Category Archives: christian sports

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyball team 2019For administration class, A+. Actual volleyball, a C, at best.

Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica won four out of nine games this season in varsity volleyball. Girls from all different levels banded together and put forth their best effort. On Wednesday, the Saints limped out of its season against Westmark School of Encino.

“We all got in our heads,” says Sarah Montez, sophomore. Our emotions got to us. When somebody wouldn’t do good, we would think, Oh, well, she’s not going to get anymore. We got frustrated with each other. That was our worst game we’ve ever done.”

But while LCA’s volleyball has fallen off from the years when the slashed their way into playoffs, other skills associated with participating on team soared.

Namely, Sarah Montez became an entrepreneur.

When she found out that LCA wasn’t going to even have a team due to lack of interest among the girls, she spearheaded a move to assemble a team.

“Sarah and her parents were a major driving force in wanting to make sure there was a team this year,” says LCA Principal Josh Young.

Sarah, with the help of her parents and her close friend Laken Wilson, communicated with all the school’s girls and encouraged, cajoled, persuaded, spammed by text until enough players relented from the low self confidence and agreed to integrate on the squad.

Then, having mastered the business strategies of forming “a staff” and motivating them to their optimal performance, Sarah forayed into a search for a CEO. (There was no coach, which is a volunteer position.)

She held brainstorming session with interested parties. She formed a search committee to identify and recruit a ideal candidate. (She got her parents involved.)

They used software to scoure LinkedIn. Just kidding. They thought of who might pitch in from the Lighthouse Church, LCA’s oversight organization.

They zeroed in on Felipe Rodriguez for all his merits: He had time. He liked working with the youth. He was an expert at sports and teams.

There was only one drawback: Felipe didn’t know a thing about volleyball.

But options were few, and Felipe had the will to serve — even if he didn’t know how to serve (a volleyball).

Felipe contacted his good friend and fellow youth worker, Xiovana Moraida, who assists her husband, Lucas Moraida, as youth leaders in the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica.

X — as she prefers to be called — agreed immediately to be head coach while Felipe was assistant. X had played volleyball in high school and played soccer in college, so she knew about competition and team dynamics. Read the rest: Learning business schools at a small school in Santa Monica.

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‘Man of God’ headband gets linebacker Demario Davis busted

5cdc60d960975.imageHe used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring him.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.

“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”

Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.

“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”

At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.

“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”

The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.

Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.

That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.

“That scared me to the point that the rest of my junior and senior year, I cleaned up my act.” Read the rest of Christian Demario Davis Man of God headband.

Not succumbing is overcoming

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyballHeidi Hutchinson wasn’t too upset by Lighthouse’s loss Wednesday.

That’s because she’s winning, though losing.

Heidi comes from a rough background. So now, not only does she attend a school she says loves her, she’s part of a team actually playing league sport.

“I’m learning about being on a team instead of just working by myself,” says Heidi. “They never gave up on me when I couldn’t hit the ball straight. When I first started, I didn’t know how to do anything, but now we’re playing actual games. I have some real friends.”

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost in three sets to Delphi Academy of Santa Monica 21-25, 14-25 and 17-25. LCA’s record is 3-4.

But Heidi knows that winning has many measures. If you’re a school that regularly churns out batches of Ivy League-bound college kids and draws from club team sports, then congratulations, you’re a winner.

But for others in life who don’t get the supportive, nurturing start of a dual parent home with no financial lack, just making the decision to not succumb is to overcome.

Eventually, Child Protective Services intervened for Heidi and her twin brother David. After years of neglect and abuse, they are now adopted by their grandparents, who enrolled them at LCA.

The last time Heidi saw her mom was 2017. And her dad? When she was 4.

This is not a sob story. This is a story of how people can be winners. All of society is a winner for every kid who chooses to rise above hardship, process and hopefully heal from the trauma and not spiral out of control with some pernicious coping mechanism.

“It wasn’t until the middle of 9th grade when I came to the Lighthouse, and me and my brother finally felt cared about by teachers and friends,” Heidi says.

Good things happened because Sarah Montez and I wanted to play volleyball badly.Read the rest: Not succumbing is overcoming – Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

The X-Factor in Santa Monica Saints volleyball

X Factor on LCA volleyball teamXiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.

“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”

Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.

Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.

santa monica volleyball christian high schoolStarting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.

In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team). 

As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.

Now she’s motivated

lighthouse christian academy santa monica girls volleyball 2019As part of last year’s soccer team, Cece Hang’andu refused to run on the pitch.

There was one moment in which Coach yelled from the sideline: “Cece, run!”

She turned and looked at the sideline with something of a glare. Some people say they can read palms. But that day, Coach could read her face: “I’m not running. I’m going to continue to walk.”

Today, Cecelia, a junior at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, is part of the Saints girls volleyball team. Now that she is contributing in this sport, she comments about her lackluster participation in last year’s soccer.

“Running? Heck no. Too much cardio,” she complained to this reporter. “It was too much effort. Too much, too much, too much. They weren’t depending on me. Anyway, the boys were going to get the ball and were going to win. They didn’t need me.”

Cece is not completely wrong in her assessment. Lighthouse soccer last year did not depend on her. She was given the opportunity to participate, thrown on the pitch from time to time. But there were motors driving last year’s successful soccer team, and she was not one. So she walked.

But now Cece has to be a motor on the volleyball team.

“They needed seven players to have a team, and I wanted to be there to help them out,” she says. “They needed me.”

After winning the first set Wednesday, the Saints ultimately fell to Westmark School of Encino 27-25, 16-25, 23-25, 24-26. LCA now has one win and three losses.

It almost didn’t have a team — at the beginning of the year.

Lighthouse is a small school. With limited resources, they’re always trying to squeeze just one more drop out of the grape. First they needed enough players. Cece stepped up. Then they needed a coach.

Lighthouse is not alone among small private schools. As a matter of fact, another team dropped out of the league because of lack of players. This provided LCA a chance to participate in league play (it originally wasn’t going to figure in the league because it didn’t foresee enough players).

Because she stepped up, Cece is discovering a motivation she previously lacked. Read the rest of finding motivation.

It’s Africa Time

Wakanda powerNine years ago, Josie Bowen was the awkward, shy adopted missionaries’ kid from West Africa who didn’t fit in the small private school in Santa Monica.

Today, the sophomore is ready to take over America.

Milken Community School was probably glad they racked up 47 points in the first half against Lighthouse Christian Academy to assure their final victory.

Because a sleeping giant was waking.

In the second half, Josie beasted out. On kickoff return, he ran the full 80-yard field, smashing through Wildcats, to score a touchdown. There were no cuts, no jukes, just Cruise missile launched straight up the field.

This was no fluke. The volcano had been rumbling for three games. On Lighthouse’s fourth game Thursday night, Josie Bowen was in full eruption.

Gentle Jekyll transformed into hideous Hyde, and CIF’s southern section 8-man football won’t ever be the same again.

Josie made seven tackles, three kickoff returns and one run. He appeared to harness the kinetic energy from hits received to increase his speed and power. Or maybe the Vibranium kicked in.

Fledgling Lighthouse suffered a serious casualty in its first game when point man, Levi Photenhauer tore his ACL. Fellow senior Marcus Scribner would be hard-pressed to drive the team forward single-handedly and a dour season was forecast.

But other players stepped up. Sophomore Steven Lahood and senior Hosea Ashcraft delivered on offense, and skater Pat Cannon showed a previously unseen maturity as QB. But the biggest revelation was the kid weened on soccer in Africa.

“I was kind of lost last year. I was crying, like, ‘I don’t wanna be on this team,'” Josie says. “My team did amazing blocks, and I just ran through the hole. I feel amazing. I just feel like I ran 100 laps and I feel nothing. I just ran through the herd.” Read the rest of African missionary turns beast in American football high school.

Gamer turns the tide to the (real) game

brandon farah, hero of lighthouse christian academyBrandon Farah hadn’t figured prominently in any play this year. Or last year.

But on Friday, the senior — who’s 99 parts gamer and 1 part football player — came up big in the third quarter with an interception that hammered the nail into the coffin of Beacon Hill Classical Academy. His heroics, in the red zone, preceded a 70-yard touchdown run by Marcus Scribner that left no doubt that tide had turned. Lighthouse Christian Academy won 56-28.

“I didn’t know the ball hit me until I got it, until I looked down,” Brandon said, projecting modesty in his moment of glory.

Brandon Farah, the softie, played hard. The cocoon burst, and the kid who always said he loved football was finally playing real football. Not just on a monitor.

“It was a great game. It was a great four quarters,” said Justin Kayne, offensive coordinator filling in for head coach Zach Scribner who was out sick. “We came out and it was a battle. We scored, they scored, we scored, they scored. We made a few adjustments. Our guys answered the call, and look what happened when we played four quarters of sound, hard-hitting football.

“This was a statement game,” Kayne added. “We made a statement. This is what Lighthouse football is all about. This is one win. We are going to build on this win. We’re going to continue to build on this.”

The Saints now have one win and two losses in CIF Southern Section 8-man football.

No one could have predicted a landslide victory by half time. Both teams seemed pretty even, score for score, man for man, plays for plays. One ref called the high-scoring 1st quarter a “track event” because there was so much running for touchdowns. LCA was ahead by a slim 22-20.

When the Saints fumbled in the 2nd quarter, it gave the Gryphons a chance to pull ahead.

However, the team from Camarillo failed to capitalize on that gift. In response, the Santa Monica boys scored. It was 30-20 at half time.

In the second half, both teams wanted to come out strong. LCA got the upper hand.

Marcus Scribner was running rampant with the ball. He was burning opponents with speed, breaking ankles with cuts and punishing with stinging hits when Gryphons were making tackles. He smashed them, strong-armed them and ground down their will to put up a fight. Every WWF body slam was an injection of intimidation for opponents.

While Marcus was playing the unstoppable superhero, his LCA teammates were stepping up and making contributions.

Senior Hosea Ashcraft, alternating with Marcus, ran the ball to keep the Gryphon defense guessing. Originally a soccer player who never really understood the intricacies of football, Hosea was dashing with speed, power and cuts that he had never made before.

Quarterback Pat Canon was making unaccustomed tackles on defense, and secret weapon Steven Lahood was catching passes when the opponents concentrated too much on countering the “thunder and lightning” attack of Marcus and Hosea.

Even the kid brother, freshman Rob Scribner made a 2-point conversion reception. Overwhelmed with excitement that as a slender and small freshman he had succeeded in varsity football, Rob spiked the football, a violation that penalized the Saints kickoff 10 yards.

The offensive and defensive lines are to be credited. The Gryphons couldn’t make a single sack.

But the runaway surprise was Brandon. Read the rest of Making men out of boys through football at Christian school in Santa Monica.

300 (how a small Christian school in Santa Monica puts up a fight in football)

Lighthouse Santa Monica footballThis was not King Leonidas’ battle. It was Gideon’s.

After witnessing Lighthouse’ undermanned but courageous stand against his team, Downey’s coach Mike Nuño compared his Santa Monica opponents to the Old Testament hero who vanquished the Midianites with an army of just 300.

“You’re like Gideon’s warriors,” Nuño told them after Saturday’s game. “You guys are the 300 that stayed and say, ‘Man, we’re going to go out there and do this thing.’ It takes heart. You guys battle and battle and battle. You guys come out with a small group year after year after year and fight until the end.”

If Lighthouse Christian Academy got compared to Gideon’s 300, it lost like Leonidas’ 300, overwhelmed by the endless swarming hordes of the Persian Empire. Despite a late first-half, valiant but quixotic surge, the Saints lost 21-62 against Calvary Chapel Christian School of Downey in CIF’s Southern Section 8-man football league.

“I coached 16 players one year, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Nuño said. “You come out with 10 or 12 players. I applaud you guys for that.”

LCA and the Grizzlies were roughly even at the beginning of the game as players sized each other up, identified strengths and weaknesses and sought to exploit opportunities. Realizing their superior firepower, the Grizzlies began to pull away, making the score 6-24.

But then a short kickoff gave Lighthouse a short field to drive for a touchdown. Senior Marcus Scribner caught a pass in the 2nd quarter for a touchdown to make it — with the subsequent 2 point conversion — 14-24.

Downey discovered they could essentially block Lighthouse as long as they needed to make the long bomb pass and quickly added a TD.

When Lighthouse tried to reply, the Grizzlies stymied their advance. Despite a dazzling one-handed catch and subsequent power scramble from senior Hosea Ashcraft, the Saints were unable to capitalize and had to punt.

The Grizzlies shot their effective long pass down the right side to 1st and goal. It seemed they would pull away definitively in the scoring. But sophomore David Hutchinson tackled a running back for a 2-yard loss, and two passes bounced off the receivers hands brought an unexpected stop to the Downey steamroll. Read the rest of Christian school Santa Monica football fight.

The quiet kid is heard in football

lighthouse christian academy football santa MonicaHe was the quietest of five brothers. While his older brothers fought and his younger brother was being the mischievous clown, Steven Lahood was the quiet — and obedient — of the siblings, both at home and at school.

But Friday, Steven made himself heard, first with a touchdown on the second play of the game and then by stripping the ball from Teach Tech Charter High player and running almost for a touchdown in what was Lighthouse’s last chance to overtake its opponents.

Despite the sophomore’s eruption on the football field, Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica lost its opening game 25-38 in its sputtered bid to establish league dominance this year.

2019 was supposed to be the year for the Saints. With a crop of talented, speedy and big seniors, LCA hoped to win by big margins.

But key man, Levi Photenhauer, injured his knee in the first quarter and went out for the game. Without the speed of “Cheese” (as coach calls him for his shock of red hair), the Saints’ offense centered pretty much around hulkish Marcus Scribner, who trains constantly and wants to crack the NFL.

“We became one-dimensional,” said Head Coach Zach Scribner, Marcus’ uncle.

Marcus delivered.

After a controversial ref’s call annulled a Lighthouse touchdown because of a smart block by Marcus, the blond-haired kid returned undaunted to the offense and caught a pass to not be denied the TD.

But it was not enough. At the end of the day, the Tech’s Rams from Los Angeles, weaved and wobbled their way through the Saints enough times to secure the win. Read the rest about Small Christian School’s football team.

FMX daredevil overcame fear with faith

ronnie faisst fmx christianWhen he made the switch from racing to daredevil trick riding, Ronnie Faisst got sponsors, pay, notoriety… and a drug habit.

“You can’t become a top professional racer if you’re a partier. Tight diets and training everyday — that’s the background I came from. Didn’t do any drugs, didn’t drink, didn’t want to,” Ronnie says on This is Me video.

“But then when you got into freestyle, all you really needed was to be willing to take some risk. So we found you could party and still do this. We all got caught up in girls, drugs, alcohol, late nights.”

ronnie faisst tricksFor 10 years, Ronnie soared at the top the emerging Freestyle Motocross, or FMX, pioneering tricks and competing on tour. But while his motorbike flew, his soul was sinking into the depths of sin.

Ironically the thrills-seeker who thrived off of the adrenaline rush found Jesus in a very ho-hum way, watching a televangelist explain the gospel. What drove him to the arms of Jesus? His greatest obstacle in freestyle: fear.

“If you’re a free-style riders, there’s gonna be tricks that scare you a little bit. You have to push through that fear to learn the trick. Right at that time, the back flip came out which to land one you might crash five,” Ronnie says.

ronnie faisst christian“This dude speaking on T.V. was talking about faith, and it spoke to me because he was speaking about fear. I experienced fear everyday,” he says. “I thought, ‘This dude has such a cool view on life. I’ve never really looked at it that way.’ I got saved in my bedroom just watching this program. It makes you feel good. God’s on your side. God starts blessing you.”

Ronnie, from Murrieta, California who now lives in Kansas, is an X Games regular since 2000, winning Moto X bronze medal four times. The 42-year-old was featured in the original Crusty Demons daredevil videos.

He was living his dream, getting paid to ride his motorcycle and perform tricks and compete — and God was on his side.

Initially he didn’t realize there was much more to the Christian life.

“I had a friend give me a Bible for Christmas. Things were just jumping off the page at me,” Ronnie remembers. His life didn’t line up with the demand of the Bible. Read the rest: dirt bike daredevil Ronnie Faisst comes to Jesus.

Newest greatest of NBA Kwahi Leonard keen on Jesus, not so much on money

la-1558749090-vbbgqjllec-snap-imageNot Steph Curry, not LeBron, not KD.

The hottest commodity in basketball right now is Toronto Raptors star Kwahi Leonard who honors Jesus and has single-handedly carried his team to unpredicted wins, first in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers to enter the Eastern Conference, then again last night to upset the Warriors in Game 1 of the finals.

“Last year was a very down year for me (he was injured); I was going through a lot,” says Kwahi, whose buzzer beater to beat the 76ers in Game 7 is now legend. “And you know, God is good! I prayed every day and ended up getting healthy, now I’m able to play basketball. You could just see what He does for you.”

Kwahi is dropping jaws both on offense and on defense. He averaged 35-point games against Philadelphia. He locked down Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks to reverse a 0-2 game deficit to secure the Eastern Conference.

SPURS__V__PORTLAND_10_TR“Leonard is killing dudes in isolation (like Harden), pounding and rocking the basketball (like Harden) before blowing past defenders or hitting step-back threes (like Harden),” Jesse Washington crows on The Undefeated.

Up until last night, the idea that the Golden State Warriors would sweep the finals — again — was thought to be as pre-determined as the Book of Revelations. It was sure to be boring, and only diehard fans and somnambulists who like eye-glazing as they observe the inevitable even bothered to tune in.

But Leonard and the on-fire Raptors suddenly woke up the soporific middle American who only turns on the game if there actually is going to be a game. Now, the final is promising to be interesting.

5bfd789c285e17dc0f8aa679a3d1f82fThe talent-rich Warriors knew they had to double-team and even triple-team Kawhi to win. Stymie the star and blitz to victory. It’s been their not-so-secret strategy, and it has worked against James Harden and Damian Lillard.

It didn’t work last night.

The Marvel’s Avengers of the NBA got blindsided by the no-names of the Raptors. Harassed at every turn, Leonard passed the ball to his teammates, who materialized superstar performance. Pascal Siakim, notorious for poor shooting, transformed suddenly into a marksman, hooping 32 points to lead his team to a 118-109 thrashing.

Will the Golden State league hegemony be broken? Read the rest of Kawhi Leonard Christian.

Raised in Appalachian family fighting culture, he found peace with God

usa_today_10392817.0Once, Cody almost sliced off his brother’s finger with a knife. On another occasion, his brother punched his ear so hard, it swelled and became a “cauliflower ear.” Another time, they took their squabble outside city limits where they wailed on each other for 45 minutes. This is how Cody Garbrandt became an MMA champion.

But he almost lost a battle with depression until the same brother intervened.

“I almost hung myself,” Cody says on an I am Second video. “He busted down the door and came in and saved my life. He gave me the biggest hug and sat there with me and cried with me. He said everything was going to be all right. That day was a changing point for me in my life. That brought us even closer, you know, attending church together.”

cody-garbrandtCody grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio in small towns where people are as proud of their hometowns as they are poor in the economically depressed areas of Uhrichsville and Denison.

Fighting is a way of life there — especially for the Garbrandt family.

“From both sides of my family, we were fighters.” Cody says. “We had a last name to uphold. Oh you’re from Garbrandt clan or the Mease clan. You don’t mess with those guys.”

He watched his uncle fight, while his grandfather, drunk in the stands, fought with a spectator.

With his brother Zach Garbrandt

“We’d just be sitting there watching it,” he remembers. “That was normal for us.”

Since fighting was “normal,” Cody and his brother Zach made grappling a normal part of sibling rivalries.

“Out of the womb, I was fighting over the bottle,” Cody jokes. “Zach was my fierce competitor. My brother was always bigger, stronger, faster, meaner than me growing up, so that’s why I was always quick to fight: I had something to prove.

“Me and Zach, we fought so many times in our lives. We had some pretty violent fights.”

Once when Zach provoked him to punch him, Cody grabbed a knife in the sink and slashed him, nearly cutting off his middle finger.

0_1218_SPO_LDN-L-UFC-GARBRANT-HG13“I remember he looked at me, wrapped his finger in a paper towel, punched the stove and shattered the whole glass stove and went back to bed,” Cody remembers.

In their last fight, Cody was 17; Zach, 18.

“We ended up fighting over a Subway sandwich,” he recalls.

After Grandma intervened to stop, the brothers jumped in their cars and drove to “the pump house.”

“That’s where we would take out-of-towners to fight,” he says. “We would take them out of city limits where cops wouldn’t go.”

The fight lasted 45 minutes.

“It was always a knock-out, drag-out fight with Zach,” he says. The fights were so fierce it was possible someone might die.

“My knuckles were all cut up, my lip was bloodied, my teeth were all busted up,” he says. “I hit with a right-handed, overhand right. He had the stanky legs like he was walking in potholes. He looked at me with this crazed look, like, ‘Alright, awesome. Cody finally hit me with a nice shot that hurt me.” Read the rest: Cody Garbrandt’s toughest fight.

Son of Pastor of Calvary Chapel went prodigal but came back

ryan ries skateThey called him the “cocaine pirate.”

“In one point in my life I was in this room at my friends house and I was putting ecstasy, heroine, and coke together and I was shooting it up while smoking crack and drinking,” Ryan Ries says in a “This is Me” video. “I mean it got dark in my life, and I’m just sitting in this big mansion going, ‘Is this what my life has become?’”

Growing up in Southern California, Ryan loved skateboarding and partying. As a freshman, he was invited for rides in the cars of the senior girls at lunch. They lit up joints, so he did too.

“That was the beginning of a whole snowball effect of things that would happen,” Ryan says. “You got the hottest chicks in school. They’re seniors, you’re a freshman.”

He was introduced to electronic scene in 1990 where people did hallucinogenics and LSD for hours in the hills.

Ryan started dating a girl. Weeks later, she got an abortion. When he found out, he objected.

ryan ries baptism“I didn’t even know you were pregnant,” he told her. “Next time something like this happens, call me. I’m in love with you. The next time you get pregnant, let’s have the kid.”

Five months later, she informed him of her second pregnancy. By then, Ryan was making money, so he offered to buy a condo for her to raise the kid in.

“I’m too young to have a kid,” she informed him. “Ryan, I love you. I wanna stay with you. But I need to get the abortion.”

He responded that he would leave her if she carried out the plan.

She aborted the baby anyway.

Ryan broke up with her and got mad at God.

ryan-and-crystal ries“How could God do this to me?” Ryan recalls. “I remember being in my room and saying, ‘God, I want nothing to do with You. I hate You, and I’m going to live for myself.’”

It was a chaotic relationship anyhow, more founded on sex than on real love, he says.

A few weeks later, he started a job as director of Skate & Music Marketing for internationally known brands such as Forum Snowboards, C1RCA Footwear, Special Blend, and Foursquare Outerwear. They traveled nine months out of the year doing skating activities and staging concerts. His party routine ramped up. He was in a feeding-the-flesh frenzy.

“Playboy mansion parties, porn stars hosting our events, taking cocaine like crazy,” he remembers. “It feels good for a while. But what happens is the hole in my heart keeps getting bigger and bigger. I keep having to fill it with more alcohol, more drugs, more girls. It’s like the dog that chases its tail. That’s what I felt my life was.”

During 10 years of partying, Ryan tried to go sober three times.

“The problem is you become accustomed to the routine, the habits,” he says. Read the rest: Ryan Ries comes back to Jesus.

He always won until his he lost his wife

zGkHc3DQ_400x400Chicago Bears star Tommie Harris was the best at everything, but he’d never been tested — until his wife died unexpectedly 41 days into their marriage.

“I was #1 getting drafted, #1 going to Oklahoma University, so I never was tested,” Harris recounts on a Grace For Purpose video. “I knew God in a good place. I didn’t know Him in a place when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go.”

The Texas native was playing for the San Diego Chargers at the time. On a visit from his fiancé, Tommie decided to move the wedding date forward and go to the courthouse right then and there on New Year’s. They already had two kids together.

tommie harris and wifeThe church ceremony would come a few months later, and to fit the white dress better, Ashley wanted a breast reduction. It was a simple procedure, but she never woke up. A brain aneurysm tragically snuffed her life out on the operating table in 2012.

“I had something like $25 million in the bank when I lost Ashley, and not one dollar had been able to help her,” Tommie laments. “If it could have, I would have given every last cent to save my wife.” Read the rest of Tommie Harris’ loss.

He forged prescriptions for pain killers

David Valcich FCADavid Valcich was charged with 18 felonies and three misdemeanors for writing fake prescriptions and turning them in to pharmacies. He faced a maximum of 45 years in prison.

When David was 9 years old, his parents divorced. The beleaguered boy was asked which parent he wanted to live with. His dad encouraged him to stay with mom.

“It was tough. My world was shattered,” David told CBN.

His reaction to the crumbling stability in his life? Uncontrollable behavior.

Shuttled frequently between mom and dad, it seemed neither could impose good behavior on him.

David parents divorced to drugsHe got into fights, bouts of anger, confusion and rebellion. He spent time in juvenile delinquent centers “going from one foolish act to the next.”

In middle school, he found he could channel his rage in weightlifting and football.

“It gave me some sense of control over some area of my life,” he recalled.

He graduated high school “by the skin of my teeth.” He walked onto a Division 1 football team at Middle Tennessee State University, but he fell into partying. First it was steroids. Then injuries introduced him to painkillers. Like so many, he got hooked.

A “computer savvy friend” helped him write out prescriptions for more drugs.

“Anything to numb the pain from emotions and wounds that had never been dealt with or healed,” David told CBN.

One day when he walked in the pharmacy, there were two undercover narcotic agents waiting for him. He resisted arrest and in the ensuing melee, the whole pharmacy got trashed.

david vallesHe was then charged with the 18 felonies and 3 misdemeanors — confronting him with a maximum possible sentence of 45 years.

All but one of the charges were dropped, leaving him to serve a mere month in jail.

He realized that his chances for an education and a sports career had gone out the window, which led him to do cocaine for the next 10 years.

He calls his 20s “the lost decade.”

“It was a miserable existence completely devoid of meaning and hope,” he said.

David overdosed three times, and on that last time, in June 2006, when he woke up in the hospital, the doctors told him his kidneys were shutting down. He had renal failure and had tested positive for Hepatitis C.

Doctors gravely informed him that he would need dialysis and he’d be dependent on it for the rest of his life unless he got a transplant.

“It was like someone had just dropped a payload of bricks on my chest,” he says. “Utter hopelessness and despair. As I waited there in the hospital, I was mourning the wasted years.”

After four days, he was told that he was not getting any better and that they needed to start him on dialysis the following day.

That night, David cried out to God: “I don’t even know if You’re real, but if You are, I want to know You. Please help me.”

The doctors came in the next day with shocking, yet great news. They didn’t know how, but he had a complete turnaround and was being discharged later that day.

He was instantaneously, miraculously healed!

“I knew it was God answering my prayer,” he says. “I was amazed.”

Over the next six months, David moved in with his mother and asked many questions about his faith and sought out God.

On Christmas morning at 3:00 am, David couldn’t sleep and went out to his living room to watch television. The Gospel of John was playing and he knew, again, that “God was doing something in him and that Jesus had died for me.”

“I just knew that not only did God heal my kidneys in that hospital bed, but that Jesus Christ was real and was born into this world,” he says. “I didn’t have this full grasp of the gospel, but I understood in that moment on that morning that Jesus died for me. It was just mind-blowing.” Read the rest of prescription pain killer addiction.

The greatest gymnast of all time needs God too

simone biles christian olympianShe’s been called “the greatest gymnast of all time” and “light years ahead of the competition,” but Simone Biles, 21, credits God with her tour de force at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics where she became the first US gymnast to win four gold medals at once.

“I can go to (God) at any time,” Simone told Fox News. “He knows exactly what I need. Faith can calm me down. Everything happens for a reason.”

The fact that Simone would say everything happens for a reason is profoundly significant. She was born to parents lost in drug and alcohol abuse. She was caromed around the foster care system like a pinball until her grandmother and step-grandfather were contacted by a social worker, and they took her in.

simone biles bibleThe compact dynamo took overcoming adversity to the next level. She didn’t just “overcome,” she vaulted over obstacles with graceful twists and gasp-inducing flips to impose her dominance on the world stage and declare she would not be held victim to a troubled past.

In addition to her Olympic exploits, Simone is a four-time World all-around champion (2013–15, 2018), four-time World floor exercise champion (2013–15, 2018), two-time World balance beam champion (2014, 2015) and the 2018 World vault champion.

“Some of us older Olympians have talked about there being a physical limit to the sport, and then along comes Simone with all these incredible skills,” says Mary Lou Retton, a gold medal gymnast from 1984. “She’s like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Simone was born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio, the third of four siblings. Her mother, Shanon Biles, struggled with drugs and alcohol, while her father, Kelvin Clemons abandoned with family because of his own addictions.

After bouncing around foster care, Simone moved in with her grandfather Ron Biles, in Houston, Texas, in 2000. Together with his new wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles, Ron provided the necessary stability and Christian upbringing that helped Simone forget her dark past and become a champion.

Simone is 4’8” and so muscular that she used to wear a jacket at school to hide her muscles. She didn’t want to be embarrassed because she looked different than other girls.

1216-gl-well64-01_sqIt was Ron and Nellie who got Simone into gymnastics as an outlet for her boundless energy — as her older brother Adam says, Simone “was always flipping and jumping on furniture. My parents figured it would be better to put them in a safer environment.”

“I wouldn’t (have been in Rio) without my family,” Simone told the Houston Chronicle. “I can’t thank them enough for all the things they’ve given up for me to do what I love. Every time I compete, they can see that I’m happy.”

The couple officially adopted Simone and her siblings in 2003. They always took them to church on Sunday morning, prayed prayers and even got Simone out early from Wednesday gymnastics practice — to the chagrin of her trainer — to go to Bible instruction. She was homeschooled to accommodate intensive training schedules in the gym.

“I’ve been brought up to never take anything for granted and to always be the best Simone—the best version of myself,” Simone says on Glamour magazine. “From a very young age, (my adopted parents) always believed in us and told us to believe in ourselves.”

Nellie sees the hand of God in Simone’s coming to join her family.

“I’m a very prayerful person,” Nellie told CBN. Find out how Simone Biles overcame childhood with parents who abused drugs and alcohol.

Christ helped Katelyn Ohashi return to gymnastics and beat body shamers

katelyn ohashi perfect 10 floor routine uclaWhen Katelyn Ohashi dropped out of elite gymnastics due to injury, she felt relieved.

“I was happy to be injured,” she says starkly in a video.

Katelyn broke the Internet last week when her perfect-10 floor routine at UCLA wowed people with rarely seen feats that included a mind-boggling splits bounce.

Katelyn, who has identified as Christian, was born to a Japanese dad and German mom and raised in Seattle. She thrived at gymnastics from childhood and made the national team at age 12.

She actually beat her famous teammate Simone Biles in the 2013 American Cup, but a shoulder injury and subsequent back injury ruled her out of competition for two years.

american_cup_2015_katelyn ohashi with simone bilesThe blow would have been crushing to any aspiring star and might have provoked an identity crisis. But for Katelyn, it meant the end of unbearable pressure and body shaming she was subjected to over the Internet.

“After my first and last senior competition, I was told that I might never be able to do gymnastics again,” she said on Good Morning America. “It was like this weight was lifted off of me.”

Unlike her comrades, she was happy to drop down to Level 10 gymnastics and enter UCLA as a freshman in 2015. Without the glare of the cameras, she was able to rediscover her love for the sport and simply enjoy life. She could eat a burger and fries without feeling guilty and fretting about getting chubby, which had elicited anonymous snipes online.

“As a 14 year old, it’s kind of hard to cope with because you are still developing as a person,” she says. It’s an age when “everything really impacts you.”

During her freshman year in UCLA gymnastics, she told her coach, “I just don’t want to be great again. When I was great, there was nothing joyful about it. I wasn’t happy. So why would I want to go back there?”

Recently she interviewed with Serve Your Truth and confided: “Right now, I’m reading a lot to get more content with my blog. I’ve been reading the New Testament in the Bible because I am trying to improve my relationship with God. Someone once told me, ‘I don’t put my trust in people down here; I put my trust in God up there.’”

katelyn ohashi younger yearsApparently, it worked because joy permeated her most recent floor routine from start to finish.

Today, the 21-year-old sensation wants to shame the body shamers.

“In gym, makeup is forced on really young girls. If we don’t put on makeup, we are docked points,” she says. “I never felt the need to present myself with makeup because I believed I should be judged on my skills. After that competition, there were so many comments about my hair not being perfect. I won a big competition and people only cared about how I look.”

She wrote a poem entitled “Self-Hatred Goodbyes.” Here are some lines:

That only those people with the right, perfect bodies have the right to stand.

But here today, I stand, with the love that penetrates deeper than any wedding band.

Because I am my own size, and no words or judgmental stares will make me compromise.

For the bittersweet satisfaction that lays within my eyes, within my thighs,

I finally got my cake and ate it too for my old self-cries.

And today, my self-hatred says its goodbyes.

“There was a time when I was on top of the world, an Olympic hopeful. I was unbeatable — until I wasn’t,” Katelyn says on a video uploaded by the Players Tribune. “That girl that you would think had it all — all these medals in her room, the podium she’s standing on, she thought she had nothing.”

Her confidence wavered over fan criticisms that focused on her looks or weight, the shape of her body. She wanted to eat junk food and exercised constantly after eating so that she would pass periodic weight tests to not be kicked off the team.

“(I) was on this path of almost invincibility, and then (my) back just gave out,” she says. “I was broken.”

But the brokenness wasn’t the disappointment over the injury. It was the internal self-doubt from the lacerating comments from nasty “fans.” She embraced the pull away from gymnastics.

“I wanted to experience what it was like to be a kid again,” Katelyn says. “Nobody ever knew really what I was going through, and I could never say what was wrong with me. I couldn’t accept myself. I was happy to be injured.”

Others, however, didn’t embrace her injury and urged her to strive to return to the top flight. “I was compared to a bird that couldn’t fly. I hated myself.” Read the rest about Katelyn Ohashi Christian.

Tua Tagovailoa honors Jesus with eye black

tua crimson tide christianWhen the collegiate national championship game is played Monday, the two quarterbacks competing against each other on the gridiron will both be Christians.

Trevor Lawrence at Clemson and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama are outspoken believers who put their faith before football.

tua points to godLawrence boasts a 67% passing accuracy this season, while Tua enjoyed 70% pinpoint precision.

Tua, whose full Somoan name is Tuanigamanuolepola, made Hawaiian waves (he’s from Hawaii, so of course…) when he posted a picture of himself with eye black painted in the form of the cross under his eyes against Tennessee University.

“Jesus pride!!! Go Tua…and all others who stand for Christ,” one person commented on Facebook. “I appreciate the fact that he isn’t at all shy about his faith. Way to go Tua!”

tua tagovailoaTua selected the Crimson Tide of Alabama University despite intense competition for the quarterback position because Christianity is a big part of the locker room. The previous year, Jalen Hurts won the SEC offensive player of the year as the Crimson QB.

“A lot of people are rooted in the Word over here just like back home,” Tagovailoa noted on BamaInsider. “The Southern hospitality is almost the same as the love and the kindness that they show back at home.

with his parents diana and galu“You have to go places to compete, so why not come to the best place?” he added. “You want to play with the best, I guess. That’s kind of my thing. Anywhere you go, you’re going to have to compete.”

Tua was given a chance to play during some blowout games during his freshman season. But in the championship game when Hurts was losing at the first half, Tua was given the nod to lead his team to a comeback 26-23 victory against Georgia last season. Read the rest of the story of Tua Christian

With bow and arrow gesture, Brandin Cooks celebrates TD and glorifies God

brandon cooks archerNicknamed the “Archer,” Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks celebrates touchdowns by mimicking a bow and arrow shot as a reference to the Bible.

“It’s just another way to be able to glorify God rather than just pointing to the sky,” Cooks says in Sports Spectrum. “Just bringing a unique way, so my hope is when fans see me, they see God in me. That’s the biggest part of it all. If anything, I’m shooting it at God. It’s my way of thanking him and bringing a little twist to it.”

Cooks alludes to Psalms 144:6: “Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.”

brandon cooks christian ramsA devout Christian, Cooks shoots plenty of scriptural arrows through social media.

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Whatever you do walk with boldness, and know you are fully equipped,” he tweeted recently.

Cooks was born on Sept. 25, 1993 in Stockton, California, and lived there with his father, Worth Cooks, and mother, Andrea Cooks. His father died of a heart attack when he was only 6-years-old so Wayne and his three brothers were raised by their mother.

brandon cooks statsHe began to show promise in football playing for Stockton’s Lincoln High School. He grabbed 141 receptions for 2,508 yards and 28 touchdowns, which ranked him the 26th-best wide receiver and the 240th overall prospect in his class, according to the Recruiting Network.

Cooks then attended Oregon State University, where he caught 226 receptions for 3,272 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. In Cooks’ first career game, he made seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

This made him the youngest player, at 20, to catch a touchdown pass in the NFL since Reidel Anthony in 1997. As he closed his first season, Cooks had 53 receptions gaining 550 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his thumb in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In 2015 Cooks began the season as the #1 wide receiver for the Saints. In the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles he received over 100 yards in one game for the first time in his career. His five receptions totaled 107 yards and a touchdown. Read the rest of Brandin Cooks Christian.

Clemson’s QB is Christian. So is ‘Bama’s.

christian quarter backs national championshipClemson freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence made clear that he doesn’t care as much about football as he does about Jesus.

“Eerily similar” to Deshaun Watson, Lawrence made heads turn as he threw for 2,933 total yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 65.5 completion percentage, leading his team to the national championship game on Jan. 7th.

“Football is important to me, obviously, but it’s not my life; it’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say my faith is,” the 6’5” 215-pound precision passer said in a postgame interview. “That just comes from knowing who I am outside of (football). No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who He says I am.

trevor lawrence christian“So really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play or whatever.”

Clemson University is happy to have the calm, cool and collected QB marshaling their missiles.

“When he first got here, you could always tell. He just had a presence about him. His talent, it’s fun to watch.” says senior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt on The State website. “I always sensed it in practice.” Read he rest of Trevor Lawrence Christian.