Storylines—2018 Conference Edition (Redemption Press)

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MoveForward from Doubt to

DeeperFaith “An enormously caring and relevant book written...with compassion, humor, clarity.” – Don Piper, Pastor / NYT Bestselling Author of 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life

In It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth, Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner weaves solid Bible teaching, personal experience, and historical examples to help renew our trust in God. We can doubt our doubts, not letting them go unaddressed, but examining them instead, to prove our faith is dependable. .

“Faith grows when challenged. We must learn to feed our faith, doubt our doubts, and handle them through the grid of God’s Word.” —Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner 2



J oy, Peace, & Hope Prevail


Joy persists despite the circumstances and isn’t influenced by the day.


Peace breathes deep and steady, always certain and ready, never in a hurry.


Hope allows us to maintain our faith even when we do not see. We can get through anything when we have hope.

Cancer, burglaries, job instability, and so much more. Never fun, but not particularly surprising. Jesus said we would go through trials, but he also assured us that he has already overcome it all. When the trying times come, the secret to maintaining our joy, peace, and hope can be found in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We can either believe in the power of the trial to govern our lives, or as this verse suggests, we can put our trust in God. In a relationship with him, we can find rest in his joy, peace, and hope. The trials, difficulties, and daily stresses show us our need for our Savior. They also offer the opportunity to depend on the One who can meet our very deepest needs and sustain us in this life. He asks us, in this relationship, to surrender, believe, and trust. Scripture is clear: we cannot serve two kingdoms at once. Either we believe, agree with, and serve the enemy and ruler of the dark world, OR we believe, have faith in, and serve the Light of the world. He offers joy and peace as we trust in him, then we will also receive the hope that can only be found in him. As you practice surrender and commit to trusting the One who is the Light of the world, may you experience more of his joy, peace, and hope. Because of Him, #HopePrevails

Tumultuous times—that’s what we could call these days. And not just on the world-wide scale. Personally too. Many have said to me, “I don’t know how you cope with all you’ve had to deal with.”

DR. MICHELLE BENGTSON International Speaker, Author, Board-Certified Clinical Neuropsychologist 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 1

Special Features

Guest Editorial: Michelle Bengtson.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...... 1 Welcome Athena Dean Holtz.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...... 5 Helping You Tell Your Story................31 Rescued by My Redemption Press Coach...........70 Why Redemption Press?. . . . . . . . . . .... 72

Author Profiles

Athena Dean Holtz.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .... 32 Becky Graham.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .... 15 Cynthia Cavanaugh & Andrea Tomassi.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 46 Dawn Baird. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .... 23 Debbie Roth.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .... 18 Dick “Lefty” O’Neal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .... 68 Eric Odell-Hein.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 61 Kristin Clouse.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 26 Melinda Gordon.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 42 Michelle Bengtson.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .... 10 Page Geske. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 36 Ross Holtz.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 56 Sharon Fox.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 39 Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner......................6 Tammy Lyons Wilkinson.. . . . . . . . . . .... 52




Editorial Staff

PUBLISHER.............................. Athena Dean Holtz EVENT MANAGER.................. Cynthia Cavanaugh PUBLICATION CONSULTANT / ART DIRECTOR................ Amber Weigand-Buckley FEATURES EDITOR............................. Sandra Byrd LAYOUT EDITOR................................. Tom Young PROOFREADER.......................................Christy Phillippe ADVERTISING DESIGN...... Jennifer Hall, Marilyn Luce Robertson and Amber Weigand-Buckley CONTRIBUTORS................................................... Melinda Booze, Lisa Burns, Sandra Byrd, Jeanette Gardner Littleton, Serena Chase, Bethany Kaczmarek, Amber Weigand-Buckley (@barefacedgirl), Heather Van Allen



Storylines magazine is published exclusively for the 2018 Women of Joy Conference by Redemption Press ( Redemption Press PO Box 427 Enumclaw, WA 98022 (p) 360-226-3488 (email) Photos courtesy of:,, Jason Botts, Suzi Godson, Fotolia, Max Pixel Copyright ©2018 Redemption Press. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™. Scriptures marked NKJV are taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION®. Copyright© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scriptures marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Message Mission WHERE YOUR IS OUR

PROUD SPONSOR OF THE 2018 W O M EN O F J OY TO UR Resources to inspire, equip and encourage. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) | | 360-226-3488 4



Welcome from

Redemption Press WELCOME TO OUR FIRST, AND TO-BE ANNUAL, EDITION OF STORYLINES: Sharing the Journey of His Faithfulness.

My life is a constant illustration of how God brings things full circle. He is always transforming the ashes of my life into beauty, my setbacks into opportunities, and my pain into joy. Redemption Press’ partnership with the Women of Joy 2018 Rescued Tour is an encouraging example of just that: a full circle, orchestrated in a way that only God could have accomplished. Five years ago, while hosting my radio show in San Antonio, Texas, I learned that the Women of Joy conference was coming to town. Always on the lookout for events at which I could encourage women through guest interviews, I reached out. Incredibly, just four months after launching my “Always Faithful” radio show, God opened the door for me to become a media partner with Women of Joy. I came away impressed with the non-commercial feel of the conference and the leadership’s heart for ministry. My media partnership included some stage time in front of about 4,000 ladies. The production manager asked if I would like to introduce Chris Tomlin. Chris Tomlin? It may be cliché, but my jaw dropped, my knees went weak, and for once, this radio host had no words. Chris’s song “Faithful” was the theme song for my new show and that connection seemed ordained. That introduction to Women of Joy began a connection that God, in his faithfulness, would bring full circle exactly four years later.

house—and our authors—an opportunity to bring books directly to readers interested in faith-filled messages of hope, restoration, and …rescue! Redemption Press’ motto is, “Your Message Is Our Mission.” We equip and empower authors to strategically and professionally deliver their messages from manuscript to completed book and then into the hands of readers. In this magazine, you’ll meet some of our very special authors, people whose stories will no doubt resonate with you. They tackle topics such as hope in depression, overcoming grief and loss, healing from sexual abuse, moving from doubt into a deeper faith, recognizing spiritual abuse, racism, and other stories of transformation. God brought these authors full circle, and the ones in attendance would be delighted to meet you at our booth. Do you have a message you’d like to share? Redemption Press can help you develop and share the story of God’s movement in your life. Our mission and passion are to bring stories of faith—and redemption—to readers all over the world. He Is Always Faithful!

ATHEN A DEAN HOLTZ — Publisher / Author—

In 2017, the Lord miraculously presented an opportunity for Redemption Press to be a sponsor of the 2018 Women of Joy Tour. This was a direct answer to prayer, as it afforded our publishing 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 5


with Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner



I found that when I spoke with complete vulnerability about everything I didn’t understand and struggled to believe, it was the beginning of an amazing journey.

I found that when I spoke with complete vulnerability about everything I didn’t understand and crumbled when she faced the diagnosis, DOES GOD SEE ME? treatment, sidethe effects of stage-four struggled believe, itand was beginning DOES HE HEARto ME? cancer. And her heart shattered when her of an amazing journey. DOES HE CARE? husband died in a tragic motorcycle acci-


that God hadn’t forgiven her sins shook her. For a all, while, was a one of them. After sheI was pastor’s wife!If I have doubts about God, am I truly a believer? After all, ISheryl was aadmits pastor’s wife! Early on, she must have really tested God’s goodness and presence. At Early on,and I had opportunities to test thirteen atplenty a newof school, she decided God’s goodness and presence. AtSo, thirteen she’d do whatever it took to fit in. she and at a new school, I decided I’d do became a chain smoker, an alcoholic, and whatever it took tofour fit in.years, I became a chain a drug addict. For she ran the smoker, alcoholic, and drug addict. For streets of her town, got into trouble with four the years, I ran the streets got into law, and stared deathof in our thetown, eye far too oftrouble with the law, and had near-death ten. But then God, in his mercy, allowed her experiences. time at a Christian camp with believers who loved her to andallowed her life was totally Then God in Jesus, His mercy me time transformed. at a Christian camp with believers who loved me to Jesus of and lifeSpirit was in totally Still, the presence themy Holy her life transformed. the presence of Jesus didn’t make itBut forever perfect. She faced didn’t mean my lifeand wasanxieties forever perfect, of difficulties, regrets, in therapy. course. I faced my difficulties anxieties Ministry as a pastor’s wife wasand fulfilling—but in therapy. Ministry was both good – and it was also startlingly hard. She felt her life hard. My life crumbled when I faced the

dent. “At that moment,” she says, “all my diagnosis, treatment, and very side essence— effects of hopes, plans, health—my stage-four My of heart shattered seemed tocancer. lie in a pile wasted ashes at when my husband died in a tragic my feet.” motorcycle accident. At that, all my hopes, You’ve been in similar too, haven’t plans, health, and veryplaces, essence seemed to you? Wondering in those dark moments, lie in a pile of wasted ashes at my feet. Where are you, Lord? Or even, Are you, You’veShe been there, you? Lord? knew him.too, Shehaven’t believed in him. Wondering in those dark moments, But she still wondered about his goodness Where are you, Lord? Or even, Are you, and provision. Lord? I knew Him. I believed in Him. But Sheryl knew how to believe God forand anyone I still wondered about His goodness but herself. In her depression and discourprovision. agement, she would pray for others and I knew how believe Godfor forthem. That watch God to come through other people. In my depression and when seriously tested her faith. And often, discouragement, faith was putor toat the things didn’t go asmy she expected, the test when I would pray for others and pace she wanted, she wondered, God, God would what about come me? through. It seemed He was there to work out things for other During cancer treatment, a people.her When things didn’t goshe as Ispent thought lot of time in doctors’ or hospital waiting they should, at the pace they should, I rooms—waiting forwhat treatment, wondered, ‘God, about waiting me?’ for news, waiting for health, and waiting for During myShe cancer treatment, spent a lot of direction. remembers wellI the quiet time in doctors’ or hospital waitingthe rooms: moments, the unspoken support, waiting for treatment, waiting news, concerned faces of the lovedfor ones who waiting for health, waiting for good news, and waiting for direction. It meant the



with me.


CONTINUED FROM P. 7 waited there with her. “Following God often makes us feel like we’re in a waiting room of sorts, doesn’t it?” she asks. “The waiting rooms might look different through the varied circumstances the years bring, but as we follow Him, waiting is simply part of the journey.” One day, as she contemplated the waiting, realization warmed her. She thought, I can always have a loved One there with me in the waiting rooms of life. Jesus. “So, rather than push him away with doubt, which I had often done, I invited him to wait with me, no matter the circumstances.”

matter what life brings our way, a decision to believe that, good or bad, God knows what’s best for us. Stepping through and past our doubts leads to a richer, fuller belief in our always-present, always-loving Savior. Luke 1:45 promises that blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! Sheryl’s faith is stronger for acknowledging, understanding, and finally resolving her doubts. “I know God more certainly, and I can enjoy God more deeply.” Today, she’s asking, “Can I help you get there, too? I wrote It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth for women like you and me.”

“In that waiting space,” she goes on, “I voiced my honest doubts. When I spoke with complete vulnerability about all the You can find her book at the Redemption things I didn’t understand and couldn’t Press display in the conference bookquite believe, I took a step in a new direcstore, and if you’d like to order additional tion.” No, she didn’t get guarantees about copies after the conference, please visit what would hap pen next, but she stepped out of the Sheryl would love ONE DAY, I REALIZED, I CAN ALWAYS fog of doubt and into to hear more about HAVE A LOVED ONE THERE WITH ME the light of truth. It your journeys through IN THE WAITING ROOMS OF LIFE. was the beginning of doubt—or pray for JESUS. an amazing journey. you if you need prayer to help clear the fog Moving from doubt away. Please visit her at to faith requires us to see our doubts as stepping-stones. We are considering our faith, and that is a good thing. Christian author and social critic Os Guinness teaches, “If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt. If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger.” Doubt is not meant to be a place where we stay stuck. If we turn to truth and examine God’s Word, we can move forward, one baby step at a time, allowing God’s faithfulness to pull us ahead. Through this revealed peace, deeper faith, and God-confidence, we may find answers and renewed hope. The decision to hope is a commitment to trust God no

Exchanging hurt for hope is Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner’s focus—a message she shares with audiences as a dynamic teacher. As Focus on the Family’s columnist for Pastors’ Wives for four years, hundreds of her articles have appeared in Just Between Us, Discipleship Journal, CCM, Walk Thru the Bible’s InDeed, and Tapestry. Giesbrecht’s television and radio show, Transformed Through Truth, is enjoyed daily by twenty million worldwide. She is excited about the new beginning she shares with her marriage to Dr. Jim Turner. Sheryl holds a BA from Biola College, and a master’s in ministry as well as a doctorate of theology from Summit Bible College.




Hope Prevails

with Michelle Bengtson


NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST DR. MICHELLE BENGTSON ACHED TO EXTEND THE HOPE SHE OFFERED HER PATIENTS TO PEOPLE BEYOND THE FOUR WALLS OF HER OFFICE. When she told God she wanted to write a resource for people dealing with depression, his response surprised her. “You’re going to have to share your personal story,” she sensed him saying. But she wasn’t sure she had much of a story to share.

question. She cried out to God, “If this is going to be my life, you have to bring me home, because I don’t want it.” The Missing Piece If she couldn’t be a doctor, she wondered what value she had at all. This thought plunged Michelle into severe depression, but she fought it, trying everything she would have advised her patients to do— therapy, medication, a healthy diet, plenty of rest, and daily exercise. All those things helped, but they didn’t take the depression away.

She cried out to God, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I feel like a fraud… Little did she know, her story was just either show me what’s missing or take me beginning. home. As a doctor, I’m not going to go back to treating patients unless I know Although Michelle grew up with a mother who suffered from depression, and Michelle something works—for me, and for them.” Michelle heard his response in her heart, experienced a bout with postpartum deas plain as day: “If you are not addressing pression herself after the birth of her firstthe spiritual roots born, she didn’t find of disease, it’s like her story significant I HEARD IN MY HEART, AS PLAIN AS DAY, putting a bandage compared to her “IF YOU ARE NOT ADDRESSING THE on an infection and patients’. They lived SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF DISEASE, IT’S LIKE expecting it to get in the pit, and she’d PUTTING A BANDAGE ON AN INFECTION well.” sat at its edge. AND EXPECTING IT TO GET WELL.” That got her attenBut two weeks to tion. She had been addressing the physical, the day after she decided to write the mental, and emotional aspects without book, her life changed. Michelle grew the spiritual. She asked God to show her deathly ill. Sick for five months, kept alive the spiritual side of depression and how to on IVs, she dropped from 113 pounds address it. “That became my journey, and to a skeletal 74. With two surgeries and it’s why the subtitle of the book is Insights mandatory bed rest, all she could do was from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through sleep, pray, watch sermons online, and Depression,” she explained. listen to praise and worship music. She felt as if her very identity as a doctor, a wife, and a mother was suddenly in


“This book is for anyone who has believed the lies of the enemy — and that’s all of us.” – Dr. Michelle Bengtson

In the new book Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression and accompanying Bible study, Dr. Michelle Bengtson shares professional and personal insight on how to address not only the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of healing from depression, but also the spiritual aspects of bringing our thought life under control by refuting the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word.

“We have an enemy, and he tries to get us depressed and keep us depressed by stealing our joy, killing our peace, and destroying our identity.” —Dr. Michelle Bengtson 12 STORYLINES •

CONTINUED FROM P. 11 God’s Word Is Truth The Lord showed Michelle that she needed to address her thought life, because so much rides on how we think. “Our feelings are strong and compelling, but they are often misleading, because our feelings are only the outward manifestation of the thoughts we believe.” That’s exactly why the Bible says to take every thought captive and bring it in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Michelle realized she believed so many lies—“that I was a fraud, that I was no longer worthy because I couldn’t work, that I was joy immune. About all of that, the Holy Spirit would say, ‘That’s a lie! That is not what I say in my Word.’” As she started refuting all of those lies with Scripture, over time her depression went away. “Everything has changed—how I look at myself, how I parent my kids, how I work with my patients, what kind of friend I am.” There is a limit to what the enemy, or depression, can do. Michelle dug into the Scriptures on a search for truth. One story in particular resonated with her. “I love the story of Job because God let the enemy destroy Job’s life—his home, his family, his health—but God put a limit on the enemy; he would not allow the enemy to kill Job. God showed me that it’s similar to depression, and it comes down to three things. Neither the enemy nor depression: 1. Can determine our worth. 2. Can dictate our destiny. 3. Can separate us from the love of God. Michelle concludes, “As long as I have breath and God is still on his throne, I will declare, hope prevails.”

Extending Hope Michelle’s book is unique. More than just a memoir about her journey, it offers the perspective of a mental health practitioner. Each chapter wraps up with a prescription—some homework to equip readers in their similar journeys. But it’s more than a self-help book. In Dr. Bengtson’s own words, she wrote the book “as one who had walked through the valley of depression and made it to the other side. I wrote it as a resource and an encouragement to extend beyond the four walls of my private practice, to offer the reader help, hope, and healing based on God’s truth.” Hope Prevails, Indeed. Author, speaker and board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. She offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm.

DR. BENGTSON’S PRESCRIPTION FOR SHARING HOPE Be grounded in Scripture. Scripture was my prescription to come out of the depression. When I would recognize a lie, I would refute it with a Scripture verse, and not just one time. I would write it down on a sticky note. Every time I saw that note, I would recite it out loud because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, nkjv). My life verse, which I remind people of frequently, is Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Be present and listen. Sometimes our presence means more than saying the right words or doing the right thing. What helped me most when I needed encouragement was just having someone be present and to say, “I’m here, I care, and I’m not going to leave.” We don’t have to have all the answers, but we can represent the One who does. 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 13

“This is a book for the humble—for those who recognize they are broken and in need of a Savior who has the power to renew them day by day.” —Stephen Van Zant

Hearing God’s Voice in the Quiet “I do not claim to be an expert in any matters of faith, but it is my great pleasure to sit with the Lord each morning and allow Him to change me. The more meaningful of my journal entries are from when I experienced the greatest struggles. I have had my fair share of problems and personal trials through twenty-six years of marriage, raising four children, family health issues, practicing law, and experiencing a business failure. This devotional reveals my search for peace and joy on a daily basis.” —Stephen Van Zant

Compiled from over a decade’s worth of his personal prayer journals, Stephen Van Zant offers a year of daily devotionals inspired by God Calling, a book written anonymously by The Two Listeners in the 1930s.



One Page at a Time

with Becky Graham

A SMALL-TOWN GIRL FROM RURAL OHIO, BECKY GRAHAM GREW UP VALUING HARD WORK, COMPASSION, AND FAMILY. She committed her life to God at a young age and frequently prayed, “God, use me.” In early adulthood, God whispered an undeniable message of faith-overfear into her spirit and, out of obedience, she moved to the Chicagoland area. After connecting with a great guy, yet fearing she wasn’t equipped for marriage, God again whispered the faith-over-fear message. She married her husband, Dave, and God began knitting their hearts together to form an unbreakable bond. Little did she know how God’s whisper of faith-over-fear would resound through the coming years.

When Becky and Dave embarked on starting a family, they were met with shocking news. The doctor studied my chart for a long time. Finally, she looked up, her eyes avoiding mine. “I don’t know if you will ever be able to conceive a child.”


The news sent the couple into a tailspin of infertility treatments, prayer meetings, and spiritual questioning. Were they being punished? Was there sin in their lives? Did they not have enough faith?



When life’s detours lead to miraculous destinations ... For author and blogger

Becky Graham,

infertility was a catalyst God used to put her on a journey of faith.


“The more I was faithful to God, the more I found He was faithful to me. He became the author of my story.” —Becky Graham

God is writing your story one page at a time. You only get to read that page when the day is done.


Not only did Becky feel the stigma of infertility, but she felt as though God had abandoned her. Hadn’t she remained faithful to him? Didn’t God care about her broken heart and her heart’s desire? Why wasn’t he answering her prayers? What story was God authoring for her life, and how long did she have to suffer? Ever faithful, God provided for her needs, forging a path that eventually delivered Becky to an outpatient program. As she learned to unmask her disappointment, shame, and grief, she could permit herself to grieve, not only the losses she could name, but the intangible ones, as well. “Grieving an intangible loss—a hope, a season, or a plan—is never entirely over,” she shared. “Many things trigger feelings of loss. We need to learn how to manage the grief to keep moving forward.” During her treatment and recovery, Becky found beauty in journaling. As she read over the thoughts and events of her day, she could see God’s ever-present faithfulness at work. “Journaling served as a good reminder—God only gives me one page at a time in my story.”

While her pain and grief did not disappear immediately, Becky was able to trust that God had a plan and was preparing her for the next chapters. “I learned to embrace grief and to view life through a different lens. Not only did God ask me to trust Him, but he truly comforted and held me through each twist of the storyline.” As promised in James 1:3, the testing of their faith produced perseverance. Not only did Becky trust God, but Dave leaned in to trust God also. Through the adversity, God knitted their hearts together even stronger as they waited to hear from God about decisions in the upcoming chapters God had authored for their story. Another chapter began, filled with obstacles, discouragement, and rejection, yet they still heard God whispering, “Faith-over-fear.” Finally, eight years after choosing parenthood as their hope—but being thwarted time and again—God at last gifted them with a child. “Dave and I stepped out in incredible faith when God asked us to, and in return, He helped us overcome our fears and embrace His story for us. He wrote an ending no one could have ever predicted.” In her book, Faithful: An Unexpected Journey to Motherhood, Becky bravely traces her path through the sometimesdifficult-to-see faithfulness of her mighty God without glossing over the heartache, pain, confusion, and grief she experienced as her story was being revealed, one Godauthored page at a time. A tissue-boxworthy read that pulls the emotions and ends in the ultimate triumph of a dream come true, Becky’s story will linger in her readers’ minds, encouraging them to trust God even when He seems silent. Becky Graham is an author, writer, and speaker. After spending all her life in the Midwest, she and her family currently live in South Florida. She writes with everyday humor on her blog at htttp:// Learn more about Becky by reading her book, Faithful: An Unexpected Journey to Motherhood, available now from Redemption Press, and by visiting her author website, 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION



Hope Like Rain with Debbie Roth


Hopefully, we can then begin to pick up pieces, allowing God’s promises to comfort us as we learn to persevere and accept his grace and mercy. “YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK.” THAT WAS THE LAST THING I HAD EXPECTED TO HEAR WHEN I WAS IN A COUNSELING SESSION WITH CHARLEY GERBER. This was not the first time I’d turned to Charley. Back in 1993, I was in the mess of feeling like a horrible wife, mom, and minister’s wife when my husband and I faced intense betrayal by people we’d trusted. Add that to traumas of my past—which had included rape, abuse, frequent job relocations, and family estrangement—and I seriously just wanted to let go of everything and end my life. Instead, I chose another option: hope. I turned to the counselor who had been referred to me, Charley, and dumped everything in his lap: the present pain and the past emotional tsunamis. For two and a half years, Charley led me through Scripture after Scripture, showing me God’s compassion, love, and peace … and the rest and hope that he offered. But now, a decade later, I was at a cross-

roads again. During those ten years, I’d survived breast cancer and multiple hospital procedures. Then my mother—who had been emotionally abusive my whole life—died. I began to question what to do with all the struggles I had been through, and I turned to Charley once again to help me see the presence of the Lord. That’s when he told me I should write a book. “Charley, I don’t write books, and I wouldn’t even know where to start,” I said. “Ah, but you sing,” he pointed out. He was right. Music was a huge source of comfort for me. So, I began the process of recording CDs as tools in my hand to give others encouragement of hope in Christ. At some point, while I was performing songs, someone asked if I was also a speaker. “Sure, I can talk!” I said. I began to speak and sing at retreats, banquets, church services, and even the state fair and a women’s prison.




CONTINUED FROM P. 19 Wherever I speak and sing, I focus on the hope we find in Christ. And that message reverberates in the listeners’ hearts. We all have pain in our lives, and we need to find peace. How do we do that? First, we need to acknowledge the struggle and identify where the pain comes from—circumstances beyond our control, others’ wrong choices, or our own wrong choices (sin).

we need to let others know we need help. When I reached out, others stepped in and prayed when I could only groan. They provided words of comfort and kind deeds. Every time a storm has hit in my life, my faith has grown stronger. Does that mean the struggles are any easier in the onset? No. But as time goes on, I truly believe I have gained more trust and hope in God. And I know God can do that for others. As I continued to minister, Charley’s words about writing a book came back to me, this time with the Lord’s confirmation. And He soon revealed that Redemption Press was to be my publisher.

Then we need to make decisions: Do we want to get through this storm? Are we able to “give in” and When readers pick let God teach us up Drenched, I hope about his compasthey will be able to WHEN I REACHED OUT, OTHERS STEPPED sion, comfort, love, recognize that when IN AND PRAYED WHEN I COULD ONLY and hope? I had to we try to solve probGROAN. THEY PROVIDED WORDS OF choose to keep golems or survive strugCOMFORT AND KIND DEEDS. ing, to keep trusting gles on our own, this God, to keep prayaffects us physically, ing, even when I wasn’t sure he heard, and emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spirito keep reading Scripture. tually—usually in negative ways. When we recognize the origin of the struggle, we can see where we need healing. We can determine if we need to deal with anger—toward God, another, or ourselves—and perhaps even forgive others or ourselves. Hopefully, we can then begin to pick up the pieces, allowing God’s promises to comfort us as we learn to persevere and accept His grace and mercy. We learn what provisions are in place to help us through storms.

I hope that each reader will find a sense of calmness through Christ, feeling His love and compassion to get through the troubles. When they open the book, they may be feeling soaked through with pain, but I hope by the end of the book, they will feel drenched in God’s love and hope.

And when they do, they’ll know the reality of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the theme Scripture for Rest In Him Ministry: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, Getting over the pain takes a while and it so that we can comfort those in any trouble may never totally go away. But I learned with the comfort we ourselves receive from even then that pain becomes manageable God.” through faith, love, and hope in Christ. Another key step in healing is realizing that

Learn more about Debbie Roth at, and look for the release of her book, Drenched, published by Redemption Press.


me peace.



Finding Friends in the Jungle

with Dawn Baird ONCE UPON A TIME, DAWN BAIRD WAS AN ATHEIST, a wild child. In

fact, she’d tell you she broke most of the Ten Commandments before she even knew what they were. Then Christ entered the lives of Dawn and her husband, Bob, and a new life, a transformational journey, ensued—a 25-year trek as missionaries in DR Congo. “When Bob and I became Christians, we were immediately and intensely committed to God,” Dawn recalls. “A recruiter for Pioneer Bible Translators spoke at our church, and we knew God had called us.” As they prepared, Bob earned a BA from Lincoln Christian University, while Dawn took Bible and linguistic classes and completed an LPN course. At last, the Bairds, along with their three children, settled into their thatch-roofed mud house in Bomili, Democratic Republic of the Congo. There,

in the remote Ituri rain forest, Dawn and Bob served as support for a Bible translation team. “Bob was amazing at learning Swahili, even dreaming and talking in Swahili in his sleep! Within six months he preached on Sunday mornings!” Dawn said. Since Bob headed the Team Logistics’ ministry, such as working with the Congolese to keep the airstrip maintained, he quickly fit in with the locals. On the other hand, Dawn spent most of her time in the house teaching, preparing classes, corresponding with supporters, and learning to use a mud brick oven. “I did learn some Swahili, but not quickly enough to keep up with my desire to speak to village women and make friends. I was lonely for a while,” Dawn explains. “Our children, however, made sociocultural adjustments all over the place! Joshua, two years old, was happy in Bomili, from day one! He made friends and learned


A Baird Family Missionary Adventure Retired missionary Dawn Baird shares a delightful story featuring her young son, Joshua, as he acclimates to a new culture. “Joshua grew up in Congo, and is still as much a Congolese as he is an American.” —Dawn Baird


“I pray that this book will open readers’ eyes to a different way of life and to the idea that when they come to new situations with the mind of a child, they might be open and accepting.” —Dawn Baird

I listened to God as He showed me what to do step by step. CONTINUED FROM P. 23 the language, with no thought to ethnic or class differences. Joshua is still as much a Congolese as he is an American.” Seven-year-old Rachel, proud to be learning Swahili so quickly, wrote letters to her best friend in America, determined this girl should learn it too. And ten-year-old Elizabeth, a special-needs child with developmental challenges, loved the people of Bomili, and soon found acceptance according to Congo cultural norms. The days turned into years. The Bairds made deputation trips to the United States but were always glad to return to Central Africa, where they planned to spend the rest of their lives. However, in 2012, Bob was diagnosed with the rare neurological disorder Meige Syndrome. Repeated surgeries and procedures like deep brain stimulation didn’t help. Doctors finally advised Bob to stay in the States, forever changing the path of their lives. Dawn was suddenly thrust into a new world of sole financial responsibility and the care of their special-needs daughter. “As Bob became more dependent on me, the heaviness of my grief became almost unbearable. My purpose in life seemed to disappear—no more planning lessons in Swahili; no more teaching boys in Bukavu Central Prison or teaching English to Congolese adults, to help them escape poverty,” Dawn says. “In November 2015, Elizabeth was diagnosed with a psychotic break. Like me, she was distressed about her father’s health and missed teaching Bible classes to children of rape victims. Getting treatment

and medication for her seemed a long, sad maze of disappointments.” But God had their lives in his hands. During Elizabeth’s therapy sessions, a woman recognized Dawn’s sorrow and offered to help. This woman’s counseling brought the emotional healing Dawn needed and gave her clarity to see that speaking and writing would be not only her new joy and purpose in life, but also a way to financially support her family. As a missionary, Dawn often taught from God’s Word and encouraged audiences at every opportunity. She also loved journaling and writing short stories. Now she felt drawn to begin a writing ministry by telling the poignant and adventurous stories of her family’s experiences in the Congo. Dawn connected with Redemption Press and was recently thrilled to peruse a copy of her first book, Joshua Moves to the Jungle! “Every page is part of the true story of Joshua’s first years and adjustments to life in the jungle,” Dawn explains. “My second book, Rachel Roars in the Rain Forest, which I hope to publish with Redemption Press this year, focuses on Rachel both accepting Congo cultural norms and asserting her own into their lives.” Next, Elizabeth’s story will show how a special-needs child spreads love and sunshine wherever she lives. And after that? Who knows? A witch doctor may even enter a plot as Dawn continues to write from her myriad of true-life adventures. What advice does Dawn have for others who are thinking about writing a book? “For years I’ve asked women to identify that one thing they would most like to accomplish— their greatest joy-giver. If that joy-thing is writing, then write! Write! Write!” Author and speaker Dawn Baird of Baird Family Adventures, engages audiences with real-life stories gained during 25 years serving God in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her life accounts—poignant, humorous, or tragic—are inspiringly applied to her teachings from God’s Word. Dawn has a BA from Lincoln Christian University and an MS from Illinois State University. She invites you to connect with her at bairdfamilyadventures1@gmail. com. 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 25


Healing Ground with Kristin Clouse


God is wanting His daughters to be completely healed and restored. Our fear of opening Pandora’s box often keeps us from healing. THE STATISTICS ARE STAGGERING—ONE IN FIVE WOMEN REPORT BEING RAPED. WHEN ONE IN THREE WOMEN REPORTS BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED IN THEIR LIFETIME, IT’S NO WONDER THAT CURRENT HEADLINES CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT ABOUND IN THE MEDIA. From famous athletes and celebrities, to the anonymous girls and women in our communities, countless women suffer the devastating effects. Kristin Clouse is one of those women. “I was sexually abused as a child, and then at fourteen years old, I was raped and held against my will. In the days and months that followed, I was hurting, and it was simply too much for me to cope with. As a teen, I turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. By the age of twenty-one, I was suicidal. I believed I was dirty and broken— damaged goods.” Like so many women, she found herself carrying deep wounds from the abuse. While her story of sexual abuse started there, it did not end there. “God truly healed my damaged soul so that I no longer saw myself as a victim,” she says. “My daily prayer became ‘God transform me.’ Through the process of healing, I

learned to trust God with my pain and to embrace and accept His love for me. Real love. Pure love. The love I never knew until I met Jesus.” The healing that Kristin received, along with her training as a counselor, inspired her to help other women who are in the same grip of abuse. Kristin’s book, Healing for Our Soul Gardens: Restoration and Wholeness after Sexual Abuse, is a timely resource for women seeking help. The author’s personal survival story, combined with her expertise in the mental health field, makes this book a valuable resource to those who desire to heal from their sexual abuse. The workbook format allows each chapter to serve as a building block toward restoration and can be utilized for both individual or small group study. Kristin uses the metaphor of a garden to explore how Christ is a master gardener in our souls. She digs into the topics of shame, anger, and how to handle a damaged spirit. She explains why she chose those important topics. “As a young woman in my twenties, I began to pray for my healing. Because of the abuse, I was carrying issues with me in my daily life. Shame, negative self-talk, anxiety, rejection…those issues became a wall between myself and God and between me and others. Those issues had to be addressed.





Holy Spirit to come alongside the reader as Kristin offers her experience and wisdom to help bring insight and understanding.

Through the Holy Spirit and counseling, She helps the reader to develop new Kristin realized she didn’t want her past to coping methods to deal with the negative dictate her present or her future. Staying thoughts women who have been abused in the brokenness of the past abuse kept often tell themselves. These strategies help her from being whole and functional for restore a healthy self-image by identifying God’s purposes in her life. She wasn’t “damaged-goods” thinking and faulty satisfied with simply surviving sexual abuse; core beliefs, and replacing them with the she wanted to thrive. This desire led her healing truth. She desires to see women down a pathway fully restored. toward healing and wholeness. Whether the abuse GOD TRULY HEALED MY DAMAGED MIND, was recent or She knows, however, WILL, AND EMOTIONS. decades ago, it is that embarking on I NO LONGER SEE MYSELF THROUGH THE never too late to that journey is not EYES OF A VICTIM. allow God to bring easy. Confronting the full restoration. topic of abuse can “Nothing or no one often be difficult and is beyond repair,” scary, but Kristin assures readers that the Kristin says. This quote speaks to the core payoff is worth it. of Kristin’s mission to preach, teach, and “God wants his daughters to be completely disciple those who are broken into a place of wholeness. healed and restored. Our fears of opening up those memories often keep us from While the enemy meant to destroy Kristin healing.” Kristin explains that women are with the trauma she suffered, God had often afraid that God will expect them to other plans. And now Kristin reaches out to carry the weight of their entire experience help other women discover true restoration and relive the emotion from it all at once. and see how God will enable each one to But she assures readers that is not who Jesus live the life He meant for them. is. She describes how the Holy Spirit is there Kristin Clouse is a licensed mental health counselor (with a BS in with us for every step. We are not alone as applied psychology as well as an MA in counseling psychology), we work through our experiences with Him Christ follower, and founder of The Restore Movement, where by our side. ordinary women reach out to those wounded by life issues to see Kristin takes readers through the healing process by building each chapter upon the previous one. Moving through the book takes women on a journey of healing to bring them to a place of freedom and restoration. The format allows room for the

them restored into who God created them to be. Ms. Clouse is an author, a speaker, a teacher, and a mentor to women. She is married and the mother of two adult children. She enjoys working in her flower garden, which helped inspire the theme in Healing for Our Soul Gardens: Restoration and Wholeness After Sexual Abuse. For more information about Kristin Clouse, please visit 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION


“We are afraid that God will expect us to carry the weight of our entire experience and relive the emotion from it all at once. But that’s not our Jesus.” —Kristin Clouse

You’re already a


Now it’s time to


Sexual abuse leaves its victims struggling with feelings of shame, anxiety, and rejection. In Healing for Our Soul Gardens: Restoration and Wholeness after Sexual Abuse, survivor and mental health professional Kristin Clouse offers building blocks to help women find their way to restoration and peace after the trauma of abuse.

“God truly healed my damaged mind, will, and emotions, so that I no longer see myself through the eyes of a victim.” —Kristin Clouse 30 STORYLINES •

Helping You Tell Your Story

by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner EVERYONE HAS A STORY INSIDE. BUT THE BURNING QUESTION FOR STORYTELLERS IS, “HOW CAN WE BEST TELL OUR STORY SO IT WILL BE HEARD?” Redemption Press offers a full menu of options for those who dream to see their ideas for publishing a book become a reality. Athena Dean Holtz is the founder and president of RP, also a pioneer in the publishing industry. I met Athena in 1998 at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. A newbie to the world of publishing, I was overwhelmed by the many options and even prohibitive barriers to my first book being in print. Athena, then working with a different company, offered sound, yet nonpressured advice. It was evident she wasn’t there to sell me anything, but wanted to help me craft my messages and the best part—cheer me on for what God planned for my future. For years after the conference, I received an annual phone call from Athena, asking me how I was doing and whether I had accomplished my publishing goals.

honored when Athena invited me for an interview on her Always Faithful radio show. It was at that time when both of us saw God’s hand in blessing us with a second chance at a new marriage. Athena’s desire to serve God through helping others is evident in who she is as a business owner, author, and publisher. When Athena asked if I would like to be part of the Women of Joy—Rescued—Tour 2018, I knew God had brought an opportunity to partner with someone I could trust. Redemption Press offers an expert editorial team—by far the best part of my writing and editorial experience was working with the managing editor, Sandra Byrd. In her gentle, yet encouraging way, Sandra coached my writing and gave me guidelines for my stories, outlines for the Bible lessons, and deadlines for completion. Writers know that each of these things is essential to finishing a project and crafting a product we can be proud of. If you are considering a partnership with Redemption Press to make your publishing dreams a reality, I can assure you, the investment of your time, talent, and treasure, with Athena Dean Holtz at the helm, you can be confident in a productive partnership you won’t regret. And the best part—together we build up the kingdom of God. Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner is a television and radio personality, international speaker, and author of four books, including It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth (Redemption Press, 2018),

After my second book was published, I was 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 31


He Loves Me

with Athena Dean Holtz



faith—Athena plunged into ministry, serving Vietnam vets alongside her veteran husband. It was fulfilling, fruitful work. Her history of success in both work and ministry led her and her husband to start a publishing business, WinePress, which thrived. She could see God at work in her business, yet it was through this company the next deception took hold.

great things was simply a salve for the pain of childhood and domestic abuse.

While working closely with a pastor to publish his book, Athena did not realize, at first, that the man was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a cult leader who systematically “My way to handle the pain was to work a lot and achieve success. That was my drug misused scripture to control every aspect of her life. “Eight years into the publishing of choice, and it worked very well,” she business, it got hijacked by the enemy,” says. “Or it seemed to.” she says. Without a solid grasp of scripture Like many of us, Athena wanted to be to ground her, unaddressed doubt, guilt, seen, known, and loved for who she was. trauma, and When that didn’t shame left Athena happen, she made susceptible to the WHETHER WE’RE ON THE MOUNTAINTOP choices that led to charismatic cult OR IN THE VALLEY OF ABSOLUTE harm rather than leader who claimed DEVASTATION, HE IS WALKING RIGHT the reassurance godly authority — THERE WITH US. and security she with devastating sought. Drug use, an consequences. She affair with a married man, and an eventual lost her marriage, her publishing business, abortion left her wounded and determined her family relationships, and her reputation. to protect herself. Despite those early diffiAthena spent time seeking God’s leading culties, Athena sensed the promise of betand learned to ground herself in his Word. ter days ahead. She went through months of intense biblical From an early age, she felt God calling counseling and blogged her way through to her. Drawn to spiritual experiences, but a process of healing, studying, and becomwithout a biblical foundation, she was susing self-aware. For so long, she’d longed to ceptible to spiritual deception and fell into be seen for who she was. Through studying Scientology. On the brink of divorce from the Bible, Athena learned that God sees her second husband, also a Scientologist, her—down to the number of hairs on her she saw her husband as a new man when head (Matthew 10:30). She longed to be he turned to Christ. His transformation softknown, and the Bible showed that God ened her heart and, after reading Mere knew her from her conception (Psalm Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Athena asked 139:16). She longed to be loved, and she Jesus to forgive and save her. Life began to found how much God loved her—with an change course. everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). With her characteristic drive and determination—this time shaped by true



CONTINUED FROM P. 33 For two years, Athena was in her wilderness, wondering what God was going to do with her life. Would she ever marry again? Would she be reconciled with her family? Would she ever be able to fulfill God’s calling on her life? But during that time, she learned that God truly is a God of second chances who promises to redeem our years of pain. “I’m a big believer in stewarding our pain well,” she says. “We’re not taught to do that as Christians. Learning to praise Him even in the valley of despair and seeing His faithfulness in those places, these are the challenging issues I want to address. Whether we’re on the mountaintop or in the valley of absolute devastation, He is walking right there with us.” Today, Athena is happily married to a pastor. She is helming a new publishing house—Redemption Press—and her family relationships have been restored. As the Old Testament prophet praised in the second chapter of the Book of Joel, so does Athena: “Surely the Lord has done great things. … Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful . . . I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten. … and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you” (v. 21c, 23a, 25a, 26b&c). Athena’s book Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God chronicles her journey of restoration and God’s miraculous redemption in every area of her life. Indeed, the Lord has brought Athena Dean Holtz full circle, harnessing her enormous work ethic and drive to accomplish great things for the ministry he has given her, and the ministries he has given to others. “I hope Redemption Press, and what God is doing with it, provides a great opportunity for people who have a faith-filled message. It’s my mission to help them share it.”

To get Full Circle, as well as books from all of our featured authors, you can go to the Redemption Press display in the WOJ Conference Bookstore, or visit



HOW TO HELP SOMEONE MIRED IN DECEPTION A friend or loved one deceived by a cult or cult-like community has “already been brainwashed into thinking that anybody who disagrees is the enemy,” Athena says. “Like any abuser, the deceiver has groomed his or her followers to control them and their actions. There’s an automatic rejection of any other advice or counsel.” There is something effective you can do for them: pray. • Ask God to make himself real to your loved one and to drop the scales from their eyes so that they can see the truth. (Acts 9:17–18) • Pray “warfare prayers.” Take authority over the unholy influences, and pray that the presence and truth of God saturates their hearts and minds. (Mark 6:7) • Pray that Satan overplays his hand and that the person deceived will have the courage to see the truth and act on it. (Luke 10:18-20) “Talking to the one who’s been deceived isn’t going to do any good,” Athena says. “It’s not anything that we can say to the person; it’s what we ask of God; it has to be prayer.”

Athena Dean Holtz is the publisher at Redemption Press. She is a speaker, author, blogger, former radio show host, and pastor’s wife. Please visit her at 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 35


Crashing Into Hope with Page Scott Geske


accidentally lost control of the car, hitting the guardrail near milepost 95 at sixty-five miles per hour. The vehicle rolled several times before coming to a stop. Fortunately, Andrea walked away from the accident unscathed; unfortunately, Page did not.

After noting the severity of her injuries, safe existence was irrevocably altered Page prayed for two specific things: that as an accident ushered physical and her daughter wouldn’t be alone, and emotional agony that a physician to the forefront of would reach the PAGE DIDN’T KNOW THAT THE NEXT YEAR her life. scene in time. OF HER LIFE, SHE WOULD ENCOUNTER THE Miraculously, a GREATNESS AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. In July 2007, doctor did arrive on Highway 15 and was able to near Blackfoot, stabilize Page’s injuries, saving her life. A Idaho, Page and her daughter were drivshort time thereafter, a nurse at the trauma ing home from visiting her husband, who center took Andrea under her wing. had taken a job in Montana. Wanting to give her sixteen-year-old daughter more Both of Page’s prayers were answered, experience behind the wheel, Page pulled but much healing and many adjustments over, and they switched places. But once remained. She assumed the miracle of her on the road, Andrea needed to adjust her life would be surviving and recovering from seat. A reach, an overcorrection . . . and the physical injuries of the crash, but those despite her conscientiousness, Andrea hardships revealed a far deeper-reaching 36 STORYLINES •

I knew right then that if God could bring me through that kind of wreckage, he would bring me through this transition too. pain: It was several days after the accident before her husband made it to the hospital. “I never expected my husband to abandon me … I was surrounded by friends and family, but not the person who was supposed to be my other half.” As she recovered physically, time revealed that her husband was not only disinterested in her pain and recovery, but no longer invested in their marriage. “It was as if we were playing family in a dollhouse . . . no unity or peace . . . we were plastic people who existed in different dimensions.” Page faced two options: trust God and his faithfulness, or surrender to darkness and despair. She chose God. “Lying there in pity and darkness wasn’t really an option. If God could bring me through that kind of wreckage, he would bring me through this transition too.” As she recovered from her injuries, the dissolution of her marriage, and the divorce that followed, Page focused on God, seeking— and finding—purpose in her physical and emotional distress. “God was at work finetuning my life to make me more Christ-like. While my physical body healed, He was healing me from the inside out.”

Her husband wasn’t there for her, but God filled the gap with others. “The creativity and outpouring of God’s Spirit through his people was like a candle he always kept lit to show me his love and concern.” She credits like-minded women and men who supported her through both rough and smooth waters, enriching her life. “When Christians follow through on those acts of kindness they feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to do, they are being obedient to Jesus’ command to show compassion and mercy to the brokenhearted.” In her memoir, Milepost 95: From Wreckage to Redemption, Page reveals how Jesus called her to be a light during a time of darkness, teaching her to trust and persevere while he provided her with the motivation to thrive and encourage others. As Christ pushes Page to share her story, she hopes it will be used in the lives of others to help them find courage, strength, and his presence in their situation, one moment at a time. “If you are struggling with an unexpected and unwanted transition in your life,” she says, “Milepost 95 will remind you how God can use your most broken moments to give inspiration and hope to those around you.” Page Geske is passionate about people and finds joy in encouraging, inspiring, and igniting hope in others. “No hard thing we face is ever in vain,” she says. With unflinching transparency, Page chronicles her brave journey toward healing in Milepost 95: From Wreckage to Redemption, available now from Redemption Press. Page Geske earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with an emphasis in public relations from Virginia Tech. A former campus pastor with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Page has also served as director of student services for a seminary, worked in the health care, sales, and advertising industries, and she ran a nonprofit for nine years. The mother of three adult children, Page enjoys any outdoor adventure and often engages in hiking, road biking, and snowshoeing near her home in southeastern Idaho. Contact Page at 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION




DARKNESS Page thought the miracle of her life would be surviving eight surgeries and three months in a hospital bed after a horrific accident, but this tragedy was just the beginning. “No hard thing we face is ever in vain.” —Page Scott Geske

God knows the grief of losing a child, and he’s made a way through the night. After the darkness of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was the Sabbath. And after the Sabbath, there came the light of joy.

“When survivors are working through how to continue their lives after loss, following the biblical pattern of God’s example guides them to seek and experience resurrected joy.” —Sharon Fox 38 STORYLINES •


Grieving Like God with Sharon Fox


she was ill-equipped to recover from the tragedy and live in joy again. She attended her church’s first Grief Recovery support meetings, but continued her search for more understanding and coping skills.

“As one of the deacons said, ‘Sharon came to class, and she never went home,’” Sharon said. “It was very clear when I completed the class that this was a ministry calling for me.” Sharon was ultimately certified as a grief facilitator through the American Academy of Bereavement, which gave her access to excellent research and helpful curriculum, but nothing based on the Bible. She began to search for what God had to say about grief and recovery. What she found was the pattern of God’s loss, recovery, and renewed joy in the three

days of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Sharon noticed that God’s model of grieving perfectly overlays the secular research, giving her the basis for developing grief recovery materials from a Christian perspective. Sharon’s most recent book, A Precious Loss, and all her writing and ministry is based on the example God modeled during those three days from Jesus’ violent death on the cross to his miraculous resurrection. On the Friday when Jesus died, there was abnormal darkness in the middle of the day, the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, and an earthquake shook the earth and caused rocks to split. (The biblical accounts can be found in Matthew 27, Mark 15, and Luke 23.) Sharon draws parallels to the grief of losing a loved one—the death leaves survivors in the darkness of despair, unable to see a future after their lives have been ripped apart and their foundations shaken.



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usband erstandinlearned as Christ g and com ian fort for parents of a those wa lking or those going thr ries for hel ou p. Discov gh difficult situ ations er that: d frustrati e are the on, and sees you times it’sirs, though contrar tears. no. ry to you rs.


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Judy Glenney struggled

with her faith as she watched her only child attempt to come to grips with transgenderism and, tragically, take his own life. In sharing her family’s story, Judy Glenney hopes to bring understanding and comfort to those facing any difficult situation — offering hope through the unfailing love of Christ. 40 STORYLINES •

CONTINUED FROM P. 39 After the Roman centurions verified that Jesus had died, he was buried before the Jewish Sabbath began at sundown. The Sabbath is a 24-hour period when no work is done, but time is devoted to quiet reflection and rest. Sharon stresses that resting time is an important part of grief recovery; survivors need to permit themselves to grieve the loss of someone or something that they have lost. AS SURVIVORS WORK THROUGH HOW TO CONTINUE THEIR LIVES AFTER LOSS, FOLLOWING THE BIBLICAL PATTERN GUIDES THEM TO SEEK AND EXPERIENCE RESURRECTED JOY. When those who are grieving understand the pattern, acknowledge that their lives have been ripped apart, and take purposeful steps to mend and rest, then resurrection joy awaits. “You’re forever changed, as Christ was,” Sharon said, “but it’s not a bad change; it’s just different.” A Precious Loss is a book for parents who have lost a child to miscarriage, SIDS, or stillbirth. Many conceptions end in miscarriage. “It’s a very private loss that many never speak of but grieve profoundly.” As she emphasizes in the book, all who are grieving a loss of someone or something precious can recover by following God’s example. While Sharon anchors her guidance and comfort in the Bible, even those who do not claim faith in God can apply the truths. As survivors work through how to continue their lives after loss, following the biblical pattern guides them to seek and experience resurrected joy. “I’ve never had anybody say, ‘Well, that doesn’t work for me,’” Sharon said. A Precious Loss can offer hope to those grieving the loss of a child. Losing a child is “out of the rhythm of life,” but grieving families can trust that if the child can’t live

here on earth, he or she is living joyfully and abundantly in heaven with God. Naturally, those grieving a child may question God—Why did you let this happen? Where were you? Were you not paying attention? “God was there with you,” Sharon comforts. “He was there with your child. He received them immediately into his presence. Children are precious in the sight of God, and where they are is a beautiful and wonderful place.” God, too, holds the lives of those we are grieving as precious. “God didn’t cause this to happen,” Sharon said. “Trust that somehow God will be glorified out of your loss. The timing is not our script, but God’s.” Sharon Fox is the author of Reframing Adoption and A Precious Loss, both of which are available in English and Spanish. She is a speaker, trainer, and certified grief facilitator through the American Academy of Bereavement. In addition to her books, she develops training materials for churches and other organizations to offer Bible-based grief recovery support groups. Sharon’s next book will focus on helping families who have lost adult children.

BRAVE PENNY Sharon Fox’s ministry nonprofit, Brave Penny, was created in honor of her murdered sister, Penny. The name also acknowledges “the bravery required of those facing losses and moving toward living in contentment,” she said. Brave Penny is dedicated to training, to broadening understanding of grief experiences, and to gently encouraging women to speak about abortions or adoptions, experiences often kept as painful secrets. Brave Penny is also designed to deepen understanding of the reasons people grieve. The ministry serves people experiencing grief for many reasons—death of a loved one, bankruptcy, house fire, incarceration, loss of a pet, gifting a child to another family through adoption, and more. The nonprofit’s Bible-based curriculum is available for clergy and leaders as a download (with a licensing agreement). Sharon is also available to conduct training, having recently gone as far as Peru to train seminary students.2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 41


Hope & Healing with Melinda Gordon


Our goal is to provide compassion, encouragement, grief support, and hope to all members of the family. THROUGHOUT HER LIFE, MELINDA GORDON LONGED FOR GOD TO USE HER. SHE WANTED TO BE THE HANDS AND FEET OF JESUS, FOR HER TESTIMONY TO BRING GOD GLORY.

Led by Romans 12:8, which urges believers to use their gifts to serve others, the Gordon family established a nonprofit organization to ease the burden of families going through circumstances similar to theirs. Partnering with pediatric hospices, hospitals, and funeral homes, Abby’s Gift helps ease financial burdens and assists with providing for the medical equipment—and many other needs—these families experience. “Our goal is to provide compassion, encouragement, grief support, and hope to all members of the family.”

“When we pray for God to use us,” she says, “what many of us mean is: I’m yours as long as it’s painless, calm, and all the clouds have silver linings.” Her testimony, While Abby’s Gift serves families of critically however, would be forged through pain. and terminally Twenty-one weeks ill children, along, Melinda’s WE DON’T HAVE TO BE STRONG ENOUGH, Melinda’s book, unborn baby was diSMART ENOUGH, OR HAVE IT ALL Love Has Come: agnosed with a termiTOGETHER. WE JUST HAVE TO BE WILLING A 30-Day Journey nal condition called TO FOLLOW THE GOD WHO IS AND DOES. of Hope and Trisomy 18, also known Encouragement as Edwards syndrome. for Those The baby was not expected to survive the Experiencing Grief and Loss, reaches out pregnancy, let alone delivery, but she did. not only to those grieving the loss of a child, Hope Abigail (Abby) Gordon arrived on but to anyone with a heart in need of September 23, 2010, and although dochealing. “This book is about moving through tors gave her a mere twenty-four hours, hurt and pain. My pain happens to be the Abby blessed her family and the world with death of my daughter. But grief comes twelve days of life. Then Jesus welcomed through addiction, job and career loss, her into the cradle of his loving arms. depression. This book is for anyone.” Melinda, her husband, Clyde, and their daughter Ashlin grieved their loss, deeply. But the lessons they learned through that journey of grief grew their faith and moved them toward the creation of a unique ministry—Abby’s Gift.

Melinda hopes her readers will learn to see their losses, broken hearts, and trials as opportunities to feel the deep love of the God who is Healer, Deliverer, Teacher, Friend,



How do you help yourself, or someone you love, through the grieving process?

The Story of Hope This interactive guide helps children express their grief and loss through pictures and activities. “It is tough for parents to manage their own grief, much less be emotionally present for helping their children through theirs. This book comes from a child who has stared loss, grief, anger, and pain in the face and held her ground. This book will start the conversation when words don’t come easily and will give your child a way forward on the healing journey.” —Bestselling author and speaker, Dr. Tom Blackaby

∫ Love Has Come A 30-Day Journey of Hope and Encouragement for Those Experiencing Grief and Loss “Melinda competently navigates the tightrope between tears and gratitude, loss and gain, suffering and joy. Her measured honesty is like medicine that stings, but leads to healing. Melinda’s story of her daughter Abby’s short life and how it impacted so many people will impact you too. It may help you take another step in the direction of healing as you see how one family honors their child’s brief life. It may help you tell your own story of how love came to you, too. It might even inspire you to action or to be ready when your ‘baby Simon’ opportunity comes along.” — Dr. Tom Blackaby, bestselling author and speaker

∫ Author and speaker Melinda Gordon operates her family’s nonprofit, Abby’s Gift, and ministers to women at small groups, conferences, and retreats.


CONTINUED FROM P. 43 Redeemer, and Savior. “One of Abby’s gifts to me and to our family was the lesson that we don’t have to be strong enough, smart enough, or have it all together. We just have to be willing to follow the God who is and does.” The book encourages and inspires readers to step forward in healing, believing that life is no longer about what they can do for God, but what God has already done for them. “God doesn’t bless us simply to bless us. He gives a blessing to us, so his blessing can flow through us to others.” That willing spirit is present in Ashlin Gordon, who, like her parents, spreads a message of hope and healing through the speaking ministry of Abby’s Gift.

“She expressed beautifully, in the simple words of an eight-year-old, how to help other kids through their grief,” Melinda says. “I knew I had to do something with it.” Thus, The Story of Hope was born. “When the pain is in your heart,” Ashlin continues, “you feel it everywhere in your body. You can even feel the pain right through your bones.” The Story of Hope is an interactive guide that helps children express grief and loss as Ashlin did—going beyond words and using pictures—with talking points for parents and their children. Ideal for children ages three to eight, the book allows a child to grieve in his or her own way and aids parents in understanding what their children are feeling.

There is no doubt that losing Abby has impacted the Gordon family, but her legacy lives on. “A three-and-a-halfpound bundle of goodness touched Now fifteen, Ashlin was only seven years old my spirit, changed me, moved me, and encouraged me,” Melinda says. “A journey when her baby sister died, and she did not of heartbreak know how to express that could have the pain of her loss. stolen my joy, “One morning, a few SOME DAYS, I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT killed my dreams, weeks after Abby HOW I FELT. OTHER DAYS, I DIDN’T KNOW and destroyed died,” Melinda says, “I WHAT TO SAY, SO I DREW A PICTURE. my family has asked Ashlin how she only quickened was doing. She gave my faith and me a quick shrug, as if deepened my trust in a God who can to brush me off. So, I grabbed a legal pad, make all things good.” drew a few facial expressions, and asked her to circle the picture that matched how Abby may have only lived outside the she felt. She did and it was the saddest womb for twelve days, but the lessons of face. The next morning, I did the same. This her brief life will impact and inspire generamethod became a turning point in Ashlin’s tions to come. healing.” Months later, on that same legal pad, Ashlin penned a story of her own. But it wasn’t until nearly six years later that Melinda discovered it, buried deep in her desk in a stack of keepsake papers. “Some days, I wanted to talk about how I felt. Other days, I didn’t know what to say, so I drew a picture,” Ashlin says.

Melinda Beckendorf Gordon is an author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in corporate training and development. She and her husband established Abby’s Gift, a 100 percent volunteer-operated 501c3 nonprofit foundation assisting families with critically and terminally ill children. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughter. Ashlin Grace Gordon is an author, speaker, and busy high school student. In 2017, with the assistance of her father, Clyde, and their dog, Maggie, Ashlin launched a pet therapy program for pediatric patients and children who have lost a sibling. She lives with her family in Texas. 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION




with Andrea Tomassi & Cynthia Cavanaugh



It wasn’t only a shared passion to live boldly for Christ that drew these two women together; these authors are also cousins. Despite a nine-year age difference, they enjoy a deep, abiding friendship. “Over the past decade,” Cynthia recalls, “we’ve walked very similar paths. We’ve both been brought to our knees, so to speak, and had to walk difficult roads.” Each suffering betrayals that made them question the validity of their faith, the two women were forced to examine not only the source of their sufferings, but everything they thought they’d known about God since childhood. “I had to lose everything to see what I really needed,”

While the Bible encourages believers to be “completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2), it also instructs them to boldly proclaim their faith. On the surface, these may seem Andrea says. “I had to feel rejection and contradictory commands, but authors pain to then finally feel God’s complete Andrea Tomassi and Cynthia Cavanaugh and perfect love. I assert that both had to feel shame are possible for and unworthiness I HAD TO FEEL REJECTION AND PAIN TO believers anchored to truly know God’s THEN FINALLY FEEL GOD’S COMPLETE AND in Christ. They forgiveness and PERFECT LOVE. I HAD TO FEEL SHAME AND agree that it faithfulness. Today, UNWORTHINESS TO TRULY KNOW GOD’S takes openness to I am a new creFORGIVENESS AND FAITHFULNESS. God’s leading and ation through him.” obedient efforts before that sort of It was through their shared lineage—and bold living becomes a habit. a late-discovered legacy—that the idea of coauthoring the book arose. “After our “When I finally stopped chasing the answer grandmother’s death, we realized she was to who I was and understood the importance of whose I was,” Andrea says, “I found a writer,” Cynthia says. “She had written many poems. We have no idea what her the truth.” Cynthia agrees. “If I trust God to hopes and dreams might have been conbe the author of my story, I need to come cerning what she’d penned, but here we alongside and release my will and my way. are today, two of her granddaughters, Easier said than done, right? I’ve come to learn that he does a much better job of per- collaborating on a book. In a way, we are living out something she began.” fecting my faith. The key is to allow him to do that work and to embrace the process.” CONTINUED ON P. 49 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION


Walk BOLDLY with Christ!

Learn to live BOLD in every area of your life with this exciting new 52-week devotional journal from Andrea Tomassi and Cynthia Cavanaugh.

BOLD faith • BOLD obedience • BOLD identity • BOLD forgiveness BOLD prayer • BOLD compassion • BOLD service BOLD friendship • BOLD trust • BOLD truth • BOLD gratitude • BOLD story


CONTINUED FROM P. 47 Cynthia and Andrea’s book has an optional accompanying video series, as well as an online support and discussion group designed to enhance the readers’ journey through the devotional journal. Live Bold: A Devotional Journal to Strengthen Your Soul covers many topics, including areas of faith, obedience, forgiveness, love, trust, service, truth, identity, and compassion. Based on the book, the Live Bold Series 2018 features monthly video discussions between Cynthia and Andrea. An episode focusing on the topic of bold identity was filmed in a house still under construction. Directly across the street was a gorgeous, finished home with a beautiful stone facing. “In the video, you can’t see the finished product across the street,” Andrea says, “but isn’t that how we look at ourselves? We don’t see ourselves perfected and living in the fullness of a bold identity in Christ. But God does! He sees the final product.” Reminded of Philippians 1:6, which promises that God will complete the good works he begins in his children, she adds, “He’s going to finish the work in us. He wants us to keep going, to keep building, and to continue stepping out in faith. That is what having bold identity is all about. Walking in what we know to be true, and believing what God says about us, no matter whether circumstances seem to contradict it.” With fifty-two weekly readings organized by monthly themes, the Live Bold devotional journal is grounded in Scripture and

includes weekly journaling prompts and suggested action steps. Everything is designed to help readers engage the bold faith awaiting discovery within them. Through the book, video series, and other tools, Andrea and Cynthia confront the seeming dichotomy between being “humble and gentle” and living boldly for Christ and uncover issues that hinder readers from accomplishing both. “Yes, we are still works-in-progress,” the cousins agree. “Our prayer is that you will not only be encouraged, but radically influenced to love Jesus, so you, too, can walk boldly in Christ.” Live Bold: A Devotional Journal to Strengthen Your Soul is available from Redemption Press. To learn more about the Live Bold 2018 Series videos, gain access to weekly email devotionals, a Facebook Live prayer group, and other tools Cynthia and Andrea offer to embolden you on your journey, please visit Andrea Tomassi is the founder of Transcended Ministries, which encourages women to rise above their circumstances and claim their identity in Christ. Andrea boldly left a twenty-year career in the family business to pursue a degree in ministry. Married with three adult children, she makes her home in Northern California and enjoys her new role as “Mimi” to her grandchildren. Connect with Andrea at Cynthia Cavanaugh is a professional speaker and author of several books and Bible studies, including Anchored: Leading Through the Storms (New Hope Publishers 2018) and Live Unveiled: Freedom to Worship God, Love Others, and Tell Your Story (Redemption Press 2017). An adjunct professor in the Leadership Degree Program at Trinity Western University, Cynthia is the founder and director of Women Emerge, a movement encouraging intentional networking and training. A wife, mother, and happy “Nana” to her grandchildren, Cynthia, along with her husband, make their home in the far corner of the Pacific Northwest. Connect with Cynthia at: 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION


When overwhelming loss threatens to consume you, His love offers the promise of hope.

“Miss the Carriage is a testimony filled with hope abounding. For when loss devastates your dreams, isn’t that what we are all looking for? Shannon’s book points you to the hopeful words of the Man of Sorrows acquainted with your grief. You can know comfort. And over the next few pages, Shannon will take you stepby-step, inviting you to walk with her down the blood-stained path to Calvary. To the cross, a place of death . . . and a place of life filled with peace and joy that is out of this world.” — Joni Eareckson Tada, author & founder of Joni and Friends International

“Pain is one of the biggest clouds that conceals the Father’s love for us. The deeper the pain, the deeper the attack upon our trust.” – Shannon Gallatin

W R I T E T H AT B O O K !

A 4 - W E E K J U M P S TA R T “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” —Maya Angelou


ave you ever wanted to write a book, but you didn’t know where to begin? Do you have a great idea, but you can’t get more than a few words down on paper?

During our four-week Write That Book! clinic, aspiring and established writers will receive online group coaching to help them get started. In a group of ten students or fewer, your coach will cover subjects such as quick-writing, finding inspiration, character development, sorting through ideas, how to begin, show versus tell, using personal examples, writing a powerful opening, avoiding writer’s block, and other useful topics.

N O R M A L LY $ 2 4 9 , C O N F E R E N C E S P E C I A L N O W $ 1 9 9



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Faint Whispers

with Tammy Lyons Wilkinson


Tammy Lyons Wilkinson was not brought up in a churchgoing family.

Just shy of her twenty-fifth birthday, however, she met Jesus. In church a couple of months later, she heard the Easter story for the first time. “I heard the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ,” she shares. “I was never the same.” During the years after she was saved, Tammy absorbed a great deal of Bible knowledge, but the church didn’t teach about the gift of prophecy—and it wasn’t something she’d studied on her own. In July 2016, Tammy and her husband heard that a man who purported to have that gift was scheduled to speak in a nearby town. They decided to attend the special service. “Before walking in, I was told that if he prophesied over me, I could pretty much take that word to the bank; what he spoke would be true for my life in Christ, and my calling. In my unbelief, I simply nodded 52 STORYLINES •

and grinned.” That night, surrounded by strangers, Tammy was singled out during the service and asked to stand. The speaker laid hands on her and repeated the words, “God is going to give you a word, and you are going to speak to the nations. Get ready; it is going to happen fast. Get ready!” Later, on their way home from the service, Tammy laughed with her husband, and said, “Yeah, right. Who am I, that God would have me speak to nations?” Her question echoed the disbelief expressed in Exodus 3:11, when Moses queried God as to his readiness to move on God’s behalf. Fewer than six months later, on December 14, Tammy’s life swerved into an unexpected spotlight when God spoke, telling her to buy bananas for a homeless man. She obeyed, and as a result, received that prophesied word. With tears of awe and gladness, she shared her story in a Facebook Live post. That simple video, recorded in her car in a supermarket parking lot, went viral. With over 100 million views and counting, that word of hope and reassurance still speaks to the nations, spreading around the globe, touching countless lives, spurring questions, starting discussions, and igniting hope.

God uses ordinary people like you and me to speak life into others.

her story. “For some, that word you speak may be the difference between them giving up or pressing forward. For some, it may be an issue of life or death.”

Although her message spread through social media, her life is most effective when she connects with people in person, as is true for all of us. “In this era of constant One of the most frequent questions to contact with social media and texting, we pop up in the video comments section often get so wrapped up in the digital that inspired Tammy to pray, study, and put her we fail to get personal with others. We fail findings on paper. “Many responded to to build those one-on-one connections,” that video, asking, ‘How do you hear the she says. “If you bring your burdens into voice of God?’” she says. Her book, Faint the house of God and begin to open up Whispers: Learning to Discern the Voice and share those burdens with one another, of God, is the result of much study and God will honor that, and He will move in prayer. It seeks to answer that question ways our minds cannot conceive. There is by opening readers’ minds to the many possible ways God wants to speak to them. strength in numbers.” The message of her Using scripture, vivid word pictures, personal book will spur readers to look more closely at the folks around them in their day-to-day stories, challenges, and prayers, Faint lives: family, friends, Whispers speaks to people in their anyone longing to SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE WE ASK church, coworkers, discern the voice of QUESTIONS OF HIM, BUT WE DON’T and the homeless— God in their life. The REALLY WANT THE ANSWER HE GIVES US. who actually have book gently guides a hometown—ours. readers to develop a listening spirit that is ready to hear and Tammy is passionate about speaking life obey. “God still talks to his people, but not into others, and her bold, confident naall ‘hear’ him the same way,” she says. ture makes her a strong activator and “Sometimes I feel like we ask questions of communicator. That boldness, however, is him, but we don’t really want the answer tempered by tender compassion, genuine he gives us. So often, we do not hear transparency, and a desire to obey God. because we simply do not listen. We don’t Tammy wants her journey and testimony take time to sit at the feet of the Father to spur others on toward love and good and allow ourselves the time to just be in his deeds, as Hebrews 10:24 exhorts. But she presence.” also aligns herself to hear God’s voice and Tammy is convinced that when we do listen is thereby enabled to help others hear his voice, too, whether it comes in a loud comand sit in his presence, “God uses ordinary mand, or more often, in a faint whisper. people like you and me to speak life into others.” Viewers of her video have shared Tammy Lyons Wilkinson is an author and speaker who was thrust into the spotlight when her Facebook video went viral. Never with her, and her followers, their stories of intimidated by strangers, Tammy enjoys the challenge of meeting homelessness, pain, confusion, loss, and new people and discovering ways to either learn from them or depression—some even contacted her speak life into them. In her world, there are no strangers, only friends she has not met yet. Tammy lives in Indiana with her privately, saying they had decided to end husband, Paul, and her favorite canines, Sophie Grace and Bella their life, but reconsidered after watching Jane. 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION 53




Are You in the Game or in the Way? with Ross Holtz



Teamwork, as far as I can see, is the result of unity, which we know God wants in his church,” says Ross.


Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone who is right for a job is immediately perfectly qualified or equipped. Ross’s father, an Old Scandinavian, taught him that most tasks are made up of 15 percent knowhow, and 85 percent just doing it. “That’s a good place to start,” he says. Now when someone comes to him with a ministry idea, if the person shows a desire to live a godly life and seems respectful of the chain of command, he gives it a try—with accountability. “We pray a lot as we look to see if they have the gifts and talents to lead. I try to make it clear to all potential leaders that we’re offering a trial period to see how God works through them.”

Ross Holtz, author of Are You in the Game or in the Way? admits he And while Ross steps slightly aside, he was once that obstacle. He started a doesn’t move men’s ministry in a NO LEADER, PASTOR, MISSIONARY, OR completely out of small Washington WHATEVER CAN DO EVERYTHING IN HIS, the picture. Since church. But his OR HER, MINISTRY THAT GOD WANTS TO his job is to equip idea of a good BE DONE. TEAMWORK, AS FAR AS I CAN believers, he walks spiritual time was SEE, IS THE RESULT OF UNITY, WHICH WE alongside new studying Scriptures KNOW GOD WANTS IN HIS CHURCH. leaders during over pancakes the initial steps. on Saturday Sometimes, he even co-leads for a while. “I morning—a big snoozer for guys who’d try to minimize the risk of failure and the risk rather be tracking elk on their weekends. of embarrassment.” Ross was in his next church when a man in Some leaders turn responsibility over to the congregation offered to start a men’s someone and then must step in when a ministry. At first, he balked. “I was the senior pastor, and if God wanted a ministry situation goes awry. Ross doesn’t believe in moving away long enough for that to be directed specifically to men, he’d give me an issue. “I don’t think the leader should the instructions, and I’d do it.” ever have to ‘step in,’ because he or she Instead, Ross learned that when someone should never have ‘stepped out.’ Staying has a vision for ministry, the leader should engaged in a new ministry and the new make some room to let the person take leader is the right thing to do.” ownership. “No leader, pastor, missionary, Ross has a few other tips for developing or whatever can do everything in his or leaders. “Stay in conversation with them her ministry that God wants to be done. CONFERENCE EDITION 2018


at all stages, especially in the building stages, or when something negative has happened. Spend time praying with them, and talking with them. Sometimes even weeping with them is what we do when we are leading correctly.” Know the difference between delegation and dumping a job on people. “Delegation done right,” he says, “requires that we lead others in doing the ministry and offer them all the support and resources we have. Staying engaged with them, especially during the transition, is not optional. Dumping a job, of any kind, is almost always disastrous, both for the individual and for the church. Just expecting that this person has the gifts for this ministry and letting them succeed or fail on their own is usually programming failure. Occasionally, it works, by God’s good grace, or just dumb luck. But it is never good leadership.” Poor leadership development has consequences. “The actual danger is that

someone will be damaged because of our negligence or lack of discernment. I’ve seen good leaders quit and walk away from ministry in great pain because their mentors didn’t do their job.” Ross also recommends that current leaders temper their expectations. “Giving the new person the right to fail is crucial,” he emphasizes. “If we demand perfection or absolute success, we are often programming unneeded failure. Not every person can do every ministry. If it doesn’t work, we gently, lovingly, and kindly let them off the hook. Or we give them another approach to this ministry or give them another ministry better suited to their gifting.” Sometimes, the opposite scenario happens—the new person is so good that current leaders are afraid they’ll look bad, or they even feel a bit intimidated. “Prayer is a good place to start,” Ross advises. “It isn’t easy to overcome being

thank you for my husband, and the gift he is to our family. Help me learn to better love him each day. I pray for your anointing over him as the head of our home I pray against every form of sickness that may be shadowing his mind, body, or spirit. I ask that he be given clarity in his choices and favor in his steps. Bless him as he leads our children and bind us together in heavenly oneness as we serve You together. Thank you for going before us— breaking down every obstacle in the path.

—Y=O=U=R= =D=A=U=G=H=T=E=R


intimidated. The leader’s temptation is to think that he can do something better than anyone else in the world. Sometimes we believe all the accolades people give to us. Then when someone else comes along who can do the job as good, or better, it makes us insecure. In my opinion, this is sinful. Rather than delegating and encouraging this other person, we hope they will fail. And, in a worst-case scenario, we sabotage them intentionally or unintentionally. A word of criticism spoken here or there is all it takes.” Pastor Holtz adds, “Trusting God is another way to get over this discomfort. Remember, no one can intimidate you—it is your response to whatever they are doing. Trusting that God is working in his kingdom leads us to let go of our narcissistic tendencies.” While heading any ministry is an important privilege and trust from God, we must keep perspective. We can’t fear that if we do not meet our perceived leadership expec-

tations, we will cause irreparable damage. Like so many situations in life, the calling is not about us. Ross says, “God will always succeed. His desires will always be accomplished with, or without, us. God is not dependent on us; we are dependent on him. We must keep that in mind.” Ross has been pastoring for the last 44 years. He founded The Summit EFC 30 years ago and continues to serve as the senior pastor today. His eldest son leads worship, and both grandsons are on the worship team. He attended Criswell College in Dallas in the seventies and holds a bachelor’s and a master’s in religious studies and a doctor of divinity degree from Columbia Evangelical Seminary. His ordination is with the Evangelical Free Church of America. Most recently Ross received the “Pastor of the Year” award from the National Coalition of Ministries to Men at their Reload Convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, and he is the author of Are You in the Game or in the Way: A Question for Pastors and Men’s Ministry Leaders (Redemption Press, 2017). He has also contributed to two other books, How to Disciple Men and If You Passed Your Baton … Take It Back. Ross has recently been appointed to the executive board for Columbia Evangelical Seminary. For more info check out

GET IN THE GAME! “Pastor Ross Holtz is a man who has earned the right to speak on ministering to and through men … One man’s journey from being a skeptic to a fully engaged pastor who sees the power of a clear ministry to and through men … Pastor Ross bares his heart, and is, at times, brutally honest in a way that will resonate.” —Chuck Stecker, president, A Chosen Generation “Pastor Ross has done an excellent job of describing how the special interest groups and specifically the men’s pastor can take on responsibility to assist the pastor with his plate already being too full. This is an excellent read with practical illustrations of this process from a senior pastor in the trenches. This will also teach the men’s leader valuable lessons to gain the trust of the senior pastor in your church.” —Darrel Billups, Th.D.; NCMM, executive director, National Coalition of Ministries to Men

“An ideal gift for the pastor or men’s ministry leader in your life.” — Author and speaker Ross Holtz




In Amazing Grace, a group of young girls finds themselves in the care of a cruel guardian. With the help of her childhood Bible and fading memories of godly parents, eleven-year-old Sarah teaches the girls what faith in God and his resulting grace can overcome!

A young runaway struggles with feelings of guilt, abandonment, and worthlessness. When the last glimmer of hope seems to be fading, he wanders onto a farm and finds not only a job, but a loving family and a permanent home. Hope Everlasting is a story about the amazing possibilities that exist when we turn to God and believe in his desire to give us a future and a hope.

A young boy finds himself alone in a big city with no memory. As flashbacks and questions about the past begin to overwhelm him, he leans on the sanctuary of a church and the help of strangers to see him through. Lost and Found is one boy’s story of finding his way back to faith, hope, and love.

"With God, all things are pos-

“With God, all things sible!" are possible!” -- Judy Lafler —J.C. Lafler 60 STORYLINES •


Cultivating Dreams Eric Odell-Hein




I’ve become a better husband as I’ve learned to be a good father. I’m better able to minister to people based on my journey and experience.


vanced degrees, Eric leans into that core, daily. A dedicated family man who understands that knowledge is required before one can follow their calling and live out their dreams, Eric is passionate about creating opportunities for others to learn.

As an author, Eric engages his gifts as both an educator and a storyteller, sharing biblical truth and examining concepts of holiness and justice, good and evil, and symbol and myth through nonfiction. His memoir, Finding My Son: A Father’s Adoption Journey, applies those gifts in a new direction as he unblinkingly shares the rarely heard male point of view tracing the frustrating and often awkward, but ultimately rewarding road he traveled to become a father. “God brought me full circle on my journey as an adoptive father—from a guy who didn’t want children at all to one who loves being a dad. God lined up the timing so perfectly, knowing just when to tweak my heart and clear the hurdles to align our

readiness with Ephraim’s birth.” But it was the in-between time that stretched his faith. “Despite my theological education and time in ministry, I wasn’t always good at centering on God and trusting him,” Eric admits. “I worried about everything that could possibly go wrong—it’s part of my personality. I’m a bit of a pessimist. I don’t necessarily think the worst will happen, but I tend to look at all the ways something might go wrong and try to work to prevent them. However, some things were out of my control.” Surrendering control to God was one of many lessons Eric encountered on his journey to fatherhood. Encouraging men to acknowledge the insecurities and fears they don’t want to admit—while advocating a thoughtful transparency as the best approach to even the most unnatural, uncomfortable aspects of the adoption process—Eric shares his misgivings and mistakes with a refreshing honesty. Eric’s engaging memoir is a testament to the beautiful gift of adoption and a touching account of a father’s love. “I don’t know what it’s like to be a father who bonds with a biological child,” he says, “but



my joy.



there is no way in the world that it’s stronger than what I have with Ephraim!” Maintaining and expanding that bond takes an investment of time, of course, time Eric most readily gives to his son. “Now that he is nine, we all play video games together as a family, and when I come home from work, I often find him and Chris, my wife, playing Minecraft on the Xbox with his aunts at the other end of the Internet connection,” Eric says.

lifestyle. We customize the learning plan to fit each student’s calling and passion, so they can grow and minister however God leads them. Besides pastors and educators, we have overseas evangelists, mothers who want to lead teenage apologetics groups, women studying to lead ministries at their church, and even a State Department employee in Africa who wanted to increase her understanding of Christianity as she dealt with local believers. Besides my incredible God-given family,” Eric concludes, “this is my passion.”

It is not unusual to find Ephraim in his dad’s office at Columbia Evangelical Seminary, As Eric looks forward to engaging the mind where Eric serves as president. “Ephraim of each new student entering the semiwas so clearly meant specifically for nary, he basks in the joys of fatherhood. us,” Eric says. “He is the perfect match.” “My life feels complete—not that I’m done As Ephraim attends his schoolwork, he living or that I have witnesses his father nothing left to do, living out that strong but rather that God I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A regard for learning has led me to an FATHER WHO BONDS WITH A BIOLOGICAL by assisting others unexpectedly hapCHILD, BUT THERE IS NO WAY IN THE to achieve their py outcome deWORLD THAT IT’S STRONGER THAN WHAT I educational goals. spite years of deep HAVE WITH EPHRAIM! “I’d been barely fears. I’ve become able to complete a better husband my Ph.D. studies after the adoption,” Eric as I’ve learned to be a good father. I’m adds. “I would have appreciated a little better able to minister to people based on more flexibility, had it been available. I’d my journey and experience. And Ephraim like to make that instructional flexibility simply makes me look forward to coming available to others.” home from work to be a dad.” “There are a lot of really great schools out there,” Eric says with conviction. “But at CES, we try to meet the educational desires of those who are underserved or unable to attend a local seminary. So many people lead busy lives and can’t dedicate the time or the money those schools require.” Through the development of programs aimed at those with a heart for ministry, but without the means or opportunity to obtain a traditional seminary education, Eric’s position at CES allows him to accomplish that goal. “We focus on providing a high-quality education that is compatible with a busy

Eric Odell-Hein (Ph.D., M.Div., M.R.S., Th.B.) is the president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary. The teaching pastor at Summit Evangelical Free Church, he is also the author of Recovering Lost Treasure: Finding Christ in Ancient Myth, Symbol, and Ritual and Systems of Evil: A Study in Comparative Theodicy. Eric lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with his wife Christine and their son, Ephraim. 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION


WRITE THAT BOOK! A 4 - W E E K J U M P S TA R T “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” —Maya Angelou


ave you ever wanted to write a book, but you didn’t know where to begin? Do you have a great idea, but you can’t get more than a few words down on paper? During our four-week Write That Book! clinic, aspiring and established writers will receive online group coaching to help them get started. In a group of ten students or fewer, your coach will cover subjects such as quick-writing, finding inspiration, character development, sorting through ideas, how to begin, show versus tell, using personal examples, writing a powerful opening, avoiding writer’s block, and other useful topics.



WO RT H $ 2 4 9


Resources to inspire, equip, and encourage. (1 Th essalonians 5:11) | 360-226-3488 More information and to sign up:





Teammates for Life

with DREAMING OF THE MAJORS Dick “Lefty” O’Neal

Living in the Bulsh

by Dick “Lefty” O’Neal


South Texas Negro League and the second in the Gulf Coast Negro League. Lefty, otherwise known as Dick O’Neal, says, “We met at a golf tournament. They put us in the same cart. After we played a few holes, I asked if his baseball name was ‘Mulekicker,’ and he said yes. I told him I had read how great he was. He then asked if I knew of a white guy who played in the South Texas Negro League named Lefty. I said, ‘You’re looking at him.’ God brought us, John ‘Mule’ Miles and me, together for a reason.” The brothers in Christ became close friends and teammates, meeting again to play baseball at the Old-Timer’s Classic. Lefty says, “When Mule found out that he was going to be the manager, he turned to me and said, ‘You are my starting pitcher.’ After that game, we sat down and talked, and he convinced me to write a book.” Although the book covers many years and 68 STORYLINES • significant historical events, including events that transpired in Lefty’s life before the men met, their meeting was a catalyst for writing the book Dreaming of the Majors, Living in the Bush. Racism, alive then as now, made ugly appearances in both men’s lives in the mid-twentieth century. A newspaper interviewed them. Mule said, “When we went into a restaurant to eat during the years I played on the white team, they wouldn’t want to feed me. But the players said, ‘If you don’t feed him, we aren’t coming in either.’ The white kids at the ballpark would come and feel my hair and touch my skin, then rub to see if the black would come off.” He then told the reporter that Lefty had not been untouched by racism, either. “When I watched Lefty pitch,” he continued, “he knew how to take the verbal abuse. ‘White Trash’ and ‘Honky’ were words he heard, but he just played the game at a high level. Some said Lefty was a decent ballplayer but an even better human being,” Mule concluded. “I heard that about myself, also. Lefty and I could relate to each other in a unique way, coming from opposite directions.”

Are we still living with walls between us as a people? And, even more importantly, are we truly embracing our brother, as the Father designed us to? Dick “Lefty” O’Neal’s book is a timely message, as our nation continues to combat racism and to dialogue on the issues surrounding racial diversity. Dick hopes that all who read his book will not only come away with an inspiring story of baseball, but a firm understanding of what it means to be part of humanity, without color divisions.

“The story will force the reader to reexamine his or her values and look at themselves a little more closely. Are we still living with walls between us as a people? Even more importantly, are we truly embracing our human teammates, and our brothers in Christ, as the Father designed us?” The book is a testimony to camaraderie and friendship. Before he passed away, Mule said, “I am looking forward to meeting my heavenly Father in the future, and when Lefty comes my way he’ll be the starting pitcher on my team in heaven!” O’Neal and his wife, Harriet, currently reside in Texas. Dreaming of the Majors, Living in the Bush is on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, New York. The book and a signed baseball are displayed in the National Negro League Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Movie options are being explored for the book. For more information about Dick “Lefty” O’Neal, please visit: or to inquire about having Dick visit or speak at your event, please email




Redemption Press Writing Coach with Eric Odell-Hein

I SAT NERVOUSLY AT THE KEYBOARD, WAITING TO HIT “SEND” AS I PRACTICED SOME BREATHING EXERCISES DESIGNED TO INCREASE MY SENSE OF CALM. Then, with a steady exhalation of breath and a click of the left mouse button, my manuscript was off for coaching and editing review. I was nervous about how the publisher would receive it. Was my topic good enough? Was I able to convey my intended message to the target audience? And what would people think about me once they read my book? Typically, I am a confident man. I approach speaking engagements with ease. Whether preaching to a congregation, teaching a class, or delivering a conference lecture, I deliver my message with practiced competence backed by expert knowledge. As someone involved with academics at a high level, I am used to reading, critiquing, and grading research documents from around the world as doctoral students present their final works for graduation consideration. I’ve been that student myself, having 70 STORYLINES •

written many academic works as part of my education and career. However, this time it wasn’t about academics—I was sharing my personal fears, failures, and joys as a man walking through the process of adoption. Could I effectively communicate these deeply emotional experiences in a personal, engaging way? The skills I developed over the years to deal with academic research requirements seemed inadequate, and my confidence was low. I knew my manuscript was not up to even my own standards, let alone that of the publisher, but I lacked the ability to identify the specific improvements necessary to elevate it to the level I desired. Over the next several days, I felt anxiety when checking my email inbox. I wanted to see the response from the coach and editor, but I was also preemptively embarrassed for what I perceived as a manuscript lacking some necessary elements to be successful. This is where Redemption Press and managing editor Sandra Byrd came to my rescue. Sandra’s mail back to me was very encouraging. She understood the purpose of the book, the intended audience, and exactly how to reach that audience as effectively as possible via this written medium. Between emails and Skype conversations, Sandra gently walked me through fundamental structural issues that simply are not a part of academic writing,

but they were the missing ingredients in my adoption memoir. Using general coaching guidance paired with line-by-line editing, Sandra introduced me to a modern style of writing that elevated my manuscript from a clumsy collection of firsthand experiences to a powerful presentation of a central theme.

that was informative, but dull, I realized I now had the knowledge necessary to bring about improvement in this space. Even though the context changed from written memoir to a data-driven business recap, I was able to identify the missing ingredients and bring arc, tension, and hooks into the story we were going to share with our business partners.

From her first response through Redemption Press THIS WAS NOT IMPERSONAL EDITING; to the end, I never and Sandra Byrd THIS WAS A PERSONAL APPROACH THAT felt embarrassed did wonders for my IMPROVED MY OVERALL ABILITIES TO or insufficient in writing skills, and COMMUNICATE IN ANY ENVIRONMENT. my skills. Rather, my book is an exshe gave me ponentially better the opportunity to learn and apply read than it would have been without their added communication strategies that aid. Now, when I look to my email inbox, I augmented what I already knew. This was no longer have the nagging worry about not impersonal editing; this was a personal inadequate writing or being embarrassed approach that improved my overall abilities by my manuscripts. Instead, I crave the to communicate in any environment. constructive, actionable feedback and look forward to applying it to many areas of These skills quickly came into use in my life. the corporate world. When faced with Eric Odell-Hein is the president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary contributing to a conference presentation and a senior program manager for Microsoft.




Redemption Press? with Becky Graham

AFTER SPENDING SIX MONTHS HOVERED OVER MY COMPUTER WRITING MY MANUSCRIPT, I WAS FINALLY READY TO PURSUE A PUBLISHER. When I met with three literary agents at the Write to Publish conference, I was told my memoir would not even be considered by a traditional publisher since my name wasn’t well known and I didn’t have a social media presence of 50,000+ followers. My only option would be to self-publish. WestBow had been calling and pursuing me, but the price they quoted to publish was outrageous. I met a fellow author in my community writing group who suggested CreateSpace through Amazon. I knew several authors who published through them and were happy with the prices. However, their book covers looked like a classic self-published book. I came into contact with several Christian self-publishers at the Write to Publish conference, but I wasn’t impressed with the quality of their books. Then I pulled out a business card I received after talking with a couple I kept seeing at the conference. The card was from Athena Dean Holtz from Redemption Press. 72 STORYLINES •

I researched her company and saw that RP had much lower publishing costs than WestBow, and their books looked more professionally published than other selfpublishers. I contacted a literary agent for a reference who told me Athena’s team would do a great job with my project. By the time I contacted Athena, I was pulling out my hair, frustrated with rewriting my manuscript over and over. She immediately saw my frustration and told me to send her my manuscript so she could help me decide what to do with it. I consolidated all the chapter files and sent her one giant email attachment. She looked at my manuscript, and we talked via Skype. During our meeting, she did address CreateSpace costs versus Redemption Press costs. They were comparable. However, with RP I would be working with people who have a spiritual background who could pray through the project with me. Since my book is about my faith journey to motherhood, specifically the spiritual journey I took with God, there would certainly be a spiritual battle going on as I finished the publishing process. She went through the pricing and recommended what services I would need based on what she read in my manuscript. She commented on the manuscript coaching, which I agreed would be very beneficial to me. After praying, my husband and I decided to sign a contract with Redemption Press to publish my manuscript.

Being very naïve to the publishing process, I assumed my book would be published within months. I quickly discovered how wrong my assumption was. My first eye opener was the feedback from my manuscript coaching. Senior editor Inger Logelin rewrote the first three chapters of my book. WOW! I had assumed my blog posts, which were chapters, were sufficient. They weren’t! Even though it was a non-fiction book, she told me it needed to be written like a fictional story with characters the reader would care about and love. She taught me how to add dialogue, to write showing instead of telling my readers, to use active instead of passive voice, to delete adverbs, and much more.

Carboni, and I worked together cutting out unnecessary words, phrases, and storylines. We sent a working document back and forth between California and South Florida via email. We both listened to each other and worked together to make the storyline clear, clean, and concise without losing any of the story. Julie gave me the best advice: “The edits are done. We could continue to rewrite and rewrite, but at one point, you need to let go of the manuscript and say, ‘it is done.’” Otherwise, I’d still be rewriting, and it would never have gone to print!

In the end, publishing with RP was the right path for me and my book. Not only was Athena’s team knowledgeable and understanding, but My spirit was deflatthey held my hand ed when I received HER JOB WAS TO BRING OUT THE BEST throughout the her feedback. In WRITING IN ME. HER WORDS WERE rewriting, editing, fact, I didn’t think EXACTLY WHAT THIS FIRST-TIME AUTHOR designing, and I could even atNEEDED TO HEAR! typesetting process. tempt to do what Athena was present she recommended during the process for my manuscript. even when I didn’t know what was going Discouraged, I wrote a blog post about on behind the scenes with my book cover! the process. Athena and my writing coach read the post, and I received an encourag- If you are a first-time author, I highly recoming email. My writing coach told me, “The mend Redemption Press and their manumirror of editing can be too much truth script coaching. Your writing and finished at one time.” She told me I had a distinct book will stand up next to traditionally “voice” and a great writing style. Her job published books on bookstore shelves. The was to bring out the best writing in me. Her money you spend on manuscript coaching words were exactly what this first-time auwill be the best investment you can make thor needed to hear! for your book. My project manager, Hannah, encouraged me and prayed for me throughout four months of intense rewrites—even when my hard drive crashed, and I lost a week’s worth of rewrites! With my manuscript being well over the number of words in my contract and being depleted from intense rewrites, I added a “substantiate edit” to shave down the word content. Again, Athena’s team, Julie

Becky Graham’s life began in a rural setting surrounded by cornfields and combines just outside a small town in northwest Ohio. She received her AA degree from Cedarville University and moved to the Chicago area where she received her BA degree from DePaul University, married her husband and added a son to their family. Becky has volunteered in several churches as a teacher, woman’s small group leader, woman’s coach in small groups, a mentor and a leader in various woman’s ministries. She is an alumnus of Speak UP, Write to Publish, Breathe, Listen to My Life: Recognizing and Responding to God in My Story. Faithful: An Unexpected Journey to Motherhood is her first book chronicling her faith journey through infertility, fertility treatments, chemical imbalance, clinical depression, and open adoption. You can follow her at 2018 CONFERENCE EDITION



A 4 - W E E K J U M P S TA R T “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” —Maya Angelou


ave you ever wanted to write a book, but you didn’t know where to begin? Do you have a great idea, but you can’t get more than a few words down on paper? During our four-week Write That Book! clinic, aspiring and established writers will receive online group coaching to help them get started. In a group of ten students or fewer, your coach will cover subjects such as quick-writing, finding inspiration, character development, sorting through ideas, how to begin, show versus tell, using personal examples, writing a powerful opening, avoiding writer’s block, and other useful topics.






Resources to inspire, equip, and encourage. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) | | 360-226-3488 More information and to sign up: STORYLINES •

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