Last month we celebrated five years on the road full-time!
When we first hit the road in February of 2012, we had no idea what was in store for us. We didn’t know how the world would receive my music, the mission, or our family. We didn’t know if living in a 27-foot travel trailer would be doable. (We’ve since upgraded to 30 feet–we’re living high!) We didn’t really believe a family of nine could survive off free-will offerings and CD sales. (We’ve since “upgraded” to a family of 10.) We didn’t know if we could live on the road with a child with an auto-immune disease. We had no idea if we could fit all the pieces together and make it work.
We did know one thing–God is good and He provides. Whether He chose to provide for us through the music mission or if He had other plans, His goodness and providence were never in question. He has been faithful in our lives.
I won’t pretend that the past five years have always been easy. In the interest of full disclosure and to offer perspective to those who want our lifestyle, I will share some of our struggles. We are ten very real people sharing 250 square feet day-in and day-out. We deal with dietary issues and feed a large family on a single burner without an adequate oven. We take on the challenges of water toting, navy showers, and laundromats. Our finances are based almost entirely on whether a pastor says, “We’d love to have you sing!” or “No, thanks.” We’ve had to seek out doctors, veterinarians, urgent care centers, hospitals, and dentists around the country and in Mexico. We bawled shamelessly as we said goodbye to our old golden retriever, Jedi, when he died last year.
We’ve dealt with single-digit and triple-digit temperatures in a travel trailer. We got stuck in the mud in Texas twice, evacuated from a typhoon in Oregon, repeatedly dug ourselves out of the snow in Wisconsin, and sought shelter from a tornado in Oklahoma (note to self–no events in Oklahoma in tornado season). We’ve lost tires, brakes, a transmission, and a myriad of other parts essential to keeping a rig running. We get strange looks and open criticism from people (even Christians) who think we’re living a little too far out on the fringes.
We’ve also seen more blessings than we can count. We added a baby and a kitten to the family in 2015. We’ve seen 49 states and most of the major national parks. We graduated two of our children from high school, started one in college, and taught two little ones to read, all while remaining together as a family. We learned about the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Corps of Discovery, and other major historical events on site. We walked in the footsteps of America’s founders and her great adventurers.
We’ve talked to folks all across the nation and learned of their struggles, triumphs, fears, and hopes. We’ve been in wealthy churches, poor neighborhoods, reservations, and assistance centers. Our children’s eyes have been opened and hearts expanded to the needs of a nation, person by person. We’ve prayed with others and listened in awed humbleness as others have prayed for us. Through it all, we have the blessing of being together all the time.
We’ve also been blessed to share the Message of hope and salvation with a hurting world–and what a blessing that has been! Our music has been used to reach those who don’t know about Christ or who have fallen away. It’s been a tool for encouraging believers. It’s been played in hospital rooms, in preschools, at crisis and recovery centers, during Bible studies, and at weddings. We’ve had people ask if they could use my songs at their own funerals.
The stories you people have shared about how you have used our music to shine Christ’s light are the fuel of encouragement. Your words push us to forge onward when the struggles weigh heavy and we wonder if God wants us to move on to something that makes us a little less vulnerable to the whims of opinion, weather, and potholes. Do you have a story you could share with us about how the music has blessed you or someone else? We would love to hear it.
Speaking of blessings, we were invited to stay in a vacant cabin in the mountains of Arizona during some recent downtime; we savored the space, the full-sized refrigerator, the local library and hiking trails, and the washing machine. We then spent a week singing on the Whiteriver Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona–what an experience! (Read about it here.) We’ll be in Arizona for the rest of the month before heading to New Mexico and Texas.
Check out the schedule to see when we’re in your neighborhood. I’m actively booking for late spring in Colorado and for summer, fall, and Advent in the Midwest, so please get in touch. Christmas concerts or Advent by Candlelight, anyone? I’m already booking some in Wisconsin–those dates go fast.
The past five years would not have been possible without your prayers, encouragement, CD purchases, and financial support. To quote the Apostle Paul, “I thank God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3) We’re on this journey together, sharing the Message of Grace one song at a time. We hope to see you in person soon.
Stephen Bautista & Family
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