Dear friends, September 2018
It has been a very intense and challenging few weeks. First, there was the passing of Dick Arant, a friend and dedicated servant of Christ, and then the next week we heard of the passing of Derrith Murphy, the daughter of friends and pro-life colleagues, Dick and Jan Loneman. Dick Arant was a husband, father, former pastor, businessman, and lay preacher whose wise and outgoing example had blessed many…Claire and I included. Derrith was a young wife and mother whose sparkling testimony of Christ’s goodness and sufficiency, even in the face of cancer, was powerful beyond description. Both of these dear and heroic saints will be awaiting us in the great reunion to come, but they will be greatly missed until then.
Another momentous event in these weeks was initiated by a call from my Florida brother Highway and his wife Tenna. Tenna’s mom was dying in Kentucky and they asked if we might be able to visit her in her last hours. We were honored at the request and we took off the next day for a 13-hour trip to Hodgenville, a little town an hour south of Louisville, where we met up with Tenna and her siblings. Though her mom was very near death when we arrived, we were blessed to spell the family a bit and to read Scriptures to her — from her own well-used Bible. I also sang hymns to her and twice we heard her humming along. At another point, I apologized for having such a poor voice and therefore not doing these great old hymns justice and I asked her if she wanted me to sing a few more anyhow. She managed a smile and whispered, “Yes, please.” That response (and that of her roommate, Mrs. Thomas, who told one of Tenna’s sisters, “Did you hear that man singing hymns earlier? You missed quite a blessing. For awhile, we were really having church in here!”) was more than enough to make the trip worthwhile. But we were also happy to serve Highway and Tenna, if only in a small way. Tenna’s mom, surrounded by love and the assurance of her entrance into heaven, slipped into the presence of Christ early the next morning.
But most challenging of everything else this last month was our ministry to another very good friend and former Vital Signs Ministries Board member, Kurt Oyer. We first learned of Kurt’s crisis on Sunday, August 25th from a nurse at Bergen Mercy who told me Kurt was asking for me. I drove up immediately. Kurt was in critical condition with heart, kidney, blood pressure, and breathing problems. However, Kurt was pretty alert and spiritually confident and he wanted to talk to me about the memorial service that he figured wasn’t far away. We did get around to doing that but not before kicking around a lot of other matters including the assurance of salvation for all who put their trust wholly in the sacrifice for sins that Jesus paid by His death and resurrection; the peace and power of God that is available even in severe trials; the glorious truths the Bible reveals about heaven and our spiritual inheritance, and so on.
Well, as a few days went by, we put those funeral service plans aside for a while as Kurt, though the long-term prognosis was never good, rallied substantially from his condition of those first few nights. The Lord gave him a bit more time to grow in Christ and a bit more time to serve Him through the bright testimony he displayed to friends, family, and many caregivers. But the damage to his body (he has fought through heart and thyroid problems since he was born) proved too severe to fix and, at this writing, it looks as if Kurt has made the final turn in the good race he has run. He is looking forward to a joyful reception by His Savior, the glories of heaven, and that grand reunion with all the saints who have gone before. As the apostle Paul said in a glorious truth that also applies to Dick, Derrith, Jessie Inez Atkinson (Tenna’s mom), and Kurt, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
By the way, many thanks go out from Kurt to those who sent messages and especially to those who made personal visits to the ICU: Patrick Osborne, Keith and Carol Moran, Don and Alberta Kohls, John Malek, and Quint Coppi.
The intensity of these past few weeks for Claire and I has involved a few other tests. 1) Claire’s preparing for and recovering from cataract surgeries on both of her eyes; 2) Investing several days in cleaning up and cleaning out Kurt’s apartment (Keith Moran’s help in moving day was enormous.); 3) Problems with both our cars; 4) Spending Claire’s birthday driving a rental car through hard rain all across Indiana and Missouri; 5) Our full schedule of 11 “When Swing Was King” presentations followed by my computer “frying out” completely just when I was starting work on the September show; 6) Cleaning the downstairs and preparing the guest room for Kurt’s dad from Colorado Springs who is now staying with us; and 7) Drying out after sidewalk counseling during one of the worst storms we have ever experienced. It was a storm that not only drenched us to the skin but whose furious winds destroyed 2 of our umbrellas. However, because we were still able to talk to several clients about the sanctity of life as well as the alternatives to abortion, we braved the weather with good cheer.
So, like I said, it’s been a pretty intense few weeks. And so we appreciate more than ever (and more than we can adequately express) those of you who pray for us and our work with Vital Signs Ministries.
But let me shift gears here because I want to also tell you some exciting, upbeat news about an upcoming visit to Omaha by Christine Fidler, a friend and inspiring pro-life heroine from Manchester, England. Christine has been the Director of IMAGE, a pro-life ministry whose impact has been both profound and far-reaching. We have invited her to visit us in Omaha in order to speak at our fall Vital Signs Pie Social on Friday evening, November 9th, to spend some quality networking time with CPC colleagues at Assure Women’s Center and EPS, to do a few radio interviews, to co-host with Claire a traditional English tea that we will use as a Vital Signs outreach, and, of course, to spend time with Claire, myself, and a few of the VSM team members.
In fact, let me step aside and let you hear from Christine herself:
Greetings from the U.K. I am Christine Fidler and I first met Denny and Claire in the 1990s when I was in my late 30s and IMAGE was in its infancy in Manchester. Our early “strap line” was Christians caring for life and Denny and Claire brought a wealth of experience, encouragement, and wisdom to the five of us who were founder members. As well as headlining conferences, they spoke extensively at churches around Manchester and visited national networks (including L’Abri). This was the start of a long friendship. Now, 25 years on, I have the pleasure of joining them in Omaha for a week in November to experience pro-life ministry and fellowship in the USA.
What a lot has happened in that 25 years! IMAGE has initiated a National Day of Prayer about Abortion each year on October 27 (the date the UK Abortion Act was passed); we have established a Pregnancy Helpline for those making pregnancy decisions and for those who have had abortions; providing support to thousands of clients; we have developed our own training programmes and trained trainers from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; and we have been able to support and train the leaders of a pioneer pro-life work in Spain. God has truly blessed us!
A lot has happened for me on a personal front, too, over the last 25 years. I have had the privilege of raising seven children and I’ve had a wonderful husband, Jim, who was also a co-founder of IMAGE and regularly stood outside the local abortion clinic. But alongside some amazing joys have been some intense trials with both family and health. For example, in 1998 I was diagnosed with bowel cancer which involved surgery and chemotherapy and took me out of action for a year. Two years later, Jim discovered what would later be diagnosed as prostate cancer which resulted in his death in 2007. Our youngest children were just 12 and 14. Four years after that, I was again diagnosed with cancer, this time a sarcoma, for which I am still having yearly check-ups. My testimony is that, through all that has happened, God is both good and faithful. I praise God that Jesus has triumphed over death so that we can be hope-bringers to those who have none!
For the last few years one of the modern songs that has spoken to me starts, “You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown” so it is with some excitement that I venture across the waters to the USA to spend some quality time with a couple who have meant so much to us.
We will, of course, be giving you more details about Christine’s visit through the blogs, our Facebook pages, the VSM website, and in next month’s letter as her arrival gets closer. In the meantime, we hope you connect with us on those platforms…and that you keep us in your prayers. Thank you so much.