Category Archives: God’s plan

After murder and hurricane destruction, she found hope in a hug

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

She prayed husband out of drugs and into pastoring

time and norma pena indio california free from drugsFirst 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.

Tim Pena and Norma Pena Visalia pastorWhen 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.”

She did NOT pray for her marriage to be restored however. Read the rest: Wife prayed husband out of drugs and into pastoring.

Matt Whitman and the anti-testimony

matt whitmanFor 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 familyMatt 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.”

Ten Minute Bible HourBut 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.”

Whoa! Mind-blown. Read the rest of Why I’m Glad I didn’t make an Anti-Testimony.

Long Beach church girl found her way back to God

praising JesusAt 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.

veronyka sanchez“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.

Best-selling author Andrew Klavan came to Christ

Author 1Andrew 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.

100780_w_760_724“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.”

That tiny prayer turned into titanic growth in the Lord. Read the rest of the article Andrew Klavan Christian

Beyond God’s forgiveness because he altered his body to be transgender?

72137812_1391789564304612_6296076620306317312_nSamuel’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 jordan as a kidSamuel 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.

transgender transformedHe 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.

“I knew I was desperate for something, and that moment made sense,” Samuel says. “I was desperate for Him and I was lost without Him, and so as he began to sing, began to cry from a very desperate place.” Read the rest: transgender not beyond the forgiveness and restoration of God.

Homeless 11-year-old waif rescued because of Christian group in Honduras

Operation Blessing HondurasEleven-year-old Linda was rescued off the streets by her cousin from another village.

Cousin Myrna was able to take her in because of her affiliation with Operation Blessing.

poverty in HondurasLinda’s demise began because of extreme poverty in a remote village in Honduras. Her parents left her to fend for herself and she found shelter in an old abandoned house, where she slept.

“When I slept at that house, I used to hear some very scary noises. Then I would become very afraid,” she told Operation Blessing. “I wanted sunrise to come quickly.”

During the day, the little street urchin begged for food, and sometimes people gave her tortillas with nothing on them to stave off starvation. Other times she went hungry.

“Some people gave me something to eat,” she said. “Other people just looked away.”

Because of the poverty in the rural area, Linda lacked a birth certificate and wasn’t allowed to enroll in school. Read the rest: Honduras poverty Christian help.

“I wanted to learn to write my name, read, study and do homework,” Linda says.

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How can a brain tumor be a good thing? Ask Scott Hamilton

Scott_Hamilton_olympicsFigure 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.”

Scott_HamiltonHe 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.

B9315966892Z.1_20150124003822_000_G7A9OQ2N3.1-0After 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.

Leader of L.A. Rescue Mission lost leg in fight against homelessness, willing to sacrifice the other if it would make a difference

union rescue mission changes livesAndy 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.

andrew bales ceo union rescue mission outside city hall“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.

Andy Bales CEO Union Rescue MissionRight 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.

Bullets through his car window made Young Noah turn to God

young noahYoung 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.

Young Noah and V. RoseWilliam 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

Joey Vantes, suicide rapper

62335bc62cfb6ff575a23f9280507c1b.1000x1000x1“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.

joey vantes suicideThat’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

‘Fat slob’ boxer beat reigning champ, credits Jesus

0_BOX-JOSHUA-RUIZRidiculed 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.

Gambling addiction broken after man sees in Bible what God told him

john simmonsJohn 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.

IMG_5510His 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.”

IMG_5509But 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.

He decided to survey the debris of his life. Read the rest of gambling addiction.

Triad gang member scraped with death before finding Jesus

ChobySiau3As multiracial dyslexic at 11 years old, Choby Siau was an easy target for bullying at his new school in New Zealand.

“Because of that, I started to fight. I started to fight to defend” my brother and me, Choby narrates in the video he made documenting his salvation.

Choby grew up in a church, but he never had a personal relationship with God. He felt hurt by the church.

“I knew He was real, but I just really thought, ‘How can God let abuse happen to me and my brother?’ I had a distrust of God, and I blamed God for what I went through,” Choby continues.

At 13 years old, Choby and his family left to Penang, Malaysia, where he joined a local Triad, a Chinese mafia.

ChobySiau2

Choby in his gang

“My goal was to raise in the ranks,” Choby says. “I wanted to become a boss in the Triad.”

Choby got kicked out of school in the 8th grade.

“Choby, because you’re out (of school), I’m going to teach you about the ways of the Chinese Triad,’” Choby’s boss told him.

Choby was hooked for life.

Choby started as a fighter. Anytime there was a problem for the Triad in Penang, he was called upon to settle scores.

At 17, he and his family moved to America, far away from his girlfriend. Through his connections in the Triad, he learned she was cheating on him.

“Listen,” he threatened his girlfriend over the phone, “I want you to tell that guy that I have a present coming for him.”

But before he could board the plane, his mom had a very serious talk with him.

“Son, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again,” she told him ominously.

“God spoke to her that I was gonna die in Malaysia,” Choby explains. Read the rest of Triad gang member comes to salvation

Malice becomes No Malice

No_Malice-304Deep 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.

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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.

gene thorton“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.

Gamer turns the tide to the (real) game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscarriages drove Carrie Underwood to desperation

ScreenShot2013-05-07at4.50.11PM_crop_northAfter 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.”

carrie-underwood-20060995-640x320It 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.

intro-1562612938She 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.

carrie-underwood-isaiah-birthday-1551377836In 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.

She sobbed uncontrollably as she cried out to God in desperation. Read the rest about Carrie Underwood miscarriages.

Tobe Nwigwe went from football greatness to rap greatness

tumblr_plh6b0hx461r6ccbh_540Tobe 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.

maxresdefault“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 nwigweTobe 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.