A Night of Hope 2016
At our 2016 event we were blessed to have to the following presenters share their messages of hope with us. Their stories are listed below.
Kristy Gustafson - Mental Illness and Addiction
With family comes joy and sadness, ups and downs, sickness and health, chaos and moments of peace. I’ve learned to embrace the chaos and mess and treasure the moments of peace and the stillness of my soul. But looking back the best stuff came out of the mess!
I believe that in the messiness of our lives God does his greatest work within each of us. He loves us best… in our mess! Out of the ashes comes great humility and strength. In those times of fear and sadness many gifts and graces take root. Trusting in God that we are exactly where he wants us to be is so difficult when we are in the midst of darkness.
Darkness comes when those we love suffer. When the pain is so piercing we can hardly breathe. Addiction and mental illness are diseases that can often bring silence to a conversation. These diseases of the brain come with such stigma attached to them. They can be looked at as a defect of character or a lack of emotional toughness. For those of us who have struggled with depression or have love ones that suffer we can feel very isolated and alone.
Cancer is beyond devastating to a family…as are the diseases of addiction and mental illness. The difference, those with cancer get casseroles and presents, survivor walks, well wishes, and prayers. We, the families of those that have brain diseases of addiction and mental illness, are left alone in our homes with feelings of guilt and shame. No more cancer and no more diseases of the brain is a prayer I know we all have.
We, the family members, those in recovery or not, and those that struggle through their days with anxiety and depression have a choice to make. They can keep themselves isolated and not seek the treatment they need for their disease. Or, they can swim frantically to the surface, desperately reaching out for help. That’s when recovery begins. With the grace of God and support from those we love we begin to heal.
We share our Experience, our Strength, and our Hope with others in pain. That’s when we are on the path to recovery, healing and peace. Light again enters us. Darkness dissipates.
“In darkness and times of tribulation and distress of the spirit, Jesus is with you. In such a state you see nothing but darkness, but I can assure you on God’s behalf that the light of the Lord is all around you and pervades your spirit…You see yourself forsaken and I assure you that Jesus is holding you tighter than ever to His divine Heart” Padre Pio
Jimmy Owens - Roller Coaster Ride with Childhood Cancer
I have been a member of St. Robert’s Parish since I was 3 years old. My wife, Cally, and I are high school sweethearts; we met and started dating during our Junior year. Four years ago, shortly after we graduated from college, we were married here at St Robert’s and became parishioners. We since have had two beautiful children, Felicity and Gerard.
On March 30, 2016, Gerard fell down a few inches and hit his shin. Because he had always been an active and adventurous toddler, Cally and I didn’t think much of it. However, after almost two weeks and two sets of x-rays, he was still having trouble walking and putting weight on his leg. We were referred to Children’s Hospital for more specialized Orthopedic care. After more x-rays, the orthopedic specialists could not find anything wrong with him, so they sent us to take a blood sample. The initial blood sample showed Gerard’s blood platelet count was extremely low. Concerned, the Hematology clinic did a blood smear that found suspected Leukemia cells in his blood. On the afternoon of April 13, 2016, Gerard was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
The months since then have been a roller coaster. We have leaned on God for strength and relied on our family, friends, and parish family for support. We still have a long road ahead of us for a full recovery, and we are confident that the Lord will provide the persistence for or family to beat cancer.
Dave Carlson - God's Grace After Suicide
My name is Dave Carlson. I am a retired Omaha Police Officer with 24 years of service. My wife Laura and I have been married for 34 years, we have two sons, Matt and Thomas. Matt and his wife Tricia have a new son, Will.
On December 3, 2003, our son, Thomas, made a tragic decision that changed our lives forever. We have relied on God’s Grace to help us, our family, and friends to get through that terrible time.
God Is Love. My message will be of a God who is ever present with us. As members of the same larger human family, we all will experience loss and unique struggles. All losses are different, yet share somethings in common. Grief and sadness are universal, but so too is God¹s Love. His Love never fades or is kept from us because of choices that we make. We are all made in the image of God, and are able to reflect his Love upon others.
Dave will relate how God¹s Grace continues to rain down on all of us, and how God¹s Love, led to the original Night Of Hope.
Tammi Winchester - Poverty and Domestic Violence
Professionally speaking I am a training specialist with Project Harmony. Prior to this I was employed with the Department
of Health and Human Services (CPS unit) for 8.5 years. I train many topics to all the professionals in the field of child welfare, parents, and foster parents as well. Personally speaking I am a mother of 2 children (ages 19 and 21). I have been happily married to a wonderful person since 2009 (together 8 years prior to wedding).
I grew up in poverty, domestic violence between my parents and abuse/neglect in the home as well. With having only examples of unhealthy, toxic relationships I myself entered a toxic and violent relationship with my ex-husband (children’s father) for 8 years. There is so much to know and understand about the dynamics of domestic violence and how to have healthy normal relationships afterward that it is hard to know where to start!
Pray when you feel like worrying.
Give thanks when you feel complaining.
Keep going when you feel like quitting.