Once upon a time….
Through a series of serendipitous events, we (Greg and Cindy) found each other while attending Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Cindy knew immediately that she was going to marry Greg. He was a little delayed in getting the message, but, eventually, came around, and they were married in 1979. A year later we moved to Spartanburg, SC, in order to be closer to Cindy’s family. In 1983 our daughter, Melissa, was born, and soon we found ourselves in Charlotte, NC, living the “American Dream”: house in the suburbs, decent jobs, our daughter in Catholic school. We had a wonderful community of friends and a great church community.
Cindy: I had always wanted to join the Peace Corps. I gave up that dream when we got married (well, I put the dream to sleep). I turned 40 years old, and the dream began to wake up and call to me again. Melissa came home from school one day and asked to which tropical island we were going for her spring break. I knew it was time for a “mission trip” somewhere where we could all learn, grow, and be challenged.
Greg: At this same time, Cindy and I both found ourselves disillusioned with the corporate “ladder-climbing”. We were ready for a change, and we decided that we were willing to risk our comfort and security for something that would bring more meaning than the style of life we were living. So, Cindy spearheaded the search…
In 1994, we accepted positions as houseparents for 4th grade Lakota children at St. Joseph’s Indian school in Chamberlain, South Dakota. It was an amazing year immersed in Native American spirituality. We fell in love with the culture, and our hearts were moved to compassion for the way our country has treated these beautiful people. We returned to Charlotte with a better understanding of and a renewed compassion for those who live in the shadows of our American culture. We became more involved in ministries serving the poor, the homeless, and those in prison.
In 2007, the “mission bug” struck again. We had been going yearly to a Haitian community in the Dominican Republic helping to build latrines. Melissa had graduated from college and was working and living on her own. God called us to work in the DR for a year with the religious Sisters who ran the mission school and clinic there. It was a quick decision, but everything fell into place, and soon we were heading to live on a tropical island building latrines and working in the community clinic.
It was the hardest year of our life. It was the best year of our life. We learned the value of living simply by living in community with 4 volunteers and 3 religious sisters. We learned gratitude for little blessings. We built relationships in the midst of a harsh lifestyle. We saw the teachings of Jesus come to life all around us and were challenged to live out those teachings in our day to day life. We had running water for few hours a week, and electricity came on for a short time each day. It was hot, uncomfortable and nothing was easy. We had no control over our life, we struggled with the language, and every day. We saw hunger, poverty and harsh living conditions beyond anything we had ever seen. And, so often, all we had was our hand to hold another’s.
We came home from that year forever changed! We both had a dream of a retreat house – a place where people could come and find peace in the midst of their busy lives – a safe place where people could come and ask the hard questions that may be challenging them, even those questions with no answers – a place that welcomed everyone!
In 2013, the dream came true when we were able to purchase a nearly 100-yr-old farmhouse with two living spaces and peaceful surroundings in Mint Hill.
And, so, The FARM at Mintwood was born…