November 8 - A Screening...and a Kickstarter!

Hello again, dear friends!

It feels good to say that it hasn’t been too long since our most recent update on A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers, when we finally released the trailer back in September.

We’ll just cut to the chase on this update: as of today, we have officially launched the Kickstarter to raise the finishing funds for A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers!

A Kickstarter of Tea & Strangers

It’s always been a dream of ours to involve a community of people in the making of this documentary, and this Kickstarter has given us a chance to invite people into the process and dream up some rewards and opportunities that we wouldn’t have had a reason to do otherwise. Among the potential rewards: limited-quantity tickets to the premiere in Nashville, special thank-you postcards, art prints from a former L’Abri student, a physical release of the film, and early access to the tie-in album when it releases.

Our goal is $28,000, which means we’re going to need to get a lot of people involved to hit the number and finish—with a target premiere date of early summer 2024. We'd be honored if you'd consider donating. If you know anybody who might be interested in the project, especially if they know or appreciate anything about L’Abri, please think about sharing the link with them too. The funding deadline is Friday, December 1st. As part of the launching of the Kickstarter, Houston wrote an essay for The Rabbit Room about the making of the film that you can read here. Speaking of The Rabbit Room, that leads us to our other exciting update...

A Screening of Tea & Strangers

Here's the other exciting bit: an audience in Nashville got to see a one-hour preview of A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers in October!

As many of you know, the two of us spent the spring of 2023 working on post-production as “Artists in Residence” with a faith/arts nonprofit called The Rabbit Room in Nashville. Last month, thanks to the kindness of our friends Andy Patton and Pete Peterson, we were able to screen a one hour excerpt of our rough cut at The Rabbit Room’s annual creative conference called Hutchmoot. It felt like a culmination of a film about community to show parts of it in community.

The screening, attended by an audience of around 80 people, was a joy. The most cathartic part was the laughter; contrary to the idea of L’Abri as a quiet, meditative monastery, our documentary includes a lot of the whimsy and silliness of a typical term. Jokes and funny moments that made us chuckle during the editing process generated big laughs in the room at Hutchmoot. The more contemplative moments were elevated by people, too; watching with others means that it’s more difficult to check your phone when things get slow, forcing you to engage with patience and silence. We also got to host a very engaging and lively Q&A after the screening finished, which can you listen to right here.

More than anything, our experience of showing the film in person at Hutchmoot has encouraged us to hold more gatherings at churches, homes, and small theaters when it's all finished. The connectivity of the internet can be a beautiful thing, but the value of art experienced in fellowship with others cannot be replicated. That's why one of our big goals with the Kickstarter is to premiere the film at The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville—and tour to show it elsewhere when it's complete.

This Kickstarter is funding the particular project of A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers, but if you'd like to donate to Art Within to help sustain us in the coming months as we try to launch other projects as well, you can donate via PayPal here or send a check to Art Within Inc. at the address at the bottom of this email. 

In this season, we thank God for these beautiful things:

...and we ask prayer for these:

We're so thankful for your encouragement, generosity, and interest in these recent weeks. Have a suitably chilly November!


The Coleys

August 23 - A Title, An Album, and a Finished Trailer!

Hello again, friends!

We hope you’ve been having a meaningful summer. It’s been since March that we last updated anyone on the L’Abri documentary (and Art Within’s wider work) and much has come to fruition since then! We’ll try to keep this update concise—and keep you engaged, because there are a few finished things in store to show you!

Let's start here: as we spent most of our spring in the tedious process of transcribing and organizing our documentary footage, it was helpful to have secondary projects to keep our hands (and cameras) busy even while most of the day involved sitting at a desk in front of a laptop. Houston continued making videos on his YouTube channel, and Debbie worked with Art Within & The Rabbit Room to direct a short film based on a liturgy from the book Every Moment Holy.

We’re proud to present it here: Art Within’s first digital short, in partnership with The Rabbit Room. The audience of this newsletter is the first to see it; the short will be released publicly around the publication of Every Moment Holy Vol 3. We hope you enjoy Debbie's short film! Click here or the image below.

The Documentary Gets a Title (and an epilogue!)

Another piece of our work throughout the spring and summer was titling the documentary. In the early stages of production, our working title had been Glorious Ruins, based on a phrase often-said by Francis Schaeffer, the founder of L’Abri. In interactions with others, though, we found that this title was too esoteric; during the early summer months, we tossed around and workshopped just about every L’Abri-adjacent word under the sun. In the end, after much prayer and back-and-forth, we decided on a title that felt simultaneously imaginative, descriptive, and mysterious: 

A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers. We hope you like it!

While watching the footage of the documentary and structuring out where the story was going to go, one thing became very clear: since a good portion of the drama of A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers hinges on students coming to terms with leaving L’Abri, it only made sense (as an epilogue) to follow-up with some of those students in their lives back home now that time had passed. In May, we spent a day interviewing our friend Evan, who had conveniently moved to Nashville. In June, we made a pitstop in Charlotte, NC to interview our friends AJ and Emery, who were hospitably hosting a dinner in AJ’s home that night. And in July, we took a plane out to Santa Barbara, California, where we interviewed another friend, Ford. These interviews were all deeply meaningful—and will add so much to the ending of the film, shifting the context from a Victorian manor house in England and bringing it back to a world that the audience will recognize. And there are still more to come! If funds allow, we hope to interview two students in England, two in Norway, and one in Scotland by the end of the year.

An Album and Finally: A Trailer!

Another project that organically took shape in these last months was more musical than the rest. When we started this year and looked at how we could help to elevate the voices of some artists outside of ourselves, one idea sprang to mind: a L’Abri-inspired concept album, featuring an eclectic collection of songs by people who had experiences around L’Abri and wanted to sing about it. As of now, we have 10 brilliant artists (most of them former L’Abri students) all writing original songs for the album, including a harp solo, a piano suite, and several vocal tracks. We’re excited to have something else to release, especially as the doc gets closer, that can immerse people in the atmosphere of the film.

Toward the end of the summer, as we finally began work editing the documentary on a scene to scene basis, we also started working on something else: the first trailer to be publicly released. Up until now, the original teaser, which you may have seen back in December, was only available through private links like this newsletter. This new trailer will be intended to be posted more accessibly on Houston’s YouTube channel and help more people know about the project. We spent a few months workshopping, our friend Nate composed a score and mixed the sound, and it’s finally ready.

So, without further ado: the first full trailer for the newly-titled A Kingdom of Tea & Strangers!

That’s right: if you made it to the end of the trailer, you’ll see that our target release date is Spring 2024. Let’s make it happen!

And with that, we’re (mostly) up to date. The hope with the new trailer is to generate interest (and potentially, funding) for the film so that we can complete it on time. Other projects have dotted these last few months, too; the newly-launched Art Within Podcast completed its first season and will continue in the autumn, and we got into the details of choosing fonts and logos for the documentary and for Art Within as a whole.     

If you’d like to donate to Art Within to help sustain us in the coming months as we continue work on the doc and try to launch other projects as well, you can donate via PayPal here or send a check to Art Within Inc at the address on the homepage. Our generous donors have sustained us through the year until now—though we will need to raise more funds to finish the film on time.

In this season, we thank God for these beautiful things:

...and we ask prayer for these:

We're so thankful for your interest and kindness in these last months. Have a wonderful ending to the summer!


The Coleys

March 3 - Nashville, The Rabbit Room, and The Art Within Podcast

Hello again, friends!

It’s been since December that we last updated everyone on the documentary, and life has been eventful since then!

In many ways, the last few months have had their hardships, but they have also felt like some of the most providential and joyful we’ve had yet - both as a married couple and as artists. 

Toward the middle of December, we were starting to wonder where we’d be living in the coming months, but we prayed some opportunity would make itself known. Sometime shortly before Christmas, we happened to receive a message from our friend and former L’Abri worker Andy Patton about a house in Nashville, Tennessee owned by a lovely family called The Vedders. The Vedders were going to be heading on a family trip to English L’Abri from January to April, and they were looking for some people to house-sit and rent for them. Andy and Lindsey Patton and their three children Eliot, Ivy, and Linden all currently lived in the basement apartment of that same house already.

We were thrilled at the prospect of having a place to stay in the coming months - especially a place so close to our friends The Pattons, and so poetically connected to L’Abri just as we were working on the documentary about it. We prayed about the decision for several weeks and ultimately decided to come to Nashville and rent at The Vedders' house.

A New Place in Nashville

Even more providentially, The Vedders’ house is located about 5 minutes away from the main offices of The Rabbit Room, called North Wind Manor. The Rabbit Room is a nonprofit founded by Pete & Andrew Peterson that seeks to cultivate community for Christians in the arts. Needless to say, the two of us have been encouraged by their work for years now, and always dreamed about getting to be involved in what they were doing.

After leaving English L’Abri, Andy Patton became The Rabbit Room’s Director of Operations last year, and he offered to help us by letting us work as “artists in residence” at North Wind Manor for our season at The Vedders' house. Practically, this meant that we would a) have a place to go to work on editing the L’Abri documentary every day, and b) have lovely people and a community of likeminded artists to be around regularly. Many of the people at The Rabbit Room were familiar with the work of L’Abri, which also meant our current task would be seen and understood. This was such a gift.

And so, since January, we have been working every day at The Rabbit Room’s North Wind Manor, spending time with wonderful people, eating very good food cooked by our friend Rachel Matar, and facing the gigantic task of watching and notating through all 60 hours of our footage on the L'Abri documentary. It's probably the most fruitful and integrated season of work and community we've had - and it's so unbelievably helpful to not be working from home in isolation. It only makes sense that a L'Abri documentary would be made around community.

The process of transcribing and watching through the L'Abri footage has been rewarding as well, if a little tedious at times. The most surprising thing has been how many common themes and motifs have made themselves known across our footage in ways that we didn't perceive or understand at the time of shooting. One prominent theme has stemmed from Matthew 11: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Many of the students we interviewed were carrying heaven burdens and ultimately found rest at L'Abri; many of them also talked about a need for rhythms of rest in their day-to-day lives back home. It's been very gratifying to see God slowly and subtly reveal the story He wants to tell in footage that seemed so overwhelming at first glance. After two months of watching, transcribing, notating, and brainstorming, we're finally ready to move into a stage of real editing.

The Art Within Podcast & Other Projects

In the midst of our primary work full-time on the L'Abri doc, we've also been able to pour into some side-projects for Art Within and otherwise. Debbie is working on a visual short-film adaptation of "A Liturgy for Days and Nights of Doubt" with The Rabbit Room, and Houston and Nate Sheppard (our composer for the L'Abri documentary!) have just released the first episode of the newly-launched Art Within Podcast! Much like Art Within itself, the podcast seeks to create a space for connection around art, community, and spirituality. Season One is titled "Cultivating Community in the Digital Era." We hope you'll listen and join the conversation! Click here to join the Substack email list for the podcast, or stream on Apple Music and Spotify.

If you’d like to donate to Art Within to help sustain us in the coming months as we continue work on the doc and try to launch other projects as well, you can donate via PayPal here. We may need to start fundraising again in the coming months to be able to complete post-production, but especially after this season, we are so full of trust that God will give the provision needed in his timing.

In this season, we thank God for these beautiful things:

...and we ask prayer for these:

We're so thankful for your interest and kindness in these last months. Happy Lent!


The Coleys

December 6 - Wedding, L'Abri Doc Teaser & Art Within in 2023

Hello again, dear friends.

Debbie put it best when she journaled recently that “this year, we have experienced far more than we have been able to process.” 2022 has been a year practically bursting with opportunities, rich experiences, and creativity - but it’s also been overwhelming and exhausting at times because of it. We're grateful to be entering a season of less eventful happenings.

The most recent update on the L’Abri Documentary was back in August. Many things have happened since then, both professionally and personally! Keep reading and we'll have a sneak peek of the documentary toward the end. As it stands, a significant portion of our time between September and October was occupied with one event that we’d been anticipating for over a year: our wedding in America. 

Many Unions

The two of us had our first wedding in Czech Republic back in October of 2021, but because of COVID restrictions and other complications, it was only for Debbie’s side of the family. This wedding in the USA, one year later, was the opportunity for our two families to meet one another in person for the first time and complete the journey of our first year of marriage. When Debbie’s family landed in Atlanta and finally met Houston’s for the first time, it felt like things were exactly the way they were supposed to be. And the weeks we spent with our two families staying on the same street, our dads walking and talking about God in the woods together, and Debbie's little brother experiencing his first Halloween, were a beautiful glimpse of eternity.

The wedding itself was another thing of beauty, including a dramatic scripture reading/re-enactment by our bridesmaids and groomsmen, readings from our old journals, and a misty autumn day fit for Charlie Brown and Linus. The time after was even richer; we had about 30 friends stay with us in a very magical and rustic L'Abri-esque cabin in the mountains, with about half of the friends being those we'd met at L'Abri. We managed to host two brunch discussions with everyone there, giving the L'Abri folks some nostalgia and the non-L'Abri folks a little glimpse of this place we always talk about. The discussions were rich, we played many games of Werewolf and Hive, washed lots of dishes together, and the whole time at the cabin felt like the spirit was powerfully present. It made us realize that gathering people together and creating a space for them to have community was something that felt like a calling for both of us.

A Vision for Art Within

In the time since the wedding, the two of us have devoted a great deal of thought to our shared vision for our nonprofit, Art Within, in the coming year. Art Within was originally founded in 1995 by Houston's dad, Bryan, as a way to authentically blend faith and art for the stage and screen. In 2023, Art Within is coming back! The two of us are now acting as the artistic directors with a growing vision for what we want to do next.

We've condensed it all into this new mission statement: "Art Within aims to create thought-provoking art that engages and highlights the presence of God in our world, making a space for a spiritually-disillusioned generation to be re-enchanted by faith."

Simply put, we want to tell stories that organically invite people into a world where, as L'Abri worker Wade Bradshaw once put it: "God still does stuff."

One of the things that our time with friends after the wedding showed us was that we're passionate about creating spaces to invite people into a re-enchanted world. Since Houston started his YouTube channel 12 years ago, he's been creating spaces in the digital world for people to experience thoughtful art & analysis that allows them to talk and think about deeper things in a way that isn't preachy, but thoughtful, natural, and nuanced.

Psalm 107 says, “Let the redeemed of The Lord tell their story.” God has called us to tell the stories of His surprising and faithful character within our current generation - and we want to begin doing that by bringing Art Within into the digital landscape, leveraging our experience there to invite and engage spiritually-disenchanted people.

A Peek at The L'Abri Documentary!

Perhaps most pertinently: we've just completed the teaser trailer for the L'Abri documentary! With the busyness of this season, we're still very much in the early stages of post-production and it will probably be several months before we have much else to show. But we wanted to put together a trailer to help show people what we're working on. The film's current title, Glorious Ruins, is still a working one! Our composer and friend Nate Sheppard, in all his talents, did the musical score for the trailer - and we're so excited for you to see it.

Click here or tap the image below to watch the teaser trailer.

In the coming year: we have an Art Within podcast in the works, in the hopes of generating a space for conversations like this for artists and non-artists alike. We also plan to start gathering people regularly in-person (and maybe online) to experience and discuss art through a lens of spirituality. Art Within’s other immediate plans are still solidifying as funding comes through, but we'll keep you posted.

Our first funding goal is to unlock a matching donation of 10K by the end of 2022, to allow us to complete post-production on the documentary and begin work on Art Within’s broader mission, with this film as the initial calling card. If you're interested in contributing, we have more info on the L'Abri documentary website, plus an easy Paypal link here. Either way, we're thankful you're here and we can't wait to invite you into what's next.

In this season, we thank God for these beautiful things:

...and we ask prayer for these:

We're so thankful for your interest and kindness in this year. Merry Christmas!


The Coleys

August 23 - Our Summer Making a Documentary

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two months since we arrived at English L’Abri and sent our first Art Within newsletter. It’s even harder to believe that it’s now been 2 weeks since the term ended. These past few months have been a whirlwind - but also, at times, surprisingly slow-moving.

After arriving at L’Abri, within a day or less, the two of us were eager to start filming and using the time to the fullest - especially Houston. The summer term officially started on May 12th, but we arrived on May 24th, so there was already a feeling of “playing catch-up” to quickly form relationships with other students and begin making the most of our time.

A Slow Beginning...

It became very clear in the first few days, however, that “quickly” was not going to be the way a documentary about L’Abri would go. L’Abri means “shelter”, and as such, many of the people who come to The Manor are there to rest, retreat, or recuperate from exhaustion or pain in their lives back home. Understandably, many people weren’t initially very excited about being filmed by two strangers they hardly knew yet. When Houston flew his drone over The Manor one evening to film the sunset, he heard later that a few people had been afraid they were being recorded while they were having time alone outside. Within a few days, it felt like misunderstandings like this were going to be rampant.

It was a difficult start to the term, trying to be present with so many lovely people but feeling like everything needed to be fast-tracked to use the time well. Luckily, the two of us had mentors: Lili and Josué Reichow, to help communicate during the documentary process. Josué and Lili are both L’Abri workers, former sociologists, and lovely people who have a vast appreciation of art as a whole. The two of them advised us to slow down significantly and experience the first 2-3 weeks of the term without filming at all, only investing our time into being present with the community and being known by the students around us. This was very hard advice to hear, especially as we watched so many wonderful moments slip past without being captured on film, but we heeded the wisdom…and slowly, gradually accepted that these early weeks would be for planting, not harvesting. Suddenly, it felt like God was directing our attention toward “people” over “project" - and we started to get closer with the community around us outside the context of filming.

The Turning Point

In the midst of the busyness, in our limited downtime: we had the chance to reunite with multiple friends from our previous terms at L’Abri, Houston managed to read through the first half of the Bible, Debbie worked on writing her memoir book, and for four Thursdays in a row…the two of us went to see Top Gun: Maverick in nearby Portsmouth Harbour - with multiple friends joining us as time went on. Ironically enough, God brought several deep spiritual insights out of Top Gun. One of them was the way that Maverick inspires his students that their seemingly “impossible mission” can truly be flown…by dramatically demonstrating it himself. This got our gears turning about how we might inspire our fellow students at L’Abri with what this documentary might look like with their involvement.

About three weeks into the term, the workers allowed us to use one of the weekly film discussion nights to show the students our previous documentary, Love In The Time of Corona, and our concept film for the L’Abri documentary featuring former L’Abri workers Andy and Lindsey Patton. Initially, we had only intended to show the proof of concept short film, but showing Love in The Time of Corona ended up being the most significant portion of the night. It’s a documentary about our long-distance relationship during COVID beginning at L’Abri, which made it feel very full-circle and showed the students a more personal side of our story. When the film ended, the whole room erupted into a standing ovation. The two of us had no idea what to do with ourselves - but it was a deeply meaningful moment we'd never anticipated. As it turned out, our film was more universal than either of us had realized; we assumed it was just a hyper-personal diary of our own limited story, but the portrayal of connection and resilience during the quarantine era resonated deeply with many others.

After showing both films, we had an open discussion with the community about our documentary plans, and ended with a prayer. Many of the students and the workers were very encouraging of our work and desires - one worker, Joel, encouraged people to see their participation in the project as “a way to bless other people” even if it made them initially uncomfortable. At the same time, many raised hard questions - mainly about how we could maintain the “shelter” as we tried to film in such a vulnerable setting. The best conclusion was to start slowly...and we decided that we would plan to schedule every filming session on the daily work-list, so that students would have the peace of mind of knowing when and where we would be filming.

Going into the term, our approach to making the documentary had been “assume everyone is okay with being filmed unless they tell us otherwise.” In the early weeks, as we walked with God down the quaint Church Lane every day, it became very clear through prayer that the more fruitful approach would be “assume no one is okay with being filmed unless they agree to participate.” It was a difficult change of mindset to make, but one that ultimately would produce more fruit and personal trust in the long-term. After our movie screening night, we requested that everyone come to speak with us personally in the next few days to tell us how they felt about being filmed, either in the background or in more focused interviews.

What a huge answer to prayer it was when almost everyone told us that we had their trust! In retrospect, it had been a massive answered prayer that we were able to show Love in The Time of Corona, because it gave people a glimpse of our story beyond this particular project…and made them want to be part of what we were doing next.

Filming (Really) Begins

In the next few days after the film discussion night, our filming finally started to get moving. We scheduled various work crews, like laundry and cooking and gardening, to film during each day. We filmed a myriad of tea breaks and settings of tables. And, excitingly, we interviewed our first set of workers: Josué and Lili. 

After this important milestone was cleared, the term began to fly past. Some days were slower, but many were packed with various things to film from sunrise to sunset. We learned to navigate communication with the students who didn’t want to be filmed, and also how to communicate with the newly-arrived students who hadn’t been present for our screening. We said goodbye to new friends (Aron from Hungary, Nancy from DC, Colin from Scotland, and Francis from Canada!) who were leaving halfway through the term. And we definitely gained a few pounds of muscle from holding our camera rigs day in and day out.

The weeks weren’t without obstacles; the sheer exhaustion was one, but with so much of our filming scheduled in advance, the most difficult task was achieving any sense of spontaneity to capture those “in-between” moments that were impossible to plan. 

Halfway through June, a small wave of maybe-COVID sickness swept through and left a few students quarantined during the day, hanging out on picnic blankets on the lawn. One of the students, Nick from the UK, said “honestly, it sucks to be sick here…but there’s no other place I’d rather be sick right now.” Even amid the sickness, it was moving to see the Lord’s care through people and their practical help, like bringing meals outside, coming to read poetry and play music, and taking extra work crews when several people were down for the count. Many of the students said one of the times when they felt most loved by God was when they were sick in the community. 

It would’ve been a special period to capture - the difficulty and beauty of hospitality and community even when people are sick - but few people wanted to be filmed when they were in their “sick mode.” Situations like this happened frequently; no matter what you do, the most interesting things always occur off-camera.

The complexity and difficulty of making a documentary about community while living in community proved to be one of the more interesting parts of the story itself, and the topic came up frequently in interviews. It remains to be seen whether that question will be the crux of our film, but it’s certainly been the dramatic question of our summer...and it continually, sometimes reluctantly, made us realize the goodness of our limitations.

Moments of Glory

Many great things did make it on camera, though: we talked to American worker Sarah about her own experience as a student 20 years ago and her collection of medieval weapons and art. We shadowed Scottish worker Catherine as she picked wildflowers to decorate The Manor. We captured one of the weekly Monday morning prayer meetings, a staple of L’Abri life and a very vulnerable setting that would nonetheless be integral to communicating what the film is about. We documented the annual game of “Paper Ball Wars” stretching across The Manor property around July 4th. We filmed a Scottish Ceilidh dance during one Sunday evening. We followed a worker, Dawn, to the grocery store - and got subsequently kicked out for filming without permission. But hey, we got what we needed! We interviewed various students one-on-one and heard more of their individual stories, while also following groups of friends like AJ, Emery, and Ellie to the pub and on strolls down Church Lane. For all the students who claimed they would be “unnatural and awkward” in front of the camera, nobody came across that way; most people were outgoing and comfortable - almost to the point where we needed to find what wasn't comfortable.

Encouragement from Other Artists

Halfway through July, we managed to get away for a half-week in Oxford for The Rabbit Room’s annual Hutchmoot conference - a meeting of Christian artists from around the world! Andy and Lindsey Patton kindly allowed us to stay with them while they were there for the conference as well - and we both felt seen (and a little intimidated) by being around so many like-minded people with similar loves of beauty and truth. We went to the pub with singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson and his wife Jamie, met the wonderful and keen head of publishing at IVP UK named Caleb Woodbridge, talked to authors like Glen Scrivener and Alistair Gordon, and (of course) peered into the windows of the pub where CS Lewis and Tolkien first tossed around their ideas. It was closed for renovations! Houston also got to connect with Andrew Brumme, the director of a documentary series called Taste and See about the spirituality of food, and Pastor Matt Canlis, the main subject of the acclaimed documentary short film Godspeed. Both Andrew and Matt mentioned that their respective documentaries were filmed in the tiny span of 3 days - which gave both of us a much-needed relief that if we’d spent the entire summer filming, surely we’d have something!

The Home Stretch

The last 3 weeks of the term at L’Abri were nonstop. With the added pressure of a ticking clock, we finally managed to film some of the things that had been difficult to pin-down in weeks prior: multiple filmed lunch discussions, interviews with all the other L’Abri workers who hadn’t had time, one-on-one sitdowns with students who had been previously elusive, various songs and musical performances from people who had been practicing all term, a staged goodbye to avoid intruding on the real goodbye, as well as timelapses of sunrises and sunsets and every other gap we could manage to fill. We asked every question a hundred different ways and finally found threads that worked. We figured out who was most comfortable with the camera and shadowed those people throughout the days. We mustered the courage to ask everyone to sign consent forms to appear in the film. We almost ran out of storage on our hard-drives (over 20 terabytes!) and had to make room for more.

In those final weeks, any illusion of balance between “work and life” mostly collapsed; there was something to film almost all day every day. But the stories, images, and emotions we managed to capture were both glorious and real. It felt like the fact that the term was ending meant there was more vulnerability in everything we shot - and a stronger dramatic question in every interview about returning to the world outside.

And then, with a great sigh of melancholic relief, exhaustion, and gratitude…the term was over. The two of us stayed one extra week in Greatham with a lovely neighbor, Tricia Porter, to capture a few interviews with the elderly residents of the surrounding community - which gave us time to decompress and to document some powerful tales about L’Abri through the decades. But when we finally opened the door to our flat in Czech Republic and laid down our many bags of camera gear and clothes…it was good to be finished with one part of this story.

We thank God for these beautiful things:

We ask prayer for these:

We thank you so dearly for your contributions, both financially and spiritually, to the process of making this film and starting this company. It’s so meaningful to have you here. We’ll be sending more updates and glimpses of the film soon!


The Coleys

May 25th, 2022 - Filming the Documentary Begins

What a joy to be writing our yet first newsletter to you all! Or, depending on where you’re from, to y’all.

First, we’d like to thank you, the reader, for being here. We’d also like to thank many of you for helping to nourish the ground (through financial support, prayer, encouragement, or sheer interest) of this first Art Within project. It means a lot to have you around.

This past month has been a whirlwind of emotion and busyness. In April, we were finally able to connect and meet with our newly-formed board members for Art Within - all of whom are dear mentors to us. We had a great discussion about engaging the new needs that we are seeing in our culture, the church and the arts, and opportunities for the direction we’d like to go in future. Having all their voices around the (Zoom) table is very precious to us.

Before heading to America, we made a brief pit-stop at L’Abri in Greatham for two days to drop-off our camera gear at The Manor and reunite with some old friends. This was the first time in 2 years, since we met, that the two of us had returned to Greatham! Re-walking the paths we know so faithfully and finding them in lush spring, we were relieved that everything felt much the same as always. Needless to say, returning to the same little stone wall and seeing all those chimneys poking over the ivy was surreal. 

When we arrived at The Manor, after walking the 2 miles from the Liss train station, the two of us were soon met by Ranald Macaulay - the original founder of English L’Abri (and husband of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay) who now lives in nearby Petersfield. Ranald came to the Manor on his bike to meet us for tea and talk about the project. He's now in his 80s, but as soon as he saw us in the driveway, Ranald came outside and said “which is the heaviest bag? I’ll carry that one!” Then he scurried into the kitchen to find the best tea, and we had a lovely brainstorming chat in the library. Ranald and Susan founded English L’Abri in the early 70s, and they are still active in the surrounding community. We were honored to have his insights and good humor.

Another piece of lovely hospitality we experienced in our brief two-day stay was from The Smileys, Tom and Lizzie, who offered us their Shepherd’s Hut (something like a tiny-house) to stay in their backyard for the weekend. Tom brought us fresh eggs from the chickens roaming free in the yard, told us about how the Shepherd’s Hut had been built by former L’Abri worker Doug Curry, and we had a great time getting to know the two of them better than we had before.

The night before we were supposed to leave for America, Debbie found her stomach very upset from some fish and chips we’d eaten at the pub that day - she was even developing a fever. It was so bad that we feared we might have to change the flight, but after some earnest prayer from our friends (including some of you!) Debbie thankfully woke up the morning of the flight feeling very refreshed.

We arrived in America on April 30th to stay for 3 weeks and be there for the high-school graduation of Houston’s sister, Haviland. These weeks were filled with many visits to family, a camping trip with friends, lunches with old mentors, late-nite Waffle House meals, a visit to the beautiful city of Greenville, a day in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, wedding planning for the autumn, and telling people about our documentary plans for the summer.

As far as “fundraising” for the documentary - though we feel hesitant to overuse that term - we were met with many surprises and answers to prayer even in those short 3 weeks. Two meaningful friends and mentors from Debbie’s church gave $5,000 when we didn’t expect it. Multiple family members reached out to contribute provision and encouragement. We received generous donations from churches that had been significant in our lives - some for years and others only for months. We are now at roughly $22,000 of a $37,000 budget - which is more than enough to get us started in these next months.

Through what the two of us would describe as a “divine appointment”, we happened to bump into the pastor of River City Church, Josh Turner, at a coffee shop along the Chattahoochee River and ended up having a very rich conversation with him about our shared vision for spiritual community, hospitality, and church life.

Haviland's graduation was a meaningful send-off where even she led the attendees in worship, and we got to visit her university in South Carolina to see what life will be like for her there. On the final Sunday we were in the states, we went to River City Church and received a lovely send-off and prayer from the entire church body. It was very meaningful to have so much support from a church community even when we were not able to be part of it for very long.

In these three weeks, the two of us heard the voice of God more strongly and clearly than we had in recent years - largely, we believe, because it has been (and continues to be) a time in which we are more reliant on him to provide our needs.

As of now, we are safely at English L'Abri and still recovering from jetlag - but we've already met many lovely people from England, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Brazil that we look forward to knowing more deeply as the summer continues. Thank you for your prayers and contributions; we are so thrilled to be here.

We thank God for these beautiful things:

  We ask prayer for these:

We anticipate a busy term, but hope to send out another newsletter with updates and photos sometime in June!


The Coleys