When Mark DeYmaz took over a Kmart to open his thriving church of 500, he helped his budget by opening a for-profit coffee shop and renting space to a gym next door.
In an age of declining tithing, DeYmaz proposes churches get smart, abandon obsolete models and incorporate business savvy, not to get rich from the kingdom, but to multiply outreach.
“The more people joined our church — the homeless, the immigrant, the undocumented, the poor — it cost us money, DeYmaz says on a Vice News video. “We realized that if we were going to have effective ministry, we were going to have to have multiple streams of income.”
But don’t accuse him of upending the way church is done. Tithes and offerings were just one business model. DeYmaz is not condoning stingy Christians. He’s simply using his brain and God-given resources to maximize impact, he says.
His church, Mosaic, belongs to the new burst of millennial churches that project a certain image with their relaxed dress codes, untraditional interior decorating, and hipster pastors. They’re rethinking church to be relevant for the next generation.
Pew Research charts a declining number of Americans who call themselves Christians – 65% — 12% lower than a decade ago.
“Religion is less central to American life,” says Rebecca Glazier, professor of public affairs at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. “People are just not identifying with formal religious institutions and finding spiritual fulfillment through them the way that they used to in generations past.”
Paul Knights waited until the lodge was full to officially quit in an electrifying confrontation: “I denounced Freemasonry as a satanic and demonic society,” he said.
“There was a hole in me that I couldn’t fill. I used to go horse-riding, bike-riding, walking, dancing, martial arts, I used to go diving, snow-skiing, water-skiing — anything just trying to fill this hole in me,” he says on a 44-minute John R. Lilley video. “And I couldn’t do it. I was on this mission to spend every moment of the day doing something. I was still grieving for my father.”
Paul spent 14 years in the Freemasons. He joined mostly to help his tree surgery business in England, but the secret society was a part of his search for meaning and healing after he lost his dad and his wife.
His father died when Paul was only 11. “I encased in a concrete case and put the pain inside of me so far down,”
Becoming a Freemason did in fact bring a boon in his tree business; it grew by one-third, he says. “I wasn’t really interested in the secret ceremonies but in the meal after and the social aspect,” he says.
Freemasonry traces its origins to a builders guild from 13th century Europe. It features secret rituals to advance within the organization, scaling up by levels and degrees. The rituals include oral pledges and secret symbols that Paul found out later were the same used by witches and warlocks.
In one of the first rituals, the inductee is instructed to say and memorize what Freemasonry is: “A peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” he says.
“I didn’t really understand what I was saying,” Paul recounts. “‘Peculiar’ means it’s a warped morality. Every symbol that is in Freemasonry are the same symbols as is in the covenants that the witches and the warlocks take to assume their obligations and promises into their different degrees, different levels. I didn’t know that.”
Around the same time, he dated a girl for eight months and married her, without realizing she had a double personality. She had suffered from anorexia. She left him and returned to him, but their relationship had the stability of jello.
After six months, “I couldn’t handle it anymore,” he says. The loss of his wife became a second pain after the loss of his father.
“Inside there was this pain. I’d given my life to this girl, so my life was pulled apart,” he says. “I liken it to two bottles of acid, one from my father dying and one from my wife living. Suddenly they were poured together and I couldn’t cope.”
That’s when he remembered the God of his childhood. He had attended High Anglican Church, sang in the choir, learned to pray, but was bored out of his mind by Sunday school. The “frocks and frills” did not impress him.
But when he fell upon agony, he remembered to pray.
“I don’t know if You’re there. You may be a God that is over the hill and far away,” he prayed. “I’m such a sinner. I haven’t spoken to You for years. But I need help. I’m desperate.”
He didn’t know what else to say.
Two days later, after taking down a tree for an older woman, she pointed a finger at him and declared: “The Lord has been speaking to me. You’ve been praying. I’d like to help you today.”
He denied having prayed, but she stuck to her guns.
Doubt plagued Sean McDowell, son of famous doubts-slayer Josh McDowell, when he stumbled across an atheist website that refuted his Dad’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict point by point.
“Honestly growing up, I probably kind of thought someone wasn’t a Christian because they just hadn’t read Evidence Demands a Verdict or More Than a Carpenter,” says Sean on a 100 Huntley Street video.
The books have been decisive in establishing the faith of many people based on hard evidence to corroborate the Bible. But here was a well-reasoned attempt to erode confidence, Sean said.
“All of a sudden, I’m reading some really smart people — some doctors, some lawyers, philosophers, historians — going chapter by chapter, pushing back very thoughtfully on the arguments that my father had made,” Sean relates.
It shook him to his core.
So Sean, 19 and in college, sat down with his dad for coffee and came clean.
“I want to be honest with you,” he told Dad. “I’m not sure that I’m convinced Christianity is true.”
Sean wasn’t sure how did would react. Josh has famously written 150 books and given 27,000 lectures on college campuses to stir university kids to faith and show them what their atheist professors don’t want them to know.
Would his dad lose his temper, kick him out of the family and disown him?
“Why, God?” Helen Roseveare asked after being brutally beaten and raped by Congo rebels for five months while she served as a missionary doctor in 1964.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if i never tell you why? was the answer she received.
It was a strange answer. But also, God gave her a striking revelation about surviving a dungeon of torture.
“It’s external! You’re sinned against. It’s not your sin. It can’t touch your spirit,” she explained on a 100 Huntley Street video. “It’s only your body. But it can’t get into my mind or soul.”
Helen has used her captivity to encourage others who feel powerless to defend themselves against unimaginable acts of evil.
Helen Roseveare became one of the first females to graduate as a medical doctor from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1945. She became a Christian because of the testimony of some of the girls in her school and almost immediately set off to the mission field in the “Heart of Darkness.”
She tended to patients, built hospitals and trained Africans in medical science indefatigably. While serving the population she was taken captive in the Congo during the tumultuous 1960s along with other foreigners. As was always the case, she turned into the leader, even in captivity.
“When the awful moments came in the rebellion you almost felt, no, this has gone too far. I can’t accept it. It seemed that the price was too high to pay,” she says. “And then God seemed to say, Change the question from ‘Is it worth it?’ to ‘Is He worthy?’”
During her captivity, she was called upon to help 80 Greek Cypriots, workers abducted by the rebels. One lady was in pain, seven months pregnant, so Mama Luca — as she was known — was called upon to attend to her.
With rebel guards on either side of her, she stepped among the cowering Cypriots until she found the needy lady. She didn’t speak Greek, so she went through the languages she knew one by one to ask if she was hurt: English, French, Swahili, Lingala.
Finally, she found someone who could translate into Greek and eventually led not only the lady but the whole prison hall of captives in a sinner’s prayer. As the only area doctor, she had attended to the Cypriots for years but had made no headway in evangelizing them.
But suffering brought a new openness to the Gospel.
“When I eventually left the house, they’re all looking up and smiling and they want to shake my hands,” she remembers. “It was wonderful. God, you are marvelous.”
As was their custom, the rebels subjected Mama Luca to a mock trial. The people in the area were orchestrated to participate in the judgement of “colonial, imperial crimes” committed by foreigners. Under the threat to the rebels’ guns, the locals had to join their voice in a chorus of condemnation, calling for the death sentence.
Responding to the beating of the drums, 800 locals came to her trial. You didn’t dare ignore the calls of the rebels because only they had guns. At a certain signal, they all shouted, as was the custom in these roughshod trials: “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Then they would shout “Mateco! Mateco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
“You knew you would die. You didn’t know how,” Mama Luca recalls. “There came the moment in the trial scene when they must have been given the sign. Suddenly these 800 men suddenly, instead of seeing me as the hated white foreigner, they saw me as their doctor and they rushed forward.
“They pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way and they took me in their arms. In that wonderful moment the black-white barrier had gone and they said, “She’s ours.” They used a word in Kibbutu, which really meant, “She’s blood of our blood and bone of our bone.” The rift between dark skin and pale skin was driven away and we were reunited as one.”
“God used so many things that He’s working out his own wonderful purposes,” she says. “Many, many came to the Lord through those days of suffering. The walls of division were broken down, and the kingdom was expanded.”
Helen had refused to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs assigned by her missionary field director. “I said if God ever asks me to be burned at the stake, I’ll say yes, but I won’t be singing,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t take it all.”
After he rounded the last bend on the river in a dugout canoe, Don Richardson saw 400 Sawi cannibals in remote New Guinea waiting, masked, and in full warpaint — with weapons in hand.
Honestly, he didn’t know if they had a welcoming feast for him or if he, his young wife and baby were the feast.
“Do we look good enough to eat?” he thought. “There was nothing to do but get out of the canoe and walk up on the shore. With Stephen in my arm, leading Carol, I walked and they closed in all around us so tightly, we could hardly move. Their eyes were gleaming with excitement, but they were totally silent as if waiting for a signal.”
Then the “signal” came, a shout: “Asa!”
“They all began leaping in the air, brandishing their weapons and shouting for joy, and they danced around us to the beat of their drums,” he remembers on a 100 Huntley Street video.
That was Don Richardson’s hair-raising introduction in 1962 into missions to unreached tribes. Don didn’t know the language, but apparently “Asa” didn’t mean “Let’s eat.”
Yes, the Sawi were savage headhunters with a taste for human flesh. But they had no intention of dining on the first white men to set foot in their region, the Southern swamplands of New Guinea. They had heard about such missionaries from neighboring tribes and how they brought medicine, steel tools and nylon fish lines to help.
Their jubilation that day was based on the recognition that help had finally come to their tribe. Little did they know that Richardson and his family brought not just tools and medicine; they brought Jesus.
Don had spent months in preparation for the day bringing his wife and child on the 10-hour canoe journey to the Sawi. He had built a home first. The tribesmen were accommodating and helpful.
But when he showed up with his wife and kid, he wondered: “Are these even the same friendly guys who helped me build my little house? Or are these hostile people that have replaced them and have something else in mind?”
The Sawi built “matchbox” structures 40 feet up in the trees, but Don built a small structure on supports in the ground.
“They’d been hearing for a couple of years very positive reports about unusually tall, unusually pale sickly-looking people called ‘Tuans.’ They’d been hoping that a Tuan would choose to come and live among them. They were eagerly welcoming us.”
The first order of business was to learn the language without any book, teacher or translator. He started by pointing at things hoping someone would tell him the word. But every time he pointed at different objects, they always said, “redig.” Eventually, he realized “redig” means “finger.” The Sawi don’t point with fingers; they point by puckering and aiming their lips.
The patient work led to establishing an alphabet and writing a New Testament.
“They didn’t know the language could be put in written form,” he says.
Not only were the Sawi cannibals and headhunters with no concept of law, judges and punishment, they also valued treachery.
“They thought Judas was a good guy,” Don remembers. “‘He’s a master of treachery,’ they said. ‘Don, that man named Judas has done us one better.’”
When he heard their admiration of Judas in the story of betraying Jesus, Don was taken aback.
“I sat among them praying, ‘Lord, help,’” he says. “‘I need a gift of wisdom here.’”
The chance to learn came when war broke out afresh among rival tribes. Arrows flew past his windows. People died outside his door as violence and revenge flared up continuously. To no avail, Don pleaded with the Sawi to make peace. But since they saw treachery as a virtue, no peace talks could be started; no one could trust anybody.
With unending carnage going on around, Don eventually threatened to leave the tribe. He would take his family and all the help he offered.
The tribe was upset. They had grown to love their Tuans and needed the medicines and tools. They thought of losing their prized missionary was too much to bear.
Following in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, and Josh McDowell, another great apologist has arrived, a 13-year-old.
Nahoa Life — his mom is Hawaiian — likes skateboarding, performing Christ hip hop and mastering big books of philosophy and science as it relates to God.
A product of Gen Z, Nahoa recently appeared on the Christian intellectual circuit’s radar when Biola Professor Sean McDowell received an email with questions about his doctoral dissertation.
Sean, the son of Josh McDowell, thought, Are you kidding me? This 12-year-old read my dissertation?
McDowell decided to host Nahoa on his podcast in February.
“I love apologetics,” the 8th-grader from Los Angeles told Sean. “I started doing apologetics about two years ago. I was just kind of bored and I read a book. It was super intriguing. For the first time I realized there’s actual evidence for Christianity.”
Apologetics, a lofty philosophy and usually a course in undergraduate Bible school, is the field of making Christianity palatable to skeptics.
Working as a waiter at a steakhouse in LA, Josh wanted to become a star but the attractive ladies at his table offered him a different kind of acting: “adult” movies.
“I showed up (at the studio) and I was terrified and everyone’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just take this pill, you’ll be able to perform.’ I didn’t have a conversation with the girl. I didn’t know her name. We never even made eye contact. I felt dirty.
“That changed the rest of my life.”
And so the small-town kid fell into the swamp of Hollywood. Josh Broome didn’t have a relationship with his father, so when he started modeling at age 15, he thrived on the praise, the positive reinforcement.
“If I am successful in any type of genre of a film or theater, I would be loved,” he thought at the time. So with $50, he moved to Golden State, California, home to the film industry, maker of stars. His plan, of course, was to do something legitimate.
But as the months dragged into years, when the “provocatively dressed” girls showed up and made him the proposal, he quickly agreed. It seemed cool, and he needed the cash.
The first film was disillusioning.
“It didn’t feel real. I didn’t feel like it truly happened,” he says. “Then some of my friends saw. I was embarrassed, even though they were like, ‘Dude, that’s so cool’”
But if his friends stumbled onto and watched his video, Josh realized that his mom would eventually find out. What would she think?
“I was thinking about embarrassing my mom,” he admits.
At the same time, he rehearsed his rationalization. “I already did one. So, what’s the difference, if I do another one.”
“Then all of a sudden you know I’ve done a few and I’ve made three or four thousand dollars in less than a month,” he adds. “All of a sudden I was doing 20 a month.”
Of course, Mom found out.
“I still didn’t stop. I became this person I didn’t even know,” Josh says. “The more I was willing to care less about myself, the more I was willing to do these movies.”
Josh became a “star,” performing in thousands of films in five years.
“I’m, crying myself to sleep every night,” he remembers. “Every time I worked, I would literally shower, and I couldn’t get clean enough because I couldn’t wash off the hurt.”
The breaking point came from a bank teller. “Josh, is there anything else I can do for you?” the teller asked.
It was the first time he had heard his own name in such a long time.
“I just lost it and I went home and I looked myself in the mirror and I was like, ‘What have I done? What have I done with my life? I haven’t been home in two Christmases. I wasn’t taking care of my mom. I wasn’t taking care of my brother.”
He called his director and quit.
“I ran, I ran for my life. I moved to North Carolina,” he says. “Every night, I would have dreams of the things I did. Even though I wasn’t doing anything anymore, my sin was just tucked away. It wasn’t dealt with.
“The last thing I wanted to do was face what I did, and I had ruined my relationship with my family.”
His mom offered him unconditional love.
“But I knew I embarrassed her,” he confesses.
Next, Josh met Hope. She was pretty and liked Josh.
In the world of flying, there aren’t too many female commercial pilots. Even fewer are black female pilots.
According to Nigerian-born Miracle Izuchukwu, only one percent of pilots are female and black, so when she became a commercial pilot candidate, she celebrated by thanking God.
“Whoever it is praying for me, don’t stop, it’s working,” she wrote on social media. “I joined the elite group of 7% of females and 1% of black female pilots in the world. It’s exhilarating yet surreal feeling to introduce myself to the world as a pilot.”
Miracle is now 23. When she grew up, she wasn’t encouraged by her dad to dream big. When she talked to him about soaring the skies, he responded coldly: “If I get on a plane and see a woman as the pilot, I would get off the plane.”
By contrast, Miracle tells girls to not limit their dreams.
“What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender?” she wrote. “If it’s truly something you want to do, you need to create it for yourself.
Two words turned track star Quanesha Burks around after an injury dimmed her chances to make it to the Tokyo Olympics: BUT GOD.
“A few months ago, I was dealing with severe bone bruising in my femur and two strained tendons in my patella and popliteus,” Quanesha wrote on Instagram June 30th. I couldn’t physically bend my leg yet alone walk or run properly.
“BUT GOD,” she declared in faith.
Then the Olympic star explained how her attitude, prayer and positivity allowed her not only compete but make it on America’s Olympic team.
“I couldn’t control the injuries or what my future held. But I decided to embrace every day with prayer, positivity, and continuing to be a blessing to others,” Quanesha says. “I refused to let the setback determine my outcome and I knew God didn’t bring me this far to leave me.”
Born in Ozark, Alabama, Quanesha Burks had a small-town girl mentality. She even worked at McDonald’s after track practice to pay her grandmother’s car insurance. (But judging from the shape she’s in, perhaps she didn’t over-indulge on fries and shakes.)
“When I worked at McDonald’s, I thought it was the best job ever,” Burks told Sports Illustrated. “I was making $100 every two weeks. It’s terrible, but I came to work every day happy and I knew it was all part of my goal to go to college.”
Quanesha is a hard-working Christian girl who put her life into God’s hands.
At Hartselle High School, she placed third in the triple jump at the 2012 USATF Junior Olympics and won a 100-meter dash/long jump/triple jump triple at the 2013 state championships.
All the while, she drove grandma to work every morning at 4:30 a.m. and her sisters to school and after track practice, she logged hours flipping burgers and ringing up orders at McDonald’s from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Since she excelled in sports, she hoped she might get a scholarship to college. She would be the first in her family to attend higher education. She researched and found she needed to… Read the rest: Quanesha Burks Christian
Without a father, Cuban-born Eddie Ramirez turned to fighting to vent his rage. He also sold drugs to high-net-worth clients.
“I was cheated. I was cheated because I needed a father in my life and he wasn’t there,” Eddie says on a CBN video. “People needed my merchandise, and I was ruthless, so I felt like I was in control.”
He not only sold cocaine, he also snorted it. It destroyed his nose and his life. He was so out of control that he got into a motorcycle accident and was run over by a truck.
Eddie Ramirez was part of the “Freedom Flights” rescuing people from communist Cuba in 1967. When his dad came to America a year later, the youngster hoped to enjoy his family and his new life in America, but it was not to be.
Dad was aggressive and angry, and Eddie never developed a close relationship with him. After a time, his parents divorced.
As an outlet for his resentments, he fought neighborhood kids. Older boys noticed his toughness and took him into their gang. He latched on the masculine approbation and began to thrive in the life of crime.
“I needed somebody to accept me because I was cheated. I needed somebody that was older than me to accept me and embrace me and say, ‘OK, you’re part of this.’”
The hole in his heart wasn’t filled by crime, however, so he sought satisfaction in drug use.
“What is the next thing? Well, let me get some drugs, let me start doing drugs,” he acknowledges.
He worked his way up in drug dealing and landed some high-profile clients. He felt an illusion of power. But he was helpless to stop his own spiraling addiction.
“You’re always chasing that first high,” he says. “It got me to the point of no return. I was like, I can’t stop. There’s no way of me stopping. I had power. I had money; people were looking for me.”
When he was almost killed by a truck it brought a wakeup call. When Eddie recovered, a friend who had become a Christian took him to church.
“Once I was there in church, I was like, ‘What’s here? There’s nothing here for me. I’m not making no money here. I need to go out there and make money.’”
His stubborn heart remained resistant. He didn’t get saved or repent.
After he survived gunshots to the head, he began to reexamine his lifestyle. “I felt disgusted the way that I would just stay up all night and do drugs,” he says. “My nose was like falling apart.”
“Cocaine is a drug that once you start doing it there’s no turning back,” Eddie says. “I was desperate for a way out of this addiction.”
At the urging of his mom, Eddie checked into a rehab facility where he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord.
“I remember one night I’m there in my room and I get a visitation from what I believe was the Lord Jesus,” he says.
In the vision, Jesus imparted to him: You really want to change your life, all you have to do is walk through this door and if you walk through the door, your life will be changed.
On the plate where little Greg Colon had left cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve were empty syringes on Christmas morning, evidence that his dad had abused drugs — again.
The embittering experience of substance abusing, absentee parents pushed Greg into copying the cool, law-breaking kids in his New York neighborhood. When he dropped out of high school, he opened a barber shop as a front for trafficking drugs.
“I loved the way I was living, I loved what it could do for me. I loved how it made me feel,” Greg says on a CBN video. “It was all about me. It was about money; it was about greed and it was about self-indulgence.”
Greg Colon’s dad, a stone-hearted drug addict, was rarely home. His mom died of alcoholism.
At age 9, Greg moved in with his grandparents, who offered him precious little in terms of material things but gave him and his brother love. But the lack of acceptance from his parents’ neglect left him with a hole in his heart that he tried to fill with worldly possessions.
“What attracted me were the more violent kids, kids who always had the nice sneakers, the nice clothes,” he confesses.
When his grandfather died, Greg, at age 12, lost his own compass in life.
“He was somebody who really got me as a kid and actually cared for me,” Greg remembers. “Then he was gone. I was just empty inside.”
With no positive role models in his life, Greg fell into running the streets and selling drugs. At age 15, he dropped out of high school.
The one bright spot was when he was 15 and his dad, who tried to reform, gave him a professional barber’s clippers. Cutting hair was something Greg enjoyed.
“In my heart it meant the world,” Greg says. “It was like a real good pair like a professional pair of clippers.”
As so often happens, Jason Rangel became the father he hated.
As a child, he once even called the cops on his drug-addicted, violent father.
“I seen my dad not in his right mind. I was scared,” he remembers on a 700 Club video. “My dad was in jail when I was going through puberty. I remember not having him there when I needed him.”
Jason’s aunt took him to church. He found stability, hope and sanity there. He even talked to God. But the demons of his childhood traumas pulled him away from God. In his 20s, he found self-value and meaning by pursuing girls.
“I really became sexual with females. I really just couldn’t get enough. I was having sex with my first girlfriend, and it progressed from there to the next girlfriend and the next girlfriend.”
After he got married, he continued having affairs and fathered two children. But because he was unfaithful to the mother of his children, she took the kids and left him, heading for California. He also was in and out of jail.
“It was just a real tumultuous relationship. I was always unfaithful to her,” Jason says. “I just didn’t care about my children. I wasn’t a good father. I was caught up with the world, caught up with these guys that I was hanging out with.”
After he lost his kids, Jason got turned on to drugs by a coworker. “The loss of my kids affected me negatively,” he says. “I was struggling to cope. I was out of control.”
By now, he was married to another woman, which whom he had two addition children.
“I thought I was entitled to drinking and drugs and being unfaithful,” Jason says. “It was a chain reaction that got worse and worse through the years. When my kids were 9 or 10 years old, I remember them coming home, and I’d be high at the house.”
Les Brown swore he would kill the man who arrested his mother, a single woman who turned to making moonshine to feed her seven adopted kids because she became disabled at work.
When did he meet the man? By chance, RIGHT AFTER he told his son to never act out of anger.
“She was injured on the job, so she promised our birth mother that these children will never go to bed hungry. We will always have a roof over our head and clothes on,” Les recalls on an Ed Mylett video.
“I was 10 years old, and he grabbed me by the throat and hit me on the side of the head and threw me up against the wall. He said she’s back there in the room and they went back there and mama was selling homebrew and moonshine and they he said, ‘Pull up the linoleum,’ and they pull up the linoleum and she kept it under the floor of the house and they brought Mom out in handcuffs.”
While “Mama” Mamie Brown was in jail, little Les took to the streets to make money for the family. He collected copper and aluminum for recycling and helped older men carry heavy equipment.
Years later when Les Brown was running a high-paying radio show in Miami, a man tapped him on the shoulder to congratulate him. It was Calhoun, the same man who orchestrated his mom’s arrest. Calhoun didn’t recognize Les, but Les would never forget the face.
Les had just told his adult son, John Leslie, to never act out of anger. “Anger is a wind that blows out the lamp of the mind,” he said. They were at a public event.
When Les turned around to see who was tapping his shoulder, he froze. He started crying. He hid his face and rushed out of the room, got in his car with his son and drove off. He pulled over to the side of the road.
“Is everything okay?’ his son asked, bewildered.
“No,” he responded.
But as he composed himself and collected his thoughts, he marveled at God’s timing and God’s way of doing things. The timing was just too coincidental to not be a miracle.
“I got that hatred out of my heart for him because you were here,” Les told his son. “I promised if I ever saw him again, I would kill him. I have to model what I’m teaching. Forgiveness is remembering without anger. I forgive him, but most of all, I forgive myself. Please forgive me, God, for carrying this anger and hatred.”
Adversity has made Leslie Calvin “Les” Brown, 75, motivational speaker of the Fortune 500, grow better, not bitter.
He was born in the Deep South, in Florida, during the time of segregation. His mother couldn’t care for him and gave him and his twin up for adoption. Mamie, who had only a 3rd grade education, took him in and six other kids.
One day when he was five, Les let go of his mother’s hand and ran to a water fountain where some kids were playing. It was 90 degrees and he was thirsty.
“My mother grabbed me by the neck, and she threw me down on the ground. She started punching me with her fists in my face and on my head,” Les recalls. “I was screaming. She had a crazy look in her eyes. I said, ‘Mama, it’s me. It’s me, Mama.”
Meanwhile a white cop swaggered over, smacking menacingly his baton into the palm of his hand
“Okay, that’s enough,” he barked. “You beat that little n—– boy enough. Now he’s learned his lesson. He won’t do that again.” Read the rest: Les Brown Christian
When Graham Cottone was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 10, it was a tremendous relief. Before that, his parents didn’t know what was wrong and they blamed themselves. He was constantly punished, made fun of, and friendless.
“He was hard. He was very, very hard to love,” Lore Cotton, his mother, says on a 700 Club Interactive video. “You love your children. They’re your children. We disciplined out of anger on several occasions. It was scary to think, ‘What are we doing? We’re spanking all the time.”
Graham’s behavior worsened beginning at age 12.
“It just was so overwhelming. I remember just going in my bedroom and being so exasperated,” Lore says. “I just fell down on my bed and just began sobbing.”
Out of her prayer that day, God impressed on her heart: Graham is going to get it.
Despite what Lore felt God impart, she didn’t see any encouraging signs. To the contrary, Graham went downhill fast.
At 13, he began using marijuana. He began cutting himself to relieve anxiety. He started fires in the house. He got into a physical fight with his dad, Lore recounts.
“He ran out and got a rock and he threw it and he hit me in the head,” says Michael Cottone, the father. They called 911, and the police intervened. Graham was arrested and jailed and placed under a restraining order to stay away from home.
“We know you’re going to let him come back,” the cops told the parents at the time. “But we’re not.”
Not long after, Graham experienced some sort of emotional breakdown and broken into a house in Texas.
He grew up in jail and mental hospitals.
“I wanted Graham to have peace and have joy,” Lore says.
Graham moved to Colorado, then hitchhiked to Oregon.
“We were actually on a vacation in Mexico,” Lore says. “Graham called us just half crazed, he was crying and screaming and mad because he had run out of all of his medications and he was at a hospital and they wouldn’t give him any more medications.”
Lore offered to wire him some money but said she couldn’t do much else.
“He got upset. He hung up on me,” Lore remembers. “Right before he hung up on me, he said, ‘I’m, going to hurt somebody.’”
Graham wouldn’t answer his phone and soon lost his phone. There was no way to get ahold of him.
“It felt really bad. It felt like the end,” she says. “All we could do was pray. I just told God, ‘He is yours. He’s always been yours. I want so badly to go rescue him, but I know you brought me here. You took me out of the way. I need to trust and let You do your thing.’”
After the vacation, Lore got a call from her son in Sacramento, California. He had hopped a freight train down from Portland with a group of vagabonds.
“I lost everything,” he said. “I knew I didn’t know anybody for thousands of miles, but I need God.”
“I had this vision of Hell,” Graham says. “It wasn’t a place where people were eternally tortured. It was this place where people just chose to do things their own way.” Read the rest: Asperger’s son went prodigal
Some dragons you can slay once and for all, others, come back.
That’s what Christian UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler says. He should know.
Plagued by a small-town mentality for most of his life, Chandler — who is widely regarded in the arena of glove-less grapple — went 688 days without a win. He suffered three straight losses.
“That small guy from that small town inside my brain still tugs at me from time to time,” he says on the Ed Mylett podcast. “It was definitely the hardest time of my life. Some dragons, you slay and you slay them they’re dead. You cut them off at the head. You never see them again.
“But then some dragons you just get good at pinning them,” he adds. “I’m probably never ever going to be able to slay him, but I have gotten really, really good at duct-taping him to the basement of my mind, with a big old roll of duct tape and taping over his mouth.”
Today, Chandler fights, owns a mixed martial arts gym, and speaks on the motivational circuit. He’s a devout Christian who says God called him into the arena to use it as a platform to talk about Jesus.
“God pulled me into this sport and pushed me in the direction of mixed martial arts to be put on a platform not just to be good, but to be great, not just to be great, but to be impactful,” he says.
A God-fearing man feared by many men, Michael Chandler was born in High Ridge, Missouri, population 4,300. His father was a union carpenter.
In high school, he played football and wrestled, the latter at which he excelled, being selected to the All-St. Louis Team his senior year. He walked on to the University of Missouri wrestling squad, where he collected 100 wins and was four-time NCAA Division I qualifier.
Training in mixed martial arts, he excelled at Strikeforce in 2009 and then Bellator MMA where he won his first 12 bouts.
“I came out shot out of a cannon, won my first 12 fights, finished most of most of them in the first period or in the first round,” he remembers.
Butch Hartman, the Christian animator who delighted us through our childhood with The Fairly OddParents, has launched an all-Christian cartoon and game website called Noog Network.
“My faith means everything to me and it means everything to my family,” Butch told Jewish News in Phoenix, AZ. “By having faith, I feel that I’m accountable to something else. And in my case, it’s to God. I have to live my life by certain principles because I know I’m going to have to answer for my actions one day.”
Before launching his own production company, Hartman — who calls himself Donald Duck of Nickelodeon because he was second to SpongeBob SquarePants, the Mickey Mouse of the cartoon network — also entertained children with his zany antics in Danny Phantom, T.U.F.F. Puppy and Bunsen Is a Beast.
Butch Hartman’s career launched in the second grade, when his teacher asked students to draw her. Little Butch whipped out her very likeness, and the teacher raved about the talent. From then on, all he wanted to do was draw.
He enrolled in California Institute of the Arts founded by Walt Disney in Valencia, and began working hard in the industry, working for Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network. He worked for Nickelodeon for 20 years. But his end game was to establish his own network.
In the hailed progression to fame, Butch also got saved at Pastor Fred Price’s church in Los Angeles in 1999.
“I went from not wanting to go to church, to being an usher at Crenshaw Christian Center. I was the only white usher at Crenshaw Christian Center,” he told Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. “It was very easy.” Read the rest: Butch Hartman Christian
Allyson Felix, America’s most decorated Olympic runner, just qualified for her fifth Olympics and celebrated that awesome feat by having a mommy-daughter moment on the track.
“Guys, we’re going to Tokyo,” she said to her 2-year-old daughter Camryn, who met with another qualifier, Quanera Hayes,’ and her son Demetrius in front of cheering crowds after both runners burned through a 400 meter dash.
As a Christian, Allyson Felix has pushed back against a growing, secular, anti-mothering sentiment in our nation, that can be said to be iconized by Joe Biden’s recent budget that called mothers “birthing persons.”
Nike attempted to cut Allyson’s sponsorship deal by 70% when she got pregnant. Why? Because pregnant women can’t compete in track? Because they’re less attractive (according to some sexists) and therefore less marketable?
Whatever Nike’s reasoning, there is an obvious pressure on women to eschew having children that seems very much a part of the current social/political milieu of our country. According to this thinking, overpopulation is a grave concern and abortion is a huge remedy.
To her shame last January, actress Michelle Williams accepted her Golden Globe award and credited killing her fetus with enabling her to attain her professional goals. “I decided to start a family in 2018 knowing that pregnancy can be ‘the kiss of death’ in my industry,” she wrote in the New York Times.
Nike walked back the threatened pay cut and granted maternity privileges to its athletes only after a public outcry and congressional inquiry aimed at them.
So it was fitting that Felix — the athlete and Christian mother — would bring her cute toddler to the qualifiers in Oregon and take her to the Tokyo games later this summer.
“My faith is definitely the most important aspect of my life,” she says on an Athletes in Action website. “I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior at a very young age. Ever since then, I have continually been striving to grow in my relationship with God.” Read the rest: Allyson Felix motherhood spat with Nike
The end of her running — the end of her very identity — came when Olympian Morolake Akinosun hit a wall at the end of a race in 2018 and ruptured her Achilles tendon.
“The Achilles is the strongest tendon in the human body, and you need it to do literally everything: walk, jump, crawl, climb stairs, stand up, sit down,” Morolake says on an I am Second video. “I had it surgically repaired but I was being told, ‘Hey, you might never be the same runner that you were ever again. This may be a career-ending injury for you.’”
What rescued Morolake was her spiritual community.
“For the first time I realized that I was surrounded by people who believed in me and not only did they believe in me, they believed that God had a plan for my life and that He was still going to be faithful through it all,” she says.
Morolake Akinosun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to parents who were Christian pastors. The family immigrated to America when she was two years old, and she flourished at track and field at the University of Texas at Austin, where she won consistently.
“Every training cycle is about figuring out how can I break my body,” she says. “We push ourselves to the limit, breaking your body apart and coming back the next day and doing it over and over again.”
In prelims for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, her teammates dropped the baton in between the 2nd and 3rd leg of the relay race. Morolake, who stood waiting at the 4th spot, was stunned.
“In that moment I had that thought of like, ‘Wow, I’ve trained what feels like your whole life for a moment that now seemed to be gone and stripped from me within the blink of an eye,’” she remembers.
As it turns out, the American women’s team was allowed to re-run the qualifying race. In the final competition, they took gold.
But everything she trained for her entire life was stripped away when she crashed into the wall on that fateful day in 2018.
Angry thoughts ran through her mind toward God: I thought this is what I was supposed to be doing and if this is what I’m supposed to be doing then why did You take it away from me? she questioned. My identity was built in track and field. Read the rest: Morolake Akinosun Christian track starruptured her Achilles
Josh Torbich drank in an attempt to mask his insecurities.
“That inferiority complex seemed to slip away. I started to feel confident,” Josh says on a 700 Club video. “I set myself up to see the drink as the solution to fix the way that I felt, because it happened. Man, it was like the most immediate and effective solution that I ever had seen to fix that feeling that I had.”
As a young person growing up in Brunswick, Georgia, excess weight made him self-conscious. When friends introduced him to alcohol at age 13, the euphoria blanked out his feelings of inadequacy and a poor self-image.
“My life circled around, ‘where’s the party at?’” he says. “I started to become the go-to guy for alcohol and I felt like that was somebody that everyone was attracted to, that could quickly move in and out of popularity circles.”.
Because he was big, he could buy alcohol with a fake ID.
But he was living a double life. His parents were Christians who took him to church.
In his junior year of high school, the liquor wasn’t enough. He turned to painkillers, and their potency gave him an additional boost of self-confidence.
Of course, the gateway substance led to even more: during his senior year, he was a full-blown heroin addict.
“The first time that I shot up heroin and the rush came over me, it was like going back to when I was 13 years old,” Josh says. “It was new, it was exciting, and it was something that once again made me feel great.”
Because she was sickly, little Satabdi Banerjee was consecrated to Kali, the revered Hindu goddess who would bring healing.
But when Satabdi got older, she read the Bible to appease her conscience. All was going well until she hit the Book or Romans, which shattered her view that all religions lead to the same godhead.
“If you read the book of Romans with an open heart, you will see God talking to you,” Satabdi says on her own YouTube channel. “I used to look down on Christian missionaries because I thought they do not understand one very simple concept: All the rivers are ending up in the ocean.”
Satabdi Banerjee was born to a Bengali Brahmin family and took pride from her high caste birth and her family’s devotion to the Ramakrishna brand of Hinduism, the belief that no matter what the religion, they all provide salvation.
Her family members prayed hours every day in a dedicated prayer room at their house. They had lots of Hindu idols, decorated them for holidays and invited relatives over for special meals on those holidays.
They also celebrated Christmas — with gifts in the name of Santa Claus and a birthday cake for Jesus, whom they took to be one of many valuable gurus.
“We used to celebrate everything — Christmas, the birth of Buddha. But at the same time, we thought it was all the same thing,” she says. “We celebrated everything. We used to do carols and cut cake for Jesus.”
Satabdi had a strong desire to please the deity.
“We were so dedicated. I was so dedicated,” she says. “I just had one goal. I wanted to please the gods so that I could meet the gods and be with the gods. I thought I was very close to the gods.”
But she was also painfully aware of the sin in her heart.
“There was this other side of me. I had committed so much sin. Nobody knew my inner heart.”
Satabdi was an avid reader through her childhood. But she refused to read the children’s illustrated Bible because it was Christian, and her mother, who had purchased it at a high price, complained that it alone sat neglected on the bookshelf.
“I did not care about what Christians thought,” Satabdi says.
But the in 11th grade, she met a Catholic girl and flipped through the Bible just to be friendly and to report to her friend that she had read it. There was one problem though: she knew she hadn’t read it. She lied. Read the rest: Satabdi Banerjee couldn’t be helped by Hindusim.
Hillsong worship leader Darlene Zschech had spent her life lifting spirits, but when breast cancer struck in 2013, she needed her own spirit lifted.
“What I found in my ‘valley of the shadow of death’ is the presence of God,” she says on a CBN video. “I realized you can only have shadow if there is light. It’s just a fact that God doesn’t leave us.”
Famous for her 1993 song “Shout to the Lord,” Darlene led worship at Hillsong Church from 1996 to 2007, after which she and her husband founded Hope Unlimited Church in 2011 in New South Wales Australia.
Amazingly, it is estimated that “Shout to the Lord” gets sung by 30 million church-goers every Sunday.
A television star from childhood, Darlene developed insecurities after her parents divorced when she was 13. As a result, she fell into bulimia for about four years.
“It took a long time for that (the wounds from the divorce) to heal,” Darlene says on SWCS Australia. “But now, I have got a real compassion for kids in that situation. It is now the rule, not the exception. Our next generation is definitely going to need answers. Divorce can definitely leave scars.”
When her dad returned to church, he took Darlene, who at 15 accepted Christ. She met and married Mark, and the couple worked as youth pastors in Brisbane. Mark felt called to Sydney, while Darlene didn’t want to go because she had just rekindled her relationship with her mom. Read the rest: Darlene Zschech cancer battle
When Jaya Jeevan’s older brother caught her reading the Bible, he flew into a rage, broke things, tore the Bible and threw it out of the house.
“He literally blew up everything that day when he found me with the Bible,” Jaya says on on a 100 Huntley Street video.
Coming from a non-practicing Hindu home, Jaya had no idea why he was upset but was hurt by his violent rejection.
Afterwards, the girl from the Karon District of India felt like she had to read the Bible and pray secretly. She discovered the Bible in a school desk at a Christian missionary school.
At age 21, she met and married a Bangalore Hindu who was supportive of her Christian practices, though his family was not.
Alone and unsupported (with the exception of her husband) in her Christian beliefs, Jaya started to drift away. She decided that while others would worship idols, she would talk only to Jesus in her heart. But slowly she wandered in her thoughts from Jesus.
“I left Him,” she says. “But He never left me.” Read the rest: a testimony of a Christian in Bangalore
Polycystic ovarian syndrome kept Renelle Roberts from her dream of becoming a mother and having babies.
“We tried fertility treatments. That didn’t work,” she says on a CBN video. “We tried adoption. That didn’t work. We tried foster care. That didn’t work.
“What’s going on?” she questioned. “There were days that I couldn’t even go to work because I was in bed just crying: Why can’t I have a child? What is wrong with me? Please help me. Please cure me.”
When Renelle hit the milestone of 30 years of age, she had plenty to ponder. On the one hand, her patience was growing thin with the wait. On the other, she recognized that possibly she was making having children into an idol.
“I told the Lord, ‘I want 30 to be my best year,’” she remembers. “I really had to submit though, whether I had children or not, because it had become an idol. Children are wonderful; they are a blessing. But for me it had become an obsession. That can get unbalanced.”
Renelle fasted and pledged to fast for as long as it took. Meanwhile, she got into some Bible studies that emphasized faith and believing.
Jackie Halgash lost 100 pounds when she got her comfort from prayer instead of eating.
“I used food for comfort all the time. I used food for when I was happy and when I was sad. I think pretty much any time I felt like eating,” she says on a CBN video. “I got to a point where I couldn’t stand it anymore. I would get up in the morning and before I opened my eyes, my first thought was: what did I do last night? What did I eat? Oh, no! didn’t mean to! I meant to not eat after dinner!”
As a nurse, she knew how obesity jeopardizes health, but the feelings driving compulsive eating overpowered her mental understanding of health. She made rules for herself but always broke them.
Then she found a Christian weight loss program that brought the Lord into her eating.
“It’s a spiritual growth program and that’s the key,” she says. “It gave me the tools that I needed in my faith to be able to stop eating and bring the Lord into my eating.”
As she depended on the Lord, she ate only to being satisfied, not full. When she felt tempted, she called out to the Lord and dedicated that moment as a fast unto the Lord.
“The weight dropped off,” she says.
She dedicated it to the Lord: “Thank You, take this. This is a fast. Take this and I honor You because this is what You’re asking me to do.” Read the rest: God diet to drop 100 pounds
Shahana’s discharge of Islamic obligations was faultless, even to the point to breaking off friendships with Christians who dared to talk to her about Christ.
But when tough times befell her family, she wondered why the “true god” didn’t truly answer. “I had followed Islam for so many years, but my prayers were not answered,” she says on a StrongTower27 video. “I found that my prayers were never accepted. I always used to think, ‘Why is this so?'”
“If you are only going to talk to me about Christ,” she snapped one day, “then it’s better not to speak to me.”
Islam prescribes five prayers scattered throughout the day for its faithful followers, and Shahana never missed.
“But over time as my family went through much suffering and pain, I used to pray,” she says, translated in the video.
But “I found that my prayers were never accepted.”
The lack of response to her prayers was only one unsettling question bothering her brain. She also wondered why Allah seemed unable or unwilling to use any language?
“Why are we told to read Arabic only?” she wondered privately. Muslims must pray in Arabic. Prayers are not accepted in English or Farsi. Muslims must read the Koran in Arabic; the translation is not as good. Allah, it was taught, demands Arabic, the language of the founder of Islam, Muhammad.
Her doubts were growing, but nobody encouraged her to ask. Searching is not permitted in Islam, only submission.
With troubling thoughts brewing in her mind, she relented from the ostracism of her Christian friend. Still, she wouldn’t admit any talk about Christ.
Then, Shahana got the experience that Muslims consider a sublime privilege, a high point in life. For those without many resources, to be able to make pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, is a wild dream.
Shahana visited Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Her uncle lived there, and she participated in rites of Islam.
She poured out her heart sincerely to Allah: “If you truly exist, show yourself to me,” she prayed.
When she returned to India, she felt a longing to meet her Christian friend to talk. After gabbing about nothing in particular for a while, the Christian friend asked another troubling question about Islam: “Why is it that in Islam a man is allowed to marry up to four wives?”
“This bothered me too,” Shahana dropped her guard. “But we can do nothing about it. It is Allah’s command. Thus, we have to obey.”
“I will say that in the Bible, in my holy book, God gave one Adam only one Eve,” she responded.
Jim Wahlberg was the consummate hustler. In prison for hustling, he hustled the prison system — leading a 12-step program under the pretense of being reformed — just to earn an early release for good behavior.
“I was always a hustler, was always manipulative, just to get what I wanted, and I did whatever I had to get it,” Jim observes on a CBN video.
The older brother to Mark Wahlberg actually had no intention of changing his substance-abusing, robbery-financed lifestyle once he was out.
But then the hustler got hustled — by the prison priest.
The priest took an interest in him and tried to strike up conversations. Since Jim was doing janitorial work to earn brownie points with the correction officers, the priest asked him to clean the chapel after attending mass.
The trick worked. Jim began to read his Bible. When Mother Theresa came one day in 1988, he felt God.
“You’re more than the crimes that you’ve committed to be here,” she told the prisoners at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord. You’re more than your prison ID number. You are a child of God.’”
The fifth of nine kids born to a delivery driver dad and a bank clerk mom, Jim was shaped by the mean streets of Boston’s Irish working-class neighborhood of Dorchester. When he realized that middle class kids had more things than he did, he began stealing to even the score.
“I started taking things that didn’t belong to me, so that I could try to live up to the way they got to live,” he says.
His first arrest came at age 10. After release, he did the same things.
“I start drinking alcohol under the pretense of ‘I’m celebrating,’ right? But I wasn’t celebrating. I was medicating myself,” says Jim. “I would drink to try to get rid of the shame and those feelings of self-loathing. It’s all rooted in fear. Fear of what you think of me. Fear of not being good enough. I was trying to soothe that fear, that uncomfortability.”
One day, he woke up in a jail cell lying in his own blood. What was his luck? The house he had broken into belong to a police officer. For home invasion, he could get life in prison, but the cop advocated leniency at the hearing, and 17-year-old Jim got only six to nine years.
“I felt completely defeated and broken and I felt resigned to the fact that this was the way my life was gonna be forever,” says Jim.
That’s when he launched into the good behavior ruse to get an early release.
“It was part of that hustle. Just trying to create the illusion that I was getting better in prison,” says Jim. “And always thinking when I get out, I’ll use it again.”
The guile was so good that he even got to leading 12 step programs for prisoners trying to recover from substance abuse.
Then the priest moved in and showed genuine love and concern for Jim. He attended mass only to placate the priest who urged him to clean up the chapel afterwards (since Jim was doing janitorial work anyhow).
Jim had no idea who Mother Theresa was, so when the priest announced her coming visit, it didn’t mean a thing to Jim.
Nevertheless, the titan of charity in a small frame made an impact on Jim, who for the first time actually felt God.
“I felt the presence of God in my heart,” he remembers.
He felt prompted to pray: “God, help me to be the person that you want me to be. I can’t continue to be this person. Help me to be free of this life.”
But his fleeting experience didn’t completely transform him. When he was released, he maintained a semblance of respectability and reform but didn’t attend church. He married and worked as executive director to his brother Mark’s youth foundation.
“When you feel His presence and you walk away from it, there’s guilt, there’s shame, but there’s also sort of a sense that it’ll never happen for you again,” says Jim. Read the rest: Jim Wahlberg Christianity.
Yassir and four cohorts hid behind a tree on a dark night in the jungle. When a Christian they hated named Zachariah walked by, they jumped out and began to beat him — nearly to death. After “pleasing” Allah with this attack, Yassir returned home, washed himself and prayed.
“We broke his arm. We broke his leg. He started to bleed,” Yassir says matter-of-factly on a One for Israel Video. “Because he started to scream begging for help, I put my hand over his mouth, so that no noise would come out of his mouth.”
Yassir grew up in a strict Muslim Sudanese family and prepared to join jihad, the bloody fight against “infidel” nations and “infidel” peoples.
But every night in his bed, he wondered about eternity.
Such hatred for Jews and Christians began in school. There was only one Christian classmate who was intelligent and talented: Zachariah.
“Because I thought as a Muslim I must be better than him, we started to beat him every single day,” Yassir remembers.
Their malevolent hatred festered and grew until Yassir with four other young men agreed to kill him. They knew the path Zachariah took through the jungle on certain nights. They laid in wait for him.
“It was like slaughtering a sheep. He was shivering. He was crying. We left him for dead,” Yassir admits. “I felt very proud. You’re actually doing something for Allah. You want to please him.”
Alexis Hoffman found herself in a pool of blood. She had cut herself over 40 times.
“I was so ashamed,” she says on CBN. “What did I just do? That’s not me! Why did I do that?! That is not how I act! Why do I keep doing this? Who is this that is doing this?’”
Having shoved God aside in her freshman year in 2009, she ventured into a damaging relationship that introduced darkness into her mind and voices into her head. For her, high school meant she was high.
“My heart became calloused after the abusive relationship because I felt like I could just never get right with God. I felt like I was too far gone. Like I had messed up too much,” she remembers. “I would hear things like ‘You should kill yourself.’ And I would hear a lot of whispers.”
Meanwhile, Alexis’ parents battled through prayer for their daughter.
“When the only thing that your daughter ever gave you was joy, and then you find out that she’s on drugs, sex, you know, alcohol, it breaks your heart,” says her father, Ted.
Robin, the mother, was also anguish-stricken.
“Lord,” she prayed, “You said, and Your Word says that she is Yours and You will not let anything happen to her. And I know that Your Word is true and I believe You.”
The voices started in her senior year.
“They told me I was useless and ugly, that I was worthless and dirty. They told me to just die. And I believed them,” Alexis says. “I remember having this obsession with stabbing. I would sneak out into the kitchen and I would start taking one knife at a time and bringing it into my room.”
When Mom found the stash of knives hidden in her room, she called 911 and had her taken to ER, from where she was transferred to the psychiatric hospital. None of the treatments — including 20 different diagnoses including schizophrenia — seemed to work.
Alexis kept threatening to take her life.
“Robin and I were preparing ourselves for her to kill herself,” Ted says grimly. “And you talk about that’s tough when you have to prepare yourself.”
Alexis also manifested fits of rage and sometimes even blacked out.
“When Alexis got mad…whooo, it was not pretty. It was scary,” Robin remembers. “I had even said to my husband, ‘We should get locks on the bedroom door.”
Then Mom took Alexis to a revival service with Pastor Todd White.
Raised by a Gulf War veteran, Victor Bell became a hulking football star. Behind the wholesome manly image was a festering desire to be loved — like a woman is loved by a man.
“I felt that girls received more affection, they received more consideration,” Victor remembers thinking. “I didn’t get the hugs that my female cousins got, or the hugs that my sister got or the kisses on the forehead. With boys, I felt we were treated rough.”
Victor Bell was raised in a Christian home. But when he saw a soap opera on T.V. at five-years-old, he was fascinated by the love the girl on the program received.
“She’s loved. She’s getting affection, she’s getting care, she’s being treated with gentleness, with kindness,” he remembers thinking. “I want to feel what she feels. I want to be loved like she’s loved.”
This yearning planted in his heart led him to experiment with boys, craving their attention from a very young age.
“I jumped at the chance to be the girl playing house, or the woman playing doctor, or the girl nurse because it was an opportunity for me to reenact the soap opera scene,” he says frankly. “I have an imagination that creates these atmospheres of what it would be like to be loved like her. They were exciting adventures of discovery.”
Meanwhile at church, Victor didn’t feel loved.
“I knew about Hell. I knew about Heaven,” he says. “I didn’t care.”
Throughout middle school, high school and into college, Victor pursued sex with men and with women.
“That was my life,” he says. “I was having sex with a lot of girls. A muscular guy, football player, I’m having sex with men too. I drank, I smoked. I indulged in these activities to feel good all the time.
“I still felt empty,” he adds. “The space of emptiness was growing. So, I felt like I kept needing to fill it more with the activities I was indulging in.”
In 2008, Victor graduated from college and got a job as a long-term substitute teacher. He moved back in with his parents, trying to hide his gay party life from his parents.
The opioid Nubain took away muscular pain for Jason Biddle, and so he could push himself in his quest for greater fitness.
It was a handy weight-lifting tool to push past the soreness until Nubain use degenerated into full blown addiction.
At one point he found himself on the side of the road wishing for a DUI to stop the substance abuse. “I need a DUI. I need – whatever it is,” Jason remembers on a CBN video. “I’m willing to accept the consequences because I can’t stop.
“God, I can’t stop,” he said. “I’m going to wreck my marriage; I’m going to wreck my family.”
As a kid in Minnesota, Jason Biddle was all about baseball, but an injury kept him from going pro.
So he got into construction work. He was making tens of thousands a week.
“Money became my new love,” he says. “I could spend it on whatever I wanted, you know, frivolously.”
He drank a lot. He worked out constantly. To ease the muscle soreness, he discovered Nubain, a moderate injectable pain reliever that helped him “recover” quickly between sessions at the gym.
“One time I actually hit a vein with it,” he remembers. “It was the best high I’d ever had.”
The rush overwhelmed him. Soon he quit the gym for the straight shoot up.
He met Britney, a cute girl with whom he wanted a serious relationship.
She ignored his drug habit initially. But one day she caught him shooting up in the bathroom.
She threatened to leave him. He promised to change. They were on-again, off-again. In the meantime, a small family was starting.
The cycle of making and violating promises started to break with an invitation to church from Britney, who wanted to learn more about Jesus.
The power of the Word and the Spirit caused Jason to give his heart to Jesus that night.
Ed Mylett lost the game for his eighth-grade basketball team. But first he lost his shorts.
He lost his shorts when the whole team pulled down their sweats for warmups. He ran through the layup line and only after missing the hoop realized he was also missing his shorts. In fact, all he had on was a jock strap (he was going to a baseball camp in the evening).
The entire auditorium erupted. His coach and team formed a circle around him and escorted Ed out to find some shorts. The shy kid who only played basketball because his dad forced him was so shaken that when he was fouled in the last seconds of the championship game, he missed two free throws that would’ve given his team the victory.
It was the worst day of his life, but surprisingly, it became the best day of his life.
In the evening at baseball camp, Eddie was slugging balls into middle field when none other than Rod Carew spotted Ed and offered to mentor him. The encounter with Carew instilled confidence that allowed Ed to eventually play college baseball.
While a freak accident kept him from MLB, Ed, became successful as a life strategist consulted by athletes and celebrities. He’s also a social media influencer.
Ed’s journey to Christ and outsized success began in Diamond Bar, CA, where he grew up in a small home with an alcoholic father, who he worried might turn violent at any time. Ed’s childhood mishaps are now the subject matter of his motivation speeches.
In addition to the missing shorts story, Ed tells of “Ray Ray,” the “punk” neighbor kid who got the whole school to taunt him with “Eddie, spaghetti, your meatballs are ready.”
Ray Ray was a bully and his next-door neighbor, he recounted at a World Financial Group convention.
One day after getting licked like always by Ray Ray, seven-year-old Eddie went home to cry to Mom, who hugged him and consoled him.
But when gruff Dad heard the crying and clomped out, he ordered Eddie to go over and beat up Ray Ray immediately. Failure to do so would result in going to bed without dinner.
Scared, Eddie knocked on the door of the tattooed, shirtless dad of Ray Ray.
“Big Ray, my daddy says I have to come over here and kick Ray Ray’s butt or I can’t come home for dinner,” he said, terrified. Maybe he hoped Big Ray would exercise parental wisdom and pan the fight, but that’s not the kind of dad Big Ray was.
“I like that kind of party,” Ray Ray’s dad said. “Let’s get it.”
He immediately called his son: “Ray Ray, little Eddie here wants another piece.”
So with Eddie quaking, the boys squared up. He had never beaten Ray Ray.
Ray Ray lunged at him.
“By some force of sheer blessing of God, I got this little dude in a headlock and I’m, giving him noogies,” Ed remembers. “I didn’t really know how to hit him, but I was noogying the hell out of this kid’s head.”
Finally Big Ray pulled them apart. “He got you,” he told his son and ordered both to shake.
Eddie went home to eat. What else? Spaghetti.
It was a story of facing your fears and overcoming difficult challenges.
But there’s one more detail to the story. Eddie was 7 while Ray Ray was 4.
His mom, he related, had heard him tell the anecdote once omitting the age difference and insisted he should be more forthcoming.
Inside her closet — the same closet she tried to hang herself in — Arianna Armour scrawled all the hateful words people said to her in life: “They never wanted you,” “You need to be locked up,” “She doesn’t want you.”
It was an appalling list, and Arianna rehearsed it as she proceeded from drug-addicted parents who dropped her off at foster care to lesbian and transgender. Injecting testosterone in her thigh, she became James Harley, a gym enthusiast and substance abuser who was in and out of mental health facilities.
It was at the gym that a joy-filled Christian employee felt led to invite her to church. “James” didn’t want to go, but when “he” did, God had a prophecy for him and started a years-long process leading him to Jesus and back to her biological identity as a woman.
“This thing has stolen my identity” she testifies to her church on a YouTube video. “I’m tired of looking at my body and thinking it was a mistake. I’m tired to walking with my head down because God loves me no matter what. God took all the pain away from, the identity the devil stole from me.”
Today, Arianna is involved in ministry. She reaches out to people like herself who want to alter their God-given sexual identity, and escape the confusion and depression. She recently helped a 13-year-old boy who was toying with becoming a girl but got a touch of God.
Arianna Armour’s journey through Dante’s Inferno began with a violent, drug-abusing dad and an actress/singer mom who gave birth to a baby girl with five different drugs in her system, Arianna says on YouTube.
Of course, the Department of Child Protective Services intervened. Foster care turned into adoption, but the love her Christian family tried to show her came up short, she felt.
When she was four years old, Arianna was smitten by a pretty girl in Sunday School.
“Immediately, I hated the fact that I was in a dress and I hated the fact that I was a girl,” she recalls. “I asked God, ‘Why did you make me a girl? Why couldn’t I be born a boy? This was the first sign of the Jezebel spirit in my life. The enemy couldn’t stop me from being born, so he had to try something else. He sent demons into my life from a young age.”
She started dressing like a boy and playing sports like a boy. She hated dress up and Barbies, “so I got made fun of a lot,” she says. “I was the girl who wore boys’ clothes. I dressed like a boy, I talked like a boy, I acted like a boy. I was openly gay and nobody wanted to be around that.”
While nobody wanted to sit with her at lunch in school, she lost herself in music, a talent she received from her birth parents, she says. Her adopted parents bought her a guitar.
In middle school, she fell into the wrong crowd, trying to fit in. “I started to lose myself, so I started to fall into deep depression. The enemy took advantage of my brokenness. I made friends with my demons and accepted that this is who I was.”
Trying to help, her adoptive parents got her a psychiatrist who prescribed meds for Arianna’s suicidal thoughts and mood swings.
“I let all the darkness on the inside reflect on the outside,” she says. “I was in such desperate need for love and affection, I got over-attached and obsessed” with a person.
She manifested violence and anger. Through the Baker Act, she was put in mental hospitals 13 times.
Among the lofty goals of transhumanists is to guide human evolution so that we can live forever. Here on Earth.
If that notion alarms you, you are not alone. Russell Moore says the principles of transhumanism and Christianity are irreconcilably antithetical.
The idea of “Christian transhumanists is somewhat like having a carnivorous vegan society,” says the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “They are completely contradictory. Scripture tells us how to transcend death, and it’s not through our own technology or prowess.”
But have Christians cried wolf too many times? How many times have we identified the number 666 with bar codes, chip implants or even vaccines? We must not ignore the pledge of worship and loyalty to the Beast which is part of Revelation 13.
Micah Redding of the Christian Transhumanist Society says believers need to join the conversation about these advances in science collectively known as transhumanism, not rail against it from the pulpit and assume an anti-scientific posture.
If you thought the current transgender craze is insane, just wait until transhumanism kicks into high gear.
It is from the realm of medical science that we are seeing the first advances in transhumanism. Researchers now are able to implant prosthetics that interface with the nervous system. Patients can “feel” and guide their hand (or foot) because of a sophisticated adaptation to the body’s neurons (which transmit signals to the brain by mimicable chemical-electrical impulses).
From there, transhumanists say we can replace body parts, rejuvenate the brain, splice in genes to remove disease and re-craft the human body to extend natural longevity to ridiculous numbers of years. Some predict lifespans returning to the pre-Flood days of Methuselah.
All of that sounds incredible. But some of the modifications on the human body made possible by science are troubling, especially when it comes to gene-splicing.
In 2017, scientists replaced a mutation in the genetic code of a baby to eliminate a heart defect. The baby was born with a perfect, healthy heart.
Let’s take it one step further. Can we create a superhuman? Can we splice in super-intelligence, good looks, musical talent?
Will rogue nations like China create an army of genetically modified super soldiers, with the stamina of a horse, the eyesight of an eagle, the muscular build of a baboon?
Will the threat that our rivals may be developing super soldiers constitute the next arms race and force our hand on a matter of dark, highly questionable ethics?
Already, the US’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) produces bullet proof material from spider webs produced in the milk of goats that have spider genes spliced in. What other technologies is the super-secretive DARPA doing?
If those questions aren’t troubling enough, another one is this: Will the genetical-modified super soldiers join together, turn against us and take over? The movie the Matrix might prove less science fiction and more science fact sooner or later, though with some variation.
The concept of these “transhumans” is very much a part of the current scientific dialogue, which bases itself on the assumption of evolution. By mutation and natural selection, man and all species evolved, according to Darwin’s theory.
Now, the transhumanists say, humans must take matters into our own hands to guide our own evolution. To not do so would be to risk extinction, they claim.
Most Christians would take exception to that language. It precludes God’s hand in creation and His sovereignty. The brash atheism of the majority of transhumanists is enough to turn off most Christians.
“It is a terrifying development in our culture. It’s part of the breakdown of our culture because it’s a breakdown of distinctions” established by God, says devout Jew Barak Lurie, a real estate lawyer in Los Angeles. “With transhumanism it’s very clear to me that it defies God’s overall plan for us. Your friend could come in with big eagle’s wings so that he can now fly. You don’t know whether to call him an eagle or a man, or a combination of a frog and eagle and a man. There are many reasons why God gives us animals, but it’s not to become one of them.”
A man with eagle’s wings? Such a notion is not merely in the realm of comic books. In 2016, scientists in Japan “grew” an ear on the back of a rat to be harvested and implanted into kids mauled by pitbulls. Reverse the process from animal to man and it wouldn’t be far-fetched for a person to develop animal parts.
If the story of Frankenstein science doesn’t unnerve you, how about “uploading” your brain to the computer, a goal of the AI transhumanists. Since the brain works by electrical impulse to warehouse memories, could scientists learn and copy its functions to the point that you could upload your consciousness to a computer and subsequently download it to another body in the future? Read the rest: What should Christians think of transhumanism?
Chris Hulvey’s family was poor in finances but rich in faith. So when they found themselves without soap and lacking the money for more soap, they prayed.
“I remember my mom back when we were living in a trailer in Brunswick (Georgia),” Hulvey recounts on a This is Me TV video. “She didn’t have no soap, and so she literally prayed to God for some soap, and then soap showed up in the mailbox.”
Excuse the pun, but God came CLEAN through with the answer.
Today Chris Hulvey is the latest signing on Reach Records, Lecrae’s label. Subsistence is no longer his problem. His life now involves many opportunities for performing on stage.
As a kid in Brunswick, Georgia, he actually liked going to church. When you’re poor, free Sunday school snacks are a draw.
“What I really liked about it was we had snacks,” he says. “They were just always busting every time, getting some goldfish (crackers). You can’t beat that.”
He accepted Jesus at age four.
Of course, he didn’t fully comprehend everything.
In the 9th grade, Hulvey went on a mission trip and saw undeniable healing miracles. One was a man whose six fused vertebrae got “unfused.” The tangible move of God challenged his experience of “church as usual.”
“When i got home, it was just like, man, what are we doing?” he says. He felt he should contend for more of God.
As a result, he turned into a pharisee, he says.
“I had a lot of judgmental tendencies. My friend felt judged by me,” he says. “I basically told my best friend that he was going to hell. I had conviction, but I wasn’t carrying discernment.”
As he matured through high school, he learned that his friends were lost because of confusion. They needed love, not condemnation. So he went back and asked them for forgiveness and patiently loved on them.
“In college people are doing the same things, but my whole approach was different,” he says. “I would just be there for them. God helped me to become a care-taker instead of judgement-giver.”
Drawn to hip hop, he participated in and won battle raps. He uploaded music to SoundCloud, and he started gaining traction with the listens. But since it was secular, God told him to delete it. “I was like dang,” he remembers.
What? Kill the momentum? Find out what Hulvey did. Read the rest: Chris Hulvey.
He beat him repeatedly as if he was trying to tear out his insides.
“Dad was just an angry man,” Tim says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “I guess I was his pinata. When Dad lost his cool, there was just no filter. There was no off button. He was truly brutal.”
After being beaten and then locked in the furnace room in the dark for hours, 11-year-old Tim resolved to run away. He packed his little suitcase and the next day instead of going to school he went to a nearby township in Canada.
He was hoping to be adopted by a family or live in a commune, but instead he was preyed upon by a pedophile. The predator pretended to call some nurses who agreed to take him in. Instead, he took Tim to his apartment and raped him brutally.
Those two wounds — the physical and sexual abuse — became his deep, dark secret that was too painful to talk or even think about.
As he matured, Tim turned to drugs to silence the screams in his head. He fell into Rochdale College’s 1968 cooperative experiment in student housing and free college, but it degenerated into a haven for drugs, crime and suicide.
“I was doing everything I could to medicate the pain that I was feeling from my wounds: drugs, alcohol, sex, everything, and I became a drug dealer,” he says. “Rochdale is where I would go to get my drugs.”
One day, his supplier informed he could no longer provide the drugs he needed to sell and consume.
“Why?” Tim asked.
“Because I found the Lord and I’m not doing that anymore,” he responded.
His response was completely off radar for Tim, so he agreed to go to church and see what it was all about.
It was 1972, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church was experiencing revival among the students. The movement was called the Catacombs, named after the underground hideaway of First Century Christians, where they could worship without harassment from Roman persecutors. Thursday night service attracted upwards of 2,000, and Tim went home afterward and fell to his knees.
“I asked Jesus into my heart,” Tim remembers. “And there was a change in me.”
But the wounds were deep and rejuvenation not easy, so he quit Christianity.
Tim didn’t just walk away. First, he prayed.
“One thing I ask,” he said to the Lord, “is that day when I stand before You on Judgment Day, please remember that I gave it my best shot.”
He let go of God. God never let go of him.
Years later, he was married with a 3-year-old son and stepdaughter. He was visiting his brother-in-law at Lake Aquitaine, talking, sharing, eating. They lost track of time when his stepdaughter ran in frantically.
“I’ll never see my brother again!” she screamed.
“Where’s your brother?” Tim asked panicked.
“He is drowned in the lake…”
Barefoot, Tim ran out into the frigid March waters.
He arrived as a stranger was coming out of the water with Tim’s son in his arms.
Tim grabbed the child, carried him to shore and tried to administer CPR. The child had been underwater for five minutes. There was no response.
“I cry out to God, ‘Please don’t take my son. I’ll do anything,” he pleaded.
Continuing in his attempt to revive him, Tim managed to expel not only water but also seaweed from inside.
Ed Mylett was still smarting from a humiliating performance at the basketball championship game earlier in the day. That evening, he was hitting line drives — his true love – into center field.
He was holding and swinging the bat flat and choppy like his hero, baseball legend Rod Carew, when he heard a voice from behind the backstop. “Who’s the little lefty? I like this kid’s swing.”
Ed glanced back. It was #29 himself, Rod Carew, MLB’s hitting maestro for 19 seasons. Ed was flabbergasted.
“Hey, kid, how would you like me to work with you and train you? Can you make it to my batting cages every Tuesday night?”
Wilting before his hero, Ed struggled to find the words. Yes, yes, yes. He would be there.
In the following months, Rod altruistically gave of himself and mentored 8th-grader Ed Mylett, as he did selflessly with hundreds of other talented young people throughout Southern California. Not only did he provide technical expertise, but he also spoke words of confidence into the kids’ lives.
Rod is a born-again Christian. His generosity eventually proved the Bible’s admonition, “Give, and it will be given you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be put into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)
One of those hundreds of kids saved Rod’s life, Ed says on his Aug. 24, 2017 Elite Training Library video.
Lorena Saylor would get in her car and wind up at some random place, having no idea how she got there.
Depression had taken over her life.
“I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to get dressed. I just basically wanted to be alone,” Lorena says on a CBN video. “There was times I wanted to commit suicide.”
Lorena’s problems started with sexual abuse in her childhood home in Kentucky. Although she was the victim, she was punished. “I was the one that got spanked for it,” she says.
Migraines set in at the same time. She couldn’t concentrate in school and was diagnosed with dyslexia. She also suffered from anxiety and low self-esteem.
Lorena married at age 25, but her problems persisted. Her husband was enlisted in the Air Force and would frequently be sent for lengthy deployments, leaving her and the two children alone for long periods of time.
“This voice would say, ‘Ram your car into this tree. Your family would be so much better off if you’re just gone.’”
She was raised in church, but “the back-stabbing of people talking about people, just the things I had heard and seen within the church, I didn’t want anything to do with it,” she says.
At age 33, Lorena suffered a back and hip injury at work. Unfortunately, her prescription pain medication turned into an addiction. “My body just craved more and more,” she says. “I become a functioning addict.”
She felt unloved. She wanted to be alone but despaired of the loneliness. Whenever she drove, she got lost in her thoughts and direction. The voices would tell her to commit suicide.
“I wanted to die,” she says. “Many times I put pills in my hands ready to take them. This voice would say, ‘Just take it. Your family would be so much better off.’”
At age six, Bedros Keuilian was dumpster-diving to find expired but still edible food to feed his immigrant family as his parents and brother scrambled to earn money for their rent.
“I was the bread-winner of the family,” Bedros quips on an Ed Mylett video.
The “communist” from the former Soviet Union to “serial capitalist” in America, Bedros Keuilian is the founder and CEO of Fit Body Boot Camp, one of America’s fastest growing franchises.
In the dumpster, Bedros found a Herman Munster sweater that he wore to grade school. For the next three schools he attended, he was known as “Herman.”
Still, things were better in American than under communism. He calls himself a former “communist” because if you don’t sign up for the communist party, you get shipped off to Siberia, he says.
His father did tailoring on the side to save money to bribe the Soviet Consulate in 1981 to grant the visa so they could travel to Italy, where they applied for a visa to come to America. The KGB suspected he was engaged in “unauthorized capitalism” and raided his house various times, lining up Mom, Dad and the kids, while they searched in vain for needle, thread, cloth, anything that might confirm rumors that he was moonlighting as a tailor. He was good at hiding things, Bedros says.
There’s another very dark story in his background. Bedros was sexually abused by older boys in Armenia. His parents were unaware of this but when they saved little Bedros from communism, they also saved him from further exploitation.
The shame and rage boiled in the back of his mind and made him a terrible student and later a criminal who stole cars and ran from the cops.
Ultimately, Bedros learned to tame the raging beast in his bosom through Christianity and counseling. He became a better husband and a CEO. The beast, he says, caused him to sabotage his own businesses. He was unwittingly playing out the scenarios of his childhood until he learned to overcome them.
Today, Bedros also has a ministry to help called Fathers and Sons, a group he formed as a result of his own bungling as a new father.
His motivational speaking business doesn’t downplay but rather showcases his Christian faith: “Adversity is the seed to wealth, success, and even greater opportunity,” his website proclaims. “Look at Jesus Christ, he suffered to forgive us of all our sins.”
Because his stubby arm impeded him from doing high school wrestling, Nick Santonastasso amputated it.
“Can I cut off my arm?” he asked his mom and dad.
Kids told him he wouldn’t be able to wrestle competitively. He fired back, “I’ll be on the VARSITY team.”
Born without legs and only one arm, Nick Santonastasson had Christian parents who taught him to not have the mentality of a victim. As a child, he learned not only how to eat and do chores but to ride a skateboard and play football and baseball.
Today, he’s a runner-up for the NPC Iron Bay Classic bodybuilder contest and a sought-after motivational speaker because he gets people to drop their excuses and give their all.
“I was put on this earth to be an example, to show people what they are truly capable of,” Nick says on a Forbes video.
Due to the extremely rare Hanhart syndrome, Nick should have been stillborn. But all his internal organs were fine. He just had his left arm (with one finger), an underdeveloped right arm and no legs.
His mom and dad decided to flout doctors’ endless list of “limitations.” Stacey and Michael Santonastasso of Bayville, New Jersey, didn’t baby him but encouraged him to fend for himself as much as he could.
“My parents told me, Nick, the world is not going to stop for this,” he says on an NPC video. “You’re going to have to figure out to do things Nick’s way. My mom would put a plate a food in front of me and say, Nick, figure it out. Here’s clothes, figure it out. That’s why I’m a beast in my head.”
The Christian faith provided the context of honoring the sanctity of life, of believing everyone has a special purpose in life and teaching a victor’s mentality rather than a victim’s mindset.
Stacey’s website, which promotes her book Born to Break Boundaries says, “Although her faith has been strongly tested, she remains grounded in her Christian beliefs.”
At age two, Nick was left alone in the living room. He pushed his wagon next to the table, clambered onto it, and began to dance to MTV.
He learned to skateboard, riding on his stomach and pushing it forward with his hand. Once it got going, he stood up on it. He even does a handstand. He took plenty of falls while he was learning and had more than his share of scrapes. But his mom didn’t scold him for being adventurous.
He catches the football between his arm and his neck and head. He can throw it and even “runs” plays. He can connect a bat with a ball to play baseball better than his peers.
Because his parents didn’t treat him gingerly, Nick says he didn’t really realize he was “different” until he got called a “cripple” in the third grade. That was his baptism by fire into the cruel world of stares and insensitive comments that left him depressed in junior high.
But by high school he had largely overcome the syndrome of an outcast. He wanted to be on a sports team, so he got on the bowling team his freshman year.
In his sophomore year, he yearned for a bigger challenge. His older brother had done wrestling, so he decided to try out.
Immediately, fellow students felt the need to give him a dose of reality. How are you going to wrestle? You don’t have any legs and only one arm.
The son an NBA star, Chaz Smith was destined for basketball. There was only one problem: He didn’t want to play.
Today, Chaz is a Christian comedian known as the Watermelon Guy.
“My dad won an Olympic gold medal and all these other awards,” Chaz says on an I am Second video. “There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I always had to do everything right. My dad really expected me to be a basketball player.”
By insisting on perfection, Dad unintentionally turned his son off from “play.”
“After games it was always about correcting mistakes, what I was doing wrong so that I could be better,” Chaz says “But what I heard was, ‘You are not good enough.’”
One day, he turned on his dad and asked, “Yo, what did I do well?”
No answer came. “Do I even want to play anymore?” Chaz wondered.
The sense of not being good enough cast a very long shadow in his life.
Even in the church, “I felt like I had to walk on eggshells a lot of times, that I wasn’t doing enough and I wasn’t good enough,” he says.
Instead of basketball, he studied at the University of Pennsylvania and launched a short video humor channel on Vine before it was discontinued. He later became an Instagram celebrity famous for mispronouncing words.
But while he became a cultural icon, Chaz struggled in his relationship with God.
“At 12 or 13 is when I started struggling with masturbation and then at 17 I started watching pornography,” he says, being vulnerable. “I never thought I would become addicted to pornography for years. During spring semester of college, I found myself in my room one night just on the floor crying. My entire life was crumbling. I was angry and frustrated.
“What I found out was a pornography addiction is a symptom of a deeper issue,” he says. “For me throughout my entire life, it was just not feeling like I’m good enough. I had feelings of unworthiness.”
By participating in a talent contest sponsored by MTV, Belinda Lee of Singapore thought she might win a shopping spree or a 3-day vacation in Bali. She never fathomed that by winning she would wind up with a full-time job hosting a show and interviewing celebrities.
“The entire media of Singapore came and started interviewing me: ‘How does it feel to be an MTV VJ?’” she says on a Salt and Light Singapore video. “I was thrown into the limelight and I had to mingle with big international stars and regional stars all the time, so I flew all over the world.
“I wasn’t a Christian, so I was living a godless life…a life of no purpose, a life of no meaning. It was just party after party, but deep down, I was always searching for something more.”
Belinda found “something more” when her mother contracted cancer and, in a crisis-induced search for meaning, found Christ.
“Many people were most deeply moved by Mom’s unwavering belief in God,” Belinda says. “It was Mom’s faith that strengthened my faith.”
In 2013, Belinda accepted Jesus and began attending New Life Community Church in Singapore with her mother.
“She wanted to sign up for Bible study the first day she visited the church. The next week she started Bible study and the following week, she started cooking for the members. She told me that since she can’t do much for the church since she didn’t study, but one thing she can do very well is to cook, so she cooks for the members.”
On Laylat al-Raghaib — the Night of Wishes — during Ramadan, nine-year-old Hussain asked Allah for — what else? — 100 tacos.
“On the Night of Wishes if you asked for anything, Allah was supposed to give it to you,” he says on a StrongTower27 video. “Because I had lived in America and then moved to Holy Land, one thing I really wanted was tacos. I used to eat tacos a lot, but there were no tacos over there. You’re supposed to stay up until 2:00 o’clock and then everything turns upside down and you ask for anything you want, you’re supposed to get it.
“It never happened,” he adds.
Today Hussain is a Christian, but he once was a very confused child. Born of a Brazilian mother and Palestinian father and raised in San Francisco, Hussain says he loved Jesus intensely as a nominal Muslim. Jesus, according to Islam, was only a prophet.
When his parents divorced, his dad took him to the West Bank of Israel and enrolled him in Muslim schools in the Palestinian territory. He learned to hate Christians so much that he would avoid looking at telephone poles. The lateral bars formed the image of the cross, a hated symbol for Muslims.
“They taught me, ‘You need to be very careful: Jesus is NOT the son of God.’ I was 100% convinced about it,” he remembers. “I was so spiritually hungry, I ate it up. I became the most religious Muslim in my family. I became very committed.”
As an American citizen, Hussain planned to return to America and convert untold multitudes to the truth of Islam.
He planned what he would say to his friends: “The Jews only accept Moses. The Christians accept Moses and Jesus. But Muslims accept Mohammed, Moses and Jesus, so everybody should become Muslim.”
At age 12, he had the opportunity to win America for Allah. He continued reading and memorizing the Koran.
“I was very committed,” he says. “One thing I used to do because I hated Christianity… Read the rest: muslim hated Christians.
When a light flashed around him and his bonds fell off miraculously, Prince Kaboo heard a voice to run from his captors, the warring Grebo tribe on the coast of Liberia.
So when he wandered into church on a coffee plantation and heard the story of Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, he burst out: “That happened to me!” and began to share about his daring escape, his wanderings through the jungle and his coming to Monrovia.
It was his first time in a church, so he didn’t know to keep quiet. But he was thunderstruck by the obvious parallels and was overcome with wonder. He immediately became a believer in Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, Kaboo — renamed Samuel Morris — became essentially a missionary to America. At a time when African missionaries are emerging as God’s antidote for “post Christian” Europe, Kaboo was a forerunner for this reversal of roles, when developing countries bring renewal and revival to First World nations.
For years in Monrovia, Kaboo painted houses to make money while he learned to read and was instructed in the principles of Christianity from his tutor, missionary Lizzie MacNeil. He immediately consulted his Father in prayer for everything and had a voracious appetite to learn more about the Holy Spirit.
One day, Lizzie teasingly informed him that she possessed nothing further to teach him about the Holy Spirit and that if he wanted to know more, he would have to go to New York and learn from her mentor, Stephen Merritt.
It was a joke, but Kaboo took her seriously. As soon as it was said, Kaboo concluded he needed to go. So he planted himself on the shore near the place he expected to confront the captain of a 300-ton trading vessel in port, a ship he found out was headed for New York.
“My Father tells me that you’re supposed to take me to New York City,” Kaboo told the surprised captain.
The captain, a rough and gruff seaman, however, had no time for idle talk and nonsensical freeloaders, so he kicked him aside.
Kaboo stayed on the beach for the remainder of the days the boat was in port. When it was about to embark, the captain discovered that some of his crew had abandoned ship, so he decided to take Kaboo on as part of the crew, assuming he knew the intricacies of rigging because he belonged to a tribe that often supplied crewmen.
Kaboo had no seafaring experience whatsoever, and when he climbed the rigging to trim the sails, he was absolutely terrified as the masts, 100 feet in the air, pitched from side to side and nearly touched the surface of the stormy seas.
Seeing his evident terror, the cabin boy, who wanted to graduate to sailor, proposed they switch jobs. But nobody consulted the captain, so when Kaboo showed up to attend the cabin, the captain grew furious and rose to beat him.
“All Morris knew to do was to fall on his knees and pray for God to calm the heart of this angry man,” says Charles Kirkpatrick, professor emeritus at Taylor University. “When he saw that boy kneeling in prayer, the captain was moved to recall the days when he had grown up on a farm in New Jersey in Christian home and had been taught the scriptures and how to pray by his mother.”
Over the next few days, the captain’s heart softened. He asked Kaboo about God and became a believer. He was Kaboo’s first convert from America.
After the captain, Kaboo turned his attention to the crew. Sailors at the time were picked up and dropped off in any port around the world. They were often dagger-wielding brigands closely resembling outright pirates. On Kaboo’s ship there was a Malay who had an unbearable temper and threatened people at will.
On a certain occasion, the Malay moved in to slash a fellow sailor. While others stepped back, Kaboo stepped in between the attacker and his victim and boldly told him to put away his dagger.
“The Malay didn’t like that interference and was about ready to use the sword on Morris,” Kirkpatrick says. “But his arm was seized and he could not bring it down. The captain witnessed that and realized that something truly miraculous had occurred in their midst. The result of that incident was that several people trusted in Morris’s God and became believers as well.
“By the time the journey was over about half of the crew became believers,” he adds.
When they sailed under the newly-constructed Brooklyn Bridge, Samuel — the missionary-given name he now used — embarked immediately to find Stephen Merrit among New York’s two million inhabitants.
The first person he asked, probably a vagrant, just happened to know him and offered to take Samuel to his mission eight blocks away.
“That this one person would happen to know Stephen Merrit is part of the miraculous nature of the story,” Kirkpatrick says.
Merrit told him to wait for him in the mission while he went to a prayer meeting and forgot him until hours later. When he sought Samuel at the mission, he found the young African had already converted 17 men in the mission to Jesus.
Merrit invited Samuel to live at his house.
One day he dropped Samuel off at Sunday School. “The altar was full of young people, weeping and sobbing,” Merrit found, when he returned for him.” I never found out what Samuel said, but the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit were so present that the entire place was filled with His glory.” Read the rest: African missionary to America Samuel Morris
The Roe v. Wade movie available now on livestream is an intense, chilling and frustrating documentary about how a small cabal of liberal leaders harnessed the women’s movement and complicit media to ramrod abortion through the Supreme Court using fraudulent statistics and a demonization of Catholicism.
The movie’s narrator is Dr. Bernard Nathanson, portrayed compellingly by Nick Loeb, who was an abortionist in New York City at the forefront of the push to legalize abortion on demand. Dr. Nathanson in real life recanted his support for abortion after ultrasound allowed doctors to see the fetus struggle against the abortionists’ pincers. His 1984 video “The Silent Scream” put science to use in explaining his change of position.
“I knew all along life exists at conception,” Dr. Bernard says in the movie. “I’d taken part in over 70,000 abortions. I knew in my heart that what I was doing was wrong, and I lied. I lied to the world, I lied to God, I lied to me. But I kept on killing until I had the courage to face the absolute horror of what I was doing.”
Dr. Bernard decided to bear the torch for abortion after he paid for his girlfriend to “terminate” her pregnancy. He teamed up with Larry Lader, the so-called Father of Abortion in America. A “disciple” of Margaret Sanger, Lader crusaded unscrupulously to push through his atheistic agenda. Both Nathanson and Lader made millions through abortions and referrals.
The nearly two-hour movie is unrelenting. There’s hardly a light moment. This is understandable given the gargantuan devastation abortion has perpetrated in America. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, an estimated 64 million babies have been aborted. Every 30 seconds a baby is aborted. African American babies account for 40% of abortions. Planned Parenthood made $1.6 billion last year, according to statistics provided in the movie.
In one grim moment, Dr. Nathanson and Lader share a joke jingle from med school:
To chop off an enemy’s head and carry it back to the village to be put on display was a great honor for the Konyaks, a tribal people on the Northeastern edge of India.
“I marked my enemy like a sniper,” says Wangloi Wangshu on a National Geographic video. “And when I got him, I chopped their heads off with a knife. If I happened upon an enemy, it didn’t matter if it was man, woman or child, I chopped the head off.”
“We used to compete with each other. We said, ‘This one is mine!’” Hongo Konyak says. “The person who took the head gained power in the community.”
Once a Konyak scored a kill, he got a tattoo on his face. It was a rite of passage, says Aloh Wang, chieftain of the Shengha Chingnyu tribe. “In those days, killing each other was part of the education.”
Today, the Konyak are no longer headhunters. They’ve left behind their ancient warfare and converted to Christianity, the last of the tribes to do so in the region. About 90% adhere to the teachings of Christ.
At a time when secular thinkers find it offensive to describe native people as “savages,” the Konyak are a reminder that the term was less offensive than the customs that gave rise to the term.
“When the Christian missionary came to the Konyak tribes, some people said they weren’t going to accept the religion,” says Wanton Kano, a Konyak pastor in the village of Lungwa. Read the rest: Headhunters come to Christ
After Shiri Joshua was told she had a rare, virulent form of breast cancer (already at stage 3) she faced a stark choice one Friday afternoon. Would she start chemo or undergo a mastectomy on the following Monday?
“I honestly didn’t even comprehend those words,” Shiri says on a 100 Huntley Street video.
An Israel-born Jew, she moved to Toronto at 19, but her family continued to speak Hebrew at home. She always had an inquisitiveness about spiritually. Due to her upbringing, she thought she could only be either orthodox or a secular Jew.
But after she moved to Canada, she fell under the spell of the New Age movement.
“I really did not feel that my traditional Jewish upbringing would satisfy what I wanted,” she says. “I knew there was a God, I just did not know Him.”
Two years prior to her diagnosis, she had a vision. She had heard about Jesus but felt she needed to avoid Jesus because of her Jewish background. But in her search for spirituality one day, she asked God if Jesus was real.
“I was in my bedroom not sleeping and I saw Him. I had an open-eye vision of the Jewish Jesus. He looked very Jewish to me,” Shiri recalls. “God in his brilliant way of doing things appeared to me in a way that I would not find threatening. He appeared to me with a talit, a prayer shawl.
“And he said, ‘Come to me.’ His eyes were just love. It must have been a split second, but it felt like eternity.”
So, in the cancer clinic in British Columbia, after the doctor left the room, she fell to her knees and prayed to Jesus.
“Lord I’m tired of fighting You. If I die, I die, but I want to come to You,” she said. “But if you let me live, I will live for You.
She gave her life to Yeshua/Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and was born again. “A wave of peace came upon me. I wanted Him so much but I was so afraid because I was Jewish.”
Without delay, she underwent the mastectomy and started chemotherapy. She moved back to Toronto to be with her family. A friend brought a pastor to visit her and she received Jesus into her heart. Six rounds of chemotherapy took six months.
She moved in with her parents and was a secret believer for a while. Read the rest: a vision of Jesus helped heal cancer
When the communist Eastern Bloc dissolved, Mongolia saw a resurgence of Buddhism. But another religion has taken root and is steadily growing, Christianity.
Newfound religious freedom after decades of communist/atheistic repression led to thousands coming to Christ, with over 50,000 followers of Jesus in a country of 3.2 million, or roughly 1.8% of the population, according to Joshua Project.
The growth of the evangelical community at 7.9% a year is outpacing most countries.
Surprisingly, young people see Christianity as hip, according to a Jouneyman Pictures video, “From Genghis to God: Christianity takes Mongolia by Storm.”
“Christianity, never destroys a culture; it will remove things from a culture that are holding it back, essentially that are killing its people, that are making life miserable.” says Paul Swartzendruber, with Eagle TV.
Land-locked Mongolia in East Asia was the birthplace to Genghis Kahn, who conquered all the way to Europe during the Middle Ages. After his decline, the region fell into oblivion and remained a nation of nomads and herdsmen.
In the 1920s, the Soviet Union annexed Mongolia and promulgated a “worker’s paradise” led by government. The religion of Marx and Lenin admitted no competition, so they stamped out all other religions. Buddhists were systemically decimated; a bloody purge wiped out 17,000 monks.
Then, communism fell in 1990 and religious freedom suddenly became a reality. People were free to practice Buddhism. Christian missionaries, eager to preach on virgin soil, arrived in droves.
Eagle TV, with American funding, usually outperformed the national channels in terms of computer graphics and snazzy programming. One show featuring Christian rock videos became very popular with young people.
They saw Buddhism as the religion of the older generation. Christianity emerged as the faith of the younger generation.
Christianity’s growth is seen mostly clearly by the criticism directed by “His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,” the Tibetan people’s foremost leader and revered Buddhist leader.
“Whenever I give some Buddhist explanation in the West, I always make clear that Westerners, European or American, better to keep their own tradition in religious faith like Christianity. It’s better to keep their own tradition rather than change to a new religion,” he says. “Similarly, the Tibetan and Mongolian are traditionally Buddhists, so it’s better they keep their own tradition.”
Bolarchimeg was 16 years old when she started attending Hope Church in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
“My mother was against me going to church,” Bolarchimeg says. “She said, ‘You are wasting your time on these useless activities like reading the Bible every day. Wouldn’t it be better to spend that time on your study?’ God gave me the power to get through.”
A Muslim extremist tried to kill Ramazan Arkan in Antalya Evangelical Church, the only Christian church in Turkey’s fifth largest city.
“One nationalist guy, he came to our church service to assassinate me and he was planning to kill me, but we had police protection during that time,” Ramazan says in a Stefanus video. “Police realized that guy was there and they arrested him and they put him in jail.
“After that, police thought that behind this guy there is some group that wants me to be dead. When I was single, I didn’t care very much. But now I am married; I have two kids. When you face persecution and when you know that there are people that want to kill you, that is scary. Sometimes I feel scared and sometimes I feel worried.”
There’s a price to pay for converting to Christianity from a Muslim background in Turkey. Sometimes your family disowns you. Sometimes you can’t find a job because of religious discrimination. When the church first opened, Muslims threw stones at it, Ramazan says.
But the 200 Christians who attend Antalya Evangelical Church remain undaunted.
The only thing Ramazan knew about Christianity was what the Muslim propagandists had told him, for example, the Bible was corrupted and unreliable.
So, when a co-worker came out as Christian, Ramazan was curious to ask for himself.
“I was a member of one of the conservative Islamic groups,” he says. “I practiced my faith five times in a day, and I was a very serious, devout Muslim. I never met any Christians until that time, and then we start to talk about Christianity, he told me a lot of things about Christianity. I was shocked by what he told me because what I had learned all those years from my society about Christianity, everything was wrong.”
At the time, there wasn’t a single church in Antalya, a city of 2 million and a resort destination on the Turkish Riviera. So Ramazan started one in the year 2000.
“Jesus changed my mind and he changed my life,” Ramazan says “Now my goal is to serve Him. I’m pastoring this church, I’m teaching and preaching. But most of my time is more like spending time with people, and there are a lot of visitors that they are coming and visiting our church during the weekdays and I usually sit with them and talk to them hours and hours, because Turkish people are very much interested in spiritual stuff.”
Order up a Turkish coffee and while away the time with Christian apologetics.
Alper Gursu was one of the Turks who engaged in long conversations with Pastor Ramazan about spirituality. Today, he is one of the leaders of the church.
“I had dozens of questions, like is the Bible real? Because I heard that’s changed,” Alper says. “So he started explaining that starting from the third century and the Nicene council he explained to me all the history. He gave me this circle of evidence. All my questions were being answered.”
Pastor Ramazan gave Alper a Bible, and he started reading and ended up getting saved.
Melis Samur is now one of the worship leaders. She got into God because she liked architecture and studied churches. When she found one in her city, she begged her parents to let her go.
“It was a really peaceful, really really beautiful place,” Melissa says. “They got really upset at me. They were like, ‘Why do you need another religion?’”
The Gospel has grown by 10,000% in more than a century in France, evangelicalism’s holy grail in Europe.
In the year 1800, there were 2000 Protestant evangelicals, in 2019 there were more than 700,000, according to statistics in a FOCL Online video and news reports.
In 1970, there were 840 evangelical churches, today there are more than 2,440. Every 10 days, a new church opens, said David Brown, chairman of the Evangelism Commission of the French National Council of Evangelicals (CNEF).
“Their numbers are no doubt increasing with the evangelical churches’ emphasis of personal conversion and a direct relationship with God,” says anchor Stuart Norval of France 24 English news in a “Focus” report which characterized the growth as “surprising.”
The news is cheery since evangelical Christianity tails Islam and secular humanism in France. The humanist viewpoint that God is a “construct” used by the rich to suppress the poor was practically born in France. About 8% of the country is Muslim while evangelicals barely make up 1%.
Despite sobering demographics, evangelicals have been growing at about 2.4% a year, in line with most countries in the world, according to the Joshua Project.
Francois Loury is a recent convert in the Porte Ouverte Chrétienne church in Paris. He recently was baptized and brings his whole family.
“It feels like a church that belongs to the modern world,” François says. “That’s what’s so good about it. That’s what makes it stand out. The pastors wear jeans. They don’t wear suits. They like to have fun; they tell jokes. Sometimes we even find ourselves laughing about religion. I think that in today’s world, that’s important, to have an open mind.”
Porte Ouverte Chrétienne, which means Christian Open Door, stands out compared to the mass offered by the Catholic church. Porte Ouverte’s worship is dynamic and heartfelt, activities are family oriented, and they reach thousands with simultaneous streaming over social media.
“When I attended Catholic mass I felt like a spectator,” says Eric Richter. “Our faith is a bit like for a fan in a soccer stadium. They’re in it together; they have faith in their players. And we have faith in God.”
Daniel Lietchi presides over CNEF’s committee to foment church planting praises God for the growth but prays for much more.
“If we continue like this with a new church established every 10 days, we’ll never accomplish our goal of having one church for every 10,000 French citizens,” Lietchi says. “We want things to progress twice, even three times, as fast. But the outcome depends on God’s will. For example in Spain, a new church opens every three days. Here in France, that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Much of the current church growth stems from a surge of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, where people in their native countries have a higher level of openness to the gospel.
Monique Kapinga immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo when her husband died. She found a similar worship style and the same earnestness of her native land in the l’Arche de Paix Church, which after 25 years has over 500 members.
“I came to the Arch of Peace because it is a church of truth,” Monique says. “We pray like we pray back home.”
But the spiritual support is not the only help she found at the Parisian church. She also received money and assistance with renewing her immigration status. It’s no wonder immigrants, lonely in a foreign land, congregate together for camaraderie and social networking.
CNEF’s Brown tracks the history of current growth of Christianity in France in the follow epochs:
>From 1935 to 1960, Assemblies of God led the charge with successful church planting
>From 1980 to 1990, the Charismatic movement brought a surge
>From 1990 to 2010, immigration brought a boon.
>Since 1995, native church planters are taking the lead.
Personal evangelism fuels the growth, but white French resist the gospel with a “double insulation.” He says: “They rebuff evangelism by saying they are Catholic or believers in secular philosophy, which is strong in France.
“A person says, ‘Well, I’m not really a believer,’ so you start talking about philosophy and try to convince them,” Brown says. “And then they suddenly say, ‘I’m a Catholic and we can’t believe that.’” Read the rest: Gospel in France