Category Archives: Christian testimony

‘How do I get off drugs?’ Ask Christian Leyden

christians with tattoosChristian Leyden always had a struggle when he was a boy.

His father wasn’t around when he was younger, so his mom was the only father and mother figure around, and she had to work two jobs to keep Christian and his brother safe and maintain a home for them.

When he was in third grade he would send his mother suicide letters saying he didn’t want to live anymore.

“I started fighting a lot, getting angry with a lot of people,” he says on a YouTube video. “There was a lot of damage here and there not having my father around.”

This depression continued for three years.

broken homes and sin“I started listening to metal music, hip hop music and all this death metal music and all this music that started to get strong in my life,” Christian recounted.

In his teens he succumbed to cultural influences to party, do drugs, get women and to live a wild and crazy lifestyle.

Christian was always a person who wanted to be accepted, so a lack of friends angered him. But one day when he went see to his first high school football game, his older brother’s friends asked him to smoke weed and hang out with them.

“Just because they wanted to hang out with me, I was like, ‘Heck yea man I wanna hang out with you guys,’” exclaimed Christian.

Since he cared so much about their approval, he would pretty much do anything “friends” asked him.

christian leyden“Three months into me smoking and drinking, I ended in a psych ward for telling my family about me cutting myself for years,” he says. “I just went through different stages in my life.”

For eight years he was in and out of institutions.

He drank while attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He took meth, Xanax, pills and heroin, despite going through rehabs and living in halfway houses.

When Christian got locked up in jail, his new life began. Read the rest: How do I get off drugs?

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She ran from abusive step dad, wound up with a pimp until a Christian family adopted her

sex trafficking in america.pngJadyn’s mom was a meth addict who died when she was in high school in 2010. She lived with her step-dad, who abused her.

A teacher found out and called Child Protective Services. Jadyn moved in with a friend of her mom’s family.

But when she came home late from school one day, the woman got upset and kicked her out.

Jadyn slept outside of her school for a few days. An acquaintance from school approached her: “If you need somewhere to stay, you can stay with me and my boyfriend,” according to a YouTube video by Exodus Road, a sex-trafficking ministry.

“Where else am I going to go?” she thought. It was a house with four or five other girls living there.

human slavery in america“This is my boyfriend, Joker,” the acquaintance introduced her. “He’s gonna take good care of you.”

Joker seemed very nice. He took Jadyn out to movies and to get her nails done. He bought her new clothes.

One day when she was sitting on the couch, Joker asked her, “We’re going to go out for a little bit. Do you want to go out with us?”

“Sure,” Jadyn responded.

With another girl in the car, they pulled up to a motel. They went into a room, and the other girl started talking to a man about sexual things.

“I’m starting to catch on,” Jadyn recalls. “Things are starting to click in my mind. And I’m like, ‘That’s why you were so nice to me.’

Exodus Road and sex exploitation

The couple who eventually adopted Jadyn

Jadyn shrank with fear as she watched the other girl strip. Then they had sex.

“I’m looking at Joker, and he’s sitting there with a blank face as if it’s something normal,” she recalls.

“After everything’s finished, and he pays her, Joker sits down and tell me, ‘I’m not asking you to do what they do. But I’m asking you to sit in on every appointment that we go on. I don’t want you living here just for free. This will be you’re way of paying me back.’”

Thinking she had no alternative, Jadyn obediently sat and watched every “appointment” for the next three months.

“The first couple of times was really hard for me. But after a while it was just a thing we did,” she says. She even saw an 11-year-old girl taken advantage of. “When you don’t have anywhere else to go, you do what you have to do.”

An estimated one out of six runaways become child sex trafficking victims; 86% of them were under the care of Child Services or foster care when they ran away, according to Exodus Road. There are currently 57,700 victims of human trafficking in the U.S., ringing up $99 billion for the exploitation industry.

Of course, things got worse. At one “appointment,” the man in the room fixed his eyes on Jadyn.

“I want her,” he said.

“I’m not doing this,” Jadyn responded.

He pulled out a handgun and pointed it at her head.

“I’m sitting there crying on the floor,” Jadyn recalls. “He’s telling me I’m going to do this thing for him, and I’m like, ‘I guess I am.’”

Later at the car, Joker revealed his endgame. Everything was just preparation to influence her to become a sex slave too.

Joker told Jadyn, “I hope you didn’t expect to live here and not do anything for us.”

She was crying. Her mind was playing different scenarios and outcomes for her life. Girls told her that she would have to get drunk or high to perform the exploits that men demanded.

“So I’m going to be a drug addict just like my mother,” Jadyn surmised. “I love my mom. I really did. And I saw her struggles. And I saw the way men treated my mom, and I told myself that that wasn’t going to be me.

“But I didn’t have anywhere else to do,” she says with tears, remember the pain of the moment.

Joker went into his room while the girls talked about the trauma of the man who pulled a gun on Jadyn.

For a long time, Joker didn’t come out of his room. The long time got even longer — to the point that finally the girls decided to go in his room and see if he was ok.

“Basically, I’m pretty sure he overdosed. He was foaming at the mouth,” Jadyn says. “I’m thinking it’s fight or flight. I left. I slept on the streets again for a couple days.”

She roamed the streets always looking for a place to stay.

Eventually she found a friend who invited her to church.

“I go to church and I meet this family. We met twice,” Jadyn says. “They told me they were interested in adopting me. I had a lot of disbelief because of all the things I’d gone through.” Read the rest of the story of Christians helping resolve human trafficking.

Bachelor endured ridicule but waited till marriage for sex

sean_loweSean Lowe had some serious misgivings about appearing on the Bachelor reality T.V. show. As a Christian, he worried his testimony might be tainted by the ambiance of contestants drinking and fornicating.

When he said he would wait until marriage to have sex after appearing on the show, he cleared up doubt among Christians — and he unleashed a maelstrom of criticism in the secular media. He was roundly ridiculed as the “virgin bachelor.”

“Never in a million years did I think I’d do a cheesy reality TV show about love,” he said later on the “I am Second” video series.

His sister set him up for it. Sean, who floundered with an investment business, got a call from the LA area code one day out of the blue. They wanted him to audition for “Bachelorette,” the “reality” show in which through weeks of dating on some remote tropical site a single woman filters through dozens of aspirants to finally get engaged to one.

“I had no idea what (the lady on the phone) was talking about,” he remembers. “I didn’t know if it was a joke.”

When he tracked down the source of the call to his sister, he confronted her. “Listen, I have no desire to be on a reality TV show, and I certainly don’t want to subject myself to all the public criticism.

“Guys go on there and get drunk,” he says. “And there’s the fantasy suite and sex and nudity, and it just didn’t seem like something that represented me.”

After waffling, he opted in because he was persuaded by the opportunity to travel and see more of the world on the expenses-paid show. He had bankrupted a financial services firm and was miserable in the family’s insurance company. “I just wanted a free vacation,” he said.

He started at a mansion with the other guys in North Carolina, then traveled to Bermuda, London and Croatia. Since he only went in for the travel, he was blindsided by the feelings of romance that bubbled up in his heart during the times he “dated” the bachelorette.

“After six weeks of being on the show, I knew I loved her,” he recalls.

But, in front of 7 million viewers, the girl chose Sean’s competitor. He was broken-hearted.

“I couldn’t understand why God opened the door for me to be on this reality show, to fall in love only for it to end like this,” he says. “I could not understand why He led me to heartbreak.”

Sean returned downcast to Dallas.

Six weeks later, the executive producer called and offered him the chance to appear as the bachelor in the next series. This counterpart version of the “Bachelorette” show is the same, only this time 25 girls vied for his affections. He starred in the 17th season of the show in 2013.

If he had misgivings about being on Bachelorette, he had real apprehension about being the lead of Bachelor.

“Dating 25 girls at one time felt wrong,” he says. “What if I’m harming my testimony? What if people look and me and they say, ‘This is what is wrong with Christianity. He’s professing one thing and he goes on TV and he’s doing the opposite.’” Read the rest about Sean Lowe the virgin bachelor.

Is Christian Hip Hop dying?

Lecrae-Ty-Dolla-SignChristian Hip Hop is imploding. Its stars, lured by secular money, are leaving. New singers are ditching hard-fought standards (like no cuss words) and marginalizing salvation. It’s become disunited and sexist.

From what you read or watch online, you get the feeling Christian rap has a bad rap and its fans are now singing the blues. But is it true that Christian Hip Hop is descending to a deplorable demise?

A survey of CHH conducted by God Reports suggests that, contrary to controversy, Christian Hip Hop has never been more robust or vibrant. It’s reaching growing audiences and diversifying its message. It’s getting played all over the place, from the gym to WWE.

“Andy Mineo and Lecrae and some of these guys coming in rap are as good as the top rappers in the game,” says Sway Calloway, the host of the secular shows “Sway in the Morning” on SiriusXM Shade45 and MTV’s TRLAM. “It gives me chills when I can hear someone rap as good as them and put God in it.”

Part of the “problems” of CHH can be chalked up to growing pains. And another part is simply click bait; platforms fabricate or inflate controversy to swell their views and, by extension, their bottom line.

better late than never tour los angelesAny discussion of the current state of Christian rap starts with its de facto father, Lecrae. A fusillade has been unleashed on him for being too political, for signing with a secular label, and for working with artists who punctuate their work with profanity.

“Partnering with secular artists is very, very dangerous. You don’t see that worked out in scripture,” Wil Addison said in 2015 on Trackstarz. “Lecrae’s grown on the back of the church, and it seems like at one point he jumped off… You’re abandoning what you built your platform on.”

Wil Addison is not alone in his concern for Lecrae’s direction. Dismay is expressed over his collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign; is Lecrae muddying his message by working with a secular artist who raps X-rated filth?

Lecrae Devaughn Moore is no stranger to muck. He was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youngster. He learned to seal up the pain and pretend it wasn’t there, he said recently at Yale University.

Without a father in the house, Lecrae looked to male role models in the community and took up drug trafficking as a teenager. His grandmother was a churchgoer, but Lecrae wasn’t interested — at first.

In college he responded to the gospel and was piqued by evangelistic rappers. At a time when nobody thought Christian rap would sell, he co-founded Reach Records in 2004 and started releasing albums. He won Grammies and topped Billboard charts.

When he was at his peak, he signed with Capitol Records, which has been making incursions into the increasingly profitable Christian hip hop market, snapping up the surest bets (also NF, Social Club Misfits). How could he own a Christian label and become an artist on a secular one (albeit their Christian department)?

bizzle warriors anthemIt seems Lecrae was turning into a missionary. He saw the chance to work with secular artists and rap at more venues as simple evangelistic math.

If the Capitol signing wasn’t controversy enough, Lecrae — who’s always been vocal for African American rights — joined the Black Lives Matter movement. There were a string of innocent blacks gunned down by police, and the long-suppressed feelings of rage and powerlessness from the childhood abuse reared its ugly head.

Lecrae found himself marching on the streets in protests — and in the cross hairs of a political reaction against ambushing cops and a tide that swept Trump into the presidency. Broad swaths of fans and Christian leaders threatened to bolt. Lecrae couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t support the cause of the oppressed and judge the sins of the oppressors.

At an October concert in Los Angeles, Lecrae admitted that the last two years have brought disillusionment and depression. He even contemplated turning his back on Christianity altogether, he said. But a wise old Christian asked him to consider if God — not his fans — had ever abandoned him. Days of meditating that question brought the man of God back to God.

At the October concert, Lecrae’s language and performance undermined the accusation that he’s ditching his faith. Lecrae spoke of struggle and confusion. But his words were a testimony in front of the church.

Lecrae’s failings are emblematic of the growing pains of the wider spectrum of CHH artists. There are hundreds of rappers who associate to some degree with Christianity. No survey could cover all of them, but among those examined in in this census, the conclusions award CHH a clean bill of health: souls are being won, disciples are being made and the cause of the Gospel is advancing. The good things outweigh the bad:

Influence on secular artists

One of the biggest proofs of the strength of CHH is its impact on secular rap. This is ironic because people keep worrying that CHH stars are going to be influenced by worldly stars if they cross over into the secular market. But they don’t see that CHH is exerting its own gravity that pulls on mainstream mike-kickers.

Today, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper — all top rappers — have mentioned God in a positive way in their music. Snoop Dogg, saying he’s returning to his Christian upbringing, just produced a double gospel album.

In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye says:

They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?

Meanwhile, new artists like John Gives are returning to their parents’ faith and becoming a testimony through their music. Malice renamed himself No Malice and began spitting the Christian message. He saw the light: his previous music was leading listeners down the wrong path and he wanted to rectify it.

This is what is missed with the Lecrae-Ty Dolla Sign collaboration. While Christians bemoan the “loss” of their star, they’re missing the positive — the potential of gaining for Heaven a worldly singer.

Once upon a time, secular rap artists and fans rolled their eyes at CHH, which they loathed like an embarrassing kid brother. But now such collaborations prove that secular artists have moved light years beyond the eye roll. They are more than giving the nod to CHH; it is now “game respects game.”

Saving souls in the streets

Getting celebrities saved is cause for enthusiasm. But we need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. The unheralded are just as important to Him as the BET idol. And here too CHH has a positive balance sheet.

Aaron Cole reported on Twitter that his music touched the son of a drug dealer. Shai Linne started a church in Philadelphia to create an ethos in which street sinners could relate.

One way for CHH to reach sinners is when its music gets featured in non-Christian venues. When CHH gets used in movies or played at the gym, the exposure has the potential to draw in unsaved, new fans much like a church picnic can draw sinners to church where they can hear the message of salvation.

On this front, it’s worthwhile to mention that Derek Minor was featured on Black Ink Crew, and Social Club Misfits got their music used on WWE. When the NBA Warriors wanted a new anthem for their basketball team, they tapped outspoken Christian rapper Bizzle for the job.

Even a Louisville strip club played Lecrae. When asked about it, he responded with the sarcasm that is becoming his go-to response to the controversy that hounds him as CCH’s #1 man: “I’m a real rapper now. Everything I’ve done earlier pales in comparison. I’ve made it,” he told Rapzilla in 2015. On a serious note he added that he supports ministry to the women trapped in the sex industry, and the power of the Gospel in his message needs to get where sinners are. Read the rest of Christian Hip Hop in controversy.

Youth group rejected him, so he turned his back on God

But God brought Dr. Paul Lim back

atheist became Christian Dr. Paul Lim

By the time he got to Yale University, it wasn’t the logical arguments that made him turn his back on Jesus. It was the way kids in the youth group had marginalized him.

More often than not people’s problems with Christianity don’t have to do with intellectual hang-ups but with the stories of hurt, stories of rejection, stories of people who are supposed to embody the gospel in a compelling and endearing way, they end up doing the opposite,” says Dr. Paul C. H. Lim.

As an immigrant at age 15 from South Korea, he went to a Korean church in Philadelphia with his parents who previously were non-religious but sought support in their transition to America. Even though young Paul gave church the benefit of the doubt, he quickly realized he was being ostracized.

The youth pastor ran a Friday night program he called Triple B — Bible study, Burger King and bowling, but Paul was ignored and sat alone, ate alone and bowled alone.

Paul-Lim“I wasn’t wearing the right clothes. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t have the right haircut. I didn’t play the right sport. I wasn’t part of the cool crowd. I was part of the loser crowd,” he says. “The worst experience was to bowl alone. I would always pray that there would be an even number of kids so that somebody would join me, but when we had an odd number of kids, I would find myself alone on the lane.

“Why wouldn’t the youth pastor come over and bowl with me occasionally?” he adds. “Coming to America was a traumatic experience. But in church, I felt the alienation even more.”

So when his parents drove him to Yale, he was looking forward to ditching God and zeroing in on “hedonism and careerism to the core.”

“I was excited that I was getting the heck away from the church, and I was so excited that I was going to plunge headlong into this intellectual pursuit of the good life,” he says.

When his gray-haired New Testament professor said, “The Bible is a wonderful book but it’s not the kind of truth that you want to hang your life on,” Paul needed no more nails to shut the coffin on his Christianity.

He was an economics major set on making his mark in the banking industry, having a house in Long Island with two kids, two dogs and a cat.

But then his sister got engaged to a seminary student, this bewildered Paul.

“Why would you ever want to marry a guy going into ministry?” he wondered. “It was the oddest things I ever heard. To me, he was loser guy. Secretly, I hated him.”

But Paul’s mom was a vibrant believer, and she always asked him if he was going to church. Over winter break, she cajoled him to do the last thing he would’ve wanted to do with vacation. She asked him to go to a Christian retreat because his brother-in-law would be a speaker.

Paul rolled his eyes and dreaded it. But because he adored his mom, he acquiesced..

Read the rest of Dr. Paul Lim Christian.

Christian hip hop artist Datin raps about pending divorce, pain and self-medication

DatinRapper Datin always encouraged kids coming out of the death and jail traps of drugs and violence foisted upon unsuspecting kids by secular hip hop artists.

Now he has a new people group to encourage: those coming out of a divorce.

In his September 2018 video “Hell in the Hallway,” Datin says his own ongoing divorce has him living in a dark and lonely hallway. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hallway). But until he gets there, he’s out of the room of marriage and left in a gloomy limbo.

When his marriage foundered, Datin submitted to pastoral guidance and sought counseling but his wife didn’t want to participate, he noted on Facebook. (Her version could not be found online; she deleted her Instagram pictures with him).

Datin Divorce

It’s over with his beloved Johely

Because Florida law allows divorce on the basis of only one of the parties, Datin — whose real name is Edward Berrios — found himself hapless and resigned to the heart-wrenching conclusion of a happy chapter in his life.

In all cases of marriage, Christians should seek reconciliation. But if one party is unwilling to try, your life is not over, Datin says. God has a destiny for you beyond your present tragedy.

“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Datin says. “But right now I’m in the middle. It’s hell in a hallway.”

datin divorce

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin is the raspy-voiced rapper who delivers hammer blows. His mad dog face, he says, is not an imitation of violence-peddling secular rappers. It’s because he’s upset by their lies and deception that have been misleading America’s youth.

Like his label boss Bizzle, he constantly calls out secular artists, whom he blames for inducing tens of thousands of young men into trafficking and violence. These artists profiteer from their recipe for death. They entice kids by flaunting a flamboyant lifestyle of riches and women.

“Their songs are like cyanide; the more we listen to ‘em, the more our souls die inside,” he raps on “Pull the Plug.” “This is for the deejay killing us with the poison he plays. Let’s pull the plug on ‘em.”

Datin Hell in the Hallway

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin grew up in Newark, New Jersey, not on ritzy Jersey shore but on the backside ghetto. He has every right to aim at hip hop artists for their false narrative because he himself fell for their lies. He and his friends sold drugs, treated women poorly and acted like thugs.

As a result of adopting the gang lifestyle, one friend was killed and another jailed, he says in his songs.

But while he was sinning, the Holy Spirit was afoot in his life. He first turned on to Christ when he watched Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of Christ.”

But since hip hop was his priority, he kept his nascent faith low key and compromised his walk with sinful stumblings.

When he graduated high school, Datin gained renown in the battle rap world and was expected to sign for a big name label. To the surprise of many, he declined signing with Eminem’s Shady Records and Ja Rule and Swiss Beatz, according to Christian Post. His neighborhood pal signed and drove up in a Jaguar to invite him to also sign, he says.

datin high school battle rap

Datin won the rap battle in high school.

“It was such a struggle to say no,” Datin told Rapzilla. “It took every bit of my being. My whole life was based around my music, my hopes and my dreams. To say no was like chopping off my arm.”

In 2007, he got fully saved and extricated from the ensnaring world of hip hop. He laid down the microphone first, grew in God, and then years later picked the mic back up only to outreach, he says on a radio interview DJ Tony Tone.

He dropped projects in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, he finally signed — for the Christian label God Over Money. This was a natural move because the label is known for never soft-peddling the gospel — or from shirking controversy. For Datin — who preaches hellfire and brimstone for rappers who sell their fellow people of color down the river — it was an ideal fit.

His much-anticipated first studio album Roar charted 18th for rap on Billboard and hit the top 10 on iTunes.

With such a sterling testimony, Datin’s sudden announcement in April of his pending divorce was as startling as it was saddening.

“I have fought for my marriage to the very end,” Datin says. “I’m scandal free. There’s no issue of adultery or abandonment or abuse. I have seeked (sic) counseling. I have put effort in. But the effort was not reciprocate. So therefore, this is the unfortunate outcome.”

Christian rap offers a stark contrast with secular rap because marriage is idealized and honored. Datin in November 2017 rapped “Fight For Us,” his pledge to work for his marriage.

“I’m submitted. I’m committed. He’s my witness. Before the Lord I stand, Ima give it all I can,” he says. “Baby, Ima fight for us.” Read the rest of the Christian Divorce – a story of Datin.

Hottest new Christian rapper is Latino WhatUpRG

WHATUPRG-Christian hip hop artist.pngWhen he was only 7 and already showed signs of liking hip hop, a woman at church talked to Raúl García’s mother to warn her that rap was of the devil.

It’s a good thing Mom and Son ignored her. Today Raúl — known now as WHATUPRG — has literally exploded on the Christian Hip Hop scene, signing with Reach Records at age 21 without ever having made an album previously. RG (his stage name reads “What up, RG?”) is the face of the next generation of Christian rappers who are ministering to a new generation of fans.

wesside whatuprg“My parents have always supported me in my music,” RG says to NewH2O. “I know in my heart where I’m heading and where I’ve positioned myself allows me to speak to people and let them know it’s not about a bunch of rules but about His grace and His mercy and His love. So when I rap I want people to know that they’re not alone and there is grace for them too.”

RG is born of Mexican parents who immigrated (illegally) to the United States. He grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he went to church, listened to Christian Spanish rap and loved to perform at church functions.

Despite doubters in the same congregation, RG’s parents supported his musical inclinations and even paid for his first album to be produced when he was 14, a recording he now calls “trash.”

WHATUPRG_REACH-RECORDSWhen he was 16, his dad was nabbed by immigration officers and deported to Mexico. This tore RG and led him to be outspoken on the divisive issue. “I’m still dealing with the emotional trauma to this day,” he tweeted.

It appears his dad is back home in Georgia, since RG tweeted about going vegetarian in 2017, only to be contradicted by his dad, who said they were eating carne asada. “I can’t be Mexican and healthy,” he quipped.

RG got noticed by CHH heavies when he filmed a video of himself and his friends at Walmart in 2017 with his song “Don’t Forget to Live.” The filmography was amateurish, but pros were impressed by the vocals and music. He started getting calls.

latino christian hip hop artistsSoon he was nobigdyl’s Indie Tribe and was featured on Mogli the Iceberg’s song “Ride My Own” and others. Just months later, Lecrae signed him. He was making waves but was still an unproven quantity since he hadn’t dropped a professional album.

“On my 18th birthday, I was getting a 116 tattoo on my knee,” RG tells Trackstarz. “When I was turning 21, I was talking to my lawyer about the contract.”

RG’s blitz to fame has surprised even him, and he says he’s focusing on staying rooted in God. “God honors humility,” he says.

he fact he wants to stay low is refreshing to hear, especially when one contrasts that attitude with the braggadocio rife in secular rap, with artists boasting about their knife wounds and talk in hyperbolic terms about being “gods.”

In May 2018, RG dropped his debut album Pleasant Hill, which created a sensation. He hit #7 on iTunes hip hop sales. A Trackstarz interviewer said there’s not a song he doesn’t like on it. David Livick lists him among the Top 10 artists of 2018.

There are detractors, many of the historic fans of the 116 clique who don’t like the new direction of the label and want the Old School material. RG’s not Christian enough, some say. “STOP Imitating and Start innovating… what’s the point of copying the World, sounding, Looking and acting like them?” comments Leveled Head on the “Wesside” video. Read the rest about WhatUpRG Christian.

650 scientific articles, 120 patents, 7 companies, several academic degrees, 1 Jewish Messiah

James-Tour Jew scientist christianJames Tour obtained his PhD in organic chemistry, did post doctorate work at Stanford, was voted one of the 50 most influential minds in world, is a visiting scholar at Harvard University, has 650 published scholarly articles, has 120 patents and seven companies with products from everything from medicine to material science, electronics and computer memory.

“But more than that, what means the most to me is that I am a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah,” Dr. Tour says on a One For Israel video.

He grew up outside New York City in a neighborhood so Jewish that he didn’t know there was anything else.

james tour yeshuaHe wasn’t interested in religion. “Once I tried to talk to a rabbi. He just brushed me off. There was very little explanation for me.”

In college he began to meet people who called themselves born-again Christians.

“That was a kind of an odd term,” he remembers thinking. “What’s ‘born-again?’ What do you mean ‘born-again?'”

It began to make sense when, in a laundromat, a man asked to show him an illustration, something of a chasm separating man from God. He labeled the chasm “sin.”

Dr. Tour recoiled somewhat. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m not a sinner. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never robbed a bank. How could I be a sinner?'”

The man encouraged him to read Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Modern Judaism never talks about sin, Dr. Tour says. “I don’t remember ever talking about sin in my home.”

Then the man led Dr. Tour to the passage where Jesus warns that whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.

“Pow!” Dr. Tour says. “I felt as if I’d been punched right in the chest.”

Professor-James-TourSecretly, he’d been looking at pornography in magazines — enough to call himself an “addict.”

“All of a sudden, something that’s written in the Bible, somebody who lived 2,000 years ago was calling me out of it, and suddenly I felt convicted and I realized I was a sinner,” he remembers. “When I read the Scriptures, I knew I was a sinner. How would I get to God?”

As he poured over the Bible, he realized that there is no forgiveness of sin without shedding blood. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifice was stipulated. In the New Testament, Jesus was humanity’s Passover Lamb. Isaiah 53 described graphically how the Messiah would be punished for the sin of the world. He would bear it on the cross.

“The Perfect God comes and gives Himself for us. He is the one that gives Himself for us. I started to realize how Jewish the New Testament is.”

On Nov. 7 1977, alone is his room, he realized Yeshua was the Messiah.

“I said, ‘Lord, I am a sinner. Forgive me. Come into my life,'” he recalls. “Then all of a sudden, someone was in my room. I was on my knees. I opened my eyes. Who was in my room? That man, Jesus Christ, stood in my room. This amazing sense of God, Jesus was in my room. I wasn’t scared. I was just weeping. The presence was so glorious because He was there in my room. I didn’t want to get up. This amazing sense of forgiveness just started to come upon me. That was Him.”

Eventually he stood up. He didn’t know what to do, who to tell.

When he told his cousins, they were shocked. “’How could you do that? You’re Jewish,’” they said. “Telling my mother how I had invited Jesus into my life, she didn’t say much. She was weeping. She told my father. They weren’t happy at all.” So what happened to his family? Read the rest: Jewish scientist James Tour accepts Jesus as Messiah.

MC Jin, 1st Asian rapper, flopped, then succeeded with Jesus

mc-jin-ChristianAfter his ballyhooed album bombed, MC Jin — the first Asian American solo rapper to sign for a major label — dropped out of the public eye.

He learned about the resurrection, found God, and later resurrected his career.

Jin Au-Yeung was raised by immigrant parents from Hong Kong. They ran an unsuccessful string of Chinese restaurants in Miami. When he was teenager, Jin answered the phone in the restaurant while Mom and Pop were wrapping wontons.

His parents instilled in him success through hard work and college, but Jin dreamed of doing rap. After their last restaurant closed, they moved to New York where Jin began engaging in rap battles and hawking mixtapes on the streets.

Mc Jin familyJin was particularly good at rap battles, which require more quick wit than a smooth-talking attorney because you have to insult your opponent cleverly, in rhyme, with rhythm, instantly. He was so adept at rap battles that he got spotted by an agent and soon landed a spot on BET’s Freestyle Friday, where he won seven successive battles and entered their Hall of Fame.

His meteoric rise in rap led to signing with the eminent Ruff Ryders hip-hop label when he was only 19. He was heralded as the next best thing, evidence of America’s diversity and the diversification of hip-hop.

Despite recording with Kanye West and others, his first album, The Rest is History, fell flat.

Jin left Ruff Ryders and was reduced to selling indie music over MySpace through PayPal.

mc jin XIVLIX“As quick as I went up is as quick as I went down,” Jin surmised on the Christian Post.

After floundering for two years, Jin was given a second shot at fame and success in his parents’ native land. Universal Music Hong Kong, seeing a surge of popularity for hip-hop on the island nation, offered Jin a contract with proper promotion.

Jin didn’t have anything else going on, so accepting was a “no brainer.”

Originally he thought he would be in Hong Kong for four months, but those four months turned into four years. He recorded ABC (American Born Chinese) in 2007 and 回香靖 (Homecoming) in 2011 rapping in Cantonese. He landed roles on TV, movies and commercials. He became a sensation.

“I was the Justin Bieber of Hong Kong,” he later reported.

While he finally found worldly success, he also found spiritual success. In 2008, he rekindled his relationship with Jesus (he first accepted Jesus with his Aunt Kathy as an 8 year old). He joined The Vine Church, a bilingual congregation. Read more about MC Jin, first Asian rapper, becomes Christian rapper.

He threw a bottle at his rival’s head. His rival responded with gunfire.

chris bassett Jesus saved from gangsChris Bassett’s first interaction with God started when he attended a Christian karate class at age 8 or 9 years old at the Harbor Church in Lomita, California.

The class started with 20 minutes of Bible study and a call for salvation before the free karate lessons. One day, Chris felt like the pastor was talking directly to him, so he raised his hand at the altar call to receive Jesus.

“I felt the Spirit of God come down and descend on me like electricity through my body,” he recalls. “I remember walking away from that experience feeling cleansed, brand new. It was so tangible to me.”

He wished this was the end of his testimony and that his path to Christ was that simple, but it was not.

In later years, Chris entered junior high school and began feeling “super cool.” He slowly forgot God.

He got involved in a gang lifestyle, which was easy since a lot of friends and family were in the gang.

“It looked glamorous. The glamour was a lure,” Chris says. “These men I looked up to had a way of carrying themselves that was attractive. They had the nicest cars, the prettiest women, money, power, respect. If you grew up in the hood, you knew who was running the block. It was something exclusive. You had to prove yourself through violence. Once you were in, you were accepted, loved in a way. I knew my boys had my back. If I had any trouble, with just one phone call, I knew I had a carload of goons kicking down the door for me.

But as he participated in the gangster life, he became aware of the downsides.

“The reality of (gangs) is a nightmare. At the heart of gang-banging, I truly believe, (there) is a murderous demonic force, full of death and destruction,” Chris says. “I’ve been to many funerals. I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to that lifestyle, shot dead in the streets. I shot my first man when I was 15. I can still hear my ears ringing from the gunshot. I can still hear him screaming and praying to God. I can still see the blood pouring out of his head like a waterfall, so much blood that I could taste it in the air.”

Incredibly, his victim survived, and Chris fought a reduced attempted murder charge.

“That was just the beginning of my crimes in my gang-banging career,” he says grimly.

Chris not only shot but got shot at on numerous occasions. He’s been stabbed. He’s spent time in jail. He lost friends. Worse, he realized he was losing yourself.

There wasn’t one single moment that brought him to God, but progressively, Chris feels, God was “opening his eyes.”

One of those “opening eyes” moments was when he chased down an enemy and threw his Corona beer bottle at his head. The enemy responded by aiming the barrel of a gun straight at him in a red light on Western Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

“I almost got my head blown off,” he says. “I could say now that by God’s grace I survived that because if you could’ve seen the car, everywhere where my head was, the car was blown out. It was a big gun, one with thunder. It was probably five or six seconds. But time slows down through those things. I remember ducking and telling my friend to go, and I remember seeing glass flying.

“I had just kissed my son goodbye because he was going to his mother’s house. I remember coming out of that situation.”

But that incident alone was not enough to wake him up.

He began reflecting soberly about the possibility of dying and leaving his kids fatherless. In the streets he was a monster, but with his kids Chris played the part of a good father. His family was sacred. He pondered the discrepancy between the way he wanted to raise his kids and the way he was living in the streets.

“I remember thinking about my daughters,” he says. “I remember thinking how can I tell them not to smoke weed and I come smelling like Christmas trees?”

What scared him most was not the scrapes with death, but the frightening numbness towards the horrors of his own evil heart. Now, he thinks he was becoming like Pharaoh, whose heart got progressively harder until he was crushed under the Red Sea

But he still didn’t return to the Savior of his childhood because he liked smoking weed and sleeping around with girls. It took him a year.

At a funeral, he had another powerful reflection. Everybody was saying nice things about his fellow gang member.

“I remember thinking, ‘None of these things were true. He was a monster,'” Chris says. “I remember thinking, ‘What about my funeral? What will they say about me?’ I didn’t want my life to be a lie. I wrestled with that. I started negotiating with God.” Getting saved out of gangs.

How a hippie got out of drugs

Bill HuntAs a young man, Bill Hunt could not wait to move out of his parents’ house. They were strict, “which was good for me but I wanted out of their house,” Bill says on a church video produced by the Potter’s House in Prescott, Arizona.

Once he moved out, he attended Mesa Community College in Arizona. There he was influenced by “friends” to start drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

He dropped out after one year in college. Then he moved back to Prescott and made new friends who swept him into a party lifestyle that involved harder drugs. “That’s about all I could ever think of,” he says. “That was the ruling of my life.”

Bill grew out his beard and hair and became a full-fledged hippie. He was rude and liked getting into peoples faces. He thought he was cool, “the man”.

saved in a rainstormAs he got older, he analyzed his life. “I was experiencing some things in my life that made me begin to see that my life was not together one bit,” he says.

One day in January he was driving to Chino Valley and a downpour hit. It was coming down so fast it was incredibly hard to see through the windshield. “It’d get so bad that my wipers weren’t wiping.”

He pulled to the side of the road and started sobbing, realizing that there are no real answers in the world. He thought there ought to be an answer somewhere.

That’s when Bill remembered his friend and co-worker Roger Fisher, who was a follower of Jesus. “He would tell me what God had done in his life.”

Bill was fascinated by his message. Roger told him to pray and ask Jesus into his life and to turn it around.

That night a spirit of repentance fell on Bill. He pulled to the side of the road and exclaimed, “God help me, help me! I’m just a mess. I don’t have any answers to life. Please come into my life.” Read the rest: Hippie saved from drugs.

MS-13 turning to Jesus by the 1,000s

Revival in Mara Salvatrucha MS gangWhile National Geographic calls MS-13 “America’s deadliest gang” and Trump calls them “animals,” Christian revival has broken out among the youths who tattoo their faces, and hundreds are turning to Jesus.

“Every day in this country, dozens of men are leaving the rank and file of the gang and looking for the right path, the arms of the Lord,” says Pastor William Arias, who is a converted ex-MS. He’s pastored for six years in San Salvador, El Salvador, in a neighborhood so taken over by the gang that public service employees are afraid to enter.

only nine of 71 years in prisonIronically the MS — and fierce rivals 18th St gang — got their start in Los Angeles, according to The Guardian documentary video. During El Salvador’s guerilla war, thousands headed to the U.S. fleeing the carnage in the 1980s. Many settled in the poorest neighborhoods of L.A., where they found themselves caught between African American and Mexican gangs.

To stand up for themselves, they formed the MS — or Mara Salvatrucha — and became fierce rivals. Crackdowns on gangs in L.A. largely tamed warfare between Mexican Americans and African Americans, but the Salvadorans got deported.

wilfredo gomezWhen they returned to their native land, they brought the gang with them.

That’s the story of Wilfredo Gomez, of 18. After being deported to El Salvador, he was arrested for armed robbery in El Salvador.

It was in jail that he found God.

“We are not your typical Christians. We have done a lot of bad things,” Wilfredo says.

When he finished his sentence, he had no family, no friends and nowhere to go.

Pastor William Arias ex MS 13 memberSo he was surprised when the guards told him that “friends” had come to pick him up when he was released. Who could those “friends” be? he wondered.

As he peeked out of the prison, he spied them timidly. They were church members, and they took him in and fed him and gave him a place to live while he transitioned to freedom and could stand on his own two feet.

“We heard what God is doing in there and we’re here to help you. I was like, ‘Whoa, I never had a family. I never had nobody waiting for me when I got out of prison,’ he says. “The way they received me inspired me and gave me strength to continue on the right path.”

Today, Wilfredo is a pastor with the Eben-Ezer church and runs a halfway house for ex-gang members. The youth get a mat on the floor in a common room and three meals a day. They have strict rules against drugs and crime. Wilfredo runs a bread bakery to give them work and pay for the house.

When Wilfredo got saved, he estimated there were 90 or so ex-gang members that had become Christians in the nation. Today, he says there are 1,500. Read the rest about revival in the MS-13 gang and the 18 Street gang.

He went from cooking dope to cooking up raps

ty-braselHis class clowning and trouble making were managed by parental discipline until his parents divorced when he was 10. Then Tyler Brasel went over the edge. He withdrew from his family, rebelled and started using drugs.

Enthralled with hip-hop music touting marijuana, Tyler took his first toke of cannabis after 9th grade, and it became his daily joy.

As the star quarterback on his football squad in Memphis, Tennessee, he did not ease off the drug use. When he got tired of weed, he turned to pills.

To pay for his growing habit, he sold tabs, Xanax bars, Ecstasy and hemp — just like his favorite rappers. He lived on top of the world, well-liked at school and on the team. Girls were crawling all over him, according to News Release Today.

But then he got arrested and his parents found out about his addictions. As he sat in a jail cell with felony charges leveled against him, he began to wonder about the Jesus he heard about as a child growing up in the Bible Belt.

Ty-Brasel-Young T“Is there really a God?” he asked. “Are angels and demons real? What is my purpose in life? What is the Jesus guy everyone always talks about? Why can’t we see God if he’s real? How did this beautiful creation originate?” One day, he genuinely cried out to God and experienced a supernatural encounter so profound it left him changed, even as he stumbled from time to time.

Ty went to Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) where he gained notoriety forming the bi-racial rap duo “Comftable Kidz,” which ratcheted up some critical acclaim with its recordings. Meanwhile, Ty was slipping back into alcohol and partying, and he got arrested four times in his freshman year in college.

As he sat in a jail cell, he reflected on his life’s direction. If I keep going down this path, I’m going to ruin my life, he remembered thinking, according to his website. I wanna thrive, I wanna live life, he concluded.

Lil T from the CoveHe knew that as a Christian he wasn’t supposed to be glorifying the things of this world, as he was doing in Comftabale Kids. There was a nagging inside that he was supposed to be using his gifts for God, and it kept growing until he dropped out of school, broke up the duo, and went back his mother’s house to work solo projects.

Lil T (or Young T) — as he calls himself on “Praying Hands” — had no money, no plans, no car — just Jesus.

There were plenty of detractors nay-saying his decision to leave school. But God began to bless him: first a good paying job, then he started a clothing line (Pure Clothes). Doors opened for him to record and perform live in Memphis. He started dropping songs in 2016 at a rapid clip and producing videos.

His current album is “Destined for Greatness,” a frank introspection into the things that tripped him up as a young man. Read the rest of Christian hip hop artist Tyler Brasel.

Ukraine ministry rescues children dumped into poorly run orphanages

Nita Hanson God's Hidden TreasuresIn 1997, Nita Hanson was a prosperous employee in Thousand Oaks. Then she went on a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine.

It broke her heart and changed the direction of her life. She saw crib after crib of babies and children crammed together in dim rooms.

“That’s when my heart broke open. I knew then that I couldn’t leave,” she told the Simi Valley Acorn.

Gods Hidden TreasuresNita saw babies with special needs being dumped into ill-equipped and poorly staffed public orphanages. She witnessed handicapped people who had no real hope to ever receive mobility devices. If you were poor, there was little chance of finding help.

She decided to abandon the American Dream and pursue God’s dream. She was divorced and her two kids were grown. She was free from commitments, so she committed herself full time to the Lord’s work.

Today, Nita, 77, runs three orphanages in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. Her ministry, God’s Hidden Treasures, has teamed up with Christian athlete superstar Tim Tebow to stage events to help some of the neediest people in Ukraine. She provides wheelchairs and walkers; people who otherwise would have been enclosed in four walls forever may now go out and breathe the fresh air and bask in the sunshine. Her group sponsors medical home visits and supplies food and basic needs.

Staffed by mostly Ukrainians, her people seek to create life-long relationships with orphans and other families.

Lori Hall in UkraineLori Hall of Ventura County recently joined Nita on a short-term mission group.

“I was thrilled to join the Impact Team as we set out to listen, learn and serve the ministry of God’s Hidden Treasure,” she says. “We sought to be humble servants as we went to other cultures, to share Jesus’ love by listening to the people, learning of their concerns and serving them in Jesus’ name.”

Lori spent 12 days assisting doctors and pastors with in-home health visits, delivering necessary wheelchair or mobility devices and helping with an annual citywide picnic evangelistic event for over 300 handicapped persons. Her group ran a Vacation Bible School for teenage boys with special needs living in an orphanage, a highly anticipated event. Not much is done for these special needs people, so it’s significant that this group makes a concentrated effort to focus on people sidelined by society.

“I was most impacted by the great love, tenderness and respect everyone showed to each and every individual,” Lori noted. “Jesus and His love was everywhere as people’s lives were blessed and changed forever, whether by receiving their first wheelchair or walker, by being touched with loving hands and hugs or finding new life in Jesus’ message of truth!”

In 15 years, God’s Hidden Treasures has delivered more than 6,000 mobility aids across Ukraine, her website says. When she provides a wheelchair as a gift, she tells the recipient it is “because God heard your prayers.”

They’ve come a long way from the original three wheelchairs brought on a Delta Flight to the Ukraine purchased from China in conjunction with Joni and Friends USA. Read more about God’s Hidden Treasures.

Hip hop artist finds help to leave lesbianism, marries

jackie hill perry overcoming same sex attractionOne of Jackie Hill-Perry’s first gender confusion memories when was she was in the 1st or 2nd grade.

“I just distinctly remember wanting to be a boy, wanting to be the dominant role in any type of relationship,” she recounts on a CBN video.

Today, she’s a Christian hip-hop artist with the label Humble Beast.

When she was little, she went to church with her aunt every Sunday growing up. Seeing her aunt’s life and always hearing about Jesus, Jackie formed early convictions about who He was. But she also suffered sexual abuse as a child, and this contributed to her gender confusion, according to Wikipedia.

jackie-hill christian hip hopJackie was always attracted to women. “It was just underlying temptation,” she says.

At age 17, she finally decided to act on the same-sex attraction.

She went to a homecoming dance at a different school than hers and it was the first time that a female was flirting with her. “It felt natural.”

She attended gay pride parades and went to gay bars. She enjoyed it, but never felt a “deep soul” satisfaction. Every time she had a girlfriend she would tell them they were sinners.

“I know this is not right to know so much about the truth about God and then to continue to live contrary to it.”

jackie hill familyWhen she was 19 and alone in her room, she felt as if God was showing her that the sins that she loved would kill her and she’d die and go to hell.

“It’s a heavy weight to know that you’re a sinner and God is holy.” As she began to relate to biblical truth, she recognized she needed to initiate a relationship with God through simple faith and belief.

She had a conversation one night with God and told him she had no desire to be straight. God told her he would be able to change her desires.

She started thinking about all her bad habits: stealing, drugs, pride, anger, arrogance, and drunkenness.

But all the “fun” in the world couldn’t outweigh the punishment of hell. “Everything was not worth it.”

Read the rest of freed from lesbianism.

His parents moved him from Christian to public school

prescott potters houseChris Perez fell out of his Christian upbringing in Los Angeles when his parents moved him into the public schools.

Prior to age 13, he attended Christian school, but in the new environment in high school he started to hang out with the “muscle car guys.”

“I liked to hang around the muscle car guys, and they liked to do dope,” Chris says on a Vimeo video produced by his church. “So eventually I got into dope.”

what happens when you go from private christian school to public schoolSoon he was having run-ins with the law.

“When I get in trouble, I get in trouble,” he emphasizes. “I got two DUIs in two weeks.”

He started making drugs, running to get stuff for his friends.

“I know I was their guinea pig but I liked the lifestyle,” Chris remembers. “It was fast, it was different, it was something new every night and every day. Running from the cops and things.”

hope for drunksDue to his run-ins with the law, Chris got acquainted with several institutions — from rehabilitation centers to psychiatric wards. He started taking medication for depression and bipolar disorders.

Chris decided to apply within his company for a transfer to Arizona. His geographic location changed, but his heart remained the same. He was in the mines of Arizona — and he was getting into jail again.

“I was in a horrible relationship with alcohol and drugs.”

His struggles persisted for two years until he got fed up. “I was in a bondage and was stuck in this place.” Please keep reading click here: what is the difference between a Christian school and the public school?

Tedashii lost child, fell into grief, experienced strain on marriage

tedashii grief strain marriageTedashii Lavoy Anderson was out to make his mark at Baylor University. He strove to be responsible and do the right thing, to be well-liked in school, in sports and on the social scene.

Then this random guy walked up to him three months into his freshman year.

“Hey, I heard you talk about yourself,” he told Tedashii. “I heard the jokes you made, the things you laughed about, the stories you told about the weekend.”

“I gotta be honest,” he continued. “I think the Bible would call that sin. Sin is when you disobey a holy God. There’s a real place called Heaven and a real place called Hell, and I don’t know if you’re gonna go to Heaven. You need a Savior.”

tdot-christian rapperTedashii’s competitive side suddenly flared, and he launched into a tirade insisting no one should judge him, especially someone who knew nothing about his struggles and background.

“I kind of shoved him down out of the way. I didn’t mean to put him on his back, but I did unintentionally,” Tedashii recounted in a YouTube video. “I kind of stepped over him and went to class angry because here’s this guy telling me I’m not good enough.”

Weeks later Tedashii was kicked off the football team due to injury, lost his scholarship, lost his girlfriend, and saw his parents separate. As a result, he couldn’t pay for college anymore.

Then the same random guy approached him and shared the gospel with him again. “God wants to have a relationship with you,” he told him.

tedashi family wifeThis time, there was a completely different response. “A light bulb came on. I felt like I got a hug from the Father. I just dropped to my knees on campus and prayed to God. ‘I get it. God, I need a Savior.’”

The random guy became Tedashii’s best friend, and later became the best man in his wedding.

He suggested Tedashii rap for the Lord, and the now-famous Christian rapper initially laughed if off. Only after the Spirit dealt with Tedashii did he whip up a terrible rap that evoked only laughter at a campus talent show.

It was a flop, but the infection had started, and Tedashii was intrigued by the possibility of spreading the gospel through the popular medium of hip hop. He’s now recorded five projects with Reach Records and hit #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Music. He’s on Lecrae’s Reach Record label. Tedashii also appears in videos with Trip Lee, KB and others from 116 Clique.

Also known as T Dot, Tedashii lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife.

In March of 2013, he lost his youngest son, a one-year-old, to a sickness the hospital couldn’t treat, and the untimely death triggered a crisis of faith that led to substance abuse and jeopardized his marriage.

He learned about the tragedy on a flight returning from a concert. “I literally broke… Read how Tedashii fell into substance abuse, experienced strain on his marriage and finally overcame the grief.

Marijuana-smoking Shiva devotee could only get free from weed through Jesus

IMG_6354From a very young age, Nepal-born Surya Bhandari had a fervent desire to please the Hindu god Shiva. Because Shiva smoked marijuana, Surya sought to please him by smoking weed himself — starting at age 8.

Then in the sixth grade he learned about the dangers of tuberculosis and cancer from smoking and began to question the wisdom of the god. Also, kids at school started pointing at him as a “bad kid” for his cannabis consumption.

“In my little mind, I started thinking, ‘Why do they call me bad?’” Surya remembers. “‘This great god Shiva smokes marijuana. Why would they call me bad? Is it really bad? If I am bad, then this god Shiva is bad. If he is bad, is he really a god?’”

Surya's as a boy

Surya as a young man

He belonged to the priestly Brahman class, but he turned his back on Hinduism, called himself an “atheist,” started using other drugs and alcohol.

“This Shiva destroyed my life,” he reasoned. “I’m not able to quit smoking marijuana. Someday I’m going to get TB or cancer and I’m going to die, and this god is responsible.

“I became so angry.”

One day he had a dream of being chased by a tall figure clad in a white gown. He thought it was a ghost. It scared him so badly that he didn’t want to go to his usual taekwondo that morning and instead decided to distract himself by reading one of his older brother’s books.

His older brother had either left home or been kicked out — he wasn’t really sure — because he had secretly become a Christian and was attending underground meetings somewhere downtown.

As Surya thumbed through the volumes on the bookcase, he happened to pull out a slim volume, opened it and saw — to his utter surprise — a picture of the same white-clad figure. Suddenly his fear abated, and he continued to read eagerly. “It was God, not a ghost,” he concluded.

Nepalese refugees

Surya with his family today in Los Angeles

From that moment on, he wanted to become a Christian. But attending a church was no easy matter in those days in Nepal. Carrying a Bible was a crime worse than drug trafficking.

But Surya was determined. He begged an old friend of his brother to tell him where he could find the underground church that his brother attended. The young man was backslidden at the time and didn’t want to say anything. But after days of begging, Surya got him to relent and give him some rough directions.

The first chance he got he went eight miles away from his village to Pokhara. He liked the songs and listened intently without understanding much of the sermon. To his surprise after the service, nobody approached him or talked to him to explain things, and he was too shy to ask.

christianity nepal

Revival in Nepal

Maybe people were afraid of the strict anti-proselytizing laws. They could get into a lot of trouble if they were perceived as trying to convert someone. Also, some may have been cautious, because a newcomer might be a spy from the police.

But Surya didn’t understand all of this at the time. It seemed to him that God’s people were indifferent. The next time Surya went to church it was the same. Nobody talked to him. So he quit going.

Then he did something that brought great shame on his family. He flunked out of school. His parents scolded him constantly and his brothers beat him.

So he took to the streets. He would leave before anybody woke up. He would come home, entering through the window, after everybody was in bed. HIs grandmother always saved him some food.

He tried but found that he couldn’t quit drugs. Everybody in town called him a bad kid. Even the principal of the school saw fit to take him aside and rebuke him for bringing shame on his family.

All this was too much for Suryam and he began to contemplate suicide.

“I loved my father so much. I did not want to bring shame on my father,” he says, reasoning to himself at the time: “If I can’t bring a good name for him, I have no right to live.”

He decided to throw himself off a cliff and into a river near his town. Read the rest of Chrisitanity in Nepal

Born-again Palestinian pastor holds hope for Israel, Palestine

Sameer.DabitAs a Palestinian born-again pastor in Los Angeles, Sameer Dabit sees himself as a bridge-maker.

“My dad grew up with a lot of wounds, so I grew up with the mindset of hating Jews and hating Muslims,” Sameer says. “When I got saved at age 16 and started reading scriptures for myself and learning more about God and history, I started to realize, ‘Hey wait a minute. I shouldn’t hate anybody.’”

palestinian pastorSlowly, he began to form his own convictions about what he believes.

Sameer’s Arab father was born in Palestine in 1948 and was forced to move when the Jews took over the newly formed nation of Israel. So he resented the Jews.

But as an orthodox Christian, he also resented the Muslim Palestinians who subjected him to cruel jeering and constant antagonism in school, Sameer says.

When he came of age, dad decided to leave behind the nightmare of the Middle East, move to the United States, study and make his life in L.A. He worked hard at the front desk of a hotel, saved his money and bought properties.

Sameer got to know the simmering anger in his father for the injustices suffered, but he identified himself first and foremost as an American. He changed his name to Sam so that it was easier for classmates and elicited fewer questions about his origins. He loved football.

“I assimilated to America,” he says. “I identified myself more as American than Palestinian.”

kingdom reality LAThen he did something that went beyond his newfound cultural identification. He accepted Jesus into his heart.

At a basketball clinic run by a church, he liked the dynamic music, heard about the forgiveness of sins and wound up wondering why this environment was drastically different from the reverence and mysticism of his family’s religious practice.

Joining the born-again Christians in America created conflict with his dad, who wondered why his son left their church, got re-baptized and hung out with evangelicals who supported Zionism.

“It started to bring an interesting conflict between my dad and me,” says Sameer, now 31. “I was trying to help him understand that I understood where he was coming from. Whatever someone had done to him or his family, I don’t agree with. He was abused. But at the same time, I believe everyone has a right to a place to live, and at the time, the Jewish people were distributed around the world and suffered the Holocaust. That wasn’t right as well. They did need a place to live. Israel needed to be established again, and obviously that was Biblical.

“It was an interesting balance that I had to help him understand,” he says. “That’s why my perspective is interesting because I love the Palestinian people. I love the Jewish people. I love the Muslim people. I love the Christian people. I love that place.

“I desire to see Jesus restore it all. I know ultimately He will when He returns, but I believe He’s preparing His bride to receive Him in Israel as well as everywhere around the world.” Read the rest about Palestinian pastor thinks peace in Middle East possible through Jesus.

God helped Ben King overcome purging

Ben King Europe cycling.pngIn the quest for victory in competitive cycling, Ben King submitted himself to grueling training sessions that very nearly made he drop off the edge of healthy choices and even sanity.

“Cycling is one of the most demanding sports in the world. You don’t get to determine the pace; the pace is set. It’s like getting pulled along on a choke collar,” Ben says on White Chair films.

“And then you have the climbs and you get dropped. It’s a very explosive, intense knock out punch. The training, over-reaching, over-compensating, ups and downs burn 6,000 calories. You come back and have to have self-control. The things that you are trying to control end up controlling you. That really starts to wear you down and break you.”

ben king us national road race championshipIn his first competition in Europe at age 16, he was staggered by daunting competition.

“We just got hammered. We got thrashed,” he says. “I’ve never suffered like that just to finish races.”

Ben decided he needed to buckle down and get serious about training. He read about pro-training and diet. He looked at he pros.

“They just looked like skeletons,” he remembers. “I started to believe that the lighter I got, the faster I would get.”

Trying to kick it in high gear, Ben would ride in the morning, lift weights in the middle of the day, go to track practice, go home and cram in his homework — along with swim practice.

ben kind and his wife“I would just die in my bed every night.”

Then he started purging. One night on his way back from swim practice, he decided he had eaten too much, and thinking this would weigh him down on the road race, he pulled over on the side of the road, opened the door and induced vomiting.

“In this twisted way, it gave me this sense of control,” he says. “It became a habitual thing. I began to wear down emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

Then blood showed up in the toilet.

“I was totally beating my body into submission. The thing I was trying to control was beginning to control me.”

At 17, Ben was ravaging his body in an abusive self-competition — all in the search of getting faster and faster.

ben king road racerHe was training three to four times a day and was purging every time he felt he had eaten too much.

He arrived home one night and just clumped up the stairs and said goodnight to his mother but she called him back down to wash some dishes.

He was tired and temperamental and went into the kitchen and started to wash the dishes roughly.

Ben broke one of his mom’s favorite bowls and her temper flared.

He began seeing red and ran out the door, into the woods and kept on running. In the dark woods, he remembers staring at the very weird and odd movements of the branches.

“I just felt like I was surrounded by this evil presence,” Ben says. “It may just have been the evil I had allowed into my life.” Read the rest of Ben King Christian cyclist.

Pastor overcomes tragic accident, paralysis, to lead vibrant ministry

harold and mona warner door tucsonHarold Warner was driving back from a failed pastoral assignment when he hit a new patch of asphalt sprinkled with fresh rain, and his orange Dodge Colt spun out of control, went off the side of road and rolled down an embankment.

The car roof caved in, paralyzing him. Within nine months, the 23-year-old ex-hippie shifted into a new, dynamic pastoral assignment, this time in a wheelchair.

beginnings of ministry of pastor harold warner“Everything in my life was disrupted permanently. My world was turned upside down,” says Warner. “But my relationship with God didn’t change one bit. His grace, His presence never wavered. I had confidence that God was in control in my life.”

Today, Pastor Warner’s church, which he charged into as an idealistic young man, has grown to over 1,000. The Door Church in Tucson moved from a humble stucco and adobe building to a massive facility.

Affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries as a church planter, Warner and his leadership team have planted 750 churches worldwide.

pastor harold warner bicycleHow did he avoid the trap of blaming God for the inexplicable tragedy?

“A lot of things happen in life that you don’t have control over,” Warner says, as he considers the destiny he might have missed. “I kept going forward with a combination of faith, naiveté and confidence.”

When he was a young man, Warner liked hockey so much he went to the University of Connecticut specifically to play for the team. But, like so many other young people of the 1960s, alcohol and drugs beckoned, and he dropped out of school, grew his hair long, wore torn jeans and hitchhiked to Woodstock.

Being a hippie didn’t live up to “the propaganda of love,” he says. “The one thing that prevailed was the aimlessness.” Read the rest of Harold Warner The Door Church Tucson.

Famous cardiologist convinced of God upon reading dietary law in Leviticus

dr lawrence czer cardiologistThose same stipulations in Leviticus that make most Christians’ eyes glaze over are the very ones that convinced Dr. Lawrence Czer that God was real — specifically the dietary restrictions that must have seemed arbitrary and pointless in the unscientific ancient world.

“As I began to read the Bible, especially the books of Moses and specifically in Leviticus, I was noticing that God was telling the people of Israel to basically trim the fat off the meat that they were offering Him and to offer the fat to Him,” Dr. Czer said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, God’s a cardiologist.’ They’re eating really healthy meat because they trim off all the fat, and God really knows what He’s doing here.”

dr lawrence czer medical mission africaDr. Czer is an internationally recognized cardiologist. He is the medical director of the Heart Transplant Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was a pioneering researcher in the use of stem cell treatment as an alternative to invasive surgery.

For him, another convincing dietary restriction was the prohibition of eating blood, a “very, very safe practice because a lot of bacteria and viruses can be in the blood and you certainly don’t want to eat uncooked meat or poorly cooked meat,” Czer continues. “He was saying to drain all the blood out of the animal and to cook it well.

dr lawrence czer family“So I thought, ‘Well, He’s very health conscious too! He knows what He’s talking about. He’ll prevent transmission of infectious diseases. It’ll keep the priest healthy; he won’t eat too much fat. And you know, they’ll have a long life.”

So while atheists who revere science examine Leviticus for laws that appear nonsensical, Dr. Czer discovered that God knew about science before even science did and His dietary requiements made perfect sense.

“I thought, ‘This is really neat. It’s not just a whimsical or arbitrary set of rules. He’s asking the priest to do this in faith not knowing the reason.’ But obviously He knew the reasons. We kind of know the reasons now. Looking in retrospect, God was just looking out for his people. I thought, ‘These are rules for good reason, not just arbitrary rules, and He knows what He’s doing.’” Read the rest of Famed cardiologist convinced of God upon reading dietary law of Leviticus.

When his dad died, it wasn’t funny

Tim Allen the BuilderFunny man Tim Allen had a very unfunny start to his life that made him doubt God’s existence. When he was 11, his father was killed by a drunk driver.

“I wanted answers that minute from God,” he said in 2012. “‘Do you think this is funny? Do you think this is necessary?’ And I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my Creator ever since.”

He used drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism and then was arrested and convicted of felony possession of 650 grams of cocaine in 1978.

“Don’t ever sell drugs to policemen. They don’t like it, they tend to tell judges, people get you, and then you eat very bad food for a long time,” he wisecracked in an interview with ABC.

allen drug chargeAfter completing his two-year prison sentence, Allen was released and decided to get into comedy, which he says, “saved his life.” Shortly after that, he got a call from Jeffrey Katzenberg of the Walt Disney Studios saying they wanted him to become a part of the Disney family, which he found very ironic considering his felony.

He went on to star in various T.V. shows and films such as The Last Man Standing, The Santa Clause trilogy, Wild Dogs and the Toy Story trilogy (he was the voice of Buzz Lightyear). He was succeeding in the world, but he hadn’t dealt with his demons.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

As much as he wrestled with doubts, he couldn’t deny the incredible creation in which he lived. It begged for a logical conclusion.

tim allen lost his father and his faith“Whoever built me, this is too much, too weird that it happened by accident,” Allen said. “It didn’t happen by accident.”

Slowly, Allen began to open his heart to God as he saw His guiding hand throughout his struggles. He reached a point when he dedicated his life to Jesus Christ.

Sometimes Allen refers to God as “the Builder.”

“I always ask… ‘God what did you want me to do?’ But you got to be prepared for the answer,” he said.

Allen has received criticism due to his unflinching stand for faith.

In an episode from Allen’s sitcom Last Man Standing (in which he stars as Mike Baxter), Allen found an opportunity to incorporate Jesus Christ. Read the rest of the story about Tim Allen Christianity.

Panhypopituitarism led to low self esteem and homosexuality, then Jesus got involved

panhypopituitarismWhen Ricardo Hernandez was in high school, he had the body, face and brain of an eight-year-old, but he never got bullied because his older brothers were in gangs, and they watched out for him.

Born with panhypopituitarism, which causes reduced secretions of most or all of the pituitary hormones, doctors didn’t think he would survive past infancy. Miraculously, he lived. But because his brain was behind his classmates, he failed all his classes. Lacking a special education program to help him, the teachers passed him along to the next grade. Also, Ricardo was tired all the time, a result of the syndrome.

Once at the end-of-lunch bell, a kid hurrying off to class bumped into him and knocked him down with all his books. Almost instantly, a bunch of gang bangers jumped him and started beating him up. Ricardo, knowing it was an accident, tried to call off his brothers’ fellow gang members to no avail. “They told me to get to class,” he said.

disability and homosexuality

Ricardo is 14 in this photo

In the 11th grade, his high school counselor finally put an end to the free ride and halted his graduation, suggesting he seek an independent study program. (Ricardo enrolled in continuing education later, when his body and brain caught up, and received his high school diploma as an adult.)

He had two major challenges: a slowly developing brain and chronic fatigue, which kept him from working. With not much to do but lay around most of the day, Ricardo became the object of unwanted advances by a cousin who was gay. Slowly but surely, he seduced Ricardo.

“I was very susceptible. I was very depressed. I had no self esteem,” Ricardo said. “I was also sexually abused by my oldest brother. He was homophobe but yet he did this act. Once I started, I went from being non-sexual to like going on a rampage. I was 21-years-old, but my mental age was 13 or 14-years-old.”

Ricardo started a relationship with a neighborhood boy that lasted for two years. Kicked out by his mother for adopting the homosexual lifestyle, he rented government-sponsored housing in Pacoima with his brothers-in-law.

freed from homosexualityRicardo entered the gay lifestyle for about 13 years. Then his mother died in 2012.

“When my mother passed away, it totally destroyed what little foundation I had, and I fell into deep, deep, deep depression. I was already depressed. It got me more into wanting to end my life. I was already contemplating suicide, but after my mother’s death, it was like, ‘What’s taking so long. Get it over with already. Take courage and do it.'”

Fear always held him back — even though once he took a whole bottle of pills to no effect. The cousin who had induced him into homosexuality was abusing drugs and attempting suicide.

“I saw how the family got around him. I thought to myself, if I attempt a suicide and fail and my entire family knows that I tried to end my life, one they’ll probably make fun of me, two they’ll hover over me. I didn’t want to feel that scenario. Waking up after an attempted suicide in my mind was the worst. It would be embarrassing.”

Then near Mother’s Day in 2015, a friend came to visit that had been heavily involved in lesbianism and Heavy Metal.

She knocked on his door with a Bible in her hand, proclaiming Jesus Christ!

“Wait a minute…who are you?” Ricardo asked, incredulously.

She said she had visited a church and during the song service, God spoke to her and she started weeping. From that day, she changed. She surrendered to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and found real joy.

Ricardo, however, got furious because he felt like she turned her back on him.

“I told her off and she took it like a champ.”

His friend stopped wearing black, changed her Mohawk hairstyle, and got married. She and her husband prayed for Ricardo and continued to visit him.

“She became a professing Christian, one who did what she said she did,” Ricardo said. “That shook the very core of my being,” he said. “But I told her that I could go to her church and read her Bible but nobody could ever change me.”

As Mother’s Day approached, his depression deepened. He planned to end his life when he visited his mother’s grave. He called his aunt — the closest thing he had to a mother — to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, but she retorted, “Are you on drugs?” He hung up and cried.

He left a message on his sister’s phone saying goodbye. She was in Mexico. “I told her how much I loved her. I told her I was sorry for everything.”

That night he went into his bathroom.

“God if you’re real, because I see you transformed my best friend and she’s a whole different person, I ask you to end my life, because I’m a coward,” he cried out. “I’ll be an embarrassment to my family. If you’re willing, I ask you to end my life. I don’t ask you for your joy, peace or love — or anything you have to offer. All I ask is just end my life.” Read the rest of panhypopituitarism.

St. John was losing basketball games, so coach Chris Mullin told his players about the time he was losing to alcoholism

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaulTo help his team snap an 11-game losing streak and stun #1-ranked Villanova, Coach Chris Mullin pulled a skeleton out his closet of personal failures and revealed his battle with alcoholism.

“Where do you think I was on this date 30 years ago,” he told his players, who were languishing in last place in the Big East Conference, lost in basketball oblivion.

The players, depressed in doldrums of dearth, responded mostly by looking blankly at him, the New York Times reported.

The answer? Thirty years prior, the millionaire NBA player was kicked off the Warriors squad and thrown into a bedraggled rehab with homeless winos, heroin addicts and crack heads in the middle of L.A.’s gangland. On his first night at the AA 12-step, after the speaker droned on about an alcoholic’s powerlessness to kick the habit, gangsters in a van drove past and strafed the church building with automatics. “Damn, I’m trying to get sober here, not get killed,” Mullin thought.

12-chris-mullin.w710.h473.2xFour years later, Mullin was on the Dream Team that swept the Barcelona Olympics. Fellow teammate Magic Johnson said of him: “When God made basketball. He just carved Chris Mullin out and said, ‘This is a player.’”

But to pull himself out of the mire, he needed to endure the month-long program of 6-hour group therapy sessions with uninspiring cast of rehab mates. Then he had to drive back to the Golden State training court and fight, humbly but forcefully, for his place on the team — a feat that five other previous addiction-afflicted players had failed to do.

St. John is where Mullin started his trajectory; he took the New York university to the Final Four in 1985 as a star player. His signing as coach in 2015 was supposed to restore glory. Instead, in his third year, the Red Storm lost 14 games, his program in a malaise of ongoing roster turnover as developing prospects transferred and significant signings fizzled.

Dream_Team_2_641x405But then in February, sophomore point guard Shamorie Ponds and crew pulled off the improbable: they beat #4-ranked Duke. Then, the impossible: they defeated Villanova 79-75 on Feb. 7. Suddenly, the nation was asking about St. John.

The story of Mullin’s life — and the story of his team — is a story of redemption.

The Irish Catholic credits God: “Faith is everything,” he told Organic Catholics. “My Catholic upbringing I rely on daily. If you live a good life, good things will happen.”

Mullin was born in Brooklyn. With a passion for basketball, he took the subway all over New York City to find the most ferocious competition. Frequently, the palest player found it in the African American neighborhoods.

“For me, going up to a neighborhood if I had a bad game, I might not be allowed to come back,” Mullin said in the New York Daily News. “That was real pressure.”

legends-chris-mullinWith his hustle, ace shooting and unwillingness to be intimidated, the young Mullin gave them reason to learn his name.

During summers, Mullin attended local basketball camps at nearby St. John’s University. Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca spotted his talent and saw his raw hunger. A relationship began to form, and signing for the school was a natural choice for the Brooklyn native. He won the Big East Player of the Year three times.

A first round pick of the 1985 draft, Mullin carted across the country to the Warriors. He was lonely and called home excessively. By his third season, his alcoholism was taking a toll. He was overweight and missed practices. Coach Don Nelson gave him an ultimatum: shape up or his suspension would become expulsion.

Black Panther cast is largely Christian

chadwick-boseman-michael-jordan-christianThe box office-smashing Black Panther is not a Christian movie, but many of its actors are men and women of faith.

“During breaks (from filming) we shared our testimony of how we got to where did and most of the people were testifying to God’s miracles,” said Sope Aluko, who plays Shaman in the movie. “It was almost like church.”

The Nigeria-born actress raised mostly in the U.K. was not the only Christian on the set of the superhero movie that is being heralded as a watershed for black actors to shed minor roles and stereotypes. Just recently, the film became Marvel’s third-highest grossing, sending a rebuke to the mainstream media which constantly stokes the rifts that supposedly fracture our society along racial lines.

sope-aluko-christian-black-panther

Sope Aluko

In the movie, King T’Challa is the Black Panther and learns to save the world and break with an isolationist past of Wakanda, a fictional nation blessed by a vibranium meteorite that gave it supernatural powers.

It can be seen as a parable encouraging Christians to break out of their four walls. But the movie contains elements of witchcraft; in two scenes rival kings visit to the world of the dead and speak to their fathers. One must distinguish movie fantasy from demonic reality and not be tempted to dabble with evil.

The movie’s title role actor, Chadwick Boseman, credited prayer with him landing the role as the Black Panther.

christian-actors-black-panther-letitia-wright“You pray for something and then it actually occurs, you almost can’t believe it,” Boseman told Hunger magazine. “When they called me it was surreal. I had already written about Black Panther in my journals as something that I wanted to do.”

Boseman is maybe less vocal about his Christian faith, but his childhood pastor from Welfare Baptist Church in Anderson, South Carolina said what Boseman is doing now is a continuation of what he was doing in the church.

“I just seen him mature, and blossom into a man,” Pastor Samuel Neely told the Christian Post. “He did a lot of positive things within the church and within the community,” Neely said. “With him singing in the choir, with him working the youth group, he always was doing something, always helping out, always serving. That was his personality.”

Rasputin-like Manson mesmerized him until Jesus set him free


Dennis Rice had just stolen 160 guns to bust Charles Manson out of jail when the police pulled up. He and his partner blasted out the patrol car’s windshield with shotguns and sped away.

Cops filled his van with bullets in a wild chase lasting seven minutes. Shots even grazed his body. At the end, police from five police departments arrested Dennis, and he was never able to storm L.A. County Jail to free the mass murderer who had mesmerized him.

How Dennis fell in with the grisly Manson “family” who killed seven in a war against society is a story about drugs and the disaffected youth of the 1960s. How he came to Christ and became a pastor is the story of the forgiveness and power of God.

Born in Phoenix in the 1950s in the middle class, Dennis chose the path of a rebel. He was kicked out of school after school. He was attracted to “forbidden knowledge” and read Herman Hesse’s Siddartha and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan, according to his self-published autobiographical pamphlet “Free Indeed.”

His self-styled philosophy justified reveling in sex, drugs and rock and roll with other hippies. He was deeply suspicious of any authority. After hitch-hiking in Mexico when he was 17, he wound up in San Francisco and fell in with the counter-culture Beatniks.

He also tried heroine and soon was addicted. To support his habit, he started committing burglaries. Eventually he got caught and went to jail.

Instead of it being a wake-up call, prison life only seemed like part of the adventure. He saw himself as an outsider, misunderstood and maligned by hypocritical society.

At a concert after his release, he introduced a girl to amphetamines. Eventually, she became his wife and mother to three children. With three children in the picture, Dennis decided to settle down and kick the drugs, but his wife could not.

The couple separated and Dennis found himself raising the kids on his own. He started working at an all-night bookstore in Hollywood. That’s when he first saw the headline in the early morning newspaper that actress Sharon Tate had been brutally murdered on Aug. 9, 1969.

While the homicide frightened him, there were signs of a “revolution” at the scene of the crime that resonated with him. The perpetrators had painted “pig” outside Tate’s door with her blood. The next night, there was another murder, a wealthy couple. Again, “Rise,” “Death to pigs” and “Helter Skelter” were etched in blood.

“I already believed that revolution was the only solution for America’s problems,” Dennis wrote. “I was an anarchist. I believed we needed to tear down the whole society and start over. Could this be the revolution?”

Eventually, police arrested Manson and some of “the family.”

On a Sunday with his three boys, Dennis decided to drive out to the Spahn Ranch where Manson’s group of outcasts became a psychotic cult that believed their leader was Jesus Christ.

While the boys rode horses under the care of some of the ladies at the ranch, Dennis talked with the men. Rolling Stone interviewed Manson in prison, and his humor came through in the article.

“I wondered how this man, who was accused of all these heinous crimes, could have a sense of humor,” Dennis said. “I was intrigued.”

He visited again. The boys finally had several ladies who acted as maternal figures. And Dennis enjoyed the discussions, the friendship and the sex he was getting at the ranch.

He visited Manson in prison, and the Monster of Mayhem began to exercise a Rasputin-like sway over Dennis. Read the rest about Charles Manson family.

Christian band Bread of Stone nearly broke up, but a trip to Indonesia changed their hearts

Bread of StoneA funny thing with the indie band Bread of Stone: When brothers Ben and Bill Kristijanto felt called to start a music ministry, neither of them could play a single lick of music.

Today, they have opened for the likes of the Newsboys, Petra, Crowder, Sanctus Real and Building 429, among others. After recording two albums, they released their third, The Real Life, with DREAM Records in 2013.

“We were stones before being called into music ministry (useless and incapable) and only because of Jesus are we made into bread to feed the hungry in this world and share his love with others,” Ben told Cross Rhythms.

bread of stone brothers indonesiaAnother fun fact about the Sioux City band is that they live double lives: one in America and another in Indonesia, where they were born and where they support ministry to the poorest of the poor, chiefly Muslims who scavenge through trash to subsist. They are constantly flying to Indonesia and supporting projects to raise money for society’s outcasts and standing up for the persecuted church.

“We are not out doing this to make a name for ourselves,” said Bill. “We have never set out to make a statement of ourselves as artist. We are able to do so only through God’s grace.”

‘Service before self-ambition,’ their website proclaims.

Ben is the lead vocalist while Bill plays guitar. The are joined by Tim Barnes on bass and Jason Ferris on drums. All four band members grew up in Christian homes.

bread of stone handcraft itemsThe “calling” to start Bread of Stone in 2004 didn’t come to the brothers but their dad, Nehemia Kristijanto. Born in 1951, he is the eldest son of his family living in Jatibarang, a small town in West Java Province, Indonesia, according to New Covenant People on Blogspot.

In 1970 he studied engineering in West Germany and returned to Indonesia in 1979 with his degree. But he felt led to stay with his parents and not seek employment as an engineer. Instead, he started a powerful ministry. He moved back and forth between America and Indonesia until 1992, at which time he settled definitively in America. Today he supports his sons’ music ministry.

“We didn’t come from a musical family and had never played any instruments, but once we heard the call from the Lord, we started taking music lessons,” Bill said.

In 2015, Bread of Stones gained attention with their hit single “Porcelain.”

As the group began to gain significant recognition in 2011, they went through a crisis, teetering on the brink of dissolution. The once inseparable brothers began arguing about everything, Bill admitted on a YouTube video. Read the rest and find out how Bread of Stone saved their band.

Sherri Shepherd, The View host, left Jehovah’s Witnesses to find Jesus

sherriCelebrated actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd found herself trapped in Jehovah’s Witnesses, but overcame her fears, fled the aberrant group, and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Because I had been a Jehovah’s Witness so long, that was all I knew,” she told BeliefNet. “And as a Jehovah’s Witness I learned that all the other religions were false and that they were from Satan. So when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I really thought I was going to die and that I was going to go to hell.”

Ssherri shepherd on magazinehe did indeed “go through hell,” but she was willing to face poverty and hardship to break with the group after their leaders prohibited her from talking with her father.

“Now my dad at that time was working three jobs because we had moved to the suburbs because he wanted a better life for us,” she said. “So it was very expensive where we lived and he was working three jobs to support us. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, tell my daddy I can’t talk to him and he is working at Denny’s?

sherri shepherd the view

“As the oldest I was a daddy’s girl and loved him with all my heart. My daddy had holes in his shoes so that he could pay for my photography classes. I just kept thinking you can’t be serious and all I could think of was the Scripture that references love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and says the greatest of these is love. I was like where is the love in that?”

Before Shepherd became a notable actress, she passed through a series of misfortunes. In 1993 her mom was dying. Shepherd was evicted on several occasions. Her car was repossessed. Her boyfriend began stalking her and later went to jail. Shepherd herself went to jail for a week due to unpaid traffic violations. Even though she won plaudits for her stand-up comedy, she couldn’t pay her bills.

“I felt like I was going to die. All this stuff was happening to me because I didn’t have God,” said the vivacious star. “I wasn’t going to church. I just felt like it was so evil from my upbringing. Why am I going to go to a church that was from the devil?”

42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards - ShowHer life changed one day when she went to West Angeles Church of God in Christ, one of the largest mega churches in Los Angeles. “I used to pass it all the time on the bus. So on that day, I was feeling so miserable. I really felt like I had no other place to turn so I was like let me just try it,” she said. “When I stepped into that church and that was an immediate sense of peace came over me.”

The peace helped her quickly overcome years of ingrained fear that everything outside of Jehovah’s Witness was of the devil. But as she became a regular attender, Bishop Blake, who preaches at the church, helped her make steps toward Christ.

“One day he said, ‘Would you like to come up and accept Christ?'” she remembered. Read the rest of the story about Sherri Shepherd Christian.

Sultry Selena is Christian

selenaSelena Gomez surprised more than a few when she took the stage of a Hillsong Young & Free concert to sing praise and worship Feb. 25th last year.

It seems the baby-faced pop star has revitalized her relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I’m a Christian,” the 24-year-old said unabashedly in a YouTube interview.

selena prayer circleSelena, whose Instagram account has 117 million followers, has prepared for concerts by listening to Hillsong and by gathering with her team for prayer, as a recent Entertainment Tonight video revealed. She has voiced admiration for Brooke Fraser.

Selena was born to teenage parents in Texas and suffered emotionally as a child. She blamed her mom for her parents’ separation when she was a five-years-old. Without dad, the family struggled financially. They scrounged up quarters to put gas in the car and frequently fed on spaghetti from the Dollar Store.

selena gomez christian“I was frustrated that my parents weren’t together, and never saw the light at the end of the tunnel where my mom was working hard to provide a better life for me,” she said, according to Wikipedia. “My mom was really strong around me. Having me at 16 had to have been a big responsibility. She gave up everything for me, had three jobs, supported me, sacrificed her life for me.”

She got her start in acting with a childhood role as Gianna on Barney and Friends. Later, she landed the starring role of Alex Russo on the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place from 2007-12. She was following in the footsteps of fellow Disney stars Miley Cyrus, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato, who kept squeaky clean images as Disney teens only to rampage with drugs and sex when they branched out of their own.

selena and justinSelena seemed to be falling into the post-Disney depravity. She cultivated a sultry songstress image and ran with the Hollywood A-listers, including BFF Taylor Swift. Song after song topped charts, and she became the girlfriend of drug-troubled Justin Bieber for a year, only to stumble through another year of on-and-off-again rumors.

But then she started suffering from lupus, with depression and anxiety compounding her malaise, and she canceled the rest of her Revival Tour in 2016 to enroll in a rehab program. She wasn’t fighting drugs, she maintained. She said she just needed help to get a grip on her emotions. Selena eschewed the typical Hollywood luxury rehabs and instead chose a Christian-run facility. Read the rest of the article about Selena Gomez Christian.

Son of Atheist Apostle Madalyn Murray O’Hair became Christian after suffering under her parental treatment

MMURRAYOHAIR

The way the secular media reported it, Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the famous atheist who got Bible reading kicked out of public schools – was a national hero after the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1963.

A year earlier, the Supreme Court prohibited government-sponsored prayer in schools. After O’Hair won her case, a 1964 Life magazine profile referred to her as “the most hated woman in America.”

But secularists went so far as to say the historic ruling placed the U.S. on the vanguard of a new morality with the “triumph of rationalism over superstition.”

madalyn-murray-ohair

Because she spouted a liberal agenda, reporters were willing to overlook murmurings about psychological abuse towards her children and her employees at the American Atheists organization.

When rumors surfaced of her skimming tens of thousands of dollars from her non-profit, investigative journalists turned their attention elsewhere. The latest gloss on the Madalyn mystique was applied last month in a Netflix movie which portrayed her as a doting mother and dedicated civil rights activist, her eldest son said.

William Murray III knew the real Madalyn, the churl who bullied her children and bragged to them when they were very young about watching X-rated movies. She was an ardent feminist who resented men, Bill says.

images“One of her favorite stories — I’ve heard her repeat it many times — is that when I was born and the doctor told her, ‘It’s a boy,’ she asked him if there wasn’t some way he could put it back,” Bill told People magazine.

She bit him, smashed his model airplane to pieces in a fit of rage, and ridiculed his attempts to play baseball. She kept a liquor closet full and the refrigerator stocked with fattening, unhealthy foods. She extolled the virtues of sexual liberty and wrote for Hustler magazine. She even tried to defect to the Soviet Union with her entire family and supported communist causes, Bill says.

As a middle school child in Baltimore, Bill became an unwitting pawn in her 1963 Supreme Court battle against school prayer. Madalyn sued the school district and rode a movement to strike down prayer and Bible reading.

indexWith a petulant eloquence, she tirelessly voiced the acrimonious atheism, and the media lapped up pretty much everything she served. “We find the Bible to be nauseating, historically inaccurate and replete with the ravings of madmen,” she said. “We find God to be sadistic, brutal and a representation of hatred.”

Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Phil Donahue all hosted her on their evening TV programs. Madalyn reveled in the attention. Every misfit in the country wrote her letters of praise that included generous checks of her non-profit, American Atheists, Bill says.

“My mother was an evil person, not for removing prayer from America’s schools, no, she was just evil,” Bill wrote online in 2011. “She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations.”

While Madalyn busied herself with “rhetoric, newsletters, fund-raising and publicity,” Bill grew increasingly disaffected. He eloped and divorced, was drafted in the military and worked for an airline. He left his daughter Robin under the care of his mother. His second marriage was unraveling and he had run-ins with the police.

william-j-murray1_0While he drifted through struggles and failures, he began to harbor doubts about the atheist manifesto. Why was his mother spending the non-profit’s money on a new Cadillac and mobile home? Why would she sue to keep NASA from airing Astronaut Buzz Aldrin taking communion on the moon? Why not instead spend on new X-ray machine for a hospital? If atheism was the savior of modernity, why did it focus mostly on the antagonistic roll of shutting down others? Why not do something in favor of humanity?

“I started to think it was because my mother was basically negative and destructive,” he said.

Bill turned increasingly to alcohol to quash his anxieties and misgivings.

Once when police arrived after he had a dispute with his wife, he accidentally fired a rifle through the door. Bill was charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to five years probation.

It was, perhaps, the nadir of his life.

The incident served as wake up call. Read the rest about Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s Christian son.

Frank Sontag, LA rock legend, goes from New Age guru to born-again Christian

It wasn’t the car that slammed into his motorcycle at 100 mph. It was a round of golf that brought L.A. rock legend Frank Sontag to Christ.

After he was sent spinning across the highway, Sontag holed himself up in a Tahoe cabin and lived primitively off rudimentary supplies while he poured over Eastern mystic texts in search of the meaning of life. It took years to physically recover from the accident. But he emerged a New Age guru.

“I read the Koran, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita,” he said in an interview with Greg Laurie. “I never would open a Bible.”

For two decades, Sontag interviewed the “royalty of rock” on classic rock station KLOS. He broadcast music and announced sports events. He was part of #1-rated Mark & Brian show, which would mix Aerosmith with humorist rants and raucous call-ins.

On his own highly-rated, thought-provoking program called Impact, Sontag peddled a self-styled “spirituality” that encouraged people to get in touch with their inner selves, discover their purpose in the universe and feel good about themselves. No repentance needed.

“When somebody would call up and try to share the gospel, I couldn’t hang up on them fast enough,” he said. He would shout down and shut down Christians.
Once #1 in LA, Mark and Brian.

Then one of his closest New Age buds got saved. Three years later, the friend and his pastor brother invited Sontag to golf. Sontag was taking his fairway shot when the pastor fired at him: “Frank, is Jesus Christ the Son of God?”

“We’re not going there,” Frank retorted and knocked the ball towards the green.

A few holes later, Sontag was putting when the pastor asked another pointed question: “Frank, who’s God?”

Miffed, Sontag brushed the question off with, “I’m spiritual.”

After nine holes, the threesome decided to have lunch, and that pastor swung a final shot: “If you were to die today, would you be with God?”

Sontag snorted in disgust.

But something inside told him he should consider the question more. Challenged by the pastor, he sat in his car afterwards and asked God to prove Himself. Immediately, he felt strangely hot.

Then a voice said: “Are you ready to submit to Me?”

“It was unmistakable. Call it ‘because He created me I knew His voice.’ I knew Who He was. I felt no coercion,” he said. “And I freely said, ‘yes.’”

Later the voice said: “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

Sontag had never read the Bible. He didn’t have any way to recognize Scripture.

It wasn’t until nine months later that he stumbled across the same phrase – this time in the Bible. Right there, he prostrated himself before God and prayed: “Lord, I’m yours forever.” It was 2009.

Not exactly who you want as worship leader, but Alice Cooper is saved

Dark-themed rocker Alice Cooper — whose onstage theatrics included handling boa constrictors and staging mock suicides with guillotines — has returned to the God of his childhood after dumping alcoholism and feeling dissatisfied with riches.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” Cooper told CNSnews. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything.  A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.”

“The so-called “Godfather of shock rock” was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 to a pastoral family in Arizona. He performed missionary work with his dad among the Apaches. His grandfather was a pastor too. But when he went AWOL on God, he stretched the outer limits of what it means to be a prodigal.

His high school band from Phoenix was discovered by Frank Zappa in 1969. They struck gold with the album Love It to Death, which gained national notoriety.

Meanwhile, he drew on lessons from Edgar Allan Poe to optimize publicity with lurid dramatizations of horror in his concerts. His creepy makeup and macabre shenanigans drew ire from Christian leaders, which only served to fuel his sales to disaffected, rage-filled adolescents. Giddy with his success, Cooper conveniently forgot the early chapters of his life and his relationship with God as he entered the stratosphere of mega-stardom.

What brought him back to Earth was the booze.

“I was throwing up blood every morning,” he said.  “I was really a bad alcoholic. I wasn’t a cruel or mean alcoholic, but I was certainly self-destructive. My doctor said I was a textbook alcoholic. He said, ‘You drink in order to get things done, it’s like a medicine for you.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ I was always on a golden buzz. I drank all day, but I never slurred my speech or anything.

“When I came out of the hospital, I kept waiting for the craving to come, and it never came. It was a miracle,” he said. “I tell people I’m not a cured alcoholic, I’m a healed alcoholic. I never went to AA or anything like that, and I give all credit to God for that. Even the doctor said, ‘This is a miracle that you’re not falling back on alcohol every time there’s a stressful situation.’ So, it’s gone. It’s just gone.”

When God delivered him from alcohol, he went back to church. Cooper and his current wife of 41 years, Sheryl Goddard, now attend the Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to focus on growing and strengthening their faith in Christ.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” he said. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.

“God has a plan for everybody. I look at my life and I think, ‘How is it possible that I didn’t die?’” he said. “God’s chipping away at your life all the time to try to make you more like Him. That’s what a Christian is, a person that’s being molded and shaped all their life. I think the Lord expects you to do your best in His name. I had to struggle a long time about rock and roll. I realized it’s not really the music. It’s what’s being said with the music. So I think you have to be careful of what you’re writing, what you’re representing.” Read the rest of the macabre article.

Kevin Hart Christian?

kevin-hartKevin Hart’s mother was going to help him with rent to kick-start his comedy career, but when the due date passed he called his mom, and all she could say was: “Have you been reading your Bible?”

A week later it was the same thing: “When you read your bible, then we’ll talk about your rent.”

Annoyed at his “over-religious” mom but desperate about an eviction note on his door, Kevin grudgingly sat down and opened the Good Book.

eniko-parrish-8-141“I go home and say, ‘Man let me open this Bible up,’” Hart explained to Oprah Winfrey. “Open the Bible up, six rent checks fell out. She put all my rent checks in the Bible.”

Score one for mom and the Lord!

Hart, the self-spoofing star of Real Husbands of Hollywood, doesn’t need Mom’s rent money anymore. He’s enjoyed a steady stream of movie roles starting with Paper Soldiers (2002), Scary Movie 3 the next year, Soul Plane (2004), In the Mix (2005) and Little Fockers (2010). He ranked as the highest paid comedian by Forbes, valued at $87.5 million.

In his latest gig, a quixotic Hart fails hilariously in his constant attempts to climb Hollywood’s social ladder.

And while he’s not overly vocal about his Christianity, Hart is believed to hold the values of his mother, even if he pokes fun at her zeal in comedy routines.

kevin-hart-heaven-and-hendrix“His whole family was dedicated to Christianity, and Hart uses his family’s faith as a frequent topic in his stand-up. He doesn’t make fun of Christianity itself, but he does make fun of how people can be hypocritical with religion (like his drug addict Jesus-loving cousin),” according to Hollowverse.

On that same day when the checks tumbled out of his Bible, Jesus tumbled out too.

Hart was born in Philadelphia in 1979 to a cocaine-addicted father who was in jail more than he was in Hart’s life.

As a teen growing up in a harsh reality, Hart resorted to humor as a coping mechanism. His love for slapstick eventually won several amateur comedy competitions on the East Coast until landed recurring role on the TV series Undeclared. Jump to the rest of the story.

Tortured for converting from Islam, Egyptian lawyer had Daniel experience

Reverend-Majed-El-Shafie-Like the lions in Daniel’s den, the ferocious attack dogs meant to torture Majed El Shafie in his Egyptian jail cell refused to do anything to him. They sat placidly, and one even licked his forehead – to the rage of the guards.

“These dogs are trained to listen to their masters,” El Shafie told Sid Roth. “But there is no higher Master than the Lord Jesus Christ.”

majed el shafie torturedHow did El Shafie, a remarkable law student, wind up on the wrong side of law? First, he converted to Christianity from Islam, a big no-no in Egypt, which defines itself as officially Muslim. Then he founded a pro-Christian legal aid organization with thousands of members. But the last straw was he wrote a book expounding his ideas.

On August 15, 1998, the government came after him. “At 1:30 in the morning, I heard a knock at my door.” El Shafie said. “Five officers came and broke the door. They took me to the police station behind the Parliament. They told me, ‘We know who you are. We know about your book. One thing we don’t know is who is rest of your group.”

abu zaabal prison

The feared Abu Zaabal torture prison in Cairo

Since El Shafie refused to name his associates, the police resorted to torture. They escorted him to Abu Zaabel prison in Cairo, known in the Middle East as “Hell on Earth,” where he endured seven days before nearly dying, El Shafie said. He recovered slowly in a hospital.

El Shafie was born into an influential family in Cairo of lawyers and Supreme Court justices. But he learned of the injustices of Egyptian law in his first year at law school, when there were up to 7,000 prisoners languishing in Egyptians jails whose only crime was being a Christian.

“From my knowledge, if there is persecution, it means the enemy is trying to hide something.”

His friend very discreetly dodged the question and instead offered him a different book, one “that answers every question he could have.” In the pages of the Bible he discovered a justice, love and forgiveness he had never known before.

Providentially, he first opened the Scripture to John 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery. “Judge her according to the law of Moses!” the Pharisees cried out to Jesus.

“Whoever of you is without sin, cast the first stone,” Jesus replied.

“The only one who could cast the first stone was the Lord Jesus because He was the only one who had no sin,” he observed. “But He didn’t. He told the lady, ‘Go and sin no more. I forgive you.’ This was my first time to see true forgiveness.” Read the rest of the story.

Rocky, Rambo and Ross got redeemed

expendables

Stallone in the purple jacket.

Action megastar Sylvester Stallone has always done his own stunts, which sometimes resulted in broken bones and hospitalizations. The Italian Stallion’s faith in Christ survived many blows as well, until the Hollywood prodigal found his way back to the Lord.

“I was raised in a Christian home,” Stallone told the Dove Foundation. “I was taught the faith and went as far as I could with it until one day I got out into the so-called real world. I was presented with temptation and I lost my way and made a lot of bad choices.”

rocky-balboa_punched_ignStallone, 70, was born in New York City. His father was a hairdresser and beautician. His mother ran a gym, being an astrologer, dancer and promoter of women’s wrestling.

His birth was accompanied by complications. The obstetrician used forceps that accidentally severed a nerve causing paralysis in portions of his face, contributing to his trademark mad dog look and slightly slurred speech.

His parents divorced when he was nine, which may have had a bearing on his poor school performance. Evicted when he was 24 and sleeping at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Stallone accepted a role in a soft-core porn movie for $200.

sylvester stallone“It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope,” he told Playboy.

He landed some other minor roles but hit huge success with the 1976 Rocky, which won three academy awards and seized the American consciousness. The underdog boxer became an American icon.

Six sequels and a Special Forces series called Rambo followed that success. The Expendables came later. From the dregs of society, he was catapulted to the summit of Hollywood success, and the flush of money and fame brought a glut of temptation.

“All of sudden you’re given the keys to the candy store and temptation abounds, and then I began to believe my own publicity,” Stallone told Pat Robertson in an interview. “There’s no question. I admit it. I just lost my way.”

He divorced twice, first from Sasha Czack and then from Brigitte Nielsen. He is currently married to Jennifer Flavin, with whom he has three daughters.

His personal struggles have become fodder for the introspection in some of his later films. His 48-year-old half sister Toni Ann Filiti succumbed to lung cancer in 2012. In his most recent film “Creed,” Rocky Balboa needs to be pushed to fight cancer by Donnie Johnson, the youngster Rocky is training to fight in the ring.

By his own account, Stallone spiraled downward for 12 years until he finally had a prodigal son epiphany and decided to return to the faith of his childhood.

“Finally I realized it had to stop,” Stallone said. “I had to get back to basics and take things out of my own hands and put it in God’s hands.”

Even in the anti-Christian environment of Hollywood, he unabashedly acknowledges his faith in Christ – and he spills enthusiasm about going to church.

“The more I go to church and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now,” Stallone told Focus on the Family. “The church is the gym of the soul. You cannot train yourself. You need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else.”

Now older and wiser, Stallone admits to some distaste for the shallow violence of his earlier films. But he stands behind the Rocky series.

“This is a story of faith, integrity and victory,” he said. “Jesus is the inspiration for anyone to go the distance. You could compare his courage to that of David, who as the epic underdog defeated the giant Goliath in battle. It’s a metaphor about life. ”

A sequel to Rambo has been in the works for some time, with discussion of one version being a rescue of missionaries out of ISIS’ control in Iraq. But this film may never get done.

The Stallone trademark for his movies is that he does his own stunts. This has resulted in injuries that he has tried to mask with tattoos on his shoulders, chest and upper back. The first tattoo was a portrait of his wife Flavin.

For Rocky IV, he told Dolph Lundgren (who played his Russian opponent): “Punch me as hard as you can in the chest,” he said at a Comic Con panel. “Next thing I know, I was in intensive care at St. John’s Hospital for four days. It’s stupid!”

The injuries too are a metaphor because when we wander from Christ, they tend to make us reflect about what is most important and bring us back to Jesus. It would seem to be something Stallone would say.

This article was written with Alex Cervantes, a student of the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, where I teach. It was originally published on God Reports.

He fled North Korea and found Jesus in China

060515josephkim04awStarving North Korean teenager escaped, found Jesus in China

After his father died his mother abandoned him to go to China in search of food. So Joseph Kim, at 12 years old, became homeless, left to fend for himself in the throes of the great famine of North Korea, which started four years after the USSR collapsed and withdrew its financial support for the communist state.

With no one to turn to, Kim joined other streets urchins begging in the marketplace: “May I have your last spoonful of soup?” he asked with a plaintive cry.

kkotjebi

A kkotjebi in North Korea (not Joseph Kim)

But his stomach was never filled from the handouts of a few gracious diners in his native town.

“They called us kkotjebi, ‘wandering sparrows,’ because of the way we would bend over and look for grains of rice or kernels of corn on the ground,” he said.

Next he resorted to stealing. He wouldn’t pilfer manhole covers because if he got caught he would face execution (since the manhole covers belong to the state and any crime against the state was severely punished). He fell in with a band of thieves who believed they were re-distributing wealth. His comrades eventually were arrested, but mercifully, he was absent when the police raided.

“The famine had thinned out the village, as many of our friends lost grandmothers, aunts, sons and cousins,” Kim wrote in his 2015 book Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America. “The graves climbed up the mountainside as if it were infected with a virus.”

northkorea-defectors_-1

The border between North Korea and China

The young Kim tried the exhausting and dangerous work of coal mining. With no safety equipment and hand-powered ventilation, Kim eked out an existence for three months. But mining only lasted until you died, and with no safety standards, death was usually inevitable.

His relatives entertained him for a time, but some of them were desperately struggling themselves, and another mouth to feed at the table was the last thing they wanted. A few relatives were simply greedy and lazy.

Without an immediate family, “either you lived with rich relatives or you stole – or you died,” Kim observes grimly. “Really, those were your only options.”

north korea revere leader

When he was guarding his uncle’s vegetable crops (from thieves like himself), he met an ex-convict who imparted a wonderful secret: If he managed to elude authorities and defect to China, the Christian churches there would give him money.

What was a Christian church? Kim wondered. Raised in the closed and atheistic totalitarian regime, he had been taught to revere the country’s leader and distrust outsiders – especially Americans and Japanese, who had no greater pleasure than to drive bayonets through North Koreans.

“Why do Christians give money to strangers?” Kim asked the ex-convict.

reddit joseph kim“It’s just what Christians do,” he replied. “They give things away. They’re not like normal people.”

One day, almost on a whim, with no previous planning or preparation, he decided to cross the frozen Tumen River bordering China on foot in plain daylight. His audacity contributed to his success. No one ever dared defect during the day. At night, those who got caught were either shot or tortured in prison.

When North Korean soldiers finally caught sight of him on the far side of the river, their shouts were more of astonishment than outrage. Not a shot was fired. He was only 14-years-old.

Once in China, Kim decided he would try to find his long-lost sister, Bong Sook, who had been sold off by their mother – either to be wedded or to sex exploitation, he didn’t know which. But before he could find her, he had to avoid capture by Chinese soldiers who would send him back to North Korea, where he would be imprisoned.

When he knocked on doors in the countryside asking for food, some Chinese were gruff and told him to go away. He had heard about the limitless riches of China and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t share. A few gave him food. He slept in an abandoned house or under the stars.

Eventually, Kim made his way to the city of Yanji, where he looked for churches. He asked for money, and some of them gave. One kindly pastor’s wife took him in, even though, he learned later, she didn’t have money to fix her husband’s teeth at the dentist.

After a few weeks, someone in the church hired Kim for household help. He called the elderly Christian lady “Grandma,” and she taught him many things about the Bible.

Except for the longing to find his sister and see his mother (who was in prison in North Korea for defecting to China), he was happy. He was eating his fill, dressing his version of cool and reading the Bible, which he slowly began to understand.

Once when he sang a hymn with Grandma, he was deeply moved by the lyrics: “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, No other help I know; If Thou withdraw Thyself from me, Ah! Whither shall I go?”

The Holy Spirit touched his heart and imparted saving faith. “I felt something pierce my heart,” Kim recalls. “I understood this. This was my life. That night alone in my room, I began to cry.

He attempted to talk to God for the first time. “I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t understand the Scripture. But I’m surrendering myself to you.”

At that pivotal moment of submission to Jesus as his Lord and Savior, Kim was born again.

Not long afterward, a missionary visited Kim and explained to him the option to go to the U.S. as a political refugee. At first he didn’t like the idea because he remembered the North Korean indoctrination that Americans are evil.

But after praying, he agreed to go to a shelter partially funded by Liberty in North Korea, an activist group dedicated to resettling North Koreans in America. That’s where he met “Adrian,” who agreed to take him to freedom.

So as to not arouse suspicion of patrolling Chinese immigration officials, Adrian taught Kim and two other North Korean refugees to act like rowdy Korean-American tourists. Once in the market, Kim grabbed his fellow North Korean in a headlock that drew stares and mutterings from the local Chinese about the poor behavior of Americans.

Adrian bought them American clothes, and Kim was transformed into a “skater type – baseball cap turned to the side, bright graphic T-shirt and narrow pants.” Decked out as new personas, they rode the train to Shenyang.

There, they were taken to the U.S. consulate. But when the guard subjected Kim to a black wand metal detector search, Kim panicked. He thought he was being arrested.

Seeing the terror in his face, Adrian realized he should have explained the drill beforehand. “You’re safe now!” he shouted to Kim.

After months of paperwork, Kim was flown to the U.S. and moved in with host families. He attended high school and became a speaker on behalf of human rights organizations. He currently attends Bard College on full-ride scholarship in New York.

He is serving Jesus, happy and free. His only remorse is for his mother and his sister, Bong Sook, whom he still longs to see. Once while giving a speech in Scotland, he opted to sleep in the airport under a glass roof that allowed him see the stars. He meditated that somewhere in China was his cherished sister.

“I wonder what you are doing tonight,” he whispered. “Are you warm and safe like me? I will not forget you. Right now, we only share the stars. I can look up at night and see that you are under the same sky.”

That is how he came up with the title of his autobiography, Under the Same Sky. While he doesn’t know what’s happened to his mother, Kim believes one day he will be reunited with his beloved, long-sought sister.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on God Reports. I wrote it, so I feature it here too.

Ted Dekker, best selling author who grew up among cannibals

TTCulture-blog427

Ted Dekker

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‘Black Hawk Down’ hero found a better way to transform the world than ‘kicking in doors and slinging lead’ with enemies

MAJ-Ret-Jeff-StrueckerWhat impacted Jeff Struecker most was NOT the thousands of hostile Somalis swarming his Humvee, nor the hailstorm of bullets and RPGs as he attempted to rescue fellow Rangers in the ill-fated 1993 raid of Mogadishu made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down.

What impacted him most was the next October morning back at base when his buddies one by one asked him about death and afterlife.

“It changed my life forever,” Struecker said. “I would still be a sergeant in the ranger regiment today if it wasn’t for what I saw the morning after the firefight. It wasn’t really the blood and the bullet holes that had an impact on me. It was back at the base the grown men, some of the toughest warriors on the planet, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Jeff, what happened to my best friend who just died last night? Jeff, what happens to me if I get on a helicopter or a Humvee tomorrow and I don’t make it home?’

fast rope“Almost all of them were saying, ‘Jeff, there was something different about you last night, and I want to know what it was,’” he said. “For the next 24 hours, I had guys lined up to ask me about Jesus Christ because they could see the difference that He makes when you’re getting shot at and when the bullets flying.”

Tom-in-Black-Hawk-Down-tom-guiry-25144097-853-480So 24 hours of giving advice did more than the extended, intensive Ranger training to direct Struecker’s career. Seeing a chance to impact the lives of men, Struecker became a chaplain for his same Ranger buddies in the 82nd Airborn Division, a post he’s held for more than a decade.

black-hawkThe Ranger/Delta Force mission code-named Operation Gothic Serpent on Oct. 3 began to go awry when Ranger PFC Todd Blackburn failed his fast-rope drop-in and fell 70 feet to the ground headfirst While other Rangers secured the perimeter and Delta Force operators seized two of Mohammed Farrah Aidid’s top lieutenants, the subsequent efforts to rescue the fallen ranger led to two helicopters being shot down and 18 deaths. Click here to read the rest of the article.

The saint with the wicked kick

holly holmHolly Holm, whose lightning left kick shocked the world when it felled the UFC’s undefeated Ronda Rousey, is a Christian who recently got married, sews, cooks and brings her Bible to Starbucks.

After surmounting 20-1 odds to outfight the aggressive Rousey, the Albuquerque native, known in the ring as “The Preacher’s Daughter,” is now the reigning bantam weight champion in mixed martial arts.

the deadly kick“At first they wanted to call her Holly Hottie or Holly Hollywood or something like that. She said, ‘I don’t want to be known for that part of it,’” her dad Roger Holm told KOAT channel 7 news in New Mexico. “I said, ‘Well, you’re a preacher’s daughter.’ And she said, ‘That’s it! Call me the preacher’s daughter.’”

Holm, now 34, was raised in the church. She accompanied her dad on hospital visits, participated in potlucks and baby-sat countless times for church members.

holly dad preacher

Holly Holm’s dad, Roger Holm

“I went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “We grew up living in a house owned by the church. I always had to be on time for services and held out with the nursery. I couldn’t be a selfish kid.”

Holm loves thrift shopping, quilting, baking from scratch, watching “Family Feud,” caring for her two cats and getting her waist-length blond hair highlighted and fingernails and toenails manicured and pedicured.

“But I must prefer, if I have the time, to go to church,” she said. “I feel really not focused and detached if I don’t go to church. I feel like I feel better about myself and life and my relationship with God if I go. I feel more connected. I try to go every Sunday morning. If I can’t, I get a little irritated with myself because I’m like, ‘Really Holly? God sacrifices and has you in mind all day, every day.’ How can I not want to give back one day, one hour even?” Read the rest of the story.

100% Native American 100% Christian: Angie Behrns West Los Angeles hero

100% Native American 100% Christian

Angie Behrns at the Keruvungna Springs on University High School in West Los Angeles. She fought to save the springs.

When her sister died of cancer, Angie Behrns locked herself in the bathroom and smashed perfume bottles on the floor.

“I was angry at God,” she cried. “I said, ‘God, what did you do? Out of all of us, she was the strong Christian. She worked with underprivileged children. If You are real, where are You?’”

As she worked out her questions over time, Angie eventually arrived at acceptance – and resolved to not become mired in passivity.

“The devil took somebody who was a hard worker, who worked with the children no one wanted to work with,” she said. “I decided I was going to step up to the plate. The devil took out one soldier, but I was going to be another. What my sister did, I was going to do, and I was going to go full speed ahead.”

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Angie in front of Dal Basile, her daughter, both Tongva Native Americans, both uncompromising Christians.

At 78, Angie shows no signs of slowing. In addition to leading a Sunday school ministry for years, she has served tirelessly with her Native American brothers and sisters to conserve springs in West Los Angeles where a Tongva village once sat.

For Angie, there’s no conflict between faith and heritage. “You don’t ask whether I feel more Native American or more Christian,” the tribal elder said. “One is my culture and the other is my religion. It would be like asking if someone feels more American or more Christian.”

When asked to perform blessings at civic and cultural events, Angie dons her regalia and prays like all Native Americans to the Creator – or also called “Grandfather” – whom she identifies as Jehovah, the God of the Old and New Testament.

She also doesn’t feel any of the antipathy that many Native Americans harbor towards the church. “A lot of Indians are still angry at the Church. They hate Christianity because their ancestors were beaten, tortured and killed. They were treated as slaves to build the missions. I forgive them for what they did in the past. There is only one God.”

Angie’s daughter, Dalphina Basile agreed: “We are Native Americans who love the Lord. We’re not involved in witchcraft or New Age ideas. Each time I go to the springs, my spirit begins to praise God for His provision and beauty. We become aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Angie’s faith in God began with her mother. Her father was an incorrigible drunk who hated the church but always made the sign of the cross. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: I wrote this article. So I feature it here also.

Former Sandinista now part of God’s army

Alex Delgado | Guatemalan church La PuertaThe Contras slipped in during the wee hours of the morning and slit the throats of sleeping Sandinistas, sometimes 30, sometimes 50, sometimes the whole battalion of 350 before they disappeared undetected into the forbidding jungle.

Not so with Alex Delgado’s battalion. His lieutenant had received training from the strictest military specialists in communist bloc East Germany, and Tito Castillo never let a guard fall asleep.

Alex didn’t join the Sandinistas, the former Marxist government of Nicaragua that the Contras sought to topple, because of ideology. As a matter of fact, Alex really had no idea about the meaning of communism and capitalism.

He was just an 18-year-old, the seventh child in his family, ignored among the many mouths to feed. With no one pushing him to study, with no future in sight, Alex got swept up in the euphoria at the beginnings of the Sandinista government with hopes of eradicating the corruption of the former regime.

But the decision to join what seemed like a winning cause turned into two years of sheer misery. He trudged 10 hours a day, in danger of ambush, in danger of trip wires, gathering energy from inadequate food (they once made soup with roots and tree limbs).

His commander voiced vivid dreams of finding the enemy and decimating them in combat. Inside, Alex prayed to a God he didn’t yet know to never find the enemy – and God granted his wish. The only deaths in his battalion were from an ambush on a supply pickup and a friend while fording a river.

Body bags from other battalions flooded homes; sometimes they were left on the doorstep to be found by parents after soldiers rang the doorbell and fled at midnight.  For the rest of the article, click here.