I got instructions and keys to our new home from the administrative offices of the school. Pulling out of the parking lot we traveled up the road until the asphalt ended and the gravel road began. We came to the edge of the village and turned left down a long street, which was lined on both sides with trailers. One of these trailers was to be our new home until I had completed my degree. I suddenly felt very inspired to finish my degree as quickly as possible.
I backed the moving van into the driveway with my wife parking our van in front of the trailer. Within moments there was a large swarm of people converging on our place. Complete strangers, some convincing us to release our children to them to be entertained for the next couple of hours, others forming a line and quickly unloading the contents of our moving van into the trailer, and others writing down our personal information and inviting us over for a BBQ once the unpacking was done.
It was a blur and I felt completely out of my comfort zone.
When the dust settled under an hour later the truck had been emptied and the crowds had scattered, lost to the naked eye, which is quite an accomplishment when everything around you was completely flat. I asked where everyone went like a funny sketch on a late night comedy show. Even our children were gone. However, within moments our children materialized and we were now being whisked off to someone’s home for a BBQ as part of the welcoming package of this strange and unusual place.
The inhabitants seemed to enjoy this bit of tradition. The swarming, the overwhelming, the ‘niceness’ of it all. It brought giggles to them as they shook the hands and welcomed the newbies warmly before disappearing back to wherever they just came from – never to be seen again.
I was beginning to understand some of the rules here.
There were two main streets in this village. One street – ours – was lined with trailers and they were meant for the strangers from out of town who brought their immediate families with them. The other street had row housing and they were filled with singles or couples but still strangers from out of town. There were also some dorm rooms set aside for the college students who were their looking for a spouse as I came to understand about Christian educational institutions. “Bridal College” I believe was the term used.
In other parts of the village there were whole neighborhoods filled with actual homes – houses per-say. These were filled with the ‘nice’ people. We were with the ‘visitors’. The two shall never mingle. The swarms came from these neighborhoods – or at least those homes who were assigned such duties that month. I am supposing this is how the whole thing works as I could never get close enough to the ‘nice’ people to actually figure out their system of greeting and rejection within the same week.
So, out of community necessity we reached out to our neighbors, finding contentment within these dirt-lined streets. And what we found were other families ‘starting over’, a lot of ministry folk who had burned out and were now upgrading their education as an excuse just to get away from people for awhile. We met some families who ‘felt the calling’ to enter ministry, full of enthusiasm, young, idealists, having not yet tasted what the calling may be about. I too felt this calling, however I at least came with a hell of a lot more life experience then those I were talking with.
Such was life in the village. We weren’t allowed to mingle with the house people but given the individual brokenness and disillusionment or naivety of the trailer people we remained a segmented community, isolated from each other, yet starving for social interaction at the same time. All in an environment where the pursuit of godliness is supposed to be the main focus, learning theology, learning proper hermeneutics, learning how to be a spiritual leader of some sort when in reality we were competing with each other for recognition and acceptance and connection to the larger community – not unlike church I suppose.
I rolled up my sleeves and waded into this academic dance, taking my place and learning to maneuver in order to better my own position.
And as it so happened, that led to a job interview right away with the provincial head office of a camp ministry that was based in this village. I was applying to be their office manager.
As it turned out – I got the job and started the week after I arrived.
It turned out I knew how to play this game well and I wasn’t going to let my skills go to waste.