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Published: Sunday, 2/22/2009

Firm faith leads Frisch to pen book in face of grave illness

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

Jackie Frisch has big plans and big dreams to go with her big heart and big family.

The only thing that may be in short supply is time.

Millions of people got to meet the bubbly mother of 12 when Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built the Frisch family a dream home in West Toledo last fall.

What they didn't get to see on ABC was Mrs. Frisch's strong faith and her drive to make the most of every minute.

Her latest achievement is becoming an author, when A Walk Through Creation: A Closer Look at Genesis Chapter One was released by Tate Publishing.

The former church youth pastor already has finished a second book, on the writings of Moses, and is working on nine more - yes, nine! - hoping to take readers on a walk through the entire Bible.

At the same time, Mrs. Frisch gives talks to church youth and women's groups and is preparing to defend her dissertation, the last step to receiving a doctor of ministry degree from Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay.

She had to postpone the doctoral project last summer after suffering a stroke in February, 2008, that impaired the left side of her body.

Mrs. Frisch recovered from that stroke and several dozen smaller strokes, that have afflicted her, but suffered another major stroke in December, this one affecting her ability to communicate.

On a recent visit to her new spacious and cozy home, however, Mrs. Frisch's words and laughter came fast and freely, showing no noticeable effects of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the rare illness that weakens her body's soft tissue and veins.

"It's a life-threatening disease and the life expectancy is 41. I'm 42! Ha!" Mrs. Frisch said, raising her hand triumphantly.

She took a seat on the large leather couch in the great room, covering herself with a thin gray blanket, arms wrapped around her knees. "Yeah, we have to face the fact that mom is not going to be here a while," she said, her voice dropping off. "But that's OK. I'm a fighter. It hasn't got me yet."

Her friend and personal assistant, Cathy Clark, said Mrs. Frisch "used to juggle 600 things a minute; now she can only juggle about 400."

Mrs. Frisch said one thing that has always been a priority in her life is studying the Bible. She was inspired as a child by seeing by her parents, Connie Krum and the late Bill Krum, reading the Bible every day.

Her husband, Aaron, surprised her a few years ago by having her personal Bible - an Inductive Study Bible - rebound in leather because the cover was held together with duct tape. On every page, Scriptures are underlined in ink and every inch of white space is covered with handwritten notes.

Three years ago, when Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome left Mrs. Frisch flat on her back and too weak to hold a book, her children would wrap her up in blankets and read the Bible to her.

She credits that period - immobile and immersed in Scripture - as laying a foundation for her physical recovery as well as inspiring her to write A Walk Through Creation.

"When I finally got strong enough to be able to hold my Bible on my lap with my own strength, I began to study intently. And I would just spend all of my recovery time reading and writing from the Word.

"And it was the most incredible experience I think I've ever had with God. He just said, 'Honey, do you want to spend some time with me?'•"

Her husband, a Toledo firefighter, brought her dozens of books from the library on science and religion, and she delved into them with a passion to learn the truth.

"I said, 'OK, God, I want to know everything! I want to know everything you want me to learn!'•"

Mrs. Frisch applied the same discipline to that educational task as she did to get through high school in 2 1/2 years, and to graduate from Malone College, with a triple major in three years. She went on to receive a master of education degree in family counseling from the University of Toledo.

Her studies at Winebrenner have impressed John Nissley, the seminary's academic dean.

"Jackie has distinguished herself as a student who lives her theology," he said. "Her compassion for people has been demonstrated in her counseling ministry and commitment as a family to make a difference in the lives of children."

Mrs. Frisch said some people would be shocked to know she is now a stay-at-home mom.

"If you had known me as a teenager and a college student, you would have laughed. I was about as career-oriented as you can get," she said.

She worked as a therapist, then opened a counseling center at her church, Calvary Bible Chapel on Alexis Road, before becoming the church's full-time youth pastor.

"I had worked so long volunteering in the youth department and one day the pastor [the Rev. Andy Hill] just said, 'Would you consider giving this a shot full-time?'•"

She and her husband served as youth co-pastors at Calvary Bible Chapel for 10 years, until illness forced her to quit.

"I just could not get enough of the kids. Giving up a real job that pays real money to be a youth pastor was worth every bit. I wouldn't change that for anything," Mrs. Frisch said.

Mr. Hill said Mrs. Frisch has a knack for reaching young people.

"She has boundless energy and charisma and young people are drawn to her. She's a great communicator of the Gospel and a great teacher," he said.

He added that her upbeat attitude, despite the life-threatening illness, has been an inspiration to many.

"She has sort of a resilient spirit about her. She's never down, always up. Her faith has been strong and solid through this whole ordeal," Mr. Hill said.

Mrs. Frisch said the illness makes her grateful for every moment.

"I would much rather have suffered all the things in life to have the appreciation of what it means to take in every single breath - every single breath in my life is a gift - than to have gone through life smooth-sailing and never really knowing what it means to live."

After she finished writing A Walk Through Creation, Mrs. Frisch said she put it away and moved on to her next book. She never thought about having it published.

"I was just too terrified. There was no way," she said. "But my husband took the book and sent it out to publishers and the next day we got a really nice contract offer. So Aaron came to me and said, 'Guess what?'•"

Another burst of laughter.

"I couldn't be mad at him, but I don't think I would ever have had the courage. No way," she said.

Mr. Frisch, who admits to being his wife's biggest fan, said he thought her book was just too good not to share with the world.

"She's an incredible teacher and she has done many teaching engagements over the years in Bible studies and church classes and speaking engagements," he said. "We have this whole case filled with her teachings and I have told her over and over again that she needs to get it published."

He said he searched on the Internet for "Christian publishers," picked a few prospects at random, and submitted her manuscript as an e-mail attachment.

The owner of Tate Publishing, in Mustang, Okla., contacted him the next day.

Mrs. Frisch said the purpose of the book is to present the biblical account of Creation in a logical way and to give Christian believers the tools they need to defend their ideas, especially when debating evolution.

"You can't believe evolution unless you have an element of faith. I can't believe Creation unless I have an element of faith. So why must we consider one as intellectual thinking and one as emotional thinking? They're both faith," she said.

Mrs. Frisch, who gets up early to do the household chores so she can take time for Bible study and writing while the kids are in school, said students who tell their public school teachers that they believe in Creation "are looked upon differently, almost like it's a handicap to think that way, like you're less intelligent."

"I think that was probably one of the main purposes of the book," she said, "so people don't say, 'I believe in Creation just because - because I'm supposed to.' There are good reasons why we should and they're nothing to be ashamed of or to hang your head at."

Helping to teach young Christians and to give them confidence in their beliefs - and in themselves - are compelling motivations for Mrs. Frisch.

"I believe we were all created for a purpose and my purpose in life is to love kids and to teach them about God - and I don't care whose kid it is," she said, laughing.

"I was born and that's what I was created for. I know it with all of my heart. So I'm going to keep loving and teaching until I die."

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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