Category Archives: blessings

Russian Armenian ex-atheist Christian rapper who signs black artists for his label

Ruslan Christian hip hopAt age 10, Ruslan became a decided atheist after his father, immigrating from Azerbaijan with the family, dumped his mother and married another woman.

“At the time, my mom was so distraught over this, she stopped going to this Armenian Orthodox church where we found a lot of community,” he says on a video on his YouTube channel. “I was 10, 11 or 12, and I was literally convinced that there was no God. I was saying, ‘I’m an atheist,’ at a very young age.”

But when Ruslan, who today is a top Christian hip hop artist, got to high school, he was torn between girls: one was Christian, the other was Jehovah’s Witness. He decided to settle the dispute of whether Jesus was God by studying. He read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and the encyclopedic New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.

ruslan rapper wife child

With his wife, Monette, and son, Levi.

The verdict came in.

“I — based on a very intellectual rational experience — came to faith,” he says. “My faith wasn’t hinged upon an experience. It hinged on the evidence that Jesus was God and He resurrected from the death.”

Ruslan Karaoglanov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan to a Russian mother who had been adopted by an Armenian family and an Armenian father. As an infant in the 1980s, he contracted an acute urinary tract infection, and a doctor at a remote clinic on the Caspian Sea performed a circumcision to save his life.

Five years later, Muslim extremists fanned out through the region to massacre Christian men and boys. Toting automatic weapons, rebels fighting the Soviet Army very nearly killed Ruslan, but his mom argued they were Muslims and showed her son’s circumcision as proof (in that region of the world, Christians do not usually circumcise while Muslims do).

ruslan“No! No! No!” Marina shouted in Russian, as narrated by Christianity Today. “We’re not Armenians. Look, my son is circumcised!”

The ruse worked.

The reign of terror didn’t abate, and finally the family applied for visas to America on the basis of religious persecution. They settled in San Diego in 1990.

Little Ruslan spoke only Russian and was one of just five a few “white” kids mixed with “black and brown” youngsters at school. His apartment complex and community had roughly the same ratio.

So while he studied English, Ruslan also learned “basketball, break dancing, graffiti and rap,” he wrote to God Reports via Instagram DM. “My experience with the black community is they tend to be very gracious and welcoming of outsiders. Specifically black church folk. I’ve never felt out of place or anything. Always the opposite.”

Ruslan free-styled with his friends from age 10 and performed at open mic night by age 12. He bought as many hip hop CDs as he could and started gravitating towards the gang culture of the hip hop in that era. For attempting to break in to a house, he was arrested and put on probation at age 12.

ruslan christian rapperAs part of his probation, he was required to do community service, so he decided to perform it at a church where a lady named Charee, an ex convict who converted radically to Christ, attended. He cleaned the church but also heard the Word. People kept prophesying to him: “You’re going to do things for the Lord.”

Afterwards, his mom still worried and wondered how to help her son escape the bad influences, so she moved to San Marcos, to the immediate north of San Diego. Ruslan got better grades, stayed out of trouble and stayed in the rap game. “Yo, you’re really dope,” friends told him repeatedly.

“I was super into basketball and thought I was going to play for the NBA. In my sophomore year, I got cut from my JV basketball team” at Vista High School, Ruslan says on a video. “Ever since then, I made the mental switch that I was going to take music more seriously. I started entering all the talent shows. I won second place in our high school’s battle of the bands in 2001.” Read the rest: Ruslan Russian Armenian ex atheist Christian immigrant rapper.

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Ukraine ministry rescues children dumped into poorly run orphanages

Nita Hanson God's Hidden TreasuresIn 1997, Nita Hanson was a prosperous employee in Thousand Oaks. Then she went on a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine.

It broke her heart and changed the direction of her life. She saw crib after crib of babies and children crammed together in dim rooms.

“That’s when my heart broke open. I knew then that I couldn’t leave,” she told the Simi Valley Acorn.

Gods Hidden TreasuresNita saw babies with special needs being dumped into ill-equipped and poorly staffed public orphanages. She witnessed handicapped people who had no real hope to ever receive mobility devices. If you were poor, there was little chance of finding help.

She decided to abandon the American Dream and pursue God’s dream. She was divorced and her two kids were grown. She was free from commitments, so she committed herself full time to the Lord’s work.

Today, Nita, 77, runs three orphanages in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. Her ministry, God’s Hidden Treasures, has teamed up with Christian athlete superstar Tim Tebow to stage events to help some of the neediest people in Ukraine. She provides wheelchairs and walkers; people who otherwise would have been enclosed in four walls forever may now go out and breathe the fresh air and bask in the sunshine. Her group sponsors medical home visits and supplies food and basic needs.

Staffed by mostly Ukrainians, her people seek to create life-long relationships with orphans and other families.

Lori Hall in UkraineLori Hall of Ventura County recently joined Nita on a short-term mission group.

“I was thrilled to join the Impact Team as we set out to listen, learn and serve the ministry of God’s Hidden Treasure,” she says. “We sought to be humble servants as we went to other cultures, to share Jesus’ love by listening to the people, learning of their concerns and serving them in Jesus’ name.”

Lori spent 12 days assisting doctors and pastors with in-home health visits, delivering necessary wheelchair or mobility devices and helping with an annual citywide picnic evangelistic event for over 300 handicapped persons. Her group ran a Vacation Bible School for teenage boys with special needs living in an orphanage, a highly anticipated event. Not much is done for these special needs people, so it’s significant that this group makes a concentrated effort to focus on people sidelined by society.

“I was most impacted by the great love, tenderness and respect everyone showed to each and every individual,” Lori noted. “Jesus and His love was everywhere as people’s lives were blessed and changed forever, whether by receiving their first wheelchair or walker, by being touched with loving hands and hugs or finding new life in Jesus’ message of truth!”

In 15 years, God’s Hidden Treasures has delivered more than 6,000 mobility aids across Ukraine, her website says. When she provides a wheelchair as a gift, she tells the recipient it is “because God heard your prayers.”

They’ve come a long way from the original three wheelchairs brought on a Delta Flight to the Ukraine purchased from China in conjunction with Joni and Friends USA. Read more about God’s Hidden Treasures.

They’re not feeding me enough in Guatemala

IMG_6501LOL!

Here’s our Guatemalan Christian school that I am visiting now, along with the church.

How could 5 years of extreme fatigue be good?

laurel-galucci-sweet laurel bakeryWhen she suffered extreme fatigue for five years, it was a curse that elicited a forlorn “Why, God?” But when God turned her hormone deficiency into a profitable bakery of gluten-free cakes, it was a case for Romans 8:28: All things work together for good to them that love God.

Laurel Galucci had just married her dream man and was working her dream job of teaching. Then a mysterious fatigue crept upon her, progressively sapping her strength until she had to quit her job. Her dream life became a nightmare and at first there were no answers.

laurel-gallucci-gluten freeAt long last in 2012, her doctor found the problem: She had Hashimoto’s disease, which attacked her thyroid, resulting in reduced hormone production and subsequent exhaustion. She couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs.

If that weren’t bad enough, she suffered from acute constipation. Already very slender, she lost another 40 pounds. She couldn’t get pregnant and went without a period for four years.

miracle baby

Husband and miracle baby

The standard treatment in the medical field of synthetic hormones didn’t restore her energy. “I had severe energy depletion” and was living in misery, she says.

Two years later, a friend suggested a change of diet. She cut grains, legumes, refined sugar and diary.

“After years of feeling exhausted and sick,” Laurel told Women’s Health, “I was willing to try just about anything to get my energy back and feel better about myself.”

More vegetables and protein was fine but giving up baking was out of the question. Laurel was the second of seven children and grew up baking constantly for her brothers and sisters. The ban on grains was a sticking point.

She had to find a substitute. Gluten-free baked goods on the market at the time tasted like cardboard. So she experimented and whipped up a surprisingly good chocolate cake using almond flour, coconut oil, 100% maple syrup, Himalayan pink salt and organic eggs.

Upon sampling the delicacy, her close friend (and now business partner) Claire Thomas remarked: “Gluten-free cakes aren’t supposed to taste this good. We have to do something with this. We need to share this with other people.”

Claire was already an entity in the foodie world. She had hosted a show on ABC called “Food for Thought” and in 2011 she was tapped by McDonald’s to direct the filming of a commercial. Claire suggested a partnership with Laurel.

In 2015, they founded the first grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free baked goods called Sweet Laurel and it shipped cakes nationally. Their products were offered in select grocery stores (mostly in L.A. and New York City), and she listed recipes on her blog and in cookbooks. They called that first cake “the chocolate cake that changed everything.”

In September of this year, they are opening their first storefront bakery in Pacific Palisades, a well-heeled neighborhood in Los Angeles. Laurel is not talking specific dollar amounts but says, “We’ve been very successful this year. We are hoping to grow out of Southern California. We’re getting up there. We’re expecting it to be worth lots of money.” Read the rest of Sweet Laurel Gluten-Free Baked Goods.