Behold, I Will Do a New Thing – Post Fire Update

Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

It’s been just over ten weeks…ten intense, often emotional, challenging, sad weeks. But it has also been ten weeks of blessings beyond what we ever imagined, relationships strengthening, faith building, hope giving, humbling weeks.

Ten weeks ago, early in the morning hours, our home and all that was in it was lost to a devastating fire. In the process of recouping from the fire, Keith’s 103- year-old grandmother had a change in her health and her journey on this earth ended. We buried her two weeks after her death, next to her beloved husband in Missouri.

Fire, death, tragic loss. This has taken an emotional toll as so many “treasures” are gone, though we do know in our hearts that our treasures are in heaven.

So, what is our current status and what’s next? How do we even proceed from here? I shared photos in a previous update…you can see that there truly was a total loss.

Before I continue, I do want to just take a moment to pause and THANK everyone from the depth of our hearts for the massive outpouring of love and support that has been given to us. Within a few hours of the fire, every single immediate need was met. It was truly astonishing and humbling to see this all happen.

What next? Though we had insurance on our personal belongings, the house itself was not insured. This home was not “ours”; it was a home on the farm and became our home. All of this is part of the ministry that my father founded over forty years ago. We came back over five years ago to steward the property and maintain it and, we feel that we are to continue to do so.

With that being said, we do feel that we should rebuild on the same site where the house was. The cement slab is intact, the plumbing is still in place, the well and electrical are all present. The ministry has remained debt free and our heart is that it stays that way. We will not be taking out any loans to rebuild. We truly believe that the Lord will provide all that is needed to rebuild!

COVID 19 has deeply impacted the cost of building materials. With volunteer labor to do the actual construction, we are looking at around $100,000 to build the house. The cost for building materials has skyrocketed as you can well imagine!

How can you help? First and foremost, pray. Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for healing and peace. Pray for His provision to accomplish this task that is before us. It is not ours, but His to do according to His will and purpose.

Due to many who have already generously given financially, we already have $30,000 in the building fund. We will build as we can, as the funds come in, and trust that we can complete this project quickly so we can return to the farm. We have been so blessed with temporary housing and are thankful for this provision from Mount Zion Church, here in Bemidji.

Along with the building supply costs, we will also need of physical help from carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers and so forth. To keep costs down, it will take those who have these gifts and talents to help us.

Again, we are so thankful to those that have already given financial gifts! If you are able to make a financial contribution towards the rebuild, donations can be made via PayPal ( and please indicate that it is for the fire fund or, sent it directly to the farm and mark for the FIRE FUND.

All donations can be sent to:

Ben Israel Fellowship
c/o Fire Fund
43237 Cass Line Road
Laporte, MN 56461

If you can help with the building construction, please send an email to and please put FIRE REBUILD in the subject line. This will be passed on to Keith and others who will be organizing the team(s). You can also send us a letter with your availability and how you could help at the above address.

I will continue to place updates here and on Facebook page. Please feel free to contact us with any questions!

We know that from the ashes, beauty will rise.

In His love and grace,

Keith and Sissie
Ben Israel Fellowship

Beauty From Ashes

We REALLY needed a handicapped house/home to take care of Keith’s grandmother and, we have been provided the most beautiful apartment that we were given the keys to today! It’s absolutely amazing and leaving me in tears. Which happens a lot…several times a day!

Relationships are being restored. Broken hearts are being healed through all this that we have experience personally. The community has gathered around us to take care of us and it’s just been unimaginable to fathom all that has taken place.

Our neighbors and family here on the farm took grandma into their homes and cared for her for the first two days, providing the love and support and attention she needed. She has been traumatized by this and we are seeing effects of this now in some symptoms of significant dementia which we are hoping will clear once we get her settled into a better environment for her.

We could not do this without the army that has been risen up to surround us and care for us!! I tagged some of the people who have been key in all this!

I wish I had the time to sit and acknowledge and thank every single person who is reached out to us with food, gifts, clothing, financial donations, prayers, texts, visits, hugs, shared tears…but it’s just not possible so my hope is that you know how loved and appreciated each of you are!

Tomorrow will be moving day for us. My mind is having a difficult time settling tonight as it’s racing and going through things, just like it’s done every single day since the fire. This is not the first battle we have faced as a family and we will get through this!

This is far from over…BUT out of the ashes, life and beauty will rise!

Isaiah 61…

He will provide for those who grieve
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair

Urgent Prayer Needed

Saints, we are requesting urgent prayer. I just received a call from Sissie that their home burned down. Everybody got out and is safe but 28 years of memories are gone. We need to all lift up the Pennel family in this hour. They are so good to so many people and have been faithful to the ministry that God has called them to. More updates will be posted here and on the website at a later time. Until then, please be in prayer.


The Heart of my Mom

It’s been a long time since I have had the opportunity to sit and write an update…to long perhaps? But it some ways, I intentionally and specifically waited until today as this is October 10th…seven years since the Lord called my Mother to His side as she finished her race on this earth after a five year battle against breast cancer.

So why did I want to wait until today? It wasn’t completely intentional, but the longer it took me to get this written, more was taking place here, and it seemed that much of what I had to share would have blessed the heart of my Mom. To see what is being done here now, would have brought her much peace and happiness! So, unintentionally intentional?

I have mentioned in past updates, the extensive amount of work needed on the main property and down at the lodge. It’s been a huge task and the list continued to grow…the barn needed painting, a new roof needed to be put on part of the shop, both sides of the main farmhouse had damage due to snow build up and ice melting…and the lodge? So much to be done!

Since moving here five years ago, we knew that in His time and according to His will, He would reveal to us what the plans were for the property and ongoing ministry. While waiting, we (primarily Keith) have been tackling one project at a time. We had some help from different ones coming over the years (so grateful!!) to assist on projects, but most of it still falls to Keith to take care of.

At our last Board Meeting in July, I thought it was time to establish what we saw as a vision for the current ministry on the farm. We felt as a Board that the property was a place for healing, restoration, strength and those who had come over the past years had experienced this in one way or another. But we also knew that the heart of my Dad for the property needed to be a part of the vison as well.

The Board talked at great length about the lodge. We knew action had to be taken soon or we risked that the lodge could potentially become so deteriorated, it could no longer be used.

Added to all this, we also talked about the impending arrival of a new family moving here in a few weeks, for an unknown amount of time…the impact of their coming we did not know until after they arrived. But I’ll share that piece in a moment!

But our primary focus was the lodge and our current options…one being to sell it or another, to give it away to another ministry who would fix it and use it. The lodge holds much sentimental value to me as this is where Dad thrived in his last days…holding teaching sessions for believers who came from all over, while my Mom did what she loved most…cooking and feeding those that came. I am emotionally attached to it!

Where did we go from there? At the end our our conversation, we made the decision to get four bids on what it would cost to repair the lodge and make a “to do” list of what needed to be done at the lodge. We also all agreed that IF and WHEN we got the lodge up and running, we would need a couple to oversee it and run it.

We tasked ourselves with writing a Vision Statement and I was to share my understanding of what Dad felt the Lord told him when he stepped onto the property over 40 years ago. I truly intended to get THIS update done sooner versus later to see who still had a heart for the lodge and future ministry happening again there.

Big goals set for our current Board to accomplish! Keith and myself serve with Rick and Billie Jean Weinert and Jessica Gunning…three voting, two non voting members…and hopefully soon a new member to join us! He has much to offer and will be a great addition if he is voted in. All of our Board Members are wonderful we are blessed by the support and encouragement they bring.

And as usual, things never go according to what we plan…but God had a plan! Our own good intentions to get things accomplished were put on the back burner in late August as our lives were about to change drastically! We were heading to Missouri.

Keith’s 102 year old (she turned 103 yesterday!) Grandmother now lives with us, as the care she was receiving in a nursing home had come to the point where we felt it was no longer a safe option for her to stay there.

Caring for her is now a priority for us. I resigned my former position and have been blessed with a new job that allows me to work from primarily from home, around her schedule and Keith’s. BIG changes in our home!

Which leads me to share about the other big change here…our new family! David, Jolynn and their son Walter, who arrived in early August. Jolynn is Rick and Billie Jean’s daughter. We had little to offer them but the old trailer that used to be the home of Mama Pearl. It wasn’t much, but it was a place they could make into a home.

We knew that we were to offer them a place to stay for as long as they chose to stay. We were told that David was very handy and would be able to help, but we did not want to place any expectations on him.

And what a blessing we received. David and Jolynn have been such a help. David has become Keith’s right hand and taken on many of the repairs and projects that needed to get done. We needed them as much as they needed us/this place, according to both David and Jolynn!

More has been done in the last six weeks than what I thought was possible to accomplish! The damage to the farmhouse from the snow and ice is nearly completed, the barn painting has been started, the roof on the shop is now replaced, the garage is neat as a pin and clean up is being planned and started at the lodge. It’s all beyond amazing!

David sent me pictures today that I am going to share with you, but his comment was…”what a wonderful place to make a kind of heaven on earth, thank you for letting us be a part of this vision.” God had a plan. We offered a home (that they have beautifully fixed and made their own!) and in return, they have invested fully of themselves, to bring life back to the property…something we could not do on our own.

Chaos is being brought to order. Our personal lives are busier than ever, BUT as the work is being done here…I can just see how my Mom’s heart would be overflowing with joy as THIS is what she wanted…to see the property be maintained and welcoming, to let those that come here find peace and rest, to offer hope and healing to any who may have felt lost and in need of a chance to catch their breath.

According to His plan…His purpose…His timing…we will continue on this path and believe for Him to to reveal to us His heart for the ministry here. It won’t be what it was before, but we are encouraged at what is taking place.

Nothing has been finalized yet with the lodge, but if we move forward, would you you pray with us and see what your part might be? Winter will be here before any of us know it, but could it be that God has a plan for YOU to be part of whatever the next chapter could be here at Ben Israel?

We will be sharing more in the months to come, including what we see as the current vision and ministry here. We, as a Board, will be revisiting on all of this and share with you any plans as they unfold!

Until then, keep us in your prayers! All of us living here appreciate each of you who have provided support in prayer, words of encouragement, time spent here to help, and financially. We are truly blessed and thankful…

In His grace,


The tree swing is back! Thank you David for returning the nostalgic memory to its place…
Autumn beauty on the drive to the lodge.
Sunset peace…
Autumn at the lodge…
The barn in much need of getting painted!
Painting in progress!
A fresh coat of paint changes so much!
Making progress!
Winter and snow are hard on an old farm house…
One step closer…
Big difference!
Almost done!
We had a leak…what did they find?
A mess!

I think Sarah might want her window back!
One step closer to being done…
New wall!
May you walk in His peace and grace!

So THANKFUL for all that has been done…more to come! Thank you for walking on this journey with us.

Psalm 17:7-8

Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings

13 Years

“So he rose and did according to the word of the Lord.”

6/28/20-13 years ago… Almost at this very moment. Just like that, dad was here and then he was gone. Dad would have turned 91 this year. 

How do I even begin to put to words the depth of my dad? Those that knew him, knew him well.

I’ll never forget this day… ever.

I very vividly recall his final moments on this earth. He had slipped into a coma a few days prior. I had been vigilantly at his bedside along with many others. We knew his time was drawing near.

My mother was busy attending to everyone that had come to be with dad. We had moved his hospital bed to the den which gave us more space to care for him, and more room for those gathering to be present. 

I knew that he was transitioning to leave his physical body. His hands has started to grow cold. From my nursing experience, it was clear his body was shutting down.

Uncle Shelly and Aunt June Volk were on their way, but would sadly did not make it in time. Arthur Beebe, Mary Baker Stranathan Beebe, Janie McDonald, John McDonald, the Caron’s, Uncle Paul and Aunt Adrienne Volk…So many precious and dear ones had gathered.

Diana Herrera was sitting at his bedside, prayer warrior…friend…heart of love for Dad, like so many others. I saw dad raised his hands to heaven, as if he were worshipping. I looked up at Dina and saw her eyes and she shook her head no at me.

I screamed for my mother to come as I jumped from where I had been sitting. Within moments he was gone. He had breathed his last…just like that, his struggling was over. He was at rest. He was home.

No more fighting for air to breathe. No more of the 17 different medications he had been on to keep his body functioning. No more suffering. Just gone.

We all gathered around him. I laid on the bed by him and wept like I had never wept before. My papa, my dad, my guardian who wept for me when I faced a health battle.

Dad and I had sat down 10 days prior to this as I knew it was time to have that conversation on his final wishes. Not a task I relished, but one I knew that had to be done.

His words to me were that the Lord would either raise him up and heal him, or take him home. Either way, he would be restored.

So 13 years later…Those words still run through my head. He is restored. Though I wish he were here every day, I would want the same thing for him.

I miss you Papa. I love you now, forever and always.

In loving memory…💕