Kingdom come is coming, in small yet invasive ways...

Follow along with us as each week we meet for service to those in our neighborhood, common meals, study of Jesus' teachings and how to live them, as well as Sabbath worship at the Buffalo Vineyard City Church .

Monday, July 9, 2012


Our past few months have been filled with stories of resurrection and examples of how badly it is still needed...

5 Loaves Farm - Starting at the end of March we began work creating a market garden on multiple vacant lots in the neighborhood.  Numerous visits from Tapestry Charter School students ranging from 2nd graders to high school seniors helped us get things growing.  Raspberries, herbs, and pumpkins make up the bulk of what has been planted so far.  A hoop house has been donated to us, which we hope will be set up by this fall.   With that constructed we will be looking to grow salad greens for local school lunch programs and restaurants.  Two young guys who live in the neighborhood will be interning with me this summer to continue this work.  The farm is part of our church's efforts to bring economic, environmental, social and spiritual justice to our community, by reclaiming unused vacant land, providing neighborhood youth job training, and participating in the redemption of the West Side of Buffalo.

The House - I've never worked so hard in my life!  But our once abandoned, and nearly gutted, house is now fully occupied and looking much better.  We just finished insulating and a work crew of volunteers from area churches will be siding the house this week.  Multiple neighbors have commented to us about how our house used to be the nicest house on the block.  Well, it's resurrection is underway and starting to resemble some of it's former glory.

GRACE After School - Whether bringing together the two families in our home, neighbors living next door in the neighborhood, or the diverse set of kids that attend our after school program, creating a reconciled community that begins to resemble the resurrected body of Christ is a hard and messy process.  The kids got to experience some amazing things through our program this year, but we also have a lot to learn about how to really teach the kids how to live into the kind of life Jesus desires for them.

So, exciting progress has been made, but much work still remains as we reclaim the vacant lots to create 5 Loaves Farm, or redeem our once abandoned home, or teach neighborhood kids about the reconciled community Jesus desires us to become.  May we all be encouraged and challenged as we see resurrection taking place in our lives and the in the world around us!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Maple Sugarin'

Liquid gold
In Syracuse we had four large sugar maples that grew in our backyard, just enough for making a couple gallons of syrup each spring.  Maple sugarin' is one of the things that I'd dearly missed about our time in Syracuse.  Each March we made plenty of syrup at Baltimore Woods Nature Center, and I also did demonstrations in my backyard and in city parks for city school students.  Faith was just getting old enough to understand some of what was going on the last time we made syrup in Syracuse.  I had always hoped that maple sugarin' would be a springtime Kauffman family tradition.

I've found it true that what we give up to follow God's call on our life is often given back to us in abundance.  So after two springs with little or no maple sugarin' this year I was given the amazing gift of being able to do more than I'd ever done before.  

Sugarbush set up - 19 taps, 180 gal. of sap, yield: 4 gal. syrup 
Tom Treharne has generously given the use of his land in S. Wales, NY, which he calls "Narnia", to be used for farming and educational purposes for folks in the city of Buffalo.  He sees all he's been given as a gift from God to be shared with others.  He's given up control over some of what is "his" realizing that the blessings that will be given back in return will far out weigh what he's given up.  And in just this one month I've seen Tom's gift multiply over and over, giving so much to so many.  

Suckin' down the sap!
I can't fully express my gratitude for what our family has been given.  First, we have a stash of syrup stored up for the year, but more importantly my children were given the amazing gift of being able to spend whole days with me in the woods.  Woodpeckers overhead drumming, bluebirds surrounding us with their serenades, white-tailed deer dancing across the field.  On warmer days, while the sap boiled away, we would steal away down to the stream to find stoneflies and water striders or play with clay from the banks.  

For my kids growing up in the city, days spent like this are so precious.  I grew up in the middle of a sprawling suburban development, but thanks to my dad, trips to the woods and streams were a very regular part of my childhood.  What those experiences have taught me and have given me is priceless.  This spring I was able to give a little bit of that to my children.

But the blessings go beyond just my family.  We also took four trips down to the sugarbush with kids from the House of Grace after school program.  Kids that rarely leave their neighborhood got to experience a whole new world, and gain a connection to the land and the ways it sustains us.  

Thirty students from Jessica's school (Tapestry Charter School) also came and spent two nights camped out on the property.  This trip also happened to be right in the middle of the 80 degree weather we had this March (which unfortunately brought maple sugarin' season to a screeching halt less than halfway through the month), so the kid's and I pitched a tent and spent a night camped out in the sugarbush.  All this nice weather mixed with the shelter building, clay face painting, adventure games, camp dinners cooked over the fire, plenty of marshmallows, and star gazing, gave the week the feel of summer camp.  This too was an amazing gift, allowing me to use my passion and years of experience as an outdoor educator to share with Jess' middle school students. 

Tapestry students help filter the finished syrup
All said and done we made almost four gallons of pure maple syrup, which even gave us some to sell.  With each pint I sell this story of generosity is retold, and the giving goes on and on...    

Generosity does this, one gift given becomes two, then four, then more and more.  The miracle of multiplication happens when we simply share what we've already been given.  May we all experience the gifts God has for us when we give our stuff and ourselves away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fixie Dust

We are making steady progress at the house.  We're extremely grateful for all the help we've had, the volunteers coming in each week, the Westside Ministries crew working away, the Schenks working along side us, my sister helping out with the kids by taking Faith for a week, and my mom and dad, who've come down and helped out for a couple days.  Progress is exciting, but it's taken a lot of people a lot of hard work.
Brittany creating "Fixie Dust"

You can see from this picture that our work has created a lot of dust in the house.  The kids were over at the house one day with us and we saw them picking up saw dust and crumbled plaster and putting it into emptied water bottles.  When we asked what they were doing, Faith replied, "We're collecting fixie dust!"
Justice supervising the work
I think on blogs, or in books, or at conferences we sprinkle the ministries that we are a part of building with a good deal of "fixie dust"!  We can easily spin or glamorize things that are really the hacked off, sawed, demolished results of something that took a lot of sweaty, exhausting, dirty, hard work.  We often find things boiled down and neatly tidied into a couple easy steps, or a frame work, or guiding principles.  But behind each of these are messy lives, relationships, conversations, and conflicts that kicked up a lot of dust.  Behind the clever blog posts, white board illustrations, and power point presentations, lay so many of our hopes, dreams, desires, and expectations, pulverized on the floor.

Speaking of the ministries that we build on the foundation of Christ, St. Paul says, "... the builder will suffer loss but yet be saved - even though only as one escaping through flames."  Jesus called us to come and die.  The calling we have requires much in our life to be demolished.

May we see the "fixie dust" for what it is: the results of the hard work of the Holy Spirit; demolishing and  renovating our lives.

Almost home

Friday, February 24, 2012


Though the growing season never officially ended (I have spinach plants that have survived our less than harsh winter w/o any protection, and spinach & salad greens that germinated in the hot box-turned-cold frame last November, that have baby leaves almost ready for harvesting), this week marked the exciting start (continuation?) of a new growing season.

Seed starting equipment has been rolling in, and I'm now equipped with enough trays to grow up to 1000 transplants this spring.

To accommodate the increase in the seeds being started I also added more grow lights.

After finally settling on a recipe, I was able to mix up my own seed starting mix (shredded sphagnum, vermicompost - from my worm bin, vermiculite, perilite, with a bit of lime and manure), and yesterday I planted my first seeds; two varieties of cabbage.

Tonight I made a trip out to pick up maple sugaring supplies, and this weekend I'll be tapping the sugarbush.  This will be the second earliest I've tapped, but I'm still quite late getting into the game with the warm February we've had.

I've got a half dozen maple sugaring seasons under my belt now, and my seed starting experiment worked pretty well last year, so it was fairly easy to know how to get equipped for success this spring.  However, it's not always so easy...

Although I've worked extensively educating children and running successful programming for them, the GRACE After School program this year has really tested me.  It has left me at times feeling unequipped to deal with the depth and breadth of the issues facing the kids, their families, our staff, and the Church.  Behavioral issues and conflict stemming from disturbing family situations have left me completely baffled and feeling like I don't have the tools to successfully handle everything; and I don't...

However, others in the Church do have the tools.  There are folks that I can turn to as volunteers, just helping give the kids the attention and love they so crave.  There are friends that live in the neighborhood and are invested in the kids lives.  When we've had a particularly rough day, I can go to them and ask them for help working with the kids through this rough spot.  There's even folks at the church that work with social service agencies that can get the kids additional professional help to deal with severe issues they face.  

How humbling it is to know that only together are we fully equipped to deal with the challenges facing us.  How encouraging it is to be around people who are using what God's equipped them with. How inspiring it is being around people who step into the roles they've been equipped for.  May we all respond and use what we've been equipped with to be a blessing!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tiny Cracks of Heaven

"Papa, tiny cracks of Heaven."  She points off over my shoulder as she says it.
"Where did you see cracks of heaven, Faith?"
"Right back there, when we were praying."

The kids and I have been praying the Lord's Prayer together lately.  The language of the prayer naturally brings up the topic of Heaven a bit.  It's been amazing to me how naturally the kids have picked up on our culture's image of Heaven being some far off place floating somewhere up in the sky, even despite my intentional efforts not to pass on that picture of Heaven.  So we've been working on word pictures or phrases that paint another picture of what Heaven might be.

Light.  This has been a helpful picture in our description of Heaven; it is a place glowing with light, chasing away the darkness.

All around us, even in us.  Heaven isn't someplace far away, but it's everywhere, all around us. Actually, Heaven is even closer than that, it's inside of us.

Where what God wants to happen, happens.  Heaven is where there is love, where we share the good things God has given us, where we forgive and don't fight back, where we know the right thing to do, and we do it - even if it's hard.

Where we see God.  When we do what God wants, His light breaks through, and we get to see Heaven right here on Earth.  Sometime in the future, maybe even after we die, we will be able to see God and His light all around us (and in us) all the time.  

As I asked Faith more about what she meant by "tiny cracks of Heaven,"she shared of how when we pray we are doing what God wants, and that is Heaven.

Jesus told us the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these; the little children, our very own "tiny cracks of Heaven."

May we all be tiny cracks of Heaven's light, breaking forth into this dark world!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Whatever the Father Does

A recent visit to Tifft Nature Preserve here in Buffalo
"Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does."

"Just like you, Papa."

This is a great thing to hear as Justice dresses himself, Faith clears the table, or as we all grab shovels on our way out to the compost bin.  Unfortunately it is also true when Faith argues constantly, needing to be right, or when Justice screams angrily when faced with frustration.

As a teenager, I had a pastor that told me, at age 5 the person you most want to be like is your father, at age 15 the person you least want to be like is your father, and at age 30 the person you are most like, is your father.  I've found his to be incredibly true in my life.  This is the blessing and curse of fatherhood.

Recently my work commitments have changed so that I could give more attention to taking care of our kids.  In a neighborhood where fathers are mostly absent, the ministry of fatherhood becomes that much more important.  Stepping into this new season I've tried to remain mindful of Jesus' words about His relationship to His Father.  I've been given a gift, teaching them about colors as we paint; sharing the wonders of our world at the zoo or local nature center; discussing ideas they've learned from their favorite books and shows.  I've also been given a responsibility, model patience as we struggle to get out the door, model peace when they're fighting all afternoon.  I don't know how often I've been able to look toward the heavens and say, "Just like you, Papa."

Father God, grant my children the grace to overcome the ways I screw them up, and may we all be more like You, our Father.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

MLK Day of Service

On the West Side of Buffalo I can see hints of Dr. King's dream.  Looking around the neighborhood you'll find white families that have been here since European immigrants built the neighborhood; African-Americans that have populated the area since the days of the Underground Railroad (W. Ferry St. led down to the ferry to freedom across the Niagara River to Canada); Hispanics that flooded into the neighborhood during the final decades of the 20th century; refugees from the war-torn conflict areas of the last decade (Iraq, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Burma).  Whether all these groups will really look past their differences and truly judge each other by the content of their character, still remains to be seen.  But there is tremendous opportunity for racial reconciliation to take place here, and that's why it so exciting to be moving our family into this place!  Dr. King's dream for his children is still the same dream we have for our children today.

How fitting then, that we began our work on what will become our house, on the weekend we celebrate Dr. King's birthday.  With AmeriCorps, West Side Ministries, and their volunteers we worked Saturday and Monday demolishing the bathrooms, ripping up flooring to expose hardwoods that will be refinished, and we even started some of the electric wiring.  Below are some shots of crew in action, including a short video of our progress...

The clean-up crew
The ladies exposing those beautiful hardwoods!

Demo in the kitchen and bathrooms

The kids having some winter fun in the backyard

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Home for the Holidays

I find the whole "home for the holidays" thing a bit ironic.  The main themes of the biblical Christmas stories are anything but, "home for the holidays"...

Jesus left his Father's home and was found as a homeless refugee baby, born on the streets of suburban Jerusalem.  The first ones to find him were a group of nomadic (read: homeless, "they were living in the fields" [related Greek words meaning: trapped, caught, or plain and uneducated]) sheep herders.  There were mystic worshipers that left their homeland as they packed up and set out on a quest across the desert.  Also Jesus' parents were uprooted from their hometown of Nazareth, only to return years later, after seeking political asylum in Egypt.

Like I said, anything but "home for the holidays".

So again I find it ironic (defined: outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected) that while our family was uprooted a year and a half ago, and has been searching for a home ever since, that God brought us a home for the holidays!

The house has been abandoned and is in pretty rough shape (missing a furnace, hot water heaters, electrical service, has a hole in the roof, and a couple rooms that need to be totally gutted), so the first week of the new year we begin rehabbing the place.  It is currently owned by a ministry that has been a key partner with the Church on Potomac Ave, and they rehabilitate abandoned homes in the area, while also employing folks from the neighborhood.  We'll be volunteering with them to work on the home until it is livable, at which time we'll be able to actually purchase the house.

Though the house currently lacks pleasing aesthetics, it also has a lot of good things going for it.  There are two units, so the Schenks (whom we rent from now) will also be moving with us to the new home, and thankfully helping us with the work as well!  It is two blocks from the Church's building on Potomac Ave.  It is on the street where we bought vacant lots to start urban farming.  And, a number of friends that have relocated into the neighborhood, live nearby.

It will be exciting to be a part of working on making this house our home.  As we've come to the West Side of Buffalo to experience and share the redemption Jesus offers, it seems only fitting that even in finding a place to call home we'll be participating in the work of redemption!

Wherever home is for you, may you also experience the work of redemption in your life this Christmas season.