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common voice.

April 28, 2010

recently asked to write an article for an austin publication called the common voice – related to living together in christian community.  decided to write about the the beauty and brokenness of community, as told through the story of the bus.

love, the raggedy one with braids.


This is the story of us. A rag-tag group of young folks – flocking to a farm, in pursuit of ideals not often understood by the world. In the most unlikely of places – Waco, TX – we found each other. Or rather, God and all his goodness gathered us all to a little farm and planted in us a little dream.

Most of us (author included) are not from Texas, never thought we would live in Texas, never wanted to live in Texas. Perhaps such words are blasphemy to some. But to me – a transplanted Yankee – it’s just the plain truth, Ruth. My own story led me hopping, skipping and jumping from communities in Iowa, Chicago and Delaware as a homeless outreach worker before settling my roots in Waco – to be a farmer. Others had similar stories – in and out of college, in and out of other continents. Our story is one of continual movement.

However, this story does not end with a picture-perfect farm community – happily hoeing to our heart’s content. Rather our story is a big and beautiful dream – that bound us together, broke down forever, and beckoned us forward.

Our story starts with a bus.

Or rather, our story starts with ponderings about a bus. One day while sitting beneath a cottonwood tree, we three farmhands began to dream. To dream of starting a revolution. Making music. Growing gardens. Sharing stories. Loving neighbors. Outlawing insurance, staging guerrilla theater, rallying bikes, dumpster diving, sleeping on rooftops of churches, etc. etc. We wanted a revolution. And we wanted to start it all while living on a bus.

This would be no ordinary bus. She would be converted to run on waste vegetable oil. Collect rainwater from her rooftop – also bedecked with a garden on top. Inside, she would house a rabbit for fertilizer, worms for compost, and perhaps – someday – a Nigerian dwarf goat for milk and companionship.

We would call her the Waste-Not Wagon – and we, her Wagoneers.

Being of the brave, stubborn variety, we Wagoneers anticipated the barrage of nay-saying by people with jobs and health insurance – and our families. So we wrote a business plan. And over the next month or so of planning and praying, an old diesel school bus was donated to us. In another month, a waste vegetable oil conversion kit was also donated. To the Dream. We stood in awe. The good Lord had turned a kind eye towards the Dream.

This was really happening. And we were terrified.

Meanwhile, we made plans to spend our lives together. On a bus. Making music. Growing gardens. Sharing stories. Loving neighbors. And learning new skills and crafts to share with others who wanted to live set apart from the system, who wanted to remain in the world, but not of it.

We started dreaming of farm land of our own, so when we were not nomadically traversing the country, we could once again dig deep into the dirt. Through many thoughts and conversations, family land in California became available to start our own little farmstead.

Everywhere we went, everyone we met, we preached the gospel of the Wagon. Each evening we would gather on top of the Wagon, staring starry-eyed into the deep, dark Texas night. All was big and bright. We were living the Dream. But dreams tend to dirty when push comes to shove. More and more folks were entranced by the Dream, while more and more parts of the bus stopped working and more and more dollars were need to fuel the Dream. And we did not have much more than a dime to our names.

At certain points in the process, we Wagoneers became frustrated, stopped talking, and avoided each other. Such is community. We Wagoneers are a people on the move. And now we were stuck in a rut – and so was our bus. Slowly and painfully – the Dream began to disband. New people came into our lives, while old timers traveled elsewhere. The path we all planned to pursue together forked in a number of complex, curvy directions – leading to California, to Kentucky, to New York City, and remaining rooted here in Texas.

New and old plans collided: to start the farm we had dreamed of in California, to build a cobb house (illegally) and live off-the-grid in a trailer on friends’ plots of land, to organize gardens across the Heart of Texas.

These are all the Dream. The Dream just drove us in directions that the bus never could. We lived the Dream. We are still living the Dream. But the Dream is bigger than we can imagine. So we will keep moving.

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