Special Issue - Prayer

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.”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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