One morning as I was leaving the field with the dogs, He said "Community." On the way home I began to answer Him. "If you want me involved in some sort of community, you've got the wrong person. I am a design engineer with few social skills." Then I recalled being involved at a church in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin in what they told us was an experimental extended family study. I like to experiment, so my family and I joined the study. There was a senior couple of the grandparent age, a family with senior high school-age children, a family with middle school children and a young married couple with a baby in the extended family. We would meet each Thursday for a pot-luck dinner, discuss what went on in our lives during the week, read some Bible and play with the kids. Then the church announced the study was over. By that time, we all felt like a real extended family and we were sorry it had to end.
So I said to God, "I think You are talking about a church extended family. I can do that," and I talked with my pastor about letting me form one at the church we were attending. He agreed. The sign-up sheet I posted was filled almost immediately with 20 names (there was apparently a need). We too began meeting on Thursday evenings and, like before, soon felt like we belonged to a real extended famility.
I returned to the field with my dogs and said, "There. I started a community like You asked." "Bigger," was all I heard. "Bigger?" I responded, "Now I know you have the wrong person. You want a big community; a Village, I concluded."
I decided to use the Bible to prove God did not mean for me to create a Village community. As a Catholic, I hadn't read the Bible very much. I started with the Book of Matthew, saying to myself, "I doubt I will find any concrete directives as to how to live one's life in a community." I found 168 well-definded directives. "But, I continued, "I'll bet the Bible doesn't say anything about living in a separate Christian community." Soon I found the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 6:14-18, and I read these words: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." Therefore, "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." And, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
"Okay," I said to myself, "a Village," and I sat down at my CAD station and began to develop the concept of a Village, for 1,000 people, as described in this website. I knew there would be people from all walks of life, all ages, talents and incomes. The inner complex began to take shape, and I was careful for each home to have access to a road in the front. It was then I realized, the inner complex formed a cross.
Since God led me to that point through the extended family experience, I assumed the community would be based on the extended family concept.
Now, where? Where should the first Village and community be located? As I was returning from a consulting assignment in Chicago, I drove toward Lancaster on 283 and passed signs for Elizabethtown. When I did I felt strangely drawn toward it, so I drove into town on Hershey Road and turned onto Market Street. The feeling intensified. As I passed through town my attention was drawn to the left where I saw an old Catholic church named St. Peters.
That same week my wife, Kim, showed me an ad for a renewal service at St. Peters. There was to be a Catholic Mass, preceeded by a brief introduction, by the itinerant preacher who would be saming mass that day. Now by this time in my faith journey I realized being a cultural Catholic was not a good thing, and I wanted to do what I could to convince others to participate in the service more than they usually did, so instead of sitting half-way in the back as did the others, I sat up front, and instead of being one of the 80% that did not sing the hymns, I intended to sing every one and every verse. That day I read the song board on the right and looked up each song listed to make sure I knew it and could find it when the time came.
The itinerant priest had a very charismatic personality, and I looked forward to hearing what he had to say. He faced the congregation, came to the edge of the platform and introduced himself. Then he said with enthusiasm, "Okay, let's build a city of God right here in Elizabethtown, PA," and with that the organist began to play the song, "City of God!" I looked up at the song board and saw that the first number had changed. I turned to that song in my hymnal and it was, "City of God." "How could that be?" I asked myself. At the same time I noticed that the regular pastor, sitting off to the left, jerked his head toward the balcony where the organist played.
I called the pastor the next morning. "May I come up to Elizabethtown and speak with you?" He agreed. When we met in his office I asked him, "Who selected the first song at the beginning of the renewal service?" "Well," he said, "it wasn't me, and I told the organist I wanted her to play the same songs each weekend until the parishioners learned them, and City of God wasn't one of them."
I asked Kim to come with me the following Sunday. We brought our new son Daniel. You can be sure that I checked the song board even more carefully this time, and City of God was not up there. As the pastor started toward the altar the organist began to play, City of God! I looked up at the song board and the number had changed again. Kim looked at me wondering why I appeared to be shocked. I hadn't told her what had happened the week before. The pastor nearly spun around this time, apparently upset by the organist.
Kim and I decided to drive around Elizabethtown as we talked about the Village I was developing at God's direction. The inner complex of homes are interconnected by enclosed walkways (check the Gallery page). "I know people from town can visit the shops in the Village," she said, "but can they use the enclosed walkways during the Winter?" "Well," I answered, "the walkways are a secure way for the Villagers to go from and to the various shops, but maybe we could open them to visitors one day a week, like Saturday. We could call it, Saturday's Mall." Just as I said that we came around a bend and saw a large sign on the right. It read, Saturday's Market, open only on Saturdays.
The song board change occured again while I was attending a Catholic church in Parkesburg, PA. The number for City of God was already the first one on the list. I was okay with that until the organist walked up to the song board and took down the number for City of God. It had the same affect on me. This time I concluded, "Okay, Lord, the Village is not meant to be here nor with this community." While attending a service in New Holland, PA, I said to God, "Please don't do that again, because if you do, I will drop right here in this pew." The orgaist began to play and I was relieved to hear it was not City of God. Just then my attention got called to the left and there in the side row of pews was a man wearing a gray sweat shirt (not appropriate in that church) with black, 3 inch high letters on his chest. They read, "CITY OF . . ." I could not see the rest because someone was standing in front of him. I tried to watch for him during the service and after, but never saw him again (God's humor?).
Despite the "encouragements" from God to continue the pursuit of a Village in Elizabethtown, I focused on business (can you believe that?). While leaving a client's office, quite drained from the day's work, God gave me the final piece to a hypothesis I was working on about life, healing and death, and in His usual way of communicating with me, He suggested I write a series of novels based on the hypothesis. At about the same time a friend of mine suggested we start a business together. I said, "I can't afford to spend less time working for clients while I write the series of books and start a business with you which wouldn't provide an immediate income." He suggested I move my family into a home on his estate, and live there rent free. "That would do it," I thought, and my wife and I drove over to look at the home. It was the only house on Book Lane.
I had finished and published the first novel, LINK, and had written the second, called Village (all about the City of God Village near Elizabethtown, PA) and I knew I should start on the third to be called Bridge, but I was still in the editing process of the novel, Village, and I put it off because I hate to edit my own work, since it is so boring to go over your own material again and again. On the way home from work in Willow Street, PA, I was driving east on highway 741 thinking only about how tired I was. "I'll just spend a quiet evening with my wife, Kimberly," I said to myself when my attention was drawn to the left and I saw a street sign that said, Kimberly. "Oh," I said to God in jest, "are you going to speak to me with street signs?" The next street sign read, Thunder, which meant to me, God's voice. I decided to pay attention. The next street sign read, Bridge, the name of the book I knew I was supposed to start. And, the next street sign read, Book Road! (No, not Book Lane) "Okay," I said to God. "I'll get back to editing Village."
I emailed my older son, David, about what had happened with the street signs. He is always very skeptical about these things, so he checked Map Quest and emailed me back. "Indeed," he began, "Kimberly is followed by Thunder which is followed by Bridge followed by Book. But are you aware that 741, the highway you were driving on, is also called Village?"
The Messages have become more urgent
Recently while driving home from a conference in Hershey, PA, I realized I was about to pass Elizabethtown when I began, of course, to think about the Village. "It would be just such a large project," I complained to myself when I pulled behind a very large dump truck with the words in 7" high letters on the back, which read, IF THE PROJECT IS TOO BIG, YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL. I didn't want to hear that so I passed the truck quickly and there was a sign on the shoulder which read, Saturday's Market. A confirmation of the message.
One evening I was sitting on my favorite, familyroom chair thinking again about the Village project. "Okay," I said to myself, "maybe just one Village. I'll start by preparing a simple brochure (something I knew how to do). I'll use a heavy card stock, glossy on one side for the graphics and flat white on the other for the copy. I had just said that when I noticed a brochure of similar stock leaning against the end table lamp next to me (placed there by Kim). I picked it up thinking, "Okay, one Village," when I saw the name on the brochure. It read, 10,000 Villages!
Now, something that happened most recently has caused me once again to focus on the creation of the Village and its community. I spent three years in a Catholic high-school seminary in Mount Calvary, WI. One of the priests there taught me how to run a printing press. I liked printing and in my third year I ran the printshop for the school. This last September I received a beautifully done quarterly magazine published by the seminary called "The Laurentianum." Kim was standing behind me when I opened it to the first page. "Oh my God," she said. There in the heading were the words, "Let Us Build the City of God!" and the subtitle included the words of the song City of God! "Let us build the city of God! May our tears be turned into dancing - for the Lord, our light and our love, has turned the night into day! (by Dan Schutte)
That's not all. I paged through the magazine, which brought back many memories, until I got to the last page. There in the top left was a photo of my latest novel Bridge and below the title Bridge was my name, John Beiswenger. I told the Director of Marketing, Mary Voell, that I wrote Bridge, but the photo and full abstract must have come from my website (www.johnbeiswenger.com).
Now, God knows I attended the seminary which published the magazine. But He also knows I was a printer there. I removed the staples from the magazine and unfolded the sheet that contained the words City of God, my novel Bridge and my name. Any printer knows the front page and the back page are printed on one side of the paper at the same time. Only a printer would immediately notice that and get the full message God sent. My name was directly connected with "Let us build the City of God" on the front page.
I was attending a Missions Conference to promote the City of God Villages (and in particular the ministry of our member in India, Pastor Ravi Pahadiya) and while I was talking with a young man from Virginia, a man I had never met came up to me asking if he might talk with me sometime about an invention he has. I was thinking at the moment, "God, what does this have to do with my purpose here? Am I accomplishing what you want me to do," when the man said, "I own Saturday's Market," and I finished God's message with, "Open only on Saturdays." I knew then that God was pleased with what was/had transpired.
Kim and I watched the movie Evan Almighty, a comedy about a modern-day Noah. It really was quite silly. At the end there was a scene of a field with a tree and "God" standing underneath it. Look for yourself what came into my mind.
Also,look at the picture at the top of this page on the right, which I placed there long before we saw the movie. What is the meaning of the small tree on the left of the large tree? It is positioned exactly where "God" is standing in the photo directly above. And, look at what just showed up on my computer screen. There is a clear path to/from the tree. Click on it to see it as I saw it.
I met with our Civil Engineer to walk the land we are presently considering for the first City of God Village. Now, keep in mind, as you read this, that I was meeting with our Civil Engineer as we plan the start of "10,000 Villages" which is what God said to me when I had just said to myself, "Ok, maybe just one Village."
Kim was called to jury duty on the very day before my meeting with the Civil Engineer.
While waiting with other jury members she met two women for the first time. The three decided to go to lunch together. At lunch Kim told them she was a secretary at an elementary school (there is an elementary school overlooking the land we are considering) and asked the women what they do. One recruited Civil Engineers and the other worked at one of the stores called, 10,000 Villages. She came home and told me what had happened. It was God's way of encouraging me.
By the way, the land we are presently considering borders on the land where Saturday's Market is located. What a coincidence! Right.