A Little Crowded!

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We all squeezed into one van for a 3 minute shuttle ride from one place to another.

Last night after about 9 hours of driving, we spent the night in Cincinnati, OH. The Wickert family were very hospitable and opened their home to our whole group to stay!

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The day on the road today was peaceful, relaxing and beautiful. Walking around the tropical garden trails of the Gaylord hotel for a little while this afternoon was a nice break.

Around 8:30 pm we pulled into the Adam’s home in Georgia. Although we’ve barely met them before, they have been running a Bright Lights group and they graciously opened their home to us as we were traveling through! It was such a blessing to pull in tired and hungry and receive a gourmet dinner and good fellowship. They had set up and decorated tables in their garage to seat us all for dinner. It was very nice. We felt so special and grateful to God for how well He takes care of us. Thank you, Adams! 🙂

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Top: Sarah–piano, Emily Lenz–violin, Caitlyn Adams–harp, Brittney Adams–violin, myself–flute.
Middle: Singing!
Bottom: We had an encouraging time of sharing tonight which everyone seemed to enjoy…it included bible verses, testimonies, and some of my dad’s “latest greatest ideas”.. (He has lots of time to think and come up with stuff while he’s driving! 🙂 )

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Here is one of the two 15-passanger vans we are traveling with.

Recent News

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I borrowed a few of Stephen’s recent shots.

For a bit of news: In about 12 hours we are leaving with 2 big vans and about 15 girls for some Bright Lights conferences in Florida! So goodbye to colorful trees and hello to palm trees…. 🙂
It’s always slightly crazy around here the night before we leave. No matter how hard we try to get ready in advance we still end up having so many things to do at the last minute. Right now my dad is packing the trailer, my mom is cleaning the trailer, Sarah is preparing her pictures (for the chalk talks she does during conferences) and Stephen is running around doing errands and packing orders. My mom was impressive with her packing this time…she had all her clothes packed and hanging in the trailer a week ago plus she actually made all our sack lunches and froze them so she wouldn’t have to do it the night before the trip. (The rest of us aren’t quite as prepared. 🙂 )

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We have some girls from out of town staying with us tonight. With joy we put them to work… 🙂 thank you Emiy, Abigail and Allison. I don’t know what we would have done without you!

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Stephen mailing out orders and Allison putting BL Leaders Kits together

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My dad is outside in the cold packing the trailor…it takes a long time to pack everything. And then, of course, we keep giving him more things to fit in…

Bright Lights Leaders Training in Milton, Illinois

Last Friday morning Nickie and I set out on a adventure. I guess you could say that “obeying God” is always an adventure, but this trip especially had some unknowns…

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We were on our way to southern Illinois to lead a Bright Lights Leader’s Training for a handful of girls and their mothers who were interested in starting some Bright Lights groups. Since this was the first Leaders Training without Sarah it was a little stretch, but the Lord helped us in so many ways.
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Singing “For the Beauty of the Earth” with coffee/hot cocoa drinks on a beautiful fall morning joyfully anticipating how the Lord was going to work throughout the rest of the day.

Everything went very well. One thing that characterized our time with this group was all the great group discussions we had. I had prayed for this, and when we noticed on Saturday afternoon that we were 2 whole sessions behind, I realized that God really answered my prayer in the area of fellowship! 🙂

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They told us many stories of how the Lord was working in their area. The Pastor of the church in town had put a lot of effort into forming good connections between all the local churches. Recently they experienced a wonderful outcome from a jr high/high school evangelism event.
There seems to be a lot of growing spiritual interest in the area, and the Lord is at work. Because of this, we are especially excited about the Bright Lights groups that will be beginning to provide ongoing discipleship.

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We enjoyed the small town culture of Milton! (Aren’t the bank and the post office cute? 🙂 ) It was one of those places where everyone knows everyone, the little grocery store is the place to visit with all your friends, you are considered a newcomer unless your parents and grandparents grew up there, and the newspaper includes exciting events like “Grandpa Buzz tried to rollerblade with his grandkids last week”.

As we were leaving town, Nickie and I decided we had to go into Dink’s Diner and order something…just to see what it was like in there. Our experience in Dink’s was just as I expected–a dozen farmers looked up from their breakfast and fell silent in surprise as they saw these 2 unusual visitors walk in. I guess we didn’t fit into the typical costumer stereotype.

Unfortunately, as we got back into the van, I realized that I was still holding the silverware spoon that the lady had handed me to stir my coffee. No wonder she was looking at me funny as I left. Sometimes I wonder why I always do things like that! I had to go back in there with everyone watching me again and give it back…
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Aubrey (left) is hoping to begin a Bright Lights group soon. We stayed at her family’s house and they were wonderful hostesses. Nickie (right) has been involved in our Bright Lights group for 10 years now and she comes over to our office and helps twice a week.

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On our the way home we decided to make a list of all the ways we saw the Lord working and taking care of us on the trip. For example, we had no equipment problems (very unusual 🙂 ), the schedule worked out well, God answered our prayers in guiding our words and decisions, the timing of the conference was good, etc. Plus, God gave us a very enjoyable trip. He is definately the giver of good gifts. I specifially enjoyed the beautiful drive, good talks with Nickie, meeting new great people, good discussions at meals, brainstorming about future ministry ideas to do in “small towns”, enjoying fun times with the family we stayed with, listening and playing along with the Irish folk songs their kids like to play, etc. ,
Overall, I learned again that being in God’s will is the best place on earth.

One more report: Before the conference started we had a little extra time. I wanted to witness to someone, but we ended up just going to the little vacant town park. To my surprise, a 14-year-old girl came up “out of the blue” and sat down next to me. I had a nice talk with her. Although she didn’t express a lot of spiritual interest, she did admit that she didn’t have a good relationship with her brothers and sisters. About an hour later when we were at the church, I saw her ride her bike into the church parking lot. I gave her a copy of Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends. and some people from the church who knew her said that they were going to follow up with her. I know that God has all kinds of different ways to draw people to His Son. Please pray that He will draw this girl to Jesus.

Busy Day at the Bright Lights Office

Every week girls come over and volunteer here at our Bright Lights office. Today has been a busy and productive day so far! I took a few minutes out to give an update of what’s going on.
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Top: Ally is printing postage for orders to be sent out
Middle: Marie and Tia organizing team boxes for upcoming conferences
Bottom: Lena is searching for verses to incorporate in the “Teachers Sheets” that we are writing for Bright Lights leaders.

A Nice October Evening

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Here we are last night sitting around the campfire in our backyard roasting marshmallows with the Bemenderfer family.

The Bemenderfers live in Hong Kong, but they are visiting the States for a few months. We enjoyed a good time of fellowship and learned some great insights from Mr. Bemenderfer as he explained his methods of evangelism and discipleship.

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Stephen playing legos with the 5 Bemenderfer boys.

Stephen Shoots a Pumpkin

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Stephen is a freelance photographer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Last week they sent him to capture the “Anamosa Pumpkinfest” in the small town Anamosa, Iowa. An Iowan pumpkin grower was excited to find out that his pumpkin weighed in at 1,662 pounds. That ranks it as the second largest pumpkin ever grown! For more info click here. How many pumpkin pies would that make?

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Yesterday the gazette told Stephen they wanted him to take a picture of leaves. He thought, leaves?? Stephen’s the kind of person that can capture action (sports, speakers, events, etc.) but taking a picture of leaves for the newspaper wasn’t as easy as it may sound. (Partly because most of the trees haven’t even turned color yet!) Because the gazette has a high standard, Stephen knew he couldn’t just take a picture of a leaf pile.
After two and a half hours of driving around and several phone calls home for more ideas, Stephen finally spotted a little girl raking leaves in her front yard. Guess what? It made the front page of the gazette today! Go Stephen! 🙂

Bright Lights in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong…

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I wanted to post one last group picture of the girls we spent most of our time with while we were in Singapore and Malaysia last month. They are all wonderful, sweet girls who love the Lord and have a heart for discipleship. Please pray for them as they are “pioneer” homeschoolers in Southeast Asia. Many younger girls are looking up to them and following their example. (I miss you all 🙂 )

Singaporian Food Report

I think different cultures are fascinating! One thing that especially distinguishes Singapore is their food. While we were in Singapore and Malaysia, our Asian friends did a great job of introducing us to all kinds of new foods. (Real Asian food…not the kind you get at American Chinese Buffets) They told us that eating was Singapore’s national pastime. We had a lot of fun eating. 🙂

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Sarah and my Dad eating Indian food
During our Bright Lights Leaders Training, an Indian man came and cooked for us a fancy Indian meal. We ate it the “authentic” way using banana leaves as plates and eating with our hands. We all agreed it was very delicious.

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One evening my mom announced, “There is a special surprise waiting for us downstairs!”
“Oh great” Stephen said, “I already know what it is—I can smell it”

For those of you who have never heard of durian, you are missing out! It is a fruit that is so prickly you can hardly touch it, that smells so bad (or rather so strong ) that it’s not allowed on the subways, buses or other public transportation, and the taste? Well, that is the big debate.

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Elyssa Ertz, Stephen, Dad
Rebekah May and Nickie Biegler… experiencing the Durian Fruit.

Some say it tastes like “rotten onions and garlic” and some say “ice cream and custard”. Personally, I think it tastes great. Stephen thinks it was made for monkeys to eat – not people. Anyway, it’s a good representation of God’s sense of humor and creativity. It also provides good entertainment for the Asians over there as they watch Americans try it for the first time. (Many have quite violent reactions and spit it out. 🙂 )

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CODE BLUE RALLY

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Last night our family drove to Des Moines with a few friends from church to attend the first ever Code Blue Rally. This was the first of 8 rallies that World View Weekend is putting on in the next 2 months across the country. There is no cost and it is just one single evening. The speakers (all live) were Mark Cahill, David Barton, Brannon Howse, and Candace Cameron-Bure’. My family thought it was excellent and we’d strongly recommend it- especially for parents and teens.

Afterwards, we stopped at McDonalds. As Stephen was waiting through the long line, I gave a little “10 Commandments Coin” to an older man and struck up a conversation. (It’s hard to listen to Mark Cahill speak without finding someone to witness to afterward 🙂 ) This man was a Catholic and he was very friendly and eager to talk. During the course of our conversation I asked him, “If you died tonight and stood before God and he asked you why he should let you into Heaven what would you say?” He explained that he thinks you get to Heaven by being a good person and keeping the 10 commandments. So I asked him if he has kept the 10 commandments. He hesitated. “Well….I guess…I haven’t kept all of them.”

I asked, “So then will God just ‘let you off the hook’? Doesn’t He have to be just and punish?”

He didn’t have a good answer. He didn’t seem offended though, so I continued. “Really what you just said is that you aren’t sure if you are going to Heaven or not, right?”

He tried to explain to me that it was natural for someone to be “imperfect”, etc… but Sarah had now joined the conversation and replied, “Yes, it may be ‘natural’ but that doesn’t mean it is acceptable to God.”

Candace, in her talk that night, had used a good illustration of how we look when we compare ourselves to God’s law, so I explained it to our new friend. It goes like this. “If you see a sheep grazing on the green grass you think ‘how nice and white the sheep looks against the green grass’. But then it begins to snow and you think ‘how dirty the sheep looks against the white snow'” So it is when we compare ourselves with God’s moral law—the 10 Commandments—instead of comparing ourselves with the people around us. We see how dirty we really are in God’s sight.

I was a little frustrated that this man didn’t take me more seriously. I’m hoping he really was listening to me on the inside, and that he’ll go home, think about our talk and open his Bible. Who knows? Maybe God knew a teenage girl would be the sort of person he would be most receptive to.

I was glad that I had said “hi” and start talking. It wasn’t that hard, and I could tell he appreciated it so much. He said, “Most people your age aren’t interested in talking about stuff like this”. He even insisted on buying Sarah and me ice cream before we left. Please pray for Richard.