Written By Mike Boettge
The Civic Engagement team at Grace Church needs you. Yes, you. It doesn’t matter what you’re good at or how little time you have. If you can send a text message, take few minutes to research on the internet, attend one county council or a school board meeting a month—if only to sit and pray for a friend or fellow Grace member who is speaking—then you have a place with Civic Engagement. The battle is already on. Join now.
Ephesians 6:12 (CEB) says: “We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens.”
On Thursday August 10, Grace Church’s Civic Engagement Ministry held their monthly UNITE meeting in The Foundry. Six members of the community who very recently became informed and involved to push back against the extreme progressive agenda took the time to explain their journey. What agenda are they pushing against? Among other things, same-sex bathrooms in public schools, pornographic books in schools and public libraries, mandatory masks and vaccines, the sexual grooming of preadolescent children, and “transition plans” without parental consent.
The panel members included Ryan Cunningham, Jessica Crandell, Lou Lesinski, Kate Sickle, Rachel Homolak and Lindi Williford. Whether working or stay-at-home parents, fathers or mothers, residents of Illinois, St. Charles or St. Louis County – they all reflected the Father’s Heart in the face of terrible degradation. The discussion was led by 97.1FM Talk personality and Grace member Kim St. Onge (Does she prefer we use her new last name?). All were asked what motivated them to get involved in local school or government policy issues.
Cunningham spoke first, “Two years ago, I started Speak For Students, a non-profit parent advocacy group. Ultimately it turned into a state-wide initiative with 35,000 members and raised nearly a million and a half dollars to sue Illinois governor JB Pritzger to stop all mandates related to COVID-19.” All other panel members had been attending and eventually began to speak at county council and school board meetings. Often their involvement was sparked by one pivotal event.
For Rachel Homolak, it was the shock of taking her four-year-old son to a St. Charles public library in her neighborhood and discovering the male employee behind the children’s section desk was dressed in drag, and running the after-school programs with children at that library. She didn’t suppress her reaction or say “I’ll just go to another library,” but recognized the threat this was to her family and the community. Sexual expression in front of children isn’t just someone’s personal preference – it’s a violation of community decency that should be defined in the employee dress code. She felt she had to speak out.
Lesinski, a long-time north county resident attended St Louis County Council meetings for two and a half years before stepping to the podium to speak. “I was pretty nervous about it, and I knew I had an enemy that I was facing. I realized that I’m the one who’s going to bring truth to them.” Once he began to speak, he ended up speaking into an area that touched the expertise of his career. Certainly, he could not have seen that God would move him into that place of influence and authority. Psalm 143:10 says “Teach me Lord to do Your will.” Sometimes the Father shows us that first step. For others, it’s about jumping in and learning along the way. Either way acting through love is the principle driving force.
St. Onge asked the panel members what sort of preparations they go through before speaking in public. Most spoke of praying, asking for God’s guidance and letting the Holy Spirit put power behind their words. But there were also practical preparation techniques, such as practicing your speech aloud a few times to ensure you’re within the typical limit of three minutes. One panelist said she tries to think of the argument for the opposite viewpoint and address those issues. Other women said they would purposely have a question at the end so the elected official would answer them in return. But overall, it was their passion for their child or grandchild’s safety and well-being that drove them to action. They may have felt ill-equipped, but learned along the way.
St. Onge then asked, “What are some things to avoid?”
Crandell, who was banned from her daughter’s school board meetings for a year and threatened with a trespassing arrest, says “A reason why a lot of people don’t speak is because they’re afraid they’re going to get too angry or too emotional. A lot of men don’t want do come because they’ll get too amped up and that’s what we need. We need you to get amped up and go off and tell these people. That’s just a tactic of the enemy to keep you quiet.” Cunningham added, “I try to avoid those personal attacks. I try to stop it from making it individual. The reason I say that, is we’re still the hands and feet of Jesus. Be angry with them but treat them kindly.”
That said, the panel revealed that there is also value in attending meetings without the intention of speaking. Listening to others speak is a good way to find out who are your allies, and who are not. That’s true of the board members and the attendees, as Sickle discovered. “If you go to a school board meeting… even if it’s about a low-profile issue such as ‘what is the district doing to recognize Constitution Day,’ you will make connections with other people either on the board or in the audience who have your same beliefs.” Also, your presence is a vital show-of-solidarity for individuals who are speaking the values you support. It’s much harder to speak when the crowd is filled entirely with vocal opposition.
Maybe the biggest barrier to more folks becoming involved in civic engagement is what plagues us all in modern society: fatigue and time pressure. One person by themselves can only accomplish so much. But a group can accomplish a lot. And network of like-minded citizens can accomplish even more. It is past time to come together and get involved. You start in your own neighborhood, become an election judge, or begin attending county council meetings. Or if you’d rather act in community with other Grace members, join one of Grace’s civic action teams. You can gather with those going to school board meetings, help to compile research on relevant topics, assist in putting together voting expos or help writing articles like this one. There’s a million ways to get involved. If we are willing, God will make a way.
Cunningham closed the meeting with this exhortation, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going in this country right now and the calamity that is coming. And what God is constantly putting on my heart recently is to shout. We’re in a moment to shout. We’re in a moment that we have to expose corruption. And don’t be afraid to lose something. We have to stand for our constitutional values, even if we have to risk something. When you take leaps of faith, God’s going to honor those leaps of faith as long as you’re doing it to honor Him. So, don’t be afraid. Be bold. Be courageous. Take that next step.”