Mary Jo Hotzler, Published January 22 2012
Faith, family lead this month’s Beautiful Woman to Project Night Light
MOORHEAD – Pebbles Thompson prays in the shower. It’s the one time each day when there’s enough silence to simply listen to what God is saying.
It was during one of those prayers nearly four years ago that this Moorhead woman’s life changed forever.
For about a year before that, Thompson had been tossing around an idea in her head to do something with pajamas. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with the pajamas; she just knew they would be involved.
“God said, ‘You’re missing the point. It’s what they (the pajamas) represent’,” Thompson recalls.
Every day thereafter, Thompson would pray more, and every day she got a new piece to the puzzle. It took about a week, and she had figured it out.
Project Night Light, an organization that provides “bags of hope” to abused and neglected children, was immediately formed. One of the comfort items inside each bag is a new pair of pajamas.
The bags are distributed to local advocacy centers to give to children when they are being examined for physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.
Fargo has one of three children’s advocacy centers in North Dakota, so a lot of children from around the state and parts of Minnesota are brought here for help, according to the Project Night Light website.
In the beginning, Thompson used money from her own family’s checkbook to buy items for each Project Night Light bag. That was before she and her husband, Darin, realized just how great the need was.
In 2008, the year Project Night Light was created, more than 4,000 children were seen around the state of North Dakota for abuse or neglect, according to Department of Health statistics.
The Thompsons only regret was that they couldn’t help every child.
Pulled by faith
Pebbles Thompson (Pebbles is her real name) grew up in Jamestown, N.D.
Her father died when she was just 6 months old, and a couple of years later her mother remarried. But Pebbles, now 33, and her step-father had a difficult relationship growing up. He had been through his own abuse issues as a child, which Thompson says caused him to have a difficult time accepting and loving another person’s child.
Over time, Thompson’s self-esteem plummeted.
At 15 years old, she contemplated suicide.
Though faith had always played an important part in Thompson’s life, she admits she walked away from it for awhile.
Thankfully, Thompson says she had a lot of people praying for her and a lot of people who believed in her. In particular, there was Darin.
The two met when Pebbles was 15 and began dating about a year later. She credits Darin for sticking by her side through all of the ups and downs life threw her way, especially in those early years.
Pebbles also credits Darin with helping her find her way back to church. Having that faith focus in her life again allowed her to start dreaming bigger, even though it wasn’t always easy. Pebbles often found herself thinking back to her youth and to the foundation she had built with God while growing up.
This was in 2003, and at the time she and Darin had one child. Pebbles was working in retail management and was spending 60 to 70 hours a week at her job. She was unfulfilled and wanted more than anything to help people.
The best way to do that, she figured, was to get some credentials behind her name.
With that, Thompson left her job and decided to pursue the ministry.
Now an Assemblies of God minister, Thompson works to spread the word about Project Night Light. In fact, her family – which includes four children ages 11, 6, 4 and 2 – often spend weekends in different churches and in different communities, talking about the cause and about Project Night Light’s mission to help children. And when they aren’t doing that, they are on the road delivering bags.
For the Thompsons, it’s a family affair. Though Pebbles says she sometimes feels bad that her kids have to be on the road so often, she knows it’s worth it to teach them the beauty of compassion.
“It takes a partnership and really the whole family to get behind this and make it the most it can be,” he said.
Pebbles’ mom, Fran Geisler of Jamestown, said her heart fills with pride when thinking about what a beautiful woman her daughter has become.
“Not only does she have outer beauty, but her inner beauty goes deep with her faith in God and love for her husband and four children,” Geisler wrote in her nomination of Pebbles for the “Beautiful Woman” project. “She has compassion as deep as the ocean for hurting kids.”
‘Glad we can be there’
In Project Night Light’s first year of operation, the Thompsons were able to distribute 363 bags.
It was a big accomplishment, but Thompson wasn’t satisfied.
“I was so distraught,” she recalls. “There were so many more kids we were not reaching.”
Each year since, as people have learned about Project Night Light and as people have begun donating, the organization has grown.
This last year Project Night Light distributed around 1,200 bags in North Dakota and Minnesota. Thompson hopes to keep growing that number.
“We hate that we are needed, but we’re glad we can be there,” she said.
For Thompson, the whole project was a leap of faith. By no means should it have all come together the way it did and as quickly as it did. That’s why Thompson knows it was God’s hand helping to push it forward.
In fact, she has asked God, “How did I get so lucky?”
God’s answer: “Because you were willing.”
Pebbles will appear on the Christopher Gabriel Show, WDAY-AM (970 AM) at 12:35 p.m. today.