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Love in the Mountains: Julianna + Mike

Submitted by clester2014 on Tue, 02/10/2015 - 18:40

Julianna: The summer I came home from East Africa I had to stop and think about my next step. I longed to return there one day and assist in economic development, but God had another plan for my life. I knew I was called to serve others and I had always dreamed of being a camp counselor. After returning from Africa I began to search for my next adventure. My desire to help others was ignited even more by the discovery of Christian Appalachian Project (CAP). Mike: In 2006 I began volunteering for work fest. I remember writing in my journal that even though I received college credit for my service at Camp Andrew Jackson (Camp AJ), I truly felt like I had come home. I drew a puzzle piece in that same journal with the word “Appalachia” in the center. I had previously worked at another camp and made pretty decent money, but it just wasn’t the same as Camp AJ. My experiences here were always so positive and everyone was so accepting—I felt like part of a family. Julianna: My first week at Camp AJ in 2009 was supposed to be Mike’s last week volunteering. Isn’t that crazy? When I began my short term volunteer work as a camp counselor, he was finishing up a one year commitment to CAP. I came from Northeastern Ohio and Mike was from Cincinnati. We connected instantly and shared the same passion for serving others. I didn’t know anyone when I came to CAP that summer but Kentucky quickly stole my heart, and so did Mike. Coming here was a leap of faith and God knew that my future was waiting for me in these Appalachian Mountains. Mike: I had planned on traveling across the country with a friend once I completed my service at Camp that summer. When I met Julianna I knew that God had sent me the perfect person with whom to share my life. Finding her and CAP were the missing pieces of the puzzle to my life. This made leaving Kentucky and CAP very hard. I was thrilled to travel as I had planned, but this would mean starting our relationship out as a long distance one. I had fallen in love with Camp AJ and Julianna all at the same time. Finding my passion for serving others and discovering my beautiful wife was more than I could ever ask for. To make a long story short, my friend received a call from me postponing our trip so I could spend just a little longer by Julianna’s side. Julianna: Yeah, he likes to pretend that he just stayed for the scenic mountain views, but we both know he couldn’t leave me, or CAP, just yet! (laughs) Mike: She’s right. The thought of abandoning Appalachia and its people, to whom I was able to give all of myself in service, was unbearable and leaving Julianna felt so wrong. Looking back over the past six years is somewhat surreal, just to think of how blessed I’ve been. To discover this amazing mission and purpose for my life and to be able to share that mission with the person I love most in the world is huge! Julianna: Getting married back at Camp AJ in 2011 was such an emotional moment. Not only did I get to marry my best friend, but I was able to do so at the place we met. Some of my best memories are from Camp AJ. I was blessed to be able to serve others alongside my future husband, and we both grew every summer as a result. Mike: Camp AJ is our favorite place in the world. It’s embedded in our lives and our relationship. It’s amazing to share a life with someone who understands, recognizes, and appreciates the work we do together alongside the people of Appalachia. Today, Julianna works in Christian Appalachian Project’s Volunteer program and Mike is Camp Coordinator for Camp Andrew Jackson. Julianna and Mike recently celebrated the birth of their first child, Cooper. They continue to grow in their love for one another and for the people of Appalachia. Julianna and Mike's son, Cooper. 

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