By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Joshua Hanson began following the Grateful Dead around 1993 or 1994. He said he was a spiritual searcher, trying to take bits and pieces from one belief system or another to make his own way.
Not any more.
“When I met Jesus, He really showed me that He is the way, the truth and the light,” Hanson said. “I laid all that other stuff down.”
Hanson picked up a ministry – one that reaches out to the nomadic subculture and focuses on relational mentoring and Christian discipleship, Hanson’s ministry and a couple of others seeking to reach the same group came together a couple of years ago and purchased 40 acres in the Miller’s Hollow area to establish Nomad’s Land. They continue to work to develop the property as a creative community centered on alternative – green – building, organic gardening, daily community, Bible teaching, drum circles outdoor concerts and community meals.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28, reads the opening message on the Nomad’s Land web site.
“Welcome to Nomad’s Land, a place of rest, community and spiritual growth for nomadic people. Our mission is to share the love and truth of Jesus Christ with the nomads of this world,” it continues.
Nomad’s Land is raising money for its ministry with a 3rd annual Pilgrimage Oct. 11-14. Fittingly enough, the fundraiser is a walk, beginning in Trussville Oct. 11 and ending at Nomad’s Land in Attalla on Oct. 14.
Participants will be raising money by asking for sponsors for the 45-mile walk. Hanson said donations are tax-deductible and the money will go to fund improvements being made on the property. Walkers will be coming from Birmingham, Gadsden, Florida, Texas and North Carolina.
When the pilgrimage is complete on Sunday, Hanson said, they plan a potluck community meal, and are inviting people to bring a covered dish join in.
“There will be an abundance of food and music, as well as a bonfire into the night,” according to a Nomad’s Land press release.
Hanson said they hope to improve the property so they can stage concerts there, and offer all kinds of Christian music to appeal to all musical tastes.
Hanson said many people involved in the nomadic subculture are deeply spiritual, searching for the truth.
“I feel like I misled some people,” Hanson said, during his own days of searching. Now he wants to help others have the kind of experience he had in finding Jesus.
That happened in 1997, Hanson said, when he and the group he was traveling with ran into a group of Christians, literally.
“We kind of crashed our school bus into the side of their church,” Hanson said. At the time, he said, he and his friends had gotten head lice at a Rainbow gathering. The Christians they encountered fed them and helped them with the lice and shared Christ’s message with them.
Hanson has set out to share that message with others living the kind of lifestyle he lived then.
Some people involved in that kind of lifestyle, following bands like Widespread Panic, Phish or follow music festivals and Rainbow gatherings from place to place, also are involved in drugs, he said.
While Nomad’s Land is not a drug recovery facility, he said, he hopes the ministry will help people deal with substance abuse issues.
At Nomad’s Land, Hanson said, he and his partners want to practice green building practices. They are working on a house with earthen and stone walls, to have a roof that grows grass, he said, and they want to try building tree houses and hay bale houses, or structures out of used tires.
Projects like green housing and environmentally friendly practices appeal to many of the nomadic kids, Hanson said.
“There are people who live off America’s wastes,” Hanson said, because one man’s trash truly can be another’s sustenance, if not treasure.
For more information about Nomad’s Land or the pilgrimage, visit www.thenomadsland.org or the pilgrimage site at www.nomadspilgrimage.com or contact Hanson at 256-538-5228.