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September/October Letter

Dear friends,                                                                         September & October 2013 

            September was so hectic that I just wasn’t able to get out a LifeSharer letter. My apologies. However, even taking two months to get out this LifeSharer hasn’t been easy. Indeed, as I write this I’m in the middle of yet another week that is full to overflowing: a full slate of blogging, three meetings, correspondence, our presence at the abortion mill, and so on. Oh yes, the week also includes a funeral sermon out in Hastings, Nebraska and seven presentations of “When Swing Was King.” That’s right, 7.  

            You can understand then the delight with which I announce that next week Claire and I will be starting a long-anticipated vacation on Table Rock Lake outside Branson, Missouri. It will be our first in a couple of years and we’re thrilled that it’s paid for (condo and rental car) by our frequent flyer miles. Like previous ones, it will be a combination of work and play, rest and refreshment, prayer and planning, solitude and social interaction. But, before we pack our bags, we need to get this “two month letter” out to you. 

            As I suggested, our schedule has been particularly busy this autumn. Part of that stems from our connections to Faith Bible Church, the small church on Omaha’s near-south side where I’ve been preaching for a few years. My title there is “teaching pastor” but I’m actually a perennial guest speaker who provides stability (and, I hope, some quality) to the pulpit while freeing the church’s income for other things. And though the leadership and ministerial responsibilities belong to the church elders, you can easily understand how our involvement with the congregation has deepened as our lives have become intertwined with theirs.  When people are ill or in spiritual crisis, we can’t help but respond.  And that’s been quite a bit these last couple of months.  Also, I usually teach an adult Sunday School class in the fall and that has added to our load.

            Supporters of Vital Signs Ministries should be reminded though that Claire and I have so far been able to handle our church involvement without subtracting from our duties with Vital Signs.  Indeed, there are several ways in which our service there has actually expanded the reach of Vital Signs Ministries -- not the least of which is the spiritual sharpening which we’ve received from the fellowship, the preaching experience, and the intensive Bible study prepatory to preaching.  But in addition to that, we have frequently used material from my FBC sermons for Vital Signs Blog, for our Russian-language website, and for other speaking engagements and articles.  Finally, I must add a word about how this small church has had a large impact in pro-life advocacy: regular letter-writing evenings, remarkable turnouts for Life Chain and even the Walk for Life in Lincoln, donations to pro-life ministries, winsome and knowledgeable pro-life witnessing by individual saints in their homes and workplace, and so on. 

            Another factor in the unusually intense pace these last several weeks is that we added two more facilities to our “When Swing Was King” list: Oxbow Living Center down in Ashland and Brookstone Meadows in Elkhorn.  That makes 15 senior living facilities every month where Claire and I deliver an entertainment/visitation program – completely free of charge. And if you’re thinking 15 is too many, you’re right! Indeed, we only added these two because we knew that, beginning in 2014, we would be dropping two or more. Why? Read on.

            The reasons for the subtraction include the “level of need” (some senior facilities have many programs for residents, some have very few), audience size, technology options, and commitment to resident comfort. But the most serious reason for dropping a place is poor staff support. You see, the residents have loved the program wherever we’ve presented it and we are thrilled and honored by that response. But, unfortunately, the involvement of staff members hasn’t always been as wonderful.

            For example, it is extremely important that a nursing home or assisted living facility make sure there is staff present during the program to properly respond to needs that might arise.  Consider the following cases. A non-ambulatory resident insists on getting out of her wheelchair.  A resident experiences severe coughing and is in danger of choking.  A resident forgets her walker, trips on a chair, and falls to the floor.  A resident suddenly falls prey to a panic attack. Another finds herself with an uncontrollable nosebleed. All of these things have happened during “When Swing Was King” programs. After all, we do them at many places where residents are weak, ailing, and in various conditions of need. And remember, we’ve now done nearly 400 programs. So you can see how extremely important it is to have trained, responsible staff immediately on hand (not just somewhere in the facility) to deal with such things.  Claire and I are not supposed to intervene in such cases and that’s a perfectly logical prohibition. Therefore, we must have staff members present to take charge.

            There are a few other staff issues that are part of our considerations (transporting residents to and from the program, promotion, and the physical layout of the facility) but certainly the most important relate to the health, safety, and emotional well-being of the residents. Now please understand that most of the staff members at the facilities where we go are very conscientious, caring and helpful. And they’re also enthusiastic supporters of “When Swing Was King.” But not everywhere. Therefore, though it breaks our heart to leave some of the residents with whom we have made friends, we are making these schedule changes as of January 1.

            But let me add this. In all other respects, “When Swing Was King” continues to have a profound impact.  In fact, it has blossomed into a ministry more beautiful and inspiring and spiritually effective than we ever imagined.  We are overjoyed at the ongoing response and we know you are too. Please continue praying for its impact.

            Other things to mention in this September/October letter?  Well, we continue our presence at the Planned Parenthood abortion mill.  We pray.  We carry our beautiful signs as an attractive pro-life witness.  And we speak, when we’re able to, to the clients going inside.  Our opposition to the wicked violence and lies of Planned Parenthood also continues in our “3 for 5” prayer program, in our frequent correspondence, and in regular posts on Vital Signs Blog.

            Speaking of the blog, the fight to preserve liberty, promote pro-life and pro-family values, proclaim justice, and share biblical truth (including the gospel) continues apace.  We encourage those of you who are cyber-connected to check in often; perhaps sign up for the Top Ten posts which are sent via e-mail every weekend.  It’s good information (even when alarming) and it provides great resources for prayer, conversation and direct action. In the past couple of weeks there have been posts on the myth of overpopulation, religious freedom, sex-selection abortion, ObamaCare, the heavy influence of political liberals on young evangelicals, various Vital Signs activities, Planned Parenthood, finding Christ's forgiveness after abortion, the IRS' crimes against the Constitution, violence in the public schools, ethanol, socialism in Venezuela, marriage, the government shutdown, the persecution of the Church, and more.

            Almost every post from Vital Signs Blog is cross-posted on Facebook (often twice a day) with two posts selected for uploading onto the conservative mega-site, Blogs Lucianne Loves.  The result is that, even in these days of declining interest in following issue-oriented blogs, Vital Signs Blog is still seeing nearly a thousand page loads a week.

            What else has been going on?  A couple of weeks ago Claire and I traveled to Harrisonville, Missouri where I had been asked to speak at the annual banquet of the Life Choice Center for Women.  We had a wonderful time, made new friends, encouraged the saints, and helped the Center surpass its fundraising goal for the night.  That was definitely a highlight of our autumn so far as was a visit from Dan and Charlene Butler from Arizona. (Dan we’ve known for 43 years and counting.) There’s also been the early Tuesday morning meeting at Panera’s with Dick Wilson and John Malek.  Plus, I’ve added a second Panera’s event – early Thursday mornings with Pat Osborne.  There’s also been research into a new, improved template for the Vital Signs Ministries website.  During our vacation, we will be transferring the content to this new package (adding quite a bit more too) in order to keep elevating this important outreach.

            Okay, that’s it for now even though I’m sure I’m probably leaving out a few things.  Like that rainy afternoon at the Life Chain.  And the networking meetings with other pro-life and pro-family advocates; the upcoming letter-writing meeting at Faith Bible Church; and the homemade postcards we’ve created to keep in more personal contact with many of you.

            Thanks so much for standing with us.  Your prayers, your financial support, and your encouragement mean so very, very much to us and we deeply appreciate your friendship.  Have a wonderful autumn.

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