Unexpected Journeys: Embracing Hospitality & Finding Joy

My work at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center has been far from what I expected but in the best possible way. At the start of my journey, I was fresh out of college with a degree in education. I stuffed my life into my 2004 Toyota ‘Francine’ (yes, I name all my cars!), and headed to Minneapolis expecting to find a teaching position.

I have always had a passion for learning, and that passion keeps me young and curious. I love to teach and inspire others. Connecting with children reignites that passion. Children’s eyes see the world in a real and profound way, one that we often forget, and so I strive every day to give myself what ten-year-old Megan would want me to have: joy, passion, and a constant curiosity for the world around me. I scrolled for what seemed like ages through Indeed, LinkedIn and Glassdoor, searching for my future as a teacher in the tabs of these websites. Feeling frustrated with the radio silence that was my email inbox, I found myself looking for what I thought was “just a summer job.” I am so glad it wasn’t.

These 151 acres of land (marsh, woods, and prairie) have become my creative playground, if you will. One day I’ll walk into work and frost tiny reindeer faces and snowflakes onto 175 Christmas cookies. On another day I’ll walk to our shop and cut logs to sand and craft into tables for our prayer and meditation room. The next I’ll sit down and write this blog. To have that level of flexibility and trust keeps me coming to work each day with a smile on my face. I have felt spaciousness, creative freedom, and truly heard and seen from my coworkers. Getting this job was exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

At Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center, I get to be a face that people meet, that I might help provide what they are searching for. Contributing to others in this tangible way brings joy. I recognize that in my personal life, it occasionally strays too far into people-pleasing, and I am working on that. (I listen to a lot of Brené Brown on my commute down to work!)

I was looking up the etymology of hospitality, to see if I could get a better understanding of its history. Get this, “hospitality” derives from the Latin hostis which either means “stranger” or “enemy.” Such a fine line to walk along, isn’t it? The Old Church Slavonic word “gaspodi” (loosely related to our Latin interpretation of hospitality), literally translates to “lord of strangers.” I like to imagine that would be my alter-ego if we developed a TV series about working at the Conference & Retreat Center. I can picture a mockumentary filmed like The Office, zooming in on staff in their homemade costumes, proclaiming their identity as “lords of strangers.”

In all seriousness, hospitality is a continuous, conscious choice that consistently bears good fruit. It is not always easy, it takes great flexibility and understanding, and it is truly rewarding. At the heart of hospitality lies a culture of selflessness—a commitment to prioritizing the needs and wellbeing of others above one’s own. I have found that it is often the smallest gestures that leave the most significant impressions. Last fall, we hosted a family reunion, and with them was an eleven-year-old girl celebrating her birthday. Her mom visited me at the front desk stating that she would love to gift one of our mugs to her as a present, asking if that was alright with us. Oh yeah, of course. I’ll wrap that up for you. I’ll even tie a little bow around the top and write her name on it with my favorite pen. Such simple acts of kindness in response to what might seem like an interruption is central to hospitality. Allowing myself the opportunity to feel joyful for others and remember their stories in my heart, rather than feeling annoyed at the disruptions or questions, results in a symbiotic relationship between me and our guests. We both leave the interaction gaining something from it. In the months ahead, I look forward to experiencing this shared hospitality and love of learning with more of you, kids and adults alike who share a passion for education, nature, science, and hospitality. I look forward to our conversations and mutual joy!


Megan van Deusen is the Nature Educator and Facilities Coordinator at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center. She is a K-8 certified public school educator with specialties in science and math and also excels at cooking and baking, both at home and at work.



  1. Charlene Decker says:

    Thank you Megan for a beautiful description of what hospitality can be if we will just look for each opportunity in our lives, homes and workplaces! May God continue to bless you in your work at Mount Olivet Conference and Retreat Center! Charlene Decker

  2. Kim says:


    Thank you —what a beautiful post, and I have gratefully experienced the hospitality of you and all the team at MOCRC! From my many visits to this special place, I have seen patient and helpful responses with incoming calls, thoughtful kitchen staff creating a feast that accommodates all guest’s needs, rescuing a guest locked out of their room late evening, helping me haul craft boxes to the meeting room, guided nature hikes filled with interesting factoids and good humor, no matter what the weather is doing….brrr!

    Hospitality is clearly a deep value that you each embrace and demonstrate to all who visit this wonderful place. Thank you for sharing your wonderful journey that brought you to MOCRC, the joy you experience in your work, and all you do to ensure MOCRC is a sacred space that exudes hospitality, warmth, joy and generosity for all❤️Kim Keprios

  3. Sharon Maynard says:

    We are blessed to have you!🙏

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