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Learn about the Bethel community through our members' stories. For decades, the LIFEline has featured stories and writings from and about our community. To access stories prior to March 2021, visit our old blog here.

Below you can read stories and share them on social media. Paper copies are available for pick-up in the lobby, or you can request a PDF to be emailed to you by contacting us here.


2021 LIFELine Theme

This year we are looking back at different "catch-phrases" that have helped to form the foundation for our congregation over the years. The earlier ones are, of course, not familiar to current members. But they are, nonetheless just as powerful today as they were decades ago. We hope you are encouraged in your walk with the Lord as you read how people today are embracing these important themes from the past. 

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2021: A Year for Healing Community
This year we are exploring what a healing community looks like in our church, city, and nation.
Learn more about 2021's theme
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Jehovah Rapha

By Liz Kimmel

 

Can He heal?

          Based on Scripture and testimonies from around the world – YES!

Has He healed someone I know?

          Many times – both instantaneously and over the course of time.

Has He healed me?

          Sometimes yes, sometimes no – why is that?

                     Don’t I believe hard enough?

                     Does He want me to learn perseverance?

                     Is there someone suffering who might be encouraged

         by the way I have handled my difficulties?

Will He heal me?

          I hope so . . .

          I believe He can . . .

          Can I believe He will?

Can I ask Him to heal me?

          Absolutely – as many times as it takes!

          Don’t be shy about going to the throne yet again about the same issue.

Don’t be afraid to step into the healing waters a second or third or fourth time.

          Ask and you will receive . . .

                     Is that in this life or the next?

          “Oh Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony!”

          “The Lord has heard my weeping . . . The Lord accepts my prayer.”

Can I believe Him?

          He doesn’t lie.

          He isn’t mean.

          He doesn’t tease.

          He sometimes allows things of this world to adversely affect me.

          But that doesn’t mean He has stopped loving me.

Can I trust Him?

          Yes, I can rely on His strength to heal me

                     And I can rely on His strength when He doesn’t.

Yes, I can confidently expect that He will answer – though maybe not in my time frame.

          Yes, I can hope in and be assured of His deep love for me.

How does trust differ from acceptance of my lot?

What if He says no to me like He did to Paul concerning the thorn in his flesh?

                     Would I be able to trust in His all-sufficient grace?

          What if I live through years of pain?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – even if it hurts.

          What if I end up dying before I experience complete healing?

Jesus said that He would prepare a place for me and would take me to be with Him.

That’s what I want – to be with Him,

          Whether that means here with a healed body or with a hurting body,

          Or there with a new body.

I just want to be with Him, Jehovah Rapha, my Restorer!

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People: Our Greatest Commodity

By Sheryl Nash

 

An illumination of sorts seemed to be happening for many of us. As the days became longer, we were contemplating our lives. The true essence of being human is not as complicated as I once thought. We all need food and exercise and toilet paper for obvious reasons. What else is most important in this life we have to lead for so short a time on the continuum?

 

What am I missing?

I can still pray and seek God.

Lots of time for that!

People…

I’m missing people;

Who would have thought?

I love people.

          There! I said it:

I Love People!

What would a life be like without people?

 

So, it took a virus to separate us

to show us what life is all about…people.

I hear a song coming on…

People who need people are the luckiest people in the world!

We’ve all heard the old cliché, No man Is an island,”

but truly this is deeper.

It’s not just about survival in a physical sense

but the essence of what makes us human.

We need love.

We need companionship.

We need joy that come from real face to face interaction

in proximity – not ten feet apart even.

Life is not so complicated after all,

even though we live in a time that has increased

knowledge and technology like never before.

Life is still about the people in your life!

So, people, let’s start living life like never before.

Love with all your heart those who are near.

And look forward to the time of loving those

that you will be near to again real soon.

I love people!

Let's begin again and love like never before.

Because now more than ever before we need to be embraced and loved.

I'll say it again - I need people. 

What I really mean is

I love people!!

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Wrestling with a Book

By Pastor Justin Finton

 

In the church we frequently talk about our relationship with God, our relationship with Jesus, and our relationship within our community; we rarely talk about our relationship with the Bible. When I think about my relationship with scripture, my mind immediately goes back to the shame I felt as a child in Sunday School. Almost weekly I would hear the phrase, “Read your Bible and pray every day” echoed by someone in the church, and each time I was reminded of my failure to meet their expectations and God’s. I know that I’m not the only one to have had similar experiences.  

 

Is the role of scripture in your life confined by the way you approach it? Some of us approach the Bible as a self-help book, looking for encouragement. Others seek wisdom and moral guidance for how to live well. Some only open the pages of a Bible when they need scripture references for an argument they are having online. While there is validity in each of these approaches to scripture, I find that the full power of Scripture can be diminished by relying on only one or two of these methods. 

 

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a growing trend in our culture to dismiss things that violate our core convictions. When we disagree with others, we un-follow them, block them out of our lives and our circles of influence. Increasingly, Scripture is dismissed as an irrelevant, ancient document that has outlived its usefulness in our post-modern world. When we find ourselves in disagreement with scripture, many are tempted disengage from it, or change it to fit our internalized narratives. 

 

I find that my relationship with scripture, like many people’s, involves more struggle than our previous examples. I often find myself concerned, confused, and opposed to many of the things I read in the Bible. Some acts seem out of place with God’s character, some statements seem to contradict other statements, and frequently what I expect the Bible to say about a topic is very different from what it actually says. Instead of glossing over the part of the Bible I don’t understand, I’ve learned to dig in deeper into the mystery. I’ve approach God’s word as Jacob approached God himself: I wrestle. 

 

Timothy Keller has an incredible quote that I find myself coming back to time and time again, even though I’ve been faithfully following God for twenty years. 

 

“If your God never disagrees with you, you might be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”

 

What a challenge! When you open scripture are you looking to validate your established belief system, or to allow God to perform surgery on your heart? This is an invitation to lean into the parts of the Bible that seem odd or out of place to you. This is an invitation to seek God with all of your mind, as Jesus commanded when he re-wrote the ancient Israelite prayer, the Shema. 

 

Unlike Jacob, I have discovered that when I wrestle with God’s word, God eventually wins me over. I have learned that my struggles with Scripture typically stem from one of these issues:

 

1. My own lack of understanding

2. My heart is unaligned with God’s

 

As you take stock of your relationship with the Bible, I want to encourage you to move beyond the ways that you have limited its power in your life. Don’t fall into the trap of reducing the Bible to a self-help book or glossing over the parts that make you uncomfortable. Lean into your discomfort. Wrestle with God’s word. Seek His truth and you will find it.  

 

Jeremiah 31:33-34 NLT

33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

 

Introducing the Fintons

 

Pastor Justin stepped into the position of Youth Director on April 1st of this year. Before coming to BCF he served at Abundant Life Church for three years as the Associate Youth Pastor, and three years as the Lead Youth Pastor.

 

His greatest joy in ministry is challenging people to view God and Scripture in new ways that deepen their understanding. He attended Global University, and became a credentialed minister in the Assemblies of God in 2015. Outside of Bethel, he works in the Anoka-Hennepin School District as a Site Leader for their elementary age before-and-after school program, Adventures Plus. 

 

Justin and Michelle have been married for 7 years. They welcomed Ezra into the family in November, 2020. They have just moved into the Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul (from Coon Rapids).

 

Welcome, Justin, Michelle, and Ezra! We are so happy that you are now a part of our Family!

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July/August Editor's Note: The Word Over the House

By Liz Kimmel

 

When Cary and I came to Bethel in 1994, this was the phrase over the House, True to the Word, Alive in the Spirit. It is an apt description of what we wanted our lives to look like.

 

I grew up in an American Baptist church and Cary in a Lutheran church. Our Christian walks took different trajectories. I never felt the desire to “walk away from the Lord,” but I was not challenged to live my life completely for Him. Cary came face to face with Jesus during his college years, and his life was completely changed.

 

By the time we met, at Jesus People Church in downtown Minneapolis, we had both come to the conclusion that we needed a church where biblical teaching provided a solid foundation and the spiritual life was vibrant and God-dependent.

 

JP had its issues, and our small group of believers moved back into a home-church setting for a period of time. But before long, as we married and began having children, we all came to the decision that we needed a larger church body to help us minister to the various needs we were facing.

 

We were given assignments to visit different churches and then report back to the group. Bethel Christian Fellowship was on our list to visit. The hope was that we would be able to find a place that we could all attend together. That didn’t happen, but the Kimmels and the Beyers began to call this place home.

 

Our initial visit was on the first Sunday in June. While I can’t recall Pastor Jim’s message that day, I know from the sermon logs that Maura had kept over the years that the title was “Priorities of the Church.” The scripture passage was Acts 2:44-47. I can assure you that we were blessed by this picture of the early church, newly baptized by the Holy Spirit and devoted to the teaching of the Apostles. We were fed by the words spoken by Pastor Jim that day, blessed by the worship, and completely welcomed by the body.

 

We had found a place where we could continue to be grounded in the scriptures. And at the same time, we had found a place where the Holy Spirit was honored, sought after, and depended upon.

 

This summer issue is a bit shorter than other issues, but still filled with encouraging teaching and exhortation. We trust you will be blessed as you read what our members have written around this theme that has influenced our identity as a congregation for over thirty years.

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Searching Questions for You and Me

By Ken Holmgren


Elsewhere in this LIFEline, you will find the contents of a written interview I was able to do with Bob Forseth, BCF’s pastor from 1969 to 1971. My heart was deeply moved as I read his answers to my questions about his ministry of leading BCF on the mission of “Presenting Christ in Minnesota’s Capital City” five decades ago. In fact, his answers raised some searching questions I believe God is asking you and me.


Pastor Bob told of his hope for “a fresh influx of new people coming from different age groups, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.” As I read this, I hear God asking me if that is my hope. Do I have a passion to see men and women and youth and children from the many cultural groups in the Twin Cities come to know, love, and follow Jesus? Does it bother me that I do not see an influx of new people who are coming to faith in Jesus as a result of witness that is scattered like seed everywhere our church body goes throughout the week?

 

As Pastor Bob continued in his interview answers, he recalled that the church leaders who served with him were “especially flexible and committed to reaching out” when they heard his vision. He said that “the core believers were hearty workers,” dedicated to go tell the neighborhood about Jesus by going door-to-door, doing an after-school outreach, starting a bus ministry, and holding Vacation Bible School. Again, I hear God asking me if I am a hearty, dedicated worker who will be His voice, His hands and feet to help communicate His love wherever, however He calls me to serve Him.

 

Near the end of his interview, Pastor Bob reminded us that the message of the Gospel has never changed and that it will always bring transformation to the lives of those who choose to trust and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord. He noted that methods of presenting the Gospel “may have to be recalibrated” in the twenty-first century, but God’s clear call for BCF is to “uniquely reach those who are lost and looking for answers.” And he exhorted us to remember the vital necessity of prayer.

 

In response to these statements, I find myself asking if I really believe that the Good News of Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection can change the hearts and lives of those who are searching for answers to the brokenness in their lives? Does my belief in this impact my heart to the degree that I will listen to God’s clear call to reach out to the many who are looking for answers in the pain and confusion that has overtaken them today? Am I willing and ready to be a witness of God’s love and life-changing power, whatever method He may direct me to use?

 

And, perhaps most importantly, do I have such an intimate prayer relationship with God that His presence and power at work within me will enable me to effectively present Christ to Minnesota’s Capitol City and beyond?

 

Let us prayerfully consider these questions with hearts that are open to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

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Kingdom Partnerships

By Abby Marino


Any Minnesota resident can tell you that the last 18 months have been particularly challenging for our state. Amid a pandemic that brought significant levels of isolation, loneliness, and financial anxiety to many, our communities were then met with the devastating death of George Floyd. Today the impact of the pandemic and civil unrest lingers over our Twin Cities, but we know of a much stronger presence at work: Jesus. 

 

The Church has held an historic responsibility to minister to those who are hurting, and this past year has only amplified that call. As the Minnesota evangelical network, it has been both a challenge and an honor for Transform Minnesota to serve and equip God’s people in new ways. Shortly after George Floyd’s death, Christians had the opportunity to respond to the rioting and destruction of minority owned businesses in the Twin Cities. We partnered with dozens of churches and ministries to communicate real needs to hundreds of believers. We encouraged our network to commit to their neighbors as many were bracing for homelessness and unemployment. It was beautiful to witness the people of God partnering with community-led initiatives and existing local ministries. This was a season in which the Church practiced humility and generosity, and we saw God work through His people to transition short-term emergency energy into long-term efforts which continue to promote racial healing and harmony today.

 

Transform Minnesota has also had the opportunity to partner with The One Fund, which was created specifically in response to the disproportionate effects of the pandemic and civil unrest on local African American ministries and churches. This fund was started by a small group of Christian pastors who wanted to extend love to their neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ. Today The One Fund is over seventy-five percent of the way to its one-million-dollar goal! The ripple effect this fund has had within our communities has extended far beyond its original vision; over 60 churches and ministries were able to keep their doors open, pay their bills and staff, and continue providing critical gospel-centered services and resources within their communities. Praise God!

 

In addition to racial harmony and loving our neighbors, one of our key foci this past year has been to unify the local Body of Christ and lean into our identity as a network of believers. We felt strongly that this was more important than ever given the increased division and political polarity both outside and within church walls. For us this meant upholding James 2:8, John 15:12, 1 John 4:21 and countless others within our communication and programming. We were so thankful to have pastors and believers faithfully prioritizing our collective Christian witness even in the face of fears, concerns and disagreements with others. Bethel Christian Fellowship consistently participated in Transform Minnesota programming and we are so thankful for their partnership and leadership in the St. Paul community! It was a joy to have Pastor Steve and Pastor Andrew join us for various webinars and prayer calls, and it has been powerful to gather in prayer together throughout the year as we lift up our neighbors and ask for God’s wisdom. 

 

What a privilege it has been for Transform Minnesota to see God move through His people. We serve a mighty, holy, and just King!


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Living Like Jesus Lived

By Pastor Jim Halbur

Fountain of Life Gospel Church

 

The year 2020 will go down in history as a year that presented more opportunities for the Christian community to share faith, hope and love in the city than so many previous years. In the Twin Cities the local tragedy of the death of George Floyd became a global epicenter of doubt, distrust and hate. That is the exact opposite of faith, hope and love. As Christians we often get caught up in trying to solve problems or bring healing in our world without faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

 

Let us consider three things that Jesus left us with just prior to his arrest and death. At the last supper Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:14-17 NIV.  

Jesus did this to give the disciples and us the real-life illustration that to bring faith, hope and love we need to serve in humility. Meeting a felt need with the love of Jesus speaks with action and words. We all need to try to be in step with the Holy Spirit in ways that we can help people experience the love of Jesus through a felt need.

 

The second thing that Jesus did just prior to his death was share a meal with the disciples. Sharing a meal is a common way to create fellowship. Many of Jesus’ most influential times in ministry included fellowship with a meal or food with unbelievers and more intimately with the disciples for three years. Fellowship is from a Greek word Koinonia that occurs 20 times in the Bible. Koinonia’s primary meaning is “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” Christian fellowship is a key aspect of the Christian life. To come together and share a meal and fellowship helps people experience the faith, hope and love of Jesus.

 

The third thing Jesus did was pray. The bible says “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44 NIV).” As Christians we often say that we will pray. In this time Jesus was praying at the point of conflict. Those who would arrest him were already on their way. In times of tension and conflict we need to pray. It prepares us to serve with the faith, hope and love of Jesus, to our death if necessary. Prayer brings the power of God anywhere He is asking us to serve, and keeps us in step with the Holy Spirit. Not only do we need to pray ourselves but also for and with others.

 

Fountain of Life, where I serve, is 4 blocks from the intersection where George Floyd lost his life. By the following Monday after his death, Fountain of Life was in the intersection with grills, tables, tents serving food, water, joining in fellowship, and praying with thousands of people who were passing through the intersection. As the days went on, we helped set up a food shelf in the community, cleaned graffiti and served in so many ways. Other churches and people in the community joined us in this time of bringing the faith, hope and love of Jesus to this community. 


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One Person at a Time

By Julie Thompson


Some of the greatest impacts on a community are shaped over time by a multitude of small actions.


In 2005, Somali Adult Literacy Training (SALT), partnered with Bethel Christian Fellowship and Concordia University (1/2 mile north of our building) to start an English tutoring class for Somali adults who lived in the towering Skyline Apartment building in the shadow of our neighborhood. 


For adults who had little or no schooling as children, learning to read was life changing. "Now I can sign my name, not just make an X on forms at the doctor!" exclaimed Khadra - grinning ear to ear after learning to write her full name in cursive. She explained in Somali to the other ladies in class the significance of this skill.


As important as literacy is in helping students become integrated into the larger community, more important are the relationships being built. Mistrust and fear can travel both ways between the Somali community and the majority community in the Twin Cities. One of the foundation stones of SALT is breaking down fear by building bridges of trusting relationship.


Cheryl, a faithful volunteer for many years shared how she was terrified the first six months she tutored, but kept coming out of obedience to Holy Spirit. Slowly she began to fall in love with her students. "How could I have been afraid of these dear ladies?" she wondered years later. Now retired and living in Arizona, getting together for tea with her former students/new friends is a top priority when she returns to Minnesota for a visit.


Earned trust is a measure of impact. One night, when picking up students for class, I was greeted by the teenage niece of one of my students. "Auntie isn't feeling well so she won't be going to class tonight. That means you have extra room, so you can drop me off at my other Auntie's," she informed me as she opened the car door and plopped down in the seat. Although her other Auntie lived in the high-rise that was my next stop, I wasn’t sure how to react to this cheeky teen. Then I realized that being allowed to ride with me meant I was no longer an outsider, but trusted by her family. And culturally, to drive off with a half-full car when someone needed a ride, would have made me the one being rude. I experienced a moment of learning, and earning trust.


In 2007, a second SALT site opened at a community center on St. Paul's East Side near the Maplewood border. The reputation of SALT in the community caused the new site to grow fairly quickly. A couple years later, the community center changed policy and began charging for the room. With no source of funding for the freely offered classes, meeting space became a challenge and numbers of volunteers and students began to dwindle. The site leaders sought the Lord in prayer. The challenging situation and the Lord’s provision led to a new way of doing SALT - meeting in student's homes – helping both the adults with their literacy, and the kids with their homework. One apartment building impacted grew to three. Over the past ten years, most SALT sites have migrated to this new model. 


The relationships of trust begun with SALT continue into the larger community. Through the encouragement of a volunteer, SALT students became involved in the Dunning Community Garden. In the beginning, the non-Somali gardeners were a little intimidated by women in hijabs (the head coverings many Muslim women wear), with loud voices, who didn’t seem to speak much English. They looked to SALT tutors who also gardened for help with communication. The Somali ladies spent hours at the garden site just enjoying the green space. Their regular presence benefited everyone. With time it became apparent there was much about gardening that could be learned from these women. Majority culture gardeners found themselves enjoying the cross cultural aspect of the garden. For some it was their first experience getting to interact regularly with someone from a different culture. The leadership became proactive in looking for ways to bring in more gardeners from diverse backgrounds.  


Since 2005, hundreds of volunteers and families have benefited from the work the Lord has done through SALT. For those interested, there are Somali families on waiting lists in St. Paul, throughout the Twin Cities, and across Minnesota who want to receive literacy help. SALT functions with ordinary people who love Jesus, prompted by the Holy Spirit to step out of their cultural comfort zone. Through their obedience, our city continues to be impacted one person at a time for the Lord’s Kingdom purpose, and Healing Community.

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Why Changing Lives Matters: A Testimony from the UGMTC Naomi Family Residence

By Felicia Roberts


I am the Program Chaplain at the Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities with a divine purpose to be a “Beacon of Light” in this community. I have been blessed to work for our organization that cares for the souls of men, women and children. Our goal is to provide healthy, whole, and successful residency in a safe environment where relationships can be built, and lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. I have worked at the Naomi Family Residence for over 22 years, but because of structural issues with our building, we just recently transferred to a temporary location until we relocate to our new home. Despite the change in location, we are continuing to do the work of the ministry God has put before us. Most of the women entering into our program are broken down, abused, and in need of safety, hope, and another chance in life. Here is a testimony from one of our graduates:


“Hello, my name is T.B. and I am a graduate of the Naomi Family Residence. First of all, I want to say thank you to all the Naomi and LifeNet staff, volunteers, and those who are in partnership with UGMTC. Naomi was a safe place for me to find out who I am and learn that I am not my mistakes. Thanks to this program, I am living my dream and I have unshakeable faith and joy! I have my own place again and I am currently enrolled in college, pursuing my bachelor's degree in Science of Business/Administration with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship. The lessons I learned in this program have motivated me to use my trauma and mistakes to help others, and this degree will give me an opportunity to do that in so many ways. One way I am doing that now is through my website called Healing Encouragement, which is an online abuse support network to help those in abusive environments and relationships.


Naomi programs and staff taught me how to love myself again, that I am who God says I am, and I have what God says I can have. I learned to not limit myself because I serve a limitless God! Naomi gave me a second chance and I took it! I had to do the hard work, but they were there to lift me up when I couldn't stand, and there to cheer me on at the finish line of every accomplishment. There are so many reasons I am where I am today, and Naomi played a huge part in that. I can't wait to give back to the program and people that helped me to transform my mindset and behavior, and taught me that I am a child of the Most High God with a purpose. I will always love Naomi and LifeNet because they believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. They planted a seed of faith in me that is still growing! I am truly thankful.”


I often think, “If Naomi walls could talk,” there would be so many stories of healing and transformation. I cannot begin to tell you about the countless women whose lives have been saved, baptized, transformed, restored, and healed. There are women whose families have been reunited through the court systems, women who have furthered their education, women who are now living self-sufficiently, and all those who have been impacted by the power of Jesus Christ in this place. When the Bible speaks in 2 Corinthians 5:17 about each of us becoming a “new creation,” it reminds me of how the ladies in our program not only leave with greater insights in the faith and knowledge of “who I am in Christ,” but, more so, “who Christ is in me.” They learn that our lives are only free when Jesus is in them! They are taught how things can be different, and when we know better, we can do better! “All we need to do as individuals is humble ourselves and ask God for help.” That means God can and does bring life out of brokenness and out of death. The deeper truth that shines through every bit of our grief and pain and sin is this: Christ came to set us free to redeem, restore, renew, rescue us and to bring hope to the captives. Thank you BCF in making a difference in the lives of those we serve. Through your generous donation for meals during the holidays and your financial contributions, along with your partnership with our mission, together we become God’s instruments of love and empowerment. Peace & Blessings, family of God!


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