws in the modern paradigm of food production.  This sort of thing has been going on for around 10,000 years with similar results.  Agriculture comes in and turns over the soil, killing all of the life in the soil which is the basis for all food that comes from the soil, it then plants a lot of the same plant and only that plant in a great big area inviting diseases and pests to come in and take advantage of the situation, then irrigation water is introduced and along with that a lot of salt accumulates in the soil and over time the soil life can no longer survive because theres just to much salt and then it becomes a desert and no more food, for anyone.  This same situation has happened to every major civilization and as the soil becomes desert and unusable for agricultural food production, the people are forced to move on to better soil, thus comes imperialism and war.  I could go on about this for a while, but I’ll leave it at that for the time being.

Back to talking about Morning Star Ranch.  So, when we first got there, we were welcomed and the people were very nice and showed us around and made us feel comfortable.  Since Emily and I weren’t married, they gave us separate places to stay, which was totally fine.  The single men all stayed in two big yurts, the single women stayed in a number of the other housing buildings and the families had their own spaces in some of the other housing buildings.  We got there at probably around 4 pm on a monday I think.  The general schedule for the place was waking up at 5am every day except Saturday, which is their sabbath and Sunday which is a more relaxed work day.  During the week, first thing in the morning at 6 am a gathering.  At the gathering, everyone forms a big circle and people share as they feel moved.  Some people share thoughts on how they’ve been feeling, what they’ve been reading, things they’ve heard in teachings, circumstances that they came across during the day, etc.  Also, there is a lot of singing and dancing at the gatherings.  They do Israeli folk dancing.  All of the music is written within the Twelve Tribes and each song has a particular circle dance to it.  These dances were pretty fun, I learned a couple of the really easy ones.  Basically, someone would start singing the song and then the musicians would start playing their instruments to the song and then everyone would start singing and then people would join in on the circle dance as they wanted to.  The circle dances were basically line dancing in a circle holding hands with everyone, it was pretty cool.  When it seemed like people didn’t have anything else to share, there were some announcements about the day and then a time of prayer.  A lot of the time they kept praying for the same basic things and then there were lots of other things that they prayed for.  Some of the things that they prayed for consistently were to be protected from the Evil One, for Abba to save single women and to bring lost sheep to the Yellow Deli.  The Evil One being the Devil, the lost sheep being anyone that wasn’t part of the Twelve Tribes and the Yellow Deli being the restaurant they had just opened in a town nearby.  They all raised their hands high in the air and closed their eyes and called God, Abba.  Abba is what Jesus called God the Father, its a more intimate way of referring to your father.  More like Daddy, instead of Dad.  The children also called their fathers, Abba and they called their mothers, Ima (pronounced ee-ma).  There were lots of children at this place and not many single women.  I think it was encouraged to have several children as they were considered the legacy of the community and the people that would continue to fulfill the role of the Twelve Tribes in bringing about the prophesies of Revelation.

After the gathering was breakfast, which was usually a hot porridge type thing, maybe some yogurt (homemade from the goats milk, mmmm), and a piece of fruit.  Unlike at the Children of Light, you could have as much as you wanted, which I appreciated because I worked pretty hard at the Morning Star Ranch and I was very hungry.  After breakfast, there was work until lunch.  Work for the men was different than for the women.  The roles of men and women were very traditional at this place.  Men worked mostly doing the manual labor farm work type stuff and women cooked, did laundry, cleaned, did the shopping, made clothes, looked after the children and cared for the goats.  The men dressed pretty normally although there was never any writing on the clothing nor pictures or anything, the men all had beards and their hair was all the same length cut just past the pony tail.  The women wore dresses and skirts or really loose fitting pants, they women made most of their own clothes and covered their hair most of the time.  Men and women that were of adult age and had made a commitment to God and the community wore diadems on their heads during times when they weren’t working and sometimes while they were working.  These things were to show that they were a people set apart and different from the rest of the world.  In the old testament it says that the glory of a woman is in her hair so she must keep it covered, so I think that is why the women had their hair covered most of the time.  The coverings weren’t hats, just clothes to tie up the hair and cover it mostly.  I thought they looked good.  These traditional roles of men and women seemed to make sense in some ways, but they didn’t make sense in some other ways.  They made sense in that most of the women had children, so to be able to take care of the children it was easier if they weren’t out in the fields or whatever doing lots of hard work.  They seemed to be happy and content in their roles for the most part.  What didn’t make sense was that the community as a whole wanted women to be able to work out in the garden and on more of the farm stuff, but the authority thing was an issue.  Their was a seeming hierarchy of men being submitted to Yashua and Yahweh (Hebrew word for God) and women submitted to men.  This was mostly in the case of husbands and wives.  The wife was to submit to the husband as the husband submitted to Christ, but only as the husband submitted to Christ.  So if the husband didn’t love the wife and Christ loves the church, then the husband wasn’t worthy of the wife’s respect.  When this sort of thing happened, the community stepped in and tried to work together to fix the problems and if things got bad between a couple, they would send the husband to another community so they could both focus themselves on getting right with God so they could then be right with each other.  Where the authority thing got really weird was that in order to have women out working on the farm, a woman couldn’t work under the authority of a man other than her husband so they would have to have teams of men working together in certain areas and teams of women working together in other areas.  They weren’t to the point of having things established enough to be doing that, but they were working towards it.  Again, some of this stuff made sense to me.  It says in the Bible that a wife should submit to her husband as the husband submits to Christ and the husband is to love the wife and Christ loves the church.  I think the Twelve Tribes just took that a little too far.  This can be a hard thing to accept given that most of us have been brought up thinking that women and men are to be equal, when in my opinion they aren’t.  I mean, clearly, men have penises and lots of hair, women have vaginas and boobs.  Mens bodies are built for more upper body strength and women strength focused more on the lower body.  Women can talk and do lots of other things at the same time, men need to focus on only one or a couple of things at a time.  Women tend to have more dramatic swings in emotional states revolving around their monthly cycles and men tend to be more stable emotionally.  Their are lots of differences between the sexes, are they equal, no, should they be equal, I don’t think so.  I’m not saying here that men are to dominate women, I’m just saying that in general women are better at some things than men and men are better at some things than women.  Love and respect need to go both ways and if we work together with our strengths and weaknesses, we’ll all be better off.  Sure, Dan, that sounds pretty ideologically good and all, but what does it look like practically.  Well, I just don’t really know.

So, Morning Star Ranch.  The members of the community got a new name when they joined, kinda like at the Children of Light, but very different.  There was no prefix here.  Someone got a Hebrew name which was supposed to be somehow representative of their character or their essence.  Some names were (and I’m probably not going to spell these right):  Shateel, Ne-Eman, Levrak, Ravak, Shalem, Hosah, Ta-Eva, Ahava, etc.  It took a long time for me to remember names because the names were just so foreign to me.  I started getting used to it a little bit before we left.  Things that I worked on were: harvesting grapefruit, harvesting avocados, juicing grapefruits, sorting avocados, milking cows, moving cows to fresh pasture, fixing irrigation piping, milking goats, planting lettuce, harvesting vegetables, and more stuff of that sort.  I enjoyed most of what I worked on, except my neck hurt a lot from looking up into the trees while harvesting grapefruit and avocados, oh well.  Emily didn’t have as good of a time working as I did, because she was mostly working in the kitchen preparing meals, she also got to work in the garden a little bit with this one woman that worked on making this green drink thing that they sold at farmers markets and at their restaurant.

The time I spent at the Morning Star Ranch was spiritually renewing and very challenging.  Lots of things about their life together were very appealing, but something just seemed to be a little off.

Next stop: San Diego to visit my cousin Lynn Murray.

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