Category Archives: Africa

Tobe Nwigwe went from football greatness to rap greatness

tumblr_plh6b0hx461r6ccbh_540Tobe Nwigwe’s dreams of making the NFL pulverized when the top-ranked linebacker suffered a career-ending foot injury. On lengthy bedrest, with no one visiting him, his crutches out of reach, his left leg in a full cast, the University of North Texas MVP and captain had to Army-crawl to the bathroom. That’s where, lying on the floor, he broke down.

“Tears were coming strong down my face,” he says on a Behind the Artist video. “I was on some real carnal stuff with God, like ‘Why would You do this to me. I didn’t kill nobody. I ain’t robbed nobody. I’m bad, but I’m not as bad.’ It was at that moment on the bathroom floor that God was like, ‘You have lost your identity in the game, and you have purpose in your life outside of your circumstances and your situation.’”

The injury represented a major reset for the man who once thought “you have to suck at football” to need to devise a Plan B. Today, Tobechukwu Nwigwe helps drifting youth avoid gangs, violence and drugs by discovering their God-given purpose.

maxresdefault“If you would’ve asked me what my purpose was back in college, I promise you I would’ve said something like, ‘Hit the league, money, cars, clothes,’” he says. “I literally got to the lowest of the lows because the only thing I ever dedicated all of my time, effort and energy to was football and when that was gone, I literally had to rethink life. I became like a monk as it relates to the study of purpose. Once I was able to cut off the mania of the world, I was able to figure out who I am and what my calling is and what my natural gifts are.”

His hip-hop has blasted through the stratosphere with millions of views on YouTube. Tobe is the T.S. Elliot of rap. Elliot was the most heralded poet of the 20th century who led readers to “certain half-deserted streets.” Tobe takes his listeners to the SWAT — South West Alief, Houston, the roughest of slums where he “dropped a bullet” in the fourth grade and got treated like “King Arthur with his sword raised.”

tobe nwigweTobe evokes the poignant experience of being a poor child of immigrant parents and fighting to survive in much of his music. He was a “hard-headed” kid who smoked weed, listened to Biggie and snuck out at night, to the chagrin of his mom, who prayed for him and counseled him. They were five kids in one room.

Tobe discovered he was good at football and won a scholarship to North Texas, where he ranked #5 nationally in tackles and reading defenses, a good foundation for an NFL career. The dream was coming true until his teammate fell on his foot, causing the “best worst injury of my life,” he says.

“It ended my football career. It made me think of who is Tobe outside of the Tobe the football player,” he says. “I had to realize that before I was in the sport, I had a purpose. It was a blessing in disguise.”

He planned to recover from the injury and try out for the NFL, but “God shut almost every single door to football and halted a whole bunch of stuff in my life until I made a conscious decision to let my little dreams die and move in the direction with the non profit organization,” he says.

The injury brought him close to the God of his parents, and the God of his parents brought him to his purpose: a non profit that he launched in 2016 called TeamGINI (from “Gini Bu Nkpa Gi?” — Igbo for “What’s your purpose?”) which brought “edu-tainment” to high schoolers. If there is no meaning to life, all the kids would fall into “the trap” — rap speak for a hood out of which you escape only by jail or a casket. By imbuing their existence with purpose, it is hoped kids will choose college and meaning.

It was a stroke of genius born of his own “monk-like” quest to find his own purpose. And it led him to stage two in his life: he linked up with motivational speaker PhD Eric Thomas, the “hip hop preacher.” ET, as he goes by, was making waves in Texas encouraging African Americans to dream big. On a fluke, Tobe called him and got him on the line.

“We don’t have any money right now,” Tobe told the man he watched “religiously.” “But as soon as we have some money, we want to have you come.”

ET declined the speaker’s fees and came for free. What he saw surprised him. Tobe moved the high school kids at the event as a warm-up for ET. Reportedly, ET had never seen anybody move the crowd in that way.

So he signed Tobe to be part of his motivational speakers team.

Then, team members found his Facebook page and watched a video of him free-styling. It was a video made with the family that was only meant to be fun and funny. ET thought Tobe had talent and wanted his ministry to branch out into the music of the community. ETA Records was born with Tobe as their first artist.

It wasn’t long before Tobe outgrew the team. He began uploading new music every single Sunday. His then-girlfriend, Ivory, would twist tufts of his hair on the couch as he would sing. The set was called “getTWISTEDsundays.” LaNell Grant, the kid sister of a high school football chum, produced the beats. Read the rest about Tobe Nwigwe, from football to rap.

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As gunfire erupted, he forced official back to sign his marriage license

52592586_307531283287572_4124672598627844096_oLucas N’dile wanted to get married so badly that not even a military coup in Guinea Bissau could stop him.

He was at the courthouse when shooting erupted. People scurried, including the government official who was just about to sign his marriage license in 2005.

Lucas — whose reception was scheduled the next day and was planning to migrate with his family in a week — figured he couldn’t put off the wedding.

So he ran after the bureaucrat, caught him and hauled him back to the desk. All the while, gunshots rang out.

20617081_108153213225381_4877097212088411152_o“The man who was signing my document dropped the pen and ran away. I ran after him. I said, ‘Please I need my wife. I want to marry,”” says Lucas. “He said, ‘People are dying and people are shooting people at the gate, and we are inside the court.’ I said, ‘We are all going to die one day. But I need my marriage today.’”

The bureaucrat couldn’t believe it. But he returned and signed the document.

Throughout life, Lucas’ chutzpah has served him well as a Christian and especially now as a pastor in Dakar, Senegal.

“He’s tenacious and he’ll keep pressing through,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, who started the church Lucas now leads.

Lucas was born in the Balanta tribe in Bissau, a people group steeped in pagan worship, libations to ancestors, blood sacrifices, palm wine and cashew wine for getting drunk.

In 1995, he dreamed God spoke to him: “If you don’t give your life to Christ, you’re going to die.” Read the rest of Christianity in Africa.

She overcame lack of love of father: CASS

Cass synthesizer musicHaving a distant dad only heightened her teenage insecurities.

Cassandra Kanda, a Zimbabwe-born Christian musician making waves in Christian Hip Hop now, grew up in New Zealand where she NEVER fit in high school.

“I struggled with rejection. I was bullied pretty badly when I was 8 years old in school,” she says an exclusive interview with God Reports. “So by the time I was a teenager, rejection was something I didn’t want to ever experience. And when I did experience it, it would hurt more than anything because of all the baggage I was carrying from it since I was young.”

In her soon-to-be-released album, Cass (usually her stage name is stylized CASS) explores the perceived lack of fatherly love and its subsequent repercussions in low self-esteem. It wasn’t until she profoundly understood the Heavenly Father’s love that she righted.

Cass in christian hip hop“When I discovered God’s fatherly love, it revolutionized my life,” she says in email interview. “It’s something till this day that still makes me emotional because I’ve only ever experienced a Father’s love from God. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”

Cass is the synthesizer wunderkind of Christian music. She was featured recently on Reach Record’s collective song “Light Bearer,” which was a mantra for the label starting 2018.

Who would have thought the immigrant would amount to — or surmount such hardships — to attain renown in Christian music? Her beginnings were humble.

She immigrated, with her family, when she was 7. She attended church unrelentingly with her family and accepted Jesus as a youngster and then rededicated her life to Christ when she saw the play “Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames” at age 16.

cass in concert christian“That’s when I really started to walk with God fully,” she says.

The adjustment to a new culture was worsened by a hostile reception at grade school where she, as a small African girl, was bullied by the New Zealand kids so badly that her parents had to change her educational center.

Her father, perhaps because of the African culture, was emotionally detached, Cass says, and this further damaged her self-concept.

“I grew up with a distant parent. This teamed up with the fact that I was bullied pretty badly,” she says. “So I tried everything I could do to fit in (which never worked cause I NEVER did fit in in high school), and it would bother me so much.”

Fortunately, she was growing in the Word and prayer, and eventually she realized fully God’s love.

“It’s not until I realized who I was in Christ, that’s when that fear of rejection broke of me,” Cass says. “What I was looking for — that acceptance or approval from people I was never going to find from the crowd. I would only find it in God.” Read the rest of CASS Christian musician.

When the voodoo lords tried to kill him, Nestor Kouassi had to pray and stand up to them

nestor kouassi christianity vs voodooNestor Kouassi had seen the voodoo priests and witches do unutterable things: make statues move, bury people alive who later come out of the jungle, send bird spirits to kill enemies.

So when he accepted Jesus in 1997 and started what became a high-stakes spiritual battle with them in his town of Houndjohoundji, Benin, it was a fearful thing.

“A lot of people didn’t like it that we were calling with fire and praying all night,” Nestor says. “They threatened us they would kill us. They make false accusations. Anything to get us in trouble.”

Nestor got introduced to the gospel even when there wasn’t a single Christian church in his village of 1,400 people. His nation, Benin, is renowned for being the worldwide birthplace of voodoo. Even the name of his village was a satanic incantation.

voodoo ritualPeople feared the voodoo lords. Christianity couldn’t crack the town.

But then one Christian, a certain Mr. Lawson, when he came to visit his mom in town from time to time, would preach and share the gospel with anyone who wished to listen.

“We would mock him,” Nestor remembers. “People would insult him.”

Then his best friend, Cyrille, accepted Jesus to get cured of a nasty, prolonged stomach pain. Cyrille was a “rough man” who would steal and fight for nothing, so when Nestor saw an authentic change in him after two weeks, he became convinced.

“He completely changed,” he says. “I said, ‘If this guy can change, there must be a God. I want to get to know that God.’”

HoundjohoundjiBut Cyrille didn’t remember the “sinner’s prayer.” So they just read the Bible together 4-5 hours a day. After one week, Nestor was born again.

“Something happened in my life, and I knew that I knew that I knew that I had met the man Jesus,” Nestor recalls. “It felt like a liquid fire going through my soul, and all of my fears of witchcraft and voodoo disappeared and the river flowed from the inside.”

The nearest church was seven miles away. When they couldn’t attend service there, they devoured the Bible together. After two weeks, they were inspired to share their faith.

“We could not hide it anymore. We took to the streets and wanted to share with people our new discovery: Jesus of Nazareth, woo!” he recounts, relishing the memory.

The power of Jesus began to be proclaimed and demonstrated with healing miracles in town, and the town chief and ruling class — all priests and witches of satanic magic — didn’t like the competition.

“Our preaching was met with hostility like you’ve never seen before,” Nestor says. “What made them furious is that we would pray for people and they would get healed. People would say, ‘If you’re sick, go to the Jesus guys.’”

V4Another friend, Valentin, converted and the three friends read the word and ministered in the streets together. But nobody else dared cross the powers of the town and join their group, even though they viewed them favorably.

The prayers of Nestor and his friends began to disrupt the voodoo power, he says. So the witches attacked them.

“They didn’t want real Christianity. It disturbed them,” Nestor says. “They wouldn’t be able to operate anymore. If we’re calling upon Jesus, there is a power struggle. The witches cannot operate when we are calling upon Jesus.”

The witches had a technique they called a “spiritual gun,” and the victim target of their incantations would writhe in pain from what felt like shards of glass cutting his insides. But the gun didn’t work on Nestor and his buddies, he says.

The priests had a special “founder drum” that when they beat it and pronounced their incantations, lightning would strike the targeted victim even when there was no thunderstorm. Again, it didn’t work.

For six or seven years, the arm-wrestling match continued. Nestor was going to high school in the biggest town in the area nearby, Grand-popo. He would face off with the voodoo priests on weekends and vacations.

The voodoo festivals began to misfire. Things didn’t work. The supernatural tricks fizzled. The town was abuzz with the goings-on.

“People began to question the witches’ power,” he says. “They said, ‘These Jesus guys must have something.’ They were scared. They listened to us, they admired us, but joining us was a real problem.”

Tensions were rising and the threats were increasing. When the chief witch threatened Nestor’s mother with her son’s death, Nestor went to confront him. He found all the witches together in their afternoon gathering in the public place.

“They told us they would reduce us to nothing. I told them nothing would happen,” Nestor remembers.

“In this battle, you will definitely see Jesus,” he responded to their threats. Find out what happened in this power struggle between this new Christian and voodoo witches and priests in Benin.

Barely — miraculously — escaped from rebels in Sierra Leone

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Pa Gbani

When the Sierra Leonean rebels swept through Kabala torching houses and government buildings, Pa Gbani decided not to run. In his room, he read his Bible, prayed and waited for the inevitable.

As a detective at the police barracks, Pa was among the targets as 30 rebels trained by Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadaffi doused buildings with gas and fired rocket-propelled grenades during the 1994 attack.

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Pastor Ralph’s church Kabala, Sierra Leone, circa 1994

Miraculously, the fire died down before reaching his room. In fact, the same thing happened for everybody in his church.

“Nobody was killed or injured or had property loss that was in our church,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, a missionary from Santa Monica at the time in Sierra Leone. “God just protected them. It was a day of miracles.”

It was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all over again.

One church member hid in a banana tree. Two guys lay quietly on top of a thick wall hidden in the dusk. Pastor Ralph had the good fortune to have a vehicle, in which he fled with his wife and a few disciples.

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Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen

At one point on the road out of town, a total stranger came out to him and warned him to head down an alternative route. The rebels were ahead, he warned. Ralph found out later it was true.

There were an estimated 50 deaths in the rebel attack on Kabala.

The deliverance of the American missionary’s church members was extraordinary because they weren’t known for caution. The fact of the matter is that Ralph and his street-preaching disciples courted danger as a result of their boldness. Read the rest of the dramatic details of American missionary under attack by Sierra Leonean rebels in 1994.

Pastor prayed and fasted for neighborhood, one ‘hooligan’ responded

Nigeria missionariesBy Lortoume Hang’andu —

Bitwell grew up in Lusaka, the red-soiled capital of Zambia. Along with his friends, the fatherless teenager assaulted people to fund his drinking habit. They also engaged in hooliganism at the local soccer stadium and fought rival fans.

His mother, a Christian, tried in vain to control her son.

Then a pastor moved in across the street and fasted for seven days for the neighborhood. The Spirit moved on Bitwell’s heart. At 24, he was tired of endless crime and alcohol, so he began attending church.

“I wasn’t really converted,” he says. “I just went to church.”

Then Bitwell got struck with Cupid’s arrows. He saw Mary walking to the store and struck up a conversation with her. Mary was a more serious Christian and refused his advances. He persisted, and Mary laid down an ultimatum: Either he go to church seriously or give up hopes for her.

Bitwell still drank, but he worked hard to hide it from Mary. The first time he went to Mary’s church, he was hung-over. Three years later, they were married.

Back to AfricaSeeking a better life, Bitwell and his wife applied for and were granted a tourist visa to visit a friend in Chandler, Arizona. Bitwell flew to the U.S. three months before his wife.

He was on a layover in New York on 9/11 when the Twin Tower terrorists struck and he was grounded at the airport. Eventually, Bitwell took a Greyhound bus to Chandler to join his friend, a zealous believer at the Door Church.

Bitwell accepted an invitation to attend church. He never heard preaching like that before. After hearing moving sermon after fiery sermon, he decided he needed to get serious about God. With his wife at his side, he gave his life to God and was born again.

Pastor Joe Campbell became a father figure to Bitwell and Mary. He gave them a car and was constantly checking up on them. They matured in the Lord and participated in ministry for four years.

One day, Pastor Campbell called them into his office. Would they go back to Africa to pioneer a church? They belonged to a group of churches that focuses on church planting.

It was no light matter. They had overstayed their visa and were “illegal.” If they left the country, under current rules they would not be granted a visa to America for at least 12 years.

“God called me to go,” Bitwell says. “When I was in America, God provided for me. So I thought that if I went to Africa, God would still provide for me.”

Jesus says to count the cost. For every Bitwell, there are hundreds of illegal immigrants who get saved, called, and decide not to return to their home countries. The American Dream often holds greater sway than the dream of ministry. Don’t miss the surprise ending of pastor returns to Africa.

Tammy (Lortoumi) is Pastor Mike Ashcraft’s student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.

‘Machine Gun Preacher,’ from biker gang to fighting Joseph Kony

machinegunpreacherBy age 11, he was doing dope. At 13, dropping acid. After he turned 15, he was sticking a needle in his arm, shooting cocaine and heroin.

“I went in deeper into selling drugs. I’m not talking about small amounts. I’m talking about large amounts of drugs. I kept going deeper until I became the shotgunner, the hired gun for drug deals,” Sam Childers says in a Next Step film.

Childer’s wife, Lynn, can take the credit for wrangling this rebel into the Kingdom of God. She was an ex-church-kid-turned-stripper who fell in love with the bad boy. They did drugs together. But eventually, Lynn, despairing of pigs’ portions in her prodigal path, returned to Jesus.

orphanageafricaThis did not sit well with the renegade outlaw. For two years, he fought her to give up her “religion.”

Then Childers got into a shootout in a barroom over a drug deal gone bad.

“I almost lost my life that night,” he recalls in the film. “I don’t have a problem with dying. I got a problem with what I’m going to die for. I knew that if I kept on living the life I was, I was going to die for some stupid reason. On my way home that night, I said, ‘God, I’m done living this life.’”

He showed up for revival services in an Assembly of God church in mid-1992, surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, and was born again.

The pastor prophesied that night that Childers would minister in Africa.

angelsofeastafricaRemarkably, Childers went from biker gang member and barroom brawler to eventually becoming a preacher. When he became a Christian, he didn’t give up the guns. He kept them handy for what would become very dangerous work overseas.

His first mission trip to Uganda was a 5-week stint building roofs in a village where there were landmines. While there, he happened across the legless body of a boy decimated by a landmine placed by Joseph Kony’s insurgency. Kony, a brutal warlord, had been conscripting child soldiers, perpetrating mayhem throughout the region.

When he saw the condition of the boy, Childers smoldered with rage.

“I knew I had to do something,” he declared. “I’m devastated inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something. I stood over that body, and I said, ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes.’”

“I returned home. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly eat,” he recalls. “All I could see in my memory was children that were starving.”

In response, he sold his fishing boat, camper and other possessions to raise funds for Africa. He tried to enlist others in the fund-raising.

On a subsequent trip, he felt God tell him to open an orphanage, situated in the hottest thicket of danger. In that Valley of the Shadow of Death, he linked up with Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which granted him his own militia to protect the orphanage — and to battle Kony’s forces, according to the Washington Post.

He became known as the “Machine Gun Preacher” after a documentary on his life revealed him walking the bush of Sudan with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, deep in the warzone of Kony’s insurgency. Read the rest about the Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers.

Send a missionary to Sierra Leone during its Civil War? It made no sense. But it created a wave of church planting.

Sierra Leone ChristianityTo many observers, it appeared foolhardy to send such a fruitful worker to such a hopeless nation. A lot of church planters in the Christian Fellowship Ministries, following prevailing wisdom, looked to plant churches in resource-rich England and South Africa.

But Pastor Harold Warner didn’t flinch when he launched firebrand preacher Alvin Smith into Sierra Leone in 1989. He had heard from God. And nearly three decades later, the results are dumbfounding.

The original church in Freetown has exploded to 80 churches. The nation that once was classified as the second poorest in the world now has planted churches in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

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Pastor Desmond Bell, from Sierra Leone, in Marseille France.

They have even sent three missionaries to Europe.

“To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life,” says Warner in a 2018 conference video. “I just sit back and chuckle because this has to be God.”

Not even the African pastors could believe how God would use them when, as young men, they converted to Christ in a ramshackle school building with no lights where they listened intently to Pastor Smith preach his heart.

pastor harold warner tucson door church

Pastor Harold Warner from the Door Church in Tucson

“Pastor Smith was instilling into our spirit that we were going to all the world to preach the gospel. In the minds of many of us, we were like, ‘This is an impossible dream,’” says Edward Saffa, who took over the headquarter church in Freetown. “All of us were from nothing — nothing.”

Sierra Leone was a diamond rich nation racked by government corruption and successive civil wars. The average life expectancy was into the 30s, and people ate only one meal a day. The worst kind of malaria wreaked havoc on the population, and the guerrillas chopped off limbs of civilians to sow terror.

That’s the milieu into which Alvin Smith, a retired US Air Force helicopter pilot, injected himself with his wife Renee.

“We owe something to Pastor Smith who left America. He came in the time during the war. That was a lot of sacrifice,” says Aruna Bangura, now pastoring in Marseille, France. “When people are too educated, they become logical when it comes to serving God. But for us, we were just explosive. We want to go to church everyday. Whenever it is time to go to church, we were running to go to church. We were coming from distance.

“I can still remember that old rugged, dirty building. All the windows were battered. We were using candles. But there was a life coming out of that building. That’s how God works. God likes to do things the way man cannot do it.”

The young men who attended Smith’s sermons often lacked adequate clothes, but they didn’t lack zeal. Or maybe it was the absence of material distractions that helped them to center all their attention on God.

They had nothing, so they had nothing to lose when they put their faith in God. Pastor Smith challenged the youth to get married, regardless of their financial situation. Some of the leaders today set up cardboard partitions in their parents’ living rooms to consummate their wedding. Read the rest of the story of improbable revival from Sierra Leone.

He was once starving in Africa

Africa-goal-Los-Angeles-school-soccerOnce he was starving. Yesterday he was feasting.

Moses Bowen, adopted by missionaries when he was a starving newborn, dined on four sumptuous goals in the first half of Lighthouse Christian Academy’s soccer victory over Highland Hall Waldorf School.

When the tsunami of blue jerseys was over, LCA closed its sixth-straight win — an undefeated season so far — with a resounding 5-0.

Coach Jack Mefford actually took Moses off the field at half to release pressure on Highland Hall.

Four goals.

In soccer, scoring three is an extraordinary feat known as a hat trick. Four is unheard of.

And there’s one more troubling fact — troubling for the competitors in the league.

Moses is a freshman.

Yes, that means he’ll be making defenders’ knees tremble for three more years.

In the Bible, Moses opened the Red Sea. Yesterday, he opened the path among defenders.

His friends call him Mosie, a name rhyme with his twin brother Josie (Joshua).

When they were born, their mother died, and their father couldn’t take care of them — or any other relative.

They were starving on a diet of rice with no milk. Such is poverty in The Gambia of West Africa.

Ralph and Brenda Bowen, now on staff at Lighthouse schools, were missionaries at the time battling big spiders and crippling malaria while bringing the Good News to the huddling masses.

They were already into their third church plant, this time in Senegal. The Gambia was the former stomping grounds.

So when the Bowens heard the case of some unwanted boys who were going to die, their hearts rent and their legs running. They drove across international borders and adopted the twins. Brenda Bowen painstakingly nursed them to health.

Well, they’re healthy now.

While Josie was blunting opponents attacks on defense, Mosie was up front sharpening his knives. Read the rest of African student at West Los Angeles Christian school.

After Africa, they chose a medical career

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Cathy Kayne at her graduation, with her family.

After helping on two medical missions in Africa, Cathy Kayne decided to become a registered nurse – and that she did at 56 years of age.

The Culver City resident is part of a lesser touted statistic for Lighthouse Medical Missions: the number of volunteers who make medicine a profession.

To date, there are at least three doctors and half a dozen nurses who got their first taste of dispensing medicines in the hinterlands of West Africa where the word “acute” defines medical needs almost as much as “chronic.”

Kayne went to Sierra Leone in the spring of 2005 and to Burundi in the summer of 2008 to help in a logistics capacity

“It brought me a lot of joy to be out in the field and involved in helping people in a medical capacity,” Kayne said. “It caused an old childhood dream to resurface. I had wanted to be a nurse but didn’t get the chance to pursue it. When I went to Africa, I realized this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” Read the rest of the article.

Our school takes kids to Africa, this is Ruby’s experience on the medical mission

IMG_0968By Ruby Swanson, LCA sophomore

While other students were vacationing and relaxing over Spring Break, I was working — in Africa on a medical mission. I consider myself blessed to participate.

As a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, I jumped at the chance to join the associated Lighthouse Medical Missions in Tanzania on March 25 to April 3. My dad did his best to repress all the usual parental fears of malaria, terrorism and the like to let me go. From the Christian school in Santa Monica, I traveled 36 hours to Africa.

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We stayed in the the Ryan’s Bay Hotel overlooking the glorious Lake Victoria. Every day we held clinic in which doctors and nurses attended to hundreds of patients. Each night, we attended church services.

On the first day of clinic, I assisted Doctor Bob Hamilton, founder of the Lighthouse Medical Mission, at the pediatric station. So many sick children came in it was heartbreaking. It was also really inspiring because even though they were sick because they were giggling, playful, happy kids.

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The second day I worked with Katelyn Myer in the pharmacy. She had all the supplies super organized and was on top of everything. However, the serious medicine hadn’t arrived because terror threats in Brussels tied up the meds shipping out from there. All we had was Advil and stuff like that.

It was really hard to have to tell someone who had walked miles and waited hours that we didn’t have the medicine they needed so desperately. The meds came later in the week, so people who had been given prescriptions came back to fill them.

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The people lined up for free medical attention in Mwanza, Tanzania.

I spent the next few days assisting at the nurse station and those were my favorite days of clinic. My main job was to hold down kids who were getting shots, getting blood tests or getting abscesses drained. It was really cool seeing all of the nurses at work and inspired me to maybe pursue a career in that field.

When the nurses didn’t have anything for me to do, they gave me some free time to play with some of the kids visiting the clinic. One time I brought out the bubble machine and I was immediately surrounded by a bunch of laughing, jumping, awestruck children. It didn’t occur to me until later that they had never seen bubbles before.

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The last day I assisted Doctor and Mrs. Czer at their station treating people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia and etc. Everyday at clinic was rewarding, even though you were hot and tired by the end it was all worth it to have been able to care for these people.

The last day was cut short so that team members could do their own thing before attending a dinner at the pastor’s house. Liz Peterson, fellow LCA student Sasha Photenhauer and I went on a hike with the guys while all of the other girls went shopping.

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I’m glad I chose the hike because I got to experience Africa’s beautiful scenery and even take a selfie with a Zebra! Each moment of the trip was spectacular; but the ones spent at the clinic are by far the most special to me.

By going to Africa I realized just how incredibly blessed I am to live here in America. I realized just how little material things really mean and how much I take for granted. Africa taught me to appreciate everything I have and to think less selfishly.

I experienced God in ways I never had before and I am so happy that He sent me on this trip. I encourage everyone to go on a medical mission if they are given the chance to because it something that completely changes the way you view the world, others and yourself.

Not only that, but you are able to serve God by serving people, and the Bible says that people are treasure. I can honestly say that going on this trip changed my life for the better.

This article, written by one of my students, originally appeared here.

Lighthouse Medical Missions is off to Tanzania at a time of terror strikes

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Dal Basile and the meds she packs for shipment in the plane. She is joined by actress Katelyn Myer, who is going on the trip.

Once they almost drowned from tipping canoes trying to reach the medical clinic in the deep inland. Another time, Ebola broke out a scant couple hundred miles away from operations. Then, rockets were launched on the capital just a day before the team left on another trip.

Now, Lighthouse Medical Missions is traveling to Tanzania at a time of terrorist activities in airports – their medicines were being shipped out of Brussels and will now arrive two days late.

“We’re all ready to do our clinic and then bam! terrorism hits Brussels, and right away we know we’re in trouble because our medicines ship out of Brussels,” said Dal Basile, medicine coordinator for the team. “That’s two days without medications. So I’m scrambling around trying to see what I can send with the doctors.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton’s Santa Monica-based charity outreach to Africa has for 20 years braved some hair-raising misadventures to provide free attention and medicines to people who otherwise rarely – if ever – get a chance to see a doctor.

Twenty-six fly out today and are scheduled to arrive Sunday in Mwanza, the capital. Dr. Hamilton is a beloved pediatrician in Santa Monica. His video on how to calm a crying infant went viral four months ago because of the apparent ease of the little-known technique of folding the baby’s arms and rocking his bottom. The internet dubbed him “the Baby Whisperer.”

It seems their standard operating procedure is navigating chaos and brainstorming plan B’s based on developing risks. They’re real Indiana Jones, not in search of archaeological treasure, but the treasures of the human heart inside suffering human bodies.

“You can’t compare God-loving people to Indiana Jones. These are people who care about people they don’t even know,” Basile said. “These Americans are taking time off from work, their vacation time, to go and work. They work to pay for their time. They’re making a big sacrifice. They work their butts off. It’s hardcore.” Read the rest of the article.

Not once but kidnapped twice by jihadists

beatriceMuslim extremists allegedly kidnapped Beatrice Stockly, a missionary from Switzerland in Mali, for the second time in the last four years.

Stockly was snatched from her home near Timbuktu Jan. 8 by armed men in pickup trucks. Though no group has claimed responsibility, it is believed that the perpetrators are one of the militant Islamic groups that operate in the region.

In April 2012, Stockly was kidnapped from her home in Abaradjou, a district of Timbuktu frequented by armed jihadists. Neighboring Burkino Faso negotiated her release after 10 days. She returned to Switzerland for a while but ultimately felt called by God to return to Mali, despite the dangers.

“It’s Timbuktu or nothing,” she said to family, according to a report by the World Watch Monitor (WWM).

Stockly first moved to Timbuktu in 2000 when she worked for a Swiss church. More recently she has worked alone, unaffiliated with any church. WWM reported she led an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian literature. She focused mostly on women and children, talking to them and sharing about Jesus.

Christians have suffered persecution in the region from Islamists. In the last three months, two separate attacks have been staged against Christians. A brutal assault on a Christian radio station just before Christmas left 25 dead. A month earlier, 22 people were killed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

In 2012, extremists effectively banned the practice of any religion other than Islam. They desecrated and looted churches. Many Christians fled the region, but Stockly remained undaunted.

Now she has been kidnapped again.

“We are shocked to see what happened,” Dr. Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara, President of the Baptist Church in Mali, told WWM, speaking about the spiraling violence and uncertainty. “We are trying to find out what happened, but for now we don’t have any explanation.”

In effort to bring security and peace to the region, the Mali government signed a peace treaty with the main Jihadist group, the Tuareg, in June 2015. But the accord appears to have been fruitless, WWM reported, noting that security forces and UN peacekeepers have been targeted.

Stockly’s abduction is believed to be the first against a foreigner since the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, in the northeastern town of Kidal in November 2013, WWM reported.

This article, originally published in God Reports here, was written by my journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

A Florida missionary among 30 killed in Burkina Faso terror attack

mike ridderingA Florida man who went to Burkina Faso as a missionary to dig wells and care for orphans was killed with 29 others on Jan. 15 when heavily armed terrorists from an Al-Qaeda affiliate attacked two hotels and a cafe.

Mike Riddering, 45, described as an amazing father and pillar of faith, found himself ambushed at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou where he was to rendezvous with a group of short-term missionaries on their way to an orphanage 70 miles from the capital.

splendid hotel

The Splendid Hotel charred by car bomb explosions

“Heaven has gained a warrior!” wrote his wife Amy Boyle-Riddering on Facebook. “I know God has a purpose in all things but sometimes it is a complete mystery to me. My best friend, partner in crime and love of my life. The best husband ever. An amazing father to his children and a papa to everyone. My heart is so heavy and I am having trouble believing he is gone. Mike was an example in the way he lived and loved. God be glorified! Mike Riddering I will love you always! You left quite a legacy here. I can only imagine the adventures you are having now.”

A boat-builder from Hollywood, Florida, Riddering felt called to move to the deserts of Africa along with his wife, with whom he had four children: Haley, 23; Delaney, 19; Biba, 15 and Moise, 4.

french forces also attacked the attackers

French forces participated in the counter attack.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb sent the young attackers to kill and take hostage as many tourists and foreign aid workers as possible, in “revenge against France and the disbelieving West… the enemies of the religion,” a statement issued by the local Al-Qaeda branch said.

Some of the attackers infiltrated the luxury hotel at night while others wearing turbans arrived later in four-wheel drive vehicles. They exploded car bombs outside the hotel and stormed the site killing and taking hostages. Burkina Faso forces helped by French soldiers counter-attacked the next day in order to free the hostages and killed four extremists after an intense gunfight.

Mike’s brother Jeff told 7News, “He really felt that he’d heard the Lord say, ‘Go dig wells in Africa.’ He said, ‘Well, Lord, I might not be good enough to do anything else, but I can dig wells.’ When he got there, not only did he dig wells; he did everything else. Besides the orphanage, he adopted two children and started a women’s crisis center.”

The short-term missionaries scheduled to meet Mike were not at the hotel at the time of the attack and were spirited away to Niger to return to the United States.

“I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like Mike Riddering,” said Pastor Brian Burkholder of the Hollywood Community Church. “We’ve lost a hero. Mike lost his life doing the work of Jesus, doing what he thought God had called him to do. We will greatly miss him.”

Editor’s note: This article, published originally on God Reports here, was written by my journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Love what you do or look for something else to do

do what you love

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the herat, you’ll know when you find it. — Steve Jobs

Image with quote: from Pinterest

Mexican food unites with pediatrics in Santa Monica to help Africa | LA Marathon

Gilbert's Restaurant | Santa MonicaBetween the two of them, mother and son have run 16 full marathons, but never before did they run one for Africa.

On Sunday, Estela and Johnny Huerta, part owners and operators of Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican Restaurant in Santa Monica, are running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds forAfrica medical missions. Johnny has seen people in abject poverty before.

“Seeing their appreciation for things we would consider small exposes the privileges we take for granted here,” said Johnny, 25. “We feel entitled, but really these things are a blessing and privilege. I’ve run other marathons, but running for Africa makes it more special.”

At last count, $2,838 was pledged for the 10 friends who are running with local pediatrician Bob Hamilton for Lighthouse Medical Missions, which twice yearly sends medical teams to some of the remotest spots on the globe.

Only 10 days later, Johnny will board a plane to fly to Mwanza, Tanzania, along with 24 others on this year’s Spring team outreach.

“I’m excited,” Johnny said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m a little bit nervous. I think I’m going to come back with a whole new perspective as to what’s important in life. I want my heart to break for what breaks God’s heart. I want to feel what He feels.” Read the rest.

Africa medical mission report #3

Africa medical missionBANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From beginning to end, the animals drove Lighthouse Medical Missions personnel… er, batty.

Bats were the culprits behind the recent lethal Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. It scared us.

Pigs were to blame for our return flight delay Saturday, getting sucked into the right jet engine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the flash from the wing. I heard an explosion like a tire blowout. It conjured images of the plane trundling off the edge of the runway and catching fire.

Welcome to standard operating procedure for Lighthouse Medical Missions. Since its inception in 1998, medical practitioners have attended to 50,000 patients. Well, that statistic is not correct anymore. This past week we saw another 1,400 — in spite of Ebola fears working in our minds.

Christians in Africa

I got to pray for Muslims and Christians alike after they saw medical practitioners

Actually, the virulent hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola prompted two-thirds of our team to take of the unusual step of evacuating on April 3.

The epidemic started when somebody ate a natural incubator of the virus: bats. Eating “bushmeat” is not on my bucket list, but to somebody in Guinea Bissau it must have seemed a delicacy, and that’s how the deadliest virus known to man roared onto the human scene, health officials said.

I stayed with 16 team members who decided to weather out their fears and stick with the original travel itinerary. I was just starting to breathe easy as the Brussels Airline jetliner was picking up speed on the runway. Then came the pop and a thud. Then the pilot slammed on the brakes.

medical team in the Gambia

The Lighthouse medical mission team in the Gambia 2014

“That was scary,” said mission leader, Dr. Robert Hamilton. It was an extraordinary admission for him because I have never known the Santa Monica pediatrician to be afraid of anything. It was Dr. Hamilton who persuaded us to stay in The Gambia.

And he was right. We didn’t get sick from Ebola.

And we were safe on the runway.

This was my first African medical mission with the Lighthouse group. As I interviewed veterans of these trips, I pondered the healthy dose of adventure and misadventure, the knack for getting into unheard-of predicaments, only to escape unscathed, as if cheating death.

Where is the borderline separating “dedicated” from “crazy?”

On The Gambia River.

On The Gambia River.

Then I remembered Marco Polo. He made a years-long journey back from China to solicit capable missionaries to evangelize the Chinese, according to his book. After a year, only two dared to accompany Marco Polo, his dad and his uncle. But at the first rumor of war, the pair fled to Rome, leaving Marco Polo and his family to return alone. I realized we must continue to manage risk. After all, this IS Africa.

Prior to the trip, I had steeled my nerves for the worst gore medicine witnesses. On previous missions, doctors had attended to machete-chopped victims of civil war and even performed a mastectomy with only some lidocane injections. Like Joseph Conrad, I was prepared to say, “The horror! The horror!”

As it turned out, the cases were tame. In The Gambia, where half of the 45-member team worked, we saw mostly pain, fungus, malaria and worms. The other half-team traveled 100 miles by bus to Guinea Bissau and didn’t hardly treat anything worse.

One thing emerged to me as an eye witness. Lighthouse Medical Missions has an impact way beyond the temporary relief of 30 Motrin pills. By coordinating with local pastors, they essentially maintain field workers year-round who teach such principles as hygiene and household budgeting.

Because the pastors are Africans, they work at a fraction of what it would cost to maintain an American. They learn from U.S doctors and pastors and transmit it longterm to the local population.

On Sunday morning at the Lighthouse Church in Banjul, Pastor Alusine Kpewa was teaching on financial savings, a lesson virtually ignored by the poor of developing countries.

“I do not want the child of God to live all your life in debt,” said Kpewa (pronounced Peh-wah).

People can escape the syndrome of the eternally extended beggar’s hand.

As a fruit of twice yearly Lighthouse Medical Mission, there are over a 100 churches, concentrated in West Africa. They are ramping up operations. They have dug wells and founded schools.

So whether it’s bats or pigs harrying us, we must continue to take to Africa the love of God manifested in a practical way.

If you would like to participate with finances or volunteering, check out the webpage www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com . The ministry is a part of the Lighthouse Church and the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Virtually anyone can come on an Africa medical mission, but come prayed up.

This time it was bats and pigs. Next time, it will be something else.

This report first appeared on the santamonica.patch.com