In 2009, Beth and I (along with several college friends) moved to Denver, Colorado, hoping to start an intentional Christian community. After only a couple months, our hopes for that endeavor were shattered.  Conflict within the community grew to the point that we discerned it was time for us to leave Denver. I had spent the first half of that year in Denver desperately seeking work at places of worship where the theology fit with mine.  But I was just one applicant amongst hundreds for a position at almost every church I applied. Having not been to seminary, it was hard for me to stand out in the crowd.


Beth and I were growing frustrated. We had started to entertain the idea that maybe we didn’t have a home in the Church any longer. I began to resent that God had supposedly called me into ministry and yet left us stranded in Denver. I started looking into culinary school, or even just packing up and heading back home to Pennsylvania.


It was around this time that a spiritual director in Denver asked us, “What is it that you most want to do?” Beth and I blurted out, “We want to move to Oregon!” She replied, “Why don’t you do that?” We began to list our fears for moving even further away from all of our family and friends, finances, jobs, etc.  Our spiritual director stopped us after some time of bashing the idea of moving to Oregon and said, “Why don’t you allow yourselves to dream about moving to Oregon for two whole weeks. . .dismiss all of the voices of doubt and just have fun with the idea.”


So we did just that. Beth and I imagined driving to the coast. We imagined hanging out in Portland. We thought about the smell of old growth forests. I had visions of fly fishing, and Mt. Hood. Our hearts built with anticipation as we really started to imagine ourselves in Oregon. Each time a voice of doubt crept into our dreaming, we politely asked it to leave.


A couple days into the project I logged onto my computer and went to a website listing youth ministry jobs throughout the country. I scrolled through the list slowly, dismissing churches based solely upon their denomination until one listing popped out from the screen, “West Hills Friends Church.”

—Mark Pratt-Russum