A LITTLE INTRODUCTION…
We moved here to New Jersey, from Switzerland, in August of 2014 with vision for ministry, lots of faith, some savings and a blessing from the ministry and family we left behind. Very shortly after arrival, the Lord spoke to us and said to “close the doors of the Barn, because the land needed to rest”. Ha! Not how you expect to start a ministry. We went along with it out of “dumb obedience” but found out five months later, over dinner with friends, that this was actually a thing called Shmita and it had begun in September! Well, you can imagine how cool and wild that was! We knew that this directive was about the land, but on a spiritual plane, so we got even busier inquiring of the Lord. The Lord did give us lots of download about how to minister to the land over the course of a few years, but the very next, simple directive He gave us, other than “close the doors,” is that we should simply pursue relationship with Him, and with whomever he would send to our living room. Well, that tiny core of people consisted mostly of young leaders who were beautiful people, and also at various levels of burn out and woundedness, but still determined to go deeper with God. We had some beautiful and wild times with each other, following Jesus and they have become Oaks. Not because of us, but because of the power of the love of Jesus and because they all said “yes” to going deeper and trusting His love.
Now, this Christmas time, we want to thank you for your support over our first season here in New Jersey. This time last year our family entered a very, very hard season. We had to make tough decisions for us as a family and a ministry. Tom took time away for three months to rest and deep dive into a healing journey. Cori was home with the kids and family and friends sailed in with practical help and encouragement. At the beginning, a friend came to help while Cori had knee surgery. Then family came from Switzerland to help during the worst winter months, and there was a lot of shoveling to do last year! Longtime friends took time for us and true to form, our board was right there with us through thick and thin and we are so very grateful for their wisdom and kindness. Cori’s family here in Plainsboro were right there with support in so many ways! Not everyone is gracious when a leader goes through hard times. We have been blessed to have steadfast family and friends around us for whom we are so grateful.
While our board supported the decisions made in the last year, there were significant changes to the landscape of the ministry as a result. Most visibly was that our regular home group closed as well as the Feasts and Gent Events… then two members of our core team and board moved to another state! Not because of the changes, but because God was opening amazing doors for them in so many areas of life. We sent our friends off with tons of blessing and tears and we see that God has brought a season to a close. These gatherings, and this couple had been staples of the BYRON landscape for some time, but we had to respect the boundaries that God was allowing us to run up against. Change.
As Spring came about, we saw that we were approaching another Shmita year and this time, we were wiser about it. The simple question was “God, what does this Shmita look like for us?” The answer was pretty simple and came in the form of a question: “What are the components of the Sabbath?”
Peter Scazzero wrote a good article about Sabbath a while back and the components he highlighted were actually what I had been mulling over with the Lord. 1. Stop. 2. Rest. 3. Delight. 4. Contemplate!
So, this is what we are doing right now. It’s hard not to plan things in and program this season – even making a program for stopping is easier than no program at all. Can you relate?
We know a minister who takes time every January to re-evaluate what he’s doing and make sure he’s still supposed to be doing it. For the years we were at the Stiftung Schleife, it was common knowledge that you didn’t just keep doing something because it was good, but only if God said, “keep doing it.” And sometimes something really good came to a close. Sometimes something really good had to wait to be born. At any rate, I know that these aspects of the Sabbath are healthy and produce long term fruit. The question is always, how will we walk it out?
True to a Shmita year, we are in a position of relying solely on God for provision and wisdom in how to move forward with what He has entrusted to us. Our regular donations through tithes came to a halt, but the business is helping to fund the maintenance of the Barn and we believe that we are supposed to invest in the business this season, as well as in our family. And in truth, hosting these various gatherings through Legacy is fulfilling what God put in our hearts to do, just in a different way. Hospitality, creativity, community, renewal. Cori has such beautiful stories of behind-the-scenes things that happen at these events.
What is Legacy? Just before the first lockdown, Cori started the business, Legacy. Legacy is the event host vehicle at the BYRON Barn that has brought in weddings, reunions, workshops, etc. For workshops, Cori pairs up with creative friends who make wreathes, paint, arrange flowers, and other sorts of hands-on creative outlets. She hopes to increase workshop offerings beginning in February. For larger gatherings, people book the Barn through Legacy, for their parties.
This December was the very first BYRON Barn Christmas Market! With 40 hand crafting vendors, an amazing food truck, live music, Santa and Mrs. Claus, the fire pit ablaze, and the Barn decorated beautifully, it turned out to be a wonderful weekend! Foot traffic was good on all three days and both vendors and the public want to come again in the Spring for another market. Wow! So, SO thankful! You can see bits and pieces on the FB event page for the BYRON Barn Christmas Market.
In January, Legacy will host the first “Open Barn” for prospective wedding couples. Some of the preferred vendors will be there to show what they do best and give couples an idea of what is possible at the Barn. While Cori has had lots of ideas, there’s only so much she can do on her own. This next phase of Legacy, that started with the Christmas Market, is happening because… (drum roll) the Legacy team is growing! Darilynn Shaw will be officially joining the team in January and it’s so exciting! She has great experience organizing events and she is a real pleasure to work with. Darilynn got married at the Barn in May, became a friend, and now is part of the Legacy team. She and her husband are both creative people but what we treasure most is their hearts. At the beginning of the Legacy journey, Cori did a weekend long workshop up in Canada with Danielle French. There was so much wonderful information, but one day Cori asked “when did you know it was time to make your first hire? Is it when the money is there, or…?” Danielle’s response was simple. “Honestly, no. It was when I was losing my mind because I could no longer keep up on my own.” And there we are. Thank you, Darilynn, for your heart and your abilities!
COMING SOON TO A BARN NEAR YOU…
In January 2022 we are teaming up with Circuit Riders from YWAM for a worship night in the Barn. We have been hosting the Circuit Riders for the last few years, in various forms. The first time it was 25 young people as they toured the universities of New Jersey. After that, we hosted just team leaders while the rest of their group were elsewhere. We have so enjoyed being a resting place and open arms to land in for them. We love what they are doing and their wild hearts! The talks, laughs, and prayer times that happen randomly when they come in do laundry or for a tea are always so special. What an honor it is to encourage the next generation! We are also honored that Stephen Nagy, from Eastern Gate House of Prayer, will be joining in on that night! We met Stephen and his fiancé, Briana, when they were wedding guests at the Barn, and we know that God is orchestrating things!
While some things are slowing down, other things are ramping up. Starting now, we are beginning a season of fund raising and building! When we took over the Barn and house 7 years ago, there were already structural issues that needed addressing. We are honored to steward this house and Barn into another 100 years! Here’s the low down…
PROJECTS AND PARTNERSHIP…
- BARN Roof – In the Barn, there were some minor leaks in the roof in different areas. However, in the last year, we have had crazy weather! 5 tornados have gone overhead, landing within 3-15 miles from the Barn. This sped up the roof project! We are looking at a tin roof that will last longer than shingles.
- BARN Shower/Washer/Dryer: We also need to install a shower and washer/dryer in the Barn. This will be useful for the business as well as for guests who come to stay, like YWAM teams or others.
- BARN HVAC: Our Heating and Air-conditioning is giving up the ghost! It’s worked well for 30 years and now, it is time.
- BARN Sheds: We need a new equipment shed! The equipment shed is being held up by angels and ground hogs who don’t want to loose their covering. We need a second shed to store larger items used for our gatherings that are just too big to store inside the Barn. We’re talking about extra chairs, stage elements, sometimes sofas, garden decoration, etc. These things need to be moved around and adjusted depending on the needs of each gathering at the Barn.
- HOUSE Kitchen: The house is old and beautiful, and also needs work. In general, the whole kitchen needs to be ripped out and re-done. The electric and walls are criminal, and the layout of the kitchen is miserable. When we moved in, one of the burners on the stove was already broken and the range was cracked. Soon another stopped working. It Is amazing how much we cook and have gotten by with only two burners, but, again, it’s time.
- HOUSE Entry/Mud Room: Attached to the kitchen is our entry. It is a 3-season room that’s freezing in the winter, overbearingly hot in the summer and the roof leaks when it rains. It is time. The plan is to knock down the entry room, and re-make it from scratch, opening it up more to the kitchen and adding on a larger mud room to house our washer/dryer, coats, shoes, sports equipment.
- HOUSE Porch: The porch on the house is rotting out between the ceiling and roof due to the particular style of drains that were put in in the 1960’s. The flooring of the porch is sagging. It is time.
- HOUSE Windows: We seriously need to replace windows that are both drafty and dangerous because they are very difficult to open and then properly close again.
From estimates that builders have given, we are looking at $300,000.00 for the entire project.
Oddly, this does not look impossible. Gospel Fellowship Church was able to buy this wonderful property in the 1980’s. There was so much provision and creativity that went into paying off the mortgage! And now, breaking it down, by thousands, it actually doesn’t seem like a massive sum. If 100 people gave $1,000.00, 5 people gave $5,000.00 … and so on and so forth.
We invite you to partner with us as we invest in this Community Center, full of creativity, beauty, restoration, joy! There is still a little time, for our American friends, to get into this years’ giving with tax receipts!
Please stay tuned with us as we video document our journey! It’s a much better way to include you in what’s going on and what’s coming! You get to SEE what’s happening and how your partnership is serving the community. We will also share this Newsletter in video form on our Website and Social Media channels. Check out IG, FB, YouTube for recent and upcoming videos!
RE-FORMING OUR BOARD…
God sent us the best board for our first season here! They were hand-picked for re-establishing community and ministering to the land. We saw them grow into solid oaks and we value the portions that they brought into this last season. As we prepare for a new season, we are asking the Lord to help us put together a new board for the new season of expansion and growth. Some members may stay the same or take on different roles in BYRON. We know that God has the right people to join with us and help see the plans to fruition.
Leeland is doing well at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart where he is in 3rd grade. His teacher dubbed him a “Social Beast” since “social butterfly” wasn’t accurate enough. We are pleased with his progress and so glad he can be there at PASH. We especially love the focus on gratitude at school. Lee already has a gift of encouragement, and it pumps that gift even more! Lee still plays drums really well and it’s always great to hear him practicing in the cellar. This summer, Lee tried a soccer technique camp. It was his first time trying anything with soccer and before camp started, he began badgering us for goalie gloves. Days into camp he was still asking. “No Lee, you don’t need those. You’re learning basic soccer skills now.” After 2.5 weeks, the coach had a word with me. “Lee has very good hand/eye coordination and he’s always volunteering to jump into the goal! Nobody does that!” Fast forward and Lee was offered a place on a travel team (Surf Mercer) as the Goalie! Now, he needed goalie gloves! We felt that this was a great opportunity and we’re so happy to support him. So, this Fall he had regular team practice twice a week and goalie practice 1-2 times a week. Go Lee!!
Lilli started at a new school this year after a year of homeschooling. She is now a 6th grader at the Waldorf School of Princeton. This has been a wonderful change for her. Lilli was always very social, but a deeper confidence has grown in this smaller environment. She is playing a bit of catch up in Math, after half a weird covid-year at public school and then a year of homeschool, but she is making progress and we are so glad. Lilli was the first to try her hand at soccer last Spring. She joined a local recreational team and showed some skill so we asked how she could try out for the travel team (like the one Lee is on) in her age division. So, they sent us to one of the local colleges where they practice on the fields for a try out. Turns out, it wasn’t the girls Surf team, but a league higher! The coach asked her to come again that week and, in the end, offered her the chance to train with them this year! The coach saw that while Lilli was very “raw” in skills, Lilli had great determination and was a hard worker. At first Lilli was disappointed because she wanted to play in matches. But after considering how this will actually further her much more, she decided to do it and we are so proud of her for thinking ahead! Lilli ran Cross Country at Waldorf in order to gain stamina for soccer as well, so, add in two more soccer practices and three CC practices a week and we were driving A LOT!
Trixi is also at Waldorf, and it has been a game changer for her. She is part of a “pack” and really feels like she belongs in this little school. This makes my mamma heart so happy. In the Fall and Spring, they have a gardening class, they do pottery, they are out and about in the woods on a regular basis… it’s right up her ally! Trixi has always struggled in Math and in this small environment, she is really seen, and the Math teacher (who also teaches recorder) agreed with my concerns about her progress. While in previous years my concerns were waived off, this teacher said “no, I believe you are right, that it’s a processing issue, not a confidence issue.” So, in January, Trixi will start testing to see if Dyscalculia is in the mix of her learning experience. If so, she will be afforded tools and learn skills so that she can make it through much better. Again, we are so grateful that our girls are in this school where she is seen. Trixi ran Cross Country this Fall as was the fasted kid on the co-ed team! In their first meet, she came in 3rd after two boys on the other team, which was a well-trained team! Trixi has always been fast and it’s so cool to see her run in a different way!
Cori is still teaching the Theatre Arts course at Princeton Academy, in the upper school and in the New Year, musical rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance will begin and run till the end of April. This year she will start working with 3rd and 4th grade from time to time as well and she is looking forward to it very much.
Tom came back from his sabbatical with 3 priorities to focus on: 1. Invest in his Marriage/Family, 2. Find a new job, 3. Start Pitstop Pioneers. Last spring, he built a fire-pit and started to invite people out of isolation to come together for community, conversation, food and fire. That was his response to Covid! The fire-pit serves as a backdrop for recording his Pitstop Pioneers Videos, where he shares poetry, the people in his life, and perspectives—raw, off-the-cuff, and always from the heart!
While there has been much driving for us this school year, it’s been worth every mile to watch the kids grow and find their stride. Being that BYRON activities had already stopped, there was no conflict or racing back and forth so as not to “miss” something at the Barn. We were all right where we needed to be! How’s that for God’s timing!?
In closing, we want to say how much we love all our friends and family around the world and look forward to seeing you all again before too long! The BYRON House kitchen will be open for guests!
If you feel called to give financially into the growth of BYRON, we would be honored to have you in the family of supporters. If you have skills that you would like to bring in as building projects happen, please reach out so that we can plan accordingly! If you want to join us in other ways, contact us and let’s talk! It is time.
At your service,
Corinne and Thomas
Donations can be made by cheque to BYRON at Gospel Fellowship or by PayPal