Monthly Archives: March 2017

Fleeing a death squad

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Ivan Arango never liked the party because, as he repeated, they always ended with fights, hatred and vows of revenge. But his close friend, Antonio, prevailed on him to go to his high school graduation’s celebration in Guatemala – in the cantina.

Sure enough, a fight broke out over some stolen beers, and Ivan and Antonio found themselves fleeing a death squad in the City of Quetzaltenango in the Western side of Guatemala.

Formed to efficiently kill dangerous targets outside of the proper channels of justice during Guatemala’s dirty civil war, clandestine death squads were paramilitary groups that devolved into despotic gangs answerable to no one.

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A death squad in Honduras

A death squad member had stolen Antonio’s beer, and he had punched him, not knowing he was a paramilitary.

Out of his devotion to his best friend, Ivan had planned to accompany the graduation festivities in the cantina for only 30 minutes. In the next moment, he was fleeing for his life.

“Are they going to kill us?” he worried.

Ivan and his friend hid in a room in the back of the cantina, and a friendly lady locked it with a padlock on the outside. Sure enough, the death squad came to to that room, pounded and kicked the door and fired bullets.

Terrified, Ivan remembered his brother, Diego, who was first of the family to become a born-again Christian.

In his heart, he cried out to God. “Lord, forgive me. If you can get me out of this trial, save me. Don’t let these men kill me here.”

The paramilitaries busted down the door. They shoved a .44-Magnum in Ivan’s mouth, but it jammed.

“I couldn’t say anything,” he said. “I didn’t argue. He insulted me like a demon.”
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This picture from a Google search is believed to show a Honduran death squad in action.

Responding to disturbances in the neighborhood, the military police showed up. The paramilitaries stood down and left.

The streets were silent like a cemetery. Ivan asked the cantina owner if he should go home.

“They’re waiting for you to come out to torture and kill you,” he said. Read the rest of the story refugee students.

This is the story of how a Guatemala survived the ravages of war in Guatemala and immigrated to the United States where he married and enrolled his daughters in our Christian school in Los Angeles.

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Some journeys require patience

C7eJ4sGVUAUU9Od.jpg largeThe Bible says we’re pilgrims, sojourners on this Earth. In our times of jet planes and email (as opposed to “snail mail”), we have little understanding of long journeys. But when Nehemiah traveled back and forth between the capital of the Persian Empire and Jerusalem, it took days or weeks.

Impatience is the enemy of the Christian. When bad situations don’t turn around fast enough, too many give up and return to the world. There is need of stick-to-it-iveness, of perseverance.

I’m sure Moses would have liked to make the journey to the Promised Land in an appropriate amount of time — not 40 years! God is patient with us, and we should be patient with Him.

George Foreman found God when he was dying

Foreman-MoorerHis powerful punch and menacing demeanor in the ring led George Foreman to Olympic Gold and heavyweight championships, but when Jimmy Young brutalized him in a humiliating defeat in 1977, the street bully from Houston felt he was dying.

“In the dressing room, I was walking back and forth to cool off,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “Then in a split second, I was fighting for my life.”

He lay on a locker room table. While friends and staff attended to his physical body, the battered brute battled with the God he learned little about as a kid.  He admitted later he only went to church for the free lunches.

george-bible“I kept thinking, ‘You believe in God. Why are you afraid to die?” Foreman told The New York Times. “But I really didn’t believe.”

Foreman began bargaining with his Creator. If God saved him, he would give his prize money to charity.

“I don’t want your money,” a voice responded. “I want you.”

Foreman was bewildered and confused. He had never met anybody who didn’t want money.

Foreman485“It was the saddest, most horrible place I had ever seen,” he said. “Tears fell. I was scared. I’d never heard anyone turn down money. There I was fighting for my life with something that you couldn’t deal with. That changed my life forever.”

Then as his life ebbed away, too late to repent, Foreman felt a “giant hand” thrust him back into consciousness. He saw his friends. At the same time, he felt strangely filled with the presence of a dying Christ. He felt his forehead bleed and he imagined it pierced by Christ’s crown of thorns. He sensed his wrists punctured as if by the nails of the cross.

“I knew that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me,” Foreman told The Times. “I ran into the shower and turned on the water and — hallelujah! — I was born again. I kissed everybody in the dressing room and told them I loved them. That happened in March 1977, and I never have been the same again.”

A passion began to stir in his heart. “I started reciting the Bible, talking from the pit of my stomach in that dressing room. I was talking about how Jesus was God’s son and that he was alive. So when I came out of that, I asked a friend to go get me a Bible. And he said, ‘What kind?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, one like your mother has.’ So, he went out and bought me a King James version of the Bible. And that’s how I got into religion.”

The turnaround in Foreman was immediate and dramatic. Today, he preaches punchy sermons as pastor at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston.

Transformed from a rage-filled street punk into a humble and sweet Christian, Foreman found he couldn’t muster the will to fight anymore, so he dropped boxing for 10 years. Read the rest of the George Foreman story.

A NY exec meets a true-life Tarzan boy in Guatemala

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Jamie Waller with Francisco Tzoy, the Tarzan boy

When a New York tycoon met one of the last feral “Tarzan boys” in Guatemala, he knew it was a match made in Heaven.

Jamie Waller, a Wall Street darling who recovered from alcoholism and became a missionary, took on what was to become perhaps his most difficult case, helping a boy who became a savage after he was abandoned following the death of his parents, forced to fend for himself in the jungle.

That boy, Francisco Tzoy – who suffered from mental disability — crawled on all fours and fought off dogs for his food in the dense mountainous terrain of Guatemala. Francisco is now diagnosed with the mental age of a 9-month-old.

Centro-de-estimulacion-integral-guatemalaThanks to God working through Waller and the Guatemalan government, he now keeps his clothes on, stands on his feet, smiles and no longer eats his own excrement.
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“That’s a good success story,” Waller said. “He can sit still, play a little bit. He doesn’t scream all the time anymore. He can participate in group activities. Prayer has been big. People have been praying for him and with him throughout. His infectious smile touches me. When he’s happy, the whole world smiles with him.”

A New Jersey native, Waller started using drugs in boarding school in the 1970s. He drank daily through college. When he started having kids and getting into corporate life, he limited his liquor consumption to weekend drinking.

In 2009, his wife left him. While this was another boat-rocker in his life, it seemed at the same time to open doors for him to travel and do ministry. He flew to Guatemala with his son and visited 10 orphanages. The last hospital he visited so moved him that it became the one he now works in.

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Francisco Tzoy

 

“It was the Holy Spirit,” Waller said of the remarkable career boomerang. “I worked in New York and wore a suit to work. I never had real interest in special needs folks. I probably was guilty of ignoring them like most people do. The Lord changed my heart. Something clicked in my head when I visited this one. I was only there for an hour, but it changed my life.”

Though he had no background with special needs patients, he threw himself into the work in 2009. He hired a physical therapist to “volunteer” at the Abrigo Bienestar Integral home to give the patients some badly needed stimuli. He prodded government officials to make ABI less of an institution where patients were kept behind bars and more of a center of joy and improving patients with their social skills.

Today, Waller runs a 12-member staff on a $50,000 budget through Fundaniños, and they serve at a government-funded institution that houses and cares for some 100 special needs patients abandoned or abused by their families.

In eight years of service, he has opened an annex facility that during the day takes some of the higher-functional patients and provides them physical therapy and improves motor and cognitive skills.

Perhaps their most remarkable story of transformation involves their former Tarzan boy, Francisco.

When two police agents spotted him in May of 2010 cowering among the brush of rural Santa Cruz of Quiché, they first thought he was a wolf. He emitted guttural sounds and moved around on all fours. His unkempt, matted hair flowed all over his naked body. Read the rest about Tarzan boy.

Impact

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I thought my impact was negligible in Elida’s life. Her mom was the spiritual force. I was the pastor, and the girl never talked to me even though I tried to deposit into her life some discipleship. One time when she was recovering from an operation, I visited her and offered to loan her a book to ease the boredom. She declined. She didn’t like to read.

Then I came back from Guatemala. And Elida became one of the many was-theres who coursed our school and heard innumerable Bible teachings.

Elida just had her baby shower. I hadn’t seen her for more than six years, so I dropped in. What I found out blew me away.

The baby boy will be named after me: David (it’s my middle name).

Apparently, I filled the role of a dad in her life, even though I had no clue at the time.

Truly, the Word says that none of labor for the Lord is in vain. Servant of God, you don’t know how many people you have touched and helped and are in the kingdom of God today because of your influence. Don’t be discouraged.

Pastor Miguel pastored the Door Christian Church in Guatemala and founded the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta school during that time.

Justine Bateman found God overcoming anorexia

justine batemanActress Justine Bateman thought her binge eating and purging was normal, but when a friend gently suggested she had an addiction as serious as alcohol or drugs, she entered a 12-step program. That’s where she found Jesus.

“I found the highest high by hitting the lowest low,” the 51-year-old told the New York Daily News. “I’ve actually become the person I always wanted to become, although not in the way I thought it would happen.”

The former star from “Family Ties” and “Men Behaving Badly” battled eating disorders for 10 years before getting help. “I realized I had eating disorders, went into recovery and found a relationship with God,” Bateman recounted.

Bateman said it all started at age 16, when she suffered bouts of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating, without understanding the danger of what she was doing. “I had a horrible body image,” she said. “I always had the tape measure out. I was always getting on the scale.” Read the rest of the story.

Amazing grace for Valley Boy Pastor

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My two sons performing in the drama.

God’s goodness and unmerited favor is not only for salvation. I’ve been seeing it in the formation of the startup church in Van Nuys, California. The San Fernando Valley Lighthouse Church is running on eight cylinders.

We recently did a drama to bless another, well-established church in Palmdale, about an hour away from L.A.

The church continues to meet at Lake Balboa, when it’s not too cold or rainy. Attendance doubled in December.

I am floored that God would bless me. It’s His amazing grace, usually applied to salvation, but applicable to any and every area of our lives.

What you need in life is God’s favor, which you can’t earn. Jesus earned it for you. The best thing we can do is be grateful.

Stephen Baldwin got saved, thanks to nanny

330 stephen baldwinOf the 18 or so tattoos scattered all over Stephen Baldwin’s body representing different stages of his life, one is a scripture: 3:30. It’s on the back of his neck and stands for John 3.30. “I must decrease so that he may increase.”

The youngest sibling of the Baldwin acting clan accepted Jesus in the aftermath of 9/11. But the wake-up call only came after a Brazilian nanny was singing about Jesus in Portuguese to the Baldwin’s baby in front of Stephen’s Brazilian wife, Kennya.

“So, we hired this lady from Brazil named Augusta, and the whole first week she’s working for us she’s singing in Portuguese, which she only spoke that language with my wife,” said Stevie B., as he calls himself.

Baume & Mercier and LOVE146's " Into The Light" Benefit Hosted by Stephen BaldwinKennya suddenly realized whom the nanny was singing about. She went to Stephen and said, “Do you hear what she’s singing about?  She’s singing about Jesus.”

After overhearing the singing a few more days, her curiosity could not be contained and she approached the nanny directly. “I noticed your singing, and I’m wondering why every song is about Jesus?”

Kennya was taken aback when Augusta burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s a little bit funny that you think I’m here to clean your house.”

To Kennya’s amazement, she explained that through a prophetic word, she was told that if she went to live with the Baldwins, Stephen and Kenya would one day come to faith in Jesus Christ and be involved in ministry.

“She goes on to tell my wife that, before she had accepted the job, she prayed with her pastor and some church members in Brazil. I haven’t told this part of the story a lot. She had a dream and saw me, saw my wife and saw my first daughter Aliya.”

But Baldwin was not impressed or moved about what appeared to him at the time to be religious gibberish.

“Didn’t faze me for a second,” he said. “Raised Roman Catholic up until 11 or 12. Didn’t stick. Went out into the world and did my own thing.”

Among his “own things” were roles in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Posse (1993), Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Threesome (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995), Bio-Dome (1996), Fled (1996), The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), Fred Claus (2007) and The Flyboys (2008). In addition to being an award-winning actor, he became a producer and an author.

Kennya was first one in the family to receive Jesus. After spending much time talking about Jesus with Augusta, Kenya attended a Brazilian church in New York City, seeking answers and learning more about Him.

As time went on, Stephen became curious and felt drawn to God and began asking questions. Then 9/11 struck.

“September 11th kind of freaked me out,” Baldwin recounted. Read the rest of the fascinating account.

Not exactly who you want as worship leader, but Alice Cooper is saved

Dark-themed rocker Alice Cooper — whose onstage theatrics included handling boa constrictors and staging mock suicides with guillotines — has returned to the God of his childhood after dumping alcoholism and feeling dissatisfied with riches.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” Cooper told CNSnews. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything.  A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.”

“The so-called “Godfather of shock rock” was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 to a pastoral family in Arizona. He performed missionary work with his dad among the Apaches. His grandfather was a pastor too. But when he went AWOL on God, he stretched the outer limits of what it means to be a prodigal.

His high school band from Phoenix was discovered by Frank Zappa in 1969. They struck gold with the album Love It to Death, which gained national notoriety.

Meanwhile, he drew on lessons from Edgar Allan Poe to optimize publicity with lurid dramatizations of horror in his concerts. His creepy makeup and macabre shenanigans drew ire from Christian leaders, which only served to fuel his sales to disaffected, rage-filled adolescents. Giddy with his success, Cooper conveniently forgot the early chapters of his life and his relationship with God as he entered the stratosphere of mega-stardom.

What brought him back to Earth was the booze.

“I was throwing up blood every morning,” he said.  “I was really a bad alcoholic. I wasn’t a cruel or mean alcoholic, but I was certainly self-destructive. My doctor said I was a textbook alcoholic. He said, ‘You drink in order to get things done, it’s like a medicine for you.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ I was always on a golden buzz. I drank all day, but I never slurred my speech or anything.

“When I came out of the hospital, I kept waiting for the craving to come, and it never came. It was a miracle,” he said. “I tell people I’m not a cured alcoholic, I’m a healed alcoholic. I never went to AA or anything like that, and I give all credit to God for that. Even the doctor said, ‘This is a miracle that you’re not falling back on alcohol every time there’s a stressful situation.’ So, it’s gone. It’s just gone.”

When God delivered him from alcohol, he went back to church. Cooper and his current wife of 41 years, Sheryl Goddard, now attend the Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to focus on growing and strengthening their faith in Christ.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” he said. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.

“God has a plan for everybody. I look at my life and I think, ‘How is it possible that I didn’t die?’” he said. “God’s chipping away at your life all the time to try to make you more like Him. That’s what a Christian is, a person that’s being molded and shaped all their life. I think the Lord expects you to do your best in His name. I had to struggle a long time about rock and roll. I realized it’s not really the music. It’s what’s being said with the music. So I think you have to be careful of what you’re writing, what you’re representing.” Read the rest of the macabre article.

She not only survived, she smiled

How-to-survive-in-a-single-parent-setting-with-joyBy Kayla Armstrong, LCA sophomore

Growing up I always seen kids with a mom and dad and always going out to eat and having a good time. Well believe it or not, I didn’t have that. My mom was my mother and father, and it was always just me and her.

My father was really never in the picture, wasn’t at my games, awards, or plays, etc. As a little girl, I had so many questions and wanted the feeling of what it was like to have a full-time father.

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I saw my dad a few times but not often. I remember the times where I would wait for him to pick me up but he never came. My dad and I were never close and even when he did pick me up, I would just be in my room for the whole weekend just watching TV and my dad and I wouldn’t really talk. It would be small talk like, “Are you hungry?”

It was embarrassing and made me very sad because I felt unwanted and felt like my dad didn’t love me or didn’t want me. But as I got older I was thankful he wasn’t in my life because my mom and I had a close relationship.

As time went by, my mother got married. I was happy because I had a father in my life, and he didn’t single me out because I was his “stepdaughter.” He treated me as if I was his own. We had a close relationship, and I got attached to him as if he were my biological father.

I was happy because I had someone to come to my volleyball games, there for my school recitals and if I got rewards and someone who can be there for me as a father.

In the middle of the year, things twisted, and the home wasn’t a “happy” home. There were lots of arguments, and next thing I know he was out of the house. I rebelled against everyone, especially God because I felt like God didn’t want me to be happy.

I felt like if He really loved me or was “real,” He would let our home be a happy home. Go to this link to find the happy ending and I invite you to comment there.

Grandma Krav Maga beat up bad guy. New version of Good Samaritan

baton-rouge-cop-saved-by-good-samaritanA Baton Rouge grandmother is being called a Good Samaritan after she plunged into the middle of a life-or-death struggle between a cop and bad guy, saving the officer’s life.

Vickie Williams-Tillman, 56, didn’t think twice when she pounced on the back of a hulking Thomas Bennett after a routine drug arrest escalated suddenly into a dangerous fight for control of the officer’s weapon.

“I could see in his eyes he needed help,” said Williams-Tillman, who stopped her car, called 911, and lunged into the fray on Feb. 19. “You don’t have time to think about it. I did what God needed me to do.”

vickie-williams-tillmanThe grandmother pulled on Bennett’s arm as cop and suspect wrangled for the officer’s gun. All three fell to the ground.

Quickly, a backup unit pulled up and another officer stun-gunned the suspect, who was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, resisting an officer with violence, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Baton Rouge Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome lauded the lady for fearlessly joining the brawl.

“Vickie Williams-Tillman epitomizes the true Good Samaritan,” the mayor said, as reported in The Blaze. She reached out and offered a courageous and unconditional response to the officer. Ms. Williams-Tillman is a hero and demonstrates the true meaning of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

Cpl. Billy Aime was handcuffing the suspect after spotting incriminating evidence when Bennett suddenly resisted arrest. The cop struggled without success to subdue the suspect. Read the rest of the article.

Kevin Hart Christian?

kevin-hartKevin Hart’s mother was going to help him with rent to kick-start his comedy career, but when the due date passed he called his mom, and all she could say was: “Have you been reading your Bible?”

A week later it was the same thing: “When you read your bible, then we’ll talk about your rent.”

Annoyed at his “over-religious” mom but desperate about an eviction note on his door, Kevin grudgingly sat down and opened the Good Book.

eniko-parrish-8-141“I go home and say, ‘Man let me open this Bible up,’” Hart explained to Oprah Winfrey. “Open the Bible up, six rent checks fell out. She put all my rent checks in the Bible.”

Score one for mom and the Lord!

Hart, the self-spoofing star of Real Husbands of Hollywood, doesn’t need Mom’s rent money anymore. He’s enjoyed a steady stream of movie roles starting with Paper Soldiers (2002), Scary Movie 3 the next year, Soul Plane (2004), In the Mix (2005) and Little Fockers (2010). He ranked as the highest paid comedian by Forbes, valued at $87.5 million.

In his latest gig, a quixotic Hart fails hilariously in his constant attempts to climb Hollywood’s social ladder.

And while he’s not overly vocal about his Christianity, Hart is believed to hold the values of his mother, even if he pokes fun at her zeal in comedy routines.

kevin-hart-heaven-and-hendrix“His whole family was dedicated to Christianity, and Hart uses his family’s faith as a frequent topic in his stand-up. He doesn’t make fun of Christianity itself, but he does make fun of how people can be hypocritical with religion (like his drug addict Jesus-loving cousin),” according to Hollowverse.

On that same day when the checks tumbled out of his Bible, Jesus tumbled out too.

Hart was born in Philadelphia in 1979 to a cocaine-addicted father who was in jail more than he was in Hart’s life.

As a teen growing up in a harsh reality, Hart resorted to humor as a coping mechanism. His love for slapstick eventually won several amateur comedy competitions on the East Coast until landed recurring role on the TV series Undeclared. Jump to the rest of the story.

Jesus for the San Fernando Valley

jesus-for-the-san-fernando-valleyI have been in a flurry of reporting and editing student reporters. I enjoy this. But I haven’t updated y’all on the progress of my start-up church. We have revival, despite myself. The church has doubled with the addition of another family, with lots of kids. They are kind people and have a heart for evangelism.

Do you want to evangelize the world? Go to Super King supermarkets in Los Angeles. It caters to immigrants with all kinds of exotic foods. We evangelized Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Greeks, Latins, Jews, Egyptians all in one night of evangelism recently.

img_4853It’s been too cold to meet at Lake Balboa, so we have been meeting in my apartment. Fortunately, it’s an old one, which means it’s spacious. The newer apartments are really small. We cram 20 people into that front room. Keep praying because it’s working!

Marriage and carriage brought McConaughey back to God

mcconaughey-and-his-wife-alvesFatherhood brought Matthew McConaughey back to faith.

The Oscar-winning actor, a heart-throb in romantic movies, has been lauded for breaking Hollywood’s high divorce rate by staying married to his supermodel wife, Brazilian Camila Alves, who was raised Catholic.

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“As soon as we had children, I was like, ‘You know what? Church was important to my childhood, even if it was just for the ritual of giving an hour and a half on Sunday to yourself, to pray and to think about others, even if you’re tired or whatever,’” McConaughey said. “I noticed how much I missed it and needed it.”

He and his wife have three children: Levi, aged 6; Vida, aged 7; and Livingston, aged 4.

McConaughey was raised in Uvalde, Texas. His mother, Kay was a kindergarten teacher and a published author. His father, James, was a Green Bay Packers football player before becoming a Texas oilman.

Hmatthew-mcconaughey-inscribed-wedding-ringis childhood dream of being a pro football player along with his college plan of being a lawyer all got cast aside. He worked in a commercial and then performed minor roles until he was cast as the lead in the John Grishman-based movie A Time to Kill.

The breakthrough roll led to more, and McConaughey found himself soon in romantic roles in such movies The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

In his rising success, the God of his childhood became all but forgotten.

Then, the man accustomed to making women swoon met and swooned over Camila Alves. When they met, he was hiding his identity under a huge hat and a bushy beard at the Hyde Club in Hollywood. As soon as he saw Camila, he was pierced by Cupid’s arrows.

“I said, ‘What is that?’” McConaughey recalled, as quoted in Ever After Guide. “I was like, ‘Woo-ha! Wow!’” Read the rest of the romance.

I wanted conjugations. The wanted pasiones.

high-school-telenovela-spanish-class-projectTrina Gratton always liked Spanish soap operas – called telenovelas – and watched them with her mother and grandmother.

“They’re addicting – all the drama, the characters and their backgrounds,” Trina said.

So when at the end of Spanish 2 at the teacher showed “Betty La Fea,” it occurred to Trina that she could propose filming a mini telenovela – all in Spanish – with her classmates to get some extra points.

The 9-minute product was “Las Llamaradas de Nuestras Pasiones” – a toxic and hilarious mixture of love, betrayal and murder acted by Lighthouse Christian Academy students.

If the scripting, acting and editing looks hastily contrived and arranged, that’s because the students didn’t have much time at the end of the semester to get it together. It’s hard to determine whether the students are spoofing the genre or themselves, which adds to the charming drollery of the unpolished short.

Trina is the brains – and the beauty – behind the production. Not only did she pour into the program her zest for soaps. She also poured in her passion for film-making and her natural spunkiness. The fun-loving jokesters and pranksters of Spanish 2 drained their own zaniness into the project.

“I love the crazy stuff, crazy ideas,” said Will Clancy, a senior who played Alejandro, the main love interest. “A regular assignment would have been too easy to get extra credit. I wanted to spike things up.”

Alejandro died at the end. “I’m a little sad to have died, but it was satisfying and fulfilling,” he quipped. Read the rest of the article by clicking: Learn Spanish in Los Angeles private school