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The Dream and the Journey

A Historical Perspective from the Founders,
Bill and Doris Steinberg

It's time to get out of the bleachers and into the action!

"Your opponent is winning the game, and your team is one man short! It's time to get out of the bleachers and into the action." These words penetrated our hearts as we attended a "Life Management Seminar" in the summer of 1989. At that seminar we were challenged to write a mission statement concerning how we as a couple could help to fulfill the Great Commission, in light of our experience, talents, and spiritual gifts.

Sonshine Apartments

As we began to write our mission statement the idea of providing affordable, furnished housing for missionaries was planted in our minds. We had heard that many missionaries leave the mission field because of burn out and that they often spend their furlough staying with friends and relatives rather than having a time of rest and refreshment. We recognized that if we could help meet the housing needs of missionaries on furlough, we could have a part in strengthening the cause of Christ around the world.

As we continued to seek the Lord's direction, God showed us more of His purpose. We became incorporated as Sonshine Ministries in 1990, and developed the following mission statement.

Sonshine Ministries - Mission Statement
"The purpose of Sonshine Ministries is to help fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) by establishing Resource Centers to assist with the housing, personal and spiritual needs of furloughing missionaries, pastors, and other vocational Christian workers, who are proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ locally and around the world."

In 1992, God brought together a Prayer Team of several individuals who were committed to pray with us for the Lord's direction and provision. He then led us to the property for the apartment building and put together the plan. The ground breaking took place April 1, 1993. With the help of many volunteers, the building was completed and dedicated in the summer of 1994. Since then, we have had missionaries from all over the world come to stay in Sonshine Apartments!

Pastor and Spouse Getaway

The spring of the ground breaking, we attended an inspiring Easter musical presentation in our church, in which we caught a fresh glimpse of the majesty and holiness of the Lord.

As we reflected on that experience, the thought came of inviting Fox Valley pastors and their spouses to come away for a praise cruise on Green Lake. That seemed like a rather crazy idea, since we only knew the pastors in our own church. However, the idea must have been on God's heart because that fall, He brought nineteen clergy couples to an all-expense paid overnight get away and eleven lay leadership couples joined them on Saturday. That was the beginning of an annual eastern Wisconsin All-Expense-Paid Overnight Get-Away.

This event now averages forty-five to fifty couples representing a variety of denominations and congregations in approximately a fifty-mile radius from Appleton. As they come together to worship the Lord, He refreshes their spirits and knits hearts together in love.

Pastors' Wives' Night Out

After the Get-Aways, came the Pastors' Wives' Night Out, which began in 1995 for the purpose of encouragement. The last two years, these dinners, which have spread from Menasha to Fond du Lac, Green Bay, and Sheboygan have been attended by approximately 75 to 80 women.

Prayer Summits

In 1994, God gave us a broader vision of His purpose in bringing Christian leadership together -- unity in the body of Christ! We heard about a movement of the Spirit of God, which began in the Pacific Northwest and was spreading around the world. Christian leaders (pastors, pastors' wives, women in ministry leadership) were going away for four days to "seek God's face" through something called a Prayer Summit. As they spent extended time in His presence, they experienced renewal, healing, and reconciliation. Walls were coming down and biblical unity was being restored.

Our heart cry was, "Lord do it here!" At the beginning of 1995, we began by praying for revival every Monday night and invited others to join us. The following June, God put together a steering committee of pastors, representing a diversity of denominations from Green Bay to Fond du Lac. They agreed to pray together monthly and to attend the first Eastern Wisconsin Prayer Summit in the spring of 1996. Forty-seven pastors attended that summit, and the Lord truly did meet with them!

Since then, there has been an Eastern Wisconsin Pastors' Prayer Summit each spring. Pastors are now praying together weekly in numerous eastern Wisconsin communities. The first Pastors' Wives' Summit took place in 1998.

History was made in 2001, when thirty-one Women In Ministry Leadership came together for the purpose of hearing the Prayer Summit vision. It was amazing how their hearts had been prepared. Unanimously they expressed a desire for an extended time of seeking the Lord's face! Women In Ministry Leadership came together for a Prayer Summit February of that year. They are continuing to meet for prayer on a regular basis in Green Bay, Fond du Lac, and Menasha.

In conjunction with International Renewal Ministries, an affiliate of Multnomah Bible College and Seminary in Portland Oregon, Sonshine Ministries has had the privilege of coordinating these Prayer Summits and watching God work to change lives and knit hearts together. Jesus' prayer in John 17, that believers would be brought to complete unity in order that the world may believe, is being answered!

Sonshine Center

In 1996, Sonshine Center, which is housed in the lower level of Sonshine Apartments, was completed. This facility is open to the Christian community for prayer, Bible study and leadership training. Currently a number of groups are meeting in Sonshine Center including a men's Bible study, a men's prayer time, intercessors, women's Bible studies, pastors' prayer times, women in ministry leadership prayer times, a singles' ministry, and a moms' group.

Northhaven Condominium

As we began getting to know many clergy couples, we became increasingly aware of their need for physical rest and spiritual renewal. We began to dream and pray about providing a place where pastors could take their families with minimal expense. God brought that dream to fruition in the summer of 2000. He enabled Sonshine Ministries to purchase a three-bedroom condominium in Door County. Located just north of Fish Creek, this condo has been filled most of the year. Many families have expressed thanks to the Lord for providing a place for them to be able to get away together for a week of refreshment.

Christmas Gatherings

In 1991 we drove through a blizzard to see a Christmas Gathering demonstration in Minneapolis. We were deeply moved by what we saw and on the way home the next day, we sensed that God was calling us to host a gathering and to train others to also use this wonderful avenue of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with neighbors, coworkers, club members, and extended family.

The next year, we invited 75 neighborhood women to our home for a Christmas Gathering. On a snowy, December morning, 21 of our neighbors came to our Gathering. We knew that it had gone well when no one wanted to leave. We were amazed by the response on the comment cards. Six women indicated that they had invited Jesus to come into their hearts. Another five expressed interest in a neighborhood Bible study!

What a joy it was to have eight of our neighbors sit around our dining room table to study the Bible! A few weeks later, an evening study also began. The evening group multiplied into three studies as women invited others who in turn invited others to attend.

Since then, Christmas Gatherings have spread in Wisconsin. God brought together a leadership team, which has conducted training workshops in Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Wausau and the Appleton area. Hosts and hostesses representing over 130 congregations have hosted over 800 gatherings with approximately 8500 in attendance. Over 1600 have indicated decisions for Christ and approximately 250 follow-up Bible studies have sprung up in neighborhoods and workplaces!