Our Stories

Our Stories

Learn about the Bethel community through our members' stories. For decades, the LIFEline has featured stories and writings from and about our community.

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. 

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
Editor's Note: Be Real to Me

By Liz Kimmel


I was in junior high in the late 60s and graduated from high school in 1973. Yes, that means that I am approaching the date of my 50th reunion! I remember one thing clearly about those teen-age years. Although I was raised in a Christian family and definitely considered myself a Christian, I still struggled with the reality of it all. Was Jesus real? I mean, really real! Was my belief system simply something I had inherited from my parents? Was the community I felt among my church friends something focused on the Godhead – Father, Son and Spirit? Or were we just really good friends? Lots of kids at school didn’t profess to love the Lord, and they seemed to have pretty great relationships with each other.

 

One day my junior high youth group watched a movie together, a Billy Graham film called Two a Penny. The movie was about an art student and frustrated pop star who got involved in the selling of drugs. That was a very appropriate theme for the time period. He resisted the call of the Lord even after his girlfriend committed her life to Christ. And at a crucial point in the film, he cried out to God, “If you are real, Lord, be real to me!”

 

That heart-wrenching cry resonated in my spirit. I wanted to know that Jesus was real. I wanted to follow Him completely because He was real, and not just because everyone in my innermost circle of family and friends did.

 

My quest for this personal confidence (faith…hope), led me to a body of believers who actually thought that the Holy Spirit was alive and well and moving among us in the 20th century. I tentatively opened my heart to Him and allowed Him to fill me, to reassure me, to dwell in me.

 

I recently read a book called Josiah’s Fire, by Tahni Cullen and Cheryl Ricker. It is about a young boy with autism who cannot speak or write, but who is able to convey amazing truth about God through the use of his tablet. This is something he told his mom one day:

 

“In the Trinity, the Father is the manager. The Son is the lover of operations. Holy Spirit is worker. So it’s the three-in-one getting things done. The world was created only by three functions that went like this: Father thought it. Son loved it. Holy Spirit carried out the plan. That is how Trinity works, Mom. Father, Son, Holy Spirit lack nothing. And they all talk together about how things should go. Life is simple if you know he is Papa.”

 

That is about as real as it gets!

 

We trust that the experiences shared by our authors in this issue will strengthen you in your walk of faith. We encourage you to seek out and share examples in your own life “Where Christ is Real.”

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Introducing BCF's New Website

Hello Bethel family!


After four months of hard work and dedication, BCF is excited to announce the launch of our new website! Watch this video made by Rebekah Hanson to introduce you to our new “front” door.


Background


One year ago, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and being unable to gather for in-person service, BCF leaders realized we needed to improve our digital media presence. 10 church members came together and formed a digital media committee to evaluate what BCF needed to do to stay connected with and minister to people as they were quarantined at home. In addition to creating livestream services on Sunday, we felt it was essential to redesign BCF’s website, as it became the virtual front door for visitors and attenders of BCF. In December, we transitioned over to FaithLife as our website host which also offers many other helpful church tools and integrates with our existing church management system Servant Keeper. Rebekah Hanson led the website redesign and Benjamin Mason produced video content for the new website. After four months of creating and refreshing content, capturing photos of the BCF Family and creating BCF-specific content videos and discovering other ways to actively engage online with people, we launched the new website on April 1, 2021 A special thanks to Tyler Hanna from CCCC for sharing his knowledge as a website designer and guiding us along the way.


Goals


Website goals and priorities were established based on survey responses from 15 church individuals representative of BCF attenders:

  • Incorporate vibrant photos, videos, and graphics that represent the diversity and community at BCF
  • Clearly explain ways to connect at BCF and incorporate an online calendar for attenders and visitors
  • Create a blog where our LIFELine stories can be accessed directly on the website
  • Make online giving easily accessible
  • Implement the use of mobile-friendly site (over 60% of users access our website from a mobile device)


Audiences


We wanted our virtual presence to be as welcoming as our lobby on Sunday mornings and to communicate warmth and hospitality, which is our hallmark at BCF. 


  1. For Newcomers - Our new website presents information about our church more visually and streamlined for all users. We are excited about the website section for visitors called “I’m New” that provides information about what to expect on a Sunday morning, ways to connect, video testimonials from friends who became family, and more.
  2. For Regular Attenders - Our new website makes it easy to find what is happening at BCF, participate digitally (especially during COVID-19), and to get involved. Our new website includes a church calendar, blog, and tools to connect with small groups, as well as interacting digitally.


We invite you to explore our new website and share it with others! Thank you again to Rebekah and Benjamin for pioneering the website redesign, and others in the church who provided website feedback to ensure our website welcomes visitors as warmly and vibrantly as our lobby on a Sunday morning. We also thank the other members of the digital media team who offered their time and talents to move this project forward: Matthew Cox, Rich Doebler, Reuben Hanson, Sam Holmgren, Liz Kimmel, Cherie Monge, Carole Pankow, and Steve Rasmussen. For any questions, suggestions, feedback or comments, please email Rebekah at rebekah@betheltwincities.org. We’d love to hear what you think!

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A Walk of Faith

By Ken Holmgren

 

Everything by faith.

 

These are the words an early member of Bethel Christian Fellowship used to describe the ministry of our founding pastor, Almeda Engquist. As I thought about the meaning of this simple, all-encompassing phrase, I remembered an interview I had almost forty-three years ago with a highly esteemed pastor who was nearing the time of his homegoing to heaven. It gave me an insight that enlarged my understanding of faith, an insight that I have never forgotten.

 

E.C. Erickson, who had served as pastor of the Duluth Gospel Tabernacle in Duluth, Minnesota, for forty-six years, was nearing his eighty-second birthday when I sat down with him and asked him questions about his life and ministry. In the words of 2 Corinthians 4:16, his “outward man [was] perish[ing], yet [his] inward man [was being] renewed day by day” (King James Version).

 

As I noticed the contrast between the weakness of his physical house and the vibrant strength of his spirit, I asked him how it felt to know that he was nearing the day he would go to be with Christ. His response, which came to be deeply imprinted on my heart, was that faith is the substance of the Christian life. This is how he said it:

 

God has made the Christian walk a walk of faith from beginning to end, from the first step until the last. Faith is not feeling, and trust is not [mere] trace. I must exercise just as much faith in the reality of heaven now that I’m eighty-two years old as I did when I was eighteen years old and had just started in the Christian way.

 

This statement takes me back to the first Sunday in October 1970, when the words of Hebrews 11:6 spoke deeply to my heart. I had known this verse before, but that morning the truth that “without faith it is impossible to please God” took on new meaning in my life. I began to understand in a greater way that faith is not an option. Rather, it is the only means by which we can come into relationship with God. We must turn from our sin and self-effort and rest our hope of forgiveness and eternal life entirely on Christ’s death and resurrection.

 

This is the first step of faith that E.C. Erickson alluded to in his statement above. I took this step almost sixty-two years ago, and I have never regretted my succeeding steps in my walk of faith. Along the way, God has continually, persistently called me to grow in my faith by releasing my efforts to control people and events in my life. He has never failed to invite me to enter more fully into my walk of faith in Him.

 

The Lord Jesus is calling you and me to a life of everything by faith. Will you join me at the cross, the place of surrender to Him and commitment to trust Him? Together, we can walk with faith in Him, step by step through every season of life, until we take the last step to our heavenly home.

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God’s Perfect Timing: Studying, Pregnancy, and Becoming a Family of 3 in Thailand

By Cierra & Toon Khiewsod

 

Hello BCF! We are Toon and Cierra Khiewsod, and we are serving in Bangkok, Thailand. Toon is from Bangkok and Cierra has lived here since 2014, after graduating with a B.A. in missions from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. We first met at an English school ministry called Santisuk English School, where Toon came to know Jesus at 18 years old, and where Cierra felt God calling her to a long-term commitment to ministry in Thailand. We got married in 2017 and spent the first two years of our marriage working at Santisuk, with Cierra as School Director and Toon as Office Administrator, both teaching English.

 

Now we are in a season of studying and equipping ourselves to be even more effective in ministry in the future. Toon is a full-time seminary student, studying his Master’s in Ministry, while Cierra has been focused on studying the Thai language and teaching English at Toon’s seminary. We just had our first child, a daughter we named Arlowyn Rose, on December 4, 2020!


 

Currently, Toon has finished his first year of seminary and has less than one more to go, with plans to graduate in September 2021. He has been studying important topics such as preaching, counseling, sharing the Gospel, and many Bible courses. Part of his studies includes ministry outside the classroom, such as going out into marketplaces and sharing the gospel with vendors or preaching at church. Toon has preached at Santisuk (which is a church and school) and plans to preach every other month there from now on.

 

Cierra began her Thai studies at a language school for three months, but because of COVID-19 and a long commute on public transportation, prayed that God would provide her with a tutor near our home. God answered with the secretary of the seminary, a woman named Pu, offering to tutor Cierra. The seminary is just a 10-minute walk from our apartment, so life became much simpler and safer.

 

Another big prayer we had before starting our studies was that Cierra would find some type of ministry work during this time, but moving to a new area of Bangkok to be near the seminary, we weren’t sure what God had for us there. Upon us visiting the seminary to turn in Toon’s application, they told Cierra they’d been praying for an English teacher for some time and asked if she had any free time to teach. She said yes! So Cierra’s days have been made up of both teaching and studying, all at the seminary, neither of which we expected before starting here. We are grateful for how God provides.

 

The biggest recent update we can give, of course, is the birth of our daughter! We had been praying and hoping to start a family during these two years of studying, so God certainly answered our prayers. Yet for Cierra, being pregnant and giving birth during a pandemic was a completely unexpected situation. Her family was unable to come visit as they always had planned to do when she had a baby.

 

Cierra had anticipated that giving birth in Thailand was going to be hard in certain ways, but that ended up being only one aspect of difficulty. Yet we can hardly count the ways God has been gentle to us during this whole process. Cierra’s bad morning sickness perfectly coincided with the quarantine period in Bangkok along with the seminary’s summer break. So not only was she not expected to be anywhere, Toon could be at home with her too! Our due date was in December, when Toon had a month-long Christmas break, and Arlowyn actually came early, the day after Toon’s last day of class! This meant Toon could be at home with Cierra and Arlowyn for his whole break. Also, we had two baby showers thrown for us, when we were expecting none, since they are not part of Thai culture. One was a virtual one by our home church in Minnesota, Hope Christian Church, and the other by Santisuk.

 

Not having Cierra’s family here to meet Arlowyn, and having no idea when they can meet, is very hard. But we have been comforted and amazed by the Christmas story in this season – the difficult circumstances that Christ Himself chose to enter into as He was born into this world. Never has the reality of the God of the universe becoming a helpless baby hit us more than watching our own sweet child and realizing Jesus was once exactly the same. What a magnificently loving God we serve, who would enter into our human weakness and messiness. We are so thankful this same God is with us always, no matter what earthly family can physically be with us – and so thankful for this truth: “In all our trials, born to be our Friend; He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger” (O Holy Night).



 

We are also so thankful for people and churches like you, BCF, who partner with us and want to see Thai people reached with the love of our God. Please be praying for us in this time of continuing studies and becoming parents, and our big request is to pray for God’s clear direction for where we should commit ourselves after Toon graduates. We want to be where we can be most useful for the Kingdom in Thailand, and we are still in a time of praying and seeking for where that is.

 

God bless you all! May you know God’s grace and peace each day!

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Maturing in our Faith

By Alex Ling & Jasmine Tan

 

Hello Bethel family! We have missed you during this past year. Between learning to live life with a newborn at the beginning of the year and the isolation brought by the pandemic later on, it has been a rare blessing when we were able to spend time with you—and even rarer that we could see you in person. Unfortunately, this will not change for us with the new year. Alex was offered a postdoc position in Boston, and we moved there in December. As such, we have been asked to write this LIFEline as a chance to say farewell and to reflect on our reliance on faith through life’s many transitions.

 

There has been much that required our faith over the past few years. When we moved to Minnesota at the end of 2017, we had been married for less than a year and had been unexpectedly uprooted when Alex’s PhD advisor moved from the University of Chicago to the University of Minnesota. We had little idea what to expect in this new place as we searched for a new church, new friends, and a way to continue our disrupted careers. We are in a similar position now as we begin anew in Boston, though with considerably more warning and choice in the matter this time. Of course, our biggest transition over the past few years has been our transition into parenthood with the birth of our son, James—bringing with it all of the joys, insecurities, and tiredness involved with such a venture.

 

Perhaps the most difficult part of all of these transitions has been dealing with uncertainty. Questions about whether we would be happy or successful in our new circumstances. Would our son be healthy? Would we be good parents? It would be nice to say that we shrugged off such worries with unshakable faith in God’s Goodness, but we did not always do so.

 

Over the years we have spent many sleepless nights anxiously worrying, often about things beyond our control. Most of the things we worried about have turned out fine, even fantastic, in the end, but some of our fears have come true as well as well as some unexpected tragedies. Alex lost years of work when his thesis project from Chicago couldn’t be continued in Minnesota. Our childcare plans for James were thrown into turmoil when COVID-19 made international travel difficult, preventing Jasmine’s parents from staying to help as we had planned and forcing us to take months of unplanned leave from work. Alex’s cousin unexpectedly died two weeks before Christmas and mere hours before his nephew’s birth, devastating his family at a time when the pandemic makes gathering for support difficult.

 

We point out these difficulties not to suggest that our life has been hard (we are incredibly blessed in many, many ways), but because such events have matured our faith in ways that those many blessings did not. They have reminded us that we cannot, and should not, expect God to always shield us from life’s adversities.

 

Our faith is much better than that.

 

Our faith is in God’s good and eternal plans for our salvation. No adversity can change that. However difficult or easy life becomes, however massively our plans fail or succeed, we will be with God and His people for all eternity in the new creation. And, of course, there are many blessings in this world as well, such as the blessing we’ve had in knowing you. Though we lose that blessing for now, it is only temporary. Until we see you again in eternity, may God bless you all with His wonderful and eternal hope.

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Trusting in the Lord

By Chris Williams

 

Faith and Bible verses have been guiding me through the tough times I am facing. I therefore want to share my experiences with others to serve as an encouragement and thereby strengthen those who suffer any affliction.

 

I lost my brother in May 2020. As the family was grieving this loss, my wife, Anna, and I got sick with the coronavirus. As many people know by now, this virus affects people differently. We were sick for over two weeks.

 

When I recovered from COVID-19, I started experiencing many symptoms that I never had before. I also suffered from insomnia (difficulty sleeping). The cause of these symptoms was unknown to me and my doctor. Since much is not known about the virus, we thought the symptoms could be due to COVID-19.

 

During this crisis, my faith was challenged. Wavering in thought, I would at times think of other remedies instead of focusing and believing in the almighty God. In the midst of this, I gained strength and confidence from the following Bible verses (New Living Translation):

 

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:3).

 

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (Philippians 4:6).

 

With these verses in mind, I continue praying and trusting in the Lord. At certain times I could not get better as those symptoms intensified and caused me more stress and anxiety. I sought help from the church, as indicated in James 5:14:

 

“Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.”

 

Pastors, brothers, and sisters continue to pray with me. I remain confident and know the Lord has not forgotten me. Build your hope on Psalm 27:10: Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.”

 

Brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, when you are faced with any problem, during the time of difficulties, when things around you are all cloudy and fuzzy, continue to have faith. Lean on Jesus, and continue to call on the almighty God. He is closer to you than you think. “The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

 

The Lord is compassionate, but sometimes it seems that He is slow to act; let us wait for His time. As Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”

 

I am with the church in spirit and will join physically when the time is right. It is therapeutic for me at this time to stay home. I listen to the sermons weekly. My family participates in the prayer activities by way of ZOOM on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday prayer times.

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King of Light

By Liz Kimmel

 

Before time, there was You. Before anything, there was You. Out of Your creative imagination came all things good and pleasant. And of everything you created, You were Lord. Yours, and Yours alone, was all power and glory, dominion and might. Yet You joyfully desired to dwell among Your creatures and have sweet communion with them all.

 

Then sin reared its ugly head, and with its cruel, misshapen hand, ripped that sweet communion from the lives that it had touched. Guilt and sorrow, fear, despair, all forced their way into the hearts that You had formed in love. And darkness covered the earth.

 

But You, who formed the sun and stars to light our days, You, the very source of all illumination, You could not endure that dark.

 

You stepped down from Your throne and left behind the courts of heaven and the constant praises of the heavenly host. You came to earth, and by your birth, returned to us the light that long ago had ceased to shine within our hearts. All guilt must go and sorrow flee. Fear and despair no longer have a place in me. Lord Jesus, all that ever was Yours still belongs to you. All power and glory, dominion and might belong to the King of Light.

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Songs of Faith

By Liz Kimmel

 

The world says faith in God is false, and they would disapprove -

If faith can move the mountains, let the mountains move.1

My spirit says that faith is real – and all Your words are true;

When I cannot see You with my eyes, let faith arise to You. 2

My heart desires to be with You, much deeper and much longer.

In the presence of my Savior, my faith will be made stronger. 3

The world would ridicule my faith, but they will not succeed;

My faith has found a resting place, not in device or creed. 4

The path I choose to walk is one where trust and hope are fostered.

And therefore, there’s no weapon formed against me that will prosper. 5

Though battles come and we’re attacked with missiles that are hurled,

Faith is the victory we know that overcomes the world.6

How good to know God’s people will never be earthbound,

For faith has caught the joyful sound of saints on higher ground. 7

It isn’t difficult to place our faith and trust in You -

You are everything You promised, and Your faithfulness is true. 8


 

1Waiting Here for You, Chris Tomlin

2Joy of the Lord, Chris Llewllyn

3Oceans, Joel Houston

41My Faith has Found a Resting Place, Lidie H. Edmunds

5I Walk by Faith, Chris Falson

6Faith is the Victory, Ira David Sankey

7Higher Ground, Charles Hutchinson Gabriel

8Waiting Here for You, Chris Tomlin

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God Never Promised

By Liz Kimmel

 

God never promised a life full of ease,

No worries, no tension, no pressing needs.

What He promised to be is our comfort, our friend,

And a place of refuge at every bend. 1

 

God didn’t promise we’d never sin

Even after we’ve given our lives to Him.

What He promised is grace and forgiveness bestowed

On the heart that submits and resists that broad road. 2

 

God knew full well that we’d sometimes stray

And our hearts would set out on a different way.

His promise to us is to help us return,

And He’ll counsel and teach us how to discern. 3

 

God never said we would not be distressed

Or feel we’re constrained in a steel press.

Instead, though we’re troubled on every side

His promise of peace will not be denied. 4

 

God never promised prosperity

In the way that the world would have us believe.

But He promised that all we need is supplied

From the glorious riches that He multiplied. 5

 

Not once did God say that we’d never be ill,

Though every disease must submit to His will.

At times He’ll allow sickness to remain

That His strength through our weakness is made very plain. 6

 

God didn’t promise we’d never be hurt

Or depressed or abandoned or treated like dirt.

What He said is His love is the ultimate cure

For in all things it bears, believes, hopes, and endures. 7

 

God never promised our years wouldn’t end.

Martha’s brother died once, then he died again.

But His promise to all who trust in the Lord

Is a heavenly body, a perfect reward. 8

 

Scripture References:

1: Psalm 46:1

2: James 4:7

3: Psalm 32:8

4: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

5: Philippians 4:19

6: 2 Corinthians 12:9

7: 1 Corinthians 13:7

8: 2 Corinthians 5:1-4

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