Sayeed Badshah doesn’t know his birthday, his mother’s name, his father’s name or where he was born.
The last thing he remembers, when he was 3, his mother tried to run away, and the alcoholic father caught them in their flight and beat his mother to death. His two older sisters took him to Mumbai, where he was separated from them.
An Indian constable brought him to an orphanage, where he was abused both physically and sexually until age 7.
“At the age when children are supposed to play with their toys, I went through things that I can’t even describe,” Sayeed says on a Your Living Manna video. “That brought a lot of hatred in my life.”
He ran away and asked for a job everywhere. Nobody took him seriously, until he got a washer job. When he got fired from that, he resorted to begging at stop lights and in the trains. With his only T-shirt, he would sweep the inside of the passenger train and then pass through the crowd asking for a handout.
“That became my life,” he says. “Many a time I would not get even one single meal all day long. I used to wait outside the restaurant for people to throw away their food. I used to fight with dogs and grab food from their mouths.”
Baths were twice a year. He didn’t have a change of clothes.
“My body used to smell,” he says. “Nobody would come close to me.”
Born a Muslim, he went to the mosque and prayed “with all my heart thinking that Allah would give me love, that Allah would save me,” he says. “But I was wrong. Allah did not save me.”
He tried the Hindu temple and prayed. Likewise, no one answered.
A friend said that anything you believe in is god. So he erected a small temple to a stone next to the traffic light where he begged.
“I began to worship that stone every day and put flowers and everything on that stone,” he says. “I was thinking something would happen, but nothing happened. So I kicked the stone and said, ‘There is no god.’” Read Sayeed Badshah, pickpocket from India comes to Christ
A desperate mother’s voice pleaded on the other end of the phone, apologizing, crying and begging Pastor Lee at 3:00 a.m. to open his front door and save a baby she had just abandoned.
It was too late. The frigid temperatures had already claimed the small life inside a box.
Pastor Lee Jong-rak held the cold baby to his chest and cried until morning.
Then he came up with an idea. He installed a “baby box” to the front of his church where women could drop off their baby and it would be rescued.
“It was to save just one more life,” Pastor Lee told The Korea Times.
Faced with a life-long stigma for babies born out of wedlock (and with no legal abortion laws at the time), single Korean mothers for years hid their pregnancies, gave birth in secret and then left their babies to die in garbage dumpsters, public bathrooms and subway station lockers.
When the heart-rending trend came directly to Pastor Lee, it moved him to compassion and to action. He installed the first baby box in 2009 and ran it for 10 years. When a mother drops off a child, weight sensors alert Pastor Lee to the presence of a child.
When the alarm sounds, he immediately goes to rescue the abandoned infant. His miniscule staff cares for the baby and provides rudimentary medical attention. Eventually, the child is transferred to an orphanage. To date, Pastor Lee and the Jusarang Community Church have rescued 1,500 babies.
Many of the mothers, who are guaranteed anonymity, are single and young. Others are victims of rape. Usually, they profoundly regret abandoning their child and many times pledge to return to rescue it.
“Moms usually leave a letter that carries heart-breaking stories and resolute pledges to return someday,” Pastor Lee told Yonhap News. “They are mostly in desperate circumstances, having nowhere to go and nobody to turn to.”
Ironically, Pastor Lee’s good will ran afoul of bureaucratic laws, which require mothers to register their babies before adoption can be allowed. Some lawmakers accused Dr. Lee of encouraging child abandonment and tried to shut down his baby box. Read the rest: Pastor Lee’s baby box in South Korea.
After years of crime with the Northern California gang, Jesus Gallegos finally made it to the infamous State Prison known simply as Pelican Bay. Upon his release, he would be the one calling the shots, respected and feared by the up-and-coming rank and file on the streets of Salinas, CA.
“I thought I was on top of the world. I would be looked up to. I had a lot of influence on whatever happened on the streets,” he told God Reports. “That way of thinking shows just how lost I really was in sin.”
Jesus (pronounced Heh-SOOS; a common name in Hispanic culture) Gallegos only knew the life of the norteño gang, which competed with the Southern Californian rivals the Mexican Mafia. As he grew up in poverty, he fixed his eyesight on making it big in the the with norteños.
He earned 4 strikes — enough felonies to get locked up for life. But for some reason, the judge gave him a lighter sentence. Unlike almost everyone else at Pelican Bay, he had a release date. He expected nothing more of his life than prison time or death in the streets.
Something happened when he got released from Pelican Bay in 2005. The plan was to lay low during the time of his “high risk” parole and avoid associating with fellow gang members. The anti-gang task force and FBI would be watching him closely, ready to snatch him up for any violation.
The plan was to get a job, get married, get a house and show every sign of turning over a new leaf. Then when the parole was over, he would report for duty and fall in with the troops.
During those months, he decided to drop out of the gang. He had married for all the wrong reasons, and so things weren’t going well with his wife. Any time they had an argument she would call the cops, he says.
He worked with his parole officer, who let him to ditch the last three months of parole and travel to Texas, where he took up residence with his sister.
In Fort Worth he started drinking again. When he moved to San Antonio, he started using heroin and methadone. He resigned himself to a life of failure.
“I’m just going to go back to prison,” he realized. “That was my M.O.” Read the rest: from gangs to God
Boonk Gang — who garnered five million followers on Instagram filming himself steal stuff — has apparently come to Christ and repented of his antics.
“I know better than that, I know why I’m still standing here,” he narrates through tears in an emotional Dec. 14th video on Facebook. “Father, I just want to stand in front of You. I bow down in front of You. I wanna ask that You forgive me. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
His real name is John Robert Hill Jr. and his new online moniker is John Gabbana. The 24-year-old was in foster care and got kicked out of his house at age 17, at which time he resorted to dumpster diving and shoplifting to eat, he says on a Facebook video.
At the same time, he launched a hip hop career. To get attention to his emerging music, he started filming himself stealing from people and uploaded the videos to Instagram. In one, he offers to sell a Rolex watch to a man, receives $1,000 cash and makes a dash.
In another, he gets a tattoo and moves towards the door “to see it better in the sunlight” and takes to flight without paying the $50. In all of his getaways, he hurls expletives at his pursuer.
His illegal antics got him into trouble with the law. For climbing over the counter, grabbing a whole tray of Dunkin Donuts and running off, he was arrested in May 2017. In 2018, he was arrested in his Calabasas, CA, home on charges of illegal possession of weapons.
It was in the Los Angeles County Jail that he came to know about God. His cellmate witnessed to him continually about the Bible, and Boonk Gang reports on the Facebook video that he felt mysteriously touched.
“It was a humbling experience because me learning about the power of Jesus and how humble he was with how much power he had really made me humble myself knowing how much fame I had and how I carried myself,” he narrates. “It was evil. I had wickedness in me.” Read the rest: Boonk Gang Christian now
He was sexually exploited, beaten and filmed for child pornography from age 5 to 9, and now Sean Wheeler goes to meetings to minister to pedophiles.
“How can a man like you forgive a man like me?” asked him a man who did prison for possession of child pornography.
“Because he forgives me,” Sean answered without missing a beat. “We complicate it. God forgives me and I’m required to forgive you. And I do so joyously, because in doing that, I discovered that it’s real.
“Look at somebody who was on the other side of that camera,” he continued. “I release you. Now you take it to the cross and you find that freedom and that forgiveness.
“You can see this weight fall off this man,” Sean recounts on a 100Huntley video.
As sexual exploitation metastasizes across our nation, Christianity’s response may be the only real answer — along with justice — for victim and exploiter.
“I just got tired of remembering my life as defined by something that was evil,” Sean says. “So the Holy Spirit came along and said: ‘I got something better. Come home.’”
For four years, Sean Wheeler got taken advantage of by men. The first time, an adult managed to get him out of the public view and took advantage of him in private. From then on, a group of seven college-aged men exploited him. Sometimes they beat him, sometimes they filmed him.
“I tell people, ‘Look, I went through that and I got beaten and I got used in child pornography and I got all kinds of things that happened to me,” Sean says. “But that is not the end of my story. If it happened to you or somebody you know, that’s not the end of yours or theirs.”
Sean alerted no one of his abusers. He was afraid. Also, as is typical with abuse victims, he blamed himself: “I believed it was my fault, which is a common thing,” he says.
At age 9, Sean somehow asked God to help, and his family moved out of town and out of the clutches of these evil men. The abuse ended, but the haunting memories did not.
He came to Christ, but it wasn’t until he started counseling in 2011 that he was able to work through a lot of the issues that were plaguing his head.
“I’m perfectly comfortable talking about this because God is with us everywhere we go,” Sean says.
For many, the idea that their pornographic images may still lurk somewhere on the Internet — perhaps on the Dark Web — torments them.
But Sean says God has transformed his image.
“He’s restored my picture and he’s restored my voice and he says you take that hope and you share it,” he says. “If it wasn’t the hand of God at work in the life of a nine-year-old, I don’t know what would have happened to me.
“The God we serve is a protector of the innocent and He rushes to our help when we cry out to Him,” Sean says.
Sean’s healing is so complete he has ministered to 400 victims of sexual exploitation and helped them through counseling.
“For years I had heard that God can make people new,” Sean says. “I said that’ll never happen to me. But I get it now. He makes us new.”
A picture fell off the wall, cabinets opened and closed by themselves, and the doorbell rang with no one there. Because of these paranormal activities, Isela’s mom believed an enemy had cast a spell on them. She fought it by resorting to tarot cards and palm readers.
Naturally, Isela followed her mom’s example.
“I wanted to seek answers and I needed guidance of some sort,” she says on a CBN video. “I figured, ‘Hey, this is the way to go. This is the way to get answers.’”
But she never found the answer. Instead, she fell into a trap that occasioned despondency.
“I wanted to end my life. I thought what am I living for? What do I have to live for?” she says. “I was lost and I turned to drugs.”
She started drinking heavily and wandered the streets at night with nowhere to sleep.
She wanted to gain control of her life through witchcraft, but more and more fear and loathing took over.
“I knew that the devil was with me this whole time,” Isela says. “I felt him. I felt a negative presence. As weird as it sounds, I wanted the negative presence as weird as it sounds. I thrived on the negative. I thrived on the dark. I was so consumed, and I was in such a bad place. That was all I knew.”
Eventually, Isela kicked the drug habit and had a child. She moved in with her boyfriend whom she would later marry.
If she hoped to leave the darkness behind, she was mistaken. The spirits who had legitimate claim to her soul followed her — and began to afflict her daughter.
“She just randomly out of nowhere started pointing from where she was sitting and she was saying, ‘Monster. The monster close to me. The monster touched my feet.’ Read the rest: What causes paranormal activity?
In his hurry to finish chores before organ practice, 13-year-old Greg McKenzie reached down to fix the lawnmower’s chain without turning the machine off, and his right index finger got caught and fingertip cut off.
“My sister was screaming. My mom thought my whole hand got chopped off,” he says.
In the long term, the accident didn’t impede his musical aspirations. Today, Greg, 58, is a professional musician in Japan. In the short term, he learned to see the bright side of life and apply his Christian faith.
“That was the beginning of a new journey, meaning my spiritual faith. I was kind of depressed as a 13-year-old. Why did this happen to me?” he told God Reports. “To make a long story short, I started talking to other patients. Some of them had missing limbs. Here I’m thinking of how bad I have it, and these people have it twice as bad. I went out of that doctor’s office thinking ‘I’m very blessed. I’m very grateful.’”
Greg McKenzie grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, in a family that never missed a Sunday service.
“Most of our ancestral background comes from spirituality,” he says. “That’s how we keep moving forward in hard times.”
With sheer determination, he pressed through the year-long setback of his missing fingertip to pursue music. He opted to not have the fingertip sewn back on because, as a pianist, he needed full sensitivity. He compensated when it was sore, as musicians often do.
“I was determined to play,” he says. “For at least one year, I couldn’t even use that finger.”
But by the time he entered conservatory, he was at full capacity with the same technique as other students. He graduated and began taking jobs.
The interminable search for jobs led him in 2003 to Japan where the Hyatt International paid him to put together a New York-style jazz and Latin jazz band. Japan paid well, and he paid off his outstanding Sally Mae debt. Read the rest: Christian pianist who lost fingertip
Phil Robertson was good at football — good enough to start ahead of NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw — but the ace quarterback preferred hunting ducks over hunting receivers, so he ditched the NFL draft despite being the #1 overall pick.
Plus, he picked up the nasty habit of drinking at Louisiana Tech University and he ran a bar with his young bride whom he married when they were minors. With beer in the mix and anger and churlishness, the Robertsons were (excuse the pun) dead ducks.
“I was on my way to being a bone to be chewed,” Phil recounts in his Deep South drawl.
But a Bible preacher came in the bar. And that was the beginning of the million-dollar duck commander and the reality TV series Duck Dynasty which ran for 11 seasons on A&E. Today, Phil and fam are perhaps the quirkiest of Christian icons.
Phil was raised in Munroe, Louisiana, amidst poverty of the 1950s that he said looked more like the 1850s. They lived in log house, with no commode, no bathtub and no Coca-Cola.
“I never heard anyone say we were poor, not once,” Phil explains. “No one ever said man we are really up against it here. I wonder why somebody done bail us out.”
He met Marsha Carroway (whom he calls affectionately “Miss Kay”) when she was 14 and married her when she was 16 or 17.
“There’s an old saying in the South that if you marry them when they’re about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks, if you wait then they get to be 20, they’ll pick your pocket.”
Phil has a brain surgeon’s precision for throwing pinpoint passes, so he got a full scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, where he outplayed Terry Bradshaw. Ultimately, hunting ducks was more of a draw than fame and he dropped out of football, not before learning to get drunk with the guys.
“Phil, who had never drank before, started drinking and what happened with me was it was scary to me,” says Miss Kay. To their first son Alan, Jason and Willie were added and the prospect of a wild living father was unsettling.
“I owned a beer joint when some guy came in with a Bible, and he wanted to introduce me to Jesus.” Phil says. “I ran him away. I said, ‘Get out of here.’”
The circle of his problems expanded. He got into a barroom brawl and went into the woods for three months to hide out from the law. He was becoming more and more mean-spirited.
“I would tell my boys all the time, ‘That’s not your daddy, that’s the devil in your daddy,’” Miss Kay says.
Next, Phil ran off his wife and kids.
“That was the low point,” he says. “You’re all alone and miserable. That’s when I began to seriously contemplate a way out of all this.”
Moping and gloomy, he looked up the wife he’d run off, and Miss Kay suggested he look up the Bible guy who dared to enter his bar.
“Why don’t you sit down with him and just see what he has to say?” she says.
Honestly, Phil didn’t know what the gospel was. He thought it was some kind of music.
As the preacher explained, “I was blown away when I heard that Jesus died for me and was buried and raised from the dead,” Phil says. “It was something so simple but profound.”
Miss Kay got home to see a note that her husband was at church.
“When we got into the auditorium, I just stopped because there he was up in the baptistry with a man,” she says. “The boys started hollering and singing, jumping all over the place, and they said, ‘My daddy‘s saved! My daddy’s saved!’ They were so happy. Tears were rolling down their eyes.”
Phil was tired of the cesspool life.
“I’m gonna make Jesus the Lord of my life,” he pledged to his family. “I want to follow Him from this day forward. I’m turning from my sinful past and I am fixing to make a valiant attempt to be good.”
After running the bar, Phil got into commercial fishing. He had problems with the “River Rats” who kept stealing his fish (in nets left at certain points on the river, as allowed by his commercial fishing license).
The old Phil would roar up in his boat at full speed with his shotgun drawn. But the new Phil read in his Bible to do good to your enemies and pray for those who persecute and not to return evil for evil.
This was a quandary. But Phil had made up his mind to love God and his neighbor as himself. How would he put that into practice?
“Fishing was my livelihood,” he remembers. “I was working my tail off.”
He felt the Lord tell him: “They’re hungry. Feed these River Rats.”
“So one day I heard a motor slowed down and these guys pull over to my float and I’m watching them through the bushes,” he recalls. “So I said, ‘I’m gonna be good to them.’ But I’m carrying my gun just in case they’re not good to me. ‘And I’m gonna do what the Lord said.’”
He started his engine and motored out from behind the bushes.
Eight-year-old Emmanuel Ntibonera was just sitting down to dinner when the rebel takeover of his town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) broke out. The next day, the whole family (nine children) fled — walking miles barefoot.
Eventually, he made it to a refugee camp in Kenya, from where he immigrated to America nine years later in 2009 with his family, who are Christians (the dad is a pastor).
“Remember where you came from,” God impressed on the heart of the young man who studied hard and eventually graduated from Liberty University. In 2015, he visited his native country and was appalled to see conditions had not improved. He never owned shoes during his childhood in the DRC, and he observed the same thing on his return trip.
“I’m seeing kids with no shoes (getting) infections and parasites,” he says on a Liberty convocation video. “God had blessed me. I have more than 10 pairs of shoes in my home. I can literally bring these here and saves lives. The parasites can only be prevented by appropriate footwear.
“I looked at myself and I felt guilty.”
And so began a shoe drive that became the Ntibonera foundation, in Greensboro, NC. He started doing concerts, at which the entry ticket was at least one pair of shoes. His home became a shoe storage. It soon became so full they had to look for a warehouse.
“In my room, the only place I had was to lay my head. Everywhere else was full of shoes,” he remembers. “I had 10,000 pairs of shoes in my house.”
Eventually, Emmanuel recruited the support of university staff to stage a campus-wide shoe drive to ship containers full of shoes to the DRC. Eventually, basketball legend Steph Curry lent his name to support the cause.
“God has been unfolding things. God was doing all these amazing things,” he says. On the scheduled day, Liberty University students all brought shoes to convocation, filling the stage with piles and piles of shoes. Liberty University paid for Emmanuel’s flight with 20,000 shoes.
The dream from age 7 was coming true. Inky Johnson was in his junior year in college with all the paperwork signed for the NFL draft. He was among the top 30 and was guaranteed to make millions doing what he loved.
All he had to do was play 10 more games and his future would be set, but when he went to make a regular tackle against an Air Force player in 2006 — a tackle “I could make with my eyes closed” — the cornerback ruptured his subclavian artery and could not get up.
“I never thought about a career-ending injury,” Inky says in an Above Inspiration video. “I woke up from that surgery and the thing I placed my identity in was now gone.”
His right arm was paralyzed. Every day he lives with pain. But he rose above the crushed spirit and now delivers motivational speeches, encouraging people to serve Jesus and trust Him with their destiny.
Inquoris Johnson was raised in a 14-member household crammed in a two-bedroom home on Atlanta’s poor and violent side. His mom pulled double shifts to put food on the table, and Inky says he wanted to pull the whole family out of poverty.
Every day was dedicated to training to fulfill the dream. He drilled, worked out and practiced. His family attended church, and he asked God to bless his dream.
When he joined the Volunteers at the University of Tennessee, he became their starting cornerback and was on the trajectory to success; the commitment and effort was paying off.
Then he woke up on the fateful day and followed his usual routine: run two miles to the fire station and two miles back to warm up. Throw the football at the ceiling to practice catches at all angles by surprise. Visualize himself performing to perfection.
“Two minutes left in the game, and I go to make a tackle – that I can make with my eyes closed And I hit this guy and as soon as I hit him, I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t think it would be this type of problem. When I hit him every breath from my body left, my body goes completely limp. I fall to the ground.”
“I knew that I was extremely hated by Allah,” Aisha from Jordan says.
Born of an American mother into a conservative Muslim family, Aisha had racked up a lot of sins: first she questioned Allah, Mohammad, the Koran and salvation.
Then she came to America with her mother looking for better opportunities and got an abortion.
“I was feeling so much fear and hopelessness,” she says on a StrongTower27 video.
Even though her family was entrenched in Islam, her dad was an alcoholic who kicked her and spat on her. “He called me names that no father should ever call his daughter,” she says.
Other than his besetting sin, he tried to keep the traditions of Islam religiously.
Aisha found no love in her family or in her religion.
“I felt like I could never keep up or measure up to what was expected,” she says. “And my family wasn’t too keen on my asking questions.”
Mom was mortified by the downward slide of the family. She even feared for her own life. So she asked her husband to move the family to America where her kids could learn English and have better job prospects.
He agreed, and they moved in 2000, while he stayed in Jordan. His alcoholism only worsened.
Longing for love, Aisha got a boyfriend in high school and got pregnant at age 17. Lying on the bathroom floor with the positive pregnancy test, she cried. She couldn’t tell her dad; he would kill her out of Islam’s call for “honor killing.”
“He would have murdered me, literally,” she says.
Aisha couldn’t tell her Mom; she would tell her Dad.
Feeling like she had no options, she made the terrible choice to kill her baby.
“That was very hard for me because I always valued life,” she says. “I always daydreamed about what it would be like to hold my baby one day. To have gone through that was very devastating for me. I struggled with shame, embarrassment, depression, anxiety and self-worth.”
Her attempt to fill the void with things of the world left her empty.
“I was going down a dangerous and dark and downward spiral,” she admits. “I knew that my sins were deep and unforgivable in Islam. I knew that I was so extremely hated by Allah.”
In her quest for forgiveness and hope, she actually opened the only “holy book” she knew and read Surah 4:168-169: Those who disbelieve and commit wrong Allah will never forgive them, nor will he guide them to a path. Except the path of Hell.
“I remember reading that and feeling so much fear and hopelessness,” she says.
“Allah, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you even exist,” she prayed. “I’ve been praying to you for 27 years, and I’ve never felt your presence.”
She wept bitterly. In the depths of despair, her mind began to consider suicide.
“If there’s no form of forgiveness for me in Islam, what’s the point of me living?” she reasoned.
Then something happened that was totally unexpected.
“As I was crying I heard an audible voice,” she remembers. “I heard the name, ‘Jesus.’”
With tears streaming down her face, she looked up to Heaven and raised her hands.
“Jesus, I don’t know who you are, but if you are who they say you are, please reveal yourself to me because I can’t go on living life like this anymore,” she prayed. Read the rest: Freed from the wrath of Allah
On the very night Jerry Arterburn accepted Jesus at a church camp, the 5-year-old was also molested by the pastor’s son.
“When that molestation occurred, it ignited something in him that he didn’t think other guys had to struggle with,” his brother Stephen says on a Pure Passion Media video. “It produced an uneasiness with relationships with women.”
Jerry died of AIDS on June 13, 1988, at a time when the epidemic was raging largely unchecked and medical science was trying to figure out how to tame it.
“When my brother and I moved to Laguna (Beach, California) at the same time, there was another person who moved to Laguna. He was identified as Patient 0,” Stephen says. “This was a flight attendant who flew around the world and slept with about 2,000 different people. He infected so many people in that town that the AIDS virus was extremely virulent in there. I watched business after business close because there was such a high per capita gay population there. They were dying right and left.”
Before Jerry’s death, Stephen began to formulate the best way to encourage his brother to come back to Christ.
“I loved him. But I knew that what he was doing was wrong,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to convince him that he was wrong. I just tried to find a way to have a relationship with him that I could love him with.”
There were three Arterburn boys who grew up with a mom who bitterly hid her father’s suicide and a dad who was “redneck, disconnected,” Stephen says. All three sons went prodigal from their otherwise “strong Christian household” in Texas.
Stephen — who now is an author, a radio host and the founder of New Life Ministries — thought he was the worst rebel of the lot because he forced his girlfriend (attending Bible college) to get an abortion.
Jerry, who loved design and became an architect, didn’t immediately show how he was getting off course.
Stephen describes his brother as “the moral one” who owned up to his mistake, while Stephen was actually the immoral one who had slept with many young women.
“I hadn’t slept with a man. I killed my own baby,” Stephen confesses.
Jerry was about to get married, but it was called off. Both had frequent fights. Still, no one really knew why the wedding was called off.
When Jerry, at age 26, was appointed to a city planning post in Easley, South Carolina, he met a man who took him to a gay bar. He had never had sex before, but that night, “my brother felt like he was at home,” Stephen says.
“He felt total acceptance, freedom — all this stuff that he had never known: all of this love, affection, connection,” Stephen says.
From then on, it was relationship after relationship. When Jerry and Stephen both, by chance, moved to Laguna Beach, they started reconnecting. Sometimes in their talks they would debate. One topic that came up was whether homosexuality was right or wrong.
Stephen, who had come back to the Lord by now, stuck to his guns — until he realized the reason why his brother was arguing the aberrant position. His brother was gay.
As soon as Stephen found out, the arguments were over. A new phase in their relationship started, one of reaching out to Jerry with love and acceptance, though not approval of his sin.
“I was able to develop a close relationship with him, and then he got sick. I’m so glad I did because he needed me. I’m so glad he felt safe with me, that I could be there with him when he needed a lot of help — just getting up and going to the bathroom. He lost 100 pounds. It was horrible. He looked like something out of a concentration camp.”
Devastated by the news that not only their son was gay but also had AIDS, the “redneck ” father visited Jerry in the hospital and said, “You’re coming home with us. We’re going to help you through this.”
The Southern Baptist Church of his parents, instead of ostracizing Jerry, were loving and inclusive. (The Southern Baptists were conservative on social acceptance at a time when much of America was unmoved by the AIDS crisis.)
“We loved him when he was (younger). We’re going to love him through this,” a deacon said, according to Stephen. “Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to go over to his house and we’re going to lay hands on him and pray for him to be healed… Whatever his insurance doesn’t cover for his treatment of AIDS, this church is going to pay for. Whenever his brothers want to come in and see him, we’ll pay their air fare.” Read the rest: How to treat LBGTQ family members if you’re Christian
Not everything was beautiful in the new Miss America’s early life.
When Asya Branch was 10, her father was arrested at home for involvement with an armed robbery. Little Asya watched terrified from the car as her dad was hauled away.
“That day our lives changed forever,” Asya told the New York Daily News. “We had a beautiful home and a great life. When they found out that my father was in prison, people looked at us differently. That was a critical stage in my life and it ended up changing me. I felt this overwhelming shame.”
Three things ensued. Asya and her family lost their farm home as the bank foreclosed. She felt alone and abandoned. And she grew closer to Jesus.
“My father’s incarceration played an enormous role in my life and helped me develop characteristics I never imagined. It taught me responsibility at a young age and to count my blessings,” Asya said on Mississippi Pageant. “But most of all, it strengthened my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Asya was born the sixth of eight siblings to her parents, living in Booneville, Mississippi at the time. Before stepping into a wayward life, her dad was a retired military veteran. Her mom was a teacher’s assistant. She was a gregarious kid who spent her days entertaining family members. If no one was around, she would bury herself in a book.
Asked what one book she would take to a deserted island, she answered unequivocally: “My Bible, not only for the quality reading but for inspiration and guidance in the circumstances in which I would find myself.”
A self-described “daddy’s girl,” Aysa said there was no one to help her through the trying times of losing her dad to the prison system. Her father, she says, had tried to help a drifter by taking him in. But that young man had committed an armed robbery, and for trying to help a needy soul, her daddy paid a high price.
“There were no resources nor advocates available for me,” she says. “People don’t recognize the hardships I have faced in my life because I have learned to be strong through my circumstance, keep a smile on my face and lean upon the Lord.” (Asya is advocating for prison reform and even spoke to President Trump about it.)
“I struggled with my self-worth and closed myself off, praying for answers about why this happened,” she wrote in Guideposts. “Maybe God is teaching me to be independent and grateful, I thought.”
When accosted by a stranger in New York City, Keisha Omilana politely declined to give out her phone number, but as she was about to board a train to head for a modeling audition, her women’s intuition took over.
“You know what? You’re not dating anybody,” she told herself. “And he was cute!”
Because of the risky decision to give a total stranger her number, Keisha today is a Nigerian princess – royalty!
That’s because the guy requesting her number was Prince Adekunle “Kunle” Adebayo Omilana from the Arugbabuwo ruling house in Nigeria.
But she didn’t know that until AFTER she said yes when he took a knee.
They dated for two years, and then he sprung the question. When she accepted, he explained that he was African royalty, with lots and lots of money.
Today, the Omilanas are strong Christians, and they’re using their money to finance church planting in Africa. Prince Adekunle is managing partner and chief executive officer of Wonderful Media, a European Christian television network which on Facebook identifies itself: “He is Life, His name is Wonderful and life is Wonderful.”
Nigerian royalty — like European royalty — exercises a symbolic role with little real power, but the Omilanas leverage a good example and preaching to the conscience of the nation to cement Christianity in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.
That’s significant because Nigeria stands to become a new center of gravity for worldwide Christianity. Nigeria has already begun sending missionaries into Europe in what many see as a paradigm shift for missions.
In the next 20 years, Nigeria is poised to become the fourth most populous country in the world — surpassing Russia. They’re on track to having the largest evangelical population in the world. Soon the majority of Christians worldwide are going to be non-white.
With 400,000 Nigerian immigrants in the U.S. with an average income level above white Americans, Nigeria can join hands with mission leaders on an equal footing to chart the future spread of the Gospel worldwide.
Don’t be surprised if the Omilanas sit on that board.
Keisha was born in Inglewood, a small city in the middle of the vast Los Angeles metropolis. Her birth town was awash with poverty and overrun with gang violence, but Keisha grew up safe and sound.
She moved to Chicago to study fashion but switched from designer to model. At first she timidly embarked on the career with Ford Models. But her striking beauty opened doors. She represented Pantene, L’Oreal, CoverGirl, Revlon, and Maybelline.
Keisha became the first African-American woman to be featured in three consecutive Pantene commercials, earning the moniker “The Pantene Girl”.
She appeared in the movie Zoolander and the television shows 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
Keisha was lost in New York City while looking for another audition when Prince Kunle discovered her.
He was in a meeting at the W Hotel when he saw her in a phone booth, trying to get the directions straight from her agent. Prince Kunle excused himself from the table and went out to see her. He waited 45 minutes for her to get off the phone, at which time he approached her.
Thomas Locke, the Texas attorney who adopts retired military dogs, needs to be rescued himself.
The Christian Harley rider who can be seen with a cigar in his mouth and his wife on the back of the bike announced in August he’s battling cancer.
“I’m not scared at all, not even a little bit, not even nervous,” he says, shirt off showing a still-chiseled frame at 59 in a video uploaded to his Facebook account. “I have strong faith, so death has never scared me. It doesn’t even annoy me.”
The military veteran went viral on TikTok in May of this year when he had to put down his constant companion, Deny, a military dog that had been classified as “unadoptable” after eight years of hard service sniffing out bombs in Kuwait. Thomas found him for Christmas 2018 in the 21-acre ranch of Mission K9 which tries to finds homes for military assets.
The bond between man and dog challenged the notion of mere earthly affection. Often, Thomas would sleep with the German shepherd, who followed at his heals everywhere around the house. But when his back legs stopped working, Deny had to be put down, and Thomas carried out the painful task Texas style: after a last meal of brisket and sausage.
“I’m ready to turn in my man card,” Thomas said, holding back tears, as he fed Deny from a plate. “This wasn’t supposed to be a cry fest.”
This time, Thomas is NOT crying.
“Cancer affects babies, children and women. It’s a coward disease. I say ‘F you, cancer.’ I’m glad you came and picked on somebody your own size because I’m ready for you.” Read the rest: Animal rescue needs to be rescued.
Cassenda Nelson often spent the day crying in her truck because she didn’t want to be reminded of the brutal murder of her mom and aunt in her home.
In August 2017, Cassa’s mother, Frances Nelson, and her aunt, Mamie Childs, were murdered in an alleged domestic violence dispute.
“My mom and my aunt were murdered in front of my children at her home,” Cassa reports. “My mom was someone I could go and talk to about anything. It felt like something was ripped out of me. How do you bounce back from being in that place of so much despair?”
Life became unbearable.
“I lost all hope. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to see sunlight,” Cassa recounts on a Billy Graham video. “My plan was to take a whole bunch of pills to commit suicide.”
Then barely over a year later on Oct. 9, 2018, Hurricane Michael swept through her town with blockbuster Category 5 ferocity and tore up houses, knocked over trees and left the town a shambles.
Cassa’s home was also damaged.
“I’m standing here at the door watching this storm, and I’m saying, ‘Oh my God. When am I going to get a break?’” Cassa remembers. “I lost the most important people that would have been right here with me.” Read the rest: Hope in a hug for Cassenda Nelson
First there was blood on the pillowcase. Second, her husband slept all day, had circles under his eyes, and a persistent bad attitude. Eventually, he lost his job, his car and his dignity.
“I was naive,” Norma Pena says. “I didn’t recognize the signs of drug abuse. Although I came from a dysfunctional home, I didn’t know what addiction was.”
It got so bad, Norma told Tim to move out. Three years of marriage was coming to an end. She felt “numb to him,” she says. “I had no feelings for him anymore.”
Today, Tim Pena has been pastoring a church in Visalia, California, for almost 20 years. It’s a mind-boggling turnaround. And they are still married.
When Norma accepted Jesus into her heart in 1997, the marriage was on a fast train to Splitsville. Her friend, Sandra, who had evangelized her tirelessly for three years, encouraged Norma to contend for restoration of their relationship.
“At first I didn’t believe he could get saved,” Norma says. “He made my life a living hell.”
But there was a grain of sand in the oyster that irritated her thoughts. Her mother was a single mother of four, her grandmother a single mother of six.
At the time, Norma had only one child — but she was worried that she was falling victim to a vicious legacy.
At the constant encouragement of Sandra, Norma prayed for her husband. Things were not going well for him. He was sofa-surfing at friends’ houses. His life was spiraling downward, propelled by cocaine and alcohol.
Then one day, he showed up at the same church Norma attended, the Potter’s House in Indio, California. Tim answered the altar call for salvation.
She watched from the congregation. She thought the conversion was faked.
But her friend urged her to persevere in pray.
“The Bible says you have to pray for your enemies. He was my enemy because he made my life a living hell,” Norma relates. “But he was the father of my daughter, and I wanted him to be a good example to her.”
For almost half his life, Matt Whitman lived off of the faith he found in Christ at age 15. But at age 29, after a falling out in his church, he decided that none of it made sense anymore and he became an atheist.
“I went from being in a Christian home and being a Christian as a young person to having my faith fall apart completely in adulthood,” he says on a Ten Minute Bible Hour video on YouTube.
Matt documents his own “spiritual deconstruction” to counter an emerging trend on YouTube of former Christians posting “anti-testimonies.” They explain how “reason” made them doubt and abandon their faith. Included are Hillsong song-writer Marty Sampson, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” author Joshua Harris and singer Lisa Gungor, who “anti-testified: on Buzzfeed.
Matt Whitman was raised in a household where they discussed theology, history, philosophy and art. His dad was a pastor, and home life in Fort Collins, Colorado, was nothing but enjoyable.
“We did ‘thought’ for fun growing up,” he remembers. “We talked about books and movies and music and stories. I loved it. It was a blast to process all this. Through and in that context, the basics of the Christian concept made sense, and I signed up.”
He was 15 when he completed “Christianity 101,” gaining an understanding of some of the fundamentals of faith like God’s eternal nature.
“I got a lot of applause for being a good Christian young man,” he recalls. “I got a Christian job at the Christian bookstore. I went to a Christian high school. I got an award there for being a good Christian or whatnot. I felt like I had arrived.”
But his young mind had fixed mostly on behaving well to earn people’s admiration, which is a “pretty ugly build of faith to take out of childhood,” he says.
“Sure enough, I crashed against the rocks,” he explains. “The wheels fell off.”
As he grew up, got married, became a leader in the church, the simplistic answers of his childhood faith never got updated and were inadequate for the interpersonal relationship struggles and daunting philosophical questions presented to his maturing mind.
At age 29, he was driving away in a moving van with his young wife and weeks-old daughter from a church where he worked after “stuff got weird.” He never wanted to work at a church again and had nowhere to go.
“I started crying — like ugly crying,” he says. “Part of the reason is because that was the time that I wanted to have everything together for (my family),” he says. “I didn’t want there to not be a God, but I really felt there was no God.”
But in all honesty, his faith had vanished. “On that drive I kept coming to the conclusion that it was all fake,” he says.
Months later, he decided to re-read the Bible before he shared his atheism with his wife. But this time he vowed to read the Bible with an open and critical mind. He decided to jettison any and all delusions and break past his once infantile faith.
Viewed with fresh eyes, what he saw in the Bible shattered his preconceived notions.
“Very quickly I realized, ‘Oh, I have a false assumption here. My false assumption was that I was the main character of the document, that humans were the point’ but we’re not,” he says. “God is clearly the main character of the document.”
At 10, Veronyka dressed like a boy and wanted to be a gangster. Then her father got radically saved and she started attending church.
“My family gang-bangs,” she said on a video posted by the Long Beach Door Church. “That’s just the life I came from. I come from generations and generations of gangsters. When you come from the lifestyle that I come from, there are strongholds.”
But after tasting church life, she decided to follow her secular friends and leave the church.
“I was going to church but I was also walling out, drinking and going to parties,” she said. I was living a double life. I never had a real one on one relationship with God. When I was 17 and I got my first real taste of the world, I decided, ‘This is awesome. I love it,’ and, ‘Freedom!’ and I got pregnant. I just kind of went downhill from there.”
Veronyka left home and lived house to house during the pregnancy and after giving birth. Then when her baby turned one, Veronyka turned to do what she thought was the only career available to her.
“I started dancing,” she says. “I was in a really hard place, and I felt very alone. I felt like I needed to get quick money fast. Everything that I ever knew was unraveling so fast, so I started dancing. Little did I know that I was going to go down a really dark rabbit hole once I opened that door.”
For three years, she made good money “dancing.” She got her own place and her own car and lived in San Bernardino.
“I got involved with some people who definitely took advantage of me and manipulated me,” she says. “As dark as an environment that I got in, I could have gotten deeper. It scared me to a point where I was like, ‘Am I going to go fully into what I’m doing or am I going to stop all of this and turn back to God?’ Read the rest: Church in Long Beach.
Andrew Klavan, international best-selling author, grew up in a Jewish household devoid of God.
He felt like a hypocrite at his bar mitzvah when he recited Hebrew statements of faith neither he nor his parents believed. “Judaism is a beautiful religion, but when you empty it of God, it has no meaning,” he told CBN.
He threw himself into reading. He didn’t get along with his dad, so he searched for male role models in books. He struck on the noir, Hemingwayesque hero, the tough guy womanizer who held to his own moral code.
The Long Island native liked reading so much that he started writing, first for a newspaper in Putnam County, NY, and then riveting detective novels. He wrote prolifically and read widely.
“The more I read, the more I found that Christianity was at the center of almost every great story that I loved,” Klavan said. “I started to read the Gospel according to Luke as a piece of literature just to find out what everybody was talking about, and I found that the figure of Jesus Christ was at the center of Western Culture.”
At first, he examined the issues only as a sociologist, trying to understand the origins and evolution of Western Civilization’s values and development. But the quest for truth that his protagonists portrayed resonated in his heart and eventually Klavan realized nothing made sense without the existence of God.
“I began to believe in my mind that there actually was a God, but I didn’t know Him yet,” he explained to CBN.
One day he read in a book that a character prayed before going to sleep and Klavan decided he could try the same. Tentatively, he muttered a very terse prayer.
“Thank, You, Lord,” he uttered.
Undramatically, he fell asleep.
“I woke up the next morning and truly everything had changed,” he says. ”There was a new clarity to everything. My heart was filled with gratitude. I was experiencing a joy that had been locked away. Suddenly, knowing God opened me up to my own experience of life.”
Samuel’s mother prayed but couldn’t get pregnant. So when Samuel was conceived, he was her miracle child.
Growing up in a Christian household in Fort Myers, Florida,, little Samuel Jordan III dreamed of becoming a pastor.
But at eight years old, he was sexually abused by a friend’s family member.
“He starts saying things like ‘We’re just acting, I’m gonna be the man, you’re gonna be the woman,’” says Samuel. “The innocence that I carried as a little boy that loved Jesus, I really felt like that got snatched away from me,” he recounts on a 700 Club video.
Samuel didn’t tell his mom about the first traumatic abuse. It happened again, followed by more violations.
Perversely, Samuel began to enjoy the sin and seek it regularly.
By age 14, he was exploring homosexuality on his own with friends from school.
Meanwhile, feelings of guilt and shame troubled him at church.
“I asked God, ‘Whatever this feeling is, I need you to take this out of me,’” Samuel recalls. But “it seemed every time I prayed, nothing really changed.”
The routine of secret sin got upended when mom discovered an explicit note in his backpack. She was shocked and decided to take a radical stand of tough love: to cut off her relationship with her son.
“My relationship with her at that moment took a shift. She told me, ‘If this is how you’re gonna live, I can’t talk to you.’” Samuel remembers, crying. ”I was like her blessing, but I became her curse, and she could no longer look at me.”
In hopes to restore his relationship with his mom, he halted the promiscuity.
He never could patch things up with his mother. She died of cancer after two years of broken communication with her son.
“I felt like that last piece of me had left the earth,” he says. “There was a hollowness in my heart and Samuel was gone.”
Then his father moved in with another woman and Samuel was left on his own.
With no one around to support him, Samuel gravitated back towards the life of sin and found acceptance in the gay community.
“I really hated Samuel. He wasn’t accepted, Samuel was disowned, Samuel was alone,” he continues. “So when I finally saw (the gay) lifestyle and found a sense for belonging, I went for it.”
Samuel changed his name to Simone and lived as a transgender and got breast implants.
He even worked as an escort.
“Simone was that person that got the level of affirmation and love and acceptance that Samuel never got,” Samuel states.
At the same time, he wrestled with guilt and shame.
“Though I had become this person, I didn’t know who I was looking at,” Samuel recalls. “I just felt like my inside who I really was, was now being destroyed.”
After he dropped out of Tallahassee Community College, he moved back to Fort Myers into the home of a family friend who took him on the condition that he go to church with her.
He wasn’t altogether turned off by the idea of going to church. He felt very lost and hoped to find some direction.
As he listened to the worship, he felt a new sensation coming over him.
Figure skating sensation Scott Hamilton owes his Olympic gold medal to… a brain tumor.
It limited his growth as a child and baffled doctors who could never find the cause of the problem. Through an unlikely series of events related to his frequent visits to doctors, he wound up in figure skating.
“Who would I be without a brain tumor?” Scott reflects in a White Chair Productions video. “I could choose to look at it as debilitating, to choose to focus on the suffering. (But) I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten because it made everything else possible.”
In 1984, the United States hadn’t won a gold medal in men’s figure skating for 24 years. Hamilton’s feat made him one of the top eight most popular American athletes, according to an Associated Press study.
The 5’4” athlete was adopted by two college professors who raised him in Bowling Green, Ohio. Badgered by health issues from childhood, his lack of normal growth caused experts to search in vain for a cause.
“When I came back from being in and out of hospitals, I ended up going to the skating club by accident,” Scott remembers. “I found skating.”
He excelled on ice. His progress in the sport caused him to move away from home to receive training by better coaches.
His first awareness of a need for God arose after his mother lost a battle to cancer. “Something awakened in me,” he says. “I knew I needed something better. I knew I needed some strength.”
Beginning in 1981, Scott won 16 consecutive national and international championships. He loved entertaining spectators. His signature move was a backflip, a move so dangerous it was banned by U.S. Figure Skating and Olympic competition rules. Because it was risky, it was also a crowd-pleaser.
After bringing Olympic gold to male figure skating, Scott won another world championship and retired from amateur competition to the professional, entertainment sector, where he performed until 2001.
In 1997 Hamilton was forced to leave figure skating to undergo chemotherapy for testicular cancer. It was a scary moment because cancer had claimed the life of his mother. With God’s help Scott overcame the health battle, but it was emotionally staggering.
“I survived something that took the most important person, my mother, off this planet,” he says. “My mom died. I survived. Why?”
He started to ask what his purpose was. His soon-to-be wife helped answer that question. Tracie Hamilton introduced him to Jesus and they began to attend church together.
As he was getting to know the principles of Christianity, Scott and his wife prayed to be able to have a child — no easy thing for a survivor of testicular cancer.
But God answered their prayers. Nine months after their wedding in 2002 they were blessed with a baby boy, Aiden.
Anyone would say that Scott had already suffered through more than his share of health issues. But after the growth deficiency and his battle with testicular cancer, Hamilton discovered he had a brain tumor.
His wife took his hands in hers and they started to pray.
“It was in that moment I knew where I was going to put everything, my trust, my faith, everything,” he remembers. “That was the most powerful moment in my life. From that moment forward, we just said, whatever it is, whatever it takes.”
The biopsy was fear-provoking in itself. Doctors drilled a hole through Hamilton’s skull, weaved their way through the coils of the brain, cut out a small piece of the tumor, extracting it for later analysis.
“We seem to have found a safe corridor to do that,” the doctors told him at the time. Read the rest: Scott Hamilton Christian.
Andy Bales’ leg was amputated in 2016 after he contracted an infection related to homeless people defecating on LA’s Skid Row.
“I’d give my other leg if they would actually do something” to get people off the streets, he declares.
While politicians dicker about who’s to blame for the city’s acute homelessness crisis, Andy, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, believes they have the answer that manifests Christ’s love in a pragmatic way. It’s called a Sprung Structure, a cheap and durable fabric tent that can house 120 people.
“The answer is IMMEDIATELY getting people off the streets so they are not continuing to be devastated,” he says. “The longer we leave so many people on the streets, the worse it gets for them and for all of us.”
In 2014, Andy participated in a triathlon and scraped open a sore on his foot. He was wearing a “wound boot” when he walked around with staff handing out bottled water and invited people to take advantage of Union Rescue Mission’s services.
“I got an infection from human waste outside on the sidewalk on Skid Row,” he says.
Right now, there are only nine public toilets to service 2,800 people on Skid Row. The numbers don’t add up and actually fall short of toilets available for refugee camps in Syria (the refugees have it better). He calculates 184 toilets would be needed to keep the homeless from defecating and urinating on the sidewalk.
He describes a dangerous situation with grave infections happening to people all the time. Aside from cleaning the street every two weeks, the City hasn’t done much, he says.
Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is worse than New York’s or San Francisco’s. Last year, there were 41,000 on the streets. This year, there are 44,000, Andy says.
Andy, 61, is no Ivory Tower theorist. He’s a man of the trenches.
To remind himself and draw attention to the plight of the homeless, Andy spends New Year’s Eve on the streets every year. He denies himself his bed, his warm room, his shower, his bathroom, and his dinner. He spends the entire night outside, with whoever volunteers to help him, on the streets.
The first time he did it many years ago, he did it alone. Throughout the night, he broke up fights and fought off rapists — five physical altercations in total, he says. Never again would he brave the streets alone. Sometimes he’s accompanied by Bible college students, sometimes by staff.
So he experiences firsthand the horrors of homelessness. When the news reports of violence and even murder perpetrated by the homeless, Andy knows what goes wrong.
“I don’t know how anyone continues to sleep on the streets night after night without beginning to think in a wrong way,” he says. “I’m still recovering two days later. You can see I have a shake in my hands. And that was just one night. I can’t survive one night on the streets. How can I survive two. Or how could I survive weeks or months or decades on the streets?” Read the rest: Homelessness Los Angeles.
Young Noah was succeeding wildly in the secular rap game while his life was going down the drain, but he turned things around after he nearly got shot to pieces.
“Duck,” God told him.
“I ducked down in the car and pushed my buddy’s head down into the steering wheel,” he says on a 2016 Testimony Stories video. “The next thing I knew there were shots fired and glass was just flying everywhere,” “It was at that moment I realized that I was about to die.”
He had been trying to help some girls escape a college party, and “a hundred football guys, drunk and high and out of their minds” chased him down because they wanted the girls, he says. He had pulled out a non-working gun to scare them off and keep from getting beat up. They had run off but returned before Noah and his buddy could escape in their car. They had at least one gun, and it worked.
William Noah Bohannon aka Young Noah was born in Neunan, Georgia, into a family so Christian that he wasn’t hardly aware of the world. He accepted Jesus at a young age and got baptized. He was being home-schooled, but when he attended secular high school he got involved in hip hop, alcohol, marijuana, gangs and robbery.
“It was weird to grow up in church and end up so far away from God,” he says. “Church and growing up in church can’t save your soul. It kind of shapes you, but eventually you have to make a decision whether or not you’re going to allow God to live in you and cause you to do good works. Church can’t save you. You need to accept Christ. You need to have a regeneration in your mind. You have to be born-again.”
Winning a rap contest, he was given the chance to record in Los Angeles. By the time he got there, however, God had already orchestrated events to the point that he was already questioning his great breakthrough.
“I found myself succeeding in this dark industry,” he says. “At the same time I began to wonder if God really approved of my lifestyle. I knew that if I was really going to be a Christian, I was going to have to let this music thing go. I told my manager, I told the record company, I told everybody that I couldn’t continue. Read the rest: Young Noah’s testimony
“Sending love and prayers for all those facing loss, depression, or heartache this season. DM me if you need someone to talk to and to pray with you.”
That’s what Christian Hip Hop sensation Joey Vantes wrote on Facebook Dec. 14th. He knows that Christmas, for many, heightens their isolation, depression and thoughts of suicide. He has a heart for more than just music or stardom. He has a heart for the hurting.
That’s because Joey Vantes (formerly Joey Jewish) tried to commit suicide himself. He was trying to quit the partying and drugs from his days at the University of Arizona. But he kept lapsing back into drinking, and the cycle of failure detonated depression.
“It was just a mess. I couldn’t break free,” Joey told Rapzilla. “I was so depressed. I was so bound to this thing that I just wanted to die to escape what I was feeling on a daily basis.”
One day when his wife sent him for groceries, he decided to end his life. He would drive off the road down a steep embankment.
“I jerked my wheel to the left to pull off at this ramp and right when I [did] it, my wheel locks, my car shuts off and I slowly just kind of fade over to the left side of the road,” Joey said. “Immediately, the Spirit of God just hits me right where I am in my car.I feel this intense love come over me and say, ‘I love you and I forgive you. Just call out to me.’” Read the rest: Suicide rapper Joey Vantes
Ridiculed as a “fat slob” in the boxing world with 1-25 odds against, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world when he defeated the heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua eight months ago.
On Saturday, the first Mexican-heritage heavyweight champion rematches in Saudi Arabia against the Nigerian-born British boxer who’s taller, more muscular and has a longer arm reach. (He lost the rematch.)
“God’s everything,” Ruiz said on a Seti Afoa video on YouTube. “I don’t think I would be here without Him, without His help. He’s always been in my life since I was a little kid. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I fight for God. On my fighting shorts, it says, ‘God is real.’ When I win, I’m going to give all the glory to God. If you believe in God, everything is possible.”
Andres Ponce Ruiz, now 30, grew up in the sparse desert town of Imperial, California, just 10 miles from the border of Mexico, where much of his family got swept away in the drug- and human-trafficking prevalent in the region.
A hyperactive kid who liked to get into trouble, Ruiz fell into street-fighting; even then he was always underestimated as a chubby kid. The streets learned that behind the baby face was a fast and furious succession of brutal blows that laid rivals flat.
“I was always hanging around with the wrong crowd and crew. There are a lot of gang members out there where I live. They’re all druggies. Some of my family members are gang or related to the gang,” Ruiz said in the UK’s Telegraph.
“I’ve been in many street fights. I fought street fights for my friends to protect them. My dad would go and look for me everywhere: alleys, houses and knocking at the doors to get me to go to the gym. I’d be hanging around with the wrong crowd. Thanks to boxing and my dad, I was steered in the right direction.” Read the rest of the article: Andy Ruiz Christian.
John Simmons first entered a dingy poker room where guys were smoking on his 21st birthday in Vegas.
“There’s no better feeling than putting in a wad of money in your pocket knowing you didn’t really do anything to earn it,” says Simmons on a CBN video. “There’s a lot of adrenaline that builds up in your heart. The feeling of chasing that moment is intense.”
It was the start of a decade-long gambling addiction that saw John, from St. Louise, Missouri, fall into more than $200,000 of debt, depression and hopelessness.
His demise began with a celebration for his birthday, when it was finally legal for him to go into a casino.
“The guys at the tables got their sunglasses on and they’re bluffing each other,” John says. “It’s just filling me up with all this joy and i’m like I love this.”
John decided to pursue poker as a career. He got a job as a casino card dealer and he made good money.
‘Gambling gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of identity,” John says. “I would be a person that could be seen by others as a multimillionaire. If I wasn’t working, I was playing. If I wasn’t playing, I was sleeping.”
But when gambled on his free time, he lost.
After three years at the poker table, John was more than $200,000 in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. As part of the court settlement, he still had to pay off some debt. So John worked overtime to scramble the money.
“In my mind, it wasn’t that I was failing. I just needed to keep going and figure out how to fix it,” he says. “If only I could win the next thing, none of these losses matter. I would spend my entire paycheck over the course of a weekend trying to chase my debts. A lot of times, I had zero dollars in my pocket.
“It was such a terrible way to live,” he adds. “I couldn’t stop though. I kept thinking, ‘If all I do is win this one tournament, if I win a million dollars, no one will be mad at me anymore.’”
At age 30, he was again hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Deep down, Malice always knew that staying in his platinum-selling worldly music group would lead to his demise.
But Malice (his real name is Gene Elliott Thorton Jr.) found a new reason to live in 2012. He changed his stage name to No Malice and gave up millions of dollars. Today his career, which hasn’t seen much light since, got a boost with a feature on Kanye West’s new album Jesus is King.
“I was just letting the wind carry me left, right, swing, either which way in my life,” No Malice said in a HipHopDX video.
“I wasn’t fulfilled. To have achieved the American Dream and still not be fulfilled only frustrated me more,” he told CBN. “I wasn’t having a good time. And when I did have a good time, it was only to find out afterwards, I was in more misery.”
Born in 1972 in the Bronx and raised in Virginia Beach, No Malice was drawn to hip hop and R&B as a child. Unlike many kids in his neighborhood, his mother and father took him to church. Still, he managed to get into all kinds of trouble.
Malice with Pusha T in Clipse
“Even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes,” he said.
He and his brother, who went under the stage name Pusha T, formed the group Clipse, which brass-knuckled its way into the rap game. At the time hip hop was just beginning to compete against pop with choruses and anthems, but Clipse broached untouchable topics, introducing a sub genre dubbed coke rap, filled with chilling hood depictions of trafficking and addiction.
It caused a sensation and opened new terrain for hip hop. Running and gunning, killing and cursing became the new trend. Lord Willin’ in 2002 debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop album. XXL gave its coveted and rare 5-star rating to their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury. They toured and collaborated with all the top artists.
“Clipse blew my brain open in 2006,” wrote Nathan Slavik on DJBooth Net.
In 2009, when he hit the cusp of notoriety, riches and ever growing celebrity, No Malice suddenly pulled the plug and quit secular rap. How could he? How could he leave his brother, leave the fame, leave the riches, leave his fans?
“You can have it,” No Malice told DJ Vlad. He didn’t even let Vlad finish building the question. He cut him off with a tart reply that declared in no uncertain terms that he had no regrets and no remorse about leaving his former path. Read the rest: Malice becomes No Malice.
Brandon Farah hadn’t figured prominently in any play this year. Or last year.
But on Friday, the senior — who’s 99 parts gamer and 1 part football player — came up big in the third quarter with an interception that hammered the nail into the coffin of Beacon Hill Classical Academy. His heroics, in the red zone, preceded a 70-yard touchdown run by Marcus Scribner that left no doubt that tide had turned. Lighthouse Christian Academy won 56-28.
“I didn’t know the ball hit me until I got it, until I looked down,” Brandon said, projecting modesty in his moment of glory.
Brandon Farah, the softie, played hard. The cocoon burst, and the kid who always said he loved football was finally playing real football. Not just on a monitor.
“It was a great game. It was a great four quarters,” said Justin Kayne, offensive coordinator filling in for head coach Zach Scribner who was out sick. “We came out and it was a battle. We scored, they scored, we scored, they scored. We made a few adjustments. Our guys answered the call, and look what happened when we played four quarters of sound, hard-hitting football.
“This was a statement game,” Kayne added. “We made a statement. This is what Lighthouse football is all about. This is one win. We are going to build on this win. We’re going to continue to build on this.”
The Saints now have one win and two losses in CIF Southern Section 8-man football.
No one could have predicted a landslide victory by half time. Both teams seemed pretty even, score for score, man for man, plays for plays. One ref called the high-scoring 1st quarter a “track event” because there was so much running for touchdowns. LCA was ahead by a slim 22-20.
When the Saints fumbled in the 2nd quarter, it gave the Gryphons a chance to pull ahead.
However, the team from Camarillo failed to capitalize on that gift. In response, the Santa Monica boys scored. It was 30-20 at half time.
In the second half, both teams wanted to come out strong. LCA got the upper hand.
Marcus Scribner was running rampant with the ball. He was burning opponents with speed, breaking ankles with cuts and punishing with stinging hits when Gryphons were making tackles. He smashed them, strong-armed them and ground down their will to put up a fight. Every WWF body slam was an injection of intimidation for opponents.
While Marcus was playing the unstoppable superhero, his LCA teammates were stepping up and making contributions.
Senior Hosea Ashcraft, alternating with Marcus, ran the ball to keep the Gryphon defense guessing. Originally a soccer player who never really understood the intricacies of football, Hosea was dashing with speed, power and cuts that he had never made before.
Quarterback Pat Canon was making unaccustomed tackles on defense, and secret weapon Steven Lahood was catching passes when the opponents concentrated too much on countering the “thunder and lightning” attack of Marcus and Hosea.
Even the kid brother, freshman Rob Scribner made a 2-point conversion reception. Overwhelmed with excitement that as a slender and small freshman he had succeeded in varsity football, Rob spiked the football, a violation that penalized the Saints kickoff 10 yards.
The offensive and defensive lines are to be credited. The Gryphons couldn’t make a single sack.
After her third miscarriage, Carrie Underwood got mad at God.
“I had always been afraid to be angry because we are so blessed,” Carrie told CBS. But “I got mad.”
It was 2018 and one night when her husband wasn’t home, she thought she had miscarried for the fourth time in a row.
“I was just sobbing,” she says. “I was like, ‘Why on earth do I keep getting pregnant if I can’t have a kid? Like, what is this? Like, do something. Either shut the door or let me have a kid.’ For the first time, I feel like I actually told God how I felt.”
It turns out the country music sensation hadn’t lost her child that night. Today, the singer of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and her husband, NHL player Mike Fisher, have two children.
Carrie grew up in the single-traffic-light town of Checotah, Oklahoma, with a population of about 3,000. The youngest of three girls, she grew up loving animals and singing in the church. Her love for animals was so strong that she helped build an animal shelter named “Happy Paws” and became a vegan.
A local fan of her singing hooked her up with an audition at Capital Records when she was 14, but the deal evaporated in the midst of management change-ups. She majored in journalism at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, worked at a pizzeria, a zoo and a veterinary clinic. She participated in beauty pageants and singing contests. She had decided she didn’t stand a chance to make it in singing, but that all changed in 2004.
She auditioned for American Idol and was quickly included in the contests and advanced to the #1 spot. Her subsequent release in 2005 of “Inside your Heaven,” which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. That same year, her Some Hearts album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Country Music. She has sold 65 million records, earning the moniker “country music’s reigning queen” from Billboard.
At one of her concerts, she met Canadian hockey star Mike Fisher, and the two married in 2010. She launched a line of clothing in the exercise space called Calia, and she had a little boy, Isaiah. It was a precipitous rise to fame and fortune and she enjoyed a picture perfect marriage and family. It was almost as if Satan asked God, as he did with Job, if he could deprive her of her joy to see if she would still serve Him.
In 2017, she and her husband tried for a second child early in the year, and she miscarried. She got pregnant again in the fall and again lost the pregnancy. When she lost a third pregnancy in 2018, she began to question her faith.
“What’s the deal? What is all of this?” she asked God. “What are You doing to me? What have I done wrong?
She got pregnant a fourth time and had a miscarriage scare.
Tobe Nwigwe’s dreams of making the NFL pulverized when the top-ranked linebacker suffered a career-ending foot injury. On lengthy bedrest, with no one visiting him, his crutches out of reach, his left leg in a full cast, the University of North Texas MVP and captain had to Army-crawl to the bathroom. That’s where, lying on the floor, he broke down.
“Tears were coming strong down my face,” he says on a Behind the Artist video. “I was on some real carnal stuff with God, like ‘Why would You do this to me. I didn’t kill nobody. I ain’t robbed nobody. I’m bad, but I’m not as bad.’ It was at that moment on the bathroom floor that God was like, ‘You have lost your identity in the game, and you have purpose in your life outside of your circumstances and your situation.’”
The injury represented a major reset for the man who once thought “you have to suck at football” to need to devise a Plan B. Today, Tobechukwu Nwigwe helps drifting youth avoid gangs, violence and drugs by discovering their God-given purpose.
“If you would’ve asked me what my purpose was back in college, I promise you I would’ve said something like, ‘Hit the league, money, cars, clothes,’” he says. “I literally got to the lowest of the lows because the only thing I ever dedicated all of my time, effort and energy to was football and when that was gone, I literally had to rethink life. I became like a monk as it relates to the study of purpose. Once I was able to cut off the mania of the world, I was able to figure out who I am and what my calling is and what my natural gifts are.”
His hip-hop has blasted through the stratosphere with millions of views on YouTube. Tobe is the T.S. Elliot of rap. Elliot was the most heralded poet of the 20th century who led readers to “certain half-deserted streets.” Tobe takes his listeners to the SWAT — South West Alief, Houston, the roughest of slums where he “dropped a bullet” in the fourth grade and got treated like “King Arthur with his sword raised.”
Tobe evokes the poignant experience of being a poor child of immigrant parents and fighting to survive in much of his music. He was a “hard-headed” kid who smoked weed, listened to Biggie and snuck out at night, to the chagrin of his mom, who prayed for him and counseled him. They were five kids in one room.
Tobe discovered he was good at football and won a scholarship to North Texas, where he ranked #5 nationally in tackles and reading defenses, a good foundation for an NFL career. The dream was coming true until his teammate fell on his foot, causing the “best worst injury of my life,” he says.
“It ended my football career. It made me think of who is Tobe outside of the Tobe the football player,” he says. “I had to realize that before I was in the sport, I had a purpose. It was a blessing in disguise.”
He planned to recover from the injury and try out for the NFL, but “God shut almost every single door to football and halted a whole bunch of stuff in my life until I made a conscious decision to let my little dreams die and move in the direction with the non profit organization,” he says.
The injury brought him close to the God of his parents, and the God of his parents brought him to his purpose: a non profit that he launched in 2016 called TeamGINI (from “Gini Bu Nkpa Gi?” — Igbo for “What’s your purpose?”) which brought “edu-tainment” to high schoolers. If there is no meaning to life, all the kids would fall into “the trap” — rap speak for a hood out of which you escape only by jail or a casket. By imbuing their existence with purpose, it is hoped kids will choose college and meaning.
It was a stroke of genius born of his own “monk-like” quest to find his own purpose. And it led him to stage two in his life: he linked up with motivational speaker PhD Eric Thomas, the “hip hop preacher.” ET, as he goes by, was making waves in Texas encouraging African Americans to dream big. On a fluke, Tobe called him and got him on the line.
“We don’t have any money right now,” Tobe told the man he watched “religiously.” “But as soon as we have some money, we want to have you come.”
ET declined the speaker’s fees and came for free. What he saw surprised him. Tobe moved the high school kids at the event as a warm-up for ET. Reportedly, ET had never seen anybody move the crowd in that way.
So he signed Tobe to be part of his motivational speakers team.
Then, team members found his Facebook page and watched a video of him free-styling. It was a video made with the family that was only meant to be fun and funny. ET thought Tobe had talent and wanted his ministry to branch out into the music of the community. ETA Records was born with Tobe as their first artist.
It wasn’t long before Tobe outgrew the team. He began uploading new music every single Sunday. His then-girlfriend, Ivory, would twist tufts of his hair on the couch as he would sing. The set was called “getTWISTEDsundays.” LaNell Grant, the kid sister of a high school football chum, produced the beats. Read the rest about Tobe Nwigwe, from football to rap.