Roxane B. Salonen
BOSTON, Mass. — By the time Emily Colson's son Max was born, she'd already lived through plenty of adversity. The youngest child of Chuck Colson, known for his part in the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, her grounding years involved an imprisoned father and her parents' divorce. But she'd also witnessed plenty of perseverance, in her father's conversion, for one. "He founded a prison ministry 40 years ago, the largest in the world," Colson says, noting that her dad was "a dynamo" of a man.
EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — For 50 long years, Huntington's disease has followed Terry Fore around. It began with her first date with her first husband, Darrell, who died from the disease in 2007. "We got married when I was 18; when he was 37, he started to show symptoms," she recalls. His father, Orville, also suffered from Huntington's, an inherited condition causing the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
WEST FARGO — When the call came the evening of June 28, Sarah Fisher was sleeping in bed. Her cellphone — the only number her son had for her in his contacts — sat quietly in its charger. While emergency workers who rushed to the accident site felt for Cameron Bolton's pulse and gently lifted the broken body of her son into the ambulance, Fisher rested, unaware her life had changed. "The accident took place at 8:47; I didn't get the call until like 11:10," Fisher says.
FARGO — Like many parents, Merideth Sorenson and her husband, Troy, began thinking of names for their youngest child well before the due date. "We really didn't have any good boy names picked out," Sorenson says, despite not knowing the gender. But the girl name she favored ended up shelved — along with other plans — when, in April, pains Sorenson had been experiencing in her stomach became unbearable.
WEST FARGO, N.D. — When Willie Gartner retired after 43 years as a food broker, he finally had time to read, deciding to focus on Western and religious books. But during a trip to Arizona, he ran out of both. At a book fair, he happened upon a series that intrigued him. The author was signing the books, so he bought the first one. Gartner couldn't put "Pewter Angels" down. "Sometimes, I get goosebumps up my back when I'm reading them; that's how good they are," he says of the Angelic letters series by Canadian author Henry Ripplinger.
FARGO — For almost a year, the group of 17 Fargo Oak Grove School students and nine adults had been excitedly preparing for their mission trip to Antigua and Chimaltenango, Guatemala. The journey looked to be one of the schools' best missions yet, says Bob Noel, mission trip director, given the students' genuine hearts for service. "We just felt like God was going to do profound things."
FARGO — Their courtship had only begun when Kevin and Bonnie Spies learned of their mutual dream of adopting disadvantaged boys. "We were at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert," Bonnie says, noting that during the event, participants were encouraged to sponsor children in need. "We both had felt called to adopt troubled, teenage boys," she says; her master's degree in special education with an emphasis on learning disabilities and emotional disorders would help equip her, "and Kevin just felt called to it."
FARGO — It's been nearly 15 years since the Rev. Lyle Kath learned his swollen glands indicated he had esophageal cancer. Though the necessary treatment changed his life dramatically — he can no longer eat food except through a tube inserted into his stomach, can't drink and no longer speaks — it's also brought many fruits, including five published books and a profusion of preaching, albeit unconventional.
FARGO — Immaculee Ilibagiza's personal spin on the "Eat, Pray, Love," theme would likely be, "Pray, Dance and Bring Flowers." Concluding the first evening of a recent two-day spiritual retreat at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church here, Ilibagiza, a survivor of the mid-1990s Rwandan civil war, had just one request: "Tomorrow, please bring a flower."
FARGO — Rick Solarski was only 16 when he started selling movie tickets and sweeping up buttered popcorn for cinema lovers here. Through the years, he's seen a lot of changes in the business, including the relatively recent surge in faith-based films. "It's definitely been an evolution," says Solarski, general manager at West Acres Cinema. "Forty years ago, if you'd said 'faith-based film,' it was likely a Billy Graham Crusade sermon."