Tuesday, September 29, 2009

15 year old, Hoops of Hope's, Austin Gutwein

I'd like to share an interview with you today. One that is not like the normal writer's interview. This interview is about a very inspiring young man. I promise after you read this, you'll see beyond a shadow of a doubt that with God you CAN do anything.

I was able to talk to Austin on the phone for this interview. He was so polite and a real joy to talk to.


In 2004 I watched a video that showed the children who had lost their parents to AIDs. After watching the video, I realized these kids weren't any different than me, except they were suffering. I felt God calling me to do something to help them.
I decided to shoot free throws and on World AID's day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids that would be orphaned during my day at school.
People sponsored me and we were able to raise almost $3000. That year the money was used by World Vision, to provide hope to 8 orphaned children.
From that year forward, thousands of people have joined me in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $1 million. The children left behind by AIDS now have access to food, clothing, shelter, a new school, and finally 2 new medical clinics which we were told will save an entire generation.


~Where are you and what are you wearing right now and you have to tell the truth?

I'm bare foot sitting on my bed. I'm wearing shorts and a tee shirt. It's going to be 100 degrees here today.

~When you started Hoops of Hope did you ever think that it would be as big as it has become today?

No, never did. That just goes to show that God is driving this thing. He is the one that made this what it is today. Not in a million years did I ever think it would be this big.

~Was it difficult getting this off the ground and keeping it going?

This goes back to the answer before. It was never really hard. God has been taking it where He wants to take it. We just leave it up to God and let Him take it where He wants it to go.

~My son wanted me to ask, how many children do you think you have helped through Hoops of Hope?

When we were in Africa and actually at the clinic, I asked them how many people he thought it would help. I was thinking 1000 or maybe 5000 and he said, 'to be completely honest with you Austin, this clinic will save generations.' That was awesome. I don't know how much the other clinic and the school is going to help as well.

~How much time do you put into the Hoops of Hope now that the organization has grown and how do you balance school and other activities with that?

I definitely put a couple hours every day in after school. And sometimes on Thursday but always Friday and the weekend is all day. I speak at conferences. I love it.

~Do you get nervous? OH yes!

~I know in your book you said you're just a normal kid but really you are not of the norm. Most kids think about themselves first, then friends, family and others. Do you think other kids are just not listening to God's voice or just think they can't do it so are afraid to try?

To be totally honest I don't think it is either of those. I think they are listening to the Holy Spirit and it's not that they are afraid to try just they don't know how.

~Okay, I'm thinking you are 15 here. I have a 15 year old son and Chemistry can overwhelm him at times. Do you ever get overwhelmed with what you are trying to do and what do you do about it?

I have a tutor for Chemistry this year. So I struggle with stuff too. When I do I pray. I realize God has me doing this for a reason. The bible says He won't put us through more than we can stand. He knows our limits. When times get tough, God is right there with me.

~I read you raised money to help build a school in Africa. Can you tell us about what they gave you and why it is so special to you?

We built the school in 2007. I was given the Tonga name, Maiya. It was special to me because that is a sign that you are in the family, you're in the club. That was cool because that meant I was one of them. My name means, One who is quick to lend aid, and one who will tell our story.

~Can you tell us about the clinics that were built by Hoops of Hope?

We built 2 medical clinics. The second one was under construction when I was there in March so we didn't get to see it finished. It's cool just to hear it would save generations. These kids, as they grow up, are going to see their parents. Knowing the hope these kids are going to have is incredible.

~How far apart are the clinics and what do they do at them?

The clinics are about 2 hours apart. They have ARV's cd for the account machines. They can tell what each person's white blood cells are doing and diagnose them with AIDs. It's providing a life line. They go in to receive testing (in the past it took a long time to get AIDs tests results). Then they go for precounseling, receive ARV treatment, then more counseling. They walk out knowing they have AIDs but it's okay and they are still going to be loved and they are going to stay alive longer.

~How much has Hoops of Hope grown since you started it?

Wow! Hoops of Hope has grown to over 20 different countries and over 25,000 adult, teens, and children. It has raised 1 1/2 million dollars to help these kids. 100% of the proceeds goes to help these people.

~Yikes! Hope I don't put you between a rock and a hard spot here but who is your biggest fan/supporter?

Definitely my little sister.

~How old is she? Austin: She is 14 and she is 14 months younger than me.

~Okay a few fun questions now. If you could go any place in the world that you have never been where would that be and why?

Hmmm. I don't know. I 've always wanted to go to the Amazon River and see all the cool creatures. Either that or the Caribbean. That would be fun.

~If you could meet any person alive or dead who would that be and why? (excluding the Lord because we'd all pick Him.)

I would probably say Paul. Paul is such a great dude in his faith. It's so cool how he started the church. It'd be fun to meet him and share how the church has grown today.

~If the Lord told you that you were allowed to bring one material thing with you to heaven, what would that be? And why? (Material not being a person)

Definitely my dog, because I think she is the greatest dog.

~What kind of dog do you have? Okay before I go any further and give you his answer, I'd like to say, I agree he has THE coolest DOG!

Austin: A sheltie.

~For those of you who don't know, I raise and have shown shelties.

~And I'm going to exclude Hoops of Hope from this question. J I felt a little guilty excluding Hoops of Hope but after he gave me his answer I was glad I did. Joey (my 15 year old) are you reading this? Okay the question.

~If the Lord came down today and asked you what the last good deed you did for someone was, what would that be? (I like to ask this question because it is so neat to see the different ways we can bless other people's lives.)

Before the call I was cleaning my room.

~Did you hear that ladies? He was cleaning his room! Okay now this is a boy after every mother's heart! He was cleaning his room!!! Now that is cool.

~You've not only started Hoops of Hope, but you wrote a book. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did your story bring you to this point?

Well the fact is that I never dreamed I'd be a writer, never wanted to be one. I never thought I'd do a basketball marathon either. I'm not a good basketball player, and I'm a worse writer. God chooses the ordinary people. I'm just ordinary. He doesn't choose you because your popular. God just had it planned. He chooses the most ordinary people.

~Thank you Austin! This will probably be my most memorable interview.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It is my honor today to interview Colleen Coble. What a wonderful and humble lady! She is an inspiration!

Best selling author, Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA's Rita, The Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, National's Readers Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has over one million books in print and writes Romantic Mystrey's because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and a member of the Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana, and is a proud grandma. When she is not spoiling her granddaughter she is teaching at a conference or researching a new book. Visit her website at: www.colleencoble.com

I've visited your website and I have a hundred questions I'd love to ask but I'll try and keep the numbers down in the 2 digits.

1) Where are you right now (LV, DR, Bathroom) and what are you wearing? You have to tell the truth.

LOL! I'm in my recliner by the window. I'm barefoot and I have on jeans and a long sleeved shirt. No makeup.

2) Colleen do you have any new books coming out? How many books do you have published now? And what genres do you write in?

My newest just released: Lonestar Secrets. The next book out is a new genre for me. It's a historical romantic mystery set in northern California in 1907. It's actually about Bree's ancestor (Bree is the main character in the Rock Harbor books) and it was fun to see the parallels between that Gilded Era and our current one. I started out writing historical romance but my dream was to move into romantic suspense. God has opened some amazing doors for me!

3) Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? When you decided you wanted to be a writer. Did anyone inspire you to write? When you started, how long before you were published, what you found difficult?

I can still remember the first story I ever wrote. It was in first grade and was about twin colts. My teacher praised my writing, and the seed was planted. Someday I would be a writer.

The seed lay dormant through the early years of marriage and raising a family. "Someday" I was going to write. I devoured books by the armloads from the library, and it bothered me to read the hopelessness in them that assumed there was no God. Through those years, I told God if he'd give me a story, I'd love to write from the viewpoint that He exists and cares about His children. But nothing came.

August 25, 1990 changed everything. The phone rang late that night with the news that my younger brother had been killed by lightning in a freak farm accident. In the coming months, as I emerged from the storm of grief, I realized that if I was ever going to follow the dream I believed God had put in my heart, I needed to get started. I was approaching my fortieth birthday, and time was marching on.

As part of the grieving process, my husband and I made a trip out to Wyoming to see where Randy had lived during a two-year stint. As I stood on the parade ground at Fort Laramie, the first idea took root and sprouted. The fire of grief and adversity had finally cracked open the seed that had lain dormant in my heart all those years.

It still wasn't easy. Getting published is hard and takes work and commitment. Every time I was tempted to let the computer go dark, God whispered in my heart that I could do it. That He had given me everything I needed to go on. When a rejection came, I'd cry for a while. Then I'd pick myself back up, rework it and send it out again.

Seven years later I finally made the first sale. But God taught me about faith and perseverance through those seven years. In those days I knew no other writers. It was lonely and soul-crushing at times. I'm so thankful for the American Christian Fiction Writers and other authors whose friendships I treasure now after wandering so long in the wilderness. Looking back, I'm glad it wasn't easier. It makes me appreciate so much more the joy and privilege I have to share my novels with my readers and to hopefully make them a little thirsty for the One who holds out a cup of living water.

4) Are you or any close family members in the characters personalities?

Do you want to be responsible for my murder? ;-) But no, I try to come up with, uh, fresh personalities.

5) What does it feel like to see your books in stores all over the United States and to know you can google your name and pull up thousands of results?

Amazing! I'm constantly humbled by what God has done. And He HAS done it. It's been nothing from me except obeying what He told me to do with fear and trembling.

6) What kind of advice can you give other unpublished writers?

Never give up. Go to a writing conference every year, always be reading a book on craft, and make friends in the writing world. Joining ACFW (www.acfw.com) is a great way to find help and support too.

7) If the Lord told you that you were allowed to bring one material thing with you to heaven, what would that be? (Material being not a person.)

My MacBook! Oh my gosh, I so love that thing. I'm a new Mac convert, as of three years ago this month.

8) If you could meet any person alive or dead who would that be and why? (excluding the Lord because we would all choose Him! ;-) )

Peter. He's just like me: impulsive, too quick to speak, but one who loves the Lord anyway.

9) When and how did you come to know the Lord?

It's kind of a dramatic story. It was my birthday, January 19, 1979, and we'd just been at a birthday party my inlaws had for me and our son whose birthday was the day before. Freezing rain had come down while we were inside but we thought we could make it home okay. They lived in the country about ten miles out of town. When we turned onto the highway, the roads were still like glass. Dave was driving slow and being careful. I was holding my 3 year old daughter back in the days before carseats and we were both dozing. I heard Dave shout, "Look out!" I looked up to see a car heading at us and knew in that moment we were all about to die. And I wasn't ready. None of us were. I remember screaming, "Oh God," and it was a prayer in that moment because I knew He was the only one who could save us. The next thing I knew icy rain was pouring in the broken T-top, the horn was blaring in a nightmarish fashion and we were sideways in the road with more traffic coming. All of us were only half conscious and our five-year-old son was crying. Our baby girl was only half conscious and had blood trickling from the corner of her mouth. I could tell she was terribly hurt. I had part of the dashboard in my leg. Dave's mouth was bleeding from teeth that had been knocked out.

Dave stumbled outside to try to flag down traffic before we were hit again. One of the boys in the other car was already dead. The first car to stop was a family that went to a local church. One of the family members rode with our daughter (broken jaw) to the hospital while we waited for the 2nd ambulance. We all had various injuries that kept us in the hospital about 10 days. When we got home, the pastor of the church were the family went that had stopped to help us, Don Gutwein, arranged for food to be brought in. He led us to the Lord within six months. So everything that has happened in my Christian life started there. Would we be Christians without that accident? I don't think so. God in His kindness did what was necessary for our eternal future.

10) Is there any person who has been a strong influence in your Christian walk?

The Gutwein family mentored us from day one and we have been supported and taught by Steve and Paula Parks who pastored our church for nearly 18 years before going on to a church in St. Charles, MO.

11) If the Lord came down today and ask you what the last good deed you did for someone was, what would that be?

I'm a mom. Doing things for others is part of my makeup and I can't help it. I don't like to brag so we'll just let that one slide. But I think people who don't automatically reach out to others are missing a huge blessing.

12) I read a little about a life changing experience that happened to you years ago and how you met up with an amazing young man that is related to the people who left a lasting impression on your life. Could you share with us that experience and how you reconnected with the grandson?

I already told you about the life-changing way we came to know the Lord. Fast forward thirty years. We'd kind of lost touch with the Gutweins over the years. I follow Mike Hyatt on Twitter and he mentioned a young man named Austin Gutwein who started a Hoops for Hope ministry to raise money to help orphans in Africa. Nelson is bringing out a book about his story and Mike just heard him present at the sales conference. Hmm. Austein Gutwein, I think. Gutwein is a very uncommon name. I shot off a tweet to Mike and asked him to ask Austin if his grandpa would happen to be Don Gutwein. Amazingly it is! He's Danny's boy.

When we went to AZ in July, Dan arranged for us to surprise his parents at breakfast. The entire family has had such an impact on our lives and it was wonderful to get caught up. I know I would not be writing books today if it weren't for that family. And to SEE God's hand bring all this together just gives me chills!

His book, Take Your Best Shot, is in stores now and it's an amazing story about what just ONE person can do. Austin was just NINE when he decided he wanted to do something for the orphans in Africa. His parents encouraged him. It's so amazing to see what God has done in his life--and continues to do!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Prisoner of Versailles

Looking for a good book? I just finished reading Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parsons. What a great read. I couldn't put the book down. I seriously was reading it every chance I could. Regardless of whether or not you have read the first book in the Darkness to Light Series, In the Shadow of the Sun King, you will enjoy this second book. Golden does a fabulous job of bringing you to the court of Louis XIV and the city of Versailles. You feel as if you are experiencing the exciting court life full of courtiers, double talk, glamour and glitter. This 17th century story is fast paced and keeps you on the edge turning the pages.

Madeleine is finally safe and happy. With Pierre's daring rescue of Francois, she is reunited with her husband and out of France and in the safety of Switzerland. But not for long. King Louis XIV's long arm extends all the way to Geneva and she and her oldest son, Philippe, are kidnapped and brought back to the glitter of court life and the king.

King Louis suspects that Philippe is his son. Madeleine must play the game in court life and convince the King that he is not Philippe's father so that he will let them go. Anyone can look at the boy and know that Francois is his father. But Louis isn't interested in the truth about Madeleine's son. He has other ideas and longs to have the same relationship with Madeleine that they had as youths and he'll use everything he can to get that. Including her son.

With his new found faith, Pierre knows court life is no longer for him. The appeal is gone. He comes back to make amends with his father and say a few good-byes. Unfortunately, someone has gone to the king and told him that Pierre has betrayed him by reuniting the Clavell family. That went against the kings orders and he is labeled a traitor. Louis XIV has Pierre thrown in prison. Pierre, still in love with Madeleine, fears he will not be able to rescue her this time.

Madeleine finds out that Pierre is in prison. She loses her faith in God. She has lost her husband, Pierre is in prison, her little girl is sick, and she and her son are prisoners. It's obvious that God doesn't care, so Madeleine takes things into her own hands.

Read how God touches hearts, gives courage, changes lives, heals wounds, uses unlikely people, and meets them where they are.

Back Blurb

King Louis XIV's burgeioning palace is the place to be and be seen. And the last place on earth Madeleine wants to be. She's trapped there as a pampered prisoner. If she stays in France, she'll be forced to deny her faith. By escaping the King's long arm, she may find freedom. But it will cost her everything she holds dear. Madeleine will need courage, hope, and total faith in God to outmaneuver the SunKing and reach her true destiny and love in anouther country.

Friday, September 11, 2009

United We Stand, Never Shall We Forget

Is there anyone in America who doesn't remember where they were eight years ago today? I sure remember where I was. For 20 years my hubby had tried to get me on an airplane so we could see some of the United States and world, and for 20 years I told him no! If we couldn't drive there I wasn't going.

His job gave him the opportunity to fly out to Washington State for 2 weeks and I could fly with him for a little next to nothing. It would be an all expense paid vacation. My mother's sister and all her children, my cousins, live in the Seattle area. My father's sisters and their children live there too. I hadn't seen them in ages. How could I say no? It was a dream come true to see everyone, and on top of that my parents had just driven out there and so it'd be like a mini family reunion!

So I prayed for 2 months for a safe flight. Garnered my courage and boarded the plane on September 10, 2001. I went to bed that night thinking how easy it was and how glad I did it. And I woke to my mother's voice telling us to get up America was under attack. I still can't say those words without a lump in my throat and blurry eyes. Call me emotional but I love this country and the attack was and is personal for me. My father, uncles, cousins, husband, son all served in the military and I have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. They served and fought for our freedom and and I choke up when I think how many died for it and an enemy came in on our land and attacked us unprovoked.

I've included a link to a 9/11 slide show. I will warn you, it is very emotional.


The photos are courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net