Happy Birthday, Stephen!

Stephen actually turned 23 on April 16th, but last Sunday was the first chance we got to celebrate.

So much has been happening around the homefront here, I feel very behind in posting news! For starters, our family has grown for the summer. Two good friends from Singapore, Jolynn and Carolyn, are with us helping with Bright Lights. They are “God-sends” and we are very grateful for their diligent, skillful help, especially with graphic design work (and washing dishes! πŸ™‚ ).

Ok, now back to Stephen…

Don’t laugh…it’s hard to know what to get Stephen for his birthday!Somehow, Sarah got him exactly what he wanted (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) even though she didn’t know he wanted it. (Score!) I got him a stuffed flying monkey that squeals. I see a little contrast there. (Ok, I did give him a promise that I had more for him on the way…:) )


Stephen never ceases to amuse us. Seriously, I don’t know what made him so funny.


Here is Stephen wiring our buildling (phone, internet, computer networking, etc.) with the help of a friend, Steven Biegler. He’s never wired a building before so I don’t really know how he learned…I’ve just kind of come to the conclusion that Stephen knows how to do everything. πŸ™‚


Stephen always gets the floor when we stay at hotels. With five people in our family, it just works out that way. Poor guy! πŸ™‚

One neat thing that has happened in Stephen’s life this past year was that his freelance photography “business” really expanded.

It all started a few years ago when Stephen received a surprise package in the mail. Inside was a professional-line camera, worth several thousand dollars. He still does not know who sent it to this day, but we are all convinced it was of the Lord.

Since Stephen works full time with our family ministry, freelance photography became a perfect “side business” and God has really blessed him with success.

In the past year, Stephen’s pictures have been on the front page of the New York Times twice, in USA today, the American Legion Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and he’s also worked for Newscom Services, Polaris Images, and over a dozen other companies and publications.

Last fall, Stephen did a lot of political coverage here in Iowa, covering many of the candidates and traveling for a week with Huckabee’s media team. He also covered the Parkersburg Tornado, the Cedar Rapids Flooding, the Postville Immigration Raid, the NCAA Track and Field Championship, and many other events.



A few weeks ago the NY Times asked him to shoot an event, but he turned it down because it was on a Sunday. Guess what? The office in New York arranged a way for the reporter to come to Iowa on a Saturday instead! I was encouraged to see how God honored Stephen for honoring Him. 1 Samuel 2:30 says, “Those who honor Me, I will honor”.

The Lord has been blessing him with favor in the eyes of the reporters and newspapers he has been working for, and it seems like he just keeps getting more and more jobs. It’s a reminder to us of how God provides!

I report this partly because I admit, I’m proud of my big brother; but I also want to encourage you by the testimony of one who applied Matthew 6:33 (“seek first the kingdom of God”) and was blessed with a great job–even though he didn’t go the typical college route.

Stephen, I can’t imagine what my life would be missing if you weren’t my brother! I’m so grateful to God for you. Besides for being a genius, hilarious, and super fun to be with,[smile] you have a heart for serving and helping others and a desire to live for what really matters. Thanks for all the good advice you give me. Thanks for being my best friend. (Sarah, you’re my best friend, too. πŸ™‚ )

Just think, Stephen–your next birthday is only 9 months away!

Kansas City Radiant Purity Conference

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

“The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit” 1 Corinthians 7:34


The “Rose Quartz”, my discussion group. (Each group is named after a gem or precious stone.)

    Responses from the last conference:

    “I plan to become the woman that the guy I want to marry wants to marry! I’m going to stop being the girl pushing the line, seeing how far I can go, while still remaining pure. I want to be radiant.” -14 year old attendee
    “I really loved the skits, small groups, and being around other girls who strive to be radiantly pure…I think that I really benefited from the part about waiting for the Lord’s best…I made a commitment to stay pure until marriage and to wait on the Lord.” -13 year old attendee
    “[The mothers session] was an unexpected element that the Lord knew I needed to hear…[the conference was] an encouragement for both of us as we were surrounded by other mothers and daughters desiring to live godly lives. An answer to prayer as the Holy Spirit revealed to me areas in my life that need work!” -Mother

    “I plan to stop thinking about guys all the time and start preparing” -13 year old attendee
    “I plan to teach [what I learned] to other girls so that they can pass it on to others too!!” -13 year old attendee
    “I liked the skits, chalk talk, and knowing that I am not the only one who struggles with guy issues”
    -15 year old attendee

    “We had some really good discussion in the small groups and the skits illustrated the concepts really well. I think the session that applied to me most was the one on crushes” -18 year old attendee

    “I’m not going to worry about boys til I’m old enough to get married.” -14 year old attendee

    “I plan to apply myself to my ministries with a new vigor and to trust God with my future husband…I had already made a commitment to purity, but this conference inspired me to give up my dreams for God’s.” -16 year old attendee

Praise the Lord for the way He was at work in girls’ hearts!


Our “cool down” times are always refreshing. It’s so encouraging to hear stories of how the Lord worked in the other discussion groups. We thought we might not have very many leaders at this conference (and we need to have enough because it’s important to have plenty of “discussion group leaders” at the conference) but God brought together just the perfect team.


What would we do without Stephen and Andrew? They took care of equipment, sound, mics, powerpoint, unloading and reloading trailor, set up, printing nametags, and the list goes on!


One of the highlights for all of us leaders is the fellowship we have with each other during conference trips. Nothing beats the fellowship that comes from “doing ministry together!”


Mary and Tia, two of our youngest and “smiliest” leaders, saying goodbye. After a very long and tiring trip, they’re still smiling! πŸ™‚

Free Day


We went to a park for a while yesterday on our free day. You’d be surprised at how some “sweet and composed” young ladies will dive to catch a Frisbee… we had some great games. πŸ™‚

We arrived back at the church super hot and sweaty (It was sooo hot outside!) and we had to get about 10 of us girls through the shower before lots of families from the church came over for an evening meal and sharing time….


The ladies from the church made a delicious meal and then we had a sharing time in the auditorium–which was a big highlight. Encouraging testimonies were shared from our leaders, from moms and dads at the church, and from girls who had attended the conference….it was very refreshing for all of us!!
Right now everyone is hustling around getting ready for the Purity Conference which starts in about an hour.

Kansas City “Strong in the Lord Conference”


The church here in Kansas City was filled all day yesterday with lots of special young ladies….


Chrissy’s small group


My small group

Sarah and Abigail (who were sick) were totally well and energetic all day yesterday during the conference! In fact, afterwards Sarah said she felt better than she normally does after Strong in the Lord Conferences! The others who were sick (Mary and my parents) are feeling much better now as well.

The conference went great! In our sharing time afterwards, many leaders shared encouraging reports of girls in their small group who accepted Christ as their Savior, girls who changed from “someone who didn’t want to be there” to “someone who didn’t want to leave”, and girls who opened up and shared meaningful testimonies with their small groups. Many made commitments to begin reading their Bibles every day. Thank you to everyone who was praying–we know that “prayer is not preparation for the work, it IS the work!”

Today is our free day, and the Radiant Purity Conference starts tomorrow evening.

Kansas City Bright Lights Conference

Tonight was the first night of the Strong in the Lord conference here in Kansas City, Kansas. It was a “tough-won victory” because Sarah, my dad, my mom, and two girls from our team are all sick (nausea, fever, etc.) They slept most of the day. We were all praying more intensely as we really saw this conference was going to be a struggle to pull off. I asked Sarah if she would give us an advance warning next time she was going to get sick so we could prepare more….[smile]
Thankfully, the Lord gave them all enough strength to get up tonight and be part of the conference. Sarah was able to do all of her session like normal and she did a very good job. Girls and moms have been enthusiastic and responsive. Personally, I’ve been encouraged to see the Lord answer lots of specific prayersβ€”both big and little. He is faithful!


We were thrilled to have 90 people register at the door! πŸ™‚


We arrived yesterday to a host of enthusiastic volunteers who helped us unload really fast! πŸ™‚ The families here who are hosting the conference have done a terrific job and have taken care of so many little details.

Please keep us in your prayers this week. Like our last Bemidji trip, we have a “double conference” planned. (Strong in the Lord conference for younger girls first, and Radiant Purity conference for older girls second.)

Bemidji, Minnesota Trip Overview!

Wow. I have a lot to post about! For now I think I’ll just give you all an overview of our last Bright Lights trip to Bemidji…


Each Bright Lights trip is different and each one has unique memories to go along with it. To split up the journey, the Bjorkmans graciously offered for our whole group to spend the night at their home in Elk River, MN. We walked into their beautiful northern home and were immediately treated to rhubarb cake and homemade ice cream. After that we were introduced to their 3 dogs, cats, hairless rat (seriously, it was kind of cute), and 2 salamanders. We had a fun and entertaining evening with them. [smile]


The next morning, they took us to see their home school resource bookstore Hepner’s Legacy, a friendly little store full of great books and resources. Since we are planning to run something similar with the new building God has provided in our town, we were especially interested. We know the Bjorkmans because we often see them at the state home school conferences where they speak and sell lots of home school books and resources.

We arrived at the church in Bemidji and began setting up Monday afternoon….set up is always a long process.Thankfully, team work makes it go faster!

These girls were brave enough to carry the entire Before You Meet Prince Charming display from one table to another because of a change of plans. I’ll have to say I was impressed.


Registration!


Large Group


Thanks again, Amanda and Kelley, for the great job you did cooking for our staff the entire week!

The Radiant Purity Conference was held Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. We had a break on Thursday and then the Strong in the Lord conference was Friday night and all day Saturday. We really saw the Lord working at both conferences. It was encouraging!


On Thursday, our free day, we went out to a a beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees and enjoyed lots of great food, volleyball, canoing, and sharing from the Word around the campfire with singing and s’mores. As I was out in the middle of the lake dangling my feet out of the canoe into the cool water I was thinking how good the Lord was to give us nice times of rest. [smile]


Not only did Ben grill for us on Thursday, he was in charge of all the food and snacks we served to the attendees for the entire conference! Ben is the husband of Mindy (Berge) Caron, who hosted the conference. We had fun getting to know Ben and Mindy! This is the first time the husband of the host has been in charge of the food for both entire conferences. He did a great job.


I heard many positive comments about the dad’s discussion times. We love having the dads there…it adds such a nice dimension to the conferences! (It also improves the singing [smile])


Clean up Saturday night…here’s Sarah on the riding vacuum cleaner. πŸ™‚


After both conferences were over on Saturday night, we had a pizza/ice cream party and many shared very encouraging reports from conversations they had. It was a memorable and fun time for everyone. We watched a slide show of pictures from the weekend and the Berge family sang for us. I had heard how good they were, but they exceeded my expectations. [smile]