A Journey Home (Movie Review)

I refuse to have cable or satellite television service. That’s because I loathe television. I almost never watch it any more. But I like to watch an occasional movie or documentary using the VCR. And, as I’ve mentioned here in the past, my family enjoys watching Little House on The Prairie and The Waltons DVDs (of which I believe "Little House" is a far more edifying program).

And so, a few weeks ago, I bought a documentary movie titled A Journey Home from Franklin Springs Media. I bought the movie because a couple of people mentioned to me that I should see it. Well, now that I have, I’d like to tell you about it...

A Journey Home is about Tommy and Sherri Waller and their eleven children (seven boys and four girls). Years ago, right out of college, Tommy got a job working for Federal Express. He was a manager, putting in 80 hours a week. It was a great job and a great career. But Tommy made a decision to walk away from the job, the career, and the typical suburban lifestyle.

The Waller family moved to Russell Creek, a secluded area in rural Tennessee where most of their neighbors were Amish and Mennonite. The Wallers lived without electricity and became organic farmers.

Why would a man with a successful modern career and all the conveniences of modern life walk away from it and take his family to a backwoods place like Russell Creek? Well, according to the movie, Tommy Waller went home to unite his family. And the Wallers moved away from the influences of mainstream society in order to be a closer family. What, you may wonder, was the fundamental motivation to do such a radical thing? They were motivated by their Christian beliefs.

The movie presents a visual montage of scenes from the Waller family’s life on the farm at Russell Creek. Milking the cow, homeschooling, cooking meals, preserving food, plowing with horses, planting, splitting firewood, the children playing in the woods and in the pond, the family worshiping and making music together. The images of rural life and family closeness are delightful and powerfully endearing. Indeed, they are beautiful! And they are compelling.

The movie also tells the story of the Waller family selling their produce and home-baked goods on Thursday afternoons at a farmer’s market in Leiper’s Fork, TN. The entire family works at the farm market and, in so doing, makes an impact on the people of that community. This weekly event of selling at the farmer’s market is presented as another positive aspect of the Christian-agrarian lifestyle they have chosen to pursue.

The end of the movie is a a real surprise because it is such a contrast. After six years of seclusion and the simple life at Russell Creek, the Wallers pull up stakes and head to Israel. We see them at the airport, in cities, using cell phones and computers to communicate with people back home. They went to Israel (and are still there today) to live and work with Jewish settlers on the West Bank. They are planting, tending, and harvesting crops. They are Christian-agrarian missionaries.

I have watched the movie five or six times and I’ll watch it a couple more. I like it very much. The DVD also has some bonus features like the ability to watch the whole movie while listening to a running commentary from the producer, Ken Carpenter. The commentary provides a lot of interesting insights about the Wallers and how the movie came to be made.

There is, however, one huge question in my mind after watching the movie. How, I wonder, could this family do what they did and make ends meet? I wonder that about a lot of folks who are turning their backs on modern life in order to live a full time, family-focused, home-based agrarian lifestyle. Money is still needed. Where does it come from?

At one point in the movie, Sherri Waller comments that you really can sell enough produce to live off the land. This is amazing to me. Pictures of the Waller’s farm show a relatively small planting. And we are led to believe that the primary means of marketing their products (of making ends meet) is through the Thursday afternoon farm market.

My wife sells bread at a farmer’s market on Thursday afternoons. We know people who sell produce. You can certainly make money at such an enterprise. But making enough for a family of 13 to live on at a single market is difficult for me to feature. They still have to pay property taxes, and auto insurance on their van. Do they have health insurance? The costs of living, even living simply, can add up pretty fast. Surely, there must be some other source of income.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not being critical. Tommy and Sherri Waller are remarkable and inspiring people. What they have done is exemplary. The movie is absolutely wonderful. I just can’t help being curious about the nuts and bolts of how they did what they did and were able to make ends meet.

Click on this link to order the movie: A Journey Home

Inherit The Land
On a different but related note, I see that Franklin Springs Media intends to release another documentary called Inherit The Land sometime this year. According to their web site, "Inherit The Land examines the rewards and the growing movement toward agrarian lifestyles and the benefits that families can gain from farming endeavors, large and small."

That is exaclty what I have endeavored to blog about here for almost two years now. So I think that sounds like an excellent movie and I can’t wait to see it!

Another Internet "Film Share"
Last year I blogged here about a DVD documentary called The Future of Food. I liked the film so much, and felt that its message was so important, that I decided to send my copy to any other blogger with an interest.

The concept was that other bloggers could watch the movie and write about it (thus spreading the good word), then send the movie on to the next person on the list. The idea has worked moderately well. Several bloggers have written about the movie. The only problem is that it has not made the rounds as quickly as I had hoped it would. I (the last person on the list) should have gotten the movie back months ago and it’s still out there, but that is not a major problem. I believe it will still make its way back to me... someday.

I’d like to do a similar "film-share" with my copy of A Journey Home. If you are a blogger and would like to see this movie, simply send me your e-mail, your blog name, and your postal mailing address (my e-mail is: hckimball@bci.net).

I will compile a list of not more than a dozen people and send it to the first person on the list. You can take a week or, at most, two to watch the movie and then send it to the next person on the list.

All I ask is that you mention it on your blog with a link to Franklin Springs Media. You needn’t do an extensive review unless you want to. A simple mention and endorsement (only if you like the movie, of course) on your blog will fulfill your end of our film-share “agreement.” If you want to get on the list, e-mail me by April 12. I’ll announce the reviewers here, and send the movie out.

Other Agrarian Documentaries
Do you know of other out-of-the-mainstream documentaries that would be of interest to the Christian agrarian community? If so, please let me know about them and I will endeavor to review them here.


Anonymous said...

I also own A Journey Home and I have watched it many times. The Waller's have a web site .

One of the most powerful scenes for me is when Sherri recounts how the the kids had so eagerly memorized the books of the Bible and then says "those kids will do anything for Tommy". It made me think a lot about my own role as a Father and my responsibility for discipling my own children.

Have you seen Frontier House? I was struck by this program because you see a number of points at which the families unknowingly voice many of the benefits of the agrarian life. There is much that can be said about Frontier House. I am going to go back and watch that one again and take some notes this time.

Barbara Frank said...

Sounds like a good one! I'd be interested in reviewing the dvd for my blog. I couldn't find your email address so consider this my email to you.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi ethan,

Thanks for your comments. I have not seen Frontier House. Maybe I'll check it out.

barbara frank,

I'll be glad to add you to the film-share list for this movie. I need your mailing address to do so. My e-mail is: hckimball@bci.net

Downshiftingpath said...

Hi Henrick, I have nominated you for the thinking blogger award. Details can be found on my blog

Marci said...

We too own A Journey Home and love it. It makes us realize how we have missed the boat in the past and we need to make changes NOW for the future.

Herrick, I have another video that I really think you should watch. It lets you know what is going on in the world (behind the scenes) like the Future of Food did. It is on my blog today as a video you can watch, but you can also order copies through the website they tell about on the video. This is something that has a true time line attached and is serious. If you watch it, please let us know what you think!!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hello sockknittingmama,

I am honored. Thank you.

By the way, I have never knit socks but I have darned wool socks and it is a very pleasant way to spend an winter evening by the woodstove.

Hi Marci,

I'm heading to your blog right now......

Anonymous said...

Hi Herrick~

I actually just spent the weekend with Tommy and Sherri Waller, and asked her some of the same questions you ask. (They are in the states for a ministry tour to speak about their work farming in the West Bank.)

Sherri said they made 15K each year during that time, and that their "ends" simply weren't as far apart as other's might be. As in, they grew 98% ish of their own food, had no debt, and property taxes in that part of TN aren't (or at least weren't) horrendous.

They also bartered for different items they needed with their Amish neighbors. (Having 7 children myself, I can attest to the fact that it isn't nearly as expensive as folks may imagine.)

I hope this helps!


tc said...

I also own "A Journey Home" and enjoyed it. Glad to see your Film Share plan that will help to get it more press.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was a film that started by picturing them at the end of their journey and not the whole process itself. I would love to have seen the whole process including the changes and growth in putting everything together.

Have you read Salatin's You Can Farm? He has a good chapter early in the book about how much money do we really need to live on. Challenging questions...

Also own Frontier House. Saddest thing in the movie was seeing all the families, even after experiencing so many positives of an agrarian life, revert to their corporate ways after it was all over. That part was a definite downer for me.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Julie,

Thank you for the insights.

I do have Joel's book, "You Can Farm." In fact, I came to the conclusion after reading it that I can't farm. Primarily because I am too old to start. But I can still till the soil and grow things to a degree. And, Lord willing, I can acquire the land and lay the groundwork for my children (maybe even grandchildren) to farm one day.

Your mention of Joel's book makes me want to re-read it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

In your blog you've mentioned twice that this family is Christian but I just finished watching this movie with my own family and the Wallers are Jewish. The father sings Jewish songs and prays with the boys from the Torah and they have the star of David flag in one of the scenes. It is hanging over their daughter's head. They leave America to live in Israel with fellow Jewish people and help them to learn their farming techniques. I went on their website and it is filled with Jewish Prayers and sign-up sheet to pray these prayers.

That said, of course there is nothing wrong with them being Jewish only I wanted to clarify that they are not Christian.

Herrick Kimball said...


It is my understanding that the family believes Jesus Christ is the messiah. That is what Christians believe. Jews do not. Also, they are Bible believers. Jews are not. I can not explain their adoption of Jewish customs & culture. It is not typical for Christians to do that. But it is not unheard of.

DonnaR said...

From what I understand there are Jews who believe that Jesus is the Son of God but are still Jews and are called Jewish Christians. The Holyland theme park in Florida was started by a Jewish Christian.

Anonymous said...

I had to comment on this-the Wallers are what some folks call "Messianic"- others prefer to be called "Torah observant". The bottom line is that they are not Jewish, but because our Christian faith is rooted in Hebrew/Jewish faith, we have come to understand that we have also been commanded to keep the Sabbath and observe the festivals that are typically associated only with Jewish people. I do not personally know the Wallers so cannot speak for them, but my family and many others I do personally know are not Jewish but are Torah observant and share many similarities with the way the Wallers are represented in the film. I may not have been real clear here but anyone interested in more information can visit a website called First Fruits of Zion or simply google messianic Christians.

Unknown said...

Reply to the last comment to this article regarding roots of Christianity:

To differentiate, A logical analysis (found in www.netzarim.co.il (Netzarim.co.il is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of “the gospel of Matthew” (which is a redaction of Netzarim Hebrew Matityahu (which was perfectly in harmony with Torah) and anti-Torah) and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

The roots of Christianity is not Judaism, which is the religion that Ribi Yehoshua and his talmidim Netzarim practised and taught other to practise, but Hellenism.

Learn more in the “History Museum” in the above Netzarim-website. The only legitimate followers of Ribi Yehoshua have always been the Netzarim.

This implies that the historical Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh, is not the same as the Christian Jezus.

Wronged Stepsister said...

Don't be impressed that Tommy Waller got a job right after school at Fedex, his father worked there. And I'm guessing that they were able to pay their bills is that his mother paid them. He still lives in a house his mother provides his family. I have no respect for anyone in that family. He claims to follow Jewish law but only the parts he likes. They don't eat pork, but love to eat at Red Lobster. They didn't go to Israel one year because it was the Sabbath year but that only applied to Israel apparently because they planted a garden in TN and made my father work it. My father was married to Tommy's mother. My father died in May. The last week of his life they had him brush hogging and working on their sewer even though he had recently had heart surgery and wasn't even cleared to play golf yet. My father left absolutely everything to my stepmother, disinheriting my brother and I because my stepmother promised that if she died last she would divide everything they both had between me, my brother, Tommy and his brother. Do you think she is going to do that? No, she said she wasn't and she didn't have to because my dad died first. And then they buried my father without a funeral home, in a coffin made of 2x4s in nothing but the underwear he died in. His feces filled underwear of course because they didn't even clean his body and everyone knows how the body purges itself after death. They also wouldn't let my father's best friend of over 30 years perform his funeral because they were afraid he might say something about their own false biblical views. And now with my father's money Tommy will have lots of money to buy military guns for his cult. And I think none of his work is based on Christian love. As soon as last fall his webpage said he saw a business opportunity in Israel and he took a group of businessmen there to explore that opportunity. And even at my father's memorial he was trying to get my brother and I to give him more of OUR money or provide housing to him if he was in our towns. And just to give you another taste of what his mother is like, the day after my father died, she was having my grandfather's coin collection appraised and prying the valuable coins out of it.

There is just so much more. There is the also animal torture. One Thanksgiving he and his sons tied a chicken to a log outside their home and then took turns shooting at the terrified thing until one of them finally killed it.

Anonymous said...

The Wallers were recently in the news a lot here in Israel where I live. I googled them and got to this website. I would love to see this documentary but It isn't available here as far as I can tell. Is it online to watch anywhere. Thank you.