Up from the Valley, through Christ Alone


They long-struggled with the notion that as long as someone else was acting on their sin more or “sinning bigger” they felt that they could just carry on. Though they were Christians, they had trusted the things of this world for so long, that their every day walk with the Lord was marred.

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Mike and Lena Ferdelman have been married nearly 30 years. And, in that time, the Lord took their best-laid plans, which included hopes of traveling to China with a missionary organization, and sent them to the darkest and deepest valley of their lives instead. Their peers once knew Mike and Lena as a dynamic Christian duo. They were even labeled by some as “the perfect Christian couple.” On the outside, they appeared to have it all together. However, for decades of their marriage, the Ferdelmans existed in a deep dark valley filled with incredible challenges, spiritual bondage and bruising. A valley populated by  feelings of resentment, shame and remorse. It was only from the depths of that unknown valley, though, that they could learn to see Christ on high. Thus changing their hearts forever and sending them on a new and unforeseen journey.

Though believers for many years, both Mike and Lena were lost in the depths of their sin never willing to acknowledge their heart issues at more than just the surface level and often comparing their sin to others. They long-struggled with the notion that as long as someone else was acting on their sin more or “sinning bigger” they felt that they could just carry on. Though they were Christians, they had trusted the things of this world for so long, that their every day walk with the Lord was marred. They found themselves trusting in their own ideals, instead of Christ’s. They found themselves in a vicious pit of lies and deceit. Lustful behavior, control issues and self-servitude played a huge role in their marriage and ruled their hearts for many years as well. All of these things took precedence over the everlasting Grace of Jesus in their lives; living in this deep pit of long-term unrepentant sin made them wonder if they would be living in the trenches forever and wondering if this was just “it” for them.

As Mike and Lena struggled to sort out their issues, they suffered. Their five children suffered. Their finances suffered. Their jobs suffered. Their relationships with other believers suffered. Their marriage suffered, even resulting in separation on a couple occasions. Of utmost significance, though, their walk with the Lord greatly suffered. Finding themselves on the brink of divorce and absolutely at the end of themselves, the Ferdelmans decided to go full steam ahead with an expensive marital counseling program that did little else besides introduce more ways of the world to their marriage, and totally empty their bank account in the process. Just when they tried to rescue the very union that once seemed so ideal…they were even further into the depths of the valley.

Some time later, the Ferdelmans found Dr. Harry Schaumberg’s downloadable course that coincided with his book, Undefiled. The course cost them just $30 and instead of focusing on changing behavior alone it sent the Ferdelmans into the Lord’s Word, together. From the deep dark valley they’d existed in for so many years, they began reading and praying; ultimately, their hearts were changed and their marriage was restored. They were able to finally trust and see Christ as high Lord and Ruler of their lives.

Now that the Ferdelmans have fully submitted their lives unto the Lord, they are once again where they started. They now feel, without hesitation, that they are equipped and ready to serve the Lord through missions. The Ferdelmans hope to soon relocate to the city of Dayton. Together, they’ve felt the Lord calling for them to leave the comfort of their suburban home and reach out to the Sudanese refugees settling in the heart of Dayton. It will be another unforeseen journey, but this time they do it linked-arms in the name of Jesus, instead of for their own merit. They have begun reaching out to these people; working with them, sharing with them, interacting with them and showing them the TRUE love of Jesus. It’s a love that the Ferdelmans can freely share, a love that grew within them, as they were proverbial refugees from the Kingdom of God, wallowing in the valleys. Praise the Lord that He can be seen, even from those valleys and from uncharted territory.

Psalm 66: 16-20 sums it all up well:

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me!”


Author: Tess Augustine

When Selah Smiled


"We are not the saviors, He is. And His work of adoption in her life reminded us so much of His work in adoption of our own lives."

By the time Ben and Julie Swain were celebrating four years of marriage, they had two young boys – Bryson and Lincoln. In the spring of 2013, before their five-year wedding anniversary, the Lord began breaking their hearts for adoption – specifically for young girls in China who were eagerly waiting on their forever families. Ben and Julie knew that many Chinese girls who aged-out of orphanages were pulled into a tragic life of sex trafficking and then often used to bear offspring – also resulting in high rates of abortion – further breaking their bodies and souls. Given the Swain's passion to speak and act for the unborn, adopting a child out of these possible circumstances was a conviction carved deep into their hearts.

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apex anthologies

The Swains followed their call to obedience and received a referral for a little girl in February of 2014. They were told that their daughter, who would be named Selah, was quiet, reserved and did not smile much in the orphanage. Julie mentioned that the advocacy group who visited Selah's orphanage did everything they could think of to get her to smile. Alas, no smile. The Swains received photographs of Selah during her time in the orphanage and Julie recalls the child's scared and sad face in every single one of them. These images really worked over Julie's motherly heart, wishing she could just reach out grab her daughter from afar, helping her to feel safe and secure and loving on her in her soon-to-be home.

apex anthologies
apex anthologies

When Ben and Julie met their daughter in person, in August of 2014, Selah cried herself to sleep the first night they were together. Julie mentioned that Selah even woke in the middle of the night with a detached and glazed over look on her face. Julie wondered what the transition period would be like; she wondered what and how long it would take for Selah to feel joy in her obviously broken and scarred heart.

The next morning, the family woke and had breakfast together – still no smile from Selah. They gathered their things and left to go finalize adoption paperwork; half an hour later, something amazing happened. Julie illustrated the scene this way,

30 minutes after the adoption was finalized...she smiled. And smiled again, and smiled again. Something in her heart that was broken had been repaired. Something that was once dead had come alive. It was almost like there had been oppression that had been over her that was lifted, and God breathed in hope. We are not the saviors, He is. And His work of adoption in her life reminded us so much of His work in adoption of our own lives. How He took us out of darkness and brought us into the light. How He gave us joy.”

apex anthologies
apex anthologies

As you can see, the Lord has made it obvious that the Swain's adoption story is part of His big story – His big story in all of us! Isn't it an absolute JOY in all of us that He is the Light who leads, who heals, and who rescues us from the depths of whatever darkness we encounter. Nothing is too much for Him. When we are resting in His abundant grace, mercy and goodness – who can do anything BUT smile?

Author: Tess Augustine

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

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