If there were anyone who might not want to help make sandwiches for migrants entering the United States illegally, Pastor Matthew Mayberry thought of a certain Air Force member whose hardline politics would give him pause.
But no, the airman was right there slapping together ham and cheese between bread to minister the gospel of love to foreigners in August 2021. The Border Patrol who hadn’t yet processed the massive caravan who found shelter beneath a bridge outside Del Rio, Texas.
“The things these people are going through, when I really thought about it, if I were them, I would probably do the same thing,” he told Pastor Matthew. “They have a chance for a better life for their family.”
Pastor Matthew’s City Church got a call from the agent in charge of the Border Patrol on a Saturday. Could his church help provide food for migrants, many of whom hadn’t eaten in several days?
Pastor Matthew couldn’t help but see irony. His sermon for the next morning – as part of series already scheduled – was based on Matthew 5, the passage in which Christians are instructed to be salt and light.
“Within a couple of hours, our church had mobilized, and we made 500 sandwiches that first Sunday,” Pastor Matt told God Reports. “The next day we made 400 sandwiches.”
Over the course of the week and in coordination with two other churches, they made and handed out 3,000 sandwiches to migrants. They shared the gospel with migrants who were fleeing the pulverizing poverty or crushing crime of their Latin American countries.
They helped a second wave of migrants in September, Pastor Matthew says.
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
Never mind that driving him towards suicide were demonic voices, schizophrenic episodes, and the opposition of his family. What bothered Adrien Lamont in the Bible conference – where he had gone seeking deliverance – was that there was only one other black person.
Fortunately, she came straight over to Adrien with a prophetic word: “God sees what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been chasing after him, and he’s so proud of you and he loves you and all the people that have done you wrong and called you crazy are gonna see what God is doing in your life in the direction that he’s taking you and they’re all gonna apologize.”
Adrien stayed and received intensive prayer. The deliverance was decisive. Today Adrien is a rising star in Christian Hip Hop, though his music is oriented more to the street than the pew, a rough-edged message of salvation, not cleared for Sunday School.
Adrien Lamont’s father abused heroin and died when he was young, so Mom did her best to raise him. Grandma was the driving force behind church attendance, but Adrien never developed a personal relationship with Jesus.
He was drawn to music and wanted to make it big. As he searched for his identity, he began drinking, smoking weed and using other drugs. He also liked to wear a brand of clothing with occult symbols. Today he says those symbols opened him up to demonic interference.
“I was really involved in satanic imagery and satanic clothing,” he says on Testimony Stories, a YouTube channel that focuses on Christian rappers. “It got to a point where all these things I was surrounding myself, started to affect my spirit. I realize now in hindsight that a lot of those garments and things I was wearing actually had demonic forces on them.”
He had a ring that every time he took it off and put it back on, he felt like a different person.
Connected with the producer, he began his path to stardom in secular rap.
“I remember just getting very high and drunk one day and I remember him telling me about all these satanic rituals and blood sacrifice and sacrificing his daughter,” Adrien says. “Under the laptop we were recording on, there was a Ouija board. I felt like I was demon possessed and that demons were speaking out of me into the microphone.”
On that day, he says he felt Satan’s presence. Words were impressed into his mind.
“He asked me if I wanted to sell my soul to Satan,” Adrien relates.
“Yes, okay,” he spoke out.
The rest of the night, he felt a darkness he had never experienced.
Hours later, he was listening to his recording when his computer “glitched.” Up popped another musician who shared his testimony about how demons came out of him and how he ran to his mother, who had a shotgun in her hand. He was saved from evil.
Adriend couldn’t explain the sudden, mysterious site change on his screen. He knew he needed to leave Hollywood immediately and return to his mom, who was living in Long Beach. Early next morning, he wandered around Hollywood asking for a phone to call Mom. Eventually, he got an Uber home.
Full of excitement to serve God as a missionary, Diego Galvan woke up on his first morning in Tijuana to a freshly decapitated head of a woman left in the street.
The grisly murder was a sign of what was to come for the fearless missionary who tried to avoid angering the wrong people but found himself entangled in a nation and city overrun with rampant corruption and cartels.
“If I die, I’d rather die doing the will of God than live as a coward seeking money and pleasure,” determined Diego, who was born in Uruguay but raised in America just across the border in San Diego and had never known the dark and dangerous world of drug cartels.
Diego Galvan’s father got his family out of Uruguay through some first-class shenanigans. Being a bodyguard for U.S. diplomats, he divorced Diego’s mother, married a lady diplomat, moved to the United States, got U.S. citizenship, divorced the diplomat, returned to Uruguay and brought his family to America.
Diego grew up in the world of guns. His father got into gunfights with terrorists of the likes of Che Guevara.
Diego was saved at a young age and stayed faithful in the church. As he grew up, he got married, got a great job at the Acura-Jaguar dealership and bought a house in San Diego. He had pioneered a church and was currently serving as assistant pastor in the border city when God interrupted his fairytale life with a call to leave luxury and throw himself into the godless land of Tijuana. He would do his best to stay out of harm’s way.
“What you do with the cartel is you ignore it,” Diego says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “They were there before you and they’ll be there after you. You don’t be nosy. You’re just there for souls.”
Diego took over a church in Tijuana established by his brother, who moved on to another ministry. In the yard of his first house, a man was killed by revenge-seekers from the cartels. So he decided to move.
At his second house, a man who had been committing adultery with a drug trafficker was killed on Diego’s doorstep. He moved again.
Unwittingly, he fell out of the frying pan and into the fire. His next-door neighbor was a drug lord. What happens when the drug lord faces off with the Lord God?
The drug lord’s henchmen were annoying, parking in front of Diego’s driveway. When he got home from church, he couldn’t park in his driveway. He asked them to move their cars; they ignored him. They were drinking and partying.
Realizing he was never going to get away from the cartel, Diego decided to send his wife with food to evangelize the dealer’s wife. “My wife can cook some good food,” Diego explains.
“You try to avoid the cartel,” he adds. “But the problem is that as you preach, you begin to mingle in their world.”
It wasn’t the first time he directly evangelized them. Out on the streets passing out handbills for the church, he would run up to their SUVs with darkened windows and pass out flyers to occupants of the cars that only the drug traffickers drove. As a general rule, the cartel members received flyers and were respectful.
One even opened his heart: “God could never forgive me.”
“That’s a lie,” Diego countered.
“I’m in so deep,” the man mused.
But it was his interaction with the drug lord next door that pulled him into a full-blown war with the cartel. The wife got saved, and the drug lord didn’t like it. She showed up to church with black eyes and had clearly been beaten.
For some days, Diego remained quiet about the physical abuse he was witnessing. But eventually, his outrage got the better of him, and he went over to talk to the drug lord. He knocked. Mr. trafficker opened the door.
“Hi, I’m your neighbor. I’m the pastor,” he started. “I see what you’re doing to your wife. Men who beat their wives are cowards. One day you’re going to stand before the living God, and you’re going to give an account for all the mess you’re doing.”
The drug lord didn’t respond a word.
“This man is dead,” he thought (he admitted later).
The drug lord’s four-year-old daughter scampered out. Diego saw her. “This is your daughter, right? Do you want men to treat your daughter the way you are treating your wife?
“Listen, I have the real deal,” he continued. “It’s Christ. If you call upon him, he will save your soul. But you must get right.”
Still the drug lord said nothing. So Diego went home.
A few days later, the drug lord’s wife came over panicked. Diego had been out of town preaching for another church. The wife implored Diego to come over; her husband had been locked up in his room and hadn’t spoken to anyone. He was out of his normal mind.
Diego decided to go and visit. Diego’s wife tried to dissuade him. “It’s a trap,” she cautioned. “He’s going to kill you.”
Diego remained firm in his resolve. He knocked on the neighbor’s door.
“You wanted to see me?” he asked. “Here I am.”
The drug lord’s eyes said it all.
“When I saw his eyes, I knew something had happened for the positive,” Diego tells.
“You know what you told me a few days ago?” the drug lord told him. “That’s real, dude.”
He no longer consumed or wanted to consume drugs. He was going through withdrawals. Diego led him in a sinner’s prayer. It was Friday night. On Saturday morning the former drug lord who had met the Earth’s Lord participated in outreach. He was handing out handbills and testifying to people about the wonders of Christ.
He was filled with wonder and joy and thrilled with the reality of Jesus.
On Sunday morning, Pastor Diego preached about repentance. Unbeknownst to Diego, the ex-drug lord just happened to be carrying 2 kilos of pure cocaine left over from his just-ended trafficking career. In a flourish of enthusiasm, the ex-drug lord flushed them down the toilet after the sermon.
Had Diego known, he probably would have counseled his new convert to give the drugs back to the cartel – and to negotiate an exit from the cartel.
You don’t run off with the cartel’s drugs. You either give them the money or the drugs.
Sure enough, the higher ups showed up. Where’s the money?
I don’t have it. I threw it down the toilet.
Curse words. Threats.
The new convert’s days were numbered.
Sure enough, the hitmen showed up.
It was Sunday after church. Pastor Diego was napping and woke up to the blood-curdling screams of the new convert’s wife. From his second story room, he looked over the wall and saw the screaming wife.
“Help us,” she pleaded. “They’re going to kill us all.” They had four kids.
Diego sprang into action. Once again, his wife warned him not to get involved. “You’ll die,” she said.
“Then I’ll die,” he responded and went out the door.
When he entered his new convert’s house, he distracted the gang of hitmen, so that the new convert grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed one through the heart.
It was the capo’s brother. The capo was a woman.
The hitmen didn’t think. They panicked and packed up the brother and rushed him to the hospital.
Pastor Diego called the Mexican police. Eighteen SWAT-like cops showed up with masks and “AK-47s and AR-15s. Diego explained to them the situation.
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.”
For 15 years, Victor Martel was running from God. His mother got saved, his father, his two brothers and five sisters. He was too busy consuming drugs and hanging with the homies. Everywhere he went, Christians witnessed to him, and he tried to avoid them.
Then he received a life sentence in prison.
During the first week in his cell, God spoke to his heart: Can you hear me now?
Victor’s journey into darkness, coming to Christ at age 19, his subsequent falling away and jail sentence is a lesson of what happens to those who run from God.
Victor grew up in rough neighborhood in Banning, California, where he joined a gang, drank alcohol, and consumed drugs. In his hood, he couldn’t conceive of any other kind of life because it was all he saw.
“I had no choice. I was born in that neighborhood,” Victor explains to God Reports. “There was a principality that covered the area. There was no way out. It was the only lifestyle I knew.”
At 15, he got shot in the back and cried out to God for the first time to spare his life.
Despite God answering his prayer, Victor stubbornly persisted in sin. His house got shot up as result of his involvement in the gang. At 17, he started heroin.
Two years later, Victor lost his best homie, and he cried out to God again.
Then God did something remarkable. He placed a burden on the heart of a pastor from the Potter’s House Church, so the pastor began looking for the most desperate person to evangelize and was drawn to Victor’s house.
“He came to my house,” Victor says. “I wasn’t trying to be famous that way.”
In response to the gospel message, Victor accepted Jesus and began attending church in Beaumont, a few miles away. Victor attended for three months and then “didn’t follow through. I got caught back in doing what I wanted to do.”
The thirst for alcohol, the perverted thoughts all left him the instant Mitchell Collins prayed: I don’t want to be the man I am anymore. I’m sorry for the things I’ve done. Jesus if you’ll come into my life and change me, I’ll live out the rest of my days for you.
“When I gave my life to Jesus, there was a dramatic change,” Mitchell told God Reports. “The thoughts that I had towards women changed overnight. Before Jesus I had thoughts all the time about women when they walked by. Afterwards, there was self-control. I no longer wanted to think of women in that manner. I had respect for them.”
As a lead petty officer in the Navy over a group of men, Mitchell had mocked the Christian in his group mercilessly. Now that he had accepted Jesus into his heart, what was he to do? “I didn’t tell anyone that I got saved for two weeks.”
The leadup to salvation was a long history of sin and soullessness. Born in Merkel, Texas, population 2,500, into a family of alcohol and crime, Mitchell didn’t see much future for himself as a cattleman. So he shipped out with the Navy straight out of high school.
He got his porn addiction and promiscuity from his stepdads and his drinking from his grandmother, a back-slidden bartender. He was consumed by dirty thoughts, knew how to get into relationships with women but not how to sustain them.
“I got started into that when I was little,” Mitchells says of being exposed to porn at 10. “I didn’t have an understanding or respect for the value of what it costs to have a woman.”
In the Navy, Mitchell completed one tour in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf and spent the rest of his time in Norfolk Naval Shipyard, assisting with maintenance on the nuclear-powered U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier.
That’s where he met Freddie Valero, who had stopped drinking after accepting Jesus and talked to everybody about salvation. Mitchell, who was in charge of the group, mocked him and incited the others to tell dirty jokes and drink. He also would deny Freddie’s request for Sundays off to attend church.
“I was giving Freddie a very hard time as his supervisor,” Mitchell admits. “I was always telling him he was using his religion as a excuse to get out of his work.”
But then Grandma died. Mitchell had spent the last weeks with her in the hospital and watched how cancer consumed her.
A short time later, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers happened.
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.
When Danish street-preacher Torben Sondergaard was arrested by the FBI 19 days ago on suspicion of smuggling arms into America, it was a real head-scratcher.
The zealous founder of The Last Reformation decided to leave Denmark after insistent pressure by authorities and the media. His abuses? Treating mental illness as if it were demon possession, encouraging people to stop taking their meds when healed by God, and home-schooling his daughters.
It was a case study of atheistic entities confronting a faith-filled firebrand, and the non-believers marshaling their forces so unrelentingly that Torben determined his name had been tarnished so badly in Denmark that he needed a clean start and applied for asylum in America.
Has he been smuggling arms from Mexico into America? Christians who have known him and his ministry are shaking their heads in disbelief.
“He doesn’t even know how to shoot a gun,” said Rene Celinder, a staunch ally.
Torben has been in jail since his arrest when authorities shackled him hand and foot like a terrorist. Initially, he was shocked. He had a bout with fear as the guards told him he would spend a long time in prison and then be deported, the fate of virtually all the inmates at ICE’s Baker County Facility in Florida.
Then Torben got a Bible and renewed his spirit with constant reading. Eventually, he got out of solitary confinement.
And he did what Paul did when in jail.
He began evangelizing.
In the latest update from The Last Reformation on YouTube which Jón Bjarnastein read, Torben… Read the rest: Torben Sondergaard in jail.
Friends are expressing dismay that a Danish man who works tirelessly spreading the gospel around the world has been arrested in America over charges of smuggling arms from Mexico into America.
“Today Torben (Søndergaard) is sitting in jail because somebody made a false accusation against him, something that is not true,” says Jón Bjarnastein on a Facebook post on The Last Reformation page. “It’s because he’s preaching the gospel. This is nothing new under the sun. The Bible says that everyone who wants to live a godly life will experience persecution.”
Torben Søndergaard fled Denmark in 2019 after repeated attacks by the government to discredit his street ministry, which riled secularists by casting out demons in public places. If you don’t believe in the supernatural, much less demons, then one might think Torben is a manipulative charlatan. He applied for asylum in America and now is being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I was invited to a meeting with Homeland Security who wanted to talk about my asylum case – a case where I, in Denmark three years ago, was accused of doing many things I had not done, and where I ended up fleeing to America seeking asylum,” he wrote on Facebook. “But then, they suddenly said that the real reason I was there was because they had been notified that I was smuggling weapons from Mexico to America.
“I was in shock.”
The accusation of arms running is strange because the illegal flow of weapons is generally southward, from America to Mexico. America is a manufacturer of arms, not an importer. What America imports illegally from Mexico is drugs, not weapons. CBN says the Department of Homeland Security had no comment on the case.
Doing ministry in Denmark for 18 years, Søndergaard, 45, founded the Last Reformation street evangelism movement with the purpose of restoring Book of Acts-style ministry. His Jesus Center trained disciples from 30 nations to spread the gospel worldwide, CBN reports.
But authorities in secularist Denmark didn’t like him and, starting in 2016, launched investigations from six separate Danish ministries into everything from food safety to unpaid taxes. They found nothing wrong, CBN reports.
The persecution continued when Søndergaard decided to homeschool his daughter. Seeking an abatement from the persecution, Sondergaard re-enrolled her in public school. But the attacks continued… Read the rest: Torben Sondergaard Danish evangelist.
Because his mother died when he was about to turn 12, the Christian rapper known as Mogli the Iceberg rejected the prosperity gospel, this idea that God only wants to bless you and have you live in blissful happiness at all times.
“I’m well aware of the extent of suffering that exists in the world,” Mogli says. “I’ve always been resistant to ideas like the prosperity gospel, when somebody promises that things are all going to be good. Look around the world. Does God not also love people in Afghanistan? Or Haiti?”
Mogli is among the most philosophical, if not depressive, of Christian Hip Hop’s rhymers. Together with nobigdyl, he is founding member of indie tribe collective, along with Jarry Manna, Jon Keith and D.J. Mykael V., putting out some of CHH’s most cutting-edge music.
Born Jacob Hornburgh, the Long Beach native moved with his music-performing parents to rural Tennessee, where he stood out for being Mexican American. He says at his high school, he was one of five Latino kids.
That’s where he got his rap name. Because he was tall, lanky with a scruff of dark hair, kids thought he looked like Mogli from the Jungle Book. To his nickname, he added “iceberg” which rhymes with his last name.
His parents made their living with Christian music, and they encouraged Mogli to develop his tastes and talents. When he was turning 12, his mom died of an unexpected heart attack. It was heartbreaking and sobering to be aware of human mortality at such a young age.
“I never really went super into like I’m mad at God because i just knew that was irrational, but it it does kind of temper other expectations,” Mogli says. “There’s no promise that Read the rest: Mogli the Iceburg
Right there in the back of the patrol car, Robert Michiels slipped out of the handcuffs, unthreaded his shoelace, tied the two laces together, hung them from the coat hook, inserted his head and attempted to hang himself.
“I felt my life slip away.” Robert says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I watched my life flash before me rapid fire in little clips. Everything, from the time I went fishing with my dad and my brother, opening presents on Christmas, climbing up on the roof, riding our bikes, skating in the neighborhood.”
Then a loud voice from Heaven pronounced an imperious command.
So he did.
Instead of committing suicide and ending his drug-addicted misery, Robert Michiels, then 20, went to jail and got saved. Today he is a pastor.
The North Phoenix native was the kid your parents warned you to stay away from. He liked to get into trouble and quickly fell into drugs by age 15.
But after drugs reduced him to homelessness. Not even his mother would receive him that night when he called her in desperation, wanting to get off the streets. Robert doesn’t blame her; he had stolen from her the previous time to support his habit.
At the end of his rope, he formed the plan to commit suicide. But first he would get high one last time.
To scrape money together, he stole a pickup truck so he could resell the tires. They were worth a fortune, but Robert offloaded them for $50 each to a guy who paid cash and didn’t care about their provenance.
But when he was stealing the first one, people shouted and he had to drive off, cursing his luck that he’d only gotten one. As he roared off, a trucker pursued him, talking to the cops as he followed.
Eventually, Robert got cornered. He got out of the pickup and shouted at the trucker: “Don’t be a hero, expletive, expletive, expletive.”
Robert slammed his truck in gear and drove straight at the trailer cab. He slammed into it, leaving it damaged. He drove off.
Then the first police car showed up. Robert drove wildly through the industrial area which had scattered open fields. The first cop car became several and eventually “the whole Phoenix police department,” Robert says.
Robert careened through a muddy field that splattered mud on his windshield. He couldn’t wipe the windshield clean, so he rolled down his side window and leaned out to see where he was going.
He never doubted that he would get away. For the whole 22-minute pursuit, he was smoking his crack pipe.
Then he slammed into a pole. He woke up with the engine pushed into him; he smelled of radiator fluid. He credits his limp, drugged up body for his survival. He gathered himself, pulled himself out of the truck and ran down an embankment, into… Read the rest: The Door Christian Center in San Diego
Only 8 years old, Casey Diaz tried to kill his father by pushing his face into a portable gas heater and turning the gas on. He didn’t stop even when his mom rushed in, horrified.
“Just leave him,” Casey told her. “I’ll take the blame.”
It was Casey’s way of ending the brutal, bloody beatings his drunken father inflicted upon his mother. Though the fratricide was unsuccessful, the anger smoldered and turned Casey into a fearsome gangbanger in South Los Angeles. He stabbed his first victim at age 11. There were many more after.
“It was so easy for me,” he says on a 700 Club video on YouTube. “I put the face of my father on every single one of my victims.”
By age 16, he was locked up for 12 years for one count of second degree murder and 52 counts of armed robbery.
With his proclivity towards violence and aggression — and because of his reputation on the street — Casey ruled the gang in the jail.
He nearly strangled to death a rival and landed in solitary confinement with an “upgrade” to Folsom State Penitentiary from juvenile hall.
That’s where Francis met him. When the chaplain invited him to a monthly Bible study, he responded harshly.
“You’re crazy,” he snarled. “I’m not going to your Bible study. I’m not interested. Do you know who you’re talking to?”
Undaunted and undeterred, Francis responded that she was placing him on her prayer list. She called it her prayer “hit” list, using the underworld’s slang for people… Read the rest: 8-year-old would-be killer
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.
High on Xanax, Scootie Wop, now a Christian rapper, swerved his vehicle into a divider after he fell asleep at the wheel, then crashed into a telephone pole.
“You need to go to church and do something,” his mom told him after he drove home. Somehow, he was able to drive the totaled car home after the horrific accident.
Emmanuel “Scootie” Lofton’s father was a pastor and former Marine. Scootie had an idyllic childhood until his father abandoned the family and left the ministry. That forced his mom, along with Scootie and his siblings, to live out of a 95 Mercedes Benz in South Carolina, according to Rapzilla.
“I felt like I lost a piece of myself. Everything switched. I got exposed to drugs and gang culture and fighting with different people,” he says on HolyCulture.net. “I got put into a gang in the fifth grade, so I hung around a lot of older kids. I started smoking in sixth grade and selling stuff in the seventh grade.”
That’s when 12-year-old Emmanuel started experimenting with drugs and gangbanging.
“My mom was praying for me every morning, every night,” he says. “She was always cooking something in the pot, making the house smell good. I got my love from God from her.”
Emmanuel tried to straighten up by playing football, basketball, track and even kickboxing. Eventually, he focused on football, but a broken leg – fractured in six places – right before college destroyed the dream. The months of recovery saw him drop sports and college.
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.
Despite experiencing terrors of demonic oppression as a child, Apisit “Ide” Viriya didn’t abandon the syncretic Buddhism of his childhood when he began experiencing clinical levels of obsessive-compulsive disorder with anxiety as a college student.
“Buddhism acknowledges suffering in the world,” says the Thai immigrant to America. “But for me it didn’t provide a solution. I fell into a survival mentality.”
Ide was raised in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. Raised in America, Ide was told by his parents to always double-down on the teachings of his family, as 95% of Thais are Buddhist.
So he hung on to Buddhism, even when the animism of his village opened him to demonic influences. His parents didn’t believe him or his brother when they were awakened by terrors or heard voices during the night, so they comforted each other.
“I felt like there were fingers touching my body,” he says on a Delafe video. “I could see two eyes looking down at me.”
At the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Ide first encountered an enthusiastic believer. He felt like she genuinely cared for him, but he was put off by her exclusive attitude, saying that Jesus was the only way to God.
He listened to her as she witnessed to him and even attended church, but he also shared Buddhism with her.
In his early 20s, he began to suffer from depression and OCD, believing that something bad would happen to his mom if he didn’t repeat a phrase a number of times.
“I would keep having to repeat things as a thought in my head until I felt peace,” he says.
He sought help from university student psychological services and got referred off campus because the case was higher level than they could handle.
Thus began years of therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. At the height, he was taking 12 pills a day to calm the irrational fears. He also dove deep into Buddhism, visiting the temple and praying with monks every evening.
Still, he sought solutions that Buddhism couldn’t provide.
While Buddhism teaches the way to peace is by not setting your hopes on the things in this world, it was completely at a loss for aiding with OCD.
Trying to manage his OCD, finish college, and hold down a job, was a daunting task.
Desperate at age 25, he saw a Christian psychologist, who asked if he could pray for him each time. “I was hurting, so lost, I said, that’s fine. I just didn’t care,” he says. Read the rest: Demons in Buddhism
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
The “goon-mobile” or “swagger wagon” – a 1978 Chevy Beauville van that belched out blue smoke from its tailpipe – accompanied Adam Dragoon everywhere he went, from delivering hotdog carts around town in Portland to the party bus in high school.
When he got saved in his later high school years, the Beauville became the church bus, carting people and equipment for outreach and service.
“I learned how to sell hotdogs at 10 years old, slinging the mustard, Hebrew National hotdogs,” Adam says. “I inherited the van, a 1978 Chevy Beauville. It was a tank, one of those half-ton vans. That became my ride, that hunk of junk. It was glorious.”
The hunk of junk is a metaphor for Adam’s life before Jesus: weighted heavily, inefficient, roaring around, wasting resources. The heaviness on his heart started early, when his parents got divorced in Oregon during kindergarten.
“I was upset that Dad was gone and he wasn’t coming back,” Adam remembers on a Testimony Tuesday podcast on Spotify. “That definitely had a profound impact on who I was.”
Then both his grandfathers died when he was 15.
“That hit me real hard,” he acknowledges. “It was the first time I had to deal with death. I got angry at God. My mother’s father knew Jesus, so I was confident he was in Heaven. But my other grandpa was blasphemous and told dirty jokes. One of them was in Heaven, and one of them was not.
“That had a profound effect on me.”
What was a young boy supposed to do but fall in love with a cute blond at a telemarketing firm that he now realizes was a scam?
“I had to take care of the car. I had to pay insurance. I had to put gas in the tank, so I had to have a job,” he remembers of his 16th year. School was less appealing than work: he had a ready mind to learn but an unready hand for homework and barely passed his classes.
Raised in Arizona – “the Promised Land where all the California people who can’t afford California go,” Adam spent summers with his father where Grandfather Dragoon put him to work peddling hotdogs from his deli. He learned a work ethic.
During the summer when he was 14, Adam tried reading the Bible with his other grandfather but didn’t understand because he wasn’t yet born-again; the Holy Spirit was not yet upon him to teach him the meaning of the Scriptures.
“I put some serious effort into it,” he says.
His mom took Adam and his brother to church, one of those megachurches with cushy chairs, AC flooding the room, and a youth group of 800 kids. If you asked him, Adam would have said he was a Christian.
At the same time, there were doubts. Taught in public school, he was filled with a lot of skepticism and atheistic ideas, the fodder of the public school system.
So, when one day he sat next to a glowingly pretty blond at the telemarketing business, Adam was ripe to listen to the Gospel from her. Taya radiated light, the light of Jesus – and she was stunning.
“One day I got brave enough to leave a note on her car: If you ever want to hang out with me, you can call me,’” he remembers. “Amazingly enough, she called me.”
The first conversation ended with him asking her to hang out on the weekend. She responded with: Today’s Wednesday, and I’m going to church. Do you want to go to church with me? Read the rest: Adam Dragoon pastor of Virginia Beach Church
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.
Melanie Washington hugged the young man who killed her son.
“It’s more important to love and forgive than to hold on to the pain and the hurt,” Melanie says on a Long Beach Post video. “I found myself putting my arm around him. I didn’t feel a murderer that killed my son. I felt my son.”
Today Melanie Washington, based in Long Beach, CA, is helping troubled youth make it out of a destructive culture. She herself came out of a childhood that was “pure hell,” she says.
At age 8, she was molested by her stepfather. When “Fred” got on top of her sister Mary, Melanie told her mother, who kicked out the abuser.
He left but showed up the next day with a gun.
“No, Daddy, no,” Mary pleaded.
He shot and killed Mom. He tried to kill Melanie, but the gun jammed.
Shocked and overcome by grief, Melanie, who didn’t know where to turn, blamed herself for her mother’s death.
“I was the one who told my mother that he was doing this,” Melanie explains. “She put him out, and then he came back and killed her the day after Thanksgiving. I went through a life of never forgiving myself for that. I kept telling my mother, I’m sorry.”
Melanie graduated from high school and, falling in love with a handsome young man, married him. After the second month of marriage, he began to beat her.
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 Hispanic congregation’s attempt to launch a Christian private school has been blocked by a Boston-area school board, but the Vida Real Church is fighting for its constitutional rights through two lawyers’ groups, Fox News reported.
First Liberty Institute and the Massachusetts Family Institute say the Somerville Superintendent and the Somerville Public School Committee is violating the U.S. Constitution by denying religious freedom. At issue is the Vida Real’s biblical stance on creationism and homosexuality, which the board contends is “unscientific” and out of line with its values.
“It is illegal and unconstitutional for city officials to question the religious beliefs of Vida Real, let alone use those beliefs to stop the church from opening a school,” Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said in a statement first provided to Fox News Digital. “This is blatant religious discrimination. It’s time for Somerville officials to stop treating Vida Real unfairly and allow it to pursue the opening of a school.”
The skirmish between secular politicians and church leaders shows where the cultural war is being fought currently: on school boards. As secular humanists attempt to impose their version of utopia on America, Christians are trying to stick to the bible.
Vida Real turned in a lengthy application to open “Real Life Learning Center,” but the school board has not granted authorization. Instead, Somerville’s school board committee responded with 35 “hostile” questions about what is intended to be taught, the lawyer’s group says.
“The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible,” the school board says, according to documents. “The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful. … Overall, the school was entirely contrary to the values of SPS and the idea of educating the whole child as being inclusive.”
Creationism is the term for looking for scientific evidence to support the Bible’s account of the world’s beginnings, as opposed to evolution. The discussions of “being inclusive” refers to affirming students with gender dysphoria and same-sex attractions. Christians can affirm individuals while helping them with their harmful thoughts and confusions.
As a first attempt to resolve the conflict, the lawyers’ group has sent a letter to the school board alleging violation of the Constitution, which bans government from interfering with questions of faith. If they are unable to resolve the disagreement through the letter by April 8, a full-fledged lawsuit may be necessary, the lawyers’ group says.
“The hostility displayed by the Somerville Public School Committee is outrageous,” Justin Butterfield, deputy general counsel at First Liberty, said in the statement. “The government cannot ban a religious school because they disagree with its religious beliefs. Doing so violates federal constitutional and statutory law.”
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.
Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain has suffered from Asperger’s and autism throughout his life but hasn’t let that stop him from being an unashamed Christian who stands for his faith in his work to create the Texas Heartbeat Bill, which prohibits abortion after a baby’s heartbeat has been detected in the womb.
“Yes, I mix religion and politics,” he wrote in a tweet.
Cain was recipient of the 2021 Malachi Award, given by Operation Rescue to recognize the person who advanced the cause of protecting the pre-born, for his role in creating the Texas Heartbeat Act.
The 37-year-old is a loving husband and father of five. His first name is in honor of his ancestor, American pioneer, Andrew Briscoe, who fought in the Texas Revolution as a part of the Texan Army and was one of 60 who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836.
Born with Asperger’s and autism, Cain grew up in Deer Park, Texas, raised by his father, a plant operator and his stepmother, an occupational nurse. His mother, a homemaker, taught him the value of hard work and commitment to his community.
“I, along with countless others who experience these challenges brought on by Asperger’s and autism, communicate and express myself in a way that’s different from others,” Cain told Capital Tonight.
He founded the Republican Club at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), the first pro-life law student organization in Texas.
They get persecuted by their government, spurned by their neighbors, thrown out of their houses. Still the Laotian Christians are growing and evangelizing successfully, fomenting one of Asia’s great underground revivals.
Pei, a 52-year-old widow, illustrates what you can expect to suffer in a nation whose communist government promotes atheism and whose animists and Buddhists think you offend local gods by accepting “the God of America.”
When Pei heard the gospel via a salesman, she embraced the message of salvation by faith and forsook the worship of her ancestors. Secretly, she received discipleship for four months.
When she felt strong enough and bold enough, Pei ventured to share her faith with her daughter and son-in-law.
“Both her daughter and son-in-law immediately began to violently criticize her,” a Christian leader told Christian Aid Mission (CAM). “They told her if she did not stop believing Jesus, they would report her to the police, put her in jail or kick her out of the house, because the son-in-law is a policeman.”
Pei remained steadfast in her faith, while her daughter and husband remained steadfast in their anger.
“In June, while they were yelling at her to leave the house, they grabbed all her clothes and threw them out of the house,” the leader said. “They told her to live with her people who shared about Jesus with her. They told her to never return to the house.”
In Laos, the constitution allows for freedom of faith, in theory. But the government, which espouses atheism, has restricted the practice of Christianity. Officials, hearkening back to the sufferings of the Vietnam War they blame on America, see Christianity as a propagandist arm of militaristic capitalism.
The hostility towards Christians is not only practiced by the government. Laotians are mostly Buddhist or animists and see conversion to Christianity as a grave offense against the local gods.
Her husband beat her every time he drank, and Anh become so desperate she was ready to end the hell that was her life, according to a report by Christian Aid Mission (CAM).
When Anh first met her future husband, Ngoc, she saw his charm and swagger and was smitten by love. She didn’t realize that he hung out with buddies who drank, gambled, and smoked opium.
After they married, he often came home inebriated and was physically abusive.
“Every time Ngoc got drunk, he beat his wife.” a local ministry leader told CAM.
One night, she took refuge at a friend’s house. When she returned the next morning, her husband had burned her clothing and her university degree.
In the depths of despair, Ahn fetched a bottle of insecticide was was going to drink it, but her children began tugging at her and crying. For the sake of her children, she didn’t kill herself that day.
Instead, she worked on a plan for someone to care for her kids after she ended her life.
Before she could finish the plan, a Christian missionary knocked on her front door, came in, and presented the Gospel.
Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, she surrendered her life to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
“Everything was changed and renewed,” the ministry leader reported.
Anh invited her husband to receive Christ, but he rebuffed her. “No, never,” he declared.
However, he began to witness changes in his wife because of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
After pleadings from Anh and the children, Ngoc finally acquiesced and attended church. He was received warmly by the congregation and ended up accepting Jesus.
“The Holy Bible is very good,” Ngoc told his wife later that night. “But I can’t understand it. Can you teach me the Holy Bible?”
For four months he learned the Bible, aided by the patient instruction of the missionary. He even got baptized.
Six years after Bashir Sengendo converted to Christianity from Islam, his Muslim family beat him and cut him so severely that he died 12 days later.
Sengendo, 35, of Namutumba, Western Uganda, left a family of four when he passed away in the hospital on Jan. 25th after succumbing to wounds inflicted by his own brother and uncle.
“The family needs a lot of financial, moral and psychological support,” a Kiboga area pastor told Morning Star news, which tracks persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa.
Bashir Sengendo was raised a Muslim and trained to become a mosque leader. But he converted to Christ after he spoke with a former Muslim. Sengendo left his native town and studied at a Uganda Bible college before serving as a pastor in Kiboga for six years.
His immediate family sent messages to him to return home and take care of the farmland that was his portion of the inheritance. Sengendo was reluctant to return because he wanted to continue fulfilling his call to Kiboga.
After six years, Sengendo acceded to his family’s pleas to return home. He had no idea what awaited him.
He arrived Jan. 12th. If he thought the family would receive him warmly, he was badly mistaken. The family was openly hostile.
He was shocked by their cold reception and slept without food.
Early the next morning, his brother and uncle fell on him with violence.
“They beat me badly. They cut me with an object in the head, back and hand,” Sengendo told Morning Star News following the attack, while he hovered between life and death in the hospital. Read the rest: Persecution of Christians around the world.
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.
Stephen almost forgot to give Emily his normal goodbye kiss that morning in a rush before the day’s labors in a dangerous area of northern Africa. But he came back and gave her an extra-long hug. Sadly, it was their last hug together.
“That morning he ended up giving his life for Christ,” Emily says on a 100 Huntley Street video. Stephen, a loved and respected servant of Christ, became a victim of jihadist terror.
Emily first visited the unnamed country on a short-term mission trip. It was five weeks of ministering amidst poverty and hopelessness.
She longed to return to America where she could enjoy a decent cup of joe. The hopelessness attached to Islam was omnipresent in the women’s prison, where ladies were jailed for seemingly minor offenses, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, she says.
After five arduous weeks, Emily waited for the plane to arrive that would whisk her back to America. While she waited, God spoke to her heart: If I called you to this country to serve, would you go?
Emily was more than ready to leave. But God was challenging her to give up much more than she could imagine.
So, after years of praying, Emily and her husband, Stephen, returned to the forlorn desert nation as humanitarian aid workers. To state on the visa application their true calling as ministers of the Gospel would result in a flat denial of entry, so they came in officially as aid workers.
Specifically, they granted microloans to collectives of women to help them launch tiny businesses. Each month, when Stephen collected payment, the people would invite him into their homes with incredible hospitality.
Over tea and milk, they had long talks together. This was customary in their culture, and it afforded Stephen many opportunities to introduce Jesus.
As the years rolled on, Stephen and Emily grew bolder.
“We just did not feel comfortable with being undercover. That would be like putting our light under a bushel,” Emily says. We found creative ways to be who Christ wanted us to be and that is speaking about Christ, his life, his teaching.”
Stephen was growing increasingly bold with proclaiming Jesus. He even began to hand out Bibles and the JESUS Film liberally. Other missionaries grew concerned that he would go too far. Extremist Islam might retaliate.
“Other workers got very nervous,” Emily says. “They felt we had gone a little too far, that it would make us a little too conspicuous. They were fearful for us but also for themselves because they didn’t want to be labeled as proselytizers.”
Their fears proved grounded. One day, Islamic extremists attacked and killed Stephen – who ironically shares the name of the first Christian martyr.
It was the day he went back for an extra-long hug to his wife – his unwitting goodbye.
After Stephen’s death, Emily and the children were escorted by authorities to the other side of the city, where they hid until they could be flown to the States.
Three months after his eldest son died of a drug overdose at 21, TobyMac sang a heart-breaking tribute “21 Years” about the doomed destiny, lost promise, and hope of Heaven.
“‘21 Years’ is a song I never wanted to write,” the artist born Kevin Michael McKeehan told People. “I loved (Truett) with all my heart. Writing this song felt like an honest confession of the questions, pain, anger, doubt, mercy and promise that describes the journey I’m probably only beginning.”
“21 Years” is a dirge with Toby’s signature catchy pop, stylized lyrics and rousing uplift.
Is it just across the Jordan
Or a city in the stars?
Are ya singin’ with the angels?
Are you happy where you are?
Well, until this show is over
And you’ve run into my arms
God has you in Heaven
But I have you in my heart.
Truett died in Nashville of a fentanyl and amphetamine overdose in 2019. Truett had just launched his music career, having resisted emerging as a child star under the tutelage of his famous father.
“Until something in life hits you this hard, you never know how you will handle it,” Toby says. “I am thankful that I have been surrounded by love, starting with God’s and extending to a community near and far that have walked with us and carried us every day.”
Starting with DC Talk in the late 1980s and 90s, Toby has been a Christian music kingpin. He has 20 Billboard chart-topping singles. In addition to being a performer, Toby produces music for his label, Gotee Records.
Being celebrity Christians brings a unique pressure on their children, who get frustrated with the outsized expectations upon them. They might want to be just normal kids with normal experiences and normal failings but are expected to conform to the rigorous standards by outsiders. In 2013, Pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide.
When personal tragedy becomes a public spectacle, the superstar Christian needs to shed his celebrity status and return to his personal relationship with God.
“Part of my process has always been to write about the things I’m going through, but this went to a whole new level,” Toby explains. “What started out as getting some of my thoughts and feelings about losing my firstborn son down on paper, ended up a song. ’21 Years’ is a song I never wanted to write.” Read the rest: how did TobyMac’s son die?
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
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.
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
A gaggle of girls besieged him for his autograph at Great America because they thought he was Lil Bow Wow. Miles Minnick was 14, and that’s how he realized hip hop was his calling.
“If this is the kind of attention rappers get, let me go ahead and start rapping,” he says on a Testimony Stories video. “It was crazy.”
He immediately started free-styling inside the theme park. He rapped at school and won talent contests. He got chances to rap in the booth. Chockful of talent, he got noticed by big name San Francisco Bay area rappers and got invited to collaborate.
Miles’ trajectory moved assuredly toward success. But then he got saved and decided to dedicate his talent to God, and now he is one of the hottest new stars in Christian Hip Hop (CHH).
Miles Minnick grew up in Pittsburg, CA, with a polar opposite older brother, who “killed it” in athletics while Miles killed it in video games. In middle school he sported dyed-tip dreads and gold teeth.
His father prayed nightly with his sons but drove them to school in the morning with gangsta rap blaring: “F— the police!”
“When I was 8 or 9, we would go to church maybe once a month,” he remembers.
When Miles turned 12, his brother went to a church camp and came home on fire for God.
“My brother would chip away at me and chip away at me all the time. He would say, ‘Don’t do this? Why you do this?’ He would try to coach me in the correct way,” Miles recounts. “But I was still in the streets.”
He got a girl pregnant when he was 15, and he and his girlfriend brought the baby to class. The teacher often held the infant while teaching at the board.
“We were the school sweethearts. Everybody wanted to support us. Even though I was a knucklehead,” he admits. “I was trying to be a good dad, and I was a kid myself. The streets wouldn’t let me go.”
At age 16, Miles had his encounter with Christ. Ironically, it came when he was selling and smoking weed.
“I was a pothead,” he admits.
As he was getting high one day, a friend blurted out: “Hey bro, we should go to church!”
“Go to church? Right now?” he asked his buddy, who was also smoking marijuana. “We are high like nobody’s business. What are you talking about?”
The friend responded that there were pretty girls at the youth group. “I didn’t want to go, but they drug (sic) in there,” he says.
But youth group was closed, so they went into the main service at New Birth Church, Pittsburg.
“I was the one who didn’t want to go, but I wound up sitting on the edge of my seat, reading the songs off the projector, singing the songs,” he remembers. “It captivated me. I was feeling something I never felt before. I was fresh off the street, fresh off a smoking session. At the end of the service, the pastor pulled an altar call. I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew I wanted it. I went up to the front, and the pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me, and I fell out under the Spirit of God.
“I was on the ground weeping, crying my eyes out,” he adds. Read the rest: Miles Minnick
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.
Two years ago, Heidy Hutchinson misbehaved in school and, looking for a fresh start, transferred to Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.
On Wednesday, Heidy led the 2nd-string team to a 1st-rate victory against beginner’s team Summit View School to notch-up LCA’s record to 6-1.
“Me and my brother went to public school, we got in trouble, we had to come here,” Heidy says. “We kind of became better people and grew in school. I learned more about God. I got closer to God, and that’s it.”
The sidelines erupted in wild cheers for Heidy as serve after serve — underhanded serves — went over the net and — excuse the pun — netted points for LCA.
They weren’t cheering for Lighthouse, which was unyieldingly driving Summit into the depths. They were cheering strictly for Heidy. She’s come a long way. (Link to an article on Heidy from 2019.)
“I’m not really a sports person. I’m not very athletic,” Heidy says. “I didn’t really want to play volleyball, but Sarah (Montez) and Lakin (Wilson) pushed me to play. They begged me to. I’m really thankful they did because I wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t.”
Lighthouse is NOT a reform school. But they say God can re-form anyone who has taken missteps down the wrong path.
When Heidy scored the last point, players on the bench mobbed her, high-fiving and hugging.
“She got the last winning serve!” Sarah said. “She’s the team captain.”
Arynn never thought she would end up in a mental institution, but after she became thrilled with cutting herself, that’s where she was taken.
“The minute I saw the blood it was like I was hooked,” Arynn explains to 700 Club Interactive. “It was like this dopamine hit and in a really twisted way I’d almost rewarded myself with self-harming.”
Arynn was turned off by Christians.
“I always thought of Christians as these really emphatic people who wanted you to turn away from anything that was fun,” she says.
So, the minute she turned 18 and was able to go to parties, she began drinking.
“I just had fun with it and then a long pattern of, you know, thinking that I could just keep doing it and it would never catch up to me,” she says.
As a 19-year-old sophomore in a Christian college, she began taking shots of tequila at 8 a.m.
She didn’t realize she had become an alcoholic.
Almost imperceptibly, the “fun” evolved into depression. This led to self-harm.
“As the alcoholism progressed, the urge to self-harm got so much stronger,” Arynn says. “I felt too like even if God loves me he’s not gonna want to associate too much with me because look at where I’ve ended up.”
Death became her daily meditation and cutting became an obsession.
“I remember one night I decided I just have to try at least one time and so I remember taking the razor, slitting my wrist and nothing happened so I just kept going,” she says. “Finally, I’m surrounded by blood, but I’m not bleeding out.”
Adam Gunton hung up on his buddy when he called at 4:47 a.m.
“Why are you calling me this late?” he snapped.
“I was just calling to say hi,” Chuck responded, timidly.
“Don’t call me this late again!” Adam, a freshman in college in 2008, barked and slammed the phone down.
That’s the point when Adam’s partying changed and he became a hopeless addict.
“Before that moment I was using drugs and alcohol to party and have fun,” he says on a Logan Mayberry video. “But after that I was consciously using drugs to mask the way I feel, mask my emotions, mask my thoughts and cope with life around me. I bottled it down deeper and deeper with drugs and alcohol.”
As a result of his addiction, his weight dwindled down to 147 pounds from 210.
Adam grew up in Littleton, Colorado. He played football and wrestled at Columbine High School, which gained notoriety through tragedy. Mostly, he was able to hide his drug habit. He started drinking at age 11, after someone shared cocaine and weed with him.
“Throughout my high school career, I just thought it was fun,” he says. “I had no idea that it was going to lead me to a homeless shelter and not being able to stop the worst drugs on the planet 10 years later.”
On Nov. 6, 2015, Adam took a heroin hit that initially he thought was bunk. He got in his car and drove off. Cops found him in his car on the side of the road OD’d. Three months later, the body cam video was shown in court and he was charged with felony drug possession.
“Even that moment and those experiences weren’t enough to get me clean and sober,” he remarks.
He worked for Direct TV and became a top salesperson regardless of his drug abuse. At his desk, he had his computer and a drawer full of drugs.
One day, alone in his bedroom, he cried out to a God he didn’t know.
Chloe fell in love with and married Jason Ivey. It’s a heart-warming and romantic story. There’s just one notable piece of information to add. Both spouses are developmentally disabled.
Chloe has Down Syndrome. Jason has autism, ADD and bipolar disorder.
“People with autism want to feel important; they want to feel needed. Honestly, it’s magical. That’s how I actually feel,” Jason said in an interview with Special Books for Special Kids, a YouTube channel that promotes understanding of people with disabilities. “Yeah, there’s ups and downs. But I’m telling you Chloe is such a perfect wife. And even when I’m down she lifts me right back up and makes me so happy.”
To see Chloe and Jason talk about marriage and how God brought them together is a moving reminder that God has not made anyone inferior. People with special needs have much to teach others about happiness and simplicity in a world that seems overly complicated to many.
“I feel like I’m hit with a love bug. Sometimes I would say, ‘Thank You, God, for everything, all the positive things,” Chloe says. “I feel like I want to cry. I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
The love oozes from the video. “She is like drop-dead gorgeous,” Jason says. “I was worried, like, ‘Lord, I am way marrying out of my league.’ My goodness! Look at this beauty!”
But their fairytale story also raises unsettling questions the video doesn’t address: Would they have children? Would their offspring be more prone to being born with a disability? Who would care for the children?
“Sometimes I think in my mind ‘I want a baby so bad,’” Chloe says. She has a realistic doll that she treats as her baby. “This is Giselle. She represents what we want for the future.”
Both Chloe and Jason recognize their limitations. They say they are 80% independent, which means that 20% of their adult responsibilities are handled by care-givers, often family members.
In a world where abortion is pressed on parents when an ultrasound reveals a potential disability, in a world where government imposes decisions on private citizens in the name of the common good, some questions linger:
The beaches of Venice are mostly free of tents and people sleeping outside as lots of homeless have been given either bus tickets or housing in cheap hotels, says advocate Mike Ashman.
But meth laced with fentanyl is killing addicts at a quick clip, and getting a roof over their head is only part of the solution, says the man who’s become a fixture now in Venice handing out free food to the needy.
“People are taking methamphetamines cut with fentanyl, and it’s just nasty,” Mike told Patch. “It’s really cooking their brains. They’re walking zombies. They can’t string together a sentence.”
A month ago, Mike greeted one of his regulars, who stared back oddly without saying a word. Mike, who’s used to dealing with addicts, figured the guy would sleep it off. Instead, he watched police putting him, first with convulsions, on a stretcher just hours later via YouTube live stream.
“His body went completely limp. I swore he was dead,” Mike said but saw him again a week-and-a-half later and gave him a big bear hug.
The man considered himself to be lucky: “I’m so mad at myself for doing that stuff,” he reportedly told Mike, who’s been in Venice for three years with his non profit You Matter. “I lived through that one.”
But Mike hasn’t seen the man since. “I’m hoping he’s got some help,” Mike adds.
By Mike’s tally, a homeless person dies every week from overdose. He gets the news from his regulars who come and tell him about so-and-so found dead in a bathroom or on a street, he says.
The Philippine military was supposed to rescue hostage Martin Burnham. Instead, they shot him.
“I was immediately shot in the leg,” says Gracia Burnham, his wife, on a Huntley 100 video. “Martin was shot as well and just lay there. I could tell that gunshot wounds to the chest don’t heal. He was just kind of breathing loudly. Then he got very still.”
For a year, the Philippine military was pursuing the missionary couple’s kidnappers, the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels, through the sweltering jungles of the Philippines. They were aided by a tracking device sewn into a backpack that the CIA had managed to pass on to the squad’s leader.
Missionaries for 17 years, Gracia and Martin Burnham were on Palawan Island when M16-touting rebels, seeking a ransom to fund their guerilla war, broke down their door and pulled husband and wife out on May 11, 2001.
They were spirited away on a speed boat and taken to the jungles where they joined other hostages. For a year, the rebels dragged them over hills and through rivers, constantly on the move to avoid capture, in jungles filled with snakes, spiders and disease-bearing mosquitos.
Sometimes they ate; sometimes they went days at a time without eating. The Muslim militants forced Gracia to wear a hijab in observance of ancient Islamic customs. The jihadists prayed five times a day. On some days, they stayed hidden with no movement, leaving the missionaries bored. Other days they walked endlessly, always on the run. They collapsed exhausted at night.
As the ordeal dragged on, Gracia struggled with why God had permitted the trial.
“How long do you think this will last?” Gracia asked her husband.
Martin remembered certain European hostages that were rescued after six weeks.
Gracia fixated on “six weeks,” and unconsciously made it a timeline for God to rescue them.
When six weeks passed with no sign of rescue, she despaired and began to doubt God — not His existence or the terms of salvation but if He indeed cared for her and loved her.
After all, He hadn’t responded.
And that’s how an internal conflict erupted in the context of the greater conflict of the rebel war.
Inside her heart, there was a battle of faith.
Martin, the aviator missionary, encouraged his wife not to lose faith even in the most trying circumstances.
“You either believe all of it or you believe none of it,” he gently challenged her.
From then on, the couple encouraged each other with remembrances of verses from the Bible that stirred faith.
Added to the trial of faith about the goodness of God, Gracia observed that a weariness of the jungle grated her. During the day, they were either bored unendingly as the hid or were exhausted from trudging forward to evade being discovered by the Philippine military.
The night was filled with dangerous predators and sounds that filled the darkness. She wished for daylight to arrive.
But days were filled with heat, humidity, marching or hunkering down. Then she wished for nightfall.
“I felt like I was wishing my life away,” Gracia says.
One of the other hostages was beheaded, perhaps to speed up the hoped-for ransom money.
After a wearisome, worrisome year on the run during their captivity, Gracia eventually lost all hope and said her goodbyes to her husband on June 7, 2002.
He gently reminded her to keep faith alive. But it was a good thing she said her goodbyes.
As a Christian, Judy serves God by being a foster parent to dogs. Some even come from China, allegedly having escaped the dog meat trade.
“God made all creatures,” Judy told God Reports. “I think He would not want a dog to suffer. If we didn’t have foster parents, the dog would be put in a shelter. Most of the shelters are kill shelters.” (“Kill shelters” euthanize if the stray is not adopted within a certain number of weeks.)
If you have never heard of a foster parent for dogs, you are not alone. The concept is similar: you care for the dog until it gets adopted. The foundation pays for the food and veterinary visits. Some foster parents care for four dogs at a time.
Judy, 69, has had Lollipop, Marshmallow, Bandit and Doreen. Two were Chihuahuas. Well-behaved Chihuahuas. She brings them to church, which conveniently meets outdoors in a park.
Sometimes, they come shaking and traumatized by abuse or neglect. They are dropped off from cars on the road. They are abandoned in fields. They are flea-infested from ill-kept hoarders. They even come from abroad, at great expense for transportation.
Rescue workers will drive hours to pick up a dog.
“I love dogs. They really relax me. They’re fun. They’re amazing,” Judy says. “The love of dogs has to do with being able to love. If you love God and know that God is real, then you know that God created animals.”
Judy didn’t grow up in a church-going home but found God in her early 30s through some Christian friends and through reading the Bible.
“I had some Christian friends and it just felt right. It was a calling to me. Christianity is something that is necessary,” Judy says. “The thing I admire about Christians is their family; they have really good family. The kids are well-mannered. They don’t swear. They’re so connected. It is such a beautiful thing.”
Athing Mu was just fooling around with her older brother, who was part of the Trenton Track Club. She was running — outrunning the bigger kids — when the coach saw her and confronted her later when she was seated on the bleachers.
“Who is this girl? I want her on my team,” the coach said.
That was the start of an incredibly “God-gifted” girl who just won the first gold medal for the U.S. in the women’s 800 meters in 53 years. The 19-year-old freshman records-breaker from Texas A&M charged to the front of the pack from the very beginning and stayed there almost unchallenged, graceful and calm, with a powerful pace throughout.
Athing Mu (pronounced Uh-THING Moe), now 19, is lucky to be in America. Her parents fled South Sudan and made their residence in Trenton, New Jersey. She’s the second youngest of seven siblings. She got involved in track and also discovered what it means to run with Jesus.
“As a follower of Christ, our main goal is to live in the image of Jesus in order to connect to God and ‘get to’ God,” the 5’10” runner says on The Battalion. “I believe when God is ready to give you blessings, He gives it to you with all intentions. In this case, ‘keeping one at the top, never at the bottom.’”
She’s referring to Deut. 28:13: The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Read the rest: Athing Mu Christian
About once a week, one homeless man or woman dies in Venice, CA.
That’s Michael Ashman’s tally. At least three times a week, Ashman hands out free food, clothes, and Bibles at Muscle Beach, which is often filled with tourists and eclectic street performers.
This area – until recently cleaned up by Sheriff’s deputies – has been thronged with homeless and criminals.
“When people say we have a ‘homeless problem’, that tells me they don’t have a clue; it’s a human problem, not a homelessness problem,” Ashman, 57, told God Reports. “There are all kinds of reasons people are homeless. Then you throw alcohol and drugs into the mix. But Jesus is the answer. He’s the One who’s going to heal their minds and set them free.”
For three years, Michael has ministered to the homeless. Arguably, homeless ministry is prone to burnout because positive results are few and far between, while death and destruction abound. The homeless, he says, have zero self-control and consequently get devastated by addiction, violence and disease.
“Every now and then, someone comes by and says, ‘Do you remember me? You fed me. You helped me,’” Michael says.
One such was Ivan, who once slept on the beach because of Southern California’s year-round temperate climate. One day he arrived cleaned-up and smiling. He had a small place and two jobs. The day he greeted Ashman, he was handing out clothes to his street friends, paying forward the favors.
Native to Southern California, Ashman got to know Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade at age 15. He got off drugs and was attending church but was “too young and not very involved,” he says.
In 1996, he got married and had kids but walked away from church and lost his marriage. He didn’t immediately come back to church because guilt coiled in his heart like a snake.
“I’d gone too far,” he explains. “I looked in the mirror every day and said, ‘God, what am I doing? I’m killing myself.’”
On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Ashman returned to church after “my life pretty much fell apart.”
He sat in the back and wept. He kept going to church “and wept every service for quite a while,” he says. “God was fixing me.”
Eventually, he launched his ministry, a 501c3 titled “You Matter.” He wears “You Matter” T-shirts on outreach, and it’s a good message to people that society has cast aside, fears and finds revolting.
“I just felt like this is what God wanted me to do,” Ashman says. “It was so powerful in me. It was beyond passionate, it was a driving force. I couldn’t not do it. I feel Jesus in me, and He loves people through me.”
For most of his life, Ashman worked as a contractor and a phone and computer communications installer, but as his non-profit has taken off, he’s neglected his business and given himself more and more to ministry.
While politicians promote social theories for dealing with the homeless, Ashman says only Jesus can truly change them.
Recently, the L.A. Sheriff ignited a spat with the mayor’s office by publicly accusing politicians of being incompetent and making an incursion into Venice to get the homeless off the streets. As a result, fewer homeless are coming to Ashman’s ministry. He fears that… Read the rest: homeless in Venice