The United States Supreme Court sidestepped an opportunity Monday to take up Liberty University’s challenge to the entire employer mandate, declining to review the case without comment.
Denial of review does not result in an opinion on the merits. The court could take up a similar challenge if a federal court of appeals strikes down the entire employer mandate, although no such challenge is currently pending.
Liberty Counsel represents Liberty University and two private individuals in the case of Liberty University v. Lew (formerly Liberty University v. Geithner). This was the first private lawsuit against Obamacare filed on the day President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010.
The Liberty University case challenged (1) the entire employer mandate, (2) the forced funding of abortion drugs and devices under the law and as implemented by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and (3) the forced funding of abortion by individuals under the individual mandate.
The Liberty University case first reached the Supreme Court in 2011, and the issue raised by the case (the Anti-Injunction Act) became the subject of the first day of the three-day oral argument in 2012. In November 2012, the high court ordered the federal court of appeals to rehear the remaining unresolved issues, including the employer mandate.
After the three-judge panel (two of whom were appointed by President Obama) upheld the law, the case again went back to the Supreme Court. Last week, the high court accepted the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases, both of which are for-profit corporations challenging only the HHS contraception and abortifacient provision.
“The high court has decided to take up the HHS contraception and abortion drug mandate, but it is not ready yet to tackle the entire employer mandate. That challenge will wait for another day,” says Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Liberty University case would make strong arguments that the employer mandate could not be upheld as a tax because the penalties are exorbitantly high and punitive.
“Deciding the case would have highlighted the absurdity of the Supreme Court’s convoluted decision upholding the individual mandate as a tax. Apparently the court was not willing right now to venture back into that morass.”
Staver concludes, “We will wait on the court’s ruling next year to decide whether to file a new challenge. It is possible the high court could sidestep the HHS abortion mandate issue by deciding that for-profit corporations do not have free exercise of religion rights. I hope the court will decide the issue and strike down this most egregious trampling of the free exercise of religion.”
The court rejected a petition filed by Liberty University, a Christian college in Virginia, which had raised various objections to the law, including to the key provision that requires individuals to obtain health insurance.
The justices upheld the constitutionality of a the individual mandate in a 5-4 ruling in June 2012.
Last week, the court agreed to hear two new cases in which employers have made religious objections to regulations implemented under Obamacare that require employers to provide health insurance that includes contraception for women. The case will be heard this term and decided by the end of June.
By rejecting the Liberty University case, the justices left intact a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of a May 2013 decision that dismissed the claims made by the college and two individuals, Michele Waddell and Joanne Merrill.
Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer, author and shark attack survivor, shared her testimony with students and relayed to them the importance of overcoming obstacles with Christ by their side during Liberty University Convocation on Wednesday.
Hamilton, who is from Hawaii, has surfed since she was a toddler. She began surfing competitively when she was 8. She was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kaui’s North Shore at age 13. Hamilton lost her left arm as a result.
Through determination and faith in God, she was able to return to professional surfing. Hamilton has since won several national championships and written several books. Her autobiography, Soul Surfer, was made into a major motion picture in 2011.
“Her story of faith, determination, and hope has captivated the attention of the national and international press,” he says. “That film (Soul Surfer) was one of the things that inspired us to start the Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center here. It showed us that Christian films could be done in high quality.”
Hamilton shared her personal testimony with students, explaining how she coped with life after the attack.
“As I grew up with one arm and relearned how to surf, God taught me that He can take the hard times that I went through and turn them into something beautiful,” she said. “I think that He can do that for each and every one of you. He can take what you have been through and use it for good if you are willing to share what He has done for you.”
She also relayed to students the importance of living for God and using their passions to learn to overcome obstacles in life.
“It has been 10 years since I have lost my arm, and I would never take back anything I have gone through. I would never take back losing my arm because I know God allowed me to go through something like this to be able to come and share with you the message of hope in Him,” Hamilton said.
She reminded students that even though obstacles and trials may seem too difficult to bear, God is always working in the midst of them.
“I look back on my life now and I am just in awe that God can take a little girl from a tiny island in Hawaii and use my story all over the world to reach so many people,” she said.
She recalled a trip she took to Thailand shortly after a tsunami devastated the country in 2004. While there she was able to minister to locals and help them overcome their fear of the ocean. She even got to take a group of children surfing.
Along with her influence as a professional athlete, Hamilton has been able to touch a large number of people with her own foundation, Friends of Bethany, which supports sharks attack survivors and amputees.
Carley Cottingham, a Liberty senior, spent her fall break in San Diego, Calif., at the “Beautifully Flawed” retreat hosted by Hamilton. The retreat was for young women who have gone through the tragedy of losing a limb.
When Cottingham was 17, she lost her right hand due to blood clots caused by an extra rib disorder she was born with.
“It has been four years since I have lost my hand, and I have never once cried about it or been upset and mad at God because He allowed it to happen for a reason,” Cottingham said. “He knew I could handle life this way and would put a positive spin on it.”
After losing her hand, Cottingham subscribed to Hamilton’s foundation and began receiving emails and updates. She was able to apply and eventually be accepted for the retreat.
While there, Cottingham connected with girls who have gone through similar trials. She was also able to converse and surf with Hamilton.
“Being able to relate to girls who had gone through something similar as me was incredible,” said Cottingham, who joined Hamilton after Convocation as she toured campus. “Bethany Hamilton is an inspiration to me and so many other amputees, and I am grateful I have found a friend in her.”
Tchividjian, who investigates such abuses, told a room of journalists last week that evangelicals have no room to chastise Catholics when it comes to sexual abuse in the church.
“Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” Tchividjian, executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), told Religion News Service (RNS). Tchividjian said too many evangelicals have “sacrificed the souls” of young victims in order to protect the reputation of their churches.
Tchividjian told RNS that when it comes to sexual abuse, accountability and transparency are “frowned upon” by evangelicals and that exposing these tragic incidents is discouraged. Victims, he said, are often told to “protect the reputation of Jesus.”
“We’ve got the Gospels backwards,” Tchividjian said.
GRACE launched a campaign during the summer encouraging evangelical leaders to expose sexual abuse in their churches. Bob Jones University, in Greenville, S.C., hired GRACE to investigate abuse allegations at that school.
“That’s like the mothership of fundamentalism,” Tchividjian said.
With his inspirational and unprecedented show of leadership on the floor of the U.S. Senate this past week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made hundreds of enemies in Washington.
But more importantly, he made millions of friends across America.
When you have both liberal Democrats and mealy-mouthed establishment RINOs (“Republicans in name only“) allying against you, you know you’ve got the bead over the beltway “good ol’ boys’” center-mass. Mr. Cruz emasculated, delightfully, Obama’s political yes-bots on both sides of the aisle.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., was both a sponsor of—and cheerleader for—Obamacare. That was, of course, because he evidently followed Nancy Pelosi’s obtuse advice to “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Once he read this 2,400-page regulatory monstrosity, Sen. Baucus came to the same conclusion as did anyone else with two synapses to rub together. He called it “a huge train wreck” and announced that Obama’s pet government health care albatross would sink him into retirement.
Unfortunately, it’ll sink millions of American families right along with him.
Even liberal supporters are waking up to this nightmarish reality. Politico laments, “The Obamacarethat consumers will finally be able to sign up for next week is a long way from the health plan President Barack Obama first pitched to the nation.
“Millions of low-income Americans won’t receive coverage. Many workers at small businesses won’t get a choice of insurance plans right away. Large employers won’t need to provide insurance for another year. Far more states than expected won’t run their own insurance marketplaces. And a growing number of workers won’t get to keep their employer-provided coverage.”
The moxie Sen. Cruz showed during his marathon 21-hour Obamacare-funding speech had the dual effect of both shining the spotlight of truth on the inherent lie that is the Affordable Care Act, as well as launching this no-nonsense lawmaker’s Reaganesque bona fides into the stratosphere.
Still, while economy and freedom-saving congressional efforts to delay, defund and, ultimately, defeat Obamacare will continue with men like Ted Cruz leading the charge, it remains critical that a judicial cavalry cover his flank.
To that end, earlier this month Liberty Counselfiled a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the civil rights firm’s Obamacare case, Liberty University v. Lew(formerly called Liberty University v. Geithner). Liberty Counsel’s challenge to Obamacare is the most comprehensive case pending, arguing that 1) the entire employer mandate is unconstitutional because Congress lacks authority to force employers to buy or provide government-mandated health insurance, 2) the contraception-abortifacient mandate forcing employers to provide free abortion-inducing drugs or devices violates the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause, and 3) the individual mandate forcing individuals to fund abortion violates the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause.
“Under the employer mandate, employers are compelled to purchase an unwanted government-defined insurance product at a government-defined price,” the petition says. “If they fail to do so, then they face fines that can be as high as $15,000 per employer per day and penalties of $2,000 per employee per year, even if they provide health insurance which does not include abortion-inducing drugs or devices.”
“The Supreme Court has already found that the government cannot force individuals to purchase an unwanted product under the individual mandate,” says Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “It is only logical that government also lacks authority to force employers to purchase an unwanted product.”
“The insurance mandates also require that insurance policies provide coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of the fact that providing such coverage violates religious beliefs of individuals and employers,” the petition explains. “If individuals and employers refuse to provide the free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, then they will be saddled with government penalties. In essence, it is akin to the old adage ‘your money or your life,’ only it is ‘your money or your religious beliefs.’”
“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling contradicts this Court’s precedents and creates an inter-circuit conflict with the 10th, 7th and 8th circuits,” the petition concludes. “This Court should accept plenary review to resolve the conflicts presented by this case, including whether the employer mandate is supported by the Taxing and Spending Clause or the Commerce Clause, and whether the individual and employer mandates violate religious free exercise.”
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, often said, “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.” President Obama’s ministry of propaganda has, until now, gotten away with this whopper: “Obamacare does not force taxpayers to fund abortion.”
The jig’s up. It does, and everyone knows it.
That includes Congress.
CNS News reports that on Friday, “72 congressmen sent a letter to House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, urging him to insert language ending abortion funding and religious discrimination inObamacare.
“The Obama administration has committed unprecedented attacks against the unborn and the religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution, all under the guise of ‘access to health care,’ the letter tells Boehner.
“The letter implores Boehner to ‘incorporate H.R. 940, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, along with a cessation of federal dollars for abortions into the continuing resolution or on legislation addressing the debt ceiling.’”
The Washington Examiner further notes, “Obamacare is a masterpiece in its achievement of leaving no corner of our personal freedoms unviolated. It hijacks our pocketbook, our autonomy of action, and our conscience. The result is to leave us economically and morally impoverished.”
While Sen. Cruz and a growing number of lawmakers from both parties work to bring down Obamacare from the U.S. Capitol building, Liberty Counsel will continue launching shells from the Supreme Court down the street.
It’s a united front because, one way or another, this Obamacare albatross must go.
Audiences have once again shown their loyalty and support for Kirk Cameron as the results are in fromUnstoppable, which proves that audiences will head to the theater for quality projects, even on a weeknight.
The estimated $2 million earned at the box office (unaudited numbers via Rentrak) would rank the film first or second for Tuesday night, rivaling the Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Prisoners, which came in at $2.1 million.
On Tuesday, actor and producer Kirk Cameron debuted Unstoppable: A Live Event With Kirk Cameron in more than 700 select movie theaters across the country through NCM Fathom Events, in partnership with Provident Films.
More than 150,000 tickets were sold for Unstoppable, in which Cameron was linked in live to theaters from the Vines Center at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Select locations added additional showings the same evening due to overwhelming demand.
Due to the demand and a large number of sold-out shows, an encore presentation is now scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. local time in more than 660 movie theaters. Select theaters are already sold out or near sold out in many markets, including Springfield, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla.; San Antonio, Texas; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Bakersfield, Calif., among others. Ticket and theater information are available at unstoppablethemovie.com.
Interest from audiences and media outlets grew stronger after it was discovered that both Facebook and YouTube initially blocked the trailer for Unstoppable, labeling it “unsafe” and “abusive.” Cameron’s supporters immediately rallied online support, and the incidents were resolved.
Cameron calls Unstoppable his “most personal” project to date, as he invites audiences to join him on a powerful, visual journey to better understand the biggest doubt-raising question in faith: “Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?”
Cameron is best known for his memorable role as Growing Pains‘ Mike Seaver, a cultural icon of the ′80s, with his mullet hairstyle, cool glasses and wisecracking comebacks. More recently, he enjoyed much success with the No. 1 grossing inspirational film of 2008, Fireproof, and his recent documentary Monumental. Cameron and his wife, Chelsea, live in California with their six children.
“I do not want to drive across a bridge designed by an engineer who believed the numbers in structural stress models are relative truths.” —R.C. Sproul
I was delighted to speak on Sunday at Faith Christian Center in Arlington, Texas. I joined that community of believers in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the church’s affiliated school, St. Paul’s Preparatory Academy. The topic of my discussion was “How to Raise Christian Children in Today’s Culture.”
As I was preparing my remarks, it occurred to me that raising children to both love and faithfully serve the Lord and Creator of the universe, Jesus Christ, is not unlike the primary goal of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University.
In 1971, Dr. Falwell launched Liberty—now the world’s largest Christian university—and quickly got about the business of “training champions for Christ.”
I submit that “raising Christian children in today’s culture” and “training champions for Christ” are one and the same and that both fruitful endeavors stem from the same rich soil: truth.
But what is today’s culture, exactly? What is a champion for Christ? And perhaps most importantly, what—or Who—is truth?
Merriam Webster’s defines champion as “someone who fights or speaks publicly in support of a person, belief, cause, etc.” It is not merely a passing suggestion that Christian parents and educators train champions for Christ. It’s a command given us by God Himself: “Start children off on the way they should go [train them], and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6, NIV).
We faithful are additionally tasked with an unambiguous calling on the way we (and our children) should go: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15-16).
The apostle Paul admonishes in Romans 1:16 that we should not be “ashamed of the gospel,” but rather should “do [our] best to present [ourselves] to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
In addition to leading by example, this means steeping Christian children and young people in the “word of truth”—the Holy Scriptures—and equipping them in love to champion (to “fight or speak publicly in support of”) the infallible, unchangeable and absolute truths found therein.
This is so even when the absolute truths of Scripture have become unpopular in a world that prefers the absolute lie of relativism.
Indeed, though some may wander the prodigal’s path for a time and still others may remain lost, we can only then—having obeyed the command to train our children in the way they should go—release, hope, pray and have faith that the Holy Spirit will be that eternal light to illuminate temporal life’s perilous path—that Christ will be a lamp unto the feet of our beloved.
Jesus commands His followers to be His hands and feet—to be salt and light in a rotting world that loves darkness (Matt. 5:13-16).
True, salt preserves, but in an open wound, it also burns. Today’s relativist culture is an open wound.
True, light’s bright glare can be illuminating to those eager to see. But it is also blinding to those whose eyes have become adjusted to darkness. When the light of Christ is shined, it sends lovers of evil scurrying for the shadows.
For this reason, Christ warned, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22).
In a culture that slaughters the unborn, mocks purity, celebrates sexual sin and makes a joke out of the institution of marriage by imagining sin-based counterfeits, it remains a daunting task for Christian parents to raise children with both the courage and conviction to stand unashamed for God’s truth. From an earthly standpoint, it seems counterintuitive to both welcome and find joy in being hated by the world.
Even more, for young people who might prefer popularity over principle—at least for now—the prospect of being “hated by everyone” lacks a certain level of appeal.
That’s OK. Stand strong, parents. Persevere.
Because ultimately, that’s the price of admission.
It boils down to instilling in our children a biblically orthodox Christian worldview—that is to say, absolute truth. Anything else is nothing at all. Anything else is relativism, which holds that there is no absolute truth and imagines, absolutely, that, as theological giant Francis Schaeffer often described, “man is the measure of all things.”
As history has proven, when man is the measure of all things, all things can, and usually do, go horribly wrong. Consider, for example, the hundreds of millions killed under the relativist regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, et al.
Indeed, train your children in “the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” They will use God’s Word, the true measure of all things, as they endeavor to actually measure all things.
Funny thing, absolute truth. It’s absolute. It’s like a buoy pulled beneath the lake’s surface and fixed tight with rope. With time, and against the tide of Christ’s love, that rope—the lie of relativism—eventually rots. It snaps under its own weakness, hurling the buoy, truth, from cold darkness to warm sunlight.
If steeped in Scripture, children—even the prodigal child—may be pulled under and tied down for a time by relativism’s glittery allure. But when the relativist rope rots, fear not, for those who have been fastened to “the way, the truth and the life”—who is Christ—will burst back into the light.
The wife of the American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith says her husband remains bold for Jesus Christ in prison.
Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, recently spoke to students at Liberty University about her family’s plight.
She said in spite of being tortured and asked to deny his faith in Christ and return to Islam, Pastor Saeed is a light for Jesus in Evin Prison, one of the worst in the world.
“They’ve told him many times that they would free him and allow him to return to our family, the kids and I, if he would deny his Christian faith, and he’s stood strong in that prison. He’s led many, many—over 30 people—to Christ in that prison,” she told the audience.
A special prayer vigil for Pastor Saeed is being held worldwide Thursday—the one-year anniversary of his imprisonment in Iran.
It’s also the day Iran’s new president will be making his first trip to America to address the United Nations.
In it, he explores an age-old question: Why does God allow suffering and evil in the world? Cameron said that is the question that often wrecks people’s faith.
The film, he says, is based on a true story. Cameron recently lost a teenage friend to cancer—a tragedy that sent him searching for answers.
“That event really hit me hard,” he told CBN News. “It really pulled all of the air out of my lungs because this was a good boy, a boy from a great family who loved God and went to church.
“And when he died,” Cameron continued, “and God did not heal him in spite of all the prayers, in spite of all the people crying out to God, it really caused me to ask the big question: Where is God in the midst of my tragedy?”
Cameron said Unstoppable takes him on the most personal journey of his life where he has to examine his own faith, and he does it by going all the way back to the origins of good and evil.
“What I discovered is that it’s much better to understand your tragedy and mine in the context of a much larger story,” he said. “And so what I do is I try to take you up to heaven’s balcony and give you a wide-angle-lens view of history, and we start in the Garden of Eden.”
In the film, Cameron said he overcomes his own doubts and that he comes out on the other side of this meat grinder even stronger in his faith.
“Regardless of our background—whether you’re Jewish or Christian, Muslim or atheist or agnostic— we all ask this question,” he told CBN News.
“It’s easier to be excited about your beliefs, whatever they are, when things are going well in your life, when you’re happy and healthy,” he added. “But when the roof comes down and you get hit by something you didn’t see coming, all of a sudden the questions begin. I think you will come out on the other end of this movie not having your faith shredded like has happened to many, but you will have it strengthened like it did for me.”
Back in July, Unstoppable created a social media firestorm when Facebook and YouTube blocked access to the movie trailer. That’s when over half a million of the actor’s fans rallied around him.
Unstoppable opens in theaters Tuesday. That night, Cameron will broadcast a special event from Liberty University. He said he wants to settle once-and-for all that good is stronger than evil and that faith is stronger than doubt.
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, Holgen Guerisma was driving a dump truck full of sand up a narrow mountain road 15 miles southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A “Jack of all trades,” Holgen worked in construction and also served as a driver and translator for Baptist Haiti Mission.
Ahead, he could see a 15-foot-high rock wall lining the road. He hadn’t quite reached it when his truck started shaking. Thinking he had a flat tire, Holgen came to a stop, just short of the retaining wall. As he looked around, he quickly discovered his tire was not the problem.
“Everything was shaking,” Holgen said. “Trees and everything. I heard people screaming. I realized it was an earthquake.”
He watched the rock wall ahead of him crumble to the ground.
“I saw it all come down and cover the driveway I was going to go through,” said Holgen. “I stood there, stunned. If I wouldn’t have stopped for between seven and 10 seconds, I would have been under the retaining wall.”
A Country in Chaos
Holgen had survived a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Tens of thousands of his fellow Haitians perished; many more were seriously injured. After the quake, the line of people waiting for treatment outside the Baptist Haiti Mission hospital was reportedly five miles long.
In the weeks following the earthquake, thousands of bodies were buried in mass graves. Public transportation came grinding to a halt. Tent cities full of the homeless sprang up in parks and soccer fields.
And that’s the small portion of the chaos Brian and Enid Johnson entered into as they arrived in Haiti with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. The Wisconsin couple had deployed before to numerous disasters—Hurricane Katrina; flooding in Minnesota and Iowa; deadly shootings in Wisconsin and Illinois—but they had never seen anything like this.
“It was very, very chaotic,” Enid recalled the deployment that saw 123 chaplains pray with more than 35,000 Haitians over 22 months. “There were mountains of concrete and retaining rock. When you look at something like that, your eyes really can’t believe what you’re seeing.”
As crisis-trained chaplains, the Johnsons traveled to Haiti to offer emotional and spiritual care to the devastated country. There was just one problem—they didn’t speak Creole or French, and very few Haitians spoke English.
That’s where Holgen came in.
“We had one driver and three translators, Holgen being one of them,” said. “I virtually spent every day with him.”
Together, they traveled the region, ministering to the sick and injured in hospitals and to the homeless scraping by in tent cities.
Holgen served as driver, translator or both. Usually, there were several people in the van, but one time, it was just Holgen and Brian.
“That’s when I had the chance to ask Holgen if he had a dream,” Brian said.
‘I Gave Up’
Holgen did have a dream once. Nearly 10 years earlier, he had even written it down, at the urging of his mother. She had always encouraged her children to write out their dreams at the beginning of each new year and pray about them often.
Holgen’s dream was to study telecommunications in the United States. He wanted to master the skills that could ultimately improve the infrastructure in his own country.
A lifelong believer who was heavily involved in Baptist Haiti Mission, Holgen hoped to earn one of two annual BHM scholarships to Liberty University in Virginia.
Problems with his birth certificate delayed Holgen from applying for the scholarship. After a lengthy, costly process, everything was finally cleared up. He thought he had made it just in time. Then, BHM dropped its scholarship cutoff age from 26 to 24. Holgen was 25.
“It was heartbreaking,” Holgen said. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s done.’ I gave up.”
He had long since lost the piece of paper that held his dream. Now it seemed the dream itself was lost as well.
Holgen didn’t usually talk about that part of his life, but he shared his story with Brian, only opening up because he was asked. Brian listened, prayed with Holgen and said goodnight.
‘We Can Do That’
As he returned to his temporary home that evening, Brian couldn’t stop thinking about Holgen and his dream, so he shared what he had learned with Enid.
“And when I told my wife about the story, she said, ‘We can do that.’”
Guided by prayer, Brian and Enid hatched a plan to get their new friend to the United States and enroll him in a telecommunications program. But they didn’t say a word to Holgen.
After spending a month in Haiti, the Johnsons headed home to Frederic, Wis., and started researching telecommunications programs.
“This was a ‘God thing,’” said Brian. “One of the top schools in the entire nation is 40 miles from our home. They were just absolutely wonderful, the people over there. They all got on board with this right away.”
With the initial details settled, it was time to give Holgen a call.
“They let me know God had put it on their heart to help me with pursuing my dream,” Holgen said. “On the other end of the phone, it was like, am I really hearing what I’m hearing right now? I could have died from a heart attack.”
The process of getting Holgen a visa and making travel arrangements was incredibly challenging, but one step—and one prayer—at a time, it all came together.
“It took us 18 months and tons and tons of hurdles, but the joy of it all was seeing God show up each time,” Brian said.
The Dream Resurfaces
On Aug. 5, 2011, Holgen prepared to board a plane for the United States.
As he gathered his documents, he decided to take one last look in the drawer where he kept his important papers.
“I’d been in there very often, probably one time a week,” Holgen said. “I thought, ‘Let me take a last look—just a last check.’”
The first thing he saw as he opened the drawer was the sheet of paper with his dream on it. He hadn’t even thought about it in years, assuming it was gone. But there it was.
“And I just sat there and cried,” he said. “Because it was like God told me, ‘You gave up on me. You didn’t think I could do this for you.’”
Life in the States
When Holgen landed in Wisconsin, he found that the Johnsons had thought of everything. They provided him with a car to drive to and from school. They also gave him their finished basement, complete with a kitchenette, bathroom, and bedroom of his own—an emotional surprise for Holgen, who told the couple he assumed he’d be living in a closet.
The Johnsons got a surprise, too. When they took Holgen to a local eye doctor, they found out he was nearly blind.
“And he was our driver, by the way!” Brian said with a laugh.
A pair of glasses literally gave Holgen a new outlook on life.
The glasses came in handy as he hit the books. Described by Enid as a “perfectionist,” Holgen wasn’t satisfied with anything but straight A’s at school. He was often up late studying.
Despite his packed schedule, Brian and Enid tried to show their house guest as much of their corner of Wisconsin as possible. Holgen learned to hunt, fish and play the piano. He was also a guest speaker at several local churches. And, with the help of his kind hosts, he even squeezed in a honeymoon with his new bride, Marjolein (Van Doorn) Guerisma.
The two married just before Holgen left for Wisconsin. They met when Marjolein, who is from the Netherlands, was working as a missionary in Haiti. She’s currently teaching elementary school in Holland, but they hope to be permanently reunited soon.
In the meantime, Holgen is truly part of the Johnsons’ family. Case in point: a new figure popped up on a drawing of a family tree by Brian and Enid’s youngest grandson. The new addition turned out to be Holgen, grafted in as a brother.
In May 2013, Holgen graduated with a degree in telecommunication technologies from WITC-Rice Lake. He was No. 1 in his class—a group of about 15 tight-knit students he grew to love. It was that love that led him to share the gospel with every one of them before they graduated.
Making graduation day even more special was a guest who traveled thousands of miles to be in attendance—Holgen’s mom.
The graduation speaker had her stand up and be recognized for coming all the way from Haiti.
She had encouraged her son to dream. That day, she saw his dreams come to fruition.
With his education under his belt, Holgen is hoping to spend one more year in the U.S. to gain some on-the-job training before heading home to Haiti. He’s currently waiting to find out whether the U.S. government has approved his request.
Whatever happens over the next year, Holgen and the Johnsons know it’ll be for the best. God has come through time and again. They can’t imagine not trusting Him once more.
In fact, the Lord has provided so much, Ephesians 3:20-21 has become the family’s rallying call.
”Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (ESV).
“I have seen this in my life every day,” said Holgen. “God can really do abundantly more than what we ask.”