Monthly Archives: September 2021

Reform school volleyball in Los Angeles

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.”

Heidy is not team captain, but… Read the rest: Christian School Los Angeles sports program

Homage to the Queen

Every ball she hit was for her mother.

Her mother passed away just months ago.

“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

Men need to cry too, says Jason Wilson, who learned to be a ‘comprehensive man’

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.

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers didn’t live up to the hype

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.]

She never thought she’d wind up in a mental institution

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.”

A friend found her, stopped her, and called the ambulance. Read the rest: She fell into cutting and was taken to a mental institution.

He hung up on his buddy at 4 a.m. His buddy committed suicide.

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.

“This drug I was unable to stop using but it was taking everything from me,” he says. Read the rest: Causes of addiction, Adam Gunton.

Developmentally disabled couple wants kids

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:

Who decides if they have kids? Should society try to prevent a child being born into a world where foster care is a strong possibility? Find out more: Should developmentally disabled couples have kids?

Lost his legs and arms, didn’t lose his spirit

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.

Houston, we have a problem

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.

“I knew that we were playing slow. To get my team moving, I had to move and be excited and firey and wanting it,” she says. “You have to get mad to win.” Read the rest: Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica overturns volleyball match

Meth spiked with fentanyl killing homeless in Venice, Santa Monica

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.

Since June the LA Sheriff embarrassed Los Angeles officials… Read the rest: Homelessness in Venice, CA

Driving spikes

He drove spikes into Compton’s coffin.

“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.

When the Corsairs kicked off, they stopped Compton’s runback deep. It was Spikes who made the tackle. Of course. Read the rest: Santa Monica College football 2021

Duty? Who believes in duty any more?

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.

DUTY?

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.

Duty.

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.

‘Wreck my life’ she prayed in anger

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.”

Digital Camera

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.”

“Wreck my life,” she blurted out in prayer, not knowing what to say. Read the rest of Mo Isom: How do I deal with my father’s suicide?

Double homicide revenge

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

Vitor Belfort found Christ through his sister’s kidnapping

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.

With his wife, Joana Prado

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.

“If you lost your husband, you’re a widow. If you lost your parent, you’re an orphan. But if you lost your child, we don’t have a name for that,” Vitor says. “It’s so painful. It’s so painful they don’t even have a name for that.” Read the rest to find out how Vitor Belfort overcame the bitterness of his sister’s kidnapping and came to Christ.

Secret recipe Pho

The secret is the in the Pho.

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.

After losing the first two sets 21-25 and 24-26, the Lighthouse Saints rallied to squeak through with a 27-25 win in Game 3. Read the rest: Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica

He was killed by the Philippine soldiers who were sent to rescue him

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.

That very day, Martin… Continue reading: Gracia and Martin Burnham hostages of jihadist militants

Get ready for football. Played in a wheelchair.

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.

Michael Garafola

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