Tag Archives: Brooklyn

He sought Allah. He found Jesus.

hazem farraj with adelle nazHis father brought American-born Hazem Farraj back to Jerusalem to teach him the ways of Islam. But the then-12-year-old stunned his parents by adopting a different path, one that would lead to his family’s rejection.

Farraj committed himself to his father’s plan to rediscover his roots. But the more he prayed and practiced the rituals of Islam, the more his doubts grew.

“If you’re praying to Allah, and you don’t see no response from Allah, then you need to figure out who’s listening or who’s answering that prayer,” he says on a Road to Jesus video. “That’s what I had to do. Praying prayers to heaven it was like heaven was brass. They would fall back to me. I was searching.”

But in his quest to know Allah, he grew frustrated and angry. “It made me mad because here we came as a family halfway around the globe from America to the Middle East,” he says, “and the god I came to follow was not responding.”

It only made him angrier to meet upstairs neighbors in his building that were Christian. Why did they have joy and peace while Farraj had nothing? He describes the one and a half years quest for truth as “an identity crisis.”

hazem farraj“I was getting trained culturally as a Muslim, but the Islam I found shocked me,” he says. “Instead of running into the god of Islam, I found Jesus.”

The upstairs neighbors smiled a lot. They were nice. They showed love.

They projected the image of God in their faces, and it bothered Farraj. So one day he challenged the family’s father, who was legally blind. Why hadn’t Jesus, if He were real, healed him?

The man explained everything Jesus had done for him. They talked for four hours. Farraj was intrigued but not ready to relinquish the faith of his upbringing.

Some weeks later, the family invited him to McDonald’s — with a catch: first they were going to church. Would he come with them?

hazem farraj palestinian christian“I was observing all the happy Christians raising their hands and worshiping God, singing to someone they knew was real. To see these people happy and so alive in Jesus was a shocker,” he says.

But then the grave warnings against abandoning Islam reared their monstrous memory in his mind. He was attracted to the Light but fighting it every step of the way.

Farraj left the church and went down to the first floor, where he knelt to Mecca and prayed his Islamic prayers. It was no good.

“When you taste something so sweet and then you taste something so bitter, the bitter became so bitter. So that’s what happened in this prayer,” Farraj says. “I went from this amazing, glorious presentation of a God who loves His people and the people who loved their God to praying and hearing crickets.

“At that point I was so angry. I finished my prayers on my knees, and I said with tears rolling down my face, ‘Whoever you are, whether you are the god of the Koran, I’m needing you to do something because I’m being lost to this Jesus I sure as heck hope that you see this struggle because I’m losing this one, man. I’m trying to do your job and this is not working out. I’m trying to hold on to Islam by the skin of my teeth, wanting it to be real.”

After pledging his loyalty to Allah and asking for help, he considered the possibility of the legitimacy of the antithesis.

“But if you are Jesus who these people are happy believing, whatever the truth is, I’m going to find it.”

He returned to the service.

“I got up and went to sit back in my pew, and I wasn’t angry anymore and I was appreciating that these people were in a place in their relationship with God that I was desiring for so long.”

The next day, he climbed the stairs to talk with the blind father.

Farraj attempted to say, “I want to become a Christian,” but fear kept him from pronouncing the word “Christian.” For 40 minutes, he tried but could only pronounce the “c” sound. Finally the father told him he had to leave, and if he wanted to complete the sentence, he needed to do so immediately.

Farraj gathered all his strength, focused his energies and ripped the words out: “I want to become a Christian.”

Two days later at the appointed time, Farraj accepted Jesus into his heart and became born-again. It was a feeling like no other.

“I literally wanted to jump, scream, shout,” he says. “I didn’t want the Christians to think I was crazy. I literally had to tame my spirit. I was set free. My countenance changed completely. My life changed.” But his Dad was not happy. Find out what happened by finishing the read: Palestinian converted to Christianity.

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St. John was losing basketball games, so coach Chris Mullin told his players about the time he was losing to alcoholism

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaulTo help his team snap an 11-game losing streak and stun #1-ranked Villanova, Coach Chris Mullin pulled a skeleton out his closet of personal failures and revealed his battle with alcoholism.

“Where do you think I was on this date 30 years ago,” he told his players, who were languishing in last place in the Big East Conference, lost in basketball oblivion.

The players, depressed in doldrums of dearth, responded mostly by looking blankly at him, the New York Times reported.

The answer? Thirty years prior, the millionaire NBA player was kicked off the Warriors squad and thrown into a bedraggled rehab with homeless winos, heroin addicts and crack heads in the middle of L.A.’s gangland. On his first night at the AA 12-step, after the speaker droned on about an alcoholic’s powerlessness to kick the habit, gangsters in a van drove past and strafed the church building with automatics. “Damn, I’m trying to get sober here, not get killed,” Mullin thought.

12-chris-mullin.w710.h473.2xFour years later, Mullin was on the Dream Team that swept the Barcelona Olympics. Fellow teammate Magic Johnson said of him: “When God made basketball. He just carved Chris Mullin out and said, ‘This is a player.’”

But to pull himself out of the mire, he needed to endure the month-long program of 6-hour group therapy sessions with uninspiring cast of rehab mates. Then he had to drive back to the Golden State training court and fight, humbly but forcefully, for his place on the team — a feat that five other previous addiction-afflicted players had failed to do.

St. John is where Mullin started his trajectory; he took the New York university to the Final Four in 1985 as a star player. His signing as coach in 2015 was supposed to restore glory. Instead, in his third year, the Red Storm lost 14 games, his program in a malaise of ongoing roster turnover as developing prospects transferred and significant signings fizzled.

Dream_Team_2_641x405But then in February, sophomore point guard Shamorie Ponds and crew pulled off the improbable: they beat #4-ranked Duke. Then, the impossible: they defeated Villanova 79-75 on Feb. 7. Suddenly, the nation was asking about St. John.

The story of Mullin’s life — and the story of his team — is a story of redemption.

The Irish Catholic credits God: “Faith is everything,” he told Organic Catholics. “My Catholic upbringing I rely on daily. If you live a good life, good things will happen.”

Mullin was born in Brooklyn. With a passion for basketball, he took the subway all over New York City to find the most ferocious competition. Frequently, the palest player found it in the African American neighborhoods.

“For me, going up to a neighborhood if I had a bad game, I might not be allowed to come back,” Mullin said in the New York Daily News. “That was real pressure.”

legends-chris-mullinWith his hustle, ace shooting and unwillingness to be intimidated, the young Mullin gave them reason to learn his name.

During summers, Mullin attended local basketball camps at nearby St. John’s University. Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca spotted his talent and saw his raw hunger. A relationship began to form, and signing for the school was a natural choice for the Brooklyn native. He won the Big East Player of the Year three times.

A first round pick of the 1985 draft, Mullin carted across the country to the Warriors. He was lonely and called home excessively. By his third season, his alcoholism was taking a toll. He was overweight and missed practices. Coach Don Nelson gave him an ultimatum: shape up or his suspension would become expulsion.

Christian actor Denzel Washington portrays evil characters as a lesson

 

denzel-washington-handsomestEven as a child of the Light, Denzel Washington hasn’t shied away from playing children of darkness, and his latest collaboration with Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy is no exception – even as it carries a warning to avoid the enticements of evil.

“God put us together,” Washington told the Gospel Herald. “We prayed every day, we read the daily Word every day. Dan and I have been prayer partners in this whole collaboration. We were on the same page from day one. We know Who we work for, and we’re just trying to do our best work.”

Washington is a vocal Christian, whereas Gilroy maintains a low profile regarding his faith.

In the film Roman J. Israel, Esq., Washington plays a bumbling, autistic lawyer, who is a law genius but socially awkward. The crux of the plot centers on the moment when Israel loses his idealism and sells out to become rich. As cynicism takes over, his life spirals downward.

Just before he’s killed by a rival’s henchmen, he sees how his life, before giving up self-sacrificing heroics, impacted others positively. The movie is a parable to anyone who has quit pursuing noble goals, whether a disgraced pastor or 1960s activist.

denzel-washington-christian-roman-j-israelThe son of a Pentecostal preacher in New York, Washington once considered becoming a pastor, but he decided he could reach more people through his acting. That might seem an odd choice since his father didn’t let him watch movies as a kid, but Washington found that his gift for acting was given by God.

“I speak now and I’m doing what God told me to do from the beginning,” Washington said. “It was prophesied that I would travel the world and preach to millions of people. It was prophesied when I was 20. I thought it was through my work and it has been. I’m all about the message, to the degree that I know it, and I’m unashamed and unafraid to share it.”

Pastor A.R. Bernard, senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, helped him understand his calling, Washington said. Pastor Bernard spoke to him from Daniel chapter 10: “God puts leaders in place for a reason and a season… There’s a reason, you may not like what’s going on but the Boss has a reason.”

The 62-year-old actor has won two Academy Awards and has a long list of credits dating back to the 1970s that include Cry Freedom and Malcom X. While filming a T.V. movie, Washington met Pauletta Pearson, whom he married in 1983. The couple reside in Los Angeles and have four children.

About his latest role, Washington said he was drawn to the moral and psychological complexities of Israel.

“He is Old Testament, he knows the law, but, not to say he doesn’t have faith, but he has faith in the law,” he said. “His conviction was through the law.”

If he doesn’t balk at depicting evil on the screen, Washington also doesn’t falter from being a spokesperson for clean-living and loving God. Read the rest of Denzel Washington Christian.