I had been complaining on social media about the lawlessness of the rioters, and God was intersecting my self-righteousness with a contrary thought.
Ok, God, I thought, where can I get involved in at-risk neighborhoods in my city, Los Angeles? The door opened quickly to share a Bible study once a week at a half-way house just west of Downtown. I could leave my smug, self-affirming San Fernando Valley and get into the grit.
What started as a weekly study turned into friendships.
Then it went deeper. It became family.
Some church members and my business associates at World Financial Group, all pitching in with cooked items, threw the 16 guys at New Beginnings a full-on Thanksgiving Dinner.
Here are guys, many of whom have burned their bridges with their own family. So they aren’t invited to family gatherings. And the feel the absence acutely at family holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I should know. I cried too when I was a missionary all alone with my wife in Guatemala the first year and we didn’t have anybody to celebrate with. God sent us a well-to-do Guatemalan family that went out of their way to invite us to Christmas dinner with their family. Gratitude welled up in my heart.
So when I saw my guys at New Beginnings, with Thanksgiving approaching, I knew what I had to do. God has blessed me, and so it was my turn to bless.
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. When I suggested the project to my financial advisor business partners in the Woodland Hills office, everyone was eager to contribute. As my wife cooked the turkey, Sierra Rego mashed the potatoes, Herb Quick bought pies, Jamie got cider and Marie Carole — who’s from France — whipped up some ratatouille.
I didn’t even know that ratatouille was a traditional Thanksgiving dish. LOL.
Being a staunch Hindu led Mohini Christina to Christ.
When her marriage began to unravel, she searched for answers from the gods, as her parents had taught. Finding none in Hinduism, she was led by a dream to Christianity, where she found love, salvation and rescue for her marriage.
“My family is very, very god-fearing family, especially my parents’ family, so that really helped me get closer to Christ,” she says on a Songs on Fire video. “When I did not find the answer (in Hinduism) and all my questions just bounced back on me, I started searching for the true God,”
Both Mahalakshmi Srinivasan’s parents hailed from high-ranking Brahmin priestly families in Southern India, so religion was a centerpiece to everything. Mohini (which is the name she uses now) geared up from an early age to be a gynecologist but got sidetracked into Bollywood acting when she was discovered doing her hobby of Hindu classical Bharatnatyam dance.
Her marriage wasn’t completely arranged, as it is for many Indians. She and Bharath Krishna began to fall in love, so their parents agreed to arrange their wedding in 1999. That’s when the problems started.
From the engagement onward, Mohini fell into unexplainable bouts of depression and loneliness, suffered nightmares and developed cervical spondylitis.
It turns out that another woman had been interested in Bharath, and when he got engaged to Mohini, she resorted to black magic from the Hindu witches in Kerala, India, Mohini says. But they didn’t find that out until five years later after she aborted a baby because of the cervical spondylitis and their marriage teetered on the verge of divorce.
“She was greatly disappointed and got such a malaise in her heart. I don’t blame her at all,” Mohini says. “But she evolved into something which cannot be seen or heard, or it can only be felt. She resolved into doing something in the occult. She resolved in doing this black magic thing.”
Hindu astrologers counseled Mohini to counteract the spells with certain rituals, but she thought among the vast pantheon of Hindu gods one should be powerful enough to stop it without a lot of hoopla.
“If there is a god, let that god save me,” she says. “That was the next step I took towards Christ. He placed everything in my pathway.”
That’s when Jesus visited her a dream.
“I was standing on a small piece of land with water to my right or left. I was completely marooned,” she says. Read the rest: Hindu gets a vision of Jesus.
Eight-year-old Emmanuel Ntibonera was just sitting down to dinner when the rebel takeover of his town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) broke out. The next day, the whole family (nine children) fled — walking miles barefoot.
Eventually, he made it to a refugee camp in Kenya, from where he immigrated to America nine years later in 2009 with his family, who are Christians (the dad is a pastor).
“Remember where you came from,” God impressed on the heart of the young man who studied hard and eventually graduated from Liberty University. In 2015, he visited his native country and was appalled to see conditions had not improved. He never owned shoes during his childhood in the DRC, and he observed the same thing on his return trip.
“I’m seeing kids with no shoes (getting) infections and parasites,” he says on a Liberty convocation video. “God had blessed me. I have more than 10 pairs of shoes in my home. I can literally bring these here and saves lives. The parasites can only be prevented by appropriate footwear.
“I looked at myself and I felt guilty.”
And so began a shoe drive that became the Ntibonera foundation, in Greensboro, NC. He started doing concerts, at which the entry ticket was at least one pair of shoes. His home became a shoe storage. It soon became so full they had to look for a warehouse.
“In my room, the only place I had was to lay my head. Everywhere else was full of shoes,” he remembers. “I had 10,000 pairs of shoes in my house.”
Eventually, Emmanuel recruited the support of university staff to stage a campus-wide shoe drive to ship containers full of shoes to the DRC. Eventually, basketball legend Steph Curry lent his name to support the cause.
“God has been unfolding things. God was doing all these amazing things,” he says. On the scheduled day, Liberty University students all brought shoes to convocation, filling the stage with piles and piles of shoes. Liberty University paid for Emmanuel’s flight with 20,000 shoes.
The reason why so many Saudis fill the ranks and leadership of terrorist organizations today is because teachers and preachers in Saudi Arabia praised the “holy war” of Muslims against non-Muslims in Afghanistan in the 1980s, says a convert to Christianity.
“A whole generation was brought up this way and taught to think this way,” says Nasser al’Qahtan. “Sadly the world is reaping the fruit for what we were taught when we were young.”
Nasser, who was born and raised on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, longed to die for Allah by waging jihad, and thus improving his chances of making it into Paradise. But along the way he converted to Christ and now exposes the diabolical beginnings of today’s world upheaval.
Nasser’s parents were opposed to the idea of their 12-year-old going to Pakistan for training and being smuggled into Afghanistan to fight the Russians, but many of his older friends did join jihad.
“God had other plans for me,” he says on a Your Living Manna video.
In the summer of 1990, Nasser plotted to run away and join jihad, but Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. At the time, he was actually in the United States with his mother visiting relatives and the ensuing world chaos prevented him from leaving “this evil nation” of America.
Nasser hunkered down for the long haul, playing the role of the religious police with his younger siblings to make sure they still prayed and read the Koran. He didn’t want them to come under Satanic influences in America. Eventually, he worried about himself and eyed with suspicion the Americans around him.
“What was I going to do? I was surrounded by infidels. You either make a war against them or you try to bring them into Islam another way,” he says. “I thought Allah brought me here to evangelize them.”
Nasser’s English was very good and he thought his Islamic apologetics weren’t bad either.
“I began to tell everybody about Islam, my fellow students, my teachers, my neighbors, everybody I came into contact with,” he says. “I started to see some fruit. I started to see regular American people abandoning their prior beliefs and becoming Muslims. Some of them grew up in the church and they renounced Jesus. I thought I was fantastic.”
As he learned about American culture, he eventually perceived that born-again Christians were different than the rest of Americans (who he wrongly assumed to all be Christians), and he began to target them because he figured it would be easy for them to switch since they already lived clean lives.
One of those loving and clean-living Christians was a woman with whom Nasser fell in love.
“That was my undoing,” he admits.
Only after marrying Daisy did he begin to correct her beliefs about Jesus. She should no longer idolize Jesus, who was nothing more than just another of Allah’s prophets, he said. Mohammad was the main guy.
The pressure he put on her grew in time and caused great strain on their marriage, and even some Christian friends counseled her to divorce for being “unequally yoked,” a mistake she had made while being a nominal Christian.
But Daisy, pressured to evaluate her childhood faith, wound up affirming her relationship with Christ. Encouraged by an aunt who had been a missionary for decades in Brazil, she not only prayed for her husband but mobilized thousands of Christians in mega churches in North Texas to pray.
Those prayers began to take effect. Outwardly, her husband appeared secure in his beliefs, but inwardly he was struggling. He knew his sins were too great and the mountain of good works and prayers needed to offset them too much. He began to ponder again the easiest and most and most assured path to Paradise — jihad.
Finally, his wife ventured to invite him to church, which, out of curiosity, he accepted. His consciousness of his sin was so great that he concluded, “If I’m going to go to Hell, I might as well find out what they do in church.”
“I thought it was the most Satanic thing I had ever seen,” he says. “But I was so drawn to keep coming back by the love I felt there. Eventually he broke down and asked God for the truth.
“Immediately I had a vision. Everything before me was wiped away and I was transported to this rocky hill, looking down at this man who was so brutally beaten to the point of being unrecognizable,” he says. “He was being nailed to a cross. I knew this was Jesus.
“I watched as the cross was lifted up and He’s hanging there bleeding and struggling for breath. I’m looking Him in the eyes. He’s looking at me and through me. He sees all of my junk, the hidden things in my life. I feel this wave of shame.
“But he’s not looking at me with disgust, which is what I expected. He’s looking at me with this fierce love. As He’s fighting for every breath on the cross, He’s fighting with every breath for me.”
The darkness from all humanity was put on Him on the cross.
“The darkness wasn’t overcoming Him. He was overcoming it.”
Then Jesus said, “It is finished.”
“The reason I did this is that you and all the people that were meant to be my children were snatched away from Me, and you sold yourselves to other powers. To buy you back, this was the cost. This was the price that I paid for you Nasser.”
A convinced atheist, Rachel Gilson thought Yale University would be the perfect opportunity to “dive in” to same-sex attraction as a freshman, but after reading “Mere Christianity” her thoughts changed.
“I had sort of heard of Jesus before in my life, of course, but I always thought of him kind of as a lame cartoon character,” Rachel says on a 700 Club interview. “But instead I started to realize: ‘No, Jesus is alive and powerful and interesting and loving and he’s offering me something that I can’t get anywhere else.’”
Her 2004 conversion to Christianity led to a re-orientation, not of her sexual “orientation,” but of her entire life. Today, she still struggles with same-sex attraction, but she submits her feelings to God no differently than anyone who feels attraction outside of marriage.
“It’s been a big part of my journey to figure out, who owns me?” says Rachel, who has written a book Born Again This Way about her testimony. “Or is it my desires, or is it Jesus Christ?”
There’s a growing tendency among homosexuals to revise Biblical doctrine to assume God accepts homosexuality as a valid expression of sexuality, Rachel says. This movement represents a pushback against the unaccepting Christian church.
“They’ve seen a church be unfriendly or unwelcoming to LGBT people. Sometimes they’ve, seen Christians respond to gay and lesbian people in ways that don’t look like Jesus would have acted towards outsiders,” Rachel says. “They basically do an overcorrection. They say, ‘Well that type of exclusion doesn’t look like love, so maybe we got the words wrong.’”
Rachel grew up in a small conservative town. Because her parents never went to church, she couldn’t figure out God.
“I didn’t grow up in a household that went to church or read the Bible,” she remembers. “As I started thinking about you know, where did all this come from? What are the big ideas of the world? I just didn’t see Christianity as a valid source of the answers.”
She had just broken up with a girlfriend when she carted off to Yale College. “I thought being at college is gonna be a great place for me to actually live out” same sex attraction, she says. “But before I had a chance to really dive in there, that was when I met the Lord. I think He saved me from going too far down that path.”
Coming to Christ for Rachel, really, was no different than anyone lost in their sin.
“No matter what our orientation is, we all need the grace and the truth of Jesus Christ,” she says. “If we have just the grace without the truth, it’s, all fuzzy, but it doesn’t produce any change. But if we only have the truth without the grace, we end up crushed.” Read the rest: You can’t pray the gay away.
The dream from age 7 was coming true. Inky Johnson was in his junior year in college with all the paperwork signed for the NFL draft. He was among the top 30 and was guaranteed to make millions doing what he loved.
All he had to do was play 10 more games and his future would be set, but when he went to make a regular tackle against an Air Force player in 2006 — a tackle “I could make with my eyes closed” — the cornerback ruptured his subclavian artery and could not get up.
“I never thought about a career-ending injury,” Inky says in an Above Inspiration video. “I woke up from that surgery and the thing I placed my identity in was now gone.”
His right arm was paralyzed. Every day he lives with pain. But he rose above the crushed spirit and now delivers motivational speeches, encouraging people to serve Jesus and trust Him with their destiny.
Inquoris Johnson was raised in a 14-member household crammed in a two-bedroom home on Atlanta’s poor and violent side. His mom pulled double shifts to put food on the table, and Inky says he wanted to pull the whole family out of poverty.
Every day was dedicated to training to fulfill the dream. He drilled, worked out and practiced. His family attended church, and he asked God to bless his dream.
When he joined the Volunteers at the University of Tennessee, he became their starting cornerback and was on the trajectory to success; the commitment and effort was paying off.
Then he woke up on the fateful day and followed his usual routine: run two miles to the fire station and two miles back to warm up. Throw the football at the ceiling to practice catches at all angles by surprise. Visualize himself performing to perfection.
“Two minutes left in the game, and I go to make a tackle – that I can make with my eyes closed And I hit this guy and as soon as I hit him, I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t think it would be this type of problem. When I hit him every breath from my body left, my body goes completely limp. I fall to the ground.”
“I knew that I was extremely hated by Allah,” Aisha from Jordan says.
Born of an American mother into a conservative Muslim family, Aisha had racked up a lot of sins: first she questioned Allah, Mohammad, the Koran and salvation.
Then she came to America with her mother looking for better opportunities and got an abortion.
“I was feeling so much fear and hopelessness,” she says on a StrongTower27 video.
Even though her family was entrenched in Islam, her dad was an alcoholic who kicked her and spat on her. “He called me names that no father should ever call his daughter,” she says.
Other than his besetting sin, he tried to keep the traditions of Islam religiously.
Aisha found no love in her family or in her religion.
“I felt like I could never keep up or measure up to what was expected,” she says. “And my family wasn’t too keen on my asking questions.”
Mom was mortified by the downward slide of the family. She even feared for her own life. So she asked her husband to move the family to America where her kids could learn English and have better job prospects.
He agreed, and they moved in 2000, while he stayed in Jordan. His alcoholism only worsened.
Longing for love, Aisha got a boyfriend in high school and got pregnant at age 17. Lying on the bathroom floor with the positive pregnancy test, she cried. She couldn’t tell her dad; he would kill her out of Islam’s call for “honor killing.”
“He would have murdered me, literally,” she says.
Aisha couldn’t tell her Mom; she would tell her Dad.
Feeling like she had no options, she made the terrible choice to kill her baby.
“That was very hard for me because I always valued life,” she says. “I always daydreamed about what it would be like to hold my baby one day. To have gone through that was very devastating for me. I struggled with shame, embarrassment, depression, anxiety and self-worth.”
Her attempt to fill the void with things of the world left her empty.
“I was going down a dangerous and dark and downward spiral,” she admits. “I knew that my sins were deep and unforgivable in Islam. I knew that I was so extremely hated by Allah.”
In her quest for forgiveness and hope, she actually opened the only “holy book” she knew and read Surah 4:168-169: Those who disbelieve and commit wrong Allah will never forgive them, nor will he guide them to a path. Except the path of Hell.
“I remember reading that and feeling so much fear and hopelessness,” she says.
“Allah, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you even exist,” she prayed. “I’ve been praying to you for 27 years, and I’ve never felt your presence.”
She wept bitterly. In the depths of despair, her mind began to consider suicide.
“If there’s no form of forgiveness for me in Islam, what’s the point of me living?” she reasoned.
Then something happened that was totally unexpected.
“As I was crying I heard an audible voice,” she remembers. “I heard the name, ‘Jesus.’”
With tears streaming down her face, she looked up to Heaven and raised her hands.
“Jesus, I don’t know who you are, but if you are who they say you are, please reveal yourself to me because I can’t go on living life like this anymore,” she prayed. Read the rest: Freed from the wrath of Allah
Without motive, Alexander Pagani stabbed two 17-year-old inmates at Rikers Island Prison Complex. Just to make a statement.
“If I was going to be evil, I would become very evil,” he says on a 700 Club video.
That landed him in solitary confinement for one year. That’s where God started dealing with him.
From his earliest childhood in The Bronx, New York City, Alexander felt complete abandonment by his parents, who were lost in the drug culture.
“I felt completely rejected and totally embraced that sense of orphan or abandonment,” he says. “I just lived for myself like it’s just me and I’m gonna, do whatever I have to do to survive.”
To survive he joined a gang. By 11, he was getting arrested. By 14, he spent a year in juvenile imprisonment. By 16, he was doing time for robbery, burglary and kidnapping.
While waiting his trial in the infamous Rikers prison, he stabbed two 17-year-olds.
“I stabbed them for no reason, honestly, just to make a statement,” Alexander admits.
The subsequent solitary confinement began breaking him down. His Grandmother was a Christian who reached out to him. So was his Aunt Vilma, and she worked in Rikers as a youth counselor and would talk to him whenever she could. A Christian guard took interest in him and began ministering to him.
He made up his mind that he didn’t want to go to Hell.
At his hearing, Alexander heard a voice. It wasn’t his lawyers. It wasn’t the judge’s. It wasn’t the bailiff’s. He marvelled at whose it might be.
“They’re going to give you nine years, you are to take it.”
Immediately, his eyes fixed on “God” in the phrase “In God We Trust” on the wall behind the judge. “The word God shot like rays of light,” he says.
If he pled guilty, the judge explained, he would lower the sentence from 21 years to nine. Alexander blurted out and admitted his guilt even before his lawyer could say anything. “I knew God was talking to me,” he says.
To make their soldiers fearless, Mohamad Faridi’s Iranian superiors made them sleep in empty graves.
Since a boy, Mohamad was fervent Muslim, praying 10 times a day, way more than the regimented five times. But nothing could ease his fear of death and his apprehension that he might be judged unworthy of being admitted into Paradise beyond the grave.
“I was in a lot of despair, a lot of depression, and I was hopeless. The only hope I had was to die, so I contemplated suicide,” he says on a Your Living Manna video “But I was afraid because if as a Muslim you commit suicide you end up in hell.
“I was living in hell in this world.”
The Tehran-born boy was taught to never question Islam.
“I went to my mom and ask her, ‘Mom, does this god, the god of Islam, speak Farsi (the language of the Iranians)? Can I speak to him in Farsi?’ My mom said, ‘You do not want to be tormented by Allah. You do not want to be tortured by Allah. A good Muslim only surrenders, only submits.’
“From that moment on, I just put my blinders on.”
Mohamad memorized entire chapters of the Koran, washed himself religiously, prayed ritually and fasted during the 30 days of Ramadan.
But the question nagged him: Would he ever be good enough to merit Paradise?
Allah, according to the depiction, weighed your good actions against your bad actions on judgement day. Nobody ever knew for certain who would get into eternal glory and who would be cast into torment.
The Shia sect of Islam practiced in Iran also has the ritual of self-flagellation with chains containing barbs and knives. By drawing blood in penance, they hope to curry the favor of the imams in Paradise so that they may pray for their souls, Mohamad says.
“Someone recites a eulogy and provokes the crowd to beat themselves, weep and cry,” he explains. “That’s how we’re gaining points and how we punish ourselves that maybe one of these Imams would intercede for us at the day of judgement. We beat ourselves so much that we bruise and bleed with chains on our backs.”
At age 19, he joined the Revolutionary Army to fight in the decade-long war against Iraq. The nation’s imams said that it was jihad, or holy war, which meant that if anyone died in it, he would be taken straight to Paradise.
His uncle and brother were part of the mass deaths of Iranians, but Mohamad was spared.
Back from the war, he resumed his rituals of desperately trying to appease Allah. During one 10-day stretch of self-flagellation, he beat himself so badly through nine days that he could not rise from his bed on the tenth to carry on.
“I was so broken and I was so bruised that I could not get out and go beat myself more on the tenth day,” he recounts. “I was ashamed of myself. I said this is the least asked of me and I cannot fulfill that.”
Light finally broke into the darkness. Mohamad rekindled a childhood friendship with a friend named Rasul. He noticed Rasul was uncommonly light-hearted.
“What is going on with you? What is happening to you?” asked Mohamad.
Rasul responded that he became a Christian.
“That was the first time I was hearing about Christianity without bad-mouthing it or without saying that it is corrupted,” Mohamad remembers.
“God loved his creation,” Rasul said. For two hours, he elucidated the free gift of grace through faith in Christ and his death on the cross.
Mohamad raised every objection he had heard at home or in the mosque.
Rasul tired of two hours of arguing, so he said he needed to go.
“The last thing I’m gonna tell you is Jesus was beaten, he was bruised, he was crucified, his blood was shed for your sin so that you can have everlasting life,” Rasul said.
Then he quoted to him John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The concept of Jesus being beaten and bloodied instead of Mohamad beating and bloodying himself left him astounded. It was an utter contradiction of everything he knew from Islam.
It resonated deep within him, and Mohamad decided at the end to accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
Coming from a poor family with a mother who was totally illiterate, Parameswari Arun struggled with an inferiority complex, comparing herself to other students in terms of talent, intellect or family background. Frequently, she cried herself to sleep.
She worried about her studies and whether she would ever attain an advanced degree. “Will I get a job? Will I be able to look after myself or my poor parents?” Parameswari says on a Your Living Manna video. “So many fears came and crowded my mind and put me down every night.”
Perplexed and distraught, the native of Pannaipuram village in Tamilnadu District of India spied two fellow college girls next door in the dorms who didn’t appear to be staggering under the crush of stress.
“They always used to look confident, joyful enjoying their life,” Parameswari says. “They were good girls in terms of their character and that caused me to have a type of curiosity, to go and find out how come.”
Still, she was shy.
“One day after attending my physics class, I was rebuked by my teacher,” she says. “I ran to my room to sit and cry alone, but my room was locked.”
So she went to her neighbors’ room. While there, she spied a Bible. She had never seen a Bible before.
“There was one word written underlined by red ink. God is love. That word came and pierced my heart saying that there is someone to love me and to take care of me,” she says. “But I couldn’t understand the full meaning when I was pondering over it.”
Parameswari asked her. “What do you mean by God is love?”
“God loves everyone in the world and He came in the form of his Son Jesus Christ to carry the punishment because of his love,” the friend responded. “He doesn’t want to see anyone going to hell because of the punishment of the sins that we do on earth. So he died on the cross and took away every punishment and curse and everything on him and freed every human being. Whoever believes in His name can enter into eternal life”
The friend explained that Christ’s blood covered everyone’s sins.
Parameswari, who was studying the biological and chemical sciences, couldn’t grasp this idea.
“The body contains a maximum six liters of blood,” she argued. “How can it wash the sins of the whole world?”
Parameswari rushed out of the room, rejecting the notion.
Notwithstanding, she continued to contemplate the Bible.
Borrowing the mysterious book, she read further.
“That book told me who I am, who is my Creator. The book told me that I am born to live. The book told me I will be on top, never at the bottom. The book told me that I’m chosen by God. The book told me that I am the beloved of the Lord. The book told me that I’m a child with talent given by God.
As a deaf missionary in Africa, Elizabeth Smith blows people’s minds — especially the Muslims who interact with her in the nation of The Gambia.
“When we speak to many hearing Muslims, they become curious when we praise God for making us deaf. They normally are very sympathetic because they believe we are full of sin and that’s why God made us deaf,” she wrote in an email interview with God Reports.
“It’s fun sometimes to see what God does in people’s lives when they see things from a different perspective,” based on a conception of Islam that’s very different from Christianity, Elizabeth notes. Prolific hymnist Fanny Crosby thanked God she was blind; apparently, she felt the loss of one sense sharpened her hearing and musicality.
Both deaf, Elizabeth, 34, and her husband, Josiah, 36, are establishing a church for the deaf. It’s only one of its kind not only in The Gambia but for many of the neighboring West African nations. Their missionary adventure started in February of 2017.
Their church, on the outskirts of the capital city of Banjul is a place of refuge for Gambians who need love and acceptance. “We get a lot of curious visitors in the church. Some have questions of who God is,” she says. “Some just feel welcomed, regardless if they are Muslim or not.”
For Elizabeth and Josiah, not hearing is not an insurmountable barrier to be missionaries. It presents challenges that simply belong to a long list facing anyone adjusting to a new country and culture.
“Living abroad is not for everyone. It stretches you, and takes you apart in ways you never imagined,” she says. “Being deaf definitely presents a lot of challenges. There are times when we need to communicate and many cannot read or write English.”
She tries not to voice words in English and mostly uses writing on paper or hand gestures. By and large, people are open to this sort of communication, though many are illiterate. The couple uses the illustrated Action Bible to show biblical stories and truths.
“But our main focus is the deaf community,” she says.
Elizabeth and Josiah were both raised in Arizona, but they didn’t meet in Arizona. They met Washington DC, where both worked for Youth With a Mission, and married in 2015. (From 2011-13, Elizabeth was an independent missionary with the Baptist Ministry at Gallaudet University, an institution of higher learning specially geared for deaf students.)
Soon, they felt God call them to Africa. They didn’t know where and sought in the Lord in prayer. Elizabeth got a vision of a machete shape and felt moved to look at a map of Africa. Lo and behold, the sliver-nation of The Gambia, which hugs the same named river, came into focus.
Josiah volunteered teaching gym classes at a local deaf school, while Elizabeth volunteered teaching English. A former British colony, The Gambia adopted English as its official language, but many speak only tribal languages such as Wolof or Mandinka.
Just as English differs from another language, so does sign language differ from country to country. There is no universal sign language. The American version is called American Sign Language. So Elizabeth and Josiah are gaining fluency in the Gambian sign language. Read the rest: only deaf church in West Africa led by deaf missionaries.
On the very night Jerry Arterburn accepted Jesus at a church camp, the 5-year-old was also molested by the pastor’s son.
“When that molestation occurred, it ignited something in him that he didn’t think other guys had to struggle with,” his brother Stephen says on a Pure Passion Media video. “It produced an uneasiness with relationships with women.”
Jerry died of AIDS on June 13, 1988, at a time when the epidemic was raging largely unchecked and medical science was trying to figure out how to tame it.
“When my brother and I moved to Laguna (Beach, California) at the same time, there was another person who moved to Laguna. He was identified as Patient 0,” Stephen says. “This was a flight attendant who flew around the world and slept with about 2,000 different people. He infected so many people in that town that the AIDS virus was extremely virulent in there. I watched business after business close because there was such a high per capita gay population there. They were dying right and left.”
Before Jerry’s death, Stephen began to formulate the best way to encourage his brother to come back to Christ.
“I loved him. But I knew that what he was doing was wrong,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to convince him that he was wrong. I just tried to find a way to have a relationship with him that I could love him with.”
There were three Arterburn boys who grew up with a mom who bitterly hid her father’s suicide and a dad who was “redneck, disconnected,” Stephen says. All three sons went prodigal from their otherwise “strong Christian household” in Texas.
Stephen — who now is an author, a radio host and the founder of New Life Ministries — thought he was the worst rebel of the lot because he forced his girlfriend (attending Bible college) to get an abortion.
Jerry, who loved design and became an architect, didn’t immediately show how he was getting off course.
Stephen describes his brother as “the moral one” who owned up to his mistake, while Stephen was actually the immoral one who had slept with many young women.
“I hadn’t slept with a man. I killed my own baby,” Stephen confesses.
Jerry was about to get married, but it was called off. Both had frequent fights. Still, no one really knew why the wedding was called off.
When Jerry, at age 26, was appointed to a city planning post in Easley, South Carolina, he met a man who took him to a gay bar. He had never had sex before, but that night, “my brother felt like he was at home,” Stephen says.
“He felt total acceptance, freedom — all this stuff that he had never known: all of this love, affection, connection,” Stephen says.
From then on, it was relationship after relationship. When Jerry and Stephen both, by chance, moved to Laguna Beach, they started reconnecting. Sometimes in their talks they would debate. One topic that came up was whether homosexuality was right or wrong.
Stephen, who had come back to the Lord by now, stuck to his guns — until he realized the reason why his brother was arguing the aberrant position. His brother was gay.
As soon as Stephen found out, the arguments were over. A new phase in their relationship started, one of reaching out to Jerry with love and acceptance, though not approval of his sin.
“I was able to develop a close relationship with him, and then he got sick. I’m so glad I did because he needed me. I’m so glad he felt safe with me, that I could be there with him when he needed a lot of help — just getting up and going to the bathroom. He lost 100 pounds. It was horrible. He looked like something out of a concentration camp.”
Devastated by the news that not only their son was gay but also had AIDS, the “redneck ” father visited Jerry in the hospital and said, “You’re coming home with us. We’re going to help you through this.”
The Southern Baptist Church of his parents, instead of ostracizing Jerry, were loving and inclusive. (The Southern Baptists were conservative on social acceptance at a time when much of America was unmoved by the AIDS crisis.)
“We loved him when he was (younger). We’re going to love him through this,” a deacon said, according to Stephen. “Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to go over to his house and we’re going to lay hands on him and pray for him to be healed… Whatever his insurance doesn’t cover for his treatment of AIDS, this church is going to pay for. Whenever his brothers want to come in and see him, we’ll pay their air fare.” Read the rest: How to treat LBGTQ family members if you’re Christian
Daniel Chand loved to fight. As a boxer in Greenwich, England, he was a champion in the ring. On weekends at the pub he liked to raise hell and often found himself in drunken beer brawls.
But then he got arrested for really hurting someone and faced eight years in jail.
“I remember being outside the court room and I prayed to God to give me one more chance,” Daniel told the UK News Shopper. “The next thing I knew, the trial collapsed.”
Chand still loves to fight. But he has traded punching for preaching.
An earnest international evangelist, he has joined the ranks of a new generation of street preachers in London who have traded hellfire and brimstone for more tempered reasoning relying on apologetics.
And he loves praying for the sick — right there on the street or in the store.
“I remember walking up to a Muslim man who was limping and thinking that he might respond negatively to me because he was a different religion. I told him Jesus wanted to heal his leg. And he just looked at me.
As a madame in Atlanta, Pamela Hillman had a mansion and drove a Hummer.
“I always had a lot of money,” Pamela says on a CBN video. “It was a very big business.”
Pamela was a small town girl, whose mom was a free-spirited Playboy bunny and whose Dad was an abusive alcoholic.
Trouble started for her when she was 5 years old and begged her dad to be able to keep a stray puppy she brought home.
“If you come upstairs with me, you can have him,” her dad told her.
When she ascended the stairs, she was violated. “Something happened that day. It planted a seed that I could get what I want by going upstairs.”
The horrific happenings altered Pamela’s life forever. She went from a happy-go-lucky girl with dreams of growing up to becoming a PTSD-warped automaton whose emotions were guided by the sordid underbelly of American sin.
She DID tell mom what dad had done to her, and mom got him kicked out, but other members of the family picked up where dad left off. The curse had spread.
At age nine, Pamela found marijuana lying around the house and discovered she could be free from her room, from restrictions, from pain — all by smoking.
“When I discovered pot, I just went somewhere else,” she says. “I felt free from being trapped in that bedroom.”
Soon she was progressing through harder drugs and found cocaine.
But sex was her major coping mechanism in the quixotic quest for love. She was married and divorced three times before she turned 20. Prostitution, drugs and being in and out of jail became a way of life.
The men who consort with strippers and prostitutes while using and abusing them, denigrate and antagonize them. They would echo to her the dehumanizing words from her own self-condemnation.
“I was a whore. I was a slut. I was never going to amount to anything.”
The never-ebbing undercurrent of her life was shame. “That was all that I knew. Filth.”
Fortunately for Pamela, not every influence in her life was bad. If her mom and dad contributed to her downfall, her grandmother was a voice of reason and Christian love.
A friend of her grandmother prophesied over Pamela when she was young. “This one here is special. She’s going to do great things for God.”
Many times those words of hope would come back to Pamela. They especially reverberated powerfully when Pamela, at age 26, decided to kill herself. With enough cocaine in the needle to end her life, Pamela heard those words again as she held the syringe, ready to jam it into her arm.
“God, if you’re real, help me, rescue me,” she cried out. “I need you.”
The voice spoke. “You don’t belong here. You’re going to do great things for God.”
“In that moment, I heard my grandmother’s voice,” Pamela remembers. “I heard so many of her prayers.”
Instead of committing suicide, she committed her life to Christ. She got off drugs, abstained from extra-marital sex and went to church for two years.
But Pamela had one slip-up, one moment of weakness in which she fell into sin again. She was overcome with grief, shame and hopelessness. She thought there was no recourse but to dive headlong into full-blown sin.
“I relapsed because I couldn’t deal with that shame and guilt,” she says. “I was unworthy to be in His presence, to be a child of God.” Read the rest: God saved the madame.
Not everything was beautiful in the new Miss America’s early life.
When Asya Branch was 10, her father was arrested at home for involvement with an armed robbery. Little Asya watched terrified from the car as her dad was hauled away.
“That day our lives changed forever,” Asya told the New York Daily News. “We had a beautiful home and a great life. When they found out that my father was in prison, people looked at us differently. That was a critical stage in my life and it ended up changing me. I felt this overwhelming shame.”
Three things ensued. Asya and her family lost their farm home as the bank foreclosed. She felt alone and abandoned. And she grew closer to Jesus.
“My father’s incarceration played an enormous role in my life and helped me develop characteristics I never imagined. It taught me responsibility at a young age and to count my blessings,” Asya said on Mississippi Pageant. “But most of all, it strengthened my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Asya was born the sixth of eight siblings to her parents, living in Booneville, Mississippi at the time. Before stepping into a wayward life, her dad was a retired military veteran. Her mom was a teacher’s assistant. She was a gregarious kid who spent her days entertaining family members. If no one was around, she would bury herself in a book.
Asked what one book she would take to a deserted island, she answered unequivocally: “My Bible, not only for the quality reading but for inspiration and guidance in the circumstances in which I would find myself.”
A self-described “daddy’s girl,” Aysa said there was no one to help her through the trying times of losing her dad to the prison system. Her father, she says, had tried to help a drifter by taking him in. But that young man had committed an armed robbery, and for trying to help a needy soul, her daddy paid a high price.
“There were no resources nor advocates available for me,” she says. “People don’t recognize the hardships I have faced in my life because I have learned to be strong through my circumstance, keep a smile on my face and lean upon the Lord.” (Asya is advocating for prison reform and even spoke to President Trump about it.)
“I struggled with my self-worth and closed myself off, praying for answers about why this happened,” she wrote in Guideposts. “Maybe God is teaching me to be independent and grateful, I thought.”
Nick Vujicic assumed he might live life alone. He has no legs and no arms.
“I definitely had doubts that I would ever get married, that I would ever meet anyone who would ever love me and spend the rest of their life with me because I’m Prince Charming — with a couple bits and pieces missing,” Nick says.
Today, the Australian-born Christian motivational speaker is happily married to his Cinderella.
“We have gotten a lot of interesting reactions from people while we were dating, holding hands and walking side by side,” says Nick, now 34. “People would come up and cry and say, ‘Now I believe in love again.’”
Kanae Miyahara is a Mexican-Japanese who saw the Australian evangelist at a small speaking engagement in Texas. Nick’s appearance on the stage makes a sensation. Sometimes, he is carried in. Sometimes, he scuffles along the ground and hops up steps to a table, upon which he stands. He has a mere stub for a foot only.
With a mixture of self-deprecating humor, optimistic Bible preaching and non-stop enthusiasm the born-again evangelist leads sinners to Christ and Christians to a better attitude.
As he spoke in 2010 at the iconic Adriatica Bell Tower in McKinney, Nick spotted the exotic beauty in the audience and felt his heart throb. Would she — could she — feel the same?
Through friends, he arranged to talk with her and, playing it cool, managed to exchange emails.
Kanae was disillusioned with her prior dating experiences.
“Because I have dated other guys, I always went for the physical and I got tired of that,” she says on YouTube. “When I met Nick I was looking for other things, I found all those things in him. I was like wow, he’s not just boyfriend material, he could be my husband.”
So when she met Nick, she wasn’t necessarily looking for physical attributes — at least not arms and legs.
“The moment I saw his smile and his eyes, I thought to myself, oh my gosh, he’s so handsome. He’s my Prince charming. He may not be perfect on the exterior but he’s a perfect match for me.”
Nick was born to Serbian immigrants in Australia with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs. When the nurse showed Dušanka and Borislav Vujičić their baby, the couple went outside the hospital to vomit.
Eventually, they accepted Nick as he was. They brought him home and raised him to love God and never make excuses but to learn to do everything by himself, as much as possible. Hence, he went to school, played ball and made friends like everyone else.
“My parents always taught me we have a choice to either be angry for what we don’t have or to be grateful for what we do have,” he says. “The power of choice. I had to decide for myself, especially in the early years in school when a lot of kids would come up to me and tease me.
“The world is a hurting place. The world needs hope. The world needs love,” he says. “Without hope, we feel like, why are we here?”
Nick graduated from Griffith University at the age of 21 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a double major in accounting and financial planning.
In 2005, Vujicic founded Life Without Limbs, an international non-profit organization and ministry. In 2007, he founded the motivational speaking company Attitude is Altitude. He has preached for mega church pastor Greg Laurie and around the world to more than 4 million people. In 2008, he moved to California.
Nick doesn’t let anything hold him back. He swims, cooks, skydives and surfs.
The night he met Kanae was “electric,” Nick says. “When she stood by me it just felt right.”
Nick proposed on a yacht in Santa Barbara. He even put the ring on her finger — with his mouth. She wasn’t expecting it, and he began by kissing her hand. With great dexterity, he managed to slip on the gold band. Read the rest: Nick Vujicic wife
When accosted by a stranger in New York City, Keisha Omilana politely declined to give out her phone number, but as she was about to board a train to head for a modeling audition, her women’s intuition took over.
“You know what? You’re not dating anybody,” she told herself. “And he was cute!”
Because of the risky decision to give a total stranger her number, Keisha today is a Nigerian princess – royalty!
That’s because the guy requesting her number was Prince Adekunle “Kunle” Adebayo Omilana from the Arugbabuwo ruling house in Nigeria.
But she didn’t know that until AFTER she said yes when he took a knee.
They dated for two years, and then he sprung the question. When she accepted, he explained that he was African royalty, with lots and lots of money.
Today, the Omilanas are strong Christians, and they’re using their money to finance church planting in Africa. Prince Adekunle is managing partner and chief executive officer of Wonderful Media, a European Christian television network which on Facebook identifies itself: “He is Life, His name is Wonderful and life is Wonderful.”
Nigerian royalty — like European royalty — exercises a symbolic role with little real power, but the Omilanas leverage a good example and preaching to the conscience of the nation to cement Christianity in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.
That’s significant because Nigeria stands to become a new center of gravity for worldwide Christianity. Nigeria has already begun sending missionaries into Europe in what many see as a paradigm shift for missions.
In the next 20 years, Nigeria is poised to become the fourth most populous country in the world — surpassing Russia. They’re on track to having the largest evangelical population in the world. Soon the majority of Christians worldwide are going to be non-white.
With 400,000 Nigerian immigrants in the U.S. with an average income level above white Americans, Nigeria can join hands with mission leaders on an equal footing to chart the future spread of the Gospel worldwide.
Don’t be surprised if the Omilanas sit on that board.
Keisha was born in Inglewood, a small city in the middle of the vast Los Angeles metropolis. Her birth town was awash with poverty and overrun with gang violence, but Keisha grew up safe and sound.
She moved to Chicago to study fashion but switched from designer to model. At first she timidly embarked on the career with Ford Models. But her striking beauty opened doors. She represented Pantene, L’Oreal, CoverGirl, Revlon, and Maybelline.
Keisha became the first African-American woman to be featured in three consecutive Pantene commercials, earning the moniker “The Pantene Girl”.
She appeared in the movie Zoolander and the television shows 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
Keisha was lost in New York City while looking for another audition when Prince Kunle discovered her.
He was in a meeting at the W Hotel when he saw her in a phone booth, trying to get the directions straight from her agent. Prince Kunle excused himself from the table and went out to see her. He waited 45 minutes for her to get off the phone, at which time he approached her.
Curtis “Earthquake” Kelley was formerly a high-ranking witch, so he brings a wealth of counter-intelligence to Christianity — and what he finds is that most Christians are abysmally ignorant of their enemy’s strategy.
“Since I was in that dark stuff, God told me to bring that information to the table,” says the seventh-born heir to a dark legacy of priestly power in Haitian voodoo.
Today, Curtis, 64, uses his honorary doctoral degree to teach Christians the mechanics of deliverance from demonic oppression, from physical sickness to entanglements with sin. He travels internationally and gives classes over Zoom — “not just a whole lot of hollering and hooping. We need an understanding of God’s word for knowing how to fight these hobgoblins.“
Call it Deliverance 101.
Twenty years ago, Curtis taught Deliverance at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Today, he is pursuing a goal of launching Schools of Deliverance in every major U.S. city.
“The enemy doesn’t want the body of Christ to be educated about what he does and who he moves,” Curtis told God Reports. “Deliverance is not a 40-yard dash. It’s an 880 run. It may take a little while to get around the track and learn these things. A lot of people give up because of their lack of knowledge. The church is not taught how to fight.”
Born to a Haitian immigrant family in New York, Curtis was heir to the family’s legacy in witchcraft because he was seventh born. He learned casting spells, astral projection, séance pronouncements and client manipulation, but when he saw demons coming in and out of his floor — and especially after a drug-induced dip in Hell — Curtis decided he wanted out.
He grudgingly attended church, and on the third day of revival in December of 1971 the evangelist called him out: “Young man, God wants to save you. God says, ‘I love you. I want to save you,’” Curtis remembers. “I didn’t want nothing to do with the church because I thought they were weak. But when I heard God loved me, I went up to the altar.”
Among the things he’s done through the intervening years, Curtis got into boxing. He was a good bare-knuckle fight club brawler and caught the eye of promoter Don King, who fronted him as a super heavy weight boxer along with Mike Tyson, who was heavyweight category, Curtis says.
He met with some success — in the shadow of Tyson — but a head-on car collision in 1986 abruptly ended his foray in the sport.
Curtis got into ministry. He was holding a drug-rehab program at a Los Angeles church in the early 1990s when a well-dressed participant — husband and wife — caught his eyes.
“You don’t look like you have any problems with drugs,” Curtis approached him at an opportune moment.
“Oh no,” the man responded. “We’re here for our son. Our son is strung out real bad.”
With the knowledge he gained, that man helped his son break free from drugs. Today, that son is a successful engineer, Curtis says.
It turns out, the man was a professor at USC and spoke to the Dean to get Curtis in to teaching a class — Deliverance and Demonology — for one semester. There were always 5 or 6 kids out of the 50-student class who hung out after class wanting to know more. Read the rest: Earthquake Kelley’s Schools of Deliverance.
Frank Mesa put the gun in his mouth many times. Sometimes, he pointed it to his temple. But he could never pull the trigger.
“I hated life. I hated people. I was just bitter,” Frank says. “I used to argue a lot with my parents. I told my mom, ‘I hope you die.’ Two weeks later she became real ill and went to the hospital and within a week, she passed away.”
Frank, then 23, blamed himself. He had been taking care of both his parents, who were ill. He grew up in Apple Valley, California.
The family moved away from the gang violence in L.A. in 1978 at the time his dad retired. An only child, Frank was mischievous.
“As a kid, I remember being bullied a lot, getting picked on,” he recalls. “I was jumped by a number of older kids. They stole my brand new bike. This is where I started hating people.”
As he grew up, he fell in with the Heavy Metal crowd during middle school, groups like Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leopard.
“One of my favorite songs was from Pat Bennetar. It was ‘Hell is for Children,’” Frank says. “It was an addiction. It helped me to forget about issues, stress, peer pressure. I just wanted to be accepted.”
The first time he inhaled second-hand marijuana smoke, it gave him hallucinations for three days, so he stuck with alcohol.
“Almost every weekend, I would look for parties that I wasn’t invited to,” he says. “We would just get blasted. I would show up to work intoxicated.”
Naturally, his parents scolded him for this behavior. He argued over this. “This is my own life,” he responded. “My mother didn’t approve of anything I was doing. I brought home a girlfriend so she could meet her. My mom just called her a whore straight out.
“I got into an argument with her, and I said, ‘I hope you die,’” he remembers. “Before the month was over, she had passed away.”
After his mom fell into the coma and passed, Frank felt bad for what he had said. He could never apologize. He wondered what would become of himself.
“Is this life? Is that all there is?” he asked.
Frank had never been a church person. A few months later, somebody knocked on his door and explained the gospel to him.
“I had all kinds of questions about God at the time,” he says.
Thomas Locke, the Texas attorney who adopts retired military dogs, needs to be rescued himself.
The Christian Harley rider who can be seen with a cigar in his mouth and his wife on the back of the bike announced in August he’s battling cancer.
“I’m not scared at all, not even a little bit, not even nervous,” he says, shirt off showing a still-chiseled frame at 59 in a video uploaded to his Facebook account. “I have strong faith, so death has never scared me. It doesn’t even annoy me.”
The military veteran went viral on TikTok in May of this year when he had to put down his constant companion, Deny, a military dog that had been classified as “unadoptable” after eight years of hard service sniffing out bombs in Kuwait. Thomas found him for Christmas 2018 in the 21-acre ranch of Mission K9 which tries to finds homes for military assets.
The bond between man and dog challenged the notion of mere earthly affection. Often, Thomas would sleep with the German shepherd, who followed at his heals everywhere around the house. But when his back legs stopped working, Deny had to be put down, and Thomas carried out the painful task Texas style: after a last meal of brisket and sausage.
“I’m ready to turn in my man card,” Thomas said, holding back tears, as he fed Deny from a plate. “This wasn’t supposed to be a cry fest.”
This time, Thomas is NOT crying.
“Cancer affects babies, children and women. It’s a coward disease. I say ‘F you, cancer.’ I’m glad you came and picked on somebody your own size because I’m ready for you.” Read the rest: Animal rescue needs to be rescued.