SANTA MARIA DE JESUS, GUATEMALA — For a stray dog here, Canela — as we called her for her cinnamon color — seemed family friendly.
I reached down and scratched her head as we registered and paid to ascend Agua Volcano. I was used to stray dogs being mostly hostile, snarling barking curs that you had a stone ready to throw at (sorry, the dogs in Guatemala were rough 12 years ago when I was a missionary).
But I didn’t understand what was happening when the dog attached herself to us and accompanied us up the volcano, classified in the guidebooks as a “strenuous” climb.
All the while Canela wagged her tail and played, hunted wild animals, accepted snacks and water from us. As we descended, we came across a French tourist, also accompanied by a dog. “Is this your dog?” I asked. No, he said, they are the guide dogs who go with you for a little food and water.
Then I realized what was going on. Canela was a guide dog. But she was more than just that. She had found a family for the day and wagged her tail unceasingly. Of course, my heart broke and love swelled up.
Canela had adopted us.
I charged off ahead of my group of 10 friends from Guatemala City, determined to bag the peak. As I descended I really began to struggle. On the one hand, my muscles had burned out. On the other, the soles of sneakers lacked adequate grip, causing me to slip and fall nine times until Pastor Ludving fashioned me two walking sticks from branches using his machete.
I was struggling. But the dog shared no such similar tiredness. Instead, she charged off into the overgrowth looking for prey. She would always pop back… Read the rest: This dog adopted her own family
Les Brown swore he would kill the man who arrested his mother, a single woman who turned to making moonshine to feed her seven adopted kids because she became disabled at work.
When did he meet the man? By chance, RIGHT AFTER he told his son to never act out of anger.
“She was injured on the job, so she promised our birth mother that these children will never go to bed hungry. We will always have a roof over our head and clothes on,” Les recalls on an Ed Mylett video.
“I was 10 years old, and he grabbed me by the throat and hit me on the side of the head and threw me up against the wall. He said she’s back there in the room and they went back there and mama was selling homebrew and moonshine and they he said, ‘Pull up the linoleum,’ and they pull up the linoleum and she kept it under the floor of the house and they brought Mom out in handcuffs.”
While “Mama” Mamie Brown was in jail, little Les took to the streets to make money for the family. He collected copper and aluminum for recycling and helped older men carry heavy equipment.
Years later when Les Brown was running a high-paying radio show in Miami, a man tapped him on the shoulder to congratulate him. It was Calhoun, the same man who orchestrated his mom’s arrest. Calhoun didn’t recognize Les, but Les would never forget the face.
Les had just told his adult son, John Leslie, to never act out of anger. “Anger is a wind that blows out the lamp of the mind,” he said. They were at a public event.
When Les turned around to see who was tapping his shoulder, he froze. He started crying. He hid his face and rushed out of the room, got in his car with his son and drove off. He pulled over to the side of the road.
“Is everything okay?’ his son asked, bewildered.
“No,” he responded.
But as he composed himself and collected his thoughts, he marveled at God’s timing and God’s way of doing things. The timing was just too coincidental to not be a miracle.
“I got that hatred out of my heart for him because you were here,” Les told his son. “I promised if I ever saw him again, I would kill him. I have to model what I’m teaching. Forgiveness is remembering without anger. I forgive him, but most of all, I forgive myself. Please forgive me, God, for carrying this anger and hatred.”
Adversity has made Leslie Calvin “Les” Brown, 75, motivational speaker of the Fortune 500, grow better, not bitter.
He was born in the Deep South, in Florida, during the time of segregation. His mother couldn’t care for him and gave him and his twin up for adoption. Mamie, who had only a 3rd grade education, took him in and six other kids.
One day when he was five, Les let go of his mother’s hand and ran to a water fountain where some kids were playing. It was 90 degrees and he was thirsty.
“My mother grabbed me by the neck, and she threw me down on the ground. She started punching me with her fists in my face and on my head,” Les recalls. “I was screaming. She had a crazy look in her eyes. I said, ‘Mama, it’s me. It’s me, Mama.”
Meanwhile a white cop swaggered over, smacking menacingly his baton into the palm of his hand
“Okay, that’s enough,” he barked. “You beat that little n—– boy enough. Now he’s learned his lesson. He won’t do that again.” Read the rest: Les Brown Christian
Inside her closet — the same closet she tried to hang herself in — Arianna Armour scrawled all the hateful words people said to her in life: “They never wanted you,” “You need to be locked up,” “She doesn’t want you.”
It was an appalling list, and Arianna rehearsed it as she proceeded from drug-addicted parents who dropped her off at foster care to lesbian and transgender. Injecting testosterone in her thigh, she became James Harley, a gym enthusiast and substance abuser who was in and out of mental health facilities.
It was at the gym that a joy-filled Christian employee felt led to invite her to church. “James” didn’t want to go, but when “he” did, God had a prophecy for him and started a years-long process leading him to Jesus and back to her biological identity as a woman.
“This thing has stolen my identity” she testifies to her church on a YouTube video. “I’m tired of looking at my body and thinking it was a mistake. I’m tired to walking with my head down because God loves me no matter what. God took all the pain away from, the identity the devil stole from me.”
Today, Arianna is involved in ministry. She reaches out to people like herself who want to alter their God-given sexual identity, and escape the confusion and depression. She recently helped a 13-year-old boy who was toying with becoming a girl but got a touch of God.
Arianna Armour’s journey through Dante’s Inferno began with a violent, drug-abusing dad and an actress/singer mom who gave birth to a baby girl with five different drugs in her system, Arianna says on YouTube.
Of course, the Department of Child Protective Services intervened. Foster care turned into adoption, but the love her Christian family tried to show her came up short, she felt.
When she was four years old, Arianna was smitten by a pretty girl in Sunday School.
“Immediately, I hated the fact that I was in a dress and I hated the fact that I was a girl,” she recalls. “I asked God, ‘Why did you make me a girl? Why couldn’t I be born a boy? This was the first sign of the Jezebel spirit in my life. The enemy couldn’t stop me from being born, so he had to try something else. He sent demons into my life from a young age.”
She started dressing like a boy and playing sports like a boy. She hated dress up and Barbies, “so I got made fun of a lot,” she says. “I was the girl who wore boys’ clothes. I dressed like a boy, I talked like a boy, I acted like a boy. I was openly gay and nobody wanted to be around that.”
While nobody wanted to sit with her at lunch in school, she lost herself in music, a talent she received from her birth parents, she says. Her adopted parents bought her a guitar.
In middle school, she fell into the wrong crowd, trying to fit in. “I started to lose myself, so I started to fall into deep depression. The enemy took advantage of my brokenness. I made friends with my demons and accepted that this is who I was.”
Trying to help, her adoptive parents got her a psychiatrist who prescribed meds for Arianna’s suicidal thoughts and mood swings.
“I let all the darkness on the inside reflect on the outside,” she says. “I was in such desperate need for love and affection, I got over-attached and obsessed” with a person.
She manifested violence and anger. Through the Baker Act, she was put in mental hospitals 13 times.
Never mind that Ryan Holets put aside his dream of being a missionary pilot to help save souls.
He got side-tracked by the Albuquerque police department, which he joined in 2011 as a step towards his goal. He got stuck being a cop.
“People like to think that the people who need help are the people over there,” he says on a True Crime Daily video. “They never stop and look around and say, ‘The people here need help.’”
When he approached a mother and dad shooting up heroin in September 2017 outside a convenience store, he noticed she was eight months pregnant.
His heart was torn. Babies born from drug-abusing mothers suffer birth defects and may be addicted outside the womb.
But one question bothered him most of all: How would the mother take care of the child?
“Are you pregnant?” he asked her, as recorded on his body camera video. “Why are going to be doing that stuff? It’s going to ruin your baby. You’re going to kill your baby.”
His admonishment brought Crystal Champ to heaving sobs.
“What do you think is going to happen to your baby after it’s born?” he asked.
“It’s going up for adoption,” she responded through tears.
That’s when the compassion of Jesus took over.
Instantly, Ryan realized what he would do. He would offer to adopt the child. She didn’t have anyone else lined up.
So instead of arresting her and hauling her off to jail, he pulled a picture of his wife and four other kids out and began talking to her tenderly. He began to win her confidence.
“I know my wife,” he told her right then and there. “I know she’ll say yes. We are willing to adopt your baby if that’s what you need.”
For Crystal, it seemed too good to be true. She agreed to meet Officer Ryan and his wife the next day.
Ryan had to prep Rebecca.
“Hey honey. I just have to let you know. I found this woman today. She was shooting up heroin, she’s pregnant and I offered to adopt the baby. I just want to let you know.”
They had already discussed adopting or becoming foster parents one day. But their youngest, Abigail, was 10 months old, and the rest of the kids were under five.
Notwithstanding, Rebecca wasn’t taken aback by the suddenness.
“Ok, let’s do this,” she responded promptly.
For her part, Crystal had searched Officer Ryan’s eyes on the day of the confrontation and lodged trust in him.
After dinner with Crystal and her partner, Tom, Ryan and Rebecca put the couple up in a hotel and provided for their needs. The baby came five weeks early. She had meth and heroin in her system and remained in the hospital for two weeks while going through withdrawals. Ryan and Rebecca took turns being with the baby.
As Ryan prayed for her and sang to her, the name of the baby came to him: Hope.
Rebecca readily assented. They both had so much hope for the child.
Ryan’s extraordinary measure flabbergasted his boss.
“This is an act that’s beyond anything I’d ever seen, and I’ll, probably never see it again,” says Sgt. Jim Edison. “I couldn’t believe it. I never met anyone so unselfish. I thought my job was to teach him, to make sure he goes home safe and makes mom proud. But here he was teaching me.”
The baby hasn’t had any complications since leaving the hospital, and the fifth child fits right in with her siblings.
Meanwhile, the Christian couple helped the birth parents also. Crystal enrolled in a rehab to straighten out her life. At the time of the video, they were sober and preparing to be productive members of society.
“We believe that everyone is redeemable,” Rebecca says. “Everyone is lost to some extent.”
The sergeant recommended him for a police department prize for excellent service to the community. When his letter was read to the all the cops in a staff meeting, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
When Melissa Ohden’s mom left the abortion clinic more than 30 years ago, she thought her fetus was disposed of properly.
She was a 19-year-old college student and was told the baby in her womb would ruin her life. She was pressured to “terminate the pregnancy” quickly and “conveniently,” and she followed their advice, according to her testimonial video on Eternal Word Television Network’s YouTube channel.
But baby Melissa didn’t die from the saline infusion of toxic water that was injected into the amniotic sack to kill her. She was removed from the womb very much alive.
Melissa weighed less than three pounds. After nurses sustained her with hospital care, she was adopted into a loving home.
“God had a plan,” she says.
Today Melissa is married and an outspoken critic of abortion who has testified before Congress. She documents the trials and travails of finding out the truth of her origin in the stirring book, You Carried Me: A Daughter’s memoir.
At 14, Melissa was told about her adoption. But the news that her biological mother had tried to kill her hit like a tsunami. Negative emotions were born and took root.
Under the crushing rejection of her biological mother, Melissa spun out of control with bulimia, alcohol and sexuality — all coping mechanisms to deal with the raw pain.
“It absolutely devastated my life,” she says. “I didn’t want anyone else to know how much I was hurting.”
How did she break the cycle of self-destruction?
“It was the grace of God that saved me,” she says. “I had to be willing to wake up and say, ‘I’m not going to do that’” anymore.
As she grew, married, and had children, Melissa kept thinking about her biological mom. Who was she? Under what circumstances did she resort to such a drastic procedure? What was she like?
She embarked on a quest to find her mother.
“I loved her,” she says. “My love for her deepens year after year. Now I know the truth of how she was forced into that abortion.”
Initially through correspondence, she began to get to know her mother, and she came to understand and forgive her mom, who suffered 30 years of agonizing guilt, hiding the painful memory of killing her child.
Her journey led her embrace her mother and feel empathy for all women who feel cornered into abortion, she says. Read the rest: abortion survivor meets her mom.
Hadiyah-Nicole Green lost her adoptive parents to cancer, so she threw herself into the study of physics to cope with her loss.
She became one of only 66 black women to earn a Ph.D. in physics in the United States between 1973 and 2012.
Hadiyah was born St. Louis, Missouri. She was orphaned at a very young age and raised by her aunt Oralee Smith and her uncle General Lee Smith, according to an NBC article.
She was always a strong student, studying at Alabama A&M University. After changing her major three times, she eventually decided on a degree in physics. She was the first in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
It was at this moment of elation and euphoria, when everybody was celebrating her academic success, that her aunt announced that she had cervical/ovarian cancer.
Hadiyah was crushed. Her aunt was essentially her mother. What good was the college degree if she couldn’t harvest the benefits and enjoy them with her close family?
But the prognosis was even more grim: she had already lived with the cancer for eight years but refused treatment. Her aunt rejected treatments because of the painful side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
“I didn’t understand it at first,” Hadiyah said.
Hadiyah took care of her for three months. Then Auntie died in 2005.
It was a huge blow.
Not too long afterward, her uncle was diagnosed with cancer as well. The difference was that her uncle received the treatment — and to confirm his wife’s concerns — the treatment was a horrible experience.
He’s played Wolverine, Blackbeard, the Greatest Showman and Paul the Apostle. Among his many roles, versatile actor Hugh Jackman is also a person of faith.
“I’m a Christian,” he told Parade magazine. “I was brought up very religious. I used to go to different evangelists’ [revival] tents all the time. When I was about 13, I had a weird premonition that I was going to be onstage, like the preachers I saw.”
His parents accepted Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade. Natives of England, mom and dad lived in Sydney, Australia during his childhood. He got a pretty good start in his faith with church and Sunday School, but the horizon dimmed when his parents divorced and mom returned to England when Hugh was 8.
He waited, hoped and prayed for them to reconcile. When that didn’t happen in his early teens, his disappointment and sense of rejection turned to rage.
“My anger didn’t really surface until I was 12 or 13,” he remembers. “It was triggered because my parents were going to get reconciled and didn’t. All those years I’d been holding out hope that they would.
“From the moment Mum left, I was a fearful kid who felt powerless. I used to be the first one home and I was frightened to go inside. I couldn’t go into the house on my own. I’d wait outside, scared, frustrated. Growing up I was scared of the dark. I was scared of heights. It limited me. I hated it, and that contributed to my anger. Isn’t most anger fear-based, ultimately? It emanates from some kind of powerlessness.”
Venting his wrath, he smashed his head into the metal locker doors until they dented inward. It was a bravado thing that a lot of boys were doing. Hugh also found an outlet for his violent impulses in rugby.
“I’d be somewhere in a ruck in rugby, get punched in the face and I’d just go into a white rage,” he says.
Acting was something of afterthought for Hugh. He was looking to pick up some units in college in his fourth year and took a drama class. Seeing natural talent in him, his teacher assigned him the leading role in Václav Havel’s The Memorandum.
“In that week, I felt more at home with those people than I did in the entire three years” at university,” he recalls.
He studied journalism and once tinkered with the idea of being a chef on a plane, but once he figured out he could actually make a living as an actor, he gave himself to drama.
He met his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, who is 12 years his senior, on the Australian TV show Correlli.
“I was terrified when I realized I had a crush on the star of the show. I was like, ‘My first job, the leading lady. Embarrassing. She’s going to look at me like this young little puppy.’ I didn’t talk to her for a week. Finally, she said, ‘Have I done something to annoy you?’ I said, “‘Look, I’ve got a crush on you. I’m sorry.” And she said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a crush on you too.’ And that was 20 years ago.”
They were married in 1996. For medical reasons, they were unable to have biological children, so the couple adopted two children, Oscar and Ava. When he played Blackbeard in the movie Pan, Hugh wanted to be sensitive in his role in a movie dealing with orphans.
Hugh has distanced himself from the straight-laced, dogmatic brand of Christianity of his father, he says.
“I was brought up with a very strict, Protestant view of what God is and our place next to God, consisting of a deity, a bearded man telling us what to do, mocking us on our behavior, and hopefully granting us passage into Heaven,” he says.
He’s adopted a more unorthodox approach, practices Transcendental Meditation and yoga and attends the School of Practical Philosophy, a swami-led group that combines the teachings of Jesus with a hodgepodge of Hinduism, Buddhism and even Shakespeare.
Joy Villa always turns heads at the Grammy’s, but in January observers wondered if she went too far, too political, when she sported a white gala dress hand-painted with an 8-month-old fetus surrounded by a rainbow womb with the words on her matching purse: “Choose Life.”
Villa — who among entertainers was a rare supporter of Trump with a “Make America Great Again” evening gown in the 2017 Grammys — shared that her motive to brazenly flout normative Hollywood politics was that she herself, pregnant at 20, alone and frightened, made the “most difficult and important decision of my life,” she wrote for Fox News. “I decided to carry my baby to term and then give her up for adoption to a loving family. I put her life over mine. It wasn’t easy. Every day was a struggle.”
Today Villa has an estimated net worth of $3 million. Her song (non-Christian) “I make the static” spiked charts at #1 after her MAGA/Trump publicity stunt. She lives comfortably in New York with her husband, Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard.
But her life wasn’t always gold and glitter.
“I was penniless, far from home and trapped in an abusive, toxic relationship with a man who had become a shadow of what he once was,” Villa wrote. “At 19 I fell in love with an older man who was very kind hearted with a good heart, but once he began using drugs our relationship quickly became a nightmare. The same arms that once held and protected me were weaponized; night after night, I’d hide in a corner, terrified of being beaten.”
She worked in entertainment but hadn’t achieved success, so she found herself at the mercy of a merciless man. When the contraception failed, she found herself in a clinic with a nurse pressuring her to avail herself of the easy escape.
“She told me, ‘We can do it now, it’ll make it all go away. I’ve had several abortions, in fact all three of my daughters have had several. You are too young to have kids. This is the best choice for you,'” Villa shared. “I had never considered abortion, I wanted to stay and make things right with the father, to have a real family. (The nurse) had already made my choice for me.”
The pressure from a “medical professional” warped her mind.
“I couldn’t stop crying: I had a beautiful baby growing inside of me,” Villa recalled. “For many women, becoming pregnant is a dream come true, but I was overcome with guilt, agony and shame.”
But Villa gathered courage to defy the urgings of so many people. Read the rest of Joy Villa abortion.
As she vaulted, tumbled and dismounted, the daring and graceful 14-year-old Dominique Moceanu stole America’s heart as she helped the “Magnificent Seven” win America’s first team gold in women’s gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics.
Little did fans realize that behind the winsome waif was a nightmare life of overbearing Romanian coaches and an iron-fisted dad who would ultimately drive her to derail her gymnastic career, rebel against her parents and fall into rave parties and drugs, her autobiography Off Balance reveals.
When, at 17, she sued her abusive dad to legally “emancipate” herself, tabloids accused her being a spoiled brat. The gymnastics facility her dad built with her million dollar earnings eventually shuttered as her world unraveled.
Dominique Moceanu with the sister she never knew. Jennifer Bricker, born without legs, was adopted by a strong Christian family.
But none of this shook her as much as the revelation that she had a secret sister. Her Romanian immigrant parents had efficiently disposed of their third daughter, born with no legs, through the American adoption system.
“I was overcome with emotion,” Dominique told Christianity Today. “I was enraged, I was so upset that I had been lied to by omission for 20 years and for all that time I didn’t know and we were missing out on somebody’s life.”
She was 26 years old, married, pregnant and studying for final exams at college when the package arrived with a letter, pictures and adoption papers to demonstrate its sender was not just a fan trying to get an audience.
“You have been my idol all my life, and you turned out to be my sister!” the letter gushed.
Jennifer Bricker, adopted by a strong Christian family, had been raised to never use her disability as an excuse. She was strangely drawn to gymnastics and even won Illinois’ state high school tumbling championship. From an early age, she loved Dominique on the television and felt a strange connection to her.
“All the dots were connected from above, because all of this is too unbelievable to have it be just coincidence,” Dominique said. “Jennifer is very faithful, and we believe that God was leaving clues so she could find (me) one day.” Read the rest of the article.