When Robert Polaco got saved, crime statistics went down for the City of Las Vegas, NM. So says his former pastor. People knew him and feared him, and soon the word spread around the city that the Door Church is where the former criminal was saved.
Robert Polaco’s mom lived mostly in a mental hospital with schizophrenia. His dad lived primarily in jail. Robert was raised as a ward of the State.
“I was placed in a foster home,” Robert says on the 2021 video produced by the Door Church. “According to the case work, I was being abused.”
Along with his harsh living conditions, Robert also felt like a pariah — as if something was broken within him.
“I grew up with that chip on my shoulder,” Robert continues. “It was as if there was no answer, I felt there was no hope.”
Later on, Robert would dedicate his life and career to martial arts. His role as an instructor became the new identity he would give himself to.
“I decided to open up my own dojo,” Robert says. “That’s where I met my wife- I gave her free lessons because I thought she was pretty.”
Robert and Jacque Polaco would eventually enter a marriage which was immediately plagued by serious relationship problems. Robert’s life quickly fell apart.
Change would eventually come on May 15th, 1981. The young couple was introduced by Door Church’s pastor Harold Warner to a set of popular Biblical prophecy films. Convicted, Robert and his wife surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.
“When I prayed that prayer on that night, I just felt free.” Robert recounts.
Similarly, Jacque felt as if a massive weight was on her for her entire life. Her prayer for salvation lifted the heavy burdens she carried.
“There was no desire to smoke dope or drink alcohol,” Robert states. “The desire was gone. When I entered the martial arts class on Monday, I shut it all down.”
Robert felt like a brand-new man, a newborn star. It was as if someone had pressed a reset button on him; now Robert found something to live for: Jesus.
“Robert and Jacque proved to be a key couple in the forming of that early church here,” Pastor Ray Rubi of Door Church reminisces.
However, the incredibly small building that represented the Door Church in Las Vegas would eventually be the recipient of God’s miracles in the form of a skilled new pastor, Richard Rubi.
“The city of Las Vegas had about 14,000 people, but everybody knew Robert,” Richard says. “He had a reputation there.” Read the rest: Jesus helps crime rates
Despite making millions in real estate, Kevin Robinson, 38, scrimps on groceries, eating oatmeal, tuna out of the can, and frozen grapes instead of ice cream. He makes a point of always buying in bulk.
“My family thinks I’m just as cheap as hell,” Kevin says on a MarketWatch video. “They say, you’re just cheap. Go buy some real ice cream. But little things start to add up for me, and (living frugally) has been very, very good for me in building up my net worth.”
Today, Kevin Robinson — who calls himself Kayr — administers a real estate empire, but he grew up in “deep poverty” in Philadelphia. He serves as an example of someone God provided for abundantly as he gave to God’s work.
“No one in my family was financially literate,” he says. “What happened to me is that I was motivated because when I was 13 or 14 years old, I noticed my mother struggled with money and our local church was always raising money.”
So, he went to the local bookstore and read everything on finance, money management and real estate. He didn’t buy the books. He didn’t have the money to do so. He didn’t even have money for the bus to get to the bookstore. He walked there every weekend and spent the day reading them in the store throughout middle school and high school while his friends played sports.
“I would say, ‘I’m going to master this material. No one’s going to know more than me,’” he remembers. “I sat down. I read the book for free. I put it back.”
Throughout his childhood, Mom had to move 10 times. Though instability was not ideal, Kevin found inspiration.
“It looked like the landlord had all this power. He gets to decide who lives and who stays in his property,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘What am I going to do? Am I going to become the homeless person or the teenage dad? Or am I going to become the landlord or the business owner?’
As soon as Justin Berry buckled up, the Uber driver turned to him and said: “Because you have obeyed God, He’s going to bless you.”
“I’m like WHAT?” Justin was flabbergasted. He had just broken up with his girlfriend — reluctantly — because they had fallen into sin. But he was broken-hearted, agitated and conflicted.
“What the heck is going on?” he marveled at the message from an Uber driver. “Whoa that’s crazy.”
The unexpected confrontation was part of a long process of God calling Justin back to salvation, into holy matrimony and unto a beautiful destiny in music ministry.
Justin Berry, now 20, grew up in Ladera Heights, in Los Angeles, going to to church with his mom and brother. Going to the Lighthouse Christian Academy cemented his childhood faith and also it’s where he met a certain girl named Trina.
He excelled in academics and sports during high school and was elated when he got accepted to his dream college: UCLA. It was a euphoria unlike any other. But as he tried to push the “accept” button on the electronic offer letter, Justin was being held back. God had told him to attend college elsewhere.
“Something was holding my hand back from pressing that button,” he remembers.” I started crying and bawling my eyes out. I wanted to go there. This was my ticket to my career. I was trying to press this button and God wouldn’t let me do it.”
Finally, his mom came in asked what was the matter. He explained and, being a loving mom, she persuaded him that it was the devil interfering. He finally pushed the button. What could go wrong? He had a beautiful girlfriend and an ideal institution of higher learning. God’s blessing was evident.
Only not everything was as it seemed. Secretly, he and Trina, allowing themselves to be alone, had fallen into temptation together, and both were feeling intense conviction.
“It was a rough year of heavy, hard conviction,” Justin tells. “I stopped praying and let my relationship with God die away. I replaced Trina as my idol, and she became my god. I would find my peace, my joy, my happiness through her. When I was with her, I didn’t feel any conviction. But when I was away from her, I felt this conviction.”
He still attended church and youth group. He would pray tears of guilt in the strangest of places: in the bathroom.
“The bathroom is where I prayed,” Justin admits. “I still loved God, but something else was stronger.”
One night, the pastor proclaimed prophetically: “There’s somebody here that God has been asking you to give up something for a long time, and you need to give it up right now.”
Justin felt startled, confronted, cornered.
After the service, he confessed to the pastor: the message was for him.
That night, he broke up with Trina. It was the hardest decision of his life up to that moment. His love for this girl was at war with his love for God.
Upset and confused, he got into his Uber. The driver turned on him. It was a wild confirmation.
In fact, the she said, she had been instructed to make a U-turn, a right-hand turn and then wait by the side of the road for her next rider. God told her to prophesy to whoever it was. Justin was next.
Still, Justin wondered, without saying anything, if it were only an improbable coincidence. Read the rest: JBThePreacher
When a man stood up suddenly during prayer service and waved a handgun at the congregation, Pastor Ezekiel Ndikumana sprang into action and tackled him from behind before he could fire off a round.
“He wanted to kill,” Pastor Ezekiel said through an interpreter on WKRN news. “That was the first thing that came to mind.”
Motives remain unclear as yet as to why Dezire Baganda, 26, suddenly jumped up in the Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal church and ordered the congregation to stand as he waved a handgun.
But quick-witted Pastor Ezekiel neutralized him before he could do anyone harm. The immigrant pastor acted as if he were exiting the back door behind the pulpit and behind the gunman and then rushed him and tackled him from his blindspot. Other congregants joined in to help disarm the threatening man at the Nov. 7th service, all recorded on church surveillance video.
In a study that riled LBGT advocates in 2012, Professor Mark Regnerus found that kids raised by a married man and woman fared better generally than those raised in homes where they had two male parents or two female parents. Has there been any change in outcomes during the intervening years?
Surveying 15,000 Americans between 18 and 39, the study measured 40 outcome categories and found, for example, that kids of homosexual parents were more likely to be on welfare support, have depression and succumb to drug abuse than their counterparts raised in intact biological homes, according to the 2012 study, reported by CBS.
Naturally, the gay political agenda fired off rounds at the study conducted by the University of Texas at Austin sociologist. The study, they said, proved that instability at home, not homosexuality, was a problem. They maintained it was biased by the sociologist’s Catholic faith. It contradicted other, better studies, they said.
His own university department chair disavowed his study and LBGT demographer Gary Gates formed a group of 200 social scientists to attack Social Science Research, the journal which published his study. Cancel culture was in full swing.
Defending himself, Regnerus says his study was the most thorough so far and challenged opponents to conduct their own studies based on statistically significant data and prove him wrong, not just yell. Why haven’t the studies which supported raising kids in same-sex parent households not subjected to the same scrutiny as his? He asked.
“Most conclusions about same-sex parenting have been drawn from small, convenience samples, not larger, random ones,” Regnerus said. “The results of that approach have often led family scholars to conclude that there are no differences between children raised in same-sex households and those raised in other types of families. But those earlier studies have inadvertently masked real diversity among gay and lesbian parenting experiences in America.”
Since 2012, Regnerus has continued to study questions of sexuality and the family. He has attacked the “pornographization of daily life,” which erodes Christian marriage and normalizes aberrant sexual practices.
According to his most recent book in 2020, The Future of Christian Marriage, fewer Christians are getting married. What God established as the foundation of society is meeting some measure of indifference from Christians, who seemed to be influenced by cultural trends.
Regnerus stands behind his original conclusions that kids tend to do better in traditional homes. Kids need a dad for what only a dad can provide, and they need a mom for what only a mom can provide.
In a Juvenile Hall Bible study, Kevin Knuckles asked snarkily if all the biblical authors were schizophrenics, and he was promptly kicked out.
“I was hate-filled violent man addicted to drugs,” Kevin admits on his YouTube channel. “I was really against Christ for a lot of my life.”
A derisive arrogance prevailed in Kevin’s heart starting from the moment he discerned his Irish parents’ oppressive Catholic hypocrisy all the way up to the time he told his wife to trash her Bible or say goodbye.
As a member of an international dark-themed rock band, Kevin lived the life of drugs and adultery for most of his adult life. He would lock himself in his room to shoot up heroin but then — looking for a cheap substitute — abused methadone, which is supposed to transition addicts from heroin.
He lived with his lover and neglected his wife and kids, who knew about the betrayal of trust.
“I pushed my family beyond the breaking point,” he says. “I was quite literally dying. I thought I was living my best life. But my condition was so broken.”
Trying to detox after two methadone overdoses, Kevin writhed in emotional turmoil and physical agony for days on end with no rest. He was vomiting and couldn’t sleep.
“I was in the pits of despair and couldn’t take it any further,” Kevin remembers. While he had mocked Christianity for most of his life, he now cried out to God. “I said God, please have mercy on me.”
Nothing happened that night, but the next night he cried out again, this time to Jesus. Then something remarkable transpired.
“I was in a fetal position shaking, sweating, unable to find any peace in my body or my mind,” he recalls. “As soon as I invoked his name (Jesus), I was given complete peace and rest. Even though I had spent most of my life blaspheming him and not believing in him and making fun of people who did, I was so broken and had nowhere else to turn that I just called out to him.”
For the first time in days, Kevin slept that night
“I immediately found peace, my body stopped trembling, my temperature and heart rate regulated,” he recalls.
He dreamed a profound dream that seemed so intensely real that it seemed more of a memory of a real event than a nebulous fabrication of the sandman.
“I couldn’t remember anything from the dream except two things,” he remarks. “One was the dream was about my wife, Kelly, whom I had committed much adultery against and put through much turmoil. And the other was the number 38.”
It was eerie.
Kevin fell asleep and had another dream that again gave him the overwhelming sensation that it was a real event. But again, he couldn’t remember anything about the circumstances — except for two random facts, like the first dream.
“All I could remember was that it was about my son, Patrick, and the number eight,” he says.Read the rest: Jesus dream saves addict.
Steam-roll, blast, defeat, thrash, shellac, rout, conquer, trounce, humble, squash, dominate, or dismantle – just a few of the ways sports competitors wish to deal with their opponents.
Coco Gauff prays for her opponents.
“Before every match since I was eight, my dad and I say a prayer together,” Coco told Christian Headlines. “We don’t really pray about victory, just that me and my opponent stay safe.”
Cori “Coco” Gauff has a notable sports pedigree. Her parents were NCAA Division 1 athletes who supported her journey to professional tennis, sacrificing careers and comfort (Mom left a good job and house in Atlanta to move in with grandparents and homeschool in Florida for better training opportunities).
The move paid off.
In the 2019 French Open, Coco entered as a virtual unknown, receiving a wildcard invitation. Coco kept beating highly ranked girls. Then she faced the legendary Venus Williams, ranked 40th in the world at that time.Read the rest: Coco Gauff Christian.
The Corsairs stumbled to a dreadful loss against Santa Barbara City College, whose larger team formed a massive intimidating Sea of Red jerseys.
Santa Monica College struggled to break through with passing and running on offense. On defense, they floundered with tackling and coverage.
Virtually, the only player to draw blood was Gunnison Bloodgood, who caught the ball on a slant and saw the midfield open to TD. He kicked it into fifth gear to open scoring for Santa Monica early in the first quarter.
“It was a great play call,” says Bloodgood. “Sam (Vaulton) delivered a great ball. Great blocking up front. It was a great pass.”
Since he divided the Red Sea of Vaqueros red jerseys, we’ll call him Moses.
Unfortunately, Moses only performed one miracle Saturday. Santa Monica did not add points to the scoreboard for the rest of the game, which ended 7-52.
A full 45 of those Vaqueros points came in the first half as Santa Barbara’s quarterback Alex Johnson exploited weak SMC coverage with pass after pass on the money. Why didn’t Santa Barbara double their score in the second half? It appears they just mercifully eased off the gas pedal.
But he grew up with mostly female friends and got bullied by the guys his age, so he grew to hate his masculinity.
“I just took out my insecurities with lust towards men,” Emmett says on a Tucson Door Church video. “I medicated myself and pacified myself and drowned myself in homosexuality because I hated myself as a man. I didn’t feel like a man.”
But in 2015, somebody talked to him about God and gave him a little booklet to read.
“I read it because I wanted to see if God hated me,” Emmett says. “But I found out He didn’t. It said, all sins are bad; they’re all worthy of death, including homosexuality. But that same sin was covered by grace.”
So he gave his life to Christ.
At that a time, a pastor prompted him indirectly with a question: Did God ever say you were gay?
But the defense came up big to give Santa Monica College the “W.”
“We probably shouldn’t have won that game,” admitted Coach Kelly Ledwidth.
Corsair QB Sam Vaulton threw three interceptions in the first half of Saturday’s game.
But defensive lineman Tannen Vagle stripped the ball from LA Valley College in the red zone — and Maximillian Palees scooped it up — late in the first half to keep the score 10-7 in SMC’s favor.
Then, after each side scored, Kayden Thomas intercepted a deep pass after LA Valley quarterback kept probing his side of the field, sensing defensive weakness.
“You can keep trying me, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to succeed. I’m a dog at heart,” Kayden remarked. “Perfect coverage. I read it right.”
Santa Monica, which is better than its 3-4 record, stonewalled the Monarch’s bullet-pass and QB-wriggle-run offense to finish ahead 31-28. Success on defense set up the offense to put up enough points with runs and receptions by Josiah Neos, Hassan Biggus, Tariq Brown, among others.
Even QB Vaulton ran for yards when he saw his teammates heavily covered and spied a hole to dart through and gain yards.
Late in the third quarter, Raejion Baker and Tannen made a critical fourth down tackle to halt the Monarch advance and give the ball to SMC on their own 21 yard line. The subsequent drive saw a spectacular diving catch by Gunnison Bloodgood.
On the 17th day of solitary confinement in jail, cop John Cichy broke down and made a confession — not to the crime of which he was accused but to his need for Jesus Christ.
“I realized I needed help because there was no way I was getting out of this, there was no way I was getting through this,” he says on a Psalm Forty video. “January 31st, 2013, right after midnight, I wholeheartedly called out to God. I saw everything that I was doing wrong that was displeasing to God that was harming me, and I realized I got myself into that mess. I said, ‘God, I don’t want to live that life no more.’ I wholeheartedly repented of that life.”
The former undercover detective who lived a high-flying life — with spinning rims, free drinks at bars and 19 girlfriends — was accused with two other Schaumburg Village, Ill, detectives of re-selling part of the drugs they confiscated from busts.
But while the two other cops accepted plea bargains for lesser sentences, Cichy took his fledgling faith seriously. He had heard God say to not break down in fear of getting a longer sentence and to go to trial.
He faced 18 counts which, if convicted, could result in a minimum of 24 years in prison, yet he refused every plea bargain they offered because God told him to.
“I was asking God what should I do,” he says. “I woke up the next morning and turned on the radio, the very first song was Mandisa, ‘Stay in the fight to the final round, you’re not going under.’”
He didn’t think much of it. But then he turned on the radio at mid-day, and the very first words were the same from Mandisa. Then at night when he went home and turned on the radio, again it was Mandisa.
The coincidence seemed too much.
“It was impossible, you cannot recreate that,” he remarks. “That was God speaking to me through that song, which translates to, ‘Go to trial. You’re not going to prison. I got you.’”
That’s why Cichy flouted his lawyer’s advice, his friends’ advice, his family’s advice, from his Christian brothers; everyone told him he didn’t stand a chance in the trial and that the federal case was too strong.
“It made no sense. Everything on paper, judges, lawyers, family, newspapers, Google, said I was going to prison 100%,” he remembers.
During one agonizing day, God told him to check his daily Bible verse in the app on his phone. It was Prov 29:25:
The fear of man lays a snare, but those who trust in the Lord are safe.
Steve Weatherford — whose punting pinned the Patriots back deep in their zone to help the Giants win Superbowl XLVI — says all his heroics were a vain attempt to get the approval of his father.
“I was trying to get the attention of my dad,” Weatherford says on a 7 Figure Squad video. “During a lot of those amazing achievements, I didn’t really enjoy them because the reason I was achieving them was I needed some affirmation from the most important person: dad.”
Today, Weatherford has found peace, approval and acceptance from Jesus, leaving behind the inner turmoil that led him to drugs and porn despite his outward appearance of success and manliness.
Born in Indiana, Steve Weatherford was raised in Baton Rouge. From an early age, he showed inclination for sports, playing football, soccer, basketball and track in high school. He didn’t enjoy the greatest relationship with his stoical, old school-style father.
The foray into sports began as a means to win his father’s approval. He worked out in the gym incessantly. As a result of his impressive physique, rumors circulated around town that he had bulked up thanks to “the juice.” One day, his dad even called him at school and told him to come over to the office.
“Oh crap, what did I do?” he wondered as he drove over to Dad’s. “Oh my God, I’m really in trouble.”
“There’s rumors around town that you’ve been taking steroids,” Dad said. “I’m not mad at you, but I want to get you help.”
“Initially I was really offended. I wanted to lash back,” Steve remembers. “But then I sat back into my chair and I thought to myself, ‘My dad thinks that I’ve done something with myself that is impossible to do without cheating.’”
“Dad, you might not believe me but I’ve done this 100% the right way,” he responded. “I’ll take a test right now.”
It was the closest thing to a compliment that he ever got from his dad.
Weatherford proceeded to the University of Illinois as a kicker and punter. He also played track and was named Sports Illustrated’s most underrated athlete in the Big Ten in 2004. He walked on to the New Orleans Saints and played for four teams before landing with the New York Giants.
Punters are usually wimps, by NFL standards. All they have to do is kick well. But Weatherford had the build of a lineman as a punter. He maintained a maniacal workout and diet regimen that got him featured in bodybuilding magazines.
On the outside, he was achieving his wildest dreams. But on the inside, he was losing battles. He watched porn and started taking percocet.
“I worked so hard to get into the NFL. I worked so hard to become the fittest man in the NFL twice. I worked so hard to (win the) Walter Peyton man of the year community service award. I worked so hard to become a Superbowl champion,” Weatherford says. “Looking back on my life, those were all predicated on getting my dad’s attention.”
Superbowl XLVI was a dream. The Giants were playing against Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Weatherford punted four times with such distance and precision that the Patriots found themselves in their own 10 and five yards — a marathon distance to touchdown. When the Giants came out on top, some observers called Weatherford the MVP.
A punter MVP?
Weatherford basked in the glory of his achievements. He looked over to Dad. He wanted so desperately for his father to clap him on the back, give him a bear hug and lavish patriarchal praise. Read the rest: Steve Weatherford Christian
A gaggle of girls besieged him for his autograph at Great America because they thought he was Lil Bow Wow. Miles Minnick was 14, and that’s how he realized hip hop was his calling.
“If this is the kind of attention rappers get, let me go ahead and start rapping,” he says on a Testimony Stories video. “It was crazy.”
He immediately started free-styling inside the theme park. He rapped at school and won talent contests. He got chances to rap in the booth. Chockful of talent, he got noticed by big name San Francisco Bay area rappers and got invited to collaborate.
Miles’ trajectory moved assuredly toward success. But then he got saved and decided to dedicate his talent to God, and now he is one of the hottest new stars in Christian Hip Hop (CHH).
Miles Minnick grew up in Pittsburg, CA, with a polar opposite older brother, who “killed it” in athletics while Miles killed it in video games. In middle school he sported dyed-tip dreads and gold teeth.
His father prayed nightly with his sons but drove them to school in the morning with gangsta rap blaring: “F— the police!”
“When I was 8 or 9, we would go to church maybe once a month,” he remembers.
When Miles turned 12, his brother went to a church camp and came home on fire for God.
“My brother would chip away at me and chip away at me all the time. He would say, ‘Don’t do this? Why you do this?’ He would try to coach me in the correct way,” Miles recounts. “But I was still in the streets.”
He got a girl pregnant when he was 15, and he and his girlfriend brought the baby to class. The teacher often held the infant while teaching at the board.
“We were the school sweethearts. Everybody wanted to support us. Even though I was a knucklehead,” he admits. “I was trying to be a good dad, and I was a kid myself. The streets wouldn’t let me go.”
At age 16, Miles had his encounter with Christ. Ironically, it came when he was selling and smoking weed.
“I was a pothead,” he admits.
As he was getting high one day, a friend blurted out: “Hey bro, we should go to church!”
“Go to church? Right now?” he asked his buddy, who was also smoking marijuana. “We are high like nobody’s business. What are you talking about?”
The friend responded that there were pretty girls at the youth group. “I didn’t want to go, but they drug (sic) in there,” he says.
But youth group was closed, so they went into the main service at New Birth Church, Pittsburg.
“I was the one who didn’t want to go, but I wound up sitting on the edge of my seat, reading the songs off the projector, singing the songs,” he remembers. “It captivated me. I was feeling something I never felt before. I was fresh off the street, fresh off a smoking session. At the end of the service, the pastor pulled an altar call. I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew I wanted it. I went up to the front, and the pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me, and I fell out under the Spirit of God.
“I was on the ground weeping, crying my eyes out,” he adds. Read the rest: Miles Minnick
On Saturday, the mechanical engineering major was called upon to build a second-half comeback for Santa Monica College. On a long pass in the fourth quarter, he cut inside of his coverage, clutched the ball and sped for an 80-yard touchdown to tie the score 41-41. SMC had overcome a third quarter deficit of 24-41 to Moorpark College.
“We got out of our style of play in the second quarter, but our guys were so resilient they played tough and came out in that second half and played hard,” said Coach Kelly Ledwidth. “Shoot, I’m proud of our guys. We haven’t ever battled back from something like that to make it a competitive game.”
But a heart-breaking missed pass interference call on the last play of the game on the Corsairs’ drive left the score at a disappointing 41-44. A 19-yard Raiders field goal sealed the victory at Moorpark College.
Santa Monica started brightly, scoring from the first kickoff. But a bad hike — and bad hikes were the order of the day — led to a safety on a punt. The score was 7-2.
But the Corsair defense conceded too much ground in much of the first quarter. Meanwhile the offense sputtered with a pick, a shanked punt and some other issues.
It was fairly even until Santa Monica again did what it has done in every game so far this season: It conceded a TD in the last two minutes of the half. The score was 17-26.
In the second half, Moorpark scored in TD in three plays.
Frida Macias is emblematic. She likes art and architecture. At least once a day, she laughs until she cries. She’s happy-go-lucky.
But Frida and her teammates, facing the toughest team in the league, didn’t have happy feet. On Thursday in Camarillo, Beacon Hill Academy delivered hits that feel like lightning bolts from Zeus, and a lot of their serves landed like attacks.
Lighthouse Christian Academy, if it was going to put a fight, had to move quickly on the court.
They didn’t. LCA lost in three straight sets: 10-25, 14-25, 11-25.
“We shouldn’t let so many balls drop,” Coach Jessica Young said. “When they decide to work hard and sacrifice their bodies, then we’ll be better.”
So happy feet that move fast.
“I feel like I could have done better by moving my feet,” Frida said. “But overall I think I did really good for this good team. At sometimes I was a little frustrated with myself because I wasn’t really moving my feet.”
LCA also needed to dive to return lightning bolts.
For WACKY Wednesday, Clara Czer wore impossible hair to school. For WHACKING Tuesday, the sophomore was whacking balls down upon her adversaries.
Lighthouse Christian Academy made full use of her hits (13) and kills (5) to beat San Fernando Valley Academy 3 sets to 1 in an intense girls volleyball competition Tuesday in Northridge.
“Clara was pretty consistent the whole game. She was almost flawless,” Coach Jessica Young said. “She has come a long way from junior high. She is able to control her emotions. She’s probably our best hitter right now. She has pushed herself harder and harder, and she can spike it almost straight down.”
In the last, hard-fought set that drew out to 30-28, Coach Jessica instructed the team to “play smart” in the last back-and-forth trading “just one point to win” moments. Just get the ball over and don’t try to be too aggressive.
Clara still did — successfully — back row spikes.
“I thought inside, ‘Oh she didn’t listen to me,” Coach said. “For her ‘playing smart’ is that aggressive. But she got it in.”
Nobody complains if you don’t mess up.
Lighthouse is now 8-1 and almost virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. Its last season game is Thursday against league-leaders Beacon Hill Classical.
“We had a lot of great team energy. I’m just really proud of us,” Clara said. “I think all of us are really improving. I’m so proud.”
Lighthouse struggled in the first set to adapt. SFVA hosted the game in its Northridge gym, a court covered with carpet. This took LCA off guard because the Saints usually dive for balls.
“At least two of our girls have rug burns,” Coach Jessica said. “They’re bleeding.”
The SFVA gym also had an unusually low roof, and the Saints lost more than one volley just because they hit with their accustomed strength. When the ball hits the roof or a fixture before going over, it’s the other team’s point. They lost the first set 20-25.
While she was praying at church, Chris Singleton’s mom was shot eight times by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015.
Then only 18, Chris Singleton had to assume the role of parent for his younger siblings.
“It was being thrown into the fire for me,” Chris says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “Something like that, I call it the unthinkable because you never think in a million years that something like that will happen to you. It was tough then, it’s tough now. It made me grow up a lot quicker than a lot of people. I had to take care of two teenagers when I wasn’t even 21 yet.”
Incredibly, Chris chose to forgive the racist mass murderer who snuffed out nine lives at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When Sharonda Coleman-Singleton died, Chris wasn’t exactly strong in his Christian faith.
“I think anybody that loses a loved one, there’s two ways you could go with your faith,” Chris says. “You could say number one, there’s no way God is real. Or you could say, two, God, I don’t know how this happened or why this happened, but I need you to get me through it.”
Chris, who became a minor league baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, drew on his athletics training to develop resilience.
“I didn’t have my mom anymore and I didn’t have my dad, so Jesus became the rock that I would lean on,” he says. “That was comforting for me, it was therapeutic for me.”
Of course, Christian Surfers International calls Jesus the “Original Water Walker.”
Originally, they were just a support group of like-minded surfers who felt a little marginalized by the church, but as they grew, they realized they had a greater responsibility to win the entire surfing world to Christ.
They want to be even more salty while paddling ocean waves and reflect the light of Jesus on sun-drenched beaches.
Today, Christian Surfers International has affiliates in 35 countries with about 175 local missions, each of those acting like a tiny church plant to the surf community, says Casey Cruciano, operations manager of CSI.
They also do community development projects around the world through their organization Groundswell Aid. Some of the best surf breaks also have some of the poorest communities in the world. Hardcore surfers have always traveled to out-of-reach spots for the perfect wave. But CSI surfers don’t just ride the wave; they help alleviate poverty, restore the environment and provide disaster relief.
“We believe in the power of the global surfing community to make powerful, long-term changes to beach communities around the world,” a narrator on a Groundswell video explains. “Using surfing as a platform to connect, Groundswell exists to meet the needs of under-resourced communities and offer tangible hope.”
They even teach Third World youngsters to surf or learn water polo, offering scholarships to those who do well in school and encourage school dropouts to return.
On the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, they help build housing and school facilities for the locals. Read the rest: Christian surfers Intl.
Johnny Huerta now paints with his left hand. Parkinson’s attacked his right.
“Parkinson’s affects different people in different ways,” says Johnny, an artist from Santa Monica. “Mine is rigidity more than anything.”
A graduate from Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art in Van Nuys, Johnny, 32, did a mural in Casa Blanca restaurant in Venice, but mostly he sells paintings online.
He’s a local who played baseball for Santa Monica High School’s winning 2007 team. He sometimes works as a waiter at his family-owned restaurant Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican restaurant.
He’s right-handed. He noticed soreness three years ago but shrugged it off thinking it was just due to his heavy art workload while working on his bachelor’s degree in art.
Eventually, he realized it was more than simple soreness. “It was not like pain, it was a malfunction. It was scarier than a pain,” he says. “It wasn’t working the way it was supposed to.”
Parkinson’s is rare in younger people. But the brain scan showed dopamine deficiency, an early sign of Parkinson’s. Was his art career doomed?
Johnny didn’t waste time getting down about misfortune. He immediately started working on painting with his left hand. He’s semi-ambidextrous. He paints with his left now, sometimes guiding it with his right.
“You hear how you lose one sense and you gain another. It’s kind of like that. I’ve always done some things left-handed,” he says. “I batted left-handed and threw right-handed. I don’t know why. It was just natural.”
Johnny recently posted a time-lapsed video on Instagram @j_huerta310 of him painting a metaphor for his Parkinson’s. The painting served as a backdrop illustration for a speech he made in August to 500 youth at a church conference in Bakersfield. He told kids to not be held down by different difficulties and trials.
“We all go through fiery trials and tribulations, but they don’t have to define who we are,” Johnny says. “When something negative happens to us, we’re not rejected, we’re not a failure. I liked sports. In sports, there’s always a challenge, always something you have to persevere through. You have to adapt. It tests your faith and builds character.”
Johnny says the impairment won’t lessen the quality of his work.
“Maybe it’ll be less refined,” he says. “But there are beautiful pieces of art that are a lot more loose and there’s beautiful pieces of art that are a lot more refined. But yes, I probably have had to loosen my approach and brushwork, but that doesn’t mean the quality has go down.”
Johnny was so painfully shy in his childhood that teachers wondered if he was abused at home.
“I was always a quiet kid to the point in the elementary school teachers thought something was wrong with me. I was deathly afraid to say something stupid.” Read the rest: Parkinson’s artist
Suddenly, the volleyball court disappeared and the scene of a hot and dusty Wild West town emerged.
As a tumbleweed rolled lazily along in the scorching breeze and innocent bystanders scampered for cover, Allie Scribner, hands readied for her quickest draw, squinted sternly at her rival, Westmark’s Katherine Abraham.
When the ref blew the whistle, the gunslinger Allie fired, a blistering serve… straight at the person best able to return it, Katherine.
“I wanted to ace their best player,” Allie explained afterward. “I wanted to make them feel pain.”
It might seem that to liquidate the game efficiently, it was in Lighthouse Christian Academy’s interest to target easy victims with the deadly gunfire.
But when the spirit of posse justice possesses her, Allie turns into a merciless marksman.
“Number 1 had really good serves and overall played really well with the girls,” admitted Katherine, who herself was a powerful player and struck fear into the Santa Monica private school’s heart. Read the rest: Christian private school near Venice, CA – volleyball
Two years ago, Heidy Hutchinson misbehaved in school and, looking for a fresh start, transferred to Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.
On Wednesday, Heidy led the 2nd-string team to a 1st-rate victory against beginner’s team Summit View School to notch-up LCA’s record to 6-1.
“Me and my brother went to public school, we got in trouble, we had to come here,” Heidy says. “We kind of became better people and grew in school. I learned more about God. I got closer to God, and that’s it.”
The sidelines erupted in wild cheers for Heidy as serve after serve — underhanded serves — went over the net and — excuse the pun — netted points for LCA.
They weren’t cheering for Lighthouse, which was unyieldingly driving Summit into the depths. They were cheering strictly for Heidy. She’s come a long way. (Link to an article on Heidy from 2019.)
“I’m not really a sports person. I’m not very athletic,” Heidy says. “I didn’t really want to play volleyball, but Sarah (Montez) and Lakin (Wilson) pushed me to play. They begged me to. I’m really thankful they did because I wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t.”
Lighthouse is NOT a reform school. But they say God can re-form anyone who has taken missteps down the wrong path.
When Heidy scored the last point, players on the bench mobbed her, high-fiving and hugging.
“She got the last winning serve!” Sarah said. “She’s the team captain.”
“My hardest hardship was my grieving. My loss,” Dahlia Gonzalez says. “It makes me want to play better… for my mom.”
Mom inspired Dahlia, and the whole Lighthouse Christian Academy team, to victory Tuesday in three sets against Ojai Valley School.
“Dahlia did pretty well this game. She did have an injured finger, but it didn’t seem to hold her back this game,” says Coach Jessica Young. “They were all good. She’s a natural athlete. Some of her passes looked like collegiate level to me. They were beautiful like in a magazine. She made some last-minute saves on the sideline. She can hit ambidextrously.”
Ray Dalio may be the master of the market, but la reina Dahlia is the queen of the court.
She has overcome a lot. The loss of her mother was on top of all the difficulties of Covid and not being around friends and not practicing sports (her preferred is softball).
The Saints dispensed the Spuds (Yes, they call themselves the Spuds. No, potatoes are not a big crop from Ojai) empty-handed.
Playing on grass in the private school’s bucolic Ojai property, LCA team members had to adjust. Hits were affected by breezes. Jumps were harder without the hardwood base. Diving would not displace the fall with a slide of smooth wood surface. Read the rest: Santa Monica Christian school sports volleyball
Because of an absentee dad, young Jason Wilson sought male approval by being a THUG, which he now says stands for Traumatized Human Unable to Grieve.
“I got involved in seeking these quests for affirmation, and they led me into some dangerous situations,” Jason says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “The majority of boys who are in gangs are fatherless.”
Two of his brothers were murdered. Jason Wilson showed off his stepfather’s gun on the streets, but he didn’t really fit the role of gangbanger and eventually returned to the Christianity of his mom. After traversing half a century of trial and failure at “hyper masculinity,” Jason Wilson has learned some things about manhood. In his seminars and books, he tells men to cry.
“In my community, it was the hyper masculine black man,” he says on an Ed Mylett video. “If you weren’t hyper masculine, you didn’t get the girls, you didn’t get the money, you weren’t cool, you were ostracized.”
“So many of the young boys I mentor and even the men — they’re called OG’s, or original gangsters — they’re hurting. It’s amazing when I get with them and talk, they just start crying because of the years of the trauma that they’ve seen.”
Jason went viral in 2016 when in his karate gym, he encouraged a young boy taking his test to go ahead and cry when he was unable to punch through a board with his left fist. Men need to cry because tears contain stress hormones, thus releasing them from your body.
Breaking boards in karate becomes a metaphor of breaking through struggles for a man, whether it be to shed the pounds of obesity or invite out for a date the woman of your dreams, he says.
The video has been seen more than 100 million times. Subconsciously, it encapsulates a message about manhood beyond just “manning up,” being strong and “boys don’t cry.”
“The phones of our non-profit were just ringing. We were like, ‘What is going on?’ Viral videos were kind of new,” he says. “Men were crying to our women staff, saying, ‘I’m tired of not being able to be tired. I want to be a human.’”
As a youngster from a broken home in Detroit, Jason Wilson used to sneak out from church when his mother wasn’t watching and escape to the arcade. He became a famous hip hop deejay. The world of hip hop, in which everybody is always mugging, fostered “hyper masculinity” in him.
“Unfortunately, I did not have a desire to learn about God,” he says. “I didn’t feel Christ. I knew there was a God, but I didn’t see Him. I allowed the hypocrisy of men to stop me from getting a relationship with the Creator of men.”
He searched for meaning in Egyptology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
While he was running from Christ, he almost died twice. He flipped a truck and rolled twice. But he shrugged it off. Three years later, he was working as a high load driver when the truck driver hadn’t chaulked the breaks, and he crashed off the platform. At the second brush with death, he answered the wake-up call.
“I’m on the ground with a heavy weight high loader next to me,” he recalls. “I’m crying, ‘Father, I will never go against You.’ If I didn’t follow God’s will, definitely I would be either dead, definitely I would still be drinking, divorced and probably not there for my kids.”
He opened a dojo, The Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy named after King David’s discipleship hideout. That’s where he found his true calling in life.
He was much older and wiser. He had cried — finally — at a funeral. His wife, Nicole, suffered five miscarriages between his daughter, 26, and son, 13, and he learned to be there for his wife.
He was starting to learn about true manhood — and he wanted to share the good news.
“The pain I experienced not having a father is worth being able to impact hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have their father,” he says. “The Cave of Adullam came from a desire to help boys and men, to be what I didn’t see. My son asked me one day, ‘How did you become a great father?’ I said, ‘I simply gave you what I longed for.’
“Even a man desires affirmation from another man.”
When his video went viral, Jason was launched to nationwide fame. He was featured on Dr. Oz and in President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” showcase at the White House. He has two books: Cry like a Man: Fighting for Freedom from Emotional Incarceration and Battle Cry: Waging and Winning the War Within.
“Women didn’t let themselves be defined by culture. When in the early 1900s it was said, ‘A woman’s place is in the kitchen,’ they defied that,” James says. “But we as men have allowed this one adjective ‘masculinity’ to define us and hinder us from the lives we long for.” Read the rest: THUG Traumatized Human Unable to Grieve.
Lines half a mile down the street? Fastest-growing chicken restaurant of 2016?
I was ready to find out what all the rage was about at Louisiana-based Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. Hungry in Costa Mesa, CA, I saw it on the map. First off, lines weren’t long. Second, food was not such a sensation as I expected and hoped for.
The chicken fingers Basically, they’re the only thing on the menu in different combos. They are NOT the processed, grinded down into paste and reformed into a finger shape with the right amounts of meat and fat, like a sausage patty from the frozen food section at the supermarket. They are hearty chunks of chicken breast. They are battered in house and super crunchy. They’re served hot and juicy. They come with their own secret sauce, a blend of mayo, ketchup, worcestershire, black pepper and garlic. At best, the sauce is a curiosity, but it’s not something I developed an immediate craving for.
The chicken fingers are above-grade but not an epiphany (like the first time I tried wambutan). There’s no spices in the batter, so they come out a bit flat.
The sweet tea This Southern delight is a treat, and you can mix in unsweetened tea if it’s too sugary for you. But you may not need to because Raising Cane’s serves crushed ice instead of ice cubes and it melts faster into your drink watering it down. I’m not a fan of the crushed ice.
The Texas toast More than anything, the toast was a sensation. First off, I was surprised to find it in my menu. Here in Los Angeles, nobody else includes a slice of toast in a fast food meal. Secondly, it was delicious. Thick spongey white bread friend with butter on one side, the Texas toast melted in my mouth.
The coleslaw Standard and unimpressive, the slaw was cut into tiny squares, drenched with too much dressing, like everybody does, and served in a plastic cup with a top.
The crinkle fries Below grade, the fries tasted like Ora-Ida frozen fries. Mine came lukewarm at best and were a bit disappointing.
The interior decorating Strangely, I feel compelled to write about the decor. Raising Cane’s is the most attractive, modern-looking restaurant inside. Apparently, they put a decent effort into the visual impact their restaurant makes on customers. The lighting was by spotlight, which was cool but didn’t help my photos.
The bottom line I won’t mind going back, but I won’t see out Raising Cane’s. The hype had me prepared for something akin to a perfect chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven. Would I choose Raising Cane’s over other fast food joints? Yes, but not all. I’d much father a Freddy’s, a Culver’s, a Chick-Fil-A or a Wahoo’s Fish Tacos.
[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]
Arynn never thought she would end up in a mental institution, but after she became thrilled with cutting herself, that’s where she was taken.
“The minute I saw the blood it was like I was hooked,” Arynn explains to 700 Club Interactive. “It was like this dopamine hit and in a really twisted way I’d almost rewarded myself with self-harming.”
Arynn was turned off by Christians.
“I always thought of Christians as these really emphatic people who wanted you to turn away from anything that was fun,” she says.
So, the minute she turned 18 and was able to go to parties, she began drinking.
“I just had fun with it and then a long pattern of, you know, thinking that I could just keep doing it and it would never catch up to me,” she says.
As a 19-year-old sophomore in a Christian college, she began taking shots of tequila at 8 a.m.
She didn’t realize she had become an alcoholic.
Almost imperceptibly, the “fun” evolved into depression. This led to self-harm.
“As the alcoholism progressed, the urge to self-harm got so much stronger,” Arynn says. “I felt too like even if God loves me he’s not gonna want to associate too much with me because look at where I’ve ended up.”
Death became her daily meditation and cutting became an obsession.
“I remember one night I decided I just have to try at least one time and so I remember taking the razor, slitting my wrist and nothing happened so I just kept going,” she says. “Finally, I’m surrounded by blood, but I’m not bleeding out.”
Adam Gunton hung up on his buddy when he called at 4:47 a.m.
“Why are you calling me this late?” he snapped.
“I was just calling to say hi,” Chuck responded, timidly.
“Don’t call me this late again!” Adam, a freshman in college in 2008, barked and slammed the phone down.
That’s the point when Adam’s partying changed and he became a hopeless addict.
“Before that moment I was using drugs and alcohol to party and have fun,” he says on a Logan Mayberry video. “But after that I was consciously using drugs to mask the way I feel, mask my emotions, mask my thoughts and cope with life around me. I bottled it down deeper and deeper with drugs and alcohol.”
As a result of his addiction, his weight dwindled down to 147 pounds from 210.
Adam grew up in Littleton, Colorado. He played football and wrestled at Columbine High School, which gained notoriety through tragedy. Mostly, he was able to hide his drug habit. He started drinking at age 11, after someone shared cocaine and weed with him.
“Throughout my high school career, I just thought it was fun,” he says. “I had no idea that it was going to lead me to a homeless shelter and not being able to stop the worst drugs on the planet 10 years later.”
On Nov. 6, 2015, Adam took a heroin hit that initially he thought was bunk. He got in his car and drove off. Cops found him in his car on the side of the road OD’d. Three months later, the body cam video was shown in court and he was charged with felony drug possession.
“Even that moment and those experiences weren’t enough to get me clean and sober,” he remarks.
He worked for Direct TV and became a top salesperson regardless of his drug abuse. At his desk, he had his computer and a drawer full of drugs.
One day, alone in his bedroom, he cried out to a God he didn’t know.
Chloe fell in love with and married Jason Ivey. It’s a heart-warming and romantic story. There’s just one notable piece of information to add. Both spouses are developmentally disabled.
Chloe has Down Syndrome. Jason has autism, ADD and bipolar disorder.
“People with autism want to feel important; they want to feel needed. Honestly, it’s magical. That’s how I actually feel,” Jason said in an interview with Special Books for Special Kids, a YouTube channel that promotes understanding of people with disabilities. “Yeah, there’s ups and downs. But I’m telling you Chloe is such a perfect wife. And even when I’m down she lifts me right back up and makes me so happy.”
To see Chloe and Jason talk about marriage and how God brought them together is a moving reminder that God has not made anyone inferior. People with special needs have much to teach others about happiness and simplicity in a world that seems overly complicated to many.
“I feel like I’m hit with a love bug. Sometimes I would say, ‘Thank You, God, for everything, all the positive things,” Chloe says. “I feel like I want to cry. I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
The love oozes from the video. “She is like drop-dead gorgeous,” Jason says. “I was worried, like, ‘Lord, I am way marrying out of my league.’ My goodness! Look at this beauty!”
But their fairytale story also raises unsettling questions the video doesn’t address: Would they have children? Would their offspring be more prone to being born with a disability? Who would care for the children?
“Sometimes I think in my mind ‘I want a baby so bad,’” Chloe says. She has a realistic doll that she treats as her baby. “This is Giselle. She represents what we want for the future.”
Both Chloe and Jason recognize their limitations. They say they are 80% independent, which means that 20% of their adult responsibilities are handled by care-givers, often family members.
In a world where abortion is pressed on parents when an ultrasound reveals a potential disability, in a world where government imposes decisions on private citizens in the name of the common good, some questions linger:
A year after he lost his legs and arms to septic shock, Gary Miracle ran a 1.4-mile race on running blades.
“My doctor tells me all the time, ‘no feet, no excuses,’” Gary told The Epoch Times.
Although Gary had many reasons to sulk, he continues to live his life to the fullest.
Forty-year-old Gary Miracle did ministry for 12 years when he contracted a rare blood infection he thought was the flu but it progressed to septic shock. He spent 10 days in a coma at an Orlando hospital.
“I think they gave me a 1 to 7 percent chance to live through this,” Gary says.
On New Year’s Day his heart failed, and medical personnel took eight minutes to revive him. Gary was placed on an oxygenation machine, and the cardiovascular surgeon saved his life by diverting blood to his brain and torso at the expense of his limbs, which necrotized.
“My arms and legs were so cold,” Gary says. “They told me that I looked like a mummy; my hands and legs were pitch black. Then my muscles and my tendons started kind of falling out of my legs. I had no feeling down there.”
Gary is a husband and father of four kids. His wife, Kelly, posted scriptures all around his hospital room.
“My family just stepped up in a huge way, I was never left alone,” he says. “People were praying for me constantly.”
After 117 days in the hospital, Gary was discharged in April 2020. His lifeless limbs had been amputated. He is a quadruple amputee.
“When you go through something like that, there’s a line drawn in the sand: Am I gonna sit on the couch and throw a pity party?” he says. “Or am I going to choose to live and be alive and live for Christ and be a dad with my kids?” Read the rest: Gary Miracle lost his arms and legs but not hope.
After Gorman Learning Center punked Lighthouse girls volleyball 12-25, maybe thought they had the match in the bag. After all, the scored showed a solid domination in Valencia Thursday.
But Allie Scribner got mad.
And game 2 was a role reversal. The freshman got mad and served a string of unreturnable serves. She smashed 11 blistering bowling balls down the alley (get it? For Allie). After rotating through, another six aces and near-aces to rack up points for Lighthouse Christian Academy.
How did Lighthouse answer GLC’s lopsided 12-25, a message of mercilessness and intention to humiliate?
Lighthouse responded by winning the second set 25-11.
They one-upped them by one point.
Houston, we have a problem.
Where did the dramatic turnaround come from?
There are two answers. The Saints complained the pacing of Game 1 was slow. They made sloppy mistakes and looked lethargic. They came alive in Game 2.
The second answer was the sweet-faced freshman-turned-furious-face Allie Scribner.
The beaches of Venice are mostly free of tents and people sleeping outside as lots of homeless have been given either bus tickets or housing in cheap hotels, says advocate Mike Ashman.
But meth laced with fentanyl is killing addicts at a quick clip, and getting a roof over their head is only part of the solution, says the man who’s become a fixture now in Venice handing out free food to the needy.
“People are taking methamphetamines cut with fentanyl, and it’s just nasty,” Mike told Patch. “It’s really cooking their brains. They’re walking zombies. They can’t string together a sentence.”
A month ago, Mike greeted one of his regulars, who stared back oddly without saying a word. Mike, who’s used to dealing with addicts, figured the guy would sleep it off. Instead, he watched police putting him, first with convulsions, on a stretcher just hours later via YouTube live stream.
“His body went completely limp. I swore he was dead,” Mike said but saw him again a week-and-a-half later and gave him a big bear hug.
The man considered himself to be lucky: “I’m so mad at myself for doing that stuff,” he reportedly told Mike, who’s been in Venice for three years with his non profit You Matter. “I lived through that one.”
But Mike hasn’t seen the man since. “I’m hoping he’s got some help,” Mike adds.
By Mike’s tally, a homeless person dies every week from overdose. He gets the news from his regulars who come and tell him about so-and-so found dead in a bathroom or on a street, he says.
“What turned this game around? To be honest, John Spikes, our captain,” Coach Kelly Ledwidth told Patch. “When he drove that conversion in and then that touchdown in he gave the team all the energy that it needed. They just started playing the way we knew they could. We gave him the ball and he got a hard-effort touchdown and a hard-effort extra point, and it sparked the energy the guys needed.”
Santa Monica downed the Compton Tartars in a decisive 46-18 to begin its league games brightly. After a several disappointing seasons, the Corsairs feel they have the team this year for a winning season, even though they played a sloppy loss to El Camino last Saturday.
“Second half we came and had to change the attitude when we came in and change the tempo,” Spikes said. “I feel like we can go places as long as we set the tempo like that every single time, the sky’s the limit.”
After allowing two touchdowns, Santa Monica’s defensive coach reconfigured their lineup on the field to stymie the Tartans, who had trouble driving the ball but capitalized on a few big plays to score.
At halftime, the Corsairs were losing 17-18, but they were patching holes. Compton didn’t score in the second half.
Receiving the kickoff, Santa Monica passed and ran the ball to the TD. That’s when John Spikes, fullback running back, made the inspirational, bruising 2-point conversion.
“I just had some dog in me,” said Spikes, a student who aims to be a nurse and has overcome personal tragedy and a frustrating ineligibility last season due to a course load snafu.
Lighthouse Christian Academy unrelentingly buried volleyball rivals Hillcrest, which fought fiercely for life in the third and final set, battling each rally up to a minute. The final 30-28 meant Hillcrest returned home without consolation.
With solid hits, serves and life-saving digs, Sarah Montez led the mostly freshman team in the 3-set sweep.
But there’s something funny about her leadership. The 5’3″ senior only took to volleyball only out of a sense of obligation.
“I have to make it my duty to serve my school and team because they are my family at the end of day,” Sarah says.
After modernism, postmodernism and existentialism staged a coup on our intellectual framework, the antiquated concept of duty has fallen into almost complete disuse. Ridiculed and deconstructed by philosophers, literary titans and intelligentsia, the concept of duty is a quaint castoff gone the way of knights and lances from the times of chivalry.
Sarah committed to volleyball out of duty to her school. She practiced assiduously, joined a summer beach volleyball program and hit the gym.
All that commitment paid off Wednesday. She whacked the ball, rallied her players, guided the team to a hard-scrabble superiority.
When a driver found Mo Isom suspended by her seatbelt upside down in her rolled Jeep, with her face bloodied following an accident, she kept saying with a smile: “God is beautiful.”
Mo had asked God to “wreck” her life after her father committed suicide.
“I didn’t realize that God would answer my prayer so literally,” Mo says on a 100 Huntley video. “My vehicle lost control, flipped three times and landed upside-down in a ravine at 1:30 in the morning. He wrecked my life, but He revealed himself to me in that wreckage.”
Mary Isom (simply “Mo”) an All-American soccer star, fiercely loved her perfectionist father, who gave her the silent treatment when she fell short.
Of course, this developed into a performance-based understanding of God. “I do good things, I get blessings,” she explains. “I do bad things, God turns his back on me.”
Mo looked forward to college as a fresh beginning. As a soccer star on the team at Louisiana State University, Mo wanted to leave behind the bulimia she struggled with in high school.
At college, she stumbled across Matt 11:28: Come to me, all who are weary or burdened and I will give you rest.
The verse ministered to her greatly.
But then her dad put a bullet through his heart Jan 3., 2009 in Huntsville, Alabama, when his business soured.
“I was punctured as deep as you could imagine,” she remembers. “It left a gaping hole in my heart.”
The relationship she was trying to develop with God unraveled as guilt, shame, blame, grief, and rage cascaded unchecked through her heart.
She prayed with a sense of urgency: “God, if You are real, do something.”
In response to a stepdad throwing boiling beans on his kids, Billy hunted down the suspect and murdered him and his uncle.
“I was so out of my mind,” Billy says on a Tony Evans video, “My kids were my life. I wasn’t thinking rationally and reasonably. All I was thinking about was revenge.”
A year later, he was arrested and began a long sentence.
Billy’s parents split when he was only six years old. He was left to his dad’s care but wanted desperately to find his mom. He would walk down the highway looking for his mom. Eventually, he found her. She was a functional alcoholic.
As an adolescent, Billy met a girl and got her pregnant. He was happy to be having a boy, “even though I was just a boy myself,” he says. But the child was stillborn.
He had two daughters with the young lady, but he didn’t know how to be a father or a husband, and she left him for another man.
The new man abused his daughters and got arrested, along with his former partner (who was taken into custody for child endangerment).
Billy boiled with rage.
“I would begin to consume enormous amounts of alcohol,” Billy recalls. “I consumed whatever it was to take my mind off of its original state to keep from having to deal with these issues.”
When a couple of friends notified him that the perpetrator had been released on bond, “my next question was, where is he?” Billy says. “I made my way over to the condominium where this uncle and he were and I murdered them.”
Billy spent five years in county jail awaiting trial, ultimately taking a plea-bargain deal that gave him 30 years, reduced to seven if behaved well in jail.
Ultimately, he didn’t “behave well” in jail.
“I had so much hate, anger, and bitterness and resentment that would just roll into my life and other people around me,” he says. “I began to express my faithfulness to rebellion so much that in fact the other gang members started to recognize me.”
He liked the recognition and respect he earned by getting into trouble.
Transferred to a prison in Amarillo, Texas, BIlly got caught up in a gang riot that left one man in critical condition. The man was air-lifted to the hospital, where he lingered between life and death.
Three inmates who were supposedly “brothers” in Billy’s gang, fingered him as the responsible man behind the brutal beating. The warden called in Billy and produced the signed accounts accusing him. If spelled the death penalty for him. His only hope was that the beaten man would somehow survive in the hospital. Read the rest: revenge and redemption in Texas
Before Vitor Belfort KO’d Evander Holyfield, he got KO’d by life. Specifically, his sister’s kidnapping and reported rape and killing left him searching for answers and hopelessly embittered.
“There’s two ways to get to God, through pain or through love,” he says on an I am Second video. “Mine was through pain.”
Known as “the Phenom,” Vitor Belfort was the youngest fighter to win an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout at 19. The Brazilian-born Florida resident, 44, has fought in all kinds of matches, with boxing being his latest.
He knew about God from childhood. In his first official fight, he promised to serve God faithfully, if God permitted him to win. Once he triumphed, he promptly forgot his promise.
“As soon as I won the championship, I didn’t follow God right away,” he acknowledges.
At age 20, he suffered a neck injury. Doctors were grim. He would have to give up his beloved sport of fighting and find another career.
“I was crying, I was desperate,” he admits.
One day as he drove around in his fancy car he saw a legless man who got around on a skate. He was so struck by this beggar, he engaged in conversation.
“Many people that drive by here think I’m worthless because I don’t have any legs,” the beggar told him. “But I can guarantee you, Vitor, I’m happier than many people who drive by here in their big cars. I got Jesus and Jesus can transform your life.”
That was the moment that Vitor felt God talking to his heart.
“But even with that, I didn’t follow God,” he concedes.
It would take the kidnapping of his sister in 2004 to humble Vitor and bring him to repentance.
Priscila was taken, and the family didn’t know anything about her for three years. A woman who supposedly was taken captive herself to pay off drug debts, Elaine Paiva, confessed to helping drug dealers kidnap and kill Priscilla.
Information that his sister had been repeatedly raped by grisly murderers enraged Vitor.
Namely, Roxy Photenhauer — or simply “Pho” — who smacked the volleyball with vengeance to inspire her team, the Lighthouse Christian Academy, to fight until death in their attempt to repeat their season opening win.
In a thrilling 5-game match that saw Lighthouse teeter on the brink of losing in three close sets, LCA lost to always-tough rivals Newbury Park Adventist Academy in varsity volleyball Thursday. Two days earlier, Lighthouse handily defeated Pilgrim School of Burbank.
In set 3, the Newbury Park crowd erupted in cheers as one of their champion hitters thundered a ball down upon their rivals, only to be silenced by an impossible dig that fired it sneakily over the net unanswered.
The astonishing response came from sophomore Roxy Photenhauer, the last-born in a chain of same-named athletes and artists who have graced LCA’s hallowed halls.
“Roxy dug a ball pretty much as good as an Olympian could do it,” remarked Coach Jessica Young. “The other team was cheering for her.”
Roxy’s digging and serving — along with some mental toughness from her fellow Saints — sparked a comeback drive.
The Philippine military was supposed to rescue hostage Martin Burnham. Instead, they shot him.
“I was immediately shot in the leg,” says Gracia Burnham, his wife, on a Huntley 100 video. “Martin was shot as well and just lay there. I could tell that gunshot wounds to the chest don’t heal. He was just kind of breathing loudly. Then he got very still.”
For a year, the Philippine military was pursuing the missionary couple’s kidnappers, the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels, through the sweltering jungles of the Philippines. They were aided by a tracking device sewn into a backpack that the CIA had managed to pass on to the squad’s leader.
Missionaries for 17 years, Gracia and Martin Burnham were on Palawan Island when M16-touting rebels, seeking a ransom to fund their guerilla war, broke down their door and pulled husband and wife out on May 11, 2001.
They were spirited away on a speed boat and taken to the jungles where they joined other hostages. For a year, the rebels dragged them over hills and through rivers, constantly on the move to avoid capture, in jungles filled with snakes, spiders and disease-bearing mosquitos.
Sometimes they ate; sometimes they went days at a time without eating. The Muslim militants forced Gracia to wear a hijab in observance of ancient Islamic customs. The jihadists prayed five times a day. On some days, they stayed hidden with no movement, leaving the missionaries bored. Other days they walked endlessly, always on the run. They collapsed exhausted at night.
As the ordeal dragged on, Gracia struggled with why God had permitted the trial.
“How long do you think this will last?” Gracia asked her husband.
Martin remembered certain European hostages that were rescued after six weeks.
Gracia fixated on “six weeks,” and unconsciously made it a timeline for God to rescue them.
When six weeks passed with no sign of rescue, she despaired and began to doubt God — not His existence or the terms of salvation but if He indeed cared for her and loved her.
After all, He hadn’t responded.
And that’s how an internal conflict erupted in the context of the greater conflict of the rebel war.
Inside her heart, there was a battle of faith.
Martin, the aviator missionary, encouraged his wife not to lose faith even in the most trying circumstances.
“You either believe all of it or you believe none of it,” he gently challenged her.
From then on, the couple encouraged each other with remembrances of verses from the Bible that stirred faith.
Added to the trial of faith about the goodness of God, Gracia observed that a weariness of the jungle grated her. During the day, they were either bored unendingly as the hid or were exhausted from trudging forward to evade being discovered by the Philippine military.
The night was filled with dangerous predators and sounds that filled the darkness. She wished for daylight to arrive.
But days were filled with heat, humidity, marching or hunkering down. Then she wished for nightfall.
“I felt like I was wishing my life away,” Gracia says.
One of the other hostages was beheaded, perhaps to speed up the hoped-for ransom money.
After a wearisome, worrisome year on the run during their captivity, Gracia eventually lost all hope and said her goodbyes to her husband on June 7, 2002.
He gently reminded her to keep faith alive. But it was a good thing she said her goodbyes.
When Michael Garafola dons his Rams jersey and Rams helmet on Sept. 10, he’ll feel a crush of pride to represent the L.A. team at its season opener in Phoenix. The lineman will be ready for some intense crashing of bodies and wheelchairs.
“The fact that we’re able to wear Rams jerseys and helmets is incredible,” Garafola told Patch. “To be able to put a Rams jersey on is incredible. I’m super excited.”
Garafola is part of the new NFL-sponsored, all-wheelchair football league. Yes, football for guys in wheelchairs.
“There’s something very alluring about football. It’s a contact-heavy sport,” says Rams manager Josh Lucas. “They get knocked over and rolled around. They get up, shake it off and get ready for the next play. When you see them bashing each other, you think they might be able to get hurt. But really they are at no more risk for getting hurt any more than fully able bodied players.”
Wheelchair football has existed in America since 1948 but play has been limited to starts and stops by various organizations until the new league gets underway in little more than a week. Organizers hope that with NFL backing, this league will be here to stay.
The Rams team is co-sponsored by the Westwood-based Angel City Sports. They need volunteers and take donations.
Garafola, 46, teaches adaptive sports at UCLA. It’s a natural job for him because he went more than a decade without sports, from an SUV accident in 1990 that left him with a spinal chord injury and depressed being deprived of athletics.
Then in 2003, he found out about organized adaptive basketball in Los Angeles. He loved basketball and immediately leapt at the opportunity to participate.
“I was blown away,” Garafola says. “I didn’t have any idea that this type of sport existed. These guys were playing and jawing… Read the rest: Wheelchair football in Los Angeles
As a Christian, Judy serves God by being a foster parent to dogs. Some even come from China, allegedly having escaped the dog meat trade.
“God made all creatures,” Judy told God Reports. “I think He would not want a dog to suffer. If we didn’t have foster parents, the dog would be put in a shelter. Most of the shelters are kill shelters.” (“Kill shelters” euthanize if the stray is not adopted within a certain number of weeks.)
If you have never heard of a foster parent for dogs, you are not alone. The concept is similar: you care for the dog until it gets adopted. The foundation pays for the food and veterinary visits. Some foster parents care for four dogs at a time.
Judy, 69, has had Lollipop, Marshmallow, Bandit and Doreen. Two were Chihuahuas. Well-behaved Chihuahuas. She brings them to church, which conveniently meets outdoors in a park.
Sometimes, they come shaking and traumatized by abuse or neglect. They are dropped off from cars on the road. They are abandoned in fields. They are flea-infested from ill-kept hoarders. They even come from abroad, at great expense for transportation.
Rescue workers will drive hours to pick up a dog.
“I love dogs. They really relax me. They’re fun. They’re amazing,” Judy says. “The love of dogs has to do with being able to love. If you love God and know that God is real, then you know that God created animals.”
Judy didn’t grow up in a church-going home but found God in her early 30s through some Christian friends and through reading the Bible.
“I had some Christian friends and it just felt right. It was a calling to me. Christianity is something that is necessary,” Judy says. “The thing I admire about Christians is their family; they have really good family. The kids are well-mannered. They don’t swear. They’re so connected. It is such a beautiful thing.”
Pam’s own mother called her an “abomination” and “scum of the earth” after the 14-year-old admitted she was lesbian in 1970.
“I knew that I was lesbian when I was three. Absolutely,” Pam, now 62, says during an Ariana Armour interview.
By contrast, her grandparents, because they were hairstylists and knew homosexuals — were far more accepting.
“My grandmother showed me true unconditional love. She didn’t care what I said I was. She just handed me to God,” Pam says. “My mom had a wicked, wicked Jezebel spirit.”
Conceived by date rape, Pam was given up for adoption in Florida. Her adopted mom adhered to a legalistic form of Christianity.
Then in the fourth grade, Pam was raped by a neighbor boy. When she wanted to be a drummer, the music instructor molested her at age 11.
“I was like, I’m gonna keep my mouth shut,” she says. “I was afraid to say anything because I would be ostracized.”
Pushing her further toward the LGBT community, a warlock raped her in 1975.
Sadly, her parents’ expression of faith drove her further from God.
“I wrote out a contract in blood to Satan,” she says. It was an effort to get out of going to church and Sunday school.
When her adopted dad found out about the Satanism, “he tried to kill me,” Pam says. “He said he was going to beat Satan out of me. He was beating me but all of a sudden I felt power. I hit him and he flew back and hit my dresser.”
Pam was thrilled with the power, but the devil let her down on another occasion when her dad came back and beat her severely.
“I would have poltergeists come into my room,” she says. Demonic spirits would move objects and make noises. A lamp with a decorative face turned and looked at her.
“Dating was my license to everything, ice cream with sprinkles on top, sushi on the side,” the New Jersey beats producer says on his YouTube channel. “I was using these types of things as void fillers. That didn’t last long. We began to get convicted.”
The discord arose when his girlfriend, Mags (Margaret), “flowed with” the conviction from a certain “Night of Prayer” they attended, while Joe stubbornly resisted to the point that they broke up.
“I tried to ignore it like everything is all good,” Joe says. “I put on this front. I’m playing 2K (basketball on Xbox) like none of this bothers me. But deep down when I was alone with God, it really did bother me.”
“We had to stop sex, but the mindset I had was such a stronghold. I was not obedient to God. I wanted to hold on to that one thing that I thought was my manhood. That cost us the relationship.”
Joe was “bawling” in the car when she broke off the relationship.
“You would think that I would snap out of it, like, yo, it’s not worth it,” he remembers. “But of course not. When you’re stubborn, you run into a brick wall 300 times thinking the next time it’ll be softer.”
As heartbreaking as the breakup was, it was also “transformational,” Joe says. Mags went to church three times a week, got a Christian mentor and devoured God’s word.
Meanwhile, Joe went through his own soul searching.
“Once we broke up, I was like, yo, how much a part of me was that person? When you have sex with each other, you guys are actually exchanging souls. It’s deeper than just pleasure, boom, boom, boom, we’re out of there and we’re done. Soul ties are real.”
God showed Joe that the holes in his heart needed to be filled by Him, not sex. He needed to make God first and change his group of friends to break free from a worldly mindset.
“I had to be a man,” he says. “Sex was never worth not submitting to God and following His word.” Read the rest: Saved from premarital sex.
Three times she’s fought off cancer and she’s still not free from its wicked clutches.
Jane Marczewski — who melted the nation’s heart singing “It’s Okay” after saying she had a 2% survival chance on America’s Got Talent — has withdrawn from the final rounds to battle cancer.
In her audition, Jane, who uses the stage name Nightbirde, had stunned judges when she matter-of-factly mentioned she wasn’t working because of cancer in her lungs, spine and liver.
“It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me,” she said smiling. Her exuberant joy and pristine voice prompted Simon Cowell to hit the golden buzzer shortcutting her into advanced rounds. Her song (“If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost, and it’s alright”) shot up to #1 on iTunes
A Zanesville, Ohio native, Jane Marczewski, 30, decided to make a life of her God-given musical talent when she was a student at Liberty University. She married, launched her life, and then got struck by cancer. At first her husband stood with her, but when she relapsed, he divorced her.
Her smile and bursting optimism wowed the audience. “I have a 2% chance of survival, but 2% is not 0%,” she says. “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
But when she’s alone, she faces the daunting odds. Because she’s honest, she sometimes succumbs to depression. But while she struggles and cries out to God about the unfairness of her fate, she grows like an ordinary Christian never will.
“I am God’s downstairs neighbor banging on the ceiling with a broomstick,” she says on an MP4 circulating in churches. “I show up at his door everyday, sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses, apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.
“I’ve called God a cheat and a lie and I meant it,” she says. “I’ve told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayers I know… night and day, sunrise and sunset. Call me bitter if you want to; that’s fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God, for I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in his shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout.”
Her words, robed in poetry, address Job’s experience of being crushed unjustly.
“I want to lay in His hammock with Him and trace the veins in His arms. I remind myself I’m praying to God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but He instead let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray.”
As she scrutinizes her life searching for strands of mercy, she resonates with the story of God feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness.
“I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the windchimes,” she says. “It’s not the mercy I asked for, but it is mercy nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: ‘Thank You.’ It’s a prayer that I don’t mean yet but will repeat until I do.”
Already she has outlived the prognosis of three months’ life expectancy given at the beginning of 2020.
The potato chip — that quintessential diet-doomer with its overkill of salt, fat and, yes, sugar — fed medal-winner Gabby Thomas’s running.
Gabby munched chips before getting on the track and burning everybody.
“My first love was soccer,” Gabby says on Humbl Nation. “A lot of my soccer skill was speed-related. My college recruit came to watch my soccer game. I was just doing it to do it. I kind of fell into track. In high school, I was just having fun with it. After my sophomore year, I started to take it more seriously. Then with college, it became an option.”
Gabrielle Thomas won bronze in the women’s 200-meter dash. In addition to track, she’s an academic — a graduate from Harvard University — and a born-again Christian.
Just weeks before the Olympic trials, Gabby got an MRI for a hamstring injury and doctors also spotted a tumor in her liver. It was a cancer scare, but the growth turned out to be benign.
“I remember telling God, ‘If I am healthy, I am going to go out and win trials. I’m going to do everything I can to live my life to the fullest,’” she says on the Today Show.
It was Gabby’s mom, an academic in Massachusetts, who re-directed her into track. “I signed up for softball, and she said, ‘No, you’re doing track.’”
Mom says that Gabby used to eat potato chips — a snack not typically associated… Read the rest: Gabby Thomas Christian
Athing Mu was just fooling around with her older brother, who was part of the Trenton Track Club. She was running — outrunning the bigger kids — when the coach saw her and confronted her later when she was seated on the bleachers.
“Who is this girl? I want her on my team,” the coach said.
That was the start of an incredibly “God-gifted” girl who just won the first gold medal for the U.S. in the women’s 800 meters in 53 years. The 19-year-old freshman records-breaker from Texas A&M charged to the front of the pack from the very beginning and stayed there almost unchallenged, graceful and calm, with a powerful pace throughout.
Athing Mu (pronounced Uh-THING Moe), now 19, is lucky to be in America. Her parents fled South Sudan and made their residence in Trenton, New Jersey. She’s the second youngest of seven siblings. She got involved in track and also discovered what it means to run with Jesus.
“As a follower of Christ, our main goal is to live in the image of Jesus in order to connect to God and ‘get to’ God,” the 5’10” runner says on The Battalion. “I believe when God is ready to give you blessings, He gives it to you with all intentions. In this case, ‘keeping one at the top, never at the bottom.’”
She’s referring to Deut. 28:13: The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Read the rest: Athing Mu Christian
About once a week, one homeless man or woman dies in Venice, CA.
That’s Michael Ashman’s tally. At least three times a week, Ashman hands out free food, clothes, and Bibles at Muscle Beach, which is often filled with tourists and eclectic street performers.
This area – until recently cleaned up by Sheriff’s deputies – has been thronged with homeless and criminals.
“When people say we have a ‘homeless problem’, that tells me they don’t have a clue; it’s a human problem, not a homelessness problem,” Ashman, 57, told God Reports. “There are all kinds of reasons people are homeless. Then you throw alcohol and drugs into the mix. But Jesus is the answer. He’s the One who’s going to heal their minds and set them free.”
For three years, Michael has ministered to the homeless. Arguably, homeless ministry is prone to burnout because positive results are few and far between, while death and destruction abound. The homeless, he says, have zero self-control and consequently get devastated by addiction, violence and disease.
“Every now and then, someone comes by and says, ‘Do you remember me? You fed me. You helped me,’” Michael says.
One such was Ivan, who once slept on the beach because of Southern California’s year-round temperate climate. One day he arrived cleaned-up and smiling. He had a small place and two jobs. The day he greeted Ashman, he was handing out clothes to his street friends, paying forward the favors.
Native to Southern California, Ashman got to know Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade at age 15. He got off drugs and was attending church but was “too young and not very involved,” he says.
In 1996, he got married and had kids but walked away from church and lost his marriage. He didn’t immediately come back to church because guilt coiled in his heart like a snake.
“I’d gone too far,” he explains. “I looked in the mirror every day and said, ‘God, what am I doing? I’m killing myself.’”
On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Ashman returned to church after “my life pretty much fell apart.”
He sat in the back and wept. He kept going to church “and wept every service for quite a while,” he says. “God was fixing me.”
Eventually, he launched his ministry, a 501c3 titled “You Matter.” He wears “You Matter” T-shirts on outreach, and it’s a good message to people that society has cast aside, fears and finds revolting.
“I just felt like this is what God wanted me to do,” Ashman says. “It was so powerful in me. It was beyond passionate, it was a driving force. I couldn’t not do it. I feel Jesus in me, and He loves people through me.”
For most of his life, Ashman worked as a contractor and a phone and computer communications installer, but as his non-profit has taken off, he’s neglected his business and given himself more and more to ministry.
While politicians promote social theories for dealing with the homeless, Ashman says only Jesus can truly change them.
Recently, the L.A. Sheriff ignited a spat with the mayor’s office by publicly accusing politicians of being incompetent and making an incursion into Venice to get the homeless off the streets. As a result, fewer homeless are coming to Ashman’s ministry. He fears that… Read the rest: homeless in Venice
There were plenty of things to blow Sydney McLaughlin’s concentration. The 400-meter hurdler was under strain from the months of preparation. There were bad practices, three false starts, and a meet delay.
Glaringly, right in front of her was her chief rival, the woman who beat her last time, Delilah Muhammad. Sydney figured she’d have to catch Delilah, whose explosive start out of the blocks was unbeatable.
But in the midst of her doubts and distractions, Jesus spoke to her heart: Just focus on Me.
Not only did Sydney beat her rival in the Olympic qualifiers a month ago, she set a new world record, breaking the 52 second barrier that no woman has ever bested in the 400 meter hurdles.
“The Lord took the weight off my shoulders,” she wrote later on Instagram. “It was the best race plan I could have ever assembled.”
The 21-year-old from New Jersey took the gold in Tokyo, beating her own record with a time of 51.46 seconds. She’s been called the new “face of track.”
It all began with a chocolate bar.
For her first race as a little tyke, her parents promised her a chocolate bar if she won. Her mom was a high school track star, and her dad was a semi-finalist in 400 meters for the 1984 Olympic Trials. Running, she says, “runs” in the family.
She started at age six, following in the footsteps of her older brother and older sister, who ran track.
Her first track meet was two towns away, and that’s when she got promised the chocolate bar. She won and enjoyed her candy.
Some shed tears. Others dedicate their win to Mom. A few make political statement with clenched fists or whatnot.
Fiji’s seven-man rugby team broke into a song of worship when gold medals were hung around their necks at the Tokyo summer Olympics after they stunned New Zealand 27-12. It was their second, back-to-back gold, and for such a small nation in the South Pacfic, monumental. They sang:
We have overcome We have overcome By the blood of the Lamb And the word of the Lord.
In a time of self-aggrandizing superstars and political propagandists, a showing of sheer joy and spontaneous rejoicing to God is refreshing. The words of their triumphal song come from Revelations 12:11 And they overcame the devil by blood of the Lamb and bthe word of their testimony.
Their victory is also a highlight to Fijians who are currently languishing under strict lockdown, being scourged by Covid.
“Last Olympics we gathered in numbers, tears flowed and bells were rung. Tonight in the middle of a pandemic and (with) Fiji under curfew, pots and pans ring, fireworks go off in yards and the cheers from every house can be heard,” tweeted Fiji Broadcasting Corporation presenter Jaquee Speight.
Due to Covid, Fiji players were called upon to practice 5 months in quarantine. That meant, they couldn’t go home and see their families, and some of the players barely stood the pressure of being away.
Abu Ahmad, a Kuwaiti refugee in Jordan, felt compassion for the Christians who enrolled his son tuition-free in a private school when he was down on his luck.
“Honestly, it is not fair that these people go to Hell,” he told his wife. “They are kind, have good manners and like to help. I must go to them, tell them about Islam and make them Muslims who can go to Al Jannah.”
So Adel — as he is also called — began to share what he thought was the truth about Allah with a school official.
“I started vigorously discussing matters with them,” he remembers on a Strong Tower 27 video. He even thought things might deteriorate into a brawl. “I had my hands ready to box him.”
“Honestly, I saw you were properly dressed and thought you were well-educated, but it turns out you neither know nor understand anything,” he said to the school official.
“I thought he would become angry and hit me, so I had my fist ready to hit him before he did.”
Instead, the school official smiled. He treated Abu with respect and appreciation.
Abu was thrown off. “He was smiling and treated me well. Why? What’s the difference?” he marveled. “If someone talked to me like that, I would kill him.”
Abu Ahmad’s flight to Jordan began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussain quickly overwhelmed the small, oil-rich nation, but an international military coalition purged him from his Persian Gulf neighbor.
Abu and his family were in danger and sought to flee. The road to Saudi Arabia was closed, they heard. So they fled to Iraq, where they hunkered down in Al Basra for four years, not able to return to Kuwait because they were accused of being traitors.
“If they knew I was Kuwaiti and staying there, they would kill us all for sure,” Abu recalls.
Eventually, he found a guide who would smuggle him and his family into neighboring Jordan. He found employment distributing first tea, then gas. Eventually family relations from Kuwait sent him money, and he opened a small shop.
Before in Kuwait, Abu had been a millionaire. But now his fortunes were reduced to scrambling for money.
In the first month of being open, he was able to make rent, 200 dinar.
But in the second month, he scrounged only 150 JOD by the time the landlord came.
“Here’s 150,” Abu told him. “I will give you the other 50 tomorrow.”
“No man,” the landlord retorted. “I want all the rent now.”
Despairing, Abu beckoned people out in front of his shop to come in and buy.
“When people came towards me, they looked like they were coming to buy from me,” he remembers. “But when they approached, they would either go in the shop on the right or the left. It was as if there was a curtain blocking my shop.”
He sat down, frustrated, in front of his shop and tried to think of a solution.
Suddenly he felt a strange urge to look under his chair. To his surprise, he saw and picked up a small wooden cross. He could not imagine how it got there.
Then he remembered the nice people at the Christian school who had selflessly opened the doors to his son. He remembered how he had been disrespectful, and they returned love for ill will. He remembered the one church service he had attended, sitting at the back with his wife.
Then he did something unexpected, he prayed to the God of the Christians.
“Jesus Christ, if You really are God, as they say, then help me now,” he uttered heavenward. “If You help me, I will surrender my life to You.”
Immediately after he prayed, his Egyptian friend from the next shop threw down his broom and said, “Let’s go to my friend.”
“This is Abu Ahmad,” he told the friend when he opened the door. “He needs 50 dinar to pay the rent.”
The Egyptian man went in and brought out a $100 bill.
Abu was aghast. “You are Egyptian,” he objected. “You need to send the money to your family in Egypt. How can you trust me and give me the money when you need it more?”
“If you want to return it, return it,” the man replied. “If you don’t, don’t.”
Abu was both shaken and amazed. Jesus had answered his prayer, and he wasn’t ready to believe it.
“I wanted to prove that what happened was by chance,” he remembers. “I wanted an excuse proving that Christ did not answer. But it became obvious that Christ had answered the prayer.”
In response, he surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.
Not long after this remarkable answer to prayer, Abu told his wife he was now a Christian.
“Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?” Laila shrieked. “You went to try to change them, and they changed you.”
She divided their room with a blanket hung from the ceiling.
“You are no longer my husband. You are an infidel,” she said, outraged. “This is your space. “The other is for me and my children. Don’t come near us or interfere in our lives.”
And that is how they lived from then on.
Sometime later, a friend suggested he apply for refugee status through the United Nations. But in a twist of events, the U.N. official sent him to jail.
Abu cried out to God from his cell: “Lord, You said, ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will comfort you.’ There is no heavier burden than the one I am carrying,
“You said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” he said. “Where are You? Why did You leave me alone?”