Celebrating Laurel Coote

Laurel’s first Wonder Voyage came as her world crashed around her. In the summer of 2009, as the nation fell into recession, her thriving business of ten years died. No clients. No income. Laurel said, “I fell into the deepest personal abyss of my life – a place where everything I knew to be true about myself and my work was called into question, leaving me lost and grieving.” 

Laurel’s first Wonder Voyage

At that time, Laurel and her husband Peter served as youth leaders at St. Cross, Hermosa Beach, California. They lead their first overseas youth pilgrimage to England and Wales through Wonder Voyage. She didn’t feel capable the role that summer.  As they landed in the U.K., Shawn Small, the Executive Director of Wonder Voyage, greeted them. She was unaware that this journey would transform her life.

They trekked from Canterbury Cathedral to St. David’s in Wales as they visited stonescapes, church ruins, and the Welsh countryside. With ample time for prayer and reflection, Laurel began to sense God’s presence and hear God’s voice beckoning her. 

A moment of wonder

On a misty afternoon walk near the Ffaldy Brennan Retreat Center, Laurel made her way over a sheep gate and into a canyon, where she came upon a large wooden cross.  Drawn to it as the rain poured down, she sat at its base and began to pray. She surrendered her lost and broken self to God.  In a moment that words can never describe, a bright light broke through the gray clouds, warming her skin. God had made Godself known. 

Returning home

Laurel returned home to Los Angeles to begin the exploring and listening necessary to figure out what God had in store for her.  The journey over the next four years would take her from the lows to the highs, including the invitation to lead trips with Wonder Voyage. 

Laurel discerned who God was calling her to be, always stilling her heart with, “thy will be done.” Over the next five years, she led a multi-vocational life, continuing with project work and with Wonder Voyage, leading youth trips, and developing trips for adults.  On these trips, her maturing faith melded with her organizational skills. It also was the beginning of her journey from seminary to ordination to the Priesthood.  

Laurel fulfills her calling

Three and a half years of seminary, sprinkled with a few fantastic trips for Wonder Voyage, culminated in her graduation with a Master of Divinity degree and eventually ordination as a Priest in January 2019.  Today, Laurel is the rector of St. Dunstan’s Episcopal in Carmel Valley, CA. 

Hers was a journey of twists and turns, ups and downs, times of ease, and times of struggle.  What has been constant in God’s work in her life is the mysterious and beautiful ways in which God placed people along her path who supported and encouraged her. 

“My life has been blessed immeasurably by my work with Wonder Voyage and by the hundreds of adults and youth I have served along the way. As I give myself entirely into ministry with a community of faith, I carry with me all that I have received from being a part of Wonder Voyage and from the privilege of walking through the journey with them by my side”

 

After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.

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