Feb 20th, after sleeping in the Walmart parking lot in Waco, TX, felt just like any other day on our now, almost 7 month trip. But the ordinary became extraordinary as the day advanced. Around 10 am, we arrived at the Homestead Cafe (http://www.cafehomestead.com/) which was located on the Heritage homestead property (https://www.homesteadheritage.com/). Our intention was to eat lunch at the cafe and tour the community including visiting the woodworking shop, pottery shop, fabric shop, and seeing the property.
We had a couple hours before lunch which we spent visiting various location on the homestead including in the visitors center, metal working shop, pottery shop and water powered gristmill.
Even in our first two hours there we began to notice something that stood out to us. When ever we chatted with a member of the community, they immediately stopped what they were doing, gave us their full attention, made us feel welcomed and important, and seemed in no hurry to “get back to work”. In fact, when we got to the metal working shop we set down on a bench set up for visitors (like us) to watch the metal smiths work. In no time at all, the craftsman put down his tools and engaged us in conversation. Soon after, another craftsman (the first man’s brother it turned out) joined us and we chatted for at least 20 minutes (probably longer). This theme of people stopping in the middle of their work and treating us with such priority was experienced over and over all through the day as we continued our tour.
Next, the main attraction (or so we thought at the time). Lunch time. It was now just past noon and we were anxious to get a table at the cafe and sample the farm fresh flavor of home grown food. Passing through the entrance of the cafe, we asked the server behind the counter for a table for 6. The energy in the cafe was alive and the aroma of the country harvest lingered in the air. A tall gentlemen (later we discovered he helped run the cafe) also greeted us, and like previously mentioned above, seemed to have nothing more important than to spend time with us. Soon after, still standing in the lobby of the cafe, a second man joined the conversation. 20 minutes of conversation passed with these men as well, before they invited us to enjoy lunch at the table that was waiting for us. Before we sat down, the second man, who’s name is Kash, asked if we would like for him to give us a personal tour of the homestead property. Already being touched by the overwhelming hospitality of the morning, we agreed and he told us he would find us after lunch.
On the menu: Grass fed beef hamburgers, artisan style bread made from flour milled on site, red country style “smashed” potatoes and french fried potatoes, both grown on the homestead. The food was amazing, the service not only great but delivered with care and respect. We spent our time eating, relaxing, savoring and chatting about our short, but unbelievable experience so far, and our personal tour of the property to come.
Even before we could pay for our check, our newest friend, Kash, sat down at our table and began asking us what we wanted to see on our visit.
Leaving the restaurant, Kash escorted us in a golf cart and drove us to a larger van to begin our tour of the property.
Farm animals are always a favorite thing to see and Asher was particularly pleased to see the goats and Lydia the horses.
Next stop was the overlook, giving us a 180 degree view of the 510 acre homestead located in the fertile Brazos river valley. Our host informed us that 40 families lived on the property, tending and caring for the land. Other families also lived on adjacent acreage giving them a total number of members in their community of over 1000 people including children.
Then he drove us down to the farm valley to chat with the farmers and community members looking after the land and animals. Once again, though the farmers where busy at work, they stopped what they were doing to give us their undivided attention.
After spending some time at the river, we drove back up to the high land and toured some of the facility buildings including the cheese shop, and “cheese cave”.
As our tour for the day was coming to an end, Kash asked us if we wanted to stay the night at the RV spot located on the property, just a stones throw away from the craft shops. Though we had reservations at a Thousand Trails camp site about 45 minutes away, we felt compelled to accept his invitation to “stay a while longer”. But his invitation did not end there. He invited us to come to the Wednesday night community church gathering (also on the property) including refreshments together after words. With only one hour between the time Kash dropped us off at our RV and the time he came back to pick us up for the evening gathering, we frantically worked to eat a quick meal as a family before we rushed out the door again.
The church gathering was a “smaller” meeting of the community where around 400 people came each week to worship, listen to a message and gather to build community and relationships. The fully packed room was quietly reverent as we walked in and we felt that those in attendance were filled with a waiting expectation for the coming moments ahead. The music started slow and calmly, but with growing intensity, eventually erupted into genuine praise from the body of worshipers. The message was about surrendering to God’s direction in our lives and the crowd seemed cut to the heart by the words delivered.
Afterwords the “refreshment” socializing time was actually a catered meal from the homestead cafe of an enchilada cheese burger and french fries. Actually a full fledged second dinner including caffeinated sweet tea at 9pm in the evening! Sitting at a table big enough for 8, about 12 people gathered around our table, everyone actively engaged in conversation. We laughed, talked and made ourselves known. It was a strange feeling of being with family who we had just met for the first time. People who, just one day before, didn’t know we existed, now, anxious to welcome us and find out who we are.
We left that meeting filled with awe and wonder, curious what tomorrow would hold. Kash dropped us back off at our RV for the second time that day, agreeing with us that we would see him again after lunch tomorrow. As he drove away we allowed our heart and minds to be filled and overwhelmed the memories of the day. We had found a place, after searching a vast, beautiful country for over 6 months, that seemed beyond compare to it all. Though our country, as we had witnessed first hand, was incredible beyond words, we had found something even greater. A place that did not welcome us as visiting tourist. No, a place that embraced us as family. We were beginning to see something greater than we had ever seen before. A community of people that was serenely devoted to functioning as the family of God.