Category Archives: Christian testimony

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.

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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.”

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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

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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.