Month: August 2008


Thank you, Jolynn and Carolyn!

Last week we said goodbye to Jolynn and Carolyn. It’s different now without them!

Jolynn and Carolyn are from Singapore and they stayed with us for about 6 weeks this summer. (They are not sisters, by the way. Everyone asks. 🙂 )

They came to the States for about 9 months to take several courses offered to homeschooled students. One of the classes they took was a graphic designing course. Since we have lots of graphic art work that needs to be done, we really saw their help as a provision from the Lord.

Jolynn and Carolyn designed 7 CD covers for audio recordings of our messages, a new Bright Lights brochure, and 7 hanging photo displays for us to use to decorate the new Bright Lights office / ministry building.
They also answered Bright Lights e-mails, entered conference registrations, helped pack for the conferences, shared testimonies at our local Bright Lights group in Cedar Rapids, washed lots of dishes, and taught small groups at our Bright Lights conference trips to Kansas and Michigan. It’s so clear to us how the Lord brought the perfect “extra help” we needed at the perfect time.

Jolynn also leads a Bright Lights group in Singapore. To see the Singapore Bright Lights group’s blog, click here.

Jolynn and Carolyn, I know it wasn’t exactly a relaxing summer, and I don’t think we could ever host you as well as you hosted us in Singapore, but we so appreciate the way you were willing to pour yourselves out (even working late into the night…) to finish projects and help the Bright Lights ministry. We are grateful to the Lord for both of you. –Not just for your help, but for your friendship.

You’ve become part of the team! We will miss you and hope you come back soon!

Creation Museum/Miscellaneous

Additions to the Creation Museum!

Over 500,000 have been through the Creation museum since they opened in April of 2007. On our way home from Michigan, my dad and I stopped in for half a day. They have added so much since we were last there in February! We enjoyed visiting the new petting zoo, new cafes, and the well-designed gardens, waterfalls, walkways and bridges beautifying the museum grounds.

Here is the zonkey. (A mix between a zebra and donkey.) This illustrates Genesis 1:25 where it says “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

The camel was rather…um… affectionate. I had camel slobber on my shirt all day.

My dad had to lecture the camel on his behavior. 🙂

Every time we are at the Creation museum we get so excited about what God is doing there. If you haven’t been through yet, you must make it a priority to go!

Homeschool Conferences

“Heart of Homeschooling” Conference in Lansing, MI

This weekend we spoke at the CHESS Heart of Homeschooling Conference here in Lansing.

Since it’s being held at the same location as the past two Bright Lights conferences, we didn’t have to tear down our booktable. That was a huge blessing. The Lord gave sufficient grace to “make it through” and all the people we met and spent time with were such an encouragement!
I just calculated how many sessions Sarah gave this past week. –Ninteen. 6 at the Strong in the Lord conference, 6 at the Radiant Purity Conference, and 7 at the Heart of Homeschooling Conference. (Others from our family were speaking with her in the last seven sessions.) Sometimes I’m amazed at how she just keeps going and going, and I know it’s the Lord who is giving her strength. Thanks to all of you who were praying!

Wow– we actually matched one day. We had to get a picture. 🙂

Sitting in the back of my mom and dad’s session on marriage this afternoon, I noticed a lot of “sniffing” in the audience… it seemed like the Lord was really working in hearts.

Although most of our Bright Lights leaders drove home yesterday, four girls stayed with us to help at the conference. I snapped these pictures of them this afternoon. Two of them were working… And two of them were sleeping… 🙂

“Preschool nap time” as Stephen called it. (I can’t believe they actually gave me permission to post that picture. 🙂 )

The four girls who were with us (Jolynn, Carolynn, Marie, and Karissa) were such a big help. They packed up the entire booktable while we were giving our last session. Because of their help, we got off a lot earlier than we expected. Yea! (Good thing they got that nap!)

Here is our new friend, Grant, holding the door as we were loading up. After the conference was over this evening, Grant quoted for us the book of Jonah (yes, the whole thing). He quoted it with such enthusiasm and expression, I wish you all could have heard it. He memorized it on his own initiative after their family read “Ten Peas in a Pod.”

Grant’s sisters, Haley and Lydia, are also ministry-minded young ladies! Haley quoted the book of Ruth for us, and Lydia quoted John 3. They often recite these to audiences, and it was encouraging to see their initiative and how the Lord is using their family!

Tonight we had a great time at the Martins house, the family who is hosting us. We sang around the piano, ate ice cream, and stayed up late playing “telephone charades” with their kids. It was a blast!

Bright Lights Conferences/Strong in the Lord Conf.

Lansing, Michigan “Strong in the Lord Conference”

The Strong in the Lord Conference here in Lansing, MI, ended tonight. There were about 400 mothers and daughters in attendance. We were encouraged by how everything went, and grateful to God for His faithfulness!

The singing was one of my favorite parts. At this conference we had a grand piano, a guitar, 2 violins and a flute. The moms and girls sang loudly, and it sounded great.

In between each session, we break out into small groups (consisting of about 12-24 girls) for discussion, crafts, and personal sharing time.

Laura has been traveling with our team for years. She is happily married now, and her baby Abigail is 9 months old. It’s a treat to have her joining us again for this conference!

We always enjoy our “debriefing” times!

Tonight the host family we are staying with treated us with raspberries, strawberries, peaches and ice cream. It was great.

Witnessing Stories

No Coincidence (Continued)

This post is a continuation of last post from 8-3-08. (Read that one first.)

About thirty minutes had passed. We were total strangers–still sitting a few tables apart from each other–having a great conversation about spiritual things (and adding quite a bit of interest to the cafe)! It’s awesome when the Lord arranges opportunities like this.

As our conversation in the Starbucks cafe continued, my “new friend” eventually came and joined me at my table. He brought up the subject of “resurrection” and life after death.
I explained how I am 100% sure that I’m going to Heaven, but that it’s not because I’m a good person; it’s because I believe the Bible when it says ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’ (Rom 10:13) and ‘these things I have written unto you who believe on the Lord that you may know you have eternal life…’ (1 John 5:13) [emphasis added]

There were about 10 other people in the small café pretending to read the newspaper, but I had a feeling most of them were listening to us.

My feelings were confirmed when another lady came up to our table and said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but your conversation was just so interesting! I just wanted to know what you were talking about.”
“Have a seat!” I offered.

Now there were three of us sitting around the table.
I asked her the same question: “Do you think eternal life is a free gift or something you have to earn?”
“Oh my, honey, you gotta earn it” she said. “You gotta work for it every day, doin what’s right, being a good person…”
“So how do you know when you’ve been good enough?” I asked.
“Well, if you’ve been a good person all your life, then you can pretty much just know that you’re going to heaven.”
“But” I said, “where does God actually draw the line between good people and bad people?”
“What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“Well, we may think that we are a good person compared to someone else we know, but we can’t just compare with those around us because God’s standards are higher than ours.”
“Well, you tell me what you think then,” she told me.
“Ok” I said. 🙂
I shared—again—the good news that we don’t have to earn our salvation, using the example of the thief on the cross. When he believed on Jesus, Jesus told him, “today you will be with me in paradise”. But the thief hadn’t even done one good work to get there. Not one! And even if the thief had done thousands of good works, it wouldn’t have gotten him into Heaven. He needed his sin to be paid for, and only Jesus could do that.

“That’s right,” the lady agreed emphatically, “You can’t get there on your own, no, no, we need God’s forgiveness!”
Hmmm…. I thought, She just said the opposite a few minutes ago. I wonder if she really understands.
So I said, “But if God is a just Judge, He can’t simply forgive anyone just like that. A truly good Judge wouldn’t let a murderer go free, would He? –no matter how sorry they are? God can’t simply let everyone ‘go free’ because they are sorry. It’s only because Jesus took our punishment that we can go free, and God still be just.”

About that time my friend, Ally, (a Bright Lights leader who has gone on many conference trips with us) walked in to Starbucks.
“Ally!” I waved her over, “I’m talking with two friends here that I just met, do you want to join us?

Now we had four people around the little table. This was getting fun! I was glad (and a little relieved) that Ally was now there to contribute to this conversation.
It is no coincidence that she walked in just now, I realized.

A guy sat down at a table next to us and opened his lap top. I wondered whether he was actually working on his computer or listening to us.

As we continued our discussion, the older man who I met first said, “In the Catholic Church, we go to confession. If we’ve confessed everything to a priest before we die, then we can be pretty sure we’ll go to Heaven.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with that,” I said, “But could you tell me where in the Bible it says that?”
“No” he said, “I don’t even know if the Bible teaches it.”
“Then, with all respect,” I asked, “why do you believe it?”
“Because that’s what I was taught,” he said.
I nodded. “That’s the same as most people,” I mentioned, “Usually Muslims are Muslims because that’s how they were raised. Hindus are Hindus because their parents were, etc. But the different religions can’t all be right as if all of them ‘eventually get to God’ (as some people say) because they teach very different things.”

Next we talked for a while about the accuracy of the Bible.

“I’d say” he mentioned, “that the Bible is kind of like God’s ‘reference-manual’ for how to live our lives on earth.”
“I’d give it a stronger definition than that,” I countered.
“Roadmap?” the lady suggested.
“One way I like to look at it” I said, “is by remembering an acronym for Bible. B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Eternity is a long time. Nothing is more important than knowing what God says in the Bible about what happens when we die.”

We talked for over two hours in the Starbucks cafe and I wish I could remember and record everything we talked about! Ally shared some good comments and a personal testimony of how the Lord had recently been working in her life.

I left with the excitement of knowing that God had orchestrated our paths to cross, and God would still be at work in their hearts. He is the One who draws people to Himself. It’s such a special gift that He allows us to help.

Witnessing Stories

No Coincidence

A couple days ago I was running errands and I prayed that God would lead me to someone I could speak with about the Lord. Suddenly I had a thought: Why don’t you walk into Starbucks.
I walked in (I’m never hesitant to enter Starbucks…) and was quite surprised by what I overheard! An older man was talking to another man a few tables over from him about the Creation Museum.
“It’s very interesting,” he explained to the other costumer, “it’s a whole museum in Kentucky based off the Christian book of Genesis. It proves by science how evolution couldn’t have happened. –Very convincing!”
It is not a coincidence that I am here, I realized as I overheard these comments.

I walked over to his table and introduced myself.
“I’m sorry to interrupt. I just had to say something,” I told him, “because I volunteered at that museum and have actually spent quite a bit of time there. I agree—it’s a great place, and something our country definitely needs!”
Feeling God was arranging something here, I ordered an iced latte and sat down a little ways over from him. Right away he began asking me questions, not seeming to mind the space between my table and his. (I didn’t mind that gap between our tables either, because this way, since we had to project our voices a little, the whole café could overhear our conversation. 🙂 )
After talking about the museum, I shared a few interesting facts with him about how the Bible has demonstrated it’s reliability in all areas (history, biology, geology, etc.). The scientific facts point toward a literal, 6-day Creation. I mentioned how many people believe evolution simply because they want to. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolute standard of right and wrong, and people can do whatever they want.
He agreed.
After a few minutes of chatting about this, I showed him one of my favorite tracts, “How Can We Know We’ll Go to Heaven?” by Randy Alcorn.
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked.
“Sure” he replied.
“Do you think eternal life is a free gift or something we have to earn?” I asked.
“What’s that?” he asked, surprised.
I restated my question.
“I guess I haven’t really thought about it much,” he said after a moment’s thought.
“What’s your opinion?” he asked me.
“Well,” I said, “Romans 6:23 says that ‘the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ So the Bible says pretty clearly that eternal life is a gift–which is great news for us! I know that I could never make it on my own (God’s standard is perfection!) but Jesus died the death I deserved.”
He seemed interested so I continued, “You know, if you think you have to earn your way, you’ll never really know when you’ve been good enough. But the Bible says that we can be sure we are going to Heaven before we die. Like in I John 5:13 where it says, ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…’ “1 John 5:13
(I like to quote Scripture because I’ve found people respond well and God’s words have much more “power” than my own!)

“I’ll have to say, I really can’t argue with you,” he said. “Most of what I believe I was taught in the Catholic church when I was young. Honestly, I don’t know why I believe some of the things I believe.”

“Well, there are lots of people who teach lots of different things these days,” I said. “so it’s important that we know the Bible well, and compare everything with that, because that is the ultimate truth God’s given us.”

“You know,” he told me, “You sound a lot like my grandson and his wife.”

My ears always perk up when I hear this. This likely means that he has a believing grandson who is praying for him!
“They’ve been trying to get me to go to church with them,” he continued, “And, you know, I should probably go one of these days….”

A thought popped into my head of who his grandson and grandson’s wife could be. Unbelievably, after asking a few questions about his grandson’s wife, I realized that I knew her! A mutual friend had introduced us because she knew we both excited about “Matt 4:19 Fishing”. And here I was, witnessing to her Grandfather-in law. This must be an answer to her prayers?!

(Often it’s more difficult for relatives to talk plainly about Jesus, heaven, hell, etc. because they don’t want to be offensive. But for me—just a friendly stranger in Starbucks—I can say anything and get away with it! )

This is no coincidence, I realized again.