Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Newsletter

I’m constantly reminded that one of the great things about being married to Francois is that we see things totally oppositely, and that he balances me out. You see, I am much more pragmatic and logical while he is more… well, relational. I hate to admit it. This issue most recently surfaced when I was intent on writing our next one-page-snapshot-of-ministry-with-enough-white-space-so-people-will-read-it newsletter . Then yesterday I received a friend’s two page, small font, verbose but exciting and interesting update on her life as a whole and thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I know you love and care for Francois and I, so here is more of a “panoramic shot” of our lives. (This is the blog version of a newsletter that went in the mail....)

The big question is often, “so how is the house coming along?” We bought a major fixer upper in April and we are slowly making it our home while living in it. We have heat in some rooms, and enough living space to have people over for dinner or stay in our guest room. We even had a progressive Thanksgiving, hosting appetizers and then moving to Francois’ sister’s home for dinner. The most recent beautification projects were tiling a tub surround (thanks to Francois’ dad for so much help) and replacing our broken picture window in the front. The next big things are finishing the ductwork to put heat in various rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors and installing the tile in the 2nd floor bathroom.

Francois is taking a few classes this semester towards a PhD in Education. He is doing well in his classes and spends a lot of time researching, reading, writing and philosophizing. In search of a dissertation topic, Francois posed an idea to one of his professors, who thought his questions were great and is helping him form his thoughts into a “juicy problematic.” He has another year of classwork before he officially starts the dissertation, which could then take another 3-4 years. Like sea kayaking this summer, Francois is practicing the discipline of long obedience in the same direction.

I tend to carry stress inadvertently; and now that I say it like that, I bet I’m not alone. But, I intentionally let things go from my mind and heart, but somehow my body doesn't get the message. I get headaches and my back pain gets worse. So, I recently took a few yoga classes at a local church and loved it! I thought I’d be bored out of my gourd, but the sole focus on breathing and stretching is a great release of the stress I tend to carry without knowing it. It is a great way for me to empty myself—but not to BE empty. I empty myself to be filled with the power of God in my life –and the stressors fade in comparison to the love the Creator of the Universe has for me.

I love our families. We are really blessed. We saw Francois’ mom for Thanksgiving. We are looking forward to spending the holidays in the Carolinas –NC with the Barron clan for Christmas and SC with JF and Trish Guilleux. My Aunt gets our extended family together now every October. Here’s a picture from that fun day of eating too much, apple picking, and catching up with cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.

I am so thankful for friends, too. There are just so many people who love and care for us in so many different ways. Francois and I went to his 20th High School Reunion last weekend. Not only did it make me want to know where my high school buddies are these days, but it made me appreciate the friends we have gained along the way—many of them are you. We are amply blessed with friends here in Pittsburgh, the day to day kind of have-you-over-for-birthday-brownies-and-ice-cream-friends that will be in our lives for a long time.

I heard Lauren Winner speak and she was reflecting on consumerism and the abundance of God. It stuck with me when she said that there are many things that we can have an abundance of that won’t leave others without. So, we are thankful for you and wish you the richest of holidays in the ways we can all have abundance and there’s still more to go around—in peace and joy and hope and love.

Conferencing this Fall

Little Rock, Arkansas
Assoc. of Experiential Education International Conference

The AEE is the largest professional conference in our field. It is an international association where all worldviews and ideas converge on the umbrella subject of “experiential” education, of which adventure programming is a part.

Francois, and colleague Sean Purcell presented on “Rethinking judgment”. Judgment is central to leadership. Good judgment allows us to take students safely into dangerous terrain. It allows us to know when loving means pushing a group or student on an issue, having a hard conversation, or standing by as they make mistakes.

Good judgment is what we try to teach staff in trainings. In their presentation, Sean and Francois shared how Christian philosophers and a Biblical worldview can add a richness and Truth to the way we teach leaders about judgment. They practiced being salt and light in the field of adventure education.

Orlando, Florida
Ivy Jungle Network, Annual Conference

The Ivy Jungle Conference is campus ministry central. It is where people who work with college students gather to share ideas, encourage one another and learn how to best serve and reach the ever-changing campus climate and student culture.

Joy presented on “Adventure Programming: engaging students: heart, mind, body and soul.” It was a chance to talk about how God changed her life through adventure programming, and how He continues to do so today for thousands of students through the ministry of the CCO’s Outdoor Leadership Team.

She described for the attendees how we are whole people who live interconnected lives and whose leadership comes out of our character and our character is discovered in community.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Kayak-a-thon 2007

Last Saturday Francois and 18 others took to the rivers for the 7th Annual Kayak-a-thon, a fund raiser for the outdoor ministries of the CCO. I was logistical support, collecting all the boats to use, distributing the gear, making hot chocolate, picking up the donated Panera Bread sandwiches, and cheering on the weary-muscled paddlers. Here is a video from the start of our morning.

Thanks to all who prayed, pledged or found sponsors toward the sustainability of the Outdoor Ministries of the CCO! We are thankful to be supported by such a wonderful community of people.

From Crackle: Kayak-a-thon 07

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Experiential Education in the News

Check out this article from the New York Times about what Outward Bound is doing for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Click here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A weekend mission conference

This past weekend, Joy and I attended the mission conference at Brice's Creek church in North Carolina. The church is one of our supporting churches and every two years they invite the missionaries they sponsor to return and let the congregation know what they have been doing. The theme this year was: Where is God?

It was an incredible experience of hearing from 25 missionaries from around the world and the US how they have seen God move in their work. It's easy to for me to forget but God is working in Africa, in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, in the Caribeans, and of course on US college campuses.

What an inspiration to hear from these folks that have been in ministry all their lives and are still following God's leading; some continuing in their work (the dentist ministry in Kenya for 25 years) and other moving to a whole new part of the world (Athlete in Action minister moving to Jerusalem after 10 years in Austria).

Joy and I also had a chance to talk to the youth group and to the college and career group about what it means to be a faithful to the calling of being a student.

Thank you for all your prayers and support that keeps us "out there" with students.
Who said today's students are not spiritually seeking? I especially like the organic prozac comment!

Student Voices

Left to right: Cecelia Woodworth; Kristin Mills; Andrew Shaffer; David Herman; Kate Natzler

I try to convince all my classmates to come to the monastery because it's like organic Prozac. These men are so calming and soothing and it's wonderful. The surroundings and the sermons are always wonderful and intelligent and educated. It's just very warm and accepting.
Cecelia Woodworth, Boston University (Divinity and Social Work)

I just tell my friends it's awesome, the brothers they are all really cool people and it's so much fun to come. I love this place; it is so beautiful and relaxing.
Kristin Mills, Boston University

And at the service tonight I really appreciate how beautiful the monastery is, the stain-glass windows and the architecture. I am really glad I came tonight.
Andrew Shaffer, MIT

It's an amazing experience, the acoustics, the hymns and the smell. It is the only place I have ever been at that actually uses incense; it makes it more powerful.
David Herman, Boston University (Electrical Engineering)

Coming to the 515pm service on Tuesday is my favorite part of the week, it's just so relaxing, and it's so welcoming. It's the only place I found that you just walk in and know it's automatically a community. The brothers are so welcoming every time I come.
Kate Netzler, Boston University (Theology)

From the Society of St John the Evangelist e-newletter. The monastery is located in Harvard Square.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Feels like life's on hold going the speed of light

When you live in a house and decide to get all the floors refinished, life sort of goes on hold. What do I mean? Well, between 4-9 tonight we can't use our bathroom upstairs (I actually drove to the office!). Next week, when our kitchen and front hall are done, we'll have long periods of time when we can't access our whole house! Not only that, but everything in those rooms is removed. So, we've been sleeping at our friends' house and will continue to do so until we can walk on our floors for good.

Now, the speed of light part? Well, our schedules haven't thinned out just because we can't really live in our house; they have actually gotten a little fuller. The drywall has to be complete before the floors are coated so the dust doesn't ruin the finish. That means we've been drywalling and spackling nights and days for over a week. Thanks to those who have lent a hand. Francois is trying to write papers and read books in the meantime for class, and Joy is continuing to tackle a hefty load at the office. The next four weekends include a trip to NC for a missions conference at a supporting church, a McGlauflin (joy's mom's side) family reunion, a conference, a wedding that 'Cois is in, and a Rippey Street Christian Community retreat!

Jackie-dog is also taking the brunt of it. She is seriously disturbed with the disarray and noise of the house (altho' the floor guys love her and throw the ball for her on their smoke breaks). She must weigh an extra 5 pounds with all the sawdust and plaster dust that is in her coat!

Now, on to a more positive note. We love our nieces and nephews. Here they are. Ian and Lydia at the bus stop for the first day of school. Ian is in 2nd grade, and Lydia in kindergarten. They belong to Karl and Bea ('cois' sister). They live 1/2 block away - so close we can see their front door from our back door!Here is Deborah. Look at that smile! She is Jon (joy's brother) and Lydia's second. What a ham.
This is Rachel. She is the oldest and a very good older sister to Deborah and...
Titus McGlauflin Barron. He's just so cute! Can you stand it?? The Barrons live in Alabama and we'll see them at the reunion next week. What a treat.
Well, this has turned out to be a bit more of a personal update. Hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ethics and Orientation

Francois spend yesterday with Carnegie Mellon's first year MBA students supervising a work site around the corner from our house. Given the landscape of today's business world, CMU decided that the first day of orientation for these business students should be about ethics-in-action: an introductory lecture on ethics followed by a day of community service. It's also a great way to connect these incoming students to life outside their new campus home.

check out the story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.

Although we did not read Eugene Peterson's book by the same title, it's one of the lessons students learned on LDW this summer while we paddled 170 miles on the Georgian Bay.

Sometimes it's not easy to explain to folks how transformation happens in the wilderness. Students often need time to process the intensity of the experience and its application back on campus. Other times it cristalizes in a way that inspires. Here's what one participant said at the end of the trip:

"We learned a lot about many different aspects of leadership during this trip - how to communicate effectively, different leadership styles and when they're appropriate based on the needs of the group, and tons about group dynamics. At first I thought I was collecting a grab bag of skills and knowlegde having to do with leadership or a list of areas I would have to consider in any leadership roles I take on, but I realize now that we were learning a lifestyle - a new level of Christlikeness that I had never seen before. On one of the last nights, Francois introduced us to the idea of 'yada' - to know. He told us it involves identifying what is true and responding to that truth, and the truth is that God loves each and every one of us, that He designed us all fearfully and wonderfully unique, and that He designed us to be known by one another and be in relationships with one another. It is in these relationships that we may image Him, both as a community and in all of our individual relationships. We learn to communicate effectively first and foremost so that we might understand one another, so that we have a more finely-tuned means of knowing one another and also allowing others to know us. We practice different leadership styles so that we might discover how to lead out of our own characters and in a way that best responds to and develops the characters of those we are leading. We study group dynamics because studying a community that strives to follow Christ is studying Christ himself. It's learning how Christ can work through any and every interaction and then just watching him do that. The next time I take on a leadership role, I will see it as the chance to work with a group of people, learn who they truly are, and love them with a Christlike love so they can grow more into who they are in Christ - as his beloved, all while they are revealing to me more of who I am as well. I've seen that leadership isn't about having a certain type of personality or a certain amount of knowledge, it's about relationships and discovering Christ with and through other people, and that's something God created all of us to do.
-Kelly Royer, LDW 2007 participant

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Leadership and discipleship in the Wilderness 2007

June 2-July 3—Georgian Bay—Ontario, Canada

We are going on a journey—a pilgrimage of sorts—a sea kayaking adventure with 11 college students this summer. LDW has traditionally been held in the Wyoming mountains, but this year while CCO is training new mountaineering instructors, we will pilot a new destination for this summer program. Nate Tiefenbach, Charity Haulbrich and Emily Bean will join Joy and I in leading this 32-day voyage. During the trip, students will focus on 5 areas of discovery– Spiritual Disciplines, Leadership, Community, Knowing, and Servanthood.

In the story of Israel, God tells his people that he led them to the wilderness for an attitude check and a time of discovery (“to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." Deut 8:2). Over the years we have found that this is still true. On LDW, in the quiet of the wilderness, students have a chance to reflect on their lives on campus and to hear in a new way the still small voice of God calling them: “Since you are precious and honored in my sight and because I love you…” (Isaiah 43:4).

Unlike the powerful mountaintop moments that mountaineering offers, a

150 mile sea kayaking journey gives a chance to experience what Eugene

Peterson calls “the long obedience in the same direction”- the perseverance

and discipline that are needed for a life-long journey of faith. Please pray for

us and the students as we engage on this pilgrimage.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Moving and Packing
We have spent the last few days packing and moving our belongings to our new house. We have a few days of preparation now before we leave for the Georgian Bay in Ontario to lead the LDW trip for a month. Please pray for our safety and that we may teach and learn all that God has in store for this time.

Bomber Biscuits and Lattes
Last week we spent our mornings making breakfast and espresso drinks for the CCO staff at our annual Spring Institute training week. It was a successful fund raiser for our renovations at the new Equipment Room (see that blog). Francois learned the art of making great lattes and cappuccinos from a man on staff whose been in the business for years. Joy adapted great breakfast recipes from camping to the regular kitchen. "Bomber Biscuits" are garlic and cheese biscuits with sausage, egg, and cheese. Here are a few pictures of our fun.

Group Games and Instructor Training
During the Spring Institute week, Joy taught CCO staff two sessions on games and group initiatives to use in their work with students and other groups. Francois taught up and coming wilderness leaders valuable experiential education teaching techniques and how to grow people in their judgment and decision making. Here is the group in an activity that facilitated good communication and teamwork called "Toxic Waste".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Pat on the Back

It's not always well looked upon to toot your own horn, but we thought you would like to hear this bit of news. I hope you know how much we appreciate your support of our work with the CCO. Transforming college students to transform the world is Kingdom-building work. As a mission it is a living out of and sharing in the message and person of Jesus in today's North American culture. Along with its core values (1. All things belong to God, 2. Jesus changes people's lives, 3. We love college students, 4. Faithfulness is pursued together, 5. We celebrate life.), it is also a reflection of this organization of which we are a part. Please celebrate with us as the CCO wins for the fifth year in row the Best Christian Place to Work Award in the large missions/parachurch category. Thanks for making possible our participation in this great adventure possible.

Check out the CCO news room for more on the award.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Did we mention that CCO has a new website?

Check it out! at

If you want jump straight to the Outdoor Leadership Team page, click here


Last week we went to see Michael Pollan speak about his recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. As "nature writer who doesn't like camping", Michael Pollan researched the origins of the foods we eat. Taking a sometimes humorous, sometimes disburting look at four meals, he traces the ingredients back to their origins. The question that emerges through the book's uncovering of the environmental, economic and political dimensions of our meals is not the usual "what should eat?" but rather " How should we eat?"

For example, Michael Pollan's account of the use of corn in our diet (way beyond the high fructose corn syrup believe me!) leads him to quip that we are the corniest people on the planet. But beyond our unconscious love for everything corn, our new passion for ethanol is having global impact and not the kind advertised by car companies.

Needless to say, I was a little spooked when the next morning after the lecture, the Washington Post ran a story on the implications of rising cost of corn on the diet and businesses of Mexico (click here for article)

On the heels of Jubilee and our presentation on Wisdom at the Wilderness Education Association Conference, Joy and I have been thinking about how the stewardship we teach in the wilderness works itself out when we are back in the city. How does the "universal flourishing" of Shalom we seek to offer our students through adventure education, come to be lived out in the way we buy our food, cook our meals, and eat together?

Michael Pollan talked about a visit he made to Joel Salatin's farm in Virginia. Joel and his family have built a thriving farm on the model that God created the world and its creature to be in symbiotic relationships. His story is a facinating challenge to our individualistic culture where the environmental chickens may be coming home to roost (see Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico or for NOAA's report on another cost of our "love" of corn)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The CCO's annual event called JUBILEE took place in Pittsburgh recently. Over 2,000 college students gathered to engage the topic of God's vision for His Kingdom in the here and now. Jubilee is a weekend to for students to be challenged to listen and be open to how they could join in God's redemptive work in this world - especially in the profession they are studying towards.

The Saturday night keynote speaker was Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission. He spoke to students about slavery in the world today. In coordination with Amazing Change Weekend, a special screening was arranged for students to see the Amazing Grace movie about William Wilberforce's fight to end slavery in the British Empire of the 18th century. To see more pictures from the weekend, click here.

Francois and I spent the bulk of the weekend talking to students who were interested in spending a month this summer on our Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness trip (LDW). Our design for the trip is to pour into the leadership and spiritual development of future CEO's, pastors, parents, and citizens. Our desire is that students will come away with a fuller knowledge and practice of servant-leadership based in their commitment to love and follow Jesus Christ. We believe that will help change the world.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Unique Classroom
Many of you know that when Joy worked with the adventure program at Westminster college, her colleague, Steve Montgomery, was asked by the college to develop a graduate program in adventure education. Francois and Steve taught graduate students and CCO staff in this program for the last couple of years until Westminster closed the program. Ever since, we have been looking for a new partnering institution to accredit the program. Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) has expressed interest in partnering with the CCO to re-open the graduate program. CCO staff are excited about this as are students we met at the Wilderness Education Association conference last week. WJU is currently reviewing our proposal. Check out the website that Joy designed for the program We should know in a month or two if we have the green light from WJU and look forward to start teaching this summer.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Francois and Steve Nystrom taught a Wilderness First Responder recertification class for CCO staff a few weeks ago. We spent three days together at Ligonier Camp brushing up on our backcountry medical skills. With 16 spring break trips going out next month, the course was a good review for situations we'd rather not find ourselves in but ones we need to be prepared for. Francois has been teaching these courses for CCO staff and students through SOLO, a school for wilderness medicine and rescue (
Here's a video from our time together.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Our new "ER"

OLT folks (Outdoor Leadership Team of the CCO) often get teased for the abundant use of acronyms. It's true we like to abbreviate ("I need to get my WFR and ITC before LDW so I can be a WEA NSP CI!")
Anyway, our ER (Equipment Room), pending board approval, will soon be housed in this big barn. Many thanks to a wonderful family who loves to support the work of the OLT, we will have a clean, dry, spacious and free place to store our gear all in one place. It is also a quiet place where staff and students can spend a day or two packing, preparing, and getting aquainted before trips, as well as drying out, unpacking and having space for reflection on the experience they just had.
In the 20+ years the CCO has owned equipment for adventure activities, God has always provided a place at little to no cost for the ER. As we move out of Cabot, PA, we are thankful for the last family who generously gave their space and smiles. And, we celebrate the provision of a new place with limitless potential for transforming college students!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Suspending the Normal

Take a moment. Step into the mind of OLT member, Sam, as he strives to put into words the essence of his work with college students through the wilderness setting. He labors to explain and define the unseen power of God’s ministry to students through creation, community and Christ’s call on our entire life ...
“Leading trips in every condition with every kind of student has not only been deeply wonderful, but it has also made me acutely aware of one thing:

Suspending normal is as simple as replacing self-serving cafeteria lines and big tables in a clean environment with a bag of ingredients, a four inch "stove" and the forest floor. Add in a cold layer of snowflakes and a pinch of darkness, and voila! Mealtime is brand new, requiring inter-dependence among these experts on self-sufficiency.

Suspending normal means replacing i-Pods with silence, homework with play, and wrist-watches with listening to the natural cycles of hunger and sleep.
Furthermore, it means removing the distractions that keep many of them from dealing with essential questions about life and faith.

This is the heart of it for me. Students frequently say that God is more easily found in nature than other places (even if they aren't sure there IS a God), as though the outdoors were his living room where they feel comfortable sitting. For so many, their internal questions converge with the activities and experiences and conversations on a trip and they begin to respond to Christ's invitation, "Come, all who are thirsty...."

What a privilege it is to watch them grapple with this first-hand, and then later, to hear from campus ministers about how these students' lives continue to be transformed on their campuses.”

Francois and I are going to "suspend the normal" with students this summer in Ontario, Canada on a 30 day kayaking trip: Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness... more details to come!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One resolution

Happy 2007! One resolution I made was to post more on the blog. That wont be too difficult since I only posted 2wice last year.
This picture of Francois and our friend Ryan is taken on the summit of a mountain in Wyoming. Ryan works in OH and wrote an email recently looking for some help for his spring break trip. It is a good example of why we do what we do. Here it is:

"FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!! An all expense paid trip to FL, THAT'S RIGHT!!! There is no catch except the giant SNAPPER you will be eating for dinner! No need for certification but it is certainly not a problem if you have it! this is a great opportunity to apprentice with a veteran instructor or to work with a great guy, and work with some fabulous student leaders!

WHEN: March 9 – 18

Where: 10,000 Islands Florida

What: OWU Wilderness Trek, Canoeing. It is called, “Creation Speaks, a theology of ecology” The group will be looking at the connection between the ecology of the everglades and how it connects to the ecology of relationships and life together! The curriculum and design is being created by the student leaders. Your role will be to be present, Risk management, Assist student leaders in their leadership, teach technical skills that are beyond student leaders reach."