When Stuart Long crashed his motorcycle into a car, he was launched into oncoming traffic and hit the windshield of an oncoming car headfirst. Witnesses say he then rolled on the street and got run over by another car.
“And here I am” still alive, he remarked later.
Out of the death-defying experience, Stuart turned to God and became a priest, known as Father Stu. He’s the subject of a new biopic starring Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg, who were inspired by the story and decided to make the movie.
The movie “Father Stu” will be released on Good Friday by Sony. Wahlberg has pursued this project for six years. His own father died of cancer, so when Wahlberg heard two priests talk over dinner with him about Stuart Long, it resonated with him.
Born in Seattle on July 26, 1963, Stuart Long was adventurous and ambitious as a young rascal he explains, according to the Daily Mail. After graduating high school in 1981, he arrived at Carroll College, a private Catholic university. His focus was completely on sports, primarily football and soon, boxing, which became his sole passion.
“I wasn’t Catholic. I always felt like kind of an outsider,” Long revealed while thinking about attending mass with the football team.
Long admitted to constantly questioning his college professors. When he discovered boxing, he found his calling.
“The individual sport fit with my personality better than the team sport,” Long said in a 2011 interview with the Diocese of Helena. Read the rest: Father Stu
For 13 months, Isaiah Trujillo was vomiting every day, as he battled stage 4 cancer with chemotherapy. Sometimes all his wife could do was rub his back – and stay by his side.
“It was worth it. It’s what God had for us. I knew that God had more for us,” Amanda Trujillo says.
This is a different Valentine’s Day story. At a time when marriage is grounds for divorce, some Christian couples – like the Trujillos – still hold marriage as sacred. Their vows “to death do us part,” they take seriously.
Meanwhile worldly marriages are built on the proverbial sand that the flood waters buffet and break down.
“We definitely questioned why we were going through that,” says Amanda. The two-year ordeal is finally over. Isaiah just was declared cancer-free and the port in his chest is being removed. “You have this idea that if you serve God and do what’s right and do the will of God that you live in a bubble and nothing will touch you and you’re safe. That’s just not true.”
Theirs was the church kids who did everything right fairy tale love story. Their first kiss was on their wedding day.
Then one night, Isaiah, who is pastor in Fort Collins, Colorado, got acute stomach pain. Even though he thought it was due to bad tacos, he went to the emergency room.
After checking him over, the doctor off-handedly ordered a CAT scan, thinking it was probably not necessary, but might turn up something.
Isaiah, who naturally is doctor-averse, ordinarily would have declined. But for some strange reason, he got the scan. It turned out there was a small spot in his intestines that the doctor thought might be diverticulosis, not a serious condition.
After further studies, however, 36-year-old Isaiah was diagnosed with advanced cancer. He could die, leaving his young bride with four kids to fend for themselves. It was a trial of the size of Job’s. Read the rest: a love story of marriage
For accepting Christ, a colleague of Bassma Dabbour Jaballah was burned at the stake in her native land.
This is the horrifying downside of Bassma’s ministry. She converts people from Islam via the internet; the risk is immense for them.
When Bassma herself converted to Christianity at the university in Tunisia, she was initially rejected by her family and eventually immigrated to Canada where she works with Voice of the Martyrs in leadership development.
Tunisia was originally Christian. But when Islam swept west from Saudia Arabia with its fiery furor, the whole swath of territory fell to the powerful Arab army, which gave inhabitants two choices: convert to Islam or be beheaded. It was a convincing method of proselytism.
In college, Bassma was studying the changeover to Islam from Christianity in Tunisia, when she began to ask questions, as recorded on a 100 Huntley Street video: “Am I just born Muslim? Can I explore other faiths?”
She turned to the Bible and was impacted by what she read. Everything she has assumed to be true from childhood began to crumble.
What particularly impacted her was the way Jesus treated (and gave importance to) women vs. the way Islam treats women. The Koran treats women as second-class citizens.
Her conversion to Christianity came with an exuberant personality change.
“Believe it or not, I used to be an introvert,” she says. “I was feeling like I was not fitting in Islam as a woman.”
Because Tunisia is not as oppressive as other Muslim nations (usually countries geographically closer to Saudia Arabia, Islam’s birthplace, are more restrictive), Bassma felt free to share her faith everywhere she went with everyone she met.
“As soon as I became Christian, I didn’t know I was no longer Muslim. I just knew I was following Jesus,” Bassma says. “Immediately I told everyone everywhere, ‘going on top of the roof,’ having joy because I was happy.”
This is the elation she shares with other Muslim woman via the internet. Many of them convert. If they are in a more restrictive nation, they may face intense persecution, like the woman friend burned at the stake Read the rest: Convert from Islam burned at the stake
Shelby and LeGrand started a family with illusions of having a fairy tale life.
But when Shelby was expecting twins – during a high-risk pregnancy that precluded working – the young couple worried how they would pay for groceries, since LeGrand’s job remodeling a commercial building didn’t pay very much.
“When I found out we were going to have twins, I was nervous and scared,” LeGrand says on a CBN video. “It’s challenging because I feel like as a dad, I want to make sure they can look up to me and I could be there for them.”
Thinking about the babies in her womb filled Shelby with joy, but when she thought of the harsh reality of bills, anxieties plagued her heart.
“Trying to afford groceries is very difficult for us. It’s hard to get the money that we need to feed the kids at the same time,” she says. “It’s hard to balance it out between all the other things we have to pay for. The difficulty of all of that made me feel very down. The not knowing of how we were going to be able to afford things is scary.”
To their rescue came their local church, Dayspring Church, which partners with Operation Blessing, a CBN-related nonprofit that for 40 years has aided churches with critical needs projects.
The food pantry has come through in a big way for Shelby, LeGrand and their two tykes. Read the rest: food pantry in church.
Stephen almost forgot to give Emily his normal goodbye kiss that morning in a rush before the day’s labors in a dangerous area of northern Africa. But he came back and gave her an extra-long hug. Sadly, it was their last hug together.
“That morning he ended up giving his life for Christ,” Emily says on a 100 Huntley Street video. Stephen, a loved and respected servant of Christ, became a victim of jihadist terror.
Emily first visited the unnamed country on a short-term mission trip. It was five weeks of ministering amidst poverty and hopelessness.
She longed to return to America where she could enjoy a decent cup of joe. The hopelessness attached to Islam was omnipresent in the women’s prison, where ladies were jailed for seemingly minor offenses, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, she says.
After five arduous weeks, Emily waited for the plane to arrive that would whisk her back to America. While she waited, God spoke to her heart: If I called you to this country to serve, would you go?
Emily was more than ready to leave. But God was challenging her to give up much more than she could imagine.
So, after years of praying, Emily and her husband, Stephen, returned to the forlorn desert nation as humanitarian aid workers. To state on the visa application their true calling as ministers of the Gospel would result in a flat denial of entry, so they came in officially as aid workers.
Specifically, they granted microloans to collectives of women to help them launch tiny businesses. Each month, when Stephen collected payment, the people would invite him into their homes with incredible hospitality.
Over tea and milk, they had long talks together. This was customary in their culture, and it afforded Stephen many opportunities to introduce Jesus.
As the years rolled on, Stephen and Emily grew bolder.
“We just did not feel comfortable with being undercover. That would be like putting our light under a bushel,” Emily says. We found creative ways to be who Christ wanted us to be and that is speaking about Christ, his life, his teaching.”
Stephen was growing increasingly bold with proclaiming Jesus. He even began to hand out Bibles and the JESUS Film liberally. Other missionaries grew concerned that he would go too far. Extremist Islam might retaliate.
“Other workers got very nervous,” Emily says. “They felt we had gone a little too far, that it would make us a little too conspicuous. They were fearful for us but also for themselves because they didn’t want to be labeled as proselytizers.”
Their fears proved grounded. One day, Islamic extremists attacked and killed Stephen – who ironically shares the name of the first Christian martyr.
It was the day he went back for an extra-long hug to his wife – his unwitting goodbye.
After Stephen’s death, Emily and the children were escorted by authorities to the other side of the city, where they hid until they could be flown to the States.
An African American man wrongly convicted of murder won to Christ a KKK member who lynched a black teenager.
“I truly believe God sent me to Death Row to meet Henry Francis Hays and to show him what real love felt like,” says Anthony Ray Hinton on a 700 Club video. “Real love had no color.”
It wasn’t always easy for Ray to forgive. The cop who arrested him told him he had no chance to escape the murder and attempted murder charges connected to a string of armed robberies in Alabama in 1985.
Never mind that the evidence was skimpy and Ray had an unshakeable alibi for at least one of the assaults. The prosecution’s case rested on forensic evidence which affirmed the bullets matched the gun found at Ray’s house. One officer told him:
“You’re black. A white man is going to say you shot him. You’re going to have a white prosecutor. You’re going to have a white judge. You’re going to have an all-white jury.”
Even Ray’s publicly appointed defense attorney didn’t believe he was innocent.
“What do you do when you tell a lawyer that you’re innocent, and he looks at you and says, ‘The problem with that statement is that all of y’all are always doing something and the moment you get caught you say you didn’t do it.’” Ray recounts.
True to the cop’s cold assessment, an all-white jury found Ray guilty of two counts of capital murder and sentenced him to death by the electric chair.
“It hurt so bad. Why me? What did I do?” Ray anguished. “I even asked God, ‘What did I do so bad?’
“The natural reaction was that it’s over. I was going to be executed.”
Ray’s cell was a mere 30 feet from the yellow-painted execution chair they called “Yellow Mama.”
Every legal appeal Ray made was blocked or dismissed.
“For the first three years, I was in a stage of hate. I hated those men who did this to me.”
As time passed, however, he realized the hatred in his heart was unsavory and wasn’t pleasing to God.
“I asked God to remove this hatred,” he says. “In order for me to be free, I had no choice but to pray for those men that did this to me.”
Ray decided that he would serve the Lord, despite the horrible injustice.
“If this is what God intended for me, to be and die, this is where I die,” Ray resolved. “But while I’m here, everything around me is going to live. I’m going to bring the best out of everybody that comes in touch with me.”
A short time later, he met Death Row inmate Henry Francis Hays, a Ku Klux Klan member who lynched a black teenager without any known provocation. Hays was the first Alabama man executed for white-on-black murder since 1913.
But before he sat in the electric chair, Hays accepted Jesus under Ray’s patient and loving witness.
In their last conversations before Hays’ execution in 1997, Ray told him: “Henry, I truly believe that you’re going to Heaven.”
“You know Ray, I’ve been reading the bible and I have changed my views on so many things,” Henry replied. “I’ve finally looked at you as a human being.”
After years of rejected appeals, Ray got the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to take up his case in 1998.
EJI probed the case against Ray and found it was deeply flawed: Witnesses had been manipulated. Ray’s defense counsel had been inept. The surviving victim’s initial description of the assailant bore little resemblance to Ray.
The linchpin in the case against Ray was the forensic report, that the bullets came from the gun retrieved at Ray’s house. EJI hired three of the top experts in forensic analysis to… Read the rest: Racism in Judicial system and what God can do.