New website, new colleagues, new cousin: my July newsletter

This morning, Bonnie, Tyler, Peter, and I gathered for a team meeting, reviewing our goals for the upcoming school year and talking about what it means to do “holy marketing.” How do we pursue our work in a way that reflects God’s Kingdom, both explicitly and implicitly? I love that I get to work in a place that considers that question. Not only does the CCO call college students to serve Jesus Christ with their entire lives, but we do our best to model that in the way we do our own work, on campus and behind the scenes. What a privilege that is!

New website!

The highlight of 2015 so far has to be the launch at the end of May of the newly redesigned CCO website. You may not remember what the old site looked like, but trust me when I say that after eight years, it needed more than a facelift. Bonnie, Tyler, Peter, and I experienced the ultimate team-building exercise this past year, culminating in a brand new Please check it out—I’d love to hear what you think!
website url

New colleague!

In one of those “it’s a small world after all” moments, I discovered via Facebook that one of my newest colleagues, Eric Richey, and his wife, Alicia, are moving from Indianapolis to Ohio, to pioneer a CCO ministry at University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash. And they happen to know my cousin, Lauren Testerman, and her family from when they all lived in Indy. Crazy!

New cousin!

On June 28, I got to celebrate with my cousin Mary Cooper and family the wedding of her daughter, Miranda, to Colten Lindberg. Miranda participated in the CCO’s Ocean City Beach Project in 2012, which has created a fun bond between us. I love it when my worlds collide.

I look forward to more family time later this summer when, on August 1, we’ll gather at my cousin Linda’s house in Greensburg for Maczuzapalooza 2015. It will be poignant, as it will be the first family reunion without Dad. He loved his big family, and I know he would be glad that these gatherings continue.

This summer marks my 27th year with the CCO. It is not an understatement to say that I could not participate in this work without your support. Thank you for being a part of my life and ministry.

I need to raise a significant amount of my monthly salary in order to work for the CCO. Are you interested in joining my support team? Donate online, or find out other ways to give. Thank you!

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51 years

On June 20, 1964, Janet Fulton Hamilton married John Anthony Maczuzak at Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania. Today would have been their 51st wedding anniversary.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you both, and I miss you very much.


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On Ships, Harbors and Sailing into Uncharted Territory

One of my young campus ministry colleagues posted something to Facebook recently and I was reminded of this article that I wrote more than a decade ago for publication in the September 2003 issue of the monthly publication I edited back then for the CCOThe Ministry Exchange: an exchange of ideas & resources by & for CCO staff. Maybe it will resonate with someone today?


I’ve been a little bit emotional lately. Between returning to Allegheny for homecoming and missing that place and those people — especially missing the feelings of being known, recognized and loved, and being totally familiar with my environment — and the uncertainties about my position here, things have been a bit rocky inside.

I recently read this passage in one of my old journals. It documents the spring I graduated from college, the summer I participated in CCO Summer Training, and the autumn I arrived at Geneva College as a full-fledged campus minister. It reads like a coming-of-age novel…or maybe a poorly-edited coming-of-age memoir. The above reflection was recorded on October 11, 1988, a little over a month into my time at Geneva.

A few months earlier, on June 8th, just before graduating from Allegheny College, I had made this notation:

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

These words were printed on a poster which hung on a friend’s bedroom wall. I’d seen it several times before, but reading these words just days before my college graduation added a fresh poignancy.

The transition from college student to working woman was predictably uncomfortable. Even my relative familiarity of the CCO couldn’t cushion the very real fact that my carefree undergraduate days were now a thing of the past. Even if your first job out of college is to work closely with college students, the fact remains: you are not in college anymore.

Going into New Staff Training, I believed that I was well-prepared to minister to college students. After all, I had been an active participant in the CCO-advised Allegheny Christian Outreach all four of my college years, attending large-group fellowship meetings and leading Bible studies and discipleship groups. The summer before my senior year, I immersed myself in the Ocean City Beach Project, and it was at OCBP that I discovered that I just might have what it takes to do campus ministry. A year later, I found myself with 17 other new CCO recruits at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, preparing to fulfill a four-year commitment to this ministry which had changed my life.

And then I arrived at Geneva College.

I was an intern at Geneva, which, at that time in CCO history, meant that I would move on to spend three years working at a different campus after completing my first year on staff. It also meant that I had a very fluid and flexible job description to allow for extra meetings and the study to which I had committed through the intern program. Ultimately, it meant that many Geneva students never quite figured out who I was or why I was there.

Was I a resident director? Not exactly — although I did end up filling an abruptly-vacated RA position shortly into my first semester at Geneva. I also supervised a group of upperclass students who served as mentors to the entire freshman class via small groups. (The irony here was that I was piloting a brand new freshman orientation program while basically feeling like a freshman myself.) When the mentoring program wrapped up at the end of the fall semester, I transitioned into my new duties — assisting the Assistant Chaplain (CCO associate staff member, Brad Frey) in administrating Geneva’s arts and lecture series.

And through all of this, I was learning how much I had to learn about doing campus ministry.

Beaver Falls may only be 75 miles from Meadville, Pennsylvania, but as far as I was concerned, Geneva and Allegheny Colleges may as well have been different planets. At Allegheny, I freely visited friends of both genders in their residence hall rooms at any hour of the day or night. At Geneva, I was expected to patrol the halls, making sure dorm room doors were propped open during the occasional (two or three per semester) open houses, when men were allowed to visit women in their rooms. Drinking and dancing were regular practices among Allegheny students, and strictly forbidden at Geneva. And then there was the whole Geneva College Sabbath-observance thing — no sports, no studying, no doing laundry on Sundays. (Is it even necessary to suggest that this would not compute at Allegheny?)

The external differences between my alma mater and my first-year ministry setting were merely symptoms of the biggest challenge of all. My experience as a college student had taught me that being an evangelical Christian meant being in a distinct minority, a member of “the remnant,” part of a fellowship which was merely tolerated as a recognized student activity, not encouraged. At Geneva, RAs were trained to lead Bible studies, close to 300 students showed up for the first Sunday Night Fellowship meeting, and we took turns leading devotionals at student development staff meetings.

At Geneva, even if a student did not necessarily embrace the Gospel message, she knew enough to “talk the talk” — whether or not she chose to “walk the walk” as one of Jesus’ disciples. How to minister to her?

And that illustrates one of biggest lessons I learned as I left the harbor of my undergraduate experience for the uncharted waters of campus ministry.

I learned that ministry is not about formulas or programs or doing-it-the-way-I’ve-always-seen-it-done. Ministry is about real people — individuals created in God’s image. Ministry is about God’s power working through my humility.

Ministry is about leaving the harbor and taking the risk of sailing into choppy waters — and trusting that the One who can walk on water will be right there, keeping me safe and doing the real work of ministry — softening hearts and changing lives.

sailing ship pic 1600X1200

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On Advent and the “new normal”: my December newsletter

As we enter Advent, this season of celebrating the first coming of Jesus Christ, and waiting and anticipating His promised second coming, I am experiencing another kind of waiting. I am bracing myself for December 27, two days after Christmas, and the first-year anniversary of my father’s death.

The last time I saw Dad outside of a hospital room was on Thanksgiving Day 2013, at my Uncle Paul’s and Aunt Barb’s house. A week later, his leg went numb and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Three weeks after that, he died from complications following surgery.

My brother, Vern, hosted us this year for Thanksgiving—John, Cindy, Katy, and I traveled over the rivers and through the snowy woods to eat turkey together and experience New York City through the eyes of my sister-in-law, Cindy, who had never been there before. The amazing photo below was taken by my niece, the 19-year-old Selfie Master, Katy, as we traveled across the New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry.

It was good to be together, to remember our parents, and to thank God that we still have one another. God is good—all the time.

I also thank God for you, friends and family members who have carried me through this difficult year. I thank God for the meaningful work He has given me to do here at the CCO, calling college students to serve Jesus Christ with their entire lives. One of my biggest anxieties in the wake of losing Dad was wondering how my support-raising needs would be met now that my most generous supporter is gone. Thank all of you who have so generously helped to close that gap. There is still work to be done for me to be fully funded, but I am humbled and more grateful than you know.

nyc selfie 2014

I need to raise a significant amount of my monthly salary in order to work for the CCO. Are you interested in joining my support team? Donate online, or find out other ways to give. Thank you!

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Telling Sandie’s story: my September newsletter

Sandie and Nathan are there for you in every way that you need,” Zach, a junior on Edinboro University’s wrestling team, told me when we talked on the phone a few weeks ago. “My family says they are Christians, but they curse a lot and are really negative. Sandie and Nathan are like a second set of parents for me.”

One of the coolest things about my long tenure with the CCO is that I get to see how God works over time. The latest issue of On Campus magazine is a great example of this.

Amy and SandieI first met Sandie Starr Everhart when we were both students at Allegheny College. I was a student leader of the CCO’s Allegheny Christian Outreach, and Sandie helped start the CCO-sponsored Fellowship of Christian Athletes group. When she was a senior and I was a junior, we co-led a discipleship group for freshmen. A couple years later, we were both on staff with the CCO—and we still are.

And there was that time in 1989 when we accidentally showed up at our friends’ wedding in the exact same dress. How embarrassing! (And hilarious!)
Sandie has always been a gifted campus minister. This looks different today than it did in the ’90s, when she was single and ministering to students at Ohio Wesleyan University. Now, married to Nathan and stepmother to three mostly-grown daughters, Sandie’s outreach to students at Edinboro no longer involves late nights hanging out with them in their dorm rooms. Now it’s about inviting students into her home and feeding them—both literally and spiritually.

nathan-sandie-johnnySandie goes to track meets and football practices and wrestling matches. Her background as an All-American collegiate athlete helps her connect with student-athletes in unique way.

But it’s her warmth and humor and love for students that really gets through—and that points to Jesus Christ.

“Throughout the week, I get texts from Sandie to see how I am, to make sure nothing’s wrong,” Zach told me. “Sandie and Nathan opened my eyes that you really can live the life of a good Christian if you surround yourself with people who are positive. They’ve helped me to grow into the person I need to be.

Thank you for making it possible for me to tell stories like Zach’s and Sandie’s. (You can read the full On Campus article about Sandie here!)

Because CCO staff members like Sandie are on college campuses, students’ lives are being changed. And because of your love and support of me—and this mission to college students—this ministry continues to thrive.


I need to raise a significant amount of my monthly salary in order to work for the CCO. Are you interested in joining my support team? Donate online, or find out other ways to give. Thank you!

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On September 11, 2014

During a lunch break last week, a few of my co-workers and I were remembering where we were when John F. Kennedy was shot (for all but one of us, not yet born), what we remembered about the day the Space Shuttle exploded (three of us were sophomores in college), and finally, what we remembered about September 11, 2001 (the youngest of us was in fourth grade).

It’s interesting to pause and remember the days when we could freely meet friends and family members at the gate of their arriving flights, or when we didn’t need to remove our shoes or empty water bottles to go through airport security. When it wasn’t a jolt to see a an image picturing the Twin Towers as if they are a matter-of-fact part of New York City’s skyline.

And when I look at this picture of me with my cousin Cheri and my Aunt Sonia, I remember the Mother’s Day trip we took (along with my mom and Cheri’s mom, my Aunt Helen) to visit my brother Vern in New York City in May of 2000.

Here we are enjoying a leisurely dinner at Windows on the World, on the top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a little over a year before the world changed forever.


Here’s the post I wrote three years ago, on the tenth anniversary of The Day that Changed Everything.

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All my favorite people are broken

I signed up for the Glen Workshop about a month before my dad died. If I’d known that my dad was about to die, I’m pretty sure I would not have signed up. But I did, and I had talked my friend Jen into signing up, too, so I didn’t feel like I could back out.

Thank God.

I have been hearing about the Glen for years, mostly from my friend Denise, who has participated many times, first as an MFA student, and since graduating, to continue to hone her craft. I never really considered it, because I remembered the vulnerable feeling of workshopping my writing in an undergrad fiction writing class. I don’t much like that feeling of vulnerability.

So, what compelled me to register for Glen West 2014?

  1. A pre-end-of-2013 price break I found out about from an email newsletter sent by Image Journal.
  2. The opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Susan E. Isaacs, author of one of my favorite memoirs, Angry Conversations with God.
  3. A chance to breathe the same air as and enjoy a performance by Over the Rhinethe source of my blog title.
  4. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And did I mention that I invited my writing friend Jen to come too, and against all odds i.e. two small children and a working husbandshe said “yes”?

I sent in my nonrefundable deposit before Thanksgiving.

Two days after Christmas, my father died of complications from surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.



During the eight months between Dad’s death and my departure for Santa Fe, I often wondered if taking this trip made any sense at all. As I grieved for my father and served as executrix of his estate, I also faced a need to attend to my own financial needs; I am responsible to raise a good bit of my salary, and my single most generous donor is now gone.

Could I afford to go? Could I afford not to?

I also knew I had to submit a work in progress to present at this workshop on “spiritual writing” (or creative nonfiction). I suspected I might find the experience emotionally challenging. Which means I took one obvious essay topic off the table immediately: no writing about my dad—or about my mom, who died nearly eight years ago. My newly orphaned state felt too new to be articulated and dissected. Plus, I would cry.

And so as the time crept closer and I still hadn’t started to write anything fresh and new, I revisited an essay I wrote 10 years ago, about a trip to New York City with two dear friends. Entitled “Being Known,” I suspected it had the potential to elicit the emotions I was trying to resist. But at least it wasn’t about the kind of loss I’ve experienced recently.

The bottom line? I went, I read, I wrote, I cried. I learned. I grew.

I shared a part of my story, and these new friends and fellow writers received it with grace and encouraged me with concrete suggestions of how I might tell it more effectively. I received the gift of their stories, and we all recognized the truth of what it means to be alive on this beautiful, terrifying, messy planet.


As Over the Rhine sang on Saturday in the closing evening concert, all my favorite people are broken.* I knew then that this was the theme of my week at The Glen.

Perhaps it’s the theme of my life.

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just want to hold you and let the rest go

All my friends are part saint and part sinner
We lean on each other, try to rise above
We are not afraid to admit we are all still beginners
We are all late bloomers when it comes to love

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
Awful believers, skeptical dreamers, step forward
You can stay right here, you don’t have to go

Is each wound you’ve received just a burdensome gift
It gets so hard to lift yourself up off the ground
But the poet says we must praise a mutilated world
We’re all working the graveyard shift
You might as well sing along

Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
As for your tender heart, this world’s going to rip it wide open,
It aint gonna be pretty, but you’re not alone

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
Awful believers, skeptical dreamers, you’re welcome
Yeah, you’re safe right here, you don’t have to go

Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me, I should know
Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just want to hold you and let the rest go


*If you’re interested, I found Linford Detweiler’s notes on the process of writing this song

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