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Workshop Participant: A backyard ministry

By Marv Wooten, Lt Col, US Army Ret.

As semi-proof that I paid attention in my two classes with you guys I submit the accompanying photos of two dry stone retaining walls I have just completed. These projects were a volunteer effort on my part to support my son’s ministry to cadets and others at the US Military Academy at West Point, NY.

Two years ago when he started his work, the property’s back yard was referred to as “the jungle” by cadets. No more. With generous contributions from donors, we have been able to re-landscape the back yard, an area about 145’ x 100’ for enhanced recreational and meditative spiritual purposes as the attached photos illustrate. And while not all the work was about stonewalls, they did figure prominently in our plans and efforts. So, thank you again for your indirect contributions to this ministry, the Officers Christian Fellowship of the USA, by schooling me in the ancient and honorable work of erecting stone walls—the right way!

See photos below of the project and scroll down to read more about Marv’s background, the meaning behind this project and how it came into being.

Background: Marv attended the US Military Academy at West Point and, after 20 years in the Army retired as Lieutenant colonel. For his “second act”, he received his Master of Divinity degree and worked with cadets and officers for an organization called the Officers’ Christian Fellowship of the USA (OCF). When he left that position, his oldest son applied and is now doing ministry work in that same organization.

In 1999, the OCF purchased an older home with a large backyard right next to West Point.  They wanted to use the home and the grounds in their ministry and to house staff, like Marv’s son. Since Marv has always enjoyed working with his hands and using hand tools, he took an interest in helping to map a plan to re-landscape the property. The plan included some retaining walls so at age 73, Marv got on the internet, found The Stone Trust and in August of 2018 made his way to Mont Vernon, NH to learn how to build dry stone walls at one of our Introductory Workshops. We’re happy to be part of this journey.

Marv says he feels he is an artisan at heart, enjoys working with his hands and creating things in the process. Participating in the re-building of the backyard has been very fulfilling and a way for him to leave an enduring legacy for a place and its people that he has served in one form or another his entire adult life.