St Louis Bright Lights Conferences Report

img_0308 This past June we held a “Strong in the Lord” and “Radiant Purity” conference in the St Louis area. It was a week of extra challenges and extra sweet moments! There was definite spiritual warfare, but thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere (2 Corinthians 2:14).

One of the challenges was getting the word out about the conference. It was the first time we’d run conferences in this area, so there wasn’t as much familiarity with our ministry. We PRAISE GOD for all He brought–many from longer distances, and many at the last minute.

img_0335 Interacting with the sweet girls who soak in the teaching makes every conference a great privilege. 🙂 Soon, these girls will be the mothers raising the next generation in America!

img_0319 My mom, sharing with the mothers while the girls are in small group.

img_0332 Not only does my mom talk with and encourage ladies, she is always there for us providing encouragement, compassion, and help with so many needs.

13558638_1581960705430967_6062653904360890325_o Cassidy’s small group!

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13558624_1581959735431064_7124101392929408982_o Name tag table

img_0333 Sisters!

img_0383 Sharing time after the conference. One story in particular was especially heart-warming: one of the leaders mentioned that she was really hoping a friend of hers would come. This friend was struggling spiritually, and it seemed unlikely. It was during our free day at the St Louis zoo that this situation was mentioned. Emily said, “Let’s pray now,” and about 12 leaders formed a circle and had a prayer meeting for this girl. The next day, when the girl walked into the Radiant Purity conference, hearts were overjoyed! Not only did she come, but she and her mom stuck around afterward for a long conversation, leading to tears of joy and much praise to God from the leaders.

13558618_1581961375430900_912442822876091343_o Praise God for once again, bringing together a wonderful team of leaders who love the Lord and point others to Jesus.

img_0295 The fellowship we enjoy with the leaders is a highlight. Here was a Bible study with my dad on Colossians 1 after our set up day. We spent a while discussing the phrase, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” ! (Colossians 1:27)

13558814_1581959635431074_6707375456340778191_o We can’t say enough about Allison and her mom (and entire family) and the wonderful job they did in hosting the conference. The Whisler family has been such an encouragement to us!

13497746_1581958762097828_5600175382810266818_o Time to relax and invade the Whislers house for a great dinner!

13497550_1581958718764499_2385022513379067946_o Which included funny moments…

img_0357 …and learning an Arabic praise song!

Thank you to everyone who prayed for this conference. The Lord did beautiful things, and we are so grateful.

“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

Photo credit to Cassidy Schoolz for a few of the pictures, thanks Cassidy!

Radiant Purity Conference, Dallas, Texas

11779985_871538086228420_8710486862946040913_o First session of Radiant Purity Conference, Dallas, Texas

In this first session, Sarah answers the question: “what is RADIANT purity?” Why don’t we just call it the “Purity Conference”? Sarah explains how it’s not just being pure yourself, but leading others in the way of purity. It’s having a life that stands out as different, and beautiful–and points others to Jesus Christ.

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It was very exciting to see the Lord’s hand working in girls’ lives at the conference. In the small group discussions, many voiced their thirst for answers. They were struggling and wanted help. The most encouraging part was seeing their decisions to actually make changes in their lives. For example, here are a few comments we received:

“I want to spend more time now working on becoming the godly woman I hope to be rather than just daydreaming about finding a godly guy all the time… I thought the speaker made a very good point about how most failed relationships go wrong because of seeds planted before the people even met. That’s important for me to consider right now… I want to make more time actively for exploring the Bible rather than wasting time on social media…” – 17-year-old

“I let go of a guy, told him that I don’t see a future between us (which was really hard cause I’ve really liked him for a while now) … Some decisions I was facing like currently this weekend I got answers to on how to handle it. It was like God was speaking directly to me through the speakers.” – 18-year-old

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One of topics the girls seem to appreciate the most is “Emotional Purity.” Sarah shares practical, Biblical advice on how not to be obsessed over a crush, and how to be a godly sister in Christ who is not flirtatious or rude. She encourages the girls to seek to build up young men around them rather than trying to get attention for themselves.

11222267_871854136196815_5648973731254630594_o We had a unique, unexpected problem (well, we always do, but this one was especially noticeable): the sustain pedal on the keyboard wasn’t working, which made the piano sound kind of like a harpsichord. 🙂 Stephen and I took a careful look at it during a break and saw that it was definitely broken. We weren’t sure what to do. You don’t realize how much of a difference a sustain pedal makes until it’s broken.

Sarah came into the office and told a couple of the girls, “I have a prayer request. Pray that the pedal on the keyboard starts to work.” My first reaction was, “Does Sarah realize that’s not possible? Stephen and I looked at it, and it’s broken.” But then I remembered Oh yeah. God could fix it. In the next session, I couldn’t believe it: the sustain pedal was working! Then it stopped working again, so Stephen had the idea of switching to a different keyboard for the rest of the conference, and that really fixed the problem, praise the Lord.

IMG_6998 It was really encouraging for me to hear how the Lord had been working in Brook’s life in the area of witnessing! I’m excited for how He is going to use her.

IMG_7003 Alyssa (left) came up to me after the conference and told me about how she was wanting to witness to the other girls on her swim team back home but was finding it difficult. I agreed that it is tough to witness to friends in that context. I mentioned that it’s actually a lot easier to witness to people at the park that you don’t know, because you don’t have anything to lose.
“But I don’t want to serve God in a way that costs me nothing,” Alyssa replied.
That was a great comment, I thought.
“That’s true,” I agreed.
“But in a way there is nothing to lose by witnessing to your swim team either,” I remarked…
“Well, friendships,” she said.

Praise God for young ladies like Alyssa who desire to lay down their own lives and desires out of devotion to Christ. Sharing the gospel IS a sacrifice. Living for Jesus DOES cost. And many aren’t willing to pay the price. But when we look from the perspective of the cross, it’s not a price–it’s a privilege.

IMG_7047 “We need to get over,” Nickie told me with an intense tone of voice. She was driving one of our 15 passenger vans and I was in the passenger’s seat texting someone. I looked up and noticed that smoke was filling the van. Since we were on a busy Dallas interstate, it took Nickie a little bit to get over to the side of the road. I was worried the van might burst into flames before we all got out. But God protected us.

dsc00422 Eventually my dad arrived, and then two men from a local Bible chapel came to help us. “Usually God sends angels in pairs,” my dad told them gratefully. 🙂 It turned out that a wire came loose from a power inverter and the insulation on the end was charred, thus causing the smoke.

As you can see, I’ve been very slow with sharing reports here this summer, but if you’re interested in more pictures and reports, Caitlin did a fantastic job updating her blog here.

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.

Radiant Purity Conference, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

20140711_175609_27789 Laura Sisson (Nickie’s older sister) sharing the special story of how she met her husband Jim. Laura used to be a central part of our Bright Lights team before she got married eight years ago.

20140709_124522_27600 We were excited to have Laura join us again for the “Strong in the Lord Conference” — this time attending as a mother with her daughter! (Abigail is a little young, but we made an exception for her to come [smile]). Laura is just one of many Bright Lights conference leaders who are now happy mothers!

20140721_160036_27938 The “Storms of Life” newscast skit

2014 leaders We had a wonderful team of small group leaders who came from Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia! Most of them are currently leading Bright Lights groups in their home towns.

20140709_212708_27692 One evening after the attendees had left, all of us leaders went outside with a couple guitars and just sang and sang … definitely a highlight!

20140708_114350_27525 Mrs. Kramer (in teal) did the cooking for our team of forty for the week. She also did snacks for the conference attendees. It was a lot of work, and we are very grateful! We also appreciated Gabriella and Bethany Isaac (left) for all their hard work in the kitchen!

20140709_151227_27608 Mrs. Kramer even made homemade rhubarb sauce (like applesauce) for one of the snacks for the attendees. It was amazing.

20140711_203331_27798 One highlight for the attendees is the fellowship. Sometimes it’s lonely swimming upstream and not going the world’s way! I think it’s refreshing for them to see so many other girls who also want to love Jesus with all of their heart and walk in purity!

We received an encouraging report the other day from a mom who brought her daughter to the purity conference: “…coming to Cedar Rapids has altered the trajectory of my daughters’ journey to be directly living for Jesus… We’ve had so many discussions that are God centered, initiated by the girls(!) and developing a genuine evangelistic heart for unsaved…”

Praise the Lord!

The main thrust of the Radiant Purity Conference is that we are to guard our hearts–not merely for our future husbands–but for Jesus Christ! We want to be occupied with HIM in our single years. We want to be useful for His glory during this precious time. The question is not “Where is the line?” or “What are the rules?” but rather, “How can I please the Lord even more in my thoughts and actions?!”

It’s not about a perfect formula for a pain-free path. Rather, it’s about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and learning to trust Him!

It was exciting to see girls grasp these truths and desire to follow a higher road.

One question that seemed to help the girls in my small group understand this point was the question, “Is purity something you don’t do, or is purity something you do?”
One girl replied, “Well, I think it’s both…”
Another girl answered, “Well, I think it’s something you do, because when you are doing the right things then you won’t want to do the wrong things.”

The primary emphasis is do not don’t. Purity isn’t just about avoiding certain activities. It’s much, much more. Purity is pursuing Jesus Christ! When a girl runs after Him with all her heart, satisfied in HIS love, everything else in her life will fall into it’s proper place as HE becomes the Master of every area of her heart.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9).

St Cloud, Minnesota, Bright Lights Conferences

20131015_160034_23373 There were some neat answer-to-prayer stories about “getting the word out,” and we were grateful to the Lord for those He brought.

20131015_160443_23375 Singing “I am Your Shield”

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20131015_160520_23377 The Counselor skit

20131015_160604_23379 Picking up nametags

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20131008_092615_23149 Staff devotions. John 15 was our theme chapter for the week.

bro-sis st cloud copyThe “Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends” session.

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20131009_092533_23181Stephen does about a hundred things back there… I couldn’t name them all if I tried.

20131009_101948_23423 The guilty consciences, trying to convince Bekah that she doesn’t need to confess her sin.

20131009_114249_23209 Here are our two kitchen heroes from the week. Kelly served 3 meals a day to all 40 of our staff, and Mrs. Kramer did the conference snacks… and not just any conference snacks! She made homemade applesauce (9 gallons in all) and other homemade items. Her daughter Abby is getting married this weekend, so we are especially grateful that she still took the time to help with the conference!

20131010_134607_23258 Some very encouraging things happened on our free day, including an hour of witnessing at the mall and many good conversations.

20131010_141158_23265 My dad spent the whole time talking with a friendly Muslim man. Sounded like a very interesting conversation.

In conclusion, it was a great week. We praise the Lord for the beautiful things He did and taught us. Thank you to anyone who was praying.

Prayer for Tonight

We are running Bright Lights conferences in St Cloud, MN this week. The “Strong in the Lord” conference went very well, and the Radiant Purity conference starts tonight. It’s looking like it will be a pretty large conference (there are over 400 registered).

This area of purity is a topic that young people are struggling with SO much! Please pray with us that the Lord uses this conference to convict, comfort, encourage, inspire … that the Word would be clearly taught and understood, that girls would respond to what they hear, and that fruit would remain for God’s glory. Thank you!

20131009_091225_23168 Hannah sharing a testimony during the Strong in the Lord conference a couple days ago.

Ohio Report

We had a great group of attendees at the Radiant Purity Conference last weekend. They were very responsive, and it was a privilege to interact with them and see the Lord working in their hearts.

20130812_110820_22393 Kristin, Hannah, and Abby sharing testimonies with the group.

20130810_131851_22356 In Sarah’s session on “Living By Faith not Fear” she shows several pictures of couples that God brought together, explaining their stories. Many of the girls who used to work with our team are married now, and their unique and encouraging stories show the power of the Lord to arrange marriages!

20130810_171207_22363 This group of girls went through Before You Meet Prince Charming as a group study and they explained to me how they created songs for all the memory verses in the book. They said that by the end of the study they knew those verses really well!

20130811_105244_22373 Our team of leaders was blessed yesterday afternoon by a gourmet dinner one of the ladies from the church here put together for us. Even better than the meal was to get to know Judy (right) and see her joy in the Lord and how much she serves at the church here.

20130811_170435_22376 After Sunday afternoon naps [smile] we went to a park. Some of us enjoyed a long ultimate Frisbee game…

20130811_180353_22385 We are studying the second half of 2 Corinthians on this trip. It has been SO encouraging. I haven’t studied 2 Corinthians in-depth before and am learning many things.

We studied chapter 9 last night. Paul appeals to the church at Corinth to be generous, and gives reassuring words of the abounding grace of God. This remind us to not only be generous with money but to be a “giver” in every area of life. We never need to fear lack, because “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” (2nd Corinthians 9:8)

We should be motivated to give because we want people to thank and glorify God! As Paul writes, “you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience … (2 Corinthians 9:11-13a) May we do each “good thing” with the motivation that the Lord receive more thanks!

Also, it’s interesting to consider the idea that if all Christians gave as they should, there wouldn’t be a need to fund raise or ask for money. It would already be happening.

Paul concludes this section by saying “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15) I think that’s a good definition for witnessing … trying to describe the indescribable!

20130811_184534_22391 My mom began talking with this couple at the park, admiring their cute baby girl. After we told them why we were in the area and about our conferences, we asked them if they were Christians.
“ALL THE WAY!” Isaac said with enthusiasm.
They are from Liberia and are looking forward to going back there and continuing to serve in ministry. We had a very nice talk and were grateful for the divine appointment. They might come to our conference tonight.

The Strong in the Lord conference starts in 2 hours. We would really appreciate your prayers! Thank you.

Bright Lights in Dallas

20130708_191158_22036 We had a great week of conferences in Dallas. It started out Monday night with a special time with the local Bright Lights group. Haley, Natalie and Megan have done a wonderful job leading this group for several years now.

20130710_153248_22069 Here is a small group from the “Strong in the Lord Conference” conference. It is fun to get to hear what the girls are thinking and learning. After Sarah’s session on being in the Word, a few of them expressed to me with seriousness in their eyes that they haven’t been doing very well reading their Bibles but now they want to make that decision to read it every day consistently.

This is probably the #1 response that the girls write on their “response forms” after the conference – that they are going to start reading their Bibles every day. We’d appreciate prayer for all of these young ladies right now, only a week after the conference….that the Lord would give them strength and reminders to follow through.

20130713_175352_22138 It’s also exciting to see the girls get excited about witnessing! Sometimes it doesn’t take much to spark their excitement. Many leaders tell me how their girls are anxious to talk about “sharing the gospel” in their small groups after it’s discussed in the main session. Here Priscilla is standing by our “Witnessing Starter Packages.” She was excited to get one. [smile]

20130716_125728_22175 We’re grateful for the testimonies that the Lord provides for the main sessions. They drive home the lessons in a personal, practical way. A message from a mind reaches a mind, but a message from a life reaches a life! Pictured above are Scarlet, Kate, and Abby sharing testimonies at the Radiant Purity conference.

20130713_084110_22121 Here’s a picture from the Purity Conference. We’d appreciate prayer for all the conference attendees from Arkansas, Houston, and Dallas … that they would be seeking Christ, abiding in the Word, seeking the Lord’s ways, honoring their parents.

20130717_143251_22182 The dads who are able to come to the Purity Conference always have a discussion on father’s roles in protecting their daughters and screening young men who express interest. My dad usually tells us afterward about some of the various comments and stories that are shared. He is usually very encouraged by how the men’s discussions go and he says they never have enough time.

20130711_101635_22093 During one of our devotional times, Stephen gave us a review of the book Radical by David Platt which he had been reading on the trip. Stephen was impressed with it, and read several sections to us.

In talking about missions and how we should all have a heart for the WORLD, David Platt writes, “As we have seen all over Scripture, God’s heart is for the world. So when we say we have a heart for the United States, we are admitting that we have a meager 5 percent of God’s heart, and we are proud of it. When we say we have a heart for the city we live in, we confess that we have less than 1 percent of God’s heart … regardless of where we live–here or overseas–our hearts should be consumed with making the glory of God known in all nations.”

20130709_111536_22044 During another devotional time, Taryn and Mirren Martin did a “Question & Answer” time with our group of leaders. They have been such an encouragement to us.

20130711_170747_22106 We enjoyed several hours on our free day at the Skrinch home.

20130717_130822_22180 Lauren and Haley. Haley (right) was one of the hostesses for this conference. Thank you Haley for all your hard work!

20130715_160005_22173 Guess where we had tire trouble? 45 minutes from home right in front of a Tires Plus shop that wasn’t busy! They fixed the 2 bad tires immediately (while we girls shopped in the air conditioned mall), gave us a good price, and my dad was able to witness to them. Praise God that He takes such good care of us.

Houston Radiant Purity Conference

20130708_145441_22023 This was our first time to do a Bright Lights conference in Houston – the 4th largest city in the US.

20130706_210924_21980 Just as He did in Arkansas, the Lord blessed us in Houston with several godly young ladies from the area who helped us lead the small groups. It was mutually refreshing to have that instant fellowship with them in Christ as we served together, even though most of us didn’t know each other previously.

20130705_064606_22009 After attempting a few conferences overseas last fall without Stephen, we are very grateful for all his work to make the conferences run smoothly on the technical side of things. Thanks also to Kristin for running Power Point.

20130705_095354_22010 Cool down discussion with leaders …

20130706_173259_21941 Mrs. Moore (right) told me that a few years ago her daughters told her “Mom, we aren’t doing anything to get the gospel out to people.”

So they began pursuing various ideas for witnessing: door to door, children’s ministry, open air presentations to kids at parks, etc. It sounds like they have been busy!

She told me that her daughters are comfortable to share the gospel just about anywhere now since they’ve been doing it so much.

Their example illustrates the concept that we grow in witnessing by simply obeying Jesus and doing it. We improve and gain confidence as we go, but how will we learn if we never start?

20130707_131053_21994 Amy and Melanie Bogner (above) hosted the conference and also hosted our whole group in their home. We loved their fun and encouraging personalities and wonderful hospitality. It just went by a little too fast. [smile] Melanie came to the first Bright Lights Leaders Training in 1999.

Today we are setting up at the church in Carrollton, Texas (near Dallas). The “Strong in the Lord” conference starts tomorrow. Please pray that the Lord work prepare hearts and minds and produce much fruit for His glory!

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)

Purity Conference & Misc Arkansas Reports

Yesterday our van was making a weird noise. My dad asked one of the girls on our team, Nawon, if she knew of a good mechanic (because she lives in this area). Nawon said that her pastor was a mechanic.

After her pastor fixed our van, we offered for his girls to come to our conference for free. What we didn’t know is that his wife and daughteres already knew about our conference and had been praying that they would be able to come. But because of some medical bills they couldn’t afford it.

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You can only imagine the mutual delight we experienced when we realized how the Lord had worked this out! Praise the Lord who works in awesome ways (and even breaks vans temporarily) to provide for His children.

20130628_135907_21684 A special element of this conference has been our fellowship with our four international leaders: Supriya from India, Maaike from Congo, Nawon from Korea, and Bernita from Singapore. One of our prayers is that the Lord would continue to spread Bright Lights internationally.

20130628_203830_21695 We are very grateful for all that Teresa, our hostess for this conference, and her daughter Maddie have done to make this conference happen! Thursday evening (our free day) we had a very relaxing evening at their home….

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… as you can see. [smile]

20130627_165021_21635-2 Natalie (from Texas), Allison (from Illinois), Sarah (from Arkansas) have each been leading Bright Lights groups. Actually, a large percentage of the girls on our team have their own Bright Lights group at home. It’s fun to hear them compare notes and share ideas regarding what they’ve been doing in their groups.

20130628_134108_21669 Here’s a picture of my dad and brother finding another creative time and place to play catch. They bring their baseball gloves everywhere. No broken windows yet.

20130629_202254_21746 Nickie turned 26 today. We love you, Nickie !!!

Tomorrow we take off for Houston. Thank you for your prayers for us. We finished our sharing time a little bit ago. Praise the Lord for the responsiveness of the young ladies and parents who attended the conference.

At each Purity conference, our main goal is that the girls would grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. When our heart’s affection is in the right spot, everything else falls into place. Please pray that the attendees would grow in their love for the Lord, and that we would as well!

“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)