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
For decades, Antti and Esko would smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc nations starting from his hinterland farm in Finland. It was a private, top-secret volunteer operation they’ve kept mum until now.
“We never spoke to anyone about this,” Antti recounts on a 2018 Stefanus video. To do so could jeopardize their safety and cut off the supply of Bibles to people hungry for Scriptures under repressive governments that banned Christianity and punished anyone found with Bibles.
“The people there in the country that were working with us, when they were caught, some of them got three years, some got five years,” Esko says. “Mr. Horev who was one of the leaders of this operation (the Mission Behind the Iron Curtain), he got five years in prison, and after he had served that, they added two more years on to his sentence.”
Antti and Esko never got caught. Theirs was a game of cat-and-mouse, a Christian version of spy wars as was similarly carried on by Brother Andrew and is being carried out now in restrictive Islamic countries.
Antti had a great love for Scripture and felt he could help brothers just across the border in the neighboring Soviet Union. Through the Finnish forest, there were no check points, no fence, so getting in and out was relatively easy.
He rode his bike in, carrying 20 New Testaments, two under his jacket, on his shoulders, and the rest hidden in pockets inside loose trousers. Later he devised a gas tank with a hidden compartment to hide 40 Bibles.
But the cry for more Scripture was endless, so Antti secured a nine-seater Bedford minivan that could conceal 250 Bibles.
“When we realized the need was so big, and we had to constantly create news of doing it. Eventually they started to build pre-fabricated housing to transport through Greece and Cyprus, Esko explains.
In between the pre-fab wooden house structures loaded on tractor trailers, they stowed up to 40,000 Bibles to be unloaded under the cover of night by local collaborators in the Soviet Union, Romania and Czechoslovakia. They also took children’s Bibles and tracts. Read the rest: Smuggle Bibles in the Communist Russia.
Jason Castro, with his dreadlocks and effervescent smile, won America’s hearts even though he didn’t win the American Idol contest in 2008. He launched billboard hits and then disappeared from the secular music scene, leaving fans confused.
“I just felt so detached from a church community,” Jason told CBN. “I just struggled to stay connected to God on the road through the exhaustion, and I wanted more God in my life.”
After dropping a Christian album, Only a Mountain, in 2103, Castro today is married with four kids and selling real estate in Texas, where he lives. His main desire is to be with his kids and God. Of course, he’s still dropping music.
After initial success, Jason Castro went dark on the secular music scene. But more than fame and money, Jason wanted a family.
“Music has that power to calm or to move, the power to give emotions of any kind,” he says on an I am Second video. “What’s the heart behind it? I’ve given my heart to Christ, and that comes through. People are drawn to that even though they don’t always know what it is.”
Jason Rene Castro was raised in Rowlett, Texas, where he was a wing-back on the high school soccer team. The son of Columbian immigrants studied construction science at Texas A&M University and tried out for American Idol. He was the first contestant to play a ukulele as he sang “Over the Rainbow.” Read the rest: Jason Castro disappeared from the music scene.
Eight thousand people a month searched Google in Canada to ask about suicide and the first article at the top of the search page is: “Seven Painless Ways to Commit Suicide.”
This fact disturbed James Kelly and he resolved to do something by marrying Christianity to technology.
But the young minister in Waterloo, Ontario, didn’t know what he could do. Fortunately, he knew guys who could, techies who were Christians but didn’t know what role they could fill in the church. They didn’t want to do public speaking, and they couldn’t strum a guitar. They were nerds. What could they do for Jesus?
James gathered a bunch of them together in a coffee shop 2016 and asked how to solve the suicide search conundrum on Google. They went to work on the assignment and managed to place a website on top that offers hope and persuades despairing people to NOT take their lives.
A year later, a team member was talking about the site to a friend who suddenly seized her arm with eyes widening. What was the URL? she asked. The team member answered. The friend started misting in her eyes. Just the night before, she contemplated suicide and searched Google.
“I landed on that website and that site saved my life,” she confided.
The URL is howtokillyourself.org, which is a strategy to respond to the search terms. But inside the website there is encouragement for people struggling. There’s a video about Kevin Hines, who attempted and regretted suicide. The three tenets are: you are not alone, here’s information, here’s a phone number.
“Did anyone know where he could build a website that could literally save people’s lives?” James asks on a This Is Me TV video. “The Lord’s like, yep.”
Today, James leads FaithTech, a place where Christian technology is a thing. Since starting in Waterloo, it has grown to major cities in Canada with “hackathons,” events where techies brainstorm solutions for ministries and kingdom business. It has inspired knockoffs in the United States.
James was drawn toward trouble like many 13-year-olds. He had begun to dabble in the party scene. But his dad slapped a Bible down in front of him and asked him to meditate for a couple hours on Matthew 7:13: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
Kelly got it. Instead of living wobbly faith, he made the convictions his own, got baptized and put on a Jesus bracelet, which he would deliberately leave on the table to witness.
His dad and siblings were all business majors in college, so he followed suit. But when he consulted a mentor, he got clarity as to what he most wanted to do in life: usher people into the Kingdom.
With his wife, he lived in South Sudan for three months to see what the rest of the world looked like. From that experience, he determined not to do “parachute ministry” — live in a rich neighborhood and land in a poor neighborhood for short-term ministry.
Over and over again, Michaela Lanning came to sleep on Grandma’s couch, amid the piles of hoarded rubbish, toxic mold and asbestos on the ripped carpet.
“Dad was very disconnected, very sociopathic, very narcissistic, very addictive personality,” she says in a video testimony on her YouTube channel.
Without support, Mom kept getting evicted, which led to all sorts of confusion for the children and instability.
In the fifth grade, Michaela got bullied because she wasn’t doing the girlish things of other girls. She was just trying to deal with her mom’s anxiety attacks and make meals of popcorn.
“I would have to put Mom to bed, and I was terrified that she was gonna die,” Michaela remembers. “Like I would tuck her in every night, because I thought that would save her from dying.”
Her mom recovered from the breakdown, but Michaela broke down and began cutting herself as a coping mechanism in the sixth grade.
In the seventh grade, she developed dissociative disorder.
“I thought I was either dead or I was watching a movie,” she says. “I thought I was sleeping and it was a dream I was in. I genuinely was not coherent. I was not aware of anything going on around me and it was terrifying.”
Every day she was in the school nurse’s office and invented reasons to be sent home, usually because of a stomachache or headache.
In the eighth grade, she took classes online because leaving the house gave her panic attacks.
“Things were getting really bad with my parents,” she says. “One time my dad was watching my sister and I, and he chased us down the hall with a knife. Yeah, we moved back in with my grandma.
“My sister and I were sleeping in the living room on two couches, which were probably from the 80s. They were covered in dog pee. They were filthy; they had holes in them. That’s what we slept on for four more years. No bed, no bedroom, no dad, nothing.”
Looking for validation in high school, she “came out” as bisexual and later as lesbian. It was an artsy high school, not a football high school, and that’s where she thought she could find support and sort out the chaos in her mind.
As the founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance, she hung out with transgenders and related to all their confusion and was being heavily influenced to change her thinking.
“I felt all of those things and I, in my brokenness and my self-harm and my eating disorder and my anxiety, all of it was coming together, and I said yeah that sounds right: I’m transgender,” she recalls. She came out as a transgender man, told everyone she wanted to be called a different name, and started seeing a gender therapist
“But in my core I knew I wasn’t transgender the whole time. What I needed was a savior. It’s just I did not know that at the time.”
When she had a nervous breakdown, Michaela dropped out of school and dropped the transgender ploy.
Michaela is currently studying at Moody Bible Institute. In her sophomore year, she attended an “alternative high school,” where the druggies and pregnant teens are sent.
“I did not meet a single kid there that did not do drugs, or at least vape,” she says. She started smoking marijuana and met a friend who persuaded her to get pregnant so they could be teen moms together.
“She was the kind of person that goes out every single weekend and hooks up with guys and does things for money,” Michaela remembers. “I was just chasing anything that would fill my heart and make me feel better. I was like, ‘That makes so much sense. I should do that. I would love to have a baby.’”
After years of crime with the Northern California gang, Jesus Gallegos finally made it to the infamous State Prison known simply as Pelican Bay. Upon his release, he would be the one calling the shots, respected and feared by the up-and-coming rank and file on the streets of Salinas, CA.
“I thought I was on top of the world. I would be looked up to. I had a lot of influence on whatever happened on the streets,” he told God Reports. “That way of thinking shows just how lost I really was in sin.”
Jesus (pronounced Heh-SOOS; a common name in Hispanic culture) Gallegos only knew the life of the norteño gang, which competed with the Southern Californian rivals the Mexican Mafia. As he grew up in poverty, he fixed his eyesight on making it big in the the with norteños.
He earned 4 strikes — enough felonies to get locked up for life. But for some reason, the judge gave him a lighter sentence. Unlike almost everyone else at Pelican Bay, he had a release date. He expected nothing more of his life than prison time or death in the streets.
Something happened when he got released from Pelican Bay in 2005. The plan was to lay low during the time of his “high risk” parole and avoid associating with fellow gang members. The anti-gang task force and FBI would be watching him closely, ready to snatch him up for any violation.
The plan was to get a job, get married, get a house and show every sign of turning over a new leaf. Then when the parole was over, he would report for duty and fall in with the troops.
During those months, he decided to drop out of the gang. He had married for all the wrong reasons, and so things weren’t going well with his wife. Any time they had an argument she would call the cops, he says.
He worked with his parole officer, who let him to ditch the last three months of parole and travel to Texas, where he took up residence with his sister.
In Fort Worth he started drinking again. When he moved to San Antonio, he started using heroin and methadone. He resigned himself to a life of failure.
“I’m just going to go back to prison,” he realized. “That was my M.O.” Read the rest: from gangs to God
Just moments before a terrorist-hijacked American Airlines plane slammed into the Pentagon where he worked, he had stepped away from his office – the precise impact zone — to use the bathroom because of an early morning Coke that filled his bladder.
“When you are 15 to 20 yards from an 80-ton jet coming through the building at 530 miles an hour with 3,000 gallons of jet fuel and you live to tell about it, it’s not because the United States Army made me the toughest guy in that building but because the toughest guy who ever walked this Earth 2000 years ago sits at the right hand of the Father had something else in mind.”
He was seven steps into returning from the bathroom when Flight 77 impacted the Pentagon at a 45 degree angle, the third of four coordinated terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The first two leveled the World Trade Center twin towers in New York. A fourth attack planned for the White House or the Capitol building was thwarted due to delays at takeoff. As passengers became aware of what was happening, they attacked and overpowered their hijackers, saving the White House; the plane crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
“I was thrown around, tossed around inside like a rag doll, set ablaze,” Brian remembers on an I am Second video. “The black putrid smoke that I’m breathing in, the aerosolized jet fuel that I’m breathing in, the temperature of which is somewhere between 300 and 350 degrees.
“You could see the flesh hanging off my arms. My eyes are already beginning to swell closed. The front of my shirt is still intact. My access badge is melted by still hanging covered the black soot of scorched blood. The flame was consuming me and I expected to pass.”
Brian had no escape. He didn’t know which route to take out of the hallways he was intimately familiar with.
“I did what I was trained in the military to never do, which is to surrender,” he says. “I crossed over that line of the desire to live and the acceptance of my death recognizing that this was how the Lord was going to call me home.
“Jesus, I’m coming to see ya’,” he screamed loudly.
Phil Robertson was good at football — good enough to start ahead of NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw — but the ace quarterback preferred hunting ducks over hunting receivers, so he ditched the NFL draft despite being the #1 overall pick.
Plus, he picked up the nasty habit of drinking at Louisiana Tech University and he ran a bar with his young bride whom he married when they were minors. With beer in the mix and anger and churlishness, the Robertsons were (excuse the pun) dead ducks.
“I was on my way to being a bone to be chewed,” Phil recounts in his Deep South drawl.
But a Bible preacher came in the bar. And that was the beginning of the million-dollar duck commander and the reality TV series Duck Dynasty which ran for 11 seasons on A&E. Today, Phil and fam are perhaps the quirkiest of Christian icons.
Phil was raised in Munroe, Louisiana, amidst poverty of the 1950s that he said looked more like the 1850s. They lived in log house, with no commode, no bathtub and no Coca-Cola.
“I never heard anyone say we were poor, not once,” Phil explains. “No one ever said man we are really up against it here. I wonder why somebody done bail us out.”
He met Marsha Carroway (whom he calls affectionately “Miss Kay”) when she was 14 and married her when she was 16 or 17.
“There’s an old saying in the South that if you marry them when they’re about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks, if you wait then they get to be 20, they’ll pick your pocket.”
Phil has a brain surgeon’s precision for throwing pinpoint passes, so he got a full scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, where he outplayed Terry Bradshaw. Ultimately, hunting ducks was more of a draw than fame and he dropped out of football, not before learning to get drunk with the guys.
“Phil, who had never drank before, started drinking and what happened with me was it was scary to me,” says Miss Kay. To their first son Alan, Jason and Willie were added and the prospect of a wild living father was unsettling.
“I owned a beer joint when some guy came in with a Bible, and he wanted to introduce me to Jesus.” Phil says. “I ran him away. I said, ‘Get out of here.’”
The circle of his problems expanded. He got into a barroom brawl and went into the woods for three months to hide out from the law. He was becoming more and more mean-spirited.
“I would tell my boys all the time, ‘That’s not your daddy, that’s the devil in your daddy,’” Miss Kay says.
Next, Phil ran off his wife and kids.
“That was the low point,” he says. “You’re all alone and miserable. That’s when I began to seriously contemplate a way out of all this.”
Moping and gloomy, he looked up the wife he’d run off, and Miss Kay suggested he look up the Bible guy who dared to enter his bar.
“Why don’t you sit down with him and just see what he has to say?” she says.
Honestly, Phil didn’t know what the gospel was. He thought it was some kind of music.
As the preacher explained, “I was blown away when I heard that Jesus died for me and was buried and raised from the dead,” Phil says. “It was something so simple but profound.”
Miss Kay got home to see a note that her husband was at church.
“When we got into the auditorium, I just stopped because there he was up in the baptistry with a man,” she says. “The boys started hollering and singing, jumping all over the place, and they said, ‘My daddy‘s saved! My daddy’s saved!’ They were so happy. Tears were rolling down their eyes.”
Phil was tired of the cesspool life.
“I’m gonna make Jesus the Lord of my life,” he pledged to his family. “I want to follow Him from this day forward. I’m turning from my sinful past and I am fixing to make a valiant attempt to be good.”
After running the bar, Phil got into commercial fishing. He had problems with the “River Rats” who kept stealing his fish (in nets left at certain points on the river, as allowed by his commercial fishing license).
The old Phil would roar up in his boat at full speed with his shotgun drawn. But the new Phil read in his Bible to do good to your enemies and pray for those who persecute and not to return evil for evil.
This was a quandary. But Phil had made up his mind to love God and his neighbor as himself. How would he put that into practice?
“Fishing was my livelihood,” he remembers. “I was working my tail off.”
He felt the Lord tell him: “They’re hungry. Feed these River Rats.”
“So one day I heard a motor slowed down and these guys pull over to my float and I’m watching them through the bushes,” he recalls. “So I said, ‘I’m gonna be good to them.’ But I’m carrying my gun just in case they’re not good to me. ‘And I’m gonna do what the Lord said.’”
He started his engine and motored out from behind the bushes.
The reason why so many Saudis fill the ranks and leadership of terrorist organizations today is because teachers and preachers in Saudi Arabia praised the “holy war” of Muslims against non-Muslims in Afghanistan in the 1980s, says a convert to Christianity.
“A whole generation was brought up this way and taught to think this way,” says Nasser al’Qahtan. “Sadly the world is reaping the fruit for what we were taught when we were young.”
Nasser, who was born and raised on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, longed to die for Allah by waging jihad, and thus improving his chances of making it into Paradise. But along the way he converted to Christ and now exposes the diabolical beginnings of today’s world upheaval.
Nasser’s parents were opposed to the idea of their 12-year-old going to Pakistan for training and being smuggled into Afghanistan to fight the Russians, but many of his older friends did join jihad.
“God had other plans for me,” he says on a Your Living Manna video.
In the summer of 1990, Nasser plotted to run away and join jihad, but Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. At the time, he was actually in the United States with his mother visiting relatives and the ensuing world chaos prevented him from leaving “this evil nation” of America.
Nasser hunkered down for the long haul, playing the role of the religious police with his younger siblings to make sure they still prayed and read the Koran. He didn’t want them to come under Satanic influences in America. Eventually, he worried about himself and eyed with suspicion the Americans around him.
“What was I going to do? I was surrounded by infidels. You either make a war against them or you try to bring them into Islam another way,” he says. “I thought Allah brought me here to evangelize them.”
Nasser’s English was very good and he thought his Islamic apologetics weren’t bad either.
“I began to tell everybody about Islam, my fellow students, my teachers, my neighbors, everybody I came into contact with,” he says. “I started to see some fruit. I started to see regular American people abandoning their prior beliefs and becoming Muslims. Some of them grew up in the church and they renounced Jesus. I thought I was fantastic.”
As he learned about American culture, he eventually perceived that born-again Christians were different than the rest of Americans (who he wrongly assumed to all be Christians), and he began to target them because he figured it would be easy for them to switch since they already lived clean lives.
One of those loving and clean-living Christians was a woman with whom Nasser fell in love.
“That was my undoing,” he admits.
Only after marrying Daisy did he begin to correct her beliefs about Jesus. She should no longer idolize Jesus, who was nothing more than just another of Allah’s prophets, he said. Mohammad was the main guy.
The pressure he put on her grew in time and caused great strain on their marriage, and even some Christian friends counseled her to divorce for being “unequally yoked,” a mistake she had made while being a nominal Christian.
But Daisy, pressured to evaluate her childhood faith, wound up affirming her relationship with Christ. Encouraged by an aunt who had been a missionary for decades in Brazil, she not only prayed for her husband but mobilized thousands of Christians in mega churches in North Texas to pray.
Those prayers began to take effect. Outwardly, her husband appeared secure in his beliefs, but inwardly he was struggling. He knew his sins were too great and the mountain of good works and prayers needed to offset them too much. He began to ponder again the easiest and most and most assured path to Paradise — jihad.
Finally, his wife ventured to invite him to church, which, out of curiosity, he accepted. His consciousness of his sin was so great that he concluded, “If I’m going to go to Hell, I might as well find out what they do in church.”
“I thought it was the most Satanic thing I had ever seen,” he says. “But I was so drawn to keep coming back by the love I felt there. Eventually he broke down and asked God for the truth.
“Immediately I had a vision. Everything before me was wiped away and I was transported to this rocky hill, looking down at this man who was so brutally beaten to the point of being unrecognizable,” he says. “He was being nailed to a cross. I knew this was Jesus.
“I watched as the cross was lifted up and He’s hanging there bleeding and struggling for breath. I’m looking Him in the eyes. He’s looking at me and through me. He sees all of my junk, the hidden things in my life. I feel this wave of shame.
“But he’s not looking at me with disgust, which is what I expected. He’s looking at me with this fierce love. As He’s fighting for every breath on the cross, He’s fighting with every breath for me.”
The darkness from all humanity was put on Him on the cross.
“The darkness wasn’t overcoming Him. He was overcoming it.”
Then Jesus said, “It is finished.”
“The reason I did this is that you and all the people that were meant to be my children were snatched away from Me, and you sold yourselves to other powers. To buy you back, this was the cost. This was the price that I paid for you Nasser.”
Coming from a poor family with a mother who was totally illiterate, Parameswari Arun struggled with an inferiority complex, comparing herself to other students in terms of talent, intellect or family background. Frequently, she cried herself to sleep.
She worried about her studies and whether she would ever attain an advanced degree. “Will I get a job? Will I be able to look after myself or my poor parents?” Parameswari says on a Your Living Manna video. “So many fears came and crowded my mind and put me down every night.”
Perplexed and distraught, the native of Pannaipuram village in Tamilnadu District of India spied two fellow college girls next door in the dorms who didn’t appear to be staggering under the crush of stress.
“They always used to look confident, joyful enjoying their life,” Parameswari says. “They were good girls in terms of their character and that caused me to have a type of curiosity, to go and find out how come.”
Still, she was shy.
“One day after attending my physics class, I was rebuked by my teacher,” she says. “I ran to my room to sit and cry alone, but my room was locked.”
So she went to her neighbors’ room. While there, she spied a Bible. She had never seen a Bible before.
“There was one word written underlined by red ink. God is love. That word came and pierced my heart saying that there is someone to love me and to take care of me,” she says. “But I couldn’t understand the full meaning when I was pondering over it.”
Parameswari asked her. “What do you mean by God is love?”
“God loves everyone in the world and He came in the form of his Son Jesus Christ to carry the punishment because of his love,” the friend responded. “He doesn’t want to see anyone going to hell because of the punishment of the sins that we do on earth. So he died on the cross and took away every punishment and curse and everything on him and freed every human being. Whoever believes in His name can enter into eternal life”
The friend explained that Christ’s blood covered everyone’s sins.
Parameswari, who was studying the biological and chemical sciences, couldn’t grasp this idea.
“The body contains a maximum six liters of blood,” she argued. “How can it wash the sins of the whole world?”
Parameswari rushed out of the room, rejecting the notion.
Notwithstanding, she continued to contemplate the Bible.
Borrowing the mysterious book, she read further.
“That book told me who I am, who is my Creator. The book told me that I am born to live. The book told me I will be on top, never at the bottom. The book told me that I’m chosen by God. The book told me that I am the beloved of the Lord. The book told me that I’m a child with talent given by God.
As a deaf missionary in Africa, Elizabeth Smith blows people’s minds — especially the Muslims who interact with her in the nation of The Gambia.
“When we speak to many hearing Muslims, they become curious when we praise God for making us deaf. They normally are very sympathetic because they believe we are full of sin and that’s why God made us deaf,” she wrote in an email interview with God Reports.
“It’s fun sometimes to see what God does in people’s lives when they see things from a different perspective,” based on a conception of Islam that’s very different from Christianity, Elizabeth notes. Prolific hymnist Fanny Crosby thanked God she was blind; apparently, she felt the loss of one sense sharpened her hearing and musicality.
Both deaf, Elizabeth, 34, and her husband, Josiah, 36, are establishing a church for the deaf. It’s only one of its kind not only in The Gambia but for many of the neighboring West African nations. Their missionary adventure started in February of 2017.
Their church, on the outskirts of the capital city of Banjul is a place of refuge for Gambians who need love and acceptance. “We get a lot of curious visitors in the church. Some have questions of who God is,” she says. “Some just feel welcomed, regardless if they are Muslim or not.”
For Elizabeth and Josiah, not hearing is not an insurmountable barrier to be missionaries. It presents challenges that simply belong to a long list facing anyone adjusting to a new country and culture.
“Living abroad is not for everyone. It stretches you, and takes you apart in ways you never imagined,” she says. “Being deaf definitely presents a lot of challenges. There are times when we need to communicate and many cannot read or write English.”
She tries not to voice words in English and mostly uses writing on paper or hand gestures. By and large, people are open to this sort of communication, though many are illiterate. The couple uses the illustrated Action Bible to show biblical stories and truths.
“But our main focus is the deaf community,” she says.
Elizabeth and Josiah were both raised in Arizona, but they didn’t meet in Arizona. They met Washington DC, where both worked for Youth With a Mission, and married in 2015. (From 2011-13, Elizabeth was an independent missionary with the Baptist Ministry at Gallaudet University, an institution of higher learning specially geared for deaf students.)
Soon, they felt God call them to Africa. They didn’t know where and sought in the Lord in prayer. Elizabeth got a vision of a machete shape and felt moved to look at a map of Africa. Lo and behold, the sliver-nation of The Gambia, which hugs the same named river, came into focus.
Josiah volunteered teaching gym classes at a local deaf school, while Elizabeth volunteered teaching English. A former British colony, The Gambia adopted English as its official language, but many speak only tribal languages such as Wolof or Mandinka.
Just as English differs from another language, so does sign language differ from country to country. There is no universal sign language. The American version is called American Sign Language. So Elizabeth and Josiah are gaining fluency in the Gambian sign language. Read the rest: only deaf church in West Africa led by deaf missionaries.
Daniel Chand loved to fight. As a boxer in Greenwich, England, he was a champion in the ring. On weekends at the pub he liked to raise hell and often found himself in drunken beer brawls.
But then he got arrested for really hurting someone and faced eight years in jail.
“I remember being outside the court room and I prayed to God to give me one more chance,” Daniel told the UK News Shopper. “The next thing I knew, the trial collapsed.”
Chand still loves to fight. But he has traded punching for preaching.
An earnest international evangelist, he has joined the ranks of a new generation of street preachers in London who have traded hellfire and brimstone for more tempered reasoning relying on apologetics.
And he loves praying for the sick — right there on the street or in the store.
“I remember walking up to a Muslim man who was limping and thinking that he might respond negatively to me because he was a different religion. I told him Jesus wanted to heal his leg. And he just looked at me.
When accosted by a stranger in New York City, Keisha Omilana politely declined to give out her phone number, but as she was about to board a train to head for a modeling audition, her women’s intuition took over.
“You know what? You’re not dating anybody,” she told herself. “And he was cute!”
Because of the risky decision to give a total stranger her number, Keisha today is a Nigerian princess – royalty!
That’s because the guy requesting her number was Prince Adekunle “Kunle” Adebayo Omilana from the Arugbabuwo ruling house in Nigeria.
But she didn’t know that until AFTER she said yes when he took a knee.
They dated for two years, and then he sprung the question. When she accepted, he explained that he was African royalty, with lots and lots of money.
Today, the Omilanas are strong Christians, and they’re using their money to finance church planting in Africa. Prince Adekunle is managing partner and chief executive officer of Wonderful Media, a European Christian television network which on Facebook identifies itself: “He is Life, His name is Wonderful and life is Wonderful.”
Nigerian royalty — like European royalty — exercises a symbolic role with little real power, but the Omilanas leverage a good example and preaching to the conscience of the nation to cement Christianity in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.
That’s significant because Nigeria stands to become a new center of gravity for worldwide Christianity. Nigeria has already begun sending missionaries into Europe in what many see as a paradigm shift for missions.
In the next 20 years, Nigeria is poised to become the fourth most populous country in the world — surpassing Russia. They’re on track to having the largest evangelical population in the world. Soon the majority of Christians worldwide are going to be non-white.
With 400,000 Nigerian immigrants in the U.S. with an average income level above white Americans, Nigeria can join hands with mission leaders on an equal footing to chart the future spread of the Gospel worldwide.
Don’t be surprised if the Omilanas sit on that board.
Keisha was born in Inglewood, a small city in the middle of the vast Los Angeles metropolis. Her birth town was awash with poverty and overrun with gang violence, but Keisha grew up safe and sound.
She moved to Chicago to study fashion but switched from designer to model. At first she timidly embarked on the career with Ford Models. But her striking beauty opened doors. She represented Pantene, L’Oreal, CoverGirl, Revlon, and Maybelline.
Keisha became the first African-American woman to be featured in three consecutive Pantene commercials, earning the moniker “The Pantene Girl”.
She appeared in the movie Zoolander and the television shows 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
Keisha was lost in New York City while looking for another audition when Prince Kunle discovered her.
He was in a meeting at the W Hotel when he saw her in a phone booth, trying to get the directions straight from her agent. Prince Kunle excused himself from the table and went out to see her. He waited 45 minutes for her to get off the phone, at which time he approached her.
Curtis “Earthquake” Kelley was formerly a high-ranking witch, so he brings a wealth of counter-intelligence to Christianity — and what he finds is that most Christians are abysmally ignorant of their enemy’s strategy.
“Since I was in that dark stuff, God told me to bring that information to the table,” says the seventh-born heir to a dark legacy of priestly power in Haitian voodoo.
Today, Curtis, 64, uses his honorary doctoral degree to teach Christians the mechanics of deliverance from demonic oppression, from physical sickness to entanglements with sin. He travels internationally and gives classes over Zoom — “not just a whole lot of hollering and hooping. We need an understanding of God’s word for knowing how to fight these hobgoblins.“
Call it Deliverance 101.
Twenty years ago, Curtis taught Deliverance at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Today, he is pursuing a goal of launching Schools of Deliverance in every major U.S. city.
“The enemy doesn’t want the body of Christ to be educated about what he does and who he moves,” Curtis told God Reports. “Deliverance is not a 40-yard dash. It’s an 880 run. It may take a little while to get around the track and learn these things. A lot of people give up because of their lack of knowledge. The church is not taught how to fight.”
Born to a Haitian immigrant family in New York, Curtis was heir to the family’s legacy in witchcraft because he was seventh born. He learned casting spells, astral projection, séance pronouncements and client manipulation, but when he saw demons coming in and out of his floor — and especially after a drug-induced dip in Hell — Curtis decided he wanted out.
He grudgingly attended church, and on the third day of revival in December of 1971 the evangelist called him out: “Young man, God wants to save you. God says, ‘I love you. I want to save you,’” Curtis remembers. “I didn’t want nothing to do with the church because I thought they were weak. But when I heard God loved me, I went up to the altar.”
Among the things he’s done through the intervening years, Curtis got into boxing. He was a good bare-knuckle fight club brawler and caught the eye of promoter Don King, who fronted him as a super heavy weight boxer along with Mike Tyson, who was heavyweight category, Curtis says.
He met with some success — in the shadow of Tyson — but a head-on car collision in 1986 abruptly ended his foray in the sport.
Curtis got into ministry. He was holding a drug-rehab program at a Los Angeles church in the early 1990s when a well-dressed participant — husband and wife — caught his eyes.
“You don’t look like you have any problems with drugs,” Curtis approached him at an opportune moment.
“Oh no,” the man responded. “We’re here for our son. Our son is strung out real bad.”
With the knowledge he gained, that man helped his son break free from drugs. Today, that son is a successful engineer, Curtis says.
It turns out, the man was a professor at USC and spoke to the Dean to get Curtis in to teaching a class — Deliverance and Demonology — for one semester. There were always 5 or 6 kids out of the 50-student class who hung out after class wanting to know more. Read the rest: Earthquake Kelley’s Schools of Deliverance.
Cassenda Nelson often spent the day crying in her truck because she didn’t want to be reminded of the brutal murder of her mom and aunt in her home.
In August 2017, Cassa’s mother, Frances Nelson, and her aunt, Mamie Childs, were murdered in an alleged domestic violence dispute.
“My mom and my aunt were murdered in front of my children at her home,” Cassa reports. “My mom was someone I could go and talk to about anything. It felt like something was ripped out of me. How do you bounce back from being in that place of so much despair?”
Life became unbearable.
“I lost all hope. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to see sunlight,” Cassa recounts on a Billy Graham video. “My plan was to take a whole bunch of pills to commit suicide.”
Then barely over a year later on Oct. 9, 2018, Hurricane Michael swept through her town with blockbuster Category 5 ferocity and tore up houses, knocked over trees and left the town a shambles.
Cassa’s home was also damaged.
“I’m standing here at the door watching this storm, and I’m saying, ‘Oh my God. When am I going to get a break?’” Cassa remembers. “I lost the most important people that would have been right here with me.” Read the rest: Hope in a hug for Cassenda Nelson
George Palmer and his boys, armed with concealed zip guns, didn’t go to the Billy Graham crusade to hear him preach. They went to kill him.
Palmer had hated God ever since he lost his father to a heart attack at age seven.
“I was just so angry with God,” he testifies on a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association video on YouTube.
George Palmer’s father died in Western Australia after planting 100 cherry trees. He had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, but doctors couldn’t save him.
“I’ll never forget when I was told that my dad had died, I just couldn’t handle that,” George remembers. “I remember going up to the top paddock, and I screamed at God.
“I hate you. I hate you with all my heart. I will never love.”
The anger grew in his heart. He was a troublemaker in school and in the neighborhood. People knew him by his bad reputation and this reinforced his growing bitterness.
“I was always told I would amount to nothing. If you tell a person that continually, that’s what you believe, that you’re worthless, you’re useless.”
In his youth, he led a violent gang that harmed many others and clashed with rivals. “I had a vile temper,” he says.
One day, after beating their rivals in a street fight, George and his nine associates captured the rival gang leader and, subduing him, drove a car over his hand backwards and forwards, crushing every bone in his hand.
“It’s all I ever thought of, hurting people,” he says.
They planned to attend the crusade in Melbourne, determined to kill the internationally famous evangelist.
That’s when he and his boys heard that Billy Graham was coming in 1959 to preach across Australia. They hated Christianity and God.
“Billy Graham stood for something I detested,” George says. “It was something that drove me day by day.”
“I made up 10 zip guns, so each member had one of those,” he says. “I said to the guys, ‘Come on. We’re going on the green. We spaced ourselves so that we could see each other around where Billy Graham was preaching.
“We decided that…during the appeal, we would kill Billy Graham.”
The ugliest thing Caleb Kaltenbach saw through a childhood of being taken to gay pride marches and wild parties was…. Christians holding up signs saying “God hates you.”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with that,” he said at the time. But Caleb came to Christ in high school, became a pastor afterwards and started a church that doesn’t compromise on truth while still extending love to those with “messy” lives.
His incredible journey from Christian-hater to loving Christian is more than just one man’s testimony. It is a shining light on the path for the church re-calibrating its message, as the world grows more worldly, to wooing sinners instead of saying “Woe!” to sinners.
When Caleb was only two years old, both his mom and dad divorced and “came out of the closet at the same time,” he says on an Outreach video. “My whole life I was raised by two lesbians and a gay man.”
His dad was professor of philosophy, law and rhetoric at the University of Missouri, Columbia, while his mom was a professor of English at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.
“My whole life I was raised in the gay and lesbian community,” he says. “My parents didn’t want to get baby sitters, so they basically took me to parties when I was 4, 6, 7 years old. I went to camp outs, clubs and gay pride parades.
“I hated Christians,” he remembers. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with Christians.”
At the end of a gay pride parade, he was met by Christians with placards that said “God hates you” and “Turn or burn.”
They were spraying water and urine on everybody.
Caleb, who was a young and impressionable 9 years old, turned to Mom and asked why they were doing this.
“Well, Caleb, they’re Christians,” she replied. “And Christians hate gay people. Christians don’t like people who are different from them.”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with that,” he replied.
His next memory was when he was a teen, accompanying Mom to her parties. His custom was to find a room to play video games, Duck Hunt or Kung Fu (in the days of primitive video games — Atari, etc).
Louis, a well-built 30-year-old, befriended him at these parties.
Years later at the doctor, Caleb saw Louis, who had was emaciated and had strange markings on his forehead. Caleb asked what was wrong.
“Caleb, I have AIDS, and I’m getting read to die,” Louis responded.
Visiting him “a shell of the man he used to be” in the hospital just days before Louis died, Caleb witnessed a “horrifying sight.” As Louis shivered uncontrollably cold under nine blankets, his family watched unfeelingly from across the room.
“Plastered against the wall with their big ol’ KJV bibles out and looking like they expected a firing squad to come at them” was the compassionless immediate family. When he asked for water, they made sure to give him some without touching him.
“Why are they acting like that?” he asked his mom.
“Well, Caleb, they’re Christians,” she responded. “And Christians hate gay people. Christians don’t like people who are different from them.”
He showed up in Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police in 2014 to fight for equal treatment for people of color — but also to help quell the rising violence of protests that were being hijacked by non-local agitators.
This year, he showed in Minneapolis after George Floyd died when a white police officer kneeled on his neck. He participated in prayer, counseling and services on the very street corner where Floyd lost his life.
“In church circles, there’s been this desire for awakening,” JT says on Slate. “Oh my goodness, it looks like awakening has come to America in the form of chaos.”
This is JT’s full-time job, and his organization, the pun-derived nonprofit “Civil Righteousness” — has been part of the healing balm applied to a nation convulsed by months of protests, vandalism, riots, looting and anarchy. Christian race-relations expert Dante Stewart calls them “the next generation of the racial reconciliation movement.”
He likes to talk to hot-headed young activists, to white conservative evangelicals and angry black liberal progressives in their 50s and 60s and get them thinking outside of their bubbles. “Jesus came for all,” he says. “There are serious issues in policing that need to be addressed, but also the police officers are human.”
With Methodist circuit-rider great grandparents and a grandmother who was sister of soul legend/ civil rights activist Nina Simone, JT says he’s had a confluence of influences to uniquely prepare him for his current ministry.
Raised in a predominately black Baptist church in North Carolina, he launched on the path to become a missionary in college but zeroed in on urban needs in America. He worked in Tennessee and Indiana but struggled to raise support, so he started a video production company and accepted a teaching pastorate in a nondenominational church in St. Louis.
Then Ferguson erupted in unrest that quickly spread across the nation. In a dream vision, JT saw himself type an email titled “Meet me in Ferguson” and took it to mean that he should travel there in the name of the Lord.
He joined prayer groups and observed mounting street protests. He confirmed that agitators from St. Louis were the ones stoking the flames of outrage and sparking violence. After two months of trying to inject God into the equation, he moved his family and set up permanent residence in Ferguson.
When white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black Christians at church in Charleston, South Carolina, JT unobtrusively introduced himself on the scene to conduct prayer services and distributed food to the homeless.
After James Alex Fields Jr. slammed his car into Heather Heyer, killing her, and injured 19 others at a white supremacist rally in Virginia in 2017, JT conducted trainings for local churches on “how to be peacemakers and mediators.”
By then, Civil Righteousness had grown into a network of like-minded Christians who are ready to mobilize like a SWAT team. “We live a lifestyle of readiness,” JT says.
Naturally, they deployed to Minneapolis.
The protests sparked by George Floyd have been different than any previous. They have become more widespread and more supported by politicians and media. They also have been more dominated by Marxists and Antifa. Leaders of BLM have openly declared the Marxist alignment. Antifas engaged in organized anti-police mobilizations, ambushing cops and using lasers to blind them. Read the rest: Civil Righteousness brings Jesus to race riots.
While Covid-19 has killed myriads, shut down economies and closed churches around the world, the deadly virus has liberated thousands of exploited sex workers in India, according to a report from Project Rescue.
“What Project Rescue hasn’t been able to do in 24 years of giving itself to rescuing and restoring the lives of thousands of women and their children, this virus has shut down the Red Light Districts in India,” says founder David Grant. “God has given us an opportunity to reach out to these women that we’ve never seen in all these years. In 50 years of being involved in missions, this is the greatest moment we have ever experienced.”
Because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s particularly drastic quarantine, there are no businesses open, no transit, and no industry. With the streets virtually deserted, brothels have no customers and human traffickers are simply releasing their prey rather than have to feed them without them generating any income, Grant says.
“This is the greatest miracle in Project Rescue’s entire history,” he adds.
Other nonprofits report a spike in human enslavement in other parts of the world, as governments repurpose resources usually dedicated to fight traffickers. Perhaps what Project Rescue is reporting is unique to India where stringent restrictions were put in place.
David and Beth Grant
“In the middle of unimaginable crisis comes unprecedented opportunity,” says Rod Loy, director of strategic initiatives. “For the first time in our life time, sex trafficking is shut down. No one is visiting the Red Light District, customers are non-existent, demand is at an all time low. Traffickers are losing money.
“As a result, traffickers are giving women permission to leave and take their children with them,” Rod adds. “In the years of Project Rescue, this has only been a dream. It’s never happened. What the enemy intended for evil, God is using for good. These are the most exciting days in the history of Project Rescue.”
Many of the women who find themselves trapped in the brothel were either kidnapped or sold into the trade. In some cases, they are chained with actual shackles. But often those chains are financial. The women know no other way to make a living for themselves and their children, Rod says.
“We need to be ready to seize the moment of what He wants us to do in the middle of the storm,” Executive Director Beth Grant says.
Project Rescue is issuing a plea for financing to help released sex slaves return to their hometowns to find food. Project Rescue will feed and provide vocational training so that when Covid dies away the sex workers will have a practical alternative to make money other than the life they have lived for years.
The nonprofit deploys 422 international staff and 226 national staff to rescue and restore youth who have been coerced or enticed into a living they now feel trapped by, its website says.
Pastor Rajneesh of Jaipur reports 300 women and children rescued from such slavery, so the urgency to meet their need is great or “they’ll be forced to return the Red Light districts so they’re children won’t die,” Rod says. “The window of opportunity is short.” Read the rest: Sex workers freed in India due to Covid.
First there was blood on the pillowcase. Second, her husband slept all day, had circles under his eyes, and a persistent bad attitude. Eventually, he lost his job, his car and his dignity.
“I was naive,” Norma Pena says. “I didn’t recognize the signs of drug abuse. Although I came from a dysfunctional home, I didn’t know what addiction was.”
It got so bad, Norma told Tim to move out. Three years of marriage was coming to an end. She felt “numb to him,” she says. “I had no feelings for him anymore.”
Today, Tim Pena has been pastoring a church in Visalia, California, for almost 20 years. It’s a mind-boggling turnaround. And they are still married.
When Norma accepted Jesus into her heart in 1997, the marriage was on a fast train to Splitsville. Her friend, Sandra, who had evangelized her tirelessly for three years, encouraged Norma to contend for restoration of their relationship.
“At first I didn’t believe he could get saved,” Norma says. “He made my life a living hell.”
But there was a grain of sand in the oyster that irritated her thoughts. Her mother was a single mother of four, her grandmother a single mother of six.
At the time, Norma had only one child — but she was worried that she was falling victim to a vicious legacy.
At the constant encouragement of Sandra, Norma prayed for her husband. Things were not going well for him. He was sofa-surfing at friends’ houses. His life was spiraling downward, propelled by cocaine and alcohol.
Then one day, he showed up at the same church Norma attended, the Potter’s House in Indio, California. Tim answered the altar call for salvation.
She watched from the congregation. She thought the conversion was faked.
But her friend urged her to persevere in pray.
“The Bible says you have to pray for your enemies. He was my enemy because he made my life a living hell,” Norma relates. “But he was the father of my daughter, and I wanted him to be a good example to her.”
Swarmed with doubts about his family’s Hinduism, Rahil Patel, a respected Swami priest in London, thumbed through a children’s Bible in a bookstore.
“I opened it and started reading and I felt a connection so quickly, so easily I then had to shut the book quickly,” Rahil says in a Billy Graham Organization video. “I had to shut it quickly. It represented something completely opposite to what I represented.”
He was raised in England in a Hindu family and hungered for whoever God was.
“Hinduism is a canvas of hundreds of religions with different doctrines and ideas and philosophies,” Rahil says. “I was so desperate to search for God.”
His drive to find God led him to travel to India, his parents’ homeland.
“I trained to become a Hindu priest,” he says.
After only one month, however, a small voice spoke in his left ear: “Have you made the right choice?”
It was the first seed of doubt.
But he didn’t immediately renounce Hinduism. He kept an open mind and continued his studies. After all, his parents had brought him up that way and millions of people worldwide adhere to Hinduism. He ought to give it a fair shake, he thought.
His branch of Hinduism affirmed that the guru was god. Rahil began to show promise, and the guru took a special interest in him.
“When the guru speaks, it is god speaking,” he says. “To be chosen as one of his favorite priests is the most incredible dream coming true.”
While he was pleased with the approval he got from his leaders, he was troubled by the doubts surging in his mind.
“The more I studied, the more questions I had,” he relates. “I asked tough questions to the scholars in India, and they weren’t liking it.”
One scholar told him: “Submit to what we are teaching you. You have decided to wear these clothes. This is forever.”
When he said that, “I knew there was a problem,” Rahil says.
He really only wanted to ask sincere questions. He thought having the confidence of the guru allowed him to try to get his real questions answered. The blunt shutdown only turned Rahil off.
“I feel that I’m being brainwashed,” he responded to the guru.
“There was a dead silence in the room,” Rahil remembers.
“You think too much,” the guru replied. “Just get on with it, and as time goes on, your questions will be answered.”
Rahil left the room but not Hinduism — yet.
He returned to London where he continued as a swami priest and teacher of Hindu immigrants.
Eventually, he spotted the children’s Bible at the bookstore. As he scanned and read passages, he realized that the message of grace was totally the opposite of Hinduism’s works mentality. The idea of Christ’s sacrifice for sin was completely foreign.
Unattended by his career-ambitious parents, Jim Rouches discovered his older brother’s stash of pot and LSD when he was only seven.
“The first time the euphoria hit me, my first thought was, I’m going to do this the rest of my life,” Jim says on a CBN video. “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever felt.’
He very nearly carried out the vow to life-long drug abuse.
Jim was the youngest (with his twin) of five siblings. His dad was an IBM executive; his mom, an entrepreneur. He would act up to try to get their attention. They were busy, busy, busy making money.
By middle school, he was a committed pothead. His parents divorced. After misbehaving with his mom, he was moved to his dad’s, where he shaped up for a time.
But when his mother developed lung cancer, Jim lost all motivation to stay on the higher path and resorted to his earlier vices, this time adding cocaine into the mix.
“I could go through $300, $400, $500 worth of coke very quickly,” he says.
When mom died, he got mad at her, as if she had given up and wouldn’t be there for him.
“I thought that she gave up and that she could beat cancer and that if I had cancer I would definitely beat it for her, or anyone else that I loved.”
Jim figured out how to graduate yet bombed each effort his family made to get him off drugs.
“I just thought it was garbage,” he says. “At that time, I would rather be dead than have to live without being high all the time.”
A year after graduating, Jim wedded his secondary school darling. The couple had twins, a boy and a girl. But as one might expect of a marriage where the man suffers from drug addiction, the wedded bliss didn’t last.
“I was in the grips of an addiction that was just massive,” he says. “As much as I wanted to stop for my family I could not stop. And, even then I would have died for them, I just couldn’t quit doing drugs.”
For the next quarter century he was either spending time in jail, in a recovery program or running from the law.
In 2004 he was arrested for credit card fraud and an extensive list of other unlawful offenses.
At 41 years of age, he was worn out, confronting his third strike, and facing 49 years to life in prison.
“That was the first time in my life I just didn’t want to live anymore. I said, ‘God, if you’re real, if you’re real like they say you’re real, help me.’ Read the rest:freed from drugs Jim Rouches.
Incarcerated for a schoolyard murder, a psychologist told 12-year-old Ronnie Legg there was no forgiveness available to Him from God.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I’ll never be able to get into Heaven,” he says on a video published by a Texas outreach group. “I might as well be the devil’s #1. As soon as I was found guilty and sentenced to 21 years, I started pushing hard to try to do the devil’s work. I was pushing hard to be the ultimate gangster.”
Ronnie’s troubles began early: a single mom, abused as a tyke, living in poverty. For selling drugs on the wrong street in East Houston, his brother was killed. Nine-year-old Ronnie followed in his footsteps with drinking and smoking dope.
His mother, brokenhearted at the loss of one son, steeled her heart against what she thought was the inevitable demise of Ronnie.
“There’s no more love here for you because you’re going down the same path your brother went down,” his mom told him. “You ain’t going to do nothing different, so I’ll be danged if you break my heart.”
Ronnie responded to the rejection by throwing the first object he could find at her.
“I hate you,” he yelled.
At age 12, he was on the schoolyard when a group of young gangsters tried to jump him. But they didn’t count on Ronnie being armed and he shot three of them, killing one. He was arrested four days later. Even without a jailhouse confession, prosecutors secured a conviction.
By age 15, he was in the penitentiary because he was so dangerous. While there, he joined the Houstone Blast gang and fought every day to make a name for himself.
“As I started doing that, everybody was patting me on the back,” he recalls.
Released from prison, he trafficked dope, pimping and kidnapping in Houston.
In December 1999, the Feds tracked him down. It seems his best friend snitched on him. Sentenced to 72 months, he got into trouble in prison so much that his sentence was lengthened to 9 years and 4 months and then into 12 years.
“I ended up walking around some of the worst prisons in the whole United States,” he says. He was in Beaumont prison during the racial riots. He was transferred to Oklahoma and then to Pollack, Louisiana. Of 100 Texans in Pollack, only he and another survived.
Ronnie eventually was transferred to a Death Row penitentiary in Indiana. In Victorville penitentiary, he was thrown in with the Crips and Bloods. It didn’t matter to him that he was the only Houstone. Almost immediately, he stabbed someone on the yard.
Finally, he was transferred to the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” in Florence, Colorado, the “worst of the worst. Everybody there is a killer. Three people a day get stabbed,” Ronnie says.
When he was admitted, the warden gave him one warning:
“All I ask is that you don’t put no steel in my officers.”
When he was finally released, Ronnie went home and immediately resumed drug trafficking.
Danny Gokey’s wife died unexpectedly during a routine heart surgery in 2009.
“They gave me a private room and I yelled out loud, ‘God you have to save her! You have to heal her! You have to. You cannot leave me alone like this!’” he said on an I am Second video. “It got to the point where she was gone, and once again that old familiar thing of fear came back into my life.
“I felt in my heart, God’s mad at me.”
Christian singer Daniel Jay Gokey, 40, is best known for his first single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me,” which peaked at number 29 on the country chart, inspiring him to release his full record My Best Days in early 2010.
Born in Milwaukee, Danny attended Heritage Christian Schools and sang with his family in church. In his mid twenties he became the director of Faith Builders International Ministries.
During this time, he married Sophia Martinez, who was also a fellow church-going music fan.
It was Sophia who encouraged Danny to audition for American Idol. He was accepted as a recipient and ultimately placed third in 2009. This launched his music career, which he aimed at the Christian pop segment.
Four weeks before Danny’s tryout on American Idol, Sophia died. He performed his best in devotion to her.
“I made a promise that I would go try out,” Danny says. “Little did I know that when I would try out for this show, it would be a month after she passed.”
Sophia had a heart condition from birth but had gotten it fixed in a surgery when she was young. Or so Danny thought.
“Little did I know that in our first year of marriage that we’d be in the hospital together because her heart was beating 200 times per minute,” Danny recalls. “And that’s when the doctor dropped the news on us. We were both 24 years old. He said, ‘We’re going to have to have another heart surgery.’”
In his youth, Danny was plagued by all kinds of irrational fears. Many of his fears centered on whether God truly and unconditionally loved him.
First he staged a prom for special needs people at his church. Now, he’s opened a coffee shop staffed by special needs employees.
Retired Pastor Brewster McLeod of Lexington, Kentucky, opened McLeod’s Coffee House in 2019. The coffee shop is a non profit with 50 employees who happen to have autism and developmental disabilities.
“They got joy, they got heart, they want to work,” McLeod said.
The purpose for the special coffee house is twofold: to give an income to people who might find it hard to get another job, AND to sensitize regular folk to their needs.
“If Down syndrome or special needs make you nervous,” McLeod says, “you probably need to come in here and relax and just treat them like anyone else.”
Megan Gaines, 29, works the cash register. She was born with spina bifida, which paralyzes her from the waist down.
“I’m exactly like anybody else. I can do the same things you can do. I just may do things differently,” Megan says. “We still want to have friends, we still want to do things, we still want to go out and hang out with our friends, and just do normal stuff.”
Working at McLeod’s Coffee has brought joy and safety to the 50 employees, whom McLeod calls “VIPs.” They wear super hero T-shirts to work as part of their uniform. McLeod says they’re “handi-capable.” Some are greeters, others baristas, others work the cash register.
McLeod was pastor of the Southland Christian Church in Lexington for 40 years. Since 2000, he’s ministered specifically to people with special needs. He held a “Jesus prom” for people with special needs because they felt excluded from regular Cinderella-like events. Read the rest: special needs employees coffee shop.
After the Thompsons’ first baby, they spent 10 years trying to get pregnant again, then decided to become foster parents. After a decade they were shocked and surprised when Jenny Thompson got pregnant again.
“We tried for years to have another child,” Tony Thompson told CBN. “For some reason we just never could conceive again. We got very, very heartbroken and decided to become certified foster parents.”
As foster parents living in Chesapeake Bay, they adopted a teenager and a son, Alexander.
Then Jenny got pregnant.
“We had prayed for 10 years and Gideon West was just a huge answer to prayer,” Jenny said.
Over lunch at Gideon’s first birthday, Tony reached over to straighten the tyke’s head. He shrieked in pain.
A visit with the pediatrician led to a referral to the hospital. After a CT scan, doctors determined he needed surgery immediately to remove a brain tumor.
It was staggering news.
“Our world just stopped,” Jenny says. She called friends, family and church to pray.
The surgery lasted nine-and-a-half hours.
“We felt so helpless,” Jenny says. “Directly after the surgery, his body was failing. He was on medication. He had tears coming down his face. My heart just broke into pieces.”
She cried and cried to God, who gave her a vision of Gideon playing joyfully with angels.
“It was perfect peace,” Jenny recounted. “From that moment on I knew that no matter what the outcome was going to be God had our baby.”
In other words, even if he died, he would be in Heaven.
Gideon remained in ICU for 30 days.
The tumor was examined in pathology. It was cancerous.
“How do you even fathom that your child has cancer?” Tony said. “The question was, God, why would you bless us with this child just to take him away from us? What did we do so wrong?”
Even though the outlook was bleak, Tony and Jenny determined to pray and believe. They held on to hope.
As “a way of coping,” the couple launched a Facebook page “Prayer for Gideon” that quickly went viral. Gideon’s progress was constantly updated, as were specific prayer requests.
Andy Bales’ leg was amputated in 2016 after he contracted an infection related to homeless people defecating on LA’s Skid Row.
“I’d give my other leg if they would actually do something” to get people off the streets, he declares.
While politicians dicker about who’s to blame for the city’s acute homelessness crisis, Andy, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, believes they have the answer that manifests Christ’s love in a pragmatic way. It’s called a Sprung Structure, a cheap and durable fabric tent that can house 120 people.
“The answer is IMMEDIATELY getting people off the streets so they are not continuing to be devastated,” he says. “The longer we leave so many people on the streets, the worse it gets for them and for all of us.”
In 2014, Andy participated in a triathlon and scraped open a sore on his foot. He was wearing a “wound boot” when he walked around with staff handing out bottled water and invited people to take advantage of Union Rescue Mission’s services.
“I got an infection from human waste outside on the sidewalk on Skid Row,” he says.
Right now, there are only nine public toilets to service 2,800 people on Skid Row. The numbers don’t add up and actually fall short of toilets available for refugee camps in Syria (the refugees have it better). He calculates 184 toilets would be needed to keep the homeless from defecating and urinating on the sidewalk.
He describes a dangerous situation with grave infections happening to people all the time. Aside from cleaning the street every two weeks, the City hasn’t done much, he says.
Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is worse than New York’s or San Francisco’s. Last year, there were 41,000 on the streets. This year, there are 44,000, Andy says.
Andy, 61, is no Ivory Tower theorist. He’s a man of the trenches.
To remind himself and draw attention to the plight of the homeless, Andy spends New Year’s Eve on the streets every year. He denies himself his bed, his warm room, his shower, his bathroom, and his dinner. He spends the entire night outside, with whoever volunteers to help him, on the streets.
The first time he did it many years ago, he did it alone. Throughout the night, he broke up fights and fought off rapists — five physical altercations in total, he says. Never again would he brave the streets alone. Sometimes he’s accompanied by Bible college students, sometimes by staff.
So he experiences firsthand the horrors of homelessness. When the news reports of violence and even murder perpetrated by the homeless, Andy knows what goes wrong.
“I don’t know how anyone continues to sleep on the streets night after night without beginning to think in a wrong way,” he says. “I’m still recovering two days later. You can see I have a shake in my hands. And that was just one night. I can’t survive one night on the streets. How can I survive two. Or how could I survive weeks or months or decades on the streets?” Read the rest: Homelessness Los Angeles.
Young Noah was succeeding wildly in the secular rap game while his life was going down the drain, but he turned things around after he nearly got shot to pieces.
“Duck,” God told him.
“I ducked down in the car and pushed my buddy’s head down into the steering wheel,” he says on a 2016 Testimony Stories video. “The next thing I knew there were shots fired and glass was just flying everywhere,” “It was at that moment I realized that I was about to die.”
He had been trying to help some girls escape a college party, and “a hundred football guys, drunk and high and out of their minds” chased him down because they wanted the girls, he says. He had pulled out a non-working gun to scare them off and keep from getting beat up. They had run off but returned before Noah and his buddy could escape in their car. They had at least one gun, and it worked.
William Noah Bohannon aka Young Noah was born in Neunan, Georgia, into a family so Christian that he wasn’t hardly aware of the world. He accepted Jesus at a young age and got baptized. He was being home-schooled, but when he attended secular high school he got involved in hip hop, alcohol, marijuana, gangs and robbery.
“It was weird to grow up in church and end up so far away from God,” he says. “Church and growing up in church can’t save your soul. It kind of shapes you, but eventually you have to make a decision whether or not you’re going to allow God to live in you and cause you to do good works. Church can’t save you. You need to accept Christ. You need to have a regeneration in your mind. You have to be born-again.”
Winning a rap contest, he was given the chance to record in Los Angeles. By the time he got there, however, God had already orchestrated events to the point that he was already questioning his great breakthrough.
“I found myself succeeding in this dark industry,” he says. “At the same time I began to wonder if God really approved of my lifestyle. I knew that if I was really going to be a Christian, I was going to have to let this music thing go. I told my manager, I told the record company, I told everybody that I couldn’t continue. Read the rest: Young Noah’s testimony
John Simmons first entered a dingy poker room where guys were smoking on his 21st birthday in Vegas.
“There’s no better feeling than putting in a wad of money in your pocket knowing you didn’t really do anything to earn it,” says Simmons on a CBN video. “There’s a lot of adrenaline that builds up in your heart. The feeling of chasing that moment is intense.”
It was the start of a decade-long gambling addiction that saw John, from St. Louise, Missouri, fall into more than $200,000 of debt, depression and hopelessness.
His demise began with a celebration for his birthday, when it was finally legal for him to go into a casino.
“The guys at the tables got their sunglasses on and they’re bluffing each other,” John says. “It’s just filling me up with all this joy and i’m like I love this.”
John decided to pursue poker as a career. He got a job as a casino card dealer and he made good money.
‘Gambling gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of identity,” John says. “I would be a person that could be seen by others as a multimillionaire. If I wasn’t working, I was playing. If I wasn’t playing, I was sleeping.”
But when gambled on his free time, he lost.
After three years at the poker table, John was more than $200,000 in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. As part of the court settlement, he still had to pay off some debt. So John worked overtime to scramble the money.
“In my mind, it wasn’t that I was failing. I just needed to keep going and figure out how to fix it,” he says. “If only I could win the next thing, none of these losses matter. I would spend my entire paycheck over the course of a weekend trying to chase my debts. A lot of times, I had zero dollars in my pocket.
“It was such a terrible way to live,” he adds. “I couldn’t stop though. I kept thinking, ‘If all I do is win this one tournament, if I win a million dollars, no one will be mad at me anymore.’”
At age 30, he was again hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
The Ravens quarterback is not out to win. He’s out to destroy his opponents, to bury them under so many points, both passed and rushed. His mindset is insanely competitive.
He’s been compared to Mike Vick, but he passes more, and he’s been hailed as a prototype revolutionizing football for future generations of QBs, who ought to be both athletic like a running back and precise passers. The 22-year-old, who outgunned both Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in double digits this season, is charging madly into the NFL’s MVP.
On top of all that, Lamar Jackson is a Christian, who credited his faith when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 at the University of Louisville.
“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Lamar said. “Without Him, none of us would be here right now.”
Lamar Jackson lost his dad in an automobile accident when he was eight. From then on, his single mother raised Lamar and his siblings in poverty in Pompano Beach, Florida. He credits Mom with doing her best to fill the role of Mom and Dad.
And the role of football coach.
Felicia Jones was a passionate athlete herself and pushed her son into football. Even at eight, he outran and outpassed all the other kids in Pop Warner football. Felicia watched intently from the sidelines and then took little Lamar home to give him more drills, either ones she saw or ones she made up. She even tackled him roughly so that he would intensify his game to beat bigger people.
“People don’t believe me,” Jackson said on ESPN. “She was an athlete. She used to play basketball. She saw what we were able to do, and she’d go back there and play football with us. She was just making us tougher because she’s older, so she’s bringing power that we’re not used to feeling. We didn’t take it like anything different.”
In addition to intense workouts, she drilled Lamar with a code of moral principles called The Super 8: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline.
By the time Lamar got to college he was a football machine, chewing up opponents and spitting them out. In his opening game during his sophomore year, he established the school record scoring eight touchdowns, all in the first half. He went on to become the youngest ever recipient of the Heisman trophy at age 19.
But when it came time for the NFL draft in 2018, 28 teams overlooked him in their picks. He was the last pick of the first round.
But the snub only inspired him. Lamar and his mom, who acted as his agent, remembered and repeated Matt. 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last,” according to CBS Sports. He wasn’t a first in NFL draft; he came in last. Now on the football field, he determined to finish first. Read the rest Lamar Jackson Christian
(spoiler alert) After several hair-raising chase scenes, armed runaway slave Harriet Tubman gets the drop on her former slave master.
Aiming her revolver, she steps out from behind a tree and demands Gideon Brodess, riding on horseback, to drop his rifle, which he does. But he tries to surprise her and pulls his handgun.
Harriet shoots his hand, walks over and grabs his rifle and trains it on him.
“God did not make people to own people,” she declares.
The fact that the biopic Harriet, in theaters now, portrays Christianity in a positive light is refreshing and rare from a secular production company from Hollywood. It would have been so easy for them to gloss over the ‘Black Moses’ connection to God in a rewrite that could have highlighted only feminism and race equality.
Harriet (played by Cynthia Erivo) decided to flee slavery in Maryland rather than be sold “down the river” and parted from her husband. Despite being illiterate, she successfully made the dangerous 100-mile journey to anti-slavery Pennsylvania.
A year later, she made the dangerous incursion back into Maryland to free her family. This became the mission of her life. Harriet Tubman, born Araminta “Minty” Ross, disguised herself, often as a man, to lead more than 100 slaves to freedom. She became notorious among white slave owners, who kept increasing the bounty on her head. Several riveting chase scenes are the fodder of this movie. Read the rest: Christianity in ‘Harriet.’
When an 18-year-old was sent to a psych ward and encountered Satan, a surprising series of events led him from darkness into the light.
As a teenager, Jeph Hoagland smoked weed and used psychedelics.
“I realized now that it’s wrong, and I really don’t support that way. It led me to nowhere,” Jeph says.
While he was still in rebellion, God was trying to get his attention. One day Jeph came to work drunk and was instantly sent home. Driving home, he raced around a turn too quickly, veered off the pavement, and crashed into a tree.
“The airbag went off. I got out of the car, I was fine, but the car was totaled,” Jeph recounted in a video.
After a few days, he went back to the tree where the crash happened. What he saw there was shocking.
“I saw on the tree my initials, J.H. I was like, ‘Wow, this is insane. I didn’t put that there, no one put that there.’ It wasn’t like it was carved in, it was engraved in the tree,” Jeph recalled.
Did God do that? he wondered.
Jeph instantly thought there must be a higher power calling him. From then on, he started to believe God is real.
However, as he considered the reality of God’s existence he still continued to abuse drugs.
‘’I had these experiences searching for God. I had experiences on acid, where I thought I was enlightened. I felt good, and I was still feeling this void, this God-sized hole in me,” he explained.
In the process of searching for God, Jeph gave up drinking. But even without alcohol in his life, he still used mushrooms and LSD.
Then he moved to Florida and lived on his own. He was invited over to party at the house of a friend, an “angry drunk.” Jeph brought his own mushrooms.
“I felt that there was this negative presence in the room. This was the time God revealed himself to me,” Jeph recalled.
His friend suddenly got angry and demanded, with others, that Jeph drink alcohol.
“I got up and I got into a fighting stance. I saw where I was going without
having my eyes open. It was like an out-of-body experience, and I felt like I was being taken over by something,” he said.
Jeph got hit by someone. He threw the person off, and everyone started attacking him. He eventually passed out after being choked.
“When I opened my eyes, there were people circled around me. All of a sudden I felt this amazing peace, this incredible peace in me,” Jeph said.
Due to the mushrooms, Jeph continued to act erratically. He removed his clothing and began to hug the friends who had beaten him.
Xiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.
“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”
Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.
On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.
Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.
Starting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.
In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team).
As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.
When God called Ira Krizo distinctly and undeniably to ministry, “there was no use waiting any longer,” he says.
So he immediately went to New York… to culinary school.
Ira wasn’t called to the pastorate. He wasn’t called to the foreign field as a missionary. He wasn’t called into worship.
He was called to be a chef — a Christian chef. After all, God’s calling and gifting is to myriad areas of life, not just stereotypical “ministry.”
Today, Ira is the president of Christian Chefs International, a network of believers who have almost as much gusto for gourmet cooking as the Gospel.
With 14 chapters active or pending in America and abroad, the Cannon Beach, Oregon-based non profit holds annual conferences and boasts a 1-year, non-denominational culinary school where they don’t throw knives at the students.
“In many secular kitchens I’ve worked in, I’ve seen the chef yelling and screaming all day long at people,” writes Ira in a devotional on CCI’s website. “I’ve seen chefs throw things; once even knives. Is that the best way?”
Ira recommends humbly confronting head chefs who abuse their authority. He suggests chefs use the Biblical model: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-18 (NKJV)
Even reality TV programs depict the outbursts of rage that occur under pressure when chefs are striving to meet the demands of their patrons.
Under the title “Christians in the Kitchen,” the CCI website offers devotions for cooks that include ethics in the kitchen, being content (restaurants typically experience a high turnover of staff) and being “prayed up” for the pressures of the job. One encourages disciples to be “sourdough Christians,” with analogies per ingredient. Read more about God’s calling to cooking.