Derek Rabelo wanted to surf one of the most exciting and dangerous waves on the planet: Pipeline, on Oahu’s legendary North Shore. The only problem was he was blind.
“When you’ve been surfing for 30 years and you know what you’re doing and you can see, you can die” at Pipeline, according to Laird Hamilton, a pioneer of big wave surfing.
But Derek, who was born with congenital glaucoma that rendered him blind, wanted to surf, despite not being able to see. He believed his faith in God would carry him where others failed.
“Humble yourself and ask God for help in the challenges,” Derek told a church audience on a Grove Baptist Church video, explaining his undaunted determination to surf Pipeline.
Three surgeries failed to give Derek sight from his congenital glaucoma. Born to a surfer in Guarapari, Brazil, Derek had trouble enough making his way through school, where he was bullied, and getting around the city by himself. Life by itself was already a formidable challenge. Why try the impossible?
But Derek felt a strange magnetism in the ocean next to which his town was built. The feeling of the sand and water, the warmth of the sun, the pounding sound of the waves exerted a sort of mystical gravity.
“I lived near the beach, and I was obsessed with the sound of the waves. I could hear the waves from my bedroom window,” he said on a Jeunesse VIP Leader video. “I had the dream to surf. I wanted to surf more than anything.”
A local surf school coach agreed to help him learn, but his parents felt some serious misgivings.
“On a beautiful day, Derek came to me and told me he was going to surf,” his mother, Lia Nascimiento, says. “I said, ‘No, Derek, no. Are you crazy? How?”
Derek had already signed himself up for the surfing class.
Ernesto Rabelo, his father who named him after famous Hawaiian surf champion Derek Ho, shared his mother’s concern but kept quiet.
“I didn’t like the idea” of him surfing,” Ernesto says. “But I didn’t interfere.”
The local surf instructor, Fabio “Maru” Castor, was the only one on board. He devised a system by which Derek could pay attention to the sound of the water and feel the movement of the water to calculate when to start, when to drop and when to cut.
“I listen to the ocean and feel it,” Derek said. “And every single part of a wave makes different noises. So, I can decide which side of the wave I should surf towards. If you have a dream, you have to believe in yourself. Otherwise, you cannot do it. I believe all of us have strong senses given by God. Use them with passion and perseverance.”
Initially, Derek struggled with the bigger waves and grew discouraged, even to the point of wanting to quit. But he persevered and eventually gained a footing with 8-foot waves.
But could he dare to dream of the massive hollow tubes that break like thunder at the North Shore? He trained intensely for three years. Naysayers abounded. The infamous North Shore broke surfboards and surfer bodies of the best seeing-eyed surfers.
“Pipeline is one the most challenging spots in the world,” says three-time world champion Tom Curren.
To combat depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, Eden Frenkel delved into personal development, self actualization, Buddhism, meditation, Hinduism and the mystical interpretation within Judaism known as Kabbalah.
“To be honest, I enjoyed the process of studying those cultures, but they were very temporary fulfillments,” the Jewish born singer says on her YouTube channel, Graves into Gardens. “I constantly needed to go back and search for more. They didn’t fill the emptiness. I was looking for peace and happiness.”
As a 12-year-old in the synagogue, she stayed before the ark and prayed longingly to God after everyone had left and gone to eat.
“God, I know there is something,” she uttered. “I don’t understand. I feel like there is something between us.”
Eden had a proclivity for music but joined the Canadian Army as a career. In addition to seeking peace from religion, she sought peace from psychedelics. She had suffered some abuse as a child, she says, and sought in vain to resolve the trauma.
When she got stationed in Toronto, she met some Christian women who were extremely friendly and they invited her to study the Bible. Why not? she thought, since she had studied so many other religions.
What she found out about Jesus startled her.
“All I knew growing up was he was a man who did miracles. In the beginning, I didn’t really take it seriously,” she says. “But after getting to know who Jesus was and what He did and what he claimed to be and what he wanted for his people, it was incredible.
George Rose’s grandma clashed with his mom while the 5-year-old was listening.
“Cookie, what are you bringing these men home for?” she said.
“Shut up, Mom, I’m a grown woman,” Mom snapped.
“You’re a MARRIED woman,” Grandma answered. “You have no business bringing these men home.
When Dad got home, he packed their belongings and drove George and his little sister to the shelter where he dumped them off.
Mom was too busy with other men to visit. Months later, George and his sister returned to Mom, but her current lover said: “Get these kids out of her. Either they go or I go.”
A co-worker of Mom took the kids in and raised them. “You want my kids, Rose?” Mom asked her. “I’ve got no use for them.”
Rose and her husband became the adopted parents. That was George’s upbringing in Rochester, New York, during the 50s. Rose was a Sunday School superintendent in the Presbyterian church who read her Bible regularly.
One day, she stumbled across the verse, “Except you repent, you shall also perish.” Tears streamed down her face. She became born-again and immediately started incorporating a vibrant understanding of the Word into her teaching. This rankled the religious elders of the liturgical church.
“We don’t need your slaughterhouse religion here,” they told her. She got fired from the superintendent position. They found a new church.
A sufferer of migraines, Rose consumed half a bottle of Aspirins until God healed her at a Pentecostal church. The preacher prophesied from the pulpit: “There’s a woman visiting for the first time. You suffer from migraines. In fact, you told God that if he didn’t heal you within the week, you’d take your life.”
God moves mountains and U.S. Navy ships, just ask Rocky Colona.
Growing up in St. Louis under remarried parents, Rocky, half Sicilian, had one half-brother and three half-sisters. Because his dad was excommunicated from the Catholic church for his divorce, Rocky attended church sporadically.
He was a straight-A student who got into a lot of trouble in the public school (he started drinking at 13), so his parents moved him to an expensive private Catholic school, a strategy that didn’t help much. He graduated early because of some shameful things he told a teacher with cancer.
“They passed me a year early because I was so bad,” Rocky says on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I said some things to her that I was just in a bad state in life.”
At the University of Missouri-St Louis, he drank his way to failing grades and decided to drop out and join the Navy, at the urging of a fellow sporty friend, with the aim of becoming a SEAL.
He never became a SEAL because he fell in love and married a woman named Ingrid in the Presidential Honor Guard. He viewed the Honor Guard as a stepping stone to his goal. Ultimately, he abandoned the SEAL dream at the warning of his friend.
“All these (SEALs) guys are divorced,” Joe told him. “I don’t know if this is going to be good for you.”
As a secondary plan, Rocky wanted to work his way into the CIA, FBI, or Secret Service. At the top of his class in A school, he got his pick of ships and opted for the Kearsarge, which wasn’t to deploy for 1 ½ years — after he planned to leave the Navy.
But when he reported for duty Jan. 6, 2002, he was hit with shocking news. They would leave on an unscheduled deployment in three days. At the time, President Bush was accusing Iraq of secretly building weapons of mass destruction, and the Navy was getting into position for possible action. His wife was stationed on the USS Eisenhower, so they were apart.
“We literally didn’t see land for the entire 6 ½ months except for two days,” Rocky remembers. “I got really depressed. Eating habits went away. I stopped working out.”
So, he did something he never had done. He prayed a non-ritualistic prayer, a sincere heartfelt plea: “God, if you can get me home for the 4th of July, I’ll quit drinking, I’ll quit smoking, I’ll live like a priest,” he implored. “That’s what I thought God wanted.”
The next day, the amphibious assault ship’s chief petty officer announced over the public address system: “Somebody else took our spot, and we’re going to head home. We’re going to be home on the 3rd of July.”
Rocky went up to the deck, threw his cigarettes and chewing tobacco overboard and marveled how God had moved an entire ship due to his tiny prayer. He didn’t know the scripture about the mustard seed of faith yet.
He promised to nix his vices, a pledge he wasn’t able to keep.
His dad was The Lawrence Welk Show classical jazz pianist, his mom a concert pianist, but David Smale (rhymes with snail) wanted to play heavy metal.
“Wouldn’t you just love for your daughter to date the singer of ‘Cranial Abortion’?” Dave jokes on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. They played backyard parties, prompting cops to come and shut it down, until they debuted at a club along with Incubus.
With rock ‘n’ roll, came drugs and sex. He smoked cigarettes at 13, smoked weed at 14 and dropped acid by 15.
In the Los Angeles Unified School system, Dave attended middle and high school with Latinos and African Americans who were bused into the San Fernando Valley as part of integration policies.
“We got bullied a lot. We were just these little heavy metal-loving white kids,” he says. “One time this guy said he was going to do a drive-by shooting on us the next day. Because of that, I noticed in my house it was ok for me to express racist things. My dad and my brother would say the N-word and other racial slurs.”
Later he joined a punk rock band “Uneducated,” until his party girl got pregnant and he took up delivering fast food and telemarketing as a high school dropout to put food on the table for his baby and the girl whom he married at 18.
“I remember times stumbling around drunk and high, and all of a sudden, the baby starts crying,” says he, and thought: “I don’t know if I can change his diaper right now. I might put it on his head.”
“It was just awful,” he says. “I was partying and my baby was right there. It was not good.”
Five weeks after his first baby was born by C-section, his wife got pregnant, and the nurse at urged her to abort: “You’re going to die,” she said.
Leaving the women’s health care center, Dave and his wife felt an eerie sensation. “Did you feel like we just murdered somebody?” she asked. “Yeah, I do,” he responded.
Unable to make ends meet, he eventually decided to join the Navy with hopes of learning a trade. “That was my only way forward,” he says. “I was going nowhere. I was lost in dead-end stuff.”
At 20, Dave looked for a new beginning in the Navy, but the same old addictions and racism didn’t let him get that new start.
“I could wear a uniform, I could stand up taller, I could march in a straight line,” he says. “But I was still fighting addiction.”
Stationed a Point Mugu, California, Dave and his wife got invited to a Baptist church. She was gung-ho, he was blasé.
Dave went anyhow, and the sermon made sense. So, he accepted Jesus into his heart on April 1, 1999 and was born again.
“When I raised my head, everything was different,” he says. “My entire perspective changed in a moment. There was no going back. The cursing went away immediately, the addictions were all gone, the racism was gone. I didn’t hate all the guys in the Navy from different races and ethnicities. I loved these guys who didn’t look like me, but I saw them as God saw me. It blew my mind.”
His wife was pregnant with twins when he got deployed for six months. He kept pursuing Jesus the whole time, but when he came home, he realized his wife had given up on God and church.
“The laundry was piled to the ceiling. Checks had bounced,” he says. “There was no food in the house.”
He coaxed her to return to church with him, but she persisted in the party life.
For months, he tried to win her over, but she left him when he got orders to Virginia Beach.
Stung by the abandonment, Dave decided to backslide. He went straight to the oceanfront and ogled every girl in a bikini.
“At that point, I was so mad, so bitter, so upset, I completely decided to backslide,” he acknowledges. “I was on the warpath to find me a girl and do something that I would have totally regretted.”
To get to some of the most remote Liberian villages, a native missionary walks seven hours through the jungle.
“Sometimes we encounter mosquitoes, snakes or lions, among other animals,” the unnamed missionary told Christian Aid Mission (CAM). “We get sick. Idol worshippers sometimes threaten us, saying that if we don’t leave their village, they will kill us.
“We have to contend with all of that relying on God, the author and finisher of our faith.”
His willingness to endure hardship to bring the gospel to the unreached shows the value of “native missionaries” – locals who carry out the Great Commission to their nation. As a general rule, they are willing to suffer more than foreign missionaries and have the capacity to reach more people.
“In some places we go, there is nowhere to sleep; we just lie on the dirt floor,” says the unnamed ministry leader. “There may be no good, safe drinking water or light. When the battery in the flashlight I carry is finished, there’s nowhere to get additional light at all. There are no shops or stores in the jungle.”
In Liberia, 43% of the population follows an ethnic religion. About 40% are Christian, 12% of which is evangelical. Islam holds 12%.
But the labors of native missionaries are improving those statistics. Within a recent six-month period, the missionary and team led 270 people to confess their belief in Christ, the report says.
One recent convert formerly had lived like a prodigal. As a young girl, she wasted most of her life abusing drugs, alcohol and smoking.
“When I shared the gospel with her, I told her the story of the two sons in Luke 15, then I told her, if you will only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive you, He will. Without hesitation, she immediately accepted the Lord Jesus, and she was baptized and is serving in the church as an usher, doing it with joy.”
How do the local missionaries make inroads into remote villages that are resistant to the Gospel? Sometimes, by farming… Read the rest: Missions in Liberia.
After years of being vague about his past sins, Pastor Jason Glasscock finally spoke clearly from the pulpit about the time he cheated on his wife. His vulnerability saved a marriage.
“I would always say, ‘When I messed up.’ I would never give the details,” Jason says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “But a couple years ago, I preached at a Harvester’s (Bible conference) and said it. Right after, this couple comes up and they’re going through it. We talked about it. They’re still in the church today. It really helped them.”
Jason’s story shows how being real in church can help others who are struggling. Christian forgiveness, healing and restoration contrasts with the world’s options of having an “open marriage,” getting revenge, getting a divorce or going off the deep end with perversion.
The anatomy of adultery, for Jason, started not with physical attraction but with pride. A young female Navy sailor flattered Jason because he was good at his job. Meanwhile, he felt useless at home.
“Pride was the root,” he says. “This girl stroked my ego. My wife didn’t understand my job. When you come home and bills aren’t paid, you don’t feel significant. You feel irrelevant. The devil knows how to stroke your ego. It’s pride that led up to that.”
Forgiveness is the answer, but it doesn’t make it easy or wipe away the wounds to marital infidelity. The sequels to unfaithfulness are lingering suspicion and lack of trust. Once, his wife drove by a business with the same name as the girl, and it triggered painful memories. Jason and his wife have had to work through the issue for years.
Jason Glasscock grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, to teenage parents. Dad joined the Navy and they moved up to Norfolk, but he passed away when Jason was four years old. The other men Mom had were unfaithful to her, and none of them adopted Jason. They moved back to Florida to a small town called Lake City.
In high school, Jason liked football and sports but also “nerdy” games like Dungeons & Dragons. Due to laziness, he barely graduated high school. “Homework didn’t go in my vocabulary,” he quips. “The only reason I graduated is because the teachers gave me grace because I had signed up for the military.”
In the Navy, Jason’s first assignment was with the presidential honor guard as a colors bearer. Carrying the flag, he participated in more than 1,000 funerals and went to George Bush’s presidential inauguration.
“It was fun and interesting,” he says. “But it wasn’t the best place for a young man because it was treated like a college dorm. There was a lot of alcohol. You weren’t supposed to have it, but we did. There was a lot of underage drinking and fooling around with women.”
FAISALABAD, Pakistan — Kids as young as 2 years old are working in the brick-making fields of Pakistan. One man with a free school wants to change that.
Sarfraz Anwar’s father and brother started in the brick fields. To make bricks, they squat and grab a ball of moist clay-rich earth. They form it into a loaf, cover it with dry dust, and plop it into a mould. It is turned over and dropped onto the ground in long rows to bake under the blistering sun.
It’s a grueling job, and most who fall into this line of work never get out. Some get indebted to their employees when they borrow for their weddings (Pakistanis love 3-day ceremonies with much expenses). They spend the next decades of their life trying to pay off that debt, much like a student loan in America — only they become almost like slaves.
But Dad and Umar escaped the fields. They had a vision to work as Christian laborers. First Dad took at a double shift in security to raise money to launch a school for children that could be free. With whatever free time, he pedaled his bike to the brick fields and sprend the message of hope. Read the rest:
From Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Christina Baker’s stepdad sent her with a one-way ticket to Maui, where reportedly her biological dad lived.
After waiting six hours to be picked up at the airport, Dad finally showed up.
“This is crazy that you’re here,” he told her as they drove from the airport. “I need to tell you something. I’m homeless and I’m living in a tent on the beach.”
That is how Christina’s life flowed into uncharted waters.
The bedlam began when her parents divorced. Mom flew straight to Bolivia. To the ache of not having her father, add the confusion of culture shock and language barriers.
“When my parents divorced, it really set me over the edge,” Christina said on a 100 Huntley Street video interview. “I was just drawn to the darkness because I felt that way inside.”
Christina took refuge in the Goth lifestyle with its emo depression.
“My life was totally spinning out of control,” she says. “He basically told me that I needed to leave his home.”
Underage drinking and clubbing caused her to run afoul of her stepdad, who sent her to Hawaii. Maybe he thought she would do better with her biological father, but he was in no place to help his daughter. He had been an oil executive, but drugs drove him to homelessness.
Christina lived with Dad homeless on the beach for some time.
Then she went from house to house sleeping on the couches of friends. She got in touch with her brother, who hooked her up with a local church.
That’s when she landed in the foster care system with Sharon Hess, who gave her a warm welcome and a warm bed at her home in 2001,
“We have two rules. Your curfew is 11:00 p.m. and you need to go to church with us,” Foster Mom told her.
“I just wanted a warm bed to sleep in at that point,” Christina remembers. “I looked around. I’m like, ‘I’m an atheist; I don’t believe in God.’ But I knew that if I wanted that warm bed and somewhere to stay that I needed to go to church with them.”
Sharon and the rest of the family didn’t judge her Goth clothes and makeup. They even let her wear all black to church. Little by little, the Word of God was planted in her heart, after three years in foster care.
“This woman loved me just the way I was,” Christina recalls. “She wasn’t trying to change the way I looked.”
After those three years, she moved to Houston, Texas, where she relapsed into drugs and soon found herself pregnant. She planned on an abortion when her drug dealer’s girlfriend showed her a report that the abortion doctor was being sued by the State of Texas because a 15-year-old patient died in his abortion chair.
“She pulled me and she said, ‘I know you don’t believe in God, but I’m begging you not to kill this child,” Christina remembers.
“His grace met me in my darkest moment. His grace met me in a moment where I didn’t believe.”
Christina became a functional drug addict. She worked and took care of Ethan, her newborn, and did drugs when nobody was watching. That worked for some time, until she got pulled over by police.
While she was awaiting trial on bail, a co-worker invited her to a Bible study. At the meeting, a man named Hillroy gave her a “word of knowledge,” a supernatural revelation about her present state of mind.
“What he didn’t know and what stunned me at that moment was that he didn’t know I was contemplating how to take my life that night,” Christina remembered. She still didn’t believe in God but couldn’t account for the supernatural knowledge of her inner thoughts.
So Christina went to the breakroom Bible study. When she entered, they were praying, which surprised her.
“If there is a God,” she thought, “These people have come face to face with him. It was so personal; it was so intimate; it was so passionate, something I had never in my life experienced or encountered.”
Hillroy read to her from Jeremiah: “This is a matter of life or death,” he told her.
Immediately, a mental picture of a car accident flashed through her mind, something that is a common reality for those who abuse alcohol.
When half his friends carted off to college on sports scholarships, Deon Howard was stuck with the other half, the “knuckleheads,” who hung out at his father’s house taking drugs, breaking crystal tables, punching holes in the wall, and otherwise “disrespecting” his divorced father’s house while he was at work.
“It was so easy for me to have no motivation, no drive because everything was given to me,” Deon says on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “If you’re not moving in life, things will stack up on you and you’ll be in a desperate place.”
As an only child of a military family in Augusta, Georgia, “I was spoiled,” Deon says. “I was always on the receiving end of giving, giving. Because of that, I really struggled with being a giver.”
When he was 12, he got 84 gifts for Christmas. That’s right. Eighty-four.
About half of them he opened with his cousins. When he got home, some burglars had broken into their home and stole the TVs. What was Deon worried about? His gifts. None of them were touched.
While half his friends were bound for the NBA and NFL, Deon was bound to get into trouble. He was ineligible to play sports because of grades and poor behavior. He got kicked out of the 11th grade and had to go to a private school, which he called “bootleg,” founded by a PhD guy from Trinidad that “sold” high school degrees.
When Deon was 21, his parents got divorced. He never knew why his mom, a very private person, simply wrote a letter saying she would never come back. Always self-absorbed, Deon assumed she would come back and by the time he figured out she was never coming back, he was too lost in drugs, drinking and partying to worry anymore.
“It was a mess. Things got really crazy,” Deon says. “My house, if you didn’t know any better, you would’ve thought my house was a club. My dad wanted me to have some respect for his house, which I didn’t. Hangout spot was an understatement. I was disrespecting my father’s house.”
On any given day, upwards of 40 different cars were parked outside to gather, use drugs and gamble inside. Horse play broke the expensive glass table. “My dad would come to see holes in the walls,” Deon says. They would try to clean before Dad got home from work.
From age 20 to 24, that was Deon’s routine. At the clubs, he loved to dance.
“I loved my mom and dad, but I was out there,” he admits. “We grew up good kids. I had a good, middle-class home. I had no reason. I just had no business about myself. We were bums, these spoiled kids living in their parents’ homes. It’s not that I was missing meals; that wasn’t the case. I was just spoiled. It made me not have an urgency about life.”
He neither sold nor bought drugs; his friends just offered them for free. His occasionally used ecstasy.
The lifestyle began to wear on him. When he turned 24, a friend called and offered him a job in the Navy’s Shipyard in Newport News. The friend said he would “rig” a resume for him, enroll him in a sheet metal class, and he would be making $24 per hour – good money at the time.
Despite failing the sheet metal class, Deon’s connections got him the certificate and the job – at which he lasted 15 minutes before getting fired. He didn’t know the first thing about being a sheet metal mechanic.
“He gives me this paper, and I don’t know what I’m doing. I barely passed high school,” Deon says. “I don’t remember 5/16ths of an inch. So I’m going to fake it until I make it. But I’m about to sink this ship.
“He comes back and looks at it. He takes the badge off me and says, ‘This job is not for you,’” Deon remembers. “Twenty-four dollars an hour! I lasted only five minutes on the job.”
Deon wanted nothing more than to smoke marijuana and return to Georgia, but his friend encouraged him to stay. So did his dad, who pointed out that Deon was 24 – plenty old enough to grow up and take responsibility.
Deon got a job at Danny’s Deli making $6/hour.
The roommates moved out with baby mommas, and Deon didn’t have enough money to pay the electricity bill.
One day when he came home exhausted from work, sitting in the dark, he saw a friend’s Bible sitting on the table. The friend read it randomly from time to time, usually while smoking marijuana. That day Deon was discouraged as he contemplated the Bible and remembered his grandmother who honored and cherished the Bible.
“Just shut up!” he said in his mind, frustrated that Jeff would argue with Louie, who had gotten saved, and that he had to listen to it in their one-bedroom apartment.
Tom, then 19, had come from New York to Prescott, Arizona, because it was famous as a college party town. “Getting saved wasn’t part of the plan. We were in a prolonged adolescence with the feigned attempt at getting an education,” Tom says on a Don’t Sell the Farm podcast.”
So when Louie got cornered by a Christian and acceded to go with him to church one day, Tom offered to provide the alibi when the Christian accompanied him to service.
“Just hide in the bathroom, and we’ll tell him you’re not in,” Tom told him.
But Louie was a nominal Catholic and used to showing up every so often to Mass, so he stayed true to his word.
That night, when Tom and Jeff stumbled out of the bar and walked home, Tom remarked sarcastically: “What if Louie got saved.”
They found him in his bed reading his Bible. Suddenly, their fears, however they were treated in jest, now became reality.
Louie told them he had gotten saved and invited them to church. Jeff started to argue with him. Tom rolled his eyes.
For the next days and weeks, the litany was unending. Louie invited them to church, Jeff argued, Tom fumed. “He was in our faces telling us about Jesus,” Tom told him. “Fine, we’ll go to Hell all by ourselves. But just shut up. I don’t want to hear it.”
Jeff was arguing with him nonstop. Louie was just devouring his Bible and was answering him. I couldn’t escape it.”
One evening as he lay on the bed trying to not hear the other two argue in the other room, Tom asked God if he was real. “I was laying on the bed with my hands behind my head, and I said, ‘God, I’m not going to do this just because Louie did this. But if you’re real, I’ll serve you.”
The “presence of the Holy God of the Universe came into that room,” he says. “I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t believe anybody had heard that prayer or would answer that prayer.”
Awestruck, he told God: “Ok, just don’t kill me.”
Tom attended a new convert’s class with Louie. He accepted Jesus. “I had already been confronted by the Holy Spirit,” he says. He was delivered from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The next day, he started looking for a job.
Finding a job was no easy matter in Prescott, then a town of 20,000. There weren’t many jobs to be had. He wanted to stay with the Prescott Potter’s House, a booming church. His first job to support himself and continue learning about Jesus as a “disciple” was to water plants at the community college. His last job was working on a trash truck.
Tom and his buddies were used to staying up to 4:00 a.m. partying, so when church let out at 10:00 p.m., he didn’t know what to do with his time. Fortunately, some of the brethren went out for coffee and fellowshipped after service.
He came home buzzed on caffeine, and he and his buddies went home afterward and wrote letters to all their friends back in New York that they were going to Hell and needed to get saved. “We bombarded them with letters,” he recalls… Read the rest: Roommate annoyed the Hell out of him.
The world may know the name of the late beloved evangelist, Billy Graham, and his son Rev. Franklin Graham, but many may not know about another evangelist in the family, William Franklin Graham IV.
“I was born Billy Graham’s grandson; I will die one day as Billy Graham’s grandson,” the evangelist said on a YouTube video.
William, the son of Franklin Graham, has known nothing other than being the son and grandson of two renowned evangelists. “Not everyone has a famous grandfather or father, but for me, it was normal.”
William, 47, spent his childhood on a farm in Western North Carolina surrounded by cows, horses, dogs, cats, and, at one point, a potbelly pig.
On Jan. 11, 1981, he gave his life to Jesus when he was five at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church his family attended in Boone, North Carolina, after a communion service. His father told him he could not participate until he let Jesus into his heart.
“I believed that Jesus existed, but I never applied him into my heart,” he said. “So that’s when I gave my life to Christ.”
William went to public school in North Carolina growing up, but it wasn’t until he attended college at Liberty University that he not only fell in love with God’s word but got to see how impactful his grandfather was.
“I’d been to his crusades. I knew he was one of the most famous people in America,” he said. “But something hit me at Liberty.”
It changed for Will one day when he was in his dorm room and a man he didn’t know knocked on his door looking for Billy Graham’s grandson.
Darren Munzone reacted to his wife’s newfound faith in Jesus and belief in the rapture by sneering: “Oh, you’re still here? The UFOs haven’t gotten you yet?”
He could tolerate the fact that she had gambled away their savings of $10,000. But he couldn’t stand the fact that afterwards she became a born-again Christian. “To me it was like she had become a nun or something. I was just not happy.”
He lashed out at her: “If I would have wanted to marry a Christian, I would have gone to church, But I met you in a pub. This is a rip off.”
Born to an Italian immigrant father, Darren always identified as an Aussie because of discrimination against immigrants, he says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. He had basically no background in Christianity.
Admittedly, he was the bully of the classroom and got into scrapes frequently. When his mother divorced and remarried, he took out his frustrations by fighting with the neighborhood boys. His penchant for violence went right along with his dream to be a rugby player.
“I got into lots of trouble because of fights as a teenager,” he says. “I rebelled against my mom and my stepdad.” He didn’t talk much to his stepdad except two to three times a year.
For rugby league, he practiced very hard but wasn’t big enough and wasn’t gifted in the sport. Ultimately, a series of injuries sidelined him when was semi-professional, so instead, he turned to coaching, where he excelled.
“I’ve broken all my fingers,” he recounts. “I literally had my ear ripped off the side of my head and had to have it sewn back on. My AC joint in my shoulder – serious shoulder problems. I’ve had two knee reconstructions.
“I was far more successful as a semi-professional coach.”
The woman who became his wife was a nurse, and together they made enough money to qualify for a home loan. But when the broker informed them the term would be 30 years, Darren and Joanne looked at each other and walked out.
Instead of tying themselves down for 30 years, they decided to travel to England and Europe for two years for a work-cation. “I was running away from the broken dreams of becoming a professional sportsman,” Darren says. He played cricket in England.
After one year of living in England, Joanne had a miscarriage, and the subsequent sadness deprived her of all desire to keep vacationing. “She was devastated by that,” Darren says.
They returned to Australia, where Joanne’s depression deepened and widened even though they finally married.
“She blamed herself that we’d come back from our overseas trip a year earlier than expected,” Darren says. “She thought I was angry that we’d cut our holiday. To escape the depression, she started gambling.”
She played poker machines at the local bars. “This went on for some time until she had gambled all our money away,” Darren says.
The depleted savings was not just bad – she sought Jesus because of it after a co-worker invited her to church.
She broke the news about her secret gambling addiction and subsequent losses to Darren, who despite being hooked on money didn’t get too upset. “I was annoyed but I thought we’ll recover from that.” Read the rest: Darren Munzone rugby coach Australia now pastor
The discouraging thing about Romania was not the breadlines. It was the utter lack of hope.
Even after communism fell, the leftover lifestyle was colorless — work, work, work.
Ovidiu Rusu, because he had read widely, dreamed of greater things and despaired of a life assigned by socialism of being just a part of the machine to support the state.
“When I was a child, I was not aware of how bad communism was. But as I became a teenager and then a young man, it was a struggle not seeing a future. There were no opportunities. All the doors were closed,” Ovidiu says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast.” I told my friends, ‘If the end of the year catches me here, I’m going to kill myself. I don’t want to live this life.’”
Life in Brasov under communism, according to Ovidiu, was characterized by:
Fear of authority. “Anybody with any measure of authority wants you to feel that they are the boss. Authority is there to harm and humiliate you. You live walking on eggshells.”
Poverty and boring food. “You have just five options to eat and you cycle through them. I remember being tired of beans and rice. You have one pair of shoes, one pair of pants, one coat. You sew it to fix it.”
You as an individual don’t count.
Thinking is squelched. “Because people who think for themselves are dangerous.”
Even the fall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989 did not immediately usher in a change of life. Though freedoms were introduced, life continued to appear pretty dull and opportunity-less.
The legacy of communism was atheism. His parents had never attended the Eastern Orthodox church much, but a lot of other Romanians did as a passive resistance to communism. Ovidiu didn’t believe in God because that’s what they had taught in school.
Thinking that if life were to change, he would need to do something himself, Ovidiu fled the country with some of his young adult friends. Their plan was to make their way to France and join the French Foreign Legion. They had heard that the pay was good, and you could apply for citizenship in France.
But they got caught and jailed. It was the first time Ovidiu flew in a plane, since before he could never afford plane travel, much less international tourism. He was flown because he was deported.
“I was very, very distraught,” he says.
He kept trying to escape Romania, but nothing worked. That’s when decided upon suicide to escape Romania.
During the last two weeks of 1992 he stayed in his room, pacing and smoking. He avoided his friends and his girlfriend. He was stewing.
Though he didn’t believe in God, he cried out to him. “If you exist you have to do something,” he said.
On Dec. 31, his mom sent him to the bread lines at 4:00 a.m. You had to get up early to get the special bread that is customary for New Year’s Eve. “It wasn’t a line, it was a mob, and I’m right in the middle of it,” he remembers. “I was standing there frustrated, angry, desperate, no hope.”
He noticed a young guy working his way through the crowd. “Excuse me, excuse me,” he pushed gently through, coming straight over to Ovidiu, whom he addressed.
“I know you from the neighborhood,” the young man said. He began witnessing to him about Jesus.
“I cried out to God three days earlier, and the first time I step out of my house, God sent this guy to talk to me,” Ovidiu marvels.
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?