Because his mother died when he was about to turn 12, the Christian rapper known as Mogli the Iceberg rejected the prosperity gospel, this idea that God only wants to bless you and have you live in blissful happiness at all times.
“I’m well aware of the extent of suffering that exists in the world,” Mogli says. “I’ve always been resistant to ideas like the prosperity gospel, when somebody promises that things are all going to be good. Look around the world. Does God not also love people in Afghanistan? Or Haiti?”
Mogli is among the most philosophical, if not depressive, of Christian Hip Hop’s rhymers. Together with nobigdyl, he is founding member of indie tribe collective, along with Jarry Manna, Jon Keith and D.J. Mykael V., putting out some of CHH’s most cutting-edge music.
Born Jacob Hornburgh, the Long Beach native moved with his music-performing parents to rural Tennessee, where he stood out for being Mexican American. He says at his high school, he was one of five Latino kids.
That’s where he got his rap name. Because he was tall, lanky with a scruff of dark hair, kids thought he looked like Mogli from the Jungle Book. To his nickname, he added “iceberg” which rhymes with his last name.
His parents made their living with Christian music, and they encouraged Mogli to develop his tastes and talents. When he was turning 12, his mom died of an unexpected heart attack. It was heartbreaking and sobering to be aware of human mortality at such a young age.
“I never really went super into like I’m mad at God because i just knew that was irrational, but it it does kind of temper other expectations,” Mogli says. “There’s no promise that Read the rest: Mogli the Iceburg
Right there in the back of the patrol car, Robert Michiels slipped out of the handcuffs, unthreaded his shoelace, tied the two laces together, hung them from the coat hook, inserted his head and attempted to hang himself.
“I felt my life slip away.” Robert says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I watched my life flash before me rapid fire in little clips. Everything, from the time I went fishing with my dad and my brother, opening presents on Christmas, climbing up on the roof, riding our bikes, skating in the neighborhood.”
Then a loud voice from Heaven pronounced an imperious command.
So he did.
Instead of committing suicide and ending his drug-addicted misery, Robert Michiels, then 20, went to jail and got saved. Today he is a pastor.
The North Phoenix native was the kid your parents warned you to stay away from. He liked to get into trouble and quickly fell into drugs by age 15.
But after drugs reduced him to homelessness. Not even his mother would receive him that night when he called her in desperation, wanting to get off the streets. Robert doesn’t blame her; he had stolen from her the previous time to support his habit.
At the end of his rope, he formed the plan to commit suicide. But first he would get high one last time.
To scrape money together, he stole a pickup truck so he could resell the tires. They were worth a fortune, but Robert offloaded them for $50 each to a guy who paid cash and didn’t care about their provenance.
But when he was stealing the first one, people shouted and he had to drive off, cursing his luck that he’d only gotten one. As he roared off, a trucker pursued him, talking to the cops as he followed.
Eventually, Robert got cornered. He got out of the pickup and shouted at the trucker: “Don’t be a hero, expletive, expletive, expletive.”
Robert slammed his truck in gear and drove straight at the trailer cab. He slammed into it, leaving it damaged. He drove off.
Then the first police car showed up. Robert drove wildly through the industrial area which had scattered open fields. The first cop car became several and eventually “the whole Phoenix police department,” Robert says.
Robert careened through a muddy field that splattered mud on his windshield. He couldn’t wipe the windshield clean, so he rolled down his side window and leaned out to see where he was going.
He never doubted that he would get away. For the whole 22-minute pursuit, he was smoking his crack pipe.
Then he slammed into a pole. He woke up with the engine pushed into him; he smelled of radiator fluid. He credits his limp, drugged up body for his survival. He gathered himself, pulled himself out of the truck and ran down an embankment, into… Read the rest: The Door Christian Center in San Diego
Only 8 years old, Casey Diaz tried to kill his father by pushing his face into a portable gas heater and turning the gas on. He didn’t stop even when his mom rushed in, horrified.
“Just leave him,” Casey told her. “I’ll take the blame.”
It was Casey’s way of ending the brutal, bloody beatings his drunken father inflicted upon his mother. Though the fratricide was unsuccessful, the anger smoldered and turned Casey into a fearsome gangbanger in South Los Angeles. He stabbed his first victim at age 11. There were many more after.
“It was so easy for me,” he says on a 700 Club video on YouTube. “I put the face of my father on every single one of my victims.”
By age 16, he was locked up for 12 years for one count of second degree murder and 52 counts of armed robbery.
With his proclivity towards violence and aggression — and because of his reputation on the street — Casey ruled the gang in the jail.
He nearly strangled to death a rival and landed in solitary confinement with an “upgrade” to Folsom State Penitentiary from juvenile hall.
That’s where Francis met him. When the chaplain invited him to a monthly Bible study, he responded harshly.
“You’re crazy,” he snarled. “I’m not going to your Bible study. I’m not interested. Do you know who you’re talking to?”
Undaunted and undeterred, Francis responded that she was placing him on her prayer list. She called it her prayer “hit” list, using the underworld’s slang for people… Read the rest: 8-year-old would-be killer
The first time Bud Greenberg showed up at a Bible study, he introduced himself as a Jew, and the leader asked him to teach the next week’s study.
“You’re Jewish,” the leader told him. “Wow, you’re an expert on the scriptures. We’re just finishing up the study and we’re going to start the book of Esther. Since you know it a lot better than us, you being Jewish, will you teach us?”
There was only one problem: Bud had never read the Bible.
Notwithstanding, he assumed the invitation to teach was standard operating procedure. He went home and, starting from Genesis, thumbed through the Bible until he got to Esther.
“I didn’t want to disappoint,” he says on a Delafe Testimonies video. “It gave me a desire to read more, so I thought to myself, ‘Well, maybe I’ll read the New Testament.’ So I started in the book of Matthew.”
Today, Bud leads Bible studies in the Pentagon with Navy Seals and Special Operators, leading America’s elite fighters to Jesus. God has spoken through him in a way that unnerves the highest military professionals famed for having nerves of steel.
“I’m scared of you,” a Delta Force operator told him one day, arriving at the Bible study.
“You’re scared of me?” Bud responded. “I’m just a pencil-neck geek bureaucrat; you’re the killer.”
“No, no,” the operator said. “They tell me what goes on in these bible studies. I have no idea. I came early just to see for myself.”
Bud Greenberg was born Jewish but married a Christian girl. He loved baseball but wasn’t good enough in umpire school to make it in the Big Leagues. So, he joined the military and carted his wife with him to Germany.
She wasn’t too happy with the sudden move, and their marriage began to suffer. He asked a social worker what he could do to improve his marriage. Do something with your wife that she likes to do, was the answer.
High on Xanax, Scootie Wop, now a Christian rapper, swerved his vehicle into a divider after he fell asleep at the wheel, then crashed into a telephone pole.
“You need to go to church and do something,” his mom told him after he drove home. Somehow, he was able to drive the totaled car home after the horrific accident.
Emmanuel “Scootie” Lofton’s father was a pastor and former Marine. Scootie had an idyllic childhood until his father abandoned the family and left the ministry. That forced his mom, along with Scootie and his siblings, to live out of a 95 Mercedes Benz in South Carolina, according to Rapzilla.
“I felt like I lost a piece of myself. Everything switched. I got exposed to drugs and gang culture and fighting with different people,” he says on HolyCulture.net. “I got put into a gang in the fifth grade, so I hung around a lot of older kids. I started smoking in sixth grade and selling stuff in the seventh grade.”
That’s when 12-year-old Emmanuel started experimenting with drugs and gangbanging.
“My mom was praying for me every morning, every night,” he says. “She was always cooking something in the pot, making the house smell good. I got my love from God from her.”
Emmanuel tried to straighten up by playing football, basketball, track and even kickboxing. Eventually, he focused on football, but a broken leg – fractured in six places – right before college destroyed the dream. The months of recovery saw him drop sports and college.
After they both became Christians years later, Tomas Bueno became friends with the gang banger who smashed his skull and left a scar on the back of his head.
“I’ve been able to reconnect with him,” Tomas says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House premium podcast on Spotify.
Tomas Bueno grew up in the Los Angeles area. His dad was a bar owner and often wouldn’t come home from drinking, and his Mom took the kids driving around at 1:00 a.m. looking for him.
“It was around the age of 12 that I started getting enticed by what I saw around me,” Tomas says. “I started seeing these guys. It was the time when Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre had an influence on the white kids in suburbia. I thought this was really cool watching MTV for hours.”
When his dad was followed home and shot up in a case that originated from Mexico, the family moved to Huntington Beach in 1992 where few Hispanics lived.
“He came in, he was shot in the shoulders, he was wounded, he was asking for a gun,” Tomas says. “I was a little kid just trying to process this. Come to find out it came from Mexico, problems there that spilled over to the U.S. Needless to say, we had to move. We moved in the middle of the night.”
At 13, he started ditching school getting high, giving sway to the influence of a street kid. By 15, he was “running amok and being crazy, partying and going wild.” At 16, he smoked meth.
“All my friends were already doing it and they were like ‘You gotta try it. You can stay up all night and drink,’” he recalls. He worked at Subway and a co-worker showed him how to pack the balls and smoke speed.
By 1995 his friends were gang members when he lived in Fullerton. He met a girl, Karina (who now is his wife), and got her pregnant at 17.
“My dad’s not going to be down for this,” she told him. “I’m going to have to move in with you.”
“Ok, no worries, we’ll make it work,” he replied. They barely knew each other. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
But because he was partying, Tomas didn’t call her the next day. Nor the next. Nor the next.
For three months, he didn’t call.
“Basically, I left her hanging,” he admits. “It’s not that I was trying to avoid this. It’s just that I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I was in the streets doing drugs partying that kind of procrastinating. After three months I was embarrassed. What do you say? I just kept partying and doing whatever I was doing.” Read the rest: Hunted by rivals, Tomas Bueno rescued by God.
Despite experiencing terrors of demonic oppression as a child, Apisit “Ide” Viriya didn’t abandon the syncretic Buddhism of his childhood when he began experiencing clinical levels of obsessive-compulsive disorder with anxiety as a college student.
“Buddhism acknowledges suffering in the world,” says the Thai immigrant to America. “But for me it didn’t provide a solution. I fell into a survival mentality.”
Ide was raised in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. Raised in America, Ide was told by his parents to always double-down on the teachings of his family, as 95% of Thais are Buddhist.
So he hung on to Buddhism, even when the animism of his village opened him to demonic influences. His parents didn’t believe him or his brother when they were awakened by terrors or heard voices during the night, so they comforted each other.
“I felt like there were fingers touching my body,” he says on a Delafe video. “I could see two eyes looking down at me.”
At the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Ide first encountered an enthusiastic believer. He felt like she genuinely cared for him, but he was put off by her exclusive attitude, saying that Jesus was the only way to God.
He listened to her as she witnessed to him and even attended church, but he also shared Buddhism with her.
In his early 20s, he began to suffer from depression and OCD, believing that something bad would happen to his mom if he didn’t repeat a phrase a number of times.
“I would keep having to repeat things as a thought in my head until I felt peace,” he says.
He sought help from university student psychological services and got referred off campus because the case was higher level than they could handle.
Thus began years of therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. At the height, he was taking 12 pills a day to calm the irrational fears. He also dove deep into Buddhism, visiting the temple and praying with monks every evening.
Still, he sought solutions that Buddhism couldn’t provide.
While Buddhism teaches the way to peace is by not setting your hopes on the things in this world, it was completely at a loss for aiding with OCD.
Trying to manage his OCD, finish college, and hold down a job, was a daunting task.
Desperate at age 25, he saw a Christian psychologist, who asked if he could pray for him each time. “I was hurting, so lost, I said, that’s fine. I just didn’t care,” he says. Read the rest: Demons in Buddhism
In a moment of extreme accumulated frustration, Chiaki Gadsden told her alcoholic mother during a fight: “Shut up and die!”
Chiaki’s mother died that day.
“The next morning my father told me, ‘Chiaki, you mother died today,’” she narrates on a Japan Kingdom Church video on YouTube. “I didn’t feel anything. I just couldn’t believe it. I went home and saw her body and still couldn’t believe it.”
Chiaki’s childhood frustration and source of loneliness and abandonment was her mother’s alcoholism. Her father didn’t like to see his wife drunk, so he stayed away from home. Her older sister had become hardened and unfeeling, so she paid no heed to Chiaki’s pleas that they help Mother.
Eventually, Chiaki became uncaring also and took drugs and became promiscuous as a coping mechanism, she says. The coping mechanism never worked very well.
Meanwhile, she grew hard-hearted and distant from everyone.
That morning Chiaki and her mother fought, as they did many days. The sinister effects of alcoholism over many years reached a boiling point and Chiaki uttered the words she later regretted: “Shut up and die!”
She pronounced the awful words, but didn’t want the horrible result.
So when Mom died that day, Chiaki was staggered.
“I started to blame God: ‘Why didn’t you help me?’” she remembers. “I thought, What’s the point of this life? No one can help. My family didn’t help. God didn’t help. What is this life?”
At a family meeting, Chiaki’s father made a terrible announcement to everyone.
“He said my mother’s death was my fault,” Chiaki says.
“I was shocked that he said that,” she says. “I could not understand why he would say that.”
“Oh, it’s my fault that my mother’s dead?” Chiaki thought. “My father said so. Then it is bad for me to be here. If I’m not here, then everyone will be happy.”
From that moment, Chiaki no longer sought to have relationships with people. She cut herself off. She lost all hope, all purpose.
“Everything just became darkness,” she says.
Then Chiaki was invited to a gospel music festival.
“When I saw and listened to the gospel music, suddenly I felt something warm in my heart,” she recalls. “I thought, wow, gospel music is amazing. Then all of a sudden, tears started to pour out. I thought to myself, Why am I crying? I thought, What is this? What is this?” Read the rest: Christianity in Japan
Blacks aren’t generally accepted in Japan. Even Japan’s 2015 Miss Universe candidate Ariana Miyamoto, being half black, was widely rejected on social media as not being truly Japanese.
So how does Marcel Jonte Gadsden – and a handful of other black pastors – lead churches and evangelize in Japan?
“No matter what you do, no matter how you treat me, I respond with a deeper love, an unconditional love, agape love,” Marcel says on The Black Experience Japan YouTube channel. “The Bible tells us to love our enemies. How can you love your enemy? You can’t do it. That’s why the L of love is written from the top down. You must receive love vertically from the Father, down to you and then you can give it out.”
Marcel arrived in Japan as a military brat in 1999.
“I thought coming here there’d be samurais everywhere with swords,” he says. “I was scared to come to Japan. I thought we’d be the only black people in Japan. All I knew was Ramen noodles and samurais.”
When he got out among the people, he was smitten with compassion – so many hordes without hope, without Jesus.
“If what I believe is true about God, what is the hope for these people?” Marcel remembers. “The passion began to rise.”
Motivated to reach the people, Marcel threw himself into learning Japanese and when he had memorized some verses, went out as an adolescent to street-preach in Japanese in the Shinjuku neighborhood.
Japan has virtually no context for understanding street preachers. While there are street performers, they make a poor reference point. Some stared at him as if he were crazy, others ignored him.
While the initial response wasn’t exactly warm, Marcel was warmed by the fires of the love of God.
“Some people were listening and others were like who is this guy?” he remembers. “I began to learn about Japanese people and how they’re not expressive like we are.”
He took a job at 7Eleven to immerse himself in the culture and get to know the people. When he started a church in his living room, many of his first visitors had met him at 7Eleven.
“It was a training ground. I learned so much. It turned a lot of heads when they saw me at the counter. To see the reactions in people’s faces, they look and look again like, he works here?”
When Marcel met and married a Japanese girl from church, he had to overcome the resistance of his father-in-law, who shared the typical entrenched racism of Japan. Every day his future father-in-law would drop his girlfriend off at church, he would pop up to the car, open the door for Chiaki and warmly greet her dad.
“I think he had this image of me being a gangster and trying to steal his daughter,” Marcel relates. “He totally ignored me. And this continued until finally one day, he slightly looked like he slightly acknowledged me. He gave an inch of a nod. I was really convinced that love could destroy his prejudice.”
After Marcel and Chiaki were married, the formation of a relationship with his father-in-law began… Read the rest: black pastors in Japan
The “goon-mobile” or “swagger wagon” – a 1978 Chevy Beauville van that belched out blue smoke from its tailpipe – accompanied Adam Dragoon everywhere he went, from delivering hotdog carts around town in Portland to the party bus in high school.
When he got saved in his later high school years, the Beauville became the church bus, carting people and equipment for outreach and service.
“I learned how to sell hotdogs at 10 years old, slinging the mustard, Hebrew National hotdogs,” Adam says. “I inherited the van, a 1978 Chevy Beauville. It was a tank, one of those half-ton vans. That became my ride, that hunk of junk. It was glorious.”
The hunk of junk is a metaphor for Adam’s life before Jesus: weighted heavily, inefficient, roaring around, wasting resources. The heaviness on his heart started early, when his parents got divorced in Oregon during kindergarten.
“I was upset that Dad was gone and he wasn’t coming back,” Adam remembers on a Testimony Tuesday podcast on Spotify. “That definitely had a profound impact on who I was.”
Then both his grandfathers died when he was 15.
“That hit me real hard,” he acknowledges. “It was the first time I had to deal with death. I got angry at God. My mother’s father knew Jesus, so I was confident he was in Heaven. But my other grandpa was blasphemous and told dirty jokes. One of them was in Heaven, and one of them was not.
“That had a profound effect on me.”
What was a young boy supposed to do but fall in love with a cute blond at a telemarketing firm that he now realizes was a scam?
“I had to take care of the car. I had to pay insurance. I had to put gas in the tank, so I had to have a job,” he remembers of his 16th year. School was less appealing than work: he had a ready mind to learn but an unready hand for homework and barely passed his classes.
Raised in Arizona – “the Promised Land where all the California people who can’t afford California go,” Adam spent summers with his father where Grandfather Dragoon put him to work peddling hotdogs from his deli. He learned a work ethic.
During the summer when he was 14, Adam tried reading the Bible with his other grandfather but didn’t understand because he wasn’t yet born-again; the Holy Spirit was not yet upon him to teach him the meaning of the Scriptures.
“I put some serious effort into it,” he says.
His mom took Adam and his brother to church, one of those megachurches with cushy chairs, AC flooding the room, and a youth group of 800 kids. If you asked him, Adam would have said he was a Christian.
At the same time, there were doubts. Taught in public school, he was filled with a lot of skepticism and atheistic ideas, the fodder of the public school system.
So, when one day he sat next to a glowingly pretty blond at the telemarketing business, Adam was ripe to listen to the Gospel from her. Taya radiated light, the light of Jesus – and she was stunning.
“One day I got brave enough to leave a note on her car: If you ever want to hang out with me, you can call me,’” he remembers. “Amazingly enough, she called me.”
The first conversation ended with him asking her to hang out on the weekend. She responded with: Today’s Wednesday, and I’m going to church. Do you want to go to church with me? Read the rest: Adam Dragoon pastor of Virginia Beach Church
Wanting to “unleash” himself from society’s norms, David Wood decided to flout rules in the biggest and worst way, by murdering someone. Not just anyone. He developed a plan to murder his own father.
“Some people don’t want to live like cattle,” David explains on his Acts 17 Apologetics YouTube channel. “Some people don’t want to follow this pattern that we are all expected to mindlessly follow. Some would rather bash a man’s head in, or shoot up a theater, or walk down their school hallway stabbing people. Why shouldn’t they? Because it’s wrong? Because of your grandma? Or do people have intrinsic value? Human beings were (to me) nothing but machines for propagating DNA.”
From childhood, David had psychopathic tendencies. He was further influenced by an atheistic moral vacuum and the destructive philosophy of nihilism, a poisonous mixture that influenced the monster he became.
As a boy, when his dog died, his mother cried, but he felt nothing.
Crying isn’t going to change the fact that it’s dead so why are you crying? he thought.
Years later, when his friend died, David again felt nothing. When his mother got beaten up by a boyfriend, he felt nothing.
“I don’t remember ever not living with violence in the family,” David says on Premier Christianity. “My mum was habitually with very abusive boyfriends. One of my earliest memories was hearing a lot of screaming and walking into the kitchen and seeing blood everywhere, and my mum saying: ‘It’s ketchup, go back to bed.’”
David became a habitual rules breaker. He broke into homes, ran from police, and trampled people’s gardens. For David, morality was, at best, a “useful fiction.”
“My atheist worldview was throughout the universe or through time, we’re collections of cells,” he says. “You could kill 1,000 people, or you could spend your entire life helping people. It doesn’t make any real difference. You might as well just do whatever you feel like doing with the time you’ve got.
With a nihilist worldview, he adopted the Nietzschean self-concept of an ubermensch. He was mad at society for trying to “brainwash” him with its rules. The right thing to do, he believed, was to throw off all restraint and prove his superiority. He was “Humanity 2.0.”
There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s everyone else who has a problem. I’m the only smart, sane one, he thought.
David started studying how to build bombs but ultimately rejected mass murder because it was so prosaic.
“Anyone can blow up a bunch of random people, you don’t know them,” he says, “If you’re sick of life dangling at the end of society’s puppy strings, the killing has to start much closer to home. My dad was the only relative I had within a few hundred miles and so he obviously needed to die, and I had a ball-peen hammer that would do the trick.”
Later diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, David felt no remorse, no guilt, no sense of right and wrong. His determination to live “unleashed” knew no bounds.
On the night he planned to murder his father, 18-year-old David sat trying to think of one thing wrong his dad had done to him. He couldn’t think of a thing. He attacked him anyway with the hammer. His goal was to kill him, but he failed.
“I underestimated the amount of damage a human head could endure, crushed skulls could apparently be pieced back together by doctors,” he says. “My dad had brain damage, but he survived the attack.”
David was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for malicious wounding under New York’s law.
In jail, he met a Christian named Randy whom he mocked. Randy wouldn’t back down easily. In fact, Randy engaged in a spirited debate with David. Surprisingly, they became friends. To compose arguments to refute Christianity, David began to read… Read the rest David Wood.
Melanie Washington hugged the young man who killed her son.
“It’s more important to love and forgive than to hold on to the pain and the hurt,” Melanie says on a Long Beach Post video. “I found myself putting my arm around him. I didn’t feel a murderer that killed my son. I felt my son.”
Today Melanie Washington, based in Long Beach, CA, is helping troubled youth make it out of a destructive culture. She herself came out of a childhood that was “pure hell,” she says.
At age 8, she was molested by her stepfather. When “Fred” got on top of her sister Mary, Melanie told her mother, who kicked out the abuser.
He left but showed up the next day with a gun.
“No, Daddy, no,” Mary pleaded.
He shot and killed Mom. He tried to kill Melanie, but the gun jammed.
Shocked and overcome by grief, Melanie, who didn’t know where to turn, blamed herself for her mother’s death.
“I was the one who told my mother that he was doing this,” Melanie explains. “She put him out, and then he came back and killed her the day after Thanksgiving. I went through a life of never forgiving myself for that. I kept telling my mother, I’m sorry.”
Melanie graduated from high school and, falling in love with a handsome young man, married him. After the second month of marriage, he began to beat her.
Actor Denzel Washington is once again unleashing a furious attack against social media.
“The No. 1 photograph today is a selfie, ‘Oh, me at the protest.’ ‘Me with the fire.’ ‘Follow me.’ ‘Listen to me,’” he told the New York Times. “The Bible says in the last days – I don’t know if it’s the last days, it’s not my place to know – but it says we’ll be lovers of ourselves. We’re living in a time where people are willing to do anything to get followed.”
Not only that, people are committing suicide because of snide remarks on social media.
“This is spiritual warfare. So, I’m not looking at it from an earthly perspective,” the two-time Academy Award winner says. “If you don’t have a spiritual anchor you’ll be easily blown by the wind and you’ll be led to depression.”
The 67-year-old goes so far as to give youth advice regarding Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat: “Turn it off. It’s hard for young people now because they’re addicted. If you don’t think you’re addicted, see if you can turn it off for a week.”
Denzel just portrayed MacBeth in an Apple Movie released Dec. 25 and now available on streaming. The Shakespearean tragedy explores the demise and demonization of a once-loyal general who allows ambition to take over his heart. Read the rest: Denzel Washington social media
A Hispanic congregation’s attempt to launch a Christian private school has been blocked by a Boston-area school board, but the Vida Real Church is fighting for its constitutional rights through two lawyers’ groups, Fox News reported.
First Liberty Institute and the Massachusetts Family Institute say the Somerville Superintendent and the Somerville Public School Committee is violating the U.S. Constitution by denying religious freedom. At issue is the Vida Real’s biblical stance on creationism and homosexuality, which the board contends is “unscientific” and out of line with its values.
“It is illegal and unconstitutional for city officials to question the religious beliefs of Vida Real, let alone use those beliefs to stop the church from opening a school,” Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said in a statement first provided to Fox News Digital. “This is blatant religious discrimination. It’s time for Somerville officials to stop treating Vida Real unfairly and allow it to pursue the opening of a school.”
The skirmish between secular politicians and church leaders shows where the cultural war is being fought currently: on school boards. As secular humanists attempt to impose their version of utopia on America, Christians are trying to stick to the bible.
Vida Real turned in a lengthy application to open “Real Life Learning Center,” but the school board has not granted authorization. Instead, Somerville’s school board committee responded with 35 “hostile” questions about what is intended to be taught, the lawyer’s group says.
“The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible,” the school board says, according to documents. “The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful. … Overall, the school was entirely contrary to the values of SPS and the idea of educating the whole child as being inclusive.”
Creationism is the term for looking for scientific evidence to support the Bible’s account of the world’s beginnings, as opposed to evolution. The discussions of “being inclusive” refers to affirming students with gender dysphoria and same-sex attractions. Christians can affirm individuals while helping them with their harmful thoughts and confusions.
As a first attempt to resolve the conflict, the lawyers’ group has sent a letter to the school board alleging violation of the Constitution, which bans government from interfering with questions of faith. If they are unable to resolve the disagreement through the letter by April 8, a full-fledged lawsuit may be necessary, the lawyers’ group says.
“The hostility displayed by the Somerville Public School Committee is outrageous,” Justin Butterfield, deputy general counsel at First Liberty, said in the statement. “The government cannot ban a religious school because they disagree with its religious beliefs. Doing so violates federal constitutional and statutory law.”
A Daasanach warrior chief named John was outraged that the Roman centurions were killing Jesus on screen in his Ethiopian village, according to a Timothy Initiative Vimeo video.
“I couldn’t believe that while Jesus was being tortured, my people sat idle,” John recalled. “I threw a stone at the soldiers and even ran behind the screen with my knife drawn.”
Some remote people groups who still live out of touch with civilization and technology don’t immediately discern between the acting in the Jesus Film and reality. So John attempted to engage the Roman soldiers to defend “an innocent man.”
Of course, John didn’t find anything behind the screen. He had never seen a movie. When he understood that the film’s action scenes were only on the screen, he took his seat on the ground and watched with horror and anguish as the Romans crucified Jesus.
While John found no one behind the screen that day, he did find Jesus. A member of the team that projected the film led him in a sinner’s prayer and began to disciple him.
Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain has suffered from Asperger’s and autism throughout his life but hasn’t let that stop him from being an unashamed Christian who stands for his faith in his work to create the Texas Heartbeat Bill, which prohibits abortion after a baby’s heartbeat has been detected in the womb.
“Yes, I mix religion and politics,” he wrote in a tweet.
Cain was recipient of the 2021 Malachi Award, given by Operation Rescue to recognize the person who advanced the cause of protecting the pre-born, for his role in creating the Texas Heartbeat Act.
The 37-year-old is a loving husband and father of five. His first name is in honor of his ancestor, American pioneer, Andrew Briscoe, who fought in the Texas Revolution as a part of the Texan Army and was one of 60 who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836.
Born with Asperger’s and autism, Cain grew up in Deer Park, Texas, raised by his father, a plant operator and his stepmother, an occupational nurse. His mother, a homemaker, taught him the value of hard work and commitment to his community.
“I, along with countless others who experience these challenges brought on by Asperger’s and autism, communicate and express myself in a way that’s different from others,” Cain told Capital Tonight.
He founded the Republican Club at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), the first pro-life law student organization in Texas.
They get persecuted by their government, spurned by their neighbors, thrown out of their houses. Still the Laotian Christians are growing and evangelizing successfully, fomenting one of Asia’s great underground revivals.
Pei, a 52-year-old widow, illustrates what you can expect to suffer in a nation whose communist government promotes atheism and whose animists and Buddhists think you offend local gods by accepting “the God of America.”
When Pei heard the gospel via a salesman, she embraced the message of salvation by faith and forsook the worship of her ancestors. Secretly, she received discipleship for four months.
When she felt strong enough and bold enough, Pei ventured to share her faith with her daughter and son-in-law.
“Both her daughter and son-in-law immediately began to violently criticize her,” a Christian leader told Christian Aid Mission (CAM). “They told her if she did not stop believing Jesus, they would report her to the police, put her in jail or kick her out of the house, because the son-in-law is a policeman.”
Pei remained steadfast in her faith, while her daughter and husband remained steadfast in their anger.
“In June, while they were yelling at her to leave the house, they grabbed all her clothes and threw them out of the house,” the leader said. “They told her to live with her people who shared about Jesus with her. They told her to never return to the house.”
In Laos, the constitution allows for freedom of faith, in theory. But the government, which espouses atheism, has restricted the practice of Christianity. Officials, hearkening back to the sufferings of the Vietnam War they blame on America, see Christianity as a propagandist arm of militaristic capitalism.
The hostility towards Christians is not only practiced by the government. Laotians are mostly Buddhist or animists and see conversion to Christianity as a grave offense against the local gods.
Her husband beat her every time he drank, and Anh become so desperate she was ready to end the hell that was her life, according to a report by Christian Aid Mission (CAM).
When Anh first met her future husband, Ngoc, she saw his charm and swagger and was smitten by love. She didn’t realize that he hung out with buddies who drank, gambled, and smoked opium.
After they married, he often came home inebriated and was physically abusive.
“Every time Ngoc got drunk, he beat his wife.” a local ministry leader told CAM.
One night, she took refuge at a friend’s house. When she returned the next morning, her husband had burned her clothing and her university degree.
In the depths of despair, Ahn fetched a bottle of insecticide was was going to drink it, but her children began tugging at her and crying. For the sake of her children, she didn’t kill herself that day.
Instead, she worked on a plan for someone to care for her kids after she ended her life.
Before she could finish the plan, a Christian missionary knocked on her front door, came in, and presented the Gospel.
Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, she surrendered her life to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
“Everything was changed and renewed,” the ministry leader reported.
Anh invited her husband to receive Christ, but he rebuffed her. “No, never,” he declared.
However, he began to witness changes in his wife because of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
After pleadings from Anh and the children, Ngoc finally acquiesced and attended church. He was received warmly by the congregation and ended up accepting Jesus.
“The Holy Bible is very good,” Ngoc told his wife later that night. “But I can’t understand it. Can you teach me the Holy Bible?”
For four months he learned the Bible, aided by the patient instruction of the missionary. He even got baptized.
Six years after Bashir Sengendo converted to Christianity from Islam, his Muslim family beat him and cut him so severely that he died 12 days later.
Sengendo, 35, of Namutumba, Western Uganda, left a family of four when he passed away in the hospital on Jan. 25th after succumbing to wounds inflicted by his own brother and uncle.
“The family needs a lot of financial, moral and psychological support,” a Kiboga area pastor told Morning Star news, which tracks persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa.
Bashir Sengendo was raised a Muslim and trained to become a mosque leader. But he converted to Christ after he spoke with a former Muslim. Sengendo left his native town and studied at a Uganda Bible college before serving as a pastor in Kiboga for six years.
His immediate family sent messages to him to return home and take care of the farmland that was his portion of the inheritance. Sengendo was reluctant to return because he wanted to continue fulfilling his call to Kiboga.
After six years, Sengendo acceded to his family’s pleas to return home. He had no idea what awaited him.
He arrived Jan. 12th. If he thought the family would receive him warmly, he was badly mistaken. The family was openly hostile.
He was shocked by their cold reception and slept without food.
Early the next morning, his brother and uncle fell on him with violence.
“They beat me badly. They cut me with an object in the head, back and hand,” Sengendo told Morning Star News following the attack, while he hovered between life and death in the hospital. Read the rest: Persecution of Christians around the world.
Shelby and LeGrand started a family with illusions of having a fairy tale life.
But when Shelby was expecting twins – during a high-risk pregnancy that precluded working – the young couple worried how they would pay for groceries, since LeGrand’s job remodeling a commercial building didn’t pay very much.
“When I found out we were going to have twins, I was nervous and scared,” LeGrand says on a CBN video. “It’s challenging because I feel like as a dad, I want to make sure they can look up to me and I could be there for them.”
Thinking about the babies in her womb filled Shelby with joy, but when she thought of the harsh reality of bills, anxieties plagued her heart.
“Trying to afford groceries is very difficult for us. It’s hard to get the money that we need to feed the kids at the same time,” she says. “It’s hard to balance it out between all the other things we have to pay for. The difficulty of all of that made me feel very down. The not knowing of how we were going to be able to afford things is scary.”
To their rescue came their local church, Dayspring Church, which partners with Operation Blessing, a CBN-related nonprofit that for 40 years has aided churches with critical needs projects.
The food pantry has come through in a big way for Shelby, LeGrand and their two tykes. Read the rest: food pantry in church.
Stephen almost forgot to give Emily his normal goodbye kiss that morning in a rush before the day’s labors in a dangerous area of northern Africa. But he came back and gave her an extra-long hug. Sadly, it was their last hug together.
“That morning he ended up giving his life for Christ,” Emily says on a 100 Huntley Street video. Stephen, a loved and respected servant of Christ, became a victim of jihadist terror.
Emily first visited the unnamed country on a short-term mission trip. It was five weeks of ministering amidst poverty and hopelessness.
She longed to return to America where she could enjoy a decent cup of joe. The hopelessness attached to Islam was omnipresent in the women’s prison, where ladies were jailed for seemingly minor offenses, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, she says.
After five arduous weeks, Emily waited for the plane to arrive that would whisk her back to America. While she waited, God spoke to her heart: If I called you to this country to serve, would you go?
Emily was more than ready to leave. But God was challenging her to give up much more than she could imagine.
So, after years of praying, Emily and her husband, Stephen, returned to the forlorn desert nation as humanitarian aid workers. To state on the visa application their true calling as ministers of the Gospel would result in a flat denial of entry, so they came in officially as aid workers.
Specifically, they granted microloans to collectives of women to help them launch tiny businesses. Each month, when Stephen collected payment, the people would invite him into their homes with incredible hospitality.
Over tea and milk, they had long talks together. This was customary in their culture, and it afforded Stephen many opportunities to introduce Jesus.
As the years rolled on, Stephen and Emily grew bolder.
“We just did not feel comfortable with being undercover. That would be like putting our light under a bushel,” Emily says. We found creative ways to be who Christ wanted us to be and that is speaking about Christ, his life, his teaching.”
Stephen was growing increasingly bold with proclaiming Jesus. He even began to hand out Bibles and the JESUS Film liberally. Other missionaries grew concerned that he would go too far. Extremist Islam might retaliate.
“Other workers got very nervous,” Emily says. “They felt we had gone a little too far, that it would make us a little too conspicuous. They were fearful for us but also for themselves because they didn’t want to be labeled as proselytizers.”
Their fears proved grounded. One day, Islamic extremists attacked and killed Stephen – who ironically shares the name of the first Christian martyr.
It was the day he went back for an extra-long hug to his wife – his unwitting goodbye.
After Stephen’s death, Emily and the children were escorted by authorities to the other side of the city, where they hid until they could be flown to the States.
Three months after his eldest son died of a drug overdose at 21, TobyMac sang a heart-breaking tribute “21 Years” about the doomed destiny, lost promise, and hope of Heaven.
“‘21 Years’ is a song I never wanted to write,” the artist born Kevin Michael McKeehan told People. “I loved (Truett) with all my heart. Writing this song felt like an honest confession of the questions, pain, anger, doubt, mercy and promise that describes the journey I’m probably only beginning.”
“21 Years” is a dirge with Toby’s signature catchy pop, stylized lyrics and rousing uplift.
Is it just across the Jordan
Or a city in the stars?
Are ya singin’ with the angels?
Are you happy where you are?
Well, until this show is over
And you’ve run into my arms
God has you in Heaven
But I have you in my heart.
Truett died in Nashville of a fentanyl and amphetamine overdose in 2019. Truett had just launched his music career, having resisted emerging as a child star under the tutelage of his famous father.
“Until something in life hits you this hard, you never know how you will handle it,” Toby says. “I am thankful that I have been surrounded by love, starting with God’s and extending to a community near and far that have walked with us and carried us every day.”
Starting with DC Talk in the late 1980s and 90s, Toby has been a Christian music kingpin. He has 20 Billboard chart-topping singles. In addition to being a performer, Toby produces music for his label, Gotee Records.
Being celebrity Christians brings a unique pressure on their children, who get frustrated with the outsized expectations upon them. They might want to be just normal kids with normal experiences and normal failings but are expected to conform to the rigorous standards by outsiders. In 2013, Pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide.
When personal tragedy becomes a public spectacle, the superstar Christian needs to shed his celebrity status and return to his personal relationship with God.
“Part of my process has always been to write about the things I’m going through, but this went to a whole new level,” Toby explains. “What started out as getting some of my thoughts and feelings about losing my firstborn son down on paper, ended up a song. ’21 Years’ is a song I never wanted to write.” Read the rest: how did TobyMac’s son die?
When Robert Polaco got saved, crime statistics went down for the City of Las Vegas, NM. So says his former pastor. People knew him and feared him, and soon the word spread around the city that the Door Church is where the former criminal was saved.
Robert Polaco’s mom lived mostly in a mental hospital with schizophrenia. His dad lived primarily in jail. Robert was raised as a ward of the State.
“I was placed in a foster home,” Robert says on the 2021 video produced by the Door Church. “According to the case work, I was being abused.”
Along with his harsh living conditions, Robert also felt like a pariah — as if something was broken within him.
“I grew up with that chip on my shoulder,” Robert continues. “It was as if there was no answer, I felt there was no hope.”
Later on, Robert would dedicate his life and career to martial arts. His role as an instructor became the new identity he would give himself to.
“I decided to open up my own dojo,” Robert says. “That’s where I met my wife- I gave her free lessons because I thought she was pretty.”
Robert and Jacque Polaco would eventually enter a marriage which was immediately plagued by serious relationship problems. Robert’s life quickly fell apart.
Change would eventually come on May 15th, 1981. The young couple was introduced by Door Church’s pastor Harold Warner to a set of popular Biblical prophecy films. Convicted, Robert and his wife surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.
“When I prayed that prayer on that night, I just felt free.” Robert recounts.
Similarly, Jacque felt as if a massive weight was on her for her entire life. Her prayer for salvation lifted the heavy burdens she carried.
“There was no desire to smoke dope or drink alcohol,” Robert states. “The desire was gone. When I entered the martial arts class on Monday, I shut it all down.”
Robert felt like a brand-new man, a newborn star. It was as if someone had pressed a reset button on him; now Robert found something to live for: Jesus.
“Robert and Jacque proved to be a key couple in the forming of that early church here,” Pastor Ray Rubi of Door Church reminisces.
However, the incredibly small building that represented the Door Church in Las Vegas would eventually be the recipient of God’s miracles in the form of a skilled new pastor, Richard Rubi.
“The city of Las Vegas had about 14,000 people, but everybody knew Robert,” Richard says. “He had a reputation there.” Read the rest: Jesus helps crime rates
When a man stood up suddenly during prayer service and waved a handgun at the congregation, Pastor Ezekiel Ndikumana sprang into action and tackled him from behind before he could fire off a round.
“He wanted to kill,” Pastor Ezekiel said through an interpreter on WKRN news. “That was the first thing that came to mind.”
Motives remain unclear as yet as to why Dezire Baganda, 26, suddenly jumped up in the Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal church and ordered the congregation to stand as he waved a handgun.
But quick-witted Pastor Ezekiel neutralized him before he could do anyone harm. The immigrant pastor acted as if he were exiting the back door behind the pulpit and behind the gunman and then rushed him and tackled him from his blindspot. Other congregants joined in to help disarm the threatening man at the Nov. 7th service, all recorded on church surveillance video.
But he grew up with mostly female friends and got bullied by the guys his age, so he grew to hate his masculinity.
“I just took out my insecurities with lust towards men,” Emmett says on a Tucson Door Church video. “I medicated myself and pacified myself and drowned myself in homosexuality because I hated myself as a man. I didn’t feel like a man.”
But in 2015, somebody talked to him about God and gave him a little booklet to read.
“I read it because I wanted to see if God hated me,” Emmett says. “But I found out He didn’t. It said, all sins are bad; they’re all worthy of death, including homosexuality. But that same sin was covered by grace.”
So he gave his life to Christ.
At that a time, a pastor prompted him indirectly with a question: Did God ever say you were gay?
Steve Weatherford — whose punting pinned the Patriots back deep in their zone to help the Giants win Superbowl XLVI — says all his heroics were a vain attempt to get the approval of his father.
“I was trying to get the attention of my dad,” Weatherford says on a 7 Figure Squad video. “During a lot of those amazing achievements, I didn’t really enjoy them because the reason I was achieving them was I needed some affirmation from the most important person: dad.”
Today, Weatherford has found peace, approval and acceptance from Jesus, leaving behind the inner turmoil that led him to drugs and porn despite his outward appearance of success and manliness.
Born in Indiana, Steve Weatherford was raised in Baton Rouge. From an early age, he showed inclination for sports, playing football, soccer, basketball and track in high school. He didn’t enjoy the greatest relationship with his stoical, old school-style father.
The foray into sports began as a means to win his father’s approval. He worked out in the gym incessantly. As a result of his impressive physique, rumors circulated around town that he had bulked up thanks to “the juice.” One day, his dad even called him at school and told him to come over to the office.
“Oh crap, what did I do?” he wondered as he drove over to Dad’s. “Oh my God, I’m really in trouble.”
“There’s rumors around town that you’ve been taking steroids,” Dad said. “I’m not mad at you, but I want to get you help.”
“Initially I was really offended. I wanted to lash back,” Steve remembers. “But then I sat back into my chair and I thought to myself, ‘My dad thinks that I’ve done something with myself that is impossible to do without cheating.’”
“Dad, you might not believe me but I’ve done this 100% the right way,” he responded. “I’ll take a test right now.”
It was the closest thing to a compliment that he ever got from his dad.
Weatherford proceeded to the University of Illinois as a kicker and punter. He also played track and was named Sports Illustrated’s most underrated athlete in the Big Ten in 2004. He walked on to the New Orleans Saints and played for four teams before landing with the New York Giants.
Punters are usually wimps, by NFL standards. All they have to do is kick well. But Weatherford had the build of a lineman as a punter. He maintained a maniacal workout and diet regimen that got him featured in bodybuilding magazines.
On the outside, he was achieving his wildest dreams. But on the inside, he was losing battles. He watched porn and started taking percocet.
“I worked so hard to get into the NFL. I worked so hard to become the fittest man in the NFL twice. I worked so hard to (win the) Walter Peyton man of the year community service award. I worked so hard to become a Superbowl champion,” Weatherford says. “Looking back on my life, those were all predicated on getting my dad’s attention.”
Superbowl XLVI was a dream. The Giants were playing against Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Weatherford punted four times with such distance and precision that the Patriots found themselves in their own 10 and five yards — a marathon distance to touchdown. When the Giants came out on top, some observers called Weatherford the MVP.
A punter MVP?
Weatherford basked in the glory of his achievements. He looked over to Dad. He wanted so desperately for his father to clap him on the back, give him a bear hug and lavish patriarchal praise. Read the rest: Steve Weatherford Christian
A gaggle of girls besieged him for his autograph at Great America because they thought he was Lil Bow Wow. Miles Minnick was 14, and that’s how he realized hip hop was his calling.
“If this is the kind of attention rappers get, let me go ahead and start rapping,” he says on a Testimony Stories video. “It was crazy.”
He immediately started free-styling inside the theme park. He rapped at school and won talent contests. He got chances to rap in the booth. Chockful of talent, he got noticed by big name San Francisco Bay area rappers and got invited to collaborate.
Miles’ trajectory moved assuredly toward success. But then he got saved and decided to dedicate his talent to God, and now he is one of the hottest new stars in Christian Hip Hop (CHH).
Miles Minnick grew up in Pittsburg, CA, with a polar opposite older brother, who “killed it” in athletics while Miles killed it in video games. In middle school he sported dyed-tip dreads and gold teeth.
His father prayed nightly with his sons but drove them to school in the morning with gangsta rap blaring: “F— the police!”
“When I was 8 or 9, we would go to church maybe once a month,” he remembers.
When Miles turned 12, his brother went to a church camp and came home on fire for God.
“My brother would chip away at me and chip away at me all the time. He would say, ‘Don’t do this? Why you do this?’ He would try to coach me in the correct way,” Miles recounts. “But I was still in the streets.”
He got a girl pregnant when he was 15, and he and his girlfriend brought the baby to class. The teacher often held the infant while teaching at the board.
“We were the school sweethearts. Everybody wanted to support us. Even though I was a knucklehead,” he admits. “I was trying to be a good dad, and I was a kid myself. The streets wouldn’t let me go.”
At age 16, Miles had his encounter with Christ. Ironically, it came when he was selling and smoking weed.
“I was a pothead,” he admits.
As he was getting high one day, a friend blurted out: “Hey bro, we should go to church!”
“Go to church? Right now?” he asked his buddy, who was also smoking marijuana. “We are high like nobody’s business. What are you talking about?”
The friend responded that there were pretty girls at the youth group. “I didn’t want to go, but they drug (sic) in there,” he says.
But youth group was closed, so they went into the main service at New Birth Church, Pittsburg.
“I was the one who didn’t want to go, but I wound up sitting on the edge of my seat, reading the songs off the projector, singing the songs,” he remembers. “It captivated me. I was feeling something I never felt before. I was fresh off the street, fresh off a smoking session. At the end of the service, the pastor pulled an altar call. I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew I wanted it. I went up to the front, and the pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me, and I fell out under the Spirit of God.
“I was on the ground weeping, crying my eyes out,” he adds. Read the rest: Miles Minnick
While she was praying at church, Chris Singleton’s mom was shot eight times by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015.
Then only 18, Chris Singleton had to assume the role of parent for his younger siblings.
“It was being thrown into the fire for me,” Chris says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “Something like that, I call it the unthinkable because you never think in a million years that something like that will happen to you. It was tough then, it’s tough now. It made me grow up a lot quicker than a lot of people. I had to take care of two teenagers when I wasn’t even 21 yet.”
Incredibly, Chris chose to forgive the racist mass murderer who snuffed out nine lives at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When Sharonda Coleman-Singleton died, Chris wasn’t exactly strong in his Christian faith.
“I think anybody that loses a loved one, there’s two ways you could go with your faith,” Chris says. “You could say number one, there’s no way God is real. Or you could say, two, God, I don’t know how this happened or why this happened, but I need you to get me through it.”
Chris, who became a minor league baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, drew on his athletics training to develop resilience.
“I didn’t have my mom anymore and I didn’t have my dad, so Jesus became the rock that I would lean on,” he says. “That was comforting for me, it was therapeutic for me.”
Of course, Christian Surfers International calls Jesus the “Original Water Walker.”
Originally, they were just a support group of like-minded surfers who felt a little marginalized by the church, but as they grew, they realized they had a greater responsibility to win the entire surfing world to Christ.
They want to be even more salty while paddling ocean waves and reflect the light of Jesus on sun-drenched beaches.
Today, Christian Surfers International has affiliates in 35 countries with about 175 local missions, each of those acting like a tiny church plant to the surf community, says Casey Cruciano, operations manager of CSI.
They also do community development projects around the world through their organization Groundswell Aid. Some of the best surf breaks also have some of the poorest communities in the world. Hardcore surfers have always traveled to out-of-reach spots for the perfect wave. But CSI surfers don’t just ride the wave; they help alleviate poverty, restore the environment and provide disaster relief.
“We believe in the power of the global surfing community to make powerful, long-term changes to beach communities around the world,” a narrator on a Groundswell video explains. “Using surfing as a platform to connect, Groundswell exists to meet the needs of under-resourced communities and offer tangible hope.”
They even teach Third World youngsters to surf or learn water polo, offering scholarships to those who do well in school and encourage school dropouts to return.
On the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, they help build housing and school facilities for the locals. Read the rest: Christian surfers Intl.
Two years ago, Heidy Hutchinson misbehaved in school and, looking for a fresh start, transferred to Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.
On Wednesday, Heidy led the 2nd-string team to a 1st-rate victory against beginner’s team Summit View School to notch-up LCA’s record to 6-1.
“Me and my brother went to public school, we got in trouble, we had to come here,” Heidy says. “We kind of became better people and grew in school. I learned more about God. I got closer to God, and that’s it.”
The sidelines erupted in wild cheers for Heidy as serve after serve — underhanded serves — went over the net and — excuse the pun — netted points for LCA.
They weren’t cheering for Lighthouse, which was unyieldingly driving Summit into the depths. They were cheering strictly for Heidy. She’s come a long way. (Link to an article on Heidy from 2019.)
“I’m not really a sports person. I’m not very athletic,” Heidy says. “I didn’t really want to play volleyball, but Sarah (Montez) and Lakin (Wilson) pushed me to play. They begged me to. I’m really thankful they did because I wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t.”
Lighthouse is NOT a reform school. But they say God can re-form anyone who has taken missteps down the wrong path.
When Heidy scored the last point, players on the bench mobbed her, high-fiving and hugging.
“She got the last winning serve!” Sarah said. “She’s the team captain.”
Arynn never thought she would end up in a mental institution, but after she became thrilled with cutting herself, that’s where she was taken.
“The minute I saw the blood it was like I was hooked,” Arynn explains to 700 Club Interactive. “It was like this dopamine hit and in a really twisted way I’d almost rewarded myself with self-harming.”
Arynn was turned off by Christians.
“I always thought of Christians as these really emphatic people who wanted you to turn away from anything that was fun,” she says.
So, the minute she turned 18 and was able to go to parties, she began drinking.
“I just had fun with it and then a long pattern of, you know, thinking that I could just keep doing it and it would never catch up to me,” she says.
As a 19-year-old sophomore in a Christian college, she began taking shots of tequila at 8 a.m.
She didn’t realize she had become an alcoholic.
Almost imperceptibly, the “fun” evolved into depression. This led to self-harm.
“As the alcoholism progressed, the urge to self-harm got so much stronger,” Arynn says. “I felt too like even if God loves me he’s not gonna want to associate too much with me because look at where I’ve ended up.”
Death became her daily meditation and cutting became an obsession.
“I remember one night I decided I just have to try at least one time and so I remember taking the razor, slitting my wrist and nothing happened so I just kept going,” she says. “Finally, I’m surrounded by blood, but I’m not bleeding out.”
Adam Gunton hung up on his buddy when he called at 4:47 a.m.
“Why are you calling me this late?” he snapped.
“I was just calling to say hi,” Chuck responded, timidly.
“Don’t call me this late again!” Adam, a freshman in college in 2008, barked and slammed the phone down.
That’s the point when Adam’s partying changed and he became a hopeless addict.
“Before that moment I was using drugs and alcohol to party and have fun,” he says on a Logan Mayberry video. “But after that I was consciously using drugs to mask the way I feel, mask my emotions, mask my thoughts and cope with life around me. I bottled it down deeper and deeper with drugs and alcohol.”
As a result of his addiction, his weight dwindled down to 147 pounds from 210.
Adam grew up in Littleton, Colorado. He played football and wrestled at Columbine High School, which gained notoriety through tragedy. Mostly, he was able to hide his drug habit. He started drinking at age 11, after someone shared cocaine and weed with him.
“Throughout my high school career, I just thought it was fun,” he says. “I had no idea that it was going to lead me to a homeless shelter and not being able to stop the worst drugs on the planet 10 years later.”
On Nov. 6, 2015, Adam took a heroin hit that initially he thought was bunk. He got in his car and drove off. Cops found him in his car on the side of the road OD’d. Three months later, the body cam video was shown in court and he was charged with felony drug possession.
“Even that moment and those experiences weren’t enough to get me clean and sober,” he remarks.
He worked for Direct TV and became a top salesperson regardless of his drug abuse. At his desk, he had his computer and a drawer full of drugs.
One day, alone in his bedroom, he cried out to a God he didn’t know.
Chloe fell in love with and married Jason Ivey. It’s a heart-warming and romantic story. There’s just one notable piece of information to add. Both spouses are developmentally disabled.
Chloe has Down Syndrome. Jason has autism, ADD and bipolar disorder.
“People with autism want to feel important; they want to feel needed. Honestly, it’s magical. That’s how I actually feel,” Jason said in an interview with Special Books for Special Kids, a YouTube channel that promotes understanding of people with disabilities. “Yeah, there’s ups and downs. But I’m telling you Chloe is such a perfect wife. And even when I’m down she lifts me right back up and makes me so happy.”
To see Chloe and Jason talk about marriage and how God brought them together is a moving reminder that God has not made anyone inferior. People with special needs have much to teach others about happiness and simplicity in a world that seems overly complicated to many.
“I feel like I’m hit with a love bug. Sometimes I would say, ‘Thank You, God, for everything, all the positive things,” Chloe says. “I feel like I want to cry. I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
The love oozes from the video. “She is like drop-dead gorgeous,” Jason says. “I was worried, like, ‘Lord, I am way marrying out of my league.’ My goodness! Look at this beauty!”
But their fairytale story also raises unsettling questions the video doesn’t address: Would they have children? Would their offspring be more prone to being born with a disability? Who would care for the children?
“Sometimes I think in my mind ‘I want a baby so bad,’” Chloe says. She has a realistic doll that she treats as her baby. “This is Giselle. She represents what we want for the future.”
Both Chloe and Jason recognize their limitations. They say they are 80% independent, which means that 20% of their adult responsibilities are handled by care-givers, often family members.
In a world where abortion is pressed on parents when an ultrasound reveals a potential disability, in a world where government imposes decisions on private citizens in the name of the common good, some questions linger:
The beaches of Venice are mostly free of tents and people sleeping outside as lots of homeless have been given either bus tickets or housing in cheap hotels, says advocate Mike Ashman.
But meth laced with fentanyl is killing addicts at a quick clip, and getting a roof over their head is only part of the solution, says the man who’s become a fixture now in Venice handing out free food to the needy.
“People are taking methamphetamines cut with fentanyl, and it’s just nasty,” Mike told Patch. “It’s really cooking their brains. They’re walking zombies. They can’t string together a sentence.”
A month ago, Mike greeted one of his regulars, who stared back oddly without saying a word. Mike, who’s used to dealing with addicts, figured the guy would sleep it off. Instead, he watched police putting him, first with convulsions, on a stretcher just hours later via YouTube live stream.
“His body went completely limp. I swore he was dead,” Mike said but saw him again a week-and-a-half later and gave him a big bear hug.
The man considered himself to be lucky: “I’m so mad at myself for doing that stuff,” he reportedly told Mike, who’s been in Venice for three years with his non profit You Matter. “I lived through that one.”
But Mike hasn’t seen the man since. “I’m hoping he’s got some help,” Mike adds.
By Mike’s tally, a homeless person dies every week from overdose. He gets the news from his regulars who come and tell him about so-and-so found dead in a bathroom or on a street, he says.
The Philippine military was supposed to rescue hostage Martin Burnham. Instead, they shot him.
“I was immediately shot in the leg,” says Gracia Burnham, his wife, on a Huntley 100 video. “Martin was shot as well and just lay there. I could tell that gunshot wounds to the chest don’t heal. He was just kind of breathing loudly. Then he got very still.”
For a year, the Philippine military was pursuing the missionary couple’s kidnappers, the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels, through the sweltering jungles of the Philippines. They were aided by a tracking device sewn into a backpack that the CIA had managed to pass on to the squad’s leader.
Missionaries for 17 years, Gracia and Martin Burnham were on Palawan Island when M16-touting rebels, seeking a ransom to fund their guerilla war, broke down their door and pulled husband and wife out on May 11, 2001.
They were spirited away on a speed boat and taken to the jungles where they joined other hostages. For a year, the rebels dragged them over hills and through rivers, constantly on the move to avoid capture, in jungles filled with snakes, spiders and disease-bearing mosquitos.
Sometimes they ate; sometimes they went days at a time without eating. The Muslim militants forced Gracia to wear a hijab in observance of ancient Islamic customs. The jihadists prayed five times a day. On some days, they stayed hidden with no movement, leaving the missionaries bored. Other days they walked endlessly, always on the run. They collapsed exhausted at night.
As the ordeal dragged on, Gracia struggled with why God had permitted the trial.
“How long do you think this will last?” Gracia asked her husband.
Martin remembered certain European hostages that were rescued after six weeks.
Gracia fixated on “six weeks,” and unconsciously made it a timeline for God to rescue them.
When six weeks passed with no sign of rescue, she despaired and began to doubt God — not His existence or the terms of salvation but if He indeed cared for her and loved her.
After all, He hadn’t responded.
And that’s how an internal conflict erupted in the context of the greater conflict of the rebel war.
Inside her heart, there was a battle of faith.
Martin, the aviator missionary, encouraged his wife not to lose faith even in the most trying circumstances.
“You either believe all of it or you believe none of it,” he gently challenged her.
From then on, the couple encouraged each other with remembrances of verses from the Bible that stirred faith.
Added to the trial of faith about the goodness of God, Gracia observed that a weariness of the jungle grated her. During the day, they were either bored unendingly as the hid or were exhausted from trudging forward to evade being discovered by the Philippine military.
The night was filled with dangerous predators and sounds that filled the darkness. She wished for daylight to arrive.
But days were filled with heat, humidity, marching or hunkering down. Then she wished for nightfall.
“I felt like I was wishing my life away,” Gracia says.
One of the other hostages was beheaded, perhaps to speed up the hoped-for ransom money.
After a wearisome, worrisome year on the run during their captivity, Gracia eventually lost all hope and said her goodbyes to her husband on June 7, 2002.
He gently reminded her to keep faith alive. But it was a good thing she said her goodbyes.
As a Christian, Judy serves God by being a foster parent to dogs. Some even come from China, allegedly having escaped the dog meat trade.
“God made all creatures,” Judy told God Reports. “I think He would not want a dog to suffer. If we didn’t have foster parents, the dog would be put in a shelter. Most of the shelters are kill shelters.” (“Kill shelters” euthanize if the stray is not adopted within a certain number of weeks.)
If you have never heard of a foster parent for dogs, you are not alone. The concept is similar: you care for the dog until it gets adopted. The foundation pays for the food and veterinary visits. Some foster parents care for four dogs at a time.
Judy, 69, has had Lollipop, Marshmallow, Bandit and Doreen. Two were Chihuahuas. Well-behaved Chihuahuas. She brings them to church, which conveniently meets outdoors in a park.
Sometimes, they come shaking and traumatized by abuse or neglect. They are dropped off from cars on the road. They are abandoned in fields. They are flea-infested from ill-kept hoarders. They even come from abroad, at great expense for transportation.
Rescue workers will drive hours to pick up a dog.
“I love dogs. They really relax me. They’re fun. They’re amazing,” Judy says. “The love of dogs has to do with being able to love. If you love God and know that God is real, then you know that God created animals.”
Judy didn’t grow up in a church-going home but found God in her early 30s through some Christian friends and through reading the Bible.
“I had some Christian friends and it just felt right. It was a calling to me. Christianity is something that is necessary,” Judy says. “The thing I admire about Christians is their family; they have really good family. The kids are well-mannered. They don’t swear. They’re so connected. It is such a beautiful thing.”
Athing Mu was just fooling around with her older brother, who was part of the Trenton Track Club. She was running — outrunning the bigger kids — when the coach saw her and confronted her later when she was seated on the bleachers.
“Who is this girl? I want her on my team,” the coach said.
That was the start of an incredibly “God-gifted” girl who just won the first gold medal for the U.S. in the women’s 800 meters in 53 years. The 19-year-old freshman records-breaker from Texas A&M charged to the front of the pack from the very beginning and stayed there almost unchallenged, graceful and calm, with a powerful pace throughout.
Athing Mu (pronounced Uh-THING Moe), now 19, is lucky to be in America. Her parents fled South Sudan and made their residence in Trenton, New Jersey. She’s the second youngest of seven siblings. She got involved in track and also discovered what it means to run with Jesus.
“As a follower of Christ, our main goal is to live in the image of Jesus in order to connect to God and ‘get to’ God,” the 5’10” runner says on The Battalion. “I believe when God is ready to give you blessings, He gives it to you with all intentions. In this case, ‘keeping one at the top, never at the bottom.’”
She’s referring to Deut. 28:13: The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Read the rest: Athing Mu Christian
About once a week, one homeless man or woman dies in Venice, CA.
That’s Michael Ashman’s tally. At least three times a week, Ashman hands out free food, clothes, and Bibles at Muscle Beach, which is often filled with tourists and eclectic street performers.
This area – until recently cleaned up by Sheriff’s deputies – has been thronged with homeless and criminals.
“When people say we have a ‘homeless problem’, that tells me they don’t have a clue; it’s a human problem, not a homelessness problem,” Ashman, 57, told God Reports. “There are all kinds of reasons people are homeless. Then you throw alcohol and drugs into the mix. But Jesus is the answer. He’s the One who’s going to heal their minds and set them free.”
For three years, Michael has ministered to the homeless. Arguably, homeless ministry is prone to burnout because positive results are few and far between, while death and destruction abound. The homeless, he says, have zero self-control and consequently get devastated by addiction, violence and disease.
“Every now and then, someone comes by and says, ‘Do you remember me? You fed me. You helped me,’” Michael says.
One such was Ivan, who once slept on the beach because of Southern California’s year-round temperate climate. One day he arrived cleaned-up and smiling. He had a small place and two jobs. The day he greeted Ashman, he was handing out clothes to his street friends, paying forward the favors.
Native to Southern California, Ashman got to know Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade at age 15. He got off drugs and was attending church but was “too young and not very involved,” he says.
In 1996, he got married and had kids but walked away from church and lost his marriage. He didn’t immediately come back to church because guilt coiled in his heart like a snake.
“I’d gone too far,” he explains. “I looked in the mirror every day and said, ‘God, what am I doing? I’m killing myself.’”
On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Ashman returned to church after “my life pretty much fell apart.”
He sat in the back and wept. He kept going to church “and wept every service for quite a while,” he says. “God was fixing me.”
Eventually, he launched his ministry, a 501c3 titled “You Matter.” He wears “You Matter” T-shirts on outreach, and it’s a good message to people that society has cast aside, fears and finds revolting.
“I just felt like this is what God wanted me to do,” Ashman says. “It was so powerful in me. It was beyond passionate, it was a driving force. I couldn’t not do it. I feel Jesus in me, and He loves people through me.”
For most of his life, Ashman worked as a contractor and a phone and computer communications installer, but as his non-profit has taken off, he’s neglected his business and given himself more and more to ministry.
While politicians promote social theories for dealing with the homeless, Ashman says only Jesus can truly change them.
Recently, the L.A. Sheriff ignited a spat with the mayor’s office by publicly accusing politicians of being incompetent and making an incursion into Venice to get the homeless off the streets. As a result, fewer homeless are coming to Ashman’s ministry. He fears that… Read the rest: homeless in Venice
When Mark DeYmaz took over a Kmart to open his thriving church of 500, he helped his budget by opening a for-profit coffee shop and renting space to a gym next door.
In an age of declining tithing, DeYmaz proposes churches get smart, abandon obsolete models and incorporate business savvy, not to get rich from the kingdom, but to multiply outreach.
“The more people joined our church — the homeless, the immigrant, the undocumented, the poor — it cost us money, DeYmaz says on a Vice News video. “We realized that if we were going to have effective ministry, we were going to have to have multiple streams of income.”
But don’t accuse him of upending the way church is done. Tithes and offerings were just one business model. DeYmaz is not condoning stingy Christians. He’s simply using his brain and God-given resources to maximize impact, he says.
His church, Mosaic, belongs to the new burst of millennial churches that project a certain image with their relaxed dress codes, untraditional interior decorating, and hipster pastors. They’re rethinking church to be relevant for the next generation.
Pew Research charts a declining number of Americans who call themselves Christians – 65% — 12% lower than a decade ago.
“Religion is less central to American life,” says Rebecca Glazier, professor of public affairs at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. “People are just not identifying with formal religious institutions and finding spiritual fulfillment through them the way that they used to in generations past.”
Doubt plagued Sean McDowell, son of famous doubts-slayer Josh McDowell, when he stumbled across an atheist website that refuted his Dad’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict point by point.
“Honestly growing up, I probably kind of thought someone wasn’t a Christian because they just hadn’t read Evidence Demands a Verdict or More Than a Carpenter,” says Sean on a 100 Huntley Street video.
The books have been decisive in establishing the faith of many people based on hard evidence to corroborate the Bible. But here was a well-reasoned attempt to erode confidence, Sean said.
“All of a sudden, I’m reading some really smart people — some doctors, some lawyers, philosophers, historians — going chapter by chapter, pushing back very thoughtfully on the arguments that my father had made,” Sean relates.
It shook him to his core.
So Sean, 19 and in college, sat down with his dad for coffee and came clean.
“I want to be honest with you,” he told Dad. “I’m not sure that I’m convinced Christianity is true.”
Sean wasn’t sure how did would react. Josh has famously written 150 books and given 27,000 lectures on college campuses to stir university kids to faith and show them what their atheist professors don’t want them to know.
Would his dad lose his temper, kick him out of the family and disown him?
“Why, God?” Helen Roseveare asked after being brutally beaten and raped by Congo rebels for five months while she served as a missionary doctor in 1964.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if i never tell you why? was the answer she received.
It was a strange answer. But also, God gave her a striking revelation about surviving a dungeon of torture.
“It’s external! You’re sinned against. It’s not your sin. It can’t touch your spirit,” she explained on a 100 Huntley Street video. “It’s only your body. But it can’t get into my mind or soul.”
Helen has used her captivity to encourage others who feel powerless to defend themselves against unimaginable acts of evil.
Helen Roseveare became one of the first females to graduate as a medical doctor from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1945. She became a Christian because of the testimony of some of the girls in her school and almost immediately set off to the mission field in the “Heart of Darkness.”
She tended to patients, built hospitals and trained Africans in medical science indefatigably. While serving the population she was taken captive in the Congo during the tumultuous 1960s along with other foreigners. As was always the case, she turned into the leader, even in captivity.
“When the awful moments came in the rebellion you almost felt, no, this has gone too far. I can’t accept it. It seemed that the price was too high to pay,” she says. “And then God seemed to say, Change the question from ‘Is it worth it?’ to ‘Is He worthy?’”
During her captivity, she was called upon to help 80 Greek Cypriots, workers abducted by the rebels. One lady was in pain, seven months pregnant, so Mama Luca — as she was known — was called upon to attend to her.
With rebel guards on either side of her, she stepped among the cowering Cypriots until she found the needy lady. She didn’t speak Greek, so she went through the languages she knew one by one to ask if she was hurt: English, French, Swahili, Lingala.
Finally, she found someone who could translate into Greek and eventually led not only the lady but the whole prison hall of captives in a sinner’s prayer. As the only area doctor, she had attended to the Cypriots for years but had made no headway in evangelizing them.
But suffering brought a new openness to the Gospel.
“When I eventually left the house, they’re all looking up and smiling and they want to shake my hands,” she remembers. “It was wonderful. God, you are marvelous.”
As was their custom, the rebels subjected Mama Luca to a mock trial. The people in the area were orchestrated to participate in the judgement of “colonial, imperial crimes” committed by foreigners. Under the threat to the rebels’ guns, the locals had to join their voice in a chorus of condemnation, calling for the death sentence.
Responding to the beating of the drums, 800 locals came to her trial. You didn’t dare ignore the calls of the rebels because only they had guns. At a certain signal, they all shouted, as was the custom in these roughshod trials: “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Then they would shout “Mateco! Mateco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
“You knew you would die. You didn’t know how,” Mama Luca recalls. “There came the moment in the trial scene when they must have been given the sign. Suddenly these 800 men suddenly, instead of seeing me as the hated white foreigner, they saw me as their doctor and they rushed forward.
“They pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way and they took me in their arms. In that wonderful moment the black-white barrier had gone and they said, “She’s ours.” They used a word in Kibbutu, which really meant, “She’s blood of our blood and bone of our bone.” The rift between dark skin and pale skin was driven away and we were reunited as one.”
“God used so many things that He’s working out his own wonderful purposes,” she says. “Many, many came to the Lord through those days of suffering. The walls of division were broken down, and the kingdom was expanded.”
Helen had refused to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs assigned by her missionary field director. “I said if God ever asks me to be burned at the stake, I’ll say yes, but I won’t be singing,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t take it all.”
After he rounded the last bend on the river in a dugout canoe, Don Richardson saw 400 Sawi cannibals in remote New Guinea waiting, masked, and in full warpaint — with weapons in hand.
Honestly, he didn’t know if they had a welcoming feast for him or if he, his young wife and baby were the feast.
“Do we look good enough to eat?” he thought. “There was nothing to do but get out of the canoe and walk up on the shore. With Stephen in my arm, leading Carol, I walked and they closed in all around us so tightly, we could hardly move. Their eyes were gleaming with excitement, but they were totally silent as if waiting for a signal.”
Then the “signal” came, a shout: “Asa!”
“They all began leaping in the air, brandishing their weapons and shouting for joy, and they danced around us to the beat of their drums,” he remembers on a 100 Huntley Street video.
That was Don Richardson’s hair-raising introduction in 1962 into missions to unreached tribes. Don didn’t know the language, but apparently “Asa” didn’t mean “Let’s eat.”
Yes, the Sawi were savage headhunters with a taste for human flesh. But they had no intention of dining on the first white men to set foot in their region, the Southern swamplands of New Guinea. They had heard about such missionaries from neighboring tribes and how they brought medicine, steel tools and nylon fish lines to help.
Their jubilation that day was based on the recognition that help had finally come to their tribe. Little did they know that Richardson and his family brought not just tools and medicine; they brought Jesus.
Don had spent months in preparation for the day bringing his wife and child on the 10-hour canoe journey to the Sawi. He had built a home first. The tribesmen were accommodating and helpful.
But when he showed up with his wife and kid, he wondered: “Are these even the same friendly guys who helped me build my little house? Or are these hostile people that have replaced them and have something else in mind?”
The Sawi built “matchbox” structures 40 feet up in the trees, but Don built a small structure on supports in the ground.
“They’d been hearing for a couple of years very positive reports about unusually tall, unusually pale sickly-looking people called ‘Tuans.’ They’d been hoping that a Tuan would choose to come and live among them. They were eagerly welcoming us.”
The first order of business was to learn the language without any book, teacher or translator. He started by pointing at things hoping someone would tell him the word. But every time he pointed at different objects, they always said, “redig.” Eventually, he realized “redig” means “finger.” The Sawi don’t point with fingers; they point by puckering and aiming their lips.
The patient work led to establishing an alphabet and writing a New Testament.
“They didn’t know the language could be put in written form,” he says.
Not only were the Sawi cannibals and headhunters with no concept of law, judges and punishment, they also valued treachery.
“They thought Judas was a good guy,” Don remembers. “‘He’s a master of treachery,’ they said. ‘Don, that man named Judas has done us one better.’”
When he heard their admiration of Judas in the story of betraying Jesus, Don was taken aback.
“I sat among them praying, ‘Lord, help,’” he says. “‘I need a gift of wisdom here.’”
The chance to learn came when war broke out afresh among rival tribes. Arrows flew past his windows. People died outside his door as violence and revenge flared up continuously. To no avail, Don pleaded with the Sawi to make peace. But since they saw treachery as a virtue, no peace talks could be started; no one could trust anybody.
With unending carnage going on around, Don eventually threatened to leave the tribe. He would take his family and all the help he offered.
The tribe was upset. They had grown to love their Tuans and needed the medicines and tools. They thought of losing their prized missionary was too much to bear.
On the plate where little Greg Colon had left cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve were empty syringes on Christmas morning, evidence that his dad had abused drugs — again.
The embittering experience of substance abusing, absentee parents pushed Greg into copying the cool, law-breaking kids in his New York neighborhood. When he dropped out of high school, he opened a barber shop as a front for trafficking drugs.
“I loved the way I was living, I loved what it could do for me. I loved how it made me feel,” Greg says on a CBN video. “It was all about me. It was about money; it was about greed and it was about self-indulgence.”
Greg Colon’s dad, a stone-hearted drug addict, was rarely home. His mom died of alcoholism.
At age 9, Greg moved in with his grandparents, who offered him precious little in terms of material things but gave him and his brother love. But the lack of acceptance from his parents’ neglect left him with a hole in his heart that he tried to fill with worldly possessions.
“What attracted me were the more violent kids, kids who always had the nice sneakers, the nice clothes,” he confesses.
When his grandfather died, Greg, at age 12, lost his own compass in life.
“He was somebody who really got me as a kid and actually cared for me,” Greg remembers. “Then he was gone. I was just empty inside.”
With no positive role models in his life, Greg fell into running the streets and selling drugs. At age 15, he dropped out of high school.
The one bright spot was when he was 15 and his dad, who tried to reform, gave him a professional barber’s clippers. Cutting hair was something Greg enjoyed.
“In my heart it meant the world,” Greg says. “It was like a real good pair like a professional pair of clippers.”
Les Brown swore he would kill the man who arrested his mother, a single woman who turned to making moonshine to feed her seven adopted kids because she became disabled at work.
When did he meet the man? By chance, RIGHT AFTER he told his son to never act out of anger.
“She was injured on the job, so she promised our birth mother that these children will never go to bed hungry. We will always have a roof over our head and clothes on,” Les recalls on an Ed Mylett video.
“I was 10 years old, and he grabbed me by the throat and hit me on the side of the head and threw me up against the wall. He said she’s back there in the room and they went back there and mama was selling homebrew and moonshine and they he said, ‘Pull up the linoleum,’ and they pull up the linoleum and she kept it under the floor of the house and they brought Mom out in handcuffs.”
While “Mama” Mamie Brown was in jail, little Les took to the streets to make money for the family. He collected copper and aluminum for recycling and helped older men carry heavy equipment.
Years later when Les Brown was running a high-paying radio show in Miami, a man tapped him on the shoulder to congratulate him. It was Calhoun, the same man who orchestrated his mom’s arrest. Calhoun didn’t recognize Les, but Les would never forget the face.
Les had just told his adult son, John Leslie, to never act out of anger. “Anger is a wind that blows out the lamp of the mind,” he said. They were at a public event.
When Les turned around to see who was tapping his shoulder, he froze. He started crying. He hid his face and rushed out of the room, got in his car with his son and drove off. He pulled over to the side of the road.
“Is everything okay?’ his son asked, bewildered.
“No,” he responded.
But as he composed himself and collected his thoughts, he marveled at God’s timing and God’s way of doing things. The timing was just too coincidental to not be a miracle.
“I got that hatred out of my heart for him because you were here,” Les told his son. “I promised if I ever saw him again, I would kill him. I have to model what I’m teaching. Forgiveness is remembering without anger. I forgive him, but most of all, I forgive myself. Please forgive me, God, for carrying this anger and hatred.”
Adversity has made Leslie Calvin “Les” Brown, 75, motivational speaker of the Fortune 500, grow better, not bitter.
He was born in the Deep South, in Florida, during the time of segregation. His mother couldn’t care for him and gave him and his twin up for adoption. Mamie, who had only a 3rd grade education, took him in and six other kids.
One day when he was five, Les let go of his mother’s hand and ran to a water fountain where some kids were playing. It was 90 degrees and he was thirsty.
“My mother grabbed me by the neck, and she threw me down on the ground. She started punching me with her fists in my face and on my head,” Les recalls. “I was screaming. She had a crazy look in her eyes. I said, ‘Mama, it’s me. It’s me, Mama.”
Meanwhile a white cop swaggered over, smacking menacingly his baton into the palm of his hand
“Okay, that’s enough,” he barked. “You beat that little n—– boy enough. Now he’s learned his lesson. He won’t do that again.” Read the rest: Les Brown Christian
When Graham Cottone was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 10, it was a tremendous relief. Before that, his parents didn’t know what was wrong and they blamed themselves. He was constantly punished, made fun of, and friendless.
“He was hard. He was very, very hard to love,” Lore Cotton, his mother, says on a 700 Club Interactive video. “You love your children. They’re your children. We disciplined out of anger on several occasions. It was scary to think, ‘What are we doing? We’re spanking all the time.”
Graham’s behavior worsened beginning at age 12.
“It just was so overwhelming. I remember just going in my bedroom and being so exasperated,” Lore says. “I just fell down on my bed and just began sobbing.”
Out of her prayer that day, God impressed on her heart: Graham is going to get it.
Despite what Lore felt God impart, she didn’t see any encouraging signs. To the contrary, Graham went downhill fast.
At 13, he began using marijuana. He began cutting himself to relieve anxiety. He started fires in the house. He got into a physical fight with his dad, Lore recounts.
“He ran out and got a rock and he threw it and he hit me in the head,” says Michael Cottone, the father. They called 911, and the police intervened. Graham was arrested and jailed and placed under a restraining order to stay away from home.
“We know you’re going to let him come back,” the cops told the parents at the time. “But we’re not.”
Not long after, Graham experienced some sort of emotional breakdown and broken into a house in Texas.
He grew up in jail and mental hospitals.
“I wanted Graham to have peace and have joy,” Lore says.
Graham moved to Colorado, then hitchhiked to Oregon.
“We were actually on a vacation in Mexico,” Lore says. “Graham called us just half crazed, he was crying and screaming and mad because he had run out of all of his medications and he was at a hospital and they wouldn’t give him any more medications.”
Lore offered to wire him some money but said she couldn’t do much else.
“He got upset. He hung up on me,” Lore remembers. “Right before he hung up on me, he said, ‘I’m, going to hurt somebody.’”
Graham wouldn’t answer his phone and soon lost his phone. There was no way to get ahold of him.
“It felt really bad. It felt like the end,” she says. “All we could do was pray. I just told God, ‘He is yours. He’s always been yours. I want so badly to go rescue him, but I know you brought me here. You took me out of the way. I need to trust and let You do your thing.’”
After the vacation, Lore got a call from her son in Sacramento, California. He had hopped a freight train down from Portland with a group of vagabonds.
“I lost everything,” he said. “I knew I didn’t know anybody for thousands of miles, but I need God.”
“I had this vision of Hell,” Graham says. “It wasn’t a place where people were eternally tortured. It was this place where people just chose to do things their own way.” Read the rest: Asperger’s son went prodigal
Hillsong worship leader Darlene Zschech had spent her life lifting spirits, but when breast cancer struck in 2013, she needed her own spirit lifted.
“What I found in my ‘valley of the shadow of death’ is the presence of God,” she says on a CBN video. “I realized you can only have shadow if there is light. It’s just a fact that God doesn’t leave us.”
Famous for her 1993 song “Shout to the Lord,” Darlene led worship at Hillsong Church from 1996 to 2007, after which she and her husband founded Hope Unlimited Church in 2011 in New South Wales Australia.
Amazingly, it is estimated that “Shout to the Lord” gets sung by 30 million church-goers every Sunday.
A television star from childhood, Darlene developed insecurities after her parents divorced when she was 13. As a result, she fell into bulimia for about four years.
“It took a long time for that (the wounds from the divorce) to heal,” Darlene says on SWCS Australia. “But now, I have got a real compassion for kids in that situation. It is now the rule, not the exception. Our next generation is definitely going to need answers. Divorce can definitely leave scars.”
When her dad returned to church, he took Darlene, who at 15 accepted Christ. She met and married Mark, and the couple worked as youth pastors in Brisbane. Mark felt called to Sydney, while Darlene didn’t want to go because she had just rekindled her relationship with her mom. Read the rest: Darlene Zschech cancer battle
To make kids laugh and to avoid making them nervous because of his disfigurement, Shilo Harris wears “elf ears” like Spock from Star Trek.
The prosthetic ears attach magnetically. He lost his ears — and the skin on 35% of his body — in Feb. 19, 2007 when, as a soldier, his Humvee was hit by an IED on patrol on a stretch of Southern Bagdad road so dangerous it was called “Metallica.”
The IED killed three other soldiers, wounded a fourth and sent Shilo into a 48-day coma. When he awoke from the coma, he endured years of surgery and rehab. The whole experience and the murky, painful time he spent in a coma, Shilo calls “hell.”
“It was the most scariest, most dark, creepiest thing,” Shilo says on a 100Huntley video. “Everything was sharp and painful. The helpless feeling. It had to have been Hell. That’s the way I interpreted it.”
Today, Shilo Harris is a Christian man who has drawn close to God because of his experiences. He’s written a book, Steel Will: My Journey through Hell to Become the Man I was Meant to be. He’s a motivational speaker in schools.
Shilo grew up in Coleman, Texas, working at a bait and tackle shop run by his dad, a Vietnam veteran who suffered from untreated PTSD.
When Shilo saw the Twin Towers fall in New York City, he felt the need to serve his country to fight the terrorists who had decimated civilians with no prior declaration of war. He found himself in the U.S. Calvary during the Iraq War.
The fateful explosion engulfed the Humvee with flames. He managed to escape the vehicle. His body armor, made of nylon and plastic, melted onto his body. His ammo pouch was on fire. He rolled on the ground to snuff the flames. How did his own ammo not erupt and perforate him with rounds?
“I guess you could say I was pretty fortunate on a couple of accounts that day,” he told NPR.
He woke up from a medically-induced 48-day coma. In addition to his ears, he lost three fingers and the tip of his nose. He had a fractured collarbone and vertebrae. Read the rest: Shilo Harris on beating suicide
Inside her closet — the same closet she tried to hang herself in — Arianna Armour scrawled all the hateful words people said to her in life: “They never wanted you,” “You need to be locked up,” “She doesn’t want you.”
It was an appalling list, and Arianna rehearsed it as she proceeded from drug-addicted parents who dropped her off at foster care to lesbian and transgender. Injecting testosterone in her thigh, she became James Harley, a gym enthusiast and substance abuser who was in and out of mental health facilities.
It was at the gym that a joy-filled Christian employee felt led to invite her to church. “James” didn’t want to go, but when “he” did, God had a prophecy for him and started a years-long process leading him to Jesus and back to her biological identity as a woman.
“This thing has stolen my identity” she testifies to her church on a YouTube video. “I’m tired of looking at my body and thinking it was a mistake. I’m tired to walking with my head down because God loves me no matter what. God took all the pain away from, the identity the devil stole from me.”
Today, Arianna is involved in ministry. She reaches out to people like herself who want to alter their God-given sexual identity, and escape the confusion and depression. She recently helped a 13-year-old boy who was toying with becoming a girl but got a touch of God.
Arianna Armour’s journey through Dante’s Inferno began with a violent, drug-abusing dad and an actress/singer mom who gave birth to a baby girl with five different drugs in her system, Arianna says on YouTube.
Of course, the Department of Child Protective Services intervened. Foster care turned into adoption, but the love her Christian family tried to show her came up short, she felt.
When she was four years old, Arianna was smitten by a pretty girl in Sunday School.
“Immediately, I hated the fact that I was in a dress and I hated the fact that I was a girl,” she recalls. “I asked God, ‘Why did you make me a girl? Why couldn’t I be born a boy? This was the first sign of the Jezebel spirit in my life. The enemy couldn’t stop me from being born, so he had to try something else. He sent demons into my life from a young age.”
She started dressing like a boy and playing sports like a boy. She hated dress up and Barbies, “so I got made fun of a lot,” she says. “I was the girl who wore boys’ clothes. I dressed like a boy, I talked like a boy, I acted like a boy. I was openly gay and nobody wanted to be around that.”
While nobody wanted to sit with her at lunch in school, she lost herself in music, a talent she received from her birth parents, she says. Her adopted parents bought her a guitar.
In middle school, she fell into the wrong crowd, trying to fit in. “I started to lose myself, so I started to fall into deep depression. The enemy took advantage of my brokenness. I made friends with my demons and accepted that this is who I was.”
Trying to help, her adoptive parents got her a psychiatrist who prescribed meds for Arianna’s suicidal thoughts and mood swings.
“I let all the darkness on the inside reflect on the outside,” she says. “I was in such desperate need for love and affection, I got over-attached and obsessed” with a person.
She manifested violence and anger. Through the Baker Act, she was put in mental hospitals 13 times.
Lorena Saylor would get in her car and wind up at some random place, having no idea how she got there.
Depression had taken over her life.
“I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to get dressed. I just basically wanted to be alone,” Lorena says on a CBN video. “There was times I wanted to commit suicide.”
Lorena’s problems started with sexual abuse in her childhood home in Kentucky. Although she was the victim, she was punished. “I was the one that got spanked for it,” she says.
Migraines set in at the same time. She couldn’t concentrate in school and was diagnosed with dyslexia. She also suffered from anxiety and low self-esteem.
Lorena married at age 25, but her problems persisted. Her husband was enlisted in the Air Force and would frequently be sent for lengthy deployments, leaving her and the two children alone for long periods of time.
“This voice would say, ‘Ram your car into this tree. Your family would be so much better off if you’re just gone.’”
She was raised in church, but “the back-stabbing of people talking about people, just the things I had heard and seen within the church, I didn’t want anything to do with it,” she says.
At age 33, Lorena suffered a back and hip injury at work. Unfortunately, her prescription pain medication turned into an addiction. “My body just craved more and more,” she says. “I become a functioning addict.”
She felt unloved. She wanted to be alone but despaired of the loneliness. Whenever she drove, she got lost in her thoughts and direction. The voices would tell her to commit suicide.
“I wanted to die,” she says. “Many times I put pills in my hands ready to take them. This voice would say, ‘Just take it. Your family would be so much better off.’”