London!

August 29th, 2014

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In London, we ran a family conference at a Chinese church. We felt “right at home” as most of our previous overseas conferences have been with Chinese people in Singapore and Malaysia. [smile]

20140804_142524_28446 Mr. Martin speaking

20140805_115802_28465 Dinner with the pastor (standing behind my dad) and church staff. We were encouraged by their heart for discipleship and their desire for the 5 branches of their Chinese church in London to have families that are strong in the Lord!

20140804_064846_28404 Teaching fathers and sons

20140804_103841_28423 Sarah talking to girls and moms

20140804_084100_28420 Mirren and Taryn Martin teaching girls and moms

20140804_140625_28439 Book table

20140730_032458_28077 I’ll admit, I wasn’t so sure it was a great idea to fly over with this much extra stuff (10 duffle bags filled with books), but we were sure glad we did!

20140804_074210_28408 Singming (right) is the one who invited us and coordinated the conference. We are so grateful to her for all of her work and coordination! Linda Lim (left) was a huge help in the whole process.

20140804_153629_28454 Susannah, her mom, and Isabella have started going through the Bright Lights material with some other friends who were also at the conference. We really enjoyed meeting them are excited to see how the Lord will use them as godly examples and role models in their communities!

20140805_122711_28467 A delicious dessert of fruit, meringue crumbles, and cream (called eton mess)

Please pray that the Lord would give grace and strength to these families to walk in a manner worthy of Him!

Swanick, Derbyshire, England

August 24th, 2014

20140802_130755_28316 Our first conference was held in Derbyshire. The great fellowship during this conference was a huge blessing!

20140802_090757_28293 During a break, several of us sat around and heard a powerful testimony from Barry, who recently trusted Christ to save him (after months of resistance).

20140803_090124_28370 Our family and the Martins with the Living Water’s representative, John and Danielle Harris (front right) and Ben Scotten from AiG UK (standing behind them).

Meeting them was definitely a highlight on the trip! The Harris’ described with enthusiasm how they see people often “repenting on the streets” as they go out and engage them with the gospel. Check out this short You Tube Clip of them interviewing people on the streets. You’ll enjoy seeing what they do! (Note: the talking on the video starts at minute 1:00).

They also shared how they see the Lord raising up laborers for the harvest – they are currently training 60 people in evangelism (3 classes of 20 people each every week). Wish I lived closer, I’d love to join them! They also have a lot of neat ideas and vision for the future. If you live anywhere near the Nottingham area, I would highly recommend you join one of their training classes! You can find their email address on the contact page of their webpage to get more information.

It was also encouraging to hear from Ben about how the Lord is growing the AiG presence in the UK. They are currently gearing up for the UK Creation Mega Conference!

20140802_144609_28323 A question / answer time at the end of Mr. Martin’s last session on negative influences in our society, and how to keep our lives clean and set apart for Christ.

20140802_092403_28294 Rani (next to Sarah) with her younger sister and two cousins. After meeting Rani, we felt she’d be a wonderful Bright Lights leader, and we were encouraged when we received an e-mail from her yesterday reviewing some of what the Lord has done in her life and stating, “I felt like all the things I was shown in my spiritual walk was preparing me to this call to be a a Bright Light Leader …” We are so excited to see how the Lord will continue to use Rani!

20140803_015630_28333 I took a picture of this plant as an inspiration to our staff here in the Bright Lights office, haha! We have a rubber plant just like that but unfortunately we haven’t done quite as good of a job caring for it!

Reports about London conference and sightseeing coming soon! =)

Birmingham, England

August 19th, 2014

We have been home from England for a few days now. We are filled with gratefulness to the Lord for allowing us to be a small part of what He is doing in that country. Thank you for all who were praying. We truly saw His hand at work in each place.

Since we were basically with people the entire time, we made many new friends. Well, rather, we met many of our brothers and sisters on that part of the world for the first time. [smile]. It looks like we will have continued contact with many of them. At least three new Bright Lights groups are starting, which is a big answer to prayer. One of them is having their second meeting tomorrow evening!

To share some of the highlights from the trip, I think I will categorize reports by city. So we’ll start with Birmingham, where we spent a day before going on to our first conference in Derbyshire.

20140801_055930_28212 The Davies family, upon hearing that we were considering coming to England, emailed us back in February, inviting us to stay with them. They also offered to organize a family gathering where we could speak to more families in their area.

20140731_145709_28194 My dad sharing with the parents

20140731_145731_28196 Sarah sharing with the girls

20140731_155031_28200 I really enjoyed meeting the Hughes sisters who live near Wales and drove quite a distance to come that evening. They are now planning to start a Bright Lights group. We praise the Lord for their lives and for what He is going to continue to do through them.

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At the Davies home, we had a lot of fun, enjoying their wonderful hospitality, and learning about English ways and … vocabulary!

For snacks in the break at our meeting at the church, they had “tea and cakes.” It was delicious – though it wasn’t actually cake, but brownies, cookies, etc. This produced some fun conversation afterward, defining terms. [smile]
“Well, what would you call what we ate during the break?” they asked me.
“Well, we’d probably say ‘snacks or treats’ or just call it ‘brownies and cookies’ … so for you, you just put it all under the category of ‘cakes,’ right?”
“Yes,” they agreed. We continued from there to defining cookies and biscuits. (As many of you probably already know, a biscuit to them is what we would call a cookie.)
“Oh, so your biscuits are like dinner rolls?” they asked me.
“Yes,” I said, going on to describe what “biscuits” are to us.
“Well, that sounds like our scones,” Mrs. Davies said.
“Oh, what are your scones like? Are they sweet?”
“No, not really,” she said, continuing to describe them.
“Well we have scones too, but ours are sweet, and they are triangle,” I said.
“Now I’m really confused,” she replied.
We laughed. This conversation was taking place while I was drying dishes.
“The cutlery can go in here,” she told me.
Now I’m thinking, And what would that mean?” and then realized she was referring to silverware.
All the differences in our vocabulary is just too fun.

20140801_063453_28249 English home school room!

20140801_071514_28267 The Davies introduced us to a card game that helps you learn the Kings and Queens of England.

20140801_063146_28246 Another 3rd born baby of the family! [smile] I learned a lot about hedges and mince meat from Jemimah!

20140801_094054_28273 Off to the next place!

Young Ladies Conference in England

August 12th, 2014

IMG_1111 Sarah talking with one of the mothers. Behind her is one of the buildings of Brunel Mannor–the location where our last conference was held.

IMG_1175 Discussion time with the girls late Saturday night. The highlight for me was when one girl shared, almost teary-eyed, how she’d had so many questions and Sarah’s session on “Before You Meet Price Charming” gave her answers that really helped her. Praise the Lord!

IMG_0980 We have also had some exciting times sight seeing. Here were are on top of a huge rock in Dartmoor.

I have soooo many pictures and reports, but have not had much free time to post. I will be posting them soon, though!

Five minute NEA Gospel Outreach Report Video

August 4th, 2014

We’ve had another fantastic day in England and I’m looking forward to blogging about it later when I have time. In the meantime, I wanted to share the latest video that Nickie and I put together about the witnessing outreach at the NEA last month.

Nickie and I always feel sharpened after returning from the outreach at the NEA Convention. We learn a lot from listening in on the witnessing conversations of those who’ve had more witnessing experience than we have!

We’re excited to now give you a little taste of what the Lord did last month in Denver. This 5 minute video has witnessing footage from the booth as well as reflections and tips from team members.

You can also see a really exciting story from the NEA recently posted on Ken Ham’s blog here.

In England!

August 3rd, 2014

IMG_0148 We have just finished our 5th day in England! Each day has been wonderful. Here’s a picture of Windsor castle I snapped as we were driving by! Feels strange to actually see REAL castles :).

The “Equipping Conference” ended this afternoon. Great fellowship, many new friends … we were encouraged! This afternoon we drove to London, and the next conference starts tomorrow, hosted by a Chinese church here.

We’d appreciate prayer that the next two days the Lord would be working in a mighty way in all of our lives. It is definitely exciting to interact with people here, and see what the Lord is doing in this part of the world.

More reports coming later.

We Aren’t Good Enough At Dreaming

July 28th, 2014

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We all have dreams for the future. Many of them aren’t necessarily selfish dreams, but deeply rooted desires and godly ambitions. Let’s say for a moment that the Lord gave you all you had dreamed for and even more than you had imagined. You couldn’t believe it, and stood in awe of the goodness of God in showering you with these gifts.

Yet, roll that all together and it’s merely like a pinhead compared to the infinite treasure of knowing Christ. Think about it: everything good here on earth is just a reflection of Him. Everything we like, He made it! It was His idea.

Our dreams are subjective. The truth is, we aren’t good enough at dreaming. We don’t even know what we want! We think we do, but we don’t really. But the Lord KNOWS the desires of our hearts – He made us! He sees the whole picture and knows what will be the best for us and everyone else. And He who did not withhold His own Son, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

Of course it’s natural to have earthly dreams–we all do! But recently I’ve been encouraged by remembering that the Lord has actually instructed me on what my dream should be! He said, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Knowing Jesus is the relationship that is all-fulfilling and all-consuming, the treasure that satisfies. He is the Life Purpose that is worth pouring out everything inside of ourselves to serve. And this relationship is not just something we’re waiting for, it’s something we can have now. But if we want to be experiencing this treasure right now, we must trust Him. You see, you cannot be truly close with someone if you don’t trust them. Lack of trust puts a wedge in the relationship. Remember, the Lord KNOWS how to give good gifts to His children (Luke 7:9-11). It’s not hard for Him! So if He doesn’t give us what we think we want, it means He has a better idea for us.

Maybe He will bless us with the beautiful things we all desire here on earth, and maybe He won’t. Ultimately, it’s not that big of a deal either way … in the long run. Paul considered even gain in this world as loss in comparison to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-8)! In the Lord’s courageous love, He chooses the VERY BEST for each of us and then gives it. For some it looks like cancer and loved ones torn away. For some it looks like concentration camps and martyrdom. For some it’s serving faithfully in loneliness without appreciation or recognition. It’s all allowed by a loving Father who beautifully gives His children the treasures of His love as He heals them from the thorns and pricks of this earth. And He reminds us that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).”

Let’s remember that earthly dreams are shaky and passing. We need to learn how to dream better. If we want a joy that is constant and enduring there’s only one way to get it: “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).”

Rather than focusing on earthly dreams, let’s imitate the example of those listed in Hebrews 11 who “… were strangers and exiles on the earth … seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).”

“Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine”
-Fanny Crosby, I Am Thine O Lord

A Few More Pictures

July 26th, 2014

Below are a few more pictures and reports from our Bright Lights conference week.

20140707_211751_27499 As most already know, Stephen is the guy who basically makes everything happen smoothly….running cables all throughout the auditorium beforehand, taking care of sound (12 lapel mics, and up to 9 lapels on stage at once during one of the skits!), and many other logistical details. Not to mention packing up and loading the trailer afterward. We are very grateful that he took several vacation days off work for this conference!

20140710_112457_27733 We took the small group leaders to the coffee shop right behind the Bright Lights office on our free day in between conferences. At this table we got into a pretty interesting discussion about apologetics. :)

20140710_104525_27724 It sounded like they had some good discussions in the other room also. (We kind of took over the coffee shop as there were about 20 of us there!)

20140710_150745_27747 After the coffee shop we had a time at the park for our own individual time in the Word; very restful!

20140708_090536_27502 One thing that was very special was having several girls from our local Bright Lights group here in Cedar Rapids as leaders at the conference. (Pictured above are some of them.) It’s been encouraging to see them growing in the Lord and rising to leadership responsibilities within our local group, and we were blessed to have them as part of our team!

20140708_164110_27553 Thanks again to everyone who came to the conference or helped with the conference!

We are now gearing up for our trip to England. We are leaving Tuesday! We would ask that you would please pray for our time there — that the LORD would do a mighty work in that country and raise up leaders that would have great influence for Him.

If you’d like to receive our e-mails with specific requests during the England trip, I’ll add you to our prayer email list. Just send me an email with the words “England Prayer Points” in the subject.

Radiant Purity Conference, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

July 22nd, 2014

20140711_175609_27789 Laura Sisson (Nickie’s older sister) sharing the special story of how she met her husband Jim. Laura used to be a central part of our Bright Lights team before she got married eight years ago.

20140709_124522_27600 We were excited to have Laura join us again for the “Strong in the Lord Conference” — this time attending as a mother with her daughter! (Abigail is a little young, but we made an exception for her to come [smile]). Laura is just one of many Bright Lights conference leaders who are now happy mothers!

20140721_160036_27938 The “Storms of Life” newscast skit

2014 leaders We had a wonderful team of small group leaders who came from Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia! Most of them are currently leading Bright Lights groups in their home towns.

20140709_212708_27692 One evening after the attendees had left, all of us leaders went outside with a couple guitars and just sang and sang … definitely a highlight!

20140708_114350_27525 Mrs. Kramer (in teal) did the cooking for our team of forty for the week. She also did snacks for the conference attendees. It was a lot of work, and we are very grateful! We also appreciated Gabriella and Bethany Isaac (left) for all their hard work in the kitchen!

20140709_151227_27608 Mrs. Kramer even made homemade rhubarb sauce (like applesauce) for one of the snacks for the attendees. It was amazing.

20140711_203331_27798 One highlight for the attendees is the fellowship. Sometimes it’s lonely swimming upstream and not going the world’s way! I think it’s refreshing for them to see so many other girls who also want to love Jesus with all of their heart and walk in purity!

We received an encouraging report the other day from a mom who brought her daughter to the purity conference: “…coming to Cedar Rapids has altered the trajectory of my daughters’ journey to be directly living for Jesus… We’ve had so many discussions that are God centered, initiated by the girls(!) and developing a genuine evangelistic heart for unsaved…”

Praise the Lord!

The main thrust of the Radiant Purity Conference is that we are to guard our hearts–not merely for our future husbands–but for Jesus Christ! We want to be occupied with HIM in our single years. We want to be useful for His glory during this precious time. The question is not “Where is the line?” or “What are the rules?” but rather, “How can I please the Lord even more in my thoughts and actions?!”

It’s not about a perfect formula for a pain-free path. Rather, it’s about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and learning to trust Him!

It was exciting to see girls grasp these truths and desire to follow a higher road.

One question that seemed to help the girls in my small group understand this point was the question, “Is purity something you don’t do, or is purity something you do?”
One girl replied, “Well, I think it’s both…”
Another girl answered, “Well, I think it’s something you do, because when you are doing the right things then you won’t want to do the wrong things.”

The primary emphasis is do not don’t. Purity isn’t just about avoiding certain activities. It’s much, much more. Purity is pursuing Jesus Christ! When a girl runs after Him with all her heart, satisfied in HIS love, everything else in her life will fall into it’s proper place as HE becomes the Master of every area of her heart.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9).

If at first you don’t succeed…

July 15th, 2014

On our free day in between our two conferences last week, we watched a Way of the Master training video and had a discussion on witnessing with the Bright Lights leaders who came in to help with the conferences.

Then we spent the afternoon at a park. Unfortunately, however, there were not enough people there for everyone to witness to. Several girls expressed a strong desire to spend more time witnessing.

Our plan was to have a singing time after dinner, but I casually mentioned to the girls that if they wanted to go somewhere else after dinner to witness instead, I could take a few with me in our minivan. I suggested going to the concert that is held on Thursday evenings in our town square because there are often a lot of junior high and high school kids hanging out there.

20140710_190403_27755 I was surprised when about 17 girls wanted to go! We gathered in the parking lot and divided into three vehicles.

Upon arrival at the square, we found that this particular concert was geared to older people and, in fact, it had just finished. All we found was elderly people walking away with their lawn chairs.

Not exactly what I was anticipating. Hmmm.

It was a bit perplexing to have an anxious group of evangelists and no people to talk to! (It’s in times like these that I wish we lived in southern California or by a beach or somewhere with more people!)

I called Sarah. I talked with Stephen. Finally, we resorted to the mall. It was pretty empty, and we only had a half hour before it closed … but we were blown away by the conversations the Lord arranged! Some of the girls were just glowing on the way out as they were telling me how well their conversations went!

We picked up a gallon of mint chip ice cream, and spent about an hour sharing stories back at the church. I thought some of you would be encouraged to get a little taste of our sharing time, so I took a bit of very casual video footage with my little camera.

The first story is Kaylin explaining how they spotted three teens (two girls and a guy) that they wanted to witness to. While they were trying to figure out how to approach them in a non-awkward way, they noticed a wallet that someone had left on a bench. They picked it up and recognized that it belonged to … guess who? The guy in that group of three teens! Can you think of a better way to get a witnessing conversation started than to return someone’s wallet? [smile] Praise the Lord!

I was reminded that if at first you don’t succeed in finding witnessing opportunities, pray, and keep persevering, knowing we have a powerful God.

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.” Psalm 75:1


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