Whenever Uhm Jung-Hwa’s friends told her about Jesus, she cringed.
“God loves me? What’s that? People are really weird. What God loves me? It is myself who loves me the most!” Jung-Hwa said at the time.
Today, the “Madonna of Korea” has converted from Buddhism.
One of the most influential singers, actors and dancers in South Korea, Jung-Hwa only regrets that it took her so long to come to Christ.
“I was jealous,” she says in a YouTube video in Korean. “I was curious why I knew God now, why didn’t he meet me quickly? Those who were born with a birth faith can meet God earlier than me. I was jealous and thought it was unfair.”
Jung-Hwa was born in 1969 in the city of Jecheon. She had one brother and two sisters. Her father died in a car accident when she was six.
Jung-Hwa had a gifted soprano voice with a wide range, so she launched a career. At her height in the 1990s, she was the queen of the music industry and one of the most popular celebrities. Her most recognizable singles were “Poison” and “Invitation.”
She became known as the “Madonna of Korea” and is a role model for many emerging singers today.
Some of her friends were Christians, but Jung-Hwa spurned faith in God.
Born a Buddhist, Jung-Hwa consulted with fortune-tellers and witch exorcists.
High on Xanax, Scootie Wop, now a Christian rapper, swerved his vehicle into a divider after he fell asleep at the wheel, then crashed into a telephone pole.
“You need to go to church and do something,” his mom told him after he drove home. Somehow, he was able to drive the totaled car home after the horrific accident.
Emmanuel “Scootie” Lofton’s father was a pastor and former Marine. Scootie had an idyllic childhood until his father abandoned the family and left the ministry. That forced his mom, along with Scootie and his siblings, to live out of a 95 Mercedes Benz in South Carolina, according to Rapzilla.
“I felt like I lost a piece of myself. Everything switched. I got exposed to drugs and gang culture and fighting with different people,” he says on HolyCulture.net. “I got put into a gang in the fifth grade, so I hung around a lot of older kids. I started smoking in sixth grade and selling stuff in the seventh grade.”
That’s when 12-year-old Emmanuel started experimenting with drugs and gangbanging.
“My mom was praying for me every morning, every night,” he says. “She was always cooking something in the pot, making the house smell good. I got my love from God from her.”
Emmanuel tried to straighten up by playing football, basketball, track and even kickboxing. Eventually, he focused on football, but a broken leg – fractured in six places – right before college destroyed the dream. The months of recovery saw him drop sports and college.
As soon as Justin Berry buckled up, the Uber driver turned to him and said: “Because you have obeyed God, He’s going to bless you.”
“I’m like WHAT?” Justin was flabbergasted. He had just broken up with his girlfriend — reluctantly — because they had fallen into sin. But he was broken-hearted, agitated and conflicted.
“What the heck is going on?” he marveled at the message from an Uber driver. “Whoa that’s crazy.”
The unexpected confrontation was part of a long process of God calling Justin back to salvation, into holy matrimony and unto a beautiful destiny in music ministry.
Justin Berry, now 20, grew up in Ladera Heights, in Los Angeles, going to to church with his mom and brother. Going to the Lighthouse Christian Academy cemented his childhood faith and also it’s where he met a certain girl named Trina.
He excelled in academics and sports during high school and was elated when he got accepted to his dream college: UCLA. It was a euphoria unlike any other. But as he tried to push the “accept” button on the electronic offer letter, Justin was being held back. God had told him to attend college elsewhere.
“Something was holding my hand back from pressing that button,” he remembers.” I started crying and bawling my eyes out. I wanted to go there. This was my ticket to my career. I was trying to press this button and God wouldn’t let me do it.”
Finally, his mom came in asked what was the matter. He explained and, being a loving mom, she persuaded him that it was the devil interfering. He finally pushed the button. What could go wrong? He had a beautiful girlfriend and an ideal institution of higher learning. God’s blessing was evident.
Only not everything was as it seemed. Secretly, he and Trina, allowing themselves to be alone, had fallen into temptation together, and both were feeling intense conviction.
“It was a rough year of heavy, hard conviction,” Justin tells. “I stopped praying and let my relationship with God die away. I replaced Trina as my idol, and she became my god. I would find my peace, my joy, my happiness through her. When I was with her, I didn’t feel any conviction. But when I was away from her, I felt this conviction.”
He still attended church and youth group. He would pray tears of guilt in the strangest of places: in the bathroom.
“The bathroom is where I prayed,” Justin admits. “I still loved God, but something else was stronger.”
One night, the pastor proclaimed prophetically: “There’s somebody here that God has been asking you to give up something for a long time, and you need to give it up right now.”
Justin felt startled, confronted, cornered.
After the service, he confessed to the pastor: the message was for him.
That night, he broke up with Trina. It was the hardest decision of his life up to that moment. His love for this girl was at war with his love for God.
Upset and confused, he got into his Uber. The driver turned on him. It was a wild confirmation.
In fact, the she said, she had been instructed to make a U-turn, a right-hand turn and then wait by the side of the road for her next rider. God told her to prophesy to whoever it was. Justin was next.
Still, Justin wondered, without saying anything, if it were only an improbable coincidence. Read the rest: JBThePreacher
A gaggle of girls besieged him for his autograph at Great America because they thought he was Lil Bow Wow. Miles Minnick was 14, and that’s how he realized hip hop was his calling.
“If this is the kind of attention rappers get, let me go ahead and start rapping,” he says on a Testimony Stories video. “It was crazy.”
He immediately started free-styling inside the theme park. He rapped at school and won talent contests. He got chances to rap in the booth. Chockful of talent, he got noticed by big name San Francisco Bay area rappers and got invited to collaborate.
Miles’ trajectory moved assuredly toward success. But then he got saved and decided to dedicate his talent to God, and now he is one of the hottest new stars in Christian Hip Hop (CHH).
Miles Minnick grew up in Pittsburg, CA, with a polar opposite older brother, who “killed it” in athletics while Miles killed it in video games. In middle school he sported dyed-tip dreads and gold teeth.
His father prayed nightly with his sons but drove them to school in the morning with gangsta rap blaring: “F— the police!”
“When I was 8 or 9, we would go to church maybe once a month,” he remembers.
When Miles turned 12, his brother went to a church camp and came home on fire for God.
“My brother would chip away at me and chip away at me all the time. He would say, ‘Don’t do this? Why you do this?’ He would try to coach me in the correct way,” Miles recounts. “But I was still in the streets.”
He got a girl pregnant when he was 15, and he and his girlfriend brought the baby to class. The teacher often held the infant while teaching at the board.
“We were the school sweethearts. Everybody wanted to support us. Even though I was a knucklehead,” he admits. “I was trying to be a good dad, and I was a kid myself. The streets wouldn’t let me go.”
At age 16, Miles had his encounter with Christ. Ironically, it came when he was selling and smoking weed.
“I was a pothead,” he admits.
As he was getting high one day, a friend blurted out: “Hey bro, we should go to church!”
“Go to church? Right now?” he asked his buddy, who was also smoking marijuana. “We are high like nobody’s business. What are you talking about?”
The friend responded that there were pretty girls at the youth group. “I didn’t want to go, but they drug (sic) in there,” he says.
But youth group was closed, so they went into the main service at New Birth Church, Pittsburg.
“I was the one who didn’t want to go, but I wound up sitting on the edge of my seat, reading the songs off the projector, singing the songs,” he remembers. “It captivated me. I was feeling something I never felt before. I was fresh off the street, fresh off a smoking session. At the end of the service, the pastor pulled an altar call. I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew I wanted it. I went up to the front, and the pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me, and I fell out under the Spirit of God.
“I was on the ground weeping, crying my eyes out,” he adds. Read the rest: Miles Minnick
Three times she’s fought off cancer and she’s still not free from its wicked clutches.
Jane Marczewski — who melted the nation’s heart singing “It’s Okay” after saying she had a 2% survival chance on America’s Got Talent — has withdrawn from the final rounds to battle cancer.
In her audition, Jane, who uses the stage name Nightbirde, had stunned judges when she matter-of-factly mentioned she wasn’t working because of cancer in her lungs, spine and liver.
“It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me,” she said smiling. Her exuberant joy and pristine voice prompted Simon Cowell to hit the golden buzzer shortcutting her into advanced rounds. Her song (“If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost, and it’s alright”) shot up to #1 on iTunes
A Zanesville, Ohio native, Jane Marczewski, 30, decided to make a life of her God-given musical talent when she was a student at Liberty University. She married, launched her life, and then got struck by cancer. At first her husband stood with her, but when she relapsed, he divorced her.
Her smile and bursting optimism wowed the audience. “I have a 2% chance of survival, but 2% is not 0%,” she says. “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
But when she’s alone, she faces the daunting odds. Because she’s honest, she sometimes succumbs to depression. But while she struggles and cries out to God about the unfairness of her fate, she grows like an ordinary Christian never will.
“I am God’s downstairs neighbor banging on the ceiling with a broomstick,” she says on an MP4 circulating in churches. “I show up at his door everyday, sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses, apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.
“I’ve called God a cheat and a lie and I meant it,” she says. “I’ve told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayers I know… night and day, sunrise and sunset. Call me bitter if you want to; that’s fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God, for I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in his shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout.”
Her words, robed in poetry, address Job’s experience of being crushed unjustly.
“I want to lay in His hammock with Him and trace the veins in His arms. I remind myself I’m praying to God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but He instead let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray.”
As she scrutinizes her life searching for strands of mercy, she resonates with the story of God feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness.
“I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the windchimes,” she says. “It’s not the mercy I asked for, but it is mercy nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: ‘Thank You.’ It’s a prayer that I don’t mean yet but will repeat until I do.”
Already she has outlived the prognosis of three months’ life expectancy given at the beginning of 2020.
Ki’Shon Furlow was always conflicted. n the one hand, he graduated a 4.0 GPA valedictorian from high school. At the same time, however, he tried to traffic drugs to support his mom and five siblings in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ironically and fortunately, it was the drug supplier who dissuaded him.
“You’re graduating high school. You’re an idiot. You have all these things going for you. You have a good family,” the dealer told him, according to Genius Lyrics. “Go to school, and be a good kid.”
Ki’Shon — whose latest releases are under the name YourWelcome Shon with Curb Records — is glad he, like so many in marginalized neighborhoods in America, ultimately chose Christ instead of falling into the dangerous life of risking death or jail.
Am. “God got the plan now.”
Simmering in the background of Christian Hip Hop for a few years, Ki’Shon came to a boil at the forefront with a cosign from Derek Minor in 2018. “One of my favorite artists right now,” Minor tweeted, according to Rapzilla.
He’s committed to getting out of the ‘hood with “clean money.” His play-on-words “Summa Hood Laude” celebrates the words that rescued him from selling drugs — ironically words from a drug supplier!
His “Lord+Taylor” still reaches back into the past as it portrays a romantic story of a bad boy changing for a good girl. It’s a hypnotizing ballad with clever lyrics. Behind the fairy tale lies an implicit call to kids from the ghetto to believe in God, believe in themselves, believe in doing good actions and believe in the chance to make it out through legitimate work.
“Ima about to make her fall for a gangster. She’s got my heart on lockup. You make me want to change up. I don’t wanna be a player no more. You don’t need nobody else, Ima get it right. Girl, you got me praying on my knees to the Father.” Read the rest: YourWelcome Shon Christian rapper
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.”
Danny Gokey’s wife died unexpectedly during a routine heart surgery in 2009.
“They gave me a private room and I yelled out loud, ‘God you have to save her! You have to heal her! You have to. You cannot leave me alone like this!’” he said on an I am Second video. “It got to the point where she was gone, and once again that old familiar thing of fear came back into my life.
“I felt in my heart, God’s mad at me.”
Christian singer Daniel Jay Gokey, 40, is best known for his first single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me,” which peaked at number 29 on the country chart, inspiring him to release his full record My Best Days in early 2010.
Born in Milwaukee, Danny attended Heritage Christian Schools and sang with his family in church. In his mid twenties he became the director of Faith Builders International Ministries.
During this time, he married Sophia Martinez, who was also a fellow church-going music fan.
It was Sophia who encouraged Danny to audition for American Idol. He was accepted as a recipient and ultimately placed third in 2009. This launched his music career, which he aimed at the Christian pop segment.
Four weeks before Danny’s tryout on American Idol, Sophia died. He performed his best in devotion to her.
“I made a promise that I would go try out,” Danny says. “Little did I know that when I would try out for this show, it would be a month after she passed.”
Sophia had a heart condition from birth but had gotten it fixed in a surgery when she was young. Or so Danny thought.
“Little did I know that in our first year of marriage that we’d be in the hospital together because her heart was beating 200 times per minute,” Danny recalls. “And that’s when the doctor dropped the news on us. We were both 24 years old. He said, ‘We’re going to have to have another heart surgery.’”
In his youth, Danny was plagued by all kinds of irrational fears. Many of his fears centered on whether God truly and unconditionally loved him.
In the modern usage of the word, “to pimp” means more than just running a prostitution operation. It means to use something only for your personal benefit.
Whatever linguistic evolution has done to water down the word “pimp,” its usage by Christian rapper Zabbai is still a startling self criticism of his life as a pastor’s kid.
I lived life as a phony Christian
Livin’ in sin knowing I could ask forgiveness
Sick how I manipulated your heart
Pimpin’ you out, treatin’ you just like a broad.
At 17, Bradsley Rumble came to terms with the Jesus he avoided in his youth while he was smoking marijuana and “flexing” to get girls.
“It was then (I) realized that truth is not a thing but a person,” he says.
Born of Jamaican culture into a Christian family in Connecticut, Bradsley, who now goes by a stage name, struggled with fitting in with his peers instead of standing out as a church goody-goody.
Beginning in the 9th grade, he practiced hip hop. When he came to Jesus, he ditched the sin and donned the rap. He adopted the name Zabbai from the Old Testament, which he says means “wanderer, pure, flowing.” Read the rest: Zabbai Christian rap artist
When Seth Jacon Fenton searched for a stage name, he had only to think what afflicted him in grade school and what led to innumerable suspensions.
“Hyper” was the name he chose, which he uses with his last name.
Hyper Fenton’s unique mixture of hip hop and electronic music erupted on CHH in 2016. The Dallas native may be “Chilling in Dallas” (the name of what is perhaps his most popular song), but he hasn’t chilled about much. He’s been hyperactive since childhood.
Naturally, one gig is not enough for a man of boundless energy. He is the minister of preschool and children at his father’s church, Meadows Baptist Church, in Plano, Texas, immediately north of Dallas.
No doubt, he’s a hyper snowboarder. Pictured with his wife. Is she hyper too?
He’s also an actor. In fact, he studied acting in college, acted in plays throughout school, and “acted up” in the classroom. “Whether on stage or in the principal’s office, Seth was full of passion, hyperactive, explosive, many times impulsive,” his website says. “Seth had a yearning, a longing to dream, perform and to express himself.”
It was also in college that he fell in love with hip hop. When Moflo Music Production’s owner heard a song randomly from Hyper Fenton, he approached him about working together. The results: numerous singles and three albums — Kindergarten Dreams, Terabithia and Remembering Me.
The 27-year-old grew up in his dad’s church and accepted Jesus into his heart at age six. He loved Jesus but was drawn intensely to performing arts.
“It seemed that with Seth there were two things at war within him, a desire to Love and serve Jesus Christ, the God who saved him, and a desire to express himself through art and creativity,” his website says. Read the rest: Hyper Fenton Christian rap.
His best friend was lying twitching on the grass, dying as a result of two bullets fired in a drive-by shooting. His last words: “Just tell everybody to wear red at my funeral.”
As Ralphie slipped into eternity without Jesus, T-Bone decided to “flip” to his parents’ side. The son of pastors in the Mission District of San Francisco, T-Bone lived a double life: he carried his Bible to church on Sunday and a knife in his pocket every other day as a Blood gangster.
“I was raised amongst the gangs, drug dealers and pimps,” T-Bone told CBN. “I was left for dead. I had 15 gang members break into my spot at three in the morning and try to kill me. I know what it’s like to have a gun drawn on me, what it’s like to deal with some stuff and jump folks.”
Today T-Bone is one of the longest-standing Christian Hip Hop artists, but when Rene Francisco Sotomayor was born to a Nicaraguan dad and Salvadoran mother who together pastored a church, he wasn’t particularly moved to serve God.
What drew him was the flash and danger of the streets glamorized by shock rap like N.W.A., Public Enemy and 2Pac. He was skinny, hence nicknamed “Bones,” and started with clubs and house parties but progressed to anger and violence. He rapped from age seven.
Almost getting killed himself was not enough for him to choose the undivided life of serving Jesus. But his buddy’s death brought him to a crossroads.
“What did he die for? For this ignorant color?” he asked.
When a guest speaker at his parents’ church urged listeners to accept Jesus, young T-Bone went to the altar.
“As soon as I went, I began to cry. The presence of God was there,” he told CBN. “The Holy Spirit hit me. I said the sinner’s prayer. And that’s when I became what I named my first album: a redeemed hoodlum.” Read the rest: T-Bone Christian rapper.
Christian Hip Hop star Jarry Manna used to be a “pothead” Darwinist who thought the church was a scam to get people’s money.
“I was allowing dark things to take over my mind,” he told JamTheHype. But he also always “thought someone was coming to get me. My spirit was just open to any type of darkness, anything to tamper with my mind. There was something deeper going on there, at the point of thinking about killing myself.”
The paranoia, a product of his cannabis addiction, was taking over his brain. He remembered a cousin who had a gun.
“I was gonna go get his gun and off myself,” he recounted.
But then he remembered his grandmother, a devout Christian, and called her. Her wisdom that day saved Jarry’s life and gave him a new direction.
“She kind of allowed for me to come back to Christ,” he said.
He returned to church and quit rapping. That’s what his pastor wanted him to do.
But a friend, Quincy Howard, kept bringing him back to rap. He knew that Jarry was good and didn’t want to see the gift squandered. But when he returned to hip hop, this time it was Christian lyrics.
He thrilled to strap up a Glock, flex a gold chain and fancy car and gangbang in the streets, but when Benjamin Broadway stood over the casket of his close friend Johnny Talyor, God interrupted the thug life fantasy he was living.
“That can be you,” the Most High told Benjamin. “God just attacked me.”
The dark reality of mortality combined with the stark prophecy from God prompted Benjamin to straighten up. He cut off his street friends and went to the local Vineyard Church.
Today, the South Bend, Indiana, native spearheads of subgenre of Christian Hip Hop called Gospel Trap that is oriented more for sinners than saints.
“I’m trying to save the hood,” he says in a 2016 Rapzilla video. “Gospel Trap is putting God where He’s needed. People that’s in church every Sunday God got them some way somehow. But people in the streets don’t have Him. I’m trying to give music to the streets”
The Tupac-influenced artist came under fire from Christian circles when he dropped “God in the Bando” (a bando is an abandoned house that has been taken over by dealers and addicts) by saints who want to maintain a high holy wall of separation between the church and the world. Benjamin employs ghetto language to entice sinners to listen, but he redefines the words out of the Bible. A lot of Christians don’t get the strategy.
“I’m using a lot of key words that the hood knows, and I’m putting them in a gospel perspective,” he says. “You’re going to hear stuff like ‘plug’ — all different types of keywords that no other Christian artist is using. When I put out ‘God in tha bando,’ people was attacking me. I mean, attacking me. I’m like, how come people don’t know that I’m trying to put the message out on the streets? I want to save a million souls.”
His lyrics come short of an R rating. Some parents may want to steer their Chrisitan kids to more sanitized raps. But the older youth from the suburbs would do well to approach Benjamin’s music as a sociological study of the ghetto and sensitivity training.
He’s quite the wordsmith. In one song he reflects on how it’s not easy to make a living in Christian Hip Hop even if you strike it big. “I know you broke CHH” he raps. It’s an expression of making a sensation that shuts down others because of the explosion of attention to you. He goes on to reflect on how the artist can still “be broke” financially.
Benjamin got away from the faith of his parents in high school. Everyday his dad would nag him to serve Jesus and would read him his favorite verse, which he hid through secret combination of numbers in his album “Gospel Trap 2.”
“I felt like my friends were my family; we started our own clique and ended up getting in a lot of trouble. Did a lot of things,” he told God Reports. “I think the reason why I did it so long was the friends that were around me, we were close. Plus not only that, you get addicted to the street life, you end up glorifying it, and continue to think it’s right. But in reality it’s harming you.”
He got kicked out of high school for fighting rival gang members but still managed to graduate. For some of his shenanigans in the streets, he would up locked up in jail, though only for a week.
“That made me realize — being locked up in a cell like an animal — that is not the way I wanted to live,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t want the government being in charge of my life (through prison officials and judges, etc). I don’t like jail or the police (no offense to the good officers that protect america in a good way).” Read the rest: Benjamin Broadway Christian rap
Having a distant dad only heightened her teenage insecurities.
Cassandra Kanda, a Zimbabwe-born Christian musician making waves in Christian Hip Hop now, grew up in New Zealand where she NEVER fit in high school.
“I struggled with rejection. I was bullied pretty badly when I was 8 years old in school,” she says an exclusive interview with God Reports. “So by the time I was a teenager, rejection was something I didn’t want to ever experience. And when I did experience it, it would hurt more than anything because of all the baggage I was carrying from it since I was young.”
In her soon-to-be-released album, Cass (usually her stage name is stylized CASS) explores the perceived lack of fatherly love and its subsequent repercussions in low self-esteem. It wasn’t until she profoundly understood the Heavenly Father’s love that she righted.
“When I discovered God’s fatherly love, it revolutionized my life,” she says in email interview. “It’s something till this day that still makes me emotional because I’ve only ever experienced a Father’s love from God. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”
Cass is the synthesizer wunderkind of Christian music. She was featured recently on Reach Record’s collective song “Light Bearer,” which was a mantra for the label starting 2018.
Who would have thought the immigrant would amount to — or surmount such hardships — to attain renown in Christian music? Her beginnings were humble.
She immigrated, with her family, when she was 7. She attended church unrelentingly with her family and accepted Jesus as a youngster and then rededicated her life to Christ when she saw the play “Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames” at age 16.
“That’s when I really started to walk with God fully,” she says.
The adjustment to a new culture was worsened by a hostile reception at grade school where she, as a small African girl, was bullied by the New Zealand kids so badly that her parents had to change her educational center.
Her father, perhaps because of the African culture, was emotionally detached, Cass says, and this further damaged her self-concept.
“I grew up with a distant parent. This teamed up with the fact that I was bullied pretty badly,” she says. “So I tried everything I could do to fit in (which never worked cause I NEVER did fit in in high school), and it would bother me so much.”
Fortunately, she was growing in the Word and prayer, and eventually she realized fully God’s love.
“It’s not until I realized who I was in Christ, that’s when that fear of rejection broke of me,” Cass says. “What I was looking for — that acceptance or approval from people I was never going to find from the crowd. I would only find it in God.” Read the rest of CASS Christian musician.
First she got cut from a record label. Then she got cut from American Idol.
Tori Kelly was told she wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t bubbly enough, wasn’t talented enough.
“This wasn’t just one door closing. This was ANOTHER door closing out of all these doors that have closed in my face,” Tori says on an “I am Second” video. “I was so devastated. I was this singer who if I failed, then people would be disappointed.”
Wut? Tori Kelly cut?
Today, Victoria Loren Kelly, 27, is one of the most heralded singers in pop music. The Capital Records-signed Christian gospel musician has won two Grammys after songs on her two albums “Unbreakable Smile” and “Hiding Place” charted Billboard’s Hot 100.
The painful rejections in her attempt to follow her dreams have led her to some insights valuable to young girls who think they don’t measure up.
“It might take a while but one day your going to grow into your own skin and be the woman that God uniquely made as you,” the star says. “You’re being built into the woman that God wants you to be. And you don’t have to compare yourself to anybody.”
Born in Wildomar, California, Tori had a dad of Jamaican and Puerto Rican ancestry and a mom descended from German and Irish blood. Her parents loved music, exposed her to every genre and encouraged her early interest.
At age 12, she signed with Geffen Records, but that deal fizzled. She taught herself the guitar and began composing songs, which she uploaded to YouTube, getting one million subscribers. She competed in American Idol’s ninth season but fell out before the final 24.
“That’s when I went back into my room and I started to journal a lot,” she confides. “I wrote about confusion, feeling different. I was getting out these emotions that I’ve never been really good at explaining. It was just kind of this messy book of all my thoughts and prayers. (I wrote down:) ‘Lord, guide me. I don’t know who I am without singing.’”
The downtime — the time alone crying with God — was unpleasant. But ultimately, they were good for her. Read the rest: Tori Kelly failed.
His parents were always working and left him unsupervised, so Mark Wahlberg took to the streets and found drugs, racism, crime — and jail.
For beating mercilessly two Vietnamese men at age 16, he was tried as an adult for attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison. He ultimately served only 45 days of his sentence, but carries a permanent felony record.
“When I heard the jail doors close behind me … I knew that was just the beginning for me,” he says. It was the beginning of a life in crime or the beginning of a fresh start, if he turned his life around.
Wahlberg, famous for acting in Transformers Age of Extinction, turned to God and to his Catholic priest to help straighten out his life.
“I should be in a lot of places and it should not be here, so trust me, God is so good,” he says. “Thank you Father.”
Wahlberg goes to church for at least 15 to 20 minutes daily and also prays every day, allowing him to begin each morning with a clear outlook and avoid negativity.
“Faith keeps me focused, patient, calm, happy and gives me joy,” Wahlberg said in an interview with Walter Scott. “I start and end my day in prayer. It keeps me grateful, humble, hungry, committed to trying to do more and be more positive. It is the reason for everything good in my life. If I can start out my day saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”
Wahlberg, the youngest of nine children, starred in Daddy’s Home, Planet of the Apes and Boogie Nights. In 2006, he earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roll in the neo-crime drama The Departed. Recently, he has served as executive producer of four HBO series: the comedy-drama Entourage (2004–11), the period crime drama Boardwalk Empire (2010–14), and the comedy-dramas How to Make It in America (2010–2011) and Ballers (2015–present).
Wahlberg got his start in entertainment in the music industry. He was one of the founding members, at age 13, of the boy band “New Kids on the Block,” which he quit after only a few months. He became the frontman for the group “Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch,” releasing the albums Music for the People and You Gotta Believe. His music is mostly Hip Hop and Eurodance.
Since his initial incarceration prompted a spiritual turn-around, his walk with Jesus has been a continual re-committing daily to the Lord. For Wahlberg, the “journey to redemption” is a “process” of seeking Jesus.
“That’s why I start my day everyday by getting on my hands and knees and starting a time of prayer and reading Scripture, and then I feel like I can go out there and conquer the world.
Initially, it was hard for him to break with the other bad boys of the block. He had to walk from his home to the train station everyday, and the guys didn’t like the fact that he’d left them. “If I wasn’t with them, I was against them” in their minds, he says. “So I had that to overcome, but I was committed to turning my life around.”
Eventually he came to the revelation that he belonged to a huge community of believers and dedicated himself to the church, to the people and to God. He saw it as a beautiful thing to have such a support network. “You just have to believe and have faith and know that you can accomplish it and turn your life around.” Read the rest: From racist to Christian actor, Mark Wahlberg.
If there’s anyone who could be confused by her own identity, it’s HeeSun Lee. She’s Korean by birth, Chinese-American by upbringing, a rapper who hangs mostly with African-Americans and Latinos.
But HeeSun Lee — her first name is Korean while her last name is Chinese — sees herself first and foremost as a Christian.
It wasn’t always that way.
Adopted when she was four months old in 1983, HeeSun grew up in a loving family with all her needs met in New York. But when she became a teenager, the idea that her birth parents had “rejected” her sent her reeling. Was she Korean? Why did her biological parents not want her?
“When I got into high school, I felt so different. That was the beginning of my journey of not knowing who I was,” she says in a YouTube video.
Her identity crisis sparked a downward spiral because she couldn’t speak Korean and didn’t even know what kimchee was; her new Korean friends commented in their native language about her and she felt awkward, rejected.
She was drawn to the hip hop culture of Tupac at the time and learned to party, take drugs and sleep around, according to her lyrics and an interview.
“I remember there was a point in my life when I was just completely lost. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know who I was,” she says on a Jahrockn video of her “I’m Supposed to Be” song.
HeeSun (she was called Cynthia at the time) with her adoptive mother
At about the same time, she got introduced to Christianity when her grandmother, to whom she was very close, declined in health. A friend invited her to church.
“Once my grandma became sick I thought I’d find comfort in going,” she says. “It completely changed my life. I found God — I found my purpose.”
But her journey toward God wasn’t all smooth sailing. She stumbled.
“Through it all though, God was always with me,” she says. “He was just distant. But He kept me. He reminded me He was there for me. Finally I just realized, this is wrong. This is not where I’m supposed to be. So I just cried out to God.”
HeeSun with her family today
In college she could have gone either way — the world beckoned but God was fighting for her. Ultimately, she chose Jesus, marriage, and a family.
She also chose rap.
“When I started rapping, I wanted to rap about my own experiences, what I go through,” HeeSun says on a Korean American Story video. “I couldn’t picture myself rapping half naked and talking about sex. I mean, I partied and stuff, but that just wasn’t me. That wasn’t my character. At that time I was in and out of church. I believed in God. He was always helping me in some way. I was struggling. My songs are about my experience” coming to God.
That is how HeeSun became the Christian hip-hop artist who, perhaps, gets the most double takes.
Female Christian rappers are few and far between. So are Asian rappers, not to mention Christian Asians rappers. She’s even rapped while pregnant.
HeeSun married a New York police officer, and the couple have two girls.
Her first album in 2008 was Re:Defined on the Jahrock’n label. She found the definition of her identity in Christ, she says.
“I used to think I was unfortunate, unfortunate to live a life that could never tell me the origins of my story,” she raps in one song. “Most people know how they were born. Unfortunately, I was never given those details on my adoptions papers… I don’t know if I was a mistake” Read the rest: Christian female Korean rapper.
It wasn’t the car that slammed into his motorcycle at 100 mph. It was a round of golf that brought L.A. rock legend Frank Sontag to Christ.
After he was sent spinning across the highway, Sontag holed himself up in a Tahoe cabin and lived primitively off rudimentary supplies while he poured over Eastern mystic texts in search of the meaning of life. It took years to physically recover from the accident. But he emerged a New Age guru.
“I read the Koran, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita,” he said in an interview with Greg Laurie. “I never would open a Bible.”
For two decades, Sontag interviewed the “royalty of rock” on classic rock station KLOS. He broadcast music and announced sports events. He was part of #1-rated Mark & Brian show, which would mix Aerosmith with humorist rants and raucous call-ins.
On his own highly-rated, thought-provoking program called Impact, Sontag peddled a self-styled “spirituality” that encouraged people to get in touch with their inner selves, discover their purpose in the universe and feel good about themselves. No repentance needed.
“When somebody would call up and try to share the gospel, I couldn’t hang up on them fast enough,” he said. He would shout down and shut down Christians.
Once #1 in LA, Mark and Brian.
Then one of his closest New Age buds got saved. Three years later, the friend and his pastor brother invited Sontag to golf. Sontag was taking his fairway shot when the pastor fired at him: “Frank, is Jesus Christ the Son of God?”
“We’re not going there,” Frank retorted and knocked the ball towards the green.
A few holes later, Sontag was putting when the pastor asked another pointed question: “Frank, who’s God?”
Miffed, Sontag brushed the question off with, “I’m spiritual.”
After nine holes, the threesome decided to have lunch, and that pastor swung a final shot: “If you were to die today, would you be with God?”
Sontag snorted in disgust.
But something inside told him he should consider the question more. Challenged by the pastor, he sat in his car afterwards and asked God to prove Himself. Immediately, he felt strangely hot.
Then a voice said: “Are you ready to submit to Me?”
“It was unmistakable. Call it ‘because He created me I knew His voice.’ I knew Who He was. I felt no coercion,” he said. “And I freely said, ‘yes.’”
Later the voice said: “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
Sontag had never read the Bible. He didn’t have any way to recognize Scripture.
It wasn’t until nine months later that he stumbled across the same phrase – this time in the Bible. Right there, he prostrated himself before God and prayed: “Lord, I’m yours forever.” It was 2009.
Vanity lay agonizing in a hospital bed in 1994 with only three days left to live. With her kidneys shutting down after a crack cocaine overdose, Prince’s ex was at the end of her musical career and wild living when Jesus showed up in a vision and told her that if she “killed” her lingerie-donning stage persona and become a Christian, she would live.
“My blood pressure was 250 over 190. I lost both kidneys,” Vanity told Jet. “I had internal bleeding with blood clots on the brain. I was completely blind and deaf. I had a heart attack and a stroke.”
So Vanity died, and Denise Matthews lived. Denise performed a radical 180 degree turnaround in her life going from church to church relentlessly to share her testimony. She pushed Jesus even harder than she had pushed the free sex image cultivated by the “Purple Rain” megastar. “When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine — interview, every tape, every video,” she said. “Everything.”
A year ago on Feb. 15, Denise went to her eternal reward after two decades of kingdom service.
Denise was born on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Her mother abandoned the household, and her dad was abusive. Because of the hurts in her childhood, she hurtled into a hedonistic lifestyle that offered only temporary relief from the internal pain.
She immigrated to America to pursue a career in modeling and music in New York, where she hooked up with “Superfreak” funk legend Rick James, according to the Daily Beast. In 1980, she met Prince at the American Music Awards, and joined his entourage. Prince re-christened her as “Vanity” and set her up as the start in the sultry girl group Vanity 6 which burst on the music scene with “Nasty Girl.” Prince pushed her flaunt sexuality, she said.
“Prince created the whole Vanity 6 image. It bothered me at the time. I lied and said it was the image I wanted. I did it because he told me I had to do it,” she told Jet. “If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get paid. I got into it. I wanted the old Diana Ross image.”
But behind the headlong rush into sin there was a little girl still hurting from the abuse of a father and neglect of a mother.
“I always put on a show. I’m a mighty fine actress when it comes to that. I would wear a smile on the outside and come back and cry inside,” Denise said. “I would truly hate what I was doing but I was all caught up in it. It’s like someone caught up in a lie who wants to tell the truth. You put this big façade up and you don’t want to give anyone the idea that you’re weak. I finally let it go and gave it to God. I said, ‘I am nobody. I need somebody. Please help me.’”
Along with the promiscuity came drugs. Denise became highly addicted to smoking crack cocaine. When she parted ways with Prince and Vanity 6, she signed for Motown Records as a solo artist and released two underperforming albums Wild Animal and Skin on Skin. She tried to jump-start and acting career with roles in the movies “The Last Dragon,” “Never Too Young to Die,” “Action Jackson” and “52 Pick-Up.”
Then Denise met and got engaged in 1987 to Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, who was also addicted to drugs. The couple abused entire nights and enabled each other’s habit. Sixx overdosed and nearly died the year he got engaged. “I can’t believe I did freebase with Vanity all night,” Sixx wrote in his drug memoir The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. “I threw her out at about 8 a.m. She was getting crazy.”
Then in 1994, Denise had her own brush with death and met Jesus.
“It was drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, that whole sexual thing. Vanity was praying to die because she was lost and hurting inside. God said you have to go through darkness until you find His light,” she said. “Torture was going on in my life and led me to the Lord. For 33 years, I was walking dead. I masked myself in clothes, makeup, anything.”
The fame and the “fun” were all futile attempts to cope with the lack of love in her life. On the outside she exuded delight in the reckless abandon, but on the inside she suffered from the pangs of conscience for the evil she was committing.
“I was extremely wild. I found out that if you are not walking with God, the Devil will possess you. I prayed that God would take me because I was afraid of what would happen to my body,” Denise said. “Demons were coming into my bed and sleeping in my bed. Those things will happen if you’re carrying on like I did. I have a strong love for Jesus Christ. He delivered me from anguish, death and sin. I get excited by God. No man shall enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
So that is how Denise changed her deathbed to a birthing bed. Jesus appeared to her in a vision and offered her life if she would let “Vanity” die. Denise was so thorough with her transformation that she even refused the royalties coming from her entertainment career. She assumed her given name. Finish the article.
In Finland, where heavy metal is mainstream, a movement melding the lyrics of traditional hymns with the snarl of hard rocking ‘Metal Mass’ is drawing sinners through churches’ doors.
In 2006, Haka Kekalainen, a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, decided with four other heavy metal aficionados to do the unthinkable: wedding their passion for rock with their love for the Rock.
“We didn’t change the lyrics of the hymns,” says Kekäläinen, a 50-year-old with a ponytail who drops his leather clothes for priestly garb on Sundays. “We only changed the musical arrangements to fit the rhythms of metal music. The hymns contain some very cruel words. It fits with metal music.”
The first “mass” where metal hymns were played was packed by 1,300 in the Temppeliaukio Church of Helsinki, Kekalainen, according to the website This is Finland. More than 100 similar Metal Masses have been offered throughout Finland since then, and all 8,000 copies of the subsequent album Metallimessu were snapped up. The recording hit #12 on Finnish billboard charts and stayed in the top 40 for three weeks.
“It was really good,” Akseli Inkinen, a 17-year-old with long, messy hair, told The Washington Times. The pews get packed with teens who pump the air with fists while the lead singers mosh around the stage.
Mika Mäkinen, a 30-something man with his blond hair in a ponytail, eschews normal church services. But since his first Metal Mass, he’s become a regular to the services, the rock and hearing the Word of God. “This is my ninth time,” he told This is Finland. Read the rest