Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blog Moving to

Hello everyone,

Thank you for following our blogs.

We wanted to let you know that our blogs are moving and we are combining are current blogs.  You can now follow from this link:

Jonathan & Melissa

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The 2015 18 Inch Journey Moves to the Fall

Written by JD Gravitt

For the past seven years, we have held the 18 Inch Journey during the months of June and July.  They have been beautiful, life changing summers.  These summers came from a time when we hosted two one-week worship camps for high school and college students during their summer break.  The 18 Inch Journey grew from these summer camps to become the pinnacle of our year, where we focus everything on the students that come to us from around the world.  We hold everything we do open handed and look for ways to improve and mature.  Coming into its eighth year, the 18 Inch Journey is changing seasons.  We are excited to announce the dates for the 2015 18 Inch Journey will be from September 14th to November 12th, 2015. 

The simplest reason is because we love autumn.  The weather is much cooler and North Carolina looks incredibly beautiful.  We spend a lot of time outside during the 18 Inch Journey and there is no better time to be outside than on a beautiful fall day. We would also like to steward our resources more efficiently.  Having the 18 Inch Journey during the summer demands the most out of our facilities during some of the hottest months of the year.   We live and work at A Place for the Heart year round and look forward to this new and beautiful season for the 18 Inch Journey.

Please visit for more.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Closing of a Season

2014 Phase Two Students

Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by Sydnee Mela & JD Gravitt

On Friday night, our staff gathered together and sat down at a beautiful table to eat a meal and talk about what the Lord has done over the past few months. At one point in the night, Melissa brought up how crazy it was to look back over the past 6 months and look at all of the things that our community has done.  Since January, we have released an album, completed 4 building projects, released the 18 Inch Journey book, opened an online store and hosted 7 worship nights in Asheboro, NC.  As we reflect on all of these things, we are blown away by the extravagance and faithfulness of the Lord who has tended so beautifully to our dreams. We are so thankful to the Father for each of these projects, but by far, we are most thankful for the two schools that we have started and completed over the past six months.

Wednesday night, we closed our 7th 18 Inch Journey school with an extravagant closing dinner.  It was a lovely night of reminiscing and remembering all that the Trinity had done in the 32 students who came.  Tonight, we host another closing dinner as we end our 6-month school.  Phase 2 is for 18 Inch Journey alumni and is a deeper dive into the rhythms and values taught during the Journey.  In February, 12 students returned to the land for Phase 2 and since then, they have been participating in creative classes, small groups, impartation sessions and serving the 18 Inch Journey through servant leadership.  We have journeyed with them deeply and are exceedingly proud of each one of them.

The 2014 18 Inch Journey
This evening, our entire community will join together to celebrate the brilliance of the Father and how much He has done in each one of the twelve.  We will hear from each of them as they read their final exit statement, proclaiming how they have seen the Lord since they’ve been here.  We will seal their hearts with declarations: statements we’ve crafted that acknowledge what we’ve seen in their hearts and affirm the Goodness of God in their lives.  We will set a beautiful table, prepare an extraordinary meal, laugh deeply and cry frequently as we honor the journey of their lives and the amazing plans that the Father has intricately woven together for them.  It has been our deepest privilege to get to walk with them and lead them over the past 6 months and we are certain that even better things are ahead of them. Their lives are full of hope because they have cultivated friendship and surrendered themselves to the leadership of the best friend and leader they could ever have: the Holy Spirit.

After saying our goodbyes, our community will be taking some time off to visit friends and family.  We will come back together in the Fall to continue dreaming with the Father and to press more into what He is doing here at A Place for the Heart.  Blog updates and the Cageless Birds store will resume their normal activity in September.  We pray that you have a beautiful and restful August.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Papa Ken Time

Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by JD Gravitt

As a staff, one of our favorite elements of the 18 Inch Journey is the amount of surprises that we tuck within the 60 days.  However, the way that we find ourselves catching the most traction is within the schedule that we dream up with the Father.  Before the students arrive, the full 60 days are intentionally prayed over and mapped out by our Core Staff.  In planning, we carve out specific times for consistent classes or blocks, which we refer to as rhythms. We use the word rhythms because these classes and activities that we keep coming back to set the cadence and the pace for the summer. They are the beautiful boundaries that we operate within; they keep us on track and create safety through consistency. 

One of our favorite rhythms during the school is Papa Ken Time.  Papa Ken Time is a chance that the students have to sit down with the founding father of this land, a true pioneer in the faith, and ask him questions and hear his heart.  Every weekday morning, Ken meets with one of the five small groups over breakfast.  Often times, Ken will share something that has been on his heart, something that he felt the Lord share with him in their time together earlier in the morning.  In addition, Papa Ken frequently shares from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  The students have the opportunity to glean wisdom from someone who has gone before them – to ask questions that they have on their hearts and learn from someone who has so much to teach and share. 

In addition to weekly Papa Ken Time, Ken and his wife Mrs. Linda invite each small group up to their house for a Sunday Lunch during the school. During these Sunday lunches, the students get to have more intentional time hearing family stories and learning more about Ken and Linda and A Place for the Heart.  These times with Ken and Linda are one of the greatest gifts the students receive during the summer. 

As young people, it is extremely rare to have someone who is generations ahead of us that wants to intentionally invest in our lives, pray for us and answer our questions.  Our community is exceedingly grateful for Papa Ken and the way that he has chosen to give his life to see our generation fall more in love with Jesus. Many times, including this summer, he has chosen to decline overseas ministry trips, just so that he can pour into the students who have come to be here. So many of the staff have had seasons where we have been invited to sit around Ken’s table and hear his stories and each of us that have had this opportunity have been forever changed because of it. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Heart and Art

Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed JD Gravitt

The 18 Inch Journey is built on the pillars of Creativity, Community and Worship.  Though it isn’t necessarily an art school, we do a lot of art.  We love creativity in all forms. We are a community of photographers, artists, writers, musicians, cinematographers, chefs, bookmakers and dancers. What we love most about art is the way that it is so expressive of the heart.  Art, in all true forms, is a mirror that reflects what is going on inside of the heart of the artist.  

Every Tuesday and Friday, our students participate in a rotation that we call Art/Heart.  During this time, the students are split into two groups.  The first group spends the first half of the time in an art class with Justina while the second group spends the time in a session where one of the staff members shares something they wrote for the Eighteen Inch Journey book.  The students spend an hour and a half in the session and then switch—the students who were in Art go to the Heart session, and the students in the Heart session make their way to Art. 

In the art classes, the students typically spend time working in their history books.  History books are an artistic tradition at the 18 Inch Journey.  A history book is a space to creatively log your history with the Lord.  In the art sessions, Justina along with the Art Interns, Kateland and Lindsay, teach art lessons on color theory, line quality and technique.  Additionally, the students are given various art assignments, referred to as prompts, to explore their heart and the work of their hands.  These lessons and prompts are completed in the students’ history books. Some of the students that come to the Journey are art majors and others have never held a paintbrush in their hand.  There are all levels of experience, and in the art barn, all of the students are working alongside one another creating and discovering who they truly are as artists.

In the heart session, the students have an opportunity to hear from one of our staff members and learn more about their personal journey and experience.  Each session, a different staff member leads the students through a piece that they submitted to the Eighteen Inch Journey book. The Journey students get a chance to listen and ask questions and are often given a prompt to complete in their journal. At the last Art/Heart session, Chris Miller shared on the Goodness of God and his experience of hearing from a farmer at an orange grove in Valencia, FL (pg. 49 of the Eighteen Inch Journey book). Chris then released the students to craft a prayer to the Father about His Goodness.

We have found that these times we’ve set aside for Art and Heart are a beautiful way that the students are finding themselves coming more and more alive.  They are simultaneously discovering their true identity and from that, they are unearthing their identity as artists.  They are choosing to let the Father soften their hearts and are bravely embracing the creativity of the Trinity and in doing so, they are becoming so vibrant and full of life. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jessie Miller Teaches on Words & Poetry

 Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by JD Gravitt

Here at A Place for the Heart, we believe in the power of words.  We believe that our words hold so much potential and possibility and we have come to learn the value of them.  Jonathan often says that our words create the world we live in. This simply means that what we speak (the way we communicate with others, the perspective that we have and agree with, etc) is powerful and will have an effect on the way we live our lives.  Throughout the course of the Journey, we invite the students into several different moments of choosing to understand the importance of their words. They frequently write declarations over themselves, are given prompts that involve journaling and spend time in sessions about communication.  This week, the students were invited into another way of valuing their words as Jessie Miller taught on the art and importance of poetry.

Jessie shared some of her journey with words with the students and staff and unpacked how exploring the gift of her words has been such an excellent tool for her in seasons past.  Throughout the night, Jessie taught on “Jesus the Poet” and the mystery and beauty preserved in the intentionality of the words of Jesus.  She went on to explain the idea of language as a mirror: that when we approach writing, we are holding a mirror up to our hearts and simply writing down what we find there. Writing and language are an overflow of our hearts; more than something we have to produce, it is simply the beauty that we already find inside of us. Additionally, Jessie explained the value of trusting our words. She taught how, with poetry, we must trust our hearts, our ability to communicate and the heart of the reader to understand what we are trying to convey. Jessie explained that when we craft poetry, the beauty is in the ability of our words to meet people where they are. By creating something more open-ended, we are creating an invitation for people to find themselves more known and understood. We are giving language not only to where we are at, but also giving the gift of language to the reader. So much of this reflects what Jesus did with parables and the way he communicated with people. Always extending an invitation for people to find themselves known and loved.

We encourage you to take time to explore your words with the Father, just as the students are doing. It is our prayer that as our hearts soften before the Lord, our words will reflect Jesus more and more.  It is our aim that our words will empower us, and those around us to be more like Jesus in our creative endeavors and in the practical moments of our lives. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Open Mic Night

 Written by Allie Sampson, Writer for Cageless Birds
Photographs by JD Gravitt

Last Thursday night, we began one of our favorite parts of the 18 Inch Journey: Open Mic Nights. These nights are a chance for the students to share their songs, poetry, art, photographs, dances and any other creative expression that they have found themselves coming alive in. Open Mic Nights are so special to us as a family because these are the moments where we get to celebrate the students, to champion their greatness and to affirm that they are seen and heard. We set aside three of these nights during the school and encourage all of the students to participate at least once. We believe in creating environments for the students to be seen and heard without any comparison– a place for them to share their voice in the safety of family. 

So much of the 18 Inch Journey is discovering that we are not defined by our giftings. Though our gifts are a beautiful part of who we are, they do not make up our identity. We are sons and daughters first, loved before we ever set our hands to anything, believed in before we even attempt prove ourselves worthy. When we come to that place of confidence and security, knowing that the Father loves us and is proud of us regardless of our abilities or success, we can create and explore without the pressure to strive or produce. We are set free as artists when we step into our identity as beloved children. 

There is nothing that excites our community more than seeing people walking in their true identity and embracing their gifts from a place of wholeness. The 18 Inch Journey students blew us away on Thursday night as they shared songs and poems that they had written. After sharing their heart, every student was met with a standing ovation and wild cheering as their fellow students and leaders celebrated their brilliance and their bravery. Standing ovations are not something we have taught these students, it’s simply something they began to initiate as they have learned to love, honor and celebrate their friends. We were joyfully overwhelmed by each of the students, as they shared with us and as they championed each other, walking out of comparison and into wholeness as confident, creative sons and daughters. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Eighteen Inch Journey Book

Written by Allie Sampson, Writer for Cageless Birds
Photography by JD Gravitt

A huge component of the 18 Inch Journey is surprises.  We believe that the Trinity loves to give good gifts and surprise us with extravagant love, and our community loves to do the same.  Journey surprises take on many different shapes, but this week it looked like a pristine, freshly printed book.  

On Tuesday, each of our 32 students received their own copy of The Eighteen Inch Journey book – a compilation of art, writing, photography and prompts from the Cageless Birds community put together by Melissa and Justina.  This book is a dream that Melissa and Justina have carried for 2 years and this is the first official volume to be released. Over the past 6 months, the two of them have been pouring their hearts into these pages – collecting and reviewing pieces from our community and lovingly formatting and designing the layout of each page. Just as the Live at Home album is a culmination of songs from our community, this book is a culmination of art and writing that have come from moments we have spent cultivating friendship with the Trinity. Each of our staff, interns and extended community have contributed to this collection that we hope will inspire its readers in their time with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Throughout the remainder of the Journey, our staff will teach their prompts from the book during our Art/Heart rotation: a twice-weekly rhythm where students spend half of the block in an art lesson and the other half in a teaching session. During this time, students will be able to hear more of the back-story of what inspired our staff to write their prompts and will have intentional time to sit with the Father as they engage it on their own.

We are so excited to present The Eighteen Inch Journey book to our students, and now we have some other exciting news! Beginning July 4th, these books will be for sale at our Cageless Birds online store! If you are interested in supporting the Cageless Birds and the ministry of A Place for the Heart, purchasing one of these books is a great way to do so! It is our great privilege to share with you some of the incredible things that we have learned and created from time spent with the Holy Spirit. Our dream is that each person who reads this book will find themselves inspired in their own time with the Father. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Journey Moments: The Journey Begins // Adam Cox Teaches

On June 1st, our community welcomed 32 new students onto the land of A Place for the Heart as we launched this year’s 18 Inch Journey. Students traveled from all over the world (including Canada, Germany, Belgium, Australia, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland and Singapore as well as 13 different states) to be transformed by the Love of God. On our opening night, students were invited to participate in an extravagant dinner where they were welcomed to the land with a beautiful meal, handwritten declarations and intentional gifts. Our staff, interns and Second Phase students spent countless hours preparing all of the details for this night. If nothing else, we wanted to communicate to the 32 new students that they were loved, celebrated and prayed for before they did a single thing. Simply, we love them because the Father loves them. They were showered with love and surprises—and that is only the beginning.

Each week during the Journey has a specific theme as well as a focus on one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Last week was Jesus week and Joy was the accompanying Fruit. We were honored to have our dear friend, Adam Cox, from Kansas City Boiler Room here with us. Adam has come to teach during Jesus week over the past several Journeys and every time, we as a community are changed and transformed. We were blown away as Adam shared the God Story with us again, unpacking the story of Jesus in a fresh and inspiring way. By putting the Gospel within the context of history, we understood the radical love of Jesus that is revealed through the Scripture. This year, the staff and students were undone by the love and humility of Jesus as Adam taught the God Story and the revelation that we are the Beloved. Adam shared that we are “found in the Father and formed in the family”, meaning that our identity is rooted in and discovered in God and that, by His intentional design, we are shaped and grown in the safety of community. We are overwhelmed with gratitude that Adam and his family gave another week of their time to come be with us and invest in the Journey students that we love so much! We highly encourage you to check out Adam’s teaching on The God Story that has impacted our community so deeply!

If you’re interested in learning more about Adam and the KC Boiler Room, check out To purchase The God Story, visit the KC Boiler Room Store.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“Live at Home” Chord Charts

We are excited to announce that the lyrics and chord charts for the Cageless Birds “Live At Home” album are now available online! You can find lyrics and chord charts for each of the songs by going to and clicking on the Media tab. From there, you can click “Live At Home” Chord Charts beside the Cageless Birds option. Clicking on that link will allow you to download a folder that has each of our songs with completed lyrics and chords.  The charts are also available on  Click on the Live at Home link on the menu bar and the chord charts are available at the bottom of the page.
Thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported us in this project. We are so excited to be sharing these with you all!
-The Cageless Bird Community

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cottage Update

As many of you know, over the past several months we have been dreaming with the Lord about building a new cottage for the 18 Inch Journey. We would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have given to our vision for the new cottage.  With your support, we have raised $19,000 of our $250,000 goal.  We are so blessed by your generosity! 
Our goal is to build the cottage this fall. Due to delays with building permits, our initial projections for construction have been pushed back.  With the 18 Inch Journey quickly approaching and Phase 2 currently underway, we thought it much wiser to begin construction in the fall so as not to disrupt or postpone either of the schools. Plus, we desire to raise the majority of the $250,000 we need before we break ground on the cottage.

We still plan to accept 32 students to the 18 Inch Journey this summer in addition to the 12 Phase 2 students we currently have.  This will put every inch of space to use and maximize the number of hearts that we can change.  While this will put a stretch on our current space, we are asking the Father for wisdom to steward the growth of this season.  We have tremendous favor with an increase in applications every year, and it is our desire to accept as many students as possible. 

As a community, we treasure each heart that comes to A Place for the Heart and we work very hard to make sure that every student that comes to the 18 Inch Journey is seen, loved and discipled.  We feel the invitation from the Lord to grow and expand while still preserving the intentionality of family that the Trinity has taught us.  As the schools continue to grow, we are expanding our number of staff and interns to help lead the schools and tend to all of the inner workings of A Place for the Heart.  All of this growth simply means that we need more space.  A new cottage will allow us to accept more students, offer better housing and spread out into smaller groups.
Please help support our vision for a more sustainable 18 Inch Journey by giving to the cottage.  We believe one more bed is one more heart that can encounter the love of the Father at A Place for the Heart.  Please consider partnering with us and helping us change the world one heart at a time.

To learn more or give please visit:
You can make checks payable to “A Place for the Heart”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Support a Cageless Bird!

This year, our very own Joel Case is recording a full length album of his songs! Joel has been a part of this community for the past 5 years and has served the dream of this land in many ways - from leading in our schools, drumming with Jonathan and Melissa, being the man behind the scenes, cultivating our music studio, and leading our community in worship. He has written so many amazing songs that have led our community into the heart of the Father, and the love of Jesus, that we sing regularly here at A Place for the Heart, and several news songs! Joel comes strongly recommended to you from our hearts and community as a worthy investment. 
This record will be our first "Cageless Birds" solo project we release! This is also pioneering the way for other members of our family to record and release their music in a similar way through the Cageless Birds collective. We are so excited for the many to come!
But to make this one happen we need your help! Joel has started a Kickstarter (online fundraising platform) to raise the funds he needs to bring this to completion. We have 6DAYS left to raise the money, and Joel will only get the money (and you will only be charged) if we raise the total amount of $15,000. Right now we are over 1/3rd of the way there, with a good bit to go. We need your help!
Would you joyfully consider taking a look at his page, watch the promo video and check out some of the rewards you can receive (like a free copy of his CD when it comes out! or beautiful hand-crafted items from members of our collective) and see if your heart would like to partner in releasing this dream into the earth? 
We pray that in giving you will be blessed even more in return from the sound of Joel's life and the sound of the Father and the Son inside of his heart. We can't do this without you. Thanks for your support!
Here's the link:
- The Friends and Family of A Place for the Heart

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cageless Birds "Live at Home" CD Release

Written by: Allie Sampson, Writer for Cageless Birds / Intern to Jonathan and Melissa

A crisp evening, an intimate theater and a family filled with eager anticipation. These were the things that set the stage for the release of our newest album, “Live at Home”, on the weekend of January 24th. As our community gathered at the Sunset Theater in Asheboro, NC, we couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with the excitement of the Trinity. We were on the borders of yet another defining moment for our community. Long ago, we had released this project to the Father and now, we were about to open up our hands again and release it to the world. 

Reflecting on the last year, we realize just how many moments led us to this one. This album is a collection of intimate moments with the Holy Spirit, impossible victories won, hungry and weary seasons, subtle whispers and family celebrations. As a community, so many pieces of our story are deposited in this album. It is the sound of our family; the echo of our hearts responding to the One who first sang over us. 

We recorded this album at home, in Jonathan and Melissa’s living room, so it felt fitting to release the album just down the road in downtown Asheboro. The intimate atmosphere of the Sunset Theater served as an excellent way to host the close, family feel that we experienced in creating this record. While we were certainly looking forward to sharing our recorded songs and videos, we were most excited about the opportunity to worship together as a family with so many people from our extended community. We felt exceedingly honored by our dear friends and loved ones who ventured over county borders and state lines to join us as we celebrated God’s faithfulness in this completed project. 

Throughout both evenings, we encountered countless breathtaking moments as we watched our brothers and sisters share their songs, their art, their videos and their stories. As various members of our Cageless Birds community stepped behind the helm of the ship to lead us into worship, we could feel the Father’s smile as He watched His children make space for one another’s sound. It was and continues to be our distinguished honor to offer the Father the gift of children who love each other and champion one another. 

Looking back at it now, it seems to have happened so fast. Equipment was hauled in, rehearsals and sound-checks occurred, tickets were taken, t-shirts, journals and albums were sold, songs were sung and videos were shown. But at the end of it all, the only essential part was that our Papa was honored by the way His kids honored each other and by the sound of our love for Him.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Album and DVD: Live at Home - Cageless Birds

“Live at Home” is the first creative adventure of our collective Cageless Birds. The idea for this album was born one day when we were dreaming out loud together. We fell into one of those moments where beautiful “what if” statements started cascading upon one another.

Our conversation sounded something like this...

What if we recorded an album in our house?
What if invite everyone in our band to record one of their songs for the album?
What if we recorded the whole album in one week?
What if we video each song, so that everyone could see what’s happening in this community?
What if we made this project a true story and didn’t overdub or gloss over the mistakes?
What if we let it be a real live album...

One of us said ‘this is crazy’ and both of us said ‘let’s do it.’ And so we did.

We are very excited to share with you this project that came from our community stepping out on the water.

Jonathan David & Melissa Helser 2014

To purchase this album/DVD and see all the videos please visit

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

From One Generation to the Next

On my 19th birthday my Dad gave me a big black leather Thompson chain reference Bible. I suppose that’s not the most popular gift for a 19 year old boy, but for me it was a treasure beyond words. Tucked inside the bible was a handwritten prophetic word from my Dad that I still have today.  The word was that our relationship was going to be like that of Solomon and David's. If you remember, David dreamed of building a house for God, but his dream was made into reality through his son Solomon.  The giants that David slew, the wars that he fought, and the life that he lived before God, became the bridge for this son to walk upon into his destiny.  The floor that Solomon began with was the ceiling of the glorious life that David lived. Sixteen years later, that prophetic word has come to pass in extraordinary ways here at "A place for the Heart."

In 1986 my parents took a radical step of faith to buy 52 acres of land to build "A Place for the Heart".  I was only 8 years old when the provision miraculously came in.  I can still remember the rush of faith and excitement the day we purchased the land.  My Dad has dreamed so many dreams over this land and he has given his life to prepare a place for those dreams to become a reality.  In 2000 my wife Melissa and I joined them.  We have been able to walk across the bridges he has built and do things we could have never done on our own.  In our first year here, Melissa and I launched our first summer camp for high school students. Out of the summer camps came a discipleship school for college students. This year we will be hosting our seventh school called the "18 Inch Journey." We have had students from over a dozen nations come through these gates and have their lives forever changed. One of the highlights of these schools is being able to lead them with my Dad. It has been incredible to watch my Father become a spiritual Father to the students and impart his legacy to the next generation.  We are truly living out John 4:36 "The sower and the reaper will rejoice together."

As we approach the seventh year of our school we have completely out-grown our facilities. This summer we will have nearly 70 staff and students as a part of our school. Right now, we only have two 16-person bunkhouses for students and we need more space. Our vision is to build a new cottage before our next school in June 2014. This will provide for another 32 bunks for students. We believe that one bunk can change the world. We are looking for those who would like to partner with us in this dream. The cottage costs $250,000 and our dream is raise this money before the school starts. 

From Papa Ken's heart"

I love my boys language:  "One bunk can change the world."  But more than his language, I love his heart.  When I read what he wrote I felt like I wrote it. That's because we both are in sync with God's heart.  Knowing that reality gives me the boldness to ask for funds. In the same way David asked the people when they built Solomon's temple, because it's not for me, but for the generation ahead of me.  At 69 years of age I will not see the fullness of fruit that God has in mind for this place.  Yet, my vision lies beyond my grave.  I'm asking you not to just support another ministry that's holding out hands, asking for alms.  NO.  Rather, I am asking that you plant something into the Kingdom leaders that will go beyond your own grave, that will continue to expand for generations to come. 

You can also send a check for a tax deductible donation to 

A Place for the Heart
4228 Beckerdite Rd.
Sophia, NC 27350