For WACKY Wednesday, Clara Czer wore impossible hair to school. For WHACKING Tuesday, the sophomore was whacking balls down upon her adversaries.
Lighthouse Christian Academy made full use of her hits (13) and kills (5) to beat San Fernando Valley Academy 3 sets to 1 in an intense girls volleyball competition Tuesday in Northridge.
“Clara was pretty consistent the whole game. She was almost flawless,” Coach Jessica Young said. “She has come a long way from junior high. She is able to control her emotions. She’s probably our best hitter right now. She has pushed herself harder and harder, and she can spike it almost straight down.”
In the last, hard-fought set that drew out to 30-28, Coach Jessica instructed the team to “play smart” in the last back-and-forth trading “just one point to win” moments. Just get the ball over and don’t try to be too aggressive.
Clara still did — successfully — back row spikes.
“I thought inside, ‘Oh she didn’t listen to me,” Coach said. “For her ‘playing smart’ is that aggressive. But she got it in.”
Nobody complains if you don’t mess up.
Lighthouse is now 8-1 and almost virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. Its last season game is Thursday against league-leaders Beacon Hill Classical.
“We had a lot of great team energy. I’m just really proud of us,” Clara said. “I think all of us are really improving. I’m so proud.”
Lighthouse struggled in the first set to adapt. SFVA hosted the game in its Northridge gym, a court covered with carpet. This took LCA off guard because the Saints usually dive for balls.
“At least two of our girls have rug burns,” Coach Jessica said. “They’re bleeding.”
The SFVA gym also had an unusually low roof, and the Saints lost more than one volley just because they hit with their accustomed strength. When the ball hits the roof or a fixture before going over, it’s the other team’s point. They lost the first set 20-25.
While she was praying at church, Chris Singleton’s mom was shot eight times by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015.
Then only 18, Chris Singleton had to assume the role of parent for his younger siblings.
“It was being thrown into the fire for me,” Chris says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “Something like that, I call it the unthinkable because you never think in a million years that something like that will happen to you. It was tough then, it’s tough now. It made me grow up a lot quicker than a lot of people. I had to take care of two teenagers when I wasn’t even 21 yet.”
Incredibly, Chris chose to forgive the racist mass murderer who snuffed out nine lives at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When Sharonda Coleman-Singleton died, Chris wasn’t exactly strong in his Christian faith.
“I think anybody that loses a loved one, there’s two ways you could go with your faith,” Chris says. “You could say number one, there’s no way God is real. Or you could say, two, God, I don’t know how this happened or why this happened, but I need you to get me through it.”
Chris, who became a minor league baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, drew on his athletics training to develop resilience.
“I didn’t have my mom anymore and I didn’t have my dad, so Jesus became the rock that I would lean on,” he says. “That was comforting for me, it was therapeutic for me.”
Of course, Christian Surfers International calls Jesus the “Original Water Walker.”
Originally, they were just a support group of like-minded surfers who felt a little marginalized by the church, but as they grew, they realized they had a greater responsibility to win the entire surfing world to Christ.
They want to be even more salty while paddling ocean waves and reflect the light of Jesus on sun-drenched beaches.
Today, Christian Surfers International has affiliates in 35 countries with about 175 local missions, each of those acting like a tiny church plant to the surf community, says Casey Cruciano, operations manager of CSI.
They also do community development projects around the world through their organization Groundswell Aid. Some of the best surf breaks also have some of the poorest communities in the world. Hardcore surfers have always traveled to out-of-reach spots for the perfect wave. But CSI surfers don’t just ride the wave; they help alleviate poverty, restore the environment and provide disaster relief.
“We believe in the power of the global surfing community to make powerful, long-term changes to beach communities around the world,” a narrator on a Groundswell video explains. “Using surfing as a platform to connect, Groundswell exists to meet the needs of under-resourced communities and offer tangible hope.”
They even teach Third World youngsters to surf or learn water polo, offering scholarships to those who do well in school and encourage school dropouts to return.
On the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, they help build housing and school facilities for the locals. Read the rest: Christian surfers Intl.
Suddenly, the volleyball court disappeared and the scene of a hot and dusty Wild West town emerged.
As a tumbleweed rolled lazily along in the scorching breeze and innocent bystanders scampered for cover, Allie Scribner, hands readied for her quickest draw, squinted sternly at her rival, Westmark’s Katherine Abraham.
When the ref blew the whistle, the gunslinger Allie fired, a blistering serve… straight at the person best able to return it, Katherine.
“I wanted to ace their best player,” Allie explained afterward. “I wanted to make them feel pain.”
It might seem that to liquidate the game efficiently, it was in Lighthouse Christian Academy’s interest to target easy victims with the deadly gunfire.
But when the spirit of posse justice possesses her, Allie turns into a merciless marksman.
“Number 1 had really good serves and overall played really well with the girls,” admitted Katherine, who herself was a powerful player and struck fear into the Santa Monica private school’s heart. Read the rest: Christian private school near Venice, CA – volleyball
Two years ago, Heidy Hutchinson misbehaved in school and, looking for a fresh start, transferred to Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.
On Wednesday, Heidy led the 2nd-string team to a 1st-rate victory against beginner’s team Summit View School to notch-up LCA’s record to 6-1.
“Me and my brother went to public school, we got in trouble, we had to come here,” Heidy says. “We kind of became better people and grew in school. I learned more about God. I got closer to God, and that’s it.”
The sidelines erupted in wild cheers for Heidy as serve after serve — underhanded serves — went over the net and — excuse the pun — netted points for LCA.
They weren’t cheering for Lighthouse, which was unyieldingly driving Summit into the depths. They were cheering strictly for Heidy. She’s come a long way. (Link to an article on Heidy from 2019.)
“I’m not really a sports person. I’m not very athletic,” Heidy says. “I didn’t really want to play volleyball, but Sarah (Montez) and Lakin (Wilson) pushed me to play. They begged me to. I’m really thankful they did because I wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t.”
Lighthouse is NOT a reform school. But they say God can re-form anyone who has taken missteps down the wrong path.
When Heidy scored the last point, players on the bench mobbed her, high-fiving and hugging.
“She got the last winning serve!” Sarah said. “She’s the team captain.”
“My hardest hardship was my grieving. My loss,” Dahlia Gonzalez says. “It makes me want to play better… for my mom.”
Mom inspired Dahlia, and the whole Lighthouse Christian Academy team, to victory Tuesday in three sets against Ojai Valley School.
“Dahlia did pretty well this game. She did have an injured finger, but it didn’t seem to hold her back this game,” says Coach Jessica Young. “They were all good. She’s a natural athlete. Some of her passes looked like collegiate level to me. They were beautiful like in a magazine. She made some last-minute saves on the sideline. She can hit ambidextrously.”
Ray Dalio may be the master of the market, but la reina Dahlia is the queen of the court.
She has overcome a lot. The loss of her mother was on top of all the difficulties of Covid and not being around friends and not practicing sports (her preferred is softball).
The Saints dispensed the Spuds (Yes, they call themselves the Spuds. No, potatoes are not a big crop from Ojai) empty-handed.
Playing on grass in the private school’s bucolic Ojai property, LCA team members had to adjust. Hits were affected by breezes. Jumps were harder without the hardwood base. Diving would not displace the fall with a slide of smooth wood surface. Read the rest: Santa Monica Christian school sports volleyball
Because of an absentee dad, young Jason Wilson sought male approval by being a THUG, which he now says stands for Traumatized Human Unable to Grieve.
“I got involved in seeking these quests for affirmation, and they led me into some dangerous situations,” Jason says on a 100 Huntley Street video. “The majority of boys who are in gangs are fatherless.”
Two of his brothers were murdered. Jason Wilson showed off his stepfather’s gun on the streets, but he didn’t really fit the role of gangbanger and eventually returned to the Christianity of his mom. After traversing half a century of trial and failure at “hyper masculinity,” Jason Wilson has learned some things about manhood. In his seminars and books, he tells men to cry.
“In my community, it was the hyper masculine black man,” he says on an Ed Mylett video. “If you weren’t hyper masculine, you didn’t get the girls, you didn’t get the money, you weren’t cool, you were ostracized.”
“So many of the young boys I mentor and even the men — they’re called OG’s, or original gangsters — they’re hurting. It’s amazing when I get with them and talk, they just start crying because of the years of the trauma that they’ve seen.”
Jason went viral in 2016 when in his karate gym, he encouraged a young boy taking his test to go ahead and cry when he was unable to punch through a board with his left fist. Men need to cry because tears contain stress hormones, thus releasing them from your body.
Breaking boards in karate becomes a metaphor of breaking through struggles for a man, whether it be to shed the pounds of obesity or invite out for a date the woman of your dreams, he says.
The video has been seen more than 100 million times. Subconsciously, it encapsulates a message about manhood beyond just “manning up,” being strong and “boys don’t cry.”
“The phones of our non-profit were just ringing. We were like, ‘What is going on?’ Viral videos were kind of new,” he says. “Men were crying to our women staff, saying, ‘I’m tired of not being able to be tired. I want to be a human.’”
As a youngster from a broken home in Detroit, Jason Wilson used to sneak out from church when his mother wasn’t watching and escape to the arcade. He became a famous hip hop deejay. The world of hip hop, in which everybody is always mugging, fostered “hyper masculinity” in him.
“Unfortunately, I did not have a desire to learn about God,” he says. “I didn’t feel Christ. I knew there was a God, but I didn’t see Him. I allowed the hypocrisy of men to stop me from getting a relationship with the Creator of men.”
He searched for meaning in Egyptology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
While he was running from Christ, he almost died twice. He flipped a truck and rolled twice. But he shrugged it off. Three years later, he was working as a high load driver when the truck driver hadn’t chaulked the breaks, and he crashed off the platform. At the second brush with death, he answered the wake-up call.
“I’m on the ground with a heavy weight high loader next to me,” he recalls. “I’m crying, ‘Father, I will never go against You.’ If I didn’t follow God’s will, definitely I would be either dead, definitely I would still be drinking, divorced and probably not there for my kids.”
He opened a dojo, The Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy named after King David’s discipleship hideout. That’s where he found his true calling in life.
He was much older and wiser. He had cried — finally — at a funeral. His wife, Nicole, suffered five miscarriages between his daughter, 26, and son, 13, and he learned to be there for his wife.
He was starting to learn about true manhood — and he wanted to share the good news.
“The pain I experienced not having a father is worth being able to impact hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have their father,” he says. “The Cave of Adullam came from a desire to help boys and men, to be what I didn’t see. My son asked me one day, ‘How did you become a great father?’ I said, ‘I simply gave you what I longed for.’
“Even a man desires affirmation from another man.”
When his video went viral, Jason was launched to nationwide fame. He was featured on Dr. Oz and in President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” showcase at the White House. He has two books: Cry like a Man: Fighting for Freedom from Emotional Incarceration and Battle Cry: Waging and Winning the War Within.
“Women didn’t let themselves be defined by culture. When in the early 1900s it was said, ‘A woman’s place is in the kitchen,’ they defied that,” James says. “But we as men have allowed this one adjective ‘masculinity’ to define us and hinder us from the lives we long for.” Read the rest: THUG Traumatized Human Unable to Grieve.
Arynn never thought she would end up in a mental institution, but after she became thrilled with cutting herself, that’s where she was taken.
“The minute I saw the blood it was like I was hooked,” Arynn explains to 700 Club Interactive. “It was like this dopamine hit and in a really twisted way I’d almost rewarded myself with self-harming.”
Arynn was turned off by Christians.
“I always thought of Christians as these really emphatic people who wanted you to turn away from anything that was fun,” she says.
So, the minute she turned 18 and was able to go to parties, she began drinking.
“I just had fun with it and then a long pattern of, you know, thinking that I could just keep doing it and it would never catch up to me,” she says.
As a 19-year-old sophomore in a Christian college, she began taking shots of tequila at 8 a.m.
She didn’t realize she had become an alcoholic.
Almost imperceptibly, the “fun” evolved into depression. This led to self-harm.
“As the alcoholism progressed, the urge to self-harm got so much stronger,” Arynn says. “I felt too like even if God loves me he’s not gonna want to associate too much with me because look at where I’ve ended up.”
Death became her daily meditation and cutting became an obsession.
“I remember one night I decided I just have to try at least one time and so I remember taking the razor, slitting my wrist and nothing happened so I just kept going,” she says. “Finally, I’m surrounded by blood, but I’m not bleeding out.”
Adam Gunton hung up on his buddy when he called at 4:47 a.m.
“Why are you calling me this late?” he snapped.
“I was just calling to say hi,” Chuck responded, timidly.
“Don’t call me this late again!” Adam, a freshman in college in 2008, barked and slammed the phone down.
That’s the point when Adam’s partying changed and he became a hopeless addict.
“Before that moment I was using drugs and alcohol to party and have fun,” he says on a Logan Mayberry video. “But after that I was consciously using drugs to mask the way I feel, mask my emotions, mask my thoughts and cope with life around me. I bottled it down deeper and deeper with drugs and alcohol.”
As a result of his addiction, his weight dwindled down to 147 pounds from 210.
Adam grew up in Littleton, Colorado. He played football and wrestled at Columbine High School, which gained notoriety through tragedy. Mostly, he was able to hide his drug habit. He started drinking at age 11, after someone shared cocaine and weed with him.
“Throughout my high school career, I just thought it was fun,” he says. “I had no idea that it was going to lead me to a homeless shelter and not being able to stop the worst drugs on the planet 10 years later.”
On Nov. 6, 2015, Adam took a heroin hit that initially he thought was bunk. He got in his car and drove off. Cops found him in his car on the side of the road OD’d. Three months later, the body cam video was shown in court and he was charged with felony drug possession.
“Even that moment and those experiences weren’t enough to get me clean and sober,” he remarks.
He worked for Direct TV and became a top salesperson regardless of his drug abuse. At his desk, he had his computer and a drawer full of drugs.
One day, alone in his bedroom, he cried out to a God he didn’t know.
A year after he lost his legs and arms to septic shock, Gary Miracle ran a 1.4-mile race on running blades.
“My doctor tells me all the time, ‘no feet, no excuses,’” Gary told The Epoch Times.
Although Gary had many reasons to sulk, he continues to live his life to the fullest.
Forty-year-old Gary Miracle did ministry for 12 years when he contracted a rare blood infection he thought was the flu but it progressed to septic shock. He spent 10 days in a coma at an Orlando hospital.
“I think they gave me a 1 to 7 percent chance to live through this,” Gary says.
On New Year’s Day his heart failed, and medical personnel took eight minutes to revive him. Gary was placed on an oxygenation machine, and the cardiovascular surgeon saved his life by diverting blood to his brain and torso at the expense of his limbs, which necrotized.
“My arms and legs were so cold,” Gary says. “They told me that I looked like a mummy; my hands and legs were pitch black. Then my muscles and my tendons started kind of falling out of my legs. I had no feeling down there.”
Gary is a husband and father of four kids. His wife, Kelly, posted scriptures all around his hospital room.
“My family just stepped up in a huge way, I was never left alone,” he says. “People were praying for me constantly.”
After 117 days in the hospital, Gary was discharged in April 2020. His lifeless limbs had been amputated. He is a quadruple amputee.
“When you go through something like that, there’s a line drawn in the sand: Am I gonna sit on the couch and throw a pity party?” he says. “Or am I going to choose to live and be alive and live for Christ and be a dad with my kids?” Read the rest: Gary Miracle lost his arms and legs but not hope.
After Gorman Learning Center punked Lighthouse girls volleyball 12-25, maybe thought they had the match in the bag. After all, the scored showed a solid domination in Valencia Thursday.
But Allie Scribner got mad.
And game 2 was a role reversal. The freshman got mad and served a string of unreturnable serves. She smashed 11 blistering bowling balls down the alley (get it? For Allie). After rotating through, another six aces and near-aces to rack up points for Lighthouse Christian Academy.
How did Lighthouse answer GLC’s lopsided 12-25, a message of mercilessness and intention to humiliate?
Lighthouse responded by winning the second set 25-11.
They one-upped them by one point.
Houston, we have a problem.
Where did the dramatic turnaround come from?
There are two answers. The Saints complained the pacing of Game 1 was slow. They made sloppy mistakes and looked lethargic. They came alive in Game 2.
The second answer was the sweet-faced freshman-turned-furious-face Allie Scribner.
When a driver found Mo Isom suspended by her seatbelt upside down in her rolled Jeep, with her face bloodied following an accident, she kept saying with a smile: “God is beautiful.”
Mo had asked God to “wreck” her life after her father committed suicide.
“I didn’t realize that God would answer my prayer so literally,” Mo says on a 100 Huntley video. “My vehicle lost control, flipped three times and landed upside-down in a ravine at 1:30 in the morning. He wrecked my life, but He revealed himself to me in that wreckage.”
Mary Isom (simply “Mo”) an All-American soccer star, fiercely loved her perfectionist father, who gave her the silent treatment when she fell short.
Of course, this developed into a performance-based understanding of God. “I do good things, I get blessings,” she explains. “I do bad things, God turns his back on me.”
Mo looked forward to college as a fresh beginning. As a soccer star on the team at Louisiana State University, Mo wanted to leave behind the bulimia she struggled with in high school.
At college, she stumbled across Matt 11:28: Come to me, all who are weary or burdened and I will give you rest.
The verse ministered to her greatly.
But then her dad put a bullet through his heart Jan 3., 2009 in Huntsville, Alabama, when his business soured.
“I was punctured as deep as you could imagine,” she remembers. “It left a gaping hole in my heart.”
The relationship she was trying to develop with God unraveled as guilt, shame, blame, grief, and rage cascaded unchecked through her heart.
She prayed with a sense of urgency: “God, if You are real, do something.”
In response to a stepdad throwing boiling beans on his kids, Billy hunted down the suspect and murdered him and his uncle.
“I was so out of my mind,” Billy says on a Tony Evans video, “My kids were my life. I wasn’t thinking rationally and reasonably. All I was thinking about was revenge.”
A year later, he was arrested and began a long sentence.
Billy’s parents split when he was only six years old. He was left to his dad’s care but wanted desperately to find his mom. He would walk down the highway looking for his mom. Eventually, he found her. She was a functional alcoholic.
As an adolescent, Billy met a girl and got her pregnant. He was happy to be having a boy, “even though I was just a boy myself,” he says. But the child was stillborn.
He had two daughters with the young lady, but he didn’t know how to be a father or a husband, and she left him for another man.
The new man abused his daughters and got arrested, along with his former partner (who was taken into custody for child endangerment).
Billy boiled with rage.
“I would begin to consume enormous amounts of alcohol,” Billy recalls. “I consumed whatever it was to take my mind off of its original state to keep from having to deal with these issues.”
When a couple of friends notified him that the perpetrator had been released on bond, “my next question was, where is he?” Billy says. “I made my way over to the condominium where this uncle and he were and I murdered them.”
Billy spent five years in county jail awaiting trial, ultimately taking a plea-bargain deal that gave him 30 years, reduced to seven if behaved well in jail.
Ultimately, he didn’t “behave well” in jail.
“I had so much hate, anger, and bitterness and resentment that would just roll into my life and other people around me,” he says. “I began to express my faithfulness to rebellion so much that in fact the other gang members started to recognize me.”
He liked the recognition and respect he earned by getting into trouble.
Transferred to a prison in Amarillo, Texas, BIlly got caught up in a gang riot that left one man in critical condition. The man was air-lifted to the hospital, where he lingered between life and death.
Three inmates who were supposedly “brothers” in Billy’s gang, fingered him as the responsible man behind the brutal beating. The warden called in Billy and produced the signed accounts accusing him. If spelled the death penalty for him. His only hope was that the beaten man would somehow survive in the hospital. Read the rest: revenge and redemption in Texas
Before Vitor Belfort KO’d Evander Holyfield, he got KO’d by life. Specifically, his sister’s kidnapping and reported rape and killing left him searching for answers and hopelessly embittered.
“There’s two ways to get to God, through pain or through love,” he says on an I am Second video. “Mine was through pain.”
Known as “the Phenom,” Vitor Belfort was the youngest fighter to win an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout at 19. The Brazilian-born Florida resident, 44, has fought in all kinds of matches, with boxing being his latest.
He knew about God from childhood. In his first official fight, he promised to serve God faithfully, if God permitted him to win. Once he triumphed, he promptly forgot his promise.
“As soon as I won the championship, I didn’t follow God right away,” he acknowledges.
At age 20, he suffered a neck injury. Doctors were grim. He would have to give up his beloved sport of fighting and find another career.
“I was crying, I was desperate,” he admits.
One day as he drove around in his fancy car he saw a legless man who got around on a skate. He was so struck by this beggar, he engaged in conversation.
“Many people that drive by here think I’m worthless because I don’t have any legs,” the beggar told him. “But I can guarantee you, Vitor, I’m happier than many people who drive by here in their big cars. I got Jesus and Jesus can transform your life.”
That was the moment that Vitor felt God talking to his heart.
“But even with that, I didn’t follow God,” he concedes.
It would take the kidnapping of his sister in 2004 to humble Vitor and bring him to repentance.
Priscila was taken, and the family didn’t know anything about her for three years. A woman who supposedly was taken captive herself to pay off drug debts, Elaine Paiva, confessed to helping drug dealers kidnap and kill Priscilla.
Information that his sister had been repeatedly raped by grisly murderers enraged Vitor.
The Philippine military was supposed to rescue hostage Martin Burnham. Instead, they shot him.
“I was immediately shot in the leg,” says Gracia Burnham, his wife, on a Huntley 100 video. “Martin was shot as well and just lay there. I could tell that gunshot wounds to the chest don’t heal. He was just kind of breathing loudly. Then he got very still.”
For a year, the Philippine military was pursuing the missionary couple’s kidnappers, the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels, through the sweltering jungles of the Philippines. They were aided by a tracking device sewn into a backpack that the CIA had managed to pass on to the squad’s leader.
Missionaries for 17 years, Gracia and Martin Burnham were on Palawan Island when M16-touting rebels, seeking a ransom to fund their guerilla war, broke down their door and pulled husband and wife out on May 11, 2001.
They were spirited away on a speed boat and taken to the jungles where they joined other hostages. For a year, the rebels dragged them over hills and through rivers, constantly on the move to avoid capture, in jungles filled with snakes, spiders and disease-bearing mosquitos.
Sometimes they ate; sometimes they went days at a time without eating. The Muslim militants forced Gracia to wear a hijab in observance of ancient Islamic customs. The jihadists prayed five times a day. On some days, they stayed hidden with no movement, leaving the missionaries bored. Other days they walked endlessly, always on the run. They collapsed exhausted at night.
As the ordeal dragged on, Gracia struggled with why God had permitted the trial.
“How long do you think this will last?” Gracia asked her husband.
Martin remembered certain European hostages that were rescued after six weeks.
Gracia fixated on “six weeks,” and unconsciously made it a timeline for God to rescue them.
When six weeks passed with no sign of rescue, she despaired and began to doubt God — not His existence or the terms of salvation but if He indeed cared for her and loved her.
After all, He hadn’t responded.
And that’s how an internal conflict erupted in the context of the greater conflict of the rebel war.
Inside her heart, there was a battle of faith.
Martin, the aviator missionary, encouraged his wife not to lose faith even in the most trying circumstances.
“You either believe all of it or you believe none of it,” he gently challenged her.
From then on, the couple encouraged each other with remembrances of verses from the Bible that stirred faith.
Added to the trial of faith about the goodness of God, Gracia observed that a weariness of the jungle grated her. During the day, they were either bored unendingly as the hid or were exhausted from trudging forward to evade being discovered by the Philippine military.
The night was filled with dangerous predators and sounds that filled the darkness. She wished for daylight to arrive.
But days were filled with heat, humidity, marching or hunkering down. Then she wished for nightfall.
“I felt like I was wishing my life away,” Gracia says.
One of the other hostages was beheaded, perhaps to speed up the hoped-for ransom money.
After a wearisome, worrisome year on the run during their captivity, Gracia eventually lost all hope and said her goodbyes to her husband on June 7, 2002.
He gently reminded her to keep faith alive. But it was a good thing she said her goodbyes.
As a Christian, Judy serves God by being a foster parent to dogs. Some even come from China, allegedly having escaped the dog meat trade.
“God made all creatures,” Judy told God Reports. “I think He would not want a dog to suffer. If we didn’t have foster parents, the dog would be put in a shelter. Most of the shelters are kill shelters.” (“Kill shelters” euthanize if the stray is not adopted within a certain number of weeks.)
If you have never heard of a foster parent for dogs, you are not alone. The concept is similar: you care for the dog until it gets adopted. The foundation pays for the food and veterinary visits. Some foster parents care for four dogs at a time.
Judy, 69, has had Lollipop, Marshmallow, Bandit and Doreen. Two were Chihuahuas. Well-behaved Chihuahuas. She brings them to church, which conveniently meets outdoors in a park.
Sometimes, they come shaking and traumatized by abuse or neglect. They are dropped off from cars on the road. They are abandoned in fields. They are flea-infested from ill-kept hoarders. They even come from abroad, at great expense for transportation.
Rescue workers will drive hours to pick up a dog.
“I love dogs. They really relax me. They’re fun. They’re amazing,” Judy says. “The love of dogs has to do with being able to love. If you love God and know that God is real, then you know that God created animals.”
Judy didn’t grow up in a church-going home but found God in her early 30s through some Christian friends and through reading the Bible.
“I had some Christian friends and it just felt right. It was a calling to me. Christianity is something that is necessary,” Judy says. “The thing I admire about Christians is their family; they have really good family. The kids are well-mannered. They don’t swear. They’re so connected. It is such a beautiful thing.”
“Dating was my license to everything, ice cream with sprinkles on top, sushi on the side,” the New Jersey beats producer says on his YouTube channel. “I was using these types of things as void fillers. That didn’t last long. We began to get convicted.”
The discord arose when his girlfriend, Mags (Margaret), “flowed with” the conviction from a certain “Night of Prayer” they attended, while Joe stubbornly resisted to the point that they broke up.
“I tried to ignore it like everything is all good,” Joe says. “I put on this front. I’m playing 2K (basketball on Xbox) like none of this bothers me. But deep down when I was alone with God, it really did bother me.”
“We had to stop sex, but the mindset I had was such a stronghold. I was not obedient to God. I wanted to hold on to that one thing that I thought was my manhood. That cost us the relationship.”
Joe was “bawling” in the car when she broke off the relationship.
“You would think that I would snap out of it, like, yo, it’s not worth it,” he remembers. “But of course not. When you’re stubborn, you run into a brick wall 300 times thinking the next time it’ll be softer.”
As heartbreaking as the breakup was, it was also “transformational,” Joe says. Mags went to church three times a week, got a Christian mentor and devoured God’s word.
Meanwhile, Joe went through his own soul searching.
“Once we broke up, I was like, yo, how much a part of me was that person? When you have sex with each other, you guys are actually exchanging souls. It’s deeper than just pleasure, boom, boom, boom, we’re out of there and we’re done. Soul ties are real.”
God showed Joe that the holes in his heart needed to be filled by Him, not sex. He needed to make God first and change his group of friends to break free from a worldly mindset.
“I had to be a man,” he says. “Sex was never worth not submitting to God and following His word.” Read the rest: Saved from premarital sex.
Three times she’s fought off cancer and she’s still not free from its wicked clutches.
Jane Marczewski — who melted the nation’s heart singing “It’s Okay” after saying she had a 2% survival chance on America’s Got Talent — has withdrawn from the final rounds to battle cancer.
In her audition, Jane, who uses the stage name Nightbirde, had stunned judges when she matter-of-factly mentioned she wasn’t working because of cancer in her lungs, spine and liver.
“It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me,” she said smiling. Her exuberant joy and pristine voice prompted Simon Cowell to hit the golden buzzer shortcutting her into advanced rounds. Her song (“If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost, and it’s alright”) shot up to #1 on iTunes
A Zanesville, Ohio native, Jane Marczewski, 30, decided to make a life of her God-given musical talent when she was a student at Liberty University. She married, launched her life, and then got struck by cancer. At first her husband stood with her, but when she relapsed, he divorced her.
Her smile and bursting optimism wowed the audience. “I have a 2% chance of survival, but 2% is not 0%,” she says. “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
But when she’s alone, she faces the daunting odds. Because she’s honest, she sometimes succumbs to depression. But while she struggles and cries out to God about the unfairness of her fate, she grows like an ordinary Christian never will.
“I am God’s downstairs neighbor banging on the ceiling with a broomstick,” she says on an MP4 circulating in churches. “I show up at his door everyday, sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses, apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.
“I’ve called God a cheat and a lie and I meant it,” she says. “I’ve told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayers I know… night and day, sunrise and sunset. Call me bitter if you want to; that’s fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God, for I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in his shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout.”
Her words, robed in poetry, address Job’s experience of being crushed unjustly.
“I want to lay in His hammock with Him and trace the veins in His arms. I remind myself I’m praying to God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but He instead let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray.”
As she scrutinizes her life searching for strands of mercy, she resonates with the story of God feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness.
“I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the windchimes,” she says. “It’s not the mercy I asked for, but it is mercy nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: ‘Thank You.’ It’s a prayer that I don’t mean yet but will repeat until I do.”
Already she has outlived the prognosis of three months’ life expectancy given at the beginning of 2020.
The potato chip — that quintessential diet-doomer with its overkill of salt, fat and, yes, sugar — fed medal-winner Gabby Thomas’s running.
Gabby munched chips before getting on the track and burning everybody.
“My first love was soccer,” Gabby says on Humbl Nation. “A lot of my soccer skill was speed-related. My college recruit came to watch my soccer game. I was just doing it to do it. I kind of fell into track. In high school, I was just having fun with it. After my sophomore year, I started to take it more seriously. Then with college, it became an option.”
Gabrielle Thomas won bronze in the women’s 200-meter dash. In addition to track, she’s an academic — a graduate from Harvard University — and a born-again Christian.
Just weeks before the Olympic trials, Gabby got an MRI for a hamstring injury and doctors also spotted a tumor in her liver. It was a cancer scare, but the growth turned out to be benign.
“I remember telling God, ‘If I am healthy, I am going to go out and win trials. I’m going to do everything I can to live my life to the fullest,’” she says on the Today Show.
It was Gabby’s mom, an academic in Massachusetts, who re-directed her into track. “I signed up for softball, and she said, ‘No, you’re doing track.’”
Mom says that Gabby used to eat potato chips — a snack not typically associated… Read the rest: Gabby Thomas Christian
Athing Mu was just fooling around with her older brother, who was part of the Trenton Track Club. She was running — outrunning the bigger kids — when the coach saw her and confronted her later when she was seated on the bleachers.
“Who is this girl? I want her on my team,” the coach said.
That was the start of an incredibly “God-gifted” girl who just won the first gold medal for the U.S. in the women’s 800 meters in 53 years. The 19-year-old freshman records-breaker from Texas A&M charged to the front of the pack from the very beginning and stayed there almost unchallenged, graceful and calm, with a powerful pace throughout.
Athing Mu (pronounced Uh-THING Moe), now 19, is lucky to be in America. Her parents fled South Sudan and made their residence in Trenton, New Jersey. She’s the second youngest of seven siblings. She got involved in track and also discovered what it means to run with Jesus.
“As a follower of Christ, our main goal is to live in the image of Jesus in order to connect to God and ‘get to’ God,” the 5’10” runner says on The Battalion. “I believe when God is ready to give you blessings, He gives it to you with all intentions. In this case, ‘keeping one at the top, never at the bottom.’”
She’s referring to Deut. 28:13: The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Read the rest: Athing Mu Christian
About once a week, one homeless man or woman dies in Venice, CA.
That’s Michael Ashman’s tally. At least three times a week, Ashman hands out free food, clothes, and Bibles at Muscle Beach, which is often filled with tourists and eclectic street performers.
This area – until recently cleaned up by Sheriff’s deputies – has been thronged with homeless and criminals.
“When people say we have a ‘homeless problem’, that tells me they don’t have a clue; it’s a human problem, not a homelessness problem,” Ashman, 57, told God Reports. “There are all kinds of reasons people are homeless. Then you throw alcohol and drugs into the mix. But Jesus is the answer. He’s the One who’s going to heal their minds and set them free.”
For three years, Michael has ministered to the homeless. Arguably, homeless ministry is prone to burnout because positive results are few and far between, while death and destruction abound. The homeless, he says, have zero self-control and consequently get devastated by addiction, violence and disease.
“Every now and then, someone comes by and says, ‘Do you remember me? You fed me. You helped me,’” Michael says.
One such was Ivan, who once slept on the beach because of Southern California’s year-round temperate climate. One day he arrived cleaned-up and smiling. He had a small place and two jobs. The day he greeted Ashman, he was handing out clothes to his street friends, paying forward the favors.
Native to Southern California, Ashman got to know Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade at age 15. He got off drugs and was attending church but was “too young and not very involved,” he says.
In 1996, he got married and had kids but walked away from church and lost his marriage. He didn’t immediately come back to church because guilt coiled in his heart like a snake.
“I’d gone too far,” he explains. “I looked in the mirror every day and said, ‘God, what am I doing? I’m killing myself.’”
On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Ashman returned to church after “my life pretty much fell apart.”
He sat in the back and wept. He kept going to church “and wept every service for quite a while,” he says. “God was fixing me.”
Eventually, he launched his ministry, a 501c3 titled “You Matter.” He wears “You Matter” T-shirts on outreach, and it’s a good message to people that society has cast aside, fears and finds revolting.
“I just felt like this is what God wanted me to do,” Ashman says. “It was so powerful in me. It was beyond passionate, it was a driving force. I couldn’t not do it. I feel Jesus in me, and He loves people through me.”
For most of his life, Ashman worked as a contractor and a phone and computer communications installer, but as his non-profit has taken off, he’s neglected his business and given himself more and more to ministry.
While politicians promote social theories for dealing with the homeless, Ashman says only Jesus can truly change them.
Recently, the L.A. Sheriff ignited a spat with the mayor’s office by publicly accusing politicians of being incompetent and making an incursion into Venice to get the homeless off the streets. As a result, fewer homeless are coming to Ashman’s ministry. He fears that… Read the rest: homeless in Venice
There were plenty of things to blow Sydney McLaughlin’s concentration. The 400-meter hurdler was under strain from the months of preparation. There were bad practices, three false starts, and a meet delay.
Glaringly, right in front of her was her chief rival, the woman who beat her last time, Delilah Muhammad. Sydney figured she’d have to catch Delilah, whose explosive start out of the blocks was unbeatable.
But in the midst of her doubts and distractions, Jesus spoke to her heart: Just focus on Me.
Not only did Sydney beat her rival in the Olympic qualifiers a month ago, she set a new world record, breaking the 52 second barrier that no woman has ever bested in the 400 meter hurdles.
“The Lord took the weight off my shoulders,” she wrote later on Instagram. “It was the best race plan I could have ever assembled.”
The 21-year-old from New Jersey took the gold in Tokyo, beating her own record with a time of 51.46 seconds. She’s been called the new “face of track.”
It all began with a chocolate bar.
For her first race as a little tyke, her parents promised her a chocolate bar if she won. Her mom was a high school track star, and her dad was a semi-finalist in 400 meters for the 1984 Olympic Trials. Running, she says, “runs” in the family.
She started at age six, following in the footsteps of her older brother and older sister, who ran track.
Her first track meet was two towns away, and that’s when she got promised the chocolate bar. She won and enjoyed her candy.
Abu Ahmad, a Kuwaiti refugee in Jordan, felt compassion for the Christians who enrolled his son tuition-free in a private school when he was down on his luck.
“Honestly, it is not fair that these people go to Hell,” he told his wife. “They are kind, have good manners and like to help. I must go to them, tell them about Islam and make them Muslims who can go to Al Jannah.”
So Adel — as he is also called — began to share what he thought was the truth about Allah with a school official.
“I started vigorously discussing matters with them,” he remembers on a Strong Tower 27 video. He even thought things might deteriorate into a brawl. “I had my hands ready to box him.”
“Honestly, I saw you were properly dressed and thought you were well-educated, but it turns out you neither know nor understand anything,” he said to the school official.
“I thought he would become angry and hit me, so I had my fist ready to hit him before he did.”
Instead, the school official smiled. He treated Abu with respect and appreciation.
Abu was thrown off. “He was smiling and treated me well. Why? What’s the difference?” he marveled. “If someone talked to me like that, I would kill him.”
Abu Ahmad’s flight to Jordan began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussain quickly overwhelmed the small, oil-rich nation, but an international military coalition purged him from his Persian Gulf neighbor.
Abu and his family were in danger and sought to flee. The road to Saudi Arabia was closed, they heard. So they fled to Iraq, where they hunkered down in Al Basra for four years, not able to return to Kuwait because they were accused of being traitors.
“If they knew I was Kuwaiti and staying there, they would kill us all for sure,” Abu recalls.
Eventually, he found a guide who would smuggle him and his family into neighboring Jordan. He found employment distributing first tea, then gas. Eventually family relations from Kuwait sent him money, and he opened a small shop.
Before in Kuwait, Abu had been a millionaire. But now his fortunes were reduced to scrambling for money.
In the first month of being open, he was able to make rent, 200 dinar.
But in the second month, he scrounged only 150 JOD by the time the landlord came.
“Here’s 150,” Abu told him. “I will give you the other 50 tomorrow.”
“No man,” the landlord retorted. “I want all the rent now.”
Despairing, Abu beckoned people out in front of his shop to come in and buy.
“When people came towards me, they looked like they were coming to buy from me,” he remembers. “But when they approached, they would either go in the shop on the right or the left. It was as if there was a curtain blocking my shop.”
He sat down, frustrated, in front of his shop and tried to think of a solution.
Suddenly he felt a strange urge to look under his chair. To his surprise, he saw and picked up a small wooden cross. He could not imagine how it got there.
Then he remembered the nice people at the Christian school who had selflessly opened the doors to his son. He remembered how he had been disrespectful, and they returned love for ill will. He remembered the one church service he had attended, sitting at the back with his wife.
Then he did something unexpected, he prayed to the God of the Christians.
“Jesus Christ, if You really are God, as they say, then help me now,” he uttered heavenward. “If You help me, I will surrender my life to You.”
Immediately after he prayed, his Egyptian friend from the next shop threw down his broom and said, “Let’s go to my friend.”
“This is Abu Ahmad,” he told the friend when he opened the door. “He needs 50 dinar to pay the rent.”
The Egyptian man went in and brought out a $100 bill.
Abu was aghast. “You are Egyptian,” he objected. “You need to send the money to your family in Egypt. How can you trust me and give me the money when you need it more?”
“If you want to return it, return it,” the man replied. “If you don’t, don’t.”
Abu was both shaken and amazed. Jesus had answered his prayer, and he wasn’t ready to believe it.
“I wanted to prove that what happened was by chance,” he remembers. “I wanted an excuse proving that Christ did not answer. But it became obvious that Christ had answered the prayer.”
In response, he surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.
Not long after this remarkable answer to prayer, Abu told his wife he was now a Christian.
“Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?” Laila shrieked. “You went to try to change them, and they changed you.”
She divided their room with a blanket hung from the ceiling.
“You are no longer my husband. You are an infidel,” she said, outraged. “This is your space. “The other is for me and my children. Don’t come near us or interfere in our lives.”
And that is how they lived from then on.
Sometime later, a friend suggested he apply for refugee status through the United Nations. But in a twist of events, the U.N. official sent him to jail.
Abu cried out to God from his cell: “Lord, You said, ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will comfort you.’ There is no heavier burden than the one I am carrying,
“You said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” he said. “Where are You? Why did You leave me alone?”
It didn’t even occur to Yeonmi Park to ask why there would be no fee to smuggle her and her mother across the North Korean border into China at night over the frozen Yalu River. Constant hunger smothered that question.
Quickly, she found out why, as the human traffickers immediately demanded sex from the 13-year-old girl, once in China. But her mother stepped in to save her.
“No, you cannot!” Mother shouted. “Take me instead.”
Their desperate escape from North Korea and their entrapment in China’s sex trafficking, followed by their harrowing journey to South Korea and eventual coming to faith, is chronicled in Yeonmi Park’s 2015 book In Order to Live.
Yeonmi’s predicament was devastating. As horrifying as rape was, it was preferrable to starvation, so she remained in China. “There was more food in the garbage can than I might see in a week in Heysan,” Yeonmi says. “I was very happy with my decision.”
Yeonmi Park grew up in Hyesan, North Korea and was taught to revere Great Leader Kim Jong Un. She never questioned the propaganda: North Korea was the most prosperous nation in the world. Kim Jong Un was practically immortal and supremely benevolent. It was the long-nosed Yankees and the Japanese who were evil imperialists destroying the world.
She whole-heartedly believed North Korea’s lies. They were drilled constantly in school and in block meetings in which citizens criticized themselves and others for not obeying the dictator sufficiently.
Never mind that across the river, the Chinese clearly had electricity at night and fireworks during New Year’s while the North Koreans lived in darkness and couldn’t enjoy holiday festivities. Yeonmi, like most North Koreans, never questioned the sincerity of the government or the veracity of their affirmations.
Years later when free, she found in George Orwell’s Animal Farm the term describing her mental state: doublethink. That is how she could watch pirated videos from South Korea and America and, seeing the luxury displayed, still not question Kim Jong Un’s description of reality.
And you could never utter the slightest hint of criticism of the government. You would be overheard and turned in to the state police. “Even the birds and mice can hear you whisper,” mother told her daughters.
“They need to control you through your emotions, making you a slave to the state by destroying your individuality and your ability to react to situations based on your own experience of the world,” Yeonmi writes.
She calls this an “emotional dictatorship.”
All things considered, Yeonmi had it pretty good. Her dad was a smuggler and stole items of value, bribing officials all along the way, to re-sell in the black market.
Then dad got caught, and the family descended into shame and extreme poverty. Mom left Yeonmi and her sister, Eunmi, alone for months at a time while she did her own black-market business to scrounge money for her girls. Dad was condemned to intensive labor in a prison camp that starved inmates so that they died.
“My only adult ambition was to buy as much bread as I liked and eat all of it,” Yeonmi writes. “When you are always hungry, all you think about is food.”
Yeonmi’s older sister eventually found a “broker,” who could smuggle her into China. Yeonmi and her mother followed soon after.
“We never thought to ask why these women were helping us, and why we didn’t have to pay them anything,” Yeonmi says. “We didn’t think that something might be wrong.”
The reason why there were no fees to get spirited across the border is because the smugglers were also sex traffickers. Women were usually sold as slave brides for $2,000, supplying the vacuum of women caused by China’s one-child policy combined with the preference for boys.
Sometimes, they were sold into prostitution.
With resourcefulness, Yeonmi and her mother escaped worse treatment. She couldn’t turn herself in to Chinese authorities; they would only deport her back to the prison camps of North Korea where one might starve to death.
So Yeonmi learned Chinese and fought off her would-be rapists by biting, kicking and screaming. She negotiated with her pimp to be his mistress in return for favors: she bought her mom back from being a “slave bride.”
“I realized that there was a force inside me that would not give up,” she says.
In 1984, China was cracking down on foreigners on its soil in preparation for the Summer Olympics. So, the sex trafficking business dried up. Yeonmi’s pimp let her be taken by a mafia gangster with a harem. It seems that the sex traffickers were particularly pleased to keep her for themselves because of her young age.
Initially, Yeonmi fought the mafia man off when he tried to have his way with her.
When Mark DeYmaz took over a Kmart to open his thriving church of 500, he helped his budget by opening a for-profit coffee shop and renting space to a gym next door.
In an age of declining tithing, DeYmaz proposes churches get smart, abandon obsolete models and incorporate business savvy, not to get rich from the kingdom, but to multiply outreach.
“The more people joined our church — the homeless, the immigrant, the undocumented, the poor — it cost us money, DeYmaz says on a Vice News video. “We realized that if we were going to have effective ministry, we were going to have to have multiple streams of income.”
But don’t accuse him of upending the way church is done. Tithes and offerings were just one business model. DeYmaz is not condoning stingy Christians. He’s simply using his brain and God-given resources to maximize impact, he says.
His church, Mosaic, belongs to the new burst of millennial churches that project a certain image with their relaxed dress codes, untraditional interior decorating, and hipster pastors. They’re rethinking church to be relevant for the next generation.
Pew Research charts a declining number of Americans who call themselves Christians – 65% — 12% lower than a decade ago.
“Religion is less central to American life,” says Rebecca Glazier, professor of public affairs at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. “People are just not identifying with formal religious institutions and finding spiritual fulfillment through them the way that they used to in generations past.”
“Why, God?” Helen Roseveare asked after being brutally beaten and raped by Congo rebels for five months while she served as a missionary doctor in 1964.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if i never tell you why? was the answer she received.
It was a strange answer. But also, God gave her a striking revelation about surviving a dungeon of torture.
“It’s external! You’re sinned against. It’s not your sin. It can’t touch your spirit,” she explained on a 100 Huntley Street video. “It’s only your body. But it can’t get into my mind or soul.”
Helen has used her captivity to encourage others who feel powerless to defend themselves against unimaginable acts of evil.
Helen Roseveare became one of the first females to graduate as a medical doctor from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1945. She became a Christian because of the testimony of some of the girls in her school and almost immediately set off to the mission field in the “Heart of Darkness.”
She tended to patients, built hospitals and trained Africans in medical science indefatigably. While serving the population she was taken captive in the Congo during the tumultuous 1960s along with other foreigners. As was always the case, she turned into the leader, even in captivity.
“When the awful moments came in the rebellion you almost felt, no, this has gone too far. I can’t accept it. It seemed that the price was too high to pay,” she says. “And then God seemed to say, Change the question from ‘Is it worth it?’ to ‘Is He worthy?’”
During her captivity, she was called upon to help 80 Greek Cypriots, workers abducted by the rebels. One lady was in pain, seven months pregnant, so Mama Luca — as she was known — was called upon to attend to her.
With rebel guards on either side of her, she stepped among the cowering Cypriots until she found the needy lady. She didn’t speak Greek, so she went through the languages she knew one by one to ask if she was hurt: English, French, Swahili, Lingala.
Finally, she found someone who could translate into Greek and eventually led not only the lady but the whole prison hall of captives in a sinner’s prayer. As the only area doctor, she had attended to the Cypriots for years but had made no headway in evangelizing them.
But suffering brought a new openness to the Gospel.
“When I eventually left the house, they’re all looking up and smiling and they want to shake my hands,” she remembers. “It was wonderful. God, you are marvelous.”
As was their custom, the rebels subjected Mama Luca to a mock trial. The people in the area were orchestrated to participate in the judgement of “colonial, imperial crimes” committed by foreigners. Under the threat to the rebels’ guns, the locals had to join their voice in a chorus of condemnation, calling for the death sentence.
Responding to the beating of the drums, 800 locals came to her trial. You didn’t dare ignore the calls of the rebels because only they had guns. At a certain signal, they all shouted, as was the custom in these roughshod trials: “She’s a liar! She’s a liar!”
Then they would shout “Mateco! Mateco!” which meant “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
“You knew you would die. You didn’t know how,” Mama Luca recalls. “There came the moment in the trial scene when they must have been given the sign. Suddenly these 800 men suddenly, instead of seeing me as the hated white foreigner, they saw me as their doctor and they rushed forward.
“They pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way and they took me in their arms. In that wonderful moment the black-white barrier had gone and they said, “She’s ours.” They used a word in Kibbutu, which really meant, “She’s blood of our blood and bone of our bone.” The rift between dark skin and pale skin was driven away and we were reunited as one.”
“God used so many things that He’s working out his own wonderful purposes,” she says. “Many, many came to the Lord through those days of suffering. The walls of division were broken down, and the kingdom was expanded.”
Helen had refused to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs assigned by her missionary field director. “I said if God ever asks me to be burned at the stake, I’ll say yes, but I won’t be singing,” she remembers. “I just couldn’t take it all.”
After he rounded the last bend on the river in a dugout canoe, Don Richardson saw 400 Sawi cannibals in remote New Guinea waiting, masked, and in full warpaint — with weapons in hand.
Honestly, he didn’t know if they had a welcoming feast for him or if he, his young wife and baby were the feast.
“Do we look good enough to eat?” he thought. “There was nothing to do but get out of the canoe and walk up on the shore. With Stephen in my arm, leading Carol, I walked and they closed in all around us so tightly, we could hardly move. Their eyes were gleaming with excitement, but they were totally silent as if waiting for a signal.”
Then the “signal” came, a shout: “Asa!”
“They all began leaping in the air, brandishing their weapons and shouting for joy, and they danced around us to the beat of their drums,” he remembers on a 100 Huntley Street video.
That was Don Richardson’s hair-raising introduction in 1962 into missions to unreached tribes. Don didn’t know the language, but apparently “Asa” didn’t mean “Let’s eat.”
Yes, the Sawi were savage headhunters with a taste for human flesh. But they had no intention of dining on the first white men to set foot in their region, the Southern swamplands of New Guinea. They had heard about such missionaries from neighboring tribes and how they brought medicine, steel tools and nylon fish lines to help.
Their jubilation that day was based on the recognition that help had finally come to their tribe. Little did they know that Richardson and his family brought not just tools and medicine; they brought Jesus.
Don had spent months in preparation for the day bringing his wife and child on the 10-hour canoe journey to the Sawi. He had built a home first. The tribesmen were accommodating and helpful.
But when he showed up with his wife and kid, he wondered: “Are these even the same friendly guys who helped me build my little house? Or are these hostile people that have replaced them and have something else in mind?”
The Sawi built “matchbox” structures 40 feet up in the trees, but Don built a small structure on supports in the ground.
“They’d been hearing for a couple of years very positive reports about unusually tall, unusually pale sickly-looking people called ‘Tuans.’ They’d been hoping that a Tuan would choose to come and live among them. They were eagerly welcoming us.”
The first order of business was to learn the language without any book, teacher or translator. He started by pointing at things hoping someone would tell him the word. But every time he pointed at different objects, they always said, “redig.” Eventually, he realized “redig” means “finger.” The Sawi don’t point with fingers; they point by puckering and aiming their lips.
The patient work led to establishing an alphabet and writing a New Testament.
“They didn’t know the language could be put in written form,” he says.
Not only were the Sawi cannibals and headhunters with no concept of law, judges and punishment, they also valued treachery.
“They thought Judas was a good guy,” Don remembers. “‘He’s a master of treachery,’ they said. ‘Don, that man named Judas has done us one better.’”
When he heard their admiration of Judas in the story of betraying Jesus, Don was taken aback.
“I sat among them praying, ‘Lord, help,’” he says. “‘I need a gift of wisdom here.’”
The chance to learn came when war broke out afresh among rival tribes. Arrows flew past his windows. People died outside his door as violence and revenge flared up continuously. To no avail, Don pleaded with the Sawi to make peace. But since they saw treachery as a virtue, no peace talks could be started; no one could trust anybody.
With unending carnage going on around, Don eventually threatened to leave the tribe. He would take his family and all the help he offered.
The tribe was upset. They had grown to love their Tuans and needed the medicines and tools. They thought of losing their prized missionary was too much to bear.
Following in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, and Josh McDowell, another great apologist has arrived, a 13-year-old.
Nahoa Life — his mom is Hawaiian — likes skateboarding, performing Christ hip hop and mastering big books of philosophy and science as it relates to God.
A product of Gen Z, Nahoa recently appeared on the Christian intellectual circuit’s radar when Biola Professor Sean McDowell received an email with questions about his doctoral dissertation.
Sean, the son of Josh McDowell, thought, Are you kidding me? This 12-year-old read my dissertation?
McDowell decided to host Nahoa on his podcast in February.
“I love apologetics,” the 8th-grader from Los Angeles told Sean. “I started doing apologetics about two years ago. I was just kind of bored and I read a book. It was super intriguing. For the first time I realized there’s actual evidence for Christianity.”
Apologetics, a lofty philosophy and usually a course in undergraduate Bible school, is the field of making Christianity palatable to skeptics.
Working as a waiter at a steakhouse in LA, Josh wanted to become a star but the attractive ladies at his table offered him a different kind of acting: “adult” movies.
“I showed up (at the studio) and I was terrified and everyone’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just take this pill, you’ll be able to perform.’ I didn’t have a conversation with the girl. I didn’t know her name. We never even made eye contact. I felt dirty.
“That changed the rest of my life.”
And so the small-town kid fell into the swamp of Hollywood. Josh Broome didn’t have a relationship with his father, so when he started modeling at age 15, he thrived on the praise, the positive reinforcement.
“If I am successful in any type of genre of a film or theater, I would be loved,” he thought at the time. So with $50, he moved to Golden State, California, home to the film industry, maker of stars. His plan, of course, was to do something legitimate.
But as the months dragged into years, when the “provocatively dressed” girls showed up and made him the proposal, he quickly agreed. It seemed cool, and he needed the cash.
The first film was disillusioning.
“It didn’t feel real. I didn’t feel like it truly happened,” he says. “Then some of my friends saw. I was embarrassed, even though they were like, ‘Dude, that’s so cool’”
But if his friends stumbled onto and watched his video, Josh realized that his mom would eventually find out. What would she think?
“I was thinking about embarrassing my mom,” he admits.
At the same time, he rehearsed his rationalization. “I already did one. So, what’s the difference, if I do another one.”
“Then all of a sudden you know I’ve done a few and I’ve made three or four thousand dollars in less than a month,” he adds. “All of a sudden I was doing 20 a month.”
Of course, Mom found out.
“I still didn’t stop. I became this person I didn’t even know,” Josh says. “The more I was willing to care less about myself, the more I was willing to do these movies.”
Josh became a “star,” performing in thousands of films in five years.
“I’m, crying myself to sleep every night,” he remembers. “Every time I worked, I would literally shower, and I couldn’t get clean enough because I couldn’t wash off the hurt.”
The breaking point came from a bank teller. “Josh, is there anything else I can do for you?” the teller asked.
It was the first time he had heard his own name in such a long time.
“I just lost it and I went home and I looked myself in the mirror and I was like, ‘What have I done? What have I done with my life? I haven’t been home in two Christmases. I wasn’t taking care of my mom. I wasn’t taking care of my brother.”
He called his director and quit.
“I ran, I ran for my life. I moved to North Carolina,” he says. “Every night, I would have dreams of the things I did. Even though I wasn’t doing anything anymore, my sin was just tucked away. It wasn’t dealt with.
“The last thing I wanted to do was face what I did, and I had ruined my relationship with my family.”
His mom offered him unconditional love.
“But I knew I embarrassed her,” he confesses.
Next, Josh met Hope. She was pretty and liked Josh.
In the world of flying, there aren’t too many female commercial pilots. Even fewer are black female pilots.
According to Nigerian-born Miracle Izuchukwu, only one percent of pilots are female and black, so when she became a commercial pilot candidate, she celebrated by thanking God.
“Whoever it is praying for me, don’t stop, it’s working,” she wrote on social media. “I joined the elite group of 7% of females and 1% of black female pilots in the world. It’s exhilarating yet surreal feeling to introduce myself to the world as a pilot.”
Miracle is now 23. When she grew up, she wasn’t encouraged by her dad to dream big. When she talked to him about soaring the skies, he responded coldly: “If I get on a plane and see a woman as the pilot, I would get off the plane.”
By contrast, Miracle tells girls to not limit their dreams.
“What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender?” she wrote. “If it’s truly something you want to do, you need to create it for yourself.
Without a father, Cuban-born Eddie Ramirez turned to fighting to vent his rage. He also sold drugs to high-net-worth clients.
“I was cheated. I was cheated because I needed a father in my life and he wasn’t there,” Eddie says on a CBN video. “People needed my merchandise, and I was ruthless, so I felt like I was in control.”
He not only sold cocaine, he also snorted it. It destroyed his nose and his life. He was so out of control that he got into a motorcycle accident and was run over by a truck.
Eddie Ramirez was part of the “Freedom Flights” rescuing people from communist Cuba in 1967. When his dad came to America a year later, the youngster hoped to enjoy his family and his new life in America, but it was not to be.
Dad was aggressive and angry, and Eddie never developed a close relationship with him. After a time, his parents divorced.
As an outlet for his resentments, he fought neighborhood kids. Older boys noticed his toughness and took him into their gang. He latched on the masculine approbation and began to thrive in the life of crime.
“I needed somebody to accept me because I was cheated. I needed somebody that was older than me to accept me and embrace me and say, ‘OK, you’re part of this.’”
The hole in his heart wasn’t filled by crime, however, so he sought satisfaction in drug use.
“What is the next thing? Well, let me get some drugs, let me start doing drugs,” he acknowledges.
He worked his way up in drug dealing and landed some high-profile clients. He felt an illusion of power. But he was helpless to stop his own spiraling addiction.
“You’re always chasing that first high,” he says. “It got me to the point of no return. I was like, I can’t stop. There’s no way of me stopping. I had power. I had money; people were looking for me.”
When he was almost killed by a truck it brought a wakeup call. When Eddie recovered, a friend who had become a Christian took him to church.
“Once I was there in church, I was like, ‘What’s here? There’s nothing here for me. I’m not making no money here. I need to go out there and make money.’”
His stubborn heart remained resistant. He didn’t get saved or repent.
After he survived gunshots to the head, he began to reexamine his lifestyle. “I felt disgusted the way that I would just stay up all night and do drugs,” he says. “My nose was like falling apart.”
“Cocaine is a drug that once you start doing it there’s no turning back,” Eddie says. “I was desperate for a way out of this addiction.”
At the urging of his mom, Eddie checked into a rehab facility where he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord.
“I remember one night I’m there in my room and I get a visitation from what I believe was the Lord Jesus,” he says.
In the vision, Jesus imparted to him: You really want to change your life, all you have to do is walk through this door and if you walk through the door, your life will be changed.
On the plate where little Greg Colon had left cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve were empty syringes on Christmas morning, evidence that his dad had abused drugs — again.
The embittering experience of substance abusing, absentee parents pushed Greg into copying the cool, law-breaking kids in his New York neighborhood. When he dropped out of high school, he opened a barber shop as a front for trafficking drugs.
“I loved the way I was living, I loved what it could do for me. I loved how it made me feel,” Greg says on a CBN video. “It was all about me. It was about money; it was about greed and it was about self-indulgence.”
Greg Colon’s dad, a stone-hearted drug addict, was rarely home. His mom died of alcoholism.
At age 9, Greg moved in with his grandparents, who offered him precious little in terms of material things but gave him and his brother love. But the lack of acceptance from his parents’ neglect left him with a hole in his heart that he tried to fill with worldly possessions.
“What attracted me were the more violent kids, kids who always had the nice sneakers, the nice clothes,” he confesses.
When his grandfather died, Greg, at age 12, lost his own compass in life.
“He was somebody who really got me as a kid and actually cared for me,” Greg remembers. “Then he was gone. I was just empty inside.”
With no positive role models in his life, Greg fell into running the streets and selling drugs. At age 15, he dropped out of high school.
The one bright spot was when he was 15 and his dad, who tried to reform, gave him a professional barber’s clippers. Cutting hair was something Greg enjoyed.
“In my heart it meant the world,” Greg says. “It was like a real good pair like a professional pair of clippers.”
As so often happens, Jason Rangel became the father he hated.
As a child, he once even called the cops on his drug-addicted, violent father.
“I seen my dad not in his right mind. I was scared,” he remembers on a 700 Club video. “My dad was in jail when I was going through puberty. I remember not having him there when I needed him.”
Jason’s aunt took him to church. He found stability, hope and sanity there. He even talked to God. But the demons of his childhood traumas pulled him away from God. In his 20s, he found self-value and meaning by pursuing girls.
“I really became sexual with females. I really just couldn’t get enough. I was having sex with my first girlfriend, and it progressed from there to the next girlfriend and the next girlfriend.”
After he got married, he continued having affairs and fathered two children. But because he was unfaithful to the mother of his children, she took the kids and left him, heading for California. He also was in and out of jail.
“It was just a real tumultuous relationship. I was always unfaithful to her,” Jason says. “I just didn’t care about my children. I wasn’t a good father. I was caught up with the world, caught up with these guys that I was hanging out with.”
After he lost his kids, Jason got turned on to drugs by a coworker. “The loss of my kids affected me negatively,” he says. “I was struggling to cope. I was out of control.”
By now, he was married to another woman, which whom he had two addition children.
“I thought I was entitled to drinking and drugs and being unfaithful,” Jason says. “It was a chain reaction that got worse and worse through the years. When my kids were 9 or 10 years old, I remember them coming home, and I’d be high at the house.”
Les Brown swore he would kill the man who arrested his mother, a single woman who turned to making moonshine to feed her seven adopted kids because she became disabled at work.
When did he meet the man? By chance, RIGHT AFTER he told his son to never act out of anger.
“She was injured on the job, so she promised our birth mother that these children will never go to bed hungry. We will always have a roof over our head and clothes on,” Les recalls on an Ed Mylett video.
“I was 10 years old, and he grabbed me by the throat and hit me on the side of the head and threw me up against the wall. He said she’s back there in the room and they went back there and mama was selling homebrew and moonshine and they he said, ‘Pull up the linoleum,’ and they pull up the linoleum and she kept it under the floor of the house and they brought Mom out in handcuffs.”
While “Mama” Mamie Brown was in jail, little Les took to the streets to make money for the family. He collected copper and aluminum for recycling and helped older men carry heavy equipment.
Years later when Les Brown was running a high-paying radio show in Miami, a man tapped him on the shoulder to congratulate him. It was Calhoun, the same man who orchestrated his mom’s arrest. Calhoun didn’t recognize Les, but Les would never forget the face.
Les had just told his adult son, John Leslie, to never act out of anger. “Anger is a wind that blows out the lamp of the mind,” he said. They were at a public event.
When Les turned around to see who was tapping his shoulder, he froze. He started crying. He hid his face and rushed out of the room, got in his car with his son and drove off. He pulled over to the side of the road.
“Is everything okay?’ his son asked, bewildered.
“No,” he responded.
But as he composed himself and collected his thoughts, he marveled at God’s timing and God’s way of doing things. The timing was just too coincidental to not be a miracle.
“I got that hatred out of my heart for him because you were here,” Les told his son. “I promised if I ever saw him again, I would kill him. I have to model what I’m teaching. Forgiveness is remembering without anger. I forgive him, but most of all, I forgive myself. Please forgive me, God, for carrying this anger and hatred.”
Adversity has made Leslie Calvin “Les” Brown, 75, motivational speaker of the Fortune 500, grow better, not bitter.
He was born in the Deep South, in Florida, during the time of segregation. His mother couldn’t care for him and gave him and his twin up for adoption. Mamie, who had only a 3rd grade education, took him in and six other kids.
One day when he was five, Les let go of his mother’s hand and ran to a water fountain where some kids were playing. It was 90 degrees and he was thirsty.
“My mother grabbed me by the neck, and she threw me down on the ground. She started punching me with her fists in my face and on my head,” Les recalls. “I was screaming. She had a crazy look in her eyes. I said, ‘Mama, it’s me. It’s me, Mama.”
Meanwhile a white cop swaggered over, smacking menacingly his baton into the palm of his hand
“Okay, that’s enough,” he barked. “You beat that little n—– boy enough. Now he’s learned his lesson. He won’t do that again.” Read the rest: Les Brown Christian
When Graham Cottone was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 10, it was a tremendous relief. Before that, his parents didn’t know what was wrong and they blamed themselves. He was constantly punished, made fun of, and friendless.
“He was hard. He was very, very hard to love,” Lore Cotton, his mother, says on a 700 Club Interactive video. “You love your children. They’re your children. We disciplined out of anger on several occasions. It was scary to think, ‘What are we doing? We’re spanking all the time.”
Graham’s behavior worsened beginning at age 12.
“It just was so overwhelming. I remember just going in my bedroom and being so exasperated,” Lore says. “I just fell down on my bed and just began sobbing.”
Out of her prayer that day, God impressed on her heart: Graham is going to get it.
Despite what Lore felt God impart, she didn’t see any encouraging signs. To the contrary, Graham went downhill fast.
At 13, he began using marijuana. He began cutting himself to relieve anxiety. He started fires in the house. He got into a physical fight with his dad, Lore recounts.
“He ran out and got a rock and he threw it and he hit me in the head,” says Michael Cottone, the father. They called 911, and the police intervened. Graham was arrested and jailed and placed under a restraining order to stay away from home.
“We know you’re going to let him come back,” the cops told the parents at the time. “But we’re not.”
Not long after, Graham experienced some sort of emotional breakdown and broken into a house in Texas.
He grew up in jail and mental hospitals.
“I wanted Graham to have peace and have joy,” Lore says.
Graham moved to Colorado, then hitchhiked to Oregon.
“We were actually on a vacation in Mexico,” Lore says. “Graham called us just half crazed, he was crying and screaming and mad because he had run out of all of his medications and he was at a hospital and they wouldn’t give him any more medications.”
Lore offered to wire him some money but said she couldn’t do much else.
“He got upset. He hung up on me,” Lore remembers. “Right before he hung up on me, he said, ‘I’m, going to hurt somebody.’”
Graham wouldn’t answer his phone and soon lost his phone. There was no way to get ahold of him.
“It felt really bad. It felt like the end,” she says. “All we could do was pray. I just told God, ‘He is yours. He’s always been yours. I want so badly to go rescue him, but I know you brought me here. You took me out of the way. I need to trust and let You do your thing.’”
After the vacation, Lore got a call from her son in Sacramento, California. He had hopped a freight train down from Portland with a group of vagabonds.
“I lost everything,” he said. “I knew I didn’t know anybody for thousands of miles, but I need God.”
“I had this vision of Hell,” Graham says. “It wasn’t a place where people were eternally tortured. It was this place where people just chose to do things their own way.” Read the rest: Asperger’s son went prodigal
Some dragons you can slay once and for all, others, come back.
That’s what Christian UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler says. He should know.
Plagued by a small-town mentality for most of his life, Chandler — who is widely regarded in the arena of glove-less grapple — went 688 days without a win. He suffered three straight losses.
“That small guy from that small town inside my brain still tugs at me from time to time,” he says on the Ed Mylett podcast. “It was definitely the hardest time of my life. Some dragons, you slay and you slay them they’re dead. You cut them off at the head. You never see them again.
“But then some dragons you just get good at pinning them,” he adds. “I’m probably never ever going to be able to slay him, but I have gotten really, really good at duct-taping him to the basement of my mind, with a big old roll of duct tape and taping over his mouth.”
Today, Chandler fights, owns a mixed martial arts gym, and speaks on the motivational circuit. He’s a devout Christian who says God called him into the arena to use it as a platform to talk about Jesus.
“God pulled me into this sport and pushed me in the direction of mixed martial arts to be put on a platform not just to be good, but to be great, not just to be great, but to be impactful,” he says.
A God-fearing man feared by many men, Michael Chandler was born in High Ridge, Missouri, population 4,300. His father was a union carpenter.
In high school, he played football and wrestled, the latter at which he excelled, being selected to the All-St. Louis Team his senior year. He walked on to the University of Missouri wrestling squad, where he collected 100 wins and was four-time NCAA Division I qualifier.
Training in mixed martial arts, he excelled at Strikeforce in 2009 and then Bellator MMA where he won his first 12 bouts.
“I came out shot out of a cannon, won my first 12 fights, finished most of most of them in the first period or in the first round,” he remembers.
Allyson Felix, America’s most decorated Olympic runner, just qualified for her fifth Olympics and celebrated that awesome feat by having a mommy-daughter moment on the track.
“Guys, we’re going to Tokyo,” she said to her 2-year-old daughter Camryn, who met with another qualifier, Quanera Hayes,’ and her son Demetrius in front of cheering crowds after both runners burned through a 400 meter dash.
As a Christian, Allyson Felix has pushed back against a growing, secular, anti-mothering sentiment in our nation, that can be said to be iconized by Joe Biden’s recent budget that called mothers “birthing persons.”
Nike attempted to cut Allyson’s sponsorship deal by 70% when she got pregnant. Why? Because pregnant women can’t compete in track? Because they’re less attractive (according to some sexists) and therefore less marketable?
Whatever Nike’s reasoning, there is an obvious pressure on women to eschew having children that seems very much a part of the current social/political milieu of our country. According to this thinking, overpopulation is a grave concern and abortion is a huge remedy.
To her shame last January, actress Michelle Williams accepted her Golden Globe award and credited killing her fetus with enabling her to attain her professional goals. “I decided to start a family in 2018 knowing that pregnancy can be ‘the kiss of death’ in my industry,” she wrote in the New York Times.
Nike walked back the threatened pay cut and granted maternity privileges to its athletes only after a public outcry and congressional inquiry aimed at them.
So it was fitting that Felix — the athlete and Christian mother — would bring her cute toddler to the qualifiers in Oregon and take her to the Tokyo games later this summer.
“My faith is definitely the most important aspect of my life,” she says on an Athletes in Action website. “I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior at a very young age. Ever since then, I have continually been striving to grow in my relationship with God.” Read the rest: Allyson Felix motherhood spat with Nike
The end of her running — the end of her very identity — came when Olympian Morolake Akinosun hit a wall at the end of a race in 2018 and ruptured her Achilles tendon.
“The Achilles is the strongest tendon in the human body, and you need it to do literally everything: walk, jump, crawl, climb stairs, stand up, sit down,” Morolake says on an I am Second video. “I had it surgically repaired but I was being told, ‘Hey, you might never be the same runner that you were ever again. This may be a career-ending injury for you.’”
What rescued Morolake was her spiritual community.
“For the first time I realized that I was surrounded by people who believed in me and not only did they believe in me, they believed that God had a plan for my life and that He was still going to be faithful through it all,” she says.
Morolake Akinosun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to parents who were Christian pastors. The family immigrated to America when she was two years old, and she flourished at track and field at the University of Texas at Austin, where she won consistently.
“Every training cycle is about figuring out how can I break my body,” she says. “We push ourselves to the limit, breaking your body apart and coming back the next day and doing it over and over again.”
In prelims for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, her teammates dropped the baton in between the 2nd and 3rd leg of the relay race. Morolake, who stood waiting at the 4th spot, was stunned.
“In that moment I had that thought of like, ‘Wow, I’ve trained what feels like your whole life for a moment that now seemed to be gone and stripped from me within the blink of an eye,’” she remembers.
As it turns out, the American women’s team was allowed to re-run the qualifying race. In the final competition, they took gold.
But everything she trained for her entire life was stripped away when she crashed into the wall on that fateful day in 2018.
Angry thoughts ran through her mind toward God: I thought this is what I was supposed to be doing and if this is what I’m supposed to be doing then why did You take it away from me? she questioned. My identity was built in track and field. Read the rest: Morolake Akinosun Christian track starruptured her Achilles
Josh Torbich drank in an attempt to mask his insecurities.
“That inferiority complex seemed to slip away. I started to feel confident,” Josh says on a 700 Club video. “I set myself up to see the drink as the solution to fix the way that I felt, because it happened. Man, it was like the most immediate and effective solution that I ever had seen to fix that feeling that I had.”
As a young person growing up in Brunswick, Georgia, excess weight made him self-conscious. When friends introduced him to alcohol at age 13, the euphoria blanked out his feelings of inadequacy and a poor self-image.
“My life circled around, ‘where’s the party at?’” he says. “I started to become the go-to guy for alcohol and I felt like that was somebody that everyone was attracted to, that could quickly move in and out of popularity circles.”.
Because he was big, he could buy alcohol with a fake ID.
But he was living a double life. His parents were Christians who took him to church.
In his junior year of high school, the liquor wasn’t enough. He turned to painkillers, and their potency gave him an additional boost of self-confidence.
Of course, the gateway substance led to even more: during his senior year, he was a full-blown heroin addict.
“The first time that I shot up heroin and the rush came over me, it was like going back to when I was 13 years old,” Josh says. “It was new, it was exciting, and it was something that once again made me feel great.”
Because she was sickly, little Satabdi Banerjee was consecrated to Kali, the revered Hindu goddess who would bring healing.
But when Satabdi got older, she read the Bible to appease her conscience. All was going well until she hit the Book or Romans, which shattered her view that all religions lead to the same godhead.
“If you read the book of Romans with an open heart, you will see God talking to you,” Satabdi says on her own YouTube channel. “I used to look down on Christian missionaries because I thought they do not understand one very simple concept: All the rivers are ending up in the ocean.”
Satabdi Banerjee was born to a Bengali Brahmin family and took pride from her high caste birth and her family’s devotion to the Ramakrishna brand of Hinduism, the belief that no matter what the religion, they all provide salvation.
Her family members prayed hours every day in a dedicated prayer room at their house. They had lots of Hindu idols, decorated them for holidays and invited relatives over for special meals on those holidays.
They also celebrated Christmas — with gifts in the name of Santa Claus and a birthday cake for Jesus, whom they took to be one of many valuable gurus.
“We used to celebrate everything — Christmas, the birth of Buddha. But at the same time, we thought it was all the same thing,” she says. “We celebrated everything. We used to do carols and cut cake for Jesus.”
Satabdi had a strong desire to please the deity.
“We were so dedicated. I was so dedicated,” she says. “I just had one goal. I wanted to please the gods so that I could meet the gods and be with the gods. I thought I was very close to the gods.”
But she was also painfully aware of the sin in her heart.
“There was this other side of me. I had committed so much sin. Nobody knew my inner heart.”
Satabdi was an avid reader through her childhood. But she refused to read the children’s illustrated Bible because it was Christian, and her mother, who had purchased it at a high price, complained that it alone sat neglected on the bookshelf.
“I did not care about what Christians thought,” Satabdi says.
But the in 11th grade, she met a Catholic girl and flipped through the Bible just to be friendly and to report to her friend that she had read it. There was one problem though: she knew she hadn’t read it. She lied. Read the rest: Satabdi Banerjee couldn’t be helped by Hindusim.
Hillsong worship leader Darlene Zschech had spent her life lifting spirits, but when breast cancer struck in 2013, she needed her own spirit lifted.
“What I found in my ‘valley of the shadow of death’ is the presence of God,” she says on a CBN video. “I realized you can only have shadow if there is light. It’s just a fact that God doesn’t leave us.”
Famous for her 1993 song “Shout to the Lord,” Darlene led worship at Hillsong Church from 1996 to 2007, after which she and her husband founded Hope Unlimited Church in 2011 in New South Wales Australia.
Amazingly, it is estimated that “Shout to the Lord” gets sung by 30 million church-goers every Sunday.
A television star from childhood, Darlene developed insecurities after her parents divorced when she was 13. As a result, she fell into bulimia for about four years.
“It took a long time for that (the wounds from the divorce) to heal,” Darlene says on SWCS Australia. “But now, I have got a real compassion for kids in that situation. It is now the rule, not the exception. Our next generation is definitely going to need answers. Divorce can definitely leave scars.”
When her dad returned to church, he took Darlene, who at 15 accepted Christ. She met and married Mark, and the couple worked as youth pastors in Brisbane. Mark felt called to Sydney, while Darlene didn’t want to go because she had just rekindled her relationship with her mom. Read the rest: Darlene Zschech cancer battle
When Jaya Jeevan’s older brother caught her reading the Bible, he flew into a rage, broke things, tore the Bible and threw it out of the house.
“He literally blew up everything that day when he found me with the Bible,” Jaya says on on a 100 Huntley Street video.
Coming from a non-practicing Hindu home, Jaya had no idea why he was upset but was hurt by his violent rejection.
Afterwards, the girl from the Karon District of India felt like she had to read the Bible and pray secretly. She discovered the Bible in a school desk at a Christian missionary school.
At age 21, she met and married a Bangalore Hindu who was supportive of her Christian practices, though his family was not.
Alone and unsupported (with the exception of her husband) in her Christian beliefs, Jaya started to drift away. She decided that while others would worship idols, she would talk only to Jesus in her heart. But slowly she wandered in her thoughts from Jesus.
“I left Him,” she says. “But He never left me.” Read the rest: a testimony of a Christian in Bangalore
Polycystic ovarian syndrome kept Renelle Roberts from her dream of becoming a mother and having babies.
“We tried fertility treatments. That didn’t work,” she says on a CBN video. “We tried adoption. That didn’t work. We tried foster care. That didn’t work.
“What’s going on?” she questioned. “There were days that I couldn’t even go to work because I was in bed just crying: Why can’t I have a child? What is wrong with me? Please help me. Please cure me.”
When Renelle hit the milestone of 30 years of age, she had plenty to ponder. On the one hand, her patience was growing thin with the wait. On the other, she recognized that possibly she was making having children into an idol.
“I told the Lord, ‘I want 30 to be my best year,’” she remembers. “I really had to submit though, whether I had children or not, because it had become an idol. Children are wonderful; they are a blessing. But for me it had become an obsession. That can get unbalanced.”
Renelle fasted and pledged to fast for as long as it took. Meanwhile, she got into some Bible studies that emphasized faith and believing.
Jackie Halgash lost 100 pounds when she got her comfort from prayer instead of eating.
“I used food for comfort all the time. I used food for when I was happy and when I was sad. I think pretty much any time I felt like eating,” she says on a CBN video. “I got to a point where I couldn’t stand it anymore. I would get up in the morning and before I opened my eyes, my first thought was: what did I do last night? What did I eat? Oh, no! didn’t mean to! I meant to not eat after dinner!”
As a nurse, she knew how obesity jeopardizes health, but the feelings driving compulsive eating overpowered her mental understanding of health. She made rules for herself but always broke them.
Then she found a Christian weight loss program that brought the Lord into her eating.
“It’s a spiritual growth program and that’s the key,” she says. “It gave me the tools that I needed in my faith to be able to stop eating and bring the Lord into my eating.”
As she depended on the Lord, she ate only to being satisfied, not full. When she felt tempted, she called out to the Lord and dedicated that moment as a fast unto the Lord.
“The weight dropped off,” she says.
She dedicated it to the Lord: “Thank You, take this. This is a fast. Take this and I honor You because this is what You’re asking me to do.” Read the rest: God diet to drop 100 pounds
Shahana’s discharge of Islamic obligations was faultless, even to the point to breaking off friendships with Christians who dared to talk to her about Christ.
But when tough times befell her family, she wondered why the “true god” didn’t truly answer. “I had followed Islam for so many years, but my prayers were not answered,” she says on a StrongTower27 video. “I found that my prayers were never accepted. I always used to think, ‘Why is this so?'”
“If you are only going to talk to me about Christ,” she snapped one day, “then it’s better not to speak to me.”
Islam prescribes five prayers scattered throughout the day for its faithful followers, and Shahana never missed.
“But over time as my family went through much suffering and pain, I used to pray,” she says, translated in the video.
But “I found that my prayers were never accepted.”
The lack of response to her prayers was only one unsettling question bothering her brain. She also wondered why Allah seemed unable or unwilling to use any language?
“Why are we told to read Arabic only?” she wondered privately. Muslims must pray in Arabic. Prayers are not accepted in English or Farsi. Muslims must read the Koran in Arabic; the translation is not as good. Allah, it was taught, demands Arabic, the language of the founder of Islam, Muhammad.
Her doubts were growing, but nobody encouraged her to ask. Searching is not permitted in Islam, only submission.
With troubling thoughts brewing in her mind, she relented from the ostracism of her Christian friend. Still, she wouldn’t admit any talk about Christ.
Then, Shahana got the experience that Muslims consider a sublime privilege, a high point in life. For those without many resources, to be able to make pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, is a wild dream.
Shahana visited Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Her uncle lived there, and she participated in rites of Islam.
She poured out her heart sincerely to Allah: “If you truly exist, show yourself to me,” she prayed.
When she returned to India, she felt a longing to meet her Christian friend to talk. After gabbing about nothing in particular for a while, the Christian friend asked another troubling question about Islam: “Why is it that in Islam a man is allowed to marry up to four wives?”
“This bothered me too,” Shahana dropped her guard. “But we can do nothing about it. It is Allah’s command. Thus, we have to obey.”
“I will say that in the Bible, in my holy book, God gave one Adam only one Eve,” she responded.
Jim Wahlberg was the consummate hustler. In prison for hustling, he hustled the prison system — leading a 12-step program under the pretense of being reformed — just to earn an early release for good behavior.
“I was always a hustler, was always manipulative, just to get what I wanted, and I did whatever I had to get it,” Jim observes on a CBN video.
The older brother to Mark Wahlberg actually had no intention of changing his substance-abusing, robbery-financed lifestyle once he was out.
But then the hustler got hustled — by the prison priest.
The priest took an interest in him and tried to strike up conversations. Since Jim was doing janitorial work to earn brownie points with the correction officers, the priest asked him to clean the chapel after attending mass.
The trick worked. Jim began to read his Bible. When Mother Theresa came one day in 1988, he felt God.
“You’re more than the crimes that you’ve committed to be here,” she told the prisoners at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord. You’re more than your prison ID number. You are a child of God.’”
The fifth of nine kids born to a delivery driver dad and a bank clerk mom, Jim was shaped by the mean streets of Boston’s Irish working-class neighborhood of Dorchester. When he realized that middle class kids had more things than he did, he began stealing to even the score.
“I started taking things that didn’t belong to me, so that I could try to live up to the way they got to live,” he says.
His first arrest came at age 10. After release, he did the same things.
“I start drinking alcohol under the pretense of ‘I’m celebrating,’ right? But I wasn’t celebrating. I was medicating myself,” says Jim. “I would drink to try to get rid of the shame and those feelings of self-loathing. It’s all rooted in fear. Fear of what you think of me. Fear of not being good enough. I was trying to soothe that fear, that uncomfortability.”
One day, he woke up in a jail cell lying in his own blood. What was his luck? The house he had broken into belong to a police officer. For home invasion, he could get life in prison, but the cop advocated leniency at the hearing, and 17-year-old Jim got only six to nine years.
“I felt completely defeated and broken and I felt resigned to the fact that this was the way my life was gonna be forever,” says Jim.
That’s when he launched into the good behavior ruse to get an early release.
“It was part of that hustle. Just trying to create the illusion that I was getting better in prison,” says Jim. “And always thinking when I get out, I’ll use it again.”
The guile was so good that he even got to leading 12 step programs for prisoners trying to recover from substance abuse.
Then the priest moved in and showed genuine love and concern for Jim. He attended mass only to placate the priest who urged him to clean up the chapel afterwards (since Jim was doing janitorial work anyhow).
Jim had no idea who Mother Theresa was, so when the priest announced her coming visit, it didn’t mean a thing to Jim.
Nevertheless, the titan of charity in a small frame made an impact on Jim, who for the first time actually felt God.
“I felt the presence of God in my heart,” he remembers.
He felt prompted to pray: “God, help me to be the person that you want me to be. I can’t continue to be this person. Help me to be free of this life.”
But his fleeting experience didn’t completely transform him. When he was released, he maintained a semblance of respectability and reform but didn’t attend church. He married and worked as executive director to his brother Mark’s youth foundation.
“When you feel His presence and you walk away from it, there’s guilt, there’s shame, but there’s also sort of a sense that it’ll never happen for you again,” says Jim. Read the rest: Jim Wahlberg Christianity.
Alexis Hoffman found herself in a pool of blood. She had cut herself over 40 times.
“I was so ashamed,” she says on CBN. “What did I just do? That’s not me! Why did I do that?! That is not how I act! Why do I keep doing this? Who is this that is doing this?’”
Having shoved God aside in her freshman year in 2009, she ventured into a damaging relationship that introduced darkness into her mind and voices into her head. For her, high school meant she was high.
“My heart became calloused after the abusive relationship because I felt like I could just never get right with God. I felt like I was too far gone. Like I had messed up too much,” she remembers. “I would hear things like ‘You should kill yourself.’ And I would hear a lot of whispers.”
Meanwhile, Alexis’ parents battled through prayer for their daughter.
“When the only thing that your daughter ever gave you was joy, and then you find out that she’s on drugs, sex, you know, alcohol, it breaks your heart,” says her father, Ted.
Robin, the mother, was also anguish-stricken.
“Lord,” she prayed, “You said, and Your Word says that she is Yours and You will not let anything happen to her. And I know that Your Word is true and I believe You.”
The voices started in her senior year.
“They told me I was useless and ugly, that I was worthless and dirty. They told me to just die. And I believed them,” Alexis says. “I remember having this obsession with stabbing. I would sneak out into the kitchen and I would start taking one knife at a time and bringing it into my room.”
When Mom found the stash of knives hidden in her room, she called 911 and had her taken to ER, from where she was transferred to the psychiatric hospital. None of the treatments — including 20 different diagnoses including schizophrenia — seemed to work.
Alexis kept threatening to take her life.
“Robin and I were preparing ourselves for her to kill herself,” Ted says grimly. “And you talk about that’s tough when you have to prepare yourself.”
Alexis also manifested fits of rage and sometimes even blacked out.
“When Alexis got mad…whooo, it was not pretty. It was scary,” Robin remembers. “I had even said to my husband, ‘We should get locks on the bedroom door.”
Then Mom took Alexis to a revival service with Pastor Todd White.
Raised by a Gulf War veteran, Victor Bell became a hulking football star. Behind the wholesome manly image was a festering desire to be loved — like a woman is loved by a man.
“I felt that girls received more affection, they received more consideration,” Victor remembers thinking. “I didn’t get the hugs that my female cousins got, or the hugs that my sister got or the kisses on the forehead. With boys, I felt we were treated rough.”
Victor Bell was raised in a Christian home. But when he saw a soap opera on T.V. at five-years-old, he was fascinated by the love the girl on the program received.
“She’s loved. She’s getting affection, she’s getting care, she’s being treated with gentleness, with kindness,” he remembers thinking. “I want to feel what she feels. I want to be loved like she’s loved.”
This yearning planted in his heart led him to experiment with boys, craving their attention from a very young age.
“I jumped at the chance to be the girl playing house, or the woman playing doctor, or the girl nurse because it was an opportunity for me to reenact the soap opera scene,” he says frankly. “I have an imagination that creates these atmospheres of what it would be like to be loved like her. They were exciting adventures of discovery.”
Meanwhile at church, Victor didn’t feel loved.
“I knew about Hell. I knew about Heaven,” he says. “I didn’t care.”
Throughout middle school, high school and into college, Victor pursued sex with men and with women.
“That was my life,” he says. “I was having sex with a lot of girls. A muscular guy, football player, I’m having sex with men too. I drank, I smoked. I indulged in these activities to feel good all the time.
“I still felt empty,” he adds. “The space of emptiness was growing. So, I felt like I kept needing to fill it more with the activities I was indulging in.”
In 2008, Victor graduated from college and got a job as a long-term substitute teacher. He moved back in with his parents, trying to hide his gay party life from his parents.
The opioid Nubain took away muscular pain for Jason Biddle, and so he could push himself in his quest for greater fitness.
It was a handy weight-lifting tool to push past the soreness until Nubain use degenerated into full blown addiction.
At one point he found himself on the side of the road wishing for a DUI to stop the substance abuse. “I need a DUI. I need – whatever it is,” Jason remembers on a CBN video. “I’m willing to accept the consequences because I can’t stop.
“God, I can’t stop,” he said. “I’m going to wreck my marriage; I’m going to wreck my family.”
As a kid in Minnesota, Jason Biddle was all about baseball, but an injury kept him from going pro.
So he got into construction work. He was making tens of thousands a week.
“Money became my new love,” he says. “I could spend it on whatever I wanted, you know, frivolously.”
He drank a lot. He worked out constantly. To ease the muscle soreness, he discovered Nubain, a moderate injectable pain reliever that helped him “recover” quickly between sessions at the gym.
“One time I actually hit a vein with it,” he remembers. “It was the best high I’d ever had.”
The rush overwhelmed him. Soon he quit the gym for the straight shoot up.
He met Britney, a cute girl with whom he wanted a serious relationship.
She ignored his drug habit initially. But one day she caught him shooting up in the bathroom.
She threatened to leave him. He promised to change. They were on-again, off-again. In the meantime, a small family was starting.
The cycle of making and violating promises started to break with an invitation to church from Britney, who wanted to learn more about Jesus.
The power of the Word and the Spirit caused Jason to give his heart to Jesus that night.