A church, a stranger, and a miracle

When 200 grand mal epileptic seizures in five weeks left a Somerset, Wis. woman paralyzed and with a major cognitive disorder, she and her husband turned to prayer. That’s when the miracles began.

Eleven years ago, a couple shared their story of miraculous healing and allowed me to publish it in a special section of the Osceola Sun newspaper.  They are happy to share the story again on God Tracks, but because the woman prefers not have her name published on the Internet, I will call her Ann, and her husband, Tom (not their real names).

On April 30, 1999, Ann endured 18 grand mal epileptic seizures before she made it to a hospital. In the next five weeks, 200 grand mal seizures turned the woman who graduated from college with a 3.8 grade point average into a person who could no longer tell time, remember what day it was, and figure the sum of three plus four. She was also paralyzed on her right side.

“We couldn’t leave her alone for any length of time,” says her husband Tom, who worked at that time for a Christian ministry. Ann had to leave her job as a medical lab technician, and Tom was forced to take a leave of absence from his ministry to care for his wife.  Ann couldn’t receive long-term disability payments because epilepsy was a pre-existing condition, and there was no family to rely on: They had just moved to Wisconsin from the east coast. But God did not let them down.

“People would ask us, ‘How are you managing?’ Our answer always is ‘God provides,’” Tom says. The bills were paid every month: More than once, the family found $1,000 in their mailbox or in their mail slot at the Alliance Church of the Valley in St. Croix Falls, Wis. One family gave the couple their Christmas bonus. Another family showed up routinely with bags of groceries.

The Miracle, Part One: Prayers at Church

In the fall of 1999, while Ann lay paralyzed in the hospital, Tom sought more prayer for his wife. One Sunday, Tom brought her from the hospital to their church. After the service, he pushed his wife’s wheelchair to the front of the sanctuary and a large group of church members gathered around her. People in other churches who knew the couple were also praying that day.

“When I brought her into the church, she couldn’t even sit up in the wheelchair,” Tom recalls.

“People were touching me and praying, “ Ann says. “On the one side I couldn’t feel them, but I knew they were there. As they prayed, not only could I feel their touch on my paralyzed side, I actually felt like there were hundreds of people holding me.”

When the prayer time ended, Ann was miraculously able to push herself from the wheelchair and take a shaky step. The paralysis was gone from her entire right side. I was part of the prayer group in St. Croix Falls, Wis. that day, and it was only later that I learned the entire story.

The healing of the paralysis was only the first part of Ann’s miracle, however.  She still couldn’t follow a simple recipe, tell time or remember something, even if her husband mentioned it to her 13 times over the course of a day. After three months of treatment at Courage Center in Stillwater, Minn., doctors began to lose hope that Ann’s brain would ever function normally again. One doctor told the couple that they would have to adjust to a new lifestyle.

“That may be your opinion,” Tom told the doctor, “but we haven’t heard God’s opinion yet.”

Credit: nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Miracle, Part Two: Prayer of a Stranger

On Dec. 11, 1999, Tom was reorganizing his home office with Ann at his side when a man they did not know stopped by their home.

“As soon as I saw him, I had this strange feeling,” Tom recalls. “Good strange, not bad strange.”

“I heard about your wife’s epilepsy,” said the stranger. “I have epilepsy, too. I’m a born again believer in Jesus Christ, and I just came by to pray with you.”

Tom invited the man into the house and to the family room where Ann was. “The guy wasn’t here five minutes,” Tom says, “There was no small talk, no cup of coffee.”

“My gift is a gift of love, “ he told the couple as they sat down. Kneeling on the floor, the man held hands with the couple and prayed for them.

“We’ve prayed with hundreds of people over the years and never experienced anything like this,” Tom says. “I don’t even remember what he said.”

After the man finished praying, the couple walked him to the door. The visitor gave Tom a little hug and said, “Love your wife.” Then he turned to Ann, gave her a hug, and said, “Love your husband.”

“I turned to give my wife a hug,” Tom says, “And when we turned to watch out the door to see him drive away, he was already gone.” Both Tom and Ann were filled with an “unbelievable feeling,” one they say they cannot describe.

As the couple returned to Tom’s home office and the task of reorganizing his files, Tom asked a question that he certainly did not expect Ann to answer. “What should we do next?” he said. Because the cognitive disorder made it difficult for Ann to keep focused on one idea and follow any sequence of steps, Tom and Ann were both shocked when Ann blurted out a string of ideas for how to organize the files.

“I looked at her, and she looked at me,” Tom says with a smile. “I didn’t dare ask her anything.”

“Give me a math problem,” Ann quickly asked Tom. Immediately, she figured 12 multiplications problems in her head. Tom pointed to the analog clock, which Ann could no longer read. “What time is it?” he asked her.

“I said 11:25. I’ll never forget it,” Ann says.

Tom started phoning family and friends with the good news, with Ann calling out phone numbers from her restored sense of memory. Later, the Courage Center gave Ann a clean bill of health and she returned to work as a lab technician.

Both Tom and Ann are astounded that they could not remember the visitor’s name. They are not sure why this stranger stopped at their home, or why was Ann was healed. The couple is quick to say that it’s not because of anything they’ve done.

“It’s not anything we deserve,” Tom says. “You know God can heal, but we don’t expect that he always will. It’s not because we’re in the ministry. I really believe it’s because people were praying. A lot of times, God chooses not to heal, but this time he chose to.”

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:13-14

 “And the people all tried to touch him [Jesus Christ], because power was coming from him and healing them all.” Luke 6:19

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I’m leaving God in my 9-11 story

Ten years ago, I was driving to work when I heard the sketchy news accounts on the radio about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers.  It was “deadline” day at the weekly newspaper owned by myself and my husband, the day every week when we hurried to finish the newspaper so we could get it to print in time.

The first report I heard did not reveal the magnitude of what was happening. At the newspaper office, we all kept a close ear to the radio as we tried our best to focus and finish our job. It wasn’t easy. Soon, we understood the reality of the horrific attack.

I remember praying at some point that day after watching the shocking images on TV. God moved me to write an opinion piece for the three weekly newspapers my husband and I owned at the time.  It didn’t take long to write the message God wanted me to share, and I included it the next day in one of our newspapers.

That evening, after that newspaper had gone to press but before it hit mailboxes and newsstands, I was anxious. I’m sorry to say that I was nervous about what people would say after they read my column. Unfortunately, I feared man more than the Almighty God.

Love is the message

God was good to me that night as I called out to him with my fear. I remember falling asleep, feeling as if someone was massaging my tense shoulders, with all the worry gone from my mind.

Here’s the column published Sept. 12, 2011.

Who’s at the controls?

On Tuesday morning one of this country’s most cherished illusions was shattered. We like to believe, especially in America, that we control our own lives. We can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We do it our own way. We make plans to live a well-ordered, secure life with no unpleasant interruptions.

But pain, suffering and death poke a hole in that illusion of control. Yesterday the nation stared at incomprehensible death, pain and suffering in New York City and realized we are not in control.

Most of us won’t die with thousands of others in a terrorist attack, but we are certain to die. We don’t control our date with death, but God does.

Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what will happen to you once you die? Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)

I once saw a true story on TV about a policeman who found himself dying and sinking into hell. When he realized with terror where he was headed, he called out, “Save me Jesus!” Jesus responded, and the man’s life and soul were saved. He later became a minister.

You don’t have to be halfway to hell to be saved. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

No matter what, it says in the Bible that “Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)

Are you ready to face God, or do you still believe in illusions?

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Do you have “wonders” to share?

Do you have a story about Jesus Christ to share with the world (or at least with the people who read this blog)? One way to praise and worship God is to publicly acknowledge Him.  And in doing so, you will encourage and touch others who may need to hear your message at just that moment in time.

You don’t need to write the story: I can write it for you. All you need to do is send me a comment saying you have a story to share, along with your contact information. Your comment will not be shared publicly, and I will keep your contact information private. After I contact you, you can simply tell me your story. I’ll do the rest.

Has Jesus answered your prayers, provided comfort, peace, finances or somehow helped you through a difficult time? Please pray about sharing your story with others. This is one way to “sing” of God’s love, especially for those of us who can’t carry a tune!

“I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.” Psalm 89:1-2

Sing to the earth, praise his name; declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…” Psalm 96:2-3a

“King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!” Daniel 4:1-3a


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Losing control, but gaining peace

When my daughter stiffened, turned blue and fell on the floor in convulsions, I was terrified. What was wrong with her?

By Julie Holmquist

My 17-year-old daughter had always been incredibly healthy. In the seven years since my husband and I had adopted Masha from Russia, she had never really been ill. I’ve never seen her vomit or have a fever. She routinely receives perfect school attendance awards.

That was Masha’s health record until May 2011, when a large “thump” brought me to the bathroom where she was taking a shower. I found her unconscious and convulsing on the floor of the bathtub, a trickle of blood running from her mouth. I yelled for my husband to call 911, and prayed as I lifted her head from the water collecting around her. The emergency room doctor surmised that it was a faint: typical in teenage girls who skip a meal and grow dizzy in the hot shower. The blood was from her biting her tongue as she fell.

A few weeks ago, we learned that the doctor’s assessment of the situation was wrong.  Although we didn’t know what to call it at the time, my daughter had two grand mal epileptic seizures in one afternoon. My husband and youngest son watched as Masha fell off her chair and onto the floor, biting her tongue again as her muscles stiffened. Masha’s eyes rolled back and her muscles jerked as my husband and son knelt near her feeling helpless.

Once she had stopped convulsing and could move normally, they called the church where I was serving a supper and drove her to the hospital emergency room. My cell phone wasn’t working, so the phone message came from our youth pastor: “Your daughter has had an incident and is at the ER.” As I drove to the hospital, I was frantic. “Lord Jesus!” I prayed, “Please take care of Masha. Please be with her. Help me to be strong.”

At the hospital, I talked with my daughter as she sat in a wheelchair. After a short time, her head bent low and she did not respond. It was the beginning of her second seizure of the day. As the doctor and nurses moved my daughter to an examining table and struggled to hold her down so they could administer calming medicine, my family prayed together. Then I stood next to my strong girl, who was fighting the four nurses trying to keep her still so she did not injure herself before the medicine took effect. I spoke soothingly to her in hopes that she would hear my voice and relax, but her brain had been overwhelmed by the seizures and she was not responding normally. Not long after, she was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.

As my husband rode to St. Paul in the ambulance, I took my son home and tried to help calm his worried mind. I read Psalm 23 aloud, and we prayed. The plan was for him to stay with his cousins the next day and for me to drive to the hospital in the morning.

I’m not sure I would have slept except for the fact that I must take a medication that helps me sleep. When I woke around 5 a.m., my mind began to worry to the point of complete panic. What if there is something seriously wrong with her brain, I thought. What if it is a brain tumor? A list of horrible consequences flashed through my mind. I prayed, because I knew God was real and he would hear me. I had no control over this situation, and I was overcome with fear. I felt physically ill as I prayed and prayed – a nonstop, jumbled mix of words that tried to communicate my love for my daughter with the only One who knew what has happening to her.

I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Then the Almighty God, the Prince of Peace, answered me. An overwhelming sense of peace flooded my physical body and my mind. I knew God was telling me that Masha would be OK. I still didn’t know what the hospital tests would show. I still didn’t know if Masha was facing death or a drastically impaired life. But I knew that the Lord Jesus Christ was with me and had assured me that she would be fine.  I know that healing and “being fine” isn’t always God’s will, because everyone has an appointment with suffering and death. But this was not my daughter’s time.

My husband can tell you that I’m adept at worrying. So I know it was God’s peace that allowed me to step into the shower that morning and start singing, “My God is an awesome God.”

Masha was in the hospital for two and a half days, but the doctors who are experts in children’s seizures found nothing structurally wrong with her brain. The MRI, the EEGs – all the tests were consistent. With anti-seizure medicine and regular check-ups, she would be able to go on with her life. While we all wonder if she will face another seizure, we are also trusting in a loving God and his plan.

Psalm 62: 2-3 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

Psalm 62:5-6 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope come from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.


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Smile! God loves you

Studies show that smiling is good for your health, but how can you smile when you feel sick with anxiety?

Did you know that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin that make us feel good? Smiling actually lowers our blood pressure, helps our immune system and relieves stress, possibly because we are more relaxed when we smile.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t smiling when I woke up this morning. I felt anxious and overwhelmed. Sometimes the regular to-do list of my life seems beyond my control and I feel absolutely paralyzed. I know this feeling doesn’t make rational sense, but that doesn’t change how I feel.

So I prayed. As I prayed for help, God reminded me to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). He reminded me that my battle was not against my own flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil. Satan would love for me to be anxious all the time and remain paralyzed. So I rebuked Satan in the name of Jesus Christ.

Next, I picked up my shield of faith and remembered who I was praying to! Did I have faith that my God was bigger than my small, little worries and my tiny to-do list that was looming so large in my mind? Of course I did. With that little reminder, the anxiety was gone and a smile came to my face.

God wants us to smile! In John 17:13 Jesus says, “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

God not only wants us to smile, he’s smiling at us! One day I watched the sun shine through the window in my front door as I sat down at the kitchen table to read my Bible. I was reading in Genesis 9 about Noah and the ark. I began reading Genesis 9:12, which says: “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature for all generations to come.”

Just as I began to read the next verse, God used the sun shining through the prisms in my front door to send me a smile.

A miniature rainbow aligned itself perfectly on my Bible – right on top of Genesis 9:13, which says: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

I knew God was smiling down on me. So smile! God loves you, and he is bigger than any to-do list.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11

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Hope in the ghetto

Sometimes God uses something very simple to remind us of his love for us. What did God use to speak to a young boy and a grown man in Philadelphia? Ken Burg of Minnesota tells us the story.

Several years ago I was ministering to Hmong refugees in a church just outside of Philadelphia. One day I was feeling lonely and blue. I was visiting some Hmong families in a very impoverished section of Philadelphia. Graffiti, abandoned buildings, and heaps of trash were all around.

I spotted a Hmong boy playing in a vacant lot. Sam was about six years old and attended our church. Always quick with a smile, he looked at me with a toothless grin. My heart broke to think that this vacant lot was his playground. No trees. No swings. No basketball court. Just broken glass and piles of discarded bricks, concrete and junk. It all seemed so hopeless and sad. Often I wondered, “How are these people going to find hope in an environment like this?”

Just then he pointed to a lone dandelion at his feet. I will never forget what he did next. While still pointing, he looked up at me with that beaming little face and in his broken English said, “Jesu love me.”

My heart leaped as tears came to my eyes. Little Sam reminded me that Jesus is indeed all around us. If he could find Jesus’s love in the ghetto, certainly I could be thankful in the midst of my little problems. All of God’s creation speaks to us: “Jesus loves me.”

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.  Isaiah 6:3b (NIV)

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Peace like a river

Anger can ruin a relationship, but this huge debt was my husband’s fault, wasn’t it? Didn’t I deserve to be mad?

In 1997, my husband felt God calling him to organize a Gospel concert in our new hometown to raise money for youth missions. He wanted to take out a loan to fund the event, arguing that even in the worst case scenario, we would have money to pay it off because we’d just made the last payment on a business loan.

“I don’t know why, but I think God wants the concert to be really big,” Jeff told me. I wanted him to do what God was calling him to, but inside I was terrified. I remember praying as I sat on my staircase when God reassured me:

“I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand. Do not fear; I will help you.”

Two nationally known Christian musicians and a popular country music singer were the highlight of the event that late August day on the high school football field of our small, Wisconsin town.

My optimistic husband started the day in high spirits, even though advance tickets sales had not produced the numbers he envisioned. The day was unseasonably cold and cloudy; soon people were gathering their lawn chairs together and bundling themselves in blankets. In the end, the outdoor event attracted 700 people, not enough to cover the costs.

Jeff had been nervously pacing about most of the day. By the time the last act performed, he was slouched in his seat, defeat on his ill-looking face. By the end of the concert, the worst scenario was a reality: We were $35,000 in debt. It was debt we hoped to pay off slowly over the next five years.

I was genuinely supportive and encouraging to Jeff during the first few weeks following the concert. “You didn’t let your family down,” I assured him. “We still have everything we need. You did what God wanted you to do. You know a girl asked Jesus to be her Savior at the concert,” I told him. “Maybe God planned this just for her.”

Then one evening, I turned from being a supportive wife to a woman filled with fury. Before I was a Christian, anger had been a real problem for me. I had often felt possessed by that emotion, as if I had no power over it. That evening I had simply asked Jeff if he could put up a tether ball stand for our kids. When he told me that it might be too expensive, I lost control.

Suddenly flashing before me were all the concert items we were still paying for: porta potties, hotel rooms for band members, an after-concert party, a limo service, lunches. Like a river of fire, rage flooded every portion of my body.

I felt that old anger taking control of me again and started arguing with Jeff. He wisely went to bed and left me alone in the living room. My muscles were so tense with fierce emotions that my skin broke out in red, itchy hives. The old anger was back, but I was a Christian now. I realized that staying mad about this debt would destroy my marriage. I also knew this emotion was too strong for me to fight alone, so I got on my knees.

“I need you to help me God.” I prayed. “I can’t get rid of this anger by myself. Please take it away.”

Instantly, my muscles went limp and the hives disappeared. Peace like I’d never experienced flooded my soul. A soothing warmth replaced the river of rage. The anger was gone! It was like someone had flipped a switch. What a miracle that was to me! In the old days, I was able to fume for days. Now in an instant, God had completely erased that ugly emotion which used to have so much power over me. I was able to apologize to my husband with all my heart and sleep at his side.

Jesus provided the money to pay the concert debt in just two years instead of five. More important, I never again lost my temper over that $35,000 loan and it didn’t become an issue in our marriage. The peace Jesus had given me about the debt stayed with me, and I rarely ever thought about it.

God had kept the promise He made to me before the concert: Do not fear. I will help you.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. Proverbs 21:19

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Crisis time

Her mother was dying, and her husband’s brain was swelling and bleeding. During these two different times of crisis, Carol Matson of St. Croix Falls , Wis. , knew she was not alone. She shares her stories of someone called Immanuel.

Desires of the heart

When I was a junior in college, my mother’s health was deteriorating to the point that the doctors were giving up. They shared that she was not going to live much longer.

Crying out to God, I asked Him for three things before He took my mom to her heavenly home. I asked God to allow my mom to be at my college graduation; to be at my wedding, even though I wasn’t seeing anyone at the time; and to see the birth of my first child. God gave me a calm assurance that He would grant me these desires of my heart.

Five years later, mom went to her heavenly home on the day my first child turned six months old.  All three of my desires were fulfilled!


More recently, I saw God’s fingerprints in the midst of a scary time. On the morning of Oct. 8, 2008, my husband Bruce woke up with an excruciating headache and partial vision loss.

I tried to contact Bruce’s doctor, but he wasn’t available until later that day. I also tried to contact our eye doctor, but she was out of town. It must have been God’s plan to get Bruce to the St. Croix Falls hospital, because when I called the emergency room, they said to bring him in right away. The doctors at the ER determined that Bruce’s brain was bleeding and swelling and that he needed to be flown to Regions Hospital in St. Paul , Minn.

God continued to show us his loving care in so many ways that day:

  • The morning was incredibly foggy, but the fog lifted just in time for the helicopter to pick Bruce up.
  • Bruce was the first patient to fly out on the hospital’s new helipad.
  • Friends “just happened” to be home and were available to drive me to St. Paul.
  • I was able to get in touch with each of our children, even though phone lines were down at Luke’s school, even though Mark doesn’t normally get phone service in all areas at his college, and even though Kelly had planned to be gone for a few days. She had canceled her trip at the last moment.

At Regions Hospital , God kept reminding me that He was with us. The ER doctor said at least half a dozen times that it was a miracle that Bruce was conscious and alert with what was going on in his head. And when God knew I needed extra reassurance, he provided it. The name of Bruce’s nurse that first night was Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

Finally, there was such an unbelievable outpouring of love from our church family.  It was truly humbling to see God at work in His people.

“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:3

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

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A light in the storm

Record-breaking gales on Oct, 26, 2010 raged throughout the Midwest as a Wisconsin church served a free meal, a meal that would show God’s power in a way no one could have guessed.

Winds of up to 60 miles per hour were blowing as Jan Marko and other Alliance Church of the Valley members in St. Croix Falls, Wis. prepared the evening meal for the community.

“We were thinking that our numbers would be down,” Jan says, but more than 140 people showed up for the meal that the church had been providing once a month since March 2010.

“The wind was blowing so hard all around us,” she recalls. Jan and the other volunteers didn’t know it at the time, but power lines in area and throughout a wide swath of the Midwest were snapping in the powerful storm. That night and the next day, 4,000 people in nearby St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. would be without power, as would many in St. Croix Falls and other Wisconsin cities.

God will provide

Jan had been praying for a long time about what the church could do to help the community. “It was the time of the economic crash and people were without jobs, and I saw families in need at the school where I worked,” she says. She felt God prompting her to speak to the church’s elders about providing a free monthly meal. “They asked what it would cost,” she remembers. “And I told them what God had told me: It would cost nothing.”

“How will that work?” the elders had asked.

“Well, God is going to provide,” Jan told them. “I remember thinking, they must think this blonde is really out there. When I went home, I felt like Moses, thinking how in the world is this going to happen?”

About 50 people showed up at the first information meeting about the new venture, and the Open Arms community meal was launched. Church goers donated money for the monthly meals, and volunteers quickly joined greeting, cooking, set-up and take-down committees. Backpacks, coats, garden produce, blankets, groceries and more have been given along with the food. On the fourth Tuesday of every month, an average of 130 people now attend Open Arms.

“People with tears in their eyes have come up to the pastor and told him that if they didn’t have this, they would not have a meal that day,” Jan says. “God has provided. It’s amazing!”

Miracle meal

God provided in a new way on that night in October, when the deepest low pressure system on record raged with fury over the Midwest, felling trees and ripping roofs off buildings. After the 140 guests finished their homemade meal and set off for home, Jan and the other volunteers closed up the church. They found their outside signs blown over. The lights were out in the nearby town of Dresser, three miles away. Lights were out in St. Croix Falls and at the nearby Wal-Mart on Highway 8.

Jan didn’t know it as she drove home that night, but the power was out at the pastor’s house, right next door to the church. And the other nearby house, the home of a church member, was dark, too. Jan didn’t think much about it until the pastor did a little research. The church, his home and the neighboring house are all served by the same power line.

There was no reason that the church lights should have been on when the others were off, he told Jan. Except that a greater power than the storm was at work.

“Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.” Isaiah 58:7-8 (New Living Translation)


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Job detour ahead

When Lee and his wife Ann drove from Minneapolis to Tomah in a December snowstorm to start a new life, they didn’t see God’s “detour” sign.

It was 1991, and they were excited. Finally, Lee would be able to work on a farm, something he had been dreaming of for years. He loved working with tractors and in the fields, and had some experience with that type of farming. For the past two years, the Minneapolis, Minn. couple had visited farms and researched the idea.

“My job had become almost intolerable,” Lee says of his factory job of 11 years. “I almost hated getting up in the morning, and I never dreamt that life could be like that.”  Even though Lee says it was hard to leave the job security of good pay and benefits, the couple decided to take the risk. They sold their house in preparation of moving, and a job came along that looked promising.

Lee gave his notice at the dark factory he longed to leave, and the couple loaded the U-haul for the 160-mile trip to a Wisconsin dairy farm. They cleaned, painted and moved their furniture into the rented home and Lee started working with the cows. Ann remembers being alone in the farmhouse, feeling like she was at the edge of the earth.

“I remembered the verse that says, ‘if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.'”

After only one week it was clear that Lee’ss dream of farming did not match the reality. “I learned in a short amount of time that I wasn’t an animal type of person, and that this was not going to work,” he says. “I was pretty idealistic about farming and the time commitment.” He knew he wouldn’t be able to meet the farmer’s demands, so after only two weeks, the couple decided to move back to Minneapolis.

It was just before Christmas when they drove away from the farm in a big U-Haul with all their belongings, no job, no home, and a four-year-old girl. “We were in shock,” Ann says. “What were we going to do next?”

” They stayed at the home of Ann’s parents for a short time, and then a friend suggested caretaking an apartment building. Lee, being quite handy, checked out the idea and found a caretaker job that provided an apartment and extra money.

“I was just calling out to God and doing what I could,” Lee says of that time. He’d always wanted to get a Class B commercial driver’s license, so he used the time to do so. About a month after they moved back to Minneapolis, Lee began work as a truck driver and eventually earned his Class A license. For the past 18 years, he’ss enjoyed various truck driving jobs.

“I look at the whole episode as God getting me out of a rut,” Lee says. It’s so easy to stay in a job even if you’re not happy there. I also think the Lord was preparing me to make a change, because not long after I left the factory, it folded.”

It wasn’t an easy transition, Ann says, “but God provided, and in the end we were glad we took the risk.”

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Psalm 16.9 (NIV)

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