Fran's Story: Part I
Updated: Jan 5
Disclaimer: The information presented and opinions expressed are solely the author's. Names have been changed to protect identities. The only names kept true are leadership.
*Original post can be found at www.francessue.com
Arrival & Introductions
I woke up at 5:30am on September 10th with butterflies in my stomach. The feelings of dread and nervousness filled my belly. I shivered (as I do when I am really anxious) all the way from rolling out of bed to hopping into my husband’s car. As I walked out of the door, I glanced at my two dogs, Sam and George, and burst into tears as the reality that I’d be gone for a whole 30+ days had just hit.
My husband and I didn’t talk much on the way to the airport, but when words were spoken, it was mostly me asking if I was making a mistake. He reassured me that he’d take care of everything at home to allow me to pursue healing. He was very supportive and encouraged me throughout the whole process of me going to another state to find help. At the airport, I cried again as the fear of the unknown filled me. But once again, my husband reassured me that I would be OK, the dogs would be OK, and everything at home would be fine. We kissed a tearful goodbye and I walked into the airport knowing I didn’t fully know when I’d be coming back – but it wouldn’t be soon.
Everything about the actual getting to Missouri was fine. I journaled during the majority of my two flights. So much hope was filled in the very first entry:
“…Desperation leads me here on flight 2075 headed to Kansas City, Missouri. I am desperate for a deeper connection with God, but even further, I want to understand the why: my why. Why me? I am desperate to save my young marriage that has barely had the chance to begin, but I do believe all roads led me here: middle-of-nowhere, Missouri. So, I’m calling this next month my “miraculous” struggle with God because I am in dire need of a miracle. I don’t know what He intends to show me, but I do know He plucked me from my safe place in Florida to do this deeper healing I have been wanting. I am entering this process broken, messy, weary, and only hope to return a little more whole.” (09/10/19)
As my flight landed in Kansas City, it began to feel more real and exciting. I was about to live on a farm, I thought, how cool is that? I was picked up by the farm owner’s daughter, which I thought gave it all a bit more of a personal touch. *Carly was kind, but very talkative. She shared her life story (and struggles) with me, while painting a beautiful picture of her parents and their mission with the farm. The drive was an hour and a half away from the airport and the more we drove, the less aware I became of where I was. We finally pulled up to the main entrance of the farm. My stomach had butterflies, both from exhaustion and excitement. The road kept getting deeper and deeper until we finally pulled into the 2.5ish mile road and that’s where I saw all the houses.
My heart beamed for a moment. I saw chickens, goats, horses, and fields that seemed to go on forever. It was all a dream, really. I planned out how I’d spend my time with the animals and trekking along the farm, worshiping the Lord and getting to experience real quietness. I could see some of the women working in different areas of the farm and I felt an eagerness to learn all that it took to run such a large operation. I thought I’d go home to my big city knowing all the in’s and outs of working on a farm and wear it like a badge of honor.
The farm sat on over 300+ acres, but the resident’s, leaders/staff, and owner of the farm lived on a stretch of nearly 3 miles. There were about 12 houses, 4 gardens, 2 greenhouses, a couple of small lakes/ponds, and a 3-leveled building called the Refuge on this stretch. In each home, there lived either a leader (or leaders if they were a couple), or a member of the elder team. Most residents lived in one of these houses. The house I lived in had an upper and lower level; I lived in the lower level.
We pulled into the driveway of what would be my home for the next 30+ days. My house mom, *Betty was waiting for me and my housemates were finishing up their lunch. It was the most overwhelming minute of my life. I learned I’d be living with 3 housemates, 1 intern, and my housemom in a 3 bedroom living space. Betty was kind, but tough. She stuck to a schedule and expected everyone to follow. *Brittany was the oldest, aside from our house mom, and a counselor. She was interning on the farm and I learned she’d be leaving in just a few weeks to pursue other things after living on the farm for a year. She was gentle with her introduction and would become one of my favorite people to talk to. *Bianca was the closest in age to me and I thought she was stunning. She was Micronesian and had the most inviting smile. *Liz, who’d later become like a sister to me, was excited and chatty. She quickly complimented my brows and we immediately bonded. The last housemate I met was *KC. She was welcoming, but from the first interaction, I knew she and I would bump heads. She had a dominating presence, as if something to prove. Little did I know that I’d grow to have some serious compassion, love, and grace for her on the farm. I would share a room with 3 of my housemates and sleep in a bunk bed. The realization that I left my cozy home to share a room as if I were in camp hit hard. No space would be necessarily “mine”.
My house mom called one of the two women who would be my pastoral care counselor on the farm and they went through every single one of my belongings. And when I say every single item, I mean they even searched every piece of underwear I brought with me. My headphones were confiscated, my Kindle was taken away, and the only paperback I brought, The Hidden Life by Betty Skinner, was also confiscated. I understood why my kindle was taken (possible access to the internet), but I didn’t understand why a Christian paperback book was taken. I tried explaining to both of them why I brought the book and made sure to mention it was a Christian book. They didn’t accept any of those reasons, which made me feel confused and frustrated. Their reasoning was simple: residents who are there for the first 30 days are encouraged to interact with their community, have Bible studies with their housemates, and plug in with God through quiet times. Reading could distract me from that process, but I was reassured that they would touch base with the owner of the farm and they’d get back to me. So, I agreed to let the book go. It would take a few days for me to realize that that response would become all too common and never have a follow-up.
Following the long and uncomfortable search through my belongings, I was told I could make one more phone call before they took my phone away until Sunday (it was Tuesday). I tearfully texted a few family members and I called my husband to say a final good-bye or at least until Sunday. After my phone was taken, my house mom went over the house rules, farm rules, and “community service” rules. I was finally left to unpack and cry. The feelings of sadness, regret, and uncertainty filled me.
The work day for the residents would be over soon and they would head over to another house for an afternoon prayer session leaving me alone for a bit. I chose to attend prayer that first day. I wanted to gauge what my days would look like and meet some of the other residents. As I processed what my days would look like, I knew they would be hard and tiring, and not at all what I imagined –having freedoms. But I signed up for this and I was ready for whatever this month would bring.