Month: June 2008

Bright Lights Conferences/Radiant Purity Conferences

Radiant Purity Conference in Bemidji, Minnesota

A sweet and enthusiastic group of moms, dads, and daughters gathered here in Bemidji, MN for a Radiant Purity Conference Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday.
Pictured above are: Merideth Hicks, Julie Hunter and Annika Sahlstrom. Merideth and Annika lead a Bright Lights group together in Tracy, Minnesota.

Here is my discussion group. We had some very good talks about parental relationships, dealing with crushes and thought life, and many other topics. One girl told us how she planned to go home and really work on improving her relationship with her dad. It’s so exciting to see people make decisions like that!

Ben and Mindy Caron, who hosted the conference, agreed to share their courtship story with everyone. It was such a sweet story and Ben’s jokes kept all the girls roaring with laughter. 🙂 We just wish we could bring them with us to every conference….

Many of our normal “Bright Lights staff” girls weren’t able to come, making it difficult for us to arrange the special number we normally sing. But the Lord knows our needs and provided a great alternative! Mindy (who hosted the conference) and her sister Melanie, who are professional vocalists and have made many Bluegrass CDs, sang a special number for everyone. It was perfect–the words of their song fit so well with the message of the conference. Very touching!

Please keep us in prayer as we have another conference (a Strong in the Lord conference) beginning this evening.


A Tragedy is Becoming a Victory

This has been an amazing time for our city! Throughout the whole city there has been a sense of unity and “let’s get through this together!”. It’s been great to watch the way our city has responded to this disaster. The churches especially have been pulling together and truly gaining a good name.

In recent years about 40 churches in Cedar Rapids formed a coalition called “Serve the City” with the vision of proclaiming the gopsel of Jesus Christ to our city. The “Serve the City” office has become the headquarters for volunteer work (and, wow, there has been a lot of volunteers!) and their five phone lines have been staying extremely busy. It sure seems like God raised up this coalition up for such a time as this. Through “Serve the City”, hundreds of volunteers have been sandbagging, helping at shelters, distributing water, cleaning out ruined houses, assisting the city authorities in various projects, delivering cookies and snacks to workers…and the list goes on.

When Sarah and I went to take the Red Cross Training Class, the lady in charge was so overwhelmed because all day she had been turning volunteers away and scheduling more and more classes.

Thursday night a TV station asked for volunteers to help sandbag a suction water plant. This was the last of four suction plants in Cedar Rapids. These plants supply water to Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities. If this last plant flooded, Cedar Rapids would be out of water. (Yes, I know that sounds funny since we currently had 400 blocks of our city underwater.) At the time of the report, there were only six city workers present and they needed to fill and stack 6,000 sandbags to save our city’s water. 1,200 volunteers arrived almost immediately and the project was completed so fast the media barely got there in time to report the victory. I heard on the radio that 2,000-3,000 extra volunteers were sent away! Many of them were sent to Mercy Hospital where help was still needed….

This is only one of the three long lines of sand baggers. They heroically did all they could to save the hospital–even in that dangerous, extremely polluted water that we aren’t supposed to get close to! Although they prevented the damage from being worse than it was, the water just kept coming and the whole hospital had to be evacuated.

Last Thursday-Saturday our city was running at only 25% water capacity. Major corporations shut down voluntarily and all citizens were instructed to only use water for drinking. For obedient citizens this means paper plates, hand sanitizer, dirty laundry, no showers, greasy hair, minimal toilet flushing, etc.

But that’s ok, it provides a good excuse to buy pop/coffee at Panera… 🙂

Now the city is running at a 50% water capacity and citizens can use water every other day.

On a personal note, our family is doing very well and thankfully we have experienced no damage due to the flooding. Right now we are approaching another, well, we call it “crunch time” 🙂 …we are gearing up a “Strong in the Lord” and “Radiant Purity” conference in Bemidji, MN. We leave this Sunday.

As you can imagine, Stephen has been keeping very busy out there with his camera! And he tans super easy so he looks kind of like a Mexican now. 🙂

I’ll keep you posted as much as I can. Thank you for your prayers. Please pray that Christians would continue to be a light in this city, and that the Lord would bring many to Himself through this tragedy.

Family News

Happy Father’s Day!

Psalm 44:1 says “O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days…”
Dad, over the years you’ve made it a priority to teach us what God has taught you. I’m thankful to God for a father who has told me what God has done “in his days” so that my faith would be strengthened.

This afternoon my eyes were drawn to a verse in Proverbs. It was underlined in my Bible and I had written “DAD” in caps next to it. The verse says, “There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.”
Dad, your “lips of knowledge” have been a invaluable treasure to me and many others.
I love the way you bring up intriguing spiritual questions at lunch time or in the van.

It’s hard to express the gratitude I feel! You’ve always taken the time to answer all my questions–from Bible questions to life decision questions to clothing questions–I don’t know what I would do without all your wise counsel! Thank you for raising us kids in a gentle way and for always explaining “why.”

Dad, you are so much fun to be with…always up for an adventure! I remember how you reluctantly agreed to go jogging with me around the Creation Museum’s parking lot in freezing weather at 10pm even though you didn’t feel like it, just because I didn’t want to go alone–or the time you took Stephen and me for a hike in the woods one night during a snow blizzard–or how you often try to find just the perfect little cafe to eat at when we are traveling. You often go out your way just trying to make nice memories for others.

And, of course, I always love going out with you for breakfast, Bible studies, and planning. You are such a great dad. Thanks for everything.

Thank you for teaching us to live for what really matters in life–knowing and serving God.


Disaster Strikes Our City

It’s hard to describe the extent of the destruction that has taken place in our city in the past 12 hours! All of downtown is now underwater and only the tops of houses and buildings are visible. Rescue workers have used boats to pull people from the second floors of their homes. Hundreds have been rescued, and 3,200 homes have already evacuated. People are staying in shelters and churches all over town. The water has been invading rapidly and the level just keeps rising over the ever-changing predictions. On top of everything else, we’ve had more rain, thunderstorms, and flashfloods today (making things difficult for the rescue workers)—and there is more severe weather on the way! In fact, Sarah just told me we are now under a tornado and hail watch.

Since I was unable to go downtown, I don’t have good pictures of the flooding, but click here if you’d like to see some.

The police station has moved to the ice arena and the fire department is underwater as well. The fire chief was recently interviewed and was quite upset about all the records that were lost. No one had any idea the waters would raise this high. One man went swimming in to find the records but was not able to reach them because it was so dark.

Throughout the morning, Sarah, my mom and I were inside watching the news, amazed by what we were seeing. Reporters floating in boats passing buildings that we normally drive by all the time, the railroad bridge collapsed, the famous Czech museum underwater with only the roof sticking up, and the list goes on.

I took this picture of this furniture store downtown last night. Reports say that the furniture inside is now floating in the water.

Volunteers and city workers layered sandbags around all the buildings, but no one expected it to flood as much as it did.

A chocolate shop downtown (I took this picture last night. I’m sure it’s underwater now.) The sign says “Closed to build an ark! Will be back as soon as we get tired of paddling. Don’t worry, the chocolate is high and dry. Thanks to everyone!”

Although this is nothing compared to downtown, the little creek by our house is now an ever-growing river. This is normally a grassy field with a baseball diamond.

This is where our bike trail starts. Normally, the creek is barely visible from here. We live just up the hill from here, but we aren’t worried that the water will raise that high.

Witnessing Stories


An intersection downtown

Our town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is undergoing major flooding at this moment—exceeding the records set in 1993,1929, and 1851! A mandatory evacuation has been issued in many neighborhoods. Some streets and railroad tracks are covered with water, and so many roads and bridges are blocked off it’s hard to drive through downtown. The Cedar River has now crested to a height that no one has ever seen before. The city is alerting residents by using the Code Red reverse 911 system, media announcements and going door-to-door. (Since we live in a suburb, our house is fine.)

Hundreds of volunteers have been filling sandbags around the clock in a warehouse downtown. Last night, my dad, myself, and some friends (Nickie, Brian, Michael and Steven Biegler) went and filled sandbags from midnight to 5am. It was neat to see people pull together to help, and there was a special sense of camaraderie–even among strangers.

Team work. One shovels sand down the cone, another holds the bag under the cone, a third person ties it up with wire and the last one stacks them on palates. And our friend in the truck faithfully delivers more and more and more sand…

You may not have known that construction cones served more than one purpose.

We laughed at how often the truck came around to deliver more sand. They did a great job keeping us busy.

Thousands and thousands of sandbags are being used not only in our town, but in all the other towns that are flooding near us.

While we were working, I began chatting with the guy next to me, Troy, who had an interest in Cuba. I made a comment about a missionary friend I knew who had spent some time in Cuba. He mentioned how Cuba has a lot of Catholics.
There was a moment pause.
I wanted to get a spiritual conversation rolling, and I knew I needed to ask something to get it started.
“So…” I said to him, “Did you grow up in a Christian family, Catholic family, non-religious family—?”
“I grew up Lutheran, but my family wasn’t very devout. Now I go to church about 3 times a year,” he replied.
“I see. Well let me ask you the question I love to ask people: ‘Do you think Heaven is a free gift or something we have to earn?’”
He said he was kind of “in between.” Troy was a debater, and the conversation took off right away.
Soon Jenny, another girl who I had just met, came back from a break and wanted to know what we were talking about. I asked her the same question.
“I don’t think I believe in Heaven,” she answered, and then explained criticisms she had of the church she grew up in.
About that time a guy named Nick came over to help us load more sandbags unto the palate and wanted to know what our conversation was all about.
“Well, I’ll ask you the question, too, then,” I said. “Do you think going to Heaven is a free gift or is it something we have to earn?”
“It’s free because Jesus died for my sins and I don’t have to take the punishment I deserve!” Nick replied confidently.
Troy let out a little whistle so as to say, “woe—here’s another radical religious person…”
“And do you think the Bible is 100% accurate?” I asked Nick.
“Well I better believe that,” he stated, “otherwise how would I know what was true and what wasn’t?!”
(I was thinking, Amen!! )
As you can see, I was sandbagging with a unique combination of people. We also had an audience—all the other volunteers who didn’t have a choice but to listen to us.

Troy and I talked for 2-3 hours. I think he must have recently taken some religion course, because he knew so many of the common arguments against Christianity.
You know, it’s not that hard to learn the answers to the basic arguments people make, and once you learn them you can use them over and over. This is something I;m trying to work on.

As we shoveled sand into bag after bag, Troy and I covered a lot of ground. We talked about the accuracy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, hell, the cure for sin, hypocrisy in the church, crusades, absolute truth vs. relativity, “intolerance” of Christians, creation science, the age of the earth, the dead sea scrolls, etc. He had so many arguments and doubts, but he was also seeking. I didn’t try to win every argument, but I prayed that the Lord would give me the right words and I tried to speak the truth in love.
I’m praying that the Lord will not allow him to forget the answers I gave him. When we left, I gave him the book One Heartbeat Away by Mark Cahill. It clearly explains the gospel and confronts the world’s false thinking with the truth. Troy promised that he would read it. “Or even if I can’t get through the whole thing, I’ll at least read half of it” he promised. Please pray with me that Troy would find the Truth!


Bright Lights Needs More Light

For years we’ve been wanting to produce a video of the “Strong in the Lord” and “Radiant Purity” conferences. Although we’ve tried many times, our main problem has always been poor lighting. Because the skits we do in each session are usually “all over the stage”, the church’s lighting just wasn’t sufficient to produce a well-made DVD. This year Stephen decided that we should look into buying our own lights.

We rented the lights for a one day trial period today and set them up at a local church. We were pleased. The current plan is to tape the two upcoming Bright Lights conferences two weeks from now in Bemidji, MN, and see how it goes.

We’d appreciate prayer that we would be able to finish this project, and finish it well. If we had the conferences on DVD, many more girls could be reached with the message.


Father/Son Baseball

Last night was our first night of “Father/Son Baseball”. Every Tuesday night during the summer a group of dads and sons gather in a grassy field to play baseball. Moms and daughters talk and watch. Afterwards snacks are provided and one of the fathers shares a devotional with the group.

Last night for the devotional Stephen told the boys the incredible story of Josh Hamilton–a major league baseball player who was suspended from baseball for a year because of drug use. However, through a praying Grandmother and a time of rehab at the Winning Inning in Tampa, FL (A Christian Baseball Facility), Josh got saved and his life radically changed. He is now on fire for the Lord and playing baseball again (for the Texas Rangers) with a strong testimony that is reaching many. He got back with his wife and kids and he now travels and shares his story. He is also one of the best baseball players this year. We had a time of prayer for him last night that he would stay strong for the Lord and that the Lord would use Him mightily.