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Darlene's story: Know when to count the cost
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Know when to count the cost

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--The word on the ecclesial street is that we have a group of believers forming a commune. Imagine that. Like that's never happened before. What's more natural than Church of God people living together?

Growing up as a teenager in the church, I noticed that it seemed we had people moving in and out of our house quite regularly. I guess in retrospect it does seem a little strange, but at the time it seemed pretty normal.

The city we lived in had a school for the blind, and at various intervals we would have blind students living with us. Not only were they students at the state-operated school, they were also church members.

For various reasons (no dorm vacancies, etc.), there were times when they, or their family, needed a place to stay other than on campus.

I think that was my first experience with communal living. For some reason church people just like to be together. We shared a belief system, and we took pride in taking care of each other.

Thomas was my favorite. I think he appreciated our attempts to keep him alert, attuned to his surroundings and on his toes at all times. My family has always had a proclivity for rearranging the furniture on a regular basis.

He couldn't stay on the farm

The concept of communal living isn't a new one. The Bible tells us that Cain was the founding father of the city of Enoch, the first city mentioned in Scripture.

I'm not so sure it was the lure of a city that captured his imagination as much as it was his need for a place of safety. It is hardly imaginable in today's society that anyone would move to a city for security reasons, but such was Cain's case.

We also have to consider that, since God cursed Cain, he was faced with a career change. His farming days were over, and his Master Gardener's experience meant nothing. His resume meant nothing.

He probably figured out pretty quickly that he was going to need the help of others to survive in this world. Someone, and it wasn't going to be Cain, had to produce food. Hence my theory that Cain belonged to a co-op, of sorts.

I actually experienced living in a type of commune once. Its government wasn't set up quite as equitably as you might picture a collective farm in old Soviet Russia. Some of you may remember that Ambassador College, Big Sandy, shut and locked its front gates from 1977 to 1981. The students went home, the faculty (some, but not all) relocated to other areas, and massive layoffs occurred throughout the nonfaculty (staff) employees.

Only a small skeletal crew of 26 men remained to "keep the garden" until the campus reopened in 1981. My husband was one of seven landscaping employees to remain.

There were many housing vacancies on campus, and in 1978 my family and I moved into a double-wide trailer that had formerly been used as YOU office space.

Although it didn't compare in size or quality to the homes on Faculty Row, and sometimes after a storm the bathroom ceiling bulged with collected rainwater, it was still the nicest place we had ever lived up to that point.

We kept the rent paid for four years and enjoyed the short drive to work. Because of our shared belief system, our isolation from "the world" and our working together to accomplish a shared goal (attempting to maintain the property at a certain acceptable level, in hopes that one day it would reopen), it had the feel (at least the way I think it would feel) of living in a commune.

But, as in all things utopian, it doesn't take long for illusions to fade and reality to set in. When people live in close quarters they begin to know more than they need to about their neighbors.

If the Jones family decided to skip church and go for a picnic down by the lake instead, before long everyone knew about it.

The visiting evangelist: Big Brother is watching--but not TV

During the Feast of Tabernacles of 1978 my sister and her family and my brother and his family stayed with us in our humble trailer on the Big Sandy campus.

I was so thrilled they had come. You could say that we had our own little commune inside a commune.

One Friday evening we were sitting around enjoying ourselves, the kids were running around having a good time, when suddenly we heard a knock at the door.

It was a visiting evangelist who was scheduled to speak at the Feast that year. He had come to our trailer in search of someone else.

When we opened the door and he heard all the fun (we could be loud at times) going on, he assumed we had the television on and were watching it on the Sabbath. We were forthwith reprimanded for such ungodly behavior.

What a hoot! We invited him in, but he declined. He was his brother's keeper, but our little hovel was no place for someone like him.

Here is my advice for those considering communal living. Make sure you know what you're getting into. Remember that everyone is expected to contribute to the good of all.

The calling to kibbutz living is a serious matter. Sometimes the requirements may be more than you're willing or able to endure.

Count the cost. It can be a heavy cross to bear. You may be required to live with compulsive furniture rearrangers, join a co-op or teach evangelists how to lighten up.

This issue of The Journal includes many photos and several other graphics, besides the Connections advertising section. Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news and features previewed here.

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