Iowa State Fair Report and Invitation!

I was backlogged on blogging last summer and so I never shared a report of what God did at the Iowa State Fair. That was too bad, because it was an amazing time. I’ve helped with a lot of gospel outreaches, but this was, perhaps, the pinnacle of them all so far. 🙂

First, I’ll share about the Answers in Genesis gospel outreach at the fair.
Second, I’ll share about the witnessing training camp which we helped to run to coincide with the outreach.

Answers in Genesis was asked to “take over” a Creation gospel booth (pictured above), previously run by an association of Baptist churches. Ken Ham placed our friend Tony Ramsek in charge of this outreach, and we were thrilled to jump on board with this opportunity–grateful it was so close to home.

Pictured above is Kaylee (in black shirt), passing out Noah’s Ark Gospel Tract to the swarms passing by the booth.

It was amazing to see SO. MANY. PEOPLE. swarming past the booth every day! About a million people come to the fair each year, and our booth was in the main building. Sometimes the flow streaming past our booth was so thick that one person could distribute 100 gospel tracts in 10-30 minutes! Praise God, over the course of ten days we passed out over 75,000 gospel tracts. (That’s 750 shrink wrapped packs we had to open. I mastered the art of tearing them open quickly with my teeth. Haha.)

Good thing the Lord provided some enthusiastic little workers!

We had volunteers from young kids, to a couple in their seventies. Some volunteered for just one morning, some for all ten days of the fair. Many came just during the four days of our witnessing training camp.

The flat screen TVs on either side of the booth displayed impressive drone flyover footage from the Ark Encounter, showing the majestic size and appearance of the Ark. People would stop, stare at the TV screen for a while, and then turn to us and ask a question.

After explaining about the new Ark Encounter in Kentucky, we’d then use the Ark as a springboard into the gospel. This wasn’t difficult because Noah’s Ark is a clear picture of Jesus and salvation from coming judgment.

As you can see in this picture, our booth also had a scale model Noah’s Ark, and kids LOVED the trains that ran underneath it. So while the children were infatuated with the trains, we’d give their parents a gospel tract and explain to them about the Ark. Oftentimes a longer discussion emerged. Most people at the Iowa State Fair aren’t in a big hurry.

Our goal was never to be pushy with our views or make “converts” (only God can do that), but simply to have friendly discussions. Many expressed spiritual questions and appreciated the cordial discussions. Over the course of the ten days, we had hundreds of discussions with people about Jesus.

It was encouraging to see so many youth soaking up the message of the gospel with seriousness and interest.

Sarah told us of three teen guys she talked to who were especially interested.
“Is there anything keeping you guys from trusting Christ?” she asked them, after explaining the gospel.
“No, nothing,” they said.
“Well when are you going to make that decision?” she asked.
The indicated that they wanted to get right with the Lord right away, and Sarah encouraged them to get alone and talk to the Lord, and ask Him to save them. They showed clear agreement with this advice, and one of them said his name was Noah and he knew it wasn’t a coincidence that he was at our booth. 🙂

We could tell story after story of all the encounters God coordinated. Some people came back multiple times to our booth, wanting to talk more. One teenager, who claimed to be gay, emailed Tony a week after the fair with these words:

“Hello. It’s [name withheld] from the state fair. I just want to say thank you for sharing the light on me. I wasn’t ever accepted until I met all of you great people. I decided to go to church this morning and I’ve never been so happy. My eyes water when I think about how much I missed out on out of fear, but I learned to accept Jesus and myself and to take your advice to repent and make peace with the Lord.”

Praise the Lord with us for all the lives that HE touched.

CREATION EVANGELISM TRAINING CAMP

Just ten minutes from the fair grounds, about forty campers enjoyed a haven of fellowship, witnessing training, and rest at Willow Brook Bible Camp. This camp took place during four days of the fair.

Each morning, we had times of witnessing training and prayer before going over to the fair to put into practice what we were learning.

It’s not very often that you’re with a whole group of people who are all eager to grow in witnessing.

Here’s just one example of the type of interaction we appreciated: During dinner one night, Seth mentioned to Craig a little tip he likes to use in helping people understand the severity of their sin. That night, Craig used that very tip in two different witnessing conversations! What a blessing to be able to sharpen each other as we work together.

Because not all forty campers could witness from the booth at the same time, we had 1/3 of the campers praying, 1/3 eating + witnessing outside, and 1/3 witnessing from the gospel booth. Then every two hours, we’d rotate. It worked beautifully. Praise the Lord. We were in awe of what He did.

This was an interactive Bible study on Romans 3, led by Tony

Because there were people literally EVERYWHERE at the fair, the best place we could find to pray was in this air conditioned hallway. It was exciting to pray, knowing that at that moment there were about 20-30 people in the vicinity sharing the gospel. And it was encouraging to be witnessing, knowing that there was a group at that moment upholding you in prayer.

Maddie Crawford (in picture above with striped skirt) told us that she shared with two 15-year-old girls who thought they were saved by Christ + good works. One girl seemed especially troubled by her sin. When Maddie explained that we are saved by Christ ONLY, a look of realization came across her face. “No one’s explained it like that before,” she told Maddie enthusiastically.

Seeing people have those “light bulb moments” about the gospel is priceless.

Addie (left) had several good conversations with girls who came to the booth, praise the Lord.

Seth (teal shirt), from India, was an inspiration to all of us. He was witnessing to people until the minute we had to get into the van to go back to the camp!

While Seth was sharing the Noah’s Ark Million Dollar Bill tract with a few teen guys, their mom came up, asking, “Who are you?!”
“I’m sharing about the million dollar question,” Seth said.
“What’s this million dollar question?” she asked.
“If you stand before God on judgment day, will you be innocent or guilty?” Seth replied.
“Oh I know that. I’m innocent,” the mom replied. “I have the sinner’s prayer in my bag, so I pray it all the time.”
(She must have been referring to a little card or something!)
By her words, “I pray it all the time,” Seth perceived that she didn’t actually understand the gospel.
“Do you mind if I tell you one thing about the sinner’s prayer?” Seth asked politely.
“Yes, go ahead,” she said.
“Ma’am, the sinner’s prayer cannot take you to Heaven.”
“It can’t? I didn’t know that!” she said, “My pastor never told me that.”
Praise God that Seth was able to explain that it is by faith in God by His grace that we go to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).

[Note: I’m not saying that people never get saved at the time they prayed a sinner’s prayer. Many do! But it wasn’t the specific words they said to God that saved them, but their faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for them on the cross. Ephesians 2:8 says, “it is by grace you have been saved through faith” not, “it is by grace you have been saved through prayer.”]

Nicole (beige) had a good conversation with this guy. He seemed to really appreciate the discussion and shook her hand warmly as he left.

I’m sure you can imagine that there were many, many stories to be told during the campfires at the end of each day. We were blown away by all the Lord did. I can’t wait for the 2017 Iowa State Fair! The camp dates will be August 10-14, 2017. Please mark your calendars!

Note: Prior training or experience in witnessing is not required for this camp. We have teaching times with practical instruction, and when we go to the fair those with less experience can team up with those with more experience. Many told us that their favorite part of the camp was the coaching in real life situations that they received from those more experienced.

If you’d like to listen to the sessions that Tony Ramsek taught at the camp last year, Tony put all of his up on his vimeo channel here. Here is one of them:

A Surprise Prickly Package

Guess what arrived in a little box at the Bright Lights office today?

Our own adorable baby cactus from Arizona, with a sweet letter from one of the girls who attended our conference there (Madison Graham), saying, “Since you didn’t get to go sight seeing we decided to send you a cactus.”

Awwwww!

I had posted a picture standing next to a cactus in the church parking lot in Arizona last October, mentioning how fascinating I thought the cactuses were. 🙂 I never expected that I would be getting my very own baby cactus from Arizona in the mail!

The package included a cute little dish, potting soil, the cactus, rocks, and even a little Arizona sign. Now we have a visual reminder in the Bright Lights office to pray for all of our special friends in Arizona.

It is the perfect plant for the Bright Lights office because our other ones are dying because we always forget to water them!

Speak Truth in Your Heart Conference, Council Bluffs

It’s a beautiful day in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and even more beautiful is the Lord’s goodness to us and the way He is working. We just finished a special prayer time (where everyone divided into small groups to pray), and now Sarah is teaching another session here at the “Speak Truth in Your Heart” Conference, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Please prayer for us, and the mothers and daughters here, as we discuss the TRUTH regarding our identity, our relationships with others, the Lord’s character, sin and temptation, purity, emotions, and witnessing.

St Patrick’s Day – The Valuable Opportunity

St Patrick’s Day is coming up very soon! We are grateful for the response we received to the tracts we printed last year, and we are almost out, so we just placed an order for 20,000 more.

My dad, explaining about who St Patrick was to a group of ladies at the parade last year at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa parade.

Here is a report from our friend Tony Ramsek, who took his children to pass out St Patrick gospel tracts at the parade in Cincinnati last year: “It was a really fun time of walking the parade and handing out tons of gospel tracts … people were eager to take them and even asked for more … Basically we gave out tracts before it started and then walked with the last float giving out more. It was a blessing. BTW the children were so happy to give out your gospel tracts because they were so well received but we ran out fairly quickly. So next year I think we’ll order 2,500 …”

(Tony and his family passing out the tracts at the Cincinnati, OH parade)

It is surprising how many tracts can be passed out in such a short time. People are curious about his history, and eager to learn. Plus, everyone likes to be handed stuff at a parade. 🙂 How encouraging to be getting the gospel into so many people’s hands.

We also like to give the tract to cashiers, neighbors, the UPS man, Fex Ex man, you get the idea. Basically anyone we come into contact with from now until St Patrick’s Day. We say “Here’s something that explains the history of St Patrick,” and people are intrigued.

See last year’s blog report from the parade here, or, a short video about our St Patrick gospel tract here.

Click here to order a pack of 100 tracts for $7.
Click here to order a pack of 500 for $30.
Note: We will not be shipping the tracts until Monday, March 6th.

Tulip Time Outreach and Training, Pella, Iowa

tulip time outreach

All are invited to join us at the Tulip Time outreach in Pella, Iowa, this May 4-6th for a wonderful new outreach! When I first heard that our friend, Jon Neifert, was wanting to run a gospel booth at the Tulip Festival, I was excited to get on board because I could picture the potential! Tulip Time is a huge event, and people come from long distances to attend the festival. This will be our first year running this booth, and we anticipate that the Lord will answer our prayers and do great things.

If you are wanting to grow in witnessing, a helpful tip is to join others who are doing it and learn from them. Helping with a gospel booth provides a wonderful situation in which to learn. It provides a natural way to begin conversations with people, a wonderful environment for sharing the good news, and a perfect opportunity to learn from each other.

One thing we know, there will be no lack of people to talk to! The nearly quarter million tulips on display draws quite a crowd. Last year, one bakery owner predicted that they might bake as many as 37,000 pastries. (I think the bakery’s delicious “Dutch Letters” are the #2 attraction, after the tulips 🙂 .)

As you can see, Tulip Time is a huge event in Iowa! If you’d like to get a feel for the event, you can visit this information page.

My dad and I will be teaching a witnessing training time, two weeks before the event, on April 22nd from 9:00 – 1:30pm. If you are interested, you can register here. To register for the actual outreach on May 4-6, click here.

I hope many of you Iowans can make it! Pella is a nice central location, less than 2 hours from Cedar Rapids and less than 1 hour from Des Moines. Plus, it’s a fun place to visit because it’s such an adorable Dutch town. My dad and I have really enjoy going into the Christian bookstore/coffee shop, multiple bakeries, and cafe, cheese store, etc.

Thank you to anyone who’d be willing to lift these events before the Lord in prayer, even if you can’t make it yourself.

ALSO NOTE: We’ll be doing an even bigger outreach at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on August 10-20. It was an amazing time last year. God really blessed it! This year’s witnessing training camp (which coincides with the Iowa State Fair outreach) will be August 10-14, 2017. More information coming soon!

Speak Truth in Your Heart Conference: Morelia, Mexico

IMG_2749 Praise the Lord for the way He is working in girls’ lives in Mexico. They responded with such enthusiasm to the messages presented. Ted and Priscilla Clark, with their family and team, did so much work to make the conference special. Notice the beautiful booklets they translated and produced for the conference.

IMG_2826 One college-aged girl with misty eyes told me we can never know how much the conference impacted her thinking. Praise the Lord. She had been dealing with a lot of the world’s lies, and it was so encouraging to see her soaking up the truths taught at the conference.

IMG_2966 We sensed much thirst for girls’ discipleship ministry. Many came from long distances — some drove up to sixteen hours. We were thrilled to learn of many Bright Lights groups going that we didn’t even know about! Please join us in praying for the Lord to raise up many more Bright Lights groups in Mexico.

IMG_3007 Many grandmas came too

IMG_2803 The camp’s beautiful surroundings in the mountains give it a “peaceful haven” feel.

IMG_2821 One unique part of this conference/camp was how much the dads and brothers did. They cooked all of the food for the 200-300 ladies the entire week. And that included a gourmet tea party, in which they served us all. They thought of everything.

IMG_2954 …even pink marshmallows! haha

IMG_2818 Here they are babysitting lots of children while the ladies are in the session.

IMG_2791 This was also the first time we have had dads run jump rope games for the girls during the break. 🙂

IMG_2971 A Bright Lights group from Guadalajara

IMG_2850 The girl who was sitting across from me (first girl on left) explained about a challenge that a young man in her church was spearheading: to share the gospel with one unbeliever every day in the month of February. Many young people took up his challenge in several different churches. She shared about the surprising opportunity the Lord had given her, in answer to her prayers, with one of her coworkers on February 1st. Now all of these young people are halfway through the challenge. Please pray for open doors for them as they are courageously and deliberately asking the Lord for gospel conversations every day this month!

IMG_2903 Picture taking time after the tea party

IMG_2943 The last evening they asked if we could do a fireside discussion on serving the Lord in our years of singleness. As we passed the mic around, many shared encouraging thoughts about keeping a godly perspective of life, ministry, singleness, and marriage.

IMG_2969 Anna Kirk and Emily Selander (who came with us) enjoying a late night discussion with Alma Roa (2nd from left) and her sisters. Alma was one of the main translators of the Bright Lights materials and Before You Meet Prince Charming in Spanish.

IMG_2983 Goodbyes

Our next “Speak Truth in Your Heart” conference is much closer to home: It will be held in Council Bluffs, Iowa. See details here. This will probably be the only Bright Lights conference in Iowa in 2017. (Plans are also being finalized to do one in Michigan in July). Hope to see many of you there!

Answers for Women Conference

answers-for-women-2017-bulletin-insert (1)-1 If any of you live in the Cincinnati area, it would be great to see you at the Answers in Genesis Answers for Women conference, April 7-8th. I highly recommend this conference!

It has been growing so much in recent years that it has now outgrown the large auditorium at the Creation Museum, so it is being held at a nearby convention center. It addresses current deceptive trends in the church and provides answers on many different fronts.

We will have a “Bright Lights” and “Will Our Generation Speak?” booth there, and we’d love to see you if you come by. 🙂 I will also be speaking on witnessing. Here’s an article which gives an introduction to some of what I will be sharing.

We need the Lord to work in our land, raising up laborers for the ripe harvest. We as girls and women have a crucial part to play in the harvest. Often the way hearts are reached is by good works as we open our homes in hospitality — while at the same time opening our mouths lovingly with the truth.

We need to be prepared with ANSWERS as we live in a generation infested with lies. For His sake, and for the sake of the lost, may each of us “be diligent to present [ourselves] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15-16).

The time is short, and time-wasting distractions are plentiful! When we are in Jesus’ presence, we will not regret one ounce of energy we spent on loving Him via loving those He desires to come to Him.

Mexico “Speak Truth in Your Heart” Conference

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Please pray for the moms and daughters at Camp Berea (near Morelia, Mexico, up in the mountains) who are listening to Sarah teach right now! Today is the second day of our “Speak Truth In Your Heart” Conference. So many girls and moms here are very thirsty to grow in the Lord! It’s such a privilege and blessing to be here. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would impact their hearts greatly with His Word, and that the impact would be eternal.

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Speak Truth in Your Heart Conference: Council Bluffs, Iowa

speaktruth_flyer_IA2017

I’m delighted to announce that we are doing a “Speak Truth in Your Heart” conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa on March 3-4th! See PDF of flyer here. It’s been very exciting to watch the Lord use the content Sarah teaches in this new Bright Lights conference to impact girls as well as moms. Praise God that His Word is “living and active … able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

See pictures and reports from our last two “Speak Truth in Your Heart” Conferences here.

Christmas Town at the Creation Museum

IMG_7070 I worked as a seasonal employee for Answers in Genesis for a couple of weeks in December to help with Christmas Town.

IMG_7282_1 I worked in the bookstore a little, but most of the time, I did response questionnaires with guests using ipads – which led to an abundance of meaningful conversations with families; I was very blessed.

I was also very encouraged by the interaction with Answers in Genesis staff. What a special “family” of very warm people who love the Lord and are working together for His glory and His work.

IMG_7149_1 I heard so many guests raving about the light display. 🙂

Christmas Town is a wonderful outreach … beyond the lights, people love the Biblical characters who walk around and interact with guests, the live nativity, the free Christmas concert, good food, and the petting zoo and camel rides.

IMG_7077_1 Shepherds, sharing the exciting news about the newborn Child with guests

IMG_2314_1 Anna (played by Vickie) is my very favorite part of Christmas Town. 🙂

IMG_2321 Some guests come from long distances to enjoy Christmas Town. Some come every year as a Christmas Tradition. It was exciting to get a firsthand feel for just how many people are blessed by this place. 🙂

IMG_2453 Tony Ramsek, talking to a family from Iowa. They were interested to hear about the outreach that he led for Answers in Genesis at the Iowa State Fair last year. (This is something I have not yet blogged about but plan to soon! Plans are being made to do the same outreach again this coming August.)