“History written small,” one of our youth in Germany wrote on her bat mitzvah invitation, “is children not learning from their parents.” Acknowledged by her parents and her entire community as one who was determined to do just that — learn all she could from them in the years remaining to her before adulthood — she was recognized in that weekend celebration as a true daughter of the commandment.
Although bar mitzvah has long a Jewish and Catholic ritual (who call it confirmation), we recognize the deeper reality of the relationship between parents and children that must underlie this monumental event. Otherwise, it is just an event, one of many that mark the religious calendar of people’s lives. Bar mitzvah is for sons and daughters who have set their hearts to honor their parents and to love the commandments of God. In their presentation at the ceremony, they tell us in brief what they have learned. Then they make open proclamation of their faith and are immersed into our life (baptized).
So this month we have some special news to report of several of our youth turning their hearts to their parents and their parents’ God. In doing so, we will take a brief, encouraging look at Communities in Australia, Canada, and England. These special youth have set themselves the goal of obeying His commandments, loving one another, and so displaying to the world their faith in Yahshua the Messiah. This is what every disciple does, according to 1 John 3:22-24. They are now full participants in the New Covenant prophesied long years ago by the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
In the challenging, perplexing years of youth which they are in, they now have personal access to the grace they need to overcome, and to keep themselves from the touch of the evil one (1 John 5:18, NKJ). For more on the reality of this ancient tradition in our brand new culture, click on the links following the introductory words and photographs of any of these three communities. This newsletter is about people who have understood in their hearts something profound about the connection between faith and relationships.
Without the two connecting to one another, there is no evidence for the world to see (and no evidence for anyone to hold on to, especially parent and child) that “belief in God” produces anything worthwhile. That is, apart from real love and care tangibly expressed in human relationships, God likewise appears not to care about us or our children.
The Peppercorn Creek Farm
Yes, it’s a real, live, food-growing farm “down under.” And just like the brothers and sisters there, it’s land wrestled from the ruin and waste of modern life and being returned to productive use. As they write of themselves...
Just one and a half hours southwest of Sydney you’ll come to our little farm. We have 22 acres in a valley of the Razorback Range, with a beautiful creek winding through it, and peppercorn trees dotted along the water’s edge… hence the name Peppercorn Creek Farm. Eight families, along with a number of single men and women live here. We have many children so our life is busy caring for them. We teach them at home, and always have our young ones by our sides helping us with all the many daily living needs. They enjoy being involved in what we do and building up our life. They know they’re necessary. (http://www.twelvetribes.org/community/peppercorn-creek-farm)
At this special place, the hope of the world has been unfolding. It counters the despairing thought that the world can never be any different than children ignoring their parents only to go out to make the same mistakes all over again. In microcosm, yes, among these few families, but real and alive — and growing! Children have been growing up learning from all that their parents have gone through, willingly and knowingly taking on the faith being passed on to them.
The mother (imma in Hebrew) of one of our bat mitzvah at Peppercorn Creek once attained to the exalted status of “first chair” violinist in an orchestra. There she found a life of strife and intrigue quite at variance with the outward sound and sight of musicians in perfect harmony. She discovered the hard way that it’s just an image, just a show, and this left her very dissatisfied. You can read her story in this “Christian Dissenter” Freepaper, available online: The Unfinished Symphony. Titled simply, “First Chair” her article tells the story of why she left such a “promising career” behind. She found something far greater.
“The beauty and coordination of our music was less than skin deep. Our lives were out of control and our hearts were in no way connected. I was thankful to go back to second chair.
“Soon after this, I encountered a people who reached into my heart and helped me to reveal the deep insecurities and hurtful ways in me that had caused all the strife that I found in my personal life. I was drawn to their music and dancing. It was simple, uncomplicated, and they danced together in unity. They were happy, really happy. It wasn’t just a show. Their music was to praise their God, not for selfish gain, or their own glory and attention. They found life in giving, not seeking praise or approval. Theirs was an expression of unity that wasn’t just “skin deep,” but went deep into their own lives, and their relationships with one another. They had what I couldn’t find — true love for one another. They trusted one another because they were trustworthy.
“I joined in their symphony. Now I can live inharmony and play a simple melody, happy to be free.”
It is in that freedom that she raised her precious daughter, Hephzibah. At the right time, she stood before her household with the confidence that comes from being loved and accepted and knowing who you are. Addressing her parents with awareness of the tests yet to come, she communicated the reality of a youth turning her heart to her parents: “The first battle has been won: you have my heart.” Imagine hearing that from your teenage daughter!
(That’s her to the right, and her friend Zemirah to the left.)
Here are short notes from both of these youth, written to all their friends and brothers and sisters in the Twelve Tribes. We share them with you.
I was so thankful to have my Bat Mitzvah celebration with Zemirah this month. I am so thankful that I am now covenanted to Yahshua and His people, and that the purpose we were born for can now be fulfilled. I am thankful that as part of the first generation we can pass on the faith and vision that's been poured into our hearts, so that all our parents have labored for would not be in vain. It was so wonderful what everyone expressed towards us. Our Master's love has no limits. It really meant so much to me what everyone did for us. We are so connected to each other...
I am thankful to have the same heart as all of you, and for those first generation who have gone before us and infused faith into us.
Shalom, Hephzibah Tamiymah bat Israel & Emunah (age 15)
Note: Our children call their fathers “abba” and their mothers “imma.” Abba means source, and imma means foundation.
...I am thankful for my imma. I would have never made it to that day without her. I am thankful for how she stayed loyal and faithful to our Master and His people.
I also appreciate all the first generation that have paved the way for us. I am so thankful to be in the covenant with our Master and all of you. I never want to grow dull to the forgiveness that our Master has shown me. I want to pass it on to those who will follow. Thankful to be allied in the same cause!
~ Zemirah bat Tsiytsah (age 15)
In rain-blessed England, the land of the “stiff-upper lip” and gritty determination, another sort of determination has been seen there: not making it alone, but making it together — friend to friend, parent to child, child to parent. We call it simply the “turning of the heart.” It is what makes life together more than bearable, but rather ideal.
Take special note of the enthusiastic father to the far right, his wife next to him, and their son next to them. They are all a year or so older now than this picture, which is posted on our main Twelve Tribes website. Their story is another vital part of our story, the one this newsletter is devoted to.
That story is lived out in a busy rural setting in the beautiful English countryside. Fitting then, are the words they write describing who they are:
Our farm here in Dunkeswell is not far from anywhere, neither is it really close to anything. Except to the sheep paddock across the fence… We live in a very beautiful place, surrounded by rolling hills and covered in a patchwork of little hedged-in fields that is typical of this region.
Our little farm here has seen and still needs a lot of restoration, just like our lives, which keeps us all very busy. This big old farmstead and a few acres of land affords us lots of space for the few families and other single people that make up our community. There are always a lot of things to involve our children in as we work around here.
We make a living by selling wholesome breads and cakes that we make at the farm. You might see us at some of the markets in the towns and cities in this region which we attend regularly. We grow some of our own food, but we would like to eventually be growing as many of our vegetables as possible and are always trying to make steps in that direction... (http://www.twelvetribes.org/community/stentwood-farm)
The father of our special boy named his son after his tribe — Zebulun. They have much on their hearts about the gospel. You can download this freepaper and read his spiritual biography (his life before and after meeting Messiah) in the article entitled, “Basement Revolutionary,” on pages 23-35. Follow the thread of his personal saga in these quotes:
“For years I had been shoved into the funnel of academics and sports by my father who like many wanted “a better life” for his son. I think he had really good intentions but somehow it only resulted in me almost having a nervous breakdown and totally flunking out of University...
“I am going to change! I have got to change! Ok, so this is a wonderful opportunity to live a simpler life and become more pure. I walk to work. I sweep, mop and polish floors. I work hard to get healthy and to develop character. Unfortunately I don’t develop enough character to stop doing things that are destroying my character...
“Wholesome sounds of Irish folk music draw Hughie and I to a bunch of people playing music in front of a really neat looking maroon and beige bus. They are a simple looking bunch of people in the midst of all the wacky outfits of my peers. I met these people three years earlier but had not really thought to find out about them once John (the writer) had told me they were religious... Because I was actually really interested in them...
“In a short time Daveed walked up to me. I had the best conversation of my life. I don’t remember all the details but I do remember wanting to know how important their relationships were in the community. I was more interested in that than religion. He said they were the same thing. They could not truly be connected to one another without their religion, and if they were not connected to one another then they were not connected to God. I was not convinced but my ears were opening...
“He told me that all he knew was that Yahshua had died for my sins, that my life was worth enough to Him that He would have died just for me. All of a sudden everything made sense. This person was speaking the truth to me. His life was one of loving his friends and his care for me was genuine. He was telling me the truth because he loved me. I did not want to hear the truth that he and his friends were telling me. It was too costly. If he was telling me the truth then it would demand a response. It would have to be an equivalent response. If Yahshua had died for me then how could anything less than living totally for Him make any sense? Everything I had been seeing over the past 9 days made sense. These people were committed to loving one another because they were committed to loving the One who died for them...
“I opened my mouth and told everyone I wanted to throw my lot in with them and follow Yahshua. In tears I told everyone I was sorry for resisting their attempts to help me come to understand their faith. They asked me if I wanted to be baptised. I did not know what they were talking about. They explained that baptism is about being washed of your sins and entering into a covenant with Yahshua. That is exactly what I wanted. I had only been there a short amount of time so they were not sure if I knew what I was getting into. I convinced them I was sincere. That was over twenty years ago...”
In that time, he married a wonderful woman, and together they have raised a family in America and England. And in the midst of a very busy life, he found time to do that most important thing, which was turn his heart to his wife and children. The story of that turning of his heart to Zebulun, and the effect it had on others in their household, a sister there relates:
“We water and our Abba causes the growth. As Emet diligently and passionately turned his heart to his son it was touching for all of us to witness the change in Zebulun’s heart. He became softer and softer and it was obvious how he was eager to please his abba as well as our Father. His determination to be in fellowship with his abba could not be overlooked and inspired all of us to be like that with our Abba. Freely he would share at every gathering and his voice was heard above others when we sang. Both Emet and Chassidah have never held back to pour and invest their lives into this tribe and this heart is clearly reflected in Zebulun.”
In response, Emet’s son had this to say:
“I am thankful for how my abba and imma have raised me up and trained me so I could be ready to make a covenant with Yahshua. The only reason I was able to make this covenant was because my parents have persevered with me in my struggles. I am so thankful for them.
“I am also thankful for how the Body poured out their lives, staying up late into the night to make my bar mitzvah so special. I have a great debt of love towards them.
“I am thankful our Father arranged it so my friends from Benyamin (our tribe in the southern USA) could come. I am thankful to be in a covenant with you all.” ~ Zebulun ben Emet
So this story, beginning in one man’s tumultuous youth, resulted in understanding the things his son faced to such an extent that his son could turn his heart to him. Emet had found the connection between faith and relationships — the key. He had opened what could be called “the father channel” from his heart to his son’s heart, and from son to father to God, our Father. He could do this because he had opened his heart to his Father’s heart in heaven, allowing His hand of discipline and instruction in his life, proving himself to be a true disciple. This is what Abraham did long before him that produced such a son as Isaac. This is the hope and goal we have raising our sons and daughters.
Here, in beautiful British Columbia, our story takes a different turn. In this instance, we see another aspect of bar mitzvah that many parents keep: a record, a journal of their thoughts and hopes of their child as he is growing up. Often the imma (mother) begins this in the quiet weeks following the birth of her child.
Just as our Master has been the only reason we’ve reached this milestone, He is the reason we will continue on the way. The morning of the bar mitzvah we found the book we had written in for our daughter’s dedication so many years ago. Here is some of what we had written...
To Our Precious Daughter Amidah Naqah:
“It was on your abba’s and my heart to write the things that were in our hearts towards you so that when you become a bat mitzvah you could always look back and see our Father’s faithfulness to help us turn our hearts towards each other.
I write this in faith since you are only a small baby, but I long to hand this to you at your bar mitzvah. I have hope that if I cry out day and night for you that our God will gain your heart. My heart for you is that you’d be a servant in His household, and that you would turn away from uncleanness and turn toward Him. Only Yahshua can help me teach you His ways. He will be faithful.
At your dedication I vowed many things. I pray that when you receive this that I will have kept these vows... Your abba has the same heart. You are truly a gift from our Abba. He breathed life into you and I long for Him to breathe the Holy Spirit into you. I long for you to make a covenant with Him. Our hearts are to raise you up to follow Yahshua and choose eternal life. We know we will make mistakes, but we are determined that for the next 13-14 years we are going to strive to help you enter into this wonderful kingdom that we have...”
And so they have begun their walk together as parents and youth – in the Community, yes, but surrounded by the culture of the world around them. What wall could anyone possibly erect to keep the world and its temptations out? Not even the Wall of China or the Iron Curtain is or was great or high enough. Nothing that men could build could do the job. The only wall possible around the set-apart, precious life together in the Communities of the Twelve Tribes is the bonds between parents and children, between friends of all ages, between clans and tribes. Such a bond of love, God Himself will honor and uphold.
Our doors are open for all who want to be a part of such a life!
Kevin Carlin (Vista, California)