Finding Refuge in God's New Earth

MY WIFE, GRACIE, and I live with our three children on 35 acres of land near the mouth of the North Fork of the Skagit River, an hour north of Seattle. This is home to New Earth Refuge—a family-based hospitality and retreat center tied to an ecumenical ministry among Latino immigrants in a nearby town. Here we actively seek a sustainable life of solidarity with both people and nature under assault.

Our journey to this land and ministry has been long and perilous, but also rich and rewarding. In 1980-1981 we took a trip to Central America that was both an awakening to the beauty and dignity of the poor and a jarring introduction to the dark side of U.S. imperialism. While studying Spanish in Guatemala, Gracie and I learned from our Guatemalan teachers about the numerous violent U.S. interventions against democratic movements throughout Latin America. We witnessed the terror of a civil war that claimed thousands of lives among Guatemala's indigenous peoples. We felt called to somehow address the root causes of poverty, and found support from a Christian community in Oregon to work among peasants in Honduras.

We partnered with Jose Elias Sanchez, a Honduran development maverick, who insisted that if we wanted to combat poverty at its roots we had to teach farming. He recruited a sage Honduran campesino, Fernando Andrade, to help us establish an experimental farm and training center. Our goal was to teach sustainable farming and preventive health care to help rural people stay on their land and avoid the migration from country to city to North America. Courses happened under mango trees in what we called the Universidad del Campo (University of the Countryside). We founded Tierra Nueva (New Earth) with longtime activists Larry and Joni Geer-Sell and a cadre of campesino promoters, who continue to provide technical and pastoral support to small farmers.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2004
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