I hadn’t traveled for a long time. I felt no need for it anymore after traveling a lot in my twenties. During those travels I found out that people are deep down very much the same and that I’d always take myself with me, when my (unconscious) hope was to flee from this very complex ‘me’. But something in me recognized this advice as being the right thing to do. So when a leaflet of SCI (Service Civil International, a workcamp organization) came my way at the same time as some money, I intuitively was caught by the description of 2 workcamps. One was in Sydney, helping in a home for aboriginal people, and the other was St. Francis Farm. I didn’t want to be in a city and I didn’t have so much money, so Sydney was out.
I haven’t been raised religious. In fact my early life has been quite a chaos and I’ve been missing very much some truth and some models who’d have an inner life and some ideals. I do live now in a community with about 100 people that started off with ideals--we try to live a more simple, less consuming life than most people around us do. And I did meet a Russian master who connected me with the Russian Orthodox church. Through him a faith grew in me that there is a God and a Son of God who brought love to the earth. I recognized these things, as if finally somebody spoke some truth. Where I live it has always been (and still is) quite embarrassing to speak of God.
I didn’t know anything about Quakers. I signed in for the workcamp and started to read some novels of Jan de Hartog about Quaker history. I was impressed and curious. So that’s how I came here. I find here what I recognize as a deep longing in me: to be able to talk to the same people with whom I work and eat and live. In my community we share some things, but people can be quite different and live quite different lives. What touches me here is that,despite how much work there is to do, there always seems to be time and concern and attention for each other. It touches me that people still talk with each other, after so many years. It’s a proof for me that it is possible, that you can stay interested in each other, that you can stay open to show the others what’s going on in you, that there will come no end to the talking. In all relationships I know, after a time, you know how the other person will react, the other person knows you. People get involved in patterns that become deeper over time. How is it that the people here seem to stay more open?
I think maybe it is because they all have their own relationship with God and they all look for their own responsibility towards Him. They’re independent in this; they can help each other maybe sometimes with things, but everybody has an own inner life. This is something I’m not used to.
So things seem to come together here; People here are conscious consumers, they like to keep the foodchain as small as possible, so they take care for the earth. They do not think it’s normal to sit on a couch all day to look how other people live but take the responsibility of their own life. And what’s more, and what’s new to me, they take care of God, they make Him a house in themselves.
It seems to me that it’s not by accident that I’m here now. My father is dying; I’ll have to let him go. And with letting go my father, I feel it’s time to examine all the things I got from him and to let them go too if they don’t fit anymore. I’ve been searching all my life for a father who would recognize me as a child of God. Maybe it’s time now to stop searching and look inward, and see that My Father is already living inside me.
And it’s so good to be with people who live that. Who know they have God in them and who treat other people as children of God. Because that’s what they do. I admire their way of laughing about themselves and about other people, their knowing that people are small and do often silly things, but also knowing that all those people have God in them, and that’s the part they try to see and want to communicate with.
Another thing Joanna and Zachary confirmed that I already thought--that if you could avoid being in a school system where authentic thinking is suppressed and where you are taught to do and think like others, you would be much more able to cope with all kind of situations. They hardly ever think, ‘I can’t do that; somebody who’s been trained for it must do that’. No, they think, ‘Hm, how could I do that?’ And they can do so much, not hindered by the idea that they should be older, or specialized or whatever. They just specialize themselves. You can really see that when they were younger, Lorraine let them do and learn what they wanted to do and learn. And this worked out so much better than in my case. I have a head full of things I’ll never need but can’t do the most simple things that are needed in my life, and there are a lot of very basic things I know nothing about. I believe children are able to learn almost everything in a playful way. But what you almost always see in our school system is that they stop playing and start thinking they’re not good enough. If they’re lucky, they grab on to something in which they are good that fits in some profession, and then that’s what they do.
Here I see that it is possible to become a balanced person who can work with hands as well as with head with an ability to always continue learning. Here I see people who work hard with a lot of pleasure, who don’t run away from their responsibilities, who know there is a lot of misery in this world, who have worked with people who live under ‘inhuman conditions’ (maybe I should say, ‘human conditions’ or ‘ungodlike conditions’) and still are very lighthearted.
These are the things that inspire me here. I’ve always been someone who looked, looked how people did their ways. Now it gets time to look around less, look in myself more, and do more. To turn the energy, instead of letting energy come in me from outside, let energy from the quiet rich source in me flow outwards. I do not know yet how these inspirations get a place in my life. But I don’t worry about that. I believe things do not cross my path by accident. And I am just very grateful that the people of St. Francis Farm crossed my path. It is the best that could have happened to me and I can not thank them enough for inviting me to stay with them.
Peace, Minke Wijnen. 6 August 2007
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