Bright Lights Leaders at Creation Museum

We have several girls staying with us during July and August to help run our summer Bright Lights conferences. In between conferences in Omaha and Dallas, we decided to take the girls to the Creation Museum.

DSC09935 The sprinklers went off while taking this picture, adding some excitement :)

IMG_6466 In Noah’s Cafe

The Lord answered prayers and put together a wonderful “package” for us in Cincinnati. Since I’ve already blogged about the museum in the past, I thought I’d share about a few of the other events of the weekend.

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We asked Steve Ham to share with our group, and we were so excited to hear about the amazing things God is doing with Answers in Genesis internationally! Steve also shared some helpful witnessing tips. He emphasized, “Genesis doesn’t just lead to the gospel–the gospel is in Genesis.” He presented a series of great pictures of the gospel from the first few chapters of Genesis, and we’re still talking about some of the points he made.

IMG_6516 I asked Tony Ramsek​ (who heads up the NEA outreach that I help with) to share with our group about evangelism. He shared 22 points which really met our team “where they were at,” and the girls appreciated it greatly. I’m glad I recorded it because all the leaders want the recording. (And now they are just waiting for his book. :) )

IMG_6527 The next morning, we joined Tony and his family and friends at their gospel booth. The Lord blessed us with some very good conversations, and the time of witnessing was one of the highlights of the trip for the leaders.

We saw the Lord provide many opportunities for conversations. For example, Anita (one of the leaders from Mexico) met a young, lonely, Hispanic mom who expressed much thankfulness for the talk. Anita is now working on connecting her with a church. There were many encouraging encounters (I still haven’t heard all the stories), and we’re grateful for the Lord’s blessing on that time!

IMG_6564 This guy with the spiky hair stayed around talking for a long time! He was very convinced he is a good person, and adamant that his good deeds should give him merit with God. Lissets (in black) spoke to him of God’s perfect law and cautioned him about the danger of trusting his own heart, while following the world’s standards of “good.” Please join us in praying that the Lord convicts him of his need for a Savior!

IMG_6509 Anna and Emily had a wonderful talk with the lady at the ticket booth. She was a believer with a powerful testimony. It was a unique conversation because they kept having to move to the side when the next car came, but it was a blessing both ways.

IMG_6545 We also went to see the Ark in progress (see it behind us).

IMG_6557 There’s a small little building set up where they have plans and descriptions for visitors to see. I was convicted about how important it is to be praying for this project right now as they are designing everything … making decisions that will be seen and read by so many!

IMG_6625 With Grace and Faith Ramsek. We’re grateful to their family for their hospitality as it’s not a small thing to host a group of 10 girls for 3 nights! We saw a fawn in the grass from the window just before taking this picture. As we were walking outside, Faith remarked, “Hopefully the baby deer won’t photobomb our picture.” :)

We are now on the road again, this time with two fifteen passenger vans and a 24 ft. trailer, headed to Texas. We’ve already seen His protection in catching and repairing some mechanical trouble before we left.

We’d appreciate prayer for the Lord’s hand on the upcoming five conferences. We’re grateful that He has good plans ahead and is powerful to carry them out!

Radiant Purity Conference, Council Bluffs

11402835_863059593742936_7024458104449632151_o Sarah teaching first session of Radiant Purity conference

IMG_6333 God has gifted Nickie with an ability to keep things organized and running smoothly. She does an incredible amount behind the scenes. Please keep praying for her and her family as they miss their dad so much.

1606252_863331817049047_8018328934038395806_o We’ve been blessed to have interpreters doing sign language at our conferences so that some deaf young ladies and parents could attend. They added a sweet and beautiful dimension to the conference. We are also very grateful to Deaf Missions for housing our entire team!

IMG_6340 We’re so glad that Hadassah (left) could “hear” the conference through the interpreters. She was so sweet to get to know.

IMG_6328 Kayla shared a beautiful testimony of God’s healing and redemption in her life. It was encouraging to see many girls impacted by her story.

Many of our leaders shared testimonies of deep struggles, God’s restoration, and the victory they now experience in Him. We’re so grateful to the Lord for the transparency (and discretion) of the godly leaders the Lord has provided to help us run the conferences.

While walking down a hallway, one of our leaders, Emily, mentioned to me how most of the testimonies shared from stage were “redemption stories.” I agreed, and we both thought that was really helpful for the conference. But then I began thinking, You know, every one of us has a redemption story. It may vary in color and dynamics, but none of us are actually “pure” or deserving of a godly marriage. We were all filthy with sin, but have been loved and cleansed and cherished by our Heavenly Prince who has washed us with His blood and is preparing us for the day we stand before Him. In Him we are pure. Without Him we sink in sin—whether the sins are committed or just thought—we’re all unworthy of His blessings, but by His GRACE blessed beyond measure. Just as He redeems us from Hell for eternal life with Him, so it is by His redeeming work in our lives that He makes us fit for godly marriages for His glory.

We cannot stress this too much: Our motivation for purity is not just so we have a good marriage one day, not just for a future husband, but for love of Christ. 1 John 3:3 says “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

IMG_6348 As our group of leaders was eating dinner after the purity conference, Tami Kolar (a conference hostess) shared with us how she felt that any girl would feel welcome at the purity conference, no matter what mistakes she had in her past. We were encouraged by her words. This is our desire and prayer.

Strong in the Lord Conference, Council Bluffs

THANK YOU to all who were praying for the conferences in Omaha last week! :) Here are some pictures from the first conference.

IMG_6014 One of our desires is for the Lord to turn the girls’ hearts toward their parents, and the parents to their girls (Malachi 4:6). We have many praises from the conference from how we saw the Lord work.

IMG_5988 Waiting for sessions to begin

11754719_862079490507613_7682440630412753074_o Stephen took this picture while Sarah was telling the answer-to-prayer story about the cat.

IMG_5960 Hannah (right) attended her first conference when she was 12 (Kansas, 2008). This time Hannah was one of our leaders, and her little sister Maggie was a sweet and enthusiastic attendee!

11754462_862191977163031_7246745391049498515_o Hannah shared about confessing hidden sin to her parents. She explained that it was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, but she stressed to the girls how glad she was that she did! “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

IMG_6030 Like she has done at every other conference thus far, Folly (Bekah) made the wrong choice, didn’t listen to her friend Wisdom (Nickie), and took the broad way that leads to destruction.

IMG_5980 We have no idea how a conference would be possible without Stephen to trouble shoot all of our problems.

IMG_6109-2 The younger girls are very enthusiastic about getting autographs from their leaders.

IMG_6071 This was one happy and energetic small group!

IMG_6101 After the session on witnessing, we sold out of all the “Are You A Good Person?” comic gospel tracts that we had brought. We were disappointed we wouldn’t have them for the Radiant Purity Conference, but we were glad they went so quickly! One of the comments we hear the most from the girls is that they want to be sharing the gospel more. Please pray that they put into practice what they learned! It’s easier to be excited about it in the moment, but much harder to put it into practice.

IMG_6065 We chose a new craft this year: the color bracelet (made with beads) for a tool to share the gospel. We also added three new skits this year and praise God for helping them to be a success even though they were slow in coming!

IMG_6069 Hannah (center) attended our last two conferences in Omaha and now she’s helping as a leader. It’s really special for us to come back years later, seeing how God has continued the work He began in these girls’ lives, and have them join our leadership team!

IMG_6051 We’re so grateful for the wonderful team of leaders the Lord faithfully provides for each conference.

Summer Conferences Beginning

Two days ago, we loaded our 15 passenger van with 15 people and drove to the Omaha area where we’ll be doing Bright Lights conferences this week. We had a great trip, which included meeting a wonderful gas station employee who was on the verge of tears as we shared with her, praise the Lord.

IMG_5893 After we arrived, we stood around the kitchen hearing some more details about how the Lord has been answering many prayers for this conference on this end. The hostesses have been working hard to prepare.

IMG_5900 Our hostesses have also been taking very good care of our team, and have left such sweet little surprises and delicious food! :)

IMG_5906 We chose 1 Timothy as our theme book for the summer. I’m very excited about digging into this book more. :) One of the highlights of “living” with about 20 other girls is the nonstop fellowship that is enjoyed.

IMG_5940 Hopefully we’ll just be able to keep track of whose sandals belong to who!

IMG_5917 Unloading the trailer

IMG_5947-2 About 15 more leaders have joined us here, and the “Strong in the Lord Conference” will begin in about six hours. We just had a sweet time of prayer together. Talking to the Lord about the conference does amazing things to prepare our own hearts. Currently I’m sitting in the back of teacher’s training while Bekah is sharing details about small groups.

During our devotional sharing time this morning many had similar thoughts to share. Only what GOD DOES will impact the attendees, and He gives abundant grace to work through us and all our inadequacies. :)

We’d really appreciate prayer that the Lord would do amazing things in the lives of girls at this conference. May their eyes be filled with JESUS and the relationship that they can enjoy with Him.

Sharing the Gospel at the NEA Convention (Part 2)

Below is a continued report of some ways we saw the Lord working at the NEA Convention in Orlando last week.

IMG_5823 For the third day, we moved the booth to a different part of the convention center. The conversations continued to be fruitful and we praised God. The girl in grey stayed at the booth talking for about thirty minutes.

IMG_5805 I snapped this picture as a flood of non-stop traffic was flowing by our booth. Talk about adrenaline rush! [smile]

IMG_5810 Faith and Khylie (Tony’s daughter and James’s daughter) helped the third day. They did an excellent job showing the books to the teachers and reaching out to the lost. Tony and James purposefully bring their children along to almost all their gospel outreaches in order to give them “hands on training”. Reminds me of when my dad used to take me out witnessing when I was their age. Doing evangelism as a family is one of the best ways to train the next generation to be powerful witnesses!

IMG_5769 A highlight for me from the whole weekend was listening to others’ witnessing conversations and learning from them.

One conversation Steve Ham had with a Jewish lady (not the lady pictured above) came to a surprising end:

“How did you convert to Christianity?” Steve Ham asked a Jewish lady who claimed to be a Christian.
“You know, it’s a process…” she said, explaining about her rough background.
“Can I ask a follow-up question?” Steve asked. “How does somebody get to Heaven?”
“I just think you have to be true to yourself … and be true to life,” she replied.
“Isn’t it God that’s going to let you in, though?” Steve asked.
“Of course,” she agreed.
“So isn’t He the authority?”
“Of course. But to me, it’s being true to yourself…” she said and made a reference to the “atoning sacrifice.”
“Of Christ,” Steve inserted.
“Of Christ,” she agreed.
“Actually the Bible says that’s the ONLY way,” Steve confirmed. It says, “There is no other way under Heaven by which you must be saved—and that’s Jesus Christ.”

She recoiled at this statement. “Yeah, I wasn’t saved, I’m not into that, I’m just not,” she said definitively. She said it was too basic, too black and white for her.

Interesting remarks for someone who claims to be a Christian!

“You see,” Steve replied, “I would say the Bible alone tells us how to get to Heaven.”
“Yes, and I agree with that,” she said.
“But,” Steve said, “what the Bible says is not that we should be ‘true to ourselves,’ you know what I mean?”

“You need to just live your life the best you can!” she emphasized.

“Well, I’m going to tell you something. I love people. I do what I do because I love people.”
“Good for you,” she replied.
“But here’s what I get really concerned about,” he said.
“What’s that?”
“If I have the truth of the Scripture that says the only way to Heaven is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and somebody says that it’s something other than that, I don’t think I love that person if I say, ‘Well, that’s okay.’”

Ouch. This comment touched a nerve with her!

“Ooo, but you, but you’re supposed to, but you should love!” she argued.
“I do!” Steve replied.
“Mmm, but you’re judging!” she said.
“But the Bible makes the judgment about what gets into Heaven, not me,” he said gently.
“BUT–but–you’re saying to me… oh, I gotta get going,” she said.

At this point, I’m thinking, Of course. He just gets to the gospel and she “has to go.” But I was surprised by how things ended.

“Okay can I just give you one book?” Steve asked her.
“Sure, that’s great,” she said. “These are expensive materials,” she commented (obviously trying to be polite).
“Well it’s our pleasure to give them away,” Steve replied. He handed her a Begin book (which is a great overview of the Bible and contains the whole books of John and Romans) and explained, “This goes through the sequence of the Bible that clearly says what the Bible teaches about salvation. I want you and everyone else I speak with to be in Heaven with me.”

“And you know what?” she replied, “I think everybody’s journeys are going to be different but hopefully the end results the same, whatever it is. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve had one traumatic experience that, you know, no matter what I’ve learned to not look at color or somebody because they are different … ”
“Yeah. Do you know there’s not even color?” Steve replied, “Do you know that we’re all brown – we only have different amounts of melanin?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” she laughed. “I like this guy. Where are you from?”

“Australia,” he replied, and continued, “I sincerely don’t agree with you about how someone gets into Heaven. I do believe the Bible says otherwise.”
“But I’m still on this journey … you know what I mean? You’re kind of ‘done,’” she told him.
“But there’s only one reason I’m ‘done’ in my mind, and it’s because I’ve accepted the authority of God’s Word instead of my opinion…” Steve replied.
“Don’t you think it’s based on individual interpretation?” she asked.
“Read the Scriptures,” Steve replied.
“Oh, I have, and I’ve been through Hebrew school … and isn’t interpretation interesting?”
“Well, Ephesians 2 says that you are saved by grace through FAITH, and it’s not of your own doing, it is a gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. It’s only through Christ Jesus that we are saved. The Bible says that’s the only way!”

And this next part was my favorite part of the whole conversation: Steve explained to her WHY Jesus was the only way. He said, “Jesus, who came, was not a sinner, and He paid a penalty that I could never pay. So it makes sense that it is only through Him! … when I put my faith in Him, He gives me His righteousness.”

“I do like what you just said. That was pretty incredible,” she stated.
“Yea, well, it’s all in that book I just gave you,” he said, referring to the Begin book.
“I will read it. And if you’re here this week, maybe I’ll come and talk to you again.”
“Lovely to meet you,” Steve said.

Earlier in the conversation I thought she was going to walk away angry, but instead, she walked away on great terms. She had learned something.

You see, before Steve explained WHY Jesus is the only way, this lady accused him of “judging.” But after he explained it, she acclaimed what he said as “incredible”! What a contrast. I wonder how many reject what we say because we are not teaching the “why” as we should be. So many people (especially in America) are familiar with the idea of Jesus dying on the cross and even Him being the only way, but because they don’t know the “why” of the gospel, they are turned off by the exclusivity of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Let us make a deliberate effort to explain the “why’s” and “how’s” of this amazing gospel we’ve been entrusted with.

I praise the Lord there are great, biblical answers to be shared with people. May we, by His grace, be always ready to share them! (1 Peter 3:15)

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This man told me he was a 5th generation Mormon. He began explaining his views about the resurrection and celestial bodies, etc. I was glad Tony joined the conversation about this time.
“How do you attain to that resurrection?” Tony asked him.
“Through Jesus! By keeping His commandments,” he said.
“Oh, okay, so have you kept them all?” Tony asked.
“I’m trying!” he said.

“The thing is, what does God require: Trying hard or perfection?” Tony asked him.
“I think that if we are trying hard, the day will come when He will perfect us,” the Mormon man answered.
“Well, how is He going to deal with our sin?” Tony asked, “Because even when we try hard, we fail—and that’s sin.”
“He’s paid for those sins,” the Mormon man replied.
“Then why are [you] ‘trying hard to keep the commandments’?” Tony questioned.
“Because He’s told us to keep the commandments,” the Mormon man said.
“For what reason?” Tony asked, pinpointing the heart of the issue.
“So that we’ll be qualified for whatever degree of glory God has for us,” he answered.

Interesting how Mormons use similar lingo but have totally different beliefs. This Mormon was speaking of qualifying for entrance into three supposed levels of “heaven.”

Tony explained, “Let’s say one man keeps 90% of the commands and another keeps 70%. There’s still a 10% shortfall with one, and a 30% shortfall with the other. God has to punish that sin in order to be just. If somebody commits a crime, a just judge will mete out a penalty … As Christians, we believe that our sins are forgiven by grace ALONE. Not by my efforts. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, ‘It is finished!'”

The Mormon man objected to this. “After all you can do!” he inserted.
“The Bible doesn’t say that,” Tony corrected. “That would be bad news! The good news is that Christ died for sins once for all … The Just (Jesus) for the unjust (us), so that He might bring us to God… It’s not ‘after I try to pay for my own sins’!

“You believe as you have been taught. I believe as I have been taught. I know that Jesus died for our sins,” the Mormon man said.
“All of them?” Tony asked.
“Yes, he died for all of our sin,” he replied.
“Okay, so you can rest now?” Tony asked.
“No, I can’t rest!” he said.

How sad. He is trying to do the impossible! What a burden. If he would only believe God’s Word.

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:1-3).

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Sharing the Gospel at the NEA Convention (Part 1)

We are praising God for the victories He accomplished at the NEA Convention last week. (NEA stands for National Education Association and every year public school teachers come together for this annual convention.) I thought you might be interested in a few stories. Though some were resistant and opposed to our message, many were extremely grateful and moved to the point of tears. There’s no doubt in my mind that the LORD was reaching out to individuals through those working at our booth. It was beautiful to watch. Because there is so much to report, I decided to post a “Part 1″ and “Part 2.”

IMG_5732 “You just blew my mind,” the girl in the green vest told Tony (in black) gratefully after he explained to her how science points to the truth of creation, not the theory evolution. But that was just the start. Next, Tony asked her about her spiritual background and led her into the gospel. (We always try to move toward the gospel and not just speak about the origins issue, because the gospel message is what contains the power!) Kayla said she was a Christian but thought she’d go to Heaven because she hadn’t sinned much.

nea-3 Tony turned the conversation over to Haley and me, and the next 30 minutes were spent answering her questions and showing her verses from the Bible about the problem of sin, and the solution in Christ. She was on the verge of tears as she learned more about God’s love for her and His desire for her salvation.

nea-5 Dozens of conversations went this same way: they started with the topic of origins and transitioned to the gospel of Jesus. As Steve Ham talked with this lady, she was so touched she started crying. I was challenged as I listened in on many conversations. I was reminded of how far I have to grow in witnessing, but encouraged to see how powerfully the Lord works through His servants!

IMG_5747 You may notice the little “rainbow” that we have in our clouds on the top left of our banner from the polo shirts hanging over the curtains. These were from the LGBT booth directly behind us.

IMG_5748 I got to know them a little bit, and appreciated their concern to be good neighbors to us. May the Lord touch their hearts and open their eyes to the truth of the gospel!

The NEA is one of the most liberal organizations that exists in America. There might be a tendency in this environment to be be cautious or quiet to avoid “ruffling feathers” in hopes that we don’t get kicked out. But we’ve chosen to not worry about that and be very clear about our purpose for being there: proclaiming the gospel.

I liked the way Tony Ramsek from Answers in Genesis (who heads up this outreach every year) put this during one of our lunch breaks. He said, “Here at the NEA I want to be as bold and loving as possible, but I’m constantly getting pressure from everywhere saying ‘you have to be careful.’ But I say, ‘You know what? God is the One sustaining us. If God wants to shut us down or allow us to be shut down, God will provide another audience.”

Tony continued, “I see this all the time: people become scared of losing their audience [and it causes them to refrain from being bold] … but I’m not at all. Because I believe God will provide the audience if we are faithful.”

See Tony’s report of the outreach on Ken Ham’s blog.

image1 God certainly provided an audience for us last week! At our booth there were often many conversations going on simultaneously, with Scripture verses being shared all day long. It would be interesting to know how many times Ephesians 2:8-9 was quoted by someone working at our booth :) .

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The 4,000 DVDs and 4,000 books given away were helpful spring boards to get these conversations started.

My favorite conversation was with a young Native American guy, Frank, who was searching for meaning in life.
“What is your version of the meaning of life?” he asked Haley and me.
We shared that we get meaning from our relationship with our Creator. Then Steve Ham (who thankfully joined the conversation) went deeper by explaining that our purpose is to bring God glory and WHY that is.

“A year ago, I asked this question to a whole bunch of people … ” Frank said. He explained that the common denominator he found was “connection.” He thought lots of religions could coexist and we just need to have connection to something. “Even if it’s not to God,” Frank explained, “it could be connection to yourself, to the earth, etc…”

Steve replied, “Here’s what I would ask us to consider. I believe there’s one Truth. If there is only one Truth, then there are other ideas that are actually not truth. Truth is not relative. Eight can’t equal nine. If someone is saying, “Truth in identity is for me to connect with my mind or to connect with the world, I would say ‘where do you get that truth from?’. If it’s just ‘what I believe’ then, ‘what’s your authority for believing it’? Our authority is the Word of God … which claims to be the one Truth. Jesus claims, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Then I was sort of blown away by how well Steve responded to Frank’s “connectivity” point. He said, “If you go back to the beginning of Scripture, to Genesis 1, when we were created in God’s image, we were told to have dominion and multiply on the earth … one major thing happened. Instead of wanting to seek God’s glory with our whole heart, humanity rebelled against God. He gave us one rule… and instead of seeking connectedness only with God, and bringing Him glory, they tried to connect with the creation and themselves. They tried to bring about their own glory. And that is the event that brought rebellion to all of humanity. So we actually see the idea of wanting to be connected to ourselves or to the world outside of Jesus Christ to be the problem, not the solution.”

This is very much in contradiction to Native American religious beliefs, but it is what Frank needed to hear!

After more discussion and explanations, Frank was out of arguments. He said to Steve, “Pretty solid right there, that’s cool. I can’t say much.”

I thought that was awesome. Here, Steve totally contradicted so much of what Frank believed in, yet Frank could tell he loved him, he could see his wisdom, and he appreciated the conversation greatly.

As the conversation was wrapping up, Steve stated, “I want you to hear this very, very carefully: We are not dissing Native American culture. When I share about Jesus, it comes out of great love for the people that I’m talking to. I love the Native American people so much I want to preach the gospel to them so that they might come to faith in Jesus.”

“Are you here tomorrow too?” Frank asked, commenting on how interesting the conversation was.

“I’d love to talk more,” Steve agreed. Then he left them with this thought: “It’s good to have discussions and say ‘they were interesting.’ But from our perspective, these discussions actually mean something. At some point it comes to whether you do or do not have faith in Jesus Christ. Which means you have to come to the point where you say, ‘I’m repenting and believing in Jesus Christ for my salvation,’ or, ‘I’m rejecting Him.’ I’d like to see you accept Christ …”

As you can see, Steve made it VERY CLEAR that it was not possible to have both “Native American religion” and “Christianity.” It was one or the other. Frank needed to hear this. Praise God He led Frank to one of His servants who was bold enough and loving enough to share the truth.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

Spiritual Battles in Orlando

IMG_5719 Please pray for the conversations we will be having the next few days with public school teachers here at the NEA Convention. We will be giving away about 4,000 DVDs and 4,000 books produced by Answers in Genesis. Our desire is to move beyond the Creation Science topic with the teachers and share the gospel of Christ–the only message with the power to save!

As you can see, we had quite a few boxes to unpack!

IMG_5720 Some of our team this year

Back row: Joe Owen (speaker for AiG), Steve Ham (Director of International Outreach for AiG), and James Opperman (Director of the web team for AiG)
Front row: Me and Haley Skrnich (Bright Lights leader in Texas)

Our theme verse (and prayer) this year is Acts 4:33, which says:

“With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.”

We are so utterly dependent on the Lord’s grace, but we rejoice that His power is great, and He is the One who fights for us, rescuing souls! Praise God He allows us to help, though we are undeserving of the privilege.

God’s Surprise Provision

It all started when Sarah told us, “We really should start praying for the guest house plumbing and shower – I don’t know what we’re going to do with 12 girls staying there this summer!”

A few weeks later she brought this concern up again as a prayer request. That very night, an old friend of ours who was visiting told us, “The Lord has put it on my heart to remodel your basement bathroom at your guest house.” His offer was a complete surprise!

IMG_5706Randy and his son Michael

As I write this, Randy is working hard, as he has been for many days. Not only is he replacing the shower, he’s enlarging the whole bathroom down there! Those who have seen our basement shower downstairs and were brave enough to take a shower in it know what bad shape it was in. [smile] There was also a large leak from our upstairs bathroom into our downstairs one.

Additionally, our friends Tracy Jarmon and Dave Fuller (who helped us remodel our office) got on board, and volunteered to replace the vanities, fixtures, flooring, you name it, in BOTH bathrooms.

We can hardly believe this is happening and praise the Lord for how He answers prayer!

Single Ladies Retreat

2015_Single_Ladies_Retreat_Brochure (1)-1

Sarah and I and some other Bright Lights leaders will be part of the Single Ladies Retreat hosted by Mirren and Taryn Martin (Biblical Discipleship Ministries) in Texas in just over a month.

Last time this retreat was held (2 years ago) it was a very special time of fellowship and encouragement (I posted about it here ). We are sure this year will be the same! Women of all ages will be sharing testimonies of God’s work through their lives, and insights about how we can best serve Him in this season of our life. We’d love to see you there!

For more information or to register, click here.

Neighborhood Ice Cream Social

Last Thursday, we joined together with some neighbor friends to run a “Neighborhood Ice Cream Social” at the park a block from our house. About 100 neighbors came! We were so grateful.

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This idea started forming several months ago when my dad and I ran into our neighbor, Seth, at a coffee shop. Seth works with youth at his church and has a heart for ministry. We began talking about our neighborhood and our desire to have more contact with our neighbors. We decided the first step was to pray about it, so we invited some other like-minded neighbors and joined together for a time of prayer in our basement …

IMG_4688 Prayer with neighbors, April, 2015

Then we decided, “Let’s just put something on the calendar right now. Let’s do an ice cream social at the park.” We put “June 4″ on the calendar.

IMG_5617 Invitations were made and distributed…

IMG_5642 We told everyone to bring a topping and lawn chair

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We were thrilled with the turnout. We were able to have conversations with many that we had not even met before! Neighbors stayed around for a long time talking. They all enjoyed meeting each other too!

IMG_5670 Looks like this might be the start of a new tradition.

IMG_5655 We all cheered for the lady who had lived in our neighborhood the longest: 51 years!

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If you’d like to do this in your neighborhood, here are a few tips.

1) If you don’t have a park a block away, consider doing it in your driveway. (See pie party post as an example…)

2) Team up with a few other neighbor families so you aren’t doing it “alone.”

3) Be aware that you may actually have more conversations with neighbors when you go door to door inviting people than at the party itself, so block out sufficient time to do that. (Believe it or not, I found that not one person minded being invited to a neighborhood ice cream social! :) )

4) Make sure you have name tags and sharpies. We put the name tags in the front of the line before the ice cream to make sure people got one.

5) Consider starting an e-mail or texting list so that it is easier to invite them to future neighborhood events. (But remember that face to face conversations are much better as they are more personal!)

6) Bring a simple map of the neighborhood so they can put an “x” where their house is.

7) Don’t forget: tables, chairs, napkins, bowls, spoons, lots of ice in coolers (or dry ice), ice cream cones, and garbage bags.

8) Most of all, pray and thank God for what He does!