Sunday, May 10, 2015

Our "vacation" from the usual

Everybody needs a vacation once in awhile; a change of pace; something different than the usual daily routine.  Our daily routine, we must admit, is pretty enjoyable: daily exercise walk, a little gardening or outside work, a daily siesta, visiting with friends, dancing two or three times a week, occasional symphony orchestra concerts and university theater plays, and lots of time for reading. But, since several doctors have delayed our summer travel schedule, we decided we needed a vacation!

We drove north for about two hours,

through the cactus, mesquite and brush of south Texas

to the small city of Falfurrias.

It is the county seat of Brooks County, Texas.  Just south of the city there is an Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) checkpoint where all northbound vehicles must stop for questioning or search. Some residents of the area declare that there are more apprehensions of illegal immigrants there than at any other checkpoint along the U.S./Mexican border  But the town of Falfurrias was not our destination.

Just a mile or so north of the town, on the east side of Route 281, is the Falfurrias Church of the Brethren. That's where we would spend our "vacation."

We had visited there a few years ago.  Now, we were returning to feature the ministries of the little church on the on-line congregation for which we help provide some leadership. We arrived at the church a week early to see if we could be of any help in their ministries.

The congregation had been founded in 1928.  
The building was erected in the 1940s 
and space was added in 1962.

The large sanctuary is a reminder of the days when it was filled on Sunday mornings.  
The smaller group that gathers each Sunday morning now meets in a smaller, side room 
in order to be good stewards in their use of utilities.

But this logo is clearly displayed on the front wall of the church building which faces U.S. Route 281. It was the life perspective of one of the ancestors of the Church of the Brethren, and clearly describes the continuing purpose of this congregation.

The church-owned acreage around the building is farmed on shares by a neighbor.  But the fifteen acres surrounding the church building includes a variety of ministries.

The congregation owns 2 houses, which are occupied rent-free
by needy members of the church or community.

A healthy flock of chickens is kept by the resident of one of the church owned houses.

Eggs are gathered and sold to those who stop in response
to the sign in the front yard of the church: "Fresh Eggs for Sale."

The large yard surrounding the church building also has room to house a neighbor's goats!

Inside the church building, space no longer needed for activities of a larger congregation are filled with boxes of used clothes, sewing machines for mending them, shoes, and toys.  They are neatly sorted and packed in boxes which are delivered several times a year to Border Mission.  This mission is located in the Rio Grande Valley just a block or two from one of the bridges that connect Mexico and the U.S.  

The congregation is active in the local community food bank. They also serve with a cooperative effort of Falfurrias  churches to address social needs of their community and county, including the plight of illegal immigrants headed north along the route on which the church is located.

So, what did we do on our vacation at this active little congregation?

We mowed and trimmed the cemetery, under the wild olive tree.  I washed windows in the church building and Bruce helped with a building project.

We helped mow the LARGE lawn around the church building,

and trimmed around trees and out-buildings nearly overgrown with grass and weeds.

And all the time we were working, we could enjoy the lovely flowers and trees:

the esperanza (hope) tree

the Indian blanket blooms,

and the graceful, yellow-tipped branches of the retama tree.

After a week of gathering aching muscles, new friends, fresh insights into Texas history, and some very delicious Mexican food,  it was time to head south again, back "home" to real life!