Answering The Call

Happy new year everyone!! We hope  you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with the peace, love and joy of Christ  and are starting 2016 with a bang!  CJ  and I were blessed to be able to spend some time with loved ones over the  holiday break, but we also took some time to reflect on the past year and all  that our Father’s been teaching us.  As  we think back over 2015, we see where God moved in the small, quiet moments, as  well as in bigger, more surprising ways.   We’re hoping to share some of these things with you over the next few  months (especially those that pertain to the new direction for Sonshine), but  for this first blog post of 2016, we feel the need to focus on one particular  topic that God has been laying on our hearts of late…what does it look like to  live sacrificially, to serve unconditionally, to answer the calling on your  life?  Not only is this something that we  feel is crucial for us to understand for ourselves, but for everyone, definitely  worth contemplating as we look towards what this new year holds for each of us.


To set the stage, I have to go  back a bit.  If you’ve been reading our  previous blogs, then you know that CJ and I have been struggling with lack of  community in this small mountain town for nearly four years.  In addition, God has been doing some major “shaking  up” in our lives recently, which is definitely keeping us on our knees.  Although it’s not been easy, we know two things  for sure: God refines us through difficult circumstances and He’s preparing us  for whatever comes next.  As a result of  much intentional prayer, we’ve come to believe that God is setting the stage for our next big adventure!  At this  point, we’re not sure where that adventure will lead (although we have some ideas), but we do believe that He’s  calling us away from Colorado.  As we  prayerfully wait for direction, one of the questions that God has laid on our  hearts is, “are you willing to give up everything  to serve me?”  Wow, that stopped us in  our tracks!  Everything? What does He  mean by EVERYTHING?  That got us thinking, what conditions are we putting on serving God?  What are we holding onto for the sake of security?  What fears might be creating barriers to us hearing and following God’s call?  Or to be perfectly honest, what do we just not want to let go of, i.e., a comfortable lifestyle, a nice home, beautiful surroundings, etc.  Through this process of prayer and discussion, not only has God been revealing to us more of His nature, but He’s also been gently exposing more of our hearts, leading us to a deeper understanding of our desires and passions, our fears, and our motives.  All of this, we believe, is preparing us to serve God more fully.  And although there doesn’t appear to be a straight path laid before us at this time, and we’re honestly not sure what that “everything” includes, we continue to pray with open ears and open hearts to whatever He has for us.

In the midst of all of this, we traveled to Texas and Louisiana over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit with family and friends. During our visit, both CJ and I were very open about our struggles and what God’s been teaching us. In our conversations with loved ones, we received encouragement and heard plenty of excitement around our vision for Sonshine, but there were also a few surprising responses.  Having been laid bare in the previous months as we argued with God regarding our thoughts on the subject of our lives (including our wants and our perceived needs), we recognized some of the rhetoric coming from our friends.  For the first time in a long time we felt not so alone, understanding that we may not be the only ones struggling with hearing God’s calling on our lives or defining what that kind of whole-hearted service would even look like! This got us thinking outside of ourselves (and looking beyond questions regarding our specific path), to the bigger picture…what does this look like in more general terms for each and every one of us as Christ-followers? Well, there’s only one place to get those kinds of answers, so that’s where we went..


In Luke 9: 57-62, Jesus talks about this very subject…

57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Each of these men initially appeared eager to follow Jesus.  Yet after reading and re-reading this scripture, it became obvious that each man wanted to define for himself what following Jesus would look like.  The first man offered to follow Jesus anywhere, but he didn’t truly understand the cost, the need for sacrifice…maybe he thought it would be more glamorous hanging out with a miracle maker!  The second man seemed willing to pay the price, but just not yet.  This was not an “if”, but a “when”….once my family is gone and I have nothing else to hold me here, then I’ll follow.  And the third man, all he wanted to do was to say good-bye…at first blush, not sure what the issue was there. I mean, what’s wrong with saying good-bye, right?  But after delving deeper, it seems to me that there was a heart issue with this last gentleman…his response wasn’t whole-hearted, he wasn’t in it 100%, he put something else before Jesus!  Does this scare anyone else?  I mean if we’re talking about a general outline of what it looks like to follow Jesus, here’s what I see:  you’re pretty much guaranteed to be out of your comfort zone, it will require sacrifice, the timing will not always be convenient, your whole hearts need to be in it, and once you’ve been commissioned, you can’t look back! Wow!!  


Let’s take a quick look at another scripture (Luke 18:21-29), which we believe provides additional clarity…

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a] 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God.”

Just one point I’d like to make here…after spending time meditating on this scripture, CJ and I came to realize that our focus in contemplating the question of what it looks like to follow Jesus had been on the “everything”, i.e., what was God going to ask us to give up? What would we have to sacrifice?  I hate to say this, but I believe that we’ve been brainwashed, or at the very least, significantly influenced by the culture that we live in. And I don’t believe that we’re the only ones…we’ve have this discussion with fellow believers many times. Does God really want me to give up everything? Are all Christ followers supposed to be destitute? Let’s take another look at what the scripture says…”When he (the rich man) heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy”. Do you see it? It wasn’t his stuff that was important to Jesus, it was his attachment to his stuff that was an issue.  Like gentleman #3 in the previous parable, this man put something (his wealth) before Jesus. He was unwilling to let it go…this is a heart problem, not an “stuff” problem! The key word is WILLING! In our culture, we’re so consumed with stuff, with security, with ourselves that we often miss the point completely. The point is, it’s ALL about Jesus!

So after having said all that, I want to go back to that original question that God laid on our hearts months ago, “Are you willing to give up everything to serve Me?”, and I’m a little embarrassed by our initial response…it sounds an awful lot like the guys in the first parable: God, I’m willing to follow you if  ________________,  but not if ________________.  I’m sure everyone has their own “what” to fill in these blanks, but I’m not sure the “what” is as important as recognizing that there IS a what.  That was the first step for us, recognizing that we were putting conditions on serving Jesus, defining for ourselves what it would look like.  The next step, asking ourselves the hard questions! Am I willing to be uncomfortable or make sacrifices to follow Jesus? (This may look like leaving a safe comfortable environment, and moving to an undesirable neighborhood to minister to the poor and needy); Am I willing to pick up and go whenever and wherever He calls? (This may mean leaving a good paying job, even though you haven’t put enough in savings to support yourself, because God needs you on the battlefront NOW, not in 10 years when you retire and have a healthy 401K to depend on); Is there anything that I’m putting before serving Jesus?  (Kids, parents, significant other, personal goals, work, comfort, etc).  These are not easy questions, and uncovering the answers can leave us feeling raw and exposed. But they can also reveal barriers to us answering God’s calling on our lives!  Then it comes down to our willingness.  Are we willing to make Jesus our priority, following whole-heartedly, sacrificially and fully dependent on God? This may lead us out of your comfort zone, away from family, into the trenches, working a ho-hum job, etc. I guess what we need to seriously ask ourselves is what’s most important: a few years of being comfortable, living a nice safe and secure life or standing before the throne of grace and hearing our Father say, “well done good and faithful servant… you answered the call, displayed my glory, sacrificed for the good of all, and made the world a better place!”


One final thought in closing, not that we want to get into any deep theological discussion at this point, but CJ and I believe that the time is running short…and God is calling his army!  Having said that, we’re praying that 2016 will be an amazing year of awakening for each and every one of us as we discover what it looks like to live sacrificially, to serve unconditionally, and to answer the calling on our lives!

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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Wait and See Season

Hello, everyone….we at Sonshine have been in a wait and see season these past few months. A lot has happened since we last posted. Our focus has been to find a home base for the groups to stay, because we currently don’t have the funds to purchase land.

This effort has been real challenge because of all the road blocks that God has place in front of us in each prayerful path we took. We first tried to use public camp grounds as home base, so we could have groups visit during the summer of 2014. After a summer of 2013 meeting with the National Forest Service to discuss our proposal, they told us we would be using public land for a money making service and that would require a permit. Well the Forest Service is not giving out permits to new organizations/businesses. No permit…No home base. So route #1 in obtaining a ministry home base was closed.

We then prayed God what is our next step, and early this spring the thought of using our private land came upon us. CJ and I own about three acres with a corner section that is wooded with a stream, which we thought would be a great location to place the tent pad sites. We spoke to our ministry Board and they thought it was a great interim solution to accommodate groups for the summer of 2015. So I met with the County staff to discuss what would be required of us to make this work. The County required us to submit a land use change application, which included a public hearing.

The application required to the preparation of a site plan, construction of a bath house, and an analysis the showed that our septic and well could be expanded to accommodate the additional usage. We thought that the endeavor was going to be very expensive, but we were wrong =-). We were able to prepare most of the documents ourselves which saved us a lot of money. The septic analysis and survey work had to be hired out, and their fees ended up being much less than expected. We were able to complete the land use change application by the end of June to get scheduled on the end of July County public hearing. We were all very excited about the possibility of hosting groups next summer, and felt that the way things were falling into place that this was a slam dunk. Prior to the public hearing, we met with our closest neighbor to discuss our proposal. They expressed their concerns about visual impacts and safety, so we made every feasible attempt to accommodate their concerns in preparing the application.

CJ works for Monarch Mountain and she had a scheduled visit to central Texas to promote Monarch in early July. Her plan was to visit businesses, universities, and churches to discuss group skiing opportunities. We thought it would be a great opportunity for us to promote Sonshine as well. During the trip, we visited about 26 churches talking about Monarch for winter group visits and Sonshine for summer group visits. We got back to Colorado on an spiritual and emotional high from all the excitement and positive feedback we received about Sonshine. We were ready for the next hurdle to be cleared which was the public hearing. Once that passed, we would then proceed to the design stage. The county staff provided a staff report that indicated that our application fit within the policies of the zoning district our property was location within. They also provided some conditions that they wanted to include in our application, and we felt those conditions were fair and reasonable.

We were prayerful before the public hearing, asking God for courage and peace in our hearts regardless of the outcome. We asked him to close the door if this is not what He wants, and that we are ok with it. Well, when we arrived at the public hearing we found out that all but one of our neighbors were opposed our proposal. Four of our neighbors spoke at the hearing and the remaining mailed letters of opposition into the County. At the public hearing, I made a short presentation and then the public had a chance to speak. Well that was were everything went south. Our neighbors adamantly expressed their opposition and that fueled the planning commission members in taking a position to try to find a way to deny the our application. A few of the commissioners felt that our application fit within the policies and were taking a position of approval. So it seemed we had support from a few of the commissioner, but the ones that opposed it from the get go, persuaded them to eventually oppose it. The final vote was a unanimous vote to deny our application. Through out the circus of a public hearing, we were all at peace with the out come, because we knew that God was in control. We know that he had us go through this process for a reason. Maybe it was us to learn the overall land use process for a future occasion or God’s vision of Sonshine may be different than the one we have right now. We aren’t sure but through out this process we have been praying for His guidance.

As we stated before, we are waiting for God to show us the next step. So now we are at the point, that we need prayer from our family, friends and supporters. We currently see numerous options for Sonshine:
• Sonshine is able to raise the funds to purchase land.
• Sonshine is donated land.
• Sonshine leases land.
• Sonshine partners with an existing Christian organization in implementing our vision.
• God to show a new path.

As you can see all of the options include outside support. So, if any of you have any ideas, questions, want to help support, and/or know potential contacts for us to connect with, please contact us. We would love the support and input. You can contact me at lancehartland@sonshinewildernessretreat.org.

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We are Now TAX EXEMPT!!!!

We just received our letter from the IRS stating that we are now tax exempt under section 501(c)(3). So now all donations are tax-deductible for all of 2013 and beyond. The process has been a long difficult one but trusting in God’s timing and plan got us through it. This is a major step forward for the ministry. We are ready to host groups starting next spring.

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SWR Ministry Update

Tax Exempt Status

Well we finally heard back from the IRS regarding the status of our tax exempt application. It wasn’t looking like we would hear from them for about six more months or more, but about three weeks ago we got a letter with a number of questions and requests. We received the letter about two days before I left for Boulder, irsCO to take a 10 day wilderness first aid class. The letter indicated that we only had two weeks to get the our response back to them. So as soon as I got back from my class, CJ and I sat down and prepared a response. We faxed it to them with three days to spare. So we are hoping that our responses are satisfactory and that we get our 501(c)(3) exempt status in the next month or two.  Please pray for a speedy positive answer.


As I stated above, I ventured north to Boulder to take a wilderness first responder course, put on by the Wilderness Medicine Institute. It was at least eight hours each day and it went on for 10 days. It was very intense with a few hours of studying and reading each day after the class. So much information was thrown at us in such a short amount of time, and I really struggled in digesting it all. I was definitely not used to this teaching style. I used the analogy of a funnel to describe whaNOLSt I was experiencing. My brain was the funnel and the vast amount of info thrown at us was the fluid that was being poured into it. With only so much being able to exit out the bottom, the info was overflowing over the top. About midway through the class, I was feeling very overwhelmed and the thought of quitting crossed my mind. So CJ sent out a prayer request for me, and with that prayer and her encouraging me, I choose to stick it out. As the class progressed, I sensed that my brain stated to absorb the info. Throughout the time I was in Boulder, I had numerous conversations with God that if He wanted me to pass this class I needed His help. I could not do it under my own power. HE came through, the morning of the test a sense of calm came over me and I had a clear focus in taking the writing and practical parts of the test.  As a result I passed the class!!! Thanks to all who covered me in prayer, I could definitely feel it!!!

The class really opened my eyes to how ill-equipped I was and the overall seriousness of potential emergency situations that happen in the wilderness. Well I am now certified in wilderness first response first aid, which will better prepare us to lead safe hikes in the mountains far away from advanced life support. In the near future, other ministry leaders will be taking this class or the shorter first aid class.

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The Half Way There Blues…

The Half Way There Blues….

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SWR T-Shirts

We just had T-Shirts made to help support the ministry. We have a question for you all. Would you be interested in buying one or more for $15 each? We are trying to get a head count to see if there is interest and if so we will print more. We haven’t figured out the purchasing online process yet, but we are working on it.

Women's Shirts

Women’s Shirts

Men's Shirts

Men’s Shirts

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Quality Time with the Walking Dead…

An update from Pat Illingworth as he continues with his new calling to love and serve the hikers on the AT.

Quality Time with the Walking Dead….

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Sunny Days in Damascus…

Pat Illingworth’s time in Damascus…

Sunny Days in Damascus….

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God + AT = Magic

Pat gets direction from GOD!!!

God + AT = Magic.

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Easter in Erwin

Pat’s Easter experience in Erwin, TN…

Easter in Erwin.

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