Tag Archives: Lighthouse Church

Ex-Pacoima tagger turned his life around with Jesus

Junior Cervantes in Guatemala

Junior Cervantes preaching the gospel in Guatemala recently.

Born into a family beset by drugs and gangs in Pacoima, California, his future prospects seemed dim. Junior Cervantes displayed athletic promise on the soccer field, but depression dragged him down. His uncles were shot in front of the house. There were family arrests, fighting, and chaos.

Junior decided to run away from home and drop out of his beloved soccer. He opted for hanging out with friends, robbing houses, smoking marijuana and tagging.

“I was a stealer. I was a liar. I was angry. I was depressed. I was lonely. I was an outcast,” Junior recalls.

His uncle, Edgar Cervantes, kept insisting that Junior move in with him in Santa Monica – about 25 miles away — and straighten up his life. In and out of jail for most of his life, Edgar had two “strikes” under California penal law and was scared of getting the third, so he turned to Jesus to clean up his life. He worked a restaurant job in Santa Monica and preached on the Third Street Promenade every week.

It was through Edgar’s influence that Junior prayed to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. But because of Junior’s background and some of the influences swirling around him, he faced a rocky road to maturity in Christ. Read the rest of the story.

Generation outbreak

Arty Cedillo, Johnny Herta, Steven Fernandez and Junior Cervantes

The L.A. guys, around 25 years old: Arty Cedillo, Johnny Herta, Steven Fernandez and Junior Cervantes

Four young men realized revival in my (old) church in Guatemala.  People were healed. People got excited about Jesus. People were restored. Revival services brought what they don’t always bring: revival.

As I sat listening, I realized God was with these guys. God delighted in them. The report they gave impacted my congregation in Santa Monica, the Lighthouse Church. But to me, it transcended. This was a watershed. The new generation of young disciples was breaking out. No longer would they wait for the older generation to lead. They would bring God themselves.

May the younger generation arise and take the reigns of His church!

Whoa! Me, a winner?!!?

fun Santa Monica

Lighthouse Christian Academy made even teams: one good player, one bad (me) and one girl on each team.

When Pastor Zach asked me to be on his team, I refused. “You don’t want to lose,” I warned him. Apparently, Zach wanted me because I was a friend. I help him do the cleaning around the church. So we called our basketball team “Lighthouse Cleaning Crew” in the Lighthouse Christian Academy spirit week tournament 3-on-3. And we won!

Some lessons emerge:

1. Believe in yourself — and in a friend. I thought we were going to be knocked out in the first round, and we weren’t. By the championship, I was nervous. Probably sensing the pressure mounting on me, he told me, “Here’s our strategy: Relax and have fun.”

Lighthouse Christian Academy basketball 2014

Not all of the kids enjoyed the game.

2. Play your strengths. More of a nerd than an athlete, I didn’t think I had much to offer. I’m not in shape. But I’m tall. If I defended in the key, I could jump and grab rebounds. If I came out of the key, I got tired and didn’t jump well.

3. Analyze and adapt. We shut down our competition by blunting his strength. Michael Moore was fast and produced some eye-blurring fakes. No other team had been able to frustrate his left lay-ups. But I realized that Michael, a leftie, only drove to the left. On the right, his effectiveness was much lower. In the game, we limited Michael to outside shots, some of which he made, but fewer than he would have, had he penetrated the key.

church adaptability

I missed easy shouts by a lot. But by shooting occasionally, I obliged opponents to guard me. This freed up Zach to make shots.

Too often the church misses the opportunity to play its strengths. One of the worst things that can happen to any church is to bad-mouth deficiencies. At the same time, we fail to see, promote and exploit the positives. LCA is a school of 50, so I know what I’m talking about.

Too often the church follows an antiquated model. We place ads in the yellow pages in the age of the internet. What worked for the man of God in the past may not work today. If Zach and I had played the same in the last game as the first, we would have lost. But we analyzed and adapted and beat “the stronger team.”

And this is how the nerd, who never really got picked for sports teams before, wound up a winner.

Healed from cancer in Santa Monica

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Lori Ayala was first horrified.

Then she gathered her courage and faced it with faith. She did surgery and treatments — and she prayed and strengthened herself in her faith in the church. She didn’t waver, even when it recurred a year later.

healed of cancer

Lori Ayala, healed of cancer, with some of the kids she cares for.

“I wasn’t afraid because I knew God had healed me,” said the 51-year-old director of the Lighthouse Christian Preschool in Santa Monica. “I don’t know why God wanted me to go through this. It wasn’t an immediate victory.”

I remember coming back from Guatemala for a break from missionary work one year and talking with Lori. She was laughing about how wonderful it was to have cancer because everybody in the church cooked meals for her. Her attitude made a profound impression on me.

Today, Lori is a source of joy at the Lighthouse Christian Preschool. And she is a great testimony of how to not cow in fear before the C-word.

Lighthouse Christian Preschool

With her husband, who has stayed by her side through thick and thin.

For the hundreds of people like her facing daunting disease and pain, the Lighthouse Church is staging a healing crusade at the John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday. It’s free. In past healing crusades, notable miracles have been performed. Why not give it a try?

Small victories

Rob Ashcraft poses with Elijah Symonds, who provided the assist.

Rob Ashcraft poses after the game with Elijah Symonds, who provided the assist.

Saints soccer continues to rock and roll.

The Lighthouse Christian Academy entered the Christmas break with its third victory – a scrappy 1-0 win against Wildwood. A handy piece of footwork by Junior Luis Secaira confounded defenders and stunned the goalie, who watched woefully as the ball slotted on the near post.

After the vacation, the Saints have simply been outgunned by vastly superior teams. They lost to league leaders Lennox 0-8 and to New Roads 0-7. To the uninitiated, the defeats appear to spell out an uncommon nosedive.

In reality, the team keeps improving. It’s just hard to take on varsity teams with mostly senior and club players when you have half a team of girls and players from all grades. How are freshman girls going to beat senior boys?

On Monday, the Saints put a thump on the slump. Facing the impeccable Vistamar, the Saints scored in the last minute. Midfielder Elijah “Taz” Symonds chipped from the corner to Freshman Rob Ashcraft, who didn’t err with an unusual karate kick in front of goal.

It was the first time in the history of LCA soccer that the Saints scored against Vistamar, whose players are groomed for soccer from the cradle. With that goal, Lighthouse sent a message that it will not succumb to defeatism. It is no longer the whipping boy of the league.

Though much progress needs to be made, LCA can revel in solid – though incremental — improvement and press on to a glorious future.

“We won!” quipped Junior Tori Scribner, comprehending the significance of the goal, in spite of losing 1-8.

Remaining for the Saints are only four games, and Coach Mike Ashcraft thinks we stand a good chance to win against Rolling Hills in Palos Verdes on Wednesday.

Whatever your stage in life, celebrate the small victories. They lead to big ones!

Hey, Coach!

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost every single soccer game last year. This year, it took us one minute to score our first goal, and we finished tied 2-2 against a team that won 8 last year. I’m ecstatic because I’m the coach now.

The kids can’t contain their happiness after the game

I have coached before, first on middle school team, then park league. Then I stepped back from coaching for six months. My kids were on other teams, and I observed the other coaches, who are better than I. One is a Scot with the highest level accreditation for coaching. I’ve eavesdropped and spied.

No use thinking I know it all. I can always pick up something new from others, even if it’s what NOT to do (like cuss).

I see that life coaching is in

We prayed with the other team before the game

vogue. I’ve always enjoyed having a FREE life coach: he’s called “my pastor.” As a generation has distanced itself from the church, people look down their noses upon the pastor and his unwanted advice. As a result, divorce has skyrocketed; kids are cutting themselves in unheard-of numbers as the home disintegrates.

Because we are a small Christian school, we have great players and total beginners.

I’m not saying I’m better than anyone; I just enjoy the benefits of being among the dwindling number of Americans who still go to church. A coach — a pastor — is there to bring out the best in you.