Roxane B. Salonen
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."
KINDRED, N.D. — When her daughter Carly started BIO Girls several years ago, Lori Pearson couldn't foresee how transforming it would be. But in one of the weekly sessions, Carly learned about a back-and-forth journaling process — in this case between mother and daughter — that turned a difficult time around.
FARGO — Jemima Heppner finds herself drawn to the simple, whether in food choices, parenting focus, or prayer approach. "My faith is not complicated," the 38-year-old says. "It's something a child could understand, and we'd all do best keeping it at that level, in my opinion." God is real, she says, and made us for a purpose. Though others may let us down, God won't. "I've always felt like he's watching — you can't hide anything from him — and I think you live a different life when you realize this," she says, adding, "That's a good thing."
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the 24-hour bus ride home from our nation's capital, where she'd participated in the 45th Annual March for Life, Shanley High School junior Michaela Doescher was still processing the personal nature of this year's march theme, "Love Saves Lives." "I'm lucky to be alive," she shared through a microphone at the front of bus three, noting that her parents, teens who were young and fearful at the time of her pregnancy, had considered aborting her.
The column about my father had been submitted, but then something happened that had me changing courses. They're calling it the "Minneapolis Miracle," and I know if Dad, an avid football fan, had still been around, he'd have happily celebrated, too, this moment that had half the country screaming in shocked delight.
FARGO — He'd just returned from a thrilling elk-hunting trip out when Steve Bulat's world began to turn sideways. "I was in great shape and felt great," he says. But at 63, he knew he needed to keep the annual physical appointment his wife, Ella, then a receptionist at Sanford, had made for him. "The bloodwork didn't look right," he recalls. "They thought it might be ulcers or anemia." After some tests at Roger Maris Cancer Center in January 2015, Steve was handed a grave diagnosis — acute myeloid leukemia and an 8 percent survival rate.