Tag Archives: Messianic Jews

Lessons from the other side of the fence

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Okay guys, time for a pause in the chaotic excitement of saratreetravels for a couple of more serious thoughts. When you hang out in a messianic Jewish commune during Yom Kippur, serious thinking is bound to happen!

I guess the first important point is that these people are not actually messianic Jews. They are believers of the gospel who also adhere to many of the Old Testament Jewish traditions, but they very much have their own set of beliefs, which has been an eye-opening challenge to Sara and I in more ways than one.

One of the foundational beliefs of this place is that communal living is an essential pillar of salvation, and that Christianity has actually rejected the gospel by moving away from this lifestyle. They believe that by sharing their lifestyle (which is, no doubt, very beautiful) with others, they will eventually convince others to join them and in this way bring about the kingdom of God. What this boils down to for us is the feeling, from some members of the community at least, that we are being treated as projects, subtly interrogated and prodded into joining their ranks.

Being long-time camp counsellors and youth leaders, we are accustomed to sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others, and it brings us joy when we see people changed by it. It’s a scary truth, however, that we may also be accustomed to sharing that love ‘with strings attached’, so to speak, getting to know people with the ulterior motive of ‘converting them’ or asking leading questions to get them to give us the correct ‘church answers’. Having now been on the other side of the evangelism fence, we can safely say it is a very dehumanizing experience, being surrounded by people who only care about the parts of your life that fit into what they believe is good and right. I do not believe this is the love that Jesus intended us to share with the world. In order to truly love people, we need to be willing to genuinely listen and care about all parts of their life that are important to them, even if they’re not a part of our beliefs.

Our time here has really challenged us to think about how we approach relationships, especially in the camp/church context. If we don’t have a genuine interest in who someone actually is right now, what right do we have to be interested in their immortal souls? My prayer is that this will lead to more real relationships being built and more real conversations being had, which I believe this is the vision Jesus was intending to pass on to us in the first place.

La primera granja: WWOOFing in Acts 2:44

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I am sitting on my bed by the open window, having just come from a celebratory pizza supper. I’m not quite sure what we were celebrating – no one seemed to know! Maybe the end of Yom Kippur, maybe that we could afford to buy cheese for once, maybe just because one of the brothers in the community came up with a new pizza dough recipe. It doesn’t take much for these people to find reason to find joy and ¡tiene una fiesta! Welcome to our first WWOOF farm!

Where are we and how did we get here, you may ask? As for how we got here, it was an adventure (as seems to be the norm these days :P)! Since Argentine payphones hate the world and generally refuse to work, we had no way of phoning our first farm for clearer instructions on how to get there from our hostel. We therefore spent over 45 minutes in a remise (kind of like a private taxi, very common here) with a superstar driver who had no clue where he was going but refused to give up, stopping at three different gas stations, two friends’ houses, and one bewildered man riding a bike to ask for directions. Josh and I were desperate, did NOT have enough pesos on hand to pay for a wild-goose hunt of a remise ride, and were ready to be dropped off at a monastery that we kept driving past (“They’re monks! They’d have to take us in!” was Josh’s reasoning), when finally, we found our farm and pulled into the drive of a sprawling, 100-year old colonial house.

I will never forget my first vivd image of our first farm, which also happens to be a Messianic Jewish* commune. After extracting us and our backpacks from the remise, one of the members of the community led us into house, swinging the door open to reveal a room packed with hugely-bearded men, women in headscarves, and children in tunics, all smiling widely and waving enthusiastically, “¡Bienvenidos! ¡Bienvenidos!

These communities were first formed in the sixties (ha! I’m finally getting my chance to live out the 60s hippie movement!) and can be found all over the world. Their mandate is to live a life of unity as described in Acts 2, where “all the believers were together and had everything in common,” sharing the love of Jesus (Yeshua) through their communal life. *They’re not actually “Messianic Jews,” but that’s the most concise description we could come up with.

A typical day in the community:
6:00 AM – Woken up by a small group singing Spanish and/or Hebrew hymns outside our bedroom window, followed by a “¿Yeshua? ¿Sara? ¡Buen día!”
(Parents, muchas gracias for giving us Hebrew names… we’re a huge hit here!)
I must tell you, gentle Spanish voices are a huge improvement over the incessant beeping of my watch as a wake-up call.

7:00 AM – When the shofar blows, the entire community gathers for a mihnka (Hebrew for “offering”), where they sing, dance, and share anything God has put on their hearts. When we first arrived, they were observing Yom Kippur, a time of repentance and purification, so the mihnkas were much longer and more solemn. However, Yom Kippur ended last week and Succoth has begun, which is seven days of celebration and thanksgiving, so the mihnkas are now full of exuberant circle dances (which we usually get pulled into) and loud singing! 🙂

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8:00 AM – Breakfast! Normally rice with flax, sometimes with a hardboiled egg.

9:00 AM – The workday starts. Generally, the WWOOFers are sent to the huerta (greenhouse), where we pull weeds, tie up tomato plants, pick massive avas (bizarre Argentine pea/bean things, we can’t figure out what they are) and clear brush for the new garden. There are three other WWOOFers here right now: one guy from Holland, one from Wisconsin, and one girl from Seattle. They’re all super nice and easy to talk to, which is helpful when you’re picking avas together for three hours. However, every WWOOFer hopes that they will be the lucky one to be sent to the panadería (bakery) for the day, since your main job there is to make granola and cookies for the community’s store, and be fed snacks every hour.

At the bakery: Having worked for a grand total of 10 minutes, it was naturally time for a break!
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Making granola:
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Weeding in the huerta:
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Newborn chickies! (gahhhh so cute…):
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1:00 PM – Lunch! Generally rice with lentils or salsa.

2:00-3:00 PM – Siesta! God bless Latin America for coming up with this. Since lunch is not usually the most filling meal in the world, Josh and I use this time to munch on dulce de leche or salamis that we smuggled in from town.

3:00 PM – Back to work until around 4:00…

4:00 PM – Marienda… aka teatime! One day we had arroz con leche (rice with milk, an Argentine classic), and for the past few days we’ve had homemade yogurt with homemade granola and carob. ¡Muy rico!

6:00-7:00 PM – The workday is finished, and this hour is used as a “preparation time” (both physical and spiritual) for the evening mihnka (which goes from 7-8 and is the same as the morning).

Shabbat mihnka:
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8:00 PM – Supper! Usually “spread” (which is actually what they call it in Spanish!). Spread is either mashed black beans and peanuts or mashed yams, spread on homemade bread and eaten with lettuce and tomatoes. Amazingly delicious!

9-9:30 PM – People stay talking around the tables, or else wander inside (we eat outside, unless it’s pouring rain, which it has been the last three days!) and pick up guitars, accordions, steel drums and flutes and start improvising incredible music together.

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9:30 PM – By this time, everyone has started to head to bed. About 10 different families live in different rooms in the main house, and then there are 4 other little houses around the property. Josh and I are sleeping in the schoolhouse; they actually moved one of the classrooms out into the hallway to make our bedroom (despite all our protestations that we didn’t want to kick the kids out of their class!) In our house, there’s also another couple from the community, as well as a dorm room for all the “single sisters,” as they say here.

Outside our house (with my sheep friends):
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SIDE NOTE: Yesterday as we walked to our house, I wondered where my sheep friends had gone. Then I found out they had been slaughtered that morning. Lesson learned: It may not be a good idea to become such good friends with farm animals. 😦

10:30 PM – ¡Buenas noches!

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