As an immature Christian, Nathaniel Buzolic got a big bite of international fame as Kol Mikaelson on The Vampire Diaries. But now that he’s committed more deeply to Christ, Nate preaches regularly to his 2.4M Instagram followers and many have gotten saved.
A lot of those saved are Muslims behind the “Islamic veil,” a set of borders where strict Muslim beliefs are enforced and evangelizing is punishable by death.
“I won’t name the countries that they’re in for their protection, but I’ve got Muslim people who have converted to Christianity because of my social media,” Nate says on a 700 Club Interactive video. “I interact pretty boldly with the Muslim community on my social media.
“I don’t think God goes, ‘Hey, I’m all for vampire shows,’ but he goes, ‘I’m going to use them for my glory.’ Look how God can use what the world tries to push, a demonic thing and witchcraft, for himself.”
The son of poor immigrants in Australia, Nate dreamed of acting and moved to Los Angeles when he was 24. He first heard the gospel and responded when he was 27 at a Passion Conference in Atlanta but wasn’t strongly impacted until six years later.
“It made me ask what’s my life really all about it in an Ecclesiastes sort of way,” he says. “It made all the things I was pursuing like acting and fame really sort of meaningless. I thought there has to be something more.”
At the time, he was working on The Vampire Diaries, the internationally famous CW teen series that launched him to fame as he played the sympathetic villain Kol Mikaelson.
Regarding Christ, he was convinced but not so committed. He had a French Muslim girlfriend and gloated that he didn’t judge anyone. But when she broke his heart by cheating on him, Nate was so shattered he wanted to die at 33.
“I was at rock bottom,” he admits. “I was in a very dark place. I’d be on an airplane, and I’d say, ‘God bring it down. I want it to all be over.’ I wanted to be numbed. I didn’t want to feel anymore.”
Dell made the painful decision to abort because she believed she couldn’t provide the upbringing her child deserved. But she was unprepared for the years of anguish and guilt following that decision.
“I felt like my baby would be better off not coming into this world,” Dell says on a 700 Club video. “I wasn’t any good for anybody.”
Immediately after aborting her daughter in the second trimester, Dell wanted to kill herself. She even took a razor blade and began to slit her wrist.
“I went home, and I just wanted to die,” Dell says. “I couldn’t live with what I had done.”
She kept saying over and over, “I’m sorry, Baby. I’m so sorry.”
That’s when a man from church called with a prophetic message: “The Lord told me you were in trouble. The Lord told me that if you will walk in the straight and narrow and trust in him, he will restore what the locusts have eaten and give you back tenfold what Satan has taken from you.”
Eventually, Dell got her life together and married a loving man named Cary (spelling is uncertain). They’ve been married 42 years and have two sons and two daughters.
But she never escaped the regret, depression and nightmares that stem from Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS).
“I longed to see my daughter,” she says. “I thought, how could there be no tears in heaven? When I got there, and when she saw me, what would she say: ‘Why did you do that, Mommy?’ I couldn’t forgive myself.”
In an effort to find a soothing balm to her inner wound, Dell and her husband went to some revival services preached by Pastor Rodney Howard Brown. She was disappointed, not finding the help she sought to heal her emotional wounds.
As she was leaving, she collapsed in the church foyer. While her body lay prone, apparently lifeless, she had a near death experience. Dell was transported to Heaven in a vision.
She saw Jesus – and a child.
“I saw this little girl with pigtails and a little white dress, and she was skipping and dancing and twirling around the feet of Jesus,” Dell says. “She turned and looked at me. Our eyes met, and I immediately… Read the rest: How do I heal from Post Abortion Syndrome?
Despite being involved with the Brooklyn mafia, drug dealing, and losing his connection with his daughter, Robert Borelli made a 180 degree turn that changed the future course of his life.
“As a young kid growing up in Brooklyn, New York, being a small guy, I had to be a little rough kid. You had to learn how to fight,” Robert told DadTalk.
Robert’s neighborhood was tough and, unbeknownst to him initially, it was run by the Gambino crime family.
“They protected the neighborhood and got all the respect from just about everybody in it, including police officers.” Robert continues. “There was mutual respect between the officers and the mafia guys.”
Robert was well-liked by the mafia affiliates, and he often attended their social clubs to run errands.
“At the age of 17 years old, I started hanging out with one of the mob guys’ sons,” Robert says. “His dad often had a big spread every Friday night where all the wise guys from the neighborhood would come meet him and give him respect.”
Robert was impressed by the influence of the men there and was drawn towards the criminal lifestyle.
“My family had a hard time making ends meet. There were financial arguments in the house over rent, and at that age, that was not something I was looking forward to having for the rest of my life.”
Robert’s gravitated towards the mafia life, drawn by the respect, money, and nice clothes offered by it.
“See the people?” a mafia man told him one day as they observed some people at a bus stop. “They are the suckers; they have to go to work, and they give half their money to the government. We’re gonna keep that money for ourselves.’”
But by age 20, he was deep into trouble with the law. He had a murder case and possession of a weapon case. Prison offered the proof that he was good for the mafia because he didn’t “rat anybody out.”
So when he was released, he was ready to operate and scale up in the lifestyle portrayed fairly accurately, he says, by the movie “Goodfellas.”
“I was getting recognition,” Robert says. “I got involved in selling drugs.”
Robert was living a fast-paced life of partying, drugs, recognition and excitement. Robert demanded respect, and he would even resort to violence to get it. He wasn’t only running drugs; drugs were running him. He became a “crackhead.”
But then something happened that would change everything.
“In 1993, a little girl was born, my daughter, Brianna, and seven weeks into having her home, I walked out of her life to get high just for that night,” Robert states. “It ended up not being just for that night, and I ended up staying out getting high.”
Mom didn’t like his newly adopted lifestyle and forced him to stay away from their daughter so she wouldn’t get corrupted.
Finally the law caught up with Robert and he was Incarcerated for a long stint. He missed his daughter, but his wife wouldn’t let him talk to her on the prison phone.
“No matter if you’re a mobster or a crackhead, to walk out of your daughter’s life… Read the rest: Robert Borelli mafioso
Vitalii Glopina may never know what the three Russian gangsters sent to kill him saw as one raised the knife to stab Vitalii.
“They turned white. They were shaking,” he says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “He threw the knife down. They ran out of there. In that moment, I knew there was a God.”
Well, of course. He had just prayed that if there were a God, to rescue him.
That was the end of atheism for Vitalii, who blamed God for the death of his sister and played out his anger against the injustice done to his family by getting into drugs, alcohol, and easy money.
With his sister growing up in Ukraine, Vitalii had a peculiar hobby, looking for mushrooms. On one occasion, he asked his sister to get out of work early so they could get a headstart on their mushroom enthusiasm. “I felt responsible for her death,” Vitalii says.
On that fateful night, his sister was kidnapped. They found her injured and took her to a hospital where she lingered between life and death for two days. Young Vitalii pleaded with God for her life, and when she died, he vowed to become an atheist.
From 18 years, he pour his life into substance abuse and crime. He joined a Russian mafia gang and made good money as the key man; he was the one who broke into cars and got them started.
He was a brainiac for technology. He got straight A’s in school, but he also had keyed all the rooms and could break in at will to classrooms and offices.
When he graduated high school, he got a scholarship to Romania, where he would learn cybernetics.
He vowed that in the new place, he would turn over a new leaf. His vow to be sober and make good lasted only three days, within which time he found a dealer and the mafia and fell back into his old habits.
Vitalii would show up and get into the BMW7 series vehicles. Sometimes they would steal the car outright, sometimes they would just steal the parts. When the insurance paid for new parts, his team could fill the order through a front company and rebuild the car they themselves had disassembled.
It was lucrative work, but every night Vitalii was hobbled by crippling guilt.
“I had to be stoned to death to be able to sleep,” he admits.
His penchant for heavy substance abuse caused him to wind up with overdoses: three times on drugs, twice on alcohol. A triple dosage brought him to the hospital on Christmas Eve, where he confessed to hospital staff where the drugs were.
The cops raided, and he lost $5,000 worth of merchandise.
From Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Christina Baker’s stepdad sent her with a one-way ticket to Maui, where reportedly her biological dad lived.
After waiting six hours to be picked up at the airport, Dad finally showed up.
“This is crazy that you’re here,” he told her as they drove from the airport. “I need to tell you something. I’m homeless and I’m living in a tent on the beach.”
That is how Christina’s life flowed into uncharted waters.
The bedlam began when her parents divorced. Mom flew straight to Bolivia. To the ache of not having her father, add the confusion of culture shock and language barriers.
“When my parents divorced, it really set me over the edge,” Christina said on a 100 Huntley Street video interview. “I was just drawn to the darkness because I felt that way inside.”
Christina took refuge in the Goth lifestyle with its emo depression.
“My life was totally spinning out of control,” she says. “He basically told me that I needed to leave his home.”
Underage drinking and clubbing caused her to run afoul of her stepdad, who sent her to Hawaii. Maybe he thought she would do better with her biological father, but he was in no place to help his daughter. He had been an oil executive, but drugs drove him to homelessness.
Christina lived with Dad homeless on the beach for some time.
Then she went from house to house sleeping on the couches of friends. She got in touch with her brother, who hooked her up with a local church.
That’s when she landed in the foster care system with Sharon Hess, who gave her a warm welcome and a warm bed at her home in 2001,
“We have two rules. Your curfew is 11:00 p.m. and you need to go to church with us,” Foster Mom told her.
“I just wanted a warm bed to sleep in at that point,” Christina remembers. “I looked around. I’m like, ‘I’m an atheist; I don’t believe in God.’ But I knew that if I wanted that warm bed and somewhere to stay that I needed to go to church with them.”
Sharon and the rest of the family didn’t judge her Goth clothes and makeup. They even let her wear all black to church. Little by little, the Word of God was planted in her heart, after three years in foster care.
“This woman loved me just the way I was,” Christina recalls. “She wasn’t trying to change the way I looked.”
After those three years, she moved to Houston, Texas, where she relapsed into drugs and soon found herself pregnant. She planned on an abortion when her drug dealer’s girlfriend showed her a report that the abortion doctor was being sued by the State of Texas because a 15-year-old patient died in his abortion chair.
“She pulled me and she said, ‘I know you don’t believe in God, but I’m begging you not to kill this child,” Christina remembers.
“His grace met me in my darkest moment. His grace met me in a moment where I didn’t believe.”
Christina became a functional drug addict. She worked and took care of Ethan, her newborn, and did drugs when nobody was watching. That worked for some time, until she got pulled over by police.
While she was awaiting trial on bail, a co-worker invited her to a Bible study. At the meeting, a man named Hillroy gave her a “word of knowledge,” a supernatural revelation about her present state of mind.
“What he didn’t know and what stunned me at that moment was that he didn’t know I was contemplating how to take my life that night,” Christina remembered. She still didn’t believe in God but couldn’t account for the supernatural knowledge of her inner thoughts.
So Christina went to the breakroom Bible study. When she entered, they were praying, which surprised her.
“If there is a God,” she thought, “These people have come face to face with him. It was so personal; it was so intimate; it was so passionate, something I had never in my life experienced or encountered.”
Hillroy read to her from Jeremiah: “This is a matter of life or death,” he told her.
Immediately, a mental picture of a car accident flashed through her mind, something that is a common reality for those who abuse alcohol.
“Just shut up!” he said in his mind, frustrated that Jeff would argue with Louie, who had gotten saved, and that he had to listen to it in their one-bedroom apartment.
Tom, then 19, had come from New York to Prescott, Arizona, because it was famous as a college party town. “Getting saved wasn’t part of the plan. We were in a prolonged adolescence with the feigned attempt at getting an education,” Tom says on a Don’t Sell the Farm podcast.”
So when Louie got cornered by a Christian and acceded to go with him to church one day, Tom offered to provide the alibi when the Christian accompanied him to service.
“Just hide in the bathroom, and we’ll tell him you’re not in,” Tom told him.
But Louie was a nominal Catholic and used to showing up every so often to Mass, so he stayed true to his word.
That night, when Tom and Jeff stumbled out of the bar and walked home, Tom remarked sarcastically: “What if Louie got saved.”
They found him in his bed reading his Bible. Suddenly, their fears, however they were treated in jest, now became reality.
Louie told them he had gotten saved and invited them to church. Jeff started to argue with him. Tom rolled his eyes.
For the next days and weeks, the litany was unending. Louie invited them to church, Jeff argued, Tom fumed. “He was in our faces telling us about Jesus,” Tom told him. “Fine, we’ll go to Hell all by ourselves. But just shut up. I don’t want to hear it.”
Jeff was arguing with him nonstop. Louie was just devouring his Bible and was answering him. I couldn’t escape it.”
One evening as he lay on the bed trying to not hear the other two argue in the other room, Tom asked God if he was real. “I was laying on the bed with my hands behind my head, and I said, ‘God, I’m not going to do this just because Louie did this. But if you’re real, I’ll serve you.”
The “presence of the Holy God of the Universe came into that room,” he says. “I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t believe anybody had heard that prayer or would answer that prayer.”
Awestruck, he told God: “Ok, just don’t kill me.”
Tom attended a new convert’s class with Louie. He accepted Jesus. “I had already been confronted by the Holy Spirit,” he says. He was delivered from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The next day, he started looking for a job.
Finding a job was no easy matter in Prescott, then a town of 20,000. There weren’t many jobs to be had. He wanted to stay with the Prescott Potter’s House, a booming church. His first job to support himself and continue learning about Jesus as a “disciple” was to water plants at the community college. His last job was working on a trash truck.
Tom and his buddies were used to staying up to 4:00 a.m. partying, so when church let out at 10:00 p.m., he didn’t know what to do with his time. Fortunately, some of the brethren went out for coffee and fellowshipped after service.
He came home buzzed on caffeine, and he and his buddies went home afterward and wrote letters to all their friends back in New York that they were going to Hell and needed to get saved. “We bombarded them with letters,” he recalls… Read the rest: Roommate annoyed the Hell out of him.
Darren Munzone reacted to his wife’s newfound faith in Jesus and belief in the rapture by sneering: “Oh, you’re still here? The UFOs haven’t gotten you yet?”
He could tolerate the fact that she had gambled away their savings of $10,000. But he couldn’t stand the fact that afterwards she became a born-again Christian. “To me it was like she had become a nun or something. I was just not happy.”
He lashed out at her: “If I would have wanted to marry a Christian, I would have gone to church, But I met you in a pub. This is a rip off.”
Born to an Italian immigrant father, Darren always identified as an Aussie because of discrimination against immigrants, he says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. He had basically no background in Christianity.
Admittedly, he was the bully of the classroom and got into scrapes frequently. When his mother divorced and remarried, he took out his frustrations by fighting with the neighborhood boys. His penchant for violence went right along with his dream to be a rugby player.
“I got into lots of trouble because of fights as a teenager,” he says. “I rebelled against my mom and my stepdad.” He didn’t talk much to his stepdad except two to three times a year.
For rugby league, he practiced very hard but wasn’t big enough and wasn’t gifted in the sport. Ultimately, a series of injuries sidelined him when was semi-professional, so instead, he turned to coaching, where he excelled.
“I’ve broken all my fingers,” he recounts. “I literally had my ear ripped off the side of my head and had to have it sewn back on. My AC joint in my shoulder – serious shoulder problems. I’ve had two knee reconstructions.
“I was far more successful as a semi-professional coach.”
The woman who became his wife was a nurse, and together they made enough money to qualify for a home loan. But when the broker informed them the term would be 30 years, Darren and Joanne looked at each other and walked out.
Instead of tying themselves down for 30 years, they decided to travel to England and Europe for two years for a work-cation. “I was running away from the broken dreams of becoming a professional sportsman,” Darren says. He played cricket in England.
After one year of living in England, Joanne had a miscarriage, and the subsequent sadness deprived her of all desire to keep vacationing. “She was devastated by that,” Darren says.
They returned to Australia, where Joanne’s depression deepened and widened even though they finally married.
“She blamed herself that we’d come back from our overseas trip a year earlier than expected,” Darren says. “She thought I was angry that we’d cut our holiday. To escape the depression, she started gambling.”
She played poker machines at the local bars. “This went on for some time until she had gambled all our money away,” Darren says.
The depleted savings was not just bad – she sought Jesus because of it after a co-worker invited her to church.
She broke the news about her secret gambling addiction and subsequent losses to Darren, who despite being hooked on money didn’t get too upset. “I was annoyed but I thought we’ll recover from that.” Read the rest: Darren Munzone rugby coach Australia now pastor
Slipped intoxicating beverages by an uncle when he was only five years old, Rick Warren “developed a taste for alcohol” and wanted to stay up all night partying as a young man. So he kept a packet of NoDoz with him at all times.
“I would go to the club, then I would go to the after-hours club, then I would go straight to work from there,” says Rick “the barber” (not “the purpose driven”) Warren. “I was the type of guy who wanted to just keep going and going and going.”
Somebody introduced him to crank, and the snortable meth kept him up for two days straight. “This is it!” he exclaimed at the time, as re-told on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast Testimony Tuesday.
Rick lived in the fast lane because he admired the uncle who delighted in getting him drunk as a kid growing up in Indiana.
”My uncle enjoyed seeing me drunk at a young age,” Rick says. “My uncle was the guy. He partied. He had the girls. He traveled. He lived life on the fast edge. He became the one who I wanted to model my life after.”
When he was 17, he got busted for breaking into cars in a hospital parking lot. When his dad got him a job at the place he had worked for over two decades, Rick stole from there and got his first felony.
“There’s nothing worse than your dad working at the same place for 20-something years, and everybody knows you since you’re a kid, and they watch you getting hauled off in a police car,” Rick says. “Any time I ever got arrested, it was for stealing. I had a problem. I couldn’t keep things that didn’t belong to me out of my pocket.”
When his brother moved to California with the military in 1992, Rick went with him and got on the basketball team at Barstow College. But he quit about three-fourths of the way through the season – during half time! – because “I wanted to party more than play basketball,” he says.
“It was actually half time of a game,” he remembers. “I told the coach, ‘You know, I think I’m done.’ I turned in my uniform and walked away.”
At one point when he was 19, three young women were pregnant with his kids. “I was out there,” he says. He had a daughter and two sons.
He moved back to Indiana and then he moved out of town with a friend. He was the party deejay until they got evicted. Then he moved in with his latest girlfriend.
One night as he watched the NBA all star game in 1993, a boy came to avenge a grudge he had with his girlfriend’s brother.
“He pulls out a gun and points it at me and says, ’Hey come over here and lay on the ground,’” Rick recounts. “He made everybody lay on the ground. I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. He shot her in the head. He shot me in the face. He started shooting everybody. He shot me two more times in the back.”
Rick lay motionless, pretending to be dead. When Rick heard the man leave, he got up to run. The perpetrator saw him and shot at him again. One bullet hit him in the butt and he fell to the ground.
Rick eventually made it to a restaurant, where they called an ambulance. Remarkably, his life was saved. His girlfriend, the sister, and one of the four-year-olds died. The other two kids survived multiple bullet wounds.
“You would think that would be enough to cause me to slow down,” he says. “But it didn’t. I continued to live a reckless life.”
After surgeries to reconstruct his face and six months of recovery, Rick simply returned to the fast life.
He got a barber’s license and opened a shop in Indianapolis. It was a good career for him because barbers never had to submit to drug testing, and he could continue smoking marijuana continuously. He cut people’s hair while he was high.
“I had a good thing going making a boatload of money, but still I was under demonic influence and that money was just not enough, so I needed more money and started doing stuff I shouldn’t have been doing,” he acknowledges.
The police were investigating, so he quickly sold his shop and moved to Philadelphia. He sought a place where nobody knew him. He left behind yet another daughter. “I never was a good dad,” he admits.” At that time in my life, it was all about me. The only thing that mattered to me was me – satisfying the flesh with no regard for anything.”
He vowed to never open a barber shop, never get married, and not have any more kids.
From there, Rick moved to Las Vegas and the opportunity to buy another barber shop “fell into my lap,” he says. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
He met the woman who became his wife and had more children, breaking every one of his vows.
It was at this time that a regular customer, Larry Shomo, invited him to church. Being the type of barber “invested” in his customers’ lives, he attended funerals, weddings, and school programs with his customers.
Why not church?
He had never been taught anything spiritual in his life. His family only did sports. From everything he knew about church, he concluded it was a “clown show.” He thought of hypocrites hitting on young women and high-flying pastors with lavish lifestyles.
“The only repentance I’d ever had was when I was too drunk at night and I would lay down and say, ‘Oh God, please don’t let me die,’” he says. “I had no… Read the rest: Pastor Rick “the barber” Warren
Andrae Brooks, 16, didn’t recognize the man at his door.
“I’m your father,” said the man, who had been in jail for trafficking drugs for most of Andrae’s childhood.
“What do you want?” Andrae retorted.
Awkwardly, Andrae’s father attempted to talk to his estranged son for about 10 minutes before he gave up, saying, “All right, I’m going to come back later.”
“You don’t need to,” Andrae replied, coldly.
Cagey and closed off, Andrae was incredibly gifted at cutting people off and shutting off his feelings toward them.
Born in New Jersey, Andrae never went to church. Because Dad wasn’t in his life, his mom had two jobs to carry the household and leaned heavily on Andrae to take care of his little sister, younger by nine years.
“I didn’t get to play on the basketball team because I always had to pick her up and watch over her. I was the free baby sister,” Andrae says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I loved basketball.”
When Andrae was 14, Dad tried calling him from prison. At 16, Andrae rebuffed Dad at the door. At 18, he didn’t come to the door when his father knocked.
He was guarded, suspicious of others’ motives and ready to fight at the slightest misunderstanding. By choice, he limited his friendships to three all throughout high school.
There were brushes with the supernatural when he was young. On one occasion when walking alone on ice in 14-degree weather, he broke through and should have drowned. But he “popped up” and managed to pull himself out. On another occasion, he hit his head and went unconscious in the pool but miraculously regained consciousness when dragged from the pool, spitting up water and blood and asking what happened.
Andrae avoided drugs because an uncle died from abusing them, and he swore he would never use.
Once he graduated, Andrae was wondering what to do with his life. He was sleeping on his mother’s couch being a “bum.” When his close friend got married and moved to Virginia, he moved in with them. He would do chores to show his appreciation for the free living arrangement.
But when the wife got saved, she invited Andrae to church. He had no intention of going. “If you don’t go, you’ll be on the street,” she replied. Sometimes the harshest of evangelisms work. Thus under the threat of ultimatum, Andrae went to a New Year’s concert and drama activity.
Those Southern folks were strange. He was used to not talking to strangers, not even looking at strangers – the custom of New Jersey. But the church folk from Virginia came up and introduced themselves in a friendly manner. They wouldn’t even let Andrae alone when he got his food. It was awkward.
The Holy Spirit prompted Rick Palma, a sophomore in high school in Guam, to witness to one of his buddies at school. But the friend was talking and the bell rang, so Rick went to class.
At the end of the day, there was no sign of the friend. The next day, no sign. Nor the next. Three days later, the teacher broke the terrible news to the class. That student the Holy Spirit wanted Rick to witness to had taken his own life.
“It shook me,” Rick says on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I felt the Spirit of God just leave me.”
The unsettling tragedy was not the only brush with suicide for Rick Palma, who felt profoundly enmeshed by failure for much of his life due to his own shortcomings and the stalking of the Grim Reaper.
Rick Palma is a Polynesian born in Guam. His family got saved in a church, and he loved witnessing for God. It seemed he had a direct connection of communication with God; whoever God told him to witness to, he carried out with great success.
Until he missed his friend at school.
“There was nothing I could do at that point. I couldn’t pray because I felt such a failure in my life,” Rick admits. “It shocked to my core so bad that I started backing away from the things of God. His blood was on my hands. I couldn’t face myself to go back to God and say, ‘God, I failed you.’ It was that one moment that I let slip that weighed me down. I carried that as such a burden. I ended up backing away from church.”
Not only did Rick miss opportunities for street-preaching, he found ways to schedule work and miss church. The young men invited him, and he would “simply run in the other direction,” Rick says.
“A lot of the girls would invite the guys to the Bible study at school. I would go hide in the bathroom until it was over,” he says. “Failure can really bog you down when you attach that to your life.”
After high school, he moved to the States to stay with relatives. The initial plan to study got lost as he made friends who got him into hip hop, drugs and fornication.
One day at work, God prompted him to witness to a co-worker: I want you to tell him about me.
Rick wavered. He was in sin, and according to his theology, God doesn’t talk to sinners. So he balked at talking to the co-worker.
“I was doing heavy drugs, so I thought there’s no way God could be talking to a sinner like me,” he recalls. “So I ignored it. The next day they had a meeting at work. This same young man had taken his own life.”
Was God trying to call me back? Rick wondered. But still he was in bondage to sensual gratifications.
It wasn’t until his girlfriend took his daughter and left him that Rick hit rock bottom.
“For one whole week, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink,” he says. “I was so stressed out. I lost 24 pounds in one week. I was spiraling out of control.”
His last hope to make something of his life – as a skateboarder – shattered when his knee shattered.
“I was a guy who had never heard the gospel and who lived a reckless, dangerous life,” Daniel Sherwood says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast.“
Sherwood grew up in Mesa, AZ, doing normal childhood things like camping, hunting, fishing, and riding his bike. What was less normal was that he started driving when he was 10.
“My father was an alcoholic and he played music, so I spent a lot of time around bars,” Daniel remembers. “He would play his sets, and I started to have to drive him home when I was 10, 12 years old.”
By the time, he was 12, his parents got divorced. “I saw physical and mental divorce of my family,” he says. “I got punted back and forth between Mom and Dad. One would get tired of me and send to the other. I took advantage of that. I wanted to be like my dad, play music and be in bands. What was OK for him seemed OK for me. I kind of just spiraled from there.”
Daniel excelled at baseball and wrestling, even earning a state championship. But when he transferred to Chandler High School and didn’t even make the A-squad, he quit completely in disgust.
I’m just gonna go skateboarding, he thought at the time. “I got really good at skateboarding, started filming, got a few sponsors.”
For Daniel, drugs, liquor and partying came with the skateboarder life. By 16, he had attempted suicide a few times.
“One time I took 80 sleeping pills after a breakup with a girlfriend,” he recalls. “I was pretty much a goner. That will pretty much kill anybody. But somebody found me actually, hauled me down to the hospital, (and they) pumped my stomach.”
Fighting was favorite thing to do when he was drunk at parties.
“I would wake up the next day just covered in blood. No idea what happened,” he says. “I’d have to call around the next day to find out why I was covered in blood. People would tell me, ‘You fought this guy. They hit you over the head with a bottle. You chased this guy down the street with a knife.’
“It was a wild life.”
Daniel got kicked out of high school for leaving a kid so badly beaten he was sent to the intensive care unit.
Daniel scaled up from cigarettes and drinking Dad’s liquor to marijuana, then LSD.
“It was the party life,” he says. “They say skateboarding picked up where rock-n-roll left off.”
With consumption came trafficking also. He sold marijuana by the pound, guns, whatever he could get his hands on. “It just got worse and worse and worse,” he says.
Daniel sold marijuana to an undercover cop at a party. Next thing he knew, the cops raided his house, kicked his door in and put a Glock to his head. Police were disappointed that the sale – only 2 pounds – wasn’t significant under the law, so they pressured him to turn State’s witness and turn in his dealer. At their direction, he bought five pounds of pot, but instead of collaborating with the cops, he turned around and sold it to make money.
“They found out about it and brought me in a small office,” he remembers. “I was so high. I was surrounded by these undercovers: a Mexican cowboy, a biker, a workout bro. They were screaming at me. I’ll never forget what the biker guy said to me: ‘You’re high right now, aren’t you? You are a menace to society.’”
He was 17-and-a-half, which meant he would be tried as a minor and given a lighter sentence.
“They pushed for adult court, and if they would have gotten that, I probably would have done 10, 12, 15 years. I got six months. Like all juveniles, I got a slap on the wrist. I didn’t learn my lesson. When I got out, I went right back to it.”
When he was 18 and moved out on his own, he got a two-bedroom apartment whose second room was exclusively used for growing hallucinogenic mushrooms, which he consumed.
He stopped selling drugs because, as an adult, the sentences in court, if caught, were higher. But he didn’t abandon crime entirely.
“I was very adept at stealing,” he admits. “Me and a buddy of mine would steal carts full of liquor and throw these massive parties. We had a little crew and called ourselves the ‘40 Crew.’ We would get drunk, and the goal was always to find somebody and beat him up. We just loved it.”
But God, in his infinite grace and mercy, was pursuing Sherwood’s heart, and brought the Gospel into his life.
Drunk at 3:00 a.m., he rear-ended two guys on Harleys, pulled a gun on them, drove off and, trying to escape pursuing police, scraped up two cars when he tried to drive his ‘88 Cutlass Sierra between them.
Under the police chopper spotlight, he surrendered to police. He spent a month in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tent city jail, shivering at night, wrapped in a plastic bag during winter trying to stay warm.
“My time in tent city was so awful that I swore I would never go back again,” he says. “As critical as people like to be of Joe Arpaio, it worked.”
He dressed in all black, wore long dark hair, and had one blue contact lens – 90s Goth style. So when a church-goer saw him at the store, he freaked and thought: This guy will never get saved.
So when Genaro Nava showed up at church the following Sunday, the Christian guy felt rebuked internally for judging people: “It was like God just slapped me across the face. It blew my mind.”
Today Genaro is not just rescued from the darkness of underage clubbing across the border in Mexico, he’s a pastor in Brownsville, Texas, his third pastoral assignment.
Genaro came with his family to America to start the 1st grade. When his mom got divorced, she fell into a deep depression. Genaro and his sisters fell into drugs and partying in high school. Genaro’s room was painted black, covered with worldly posters.
One night he left a club, and there were Christian street preachers from the Door Church declaring the love of Jesus. Genaro joked to his girlfriend: “One day, I’m going to do that.”
The next night after a movie, there were the street evangelists again, passing out flyers. Genaro said he wasn’t interested but accepted the flier and pinned it to his wall (where there was a clutter of things on display).
The street evangelist said: “You can’t go to Heaven if you don’t have Jesus in your heart.” Those words haunted Genaro.
Years later, his sister got saved and invited him to church. It was, startlingly, the same Door Church whose flier was still on his wall. It seemed more than coincidental, so Genaro, then 19, agreed to go.
Bit by bit, he began attending church more and leaving his sin behind. At one point, he had to break up with his girlfriend of the time because she vowed to continue using drugs while he wanted to get clean. He left his old friends for the same reason.
“We would do drugs there in my house,” he says. “They would be there drinking and say, ‘Hey come on, join us.’ I had to make a stand.”
Eventually, he needed to read them the riot act: either come to church or stop coming over.
“I invited my friends to church,” he says. “They all went once and never came back. It’s not like you’re cutting them off; you’re just choosing different paths.”
People at church were really nice, and they threw him a small birthday party just a month after showing up at church. That made quite an impression.
“I was asking myself, how could you have a good time without drugs?… Read the rest: Goth gets saved
Rene Celinder was leading an all-night prayer vigil in support of the Jews at the Israel Plads in Copenhagen 2002, when a Palestinian immigrant struck him over the head with a cleaver at 3:00 a.m.
“Luckily, I have a hard head,” Rene quips. The doctor explained that had the attack not been a glancing blow, he could have died or wound up in a wheelchair.
From the hospital, he called his wife: “Don’t worry I’m alive,” he told her. “I just took a cleaver blow to my head. No problem. I’m ok.”
Such is the life of a Christian evangelist is Denmark. Today, he travels internationally to preach the gospel to people lost in darkness. He, too, was once lost in darkness.
Raised by an abusive father, Rene became a painter and a handyman. When he contracted stomach cancer at age 30, he made a promise to God: “If you heal me, I will serve you for the rest of my life.”
He didn’t know God but remembered his childhood prayers from the ritualistic church he visited in his youth. The surgery removing the egg-sized mass was a success. Rene didn’t immediately fulfill his promise to serve God.
Three years later, he received a $50,000 insurance payout for the damage done by chemicals he worked with as a painter and fiberglass worker. He traveled and drank extensively until he spent all the money in under two years. Later he would resonate with the Prodigal Son when he read the Bible.
After the “living it up” was over, he had no money and nothing to do. An aunt told him to go to church and get saved. So that’s what he did.
Almost immediately, he enrolled in Bible school and was fascinated with the truth of Scripture. As he grew in the Lord he stopped swearing.
Unfortunately, he didn’t stop all sin. He fell into fornication with another student at the school. Caught by administrators, he got kicked out.
He returned home and avoided Christians and church because of his guilty conscience for some time. The brethren sought him out. Why aren’t you coming to church? they asked. “ I was afraid because I had been sinning so bad,” he said sincerely.
They encouraged him to return. When he did, he was embraced. He vowed to sin no more.
Eventually, he met and married his second wife, Dora, to whom he has been married for 25 years. He is now 66.
At a Christian camp years later, he spotted the old fling from Bible School. He asked his wife what he should do.
“You need to go ask for forgiveness?” Dora responded.
He did so. Then he asked her “spiritual parents” for forgiveness and then her kids. On the final day of the camp, both went up to the altar and asked the Lord for forgiveness.
“I learned forgiveness,” he comments. “Then I was free.”
Rene and Dora had a child, Emma, who was born with three holes in her heart. Doctors operated for 12 hours but were unable to save her. Baby Emma died six days after birth.
“I was really really angry at God,” he remembers. “I’ve never been angry like this before.”
Rene wanted to run away. But the doctor encouraged him to cradle his baby and to say goodbye. The grieving process was very healing. On the day of Emma’s funeral and burial, snow was falling, and the wind was blowing inhospitably. But after the sermon inside the church when they all came out, the storm had passed, and the sun was shining. It was beautiful moment to bury Emma. The birds were singing. He felt God’s presence.
Rene prayed a very unusual request: “Lord, show us our little girl one more time. I know that we cannot ask anything like this. But if you can, can you do something about it?”
Typically, a request to communicate with the dead is strictly a no-no because it derives from witchcraft. King Saul, in an attempt to contact the dead prophet Samuel, went to a medium. It was his last act of life; the next day he was killed on the field of battle.
But God took Dora to Heaven, Rene says.
One night she had a dream and in the dream she went to heaven. The first person to greet her was God.
“Father, have you seen our daughter?” Dora asked.
Yes, yes, she’s over there crawling around having a joyful time, He responded.
Then she talked to her baby, who, not limited to earthly constrains, could talk, Rene says.
“It’s really beautiful up here,” she told Mom. “I’m going be more blessing here in Heaven.”
Dora woke up happy. “We knew that we are going to see her again,” Rene explains. “She now would be 25 in human years.”
Moved on by the Lord, Rene opened his first cafe in a cellar. He invited people, gave them coffee and food, prayed for them for healing. It was a continual outreach center.
How he got the cafe is a miracle. When he first saw it available, it cost $5,000 a month. He felt God’s urging towards this place but couldn’t afford the rent. So he waited a year. The next time he saw it, the rent was now $2,000. He made his move.
Saying he had no money, he offered to paint for the owner to be able to use the cellar. After thinking it over for three days, the owner told him that he had no need of painting but if he would clean up and repair three flights of stairs, he could use the cellar for free. The job took four days.
David Lou Bega, the Berlin mamba singer whose catchy tune “Mamba #5” set the world dancing, has turned himself over to Christ after reading the Bible in a bungalow in the Maldives when unending rain wouldn’t let him, his wife and daughter out for sun and snorkeling.
“In depression, I found a bible and started to read. After a few pages, I started to realize this was the truth that I was always looking for,” he says in The Last Reformation documentary. “I’ve looked into different sets of religions before, everything that was trendy and cool, like Buddhism and some New Age stuff.
“But I had passed over Jesus Christ for so many years, to my regret,” he adds. “There he was calling me, giving me the opportunity. I started reading and I felt so convicted. I broke down, started crying. That was the Holy Spirit.”
He had seen Torben Sondergaard’s miraculous street evangelism ministry on YouTube and called him to baptize him in 2018. Sondergaard filmed the meeting at which he baptized and prayed for David and his extended family.
“I felt like a baby,” David says. “I felt like a newborn. That’s why the term born-again is really fitting. You’re fresh. Your transgressions, your iniquities are gone. I was so joyful and clean.”
David Lubega Balemezi hit #1 in many European cities in his 1999 remake of Mamba #5 “A Little Bit of Monika in my life.” For it, he earned a Grammy nomination. The pinnacle of his career pales compared to his simple encounter with Christ.
“Even in the days I was rebellious and didn’t listen to you (Jesus), didn’t obey you, you never dropped me, you gave me a family, you gave me love, you gave me everything I have,” he says. “It’s weird; you want to sing; you want to dance. It was the… Read the rest: Lou Bega Christian
After being molested at age 7, Jazmin Santos was haunted by a question about her eventual future husband: How could he love you when you’ve gone through this?
“I battled with those things for so long,” she admits on a Delafe video.
Jazmin’s story shows that Jesus can redeem everything the devil intended for evil.
Born in Honduras, Jazmin Santos immigrated with her family to the United States when she was five. She grew up in church.
Unfortunately, she was molested in church by someone with a close connection to the family.
For years, Jazmin locked the dark secret in the rusted tin box within her heart. She always felt weird around everyone. She felt abandoned and rejected.
“I didn’t really dwell on it,” she says. “I just kept moving forward. It was like, oh well, that happened.”
She was always the good girl and thought she was a Christian automatically because she went to church, but at age 13, Jazmin attended a retreat where in a workshop she poured over a list of sins and checked off ones that applied and realized she was a sinner needing a savior.
“God, I’m a sinner. I’m broken. I’m a mess,” she prayed. “I ran up to the altar and fell on my face and was crying. I felt this conviction come over me.”
She realized she needed healing from the traumatic sexual exploitation.
“I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared,” she says. “The only person I told was my cousin because she was like a sister to me.”
One day, that cousin outed her gently and lovingly with her mom.
Shinichi Tanaka believed vaguely that an all-powerful god who created the universe was out there somewhere. But it was not until a near death experience that he found his way to God.
From a young age, Shinichi had a great respect for nature and the “gods” of the Shinto religion. However, when visiting the shrines to pray, he felt that something was missing.
“I went there to feel a sense of purification, also to pray and give thanks,” Shinichi says on a Japan Kingdom Church video. “But it was like praying to a vague God, like the air.”
It was at 40 years old that Shinchi began to take on a different perspective on God. In a moment of introspection, he began to see God not as a group, but as an omnipotent Creator.
“I realized the existence of God, which had immeasurable power,” he continues. “Since then, I would close my eyes and meditate that the universe would send energy like bright and dazzling lights. That was my God.”
Shinichi did not know God yet. This would change when, at 49 years old, he experienced a heart attack that left him hospitalized.
“My life hung in a fifty-fifty balance,” Shinichi says. “But I kept a strong will to survive.”
At one point during his hospitalization, Shinichi underwent a near-death experience that led him closer to finding God.
“One night, while sleeping on the bed in the hospital, a beautiful world spread out before me, and I was drawn outside my body,” Shinichi recounts. “It was actually the entrance to death.”
“Then, suddenly, a voice shouted ‘No! Don’t go!’” Shinichi continues. “When I regained consciousness, I suffered from strong pain, and tried to get out of it.”
Shinichi believed that an invisible being saved him from entering death’s… Read the rest: Shintoist finds God.
As a result of her parent’s divorce, Savannah Hernandez felt shame, had insecurities, depression, and had given up on believing in God.
“I hated God at this point of my life,” says Savannah on YouTube, “I just felt like, man, there is no way that God is real. I’m going through so much stuff. How is God real? How did he make this earth?”
Many fall away from God and don’t come back, but Savannah is proof that restoration of faith is possible.
Savannah’s parents got divorced when she was 11 years old. From there, she swirled downward emotionally.
“It was really hard on me just to face as a child and trying to figure out what was going on and just how to really just grow up to be a woman,” she says.
Savannah had a strong dad who never left her or made her feel alone, but she still felt an emptiness inside. She looked for masculine approval, which caused her to feel worse about herself and develop more insecurities.
“I did feel like I was alone at some point in my house, and I did run to guys and just love to try to find some type of love and temporary fix in those areas that I was hurting,” Savannah says. “It just caused me to hurt, and it caused me just shame and feeling like I wasn’t worthy and that was really hard for any girl to face.”
After she graduated, Savannah tried smoking and became stubborn and prideful.
“I was just doing all these things behind my dad’s back,” she recounts. “I’m not doing anything to pursue any of my goals, I’m not doing anything, I don’t believe in a God.
His vaunted career in aerospace engineering led him to being featured in National Geographic for his research with NASA.
But the PhD from a German university couldn’t save Dr. Dragos Bratasanu from personal heartbreak when his startup flopped, and he went back to his parents apartment depressed, in wretched pain and envying the dead in the local cemetery.
“The pain was so intense, I took my pillow and cried out to God from the bottom of my heart,” he recalls on a CBN video. “God, if you’re real, I need you.”
Growing up in Romania, Dragos was turned off by religion because it involved “bowing down to bones,” burning candles and the belief that you can only get to Heaven through your local priest.
Instead of seeking religious truth, he sought scientific truth. Excelling in his studies, he got the chance to study in Germany, where earned his PhD in space science. He worked with the Romanian Space Agency, got a chance to work with NASA and was commended in a National Geographic article.
At the top of his scientific career, he fell to the depths of inner despair. His business failing, he was humbled to the point of not being able to pay his bills and moved back with his parents. He cursed his fate.
When he considered embarking on a spiritual quest, Christianity was his last option. He studied Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other major religions. He even traveled to the Himalayas to study under the most renowned Buddhist monks. All seemed to offer good tenets, but didn’t resonate with his soul.
Isaac Perez descended into the inner regions of the earth, down a spiral staircase, through the forest, over a bridge to the place he had been told he would meet his animal spirit guide. Finally, a hawk with a penetrating gaze faced him.
“What are you doing here?” the hawk asked him. “You don’t belong here. They are coming after you.”
It was a strange message for Isaac, who sought to become a full-fledged shaman through practices he learned online, which resonated with his Mayan heritage.
It was strange for Isaac, the son of a pastor from a charismatic church, to be seeking supernatural experiences in the occult.
“The Holy Spirit worked somehow to tell me I didn’t belong and what I thought was my spirit animal was very much definitely the Holy Spirit telling me this isn’t it, you need to get out, this is not the place,” Isaac says on a Doreen Virtue video.
Isaac’s testimony shows you can’t blend New Age teachings and shamanism with Christianity and that Jesus Christ is the only way.
Isaac’s parents were both charismatic pastors. Isaac became a youth pastor, but when he began to have unanswered questions about the supernatural, he turned to shamans online.
“I thought that I really understood this,” he says. “God created nature, so why can’t I serve God but also you know just enjoy this, his natural beauty and all the work that he’s done and created.”
Isaac began to explore shamanism and thought that with his Mayan ancestry he could blend Christianity with shamanism.
At first, he got involved with drumming circles in nature, then he began using crystals and other New Age practices. He didn’t go to his parents for answers out of shame and guilt.
“It killed me,” he said. “I kept thinking am I failing God being in this charismatic church, or am I failing God being in shamanism? So, I could really never figure that out.”
While he was involved in shamanism, there were works, like a sun dance, which was a dance including fire and self-mutilation in order to be forgiven for his sins and for God to hear what he was saying.
“I sacrificed myself physically either by physical pain through burning, or through cutting,” he said. “There was supposed to be some sort of release. There was supposed to be some sort of… Read the rest: Shamanism vs Christianity
M.I.A. – the UK rapper who was banned for a time from the United States because she was thought to have ties to terrorism – has become a born-again Christian after a supernatural encounter with the Messiah.
“I had a vision and I saw the vision of Jesus Christ,” she told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe in an interview.
Born to a Sri Lankan Tamil family in the United Kingdom, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam reached overnight success with her multiple platinum song “Paper Planes,” which pokes fun at discrimination against immigrants from war-torn countries.
After being denied a visa into the U.S. in 2006, M.I.A. blamed “them thinking I might fly a plane into the World Trade Center.” Her hit was born.
M.I.A. is an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan repression of Tamil peoples. She has also spoken up for Palestinians on Israel’s West Bank.
Turning to Christ, she says, has caused her worldview to shift – a makeover that jeopardizes her standing with her mostly progressive fanbase.
“Basically, all of my fans might turn against me because they are all progressives who hate people that believe in Jesus Christ in this country,” says the singer.
M.I.A. was born in London. When she was six months old, the family moved to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, where her father founded the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students, after a succession of pogroms against Tamils in the island nation off the coast of India.
For a time, M.I.A.’s family went into hiding, as the government hunted them down. Though born Hindu, M.I.A. studied at Catholic convent schools. The Sri Lankan army reputedly shot bullets randomly into the school on a regular basis to terrorize the locals. Along with all the other students, M.I.A. would dive under the desks and tables to avoid getting shot, a regular occurrence she described as “fun.”
At age 11, M.I.A. was brought as a refugee to England where she grew up in the “incredibly racist” Phipps Bridge Estate, a slum. There, she mastered English, and her mom worked as a seamstress for British royalty. Immersed in political activism, M.I.A.’s father was absent from the family, leaving a hole in her heart. Her mom became Christian.
M.I.A. loved art and pursued film but got sidetracked by hip hop and dancehall music, which she was introduced to by eavesdropping on the beats blaring from neighbor flats after her own radio was stolen. Her stage name came from the time she lived in Acton and was looking for her cousin who was “Missing in Acton.”
Once on vacation in the Bequia in the Caribbean, M.I.A. was dancing in the street at a “chicken shed with a sound system,” and some Christians… Read the rest: M.I.A. Christian
The first time Bud Greenberg showed up at a Bible study, he introduced himself as a Jew, and the leader asked him to teach the next week’s study.
“You’re Jewish,” the leader told him. “Wow, you’re an expert on the scriptures. We’re just finishing up the study and we’re going to start the book of Esther. Since you know it a lot better than us, you being Jewish, will you teach us?”
There was only one problem: Bud had never read the Bible.
Notwithstanding, he assumed the invitation to teach was standard operating procedure. He went home and, starting from Genesis, thumbed through the Bible until he got to Esther.
“I didn’t want to disappoint,” he says on a Delafe Testimonies video. “It gave me a desire to read more, so I thought to myself, ‘Well, maybe I’ll read the New Testament.’ So I started in the book of Matthew.”
Today, Bud leads Bible studies in the Pentagon with Navy Seals and Special Operators, leading America’s elite fighters to Jesus. God has spoken through him in a way that unnerves the highest military professionals famed for having nerves of steel.
“I’m scared of you,” a Delta Force operator told him one day, arriving at the Bible study.
“You’re scared of me?” Bud responded. “I’m just a pencil-neck geek bureaucrat; you’re the killer.”
“No, no,” the operator said. “They tell me what goes on in these bible studies. I have no idea. I came early just to see for myself.”
Bud Greenberg was born Jewish but married a Christian girl. He loved baseball but wasn’t good enough in umpire school to make it in the Big Leagues. So, he joined the military and carted his wife with him to Germany.
She wasn’t too happy with the sudden move, and their marriage began to suffer. He asked a social worker what he could do to improve his marriage. Do something with your wife that she likes to do, was the answer.
With $2.7 million on the line to win or lose the most legendary golf tournament in the world, the fabled Masters of Augusta, Georgia, 25-year-old Scottie Scheffler, who had won his first PGA Tour title only weeks earlier, broke into tears of nervousness on the morning of the final day.
“I cried like a baby this morning, I was so stressed out,” he admitted later.
His wife, Meredith, a strong Christian, told him: “Who are you to say that you’re not ready? Who are you to say that you know what’s best for your life?”
“If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by 10 shots, if you never win another golf tournament again, I’m still going to love you,” she said. “You are still going to be the same person, Jesus loves you, and nothing changes.”
Scheffler was grateful for her wisdom, “What we talked about is that God is in control and the Lord is leading me and if today’s my time, then it’s my time…if I shot 82 today then somehow I was going to use it for His glory.”
His wife’s advice and the Lord’s presence helped calm his nerves, and Scottie coolly chipped his way to the championship. As he donned the storied green jacket given to Master’s tournament winners, Scottie spoke about his Christian faith.
“All I’m trying to do is glorify God,” he said. “That’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m in this position and so for me it’s not about a golf score. I need a Savior and that’s probably one of the coolest things about our faith is recognizing your need for a Savior.”
Scheffler was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but moved with his family to Dallas, Texas when he was six. Throughout grade school Scheffler, filled with a fascination for professional golf, would wear golf attire to school, even though his peers made fun of him.
He attended Highland Park High School, where he played both golf and basketball, and then the University of Texas, where it was strictly golf. He helped the team win multiple championships.
It was in college that Scheffler “truly felt alone and didn’t know what to do.” He then started attending church and began to give his heart to God, piece by piece. “Gradually with time he just started taking over my heart,” he recalls.
As she sat on the playground at the Waldorf Steiner school in England, 11-year-old Naela Rose became demon possessed.
“I remember sitting in the playground and I felt the spirit enter me, and I was instantly suicidal,” says Naela on a Doreen Virtue video. “I knew this was an outside entity. From that moment on, I suffered from obsessive thoughts of self-harm and depression. It just hit me.
“Satan just loves to go after children. Children are so young and open and sensitive. If you’re unprotected, it’s very dangerous.”
Naela’s parents were liberal, open-minded, Reiki-instructed and thought the occult-based school, a real-life version of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, would be perfect.
Beginning at Waldorf, she learned pagan rituals, worship of the creation, tantra yoga and empowering the feminine through worship of ancient goddesses.
“I was a proud pagan. I loved Mother Earth. I called myself a witch. I was into all these things,” Naela says. “I was completely seduced by the idea of divine feminine rising, and that I am in fact a goddess.”
At first she touted herself as a high priestess only. But as the adulation of followers progressed, she decided to become a full-on goddess. She felt it very flattering to hear followers in her training affirm her god-status.
Naela had become a New Age master raking in beaucoup bucks with constant seminars and training. “At the peak of my success in New Age, I felt the most hollow and empty,” she recognizes.
After they both became Christians years later, Tomas Bueno became friends with the gang banger who smashed his skull and left a scar on the back of his head.
“I’ve been able to reconnect with him,” Tomas says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House premium podcast on Spotify.
Tomas Bueno grew up in the Los Angeles area. His dad was a bar owner and often wouldn’t come home from drinking, and his Mom took the kids driving around at 1:00 a.m. looking for him.
“It was around the age of 12 that I started getting enticed by what I saw around me,” Tomas says. “I started seeing these guys. It was the time when Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre had an influence on the white kids in suburbia. I thought this was really cool watching MTV for hours.”
When his dad was followed home and shot up in a case that originated from Mexico, the family moved to Huntington Beach in 1992 where few Hispanics lived.
“He came in, he was shot in the shoulders, he was wounded, he was asking for a gun,” Tomas says. “I was a little kid just trying to process this. Come to find out it came from Mexico, problems there that spilled over to the U.S. Needless to say, we had to move. We moved in the middle of the night.”
At 13, he started ditching school getting high, giving sway to the influence of a street kid. By 15, he was “running amok and being crazy, partying and going wild.” At 16, he smoked meth.
“All my friends were already doing it and they were like ‘You gotta try it. You can stay up all night and drink,’” he recalls. He worked at Subway and a co-worker showed him how to pack the balls and smoke speed.
By 1995 his friends were gang members when he lived in Fullerton. He met a girl, Karina (who now is his wife), and got her pregnant at 17.
“My dad’s not going to be down for this,” she told him. “I’m going to have to move in with you.”
“Ok, no worries, we’ll make it work,” he replied. They barely knew each other. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
But because he was partying, Tomas didn’t call her the next day. Nor the next. Nor the next.
For three months, he didn’t call.
“Basically, I left her hanging,” he admits. “It’s not that I was trying to avoid this. It’s just that I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I was in the streets doing drugs partying that kind of procrastinating. After three months I was embarrassed. What do you say? I just kept partying and doing whatever I was doing.” Read the rest: Hunted by rivals, Tomas Bueno rescued by God.
Taneisha Upperman’s idyllic childhood evaporated when she saw her stepdad hit her mom with a hatchet.
“It was in the middle of the night, blood was streaming down her face, and I was terrified, so I ran all the way down the street to my aunt’s house, probably about two in the morning crying,” she says on a Delafe video. “I remember being so scared and not knowing what to do and knocking on my aunt’s door for like 20 minutes because they were asleep.”
From the age of six, Taneisha’s life was a nightmare. Yes, her mother gave birth to Taneisha as a 16-year-old single mom, but they went to church with Grandma, and Taneisha had a happy life singing in church.
But her childhood innocence was tarnished when stepdad let the kids see porn.
Once when arguing with him, Mom locked Taneisha up in a room with her uncle, who sexually abused her.
“I was not understanding it, but being exposed to porn, I’m like, Well maybe this is
supposed to happen,” she says. “I just did not understand.”
She was seven-years-old, and told no one about the incident.
Mom moved the family to New York and then back to the country. Remembering the happy years when she attended church with Grandma, she begged her mom to be allowed to live with Grandma.
Little did she realize, Grandma had changed.
“That’s when I experienced verbal abuse and physical abuse,” Taneisha recalls. “My grandmother was angry. I don’t know why. She would just yell at me and call me names and say, ‘You’re nothing. You’re gonna be nothing. You’re lazy.’”
Grandma provided shabby clothes for Taneisha to wear to school, which was embarrassing and led to being bullied.
But the worst thing was that her uncle would come and go and take advantage of her sexually. At 10, she lost her virginity because of his abuse.
“In the fifth grade, I started having a warped view of guys,” she acknowledges. “I thought in order for them to like me or to be popular I had to let them touch me. I began to get promiscuous in school.”
All the while, Grandma took her to church, where she discovered she had a great singing voice. She was told she had a gift from God. When she sang solos, the church “went crazy.”
Taneisha elevated the family’s status in the church.
In a moment of extreme accumulated frustration, Chiaki Gadsden told her alcoholic mother during a fight: “Shut up and die!”
Chiaki’s mother died that day.
“The next morning my father told me, ‘Chiaki, you mother died today,’” she narrates on a Japan Kingdom Church video on YouTube. “I didn’t feel anything. I just couldn’t believe it. I went home and saw her body and still couldn’t believe it.”
Chiaki’s childhood frustration and source of loneliness and abandonment was her mother’s alcoholism. Her father didn’t like to see his wife drunk, so he stayed away from home. Her older sister had become hardened and unfeeling, so she paid no heed to Chiaki’s pleas that they help Mother.
Eventually, Chiaki became uncaring also and took drugs and became promiscuous as a coping mechanism, she says. The coping mechanism never worked very well.
Meanwhile, she grew hard-hearted and distant from everyone.
That morning Chiaki and her mother fought, as they did many days. The sinister effects of alcoholism over many years reached a boiling point and Chiaki uttered the words she later regretted: “Shut up and die!”
She pronounced the awful words, but didn’t want the horrible result.
So when Mom died that day, Chiaki was staggered.
“I started to blame God: ‘Why didn’t you help me?’” she remembers. “I thought, What’s the point of this life? No one can help. My family didn’t help. God didn’t help. What is this life?”
At a family meeting, Chiaki’s father made a terrible announcement to everyone.
“He said my mother’s death was my fault,” Chiaki says.
“I was shocked that he said that,” she says. “I could not understand why he would say that.”
“Oh, it’s my fault that my mother’s dead?” Chiaki thought. “My father said so. Then it is bad for me to be here. If I’m not here, then everyone will be happy.”
From that moment, Chiaki no longer sought to have relationships with people. She cut herself off. She lost all hope, all purpose.
“Everything just became darkness,” she says.
Then Chiaki was invited to a gospel music festival.
“When I saw and listened to the gospel music, suddenly I felt something warm in my heart,” she recalls. “I thought, wow, gospel music is amazing. Then all of a sudden, tears started to pour out. I thought to myself, Why am I crying? I thought, What is this? What is this?” Read the rest: Christianity in Japan
Blacks aren’t generally accepted in Japan. Even Japan’s 2015 Miss Universe candidate Ariana Miyamoto, being half black, was widely rejected on social media as not being truly Japanese.
So how does Marcel Jonte Gadsden – and a handful of other black pastors – lead churches and evangelize in Japan?
“No matter what you do, no matter how you treat me, I respond with a deeper love, an unconditional love, agape love,” Marcel says on The Black Experience Japan YouTube channel. “The Bible tells us to love our enemies. How can you love your enemy? You can’t do it. That’s why the L of love is written from the top down. You must receive love vertically from the Father, down to you and then you can give it out.”
Marcel arrived in Japan as a military brat in 1999.
“I thought coming here there’d be samurais everywhere with swords,” he says. “I was scared to come to Japan. I thought we’d be the only black people in Japan. All I knew was Ramen noodles and samurais.”
When he got out among the people, he was smitten with compassion – so many hordes without hope, without Jesus.
“If what I believe is true about God, what is the hope for these people?” Marcel remembers. “The passion began to rise.”
Motivated to reach the people, Marcel threw himself into learning Japanese and when he had memorized some verses, went out as an adolescent to street-preach in Japanese in the Shinjuku neighborhood.
Japan has virtually no context for understanding street preachers. While there are street performers, they make a poor reference point. Some stared at him as if he were crazy, others ignored him.
While the initial response wasn’t exactly warm, Marcel was warmed by the fires of the love of God.
“Some people were listening and others were like who is this guy?” he remembers. “I began to learn about Japanese people and how they’re not expressive like we are.”
He took a job at 7Eleven to immerse himself in the culture and get to know the people. When he started a church in his living room, many of his first visitors had met him at 7Eleven.
“It was a training ground. I learned so much. It turned a lot of heads when they saw me at the counter. To see the reactions in people’s faces, they look and look again like, he works here?”
When Marcel met and married a Japanese girl from church, he had to overcome the resistance of his father-in-law, who shared the typical entrenched racism of Japan. Every day his future father-in-law would drop his girlfriend off at church, he would pop up to the car, open the door for Chiaki and warmly greet her dad.
“I think he had this image of me being a gangster and trying to steal his daughter,” Marcel relates. “He totally ignored me. And this continued until finally one day, he slightly looked like he slightly acknowledged me. He gave an inch of a nod. I was really convinced that love could destroy his prejudice.”
After Marcel and Chiaki were married, the formation of a relationship with his father-in-law began… Read the rest: black pastors in Japan
Four out of 10 women who received an abortion, according to a 2015 Care Net study, got pregnant out of wedlock and had also been attending church. They said the church had no influence on their decision to terminate a pregnancy.
How could this be when the church is at the heart of the Pro-Life movement?
A new documentary attempts to resolve this dark paradox. “The Matter of Life,” in theaters May 16 and 17 only, suggests that the church needs to work on a secondary message. Without easing off the preaching against abortion, it needs to strengthen its message of extending grace to people who slip up.
“I thought all of them were going to judge me,” one young woman says in the film.
“My expectation was that everyone was going to look at me and not see a ring on my finger,” another says.
“These people are going to look at me and say, ‘Uh oh, somebody messed up,’” still another says.
“The Matter of Life” searches the soul of the church.
“Many American churches – including those considered to be Pro-Life – are not considered to be welcoming places for pregnant single women,” the narrator says.
Lisa Cannon Green, who reported the findings, also said:
Two-thirds (65 percent) say church members judge single women who are pregnant.
A majority (54 percent) thinks churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options.
Fewer than half (41 percent) believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
Wanting to “unleash” himself from society’s norms, David Wood decided to flout rules in the biggest and worst way, by murdering someone. Not just anyone. He developed a plan to murder his own father.
“Some people don’t want to live like cattle,” David explains on his Acts 17 Apologetics YouTube channel. “Some people don’t want to follow this pattern that we are all expected to mindlessly follow. Some would rather bash a man’s head in, or shoot up a theater, or walk down their school hallway stabbing people. Why shouldn’t they? Because it’s wrong? Because of your grandma? Or do people have intrinsic value? Human beings were (to me) nothing but machines for propagating DNA.”
From childhood, David had psychopathic tendencies. He was further influenced by an atheistic moral vacuum and the destructive philosophy of nihilism, a poisonous mixture that influenced the monster he became.
As a boy, when his dog died, his mother cried, but he felt nothing.
Crying isn’t going to change the fact that it’s dead so why are you crying? he thought.
Years later, when his friend died, David again felt nothing. When his mother got beaten up by a boyfriend, he felt nothing.
“I don’t remember ever not living with violence in the family,” David says on Premier Christianity. “My mum was habitually with very abusive boyfriends. One of my earliest memories was hearing a lot of screaming and walking into the kitchen and seeing blood everywhere, and my mum saying: ‘It’s ketchup, go back to bed.’”
David became a habitual rules breaker. He broke into homes, ran from police, and trampled people’s gardens. For David, morality was, at best, a “useful fiction.”
“My atheist worldview was throughout the universe or through time, we’re collections of cells,” he says. “You could kill 1,000 people, or you could spend your entire life helping people. It doesn’t make any real difference. You might as well just do whatever you feel like doing with the time you’ve got.
With a nihilist worldview, he adopted the Nietzschean self-concept of an ubermensch. He was mad at society for trying to “brainwash” him with its rules. The right thing to do, he believed, was to throw off all restraint and prove his superiority. He was “Humanity 2.0.”
There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s everyone else who has a problem. I’m the only smart, sane one, he thought.
David started studying how to build bombs but ultimately rejected mass murder because it was so prosaic.
“Anyone can blow up a bunch of random people, you don’t know them,” he says, “If you’re sick of life dangling at the end of society’s puppy strings, the killing has to start much closer to home. My dad was the only relative I had within a few hundred miles and so he obviously needed to die, and I had a ball-peen hammer that would do the trick.”
Later diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, David felt no remorse, no guilt, no sense of right and wrong. His determination to live “unleashed” knew no bounds.
On the night he planned to murder his father, 18-year-old David sat trying to think of one thing wrong his dad had done to him. He couldn’t think of a thing. He attacked him anyway with the hammer. His goal was to kill him, but he failed.
“I underestimated the amount of damage a human head could endure, crushed skulls could apparently be pieced back together by doctors,” he says. “My dad had brain damage, but he survived the attack.”
David was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for malicious wounding under New York’s law.
In jail, he met a Christian named Randy whom he mocked. Randy wouldn’t back down easily. In fact, Randy engaged in a spirited debate with David. Surprisingly, they became friends. To compose arguments to refute Christianity, David began to read… Read the rest David Wood.
Actor Denzel Washington is once again unleashing a furious attack against social media.
“The No. 1 photograph today is a selfie, ‘Oh, me at the protest.’ ‘Me with the fire.’ ‘Follow me.’ ‘Listen to me,’” he told the New York Times. “The Bible says in the last days – I don’t know if it’s the last days, it’s not my place to know – but it says we’ll be lovers of ourselves. We’re living in a time where people are willing to do anything to get followed.”
Not only that, people are committing suicide because of snide remarks on social media.
“This is spiritual warfare. So, I’m not looking at it from an earthly perspective,” the two-time Academy Award winner says. “If you don’t have a spiritual anchor you’ll be easily blown by the wind and you’ll be led to depression.”
The 67-year-old goes so far as to give youth advice regarding Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat: “Turn it off. It’s hard for young people now because they’re addicted. If you don’t think you’re addicted, see if you can turn it off for a week.”
Denzel just portrayed MacBeth in an Apple Movie released Dec. 25 and now available on streaming. The Shakespearean tragedy explores the demise and demonization of a once-loyal general who allows ambition to take over his heart. Read the rest: Denzel Washington social media
A Daasanach warrior chief named John was outraged that the Roman centurions were killing Jesus on screen in his Ethiopian village, according to a Timothy Initiative Vimeo video.
“I couldn’t believe that while Jesus was being tortured, my people sat idle,” John recalled. “I threw a stone at the soldiers and even ran behind the screen with my knife drawn.”
Some remote people groups who still live out of touch with civilization and technology don’t immediately discern between the acting in the Jesus Film and reality. So John attempted to engage the Roman soldiers to defend “an innocent man.”
Of course, John didn’t find anything behind the screen. He had never seen a movie. When he understood that the film’s action scenes were only on the screen, he took his seat on the ground and watched with horror and anguish as the Romans crucified Jesus.
While John found no one behind the screen that day, he did find Jesus. A member of the team that projected the film led him in a sinner’s prayer and began to disciple him.
When Stuart Long crashed his motorcycle into a car, he was launched into oncoming traffic and hit the windshield of an oncoming car headfirst. Witnesses say he then rolled on the street and got run over by another car.
“And here I am” still alive, he remarked later.
Out of the death-defying experience, Stuart turned to God and became a priest, known as Father Stu. He’s the subject of a new biopic starring Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg, who were inspired by the story and decided to make the movie.
The movie “Father Stu” will be released on Good Friday by Sony. Wahlberg has pursued this project for six years. His own father died of cancer, so when Wahlberg heard two priests talk over dinner with him about Stuart Long, it resonated with him.
Born in Seattle on July 26, 1963, Stuart Long was adventurous and ambitious as a young rascal he explains, according to the Daily Mail. After graduating high school in 1981, he arrived at Carroll College, a private Catholic university. His focus was completely on sports, primarily football and soon, boxing, which became his sole passion.
“I wasn’t Catholic. I always felt like kind of an outsider,” Long revealed while thinking about attending mass with the football team.
Long admitted to constantly questioning his college professors. When he discovered boxing, he found his calling.
“The individual sport fit with my personality better than the team sport,” Long said in a 2011 interview with the Diocese of Helena. Read the rest: Father Stu
For 13 months, Isaiah Trujillo was vomiting every day, as he battled stage 4 cancer with chemotherapy. Sometimes all his wife could do was rub his back – and stay by his side.
“It was worth it. It’s what God had for us. I knew that God had more for us,” Amanda Trujillo says.
This is a different Valentine’s Day story. At a time when marriage is grounds for divorce, some Christian couples – like the Trujillos – still hold marriage as sacred. Their vows “to death do us part,” they take seriously.
Meanwhile worldly marriages are built on the proverbial sand that the flood waters buffet and break down.
“We definitely questioned why we were going through that,” says Amanda. The two-year ordeal is finally over. Isaiah just was declared cancer-free and the port in his chest is being removed. “You have this idea that if you serve God and do what’s right and do the will of God that you live in a bubble and nothing will touch you and you’re safe. That’s just not true.”
Theirs was the church kids who did everything right fairy tale love story. Their first kiss was on their wedding day.
Then one night, Isaiah, who is pastor in Fort Collins, Colorado, got acute stomach pain. Even though he thought it was due to bad tacos, he went to the emergency room.
After checking him over, the doctor off-handedly ordered a CAT scan, thinking it was probably not necessary, but might turn up something.
Isaiah, who naturally is doctor-averse, ordinarily would have declined. But for some strange reason, he got the scan. It turned out there was a small spot in his intestines that the doctor thought might be diverticulosis, not a serious condition.
After further studies, however, 36-year-old Isaiah was diagnosed with advanced cancer. He could die, leaving his young bride with four kids to fend for themselves. It was a trial of the size of Job’s. Read the rest: a love story of marriage
Shelby and LeGrand started a family with illusions of having a fairy tale life.
But when Shelby was expecting twins – during a high-risk pregnancy that precluded working – the young couple worried how they would pay for groceries, since LeGrand’s job remodeling a commercial building didn’t pay very much.
“When I found out we were going to have twins, I was nervous and scared,” LeGrand says on a CBN video. “It’s challenging because I feel like as a dad, I want to make sure they can look up to me and I could be there for them.”
Thinking about the babies in her womb filled Shelby with joy, but when she thought of the harsh reality of bills, anxieties plagued her heart.
“Trying to afford groceries is very difficult for us. It’s hard to get the money that we need to feed the kids at the same time,” she says. “It’s hard to balance it out between all the other things we have to pay for. The difficulty of all of that made me feel very down. The not knowing of how we were going to be able to afford things is scary.”
To their rescue came their local church, Dayspring Church, which partners with Operation Blessing, a CBN-related nonprofit that for 40 years has aided churches with critical needs projects.
The food pantry has come through in a big way for Shelby, LeGrand and their two tykes. Read the rest: food pantry in church.
An African American man wrongly convicted of murder won to Christ a KKK member who lynched a black teenager.
“I truly believe God sent me to Death Row to meet Henry Francis Hays and to show him what real love felt like,” says Anthony Ray Hinton on a 700 Club video. “Real love had no color.”
It wasn’t always easy for Ray to forgive. The cop who arrested him told him he had no chance to escape the murder and attempted murder charges connected to a string of armed robberies in Alabama in 1985.
Never mind that the evidence was skimpy and Ray had an unshakeable alibi for at least one of the assaults. The prosecution’s case rested on forensic evidence which affirmed the bullets matched the gun found at Ray’s house. One officer told him:
“You’re black. A white man is going to say you shot him. You’re going to have a white prosecutor. You’re going to have a white judge. You’re going to have an all-white jury.”
Even Ray’s publicly appointed defense attorney didn’t believe he was innocent.
“What do you do when you tell a lawyer that you’re innocent, and he looks at you and says, ‘The problem with that statement is that all of y’all are always doing something and the moment you get caught you say you didn’t do it.’” Ray recounts.
True to the cop’s cold assessment, an all-white jury found Ray guilty of two counts of capital murder and sentenced him to death by the electric chair.
“It hurt so bad. Why me? What did I do?” Ray anguished. “I even asked God, ‘What did I do so bad?’
“The natural reaction was that it’s over. I was going to be executed.”
Ray’s cell was a mere 30 feet from the yellow-painted execution chair they called “Yellow Mama.”
Every legal appeal Ray made was blocked or dismissed.
“For the first three years, I was in a stage of hate. I hated those men who did this to me.”
As time passed, however, he realized the hatred in his heart was unsavory and wasn’t pleasing to God.
“I asked God to remove this hatred,” he says. “In order for me to be free, I had no choice but to pray for those men that did this to me.”
Ray decided that he would serve the Lord, despite the horrible injustice.
“If this is what God intended for me, to be and die, this is where I die,” Ray resolved. “But while I’m here, everything around me is going to live. I’m going to bring the best out of everybody that comes in touch with me.”
A short time later, he met Death Row inmate Henry Francis Hays, a Ku Klux Klan member who lynched a black teenager without any known provocation. Hays was the first Alabama man executed for white-on-black murder since 1913.
But before he sat in the electric chair, Hays accepted Jesus under Ray’s patient and loving witness.
In their last conversations before Hays’ execution in 1997, Ray told him: “Henry, I truly believe that you’re going to Heaven.”
“You know Ray, I’ve been reading the bible and I have changed my views on so many things,” Henry replied. “I’ve finally looked at you as a human being.”
After years of rejected appeals, Ray got the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to take up his case in 1998.
EJI probed the case against Ray and found it was deeply flawed: Witnesses had been manipulated. Ray’s defense counsel had been inept. The surviving victim’s initial description of the assailant bore little resemblance to Ray.
The linchpin in the case against Ray was the forensic report, that the bullets came from the gun retrieved at Ray’s house. EJI hired three of the top experts in forensic analysis to… Read the rest: Racism in Judicial system and what God can do.
He was a comedian on stage. At home, Jeff Allen was an irritable, angry husband.
He even fought with his wife over cheese. With a morbid fear of spoilage, he would throw out perfectly fine cheese. His wife would argue over the waste.
“I don’t want it!” he yelled at his wife. He stood on a stool to emphasize his point. “Can’t you hear me? I don’t want it! I don’t want it!”
Cocaine and alcohol were in the mix, sharpening the damage caused by his cutting remarks.
One day as he put his child to bed, the little one shook him.
“Daddy you win,” she told him. “Mommy cries. You yell. You win.”
Tears streamed down his face. Jeff suddenly realized he needed help. He first attacked the drug addiction and alcoholism through 12-step programs.
But he chafed at the step that calls for participants to believe in and pray to a higher power. A confirmed atheist, Jeff ridiculed people of faith. To pray to a “higher power,” he thought, was delusional.
But he went through the motions simply to fulfill all 12 steps.
He was on the road to recovery, so he sampled Buddhism and other faiths that overlapped with self-help.
“I was seeking for my life,” he says.
Then he learned his wife, Tammy, was having an affair. It was devastating.
He called her and told her to come home.
As he waited all night, he fumed.
“I was getting self-righteous,” he confesses.
Finally, the problems of their marriage weren’t to blame on him, and he seized on his wife’s mistakes to feel superior. But as he plotted his revenge, a little voice interrupted him.
“Really?” it said. What about the time you stood on the chair and yelled at her? What about the time you smashed all the dishes? What about the time…?
“I wrestled with God that night,” he admits. “I paced my room like a caged cat.”
By the time his wife called for Jeff to pick her up the next morning, the avalanche of furor had dissolved.
Exhausted from a sleepless night, he met her at the airport. At first sight, Jeff immediately hugged her and kissed her.
The day of reckoning wasn’t when Kurt Warner was unexpectedly thrust on the field as the Rams’ quarterback amid predictions of failure after the first-string QB was seriously injured.
The day of reckoning came years earlier when his wife’s parents were killed by a tornado. That’s when Kurt saw how genuine her faith was – and came to real faith himself.
“Before that my faith was always like: God was out there and whenever I needed him, he was like my spare tire. I get a flat, pop out the spare, God I need this,” Kurt says on an I am Second video. “When her parents were killed by a tornado, she didn’t have all the answers. She was angry. She was willing to call out to God and ask God why and yell and scream.
“But she never lost her faith. She didn’t walk away from God,” Kurt adds. “It was at that moment that I realized that everything she had been talking to me about, this is what it looks like. This is what it is supposed to be. It was at that time that I really committed my life to Jesus.”
By the time Kurt saw himself leading the Rams into the Super Bowl, he was already forged by the furnace. His improbable ascent to NFL Hall of Famer as an undrafted quarterback is the stuff of a consummate underdog. His story – and faith – is portrayed by American Underdog, a movie released in theaters Dec. 25.
Kurt dreamed of football from childhood. The game was a cherished memory he shared with his dad, who left in a divorce.
In college, Kurt was a hotshot with a pinpoint aim, but he had the nasty habit of rolling out of the pocket and making his own plays, not the plays ordered by his coach. For his lack of discipline, the University of Northern Iowa coach kept him on the bench for three seasons.
According to the movie (which sticks closely to his real-life story), he begged for a chance to play, and coach finally leveled with him. He needed to stay in the pocket, a protected bubble formed by collapsing linemen around the QB, to give him time to find a receiver.
As a drill to see if Kurt could handle the pressure, Coach sent wave after wave of defensive linemen crashing into him to hurt him and see if he would stand up under pressure. It worked.
Kurt was named Gateway Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and first team all-conference.
At the same time, Kurt met the girl who became his wife and the catalyst to his faith.
The odds were against him striking up a relationship with Brenda. She loved country music; he hated it. Even worse, she detested football.
But as God would have it, Kurt went with his friend to a country-western bar where he was smitten by her good looks and decided he’d better learn to barn dance.
The horror of seeing his uncle slash and kill his aunt and cousin metamorphosed into survivor’s guilt that tormented Joey Kelly throughout his life.
“Looking into his eyes, it was just pure evil,” Joey said, describing his uncle on the evening of the murders. At 12-years-old, he was at a sleepover with his 9-year-old cousin when it happened. “He was just completely determined to kill that night, and he was on a killing spree at this point.”
Uncle John was blind with rage. His wife, Joey’s aunt, was divorcing him and had obtained a court order to kick John out of the house. John showed up at 3:00 a.m. hell-bent on vengeance.
For his killing rampage, John is today in Huntsville Prison, and Joey suffers from survivor’s guilt, a post-traumatic stress disorder that stems from the fact that he survived and others did not.
Joey’s beginnings were idyllic enough. He accepted Jesus at age 7 when his older sister sat him on her lap and explained the Gospel.
“I remembered it clicking that God loved me so much and there’s nothing I can do to earn God’s love,” Joey recalls on an I am Second video. “It’s what he did for me.”
Mikey was not only his cousin; he was Joey’s best friend, and sleepovers were common for the Texas tykes.
The fateful night when he was 12 ended the innocence and delight of childhood. It also ended his faith in God.
Uncle John broke through the window and invaded the home. First he went upstairs where he hacked his ex-wife, Phyllis, mercilessly with a butcher’s knife. Mikey woke up Joey and begged him to help. Mikey, who was 9, watched helplessly as his father murdered his mother.
In his hellish altered state, the father turned on his own son. He tackled and stabbed him multiple times, slitting his throat – right in front of Joey.
Lastly, John came after Joey.
“He slams me against the wall,” remembers Joey, who raised his arms to protect his chest. “My uncle John tries to stab me in the chest. He actually ends up stabbing me through my arm. The tip of the blade just scratches my chest.”
Joey has scars to this day from the incident.
But then a miracle occurred. Joey blinked and suddenly he was 10 feet away from his uncle.
“It’s like God got him off of me just for a quick second and pushed me out of the way or something,” he says.
He looked at his arm and saw raw muscle hanging out of the slit. He pushed it back into his arm. There was no time to think. He ran from his uncle, who chased him.
“John, please stop,” he pleaded. “You don’t have to do this. Please stop.”
The little kid was able to elude the uncle. The next thing he knew, his uncle stopped stalking him and returned upstairs. Joey ran outside to the neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell 40 times.
It was 3:00 a.m. When the neighbor eventually opened the door, she screamed.
“Oh, my God! The house is on fire.”
Uncle John set the house ablaze, burning half of his own face in the process.
Uncle John survived and “looks the monster he is,” Joey says.
“I survived that night,” he says. “This feeling of survivor’s guilt is intense and has been with me for a long time now. It’s a real crappy feeling to know you’re the only one to live and others didn’t. I didn’t feel like I was a good kid or special kid. I didn’t do anything to deserve that. If anything, Mikey was a way better kid than me.
“It never made sense.”
Joey was furious at God. He would go into his backyard to curse God.
“F___ you, God!” he screamed. “What the F are you thinking? How could you let evil win in such a big way?”
He hoped to anger God. Maybe God would strike him down for his blasphemy. Then his inner anguish would cease.
Therapy did not draw out a favorable response from Joey, who growing up decided he deserved to act up.
“If anyone had the right to go crazy, it was me,” he remembers. “I got into partying, alcohol, and smoking. I was struggling from everything from depression, to post traumatic stress, to survivor’s guilt.”
Most of the time, he wore the facade of a happy-go-lucky guy. At least he could compartmentalize the torment.
For decades, scientists sneered at Near Death Experiences – or NDEs – because they didn’t fit the empirical-evidence, materialistic model of “hard” science.
The trouble with that shrug-off is that there are so many NDEs and they are so varied it is hard to blame an overactive imagination, religious fanaticism and grand-standing for all of them. There are too many cases for science to objectively ignore.
A $5.1 million grant to the University of California Riverside now is validating topics that Christians have harkened to keenly for decades: eyewitness accounts of existence beyond the stopped heartbeat.
“Given that NDEs have been reported throughout history and across cultures, and because they appear to be a portal to a beautiful immortality, they are of tremendous interest throughout history and currently,” says UCR’s Philosophy Professor John Martin Fischer, who administers the grant.
Professor Fischer’s work surveys and consolidates all credible accounts of NDE. He cites Dutch Cardiologist Pim van Lommel, who after listening to patients relate their experiences after being resuscitated from cardiac arrest, compiled accounts for 26 years and organized them in a systematic way.
“Van Lommel has observed that (the people who experience) NDEs have significant transformational effects,” Fischer says on a 2018 Univ. of California, Riverside video. “These individuals have less death anxiety and are more spiritual. They appreciate relationships more, spending more time with family, friends and relatives.
“They are also more compassionate and more attuned to morality and justice,” he adds. “The transformations are often profound.”
Fischer’s work is significant to the Christian community not because every account fits nicely into Biblical orthodoxy (some do, some don’t), but because his academic rigor brings scientific backing to the simple notion of an afterlife.
After all, if it can be established that humans enter eternity, then one can debate about which faith has the correct version.
Not everyone who comes back from death tells the same story. But most share these elements: an out-of-body experience, a guided journey, unconditional love and acceptance, a dark tunnel with a light at the end, a life review and a reformed life for the person revived from death, Fischer says.
Most NDEs describe a paradise environment, if not exactly the Bible’s Heaven. But roughly 10% are not positive experiences – something like Hell, Fischer states. The real number of negative NDEs may be larger because of the shame associated with telling others that you were judged unworthy to go to the Good Place, he adds.
Most NDEs tell of unverifiable events, but extraordinarily others relate conversations between doctors and nurses when medically the patient had flatlined and scientifically was unconscious and dead, Fischer says.
“The fact that these NDEs can be checked against the facts and have very similar content at least suggest that the NDEs that cannot be independently corroborated must be taken seriously,” Fischer says.
Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, wrote about his experiences being “in a beautiful and incredible dream world that wasn’t a dream” in his book, Proof of Heaven, which sold three million copies.
Dr. Alexander was in a coma at the time as he flew around with his sister on the wing of a butterfly in an intricately designed surface with indescribable colors and millions of butterflies “more real than the chair I sit in, more real than the log in the fireplace,” Alexander says.
Fischer in his presentation also referenced Colton Burpo, the four-year-old who died and met the Trinity in Heaven and even a miscarried sister, of whom he had no knowledge until he told his parents after he recovered from the surgery.
“There’s lots and lots of reports and it’s often difficult to explain them in a naturalistic way,” Fischer says. “The experiences are remarkable in their universality and at least appear to be a portal to an afterlife, another realm, usually a peaceful Heavenly realm.” Read the rest: the science of NDEs
When Robert Polaco got saved, crime statistics went down for the City of Las Vegas, NM. So says his former pastor. People knew him and feared him, and soon the word spread around the city that the Door Church is where the former criminal was saved.
Robert Polaco’s mom lived mostly in a mental hospital with schizophrenia. His dad lived primarily in jail. Robert was raised as a ward of the State.
“I was placed in a foster home,” Robert says on the 2021 video produced by the Door Church. “According to the case work, I was being abused.”
Along with his harsh living conditions, Robert also felt like a pariah — as if something was broken within him.
“I grew up with that chip on my shoulder,” Robert continues. “It was as if there was no answer, I felt there was no hope.”
Later on, Robert would dedicate his life and career to martial arts. His role as an instructor became the new identity he would give himself to.
“I decided to open up my own dojo,” Robert says. “That’s where I met my wife- I gave her free lessons because I thought she was pretty.”
Robert and Jacque Polaco would eventually enter a marriage which was immediately plagued by serious relationship problems. Robert’s life quickly fell apart.
Change would eventually come on May 15th, 1981. The young couple was introduced by Door Church’s pastor Harold Warner to a set of popular Biblical prophecy films. Convicted, Robert and his wife surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.
“When I prayed that prayer on that night, I just felt free.” Robert recounts.
Similarly, Jacque felt as if a massive weight was on her for her entire life. Her prayer for salvation lifted the heavy burdens she carried.
“There was no desire to smoke dope or drink alcohol,” Robert states. “The desire was gone. When I entered the martial arts class on Monday, I shut it all down.”
Robert felt like a brand-new man, a newborn star. It was as if someone had pressed a reset button on him; now Robert found something to live for: Jesus.
“Robert and Jacque proved to be a key couple in the forming of that early church here,” Pastor Ray Rubi of Door Church reminisces.
However, the incredibly small building that represented the Door Church in Las Vegas would eventually be the recipient of God’s miracles in the form of a skilled new pastor, Richard Rubi.
“The city of Las Vegas had about 14,000 people, but everybody knew Robert,” Richard says. “He had a reputation there.” Read the rest: Jesus helps crime rates
As soon as Justin Berry buckled up, the Uber driver turned to him and said: “Because you have obeyed God, He’s going to bless you.”
“I’m like WHAT?” Justin was flabbergasted. He had just broken up with his girlfriend — reluctantly — because they had fallen into sin. But he was broken-hearted, agitated and conflicted.
“What the heck is going on?” he marveled at the message from an Uber driver. “Whoa that’s crazy.”
The unexpected confrontation was part of a long process of God calling Justin back to salvation, into holy matrimony and unto a beautiful destiny in music ministry.
Justin Berry, now 20, grew up in Ladera Heights, in Los Angeles, going to to church with his mom and brother. Going to the Lighthouse Christian Academy cemented his childhood faith and also it’s where he met a certain girl named Trina.
He excelled in academics and sports during high school and was elated when he got accepted to his dream college: UCLA. It was a euphoria unlike any other. But as he tried to push the “accept” button on the electronic offer letter, Justin was being held back. God had told him to attend college elsewhere.
“Something was holding my hand back from pressing that button,” he remembers.” I started crying and bawling my eyes out. I wanted to go there. This was my ticket to my career. I was trying to press this button and God wouldn’t let me do it.”
Finally, his mom came in asked what was the matter. He explained and, being a loving mom, she persuaded him that it was the devil interfering. He finally pushed the button. What could go wrong? He had a beautiful girlfriend and an ideal institution of higher learning. God’s blessing was evident.
Only not everything was as it seemed. Secretly, he and Trina, allowing themselves to be alone, had fallen into temptation together, and both were feeling intense conviction.
“It was a rough year of heavy, hard conviction,” Justin tells. “I stopped praying and let my relationship with God die away. I replaced Trina as my idol, and she became my god. I would find my peace, my joy, my happiness through her. When I was with her, I didn’t feel any conviction. But when I was away from her, I felt this conviction.”
He still attended church and youth group. He would pray tears of guilt in the strangest of places: in the bathroom.
“The bathroom is where I prayed,” Justin admits. “I still loved God, but something else was stronger.”
One night, the pastor proclaimed prophetically: “There’s somebody here that God has been asking you to give up something for a long time, and you need to give it up right now.”
Justin felt startled, confronted, cornered.
After the service, he confessed to the pastor: the message was for him.
That night, he broke up with Trina. It was the hardest decision of his life up to that moment. His love for this girl was at war with his love for God.
Upset and confused, he got into his Uber. The driver turned on him. It was a wild confirmation.
In fact, the she said, she had been instructed to make a U-turn, a right-hand turn and then wait by the side of the road for her next rider. God told her to prophesy to whoever it was. Justin was next.
Still, Justin wondered, without saying anything, if it were only an improbable coincidence. Read the rest: JBThePreacher
When a man stood up suddenly during prayer service and waved a handgun at the congregation, Pastor Ezekiel Ndikumana sprang into action and tackled him from behind before he could fire off a round.
“He wanted to kill,” Pastor Ezekiel said through an interpreter on WKRN news. “That was the first thing that came to mind.”
Motives remain unclear as yet as to why Dezire Baganda, 26, suddenly jumped up in the Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal church and ordered the congregation to stand as he waved a handgun.
But quick-witted Pastor Ezekiel neutralized him before he could do anyone harm. The immigrant pastor acted as if he were exiting the back door behind the pulpit and behind the gunman and then rushed him and tackled him from his blindspot. Other congregants joined in to help disarm the threatening man at the Nov. 7th service, all recorded on church surveillance video.
In a Juvenile Hall Bible study, Kevin Knuckles asked snarkily if all the biblical authors were schizophrenics, and he was promptly kicked out.
“I was hate-filled violent man addicted to drugs,” Kevin admits on his YouTube channel. “I was really against Christ for a lot of my life.”
A derisive arrogance prevailed in Kevin’s heart starting from the moment he discerned his Irish parents’ oppressive Catholic hypocrisy all the way up to the time he told his wife to trash her Bible or say goodbye.
As a member of an international dark-themed rock band, Kevin lived the life of drugs and adultery for most of his adult life. He would lock himself in his room to shoot up heroin but then — looking for a cheap substitute — abused methadone, which is supposed to transition addicts from heroin.
He lived with his lover and neglected his wife and kids, who knew about the betrayal of trust.
“I pushed my family beyond the breaking point,” he says. “I was quite literally dying. I thought I was living my best life. But my condition was so broken.”
Trying to detox after two methadone overdoses, Kevin writhed in emotional turmoil and physical agony for days on end with no rest. He was vomiting and couldn’t sleep.
“I was in the pits of despair and couldn’t take it any further,” Kevin remembers. While he had mocked Christianity for most of his life, he now cried out to God. “I said God, please have mercy on me.”
Nothing happened that night, but the next night he cried out again, this time to Jesus. Then something remarkable transpired.
“I was in a fetal position shaking, sweating, unable to find any peace in my body or my mind,” he recalls. “As soon as I invoked his name (Jesus), I was given complete peace and rest. Even though I had spent most of my life blaspheming him and not believing in him and making fun of people who did, I was so broken and had nowhere else to turn that I just called out to him.”
For the first time in days, Kevin slept that night
“I immediately found peace, my body stopped trembling, my temperature and heart rate regulated,” he recalls.
He dreamed a profound dream that seemed so intensely real that it seemed more of a memory of a real event than a nebulous fabrication of the sandman.
“I couldn’t remember anything from the dream except two things,” he remarks. “One was the dream was about my wife, Kelly, whom I had committed much adultery against and put through much turmoil. And the other was the number 38.”
It was eerie.
Kevin fell asleep and had another dream that again gave him the overwhelming sensation that it was a real event. But again, he couldn’t remember anything about the circumstances — except for two random facts, like the first dream.
“All I could remember was that it was about my son, Patrick, and the number eight,” he says.Read the rest: Jesus dream saves addict.
But he grew up with mostly female friends and got bullied by the guys his age, so he grew to hate his masculinity.
“I just took out my insecurities with lust towards men,” Emmett says on a Tucson Door Church video. “I medicated myself and pacified myself and drowned myself in homosexuality because I hated myself as a man. I didn’t feel like a man.”
But in 2015, somebody talked to him about God and gave him a little booklet to read.
“I read it because I wanted to see if God hated me,” Emmett says. “But I found out He didn’t. It said, all sins are bad; they’re all worthy of death, including homosexuality. But that same sin was covered by grace.”
So he gave his life to Christ.
At that a time, a pastor prompted him indirectly with a question: Did God ever say you were gay?
Steve Weatherford — whose punting pinned the Patriots back deep in their zone to help the Giants win Superbowl XLVI — says all his heroics were a vain attempt to get the approval of his father.
“I was trying to get the attention of my dad,” Weatherford says on a 7 Figure Squad video. “During a lot of those amazing achievements, I didn’t really enjoy them because the reason I was achieving them was I needed some affirmation from the most important person: dad.”
Today, Weatherford has found peace, approval and acceptance from Jesus, leaving behind the inner turmoil that led him to drugs and porn despite his outward appearance of success and manliness.
Born in Indiana, Steve Weatherford was raised in Baton Rouge. From an early age, he showed inclination for sports, playing football, soccer, basketball and track in high school. He didn’t enjoy the greatest relationship with his stoical, old school-style father.
The foray into sports began as a means to win his father’s approval. He worked out in the gym incessantly. As a result of his impressive physique, rumors circulated around town that he had bulked up thanks to “the juice.” One day, his dad even called him at school and told him to come over to the office.
“Oh crap, what did I do?” he wondered as he drove over to Dad’s. “Oh my God, I’m really in trouble.”
“There’s rumors around town that you’ve been taking steroids,” Dad said. “I’m not mad at you, but I want to get you help.”
“Initially I was really offended. I wanted to lash back,” Steve remembers. “But then I sat back into my chair and I thought to myself, ‘My dad thinks that I’ve done something with myself that is impossible to do without cheating.’”
“Dad, you might not believe me but I’ve done this 100% the right way,” he responded. “I’ll take a test right now.”
It was the closest thing to a compliment that he ever got from his dad.
Weatherford proceeded to the University of Illinois as a kicker and punter. He also played track and was named Sports Illustrated’s most underrated athlete in the Big Ten in 2004. He walked on to the New Orleans Saints and played for four teams before landing with the New York Giants.
Punters are usually wimps, by NFL standards. All they have to do is kick well. But Weatherford had the build of a lineman as a punter. He maintained a maniacal workout and diet regimen that got him featured in bodybuilding magazines.
On the outside, he was achieving his wildest dreams. But on the inside, he was losing battles. He watched porn and started taking percocet.
“I worked so hard to get into the NFL. I worked so hard to become the fittest man in the NFL twice. I worked so hard to (win the) Walter Peyton man of the year community service award. I worked so hard to become a Superbowl champion,” Weatherford says. “Looking back on my life, those were all predicated on getting my dad’s attention.”
Superbowl XLVI was a dream. The Giants were playing against Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Weatherford punted four times with such distance and precision that the Patriots found themselves in their own 10 and five yards — a marathon distance to touchdown. When the Giants came out on top, some observers called Weatherford the MVP.
A punter MVP?
Weatherford basked in the glory of his achievements. He looked over to Dad. He wanted so desperately for his father to clap him on the back, give him a bear hug and lavish patriarchal praise. Read the rest: Steve Weatherford Christian
While she was praying at church, Chris Singleton’s mom was shot eight times by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015.
Then only 18, Chris Singleton had to assume the role of parent for his younger siblings.
“It was being thrown into the fire for me,” Chris says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “Something like that, I call it the unthinkable because you never think in a million years that something like that will happen to you. It was tough then, it’s tough now. It made me grow up a lot quicker than a lot of people. I had to take care of two teenagers when I wasn’t even 21 yet.”
Incredibly, Chris chose to forgive the racist mass murderer who snuffed out nine lives at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When Sharonda Coleman-Singleton died, Chris wasn’t exactly strong in his Christian faith.
“I think anybody that loses a loved one, there’s two ways you could go with your faith,” Chris says. “You could say number one, there’s no way God is real. Or you could say, two, God, I don’t know how this happened or why this happened, but I need you to get me through it.”
Chris, who became a minor league baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, drew on his athletics training to develop resilience.
“I didn’t have my mom anymore and I didn’t have my dad, so Jesus became the rock that I would lean on,” he says. “That was comforting for me, it was therapeutic for me.”
Of course, Christian Surfers International calls Jesus the “Original Water Walker.”
Originally, they were just a support group of like-minded surfers who felt a little marginalized by the church, but as they grew, they realized they had a greater responsibility to win the entire surfing world to Christ.
They want to be even more salty while paddling ocean waves and reflect the light of Jesus on sun-drenched beaches.
Today, Christian Surfers International has affiliates in 35 countries with about 175 local missions, each of those acting like a tiny church plant to the surf community, says Casey Cruciano, operations manager of CSI.
They also do community development projects around the world through their organization Groundswell Aid. Some of the best surf breaks also have some of the poorest communities in the world. Hardcore surfers have always traveled to out-of-reach spots for the perfect wave. But CSI surfers don’t just ride the wave; they help alleviate poverty, restore the environment and provide disaster relief.
“We believe in the power of the global surfing community to make powerful, long-term changes to beach communities around the world,” a narrator on a Groundswell video explains. “Using surfing as a platform to connect, Groundswell exists to meet the needs of under-resourced communities and offer tangible hope.”
They even teach Third World youngsters to surf or learn water polo, offering scholarships to those who do well in school and encourage school dropouts to return.
On the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, they help build housing and school facilities for the locals. Read the rest: Christian surfers Intl.