September 24, 2013
Rejoice in the day the Lord hath made…Well, that’s what I did this last Sunday. And what a beautiful day it was! Brilliant blue skies with cotton clouds and an abundance of sunshine. The afternoon may have gotten a little warm, but even still a pretty much perfect day.
On Sunday afternoon, my family had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Burrell family at their home near the Mellow Valley community. The picturesque setting they call Sheperd’s Hill immediately gives you a feeling of warmth upon arrival. But I knew I was going to be something special when I saw that it sets just off of Roll Tide Lane.
We were greeted warmly by all and given a personal tour of the grounds. From the herb garden to the livestock to the blacksmithing, it was a very informative, educational, and refreshing tour.
If you’re not familiar with the Burrell family, then you are truly missing out. This family is incredible. Just being around them makes you say “Now, this is a family who has got it all together”. And family is everything to them. They have six children, and will soon welcome their ninth grandchild into this world. Their home captures the true essence of what everyone pictures in their mind and the perfect family atmosphere. Lots of love and laughter in a warm, welcoming environment.
If you met the Burrell’s on the street, then you would probably just take one look at their attire and think to yourself “Oh, they’re just Amish people.” Which is untrue, by the way. They call themselves Plain Christians, although slightly modified.
People seem to draw their own conclusions about people who choose this lifestyle. It just seems cut and dry to them, you just live off the land and you can’t straddle the fence. They never even seem to try to grasp why people may even choose to live this way. Well, the Burrell family will be more than glad to tell you about their way of life and why they chose it…
About 15 years ago, the Burrell family would not have stood out in a crowd. They were your average family, her husband held down a full-time job, she was a homemaker and were raising their children to the best of their ability. But there were not happy with given family and church situations, so they began searching for answers. They tirelessly studied their Bible, without any footnotes or commentaries that so many people rely on in their quest for newfound happiness and inner peace.
When their extensive research led them to the possibility of adopting an alternative lifestyle, they did not want to be right. Reluctantly, they slowly they began making the transition to a Plain Christian lifestyle, all the while asking God to send them a sign that they were headed down the right path.
The first time the ladies of the family dared to venture out in public with head coverings, they were shocked at the positive attention they received when they approached by many people who were curious as to their beliefs. And as their transition into this lifestyle deepened, they were convinced that God was slowly leading them in the right direction. It never failed to amaze them how strangers would approach them out of sheer curiosity and lead to a full-blown conversation. Some would leave them in tears and thank them for being bold enough to follow God’s word.
No, they are not Amish, Mennonites, or even fall under the category of full-blown Plain Christians. “We just want to serve God and live a life that we feel is pleasing to him.” But they have decided that there are some means of modern technology that has its advantages, and actually benefits their daily existence.
For instance, when you walk into their home, you will find the air to be quite pleasant, if not a little cool because Angie keeps the thermostat turned down low due to a heat exhaustion incident she suffered several years ago. They drive cars; they hold down full-time jobs, have internet access and a TV. However, I think it is important to point out they do not watch broadcast television, only carefully chosen movies every now and then. Angie even has a Jacuzzi in her bathroom. Paul works in the IT department at Alabama Power, a position he has held for almost 25 years. They don’t apologize for any of these luxuries either because they are happy with every aspect of their life now.
They use the internet as a tool to reach out to others with their lifestyle. Their website: www.sheperdshillhomestead.com has a vast amount of knowledge about their daily journeys, heritage skills, sermons, etc. They have home church services in their living room where anyone who wants to attend is invited, with crowds from 10-50 people present. Their services are streamed through their website where they have had people as far as Scotland tune in. There is no love offering taken up, in fact if people want to give a donation, the Burrell’s tell them of a local charity they can give to.
They even have homesteading weekends where people sign up for a three-day experience in heritage skills. They give demonstrations and exhibitions at local events. And it is not a money-making scheme; in fact they barely break even on many of these activities they oversee. “Our goal is to share our heritage skills to teach others, not to profit from.”
What changes did their new lifestyle bring to them and was it worth it to them? Well, Angie says sometimes Paul tells her he will hear her laughing out loud in her sleep, not that she remembers any of it. “I can remember a time when there was little sleep, because I was just afraid all the time”, says Angie emotionally “ To think that I have progressed to a point that I have found such peace and joy in my life that I can laugh in my sub-conscious state amazes me everyday”.
“Blacksmithing, candle-making, balm mixtures, wool spinning, basket-weaving, quilting, all of these heritage skills that we partake in everyday just reaches into the soul and brings a type of satisfaction that modern life can never even begin to touch. There’s something in a lifestyle like this that truly connects you to a creator that loves you” says Angie. “It’s a kind of peace that money can’t buy, says Angie as she points to her simple frock that drapes her body and says “ This is just a little wrapping, it’s what’s on the inside that really matters”
“God created us to be creators. He gave us everything we needed to live off the land. We just had to work for it. When you go to work to a job where you don’t produce anything, it leaves a void inside that can never be filled” daughter Sarah says. “It’s about finding a balance in your life in seeking to lead a life that is pleasing to God and to find fulfillment. If most people aren’t producing something with their hands, then they are probably not going to be a very happy person”
To say that I was very impressed with this family would be putting it mildly. I left this visit feeling a sense of renewal of life. With all the bad things happening in this world, this family had seemed to find something that others were desperately seeking; a harmonic balance of happiness, peace, and best of all, they found God. They walk with him every day in every aspect of their life and it shows on their faces. Is their life perfect? Why no, but whose life is? But they have enough faith in God that they know as long as they follow Him, He will provide a way. They know because they live it everyday.
It takes a special kind of courage to take the leap of faith they did and change your entire existence the way this family did. I have the utmost a respect and admiration for them.
The Burrell family have been a feature attraction at Lineville Heritage Day with their heritage exhibitions and we are proud to welcome them back this year. Please join us on this day and look them up. Take the time to talk to them and see for yourself what great people these are. I promise you…you won’t be disappointed…
Sep 10, 2013