Writing a brief history of Vital Signs Ministries (originally the Omaha Christian Action Council) is a pretty tough assignment. After all, VSM has been, since its beginnings in 1983, a very activist-oriented ministry which has tackled not only a wide variety of challenges but a whole lot of them. And…it’s been over 40 years! Therefore, instead of trying to post way too much of that 40 year history for you to comfortably take in, we are providing an edited version of our monthly letter from August 2021 in which the VSM Board members joined in an interesting exercise involving our organization’s history. Here you go…

Reviewing Vital Signs Ministries over the years – that was a key part of the agenda at our last Governing Board meeting.  We hold these meetings every quarter at our home (right after Claire and I have served our guests dinner) and our basic agenda is to carefully go over detailed reports of Vital Signs finances, our various ministries, problems faced, victories won, and a preview of what’s coming up.

But on this occasion, we extended the agenda by submitting 4 questions to the Board members. The answers to those questions stimulated one of the most provocative of conversations and we decided it would be good to share a bit of that conversation with you. Here are the 4 questions we posed that night:

1) Using only single word answers, how would you characterize Vital Signs Ministries?

2) What are some of Vital Signs’ most significant achievements and/or ministries in our nearly 40 years of service?

3) What have been some of the low points along the way?

4) What have been some of the surprises – good and bad?

Among the most repeated single word answers to Question #1 were Faithful, Creative, Life-saving, Winsome, and Heavenly-minded. Other words offered to describe Vital Signs Ministries were Orthodox, Caring, Prayerful, Friendship, Teaching, Hopeful, Prophetic, Joyful, Well-balanced, and Leadership.

As you can easily imagine, discussing the significance of these one-word descriptions proved to be an intense and timely blessing. After all, the forces of wickedness have vigorously and relentlessly opposed the work of Vital Signs at every step.  And our endeavors to oppose surgical and chemical abortion, minister to the elderly, preach the gospel, teach the Bible, provide discipleship resources and opportunities, and in other ways lift up God’s banner of righteousness have occurred during a time of great cultural corruption and religious apostasy. So, no; things have been anything but simple, easy, or well supported for us. Nevertheless, the sharing of these one-word hallmarks (and the many illustrative stories which accompanied them) dramatically reminded us how the grace of God has been continually poured out, enabling us to stand firm and serve Christ’s cause. It made for a very encouraging time.

Question #2 took us on a provocative journey back through the long history of the Omaha Christian Action Council /Vital Signs Ministries.  Was our most important achievement the founding of the AAA Crisis Pregnancy Center?  Or maybe it was the creation of the unique outreach to senior center facilities which is “When Swing Was King.” But, of course, there are the people whose physical lives had been saved through sidewalk counseling and the people whose spiritual lives had been saved through our presentations throughout the world of Christ’s gospel. How do you choose a “greatest achievement”? The answer — don’t even try! For as we have always worked hard to remind each other, what is truly important to Almighty God is simply to obey Him whenever and however He calls.

Whether that means some public action where the ripple effects are more obvious (as in sponsoring the first pro-life conference ever in Communist Belarus) or holding the hand of a lonely resident of a nursing home…whether it involves helping IMAGE get started in the United Kingdom or maintaining such activities as writing letters, hosting book discussions, or engaging in ministries of hospitality …whether it is debating a Planned Parenthood director in a hostile setting or bowing your head in prayer alongside others standing outside that same Planned Parenthood business…the only thing God requires of us is faithfulness.  Not success; not impact; not even the “feelings” of a job well done.  No; God simply wants sincere hearts, clean hands, and a steadfast faith in His provision and rewards.

Of course, those of you who have followed this ministry over the years can guess that several other answers fell into the discussion of Question #2. The many years of “Vital Signs” and “Vital Signs Weekend” on Christian radio.  The international outreach that took me (and sometimes Claire) to India, Poland (3x), Russia, United Kingdom (5x), Nigeria, Canada, Germany (2x), Burkina Faso (2x), Belarus (11x), and all around the U.S.A.  There was our momentous Methodist Hospital campaign which not only led to Methodist discontinuing its “secret” abortion policies (They hid their abortions behind the Orwellian term of “VIP” – Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy.) but also to the national Christian Action Council accepting our leadership and detailed plans in the development of the “Pastor’s Protest Against Abortion” program which eventually saw over 50 U.S. hospitals stopping abortions in their facilities!

And, oh yes; there was Denny’s acclaimed novel, The Christmas Room.

The answers to Question #3 provided the most solemn moments of the evening because they so clearly underscored the cultural degradation and church failures I mentioned earlier.  Indeed, many of the low points of our ministry years came from the political powers that be: pro-abortion Presidents, turncoat politicians, the cowardice and unconstitutional craziness of the Supreme Court, the F.A.C.E. Act, the continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood (except for a very brief time under President Trump), and all of the other elements that have kept the killing of preborn boys and girls legal and easily available in America.

But there were other items in our “heartbreak list” which came from closer to home; namely, the callous, cowardly, and compromising attitudes of the Church. For rather than demonstrating a resolute, biblically-grounded front against the demonic movements of the last two generations, much of the Church in the West has become comfortable with such horrors as abortion, sexual perversion, the cruel marginalization of the elderly, and the mind-twisting propaganda of media and government schools which lures children away from the Faith.

We talked about the dwindling numbers of people willing to pray at abortion mills, the dying of the once-strong Life Chain, the preponderance of pulpits that are empty of pro-life teaching, and the churches which are unwilling to host a letter-writing outreach or a chastity speaker for their youth group. The sad list goes on.

Vital Signs Ministries has certainly had its specific low points too — events and programs which failed to produce the results we hoped for. For instance, our work with the documentary film Come to the Light which told the story of a Burkina Faso president who became a magnificent defender of Christianity after being imprisoned following a military coup was one such example. But I’m pleased to say that, even in reviewing some of the disappointments, we didn’t lose heart; for, as I underscored earlier, we know that God desires only our faithfulness. And whether outside forces conspired against us to create these grave disappointments or whether the poor results were a result of our own stumbles and fumbles, our gracious God always makes a way for us to get back on track.  Confession.  Renewed consecration.  And keeping our eyes ever looking to the “Author and Finisher of our faith.”

Finally, there was Question #4 about the biggest surprises. And added to some of the things already mentioned, this question sparked memories of such things as the commendation that came from President Reagan, the victory against the City of Omaha which had been arresting peaceful pro-lifers under an unconstitutional labor picketing law, and my turning down an opportunity offered by Governor Bob Kerry to be appointed the state senator from District 7.

But, after discussing a myriad of these surprises, we agreed that the biggest of all was simply the fact that, despite all the opposition and indifference we’ve battled in these decades, Vital Signs Ministries is still here and continuing the fight. And that surprise, of course, owes so much to your faithfulness, dear friends, in standing with us in prayer, in encouragement, and in financial support.  Claire and I are deeply grateful…and so too are the Vital Signs Ministries Governing Board members: Quint Coppi, Don Kohls, John Malek, Patrick Osborne, Karla Struble, Matt Troutman, Keith Moran, Mary Roberts, and Allen Nelson.  By God’s grace, we all promise to stay the course.

An additional note — One of the newer outreaches of Vital Signs Ministries didn’t begin until after that August 2021 newsletter. But it’s one we don’t want you to miss. It is the church service we began at Aksarben Village Senior Living. Brief biblical sermons. Videos of 3 superb songs featuring musicians from all over the world projected onto a big screen. Prayers. Communion the first Sunday of each month. Warm-hearted fellowship over coffee and cookies. And these wonderful opportunities for fellowship around God’s Word have gone on every Sunday afternoon now for two years…and counting.

But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only.