Early into my time living here in Texas, myself and Austin updated me on life in America while I did my best to give him an idea of what I was involved with in 2008. We discussed our musical pursuits, spiritual journeys and the recent developments culminating in the economic crisis. The one particular conversation that had me interested was when he mentioned that I should meet a certain group of men at a house church in Frisco, one of whom included Ron Pate. I was eager to meet Ron as soon as his name was mentioned to me by Austin. I am really thankful that he made the effort to connect us. It was refreshing to my soul to have a church that followed a more traditional, Hebraic model. There is also a full spectrum of age groups, which is uncommon in relatively small house church, but this isn't your average house church. The way everyone relates to one another is unique and spirit-led. This healthy atmosphere helped me to establish solid relationships with the group before the trip, which later proved to be the critical success to our trip.
So, when Ron announced that he would be taking a group of people with him to Washington D.C. on a mission/ business trip, I didn't think I'd be in that number. A week passed and I knew it wouldn't be long before all the guys in the house would be leaving to go on this trip and as far as I was concerned I would be left behind to look after the house, until, one of the guys (I believe it was Josh, Chris or Austin) asked me whether I would be able to make it! What a question. I found that somehow I got added to Ron's mailing list and was put in the loop for the trip itinerary. The trip was a launchpad for a new film company called 'Red Warrior', established by Ron Pate and his partner Campbell Dalglish. The purpose of the trip was to raise awareness of Native oppression maintained by the United States constitution over many years and will implore the Obama administration to revisit the treaties made with Native Country and uphold to the agreements established therein.
The initial preparation for the trip commenced 3 or 4 days before we set off. The first task was to get the 'grace' van ready for the road and ready to have people sat in it for the 16-hour journey! Now the thing about this van (and the reason why I've included 'grace' in it's description) is that this very van had already taken me around the country in 2007 when I was with the Cause! It was a little worse for wear after the 'Summer of Love Tour' in '07, so we had to strip out the seats and carpet and refit it with a new hard-wearing carpet. Whilst we were working on this, I had the chance to fill Ron in on my trip to America in '07 - how it came about and how I hooked up with the Cause. It was good to be able to have someone to talk to who was interested in my story! Once we cleaned up the van inside and outside, we headed to Ron's to clean the big RV.
So, the day came and our bags were packed for the adventure that lay ahead of us. The faithful duo, Laura and Amanda were the be the ones to hold down the fort - they seemed a little dismayed that they would be missing out on the road trip and have no company for a week but they had a amazing attitude about it all: not only did they see us off with smiles on their faces, they also did a great job cleaning the house while we were away (which is probably the only time that this can ever happen - trust me). So, us guys disappeared out of sight into one of the several cars outside the house and left the girls to wave us goodbye and see us off. By this time it was around 5 o'clock and the work for the trip was far from done. We still had the task of loading up the RV and the 'grace' van. With all hands on deck we quickly loaded up the vehicles and were strapped ourselves in, ready to have some fun.
DC wasn't just a 7 day trip. There was a week to prepare before the trip and a week to recover after we arrived back. Why? It became clear that DC is not just a place to go for a casual holiday. For us, we had a clear idea of what we were doing there so we could focus our time and energy on the task at hand, but for those without focus, the city will literally eat them alive. It's a difficult thing to explain - when you enter the city you're not just entering a city, you're entering a completely volatile and dangerous environment. This is the reason why this trip was not only a business trip, but also a time to pray and a time to protect one another.
The travelling, taking all of 16 hours each way, was not as painstakingly boring as it may sound. We had plenty of laughs courtesy of Caleb, with his random "woah!" reactions to the smallest things along the way and tag team with Austin doing role-plays as terrorists (amongst other offensive persona's).
On the way up there we took a handful of stops, a few of them being at some being so early in the morning I don't care to remember. That's usually when I'd get a cup of coffee to clear my head from that 'muggy' travel feeling. We unexpectedly made a stop in Fort Mill too, which was like a walk down memory lane in some ways for me. To be in the refurbished 'grace' van in this town seemed amazingly coincidental. The other stop we made was at a "Quality Inn". We had three reservations - one room for the guys, one for the girls and the final one for the couples. The remainder of the crew volunteered to stay the night in the RV. I had the privilege of being given preference for sharing the room with the two others (Dave Crook and Chris Blaylock). We ended up having a great night - maybe not getting as much sleep as we may have liked for the sake of talking about God and the angelic presence we had felt and seen during the drive up.
Once we arrived in DC, we were given a quick tour of the neighbourhood - which was actually a retreat for people in office who needed some time away from the city, whilst still being in the city! The house we were shown was like the American equivalent of a manor house with its own gardens and swimming pool, pool house etc... Inside it looked like it was being preserved like a museum!
The house we stayed in very closeby was very nice too, it was situated on a slope, so the layout of the house made it seem smaller on the outside than it actually was inside. Our team stayed on the first floor (ground level) and the New York team (with Campbell) stayed in the 'basement' (which was basically like an apartment with it's own kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms and living room.
The study downstairs was a great room to sit, read or play music and just generally relax. There were a lot of great teaching books and a big wall map of the world (behind me in the picture below).
After the first night we started business. We met with Campbell at the Hotel (venue for the Inaugural Ball and our film set). We unloaded all our gear in a loading bay at the far side of the building and had to navigate our way through narrow passageways and a large elevator. Once we were set up in the room it didn't take long for the interest to catch on. People inquisitively looked through the double doors to see what the commotion was about. The interviews started shortly after the initial buzz had subsided. It was a long day, but the following few days were even longer. On average we worked 14 hour days without any real break. We even worked through right up until the inauguration. Strangely enough most of us didn't head down to the mall to witness the event, instead we went up to the lobby and watched it on big TV's at a bar. Honestly, I think we saw more than most people who were actually there. I heard that the crowds were so intense that you couldn't really get in any position where you could see or hear much of the procession.
The venue was good and the Native Inaugural Ball that was going on all around us made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. It was a unique opportunity to have an inside, first-hand experience of tribes from all over native country coming together to share their thoughts on what should promise to be a positive future under the Obama administration. Our whole crew had press passes, which allowed us backstage in any of the rooms where there was live activity going on. I also managed to run some errands more effectively as the hotel staff identified me as a press guy and thought nothing of me being around the catering areas etc...
The final day I think came as a relief to us all but I think we all had a positive attitude towards the city when we left and almost in a sense didn't want it to end. It was great working with professionals and being given the opportunity to work in this capacity ourselves. Flower Mound seems like a smaller town now.
Aside from the little sleep and the level of stress on the team to get all the interviews done, we managed to achieve what we wanted and the trip was a success.