FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Reading

with Mark Hamby | July 24, 2007
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Ready, Set, READ! On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey and Lamplighter Publishing founder Mark Hamby encourage you to join them in fasting from TV for the month of August and reacquainting yourself with the classics instead. Hear Mark's reading suggestions for preschoolers, elementary school children, and teenagers.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Ready, Set, READ! On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey and Lamplighter Publishing founder Mark Hamby encourage you to join them in fasting from TV for the month of August and reacquainting yourself with the classics instead. Hear Mark's reading suggestions for preschoolers, elementary school children, and teenagers.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dennis Rainey and Mark Hamby encourage you to join them in fasting from TV for the month of August.

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Welcome to the Wonderful World of Reading

With Mark Hamby
July 24, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

[train whistle]

Mark: This one's called "Trusty, Tried and True."  It's about a little train, and there are four trains.  There's Trusty, and there's Brawny, and there's Beauty, and there's Smarty.  And the train breaks down, and all of these trains come, and Brawny doesn't want to help because he doesn't want to waste his muscle on the hustle and bustle.  And Smarty, with his big bag of tricks, he can probably fix anything, but he doesn't want to strain his poor brain.  And then Beauty, she is a beauty, she says, "I'm sorry, can't help you, today's a bad today, my washing and washing is just minutes away.  I've been powdered and pampered, and you won't find a dent, you'd never believe how much I've spent," and she won't help, either.

 So little Trusty comes along, and he's the smallest of all the trains, and this is what he says.  He says, "How can I help you?  I see that you're stuck.  The fact that I'm here is certainly not luck.  This morning while I was completing a task, I stopped for a moment to pray and to ask, 'Dear God, make me useful to someone today.  If a friend is in need then send me their way.'"  So that's Trusty.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 24th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Everybody loves a great story, but it's even better when a great story helps you cultivate character.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I cannot wait – I'm so pumped about August.

Dennis: Yes, August is the month …

Bob: Man!

Dennis: August is the month we're fasting from television …

Bob: Oh, yes!

Dennis: I am so glad to see you compliant, Bob.  It is wonderful.

Bob: Oh, compliant, nothing!  I mean, I've got …

Dennis: You're motivated.

Bob: I have got books stacked up by the – I cannot – in fact, I may go ahead and just turn off the TV now and get started reading.

Dennis: So how many – okay, what's your goal?  How many books are you going to read during the month of August?

Bob: I don't know that I have a goal.  I'm just going to …


 … talk about a goal.  I mean, it's August, okay?  You know, August is kind of supposed to be the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Dennis: I'm just wondering if this is smoke or – how about – Bob, how about two?

Bob: Just check with me in September.

Dennis: Two.

Bob: Check with me and see how I did.

Dennis: Two books in the month of August.

Bob: All right, I'll see what I can do.

Dennis: Change the pattern – it has to be cover to cover, Bob, not just the flyleaf.

Bob: I'm a slow ready.  You know, I'm thinking I could probably get through this one, "Trusty."  I can probably do that cover to cover.

Dennis: You know, we are talking about an alternative to television for an entire month, and we've been doing this for half a dozen years here on FamilyLife Today, calling families, calling married couples, calling singles, to declare the month television free.

Bob: And it's not just because you look at TV and go, "Boy, there's a lot of garbage on here."  But we need a break from the electronic stimulation, don't you think?

Dennis: We do.  In fact, Barbara and I, a year ago, were coming back from an international trip where we had started the trip in the midst of this fast from television, and so we continued it on into September.

Bob: Yes, you'd been in South Africa, hadn't you?

Dennis: I had.  And we arrived in JFK, and the television was on, and Barbara looks at it, and she goes, "I have not missed you one bit."  All of the drivel, all of the same thing.  It's, like, it really was like the message had not changed.  It was the same message.

 And so we're going to not only challenge you to give up television, we're going to give you and alternative that will be healthy for you, your marriage, and your family.

Bob: And this is where I got pumped on it, because you know I wasn't really all that excited about it when we first launched this idea again this year, but …

Dennis: That's right.

Bob: I'm coming around.

Dennis: There's a reason why.  We had a motivator who took over the broadcast, and if you weren't motivated to read after listening to Mark Hamby, then it may be you don't know how to read at that point.

 Mark Hamby is the founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries.  He and his wife, Debbie, have been married for 28 years.  They have three children.  I want to welcome you back, Mark, and you are a motivated guy when it comes to reading, aren't you?

Mark: Yes, I am.

Bob: This really is a passion for you, isn't it?

Mark: Oh, it is a passion, it's a calling.

Bob: And part of the reason it's a passion is because of how God's used the books that you're publishing in your own life, and Lamplighter publishes – you've published more than 100 books now, is that right?

Mark: About 100 titles, yes.

Bob: And yet, at the same time, you are now hearing from other people, other families, who are writing you about these same books, and this is different than just somebody reading a book and going, "That was a good book, I really enjoyed that."

Mark: Absolutely.  In fact, this just came in this morning, I wasn't even going to tell you I wanted to read this, but let me just read this.  This is – a letter came this morning via e-mail.  It says, "Mr. Hamby and staff, I am so excited to hear all the Lord is doing for His kingdom through Lamplighter.  We have been a TV-free household for a little over three years now, and it's the best decision my husband has ever made. 

 A sports fan himself and with six children, we see fruit every day from this godly decision.  Lots more flag football games take place in the yard with Dad included.  Our family has been addicted to Lamplighter books for years now.  Our six children ranging in ages from 14 to 7 enjoy every one of the books I read aloud.  Yay for no TV and more Lamplighter books.  Can we hear more about" – dah dah dah dah.

Dennis: Mark, I'm sorry Barbara's not here to say "Amen," because she's the one who carried – well, she carried the baton and the fire into our family to read to our children.  I understand that only 39 percent of all parents read on a regular basis to their children.  You've developed a bunch of books.

 In fact, what we want to do is you've got some books here, a pile of them and a stack of them for preschoolers.  There's another stack for those who are elementary age, and then another stack for teenagers.  And what we're going to do is we're going to ask you – first of all, tell us just a little bit about all four, and then tell us which one is your favorite.  You've got to do this quick, Mark.

Mark: Okay, the first one, "Hedge of Thorns."  This was written in the 1600s.  This is a children's illustrated "Hedge of Thorns."  We also have it in the larger version – a story basically about a child who is told not to go near this hedge of thorns.  It's six feet wide, 12 feet high, and a mile long.  Of course, when you're told not to do something you want to know all the more what's behind it.

 This little boy gets his little seven-year-old sister to crawl through this hedge.  The thorns are about six inches long and razor-blade sharp, and she gets halfway through, and she yells for him to pull her out, but instead of pulling her out, his passion is so great, he pushes her forward to try to get through the hedge, and the thorns go into her face and scar her for life.

 The mother bandages the little girl's face, and then sits the little girl in his arms and says, "I want you to look at your sister's face and never forget that when you cross the boundaries that God sets for you, you can harm those you love the most."

 The father takes him to same spot the next morning, lifts him up as if he's going to throw him into the hedge to teach him a lesson but rather he lifts him up on the palms of his hands and lets him see what's on the other side of the hedge of thorns.  When he sees what's on the other side of the hedge of thorns it changes his life forever, because on the other side of the hedge of thorns – well, you'll have to read the book.

Dennis: Oh, it's a great story, too.  And the interesting thing is that story came about as a result – is this accurate?

Mark: Yes.  What we found out is that this is a true story, and this boy, he crosses another boundary in his life when he's 19 years old and this time it cost him his life.  And he dies at 19 years old, and he doesn't finish the story, and his sister finishes it for him.

Bob: Wow.  Okay, that's "Hedge of Thorns."  What's the second one?  These are for preschoolers.

Mark: Preschool – this is a true story about a little girl who gives up her favorite doll to feed a starving beggar, and the beggar looks at her and says, "May the Almighty God, my child, someday make you a queen."  And Queen Victoria was the youngest girl ever to become queen.

Bob: Wow.

Dennis: Wow.

Mark: A great story.

Dennis: And that book is, again, illustrated?

Mark: Yes, and it's called "The Beggar's Blessing."

Dennis: And it was written, like, when?

Mark: The newspaper article, I think, goes in the early 1800s.

Dennis: Okay.

Mark: And then another illustrated book is called "Teddy's Button," and we have – "Teddy" is one of my all-time favorite stories, and, of course, we have these both in illustrated and the larger version, but this one is a 64-page fully illustrated book, and this is about a boy and girl that hate each other, and they learn that you go in the battle with guns, swords, and hate; you win the battle with love; and your greatest enemy is yourself.

Dennis: I've got a feeling right now there are moms all across America going, "A book about sibling rivalry?" 

Bob: I'd like two copies of that, please.

Dennis: That's exactly right – required reading for my children.

Mark: What's great about it is that in the story Teddy always wanted to be a soldier, and when he learns that he has been fighting for the enemy all this time, that when this pastor leads him to Christ, he starts realizing that in order to be a soldier of the King, that you have to fight with a flag, because the banner over me is love, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Dennis: And this next book you're picking up right now – this is your choice in this category for preschoolers.

Mark: Yes.  I'm going to choose this one, because we have – now, "Teddy" is my all-time favorite, but …

Dennis: You can only buy just one of these four books and don't get the bundle – this is the one you're going to recommend.

Mark: I guess.  It's between "Teddy" and "Trusty," but I'm going to go with "Trusty," because we have Teddy in the larger version and, most likely, they can get that one. 

 This one's called "Trusty, Tried and True."  It's about a little train, and there are four trains.  There's Trusty, and there's Brawny, and there's Beauty, and there's Smarty.  And the train breaks down, and all of these trains come, and Brawny doesn't want to help because he doesn't want to waste his muscle on the hustle and bustle.  And Smarty, with his big bag of tricks, he can probably fix anything, but he doesn't want to strain his poor brain. 

 And then Beauty, let me just read you this one – just this one paragraph in Beauty, because she is a beauty.  She says, "I'm sorry, can't help you, today's a bad today, my washing and washing is just minutes away.  I've been powdered and pampered, and you won't find a dent, you'd never believe how much I've spent," and she won't help, either.

 So little Trusty comes along, and he's the smallest of all the trains, and this is what he says.  He says, "How can I help you?  I see that you're stuck.  The fact that I'm here is certainly not luck.  This morning while I was completing a task, I stopped for a moment to pray and to ask, 'Dear God, make me useful to someone today.  If a friend is in need then send me their way.'"  So that's Trusty.

Dennis: That's cool.

Bob: That's a great – that's – you know, parents read bedtime stories to their kids, and you pull out "Goodnight, Moon," and you pull out …

Dennis: Which, I mean …

Bob: … "The Little Engine That Could."

Dennis: "Goodnight, Moon," is wonderful but, okay, so what?

Bob: Yes, so what?  But you read a book like "Trusty," and you're planting a seed.

Dennis: You are.  Okay, here's our next bundle for elementary.  Quickly, you shared about this earlier – "The Basket of Flowers."

Mark: Yes, that was one of my very first books about a father and daughter.  She's falsely accused, and he teaches her it's better to die for the truth than to live for a lie – an outstanding book on – for parents and for children, probably, 10 and up.  "Teddy's Button," that's the larger version.

Dennis: 1890?

Mark: Yeah, amazing story.  That's our number-one bestseller for children, and that book has led so many children to Christ.  You should see the letters we get from parents.

Dennis: All right, here's the next one – "The Giant Killer."  Is this about David?

Mark: No, "The Giant Killer" is about a mother and her children – actually, it's a pastor's home in the 1800s, and these two children come and stay for the summer.  I think they may be cousins, and these children are bad.  They are disobedient, disrespectful, they are disrupting their home, and so there's this conflict between these bad children and these good children.

 But the wise mother sits them down each morning, and she begins to tell them of the story of the giant of hate, the giant of pride, the giant of selfishness, the giant of laziness, and, all of a sudden, her children start realizing that those giants live in their lives and unless those giants are killed on a daily basis, they'll not be able to be a peacemaker, which God loves.

 And, all of a sudden, her children change, which changes the heart of the two bad children.

Dennis: Okay, here's the last one in this category – "Jessica's First Prayer."

Mark: Wow, you can't read that book without a box of tissues.  It's about a little girl who is abandoned by her alcoholic mother.  She eats out of garbage cans, and one day she smells the fresh coffee down by this coffee stall, and this old greedy man is down there selling coffee and fresh-baked goods, and she just comes sheepishly around, smelling the coffee and the breads and one day he looks at her with pity, and he says, "Here, child," and he throws her a little bit of scraps from the day before, and he gives her some stale bread and coffee from the day before.

 Well, each day she comes by, and he keeps giving her the leftovers until one day, this little girl, she has been influenced because she's been hearing this church service, and she's been learning about Jesus.  And so she starts praying this one day, "Dear Jesus, thank you so much for all the wonderful food that Mr. Daniel has been giving me every day."

 And, all of a sudden, he hears this little girl's prayer, and he drops to his knees and repents and receives Christ as his Savior right there, and then he takes the little girl, picks her up and brings her home, and he becomes her father.

Dennis: Cool.

Bob: Okay, so if you could only pick one of the books for children …

Dennis: Is it "Teddy's Button?"

Mark: It's between "Teddy's Button" and "Giant Killer" and …

Dennis: You've got to pick.

Mark: "Teddy's Button."

Bob: There we go.

Dennis: "Teddy's Button," all right, we've got only three in this teenager category.

Mark: Okay, these are wild.

Dennis: Okay, let's go to "The Hidden Hand."

Mark: "The Hidden Hand" …

Dennis: 1859.

Mark: "The Hidden Hand" was originally written by a lady named Southworth.  Now, one thing you've got to understand about these books, you can find these books online in their original …

Dennis: I was going to ask you about that.  Have you changed them a little bit, to edit them, so that …

Mark: Absolutely.  One of the reasons we've had to edit these, we want to make sure that when parents read a Lamplighter book that they can rest assured that what their children are going to be reading, that the doctrine is correct, that there is not a good works salvation.  A lot of the books had a good works salvation.  There is no profanity in there.  We took out places where, in some of the books back then, they smoked, and they drank.  It was allowable back then.  People didn't mind that.

 We don't want children to be reading books that are going to give them the wrong impression, so we've edited them.  We've left the story the same.

Bob: What's the story of "The Hidden Hand" about?

Mark: Okay.  "The Hidden Hand," originally written as a newspaper article and every day there was another article, and it lasted for several years.  And it was the talk of the streets.  Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen next, and after, around, I think, 1850, they put it together and bound it in the form of a book.

 And when I first read this, I found this book in an auction across the street from where our office is, and my son picked it up and said, "Dad, why don't you buy this?  It's only $1."  It had a leather cover, and it didn't have a spine, and it was 600 pages long.

Dennis: Wow.

Mark: And I said, "I'll never read that, David."  He said, "Dad, just buy it," and it sat on my mantle for about three years.  And one day, it was in the winter, I picked it up, and I read the preface.  And it said, "This is the best book that's ever been in print."  And I said, "Oh, there's someone like me," you know?

 And so I started reading it, and I got into the first chapter, and I couldn't put it down, took three days off work, couldn't put the book down.  It's the story of God bringing seven people to the end of themselves so they'll learn to trust in the hidden hand of God, and, literally, you can't put this book down, it's amazing.

 I've had, oh, I'd say 100 people have contacted me saying the same thing – it's the best book they've ever read in their life.

Bob: Wow.  All right, what about this – what is it called "Uli's" …

Mark: "That Printer of Udell's."

Bob: Udell's, okay.

Mark: That's a unique book.  President Ronald Reagan said that when he was nine years old, his grandmother gave him that to read, and it led him to Christ as his Savior, and he said that book was the mentor in his life that prepared him to become President of the United States.

Dennis: Really?

Bob: What's the story about?

Mark: It's about this teenager that comes looking for a job in this very hypocritical down in the Midwest.  People just talk about their Christianity, but they do something differently.  And he gets this job with this printer, and this boy, he starts to think that "I don't want my Christianity to be like – you know, to be hypocritical.  I'm going to start doing things that Christ teaches us.  I'm going to start bearing my cross and making a difference in this world."

 And, all of a sudden, the town starts to change, and people start asking, "What has brought about this change?"  And they all say, "That printer of Udell's."  Udell is the name of the printer who owns the shop.  His name is Udell, and people kept saying, "That printer of Udell's, he's the one that's causing the change." An incredible book, that's a life-changing book.  In fact, that's a life-changing book for churches.

Dennis: Cool.  "The Lost Clue?"

Mark: Oh, "The Lost Clue."

Dennis: When was it written?

Mark: I think that was probably late 1800s.  This book I put as the book of the year.  I read this book about seven months ago, so it's just newly in print.  This is a book about a young man who is a captain in the English army, and he is very well-to-do, but when he goes home on leave, he spends time with his very vulgar father, and there is this inconsistency – how do you have this boy who is refined and a gentleman but has the background of this father that is vulgar and just so tasteless?

 And so the father doesn't allow him to stay home.  The father kept him at a boarding school, the father keeps him away from him.  It's almost like the father doesn't even want to be an influence in his life.  So one day the young man, the captain, gets this letter, and it's a letter from his father's deathbed.  It says, "Come home immediately, I have to tell you something."

 So the young man quickly goes home, the father grabs his arm and says, "I am not your father.  In the safe there is a letter that I want you to read, and it will tell you of your true identity, but you can't read it until after I die.  And" he says, "there is something else that I need you to help me with after I die.  One of the ministers in our village was dying, and he wanted me to use a little bit of savings that he had to invest it so that he would be able to take care of his wife and his daughters," and so this vulgar type of many says, "Yes, I'll invest your money, I'll take care of your children and your wife." 

 And so he looks, and now he's talking to his son years later, and he says, "I invested their money somewhere in South Africa, and I lost it all.  I lost all my money, I lost all theirs, and I don't have the heart to tell them.  After I die, would you go and tell them what has happened to their savings?"

 And so the man dies, and the very first thing that he does is goes in the safe and looks for the letter, and the letter is missing, so he doesn't know who he really is now.  So there's that part of the mystery.

 And he goes to the family to tell them that they've lost all – his father lost all their money, and there's these three daughters there, and the mother, and they're just so gracious to him, and he looks at them and sees their graciousness and how much Christ lives in their life.  He is so taken by that, that he says, on the spot, "I am going to correct the error of my father's deeds, and I am going to leave my position in the army, and I am going to work, and I will support you for the rest of my life."

 And so he does that.  So he starts supporting them, and one thing leads to another where one of the daughters overhears something about a letter that was stolen from a safe, and she sends him a letter and tells him about it, and that sets him on the journey to find out who his true identity is.

 But what I love about it is it helps young people realize that great sacrifice leads to great blessing.  And this man does the unthinkable, that he's going to give up something very important to him to go and take care of this family that he doesn't even know.  And when you find out who he is at the end of the story, I mean, you're just so blown away by the story, it's like, "Oh, oh, dear."

Dennis: Well, I was just thinking a book like that around a lost identity for a teenager.

Mark: Absolutely.  That would be awesome.

Dennis: I mean, what a time of crisis and of unbelief that teenagers face today – which one of these three is going to be your recommended treasured book, Mark.  You can do it.

Mark: Oh, dear.

Dennis: This is tough.

Mark: I'll tell you what – "The Hidden Hand."


Dennis: He was afraid I was about to withdraw the offer, Bob.

Bob: That's right.


 Well, our listeners can find all of these on our website at and, in fact, what we've done is we've taken some of Mark's favorites because we couldn't get him to nail it down to one throughout the program, we've taken and bundled together several books that are appropriate for preschool age, for Mom and Dad to read to preschoolers or for young readers to begin to read on their own, a group of books that are appropriate for elementary-aged readers either to be read to or to read on their own.

 And then a group of books that are perfect for teenagers to read, or, again, these are books that could be read to the whole family by Mom or Dad, and all of this has next month in mind when many of you will join us in turning off the TV for a month and just spending some time doing other things, like reading, like reading great books.

 There is information about all of the books we've talked about on our website,  You can go there and click a red button that you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and that will take you right to the area of the site where you can get more information about these books, or you can order individual books or bundles of books online, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention that you're interested in certain titles, or you need more information about what's available.

 Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-FLTODAY, or you can find more information online at, click that red "Go" button, and you'll go right to the area of the site where you can get information about these books.

 Let me encourage you as well – when you do get in touch with us, if you are able to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount, first of all, we'd appreciate it.  This is the time of year when we don't hear from as many of our listeners as we normally do, and so funds get a little low, and it's always great when we can hear from somebody during the month of July.

 And this week, when you make a donation of any amount, we'd like to send you a thank you gift that includes four CDS, messages from our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference all centered around the subject of communication and sexual intimacy in marriage.  We talk about resolving conflict, what we can do to more effectively express our ideas to one another, how we can be better listeners, and then about the whole issue of sexual intimacy in marriage, and that's really a part of our communication with one another.

 These four messages are available on CD as our way of saying thanks for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and you can make a donation easily online at  If you're doing that, as you fill out the donation form, there will be a keycode box.  You just type the three letters, "WTR," in that keycode box, and that stands for Weekend to Remember.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone, and, again, just mention that you'd like the CDs from the Weekend to Remember.  We'll be happy to send them out to you, and let me just say we really do appreciate those of you who are able to partner with us this month.  It's great to hear from you.

 Now, as we have talked about books that we can read during the TV fast month next month, have you come up with the list of books that you're going to try and read through?

Dennis: You know, here's my question for Mark.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: I have – well, I'm soon to have 11 grandchildren, and we're going to have what's called "Fam at the Ranch" …

Bob: Yeah, it's coming up in just a week or two, right?

Dennis: Yes, just a few days, and they're all seven years old and under, all right?  So I'm going to have, I'd say, six or seven of them that are old enough to crawl up in Papa's lap and to have a reading time.  Which one of these books that you recommended for a younger group of children, would you recommend that I establish a reading time, probably every morning so the parents can kind of have some fun for a while?  But it's going to be Papa's reading time.

Mark: That would be wonderful.  I would definitely go through the illustrated books for seven and under first, and then I would go with "Jessica's First Prayer," and then I would go to "Teddy's Button," and then "The Giant-Killer."

Dennis: Well, I'm not that fast a reader, Mark, but I do want to thank you.  He's selling me books, is what he's doing.  I know what's happening here.

 I do want to thank you, though, for coming in and allowing us to slice open your heart and hear your passion about reading and literature and, more important than that, I think books on purpose.  You know, I think that's something that's been lost today that anchors the soul to Almighty God and ultimately to the Gospel.

Bob: And, actually, you stop and think about it, and probably the best TV happens when the TV is off, and you're making up the pictures in your own mind, anyway.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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