Variations in rituals and beliefs may distinguish one Christian denomination from another, but for congregants in at least 15 Faribault places of worship, the common belief in prayer brings them together annually.
For the third consecutive year, Faribault Christians unite for a multi-church effort to cover the whole city in prayer over a 24-hour period. The prayer walk begins at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 and concludes a full day later, at 3 p.m. Sept. 26.
“What inspires me about Faribault Prays is the way it is uniting the Christian community across various traditions, perspectives and expressions to seek God’s blessing upon this community,” said Greg Ciesluk, pastor of Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault. “We are bound together by our love for God and our neighbors as our common Lord commands. We dare to believe that God is doing something extraordinary through this faith-filled effort.”
Faribault Evangelical Free Church Pastor Dan Ford agreed that Faribault Prays offers the rare opportunity for local Christians to “come together and lift up our community in prayer, not letting denominational boundaries or secondary theological issues divide us.”
Faribault Prays participants follow their assigned route, based on city snow removal routes, and walk the streets in teams to pray for people and businesses on their route throughout the 24-hour period. Many participants wear yellow Faribault Prays pins to signify their mission. Each participating church facilitates its own group, but Ciesluk also invites Faribault residents to pray at home or drive around neighborhoods.
Each year, at the conclusion of the prayer walk, participants gather in a common domain for worship. An outdoor space this year, Central Park, allows for improved social distancing starting at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26. Various worship teams agreed to lead the music and prayer in English and Spanish.
Rios de Agua Viva participates in Faribault Prays for the first time this year. Pastor Alberto and Noemi Arriaza said they are happy to join the effort and “continue praying for our communities in this beautiful city, now all together.”
Gina Yetzer, a Faribault resident who has participated in Faribault Prays for the past two years, said the best part about the event is making a direct connection with someone and praying over them.
“To know you are part of God’s plan for this community is without words,” Yetzer said. “I truly believe God has a revival planned for Faribault, and I continue to participate in Faribault Prays because I want to be part of that revival. I want to be part of the church of Faribault coming together and seeing true unification for Christ.”
Not all participants attend church locally. Faribault resident Jane Egerdahl attends services in the metro area, but she and others who either belong to churches outside Faribault, or who don’t attend a specific church regularly, created their own group of “spares” to participate in Faribault Prays. Like local church congregations, they pray for a specific zone throughout the event.
“It helps me care about my neighbors/townspeople in a deeper way by praying for them,” Egerdahl said. “I have found that almost everyone is struggling with something when we’ve asked people if we can pray for them, when they are standing outside in their yards. We don’t go on anyone’s property; we just walk and pray on the streets quietly in groups of two or three.”
Egerdahl understands some might feel reluctant to participate in Faribault Prays or to accept prayers from the individuals walking down the street.
“Maybe some people are worried we are there to push religion down their throats,” Egerdahl said. “But once they realize we have no agenda except to truly care about them, they relax and share things. I feel honored that strangers have trusted me with deep pains in their lives. I believe we all sometimes appreciate God showing up through someone with skin on.”
Though it’s only officially been in business for five years, Faribault’s Lighthouse Strategic Solutions is already turning heads and winning acclaim from its peers.
The firm, which provides consulting services for small and mid-size businesses, is one of three finalists for the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism’s 2020 Business of the Year Award. It’s joined by two much larger businesses, Daikin Applied and Jennie-O Turkey Store.
The firm was founded in 2015 by Kate Tonjum and Lisa Sammon. The two friends were longtime business professionals with more than 25 years of experience, and brought different areas of focus to the venture.
“We decided that we’d be better together,” said Tonjum. “We’ve continued to do what we do best but combine our talents and strengths to better support organizations in operations, financial services and HR.”
For Sammon, the focus has always been on the “numbers” side of the equation. She graduated with a degree in finance from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and built a career in the world of commercial real estate lending.
More recently, she shifted into the world of church and school administration. Before partnering with Tonjum to form Lighthouse, she served as Director of Business Administration at Faribault’s Divine Mercy Catholic Church for close to 12 years.
Sammon is also a Gallup-certified strengths coach who has facilitated the Faribault Futures program for the last four years. Since 1998, the program has taught community building and leadership skills to budding leaders in the Faribault area. During the course, topics such as inclusive leadership, teamwork and conflict management are addressed. Participants are pushed to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to become more self-aware.
While Sammon designs the curriculum, Chamber Special Projects Manager Kymm Anderson is responsible for coordinating the program. Anderson was quick to praise Sammon’s effective leadership of the course.
“She’s done an outstanding job,” Anderson said.
Since Lighthouse was formed, Sammon has taken on the task of providing management services with a particular focus on schools and churches. Lighthouse currently provides services for more than a dozen, mostly located in the Twin Cities metro area.
On the other side of the business, Tonjum brings a wide breadth of experience in human resources and public relations. Having launched her career in hotel development with Marriott International, her experience is rooted in the hospitality industry.
Tonjum then moved onto a new startup called GrandStay, helping to open hotels across the country. She left GrandStay to provide management services for three local businesses Southern Heights Dental, Crossroads Surgery Center and Richie Eye Clinic.
“I was really excited to be able to expand my talents in the f=Faribault community beyond the GrandStay,” she said.
Lighthouse’s business solutions side remains primarily focused on those three businesses, with Tonjum providing key help particularly in the field of human resources. She said that helping those businesses to succeed and grow is her focus.
“They are big practices, and we are focused on growing them from within,” she said.
Mike Richie of Richie Eye Clinic said that for small- to medium-size businesses like his, management and administration is always a challenge. Given their limited budgets, he said that coordination is often the only way to afford high quality HR and administrative staff.
“The concept of Lighthouse is a good one, that we spent a lot of time trying to figure out,” he said. “We opted to share the talent.”
Richie had praise for both the people skills of Tonjum and the leadership development. Thanks to their assistance, Richie said that his business and others have been put in a position to succeed.
“They’ve become a phenomenal asset for small- and medium-size businesses who otherwise couldn’t afford that management personnel,” he said.
So far this year, are law enforcement are seeing a higher numbers in DWIs and excessive speeding, with numbers continually increasing as they head into the final months of the year.
Following two felony DWI arrests Thursday night, Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said he is “deeply disappointed” in what he is seeing as far as the blatant disregard some people are showing for overall public safety.
“We have already more than doubled our fatalities for fatal crashes in the county compared to 2019, and we still have several months left in the year,” Dunn said. “Lack of seat belts, high speeds and alcohol have all been contributing factors in these cases.”
Dunn said while law enforcement in Rice County are writing close to the same number of speeding tickets as they would any other year, he is alarmed at the high rates of speed the violators are clocking in at. Instead of someone going 70-miles-per-hour in a 55 zone, Dunn said they are seeing more motorists breaching 80-miles-per-hour and even more pushing 100 on the interstate, and on county roads and highways.
The DWIs, however, is where Dunn admits he gets extremely frustrated.
Late Thursday night, Rice County deputies arrested Patrick Michael Bentley, 27, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for driving while impaired with a 3-year-old child in the vehicle, according to Dunn. Dunn said Bentley’s blood alcohol content was double the legal limit and was the second DWI to take place that night. The first DWI arrest, which Dunn said took place at 9:30 p.m., also resulted in a blood alcohol content reading of double the .08 legal limit. Bentley was formally charged in Rice County court with first-degree felony DWI as well as second-degree DWI and endangering a child, both gross misdemeanors.
“It’s very concerning because not only are they endangering their own life, but also the lives of other motorists,” Dunn said, adding that nothing in his entire law enforcement career bothers him more than parents driving impaired with their children in the vehicle.
“I remember prior to when I was elected sheriff and I was working traffic regularly, I really felt happy and relieved when I would be able to stop somebody who was drunk and take them off the road before something awful happened. I wasn’t happy that I had to arrest somebody, but because maybe I had just saved a life.”
Dunn said he feels law enforcement in Rice County is setting an above average number in DWIs for 2020, despite there being an obvious lull in DWI arrests in April when most of the state was shut down due to COVID-19 related executive orders.
In Steele County, the numbers of DWIs is also on the rise, with County Attorney Dan McIntosh saying a vast majority of those arrests are made within Owatonna city limits. According to the Owatonna Police Department, DWI arrests as of Sept. 11 have already nearly doubled the four arrests made in September 2019.
“I don’t have a good answer for what that is at all,” McIntosh said. “Of all the public safety and public health concerns out there, when it comes to the dangers of drinking and driving there is no one who is unaware that it is an issue, so to see a spike in those numbers during a year where there are a lot of other stressors going on in our community, it is frustrating.”
The Steele County Court recently charged 47-year-old Donald Gary Johnson of Owatonna with first-degree felony DWI, driving with a canceled license and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident. According to OPD, officers were called to Clark Drive Sept. 4 for a report of a hit and run. Investigating officers reportedly learned from a witness that a person, later identified as Johnson, had run into the back of a parked vehicle and fled the scene. Officers later located the heavily damaged suspect vehicle described by the witness with Johnson inside, according to the report. Johnson had previously been arrested in August for DWI after he reportedly ran a vehicle into his house.
In Minnesota, a DWI does not become a felony offense until an individual receives a fourth offense within a 10-year period. Once convicted of a felony-level DWI, any future DWIs are also considered a felony. McIntosh said that while penalties vary depending on an offender’s criminal history and each individual case, DWI penalties can include loss of driver’s license, seizure of license plates, mandatory minimum jail time, mandatory installation of ignition interlock systems, forfeiture of vehicles, and prison sentences.
“It is hard to paint it all with one brush, so we try to look at each case individually,” McIntosh said. “But the general philosophy believed in my office is that drunken driving is the most pressing public safety issue we face, and while it can come along as a byproduct of addiction, we have to be realistic that treatment, consequences restrictions of liberty all go into the mix.”
The increase in drunken driving is not unique to southern Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 40 of the 152 traffic fatalities in across the state this summer were alcohol-related. These preliminary numbers account for 60% of all 2020 traffic fatalities thus far.
Both McIntosh and Dunn said it is hard to understand why drunken driving continues to be an issue as educational campaigns and different media blitzes about the dangers of drunken driving and the harsh realities of DWI charges have been around for many years.
“Our job is never done as long as we have loved ones and friends and family out there driving,” Dunn said. “We need to keep reminding them to wear seat belts, slow down, drive attentively and hands free, and never drive drunk.”
McIntosh echoed Dunn’s sentiments, adding that it all boils down to personal responsibility.
“Unfortunately it becomes an enforcement issue because people won’t heed the warnings,” McIntosh said. “Public transit with Uber and Lyft has never been more available, so the fact that people continue to choose to drink and drive is baffling.
“It’s one of those things that is always preventable, you don’t have to go down that road even if you do over indulge,” he continued. “It’s a serious issue, and law enforcement isn’t going to be able to stop everyone — by the time they respond to an accident it is too late. We all need to look out for one another.”