Thank you to all of our faithful supporters and encouragers through the years. We appreciate you so much and hope these newsletters teach, encourage and inspire you towards change.
Mountain Haven Update
The time has come to give a ministry update. I know many are eager to know what the status of Mountain Haven is currently. Since our move to Minnesota in June 2018 we had planned to rest and retreat in Duluth, and work very low key jobs so we could heal and reflect on the last 10 years on the mountain and the last 14 years in ministry. Take a sabbatical if you will. As many of you know when we were feet on the ground here in Minnesota, two days after we landed, Kevin was struck with terrible side effects from his Crohn’s disease that had been brewing over the months leading to our move. From June 2018, up until a few weeks ago July 2020, Kevin has had seven surgeries and spent over 25 days in the hospital, had well over 150 doctors appointments, had his colon removed, suffered a horrendous non healing wound that grew into his pelvis, had a specialty surgery at the Mayo Clinic, suffered melanoma, and been in the most excruciating pain of his life.
The idea of a sabbatical was far from possible. I was lucky enough to have three amazing jobs; with my current one as a social work supervisor. This helps keep us on a steady health care plan, that has been a Godsend with all the medical interventions and costs. But the stress has been compounding to say the least. I would say the word, or words, that surrounded our last couple years has been survival and dread. Right or wrong, it has been hard for both of us to cling to hope even though we wrote a book on it. Our perspectives have changed.
After coming off of 14 years of building a house on the mountain to utilize for ministry and creating the curriculum and tools for Mountain Haven, with the help of so many amazing and generous folks, leaving our very comfortable life in Elk River, and committing our lives to an unconventional – highly demanding ministry; I think the reality and surprise of these recent, unrelenting circumstances deeply affected our hearts, our souls, our spirits. Obviously we came back to Minnesota with an expectation of what we thought God wanted for us here in our home state; rest, laughter, less stress, connection with family and friends; but truthfully we were shocked into a different reality. Isolation, loneliness, fear, pain, chaos, and absurdity.
Mountain Haven was started on the premise of imparting hope to others. We wrote a book about hope. Hope is the lifeblood of our story. And it was grounded and based in the story of Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis. Specifically Genesis 50:20, “you intended to harm me but God turned it around for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” The story of Joseph was really a story about a man who we assume kept hope and came out on the other side living a completely unexpected life, despite terrible betrayal and unfair circumstances. He came around to Hope even though he experienced much despair, existential suffering, loss of his family, and abuse and fear.
We know that because of how the story started with it’s beautiful description of a young favored boy with high hopes and joy, interpreting dreams and wearing a gorgeous colored jacket . A hopeful , starry eyed young man. We know it also because of the ending where Joseph expresses his forgiveness towards his brothers and his hopefulness about the future, and becomes a great leader, using his tragedy to change and impact the world. We don’t know his middle part however , when his hope was tested, possibly obliterated -when he lay in prison suffering, alone and desperate. That’s the paradox of bible stories: we get bits and pieces and the rest is untold and left to the imagination. Much like the stories of our lives- many of us are living the middle parts.
When we started our ministry we thought we had endured a lot of suffering. We related it to a lot of choices that we had made in the past, and gave God the glory for redeeming us from the stupidity of our choices and bringing us into a new phase of self-awareness and sacrificial lifestyle that would become Mountain Haven. The reality is we had experienced suffering in the past as individuals and as a couple, but collectively we had not really experienced the depth of the type of things that Joseph was referring to when he said those hopeful words to his brothers after being rescued from captivity in the ultimate twist plot. As I stated earlier, there’s a big gap in the story about Joseph from when he was unjustly thrown into a pit; had his dream in the prison and then rose to the ranks in popular culture. I think we have been living in the gap. As St. John of the cross would often write about the dark night of the soul; it’s only possible for that to happen in a place of isolation, loneliness, and extreme suffering. A place of the unseen. What better landscape than the tundra of Duluth for our dark night to occur.
Having said all that we have had moments to ask “what about Mountain Haven?” Mountain Haven is a non-profit ministry that we started 13 years ago. It was never meant to be a location, it was meant to be us, our story, and the scope and reach of what we do formally -and also informally- in service to God and others. We decided to live a life of ultimate dependence on the generosity of others and our hard work and sweat; by being donation based. We sold everything we owned and poured it into a location and a lifestyle that allowed us to serve others regardless of their status socioeconomically or otherwise. It was very radical and adventurous. We had the wonderful opportunity to serve thousands through groups, mission trips, individual counseling, outreach, and tv and radio shows. Those were the vehicles we used to achieve the vision. It’s been an incredible, indescribable journey.
Since the beginning Kevin and I have been the face of Mountain Haven, as we should be, since we are the founders. The mountain in Mountain Haven was never intended to be a location; it was a metaphor meant to represent a journey to the top of the mountain after intense suffering to get there. We were fortunate that we were able to symbolically represent it in Colorado. We are currently, and for an unknown time, representing Mountain Haven in Minnesota. As far as work in counseling and ministry- the last two years have given us ample opportunity to excavate hope in our very limited scope, our family. We have sacrificed within our walls in service to one another as a family to survive this health battle. The fight to impart hope during this time to our kids and one another has been akin to Sisyphus pushing that boulder day after day up the mountainside. Now we truly know experientially the chronic part about living with a serious disease like Crohn’s disease. We are excavating and seeking hope daily by allowing time to heal. Mountain Haven continues on because we believe that our story is a story that will continue to activate hope in others no matter our location. In that vein we have still in the last two years been able to continue to be a limited support to many that have reached out, Chris has been able to do some phone calls, letters, and conversations with many folks , as well as offer pre-marriage counseling and officiate a wedding in Maryland, and we have even been able to share our story and our book with multiple people in the hospital.
Looking forward, Mountain Haven will take a different scope in its vehicles of outreach. Our vision remains the same. We aren’t sure how that will play out or when that will evolve, but the hope is that Kevin will act in a more supportive and mentoring role rather then the role of a counselor with those we minister to, Chris will eventually take on marriage counseling, individual counseling, pre -marriage and officiating weddings, and continuing writing and creating and sharing curriculum for hurting people. The timing of this is still a mystery to us.
Even though we have been in a continual crisis the last two years, we are not ready to close this chapter in our lives. We are not done. God is absolutely not done with our story and this long chapter is an epoch in history for us; we will need time to heal in our souls and spirits and decide how this will impact our steps moving forward. Some of you have supported Mountain Haven financially, and us emotionally and spiritually. We want you to know that all your financial support goes to administrative costs of keeping the technical/logistical side of the ministry and 501c3 alive. Our main update at this point is we would ask that all of you that have been friends and supporters of Mountain Haven would continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as the future unfolds. In the meantime we will continue to try and send encouraging newsletters on a bi-monthly basis, be open to evolving our outreach and support to others while also focusing on reconstructing the last two years and healing physically and mentally. Feel free to reach out with any questions for us. We hope that you are receiving insights and growing in your faith, your marriage, and your family. Hope is a constant companion, even in darkness.