“Thank You” from Victory in the Valley

On Saturday April 6, several women gathered in the church’s gym to work together on a variety of service projects, including providing canned goods for the Union Rescue Mission, decorating items for a Lady Bugg House fund raiser, creating special treats for Jackson Elementary staff, and small gift bags for Victory in the Valley.

We received a big “Thank You” from Victory in the Valley, here’s a letter from Diana Thomi explaining how the gift bags we made will benefit many.

Dear Friends,

Victory in the Valley would like to take a moment to thank each of you for all of the hard work you put in to making 500 treat bags for our patients. The time you each invested in those treasures will bless not only the patients who receive the treat bags but also others such as nurses, doctors, etc who see the treat bags. What a great witness of the love of Christ.

Our Hospitality Centre sees approximately 1,300 patients per month so you are impacting many lives. The extra time you took to write encouraging words on each of hte bags gives an extra special meaning to those that need a dose of joy and blessing.

Donations, whether financial or in-kind, are at the heart of what makes Victory in the Valley successful. As you are aware, VIV is here to encourage cancer patients and their families on their journey by offering HOPE through emotional and spiritual support, while providing practical services to improve the quality of their lives. From daily contacts made at the Hospitatlity Centre or Victory house ro our East/West Run in May or Women’s Weekend in August, we hear so many stories of how someone’s outlook has changed or how many new friendships have been made. Every contact we make influences someone’s story of life. Most importantly it is our goal to encourage patients in their faith, or to introduce them to a personal relationship with the Lord.

Thank you for makingVictory in the Valley a priority. Our ministry fills an important need for those facing what can be an overwhelming diagnosis at times. We will continue to serve the needs of those walking a cancer journey with continued support like yours.

God Bless,

Diana Thomi RN, BS

Executive Director


Highlights from the Traditions Tea 2012: Helen Finley

In November, we had our annual Traditions Tea, where we highlighted five of our senior women. We will be posting each of their narratives during the coming weeks, in case you didn’t have the chance to attend. Many, many thanks to Evanelle Olinger who interviewed each woman and organized their stories into narratives. Also available are booklets that Women’s Ministry has put together with the stories of women who have been highlighted in the past. Contact the church office and/or Jo for more details.


Helen Finley interview by Evanelle OlingerIMGP6199

Helen did not grow up in a Christian family. Even though her older brothers and sisters were baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, the great depression and it’s consequences of her father’s loss of farm and cattle caused him to loose his faith in the Catholic Church. Helen grew up without any faith, which included not attending on Christmas or Easter. When she was 8 years old, her teacher invited her to church. It was not a gospel-preaching church but she loved it and has continued to go to church since this encounter. With the event of her first communion, Helen’s understanding of salvation was that if she died on Wednesday night or Sunday morning, she would go to heaven. Otherwise, she knew her sins would keep her out. She knew something was missing from her life. At the age of 17 and three months before she graduated from high school, her father died. She knew he was a good man but she also knew that he did not go to heaven and it grieved her because she could do nothing to save him.

Helen enrolled in Eastern Montana Normal school and after two years of college went to work at Sun Oil Company, where she met her future husband. After having two sons the family transferred to Seattle, Washington where the LORD found her. As President of the Women’s Group, Helen was in charge of getting a speaker for a retreat. Helen chose a Baptist woman who gave a clear gospel message. Helen did not know that the gift of salvation was so easy. Helen had tried so hard to be good and had failed. She cried all weekend and couldn’t wait to tell her husband and mother. They both told her that being a Christian was fine for her but neither of them wanted it. This did not deter her but Helen started going to Bible studies and really growing.

In 1977 Helen’s marriage ended and she was devastated. Through work and ministry, Helen began to heal. After nine years God sent a Godly man into her life, Dennis Finley. Through the prompting from Dennis and God, they were married 27 years ago and it was the best decision God and Dennis made for her.

To have a united front for their marriage, Dennis and Helen began to attend First Free. Helen has been faithful in serving as a Deaconess preparing funeral dinners with Joy Winters. She is in charge of the Greeters and has always been a part of Tuesday Connection. Helen has served on the Leadership team of Women’s Ministries not only being a testimony to the others on the team, but also mentoring the Director of Women’s Ministries. It has also been her joy to disciple young women. She started 30 years ago with Cindy Lewis and continues with Sara Swartzendruber and Robin Willford around 16 years. A year ago she started a relationship with Brooke Krause. And although Helen did not desire it to be this way, she has been a pioneer for divorced women.

Helen’s advice to Women of First Free: Love the LORD. Live in the present – God will guide you where He wants you to go. Enjoy the journey! And Helen adds: “Today I join the ranks of the senior saints – I stand in awe of these wonderful, Godly women.”

Highlights from the Traditions Tea 2012: Nancy Gustavson

In November, we had our annual Traditions Tea, where we highlighted five of our senior women. We will be posting each of their narratives during the coming weeks, in case you didn’t have the chance to attend. Many, many thanks to Evanelle Olinger who interviewed each woman and organized their stories into narratives. Also available are booklets that Women’s Ministry has put together with the stories of women who have been highlighted in the past. Contact the church office and/or Jo for more details.


Nancy GusNancy Gustavson, interview by Evanelle Olinger

Nancy’s was influenced for Christ by her mother, people she met through Bible studies, and God’s word. Nancy’s mother was a woman of great faith who knew and quoted Scripture. Her Dad was also a loving and generous man who knew everyone in town. Nancy’s life revolved around family and their neighborhood Methodist church. Even though she probably prayed to receive Christ when she was very young she remembers raising her hand at a revival at age 14.

Nancy has had the opportunity to learn from many different Christian women over the years. Sue Goodwin, Marjean Fooshee, Lynn Nolte, Wanda Yinger, Jody Drevets, and many other Christian friends have been instrumental in Nancy’s walk with Christ. Nancy grew through singing in the choir and praying with and for each other. Most of all Nancy deepened her walk with Christ by studying His Word. As a young wife living in Kansas City with her husband Jim, Nancy prayed for help to gain a better grasp of God’s Word and God sent someone who taught her a good overview of the Bible. When they moved to Wichita she got involved with BSF and also Precept classes for many years.

Nancy is of the age that she can look back and see that God was leading her every step of her way. Her mother’s desire was for Nancy to attend Baker University, a small college in Baldwin, Kansas of about 500 students. Although her parents could not afford to send her, God supplied through many scholarships, good grades, and providing work for her. The “norm” at Baker was to find a man by the time you graduated to spend the rest of your life with, but that didn’t happen and Nancy felt rather sad and scared as she left to teach school in the Kansas City area. She lived on the Country Club Plaza in a high-rise apartment with two other friends.  They became friends with two men their age across the hall – CPA’s who worked for Arthur Young & Company.  One of these men was Jim Gustavson. Nancy could never remember that crazy last name.  That spring, though, Jim left for eight weeks basic training for the Air National Guard. He asked Nancy to pick him up at the airport when he returned and to coin a phrase: “That’s all she wrote!”  The following school year they were engaged in April and married in July. He has been her sweetheart for fifty-one years. They have two children, Eric who lives in Overland Park and has a son, Oliver, age six.  Their daughter, Inger, lives in Denver and has two girls, Annika, age 14 and Julia, age eleven. They are a great joy to both Nancy and Jim.

God has used Nancy as she has served in several ministries here at First Free: singing in the choir, working in Women’s Ministry, taking meals, teaching Precepts, and involvement in the Heart-to-Heart ministry. Right now Nancy is involved in the Evangelism Explosion because of her passion for people to know Christ. Nancy is also a support for Jim as he has served on the Elder Board.

Advice to Women of First Free: Be in the Word and hide it in your heart. A good visual that Nancy uses that comes from Beth Moore is the phrase, “Wallpaper your mind with truth.” Some of those “truth” verses are: Joshua 1:8 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”


Traditions Tea: Reflections

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

                 Philippians 1:3-11

Joy-filled prayers…for others. Affections of Christ…for others. Partnering in the gospel for all of one’s days…with others. Partakers of grace…with others. To the glory and praise of God. This is what was made known to me as I sat and saw the women of the Lord before me at the Traditions Tea on November 9.

The Traditions Tea is an annual gathering that the Women’s Ministry has held for several years now. It is a time to gather together, honoring senior women in the body of Christ and giving thanks to the Lord for the abundant blessing they have been in many lives. Five or so women are highlighted each year. They are interviewed beforehand, and their life stories are shared aloud by younger generations at the Tea. We will be posting online some of the highlighted women through the next few months, so stay tuned for their stories, if you were not able to attend.

This year was the first time I had been a sitting participant and able to enjoy listening to the stories and testimonies of these women. It was a blessing beyond what I anticipated, and still resonates strongly upon my mind today. I do not believe a story went by that afternoon without causing tears in my eyes and praises to rise up in my soul.

As these women have grown and lived and increasingly become the “older generation,” they have learned to live up to the “Titus 2 Woman”: women who teach younger generations the ways of the Lord. And this is how: by their faithful participation in the gospel and their abounding affections for others.

We who are younger often become very zealous. We are zealous for opinions, for decisions, for doing the right thing, for bearing fruit, and for countless other good things. But, very often – as I see so clearly in myself –  this zeal is left wanting, when life is lived zealously without love.

These women, however, these women think much more as Paul did: they set aside their zealous, passionate opinions, and hold fast to the One who gives them the grace to selflessly think and act and live…for us, the younger generations. We are in their hearts.

These women, they have the years of wisdom that only experience can bring. And these women, they love us. Even in our “youthful”, passionate, zealous, whipper-snapper styles and often loveless states, they love us.

Even as our great zeal and extraordinary passions make our eyes bug out and must cause us at times to look like chickens running around with our heads off, they are tender with us.

They are patient with us. They pray for us. They find joy in us. They yearn for us. They rejoice over us. They remember us. They hold us in their hearts.

They have Christ’s affections for us.

The good work that God started in them the day of their salvation is so much further along than it is in most of us. They know this, and yet, as I heard of these women’s lives and have seen in many among them lately, they remain selfless before us. They give their whole hearts to the ministries of grace that God has lavished upon each of them, and they love us “youngins” selflessly.

Many, many thanks to you, sisters in Christ who have gone before us young people; many thanks for your patience, your love, your affections, your prayers, and your steadfast eyes upon the Lord. By your prayers and selfless love we are helped, as we learn to hold you in our hearts, as well.

And so, again, we thank you! O most blessed sisters! Many lavish thanks to you, who share in God’s grace with us! Your crown of glory from your Redeemer awaits you! And, even now, as you live a life of righteousness we see that you are crowned with the most beautiful of crowns. May you continue to wear it brilliantly, to His glory and praise:

Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.

Proverbs 16:31


Might we, too, grow in this grace of selfless love, O Lord? Might we, too, who are “young” today, one day abound more and more in love for those who come behind us? Who view the younger generations with patience, and demonstrate glorious grace to them as we hold them in our hearts? May our lives, too, O Abba Father, be lives lived to the glory and praise of You, just like our sisters who have come before us.