Monday, May 30, 2011

STARS at Eiffel Tower in Paris

We enjoyed a delightful tour of Paris today. Saw many of the sites you read about. Now the STARS have seen them! Enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. Continued our tour in the afternoon and the climax was a stop at the Eiffel Tower. It's as beautiful as can be. What an amazing structure. And it was especially spectacular today with nine wonderful STARS standing in front of it. A grand finale to a wonderful trip where God has stretched us, carried us through difficult times, given us much joy, and worked in and through all of us. We're excited to share some of our experiences with you when we get home to the Wheaton area. Thank you again for standing with us on this STAMP trip. It's been spectacular.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Strasbourg Special

On Saturday we had a wonderful lunch with all of our host families and then set out for Strasbourg for our final concert. We arrived later than we had hoped and were admittedly tired. We arrived for our sound check an hour late. Yet, God was so faithful and many of the STARS parents and others said it was perhaps our best concert.

Daniel from the Protestant Coalition on Human Dignity, told the audience about the 96% abortion rate for babies with Down Syndrome in France. Once again we sang with the Nancy Gospel Singers and our concert was part of the initiative to show the value of people with intellectual disabilities. STAR Karilyn, STARS Mom Brenda Kopp and STARS Dad Jim Davis gave their stories of faith as well. Following the concert, serveral families who had children with Down Syndrome came up to meet the STARS. One teenager, Melodie, was so pleased to meet the STARS. She loves to sing as well and her mother was so encouraged to see the STARS singing. Following the concert, Daniel asked Sara if she have another concert with people with special needs.

On Sunday morning, we walked around Strasbourg and saw the most beautiful cathedral. We arrived as the organ was playing and it truly was heavenly music. At 11 AM we headed for the train station and I don't know what we would have done without the help of all the Nancy Gospel Singers. It was a tearful farewell as the Singers stood on the platform singing "You Raise Me Up" while holding up the following signs:

We had a nice time of debriefing in the eveing and sharing stories and thanking God for all the ways he had provided and all the doors that he had opened.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sharing the STARS Story

Friday afternoon we had a group interview with Denis and Jean Pierre (Dennis and John Peter). Jean Pierre works for a Christian organization that services about 2000 people with special needs, mostly around Paris. This organization is about 50 years old. Denis has also worked for this organization for about 20 years. They wanted to network with us and had five questions: 1) What are some concrete things people are doing for the rights of the disabled in America, 2) Why did College Church start the STARS ministry, 3) How did College Church do it, 4) With what did we start, 5) Now, years later, what lessons have we learned. We had almost two hours to share the STARS story. Some of the STARS even shared what the programs mean to them. Was great. Who knows how God will use this iterview. Denis will try to consolidate this interview and will be posted on their website.

Last night we had a concert at a large church with the Nancy Gospel Choir, Kaleidoscope (the quartet we performed with on Tuesday) and Africarel (the percussion group we visited on Wednesday). What a great evening. There was so much energy in the crowd. The STARS did a great job. As David said afterwards, "God was here". That He was.

We had rain off and on today but that couldn't dampen the spirits of the STARS! Now tomorrow (Saturday) we head to Strasbourg for another big concert tomorrow night.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

STARS at Work

Thursday we had the opportunity to visit another workplace here in France for people with disabiities. There were 180 people employed at this site. Some of the different things they were doing were printing logos on t-shirts, a wood working shop, a gardening team, and assembly work.

After a nice tea break we divided into two groups. We all saw the sane thing, just in reverse order. We went to the publicity workshop where we saw some of the projects they have done - logos on soccer balls, t-shirts, etc. This day they were doing a large order of logos on t-shirts. A machine layed down the stencil, a worker painted on the logo, and then took it off to ¨dry¨ it on in another machine. Was very interesting. Then we went to the sewing area. There were sewing machines - one making blue plastic skirts to protect some piping during transportation (these were going to Kuwait). Another machine was making plastic coverings to protect scooter handle bars in transportation. Another machine was sewing the cardboard on packets of sample ladies' hoes that you see in stores. Then we went over to an area where they were cutting boxes out of large pieces of cardboard. Another area was vacuum wrapping some items and then putting on prices. Saw another area where they were assembling drawers. Saw their stockroom. Quite extensive. Then had a small appetizer before a delicious lunch in the dining room. In the afternoon our group went to the woodworking location. The buiding is about a 10 minute walk from the main building. The first stop was where they were using an electric staple gun to assemble boxes to hold beer. Any STARS who wanted were able to try that. They did a great job. We've helped the French economy! Another guy was taking apart old car CD's and sorting them between material that is recycleable and not recycleable. Then we all got our ear plugs on and went in to where they were putting grooves into wood to make boxes. Again any STAR who wanted too got to help cut a few pieces of wood. Very fun! Some were hesitant to try, but then really enjoyed it. At this point all the workers at the workplace came outside and we gave a mini concert with chimes and some singing. Was so neat to watch everyone.

The workers were so excited. I don't know if they ever got them back to work! A delightful day.

When we got home we had our team meeting. Syvie (Sylvia) has been a large part of the planning during our time here working tirelessly on meals. She gave us her story. Got has used our time here to challenge her to think of her story and put it down. We were all touched. It was wonderful to have a time of prayer for her.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Von STARS Family Singers

Tuesday, May 24,  was a great day with a train tour of the old part of the city of Nancy, a visit to the  ESAT workplace in Lunneville, walking the grounds of the Chateau in Lunneville, and finally performing in a concert which was part of the Festival P'artage.  

The ESAT workplace in Lunneville was very interesting and very well run.   120 adults with intellectual disabilities work there and are paid minimum wage through subsidies from the government.   We had a nice exchange with the director.   The pastor of Sara and Manu Klopfenstein's church accompanied us and served as my interpreter.  The facilities cares so well for the physical needs of the residents, including special sports activities and other social events, that I asked the director how they address the spiritual needs of the residents.   He replied, "We are a secular country.  We do nothing."   This opened the door for the pastor to talk about the Disability Ministy Sunday evening service we did in Nancy.  We ended the concert by inviting them to our concert that evening.  

Following our visit at the ESAT workplace, we went to see an incredible Chateau.  As we looked at the size of the place, one parent remarked, "Think of how many STARS could live in that house!"  

By 6:30 PM we were at the Festival P'artage, doing our sound checks and making preparations for our set-up. This has been a week long Festival where there have been activities to support and encourage the integration of people with disabilities.  Our concert was one piece of their Festival.   To say we were a little overwhelmed would be an understatement.   The hall was much grander than we had anticipated and had an incredible sound and light set-up.  We felt pretty small, so we all gathered before hand to pray and ask Jesus to help us to sing for him.   God answered in incredible ways.  The STARS connected with the audience on many levels.   Sara Klopfenstein's trio sang with the STARS on a few numbers and then performed some great gospel songs.  At the end of the concert the audience of around 100-150 people gave the STARS a standing ovation.  It was exciting to see that one of the directors at the workplace we had visited that afternoon, came to the concert and was very touched by the STARS expressions of faith through their singing and playing of the chimes and autoharps.  After the concert, STARS Mom, Brenda Kopp thought that we should nickname our group the Von STARS Family Singers! Check out the STARS French blogspot to get some great pictures of the evening.

Wednesday, May 25, had a little slower pace and we didn't gather until 11:00 AM, since we hadn't returned home until after 11 PM the night before.   We visited a specialized school for students with intellectual diabilities, agest 13-20.   They had a great woodworking shop which STAR Gary really enjoyed.   They were even making a harp at the woodworking shop. 

Then we went with the Africal percussion group from the school. These are 6 high school students with intellectual disabilities who do percussion music using African drums and percussion instruments.   We had a delightful exchange, where the STARS learned some of their techniques and the Africal group tried their hand at playing the chimes.    This group will perform with the STARS and the Nancy Gospel Singers at the Friday night concert.  

While the two groups were practicing together, Sara and I were interviewed by a journalist from the Reformed Magazine, a Protestant national newspaper that has a circulation of about 5000.  We were able to share the purpose of our trip and how people with intellectual disabilities can be disciplies of Christ and the importance of making the gospel message accessible to them. 

The day ended with a visit to the Basilique, one of the largest cathedrals I have ever seen.  Inside the cathedral it was great to see a replica of the empty tomb.   Jesus is Risen Indeed!

Dawn for the entire STARS STAMP FRANCE Team

Monday, May 23, 2011

STARS Disability Sunday in Nancy

Words can hardly express our service last night at Nancy Church. God was truly there and working. Dawn opened the time explaining our STARS ministry. Then each of the STARS introduced themselves in French! The chimes did two numbers. They were fabulous. Cheryl gave her testimony. So many people in attendance commented on the strong faith expressed by our STARS. The STARS Chorus sang two songs ¨He is Exalted¨and ¨God is so Good¨. These are songs they sing in France too so it was so neat singing together as one Body! Kristin and David shared their testimoies. So powerful getting a sibling perspective. Then the autoharps did two numbers. They were right on! Kristin and Daniel did such a super job singing ¨The Servant Song¨. Our rendition of the Good Samaritan is like no other! There is always much laughter seeing the STARS add their personal touch to the story. Two French families, touched by disability, shared their stories of faith as well. It was so neat hearing them tell how God has helped them. We continue to pray our time here will provide the encouragement and resources needed to further meet the spiritual needs of individuals with special needs here in France. Singing ¨We are One in the Body¨at the end was powerful realizing we are one. Seeing Sara and Manu's daughter with disabilities crawling up to join us just was so unplanned but so powerful. May God receive all the glory!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

STARS and Host Family Party

At 4PM this afternoon the STARS team and their host families gathered to get to know each other better and to celebrate the birthdays of three STARS moms.    Karen Sutherland and Nita Newing both celebrated their 70th birthday today and the French team had balloons and streamers decorating the room.  We were served delicious French pastry cakes and they made a &) out of Rice Krispie Treat.   It is a birthday they will never forget.  

Then we celebrated Brenda Kopp's birthday, which occurred the day before we left.   It was a wonderful time to get to know our new friends.   Gifts were exchanged and greeted each other with kisses on the cheeks.   One STAR remarked, "I think we should do this at home."  

After the party we met together and celebrated God's goodness.  We are studying the 23rd Psalm in our team meetings and have rejoiced over how the Lord has been our Shepherd these past days and taken care of all our needs.   

The STARS practiced chimes and autoharps in the church and we are getting ready for the service tomorrow night.   Kettingers share their faith story in the morning service and Cheryl Newing, Kristin and David Brinker will share their stories at night.   The team will also present the drama of the Good Samaritan and Kristin Knosp and Daniel will be singing the Servant Song.     Please pray that God will use this time.  


We have arrived

After an 8 hour plane ride, two hours in the Charles DeGaulle Airport, a ride on the TGV (France's speed train that travels at over 150 miles per hour), we met Sara and Manu and the rest of our host families.

We have already experienced God's watch and care over our team. When we arrived at the Charles DeGualle Airport, all of our baggage safely arrived with all of our musical instruments in tact. We were met by Lauren, part of the Nancy team and host to come of our team. We had a little adventure when our group got separated at the airport because the airport security found a unattended bag and cleared the area so that the security could come and encase the bag and take it away. After about a half-hour, we were reunited. Tim Davis remarked that he needed to treat us like a pet and keep us on a leash!

Getting on to the TGV train was a bit of an adventure since they do not tell the platform it is arriving on until 15 minutes before arrival. Let's just say getting us all to the platfrom with all of our luggage was a bit of a stretch, but God got us all there and not one was left behind.

We were met at the train station by Manu and Sara Klopfenstein and many of the French committee members and host families. We all got into vans and cars and were taken to spend the evening with our host families.

The French team has created a blog as well, so check it out to see pictures of our arrival at the train station.

Thanks for your prayers

Dawn Clark

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Departure Day has arrived

After months of planning, meetings, and practicing our departure day has arrived. I'm sure we all have many emotions going through our heads. But the Lord goes before us and we're excited to see what He has for each of us and for those we come in contact with. We leave College Church in Wheaton today at 2:00. Our flight leaves around 6:00 p.m. Thank you again for your prayers and interest. We'll do our best to update our blog often while we're gone. Au Revoir!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Praise and Thank You

We haven't even left yet, but I wanted to let you know about a special Praise and Thank you time we have planned and we hope you can attend. This will be a time when we can share with you what we did while we were in France, how God worked in our lives and how we were able to minister to others. So, mark your calendars for Monday, June 6 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. You're all invited and a light dessert will be served.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Disability Sunday - April 10 (Part 2)

In the evening service we had the joy of hearing two of the STARS share their stories of faith. It was wonderful hearing how God has worked in the lives of these two STARS. The STARS STAMP team performed a skit about the Good Samaritan (taken from Luke 10:25-37). Getting adults with disabilities to ignore someone in need is quite a task! But the STARS put all they had into the story. Pastor Nates challenged each of us to look inside ourselves and ask if we are willing to step in and show compassion, especially when there might be no personal benefit.

Here are some specific prayer requests for our team:
* That the Lord would be honored in our speech, conduct, music and drama and that our whole team would be eager to serve.
* That God would prepare the hearts of people in France to receive the gospel message.
* That we would prepare diligently so that we might do our best in France.
* That God would keep our team healthy and safe as we travel.
* Praise God that all of the financial support is in for the trip.
* Pray that the evangelical church in France would be awakened to proclaim the gospel to the disability community.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Disability Sunday - May 10

"The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (1 Corinthians 12:22)
Sunday morning, April 10, was a day to be blessed by the many talents from our STARS. In the three morning services several STARS led us in the responsive reading. We also enjoyed singing from the STARS choir and chimes. Then at the 11:00 service our team was commissioned to go to France by the whole congregation. We truly feel blessed to be a part of this team and know it's His work we're being called to do. Please continue to pray for us.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Our hearts are humbled and blessed by what God has been doing in providing for our STARS Stamp trip to France in May. We are well above our goal. We thank God and just are humbled to be a part of His work. Our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness. Thank you for your part in this exciting venture. May God receive all the glory and honor!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tickets are purchased

Just wanted to let you know we've purchased our tickets, so we're very thankful for that. Continue to pray for the details that still need to be finalized -- both in France and here. We thank you for your continued support and interest.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

STARS STAMP Group Picture Updated

Here's an updated picture of our STARS STAMP team, minus one member. We had a wonderful meeting this past Sunday with our host in France, Sara Klopfenstein(she's in the middle on the couch). She answered many of our questions about culture shock we might experience, more specifics on what we'll be doing while we're in Nancy (she even let us see a flyer they are passing out, so it's getting more "real"), changes in food, etc. We all enjoyed the time with her. We're excited at how the Lord is working so many details together for the trip. Thank you for your continued prayer for our team.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Learn more about Nancy, France

Nancy, comes from the Celtic word "Nant," which means both "valley" and "river". The name Nancy means "the wooded river valley". Nancy is in the northeast of France, between several hills that form a wooded plateau. Two rivers, the Moselle and Meurthe, intersect at Nancy. Nancy is a college town. There are three major universities with facilities in Nancy. There are also several engineering schools, a major business school, and many other institutes of higher education. Nancy is a major center of art in France. Nancy is a historical town, with buildings dating from the early Middle Ages. The most famous landmark is the Place Stanislas (pictured below), which is a pedestrian square built by the former King of Poland-Lithuania and 18th-century Duke of Lorainne, Stanislaw Leszczynski. It is often used for public festivals.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What are we all up to?

Are you wondering what we're doing these days? The STARS have been working really hard on some new songs on the autoharps and chimes. They are making great progress. They are also working on a couple songs that they'll be singing with the Nancy Gospel Choir. They are really uplifting songs. You're not going to be able to just sit in your chair when you hear these. My son, Andy, and I (Brenda) had our CD in the car on the way to church tonight and really had fun singing the songs together. I think it was good the windows were shut! The parents have gotten their letters out and you'll notice by our contribution thermometer that God is really answering and providing the support we need. Some of us have had to get passports renewed. That has been going well. God answered prayer for one STAR, Cheryl, who was having problems because she was born overseas. They recently got that passport. Thank you, Lord! Some of us still need some shots. Ouch! So, thanks for your interest in our trip.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


So you can be better praying for our trip, here's a picture of the STARS STAMP group. We are missing three people in this picture, so be looking for a new, updated and complete group in the coming months. Thanks for your prayers for us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

STARS get Ready to go to France

Matthew 28:19-20 - “All authority in heaven and earth is given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” God is sending us …. We are going … God is going to be with us.

Who are the STARS?
Individuals with disabilities touched through the Disability ministry of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. We are excited to share with families and church leaders in France just a small glimpse of what we enjoy through the disability ministry at College Church.
This year nine STARS, their parent(s), and several key people in the disability ministry of College Church, will be going to France to assist College Church missionary, Sara Klopfenstein, who also has a daughter with disabilities and hopes to start a disability ministry at their church.

What will the STARS STAMP team be doing in France?
The STARS will be participating with the Nancy Gospel Choir in two concerts. They will be singing, and playing chimes and autoharps. The team will also lead a Sunday evening worship service similar to what we enjoy each year on Disability Sunday at College Church (the STARS involved in music, reading, and drama). In addition, the STARS will participate in a drama, written by a French storyteller, to be performed for French children. Ministry leaders and parents will hold two different workshops to train churches in disability ministry and to increase disability awareness.

How can you pray for us?
• that the Lord would be honored in our speech, conduct, music, and drama and that our whole team would be eager to serve.
• that we would prepare diligently so that we might do our best while in France.
• that God would keep our team healthy and safe as we travel.

What is our need financially?
The cost of the trip is $2,000 for each team member (includes airfare, food, transportation within France, and some housing. Our total need is $46,000 (23 people).