Safely Returned

Iceland students on the way back to Gordon from the airport sang WAY too much Highschool Musical.


It’s been just under 24 hours since we woke up in Iceland and began packing for our return to the States. And I can gratefully say that, as of a few moments ago, all the Iceland and Nicaragua groups have safely arrived at Gordon College. Iceland students have been back for a few hours, and parents should have already heard from them. Nicaragua students will have some time tomorrow morning, around 7:45-8:45 EST, to call home and check in.

There are just a couple days left on the RMI. They are an important time for students to process, debrief and reflect on this past month, while also (and most importantly) begin to look forward to applying these lessons to life and ministry back home. Your prayers are, as always, appreciated.

Parents, please remember that you are invited to join us for the closing luncheon this Thursday at noon. We’ll be meeting you at Chester’s (same location as opening lunch) and ask that you arrive there shortly before noon to meet your students when we walk over with them. Please remember to RSVP for this luncheon if you have not already.



A Week In Summary: Iceland and Nicaragua

It’s been a busy week. At 11:30 EST tomorrow, the Iceland group will be flying back across the ocean towards Boston. Shortly thereafter, Nicaragua will be boarding their first flight to Miami. There’s so much to say/tell/share about the week. We couldn’t start to do it in a blog post! But here are a few snapshots and testimonies from the week to give you a glimpse of what you’ll be hearing from your children in just 4 (!!!) days:

Nicaragua group posing (at a very safe distance) next to a local volcano.
Compass time in a hammock. That’s some pretty intense prayin..
Celebration selfie!
A massive water slide at Ruby Ranch where Compass students spent with week with local children.
A snapshot of some of the VBS students on celebration day.






Neighborhood of Los Braisilles, one of the locations where Compass students spent the past week.




A typical Icelandic ‘sunrise’ around 3 AM


Compass time in a small, country church building.


The Iceland crew at Þingvellir National Park. Go ahead and try to say that word. It’s fun.
Compass students had the chance to attend a morning mass at the famous church in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja.
This is our fun photo shoot by a waterfall. I have no idea what the hand signals mean. I was just trying to fit in.
The view from the summit of Mount Esja looking out over Reykjavik and beyond.



Here’s a little bit about the week from Jenn S. in Nicaragua:

Hey family and friends! This week in Nicaragua has been an awesome experience. I was apart of the group of Compass students at Ruby Ranch who hosted a VBS. Friday I was one of the two group leaders of the day with Ethan. Together we planned and hosted a huge celebration for 175-200 people (children and parents included). To start off the party, all of the Compass leaders revamped the lessons they taught the kids throughout the week for the parents. We had the kids sing the Spanish worship songs which we taught them, and we gave out prizes to the kids who memorized our verse of the week (John 16.33). The rest of the celebration consisted of 5 cakes, 3 pynatas, several hundred water balloons, and a 200 foot water slide.

I love hosting and planning parties along with serving others so totally in my element as the Leader of the Day. The smiles I saw on both the kids and the parents–all from a very rural part of the countryside–gave all of us just the assurance we needed to pursue through the language barrier. Also a shout out to our amazing translators, Edgar and Karen, who we could literally could not have put on our VBS without. All is well in Nicaragua!!

And from Rose, also in Nicaragua:

Yesterday our Compass group had our last day of VBS with the local kids from Los Braziles, a ministry location in the middle of a neighborhood at the edge of Managua. We had cake and beat up a piñata with preschoolers, elementary-aged students, and their parents. When we said goodbye I took mental snapshots of the kids faces after I hugged them. Almost each day, we had the opportunity to walk the dirt roads of the village and do a prayer walk with 2-3 of the families of some of our kids. We went to their homes and asked how we could pray for them.

Later on in the day, after dinner, almost all of us got the chance to go to Ruby’s Prayer House in Managua. Few of us, if any, knew what to expect, but it was certain that the Holy Spirit moved in that extremely hot and humid place. Worship began with singing along with popular Christian songs and our mentors being prayed over in the rooms downstairs. When they came up, they said hello, and pretty much immediately started praying for us.

I have never had an experience like that. The woman who hosted us came to me and asked my name, and prayed for exactly what I needed. She laid hands on me and through the interpreter told me I was beautiful and that I was to be brave and He will give me a community to love me. I asked the leaders to pray for me and they assured me that there is nothing I could do to break the Lord’s heart, and called me back to the Lord’s arms. They met me where I was at, and the peace I have now is beyond understanding.




Student Reflections: Friendship Bread

The following post was written by one of our students in Iceland:

Goda kvoldig! Good evening! The Iceland team has just returned from our service projects in Selfoss, after a lovely day of service. The thirteen of us split up into two groups, one to do yard work at a church in downtown Selfoss and another, my (Abigail H’s) group, worked in a second hand shop whose profits go to support that church and a school in Africa, sorting clothes. After a short introduction, Robert, the owner of the store, showed us to different areas of the shop to begin working. Anna Cru. and I began the day by painting the edging of the windows outside a fresh coat of white paint, and then soon joined Anna Cre., Bethany, and Mollie in the children’s section to sort clothes, while Kaela, Christine, and Anna Cru. worked in the adults’ section.

It is important for me to say that Icelanders are very kind and friendly people. Something that struck me upon my arrival, besides the fact that the landscape looks like it came straight from a Tolkien novel, was how refreshing the people are. They may not approach you right away, but once a conversation starts, it is always filled with their dry humor and honesty, which I appreciate. So it was when we met Robert and later, his wife.

We all worked and talked and laughed from the morning until lunchtime, and continued our work after lunch. Kaela, Christine, and Anna filled the racks and shelves to the brim and my group filled the shelves in the children’s section so Robert gratefully told us to stop working and get the rest of our group from the church down the road to share the pastries his wife was bringing back to the shop. Humbled by their thoughtfulness, we gathered the rest of the group and returned to a table covered in colorful Icelandic cakes and pastries, and pitchers of juice, one of which was Friendship Bread. For our first breakfast in Iceland, we had Skyr (Icelandic yogurt) and Friendship Bread but then only thing that stuck out to me was how delicious it was, today it was the name.

A couple of us found some cute shoes or unique gifts for friends and family while we were in the shop and as we tried to pay the marked price in Krona, Robert would only take a fraction of it because we had worked hard today. We were all startled and humbled at their generosity. When Bryn said they had gotten us Friendship Bread along with the other pastries, I could not help but feel like they got it on purpose.

I have spoken to a couple Icelanders and asked them about how they felt about the sudden rise in tourism and even though they replied that they did not really like it, they have been nothing but kind to us, especially Robert and his wife. The longer I am in Reykjavik, the more evident it is that I was meant to come here, our day in Selfoss only confirmed it.

  • Abigail H.

Student Reflections: Beautiful Things That Don’t Make Sense

The following was written by one of our students in Nicaragua:

Today was our third day in Nicaragua and our second working on site with our kids. Our group works at Ruby Ranch site, Open Heart’s up-and-coming ministry in a rural area about 40 minutes outside of Managua. The houses in this area are spread out along a dirt road. Most of them are primitive farms with a few cows, pigs, goats and horses. We pass by several horse drawn carts along the way. On the bus ride leaving Ruby Ranch, we pass by some of the same children we were playing with twenty minutes before riding old bicycles, or even buggies carted by cattle. They are hardworking respectful kids. We have been blessed with serving them for five days.

Yesterday we arrived at Ruby Ranch about 1:00 in afternoon after a morning of orientation. The kids arrived right at “nice time” at 1:45. There were 23 kids ranging from age 5 to 11. Let me tell you about one, Dariela. She is ten. Her family owns chickens, cows, turtles, and ducks, which are her favorite. She patiently listened as I asked her questions in broken Spanish. When I didn’t understand her answers she used gestures. A lot of what we did yesterday was glimpse. We left wondering if the children understood the lesson or remembered the song.

Today was a new day. With the help of our amazing translators, the lesson came across clearly and excitingly. The worship song became much more exciting when we added motions and the kids became much more comfortable with us. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense–how twelve Americans and one Peruvian can somehow end up in rural Nicaragua, how they can have conversations with them, how the Nicaraguans can sing the same worship songs, how we can hold hands and jump together on a trampoline. We are doing things that don’t make sense and it’s beautiful.

We are having an amazing time serving and fellowshipping when we get back each day. Most of us end up in the pool or sitting in hammock chairs until supper, then on to our group Table Talk, and finally worship together on our third floor open veranda. Amazing!

-Kate S.

Safely Arrived!

After numerous hours of travel across different corners of the globe, both Compass groups have safely arrived at their overseas destination.

Yesterday (Sunday) at 4:30AM local time (12:30 EST), the Compass North group touched down at Keflavik International Airport. After collecting baggage and going through customs, we caught a bus into Reykjavik and arrived at the Filadelfia church just before 7:00 AM. Most of the group subsequently crashed into a much needed power-nap.

We awoke just before 10:00 to the sound of the church’s worship band rehearsing above us. We joined the church for their Icelandic morning service and were blessed not only to sing ‘Ten Thousand Reasons’ in Icelandic, but also because the guest speaker for the day happened to be British. So we were able to actually follow-along in the sermon!

After church, we headed into the city for the afternoon. We had some lunch at a popular noodle take-out, then we stopped in a café for much, much, much needed coffee. After rejuvenation, we headed to Hallgrímskirkja Church, the most infamous building in Iceland:


Sunday’s weather fluctuated greatly. At different intervals it was raining heavily followed by bursts of sunlight and warmth. We were able to take an elevator to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church from which we were able to take in some wonderful views of the city:

Reykjavik from the sky


We returned home to a wonderful dinner prepared by two of the students and had the opportunity to talk with Helgi, the pastor here at Filadelfia. It was a wonderful cap to the day.

Last night at 2AM local time, I received an email from Dr. David Horn from Nicaragua, where it was about 9PM. Dave reported:

“Great day. Up at 1:00AM. No complaining but now at the end of the day everyone is very ready for bed. We had Compass time in the skies between Boston and Miami. It was so encouraging to see so many Bibles and journals on a plane. When we arrived mid-afternoon, we got acclimated, found our bunks, students went to the pool and some of us went to get groceries.

We have the compound all to ourselves this summer- which is quite wonderful! Each group had great table talks and a delicious taco dinner. We just finished worship on the upper deck looking out over the sky line. It was perfect and I think we’ll be able to do this every night. The only sadness is that when we got here, we were greeted with the news that the infamous pet monkey has passed on to the great tree in the sky. So…no more biting.

Now…to bed.”




Theology, Iceland, And Nicaragua

A typical break from the classroom sessions


Tuesday’s lecture with Dr. Mark Jennings: “How is the Bible still relevant today?” 

It’s hard to believe that we depart for Iceland tomorrow, and Nicaragua just a few short hours after that! This week has been fun, educational and thought-provoking. Thus far, we have spent our days exploring:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • How is a 2,000 year book still relevant today?
  • What is theology? And who are theologians?
  • Why is Jesus the only way to salvation?

One of the best things about this week has been watching students connect the dots between topics and truly grow in their theological understanding of the faith we espouse. This morning, we’ll dive into the question “what does it mean to be a Christian in today’s world?” And tomorrow, we cap off the week with: “How do I know God’s will and calling for my life?”

In addition to our classroom sessions, we’ve spent part of each day in preparation for our time in Iceland and Nicaragua. And I want to share some of what we’ve been learning, by providing two videos your that your students have been watching throughout the week. These videos can be accessed by clicking the links below, and provide some cultural, political, anecdotal and spiritual backgrounds for the countries were we’ll spend the next week.

In our preparation for Nicaragua, we’ve been watching a video called “An Unfinished Revolution.” (FYI there are four parts to this video all of which can be accessed from the previously linked page.)  This documentary provides some of the historical and political background for Nicaragua, a country whose recent history is very relevant to contemporary Nicaraguans.

In our preparation for Iceland, students have been watching “Christian By Default.” This documentary was produced by some of the people we’ll be working with while in Iceland. It provides a little bit of insight into Iceland as a country, but primarily serves as a way to explore the current spiritual climate of the country, as well as providing encouragement for those people who, like us, want to bring Christ to Iceland.

If you’re curious as to what your child has been preparing for this week, and a bit about where they’ll be next week, I’d encourage you to take some time to watch these videos.

Thank you all for your prayers tomorrow and Sunday as we travel. Currently all our flights are running on schedule: Iceland will fly out at 7:00 PM tomorrow and Nicaragua just a few short hours later at 6:40 AM. Your prayers during this time are greatly appreciated.



Back To Civilization (And It Feels So Good)

Iceland Group poses with their La Vida Sherpas one last time.

By now, all students have had a chance to use their cell phones to call home. Now they are asleep in their rooms and the gentle hum of box fans drifts down Gedney’s halls.

Last night (Friday), students also attended a celebration service with all other La Vida trips. The service was a chance to laugh, share, worship and reflect on the experiences of the last week. Each group performed a skit to share part of their week with the collective whole. Afterwards, students were challenged to see “tomorrow not as the LAST day of La Vida but the first.” As a group, we examined the biblical character Peter: a man who witnessed Christ’s transfiguration and undeniable declaration as God’s chosen one, and yet, a few chapters later, denied him three times. How can someone go from a mountaintop experience with God to denying him outright? This is a challenging question, but a pertinent one, especially coming off of an experience like La Vida. How does one carry the lessons learned in the woods back into the “real world?” Students were asked to reflect upon this question, to consider what commitment moves they made in the woods, and to find a way to make similar commitments moving forward in their walk with Christ.

Friday night’s celebration service at La Vida

Today began cold and wet. Students awoke from their final night at La Vida and ate a quick breakfast before assembling together for one last wilderness challenge: The 9-Mile Run. All La Vida participants were carted down the road from basecamp and challenged to dedicate their run to praying for someone in their life. Like many challenges your students have faced this past week, many of them feared this task and yet, at the end, they all said how glad they were to do it.

Running aside, the past few days have been a blur. Students have completed a 24-hour solo experience in the woods, climbed mountains, portaged canoes, and participated in group ACEs. The latter is an exercise in which each student writes out an ACE (Affirmation, Challenge, Encouragement) for every OTHER student in their group. Everyone proceeds to share their thoughts and have others speak into their lives, one at a time. It’s an intense exercise, and brings students closer to one another than they have, quite possibly, ever been with a group of peers before.

We arrived home this evening after a beautiful drive through the Vermont  countryside. We took a ferry across a serene Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks rose behind us in a final farewell. We ate dinner at a mall food court that happened to have Chic-Fil-A (gee, who planned that?). It was a wonderful day.

Tomorrow we begin the second expedition of the Compass month. This week we’ll be exploring six theological questions, taking (literally) hours to dive into the Scriptures and discuss some of the most poignant quandaries of the faith. We’ll also spend time, each day, preparing for the upcoming week in Nicaragua or Iceland.

We would like to ask for prayers of thanksgiving for the week spent in the woods, as well as prayers for wisdom, focus and growth during the coming week.

Also, that Iceland might win tomorrow’s match against France. If you think of it.

Group Names, Waterfalls and Thunderstorms That Never Show


The past few days have been busy and fun up here in the Adirondacks. Internet has been spotty, and yesterday we lost power for a bit. So, similar to students, there’s been a bit of a technology Sabbath for us support staff, which is wonderful but also creates these delayed blog posts.

Before going further, we want to provide the names of each of the four groups, along with their mentors. These groups have been together since day one. During the wilderness portion, all four groups are split up and out on separate trips. The entire group will be reunited for theology week, and then one group with head to Iceland and the other three to Nicaragua. The three groups in Nicaragua will operate both as a combined group but also in their smaller groups as well, depending on the ministry sites they are assigned (two groups will go to the larger site, and one group will go to the smaller site, each with proportionate numbers of in-country support staff).

Here are the names of the students in each group. We often refer to each group with their designated color.

Blue Group (Iceland)

  • Mentor: Emma N.
  • Brendan B.
  • Kalea B.
  • Anna C.
  • Anna C.
  • Abigail H.
  • Christine J.
  • Adrienne L.
  • Jonathan L.

Green Group

  • Mentor: Valine M.
  • Bryce L.
  • Ethan T.
  • Isabelle P.
  • Skye C.
  • Rose B.
  • Jenn S.
  •  Madeline C.
  •  Kara H.

Yellow Group

  • Mentor: Robbie H.
  • Jacob N.
  • Brendan W.
  •  Catherine B.
  •  Harmony R.
  •  Claire S.
  • Nicole S.
  • Moriah M.

Red Group

  • Mentor: Anna N.
  • Liesl H.
  • Rebecca R.
  • Darby S.
  • Adrienne G.
  • Kate S.
  • Naomi C.
  • Rylee R.

On Monday, I (Bryn) was able to hike out an join yellow group as they summited Giant Mountain. I began at the Roaring Brooks parking lot, just off 73 East outside of Keene, NY. From that point, I hiked up and over the summit of the mountain and down the other side. Yellow group had spent the night at the Giant Mountain Lean-Too, a few miles north of the summit. I ran into them a little under two miles from the summit.

Everyone was in good spirits. They were laughing and joking quite a bit. One of them had a ukulele which, impressively, was making the journey with them. This seemed like a great idea at first, but after just a few hours of hiking with them (during which I heard a handful of chords plucked over, and over, and over, and over again) I’m not entirely sure things could have gone on much longer without the ukulele becoming some really expensive kindling. It seems, however, as though both the leader and students have a much higher tolerance for uke chords than I do. Well, at least they did yesterday. By now…

All that said, I was actually a bit impressed with how quickly they summited; not bad for carrying one’s life on their backs! The summit view was…cloudy. And windy. The group made a wind barrier with their packs and sat down to some delicious trail lunch:


Lunch on trail is rather simple. Each meal students get five, large crackers. They then get to choose which of the following they want on each cracker:

  • Tuna
  • Honey
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Nutella
  • Cheese (squished and melted!)
  • Summer Sausage
  • Freako Butter

The last is a secret, calorie-packed and salivating variation of peanut butter that’s been used for years by La Vida as a delicious and energizing trail food. I would tell you what exactly it consists of….but it’s a secret. Sorry.

Yellow group reached Roaring Falls mid-evening on Monday. When I left them for the evening they were going about their camp chores (water filtering, setting up temps/tarps, food prep, bear-bag set-up). I was a little bit jealous of them: it was a gorgeous night and they had a perfectly flat, soft campsite. But as I was walking away from the group I heard that oh-so-familiar ukulele start strumming and suddenly I didn’t mind leaving.

On Tuesday, I was joined by this year’s worship leader Eric. Together, we repeated the route I’d done the day before, this time looking for Red Group. We heard the group lllooooonnnnnggggg before we actually saw them; they really like to sing. (We heard some beautiful renditions of the Jonas Brothers which, I learned, are nothing like the Brooks Brothers.) By the time we’d left them they were setting up camp at an even better site than their predecessors, parked along the top of Roaring Brook, along a river which flowed past their campsite and, just fifty yards upstream, flowed over a large cliff and plummeted in as a waterfall to the ground below. Here’s a snapshot of all of them there:


There was supposed to be bad thunderstorms yesterday for most of the afternoon. Eric and I had anticipated this anxiously. But although we did hear some rolling thunder in the distance, we never felt more than a couple of drops of rain. When we left the group, they’d set up most of their campsite and it was still perfectly dry out. We drove back towards basecamp, moving west and north from where the group had been hiking. As it turns out, basecamp had gotten some pretty heavy storms, at one point the power was out. It seems, however, that this did not affect most of the groups, since many of them are in the area we’d been hiking. So that was definitely a praise for the day!

Tomorrow, Eric and I are planning to trek up Whiteface Mountain to connect with Green Group. Our hope is that Thursday morning we’ll be able to swing by and see Blue Group right before they go on solo. The forecast for tomorrow does call for more rain. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to hiking, it’s that it ONLY rains if you don’t remember your rain gear. So tomorrow I’ll be wearing my rain jacket, rain pants, and gaiters, thus guaranteeing that it certainly will not rain.

In other news, if you’ve been following the EuroCup then you know that Iceland is literally losing themselves in joy. Iceland beat England 2-1 Monday, in what was an internationally stunning upset. This is, by far, the furthest Iceland has ever advanced in soccer finals; just a couple years ago, their small rag-tag team was ranked 133rd in the world. Iceland is now one of eight teams remaining in the cup. The last game had over 10,000 Icelanders in attendance. Considering the fact that the country’s entire population is just over 325,000…this is a very impressive turnout.

All of which is to say that Iceland group will be prepping to enter Iceland on the heels of a (potentially) historic occasion. So it’s something we’re keeping an eye on, both to cheer, but also to anticipate how we might bring Christ into the midst of such exciting situations.


Woods, Rocks and Hitchhikers


Thursday afternoon, a big, yellow, bus full of students arrived at the La Vida basecamp in Lake Clear, New York. As they unloaded the bus, students were greeted with loud cheers and hurrahs by the group of hitchhikers they’d picked up on the road a few miles back. These hitchhikers were, it turns out, carrying on a proud La Vida tradition of finding creative ways to introduce themselves to their students. So they dressed up like hippies, marched a few miles down the road, and stuck out their thumbs when a big bus appeared on the horizon. You know, just another day at the office.

Students were then separated into their groups of four, each of which already had their mentor. They were then assigned two more leaders, known as sherpas,who are the group’s wilderness guides.

Since that point, students have had the opportunity to do high ropes and low ropes, or rock climbing- the two options switching for the second round today.

Students have also been introduced to camp life: learning how to set up a tent, how to break down a tent, that breaking down a tent does NOT mean breaking the tent, how to start a camp stove, find the perfect consistency for oatmeal, live with body odor, live with other people’s body odor…among other things. All of this has taken place within short reach of the La Vida basecamp and head offices.

But tonight students will head out on trail. Come nightfall, they’ll all be setting up their first camp in the true wilderness, the starting point for this next week of backpacking and canoeing through the Adirondacks.

The weather has been agreeable so far: warm and sunny. Tomorrow promises to be a scorcher though- nearly 90 degrees! Personally, I’ll be soliciting a local ice cream  stand for relief. Not sure about the students, though I did hear something about dried apricots being added to their group food. In which case, they really can’t complain. Me on the other hand… do you know how difficult it is to consume a soft-serve cone in 90-degree heat before it melts? So difficult, it turns out, that I might have to try with a second one.

We’ll be sure to check in soon.

Anxious Excitement, Introductions And A Confession Involving Reese’s Puffs (Day One)

Today was the first day of the RMI. And what a blessed day it was.

Students began arriving at 9:30. Some arrived via car. Others waited at airport terminals for a shuttle to Gordon’s campus. There were lots of handshakes. Nervous smiles. Plenty of “we’re glad you’re here!” Anxious excitement. The best experiences in life begin as mixed bags.

After check-in, students and parents were ushered into Chester’s- a private dining area with the look and feel of a coffee house. This year’s staff was introduced. Students also introduced themselves. More nervous smiles. But if there’s one thing that calms nerves and prompts community, it’s good food. And today there was plenty.

The rest of the afternoon involved games and activities designed for students to learn about one another. There was lots of laughter and joy as some of them realized how much they had in common (affinity for Twenty-One Pilots and dreading mosquitoes were common connections). A subtle but vivid transformation took place as everyone grew more familiar, more comfortable, with one another.

Today also had it’s share of hiccups and hindrances. A projector didn’t work. One student’s flight was delayed. Another had car trouble en route. Rain forced a change of plans and moved introductory activities into the gym. I misplaced my keys a number of times (a common occurrence if I’m honest, but today was particularly plentiful).

But God works through everything: awkwardness, frustration, technological conundrums and pop-up downpours. And as I listen to the hum of fans in an otherwise quiet dorm, I find it a remarkable and humbling thing to imagine God working through this year’s staff to minister, serve and journey with your students. What a thought. What a grace.

Tomorrow morning, students will arise bright and early. They’ll eat a breakfast of pastries, fruit and cereal. (Now would be a pertinent time to confess that I’ve already obtained my box of Reese’s Puffs.) They’ll have their first quiet time, their first hour of Biblical examination and personal reflection.

Then the bus will arrive. We’ll load our gear. Take a last, forlorn glance at civilization, then head to the wilderness.

Well, okay, not ALL civilization just yet; we’re lunching Pizza Hut along the way. But… you get the idea.

Thank you all for the entrusting us with your students over the next month. It’s as much a blessing to us as we hope it will be to them.

We covet your prayers for traveling mercies tomorrow. The Adirondack forecast for this weekend promises sun and warmth. Not a bad way to kick off the month. Not a bad way at all.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed to dream of hiking and Pizza Hut. And Reese’s Puffs. Naturally.