Sunday, November 30, 2008

Behind the scenes in the OLT

Joy’s work this semester has mainly been pouring into a wonderful support staff team for the OLT (Outdoor Leadership Team). She not only coaches these staff in their work as employees, but strives to develop them as whole people, who lead lives of integrity, truth and intentionality. She meets with them as a group every other week and encourages them to challenge each other in their work. She also meets with them one on one to personally mentor them in work and life. We have two Montreat College students this fall, Ryan and Melissa, who are fulfilling their internship requirements by working with the OLT.
Joy enjoys the coaching/mentoring role in her work the most. She also spends much time meeting with key people in other departments such as training, conferences, finance, communications, and development to continue developing the ministry of the OLT within the CCO as a whole.

Family First Sports Park

Much of Francois’ work this fall has been developing a partnership with Family First Sports Park (FFSP) in Erie, PA. It is a large facility which contains a low ropes course, a climbing wall, and an alpine tower, all used for team building activities. FFSP is connected with a nearby church, day school, and boarding school.

Most recently, we facilitated two days of team building for the 40 inaugural students at the boarding school, Family First Academy. We presented to them the story of Earnest Shackleton, in which the arctic explorer in the early 1900’s took an expedition to be the FIRST to the south pole. He put an ad in the paper for a crew that read something like, “...terrible conditions, safe return doubtful, acclaim in case of success.” We challenged this group of forty 8-12th graders from Asia, South Africa, UK, Jamaica, Mexico and US to consider the legacy they are leaving and the trajectory they are setting for the years to come at the academy. Being the FIRST means a lot, there are a lot of expectations on you, you are pioneering something that has never been done before, and setting the stage for those who come after you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Kayak-A-Thon is coming, the Kayak-A-Thon is coming!

Saturday will be the 8th Annual Kayak-A-Thon to raise money for CCO's Outdoor Leadership Team. This year we will have 25 paddlers! Put in for the first group will be around 7:30 am from the Southside Park. Most people will try to paddle between 20 and 30 miles on Pittsburgh's Three Rivers. This year's event is being coordinated by Melissa Shoup, Montreat College senior who participated in last summer's trip to Canada with Francois and has spent the fall doing her internship with Joy in the CCO office. She has done a fantastic job.
Here's the press release about the event.
Weather is looking good for Saturday. See you on the rivers.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I'd like to introduce you to the Support Staff of the Outdoor Leadership Team Around Pittsburgh (aka SSOLTAP, pronounced "soul-tap). This is the wonderful team of staff that God has given me this year. I feel a tremendous responsibility to pour into these staff and build them up to be faithful to their callings, much like I did with students when I was on campus. It has been a time of stretching and growth for me to lead them this Fall. I believe God has given me this support team for MY support as well as for the OLT at large.

Given that the OLT is 40 people strong - about a 1/4 of the organization doing outdoor ministry - we are in need of a great support team that works behind the scenes to make it possible for students be transformed by meeting God in different ways in the woods and out.

This is Karen. She is the OLT Adminstrator. She just joined staff in August and is responsible for keeping our staff informed of changes and news about trainings, taking and distributing notes from our meetings, and managing the details for training events. She is also a part time social worker, who loves to be with people and live out her faith in active ways. Karen graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, where she was involved in the CCO's chapel-based ministry called the Outdoor Ministry Team. We are so glad to have her on staff!
This is Kelly. She is our Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness (LDW) Manager. She is in charge of our summer adventure programs for college students to Wyoming and Canada. She was a student on our '07 trip to Canada, and joined staff this past summer after completing an internship with us in the spring. She graduated from Gettysburg College where she was involved in the CCO's church-based ministry there. It's rare to find Kelly without a big smile on her face, and we are so fortunate to have her on the team!

Next Post: a few more profiles from SSOLTAP!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Working Restfully

Does that sound like a contradiction in terms? A major paradox? Well, it did to me until this past May. Work had become a total drain on my energy and motivation, not because of WHAT I was doing, but HOW I was going about it.

I spent a lot of time reading and reflecting this summer on how to work more restfully. That simply means to work at a pace that allows me to breathe and be attentive and aware of God’s work in and through me. In contrast, I was working last year with PRODUCTIVITY as my only goal. And, not just my goal, but my measure of success! I had a To Do list way too long for one person, and I would buckle down each day and try and cross as many things off that list as possible. At the end of the year, I wondered what of importance or consequence had I really fulfilled when all I was attending to was the urgent?!

I want to pursue this way of work and life so I can remain for the long-haul. I don’t know how long God would have me stay in the CCO, but I am open. It is not uncommon to hear about burn-out in ministry. Some believe that since it is “God’s work” that it either makes you immune to becoming tired or that there is no good reason to put limits on how hard you work (health of body, mind, spirit, family, relationships, etc.) I believe the evidence that working restfully is actually more effective. It doesn’t mean I don't work hard. It means I work well.

So, I am learning to manage my priorities better, to ask for help and be realistic about what one person can or should accomplish. And, I am encouraging my staff team of eight to do the same. Its not just my goal to set up a sustainable pattern of work for me, but also for the Outdoor Leadership Team as a whole. We have good work to do and I want it to keep going for a long time.

Please continue to pray for me and Francois as we seek to be faithful with what God has given us in our time, money, skills, and even our home. That none of these things takes our focus or becomes what we live for, but that we live for Jesus Christ, and give him thanks for the grace to figure it out on the journey.

You may want to check out these books:

  • Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn
  • Catch Your Breath, Don Postema
  • Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

And this website:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And now for a word from our students...

Anna was one of the participants on this summer's trip to the Georgian Bay. Having just graduated from Messiah College, she was getting ready to head out to San Diego to start the post college life. Anna is the one standing up in the blue jacket in the picture. Here's an excerpt from a letter she recently sent us:

So work is great and I love the people I work with. I'm living in a town house with all Christian girls I met through a church. I go to a Bible study for young adults, and I am slowly getting to know the people there. I am very motivated to try new churches, small groups, and just be outgoing. This motivation was given to me from my experience with LDW.

LDW taught me to be fearless. Learning to navigate on unsteady waters and sharing my personality and opening up to new people definitely prepared me to live with less fear in the future. Creating and discussing our future goals gave me a sense of accountability to accomplish these goals. I was accountable to my teammates from LDW, those who supported me financially,
and the one who was responsible for creating lake Ontario with is stunning beauty.

Now that I am a full time employee, I can most definitely see the benefits
of my trip. I'm not scared to share who I am with others, and I have a better sense of self-confidence. My faith was strenghtened by hearing others on LDW share their personal reasons for faith, as well as their life struggles. My co-workers may not realize what a great thing LDW did for my life.

God always has a plan, and for that we need to fear nothing. I was supposed to start work in early June, but my trip would interfere with this schedule. [ The medical center] is an extremely busy place with not a lot flexibility for vacation times since there are so many patients that need to be seen on a daily basis. There were other applicants who could have gotten the job and start earlier than I could have, but my employers saw beyond the time frame and allowed me to start later. They thought a kayak trip geared toward life transitions was a great opportunity I should not let go.

Seeing how God worked out these small details in my life schedule shows me that he cares about all aspects of our lives. He knows what is best for us, and His faithfulness will never fail. Thinking about these things reminds me to keep on trusting Him even when life seems like it is at its worst. With my parents divorce in process, I am reminded to trust God and know that he
has a plan for every member of my family if we are faithful to His word. It seems like this generation is plagued with divorce, so now is a good time to experience some of God's faithfulness.
Preparing for leaving well...

What a summer! I can't believe it's already September. As we start the semester and look back over the summer, we want to share with you on the blog and the upcoming newsletter all that's been going in our work with the CCO.

Francois started the summer by returning to the Georgian Bay with a group of students. Initially meant as a repeat of last summer's LDW trip, we found that most of the students applying were graduating senior preparing to leave college with a short window before their new jobs began. So we designed a 10-day trip with the focus of how to transition well. The parallel between the wisdom necessary to sea kayak in the uncertain and ever-changing conditions of the Great Lakes in early summer and the moving out of the familiar world of college into the adult work world was perfect.
Life on the islands of the Georgian Bay.

The instructor crew (r-l) Charity, Sean and Kelly (who was a student on last year's trip and after her internship with the CCO this spring, has come on staff to be the LDW manager!)

The crew back at the equipment room.
Can you thing of a better picture to capture the experience of transitioning out of college: the light at the end of the tunnel combined with the dark clouds of uncertainty!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making the headlines

check this out from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Monday, May 05, 2008

Re-Creation is not a luxury

Quoted from an article in the International Herald Tribune:

A. Whenever I conduct workshops with any group, I ask people how free they feel and to rate themselves on a scale of 0 to 100. The responses are usually about the same whether I am talking to people in a correctional facility or at a workplace. I have learned firsthand that some people feel free while behind bars (and use their time in a positive way), yet others feel "locked up" while living in society.

One thing I learned from working with incarcerated populations is that having a good understanding of leisure and implementing it can be a coping skill, especially through transitions. Prison re-entry to society is a major transition in one's life. However, we all experience transitions whether big or small. Sometimes we have control of them and other times we don't.

Waking up every day is a new transition. Every minute is a transition. Taking a new job, retiring, going to school, finishing school, relocating, recovering from an illness, bereavement, having a new baby are just some of the transitions we encounter and there is an unknown associated with them. A satisfying leisure life can help an individual take control of part of that unknown. It also gives the opportunity for choice, which is often limited in other aspects of our lives, like during our work.

Improving our relationship with leisure can also reduce job stress, improve work-related skills, increase tolerance and understanding and enhance decision-making

Here's the link to the rest of the article

Thursday, April 10, 2008


This summer we will run not one but two summer programs. Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness (LDW), the 40 day trip that Joy and I have led several times to the mountains of Wyoming or the water of Canada, is growing.

This year CCO is hoping to offer both the Canada and the Wyoming versions! We have assembled two instructors teams and they have begun to interview students. After leading a trip in May, Joy will spend the summer in the office.

I will be heading out as one of the instructors for the Canada trip. I look forward to working with younger team of eager up-and-coming instructors. Another exciting development we are seeing in the summer programs is the growing numbers of applicants who are about to graduate. On last year's trip, almost half of the participants were graduating seniors. The pattern is even more pronounced this year. I am excited to work with these students as they consider the transition out of college to the work world.



Since 1995 Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness, the 4-6 week trip CCO takes to WY and Canada each summer, has also offered students the opportunity to become certified Outdoor Leaders through the Wilderness Education Association, the only organization in the country to offer this type of certification.

CCO receives Wilderness Education Association 2008 Affiliate Award

(Pittsburgh) March 17, 2008 — The CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) has received the 2008 Affiliate Award from the Wilderness Education Association (WEA), a national outdoor education organization.

“I am pleased to report that your organization has set an example, in many regards, for what an outstanding WEA Affiliate should be,” writes Ivan Bartha, Coordinator for Experiential Programs at St. Cloud State University and Affiliate Representative of the WEA. (read more)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Alternative Spring Break

Spring Break Trips are typically a time for college students to travel with friends, let their hair down, and blow off steam that has built up under the heat and pressure of mid-terms and academic fatigue. It’s been a few years since I was actually on campus, so I looked up what MTV was promoting these’s what MTV’s Spring Break website called “Must-have’s”:

Floating Party Table
Treading water is hard. Especially when you've got a bottle of ummm... juice in each hand. Unless you have four arms. But come on. Nobody has that. So get this floating bar thing. It's a bar that goes in the water. A bar where you can drink your juice without drowning.

Essential Foreign Swear Words by Emma Burgess
Not much explanation needed here. If you're headed to some exotic spring break destination, chances are at some point you're gonna need to know how to tell the locals to &#$@ off.

D’ya think students need an alternative?

I had the privilege of taking 8 students to Joshua Tree National Park last week for an alternative spring break trip that offers a different atmosphere from Miami Beach and Cancun. We still had sun, but rather than substance abuse, there was substance to our conversations and friendships. Rather than tying one on each night, we tied into climbing ropes each morning!

In addition to providing an alternative spring break, I had the privilege of mentoring two student leaders -Jeremy and Lauren. They are part of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Outdoor Ministry Team (OWU’s OMT!) They began planning for the trip in November with their campus minister beginning in November. Once on the trip, OLT staff Steve N. and I took the role of mentor/leader-developers for Jeremy and Lauren. We met with them each day and helped them lead the group effectively.

The director of OWU’s OMT said this of Jeremy and Lauren after he spoke with them about their spring break experience: “Their lives are on a new trajectory as a result of this past week.” They are thinking differently about how their gifts of leadership can be used in God’s Kingdom.

Thank you for your prayers and support that make it possible for me to be part of the story in which students like Lauren and Jeremy get a glimpse of their role in the redemption of God’s Kingdom.

~ Joy

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Two weekends ago was Jubilee, the CCO's annual conference. Two thousand college students came to the Pittsburgh convention center to connect with students and speakers about living out their faith in their work and studies. It was a fantastic weekend with great keynote speakers (I especially like Blue Like Jazz author Don Miller, Joy really enjoyed Anthony Bradley on Friday night), great break out sessions and amazing concerts. We had many opportunities also to meet with students to talk about going on summer leadership and discipleship trips to Canada or Wyoming.

Here some other people's reaction to the conference.

  • Washington Post writer and former President Bush speech writer, Michael Gerson writes:
“I have seen the future of evangelical Christianity, and it is pierced. And sometimes tattooed. And often has one of those annoying, wispy chin beards…”
To read the rest of the article click here.

  • Friday night speaker Anthony Bradley blogged about his first Jubilee experience, click here to check it out.
  • Here are more picture from the CCO's website, here.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Comment Magazine

Comment is an online and paper magazine for college students. Edited by Gideon Strauss and the Work Research Foundation, it offers thought provoking articles for Christian students. Francois has a little piece published in their last issue with suggestions for making experience part of college education.