Our story is one of a homestead. Why?
A homestead is a cluster of homes and families, built to provide security, shelter, and a sense of home for those in the community and passers-by.
Not long after the railroad transformed a White River camp into the bustling little town of Branson, the Old Stone Church was built. Gospel preaching had created the Presbyterian congregation, and the congregation worked with the townspeople to create the church. People donated the land, lumber, and labor. They gave or raised what they could for the project – even children chipped in by picking and selling wild berries. Together, more than a church building was built. A settlement became a community and residents became neighbors. But even more importantly, God's people came to embody a special expression of the Father's heart for this place. We received the call to draw Branson into God's work and family through partnership in His mission.
This particular kind of leadership has been our call and story ever since. We call it homesteading. It's not charge-ahead bravado or clever trend-setting. Nor is it heroism that saves the world singlehandedly. Instead, homesteading is about taking a stand on the simple Gospel truth that following Jesus means loving God and our neighbor more than ourselves. We've staked this claim, and from it we raise a vision of our Father's household, welcoming in all who desire friendship or need shelter. Although homesteading keeps our doors open to both neighbors and passers-by, it does not seek merely to entertain in parlors or living rooms. We are called to combine nurture and grit, generosity and conviction in a way that calls visitors and refugees alike into participation in God's work for the common good. By inviting everyone who enters from front door to kitchen and from living room to workshop, we grow together into daughters and sons of our Father, fully equipped to seek our promised inheritance and extend God's household to new people and places.
The rediscovery of this call is essential for these times. Branson, though unique in our country, is not insulated from the sea of change that is engulfing our world. We are unsettled and perplexed by the noisy, disruptive storms that shake us from foundation to core. Things we once trusted as unchanging are now uncertain, and for all of our busyness and the promises of innovation, we feel ever more lost and abandoned in a spiritual, economic, and social wilderness. But the Gospel thrives in conditions such as these. God's household is a refuge, and His fathering creates community out of chaos and inheritance out of desolation. We must redouble our efforts to extend welcome to neighbor and stranger. We must strive to deepen our learning of the ways of Jesus that involve and engage everyone in the Lord's work. We must send each other as daughters and sons, birthing many more households, until everyone has a chance to find a place in God's family.