Stories of Hope

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” I Timothy 12:15

Jesus can bring new life


As a writer, I love to write stories of how God has worked in people’s lives. Donna and Thad divorced and later remarried when they allowed God to become central in their marriage. Joe didn’t believe God loved poor kids and became a tough individual until an evangelistic  preacher showed him God’s care in his life. Each of these people cried when telling me their stories, overcome by their past actions.

In this passage Paul called himself “the worst of sinners”– not once, but twice.(v.15,16)

Earlier he referred to himself as a “blasphemer”, “persecutor”, and “violent aggressor.”  I wonder if after writing these words Paul also cried with remorse. If so, he didn’t allow his thoughts to dwell on the past.

He stated twice that he was shown mercy by God (v 13,16), adding that he knew his life story could be used by God to win people to Him.

Donna, Thad, Joe, and Paul let their lives be used as an example to win others to Christ. 

Does someone need to hear your story today?

Lord, help me to share my story of how You saved me. I love and trust you. Amen.

Who have you told?

If anyone does not carry his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

The letter brought me up short. Shelly, a friend in another city, had never shown an interest in God. Concerned, I had written a minister who lived close to her, asking him to make a call. My plan was that he would appear to  “drop in” on her as he canvassed the neighborhood, asking people to church. ‘Don’t mention my name,’ I added near the end of the letter. I didn’t want Shelly mad at me for interfering in her life.

The minister refused to act on my terms, however. He pointed out in the letter that, while he appreciated my interest in Shelly’s welfare, he wondered why I wanted to remain anonymous. Was I ashamed to admit my godly faith to my friend? He suggested I contact Shelly and tell her of my belief in God, then ask if he could visit her and talk about church and her beliefs in God. I was to let him know of her decision.

I realized shamefacedly that I had put my friendship with Shelly before the more important issue–her salvation. Jesus said we must be willing to give up everything for Him, even friendships.

How many of your friends know about your relationship with God?

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85-year-old sews for children in Africa

You’re never too old to help someone.

Delores Fry creates clothes for orphans in Africa

Delores Fry of Ossian, 85, could feel like she has lived a long life and deserves to take it easy. The octogenarian has been busy most of her life as a former Licensed Practical Nurse and later salesperson at Joann’s Fabric. On the personal side, Fry was married 62 years to her husband, Ernest (deceased) and could claim no interest in anyone outside of her family, which includes five children, dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

But that is not Fry’s way.

It only took a story heard on Oprah’s former TV talk show for Fry to decide to become involved with helping hundreds of poverty-stricken children on the other side of the world.

In 2010 Fry watched a segment about a non-profit Christian organization called Little Dresses for Africa. “Rachel O’Neill, organizer of Little Dresses for Africa, talked about how many children in Africa never live past age five,” said Fry. “Pretty little sundresses may give them hope and teach them that they do matter.”

While working at Joann’s Fabrics, Fry had accumulated much cotton blend material which she had used to make quilts.

The Little Dresses for Africa organization publishes a dress pattern at its website (, but Fry preferred a  Simplicity sundress pattern. “They call it a pillowcase dress because it is made with just a straight stitch and two pieces of material sewn together on the sides,” she said. “I add elastic and ties for the shoulders, but no zippers or buttons.”

Fry uses her Viking sewing machine to add rick rack for trim and pockets for added appeal.       

Fry also creates shorts and pants for little boys, another need requested by the organization. It takes Fry approximately two hours and one yard of material to make each garment. Her daughter helps her by cutting the fabric.

When Fry’s children saw her interest in creating garments for underprivileged children, they presented her with 20 yards of fabric for her birthday. Fry pays the postage to send the boxes of dresses to Michigan where headquarters for Little Dresses for Africa is located.

Fry has never volunteered to sew for any other project. But something about the Little Dresses for Africa project has given her energy and enthusiasm. Already she has sewn more than 100 dresses. “I keep working on it because it is necessary,” Fry said. “I was always able to sew and thought someone should benefit from it.”

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Used with permission of Ossian Sun Riser

Life’s Interruptions- What will you do with them?

I write about my friends and family rarely b/c I don’t want them to fear confiding in me, thinking I’ll use their thoughts for an article in a magazine. But my friend Lisa’s life was so dedicated to God that I know she would not mind if I shared her thoughts here.  Do you have problems handling life’s interruptions like cancer and death? I do– we all do.  Only by trusting God can we make it through these situations intact.


‘Go down at once for your people…have corrupted themselves.’ ~ Exodus 32: 7

Most people don’t like interruptions, especially life-threatening ones. At age 21, my friend Lisa’s body was invaded by Hodgkin’s Disease. She underwent radiation therapy. Improper radiation techniques resulted in Lisa having many health problems, including heart and lung damage. In 1999 Lisa went into respiratory failure. To save her life a tracheotomy was put in. Lisa was ventilator- dependent for 12 hours a day and unable to speak. Her husband continued to support her through her health difficulties, as he had since their marriage in 1997. Sadly, Lisa died on Valentine’s Day several years ago.

While she was still living, I asked Lisa how she felt about her life and its many interruptions. She wrote her response: “Getting cancer made me think about my life. It resulted in me giving my life to Christ. This walk I am on with Him gets pretty lonely at times, but I’ll never give up. And He has promised us all that He will never leave or forsake us.  AMEN!”

When the Israelites created the golden calf for worship, they interrupted God’s plan for them to receive the commandments from Moses. Their rebellion took them far away from God. Lisa’s life-interruptions brought her closer to Him. Where have life-interruptions taken you?

God, life-interruptions usually involve hardship. Help us to put our trust and strength in You. Amen.

Traveling the world is in Andrew Stuck’s blood

After growing up in Ecuador, Andrew Stuck taught school in Korea.


For Andrew Stuck of Markle growing up as a missionary child in Ecuador meant living with what most Americans would consider primitive conditions. “Our use of electricity was hit and miss,” said Stuck. “We had a generator for backup and were miles from a supermarket. Our family traveled to Quito to stock up on food.”           

Stuck was born in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. His parents, Tim and Ruth Stuck, had themselves been born and raised in Ecuador as children of missionaries.

While growing up, Andrew and his two younger brothers, who were also born in Ecuador, lived in various locations with their parents. At one point the Stuck family lived in a coastal city called Esmeraldas (meaning ‘Emeralds’), then a town bordering Columbia, South America. “It was not a dangerous area then,” he recalled. Later, the family lived in Santo Domingo (Saint Sunday) while Andrew studied at boarding school in Quito. During his high school years, the family lived in Quito.  

As part of his mission work, Tim Stuck often took a canoe with an outboard motor on the river to reach groups of people. “He wanted to present the news about Jesus to them,” said Stuck. The Stuck family returned to the United States every four years for a one-year furlough.

Besides the important work of teaching people about God, the Stuck family has historical significance. Andrew’s great uncle was a missionary in Ecuador in the 1950s. Another missionary in that area, Jim Elliott, desired to tell the Aucan tribe of Ecuador about God. Unfortunately, the Aucan Indians were headhunters and feared by most people. In 1956 Elliott and four other male missionaries, including a pilot named Nate Saint, entered the Aucan village, intent on befriending the tribe. Sadly, the Aucans murdered the entire group.

When the missionaries failed to contact their mission base by radio, a pilot flew over the area. He saw bodies lying on the ground and radioed for help. The ground team that found the bodies was led by Andrew’s great-uncle (his aunt’s father). “My father’s parents were working in the jungle and knew all of the missionaries who had been killed,” said Andrew.

Amazingly, two widows of men killed by the Aucans returned to live with the  tribe. Several of the tribe members became Christian and church leaders. Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth Elliott, authored the book, Through Gates of Splendor about her husband’s experience and her decision to live with the Aucan people after his death. In 2006 the movie, End of the Spear, was  based on the story of Nate Saint, and his life with the Aucans.

Andrew Stuck and his father climbed to the rim of the volcano "Guagua Pichincha" above Quito Ecuador a few summers ago.

After Andrew graduated from high school and left for college in the States, his family moved to Uruguay where they reside today. “They are establishing strong friendships with the people there by helping them in various ways,” said Andrew. His mother tutors the people in English, while his father assists local churches.  

While attending Bethel College, Andrew, who majored in Social Studies Education, met his future wife, Sarah. They married in 2008. In  February 2009 the couple moved to Korea to teach in an elementary school. They returned to the States to live in October  2010. Andrew is employed with the Bluffton-Harrison School system.

With such a varied background, Andrew Stuck believes he has led a rather peaceful life. “Some missionary kids had horror stories to tell, but I didn’t,” he said. “My family taught my brothers and me at early ages to be grateful. We understood that living in a different culture made our experiences special. We were not deprived, but blessed, especially by the people we met.”

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 Published in Ossian Sun Riser

Riverdance tapping a Farewell

Riverdance line up

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Craig Ashurst, lead dancer for the famous dance group, Riverdance. After seeing this show, now I know why people have talked about it so much in the past decade. Fabulous! Go see it if you can. This is the troupe’s last tour.


Let’s say you’ve lived on the moon since 1995 and have never heard of Riverdance. You would not know the Irish dance organization that began as a result of a seven-minute segment at the Point Theatre, in Dublin in February 1995 has now performed on stage 10,000 times, or been seen live by over 22 million people in 32 countries across four continents.

You also would not know that three million copies of the troupe’s Grammy Award-winning CD and 10 million Riverdance videos and DVDs have been sold.

Okay, so maybe the average person would not know these stats, but thanks to the troupe’s popularity and propensity for travel, the name ‘Riverdance’ brings a definite image to most people’s minds – a record-breaking line of 100 Irish dancers, step-dancing across a stage to exhilarating and exhaustingly fast Celtic tunes.

Some amazing performances for Riverdance have taken place at the tenth Anniversary celebration at Radio City Music Hall in NY and on the Great Wall of China.


While tap-dancing at such famous locales might be incredible, Craig Ashurst is content traveling across North America as head dancer for the Farewell tour of Riverdance.

Riverdance will perform on The Embassy Theatre stage on Wednesday, February 9, at 8 p.m.

started dancing at age five in his home town of Melbourne, Australia.

“My mum born and sis were born in Ireland and emigrated to Australia shortly before I was born,” he said while enroute with the Riverdance entourage through Missouri. “Dancing was part of my Irish heritage and as a teen, I knew I  wanted to perform it as a career.”

After winning several state and national dancing titles, including the British Nationals, North American Nationals, and All Ireland Championships, Ashurst gained experience working for Dance of Desire, Celtic Reign, and in Busch Gardens theme parks.

Ashurst joined Riverdance in 2005. Since then, he has performed as a dancer with the tour in Asia, North America, and Europe.

Today, at age 27, Ashurst leads the Riverdance pack, comprised of dozens of other dancers, on tour through 76 cities in five months. They perform on stage an average of eight shows per week.

Dancing may be the easy part. What Ashurst finds challenging is keeping his performance fresh. “Each night before  I go on stage, I look for a different method of inspiring myself to perform,” he said. “I may listen to a bit of music to pump myself up, or watch someone dance who I admire.”

That’s not to say Ashurst doesn’t look at the Riverdance tour as a dream come true. “I toured with other groups before Riverdance and this is a pinnacle for me,” he said. “We have a live band and once the dancers take the stage, you can tell it is filled with people who really want to be there. The energy is contagious and we strive to make it fun for the  audiences.”

According to Ashurst, one of the perks to traveling with Riverdance is having your family visit and see the show. “My  mum has seen me dance,” said Ashurst. “Dancing for family and friends who have guided me through the years has meant so much to me.”

Riverdance women

What, in his opinion, makes Irish dancing so popular? “I think it is the passion and beauty of the line dancing and the culture it comes from,” said Ashurst. “Riverdance is a special style of dance that has become a respective art form in many English-speaking countries. It’s not only fun, but great exercise. And the music of the show is so incredible that no matter your mood, it helps you feel good. I definitely love what I do.”

As for this being Riverdance’s Farewell tour, Ashurst admitted he does not plan what to do after the tour is completed. “I’m enjoying this role as lead dancer and putting off  looking into the future,” he said. “I’m just thinking about doing the best I can in each city and contributing to one of the world’s best entertainment projects.”

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Originally published at

Colorful Pepper Salad with Sesame Seeds

Do you love to crunch your teeth into fresh vegetables like red and yellow peppers and cucumbers? Here is a recipe you’ll want to pull out the cutting board for — Pepper Salad with Sesame Seeds.

It is included in my book, Recipe and Craft Guide to Indonesia (Mitchell Lane Publishing 2010).

ISBN: 9781584159346

My daughter, Amanda,  teaches high school English in a Christian school in Indonesia. She loves living there! This is her 3rd year and she plans to return next year. She recommended this dish and many of the other nine recipes in the book.



Pepper Salad with Sesame Seeds (Timor Achar in the Indonesian language)                 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

6 servings

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

1 t. sugar

2 T. sesame seeds

¼ lb. snow peas

1 red onion

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 tomato

Materials needed

Small jar with cover

Small skillet

Salad bowl

2 large spoons  

1.  Put vinegar and sugar in jar. Cover and shake to blend; refrigerate.

2.  Heat sesame seeds in skillet over medium heat, tossing until browned about 3 minutes. Set aside.

3.  Core and seed peppers. Cut peas lengthwise into thin strips.

4.  Finely slice peppers, onion, peas, and onion. Cut tomato into 6 wedges. Put vegetables into salad bowl. Add dressing. Toss to blend with large spoon.

5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve chilled with rice and other dishes.

Tidbit of cultural information: Most of Indonesia’s 200 million people get up at sunrise, the coolest part of the day. For breakfast they may eat leftovers from the day before – shallots, bowls of rice and soy, or tofu.

In the morning cooks in each home usually prepare a load of plain rice and 3 or 4 dishes for the family to eat during the day. These are left on the table for whenever someone is hungry. The cook is then free for the rest of the day. Food is not reheated; it is eaten at room temperature. Indonesian cooking methods help to keep the food edible.

Since meat is scarce in Indonesia and little of it is eaten, meals revolve around fresh fruits and vegetables and huge bowls of cooked dry white rice. Enjoy!

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