Friends, Jackalopes, and Grizzly Bunnies

After heading out from Salt Lake City, we drove a few hours West and made it to Grace Baptist Church in Elko, Nevada where one of my best friends from college, Jeremy Ehmann, pastors. I had heard about the ministry at Grace, and the town of Elko 20 years ago when I first met Jeremy in college.img_4352-1img_4371-1One of the neat things about going to college in Wisconsin was that there were students from all over the country. There was a large contingent from Pennsylvania (my home state), but since the school was situated in the Midwest, there were also a good number of students from Western states like Colorado, Wyoming, and yes–NEVADA! As an “East Coast Guy” who grew up just outside of Northeast Philadelphia, I didn’t know anything about the West. Except for one trip to Kansas when I was 14, I had never been farther West than Ohio.

So, when I came out to school in Wisconsin, a whole new world opened up to me. My good friend, Jeremy was a big help in helping me understand the West. He explained that I had been mispronouncing the names of some Western states my entire life. It was not “Col-o-RO-do” like I have been saying, it is “Co-lo-RA-do.” And it was not pronounced “Ne-VO-da,” it was “Ne-VA-da.” I remember seeing Jeremy wince every time I butchered the pronunciation of his home state’s name. It probably took me a solid 3 years to retrain my mind on some of these.

But Jeremy didn’t just help me understand how to pronounce the names of these Western states–no he helped open my understanding to many other details about the West. He told me (with a straight face) about Jackalopes (these mysterious rabbits with antlers). Of course I believed him. I never had been out West, and I had even seen a postcard with such a creature. Once he realized how gullible I was, he went on to say, “Yeah, you really don’t have to worry about being attacked by Jackalopes, but you will need to be on guard for those Grizzly Bunnies.” He spoke of these vicious creatures that stood waist-high with a ferocious bite. Once Jeremy started talking about the Grizzly Bunnies, I finally realized that he was just having some fun with a poor “East Coast Guy” who knew nothing about the West.

Nevertheless, Jeremy became one of my best friends in college, and was even in my wedding. Over the years we would keep in touch periodically. When we began planning our Westward trip, and we decided we would travel out to Oregon, I knew I wanted to stop and visit with Jeremy (and his family) on our way. It was such an encouragement to visit the church he pastors (a church he grew up in), and to see God’s blessing upon his life in giving him a wonderful wife, Melissa, and three sweet children.img_4369-1As always, our children had a wonderful time with the Ehmann kids. We were really grateful for their hospitality and the fun we could have together.img_4359I had the privilege of preaching and presenting our ministry in this wonderful church. No matter where we go in the United States, we find like-minded believers who love the Lord and long to see the Gospel make an impact, not just in their own communities, but all throughout the world.img_4365

Out West

On September 14 we left Southeast Colorado and began making our way further West. Our first stop was Salt Lake City, Utah where we had a meeting at Grace Baptist Church (West Valley City, UT). We were glad to reconnect with Matt and Bonnie Johnson and to see the thriving work at Grace Baptist.IMG_4311

IMG_4261IMG_4258Our time with the Johnsons was very sweet. We have a connection with them since Matt’s sister, Ruth, married my brother John. In fact, it was probably at John and Ruth’s wedding fourteen years ago that we last saw Matt and Bonnie.

While in Salt Lake, we took the opportunity to visit Temple Square. As we toured some of the museums, I was saddened to see where a lack of faith in the sufficiency of Scriptures can lead. There were numerous points of Mormon theology brought out at different point which would be flatly rejected if someone had even a cursory knowledge of Scripture. I plan to write on this subject at a later point.IMG_4288

IMG_4295In addition to seeing Temple Square, we also had the chance to visit the Great Salt Lake as well. Although it was a short trip to the lake, the kids had a chance to play in it, and yes, Micah took the opportunity to float in it!IMG_4315After leaving Salt Lake, we began heading toward Elko, Nevada (I will post about our time in Elko soon). But while traveling across I-80, we had a chance to visit the Salt Flats on the Western edge of Utah.IMG_4338IMG_4351We are truly grateful for what we have seen on this journey so far, and have been thankful for the opportunities to minister along the way.




First Semester Laid Out!

Over the past couple of months, we have been working on the schedule for Haven of Grace Seminary. We are excited to now have our first semester courses in place, and the  first full year laid out. Check out the courses we will be offering for the first semester (beginning late June 2019):

Apologetics – Dr. Yoh Shirato
Daniel & Revelation – Dr. Curt Lamansky
Creation to Consummation (Biblical Theology) – Professor Mark Kittrell
Hermeneutics (Interpretation of Scripture) – Dr. Tim Valiante
Greek Grammar 1 – Dr. Tim Valiante

The courses will be offered in a hybrid format, with some being taught weekly over the course of the semester (i.e. Hermeneutics & Greek Grammar 1) while the rest will be taught in a block course format which will include two weeks of concentrated instruction by a visiting professor followed by a week dedicated to testing, reading, writing, and research.

I cannot begin to express how exiting it is to begin the process of laying the groundwork for our first semester. I am thrilled about the men who will be coming in to teach these 2-week block courses. Each man is gifted in the area of teaching, and has a passion for the Gospel.

Haven of Grace Seminary exists to glorify God by equipping servant-leaders within the Body of Christ, fostering in them a love for God and His Word, faithfulness in handling the Word of God, a passion for preaching the Gospel, and a commitment to discipleship.

Registration for the first semester will begin this fall. Stay tuned for further information and the launch of the Haven of Grace Seminary website!



Last Thursday we made it safely to Colorado. Before reaching Colorado, however, (right after we left Wisconsin), we spent a few days in Overland Park, Kansas with some of my extended family. Since I come from a large, close-knit Italian family, I know many of my mom’s cousins along with their families. Our time with “the Kansas Family” was so refreshing and fun! Here are a couple of the highlights of our time there:

1. Our children got to meet their 3rd cousins! In a world where many people have trouble keeping track of their 1st cousins, it was great for our kids to connect with 3rd cousins. (In case you are confused, 3rd cousins would be children whose grandparents are 1st cousins). I also got to see 2nd cousins, along with 1st cousins once removed. It was a blast!IMG_41522. It was a special time with family that shares the same valuable faith we do in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am very thankful for the testimony of so many of my cousins who both know Christ as their Savior and long to live for Him. Our time of fellowship was very sweet and it was neat to hear of how God has worked in their lives over the years.IMG_4138IMG_4139IMG_41313. We felt loved, welcomed, and right at home from the very start. When I was a teenager, our family made the trek out to Kansas (the family lived in Horton, Kansas at the time), and it became the most memorable vacation of my childhood. Now, 20+ years later, I am so thankful that my children had the opportunity to make many of the same memories.IMG_4155Cousin Marian and Eddy were so kind to welcome us into their home. They were such wonderful hosts!IMG_4149IMG_4167(Cousin Tony taught me how to juggle when I visited Kansas as a young teen. He now has a new pupil in Micah! He also had a chance to see Micah complete the Rubix Cube, and spurred his interest in working on a 4×4 cube now.) IMG_4163IMG_4135In the midst of travelling many miles, I am thankful for the stops along the way that refresh and encourage our hearts!

Friends Along the Way

We just spent the weekend in Greenwood, Wisconsin at Missionary Baptist Church visiting with friends, Pastor Geoff and Pam Smith.

Our family shares a number of similarities with the Smiths. Geoff and I are both from Pennsylvania (having grown up about 45 minutes away from each other). Sarah and Pam are both from Colorado. We all attended Northland Baptist Bible College, and then Geoff and I both graduated from the same seminary. Not only that, but both sets of families have 5 children. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun spending time together.

img_4123img_4121As in just about every place we go, we have felt very welcomed. Our kids loved the time playing together, and we had some fun outings (like visiting a farm and playing miniature golf). I am grateful for Geoff and Pam’s ministry at Missionary Baptist, and their investment in our family as well. They were very gracious hosts and were so kind to take time out of their schedules to make us feel at home!img_4089img_4098img_4101img_4107img_4090img_4104img_4095img_4118

Mentors and Friends in Ministry

For those in ministry, we all need mentors, and we all need friends. It is really special though, when the same person can serve as both your mentor and friend.

This past week our family had the chance to spend time with a man I have greatly respected over the years. Curt Lamansky was a professor at Northland when I first met him back in 1998 during my freshman year. I vividly remember times sitting in his classes and soaking up teaching on theology. In many ways, I have sought to pattern my own teaching after his. I look to him as a mentor in ministry.

But, over the years, I have also appreciated Curt’s friendship. On occasion (when we would visit Northland), I would bump into him and it was always a blessing to reconnect. However, since we have begun working on the program for Haven of Grace Seminary, we have had a ton of opportunities to communicate. Curt has been a huge help in formulating the program layout and helping us think through important questions ahead of the launch of the seminary. I have truly appreciate his friendship.

This past week, it was wonderful to get to visit the church Curt pastors (Immanuel Bible Church – Sheboygan, WI). The folks there we so kind to our whole family. We got to experience so much while we were there from visiting Bookworm Gardens, to Lake Michigan, to enjoying fresh (delicious) Wisconsin cheese!img_3902

Family and Friends

On August 18 we began our Westward travels. Although there are many long hours on the road, there are also many blessings along the way–the greatest of these being opportunities to connect with family and friends. After our meeting in Western PA on Sunday, August 19, we traveled to Sarah’s brother and sister-in-law’s home in Midland, Michigan. We spent four exciting, fun-filled days with the Muths. Having all 9 cousins together meant there was never a dull moment in the house!img_3821It was a true blessing for Sarah to reconnect with her younger brother, Michael. We are all looking forward to Thanksgiving when the entire Muth clan will be together in Rocky Ford, Colorado.img_3831img_3804After leaving the Muths we made a pit stop at the Regular Baptist Press Headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois (You can read more about that in the blog post “Signed Contract!

A good friend of mine, Tim Wilkes, lives only about an hour from Arlington Heights, so we thought this would be the perfect time to stop over to see them. We had the chance to stay with Tim and Emily and their family on Friday night. Tim was my best friend in college and it is hard to believe that it has been over a decade since we have last seen each other. We seemed to pick right up where we left off, and it was great to be able to reconnect with Tim and Emily, and let our families get to know each other.img_3886img_3891img_3882img_3852img_3866I am finding that the journey in life is what you make of it. You can know great joy in the various circumstances and changes in life, if you trust God’s leading, rest in His goodness and show gratitude for the blessings (both small and great) that He graciously provides.img_3874

Signed Contract!

On our journey out West we had a chance to stop by the Regular Baptist Press Headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois so I could sign the author contract for my upcoming book, God Gives More Grace.

During our visit, I was privileged to spend time with the director of Regular Baptist Press, David Gunn.

These are exciting days and I will try to share more details in future posts.