Jeannie Light ’63

Jeannie has published a new book, Beautiful on the Mountain, which released on June 1 from Tyndale Momentum. The book is based on her experiences as a lay missioner in Graves Mill, Virginia, but the story starts further back than that. Jeannie was born into a storytelling family. Her grandmother passed down stories she had heard from her own mother and father, frontier missionaries in southern Michigan. Her grandfather told stories, too, and so did her mother and father. With that bloodline, Jeannie’s desire to be a writer seemed natural, and she pursued that goal by earning a bachelor’s in English literature (with an emphasis on creative writing) at K. During her senior year she was a student teacher for a college freshman English class and worked as a freelance journalist. She wrote an award-winning novel based on family stories about fur traders and American Indians in Michigan’s St. Joseph River valley in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Jeannie attended the University of Virginia on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, receiving her M.A. in English literature. She worked as a journalist, taught English at the University of Maine and for the University of Virginia extension program, and ran a farm in Madison County, Virginia. In 1977 she decided to operate a sheep farm on her mountain land in Graves Mill, Virginia, adjoining Shenandoah National Park. To her surprise, the deacons of the inactive Baptist church in the hamlet asked her to help them re-open its doors and revive the congregation. She had never intended to be a preacher or missionary, but when she moved to the mountain community, she found herself living stories very similar to those she had heard as a child. Beautiful on the Mountain is the narrative of her first three years in this beautiful, austere setting. The Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia licensed Jeannie as a lay missioner in 1983. Graves Chapel eventually opened a thrift shop and ministered to those at or below the poverty level, 60 percent of the county’s residents at the time. Though Jeannie remained a laywoman, she was elected president of the county ministerial association, and the chapel offered silent retreats for the local clergy. After fifteen years in the mountains, she resigned and worked with artist and sculptor Walter Slaughter. She self-published two books of meditations, Are You Coming?: Meditations on the Passion and Gethsemane, both illustrated with Walter’s art.

In 1985 Jeannie became a member of Truro Anglican Church (Fairfax, Va.) and since her resignation from Graves Chapel, she has ministered at Truro in various capacities as a layperson, including leading bimonthly services at the Fairfax Nursing Center and teaching a Bible study. She lives in Louisa, Virginia. Jeannie’s work at Graves Chapel was featured in Kalamazoo College Quarterly in the summer of 1991.

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