Shalom from the Community of Vista for the Twelve Tribes of new spiritual Israel! We are a spiritual nation, not a political one. We are not limited by boundaries, and do not seek gain at anyone’s expense. We are seeking to fulfill an ancient vision of Israel... one virtually unknown to the world today. It is spelled out in the words of the ancient prophet, Malachi. He was God’s messenger to His people, and he prophesied of days to come when His name would be made great in every place.
Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel! ...For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering. For My name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:5,11, English Standard Version)
Years ago a friend and I were walking in upstate New York.1 I don’t remember too much of our week together, but one moment in New Paltz stands out. We met a man in his late thirties or early forties, who’d lived there in the early 1970’s. He said it was outstandingly different then, and groping for words, decided “a divine wind” stirred people’s souls there. He wasn’t speaking from a religious perspective; he was relating in a very personal way to what had happened then. The awe was gone; the “hippie movement” had flowered and withered... Today obviously promised to be just like yesterday, and tomorrow more of the same. The magic that life once had for him was gone – that was clear.
It was a brief but touching conversation, as any talk is where you “touch hearts.” In recent years there seems to be another stirring of young people all over the globe. Not so ideological as the counter-culture movement was, but more personal in its hope, more private in its vision. Still, some powerful urge is causing many to freely give their time – from a few weeks to a few months to a few years – to labor on a farm. What we hear mostly from our guests is the age-old desire to “get back to the land.” WWOOFing — Willing Workers On Organic Farms2 — is a worldwide phenomena of volunteer workers helping mostly small organic farmers. And they are trying to discover important things about themselves, too.3
What follows is the impact our Morning Star Ranch in Valley Center, California, had on one WWOOFer, a very special young man from China. It portrays the essence of who we are striving to be as a spiritual people in words not our own. His words, and his people’s history and hopes, express universal hopes. How else can it be said than “peace on earth, good will towards men”?
What an elusive dream this has been. Utopia! — Most would settle for a place with no more war, where everyone got along. For millennia even this has been beyond mankind’s grasp.4 Before he left, our Chinese friend shared the following at one of our gatherings , which we have twice a day, morning and evening. I asked him to write it down so I could share it with my friends. I am so glad he took the time to do so. I think you will be, too.
The author is J. Li, from mainland China, who stayed with us about two weeks. During the time, he helped as WWOOFers do in the garden, went to several markets with us, and talked to virtually everyone! He was on a mission of sorts, a mission of understanding.
“As a Chinese person, I was always told that a community with a centralized economy can not survive. The fundamental reason is that people cannot be motivated to devote efforts to the community for everyone’s good. China’s planned economy failed because people did not take initiative to work hard when they thought they were not working for themselves and not benefiting from the work directly. It doesn’t matter if one person in a community does not want to work when the others are still working. But it is fatal when everyone in that community takes a similar stance.
“When I met the community of Morning Star Ranch, I was so surprised to see that they are practicing a lifestyle which China tried yet failed. In this community, far away from the materialism of the modern society, everyone lives such a happy life and works willingly to make the community better. In the first few days, I could not understand why people are so willing to give up everything they have to join this community. And it looks like people here, though materially unrich, are much happier, kinder, and friendlier than most rich, upper class people I ever met. So I talked to people trying to find out what is the reason behind all the peace and happiness.
“Conversation after conversation, I got my own answer. People here are different. They are motivated by a faith. A faith for love, a faith for peace, a faith for happiness, a faith for sacrifice, a faith for kindness and above all, a faith for Yahshua and His love for people. In contrast, most people I know are still driven by greed and materialism.
“This community, encircled by hills, close to nature, is absolutely a peaceful land protected from hypocrisy and avarice. It is a place for people to rest their heart and purify their soul. And this reminds me of a story written by a famous poet, Tao Yuanming:”
During the Taiyuan era of the Jin Dynasty there was a man of Wuling who made his living as a fisherman. Once while following a stream he forgot how far he had gone. He suddenly came to a grove of blossoming peach trees. It lined both banks for several hundred paces and included not a single other kind of tree. Petals of the dazzling and fragrant blossoms were falling everywhere in profusion. Thinking this place highly unusual, the fisherman advanced once again in wanting to see how far it went.
The peach trees stopped at the stream’s source, where the fisherman came to a mountain with a small opening through which it seemed he could see light. Leaving his boat, he entered the opening. At first it was so narrow that he could barely pass, but after advancing a short distance it suddenly opened up to reveal a broad, flat area with imposing houses, good fields, beautiful ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo, and the like. The fisherman saw paths extending among the fields in all directions, and could hear the sounds of chickens and dogs. Men and women working in the fields all wore clothing that looked like that of foreign lands. The elderly and children all seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves.
The people were amazed to see the fisherman, and they asked him from where he had come. He told them in detail, then the people invited him to their home, set out wine, butchered a chicken, and prepared a meal. Other villagers heard about the fisherman, and they all came to ask him questions. Then the villagers told him, “To avoid the chaos of war during the Qin Dynasty, our ancestors brought their families and villagers to this isolated place and never left it, so we’ve had no contact with the outside world.”
They asked the fisherman what the present reign was. They were not even aware of the Han Dynasty, let alone the Wei and Jin. The fisherman told them everything he knew in great detail, and the villagers were amazed and heaved sighs. Then other villagers also invited the fisherman to their homes, where they gave him food and drink. After several days there, the fisherman bid farewell, at which time some villagers told him, “It’s not worth telling people on the outside about us.”
The fisherman exited through the opening, found his boat, and retraced his route while leaving markers to find this place again. Upon his arrival at the prefecture town he went to the prefect and told him what had happened. The prefect immediately sent a person to follow the fisherman and look for the trail markers, but they got lost and never found the way.
Liu Ziji of Nanyang was a person of noble character. When he heard this story he was happy and planned to visit the Shangri-la, but he died of illness before he could accomplish it. After that no one else ever looked for the place.
“This story became popular among the Chinese people because it reflects their wish to steer clear of the chaos of the world and pursue a serene land for their soul. Many people search and search and search for life yet cannot find such a place. As a result, it became a dream land for many Chinese people for more than a thousand years. They quote the story in their poems and essays to express their admiration for such a lifestyle.
“The Morning Star Ranch is exactly such a place! I am so happy to see that so many people finally find a home for their soul. Now, I can tell people in China that I found the Peach Blossom Spring on the other side of the world. And I am so grateful that I can have a chance to stay with the community and get the precious inspiration of the meaning of life.”
Perhaps if you visit, you will find the same!
For the Communities of the Twelve Tribes,
P.S. For more information, see the Morning Star Ranch website (http://msrfarm.com/) where you can learn what to expect volunteering on one of our farms. Just click on the tab labeled “WWOOFers”. What an education this has been for all of us! Consider the opportunities for true cultural exchange in this one sentence from the Ranch’s web page: “We are so thankful to have hosted volunteers from all over the world: USA, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, England, Switzerland China, Japan, Brazil, Peru, Australia, and New Zealand.”