Roxane B. Salonen
FARGO — When Erik Hatch left youth ministry in 2011, he set out to become successful in real estate. While he was achieving his goals on paper, something was off. “I was pretty miserable,” Hatch says. “I thought I had to abandon who I was to work in a for-profit world."
FARGO — “All shall be well.” These were the last words my friend Vicky Westra typed into her blog, The Westra World, before her death on Oct. 13. At her funeral, her cousin Rob reminded us how intentionally Vicky had always chosen her words. Undoubtedly, this was her parting, and lasting, gift to us all. And while I’m counting on these words being true, right now, I’m struggling. Vicky had asked Bridget Cullen and me to read Scripture at her funeral.
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 — 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 — 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."
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.