Category Archives: christian humility

Dying of AIDS, man comes back to Christ because of a family’s love

On the very night Jerry Arterburn accepted Jesus at a church camp, the 5-year-old was also molested by the pastor’s son.

“When that molestation occurred, it ignited something in him that he didn’t think other guys had to struggle with,” his brother Stephen says on a Pure Passion Media video. “It produced an uneasiness with relationships with women.”

Jerry died of AIDS on June 13, 1988, at a time when the epidemic was raging largely unchecked and medical science was trying to figure out how to tame it.

“When my brother and I moved to Laguna (Beach, California) at the same time, there was another person who moved to Laguna. He was identified as Patient 0,” Stephen says. “This was a flight attendant who flew around the world and slept with about 2,000 different people. He infected so many people in that town that the AIDS virus was extremely virulent in there. I watched business after business close because there was such a high per capita gay population there. They were dying right and left.”

Before Jerry’s death, Stephen began to formulate the best way to encourage his brother to come back to Christ.

“I loved him. But I knew that what he was doing was wrong,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to convince him that he was wrong. I just tried to find a way to have a relationship with him that I could love him with.”

There were three Arterburn boys who grew up with a mom who bitterly hid her father’s suicide and a dad who was “redneck, disconnected,” Stephen says. All three sons went prodigal from their otherwise “strong Christian household” in Texas.

Stephen — who now is an author, a radio host and the founder of New Life Ministries — thought he was the worst rebel of the lot because he forced his girlfriend (attending Bible college) to get an abortion.

Jerry, who loved design and became an architect, didn’t immediately show how he was getting off course.

Stephen describes his brother as “the moral one” who owned up to his mistake, while Stephen was actually the immoral one who had slept with many young women.

“I hadn’t slept with a man. I killed my own baby,” Stephen confesses.

Jerry was about to get married, but it was called off. Both had frequent fights. Still, no one really knew why the wedding was called off.

When Jerry, at age 26, was appointed to a city planning post in Easley, South Carolina, he met a man who took him to a gay bar. He had never had sex before, but that night, “my brother felt like he was at home,” Stephen says.

“He felt total acceptance, freedom — all this stuff that he had never known: all of this love, affection, connection,” Stephen says.

From then on, it was relationship after relationship. When Jerry and Stephen both, by chance, moved to Laguna Beach, they started reconnecting. Sometimes in their talks they would debate. One topic that came up was whether homosexuality was right or wrong.

Stephen, who had come back to the Lord by now, stuck to his guns — until he realized the reason why his brother was arguing the aberrant position. His brother was gay.

As soon as Stephen found out, the arguments were over. A new phase in their relationship started, one of reaching out to Jerry with love and acceptance, though not approval of his sin.

“I was able to develop a close relationship with him, and then he got sick. I’m so glad I did because he needed me. I’m so glad he felt safe with me, that I could be there with him when he needed a lot of help — just getting up and going to the bathroom. He lost 100 pounds. It was horrible. He looked like something out of a concentration camp.”

Devastated by the news that not only their son was gay but also had AIDS, the “redneck ” father visited Jerry in the hospital and said, “You’re coming home with us. We’re going to help you through this.”

The Southern Baptist Church of his parents, instead of ostracizing Jerry, were loving and inclusive. (The Southern Baptists were conservative on social acceptance at a time when much of America was unmoved by the AIDS crisis.)

“We loved him when he was (younger). We’re going to love him through this,” a deacon said, according to Stephen. “Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to go over to his house and we’re going to lay hands on him and pray for him to be healed… Whatever his insurance doesn’t cover for his treatment of AIDS, this church is going to pay for. Whenever his brothers want to come in and see him, we’ll pay their air fare.” Read the rest: How to treat LBGTQ family members if you’re Christian

Banana cream pie, key to meeting wife

Frank Mesa put the gun in his mouth many times. Sometimes, he pointed it to his temple. But he could never pull the trigger.

“I hated life. I hated people. I was just bitter,” Frank says. “I used to argue a lot with my parents. I told my mom, ‘I hope you die.’ Two weeks later she became real ill and went to the hospital and within a week, she passed away.”

Frank, then 23, blamed himself. He had been taking care of both his parents, who were ill. He grew up in Apple Valley, California.

The family moved away from the gang violence in L.A. in 1978 at the time his dad retired. An only child, Frank was mischievous.

“As a kid, I remember being bullied a lot, getting picked on,” he recalls. “I was jumped by a number of older kids. They stole my brand new bike. This is where I started hating people.”

As he grew up, he fell in with the Heavy Metal crowd during middle school, groups like Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leopard.

“One of my favorite songs was from Pat Bennetar. It was ‘Hell is for Children,’” Frank says. “It was an addiction. It helped me to forget about issues, stress, peer pressure. I just wanted to be accepted.”

The first time he inhaled second-hand marijuana smoke, it gave him hallucinations for three days, so he stuck with alcohol.

“Almost every weekend, I would look for parties that I wasn’t invited to,” he says. “We would just get blasted. I would show up to work intoxicated.”

Naturally, his parents scolded him for this behavior. He argued over this. “This is my own life,” he responded. “My mother didn’t approve of anything I was doing. I brought home a girlfriend so she could meet her. My mom just called her a whore straight out.

“I got into an argument with her, and I said, ‘I hope you die,’” he remembers. “Before the month was over, she had passed away.”

After his mom fell into the coma and passed, Frank felt bad for what he had said. He could never apologize. He wondered what would become of himself.

“Is this life? Is that all there is?” he asked.

Frank had never been a church person. A few months later, somebody knocked on his door and explained the gospel to him.

“I had all kinds of questions about God at the time,” he says.

The church was full, and Frank picked a spot in the back row. When worship started lively praise, he freaked out. Read about how Frank Mesa met and married his wife because of banana cream pie.

Pastor with LBGT parents re-calibrates church’s message to increasingly worldly world

caleb katlenbachThe 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.”

caleb katlenbach and wifeHis 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.

CTz9RlFUsAACsqX“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.”

“I don’t want to have anything to do with that,” Caleb said again. Read the rest: Pastor with LBGT parents re-calibrates church’s message to increasingly worldly world.

Trump Surgeon General, a man of faith and science

jerome adams racismDr. Jerome Adams grew up poor in rural Maryland on a family farm. Government assistance sustained the family.

Recently, his mother had a major stroke. His brother struggles with substance abuse. His grandparents — all four — died prematurely of chronic disease.

Today, Dr. Adams is the U.S. Surgeon General.

“I’m a Christian and I believe God doesn’t put you where you’ll be comfortable,” he told the Richmond Free Press. “He puts you where he needs you to be.”

jerome adams jesusAn uncomfortable childhood prepared him for an “uncomfortable” tenure as surgeon general — and not just because of the pay cut from previously working as an anesthesiologist. Dr. Adams has been criticized for initially recommending against using masks. He’s been bashed for working with a president that some see as insensitive to people of color. He pushes back against the incessant carping.

“Our issues as people of color are too important to go four years without representation in the highest levels of government. I personally have faith that I am put where I am most needed. I spent my life fighting and will keep fighting for the poor, the disadvantaged, the people of color.”

jerome and lacey adamsJerome Adams was born in Orange, New Jersey, but his family moved to St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Though his family farmed, young Jerome was drawn to the sciences and attended the University of Maryland in Baltimore on a full scholarship where he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and biopsychology.

He continued his studies at Indiana University’s School of Medicine where he focused on internal medicine and completed his residency in anesthesiology. In 2000, he earned a master’s degree in public health from UC Berkeley.

After that the former farm kid worked in private practice at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana while teaching as an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Indiana University.

Mike Pence, who was then governor of Indiana, tapped the talented doctor for Indiana state health commissioner in 2014.

“I grew up in a rural, mostly white Southern community. I benefited from WIC, reduced lunch and other government assistance,” he told the NAACP in March. “I know what it’s like growing up poor, black and with minimal access to health care, and I’m personally experiencing the lifelong impacts that stem from that.” Read the rest: Dr. Jerome Adams Christian

‘Ghost mode’ for street hood turned pastor/rapper

Thirteen-year-old Markell Taylor wanted to be just like his stepdad, who was a pimp, a rapper, a womanizer and a drunk.

“I idolized him,” Markell says. “People thought he was cool. My own father was not in the picture and my mom was in and out of prison. He was the one male figure in my life. He had money, so he would buy expensive cars and expensive clothes. He would buy them for me. You’re a little kid and you’re getting hooked up. I thought he had something going on.”

In response to this role modeling, Markell became a runner for a drug dealer. He dropped out of school. He used methamphetamines and he took advantage of girls. “I had all these insecurities because I was hurting and lonely and I didn’t know why I wasn’t worth it for my real dad to stick around,” he said. “But I put on a mask of confidence to get in girls’ pants.”

From middle school onward, Markell was the life of the party. He had the drugs, so he got it started.

But while he was admired for his swagger and brazenness, his future began to dim. He variously lived with his stepdad in Wendover, Nevada, his grandmother in Las Vegas — and homeless shelters. He was arrested for domestic violence against his mother and police were investigating crimes he had participated in.

“I was out of control,” he recalls. “One time I told my mom I was going to kill the guy who sold me some bad drugs. I wasn’t really going to do it, but I acted like it. She tried to take me to the police, but I jumped out of the car while she was driving.”

At age 14, his mom and stepdad wanted to escape their reputation at Wendover and move to Salt Lake City to get a fresh start in life. Markell didn’t last one day there without his arrest.

Again it was a case of domestic violence. He hit his mom with a pillow, he says, and she freaked out and called the cops. When the police handcuffed him, they asked if there was a gun. Markell stood up to show them his arm, but the police thought he was going to attempt a fight, so they tackled him again.

The cops hauled him off to jail.

“As soon as I got into the back of the patrol car, I started crying like a little baby,” Markell says. “Up until then, I had pretty much gotten away with everything I did.” Read the rest of Markell Taylor, street hood pastor rap artist.

A pastor who’s a politician? Rob McCoy flouted Calvary Chapel. Then he defied the governor of California

Rob McCoy and familyFor 20 years, Rob McCoy preached in his pulpit and never faced persecution, but when he ventured into politics, he got death threats, received hate mail and was stalked by menacing figures.

“I got beat up,” says McCoy, former mayor of Thousand Oaks in California. “It was the hardest thing I ever did.”

A pastor who’s a politician???

“I want to dispel the myth that Christians don’t belong in politics,” says McCoy, 55, who is at the center of a national maelstrom by holding services in violation of California’s rules closing churches.

Rob McCoy, political firebrand, man of compassion“You don’t have the right to shut down churches and let Marxists run amok in our cities,” McCoy said in the Citizens Journal.

McCoy was referring to recent massive protests and riots of Black Lives Matter and Antifa where vandalism and looting were widespread and hundreds of thousands of bodies huddled together on the street with basically no social distancing nor face masks mandated to stop the spread of Covid. The same liberal politicians who encourage the protests and made no mention of the dangers of Covid are the ones closing churches in California, New York, Chicago and Minnesota.

If protesters aren’t required to stay home due to Covid, why are church members? The current slew of governing leaders have deemed church “non-essential,” while marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores and the like are doing a thriving business.

Rob McCoy pastor of Calvary Chapel Thousand OaksThe U.S. Supreme Court just handed down July 24th a discouraging 5-4 ruling for Nevada churches that have been facing suffocating restrictions while casinos are relatively free to return to business.

“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the dissenting opinion. “It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance. A public health emergency does not give governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists.”

The son of a Navy captain, Rob McCoy grew up in Coronado, California, doing all things associated with water: swimming, surfing, scuba and water polo.

An English teacher in public high school invited him to a home Bible study, where he heard about Jesus for the first time, but it was a swim coach who led him to the Lord.

On a swim scholarship, McCoy attended California State University at Fresno where he got a bachelor’s degree in history in 1987. It was during college that he and his roommate co-committed to following Christ more diligently.

Rob McCoy pastor politicianHe was engaged to someone else when he met his wife. Because his girlfriend got pregnant, his college group pastor suggested they expedite marriage. This brought a crisis with his parents because the girl was Hispanic.

“You give birth to that child, and I’ll kick you out of this house,” his father told him.

Kicked out and trying to pick up the pieces of his life, McCoy went to a Christian concert with his fiancé at Hume Lake.

On the way back from the concert, something shocking happened. His fiancé took off the engagement ring and confessed she’d slept with the campus pastor, a married man. McCoy waited until birth to do a paternity test, which confirmed it was the pastor’s child.

All throughout McCoy’s ups and downs “in the midst my sin and God’s grace,” Mederies (she goes by Michelle) Fowler remained a friend to him and encouraged him to do the right thing, McCoy says. After the engagement was officially called off, he grew closer to Michelle and the two eventually married.

Rob-McCoyIn an unusual coincidence, Michelle’s grandmother — also married to a Navy man, Admiral Richard Fowler — had hosted the baby shower and donated the crib towards little Rob McCoy years earlier. His parents were pleased with Michelle.

Today, McCoy calls these high and lows his higher education in the “school of hard knocks.” The couple has four natural born children — Molly, Kelly, Daniel and Michael — and one adopted daughter, Natasha.

Nowadays, McCoy is a a conservative Republican opposed to abortion, but when he was in high school and his then-girlfriend warned him she’d missed her period, he urged abortion as the quick and easy means to elude responsibility.

As the days passed, however, it turned out his girlfriend wasn’t pregnant after all. When McCoy was married in 1990 to Michelle, his wife miscarried and he wept over the dead baby. (The miscarriage almost killed his wife due to hemorrhaging, he adds.)

The loss of his first child provided a time for for reflection.

What’s the difference between the child that you wanted to get rid of and the one now that you are weeping over? God impressed on his heart.

“The difference was convenience,” McCoy surmises grimly. “I didn’t want to get beat up by her dad. The child was just a commodity. It was all about me.”

By contrast, the miscarried child filled his heart with love. “It was at that moment that I loved somebody more than myself. I came face to face with ‘What is responsibility? What is life?’” he says. “I was just empty and cold until I came to Christ.”

If once he treasured only himself, McCoy now values people. He’s always hosted people in his house, missionaries, refugees and even the wayward sons of well-known U.S. congressmen. All receive the love of Christ and the chance for discipleship. Right now, he’s hosting Colombians.

During college he got to know and admired the Calvary Chapel movement, so he joined the Redlands church where Don McClure was pastor. Eventually he followed McClure to San Jose to help with the work there and was ordained. In 2001, he was offered the pastorate the Thousand Oaks Calvary Chapel, one the oldest but was declining in numbers, he says. Today they have 1,400 in attendance.

He was riding on a wave or revival. Calvary Chapel was founded by Chuck Smith in 1968 on a simple principle: teach the whole Word to young people disaffected by the turbulence of the 1960s – and be led by the Spirit.

“Chuck decided to be apolitical because all these kids were disillusioned with politics, and began teaching the Bible. The nation was in turmoil with all these kids checked out of the church and had gone after Eastern religions and gone after every kind of drug imaginable,” McCoy said at Liberty.

“It was an amazing move of God upon the state of California. But we were apolitical.”

In fact, staying out of politics was practically a major tenet of their doctrine.

So how, then, did McCoy break with his church’s doctrine and “sully” himself in “dirty politics.”

Two things happened. One was a couple of key people encouraged him to impact society through politics because of his grip on history. They were on a trip to Israel.

The second was the deterioration of conditions in California. “With 10,000% growth in Calvary Chapels and being apolitical, what was the result?” he asked.

The gospel is supposed to transform culture. How have we impacted the State of California being apolitical? he wondered.

California had slipped from 5th largest GDP to 6th or 7th. It aborted more babies than there are people in Canada. It led the drive for no-fault divorce that decimated homes in America. It was a leader in anti-family values and in poverty levels, in taxes and in debt, he says.

McCoy launched his foray into politics with an unsuccessful bid for the California assembly. The state’s Republican party poured $1 million into his opponent’s campaign in the primary because they didn’t want an old white man, McCoy says. He still won.

The Republicans endorsed him but only on the condition he let an outsider wunderkind run his campaign. The guy was a brilliant kid from UC Berkeley but wasn’t saved. No matter. Within days, McCoy’s supporters had evangelized him and turned him into a believer.

He almost won the seat, but the Democrats flooded the obscure assembly seat with $6 million in funding, and he lost by 4,000 votes.

It was a bruising defeat. He discovered politics is dirty and his opponents were vicious. He had worked tirelessly and had suffered threats, hate mail and intimidation tactics. “I never suffered the kind of persecution the Bible talks about until I went into politics,” he says.

He was exhausted. But then somebody suggested he run for the seat on the Thousand Oaks City council that his opponent vacated to run against him for Assembly. He reluctantly relented. After 150 coffees and 650 volunteers canvassing neighborhoods, he won by a mere 52 votes, he says.

Eventually, he became mayor.

It was McCoy who helped stop the Assembly bill that would have outlawed “conversion therapy” for minors that many feared would slash the throat of the church’s use of the Bible. McCoy simply invited the bill’s sponsor, California Assemblyman Evan Low, to visit his church and meet his diverse staff and listen to their concerns that the bill violated the First Amendment. Read the rest: Christians in politics, Rob McCoy defied Governor’s closure of churches.

She was becoming too Westernized, so her Muslim parents married her off back in Pakistan

Muslims in EnglandBorn in a strict Shia Muslim Pakistani family in South London, Rayeesa was becoming too westernized, too worldly, according to her family, because she wanted to… play tennis.

Yes, that’s right. She wanted to play tennis. Compete, to be more exact. And that was wholly inappropriate for a proper Muslim girl, she was told. So her parents sent her and her sister back to Pakistan and married them off to Muslim men.

“We loved tennis. And I wanted to enter competitions,” Rayeesa said in a CBN video. “They wouldn’t allow that because it was not respectable for a Muslim girl. My parents told me and my sister, ‘You are going to in Pakistan and we are going to find you suitable husbands.’ I had never ever thought that would happen to me. It actually made me feel completely alone.”

Shia muslims in EnglandOne night Rayeesa and her sister tried to escape. In their flight, they tried to enlist the assistance of some guards. But when the guards tried to get “overly friendly” with them, they resisted their advances. Giving up, the guards instead forced them to return home.

Rayeesa was married against her will in accordance with Muslim practices to an Indian man she didn’t even know.

The good news is that he didn’t really love her and only wanted to use her as a means to get to England himself. He sent Rayeesa to England with the plan that she would arrange his paperwork to immigrate later.

westernized muslimsShe never did.

Instead, she joined the police force.

In was on the force that she met a colleague with a deep and vibrant relationship with Christ. Rayeesa had read the Bible and the Koran but didn’t know which to believe. But her friend, Anna, had a recognizable glow missing from Rayeesa’s life.

“What’s so special about Jesus? Just tell me,” Rayeesa asked her one day. “Why do you love Jesus so much?”

Anna wore down Rayeesa’s skepticism.

“I thought that was the most crazy thing. She told me who God was. That was so different to what I had been taught,” Rayeesa recalls. “I was taught that Jesus was a prophet and He was like Mohammed. But hearing Anna’s explanation of how Jesus was actually God in human form coming and then giving his life and dying so that we could have a relationship with God.”

Rayeesa mulled the presentation. What if it is true? What if Jesus really is God? I am believing in Mohammed and Allah, but what if it is not the truth?

Rayeesa committed to the quest of unearthing the truth.

From that point onwards, she was determined to find the truth about God. Who is God? she wondered.

Finally, she got down on her knees and prayed: “Jesus if you are real, if you are who you say you are then I hear your voice that you are knocking on the door. I open my heart and I want you to come in.”

Then God answered her prayer in a remarkable way. “Suddenly the minute I said that it just felt like I was flooded with love. It was an instant feeling of being washed and accepted and I knew then that this Jesus is real,” she recounts. “Worry and fear and everything was just washed away by this love and I felt complete. Read the rest: Westernized Muslims in England.

She fought to get off welfare

church lady gets off welfareKarina Lahood never wanted welfare, but because she was afraid she would lose custody of her five boys when she suddenly became a single mom, she felt compelled to go on government support.

After two years of striving to overcome her circumstances, Karina worked and earned enough to pass the wage threshold and get off food stamps, Medicaid and all other government support.

Ironically, through her hard work, she was worse off than when she got free benefits. She had to continue to build her business to make it into the clear.

“They make it so easy to stay in that system,” Karina says. “Jesus said that the government would be on his shoulders. I didn’t want the government to support me. I said, ‘Jesus I need you to rescue me.’ It’s a generational system. God doesn’t want you to depend on the government. He wants you to depend on Him.”

karina lahoodMany Christians believe that Christ’s mandate to care for certain vulnerable segments of the population should be carried out by government. Others, including Karina, see government usurping God and the church in the role of charity. When it comes to social care, the government is notoriously inefficient, they say.

“The government gives you so many benefits. If you’re not motivated, you will be stuck in the system,” Karina says. “In any life crisis, we become paralyzed in the system, you go comatose, you become a frog in the kettle.”

Today, Karina Lahood is a proud business owner placing foreign students in caring homes where they can sleep, eat and practice English with an American family while they attend language school.

Her life has been a long lesson of learning to lean on Jesus. Anna Karina Elisabeth Wilson was born to a Swedish immigrant homemaker. Many years later she realized she had a Christian heritage in Sweden; he grandmother was a Pentecostal Christian with a heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus.

Karina and her two sisters grew up playing on the “Tarzan swing” dad hooked up on the one-acre property in Arcadia, California. Dad was always busy running a taxicab business. Only later did Karina find out he was a functional alcoholic.

Gods provision for single momHer family only went to church occasionally and Karina wished it was more often, but when a half-sister came to live with them, Karina learned to smoke pot from her while in middle school. She excelled at swimming but without parental support, she dropped that and fell into rebellion.

“I was an emotional mess in high school,” she admits.

When representatives of the California Conservation Corps came to her high school, she got hooked on their logo: “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions and more,” she says. During the summer, she rode a Greyhound Bus to Angels Camp, California, where she worked environmental projects and responded to natural and man-made disasters.

The next year, she got her GED and joined a fire-fighting crew in the mountains. They cut fire lines, attended to fish and game hatcheries, tagged salmon, picked cones and dug fence holes in the Stanislaus National Forest.

“At night we partied and got drunk,” she says. “The state had night watchmen, but they didn’t really monitor anything.”

One friend drove drunk off a mountain road and died.

Sin demanded more and more of her attention. She had two abortions.

Going from job to job, neighborhood to neighborhood, relationship to relationship, Karina finally was invited to live in a Christian home with a the pastor and his wife and their six children.

“I couldn’t understand how someone with six kids wanted to have someone else live with them,” she remembers.

The pastor’s wife was very patient and loving and slowly brought her to Christ. In 1994, she married and started her own family. It was a picture perfect family with a house and a dog, but it was not to last.

Karina and her husband divorced.

“I felt betrayed, rejected and angry,” Karina remembers. “I had no vision. I only wanted our boys to feel loved and secure when my world was crashing.” Read the rest: She fought to get off welfare.

Before there was Corona, there was crisis in Venezuela on border of Colombia

dr. bob hamilton and ligthhouse medical missions in columbia 2020Some of them walked 10 days to cross the border into Colombia in search of food or medical supplies they could take back to socialism-starved Venezuela.

Johnny Huerta and a team of six doctors, eight nurses and 24 other volunteers were in Cucuta, Colombia, on a temporary medical and feeding mission to show the love of Christ in a tangible way.

“We were swarmed by people,” said Johnny, who’s a painter and baseball player from Santa Monica. “They were grabbing us, grabbing us, like, ‘Pray for me. Pray for me.’”

food for venezuelan refugeesThe pleas for prayers grew to a fevered pitch after some miraculous healings and exorcisms, Johnny says.

The Lighthouse Medical Mission, which got its start 25 years ago in war-torn West Africa, landed on the border of Venezuela on March 7th — before most of the U.S. got locked down over Coronavirus fears. The humanitarian crisis of 40,000 daily border crossings there has been essentially eclipsed.

The Santa Monica-based team provided medical attention and drugs and handed out 3,000 meals a day in conjunction with World Central Kitchen in three areas: in Cucuta, in a Yukpa village on the outskirts of town and in nearby Pamplona. The 39 people divided up in teams to minister in each area.

Johnny Huerta Cucuta Columbia

Johnny Huerta shares fun with the kids.

Johnny was assigned logistics, took pictures, but mostly got roped into translation. The stories he heard of dead family members and left-behind family members appalled him as well as the squalor he witnessed. In the Yukpa village, there were no bathrooms and people lived in huts fashioned with tree limbs and plastic tarp.

“People can live with little and still be happy, but this was not healthy,” Johnny says. “They bathe in an unsanitary river, and that’s why they get lots of infections. They also drink out of that river.

“They have makeshift huts built out of garbage. Babies are walking around naked. They pretty much have nothing. It was one of those shocking situations where you say, ‘Wow people are waking up and living like this every day with unhealthy conditions.’”

The team brought two chefs, but they were prevented from serving until they scrambled to obtain Columbia food preparation licenses.

When they arrived at the border on the first day, “we weren’t sure how they were going to respond as we got out of the van to serve the food,” Johnny says. “They were desperate for food and outnumbered us. Immediately they ran over and we tried to get them in a line, which eventually became a crowd.

“As we tried to transport apples from the back of the van to the food serving area they began to crowd the back of the van as well. We ended up handing out the apples from the van as we were never gonna get through. The next couple of times we fed at the border we organized police protection in advance and were a bit more organized. Even then it was still a bit chaotic.”

Short-term missions are highly recommended because they can impact American church-goers forever: they broaden horizons, impart vision and erode entitlement.

“I was just thankful they gave me the privilege of being able to go with me,” Johnny says. “You feel like you get more out than you put into it. I’m more mature in my faith and in my life than I was before.”

As busy as he was being pulled this way and that, Johnny still found time to share his passion for painting with the kids. It was a personal connection he’ll treasure for life.

In Pamplona, the team attended 3,000 patients.

Many people are losing their eyesight because of rampant infections, Johnny says.

While the doctors saw patients, the pastors and lay leaders were praying for people, many of whom got healed even before they received medical attention, Johnny says.

That’s when they started getting swarmed.

Because witchcraft is widely practiced in the region, several people were delivered from demonic spirits, Johnny says.

“One lady was released from demon possession. She looked super oppressed beforehand and was all smiles afterward,” Johnny says. “They practice witchcraft and spiritism because of their circumstances. They’re reaching out for help. But when we came to them with the gospel, they were open.” Read the rest: Venezuelan refugees Christian response

Could he forgive the death of his brother? Bryann Trejo punches the devil and doesn’t retaliate against the killers

AR-190919667Bryann Trejo was a cold-blooded killer* who’d already spent half his adult life in jail. So when gangsters gunned down his twin brother, Bryann T was tempted to exact a brutal and immediate revenge.

“Even after he was saved, he was murdered,” Bryann says about his brother to Rapzilla. “I came to know Christ as well. I forgave his enemies and murderers and God wrote a new song in my heart.”

Bryann’s twin, named Ryan, is a frequent subject in the hip hop of Bryann Trejo, who is leader of the Kingdom Music Family based in Abilene, Texas. The gangster-turned-pastor’s music, which recently catapulted to the highest levels in CHH, communicates an urgency and passion to get lost souls out of the unforgiving streets and into Jesus’ eternal forgiveness.

bryann trejoBryann was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but his family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was 13. There, he fell into armed robberies and selling narcotics. The juvenile delinquent system and then later adult jail, had a “revolving door” for Bryann, he admits on his website.

“I was thugging, out whiling, a Mexican with a cohete (Spanish slang for a gun) with the love the streets,” Bryann says on a Frontline Ministries Braden Hall YouTube video. “That type of love landed me in shootouts, prison, depression and suicide attempts.”

Because FIRST TIME gangsters attempted to kill his brother, Bryann unleashed a furious retaliation that landed him 30 years in jail for two attempted murders. Eventually the charges were lowered with a plea bargain.

Bryann got out of jail at age 27. His brother had gotten saved and Bryann determined to straighten up with God too.

“I’m a knucklehead. I had an identical twin, and we were mixed up in all kinds of bad stuff,” Bryann told Rapzilla. “But he came to know Christ. We started rapping together. But even after he was saved, he was murdered. I came to know Christ as well.”

bryann and monica trejoThe SECOND ATTEMPT on Ryan’s life was a case of mistaken identity on May 28, 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ryan was trying to disciple a young hoodlum, whom the gangsters were looking for in reprisal for a murder days earlier. The killers showered him with bullets.

Bryann was enraged and broken beyond belief. But he was committed to not relapsing into the old life. Even though he knew who the killers were and could have easily tracked them down, he decided to walk in Christian forgiveness.

“The anger came. God, how could you let my brother get murdered? He served You. I wanted to question Him,” Bryann says on a CUTV video. “I wanted revenge. I’d been in prison before for attempted murder, so when he died it’s already in me to retaliate, especially since he was innocent. I wanted them to pay.”

Bryann came to a crossroads. He faced a momentous decision: either relapse into ravenous revenge or make an audacious stand of forgiveness.

He cried out to God: “Lord, I’m about to go cuckoo. I’m about to lose everything. I got six kids; he got six kids. They’re going to lose daddy and uncle. I knew right then and there, I had to forgive.

“I argued with God, ‘But my brother was innocent,’” he continues. “And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus was innocent.’ Then I was like, ‘But he didn’t deserve this.’ And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus didn’t deserve it.’”

It wasn’t by any means easy, but Bryann struggled to truly forgive. He still struggles with “bitterness and poison” in his heart. Every day he’s reminded about his brother’s death every day.

“I see his face in the mirror. We’re identical twins,” Bryann says. “His case is still open. The so-called friends didn’t want to be snitches, so they didn’t say nothing. Everything I thought was real in the streets was fake. So now I have this passion to expose Satan and tell people that he is a liar.”

When he returns to the neighborhood, his former friends still provoke him to take revenge.

“The people ridicule me,” he says. “Homeboys be like, ‘You ain’t going to retaliate? That’s your brother. What kind of brother are you?’” he says. Those words stir up the old street pride.

“What, you don’t think I will?” he counters. But then he remembers he’s living in forgiveness.

“I’m not that man. I don’t fight the way I used to fight,” he says. “I trust through Christ that His way of fighting is better than my way of fighting. I’m really punching Satan every time I forgive. I just didn’t know that was the way to fight back because it didn’t make no sense in the physical. We all want to fight the enemy.” Read the rest: Bryann Trejo rapper no revenge

One month after his wife died, Danny Gokey tried out for American Idol

danny gokeyDanny 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.

Leyicet-Peralta-WikiDuring 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.

Now all the old fears rose up. Read the rest: Danny Gokey’s wife died.

Homeless 11-year-old waif rescued because of Christian group in Honduras

Operation Blessing HondurasEleven-year-old Linda was rescued off the streets by her cousin from another village.

Cousin Myrna was able to take her in because of her affiliation with Operation Blessing.

poverty in HondurasLinda’s demise began because of extreme poverty in a remote village in Honduras. Her parents left her to fend for herself and she found shelter in an old abandoned house, where she slept.

“When I slept at that house, I used to hear some very scary noises. Then I would become very afraid,” she told Operation Blessing. “I wanted sunrise to come quickly.”

During the day, the little street urchin begged for food, and sometimes people gave her tortillas with nothing on them to stave off starvation. Other times she went hungry.

“Some people gave me something to eat,” she said. “Other people just looked away.”

Because of the poverty in the rural area, Linda lacked a birth certificate and wasn’t allowed to enroll in school. Read the rest: Honduras poverty Christian help.

“I wanted to learn to write my name, read, study and do homework,” Linda says.

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The cancer-surviving miracle baby Gideon Thompson

Gideon ThompsonAfter 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.

Gideon Thompson cancer“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.

Tony ThompsonThe 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.

“After 30 days in the ICU, Gideon just turned a corner,” Jenny says. “And he started chemotherapy.” Read the rest: after a miracle of conceiving out of infertility, the Thompsons faced brain cancer in their baby Gideon.

Rockstar JT, one of the sincerest Christian rappers, appeals to the church to use compassion with homosexual members

rockstarjtWhen his sin was exposed in 2017, Jaterrius Johnson felt church leaders over-reacted in their approach to church discipline.

“I’ve been scarred by the church,” the Christian rapper says on a DJ Wade-O video.

His sin was homosexuality. He believes it if it had been fornication with a girlfriend, treatment would have been gentler.

Jaterrius, who is better known by his hip hop handle Rockstar JT, survived the discipline and stands today as a shining example of repentance, forgiveness and restoration. And he is openly asking the church to treat sin as sin, without stigmatization or discrimination.

“A lot of Christians, we struggling,” he says. “A lot of Christians, we depressed. On social media we all pretending it’s all good, when it’s not. My philosophy on that is that it’s ok to not be ok.”\

rockstar jtJaterrius was raised by a single mom in Birmingham, Alabama. In poverty and without a dad, Jatterius fell into fighting and the streets. He broke into homes, used guns and became violent with his own family.

“I was doing so much things that I know did not glorify God,” he says on Jam the Hype. “I punched my sister in the face my eight-grade year.

Mom was worried about the direction her son was headed, so she enlisted the help of Kevin King, who runs a Christian non-profit called Common Ground that reaches out to wayward youth.

Kevin began visiting and ministering to the young Jaterrius, who described himself at the time as “lukewarm.”

Kevin “wouldn’t let me go. He said, ‘JT, you gonna be mine.’” he recalls. “Kevin, that’s my dog. He wouldn’t let me go. He said, ‘I know you aint saved but you still not going nowhere. Just loving on me, not preaching to me every time, but hanging around me, taking me to concerts and taking me to different conferences.”

At 16, Jaterrius converted to Christ at a 2015 Impact Conference. His mentor, Kevin, urged him to use his obvious talent for rap in the kingdom.

“You gonna need something to do. You know you’re a talented rapper. You need to use your gifts for the Lord,” Kevin told him.

Jaterrius saw no compelling reason to change his stage name, so he remains “Rockstar JT.”

He broke through ceilings with “Getcha weight up,” which in addition to being catching was picked up by HBO’s Euphoria.

When he first started rapping he wouldn’t even listen to worldly music because he was nurturing his relationship with Christ. As he felt more solid in his faith, he allowed himself to take a peak at his secular counterparts and decided he needed to update his style to keep abreast of trends.

He also decided to write music for the streets, not for the church sanctuary. His intention was outreach, not inreach.

“I’m finally being who God wanted me to be and that is a trapper,” he says on Rapzilla. “They dope dealing but I’m hope dealing.” Read the rest: Rockstar JT and compassion for same-sex attracted Christians

Gotta keep your cool

IMG_6230Coach poured coolant into the radiators at halftime.

Down 5-18, Lighthouse Christian Academy performed better in the second half, though not good enough to beat its amaranthine rival Hillcrest of Thousand Oaks in a foul fest of a basketball game on Friday.

“These guys have to learn to handle their frustrations with referees, with contact in these games,” said coach David Horowitz. “I’m trying to remind them that when you play with the power of God, you answer to that. You don’t have to get fired up about it.”

Senior Marcus Scribner was bringing competition to Hillcrest with speed and physicality. He was beating players and putting up shots. Others on the Lighthouse were missing and misunderstanding passes.

After the half time pep talk from coach, others calmed their nerves and began to score, including the ever-calm Pat Cannon, who uncharacteristically reacted a ref’s call in the first half, resulting in free throws for the opponents.

Senior Zachary Brewer found his rhythm, and Daniel O’Neil, the tallest player in the court, lurked into the key to receive passes and score. The Santa Monica Christian school hit 25 points in the second half.

But its defense leaked.

“We definitely played better in the second half. Our energy was better,” said Coach David. “But we didn’t have the defense we wanted to be able to shut (them) down. Our defense didn’t hone it down.

“We had no business being that ugly early. We’re just better than that,” he added. “We put ourselves in a hole, and you start playing the other team’s game and you give them confidence. We had the ability and the skill to not only compete with these guys but to overcome it. Read the rest: Gotta keep your cool to win basketball.

Joey Vantes, suicide rapper

62335bc62cfb6ff575a23f9280507c1b.1000x1000x1“Sending love and prayers for all those facing loss, depression, or heartache this season. DM me if you need someone to talk to and to pray with you.”

That’s what Christian Hip Hop sensation Joey Vantes wrote on Facebook Dec. 14th. He knows that Christmas, for many, heightens their isolation, depression and thoughts of suicide. He has a heart for more than just music or stardom. He has a heart for the hurting.

joey vantes suicideThat’s because Joey Vantes (formerly Joey Jewish) tried to commit suicide himself. He was trying to quit the partying and drugs from his days at the University of Arizona. But he kept lapsing back into drinking, and the cycle of failure detonated depression.

“It was just a mess. I couldn’t break free,” Joey told Rapzilla. “I was so depressed. I was so bound to this thing that I just wanted to die to escape what I was feeling on a daily basis.”

One day when his wife sent him for groceries, he decided to end his life. He would drive off the road down a steep embankment.

“I jerked my wheel to the left to pull off at this ramp and right when I [did] it, my wheel locks, my car shuts off and I slowly just kind of fade over to the left side of the road,” Joey said. “Immediately, the Spirit of God just hits me right where I am in my car.I feel this intense love come over me and say, ‘I love you and I forgive you. Just call out to me.’” Read the rest: Suicide rapper Joey Vantes

‘Fat slob’ boxer beat reigning champ, credits Jesus

0_BOX-JOSHUA-RUIZRidiculed as a “fat slob” in the boxing world with 1-25 odds against, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world when he defeated the heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua eight months ago.

On Saturday, the first Mexican-heritage heavyweight champion rematches in Saudi Arabia against the Nigerian-born British boxer who’s taller, more muscular and has a longer arm reach. (He lost the rematch.)

“God’s everything,” Ruiz said on a Seti Afoa video on YouTube. “I don’t think I would be here without Him, without His help. He’s always been in my life since I was a little kid. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I fight for God. On my fighting shorts, it says, ‘God is real.’ When I win, I’m going to give all the glory to God. If you believe in God, everything is possible.”

Andres Ponce Ruiz, now 30, grew up in the sparse desert town of Imperial, California, just 10 miles from the border of Mexico, where much of his family got swept away in the drug- and human-trafficking prevalent in the region.

A hyperactive kid who liked to get into trouble, Ruiz fell into street-fighting; even then he was always underestimated as a chubby kid. The streets learned that behind the baby face was a fast and furious succession of brutal blows that laid rivals flat.

“I was always hanging around with the wrong crowd and crew. There are a lot of gang members out there where I live. They’re all druggies. Some of my family members are gang or related to the gang,” Ruiz said in the UK’s Telegraph.

“I’ve been in many street fights. I fought street fights for my friends to protect them. My dad would go and look for me everywhere: alleys, houses and knocking at the doors to get me to go to the gym. I’d be hanging around with the wrong crowd. Thanks to boxing and my dad, I was steered in the right direction.” Read the rest of the article: Andy Ruiz Christian.

Apparently being good at chemistry helps you in basketball

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketball team.pngAfter winning its third straight basketball game, Lighthouse Christian Academy credits for its breakout success its science program, specifically, chemistry class.

“A young team playing their third game together is going to have to go through some growing pains every time a game starts, so the first quarter is going to be a little rough,” says David Horowitz. “But as we play, the team chemistry, the cohesiveness, begins to show up on the court and in the second, third and fourth quarter, the team bonds and does nothing but get better and stronger.”

Pilgrim School just west of Downtown Los Angeles of was fired-up. With a couple of towering players (one was 6’4″, another was 6’1″), the Patriots looked to notch their first victory against the inexperienced Saints, who debuted this year.

But Lighthouse tightened up its game by the end of the first quarter, down 13-17. In the second quarter, LCA took the lead with Pilgrim close behind 26-22. In the critical third quarter the Saints pulled away 45-35. Read the rest: the importance of team chemistry for basketball.

Refreshingly humble foot soldier of the Lord rapper YB

spotify+coverBrandon “YB” Farris is a soldier.

While other Christian rappers seek to be titans of hip hop, YB approaches music from a different perspective. He doesn’t aspire to be the superstar or super-celeb in the spotlight. He’s happy being the unpretentious, humble, and effective foot soldier for God’s kingdom.

The braggadocio common in Christian rap MAY be excused as a sine qua non of the hip hop genre. Or it may be simply the sin of pride.

Whether we condemn CHH or overlook its faults is moot for the moment. What we can say is that YB is a breath of fresh air.

YB Christian rapper“I believe God still has soldiers in this generation and in the generations to come,” YB says on Alysia Paige’s blog. “As long as I’m breathing I’m in full pursuit to gather soldiers to build God’s army.”

YB grew up one of eight children of a single mother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From the age of eight, music was his escape from the harsh realities of poverty. Growing up without a father caused him as a 13-year-old to have many unanswered questions, according to Top40 Charts.

“It was being surrounded by a tough environment, and you were being forced to make something from the environment you were coming up in,” YB told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “A lot of my story was in the valley.”

He idolized Ludacris and Eminem and got serious about music in high school. He honed his craft breaking curfew, staying up late writing and playing the music too loud. Ever sympathetic, his mother pardoned his peccadillos.

From a young age, YB knew the presence of God, but he kept God at a distance, leery of the level of commitment required. He did music for himself, not ready to enlist in God’s army. But he found self-glorification and self-promotion hollow at the end of the day.

“When I did music for me, I truly had nothing to offer people,” he observes. “In reality, people walk through life looking and hoping for ‘something’ but sometimes it’s hard to articulate your needs in darkness.”

All that changed when he went to Southern Arkansas University Tech in East Camden. He ran across so many on-fire, sold-out Christians it turned his worldview upside down. Instead of seeing the commitment as daunting, he was drawn to God.

At a college “Passion Conference,” he came to terms with God and decided to serve Jesus unreservedly, like a soldier.

He dropped his freshman album in 2014, aptly named “Salvation.” Four years later… Read the rest: Humble Christian rapper YB a soldier of Jesus.