Passion to Action, a crazy love story

My friend Jay Loecken defines himself as a “Lover of God.” Husband of an incredible wife named Beth. Father of four amazing children, Ben, Bekah, Abi & Noah & Ministry Director for Crazy Love In Action.” I met Jay back in the summer of 2009 when I was the Creation Care community manager for SustainLane.com, an online green guide. I invited Jay to tell their love story Loving Others – Living Simply. The Loecken family has been traveling the United States in their RV demonstrating to all they meet “crazy love in action” based on the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan, about God’s crazy love for us and what it means to show His love to others in a tangible hands-on way. The new name of their outreach is Passion to Action. Their mission is “to inspire, empower and mobilize people to put their faith in action”. Rather than tell their remarkable story, Jay has given me permission to repost their story from their Passion to Action website. Please join us as we hit the road with Jay, Beth, Ben, Bekah, Abi, Noah and friends.

Our Story

Our dream of hitting the open road and traveling the country in an RV began in the early years of our marriage. With a few babies, moves and job changes, our dream never became a reality. In July 2007, our family had the privilege of going to Africa on a life changing missions trip. When we returned, we wept as we realized all that we had in comparison to the African people. Our country host, Paul, shared his powerful testimony of growing up in the slums. As he spoke about the importance of having a dream, we realized that we had let our dream die. We decided to earnestly seek God to see if this dream was from Him. Over several months, God spoke to us through prayer and His word and we believe He has truly led us on this adventure.

Our journey began the summer of 2007 when we went on a life-changing missions trip to Kenya, Africa.

While in Africa, we had many conversations with our country host, Paul Omondi, who grew up in the slums of Nairobi. He described the heart wrenching challenges he faced growing up in that environment and how he saw many of his friends pay for their wrong choices with their lives. He described how some of his friends were burned or stoned to death. He told us that what kept him alive in the slums was that he had a dream to one day be the President of Kenya. He spoke of how God places a dream in all of us. What was our dream? We knew it was buried deep in our hearts, but we were too busy pursuing the “American” dream to even acknowledge it. The 5 of us (little Noah stayed in Atlanta with friends) served for 10 days in Kiu, a small community outside of Nairobi, Africa. We went there to serve and bless others, but we received much more than we gave. The people of Africa changed our lives forever. Until you see them face to face, their lives are only an image on a TV screen, looking very surreal. When you hug them, talk with them, see their living conditions, pray with them, it touches your heart in a way that is hard to describe. They are the most generous, joyful people we have ever met. They are clearly poor and in desperate need of so much, yet they have a richness that many Americans will never experience. Their faces and our time together will forever be etched in our hearts.

Coming home to the U.S. was difficult as we experienced a myriad of emotions. How could we have so much and yet be so discontent? We were thankful for how blessed we were, yet at the same time wondered if all that we owned added to our life, or actually stole life from us? As we allowed these questions to surface and answered them honestly, we began to pray about what to do. As a family, we wept, prayed and searched God’s Word. We needed answers and direction. We discussed our dream of traveling the country full-time. We no longer wanted to wait for “some day”, nor did we want to just travel for site seeing, adventure, or homeschool reasons. We knew that this mission needed to have a purpose and that it was bigger than us. Initially, we felt a little crazy. We researched, prayed, questioned and wondered. We also wrestled with the fear of the unknown and the fear of failure. Through it all, we finally came to the conclusion this was in fact what we felt God was leading us to do.

In November 2007, we put our home on the market. We waited 5 agonizing months and during that time we were able to detach ourselves from our home and to purge our hearts of materialism.

In March of 2008, we sold our home. Two weeks before we moved, God provided the perfect used RV for our family and surprisingly it was driven to our home in Atlanta all the way from Las Vegas, NV. Through this and several other events we saw specifically how God was capable of meeting all of our needs.

On April 18, 2008 the house was sold, the RV was packed and we hit the road. Although we left behind many wonderful friendships, we knew beyond a doubt that we were following what God had put so heavily on our hearts.

One of Jay’s favorite quotes: “Preach the Gospel to everyone, and if necessary, use words.” St. Francis of Assisi

Follow the Loecken’s blog and read more about the mission of Passion to Action, each member of the family and their posts Stories of the Obsessed, videos and photos.

Sit a Spell. That can Wait.

Since the summer of 2006, we have been a member of the Professional Porch Sitters Union. We’re PPS Local 97451. Our union motto is Sit down a spell. That can wait. We had just built and moved into our country home with a large covered porch facing east towards the view of Siuslaw Valley pastureland, when we heard a report and interview on NPR with Claude Stevens aka Crow Hollister – Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind. Here’s an excerpt.

“Porches were a necessity before air conditioning, whether it was the screened sleeping porch or the broad, columned veranda where iced tea — and gossip — were plentiful.

In the mid-1800s, a well-known landscape gardener named Andrew Jackson Downing began writing about his vision of the American home — and how it could stand apart from English architecture. The porch was key.

It functions as an important “transitional space between the private world of the family and the public realm of the street,” notes David Schuyler, author of a biography of Dowling.

But today, many homes don’t have that transitional space, and air-conditioning, television, computers and other enticements draw people inside the home. American porch culture isn’t what it used to be. Claude Stephens is trying to change that.”

I contacted PPSU right away and within a week, our friend Heather painted us this sign, which hangs above the bench under the eaves of our covered porch. After two years of hard work, it was time for JustDucky and Chickadee to rest.

One of the books in my library that  I keep readily available for our B&B guest, friends and family to read while sitting on our porch is Front Porch Tales, as an eclectic mix of music, including Porch Songs and Back Porch Bluegrass, wafts through the tall open windows onto our porch.

It was while sitting on our porch that we visited with guest from all over the world and heard their stories – the olive tree grower and movie producer from California, the land developer and white water guide from Idaho, couples traveling to buy Oregon wines from places as far away as Georgia and Italy… vinters and wine merchants, honeymooners, athletes, U of O alumni, parents and grandparents of U of O graduates, wealthy retirees, an east coast entrepreneur, a bi-plane pilot traveling the circuit, girlfriends having a time-out from their city life and splinting the cost of a room, local couples celebrating their anniversary and business professionals finally getting away for a night or two, cyclists and lovers of the Ashland Shakespearean Festival traveling en route through the back roads of Oregon…. stories, stories, wonderful stories.

It was while sitting on our porch with a guest that I learned the secret of how to get a cork out of a wine bottle. We shake hands when they arrive and hug when they leave; strangers becoming friends. We no longer operate our B&B, but we cherish the memories and enjoy rereading our guest book. Our lives were greatly enriched by theirs. We have enjoyed wine-tasting, gourmet candlelit meals and potluck with friends and neighbors, wreath-making,  reading, doing absolutely nothing, family celebrations, including anticipating the arrival of our granddaughter with a baby shower and serenaded by classical guitarist Craig Einhorn… all while relaxing on our porch. We have enjoyed warm sunny days, pouring rain, snowfall and lightning, the changing seasons, wildlife and wild birds of all kinds, listening to the sounds of nature, prayer, sunrises and star-studded nights on our porch. I love the quote “Life is made of moments; moments as big as years”. Many of those moments have been lived on our porch.

My friends at Flourish just published an excellent article today. Here is an excerpt from  Front Porch Revival: The Past, Present, and Possibility of a Neighborhood Mainstay by Kendra Langdon Juskus.

“As Black History Month, February gives us the opportunity to reflect on defining moments and movements – some shameful, some glorious in our country’s history and culture: the abuse and enslavement of human beings; the Civil Rights movement; the presidential election of Barak Obama; the Civil War; segregation; the Harlem Renaissance; the Tuskegee Airmen; the front porch.

The what? That’s right: the front porch.

To mention the advent of the American front porch alongside illustrious cultural milestones like the Civil Rights Act and jazz music is not to diminish the more familiar achievements of African Americans heralded each February. Quite the opposite, it is the importance of the front porch that has been diminished by the technology- and efficiency-obsessed culture we live in today. There is much in that culture that threatens our fundamental humanity with busyness, anonymity, and industrialization. But there is much about the front porch that is human.” Read the full article.

Other links about porch sitting:

Rusty Pritchard: How front porches encourage loitering (aka “community”)

CBS Evening News: Professional Porch Sitters Unite – Kentucky Man Mobilizes Front-Porch Devotees To “Sit Down A Spell”

Utne Article: The Professional Porch Sitters convene for nothing in particular

American Profile: The Front Porch

Impact Lab: Porch Sitting Required

I Invite you to join other Porch Sitters on Facebook: Professional Porch Sitters Union – Founders Porch

Plant with Purpose – Stories of Love, Compassion and Caring for Creation

“Plant With Purpose has been working in Haiti since 1997 and now has over 40 Haitian staff teaching sustainable agriculture and micro-enterprise in 67 communities. Plant With Purpose is not only committed to coming along side rural farmers to empower and equip, but also to share the incredible stories of a most resilient and persevering group of people. Visit www.plantwithpurpose.org to learn more about our programs in Haiti and to have the opportunity to sponsor a village.”

Their mission and those they serve thrive and their stories live on through your prayers and generous donations. Please join my friends Scott, Kate and Doug at Plant with Purpose. This Valentine’s Day,  Share the Love!