With great joy in our hearts, we just wrapped up our second Gather & Grow get-together. Last year was our first big gathering, and it was after that event that we realized we had a ministry on our hands. This year confirmed all I felt last year, and I simply felt grateful that we have been called to this work. It is good. I spoke to a friend after the event who’s been to both gatherings to ask her what she thought and she said “just like last year we got in the car and dreamed bigger dreams. That’s why we’ll keep coming.”
We feasted and fellowshipped and listened to a lot of thoughtful talks on Christian Community, the theme of this year’s gathering. (Speaker sessions are available for download here) But as always, it is the people who God calls together that make this event so special. We cap it at 20 families, and this year we had people come from Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin. This was remarkable to us!
Allan Carlson was our keynote presenter and having him to our farm was a real joy. His writings have been so influential for our own family direction—encouraging mothers to be mothers, fathers to be fathers, and for families to come back together to work at something meaningful.
The work of Gather & Grow is simply that: calling families to work together towards a shared vision, (rather than spending their days apart in separate pursuits) involving the kids in the work, using their gifts and talents as part of the family economy.
To that end, we had our first Children’s Show and Tell. This was so great we plan to make this an annual tradition. We had six kids share what ventures they have started up with their families. One boy bakes artisan bread and cookie bars each week to sell at their farmer’s market. He shared about how he has regulars now who come to buy his bread, and how he always sells out of the cookie bars. He even brought samples to share!
Ivar talked about raising meat rabbits, Elsie showed her knitting looms, another boy hatches chicks to sell, and another family told about milking goats, making soap and raising ducks, chicks and turkeys to sell. It was so fantastic to hear the kids explain what they’re up to in their own words, and inspire other kids to start thinking about how to contribute to the family economy.
And during the rest of the speaker sessions there was always lots going on for the kids and… lots and lots of “gaga ball” (dodgeball).
Elsie sold some of her hats and scarves and Ivar set up a little canteen of ice cream treats and pop. Hattie, Alden and Elias were faithful customers for Ivar, coming to me many times for a few more dollars. They are very supportive of their big brother!
We closed the weekend sharing hopes and dreams and what each person gleaned from the time together. Mostly we felt the goodness of kindred community—finding new friends who see what you see and want to move in the direction you are moving. It made me think of the C.S. Lewis quote:
That is the goodness of gathering together. I lost count of how many people said they discovered they were not crazy, they were not alone. We found kindred community and ended with full hearts and the gladness of having been together.
And once we said goodbye to the last family, we all took a nap.