On May 23, Charletta and I will be leaving Chicago for a year’s sojourn in California. As I sit down to share this with you, I realize that most of my writing on this blog is opinion or analytical. And I usually only post photos on my blog for The Mennonite. It’s rare that I write about developments in my life. But this one is too big not to mention.
Some of you may remember my post, “In the garden after the rain in California,” from more than a year ago. That trip began a discernment process for Charletta and me on whether to move to live and work with Ched Myers and Elaine Enns. They live in Oak View, Calif., a small town on the edge of Los Padres National Forest and 70 miles west (and a bit north) of Los Angeles. To the right is the view of the mountains in the National Forest from their house.
During our year in California, I will continue in my work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), web design and photography. Charletta will work with Ched and Elaine as part of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, part time in their office and part time as a counselor with the Peace and Justice Academy in Pasadena. The year will also be a space of discernment about what’s next for the two of us.
Photos from California
I’ve paired photos from last year’s trips with my thoughts about what I’m looking forward to in this new place.
Water, mountains and trees
Here Ched describes how water has carved smooth channels in the rock over millenia and how close these features have come to being destroyed.
One of the things I realized on last year’s trip was that Ched and Elaine are really serious about loving their watershed. I’ve written here before about the idea that, “You can’t save what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know.” But I have a long way to go in figuring out what it means to actually live this out. Ched and Elaine are further along that journey. We’re looking forward to learning from them.
They also took us to see two massive oak trees that have been there for hundreds of years. We shared a time of prayer and reflection with other visitors beneath the vast branches of this tree.
This is the view out Ched and Elaine’s window of snow capped mountains in the distance. Living near mountains like this will be a completely new experience for me. I grew up in the rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pa., and moved from there to the flat Midwest in Goshen, Ind., and then Chicago. London, England had a few hills, but no mountains. I’m looking forward to spending time with a different topography.
This image for me is about wide open spaces. Since I left Goshen in 2003, I’ve lived in cities of millions and millions of people. Living in a small town of 4,000 people will be a very different experience.
From the minute we walked in the door, Ched and Elaine welcomed us with avocado omelet, potatoes and fresh orange juice from their orange tree. Hospitality is a central part of their ministry and who they are. During the two weeks we were there, they hosted 14 different people (including us). We have warm memories of the role of hospitality from our time at the London Mennonite Centre and understand how it can foster cross-pollination between communities and movements. We hope to support them as this part of their work grows.
My trip in March was my first real interactions with the Pacific Ocean. I look forward to getting to know the people, animals, plants and fish of the world’s biggest ocean. I love exploration. That was always my favorite part of the adventure games I played as a kid. I remember how much fun it was in England to see the world from a new angle and bringing my camera with me.
I’m also looking forward to watching sunsets over the ocean. During my time in Chicago, I’ve only made it up early enough for sunrise a handful of times. Sunsets should be a little easier to fit in to my sleeping patterns.
New communities of Christians working for peace and justice
As part of my work with CPT, I’m looking forward to connecting with communities up and down the West coast, in a similar vein to the work I did with the Anabaptist Network in the UK. I know that there are Anabaptist communities and others committed to radical peacemaking and challenging the politics of empire. I look forward to learning from them and growing in my vocation.
Ched and Elaine host three Bartimaeus Institutes each year studying a variety of themes. Three days after we arrive, their week-long summer institute will focus on the theme “Rooting Faith: Theology and Practices of Bioregional Discipleship.” What a wonderful way to start out in a new place!
Finally, I look forward to meeting readers of this blog who live in the Southwest and on the West Coast. Please drop me an email up if you are in the Los Angeles area and would like to meet up or if you are in the Southwest or West Coast and would like to host me to talk about Christian Peacemaker Teams in your community. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The next year will bring with it a lot of new moments and discoveries. I look forward to sharing them with you here.