The Early Years
Colin was born and raised in the Hudson River Valley of southeastern New York, and his family has owned property in the Adirondacks for nearly 50 years. Very soon after they were married, his parents purchased some land just west of Tupper Lake; it was the first piece of property they ever bought. Colin was just a newborn baby the first time he came along for a visit, when his parents used one of the drawers in a dresser as his makeshift crib. After all, the cabin only has 225 square feet of living space – so there was no room to spare! The region quickly became a home away from home in the summer months, all throughout his childhood. It wasn’t unusual to spend an entire summer in the Adirondacks. There was always a trail that needed to be explored, or a fish that needed to be caught. And the cabin may have been small, but it always needed maintenance each summer!
Lisa was born and raised in Southeastern Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes north of Philadelphia. Her parents still live in the same house that they bought after they were married, more than 50 years ago. Colin and Lisa met while he was at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and she was studying at York College, located in Central Pennsylvania. They dated for about three years – all of which was at a distance. Until they were married, Colin and Lisa never lived closer than 90 miles from each other. But it was meant to be, so they made it work. Lisa first ventured to the Adirondacks in 1994, when she went to a conference with her family in Schroon Lake. A few years later, Colin and Lisa enjoyed their honeymoon in his parent’s cabin; with no road access or running water, she was a real trooper!
Jesus Breaks Through
Lisa’s father has been in full-time vocational ministry since he graduated college, and currently serves as a Christian counselor and missionary to international students attending Temple University. The family had a deep Christian faith, and Lisa remembers making a decision to follow Jesus with her life when she was just five years old.
Colin, on the other hand, was a little slower to bloom. Although he grew up actively involved in church, it never really took ahold of him, and he drifted away from it. But once he started dating Lisa, he immediately noticed that there was something different about her family’s faith: it was far less religious than what he had experienced, with the emphasis put more on an actual lifestyle of walking with God rather than weekly rituals. At their church services, the music was meaningful and inspiring. And the people actually opened their Bibles! Colin owned a Bible or two, but didn’t know what to do with them. What a new experience! So he read books, listened to teachings, and talked with a variety of people as he uncovered this entirely new part of his world.
It was like his eyes were being opened to the true reality behind everything he could see, feel, taste, and touch. At some points, he even felt angry: at a world that had deceived him for so long, and at himself for believing the lie that there was no God. On April 1, 1995, he looked at his own shallow life and compared it to the faith-filled, purpose-driven lives of a few key people around him. And that day – while “studying” alone at the Naval Academy’s library – Colin decided he wanted Jesus to be the purpose of his life, and he surrendered himself to God’s plans and purposes that night.
He’s never looked back since…and what a ride! Almost immediately, he was quickly thrust into various ministry leadership roles, ranging from serving as a shipboard chaplain and chairman of a faith-based non-profit organization to leading several men’s and co-ed small groups. He learned early on that he didn’t need to be an expert to serve in ministry, since we can all learn far more from following Jesus with one another. He also came to realize – from the Scriptures and from his own personal experience – that God doesn’t call those who are already equipped; he equips those he calls.
It was the best of times…It was the worst of times.
A few years after they were married, Colin left the Navy and moved with Lisa to Columbus, Ohio. He relocated for a job, and immediately started in the first of a series of leadership roles in a few small, entrepreneurial businesses. None ever blossomed into the profitable ventures many had hoped for, but he deeply values the lessons that were learned along the way.
In 2005, Colin began to sense a clear calling into full-time vocational ministry, and started his studies at the Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI). This intense Biblical studies program allowed him to continue working full-time, while also pursuing his studies: a program that intentionally keeps you involved in your current ministry to integrate hands-on training, ministry experience, and academic coursework with an uncompromising commitment to excellence in Biblical, theological, and ministerial training.
But just as Colin was getting ready to start the VLI program, their world was rocked: a few days after Lisa’s 30th birthday – in October, 2005 – Lisa was diagnosed with aggressive Stage III breast cancer, and given less than a 50% chance of survival. The average tumor is the size of a walnut, but hers was the size of a lemon…and still growing rapidly. So their friends and family immediately began praying while the doctors launched an aggressive set of treatments: 16 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by surgery, and then radiation. One of the most difficult parts about the chemotherapy was being told that it would almost certainly prevent Lisa from ever getting pregnant (since the same chemo drugs that kill the cancer cells also kill reproductive cells). The tumor was growing so rapidly that they couldn’t wait long enough to harvest eggs. So the only hope they had was that their prayers to protect that part of her body would someday be answered.
Even at the height of chemo, Lisa maintained an incredible depth of peace and faith – no matter how bad things got. After her surgery, they received some amazing news: when they did the pathology testing, the results came back that she was now fully healed – 100% cancer-free! Not even one single cancer cell was found in the tissue or any of the 12 surrounding lymph nodes!!! Truly a miracle. And the miracle continued, when their son, Caleb, was born a couple of years later – soon to be followed by their daughter, Grace. Colin and Lisa are still incredibly thankful for all the love, support, and prayers that their friends and family provided during that challenging season of their lives.
Since then, Colin has served seven years in full-time vocational ministry, including two pastoral roles at Central Ohio Vineyard churches that each had approximately 800 people. In both churches, he filled the position of executive pastor, which combines basic pastoral functions such as preaching, officiating weddings and funerals, pastoral counseling, and leadership development with the administrative aspects of running a church (finance, facilities, administration, personnel, logistics, and planning).
The Call to the Adirondacks
Colin and Lisa didn’t move to the Adirondacks because they were sucked in by the fleeting romanticism of life in the mountains. They were well aware of the troubles facing our local economies, the lack of population growth, and the harsh winters. But God loves the people of the Adirondacks! Colin and Lisa’s hearts have been broken for this region. They did not come to fulfill a temporary dream; they followed God’s clear calling on their lives, and they’re here to stay.
Colin and Lisa first sensed a calling to the area in 2009, when they both independently felt led that they would be moving to the area to start a new kind of church ministry. Although Colin had been exploring various church models that could work in the area, he was awoken by a powerful and moving dream in January 2010 that solidified what the focus of ADK Mission would be: “A pure and simple devotion to Christ” (from 2 Corinthians 11:2-3).
Later that same year – in August 2010 – Colin was awoken again, this time completely consumed by the following phrase: “Relationship-based communities of Christ-followers who love God, love others, and make disciples across every corner of the Adirondack Mountain region.” That statement has remained unchanged and is the foundational vision for this ministry.
2012 was a tumultuous year for Colin and Lisa, when she was diagnosed a second time with breast cancer. But her cancer did not come back. This was an entirely different cancer, so she had effectively been struck by lightning twice. This time, they caught it earlier and it was “only” Stage I. But she still had to go through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries – all while tending to their very active children. Once again, they were sustained by an unshakeable faith, and the love, prayers, and support of their amazing friends and family who gathered around them.
This season was a refining fire for them – like a final shakedown to prepare them for their transition. We only get to see a small corner of the picture that God is painting, and there was definitely a bigger picture at play here. God had a definite call on their lives, and it was time to go. Lisa is now completely cancer-free, and together with Colin, they were excited and ready for this new phase in their journey.
Although Colin and Lisa value their Vineyard heritage, and are incredibly grateful for the generosity of their sending church, ADK Mission is an independent, non-denominational ministry.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
- President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910