last weekend we visited the bruderhof. i spent the first twenty years of my life growing up in this community, so i wanted Troy to experience it for himself. we were able to see my parents and my grandmother and one of my sisters, which was really nice. but mostly, our visit was focused on experiencing life in community. of course, the weekend left me nostalgic and full of jumbled thoughts.
growing up in such a radical commune, i never knew anything different until i left at the age of 20. it was a safe and sheltered place, full of love, joy, laughter and acceptance. we wore long skirts and head coverings, similar to the Amish. we worked where we were told to work, and we moved when the community asked us to move. i learned to ride horses and milk cows and butcher chickens. i learned all about organic farming and making home-cooked meals. i learned how to split wood and stoke a wood furnace. i learned how to draw and paint and play the violin. we went hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, boating, and exploring. we acted in plays and went spelunking. i was raised with my peers by community members. from the young age of 6 weeks, the children are taken care of by daycare staff while the parents work in one of the communal work areas. i have a large family, 7 siblings, and we spent the little time we had together playing music and singing around a fire and going for long walks in the woods.
so, as you can imagine, being back at this place after many years was interesting for me. it was nice to be away from the city and the distractions of technology (no cellphones, internet, or TV). it was beautiful to sit outdoors for the evening communal meal, all fresh from the garden, watching the sun set over the lake and then end the evening singing hymns in 4-part harmony. it was good to be reminded of how simply i used to live and that success can be measured in love, relationships and service to others instead of wealth and career status.
obviously, i made the choice to leave this seemingly perfect utopia. i won’t go into too much detail on that…mainly i felt called to work with children with special needs. this decision came with a big cost, but through the lonely years of searching and missing my family and wondering how everything would work out, God never left my side. and now that i have moved past the conflicting emotions and hurt, i am able to more clearly see the good in the community i grew up in. the people there have made a lifelong commitment to God and to each other, and it really is quite impressive. even though i don’t agree with everything they believe, i admire their strong conviction that radically impacts the way they live. they have given up everything. they do not have any property or money of their own, and everything that they do is for the “greater good” of the community and God. i know this way of life isn’t for me, but it will always be an important part of my story.