Dear friends, August 2021
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 our detailed reports of Vital Signs finances, our various ministries, problems faced, victories won, and a preview of what’s coming up.
But after we had concluded our regular duties on this particular 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. It was an important time of evaluation and we decided it would be good to share a bit of that conversation with you, our Vital Signs friends and colleagues. To begin with, then, 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. However, 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 of “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 presentation 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 would assume 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, England (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 terms 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!
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 downright 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 these last 38 years, 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.
And with that vow (along with our earnest request that you take seriously your prayer partnership with us), let me give a quick ten-item rundown of what’s current with Vital Signs Ministries.
1) We are ordering some additional signs and banners (colorful, winsome) for use in our pro-life witness outside the abortion mill. 2) A few more senior facilities are opening up and so our “When Swing Was King” schedule is now up to 6 places every month. Now, this is only half of our pre-virus numbers and there’s always the concern that liberals will force new quarantine rules, but for now we’re really blessed to be back in the facilities again. 3) Our Sunday afternoon church service at Askarben Village Senior Living is really going great. Indeed, we invite you again to check out the Vital Signs Ministries YouTube Channel where you can watch the short sermons from those services. (Claire suggests you particularly look for The Black Paw story from August 1st!) 4) Our hospitality and discipleship outreaches continue – from our home, in Omaha coffee shops, and in personal visits with residents of senior facilities in Omaha and Lincoln. 5) We’re organizing new Zoom conversations and 1-minute video clips. 6) We are writing provocative posts for the blogs and social media. 7) After teaching an adult Sunday School class at Wellspring Church recently, I preached the worship service sermon there too. 8) The normal pace of intercession, writing letters and cards, and making phone calls continues. 9) We have set up a Saturday Brunch to discuss the Eric Metaxas biography of Christian abolitionist hero William Wilberforce.
And here’s the latest on the home front. 10) We are finally getting things back together following our sewer disaster downstairs. What a job that’s been!…I’ve pretty much healed up from my Mt. Bierstadt fall and I’m now back to my regular exercise routine…We just finished another of Hillsdale College’s online courses – this one on Dante’s Divine Comedy…And we’re working on plans for upcoming reunions, one here in Omaha with veterans of the Christian Brotherhood and one in Frisco, Colorado with my family.
And with that, I’ll close this month’s letter, except to add once again Claire’s and my deep appreciation for your steadfast support. Until next time.