Searching father finds answers in prayer

by Marc and Julie Anderson

CORNING — Five years ago, David Steinlage of St. Patrick Parish here lived every parent’s worst nightmare. One of his four children died.

Just short of her fourth birthday, Steinlage’s daughter Ava died from complications from the flu. Although Steinlage’s family experienced tremendous grief, her death set him on a path to learn more about God.

“I started asking questions about heaven,” Steinlage said, “what it was like, and such. I wanted to expand my faith. I wanted to learn more.

“I wanted to know the answer to the question, ‘Where is my daughter?’”

Eventually, Steinlage determined — through conversations with his colleagues at John Deere where he works as an engineer, and friends around town — that the Bible had the answer to his questions. But the Bible overwhelmed him.

“It was like we often say at work with a big project — [it’s] an elephant,” he said. “And the question we always ask ourselves is, ‘How are we going to eat an elephant?’”

The answer might seem obvious. One eats an elephant in the same way as any other food — one bite at a time.

A colleague told Steinlage that if he wanted to study the Bible, he should start by studying the words of Christ in the Gospels. One way he decided to do that, said Steinlage, was by subscribing to a daily email from Regnum Christi. It gave him a Scripture passage each day to reflect on, as well as some prayer petitions and action points for the day.

As a telecommuter, Steinlage has some flexibility in his schedule. Most mornings, he reads the daily Gospel and accompanying mediation before starting work. After reading the meditations on his own for six to nine months, he decided to share them with his religious education classes.

He didn’t expect introducing high school students to Scripture study would be easy, but his elephant parties — complete with a cake baked in the shape of an elephant — was a good start.

As the students eat the cake, he discusses the Bible with them, sharing with them that it can be like an elephant — difficult and overwhelming at first.

He also explains to them that he has a way for them to eat the elephant — a bite at a time. Then, he signs up the kids for the daily meditations.

“After Ava went to heaven, I realized I hadn’t learned enough about my faith, and I needed to spend more time with my wife and family,” he said.

Ava’s death made him realize he not only wanted to do well at work, but wanted to be so much more.

“I want to be a great dad, a great husband and a great community leader,” he said. “If I start the day with that email, my day goes that much better.”

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