The potato chip — that quintessential diet-doomer with its overkill of salt, fat and, yes, sugar — fed medal-winner Gabby Thomas’s running.
Gabby munched chips before getting on the track and burning everybody.
“My first love was soccer,” Gabby says on Humbl Nation. “A lot of my soccer skill was speed-related. My college recruit came to watch my soccer game. I was just doing it to do it. I kind of fell into track. In high school, I was just having fun with it. After my sophomore year, I started to take it more seriously. Then with college, it became an option.”
Gabrielle Thomas won bronze in the women’s 200-meter dash. In addition to track, she’s an academic — a graduate from Harvard University — and a born-again Christian.
Just weeks before the Olympic trials, Gabby got an MRI for a hamstring injury and doctors also spotted a tumor in her liver. It was a cancer scare, but the growth turned out to be benign.
“I remember telling God, ‘If I am healthy, I am going to go out and win trials. I’m going to do everything I can to live my life to the fullest,’” she says on the Today Show.
It was Gabby’s mom, an academic in Massachusetts, who re-directed her into track. “I signed up for softball, and she said, ‘No, you’re doing track.’”
Mom says that Gabby used to eat potato chips — a snack not typically associated… Read the rest: Gabby Thomas Christian
Abu Ahmad, a Kuwaiti refugee in Jordan, felt compassion for the Christians who enrolled his son tuition-free in a private school when he was down on his luck.
“Honestly, it is not fair that these people go to Hell,” he told his wife. “They are kind, have good manners and like to help. I must go to them, tell them about Islam and make them Muslims who can go to Al Jannah.”
So Adel — as he is also called — began to share what he thought was the truth about Allah with a school official.
“I started vigorously discussing matters with them,” he remembers on a Strong Tower 27 video. He even thought things might deteriorate into a brawl. “I had my hands ready to box him.”
“Honestly, I saw you were properly dressed and thought you were well-educated, but it turns out you neither know nor understand anything,” he said to the school official.
“I thought he would become angry and hit me, so I had my fist ready to hit him before he did.”
Instead, the school official smiled. He treated Abu with respect and appreciation.
Abu was thrown off. “He was smiling and treated me well. Why? What’s the difference?” he marveled. “If someone talked to me like that, I would kill him.”
Abu Ahmad’s flight to Jordan began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussain quickly overwhelmed the small, oil-rich nation, but an international military coalition purged him from his Persian Gulf neighbor.
Abu and his family were in danger and sought to flee. The road to Saudi Arabia was closed, they heard. So they fled to Iraq, where they hunkered down in Al Basra for four years, not able to return to Kuwait because they were accused of being traitors.
“If they knew I was Kuwaiti and staying there, they would kill us all for sure,” Abu recalls.
Eventually, he found a guide who would smuggle him and his family into neighboring Jordan. He found employment distributing first tea, then gas. Eventually family relations from Kuwait sent him money, and he opened a small shop.
Before in Kuwait, Abu had been a millionaire. But now his fortunes were reduced to scrambling for money.
In the first month of being open, he was able to make rent, 200 dinar.
But in the second month, he scrounged only 150 JOD by the time the landlord came.
“Here’s 150,” Abu told him. “I will give you the other 50 tomorrow.”
“No man,” the landlord retorted. “I want all the rent now.”
Despairing, Abu beckoned people out in front of his shop to come in and buy.
“When people came towards me, they looked like they were coming to buy from me,” he remembers. “But when they approached, they would either go in the shop on the right or the left. It was as if there was a curtain blocking my shop.”
He sat down, frustrated, in front of his shop and tried to think of a solution.
Suddenly he felt a strange urge to look under his chair. To his surprise, he saw and picked up a small wooden cross. He could not imagine how it got there.
Then he remembered the nice people at the Christian school who had selflessly opened the doors to his son. He remembered how he had been disrespectful, and they returned love for ill will. He remembered the one church service he had attended, sitting at the back with his wife.
Then he did something unexpected, he prayed to the God of the Christians.
“Jesus Christ, if You really are God, as they say, then help me now,” he uttered heavenward. “If You help me, I will surrender my life to You.”
Immediately after he prayed, his Egyptian friend from the next shop threw down his broom and said, “Let’s go to my friend.”
“This is Abu Ahmad,” he told the friend when he opened the door. “He needs 50 dinar to pay the rent.”
The Egyptian man went in and brought out a $100 bill.
Abu was aghast. “You are Egyptian,” he objected. “You need to send the money to your family in Egypt. How can you trust me and give me the money when you need it more?”
“If you want to return it, return it,” the man replied. “If you don’t, don’t.”
Abu was both shaken and amazed. Jesus had answered his prayer, and he wasn’t ready to believe it.
“I wanted to prove that what happened was by chance,” he remembers. “I wanted an excuse proving that Christ did not answer. But it became obvious that Christ had answered the prayer.”
In response, he surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.
Not long after this remarkable answer to prayer, Abu told his wife he was now a Christian.
“Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?” Laila shrieked. “You went to try to change them, and they changed you.”
She divided their room with a blanket hung from the ceiling.
“You are no longer my husband. You are an infidel,” she said, outraged. “This is your space. “The other is for me and my children. Don’t come near us or interfere in our lives.”
And that is how they lived from then on.
Sometime later, a friend suggested he apply for refugee status through the United Nations. But in a twist of events, the U.N. official sent him to jail.
Abu cried out to God from his cell: “Lord, You said, ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will comfort you.’ There is no heavier burden than the one I am carrying,
“You said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” he said. “Where are You? Why did You leave me alone?”
To chop off an enemy’s head and carry it back to the village to be put on display was a great honor for the Konyaks, a tribal people on the Northeastern edge of India.
“I marked my enemy like a sniper,” says Wangloi Wangshu on a National Geographic video. “And when I got him, I chopped their heads off with a knife. If I happened upon an enemy, it didn’t matter if it was man, woman or child, I chopped the head off.”
“We used to compete with each other. We said, ‘This one is mine!’” Hongo Konyak says. “The person who took the head gained power in the community.”
Once a Konyak scored a kill, he got a tattoo on his face. It was a rite of passage, says Aloh Wang, chieftain of the Shengha Chingnyu tribe. “In those days, killing each other was part of the education.”
Today, the Konyak are no longer headhunters. They’ve left behind their ancient warfare and converted to Christianity, the last of the tribes to do so in the region. About 90% adhere to the teachings of Christ.
At a time when secular thinkers find it offensive to describe native people as “savages,” the Konyak are a reminder that the term was less offensive than the customs that gave rise to the term.
“When the Christian missionary came to the Konyak tribes, some people said they weren’t going to accept the religion,” says Wanton Kano, a Konyak pastor in the village of Lungwa. Read the rest: Headhunters come to Christ
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.
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.
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.
Becket Cook lived a dream life as a set designer in the fashion world. Flaunting an openly gay lifestyle, he swam in Drew Barrymore’s pool and vacationed in Diane Keaton’s vacation home.
But the luster lost its shine at one party: “I can’t do this anymore,” he realized.
In his book Change Of Affection, Beckett documents his identity transformation, as well as a peace and freedom previously unimaginable.
Becket’s demise into homosexuality began when he was 10 at a sleepover with a friend in Texas where he grew up. The friend’s dad molested him at midnight.
“It was very shocking and scary, and I had this image in my mind that if I didn’t allow him to do what he was doing, I had a picture of him with a knife,” Becket recalls on a 700 Club video. “He was going to stab me or kill me.”
The molester came back three times during the night.
“I did not tell my parents because I knew my father probably would of had him killed,” he said. “I didn’t want my father going to prison over this.” He was the youngest of eight and didn’t want his siblings to be fatherless.
“Also I didn’t want people to know,” he says. “It was a shameful experience.”
So he locked up the horrors in the safe deposit box of his heart.
“Living as a gay man, I never really thought that affected me,” Becket said. “I didn’t want my identity as a gay man to tied to such a scary, weird, gross night. After I became a Christian, I realized, that night had a huge impact on my sexuality. It cemented it.”
He was popular in high school with the girls and went to dances, but when he got older, he had gay bestfriends and went to gay bars and explored the gay life.
“I kind of felt like this was home for me, these are my people. But it wasn’t until after college when I had my first relationship with a guy,” Becket says. “We fell in love and that is when homosexuality as my identity was known.”
He “came out to his parents and family.
His parents were Christians and believed it was a sin, but they were very loving about it. His father asked him if he did anything wrong and if he was angry towards him about anything.
“No dad, I’m fine,” Becket responded. “This who I am, and it’s not your fault.”
Over the years in LA, he went through five serious relationships.
He was at Paris Fashion Week March 2009 at an after-party when he looked over the crowd and remembered asking himself: “This is not it. This is not the meaning of life. What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”
He went to a coffee shop where he came across people with Bibles, and he and his best friend ended up having a conversation with them.
They invited him to their church the next week. Becket asked them what they believed in about homosexuality. They replied it was a sin. Becket ended up going to the church the following Sunday, and while he was listening to the sermon everything was resonating as truth to him and heart.
“I was processing the sermon and worship music, and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit just overwhelmed me.” he remembers. “God was like, I’m God, Jesus is my son, Heaven is real, Hell’s real, the Bible is true and you are now adopted into my kingdom. Welcome.”
Becket started bawling and was able to see the truth for the first time in his life — and the new meaning of life for the first time. He knew in that moment that that was no longer the gay man he used to be.
“The curtains just parted,” Becket said. “I knew instantly in that moment that this was no longer who I was. Being gay was not who I was. It was over. I was done with it.”
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.
When an 18-year-old was sent to a psych ward and encountered Satan, a surprising series of events led him from darkness into the light.
As a teenager, Jeph Hoagland smoked weed and used psychedelics.
“I realized now that it’s wrong, and I really don’t support that way. It led me to nowhere,” Jeph says.
While he was still in rebellion, God was trying to get his attention. One day Jeph came to work drunk and was instantly sent home. Driving home, he raced around a turn too quickly, veered off the pavement, and crashed into a tree.
“The airbag went off. I got out of the car, I was fine, but the car was totaled,” Jeph recounted in a video.
After a few days, he went back to the tree where the crash happened. What he saw there was shocking.
“I saw on the tree my initials, J.H. I was like, ‘Wow, this is insane. I didn’t put that there, no one put that there.’ It wasn’t like it was carved in, it was engraved in the tree,” Jeph recalled.
Did God do that? he wondered.
Jeph instantly thought there must be a higher power calling him. From then on, he started to believe God is real.
However, as he considered the reality of God’s existence he still continued to abuse drugs.
‘’I had these experiences searching for God. I had experiences on acid, where I thought I was enlightened. I felt good, and I was still feeling this void, this God-sized hole in me,” he explained.
In the process of searching for God, Jeph gave up drinking. But even without alcohol in his life, he still used mushrooms and LSD.
Then he moved to Florida and lived on his own. He was invited over to party at the house of a friend, an “angry drunk.” Jeph brought his own mushrooms.
“I felt that there was this negative presence in the room. This was the time God revealed himself to me,” Jeph recalled.
His friend suddenly got angry and demanded, with others, that Jeph drink alcohol.
“I got up and I got into a fighting stance. I saw where I was going without
having my eyes open. It was like an out-of-body experience, and I felt like I was being taken over by something,” he said.
Jeph got hit by someone. He threw the person off, and everyone started attacking him. He eventually passed out after being choked.
“When I opened my eyes, there were people circled around me. All of a sudden I felt this amazing peace, this incredible peace in me,” Jeph said.
Due to the mushrooms, Jeph continued to act erratically. He removed his clothing and began to hug the friends who had beaten him.
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.
As president of a Jewish synagogue, Steven decided to divorce his wife when she started attending a Christian church. But later he did some soul-searching to find the truth and made a surprising discovery.
Steven’s first encounter with Christianity as a Jewish boy growing up on the East Coast was when his grade school friend leveled a malicious accusation: “You killed Jesus!”
“What are you talking about?” Steven responded, on a One for Israel video. (His last name was not provided.)
For centuries, American and nominal European “Christians” have perpetuated anti-Semitism by calling Jews “Christ killers” when in fact Jesus willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins.
In college, a musician friend introduced Steven to drugs. The sensation induced was like nothing he’d ever experienced before.
“What is this stuff?” he said at the time. “It was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever felt.”
He decided to become a musician and left his Jewish faith behind.
While performing at a club one night, he noticed a really cute girl in the attached cafe, and he asked her out. It didn’t take long for him to decide he wanted to marry Monica.
Steven got into the scrap metal business with a couple named Sam and Louise.
Louise “started talking about the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua,” he remembers. “She was like, ‘You’ve gotta hear about this, it’s changed my life. You’ve never heard of Yeshua?’ I said no, and she said, ‘I bet you’ve heard of him as Jesus.’”
“Stop right there,” he cut her off. “I’m Jewish. I don’t believe in Jesus.”
Nevertheless, she had piqued his curiosity.
“I was intrigued about this Yeshua guy, but this Jesus is a no, no, it’s not for me.”
During the next decade, Steven continued to use drugs. After his father passed away at the age of 52 from cancer, Steven felt intense pain and began to abuse drugs even more.
While driving home one day after taking himself to the emergency room, he decided to commit suicide. He knew that the stretch of highway was frequented at that time by heavy trucks, so he decided to spontaneously swerve in front of one and die.
Kenneth H was hooked on heroin, marijuana and sexual immorality.
“I tried to quit many times. I couldn’t do it. It was very difficult to quit because I would get sick if I didn’t smoke heroin every day. I would get withdrawals,” he says on his Youtube channel. “It was very depressing. I felt like I was stuck in a hole.”
He blames drug abuse for the loss of his gallbladder, which hospitalized him. “It was probably related to my addiction because I know heroin does stuff to your insides.”
His hospital visit gave him one advantage: he had made it through the withdrawals and was no longer chemically addicted to the drug.
“When I got out of the hospital, I tried to stay clean but I couldn’t stay clean for very long. I ended up falling back into pretty regular use of it. I could not shake it. The addiction was still there. I couldn’t stay away from the drug.”
His depression deepened, compounded by the fact that he wasn’t working and had a lot of extra time to do nothing profitable.
He became ensnared in the intrigue concerning the Mayan calendar ending in Dec. 12, 2012, which sparked speculation about the end of the world. Kenneth grew particularly keen about New Age stories and aliens.
“One time I was on YouTube and I saw this video titled ‘Aliens are demons,’ and it hit me right there: I knew that I had to serve Jesus,” he says. “It spoke to me, and I knew what team I had to be on.” Read the rest of get off heroin.
On a pitch-black night, Canon couldn’t see he was on a bridge when he stopped to help a driver involved in a crash. As gasoline poured out from the vehicle, the driver turned his ignition without thinking. Panicking that the action might trigger an explosion, Canon leaped over what he thought was just a median divider.
The Lecrae protégé plunged 30 feet to the ground and nearly killed himself. Canon, whose real name is Aaron McCain, shattered his ankle, broke his jaw and suffered a concussion following a Dec. 20, 2014 concert.
His recovery took two years.
Canon, famous for his speed rap, returned from his death-defying fall with the third and final installation of his popular mixtap series Loose Canon (a pun). He’s followed that up with the album Home in December. The brush with death brought a new dimension to his ministry: it’s less about hip hop and fame and more about Jesus.
The bridge from which Canon fell.
Canon has come a long way since he was a rebellious church teen.
Growing up in Chicago, little Aaron began to see that churchgoers were often hypocrites. His mom worked at the Moody Bible Institute, and his parents forced him to go to an “old school” black Baptist church. Except for the pretty girls that attracted him at church, he didn’t like it.
“I hated church, that’s the truth, that’s the reality of it,” he declared in a 2103 YouTube video filmed at a small concert. “Church was all fake to me. Christians was (sic) all fake to me. Christians made me feel awkward.
“Every time I walked up to someone, I felt like I had to be perfect. Every time I went to church, they made me take my do rag off. They were like: ‘You look like a thug,’ And I was like, ‘Well you look like a pimp.’ I never liked the church culture. They made me feel weird.”
Just three weeks before his fall, Canon married
Momma forced him to participate in ministry. He didn’t want to be an usher because they had to wear fancy white gloves. Being a deacon had no appeal to him because he didn’t know what the Greek-derived word meant, so he opted for the less painful ministry: being in the choir.
He went to all the youth camps and activities, but he never contended for a miracle or a real encounter with God in his life. His life remained unchanged.
“I knew how people acted in church and how people acted out of church,’ he says. “When I was around Christian people, I knew what face to put on, I knew what words to say. But when I was around ‘my boys,’ I knew how to put on that face. I knew how to play the game but after a while I got tired of playing the game.
“It got old after a while,” he recounted. “I got tired of wearing that mask.”
He explored the party scene and sought only fun for a time.
Then he met some authentic Christians.
“I met some real believers who actually live out the faith,” he recalled. “They did a lot more than my old group of Christians did. They actually prayed. They weren’t fake. I was able to look at their lifestyle and say, ‘If your lifestyle looks like that and you’re a believer, then I may not be a believer.’”
He was unnerved because their testimonies upended his understanding of Christianity. Ultimately, he decided he’d better get right with God, and he made the decision of his own accord to accept Jesus into his heart and was born again.
Because of his penchant for hip hop, he began attending The House, a rap-culture church in Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago.
“I felt like I’d found something I’d been looking for my whole life—a hip hop church with kids around my age, doing things I wanted to do,” he told Christianity Today. At the time, he called himself MC Spook “ because I want my lyrics to be deep enough to spook people into really thinking about faith and everyday life.”
His comeback song after recovering from the accident two years later was “Grateful.” The video was filmed in a graveyard, where he could have wound up.
Eventually, he met Lecrae, who made him his hype man and took him on tour. His relationship with the Christian hip hop legend grew, as did a friendship with Derek Minor, another big name in CHH. Ultimately, Canon would sign for Minor’s Reflection Music Group.
“Canon is like a mad scientist,” Minor says on an RMG video about Canon’s accident. “He’s like, (changing to Dr. Jekyll voice) ‘Let me go to the studio, and I’ll bring you back a hit.’ You don’t hear from him for three months, and then he comes back with a Dr. Frankenstein monster of an album.”
Lecrae featured Canon on his album Rehab. Applying lessons learned through the mentoring Canon released “The Great Investment” in 2009 to widespread positive reception.
He was climbing the hierarchy.
Then he plummeted — literally, not figuratively.
His death-defying dive resulted from him trying to help a truck driver.
He had only gotten married three weeks earlier.
The December concert was unusual because Canon was somber. He cut off the music, asked the fans to sit down and talked to them about being serious for Christ. “At any point, you could be gone,” he told the crowd, according to his road manager Brandon Mason.
Afterwards, he delayed hobnobbing with fans at the merchandise table, so Derek Minor got impatient and went ahead to the agreed-upon restaurant.
When Canon, his road manager and the deejay left in three separate cars at 10:30 p.m., they saw the flipped truck on a stretch of road with no lighting.
“I didn’t realize I was standing on a bridge,” Mason says. “That’s how dark it was.”
Both Canon and Mason parked and jumped out to aid the fateful truck driver. Canon kicked out the window and offered to help the driver get out. Canon warned about the fuel pouring over the pavement, but the driver was in some kind of shock and instead started the ignition, Mason says.
Canon jumped the median. He fell to the bottom of the ravine. Mason ran down to him.
Marcus Tyrone Gray took care of his schizophrenic mom while his dad was in the streets, binging on drugs in the projects of St. Louis.
“I had the responsibility of really overseeing my mom,” Marcus told CBN. “There would be times where she wouldn’t even recognize me. She could curse me out or call me names or just start treating me as if I’m her enemy or something like that. My dad would be gone days on end, blowing time, you know, getting high. Everything was just unstable.”
Until her death, his grandmother was the only solid foundation in his life. But with her untimely passing, 16-year-old Marcus began acting out, picking fights at school. It was a way of asserting control over a reality that was out of control.
It got him arrested and expelled.
“When (Grandma) passed away, I felt like I lost a part of my own soul, a part of my being had been cut off. Because she was my everything. I just remember trying to be strong, but not having the ability to. My natural bent was to check out and to retreat, you know, stay in the clubs, do whatever would distract me, block me, numb me from reality.”
His life was spiraling quickly toward becoming a hardened criminal, a pariah of no use to society.
Then he developed a crush on a girl, and she invited him to church.
“I decided to go because of the hopelessness. I felt like I’m trying all of these different things to bring about what I actually want,” he says. “I was overwhelmed with the Gospel message of Jesus’ love. Jesus loves you. And I was so overwhelmed with this love, you know, Jesus’ love, and I remember thinking like, he does love a bad person. And it sounded exactly like the things that my grandmother would tell me.”
As the Word and Spirit touched his heart, he was born again.
The next thing you know, Marcus was on fire for God. He would take his Bible to school and stand up on the desk in middle of class and preach to his fellow students (for this he wound up in the principal’s office). He would invite people to church incessantly and fill up a whole pew of 15 needy kids headed towards a life of crime if Jesus didn’t intervene.
From death and destruction, his life became an intense flame. So that’s his stage name today, Flame.
A Billboard topper and Grammy nominee who launched Clear Sight Music, Flame has nine albums. He was offered a million dollar contract from a secular label, with only one condition: no mentioning Christ. He turned it down.
Flame does outreach in the streets of St. Louis constantly. After a shooting on the dangerous west side, Flame was praying with sinners and handing out Bibles when he met gang member Travis Tremayne Tyler. The hardened criminal wound up accepting Jesus and became a fellow Christian rapper star, Thi’sl. Continue reading and find out about Flame’s fight against racism.
Clemson freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence made clear that he doesn’t care as much about football as he does about Jesus.
“Eerily similar” to Deshaun Watson, Lawrence made heads turn as he threw for 2,933 total yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 65.5 completion percentage, leading his team to the national championship game on Jan. 7th.
“Football is important to me, obviously, but it’s not my life; it’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say my faith is,” the 6’5” 215-pound precision passer said in a postgame interview. “That just comes from knowing who I am outside of (football). No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who He says I am.
“So really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play or whatever.”
Clemson University is happy to have the calm, cool and collected QB marshaling their missiles.
“When he first got here, you could always tell. He just had a presence about him. His talent, it’s fun to watch.” says senior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt on The State website. “I always sensed it in practice.” Read he rest of Trevor Lawrence Christian.
Jordan Sheppard was the hero Wednesday as Lighthouse Christian Academy attempted to hold back the tsunami of Newbury Park Adventist Academy in co-ed soccer.
That’s because the inexperienced goalie parried countless shots.
“His hands must be hurting,” the referee quipped after the game.
Jordan, 17, appreciates the chance to play. Had it not been for Lighthouse opening its doors, Jordan says he’d be on the wrong path in life.
“Without Lighthouse, I think my life would be somewhere on the lines of being in jail or about to go to jail — or dead,” Jordan says bluntly. “One of those three.”
Lighthouse lost 1-6. Without Jordan’s class act in the box, it would have been worse.
But even when it loses, Lighthouse is winning — with what matters most.
It’s stories like Jordan’s that people LCA’s fabled history. As a Christian ministry, LCA prepares the college-bound, and at the same time it reaches at-risk youth. Understandably, not all succeed, but the stories of those who do are pure gold.
Coach Junior Cervantes was a similar story; from a Pacoima street tagger he turned into a college student, outstanding husband, son-in-law to Senior Pastor Rob Scribner of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.
In terms of pure sports, Wednesday’s loss was an act of revenge. Newbury has been a league champion and a tough rival for Lighthouse. For the last three or four matchups, LCA has managed to get the upper hand.
The Gators were anxious to best the Saints. They fielded a top-notch team that moved the ball with precision and speed. They harried LCA all over the field. The Gators came ready to bite.
So unrelenting was their offense, the Saints were driven back to their half and only defended for most of the first half.
Coach Junior had to re-adjust at half time to offer some counter attack. Hosea Ashcraft pulled a foul outside of the box, fired the free kick around the wall bending it low on the far post for a consolation goal.
It was the Saints’ first loss of the season in four games in CIF Southern Section’s Omega League.
While the results were disheartening for the Saints, the game was nevertheless exhilarating. That’s because Newbury, playing at a high level, raised the level of the Saints players. The best way to get better is to play against better teams.
The supporting cast of non-soccer players got takeaways. They would have to work on ball control, improve on their passing, use their brain more in terms finding their position on the field. They need to use less touches and execute quicker.
As a newbie before the net, Jordan had to learn too. But the hulking 6-footer was up for the challenge and came off like a pro. How did he learn how to dive and perform the acrobats to frustrate Gator shot time after time?
“I just watched videos and I learned from different coaches. They all taught me what to do,” Jordan says. “I just go with the flow. People tell me what to do and I accept it and I learn from my mistakes.”
After learning to escape the unforgiving streets, learning goalie is easy. The senior credits a higher source for his own personal beating-of-the-odds.
“I didn’t do anything. It was all God. It was because of the friends He gave me,” Jordan says. “It was because of the stepping stones that He put in my life and the different achievements. If I wasn’t at Lighthouse I don’t think I would be a Christian and having so much fun playing.”
Christian Hip Hop is imploding. Its stars, lured by secular money, are leaving. New singers are ditching hard-fought standards (like no cuss words) and marginalizing salvation. It’s become disunited and sexist.
From what you read or watch online, you get the feeling Christian rap has a bad rap and its fans are now singing the blues. But is it true that Christian Hip Hop is descending to a deplorable demise?
A survey of CHH conducted by God Reports suggests that, contrary to controversy, Christian Hip Hop has never been more robust or vibrant. It’s reaching growing audiences and diversifying its message. It’s getting played all over the place, from the gym to WWE.
“Andy Mineo and Lecrae and some of these guys coming in rap are as good as the top rappers in the game,” says Sway Calloway, the host of the secular shows “Sway in the Morning” on SiriusXM Shade45 and MTV’s TRLAM. “It gives me chills when I can hear someone rap as good as them and put God in it.”
Part of the “problems” of CHH can be chalked up to growing pains. And another part is simply click bait; platforms fabricate or inflate controversy to swell their views and, by extension, their bottom line.
Any discussion of the current state of Christian rap starts with its de facto father, Lecrae. A fusillade has been unleashed on him for being too political, for signing with a secular label, and for working with artists who punctuate their work with profanity.
“Partnering with secular artists is very, very dangerous. You don’t see that worked out in scripture,” Wil Addison said in 2015 on Trackstarz. “Lecrae’s grown on the back of the church, and it seems like at one point he jumped off… You’re abandoning what you built your platform on.”
Wil Addison is not alone in his concern for Lecrae’s direction. Dismay is expressed over his collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign; is Lecrae muddying his message by working with a secular artist who raps X-rated filth?
Lecrae Devaughn Moore is no stranger to muck. He was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youngster. He learned to seal up the pain and pretend it wasn’t there, he said recently at Yale University.
Without a father in the house, Lecrae looked to male role models in the community and took up drug trafficking as a teenager. His grandmother was a churchgoer, but Lecrae wasn’t interested — at first.
In college he responded to the gospel and was piqued by evangelistic rappers. At a time when nobody thought Christian rap would sell, he co-founded Reach Records in 2004 and started releasing albums. He won Grammies and topped Billboard charts.
When he was at his peak, he signed with Capitol Records, which has been making incursions into the increasingly profitable Christian hip hop market, snapping up the surest bets (also NF, Social Club Misfits). How could he own a Christian label and become an artist on a secular one (albeit their Christian department)?
It seems Lecrae was turning into a missionary. He saw the chance to work with secular artists and rap at more venues as simple evangelistic math.
If the Capitol signing wasn’t controversy enough, Lecrae — who’s always been vocal for African American rights — joined the Black Lives Matter movement. There were a string of innocent blacks gunned down by police, and the long-suppressed feelings of rage and powerlessness from the childhood abuse reared its ugly head.
Lecrae found himself marching on the streets in protests — and in the cross hairs of a political reaction against ambushing cops and a tide that swept Trump into the presidency. Broad swaths of fans and Christian leaders threatened to bolt. Lecrae couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t support the cause of the oppressed and judge the sins of the oppressors.
At an October concert in Los Angeles, Lecrae admitted that the last two years have brought disillusionment and depression. He even contemplated turning his back on Christianity altogether, he said. But a wise old Christian asked him to consider if God — not his fans — had ever abandoned him. Days of meditating that question brought the man of God back to God.
At the October concert, Lecrae’s language and performance undermined the accusation that he’s ditching his faith. Lecrae spoke of struggle and confusion. But his words were a testimony in front of the church.
Lecrae’s failings are emblematic of the growing pains of the wider spectrum of CHH artists. There are hundreds of rappers who associate to some degree with Christianity. No survey could cover all of them, but among those examined in in this census, the conclusions award CHH a clean bill of health: souls are being won, disciples are being made and the cause of the Gospel is advancing. The good things outweigh the bad:
Influence on secular artists
One of the biggest proofs of the strength of CHH is its impact on secular rap. This is ironic because people keep worrying that CHH stars are going to be influenced by worldly stars if they cross over into the secular market. But they don’t see that CHH is exerting its own gravity that pulls on mainstream mike-kickers.
Today, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper — all top rappers — have mentioned God in a positive way in their music. Snoop Dogg, saying he’s returning to his Christian upbringing, just produced a double gospel album.
In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye says:
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus That means guns, sex, lies, videotape But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?
Meanwhile, new artists like John Gives are returning to their parents’ faith and becoming a testimony through their music. Malice renamed himself No Malice and began spitting the Christian message. He saw the light: his previous music was leading listeners down the wrong path and he wanted to rectify it.
This is what is missed with the Lecrae-Ty Dolla Sign collaboration. While Christians bemoan the “loss” of their star, they’re missing the positive — the potential of gaining for Heaven a worldly singer.
Once upon a time, secular rap artists and fans rolled their eyes at CHH, which they loathed like an embarrassing kid brother. But now such collaborations prove that secular artists have moved light years beyond the eye roll. They are more than giving the nod to CHH; it is now “game respects game.”
Saving souls in the streets
Getting celebrities saved is cause for enthusiasm. But we need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. The unheralded are just as important to Him as the BET idol. And here too CHH has a positive balance sheet.
Aaron Cole reported on Twitter that his music touched the son of a drug dealer. Shai Linne started a church in Philadelphia to create an ethos in which street sinners could relate.
One way for CHH to reach sinners is when its music gets featured in non-Christian venues. When CHH gets used in movies or played at the gym, the exposure has the potential to draw in unsaved, new fans much like a church picnic can draw sinners to church where they can hear the message of salvation.
On this front, it’s worthwhile to mention that Derek Minor was featured on Black Ink Crew, and Social Club Misfits got their music used on WWE. When the NBA Warriors wanted a new anthem for their basketball team, they tapped outspoken Christian rapper Bizzle for the job.
Even a Louisville strip club played Lecrae. When asked about it, he responded with the sarcasm that is becoming his go-to response to the controversy that hounds him as CCH’s #1 man: “I’m a real rapper now. Everything I’ve done earlier pales in comparison. I’ve made it,” he told Rapzilla in 2015. On a serious note he added that he supports ministry to the women trapped in the sex industry, and the power of the Gospel in his message needs to get where sinners are. Read the rest of Christian Hip Hop in controversy.
Whenever Christians complain about declining attendance in established churches, Josh Brodt pipes up about the thousands of kids who accept Jesus every year. Revival is happening in our public schools, he says.
“We’ve seen quite a revival taking place in the San Fernando Valley,” says Josh, 34. “Students are hungry for something real, something more than what the world offers. It’s clear to me that students need genuine faith in something more than themselves, and they’re searching for that.
“It’s been phenomenal to see.”
Josh works for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which coordinates with students to bring professional and college athletes to talk to high school sports teams. He personally meets with coaches and students at 15 high schools.
Last academic year, FCA workers in the San Fernando Valley, a part of Los Angeles that holds about half its population, saw 459 kids get saved, and they gave away 2,000 Bibles. The year prior, 900 students accepted Jesus, he says.
“A lot of students feel like outsiders, like they don’t have a place to belong, a place to call their own.” Josh says. “FCA is a place where people can belong, a spiritual community where students can feel comfortable.”
“On campuses people are desperate for God, they’re desperate for Jesus,” he adds. “A lot of them are recognizing that, and they’re making decisions towards that end.”
Media and sociological reports harp on declining memberships in established protestant churches and the growth of “nones,” people who report to Census and other surveys as having no religion.
But these depressing numbers don’t tell the whole story. While “established” churches may be declining and closing, those same surveys don’t catch the number of new churches opening simply because they don’t register them.
And while the number of “nones” grows significantly, the hopelessness of a meaningless and moral-less worldview make for a ripe harvest field. Read more about revival in public schools.
She thought she had overcome the trauma of her childhood through a relationship with God, but then her dad started stalking her again.
Esther Fleece built a successful career as a motivational speaker and writing pro. She had healthy friendships and accepted speaking engagements throughout the U.S.
She was talking in front of an audience of 15,000 when she got the news that made her blood run cold. Her dad had begun stalking her again after a 20 years reprieve. He was at her home.
“I never thought I’d see him again,” Esther says on an I am Second video produced by White Chair Films.
For many years, her childhood appeared normal enough. For reasons she does not know today, things turned south suddenly. Her mom was getting bruises, and they’d have to go to motels to sleep. Even though they lived in the suburbs, her mother would pick out clothes at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Young Esther was confused by all this.
Police showed up at her home so often she mistakenly believed they were friends with her father. But then she began to see the violent episodes. “It’s pretty hard to hide blood.”
“It was like my hero is becoming the most unsafe man that I had ever been around.”
While Esther was in school she immersed herself in after school activities and even ran for class president. She’d stay after school to be away from home.
People started noticing her bruises and that she did not have a place to sleep. “It was just awful.”
She’d go home and the locks would be changed. In her mind no one could be trusted.
She was called into court and ordered to testify, but had little grasp of what the proceedings were about. Somewhat bewildered, she meekly spoke about the problems. “Our home life was incredibly unstable, both of my parents hurt me, (but in court) I have to pick who I’m going to say nicer things about so I don’t get hit more when I go home.”
Her father was eventually taken away by the police and spent time in and out of jail.
When her father got out of jail, he was fixated with “rescuing” Esther. “He was very dangerous. Numerous times he tried kidnapping me.”
Her mother ended up marrying another man who was unfaithful. Esther discovered the affair and told her mom. The stepdad left.
“And that’s when my mother began hating me.”
At 13, she was forced to make it make it in the world on her own.
Esther graduated and took to writing. She found God and began sharing on how to overcome past trauma. This went on for 15 happy years.
Then in 2010, her biological father showed up and began stalking her.
Esther stayed with friends, attempting to hide herself from danger. She got restraining orders from court, which were all violated.
“The nightmares were terrible,” she says. “None of my coping mechanisms worked anymore. Busyness didn’t work, being performance driven didn’t work anymore. I just didn’t want to get out of the bed in the morning.”
All the old feelings of being unloved by her dad reared up once more. She felt her current successful life was just “plastic. Success could be taken away suddenly. I started hating life again. I didn’t want to get out of bed.”
Esther sought counseling, which she called a “Band-Aid.”
“The path towards healing and forgiveness was more excruciating than the physical threat to my safety,” she says. “How do I feel the full weight of what happened to me and seriously forgive people. How do I redefine what love is.” Read the rest of Her Own Dad was her Stalker.
Tedashii Lavoy Anderson was out to make his mark at Baylor University. He strove to be responsible and do the right thing, to be well-liked in school, in sports and on the social scene.
Then this random guy walked up to him three months into his freshman year.
“Hey, I heard you talk about yourself,” he told Tedashii. “I heard the jokes you made, the things you laughed about, the stories you told about the weekend.”
“I gotta be honest,” he continued. “I think the Bible would call that sin. Sin is when you disobey a holy God. There’s a real place called Heaven and a real place called Hell, and I don’t know if you’re gonna go to Heaven. You need a Savior.”
Tedashii’s competitive side suddenly flared, and he launched into a tirade insisting no one should judge him, especially someone who knew nothing about his struggles and background.
“I kind of shoved him down out of the way. I didn’t mean to put him on his back, but I did unintentionally,” Tedashii recounted in a YouTube video. “I kind of stepped over him and went to class angry because here’s this guy telling me I’m not good enough.”
Weeks later Tedashii was kicked off the football team due to injury, lost his scholarship, lost his girlfriend, and saw his parents separate. As a result, he couldn’t pay for college anymore.
Then the same random guy approached him and shared the gospel with him again. “God wants to have a relationship with you,” he told him.
This time, there was a completely different response. “A light bulb came on. I felt like I got a hug from the Father. I just dropped to my knees on campus and prayed to God. ‘I get it. God, I need a Savior.’”
The random guy became Tedashii’s best friend, and later became the best man in his wedding.
He suggested Tedashii rap for the Lord, and the now-famous Christian rapper initially laughed if off. Only after the Spirit dealt with Tedashii did he whip up a terrible rap that evoked only laughter at a campus talent show.
It was a flop, but the infection had started, and Tedashii was intrigued by the possibility of spreading the gospel through the popular medium of hip hop. He’s now recorded five projects with Reach Records and hit #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Music. He’s on Lecrae’s Reach Record label. Tedashii also appears in videos with Trip Lee, KB and others from 116 Clique.
Also known as T Dot, Tedashii lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife.
In March of 2013, he lost his youngest son, a one-year-old, to a sickness the hospital couldn’t treat, and the untimely death triggered a crisis of faith that led to substance abuse and jeopardized his marriage.
As a Palestinian born-again pastor in Los Angeles, Sameer Dabit sees himself as a bridge-maker.
“My dad grew up with a lot of wounds, so I grew up with the mindset of hating Jews and hating Muslims,” Sameer says. “When I got saved at age 16 and started reading scriptures for myself and learning more about God and history, I started to realize, ‘Hey wait a minute. I shouldn’t hate anybody.’”
Slowly, he began to form his own convictions about what he believes.
Sameer’s Arab father was born in Palestine in 1948 and was forced to move when the Jews took over the newly formed nation of Israel. So he resented the Jews.
But as an orthodox Christian, he also resented the Muslim Palestinians who subjected him to cruel jeering and constant antagonism in school, Sameer says.
When he came of age, dad decided to leave behind the nightmare of the Middle East, move to the United States, study and make his life in L.A. He worked hard at the front desk of a hotel, saved his money and bought properties.
Sameer got to know the simmering anger in his father for the injustices suffered, but he identified himself first and foremost as an American. He changed his name to Sam so that it was easier for classmates and elicited fewer questions about his origins. He loved football.
“I assimilated to America,” he says. “I identified myself more as American than Palestinian.”
Then he did something that went beyond his newfound cultural identification. He accepted Jesus into his heart.
At a basketball clinic run by a church, he liked the dynamic music, heard about the forgiveness of sins and wound up wondering why this environment was drastically different from the reverence and mysticism of his family’s religious practice.
Joining the born-again Christians in America created conflict with his dad, who wondered why his son left their church, got re-baptized and hung out with evangelicals who supported Zionism.
“It started to bring an interesting conflict between my dad and me,” says Sameer, now 31. “I was trying to help him understand that I understood where he was coming from. Whatever someone had done to him or his family, I don’t agree with. He was abused. But at the same time, I believe everyone has a right to a place to live, and at the time, the Jewish people were distributed around the world and suffered the Holocaust. That wasn’t right as well. They did need a place to live. Israel needed to be established again, and obviously that was Biblical.
“It was an interesting balance that I had to help him understand,” he says. “That’s why my perspective is interesting because I love the Palestinian people. I love the Jewish people. I love the Muslim people. I love the Christian people. I love that place.
His “Don’t Stop Believing” became an anthem for a generation, and now it looks like Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain has put it into practice because he has revived his childhood passion for Jesus.
Cain felt like early love for God got snuffed out when he prayed fruitlessly for the Almighty to spare the lives of 92 kids trapped upstairs by a fire at a Catholic school in Chicago where he was a third grader. Three nuns also died in the 1958 blaze.
“I was praying to Jesus hard that afternoon, ‘Please, let these children out,’ you know, and it wasn’t to be and they got trapped upstairs and 100 of them perished.’” Cain told The Blaze. “So I was a little disillusioned. How could Jesus let that happen?”
Cain’s dad tried to help his son overcome the grief and despair by encouraging him towards his natural gifting for music. Cain abandoned his original desire to become a priest and began to pursue the dream of becoming a musician.
He learned the accordion, guitar, bass and harmonica. He moved to Nashville and then to Los Angeles. He was part of The Babies in 1979 but skyrocketed to stardom the next year when he became the keyboardist for Journey. His composition for “Don’t Stop Believing” wowed fans and critics everywhere. Allmusic called it “one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock.” He went to pen the classic ballad “Faithfully.”
He played for Bad English, released 11 solo albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame April 7th of this year for his work with Journey.
Married to Evangelist Paula White in April 2015.
But while accolades and money flooded in, he was empty on the inside.
Cain remembers accepting Jesus as a teen at a Baptist church in Chicago. “I had a breakthrough when a pastor laid hands on me on an altar call,” he told the Christian Post. “I wept that evening and realized how numb I had become with God and how He was calling to me for restoration.”
He raised his three kids going to a Lutheran Church where he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, but his commitment to Christ was irregular: “I felt my faith was on again off again.”
One day, Journey lead singer Steve Perry brought a Bible into the studio in 1996 as they worked on the album “Trial by Fire.” It piqued Cain’s curiosity and stirred him to explore renewing his relationship with Jesus.
But it wasn’t until he met televangelist Paula White on a Southwest Airlines flight that Cain worked up the gumption to go “all-in” for God. By then he had divorced twice.
“I wanted to become a true follower of Christ — not just a part-time Christian,” Cain recalled.
As he sat across the aisle from her, Cain opened up to White — who had already mentored other celebrities in the things of God.
“And I said, ‘Is it possible that that little boy could find the Jesus that he knew. Is it possible that I can feel that?’” he said. “And she said, ‘The Lord has something for you.’” Read the rest about Jonathan Cain Christian.
During his retirement, my dad took up repainting. He’s no Michelangelo, but he has fun.
One cool thing about painting is if you get it wrong, it’s no problem; you just paint over. You can literally cover your prior mistakes with a fresh coat. You can start anew as many times as you want. Keep correcting until you get it right.
God is painter. And he covers over our mistakes (sins) with a fresh layer. He cleans up our blotches and smirches. He’s making our ugly flailings into beautiful art.
When his doctor prohibited Robert Hamilton from going to Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Mission workers were perplexed: Could the clinic function without its founder?
Something of a crisis developed when Dr. Bob – a Santa Monica pediatrician who has led teams all around the world for more than 20 years – fell off a skateboard and injured his shoulder. His surgeon wouldn’t let him brave the 5-hour curvy mountain road trip by bus to Coban.
At Day 2 of the clinic, how have his supporters survived without Papa?
“He is very missed,” said Alison Hagoski, RN, who whips through triage, the crowded line and the doctor’s curtain-divided “offices” keeping things whirring.
“We are just barely able to run the clinic without him,” she said. “Only because God is big have we done okay.”
On Tuesday, doctors doubled the previous day’s output, seeing more than 400 patients for medical, dental and reading glasses visits. The day’s statistics calmed worries that LMM would fall short of its normal 1,500 – 2,000 patients.
Lighthouse Medical Missions is known for its twice-yearly trips to Africa. But recently Guatemala has become a target once a year because its cheaper and can attract young volunteers. Dr. Bob aims not only to touch people abroad but also to encourage Americant high schoolers to pursue a career in medicine. Two students from the Lighthouse Christian Academy and one from Pali High are on this trip.
Starbucks may feature Guatemalan java from the tourist mecca of Antigua, Guatemala. But coffee conniseurs know that the better brew comes from Coban, a rain-drenched city of 250,000 nestled in the lush green mountains north of Guatemala City.
It was here that Dr. Bob, an avid traveler, desired to aid the rural poor. Continue reading.
When their daughter was admitted to med school, the got on their knees and thanks God. It was the fourth and final round of exams in Guatemala for the public university (affordable). They’ve had so many things work against them, and yet the plug on for Jesus and reach blessings.
I’m their pastor, but at times I learn from them. I yearn for a simple faith, uncluttered by the prosperity gospel, unmoored by cliques and church politics.
Accepted to med school, she poses with her sister.
It is my experience that Christians in the Third World nations have a much more unadulterated faith simply because they don’t have hardly anything else. Their hope is placed on God alone because outside of God, they have virtually no hope. I have seen the poor praise God with sheer joy that makes you wonder how can they do that when they are suffering hunger and they have no future.
The trials, the “reversals,” the difficulties all make sense when we look back over our lives to see how God has blessed and used us. In the middle of the tempest, you’re tempted to throw up your hands in despair.
But Christianity is not a backwards-looking religion. We are to pray for a better future, invest time in relationships and Bible study, work hard — all to see more of God in our lives. While we strive for better things ahead, we keep faith and remember the promise of Psalm 23:6: Surely your goodness and love will FOLLOW me all the days of my life. I may not understand today what God is doing, but eventually I will.
If we didn’t feel pain, I don’t suppose we would pray. Not until we hit anguish do we remember our limitations and God’s limitlessness. So prayer, then, is a journey from pain to pleasure, from bruises to blessings, from hits to happiness.
If pain is the starting point, however, the journey doesn’t have to be painful. After all, we leave pain behind.
We need to see prayer less like instant answers and more of a pathway. Some hikes are short and easy, others long, still others strenuous. I don’t know about you, but I like hikes of all sizes and shapes. In fact, I haven’t met a hike I didn’t like yet.
Regardless, it is the destination that makes you forget about the process of getting there. Once you reach happiness, all previous pain is pretty much forgotten. Part of knowing how do I pray is staying on the path towards happiness.