Tag Archives: Faith

A water roller coaster

no-bullies-christian-high-schoolMost people think of camping as something they would never want to experience: Sleeping on the dank ground, eating only unsavory camp food, days without showering and nothing to do. But going on a trip at Lighthouse Christian Academy will change that.

I came to the Lighthouse when I was in seventh grade. They also offer the rafting trip to the students who attend our gradeschool counterpart the Lighthouse Church School, but it wasn’t until my freshman year that I decided to go on the rafting trip. What shocked me was the lack of people that wanted to go. With the urging of Mrs. Lisa Clancy, I decided to go and had a great time.

rafting-tripNow during my sophomore year, the trip rolled around and no one seemed like they wanted to go. Granted some people had other engagements but the group of people that went was small.

Even though the group was small, it was a fun time. The drive to the campsite seemed short because you bonded with the people in the car — or slept. When we arrived at the campsite, all of us from the Santa Monica Christian school were all taken aback by the breathtaking nature around us.

The campsite that the school goes to every year was better than any campsite I had been to before. There was indoor plumbing, a pool, and a small shop if you wanted to buy snacks. This made the camping part of the trip so much easier.

The rafting part of the trip was both frightening and entertaining. We rafted one of the more harder rivers, and though some people had a better time than others, the scared feeling before you rafted is worth it. There is an adrenaline rush you feel when you’re riding a literal water roller coaster. Read the rest of the rafting trip story.

After seeing the sex slave market, ISIS recruit flees terror group

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By Jamie Roman

After seeing ISIS capture and sell Muslim women as sex slaves, recruit Abu Abdullah defected and told his story on a YouTube video uploaded by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism.

Wearing a black head covering the effectively masks his identity, Abdullah tells how he was drawn to ISIS because of the chance to live the golden age of authentic Islam, as written in the Koran.

former-isis-fighter-recounts-horrorsBut after seeing jihadis bid for women on the auction block, he now utterly disavows the extremist group that is progressively losing the territory they seized between Iraq and Syria in 2014.

“As a brother in the faith, I swear to Allah: they don’t know anything about Islam,” he says in Arabic, according to translated subtitles. “They are not Islamic. They are not really Muslims.”

sex-slaves-on-auction-block-isisAs a new recruit, Abu was made a prison guard. Almost immediately, the hoped-for utopia was a madhouse of hellish Vikings where pillaging and raping is condoned as hallah, permissible.

“They turn women into slaves,” he says. “They take the girls as slaves and behead the parents. Then they sell the girls.”

What disturbed Abu most was the auctioning off of Muslim women. A literal interpretation of the Koran allows for captured women to be war spoils as long as she is not Muslim. But ISIS, who are sunnis, expanded that permission to include Muslims of a different type, perhaps shia.

“Is it OK for a Muslim woman to become a sex slave?” he asks. “In what religion can a woman be a slave?”

As he narrates, clips are shown of clandestinely-filmed videos of women slaves and ISIS fighters joking about getting girls. The video is part of a series by ICSVE, a Washington-based collective of researchers dedicated to countering extremism in any religion. Their website clarifies that they have no government sponsorship, and they don’t collaborate with spy agencies. It is not a Christian group.

He personally saw the auction block. Iraqi women were up for sale that day.

“Some of the brothers tried to get me to take a woman,” Abdullah says. “I told them, ‘This isn’t right.’ He said, ‘She is a slave, so it is halal.’ I told him, ‘Don’t you know those are Muslim women?”

Abu made the extremely risky decision to escape from ISIS. If he were caught, he would be executed. But Abu made it to freedom, by means he doesn’t tell in the video, and he’s unmasking the rapists masquerading a faithful followers of Islam.

“In the anme of Allah, the most merciful, the most gracious, I address my brothers and all young people, Europeans and Arabs, don’t join ISIS,” he says grimly. “They know nothing about Islam.”

Launched in July of 2015, ICSVE is taking to the same social media that ISIS uses to entice new recruits.

“Given the prolific use of media by terrorist organizations such as ISIS to spur their global reach and propaganda, fighting ISIS and similar groups in the digital and information realm has become a major pillar of our research activities,” the website declares. “We take pride in our field-based research and evidence-based educational video materials that are carefully crafted t counter the efforts of extremist and terrorist organizations to publicize their propaganda and garner support for violence.”

This article was written by Jamie Roman. It was intended to be published on God Reports, but my editor simply didn’t publish it or explain what his intentions were with it, despite the fact that he assigned the article. After waiting weeks for a response, I decided simply to publish it here. Jamie Roman completed this assignment for extra credit at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Joy of teaching

Christian-school-Los-Angeles

The greatest joy of teaching is NOT seeing heads full of knowledge but hearts full of Jesus. Of course, we do (try to) cram in a lot of studies into these youthful brains. We do (try to) prepare them for 4-year institutions. But sending them off to make millions and lose their soul is NOT what we are about.

Lighthouse Christian Academy has been my plowing terrain for six years, and another school year has concluded. Since I got off the mission field, it has been my mission field in America. We give the kids Bible and love. It turns out a lot of studies need love, and a lot of students want the Bible.

I taught U.S. Literature and A.P. Spanish this semester (and journalism). The kids learned about unforgiveness through The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick and A Cask of Amontillado. They learned about transcendentalism, realism, modernism and post-modernism. They really got the chance to see if they want hopelessness to be their life compass.

What can I say about Spanish? Resulta que nunca nadie se esfuerza tanto como yo quisiera. Es difícil porque tratamos de reducir tres cursos de un año a tres semestres y ni modo los resultados no alcanzan mi esperanza. Pero todavía espero que ganen el examen de A.P.

And journalism? That’s always a favorite for me, though I think I put more effort into it than the students. Oh well.

A toast to all my fellow teachers out there.

 

Joyce Meyer overcame rape

Joyce_MeyerJoyce Meyer, one of America’s most prominent Christian speakers and authors, overcame sexual abuse by her father.

“My father did rape me, numerous times, at least 200 times,” she told Charisma Magazine.

Meyer, a down-to-earth public speaker with a high-flying prosperity gospel ministry, finally broke years of silence in 2012 by revealing her childhood trauma. She decided she needed to share her testimony to help others suffering similar hurts.

“I was sexually, mentally, emotionally and verbally abused by my father as far back as I can remember until I left home at the age of 18,” she said. “He did many terrible things…some which are too distasteful for me to talk about publicly. But I want to share my testimony because so many people have been hurt, and they need to realize that someone has made it through their struggles.”

Meyer grew up in St. Louis, Missouri with a dad who “was born in the hills — way back in the hills. In his family, incest was just part of the culture,” she told Charisma.

joyce meyer rapedAt age 9, she told her mother what happened. But mom did nothing. When Meyer was 14, her mom caught her dad in the act. But mom was emotionally incapable of confronting the situation and left instead.

In response to her trauma, Meyer accepted Jesus in a local church at age 9. But her mind was in a state of confusion. Shortly after graduating from high school, she married a part-time car salesman, who cheated on her and persuaded her to embezzle from her employer. After she divorced him, she married her current husband, Dave Meyer, an engineering draftsman in 1967, according to Wikipedia.

Then one day in 1976 she was praying intensely while driving to work and heard God call her name. She describes what she felt as “liquid love” flowing from God. The emotional experience was the start of a closer walk with God that would bring her into ministry.

With a no-nonsense folksy style that ingratiated her with her audiences, Meyer rose quickly through the ministerial ranks in ever-larger churches until she resigned to launch her own ministry in 1985. “Life in the Word” began with broadcasts on six radio stations from Chicago to Kansas City. In 1993, she and her husband launched a television ministry.

joyce meyer ministriesMeanwhile, her book-writing ministry also prospered. Publishing house Hachette Book paid Meyer more than $10 million for the rights to her backlist catalog of independently released books in 2002, according to Wikipedia.

On the outside, things were going well. On the inside, Meyer had to deal with the emotional scars from her childhood.

“I was so profoundly ashamed because of this,” Meyer said. “I was ashamed of me, and I was ashamed of my father and what he did. I was also constantly afraid. There was no place I ever felt safe growing up. I don’t think we can even begin to imagine what kind of damage this does to a child.

“At school I pretended I had a normal life, but I felt lonely all the time and different from everyone else. I never felt like I fit in, and I wasn’t allowed to participate in after-school activities, go to sports events or parties or date boys. Many times I had to make up stories about why I couldn’t do anything with my classmates. For so long I lived with pretense and lies.

“What I learned about love was actually perversion,” she added. “My father told me what he did to me was special and because he loved me. He said everything he did was good, but it had to be our secret because no one else would understand and it would cause problems in the family.”

Meyer eventually reached a place in her life when she knew she had to forgive her father.

“I’m happy to say that God gave me the grace completely, 100%, forgive my father,” she said in YouTube video. Read the rest about Joyce Meyer rape.

‘Earthquake’ Kelley’s visit to Hell: Haitian voodoo priest converts to Christ

EarthquakeKelley-hFrom a very young age, Curtis “Earthquake” Kelley was designated as his father’s successor in Haitian voodoo, but after he visited hell on a drug overdose, he decided to turn to God.

Curtis’ great, great grandfather emigrated from Ireland to Haiti — then called Hispaniola. But slaves invoked witchcraft and his crops failed, so he moved to Texas with four slaves. From one of the slaves, he fathered Curtis’ grandfather, according to his testimony on YouTube.

His father moved to New York and had six children. When mom got pregnant with Curtis, dad tried to force her to abort. She was unwilling, so he kicked and beat her trying to provoke a miscarriage.

freedom from occult“God saw to it that He spared my life,” he said.

Curtis at age 4 watched his older brothers shoot up heroin and wanted to try. But his brothers wouldn’t let him, so he figured out how to “huff” on his own. At 6, he smoked marijuana. At 10, he snorted cocaine.

His family was steeped in voodoo. A priestess working for his father infiltrated church meetings and invited Christians to her own meetings offering potions and spells for jilted spouses, material wealth and love. Because Curtis was seventh-born in his house, he was a “chosen vessel.”

He lusted for power and money and began to learn paranormal techniques for casting night terror, but involvement in the occult opened him up to many torments. The priestess taught him not only witchcraft, but how to manipulate clients and keep them coming back with only partial relief.

“She took advantage of people,” Curtis said. “People believed that if God took too long, the occult would bring a quick fix. She would charge $20. That was a lot of money back then. I would watch husband after husband, boyfriend after boyfriend, come back.”

The priestess had a doll that conversed; a demon inside produced the poltergeist, he said.

“It told her what person was coming each night and what problem they had,” Curtis said. “Every time she would ‘prophe-lie’ — I call it ‘prophe-lie,’ not prophesy — the people would just throw money at her.”

She set up fetishes in his room, but that produced horrifying spectacles.

“I would see these demons coming through the floor and running around my room,” he said. “One day I was laying on my bed and felt it shaking. I turned on the light and looked underneath my bed and saw my dad. His skin tone was green and he was all scaly. He came out and smiled, and then he dived right through the floor. I got freaked out. I was so scared. I said, ‘What is this? I didn’t know all this was involved in this. What am I into?’ Read the rest of Curtis Earthquake Kelley.

Mum shut out by school, clinic, courts from helping her son not rush into gender change

Anmarie_CalgaroA divorced mother was completely left out of the decision-making process while her teenage son, living on his own, sought and obtained help from the school and health authorities to “transition” to the female gender.

Anmarie Calgaro, of Iron Junction, Minnesota, was shocked in November to learn that her son was taking female hormone therapy, a year-long process prior to a “gender-reassignment” surgery — all aided by government agencies who never bothered to consult or inform her.

Just last week, a federal judge dismissed her lawsuit as “meritless.” She had sued doctors, social services and the St. Louis County School District for usurping her rights and responsibilities as a parent.

ejk“We are pleased that this outcome supports her (the “transgender” teen’s) access to essential health care and other critical service,” said Asaf Orr, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Transgender Youth Project in San Francisco who aided the minor.

Enter the government. Exit the family.

Now 17, the youth, identified in court documents as E.J.K., “came out” as gay at age 13 and moved in with his dad — with permission from his mom — at age 15. But when his father was jailed, he moved in with relatives and friends and eventually got his own apartment.

E.J.K. portrayed his parents in court documents as unstable and substance-abusing, saying his mother became abusive after he told her he was homosexual. Later, the mom didn’t want to have anything to do with him when he lived on his own, he alleged.

But Calgaro said this portrayal is a distortion that was coached by gay activists.

“The news that county agencies and health service providers, the school, and other county and state officers were completely bypassing me came as a total shock.” Calgaro said in the UK Daily Mail. “Why wasn’t I even notified?”

In November, Calgaro sued for financial damages the school district, the principal of her son’s high school, the director of the county’s Health and Human Services agency and two nonprofit health clinics. Calgaro also wanted to regain parental control of E.J.K. and prevent healthcare providers from offering any further treatment.

At the center of the case was whether E.J.K. became an “emancipated” minor, a legal term for a teenager who has earned the right to act as adult on his own behalf due to abuse, neglect or criminal activity of parents. Gay advocates argued that E.J.K. qualified under Minnesota law because he had rented his own apartment, worked a job while studying in high school and essentially took care of himself.

But this “emancipation” was never granted by court order, Life Site News reported.

“If there had been a court order of emancipation, then Anmarie would have received notice and an opportunity to be heard,” Calgaro’s attorney Erick Kaardal of the Thomas More Society explained. “The U.S. Constitution says that parental rights are fundamental rights, that can’t be terminated without due process.

“Her minor child has been piloted by third parties through a life-changing, permanent body-altering process by organizations that have no legal authority over him, and that have denied his own mother access,” Kaardal said. Read the rest of: mom lost suit transgender son.

6 albums, tours, pastoring, a family — and Trip Lee sleeps 18 hours a day due to chronic fatigue syndrome?

triplee_rise1In the middle of his sophomore year at college, Trip Lee got hit by overwhelming exhaustion that caused him to sleep 18 hours a day. He started failing his entire academic course load.

After seeing many doctors they discovered he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious debilitating disorder that afflicts a million Americans. Ultimately, he dropped out of college.

Trip-Lee-95% preacherIn spite of the ups and downs of his condition, Trip Lee has managed to grind out six rap albums, pastor a church in Atlanta, write books, tour and still have time for his wife and two kids.

The fatigue “is the hardest part of every area of my life,” he told Parle magazine. “It’s the hardest part of my marriage, it’s the hardest part about my music, hardest part about pastoring, everything.”

Born William Lee Barefield III, Trip grew up in a well-to-do family in a part of Dallas where everybody said they were Christian. He asked Jesus into his heart as a tyke but didn’t understand it until at 14, under the preaching of his youth pastor, he comprehended the concepts of sin, judgment and atonement.

trip leeHe confirmed his earlier decision to be a Christian and began to voraciously read the Bible to understand how it would apply to his life.

He had a knack for whipping out rhymes and gradually felt he should dedicate his hiphop talent in service of the Lord. In 2004, when he was in high school, he met Lecrae at a concert, and the godfather of Christian rap took him under his wings and mentored him. He signed with Reach Records and released his debut album, “If They Only Knew,” a few days after his high school graduation in 2006. He became a founding member of the 116 clique, a Texas group of rappers who took their name from Romans 1:16 in which Paul boasts he’s not ashamed of the gospel. “Unashamed” became a song name and a motif through their music.

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With his wife and kids.

He enrolled in Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where he enjoyed studying. “I’m a little nerdy,” he said.

But he was still afflicted by Chronic Fatigue. Sometimes his body would shut down and he was forced to lie prostrate in bed for long periods of time. His health challenges severely impacted his Biblical studies major. He wants to be more active, but his body rebels.

“At times, it’s been a disaster,” he told the Washington Times. “My body’s wrecked. My family’s strained. Church life is strained. People don’t see me for weeks when my body crashes.”

trip-lee-press-2012-2There have been times when he’s gathered his favorite talent to help him in the creation of a new album — and he has to put them all on hold. When he’s sleeping 16 hours some days, how does he get anything done?

“He was a trooper,” Gawvi said in Rapzilla. “He really worked so hard where, there were moments when everyone in the studio would tell him, ‘Trip, you need to go take a nap. You need to go rest your body.’ … I haven’t seen a man work so hard on an album.”

While he didn’t pick up a degree in college, he did pick up a wife. Jessica took some of the same classes and walked in the same circles. They saw each other at church. He admired her passion for Jesus. He was passionate too — so much so that she was a bit taken aback by his commitment to purity and the steps he took to guard his heart. The couple married in 2009. They now have a daughter, Selah, and a son, Q.

Trip’s songs regularly rank in the top Billboard 200. He was nominated for two Dove Awards and won the Stellar Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2011, according to Wikipedia. His penultimate album Rise chugged through iTunes sales at 3rd.

Christian rap slaps you across the face with a refreshing candor. Rappers hit head-on the issues facing their communities; they confront sin without apology. And Trip is no exception. Read the rest of the article about Trip Lee Christian.

The cure, not the curse

the-curePeople today reject morality imposed by others. That’s fine.

If you don’t want to follow the Bible, that’s your choice. But you might want the heads up. There are consequences to sin. There is slavery and addiction. Your decisions lead you somewhere. If you flout the manual of the factory, then don’t get mad if things break.

We live a fallen world under a curse. To the extent we escape sin and live in God’s forgiveness, we live in God’s blessing.

Donnie McClurkin’s struggles and triumphs

Donnie-McClurkinGospel music legend Donnie McClurkin struggled with homosexuality, following a childhood marred by molestation and rejection.

Born in Amityville, South Carolina, Donnie was one of 10 kids growing up in poverty. His “living hell” started at age 8, when his 2-year-old brother got run over and killed by a car.

Mom blamed Donnie. The tyke chased Donnie into the street in front of their house. Donnie watched in horror as a car barreled into his brother, who bounced off the bumper and disappeared beneath the vehicle.

mcclurkinfamily“You killed my baby!” his mom shrieked after the funeral.

From that moment in his life, Donnie began to suffer depression and his family fell apart. While staying at an uncle’s house, he was raped at age 8.

“It was a thing that made my life a living hell,” he recalls. “An 8-year-old can’t handle it, and it sparks something in an 8-year-old that’s not supposed to spark until puberty. Things start popping in an 8-year-old mind that doesn’t happen in normal 8-year-old minds, because the Pandora’s Box was opened, and you can’t close it after that.”

He was raped a second time at age 13, this time by a cousin.

His experience in school was difficult as well. He had webbed hands and feet that made him clumsy for sports. He couldn’t dribble, hit or catch a ball.

But he liked singing, sang often in church, and learned to play the piano.

donnie mcclurkin nicole mullenAt home, domestic violence was a regular occurrence. The police visited his family on several occasions. His older siblings started using drugs and arguing with mom. He acquired effeminate habits, which he blamed on being surrounded by a “sea of women.”

Today, Donnie has declared himself “ex-gay,” which he credits to a powerful deliverance from God.  He is engaged to be married to fellow musician Nicole Mullen, according to numerous reports.

Famous for his songs “Stand” and “We Fall Down,” Donnie has won three Grammy Awards, ten Stellar Awards, two BET Awards, two Soul Train Awards, one Dove Award and one NAACP Image Awards. He is one of the top selling Gospel music artists, with more than 10 million albums sold worldwide. He is currently the senior pastor of the Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York.

Homosexuals were disappointed when Donnie refused to be acknowledged as one of their own. In 2001, Donnie wrote about his homosexual attraction in a blog post.

“I was not born with these sexual tendencies. It wasn’t chromosomal and had nothing to do with my DNA,” he wrote, according to the Daily Mail. “These tendencies surfaced because a broken man thrust an 8-year-old boy into this whirlwind. Thus my first sexual relationship was with a man. Before I could ever know the purpose or pleasure of a woman, have my first date or even my first kiss, the wound was inflicted, and the seed was planted.” Read the rest about Donnie McClurkin’s struggles.

Resurrect your potential, not your problems

resurrection

Too often, I “resurrect” my problem. I mull them, overthink them. I need to learn to stop, to “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

A much more productive thinking mode would be “resurrect” your potential. Expel the negative thinking from the mind and fill it full of positive thinking. Fill it with prayer and praise, not rehearsings of conversations gone awry.

As sure as negative thoughts lead to negative actions, so do positive thoughts.

Left him in the dust

santa-monica-trackBy Abraham Morales, LCA junior

My experience on the track team has been really awesome!

I’ve never been on a track team before, so I was excited about the first couple of meets on behalf of the  Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

I always get complimented on how fast I can run, so this year I decided to join the team. This is my junior year.

Christian-school-track-Santa-MonicaTurns out I’m not too bad. I ran my 100 meter dash in 12.57 seconds and my 400 meter dash in 59.44 seconds.

Because this is my first year, I wasn’t really sure on what to expect, but everything was so much fun! I never thought I could beat in a race Levi, one of our fastest runners. But with a dedicated mindset and some training, I was able to gain confidence and leave him in the dust. Read the rest about LCA’s track team.

Mustard Seed Budget’s Note: Abraham Morales is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Christian school in Santa Monica. It’s so small that we rejoice over every small accomplishment.

Move over, Jesus Freaks. Here come the Jesus Geeks.

code for the kingdomJust the mention of the word “hacker” evokes the image of the online netherworld, of spies surreptitiously downloading blueprints of the latest stealth fighter or shutting down power grids.

Now are there Christian hackers?

Apparently so. Since 2014, Code of the Kingdom has held 44 weekend “hackathons” worldwide for programmers to help non-profits. Around 100 technologists compete for $10,000 in prizes while tackling the ills of the world. They’ve launched an app to fight human exploitation and streamlined access to social services for the homeless.

christian coders“We write code and create technology to help release the oppressed, teach God’s Word, heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and support the church and the body of Christ,” their website declares.

Hackathons are nothing new; they gather topnotch coders to brainstorm solutions in marathon sessions that harness the collective nerd power of diverse professionals. What is different about Code for the Kingdom is the participants’ undergirding faith. Some 4,000 techies worldwide have participated so far.

christian hackathon“I wanted to be in a place where there’s a stronger connection between my work and my faith,” Kristen Stark told GeekWire. She’s an engineer at Midfin Systems in Redmond, California. “We love Jesus and other people and want to help them. Helping the users and offering them alternatives by showing that others care for their underlying needs is a very Christian approach to intervention.”

Their weekday jobs are for Amazon, Google, Microsoft and a slew of startups. Then on select weekends throughout the year, they gather in Seattle; Nashville; Cali, Columbia; Bangalore, India; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; London; Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila, Philippines; La Paz, Bolivia — in all 32 cities in 12 countries.

Finish reading the article on Jesus Geeks.

From Russia to love: Another KGB agent turns into Christ’s agent

Jack, seine Frau Shawna und seine Tochter Trinity zuhausFinally, the FBI caught up with Jack Barsky – and so did God.

For 19 years, Barsky spied on America for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and for Russia after. His job was to infiltrate U.S. society and get close to security officials and pry information from them. And the “sleeper agent” went undetected until May 1997 when the FBI at long last pulled him over.

His marriage to an American was unraveling. Years later, when he married Shawna, a devout Christian from Jamaica, God caught up with him too.

“I came to terms with (the fact that) I did a lot of bad things – never mind breaking laws,” Barsky told Glenn Beck. “I hurt people. I did bad things. I served a bad cause. And I realized goodness doesn’t come from inside. I always thought of myself as a good person. (But I learned) there is no morality with God.”

at age 22 when he was DittrichBarsky was born Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany in 1949. In college studying chemistry, he proved he had a brilliant mind and a matching hauteur. When the KGB approached him to work as a spy in America, it conjured an inner ubermensche. “I could see the world and I didn’t have to go by the usual rules — I would be above the law,” he told Der Spiegel.

In East Germany, Dittrich learned secret handwriting, Morse code and how to lose a tail. In Moscow, he devoured English mastering 100s of words daily.

He was shipped off to America in 1978 with $6,000 in his bags and instructions to assume the position of a businessman and get cozy with politicians and other influential people in Washington. Specifically, he was told to make contact with then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

An employee at the Soviet Embassy scored him the birth certificate that would give him the basis to get a passport. He had spotted a tombstone of 10-year-old Jack Barsky who had died in 1955 and procured the birth document.

Under his new name, Barsky first worked as a bicycle messenger in New York, a job that provided him with plenty of opportunity to get to know the city, observe people and learn the intricacies of the city’s commerce.

Jack-Barsky in new york

“The messenger job was actually really good for me to become Americanized because I was interacting with people who didn’t care much where I came from, what my history was, where I was going,” he told the BBC. “I was able to observe and listen and become more familiar with American customs. So for the first two, three years I had very few questions that I had to answer.”

Later, he studied computer science and worked as a programmer for Met Life insurance. If anyone ever asked about his slight accent, he responded that his mother was German.

Christian soviet spyDuring the day, he was good neighbor and upstanding citizen. At night, he prepared profiles for the Soviets of potential agents and wrote assessments of developing political and military situations, which he stuffed in small steal containers to be left at dead drops outside the city or in parks. He received instructions from Moscow via a shortwave radio.

He never managed to sidle up to national security advisors, but he stole computer code that helped the Soviet Union economically.

With his America persona in full swing, he vacationed yearly to East Germany for debriefings. He married his college sweetheart, Gerlinde, and started a family. It was an awkward situation because his wife was never full aware of what he was doing in America.

deep-under-cover-christianIn America, he was taking his double life to another level. He married a girl named Penelope, a native of Guyana, in 1985 and with her had two children, Chelsea and Jessie.

“I did a good job of separating the two” lives, he said. “Barsky had nothing to do with Dittrich and Dittrich wasn’t responsible for Barsky.”

But the facade had to crumble.

The collapse started in 1988 when Moscow ordered his immediate return. The KGB had information that Barsky was about to be arrested and wanted him to escape.

After 10 years of American lifestyle, he balked at the idea. He had discovered that Americans weren’t evil, as he had been told, and he had fallen for the American Dream. He stalled for a week.

When he got the ultimatum, Barsky concocted an elaborate excuse. He knew the Soviets feared AIDS and chalked the epidemic in America up to its moral inferiority. So he told his handlers that he had contracted the HIV virus. He assured the Russians he wouldn’t defect or surrender any secrets.

Of the Soviet fears, nothing materialized. The FBI was still clueless. He eased in middle-class life in America in a comfy home in upstate New York.

Then in 1992, his cover was blown. A KGB archivist, Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin defected and named a slew of agents to British authorities.

The FBI finally started watching Barsky to see if was an active agent.

The FBI bugged his home. They purchased the house next door, and an FBI agent, Joe Reilly, posing as an ornithologist, kept him under surveillance with binoculars.

In the end, Barsky blurted the evidence that the FBI needed. In the middle of a heated argument with his wife, Barsky tried to show her how much he’d given up for her.

“I was trying to repair a marriage that was slowly falling apart,” he said. “I was trying to tell my wife the ‘sacrifice’ I had made to stay with Chelsea and her. So in the kitchen I told her, ‘By the way, this is what I did. I am a German. I used to work for the KGB and they told me to come home and I stayed here with you and it was quite dangerous for me. This is what I sacrificed.’”

Instead, she grew angrier. He had a secret life? He was in danger of being arrested?

Just days later, Barsky was driving home from work. When he drove out of toll station, and a Pennsylvania state trooper pulled him over. Dressed in plain clothes, Reilly asked to talk to him.

“I knew the gig was up,” he said.

Still, Barsky met the arrest with bluster: “What took you so long?”

He had gone undetected for almost 20 years – a massive embarrassment for the FBI.

For a weekend, Reilly interrogated Barsky in a motel. Bargaining for clemency, Barsky came clean with everything. Ultimately, the FBI validated his entire story and decided to let him go free.

It would take more years for God to “catch” him. Find out how God “caught” Jack Barsky Christian KGB agent.

Steve Harvey is becoming increasingly vocal about his Christian faith

steve harvey smileBy Jordan Sheppard

In school, Steve Harvey never got an A and never got a star. So when in high school the teacher called him to the front to share his life goal, he thought he would FINALLY get a congratulation of some sort.

Instead, he got ridiculed for saying he wanted to be on T.V.

“She called me up there to humiliate me. She knew I stuttered severely,” the famous comedian shared at an Alabama State University commencement ceremony. “She said, ‘Why would you write something like this? Who in this school ever been on TV? Who in your family ever been on TV? You can’t even talk right. You ain’t gonna be nothing.’”

steve-harvey-familyBut Harvey turned the humiliation into a life lesson.

“Every Christmas I send her a flat screen TV because I want her to see what God had done for me in spite of everything she had said about me,” he said. “God put your imagination in your mind to show you a preview of what He has for you. If you want to kill your big dreams, tell it to a small-minded person.”

As his comedic stardom continues to grow, Harvey is becoming increasingly vocal about his Christian faith.

“My momma and my daddy left me empty-handed, but boy the church they put in me! The God they put in me!” he said. “My life is full of grace. You better go get yourself some. You can’t buy grace. It ain’t for sale. If I take all the money you have – and thank You Jesus, I got some money – I would take all of it and buy grace with you, but you can’t. It’s free.”

Harvey was born in Welch, West Virginia in 1957 to a coal-mining father who taught Sunday school.  His father taught him to be a man of his word. The family moved to Cleveland, where he attended Glenville High School. He jokes that he graduated 690th out of 695 seniors.

steve-harvey-miss universeIn his early years, Harvey found employment as an auto-worker, insurance salesman, a carpet cleaner and a mailman. While getting his comedy career going, he was homeless for several years, slept in a 1976 Ford, and showered at gas stations and public swimming pools.

In 1990, he gained attention as a finalist in the Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search. Eventually, he landed the long-standing job as host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo. He later starred in ABC’s Me and the Boys in 1994 and ran The Steve Harvey Show on WB network from 1996-2002.

In 2010, he boosted Family Feud’s ratings as their host.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based T.V. show host struggled through two divorces and had four children. He’s on his third marriage to Marjorie Bridges, whose three children he treats as his own.

“I’ve lost everything I’ve ever owned twice,” Harvey summed up his life. “Struggled through two marriages to finally learn to get it right. I lived in a car 3 years, washed up behind bushes at the gas stations.”

His latest marriage is largely responsible for shaping him up, he said.

“You’re looking at two people who were messing up for real and making bad decisions without conferring with God,” he said on Tlcnapttown’s website. “But the fact that you can mess up that many times and still come out okay is a testament to just the grace and mercy of God, man.”

In 2015, Harvey was praying for God to increase his audience overseas. How God hearkened to that prayer became another life lesson about trials and blessings.

It happened through his famous Miss Universe blunder. Hosting the pageant in the Philippines, he was fed through the teleprompter the wrong name. Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez was overcome with emotion and adulation, but Harvey found out backstage it was a mistake. The winner was Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach.

As organizers were scratching their heads wondering what to do, Harvey walked out on the stage and owned the error. His correction crushed Miss Colombia and prompted a gazillion memes making fun of Harvey. He apologized to both and laid low for a time, even though the organizers were responsible for the mistake.

People he considered close friends ridiculed him publicly.

While the faux pas caused no end of embarrassment to Harvey, it also raised his international profile and increased his business. To read the rest of the article, click Steve Harvey Christian.

She almost aborted him

abortion-santa-monica.gifBy Jordan Sheppard, LCA sophomore –

Her Aunt Kerris always took little Monica to Santa Monica’s New Shiloh Baptist Church. Even though Aunt Kerris was not wealthy, she always gave 50 cents to her niece to buy something after service from the local store. Things were cheap back in the 70s and 80s, so you could buy a treat for 50 cents.

Monica loved Aunt Kerris and believed in God and got baptized but never grew close in her relationship to her Savior. Her behavior Monday through Saturday was different than her Sunday church behavior.

When she got older, she went to parties and  starting doing things that were not good for her body. She didn’t really care what happened. She was too busy having fun.

at-risk-youth-westside-los-angeles-schoolEventually, Monica met a man that is not in her life anymore.

Here is where the interesting part happens. She was not ready to have a son. So she went to an abortion clinic.

As she was sitting there waiting her turn, God spoke.

“Monica Sheppard, I know what you have been going through, and I am here to help,” God told her as clear as day. “Even though people have not been there like your other family, friends and or your mother, I am here.”

Monica listened to God and left the clinic.

West-Los-Angeles-Christian-school

God kept his promise and with His power, He brought different role models that acted like fathers to this young man.

Wherever she sleeps, Monica posts her own quote on the headboard to keep encouraged: “No matter how dark the situation is, no matter how hard the problem is, God is with you always and He is with you even in the harshest problems. If God can help me raise my child, he will help you with anything you need.”

The son she had is a well-known kid attending Lighthouse Christian Academy on the westside of Los Angeles. Her son is me, Jordan Dominick Sheppard.

This article originally appeared on the Lighthouse Christian Academy website. I teach there.

KGB agent who busted up Christian meetings joins them

Kourdakov,_The_PersecutorAccording to his autobiography, thug-turned-KGB Sergei Nikolayevich Kourdakov broke up over 150 secret meetings of Christians in the former Soviet Union. The leaders were arrested, members were beaten and terrorized and all Christian literature was burned or sent to headquarters for analysis.

How did this zealous communist find Jesus just a few years later and then die under mysterious circumstances near Los Angeles?

Kourdakov was born in 1951 under communist tyranny. After his mentally ill brother tried to kill him, he ran away, became a street urchin and was scooped up and taken to state-run orphan homes, according to his book The Persecutor, a dramatic and somewhat controversial account.

For a few years he toyed with becoming a hoodlum, even selling hashish, but ultimately he withdrew from the underworld and instead threw his efforts into the communist party. With intelligence and ambition, he quickly rose to become leader of the Communist Youth League in his area.

Sergei-Kourdakov-3After graduating with honors he enrolled in the Navy and studied to become a radio engineer. Meanwhile, his aptitudes caught the attention of his superiors and he was recruited to a “special-action squad” for 25 rubles a month.

At first the squad was tasked with roughing up drunks and wife-beaters the police didn’t have time for. Such rogues gave a bad name to communism, which was supposedly creating a “utopia.”

As time progressed, Kourdakov and his recruits were assigned to break up underground Christian meetings. In one operation, he hid in the bushes where informants said there would be a baptism.

Shortly after church members arrived, Kourdakov sprang from hiding and beat them down with clubs. The pastor floated dead in the water, and young girls were stripped naked to be humiliated and driven to the police station for interrogation.

Sergei & Mr. LogieBut his decision to make a public spectacle of the Christians was a miscalculation that drew the criticism of his superiors, who wanted these raids to be conducted in secrecy.

From May through December 1970, Kourdakov conducted raids. The “believers” – as they were called – were beaten and intimidated, and the pastors were arrested and sentenced to Siberian labor camps.

It was the height of the Cold War, and religious faith was seen by atheistic communism as subversive, a means by “capitalist oppressors: to keep the masses peaceful and stupid.” Part of Kourdakov’s duties was to document Christians for databases that authorities could use to round them up at any time.

the persecutorIn one raid, Kourdakov noticed a particularly beautiful believer named Natasha Zhdanova and decided she should be smashed against a wall. Kourdakov thought this would intimidate and discourage believers from attending any further meetings.

But just three days later, he spotted Natasha at another raid. He decided she needed more persuasion and so he beat her severely. He even brought her to the police station to threaten her.

One week later in another raid, Kourdakov saw her again. Her persistence was particularly unnerving. Records showed she had once belonged to the Communist Youth League.

This time, Kourdakov defended Natasha. When his buddy Alex Gulyaev moved to club her down, Kourdakov jumped between them and shouted: “Alex, I’m telling you, don’t touch her! Nobody touches her! She has something we don’t have! Nobody touches her!”

The subtitle of Kourdakov’s autobiography is “Forgive Me, Natasha.”

His exploits on behalf of the communist regime made him stand out in the Kamchatka Province. He was awarded a 15-minute speech broadcast on television. Afterwards he met Comrade Orlov, he invited him to a private dining room full of high-ranking communist officials, who were dining on expensive delicacies and drinking vodka like water.

Kourdakov was disillusioned. Supposedly communism fought for the laborer and the farmer. Purportedly, it fought the ruling class. But while the poor of the Soviet Union scraped together a meager living, here were the guardians of communism living like the capitalist oppressors they claimed to eradicate.

Meanwhile, Kourdakov began to notice that his Christian-busting raids weren’t having the desired effect. Instead of decreasing, attendance was surging.

In July, he was asked by his superiors to burn some religious texts for heating. But his doubts about communism were festering and his curiosity about Christianity was mounting. Instead of burning the books, he pocketed a hand-written copy of the Gospel of Luke and took it home to read at the Naval Academy barracks on his bunk.

“Jesus was talking and teaching someone how to pray. This certainly was no anti-state material,” he wrote in The Persecutor. “It was how to be a better person and how to forgive those who do you wrong. Suddenly, the words leaped out of those pages and into my heart… Through the days and weeks ahead, Jesus stayed with me.”

In January of 1971, Kourdakov graduated from the Naval Academy as a radio officer and was assigned to a destroyer. He asked to be transferred to a ship near the United States coast. In June, he found himself on the trawler Ivan Sereda looking for an opportunity to defect to the United States.

But just when he was going to jump ship on a makeshift raft off the coast of Los Angeles, another Soviet elsewhere was returned off the coast of New England in what became known as the Kudirka Incident. He would-be defector was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Kourdakov decided to initiate his escape when they were close to Canada.

Transferred to another trawler, the Shturman Elagin, he found his opportunity in August. During a severe storm, the trawler requested and got approval to enter Canadian waters for shelter. On Sept. 3, Kourdakov plunged into the frigid waters and swam – most of the night – for the shore.

He was found half-naked and bleeding on Queen Charlotte Island by a woman who called a hospital. Nobody spoke Russian, so he spoke German through a translator. In an extended diplomatic fracas, he was very nearly returned to the Soviets.

But a radio talk show host, Pat Burns, heard about him and pressured Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to grant asylum. Read the rest of Sergei Kourdakov Christian

My journalism student from the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Westside Los Angeles wrote this article. I edited it.

Friends

funnyI can’t comprehend why we’re not all friends at church, but some people are more concerned about clambering up — what in their mind — the dogpile. They think they have to step on others.

Not me. I just want to enjoy friendship. And I wish everybody were a friend.

This side of eternity, friendship is the greatest thing. It is one of the loves (marital and family is another). Friendship occurs when you appreciate each other and share meaningful moments (they can be goofiness or enjoying watching a sport together or working together in a common cause).

The king of the dogpile is the ultimate loser for me. He thinks he’s got everybody’s respect. Maybe what he has is everybody’s fear. I’m afraid of him. Perfect love casts out all fear. I’m far from perfect yet.

Out of the miry clay

lonelySinking, sinking, sinking. You realized with horror that the mud would fill your lungs and suffocate you. There was no bottom to the sludge.

Then God pulled you out. He rescued you. There was nothing you could do to rescue yourself. Only be rescued.

Cry out to God in the day of trouble. No, you don’t deserve to die. He loves you and wants to pull you up into Heaven with Him.

A ‘journey’ to Jesus for Jonathan Cain

Jonathan-Cain-350x233His “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.

Journey_publicity_photo_2013-350x399He 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.”

ghanaOne 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.

Sherri Shepherd, The View host, left Jehovah’s Witnesses to find Jesus

sherriCelebrated actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd found herself trapped in Jehovah’s Witnesses, but overcame her fears, fled the aberrant group, and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Because I had been a Jehovah’s Witness so long, that was all I knew,” she told BeliefNet. “And as a Jehovah’s Witness I learned that all the other religions were false and that they were from Satan. So when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I really thought I was going to die and that I was going to go to hell.”

Ssherri shepherd on magazinehe did indeed “go through hell,” but she was willing to face poverty and hardship to break with the group after their leaders prohibited her from talking with her father.

“Now my dad at that time was working three jobs because we had moved to the suburbs because he wanted a better life for us,” she said. “So it was very expensive where we lived and he was working three jobs to support us. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, tell my daddy I can’t talk to him and he is working at Denny’s?

sherri shepherd the view

“As the oldest I was a daddy’s girl and loved him with all my heart. My daddy had holes in his shoes so that he could pay for my photography classes. I just kept thinking you can’t be serious and all I could think of was the Scripture that references love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and says the greatest of these is love. I was like where is the love in that?”

Before Shepherd became a notable actress, she passed through a series of misfortunes. In 1993 her mom was dying. Shepherd was evicted on several occasions. Her car was repossessed. Her boyfriend began stalking her and later went to jail. Shepherd herself went to jail for a week due to unpaid traffic violations. Even though she won plaudits for her stand-up comedy, she couldn’t pay her bills.

“I felt like I was going to die. All this stuff was happening to me because I didn’t have God,” said the vivacious star. “I wasn’t going to church. I just felt like it was so evil from my upbringing. Why am I going to go to a church that was from the devil?”

42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards - ShowHer life changed one day when she went to West Angeles Church of God in Christ, one of the largest mega churches in Los Angeles. “I used to pass it all the time on the bus. So on that day, I was feeling so miserable. I really felt like I had no other place to turn so I was like let me just try it,” she said. “When I stepped into that church and that was an immediate sense of peace came over me.”

The peace helped her quickly overcome years of ingrained fear that everything outside of Jehovah’s Witness was of the devil. But as she became a regular attender, Bishop Blake, who preaches at the church, helped her make steps toward Christ.

“One day he said, ‘Would you like to come up and accept Christ?'” she remembered. Read the rest of the story about Sherri Shepherd Christian.

You knew that Flamin Hot Cheetos came from God — Here’s why

montanez-cheetos-350x458This is the story of how God inspired a lowly janitor at the Frito-Lay factory in Rancho Cucamonga to create “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” propelling his rise to the top of the executive ranks.

Richard Montañez grew up in a farm labor camp picking grapes in California. He grew up with his family crammed into a one-room shanty lacking basic indoor plumbing — the communal bathroom was outside. They couldn’t buy luxuries and sometimes went to bed hungry. His was a life of food stamps, welfare and even times of homelessness.

Without any education, he salivated for the opportunity to work at the local Frito-Lay factory scrubbing floors. When he got the job, his father and grandfather sat him down and exhorted him to execute it with excellence.

“When you mop that floor, you let people know that a Montanez mopped it,” Montañez told WKNO television station. “In my heart, I was going to be the best janitor that Frito-Lay ever had. I saw that I had an influence because they would walk into the break room and it would smell fresh and they would smile.”

Then someone shared the gospel with him and his wife, Judy.

richard-montanez-rancho-cucamonga-350x234“I never felt like I belonged. I always felt like I was an outsider, like second-class citizens,” he told the Faith with Flavor program. “Then somebody started telling us about Jesus Christ. I wanted that so bad. We were never going to be picked for anything. Why would God take the time to deal with somebody like me when nobody else would? We figured we’d give God a chance. He was doing things for me before I could do anything for Him.”

He started reading the Bible and learning from his pastor, from mature church members and from mentors.

RichardMontanez-350x211“I started going to church. It’s so full of wisdom,” he said. “If you read the Bible, it will educate you.”

Then one day at work, the president gave a lecture about empowerment. He told all the employees to think and act like they were the president. This was the message Montañez longed to hear. He looked around at his co-workers and was surprised that they didn’t seem to care much for the inspirational speech.

Montañez was praying one day for an idea, a vision that would help him break out of poverty. He took his small son to eat elotes, corn on the cob that Latinos cover with chili, cheese, lemon and other condiments. As he munched on the chili-coated elote, he thought of the puffed-corn snacks that his factory coated with powdered cheese.

‘Full House’ star Candace Cameron-Bure found Jesus

candace cameronBy Hasset Anteneh

Taking the role of D.J. Tanner on the mega hit Full House TV series in 1987 set the stage for a successful acting and writing career for Candace Cameron-Bure.

She’s not shy to talk about her faith, just like her brother, Kirk Cameron, who went from child star to evangelist.

“My faith is my basis of who I am. Not only does it affect the choices I make career-wise, but it also affects the things that I want to do,” Bure told The Blaze. She is married to former Russian NHL hockey player Valeri Bore with whom she’s had three children.

candace cameron and husbandBure said her family had never discussed religion, until they were invited to church by a friend, and started actively attending church when she was 12.

“When I was growing up, my family wasn’t Christian,” she said on her website. “We didn’t talk about God and I didn’t know anything about him. When I was 12 years old, my parents told us we were going to church; a friend had invited us. It was strange to me, and I giggled at the thought of God. But as we continued to go every Sunday, my heart felt warm, and I saw how happy my mom, brother and sister were. I decided that I wanted to feel the same way. It was Jesus Christ that was producing this change in them, so one Sunday morning, I asked Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. I was baptized along with some of my family at a later service. I was extremely excited about what I thought was my new Christian life.”

full house candace cameronHowever, it wasn’t until her 20s that the word of God began to truly resonate with her. Her brother, Growing Pains actor Kirk, gave her a book, Ray Comfort’s The Way of the Master, and it was then, she said, that Christianity truly began to make sense.

“After reading a book my brother gave to me, now called The Way of the Master it changed my walk with God forever! It talked about the 10 commandments, and showed me my sin in it’s true light. You see, when I prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ that day in church when I was 12, I asked God to forgive my sins. But I didn’t even know what my sin was. But, the law showed me my sin.

candace cameron jesus saves“As I went through every commandment, I saw that I’d broken all of them. Then I learned that God was going to judge me by this standard, not the world’s standard. So, while I thought I was a good person compared to other people, I saw that I was a horribly bad person by God’s standard. It was then that I truly recognized and understood my sin and what Jesus did for me. I broke the Law, and Jesus paid my fine,” the actress said.

To read the rest about Candace Cameron Christian click here.

Hasset Anteneh is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on the westside of Los Angeles.

Fleeing a death squad

immigrants-family-Christian-school-los-angeles

Ivan Arango never liked the party because, as he repeated, they always ended with fights, hatred and vows of revenge. But his close friend, Antonio, prevailed on him to go to his high school graduation’s celebration in Guatemala – in the cantina.

Sure enough, a fight broke out over some stolen beers, and Ivan and Antonio found themselves fleeing a death squad in the City of Quetzaltenango in the Western side of Guatemala.

Formed to efficiently kill dangerous targets outside of the proper channels of justice during Guatemala’s dirty civil war, clandestine death squads were paramilitary groups that devolved into despotic gangs answerable to no one.

death squads honduras

A death squad in Honduras

A death squad member had stolen Antonio’s beer, and he had punched him, not knowing he was a paramilitary.

Out of his devotion to his best friend, Ivan had planned to accompany the graduation festivities in the cantina for only 30 minutes. In the next moment, he was fleeing for his life.

“Are they going to kill us?” he worried.

Ivan and his friend hid in a room in the back of the cantina, and a friendly lady locked it with a padlock on the outside. Sure enough, the death squad came to to that room, pounded and kicked the door and fired bullets.

Terrified, Ivan remembered his brother, Diego, who was first of the family to become a born-again Christian.

In his heart, he cried out to God. “Lord, forgive me. If you can get me out of this trial, save me. Don’t let these men kill me here.”

The paramilitaries busted down the door. They shoved a .44-Magnum in Ivan’s mouth, but it jammed.

“I couldn’t say anything,” he said. “I didn’t argue. He insulted me like a demon.”
death squads honduras

This picture from a Google search is believed to show a Honduran death squad in action.

Responding to disturbances in the neighborhood, the military police showed up. The paramilitaries stood down and left.

The streets were silent like a cemetery. Ivan asked the cantina owner if he should go home.

“They’re waiting for you to come out to torture and kill you,” he said. Read the rest of the story refugee students.

This is the story of how a Guatemala survived the ravages of war in Guatemala and immigrated to the United States where he married and enrolled his daughters in our Christian school in Los Angeles.

Some journeys require patience

C7eJ4sGVUAUU9Od.jpg largeThe Bible says we’re pilgrims, sojourners on this Earth. In our times of jet planes and email (as opposed to “snail mail”), we have little understanding of long journeys. But when Nehemiah traveled back and forth between the capital of the Persian Empire and Jerusalem, it took days or weeks.

Impatience is the enemy of the Christian. When bad situations don’t turn around fast enough, too many give up and return to the world. There is need of stick-to-it-iveness, of perseverance.

I’m sure Moses would have liked to make the journey to the Promised Land in an appropriate amount of time — not 40 years! God is patient with us, and we should be patient with Him.

George Foreman found God when he was dying

Foreman-MoorerHis powerful punch and menacing demeanor in the ring led George Foreman to Olympic Gold and heavyweight championships, but when Jimmy Young brutalized him in a humiliating defeat in 1977, the street bully from Houston felt he was dying.

“In the dressing room, I was walking back and forth to cool off,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “Then in a split second, I was fighting for my life.”

He lay on a locker room table. While friends and staff attended to his physical body, the battered brute battled with the God he learned little about as a kid.  He admitted later he only went to church for the free lunches.

george-bible“I kept thinking, ‘You believe in God. Why are you afraid to die?” Foreman told The New York Times. “But I really didn’t believe.”

Foreman began bargaining with his Creator. If God saved him, he would give his prize money to charity.

“I don’t want your money,” a voice responded. “I want you.”

Foreman was bewildered and confused. He had never met anybody who didn’t want money.

Foreman485“It was the saddest, most horrible place I had ever seen,” he said. “Tears fell. I was scared. I’d never heard anyone turn down money. There I was fighting for my life with something that you couldn’t deal with. That changed my life forever.”

Then as his life ebbed away, too late to repent, Foreman felt a “giant hand” thrust him back into consciousness. He saw his friends. At the same time, he felt strangely filled with the presence of a dying Christ. He felt his forehead bleed and he imagined it pierced by Christ’s crown of thorns. He sensed his wrists punctured as if by the nails of the cross.

“I knew that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me,” Foreman told The Times. “I ran into the shower and turned on the water and — hallelujah! — I was born again. I kissed everybody in the dressing room and told them I loved them. That happened in March 1977, and I never have been the same again.”

A passion began to stir in his heart. “I started reciting the Bible, talking from the pit of my stomach in that dressing room. I was talking about how Jesus was God’s son and that he was alive. So when I came out of that, I asked a friend to go get me a Bible. And he said, ‘What kind?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, one like your mother has.’ So, he went out and bought me a King James version of the Bible. And that’s how I got into religion.”

The turnaround in Foreman was immediate and dramatic. Today, he preaches punchy sermons as pastor at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston.

Transformed from a rage-filled street punk into a humble and sweet Christian, Foreman found he couldn’t muster the will to fight anymore, so he dropped boxing for 10 years. Read the rest of the George Foreman story.

A NY exec meets a true-life Tarzan boy in Guatemala

IMG_5251

Jamie Waller with Francisco Tzoy, the Tarzan boy

When a New York tycoon met one of the last feral “Tarzan boys” in Guatemala, he knew it was a match made in Heaven.

Jamie Waller, a Wall Street darling who recovered from alcoholism and became a missionary, took on what was to become perhaps his most difficult case, helping a boy who became a savage after he was abandoned following the death of his parents, forced to fend for himself in the jungle.

That boy, Francisco Tzoy – who suffered from mental disability — crawled on all fours and fought off dogs for his food in the dense mountainous terrain of Guatemala. Francisco is now diagnosed with the mental age of a 9-month-old.

Centro-de-estimulacion-integral-guatemalaThanks to God working through Waller and the Guatemalan government, he now keeps his clothes on, stands on his feet, smiles and no longer eats his own excrement.
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“That’s a good success story,” Waller said. “He can sit still, play a little bit. He doesn’t scream all the time anymore. He can participate in group activities. Prayer has been big. People have been praying for him and with him throughout. His infectious smile touches me. When he’s happy, the whole world smiles with him.”

A New Jersey native, Waller started using drugs in boarding school in the 1970s. He drank daily through college. When he started having kids and getting into corporate life, he limited his liquor consumption to weekend drinking.

In 2009, his wife left him. While this was another boat-rocker in his life, it seemed at the same time to open doors for him to travel and do ministry. He flew to Guatemala with his son and visited 10 orphanages. The last hospital he visited so moved him that it became the one he now works in.

Francisco-Tzoy

Francisco Tzoy

 

“It was the Holy Spirit,” Waller said of the remarkable career boomerang. “I worked in New York and wore a suit to work. I never had real interest in special needs folks. I probably was guilty of ignoring them like most people do. The Lord changed my heart. Something clicked in my head when I visited this one. I was only there for an hour, but it changed my life.”

Though he had no background with special needs patients, he threw himself into the work in 2009. He hired a physical therapist to “volunteer” at the Abrigo Bienestar Integral home to give the patients some badly needed stimuli. He prodded government officials to make ABI less of an institution where patients were kept behind bars and more of a center of joy and improving patients with their social skills.

Today, Waller runs a 12-member staff on a $50,000 budget through Fundaniños, and they serve at a government-funded institution that houses and cares for some 100 special needs patients abandoned or abused by their families.

In eight years of service, he has opened an annex facility that during the day takes some of the higher-functional patients and provides them physical therapy and improves motor and cognitive skills.

Perhaps their most remarkable story of transformation involves their former Tarzan boy, Francisco.

When two police agents spotted him in May of 2010 cowering among the brush of rural Santa Cruz of Quiché, they first thought he was a wolf. He emitted guttural sounds and moved around on all fours. His unkempt, matted hair flowed all over his naked body. Read the rest about Tarzan boy.

Amazing grace for Valley Boy Pastor

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My two sons performing in the drama.

God’s goodness and unmerited favor is not only for salvation. I’ve been seeing it in the formation of the startup church in Van Nuys, California. The San Fernando Valley Lighthouse Church is running on eight cylinders.

We recently did a drama to bless another, well-established church in Palmdale, about an hour away from L.A.

The church continues to meet at Lake Balboa, when it’s not too cold or rainy. Attendance doubled in December.

I am floored that God would bless me. It’s His amazing grace, usually applied to salvation, but applicable to any and every area of our lives.

What you need in life is God’s favor, which you can’t earn. Jesus earned it for you. The best thing we can do is be grateful.

Stephen Baldwin got saved, thanks to nanny

330 stephen baldwinOf the 18 or so tattoos scattered all over Stephen Baldwin’s body representing different stages of his life, one is a scripture: 3:30. It’s on the back of his neck and stands for John 3.30. “I must decrease so that he may increase.”

The youngest sibling of the Baldwin acting clan accepted Jesus in the aftermath of 9/11. But the wake-up call only came after a Brazilian nanny was singing about Jesus in Portuguese to the Baldwin’s baby in front of Stephen’s Brazilian wife, Kennya.

“So, we hired this lady from Brazil named Augusta, and the whole first week she’s working for us she’s singing in Portuguese, which she only spoke that language with my wife,” said Stevie B., as he calls himself.

Baume & Mercier and LOVE146's " Into The Light" Benefit Hosted by Stephen BaldwinKennya suddenly realized whom the nanny was singing about. She went to Stephen and said, “Do you hear what she’s singing about?  She’s singing about Jesus.”

After overhearing the singing a few more days, her curiosity could not be contained and she approached the nanny directly. “I noticed your singing, and I’m wondering why every song is about Jesus?”

Kennya was taken aback when Augusta burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s a little bit funny that you think I’m here to clean your house.”

To Kennya’s amazement, she explained that through a prophetic word, she was told that if she went to live with the Baldwins, Stephen and Kenya would one day come to faith in Jesus Christ and be involved in ministry.

“She goes on to tell my wife that, before she had accepted the job, she prayed with her pastor and some church members in Brazil. I haven’t told this part of the story a lot. She had a dream and saw me, saw my wife and saw my first daughter Aliya.”

But Baldwin was not impressed or moved about what appeared to him at the time to be religious gibberish.

“Didn’t faze me for a second,” he said. “Raised Roman Catholic up until 11 or 12. Didn’t stick. Went out into the world and did my own thing.”

Among his “own things” were roles in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Posse (1993), Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Threesome (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995), Bio-Dome (1996), Fled (1996), The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), Fred Claus (2007) and The Flyboys (2008). In addition to being an award-winning actor, he became a producer and an author.

Kennya was first one in the family to receive Jesus. After spending much time talking about Jesus with Augusta, Kenya attended a Brazilian church in New York City, seeking answers and learning more about Him.

As time went on, Stephen became curious and felt drawn to God and began asking questions. Then 9/11 struck.

“September 11th kind of freaked me out,” Baldwin recounted. Read the rest of the fascinating account.

Not exactly who you want as worship leader, but Alice Cooper is saved

Dark-themed rocker Alice Cooper — whose onstage theatrics included handling boa constrictors and staging mock suicides with guillotines — has returned to the God of his childhood after dumping alcoholism and feeling dissatisfied with riches.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” Cooper told CNSnews. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything.  A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.”

“The so-called “Godfather of shock rock” was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 to a pastoral family in Arizona. He performed missionary work with his dad among the Apaches. His grandfather was a pastor too. But when he went AWOL on God, he stretched the outer limits of what it means to be a prodigal.

His high school band from Phoenix was discovered by Frank Zappa in 1969. They struck gold with the album Love It to Death, which gained national notoriety.

Meanwhile, he drew on lessons from Edgar Allan Poe to optimize publicity with lurid dramatizations of horror in his concerts. His creepy makeup and macabre shenanigans drew ire from Christian leaders, which only served to fuel his sales to disaffected, rage-filled adolescents. Giddy with his success, Cooper conveniently forgot the early chapters of his life and his relationship with God as he entered the stratosphere of mega-stardom.

What brought him back to Earth was the booze.

“I was throwing up blood every morning,” he said.  “I was really a bad alcoholic. I wasn’t a cruel or mean alcoholic, but I was certainly self-destructive. My doctor said I was a textbook alcoholic. He said, ‘You drink in order to get things done, it’s like a medicine for you.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ I was always on a golden buzz. I drank all day, but I never slurred my speech or anything.

“When I came out of the hospital, I kept waiting for the craving to come, and it never came. It was a miracle,” he said. “I tell people I’m not a cured alcoholic, I’m a healed alcoholic. I never went to AA or anything like that, and I give all credit to God for that. Even the doctor said, ‘This is a miracle that you’re not falling back on alcohol every time there’s a stressful situation.’ So, it’s gone. It’s just gone.”

When God delivered him from alcohol, he went back to church. Cooper and his current wife of 41 years, Sheryl Goddard, now attend the Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to focus on growing and strengthening their faith in Christ.

“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” he said. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.

“God has a plan for everybody. I look at my life and I think, ‘How is it possible that I didn’t die?’” he said. “God’s chipping away at your life all the time to try to make you more like Him. That’s what a Christian is, a person that’s being molded and shaped all their life. I think the Lord expects you to do your best in His name. I had to struggle a long time about rock and roll. I realized it’s not really the music. It’s what’s being said with the music. So I think you have to be careful of what you’re writing, what you’re representing.” Read the rest of the macabre article.

She not only survived, she smiled

How-to-survive-in-a-single-parent-setting-with-joyBy Kayla Armstrong, LCA sophomore

Growing up I always seen kids with a mom and dad and always going out to eat and having a good time. Well believe it or not, I didn’t have that. My mom was my mother and father, and it was always just me and her.

My father was really never in the picture, wasn’t at my games, awards, or plays, etc. As a little girl, I had so many questions and wanted the feeling of what it was like to have a full-time father.

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I saw my dad a few times but not often. I remember the times where I would wait for him to pick me up but he never came. My dad and I were never close and even when he did pick me up, I would just be in my room for the whole weekend just watching TV and my dad and I wouldn’t really talk. It would be small talk like, “Are you hungry?”

It was embarrassing and made me very sad because I felt unwanted and felt like my dad didn’t love me or didn’t want me. But as I got older I was thankful he wasn’t in my life because my mom and I had a close relationship.

As time went by, my mother got married. I was happy because I had a father in my life, and he didn’t single me out because I was his “stepdaughter.” He treated me as if I was his own. We had a close relationship, and I got attached to him as if he were my biological father.

I was happy because I had someone to come to my volleyball games, there for my school recitals and if I got rewards and someone who can be there for me as a father.

In the middle of the year, things twisted, and the home wasn’t a “happy” home. There were lots of arguments, and next thing I know he was out of the house. I rebelled against everyone, especially God because I felt like God didn’t want me to be happy.

I felt like if He really loved me or was “real,” He would let our home be a happy home. Go to this link to find the happy ending and I invite you to comment there.

Grandma Krav Maga beat up bad guy. New version of Good Samaritan

baton-rouge-cop-saved-by-good-samaritanA Baton Rouge grandmother is being called a Good Samaritan after she plunged into the middle of a life-or-death struggle between a cop and bad guy, saving the officer’s life.

Vickie Williams-Tillman, 56, didn’t think twice when she pounced on the back of a hulking Thomas Bennett after a routine drug arrest escalated suddenly into a dangerous fight for control of the officer’s weapon.

“I could see in his eyes he needed help,” said Williams-Tillman, who stopped her car, called 911, and lunged into the fray on Feb. 19. “You don’t have time to think about it. I did what God needed me to do.”

vickie-williams-tillmanThe grandmother pulled on Bennett’s arm as cop and suspect wrangled for the officer’s gun. All three fell to the ground.

Quickly, a backup unit pulled up and another officer stun-gunned the suspect, who was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, resisting an officer with violence, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Baton Rouge Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome lauded the lady for fearlessly joining the brawl.

“Vickie Williams-Tillman epitomizes the true Good Samaritan,” the mayor said, as reported in The Blaze. She reached out and offered a courageous and unconditional response to the officer. Ms. Williams-Tillman is a hero and demonstrates the true meaning of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

Cpl. Billy Aime was handcuffing the suspect after spotting incriminating evidence when Bennett suddenly resisted arrest. The cop struggled without success to subdue the suspect. Read the rest of the article.

Kevin Hart Christian?

kevin-hartKevin Hart’s mother was going to help him with rent to kick-start his comedy career, but when the due date passed he called his mom, and all she could say was: “Have you been reading your Bible?”

A week later it was the same thing: “When you read your bible, then we’ll talk about your rent.”

Annoyed at his “over-religious” mom but desperate about an eviction note on his door, Kevin grudgingly sat down and opened the Good Book.

eniko-parrish-8-141“I go home and say, ‘Man let me open this Bible up,’” Hart explained to Oprah Winfrey. “Open the Bible up, six rent checks fell out. She put all my rent checks in the Bible.”

Score one for mom and the Lord!

Hart, the self-spoofing star of Real Husbands of Hollywood, doesn’t need Mom’s rent money anymore. He’s enjoyed a steady stream of movie roles starting with Paper Soldiers (2002), Scary Movie 3 the next year, Soul Plane (2004), In the Mix (2005) and Little Fockers (2010). He ranked as the highest paid comedian by Forbes, valued at $87.5 million.

In his latest gig, a quixotic Hart fails hilariously in his constant attempts to climb Hollywood’s social ladder.

And while he’s not overly vocal about his Christianity, Hart is believed to hold the values of his mother, even if he pokes fun at her zeal in comedy routines.

kevin-hart-heaven-and-hendrix“His whole family was dedicated to Christianity, and Hart uses his family’s faith as a frequent topic in his stand-up. He doesn’t make fun of Christianity itself, but he does make fun of how people can be hypocritical with religion (like his drug addict Jesus-loving cousin),” according to Hollowverse.

On that same day when the checks tumbled out of his Bible, Jesus tumbled out too.

Hart was born in Philadelphia in 1979 to a cocaine-addicted father who was in jail more than he was in Hart’s life.

As a teen growing up in a harsh reality, Hart resorted to humor as a coping mechanism. His love for slapstick eventually won several amateur comedy competitions on the East Coast until landed recurring role on the TV series Undeclared. Jump to the rest of the story.

Jesus for the San Fernando Valley

jesus-for-the-san-fernando-valleyI have been in a flurry of reporting and editing student reporters. I enjoy this. But I haven’t updated y’all on the progress of my start-up church. We have revival, despite myself. The church has doubled with the addition of another family, with lots of kids. They are kind people and have a heart for evangelism.

Do you want to evangelize the world? Go to Super King supermarkets in Los Angeles. It caters to immigrants with all kinds of exotic foods. We evangelized Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Greeks, Latins, Jews, Egyptians all in one night of evangelism recently.

img_4853It’s been too cold to meet at Lake Balboa, so we have been meeting in my apartment. Fortunately, it’s an old one, which means it’s spacious. The newer apartments are really small. We cram 20 people into that front room. Keep praying because it’s working!

Marriage and carriage brought McConaughey back to God

mcconaughey-and-his-wife-alvesFatherhood brought Matthew McConaughey back to faith.

The Oscar-winning actor, a heart-throb in romantic movies, has been lauded for breaking Hollywood’s high divorce rate by staying married to his supermodel wife, Brazilian Camila Alves, who was raised Catholic.

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“As soon as we had children, I was like, ‘You know what? Church was important to my childhood, even if it was just for the ritual of giving an hour and a half on Sunday to yourself, to pray and to think about others, even if you’re tired or whatever,’” McConaughey said. “I noticed how much I missed it and needed it.”

He and his wife have three children: Levi, aged 6; Vida, aged 7; and Livingston, aged 4.

McConaughey was raised in Uvalde, Texas. His mother, Kay was a kindergarten teacher and a published author. His father, James, was a Green Bay Packers football player before becoming a Texas oilman.

Hmatthew-mcconaughey-inscribed-wedding-ringis childhood dream of being a pro football player along with his college plan of being a lawyer all got cast aside. He worked in a commercial and then performed minor roles until he was cast as the lead in the John Grishman-based movie A Time to Kill.

The breakthrough roll led to more, and McConaughey found himself soon in romantic roles in such movies The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

In his rising success, the God of his childhood became all but forgotten.

Then, the man accustomed to making women swoon met and swooned over Camila Alves. When they met, he was hiding his identity under a huge hat and a bushy beard at the Hyde Club in Hollywood. As soon as he saw Camila, he was pierced by Cupid’s arrows.

“I said, ‘What is that?’” McConaughey recalled, as quoted in Ever After Guide. “I was like, ‘Woo-ha! Wow!’” Read the rest of the romance.

Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm found Christ when suicidal

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Prophetic word from pastor and parishioner brought suicidal rocker to Christ

Co-founder and former lead vocalist of the rock band Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm, was contemplating suicide when she had an encounter with God that saved her life.

“When I was ten-years-old, my cousin, who was about three at the time, was beaten to death by his stepfather,” Sturm said. “My mother always talked to me about God, but at the time I just remember thinking I couldn’t reconcile how God could allow something like that to happen. I decided that if God was big and good, why wouldn’t he protect my cousin who was so tiny and so awesome?”

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The girl from Arlington, Texas, couldn’t countenance evil in the world. “I never wanted to have kids,” she said. “It would just be bringing another person into the world to suffer.”

She cried herself to sleep every night, became an atheist and turned to drugs and alcohol. She dabbled with pornography and even got a girlfriend.

“I couldn’t get away from my own depression. So I started to study a lot of other religions. There was a lot of nice ideas but there wasn’t any tangible healing.

lacey“I remember thinking, I’m tired of feeling the pain. I’m tired of going to bed that way. I’m tired of being a burden. I’m just tired of not knowing why I’m alive. I remember the night I was laying in bed, and I knew I was going to commit suicide the next day. I knew I was not going to live past tomorrow.”

But on the fateful day when she came home from school, Grandma was there — an unusual occurrence.

“She looked at me and said, ‘There’s something wrong with you. You’re going to go to church.'”

“There’s no way I’m going to go to church,” she said defiantly.

Her grandmother raised her voice and the two began to argue vehemently. Finally Sturm relented and went to church, but planned to follow through with her suicide afterwards.

She slumped down in a back-row pew, hating everyone and everything around her.  “The pastor started speaking, and I hated him more than anyone.”

The pastor spoke: “There’s a suicidal spirit in the room. So of course all the hair on the back of my neck stood up. And I thought, ‘Well, this is really weird.'”

She got up to go out, but was intercepted by white-haired man who gently and kindly addressed her: “The Lord wants me to speak to you. He wants you to know that even though you’ve never known an earthly father, God will be a better Father to you than any earthly father could ever be. God knows the pain in your heart. He’s seen you cry yourself to sleep at nights.”

Sturm was stunned and touched. How could he know about the deep things of her heart?

“The idea was so overwhelming to me,” she said. “He’s like, ‘Do you want me to pray for you so that Jesus can take the pain out of your heart?’ He put his hand on my shoulder and started to pray. It was as if the God of the universe showed up right in front of me. The first thing I noticed was that He was holy and good. The second thing I noticed is that I was not holy and not good. But at the same time, I felt Him inviting me to an embrace of grace and love unconditional. God was saying, ‘I love you. I know you’re tired of the way you’re living. I will make you new if you will let me.’

“My heart just said, ‘Yes. I need that. I want that,'” Sturm remembers. “I woke up the next day I felt such a peace and a joy that I’d never felt before. Jesus saved my life. The almost overwhelming thing to think is that Jesus became sin, and it was my sin. It was thing that I’ve done that held Him on the cross. He hung naked on a cross bleeding in a shameful way so that I would never have to be ashamed for the things that I’ve done.” Read the rest of the article written by my Lighthouse Christian Academy student here.

Roof access

img_4316As apartment manager, I can get on the roof — no one else.

Maintenance duties oblige me to inspect. As a result, I’ve delighted by some of the most glorious views of sunsets and skies. I’ve witnessed beauty that can be observed at street level, at the level of the tenants.

You have access to the roof as a Christian. You have access into the things of God, a higher life, a life of beauty. The direction of the Christian is upward.

Enjoy.

Girls rule, boys drool

a-beginner-makes-a-goal-in-varsity-co-ed-soccerIn her first year of soccer, Jamie Roman didn’t play in a single game. She sat on the bench and smiled.

In her second year of soccer, coach threw on the easygoing junior against the league’s toughest team, Einstein Academy, on Feb. 3.

And she almost scored a goal.

Jamie is no Tomboy, but she joined varsity soccer at the Lighthouse Christian Academy just to get involved. LCA coaxes kids to participate in activities they would never do in regular school. With only 45 students, the Saints scour their enrollment list to fill rosters.

“At first I just joined for my friends,” Jamie said of her experience last year. “Then I saw how fun the conditioning was — that pain in the moment. I wanted to see if I could run.”

She looked perfectly content with exercising and playing at practice — and being side-lined during games.

“I wanted to play last year, but I was shy and lazy, so I missed the opportunity to play,” she said. “I had a lot of good laughs on the sidelines. But it was kind of embarrassing that I would go to all the games and wear a uniform and not play.”

The 2016-17 season was different. A few players were disqualified because of grades, whittling down eligible players for the starting squad.

Sometimes high school coaches put their least experienced players as forwards because it’s the position where they can do the least damage.

(The defensive line is critical because once the opponent gets past, it’s just the goalie that can save the day. You want to fight and maintain position in the middle of the field. So where does the newbie go? Up front.)

In her breakout game, Jamie got offsides a kajillion times. She had to learn how pass the last defender without the ball and how to sprint into the danger zone as soon as her teammate struck for a pass to her.

Nerves killed her.

“I was nervous,” she said. “I was so paranoid that I’d mess up. I was afraid they would yell at me if I messed up.” Read the rest at co-ed soccer.

Second straight playoffs for Lighthouse soccer

saints-soccer-tall-and-proudFor the second straight year, Lighthouse Christian Academy entered soccer playoffs — a decided break from a long past of never making post-season play.

But the Saints mechanics ran rough on Feb. 15 against delToledo High School, which dismissed LCA with a resounding 0-6 defeat.

For about a week, Lighthouse players were thinking their third-place standing in the league ruled them out of playoffs when they rather suddenly received the news they would get at least one more game to see far they advanced.

lighthouse-christian-academy-soccer-santa-monicaThe Saints season peaked in a shock defeat of last year’s league champs 2-1. In that game, players were passing, fighting and concentrating. The victory against Newbury Park culminated a winning streak of three and gave the Saints the intoxicating sensation of invincibility that lasted only a couple days.

The next game Jan. 27 against Einstein Academy brought LCA back to reality with a humbling 0-6 thrashing. The prior passing went up in smoke with predictable results.

The Saints finished league play 5-3. Against the better teams, LCA — which has 1-and-a-half club players — can compete when they play like a team linking up with passes. Individual juking runs don’t work. But would players listen to coach and stick with selflessness?

If only players in our Santa Monica Christian school would apply the Bible to the soccer field: It is better to give than to receive.

In some games, passing became so scarce that when finally a through-ball was sent, the intended player wasn’t expecting it and invariably reacted slowly.

Kevin Durant finds stardom and Jesus in NBA

kevindurantibelieveKevin Durant, a two-time Olympics gold medalist in basketball and the 2014 NBA most valuable player, has learned to be more vocal about his Christian faith.

The 28-year-old, 6’11” superstar is now with fellow Christian Steph Curry on the Golden State Warriors, after leading his native Oklahoma City Thunder deep into the playoffs in 2010-13.

“The Bible both pumps me up and balances me to play my best,” Durant told Beyond the Ultimate. “But it also tells me more about the Lord and how I can live for Him and what all He has done for me.”

Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks - Game TwoDurant, one of the NBA’s most popular players, grew up in a Christian home, led by a single mom, but fell out of church attendance in middle and high school. He excelled at basketball and in 2006 he was widely regarded as one of the best prospects for college ball. His freshman game was so overpowering that he decided to enter the NBA draft immediately.

Picked by the then-Seattle SuperSonics, he produced prodigious performances and won the Rookie of the Year acknowledgement.

The team transferred to Oklahoma and renamed itself the Thunder the next year. It was while he played for the Thunder that Durant, mum about his faith, buddied up with teammate Kevin Ollie, who encouraged him to attend chapel services and to be unafraid to voice his faith.

kevin-durant-and-steph-curry“He got everybody going and wanting to learn more. I was just one of the guys who was trying to follow his lead,” Durant said on Beliefnet. “He was a big teacher in helping me do that and making me feel more comfortable in my faith around other people and being able to pray for other people and pray out loud and things like that; take those baby steps.”

While he lived in Oklahoma City, Durant felt drawn to the easy-going, earnest faith of New York City Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz and adopted the pastor as his mentor. He was baptized by Lentz in 2013.

“I used to feel like if I did something wrong, I would go to hell,” he said. Now, “I believe God’s love for me, the sacrificial death of Jesus for my sins and His grace, not my good works, are what saves me.” Read the rest of the story.

This article was written by my student Jordan Sheppard in my journalism class at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

A bag of cheetos defeated our soccer team

soccer-los-angeles-high-schoolLighthouse’s potentially playoff-deciding loss to Newbury can be blamed on a bag of flaming hot cheetos.

That’s all one player ate all day before the game.

The Saints matchup on Feb. 7 promised to be high stakes challenge. Newbury Park was last year’s league champs that LCA managed to upset this season 2-1 with energy and sheer force of will in the first matchup. The Gators would be seeking revenge for the “humiliation.”

So how did the Saints prepare?

Some players didn’t eat enough, and so they ran out of gas in the second half, allowing a 3-3 tie turn into a 3-5 loss. One player showed up with football cleats, a disqualifying violation.

The mind-boggling frustration behind Santa Monica’s Christian school soccer loss is actually a teaching moment. Lighthouse Christian Academy drills not just cognitive skills (how to ace college entrance exams or learn calculus). With a view to successful life, LCA teaches non-cognitive skills: how to show up on time every day, how to be responsible.

In other words, LCA gets the knuckleheadedness out.

“In the first half I did good,” the cheeto-eater said. “But in the second half, my stomach started to hurt.”

The pros on a wide pitch run 5 miles in a 90 minute game. Of course, high schoolers in 80 minutes of play on smaller fields don’t manage quite as much. But still, you burn a lot of calories. Even if you haven’t taken the requisite health class, intuitively you know to eat carb rich food (not fatty, greasy or sugary) before the game.

One bag of cheetos simply is not filling up the fuel tank.

In some ways, LCA’s rematch against Newbury was everything it promised to be, a back-and-forth thriller between similarly skilled teams battling for second place and the coveted playoff berth.

The Saints were first to score at 15 minutes. Erhan Meric sent a through ball to the left corner that junior Abraham Morales sprinted to. He juked a defender to get in the box, and as the keeper came out for the onoe-on-one, Abraham chipped wide of him to the far post.

Newbury fought back to net two goals.

In the second half, Abraham threw in a ball looking for a Saints player, but a Newbury defender, instead of clearing it, headered it in to the goal. The game was tied 2-2.

Newbury again scored making it 3-2.

Then Hosea was blind-sided by a double body check from opposing sides causing him to spin in the air just inside the box. Taking the penalty kick, Erhan sent the goalie left and shot right.

The game was tied 3-3.

That’s when LCA started running out of gas. Read the rest of the story.

Now landing goals, not punches

from-south-central-los-angeles-to-a-christian-school-in-santa-monica

His shots went high and wide.

Junior Abraham Morales, who showed plenty of speed and skill, couldn’t put the ball into the net to save his life.

Then in the second half of the season, things suddenly came into focus for old blurry-shooter. He nailed a shot against Westmark from the left flank.

And on Tuesday, in the highest tension game of the 2017 season, when his team needed him most, Abraham proved in top form. He sunk two torpedoes to unnerve the reigning league champs, Newbury Park, in a game that ultimately Lighthouse Christian Academy lost 3-5.

“As a little kid I would just pass the ball around with my family members. I was a pretty short kid. I used to tell them, ‘One day I’ll make it big in soccer,’” Abraham said.

He’s big in our eyes, now one of the top scorers for the season and officially listed in the Lighthouse ledger of soccer history.

Because of soccer, Abraham transferred to Lighthouse. His middle school teammates jeered and bullied him for his flubs on the soccer field, a habitual provocation that drove him to yelling and even fist fights. The nastiness continued into his freshman year of high school in the public school system in South Central Los Angeles, where he lives.

“I told my mom, ‘Can I go to another school because I don’t feel right here?” Mrs. Morales found Lighthouse online.

Even though he was raised in a Christian home, Abraham thought he wouldn’t fit in at a Christian high school.

“I thought it was going to be super strict and all that,” he admitted. “I knew there was going to be some sort of dress code. I didn’t want to wear a uniform.” Read the rest of the story.

We shook them up

img_4605Since they steamrolled us in our first game, Einstein Academy expected to win handily on the rematch Friday. One player even heckled a Saint: “I guarantee that there is no way we will lose this game.”

Well, Lighthouse Christian Academy made them sweat to earn their win. LCA rattled their nerves and hacked their hubris. And even though the Saints went down 1-6, the Christian kids from Santa Monica could hold high chins by the final whistle.  With only one club player and a former club player, the Saints had stood tall against a high school team of 10 club players of varsity soccer.

“You guys don’t give up,” said Einstein coach Ken Erenberg. “I thought that was great about your team — the whole game they kept fighting through, no matter what the score was. They kept fighting. You got that goal at the end. It was the never die. It was nice to see that.”

Indeed, it took the Rockets 25 minutes to break down the Saints dogged defense.

In the first match, the Einstein players had notched two goals in the first 10 minutes. And then they stepped off the gas pedal and coasted to an easy 0-6 victory.

But on Friday, Coach Erenberg sounded frustrated as his team couldn’t manage to open the deadbolt. The Rockets keeper too scolded his team.

It was a different Saints team. On the first matchup, the Saints were presumptuous. They were on a 3-game winning streak that included the shock defeat of last year’s champs. As they oozed confidence, they lacked concentration. Since they took to the field thinking they’d win without even having to play, the Saints crashed and burned terribly. They committed enough errors to make the discriminating soccer observer turn his nose inward face palms.

The scoreline –0-6 — was a humiliating wake-up call and could have been far worse, except that the Rockets sent on their second string for some practice in the second half.

On Friday, the fierce determination of the underdog Saint was back with a vengeance, and a growing alarm in the voice of the shouts from the sidelines and on the field was evident.

Ultimately, the Saints committed an error, and the Rockets buried the ball in the net for their first at 25 minutes. By halftime, they had three goals, all products of a lapse of concentration and the lack of experience.

As the score crept upward, Coach Jack Mefford noted that Einstein did NOT take off their star player, #43, this time — a move that credits LCA’s improved performance.

“I’ll take that as a badge of pride,” he said.

As the minutes crept towards the final, the Saints refused to cower like a dog with its tail between its legs. They continued to press, and their resilience paid dividends. Read the rest of the article.

God’s gangster: former yakuza is now pastor

yakuzaAs a teenager, he was lured into a Japanese crime syndicate known as yakuza, and after surviving several violent episodes and prison experiences, God began to get his attention.

“I admired the yakuza for what was visible only on the surface,” Tatsuya Shindo told CNN. “They have lots of money, spend their money lavishly, and play glamorously. The bad guys looked so cool in my eyes. I was a child. I didn’t think too deeply.”

Many of the estimated 50,000 yakuza fall into a life of crime because they come from broken families. The yakuza cultivate a sense of family, of belonging and of loyalty.

But if there were issues that seduced him to the mob life, the harsh realities began to pummel him.

“People were killed in power struggles,” he recounted. “People’s legs were shot. A guy who was doing drugs with me died of intoxication. Suicides happened. Sudden deaths. I’ve seen many deaths,” said Shindo, 45. “I saw my henchmen get stabbed to death.”

He got addicted to crystal meth. He crashed his boss’s car while driving under the influence. As a result, his pinkie finger was cut off with a chisel, which is a form of penance in the syndicate. For a first offense, the wrongdoer must cut off the tip of his left little finger and give the severed portion to his boss.

160222022016-japan-life-after-yakuza-ripley-pkg-00001721-exlarge-169Shindo’s body is covered by tattoos, which make him an outcast in Japan. Many yakuza have full-body tattoos, which are still “hand-poked”, with homemade tools using needles made of bamboo or steel. The painful process can take years to finish.

Crime members cover their tattoos in public, but when they play cards with each other they often remove their shirts to show off their creative designs.

Beginning at age 22, Shindo was arrested seven times and imprisoned three times, according to CNN.

He saw his mob boss killed and friends die of overdoses. After his third prison sentence, he began to question the “lavish life of the yakuza” he once imagined. He finally decided it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

During his final 10-year prison sentence, Shindo began reading a Bible in solitary confinement.Read the rest of the article written by a Chinese student at our Santa Monica school.

Exquisite soccer: selflessness

erhanThere are piano movers and piano players on the soccer field.

There are beefy guys who marshal girth at speed to jostle opponents off the ball and keep possession. And there are slight figures who ghost around and with exquisite touches on the ball to perform the magic that gets posted on YouTube.

Erhan Meric was performing a symphony of soccer delight in yesterday’s 7-1 victory over Westmark School in Encino. The Lighthouse Christian Academy Saints are now 5-1 in league play.

Erhan, who learned the music of soccer in Turkey before moving to America and enrolling in our Santa Monica Christian school, knows as much as an orchestra director. He’ll streak past defenders dribbling as if the ball were attached to his feet. He changes up pace suddenly. He doesn’t shy away from the one-on-one, in which he’ll thread the ball through the eye of the needle. He can strike from distance with power and precision.

He’s a bonafide virtuoso.

Against Westmark, Erhand notched two early goals to put LCA on towards a comfortable win.

And then after making two goals, Erhan did something extraordinary. He stopped scoring.

Other high school players would have capitalized on a weak opponent to set a personal record. Not Erhan. He desisted.

Instead, he dedicated his skill to setting up his lesser-skilled teammates for goals.

“I’ve scored a lot of goals,” the soft-spoken junior said. “I wanted my friends to score.”

An Erhan strike, not against Westmark.

And they flubbed. They tripped. They shot wide or high. It was a great opportunity for them to learn in a real life game.

There’s a word for a star who wants others to shine. It’s a word that can’t be used much in the world of sports.

Here it is: selfless.

Sports is thronged by bluster and brag, by trashtalk and mindgame. It is dominated by a deafening drivel of ME. And when the megalomania hits the field, the opponent becomes more than just the other team. It becomes the teammate who’s competing. Yup, when teammates compete among themselves to see who’s the best, usually the other team wins.

Soccer, like basketball, is only beautiful when there is passing. When one player jukes four players and single-handedly taps the ball into the net, that is gloating and unsportsmanlike. While a Messi or Neymar individual performance is sensational, high schoolers go selfish and try to be the all-star, almost never do they make the final goal. Their selfishness undoes whatever prior work they put in to building up to the finale. The last touch of a scintillating run must be a pass because you pull too many defenders to you.

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LCA relinquish romantic role of underdog in win against Pilgrim School

alex-cervantes-santa-monica-christian-school-soccerLighthouse returned to its winning ways Tuesday with a 4-0 shutout of Pilgrim School.

There is something romantic, something poetic about slugging it out in a losing battle — if you don’t succumb to cynicism. Parents cheer on their players, who bravely mount a futile fight. Coaches teach the sport to beginners. You are playing competitive league, learning about teamwork, effort and excellence. It’s a game, so even if you lose, it’s better than doing homework. The odds are just overwhelmingly against you.

It is a poetry that Lighthouse Christian Academy, with historically low enrollments, knows well — on the football field, on the volleyball court and on the soccer field.

But on Tuesday, the romance of being the underdog didn’t belong Lighthouse. It belonged to Pilgrim, which staged an epic fight and skirmished rousingly but ultimately buckled before bigger guns.

The Saints saw themselves, for once, in the dominant role.

With the fleet-footed Turkish star, junior Erhan Meric, and with the big basketball star sophomore Justin Berry in goal swatting down shots like flies, with soccer machine junior Alex Cervantes and with danger-creating freshman Hosea Ashcraft serving up through-balls likes pancakes, LCA’s 2017 iteration is actually a menacing squad.

The Santa Monica Christian school’s team was powerful enough to compete against last year’s league champions, Newbury Park. On Jan. 19, they Saints shocked the big kids on the block, upending their hegemony with a quite unexpected 2-1 from tireless toiling, vision and belief.

Then with the rush of the mouse that roared, the Saints played against Einstein Academy Friday and saw their dynamism, their teamwork and their unbeaten record evaporate. It’s not far from the truth to say that Einstein crushed the overconfident Saints.

Tuesday was a chance to turnaround. To finish the article, click here.

High-flying (and prideful) LCA soccer loses to Einstein Academy in a reminder they will need to work to compensate for their lack of technical and tactical ability

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With three consecutive wins, Lighthouse soccer was flying high — perhaps too high — when Einstein Academy knocked them down back into the Earth’s atmosphere with a stinging 0-6 loss on Jan. 27.

The players for the Lighthouse Christian Academy were ebullient as they entered their fourth league game undefeated. They were joking. They were confident cocky. They weren’t listening to coach. They weren’t concentrating.

After cooly beating last year’s high school soccer champs 2-1, what could possibly stand in their way?

Albert Einstein Academy for Arts, Letters and Sciences of Valencia had read the game record on MaxPreps and prepared for a formidable foe. “We thought we were going to have to give everything we had to beat you,” admitted the Einstein coach.

Instead, Einstein’s 10 club players and other assorted players faced a disorganized Saints team that hemorrhaged goals with a succession of mistakes. In the first half, Lighthouse held a deep defensive line on two free kicks, allowing Einstein players with powerful kicks to get within goal range with long airborn passes. The 50-50 ball needed only to be turned into the net.

Lighthouse managed the improbable win against Newbury, the reigning league champs, by working some slick passing. But on Friday, Saints players were selfish, attempting impossible penetration through a thicket of players with individual dribbling. At best, they would get past three and get caught by the fourth while an open teammate called for the ball.

Other mistakes were made by the Christian school in Santa Monica.

After a winning run that Coach Junior Cervantes qualified as “miraculous,” it was a crushing loss but not an undeserved loss. The pre-game glut of confidence was inappropriate.

As the Bible says, pride comes before a fall.

With only one club and one former club player… Finish reading the article.

How hyperactivity turned to a Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer win

santa-monica-soccer-private-high-schoolOften, Brandon Montes overflows fidgety energy in the classroom. He’s drumming on the desk, snapping fingers, sneering at classmates across the room, clowning around. Believe it or not, through it all he’s paying attention too.

On Jan. 19, 2017, of an extraordinary week of soccer, Brandon was paying attention and put his gush of energy to good use. At left defense he was alert to a ball opponents were clearing on a corner kick. It was headered wide, out of the danger zone. It was coasting safely towards the line.

But solid defensive tactic fell apart because of Brandon’s energy boost and attentiveness. The sophomore ran up and smashed a low shot through a muddle of players that apparently blocked the goalkeeper’s view of action. By the time he jumped, it was too late. The ball went into the net.

“Whenever I see a ball that close to the goal, my main idea is to shoot it,” Brandon said. “I saw the ball was going over. I ran up on it. I heard Junior say ‘chip it in the middle,’ but I wasn’t taking into account what he said because my first instinct was to shoot it.”

Brandon’s effort was richly rewarding. His first goal of the season (and that from a defensive position!) was the winner. The Lighthouse Christian Academy beat the Newbury Park Gators 2-1. Brandon’s goal capped off an equalizer from freshman Levi Photenhauer in the second half to give the Saints the unexpected victory.

“I tried to do what I was learning in practice: keep my head over the ball, to kick a ball with power low and on the ground instead of having it blast into outer space,” Brandon said.

Brandon has played some untiring and intelligent soccer this season. He fights for ever ball and doesn’t concede anything. He runs hard and fast.

“Whenever I see a ball coming towards me, I have to get it,” Brandon said. “If a ball gets passed me, I get extremely angry. I attack it by any means necessary.”

It was Brandon’s long switch from defensive position that set up Levi’s goal.

On Tuesday in a game against Westmark that our private high school also won, it was Brandon at center mid that sunk a billiards shot into the path of Marcus Scribner to notch up one assist.

“I look for whoever is open and try to make the pass,” he said. LCA won 7-2 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday in school, students fell into braggadocio, boasting about their heroics and jeering teammates who remained so far goalless. Brandon searched for the words to defend his play, which had sparkled more than that of some of the goal-scorers. He decided to not answer their boasts. He had played well. His actions spoke for him. He would answer them in Thursday’s match. Finish reading the article.

Her dad was killed evangelizing N. Korea. Now she wants to go there.

kung-yu-sungHer father was, in all likelihood, executed for evangelizing in North Korea, and yet Kung Yu Sung wants to go to that closed communist nation to be a missionary herself.

“God has placed in my heart a great love for North Korea,” the 18-year-old said in a YouTube video. “My father was used there for God’s kingdom. I want to bring the love of Jesus to North Korea.”

Today, Yu Sung is in high school in South Korea, where she was granted asylum. Her father had been a high-ranking government official until he fell out of favor with the totalitarian dictator and had to flee to China with his wife and then-six-year-old daughter.

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North Korea is among the most closed nations of the world.

It was in China that he accepted Christ at a Bible study he attended with relatives, Yu Sung said. He was growing in the Lord and the love of God’s work when he was reported to Chinese authorities and arrested for being in China illegally. Then he was deported to North Korea, an ally of China, where he served a prison sentence of three years for leaving his native land illegally.

Meanwhile, Yu Sung’s mother died of leukemia while pregnant with what was to be her second child, and little Yu Sung was left alone in the world. She was adopted by a pastor’s family in China.

“They showed me great love and care,” she said. “Through them, God protected me.”

After her father finished his prison sentence in North Korea, he fled to China. “The time in jail only made my father’s faith stronger,” she said.

After a time of continued study in the Bible, he decided to return to North Korea as a missionary. He was fully aware of the risks, but he wanted “to share Christ’s message of life among the hopeless of his homeland.” He chose not to go to South Korea where he could have enjoyed religious freedom and lived more comfortably.

Instead, he went to North Korea to share the love of God in a dangerous land,” Yu Sung recounted.

“It breaks my heart to tell you that in 2006 he was discovered by the North Korean government and he was again imprisoned,” she said. “I have heard no words from my father ever since. In all probability he has been shot to death in public on charges of treason and espionage.” To read the rest of the story, click here.

Vanity, Prince girl friend, tried to escape pain through fame, drugs and sex

vanity“Kill Vanity.”

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.”

prince-vanity-rolling-stone-coverSo 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.

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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.

Hip Hop artist Andy Mineo won’t be pigeon-holed

andymineoAt 12, Syracuse native Andy Mineo accepted Jesus at a Bible camp and experienced a love in his heart for people he previously hated. But without male role models and a Christian support network, he drifted away from God in high school and joined a secular rap group known as Fat Camp.

In his freshman year at City College of New York, Mineo met Grammy-award-winning music producer Alex Medina in a music class. Medina introduced him to hip hop artists who were Christians, and the idea that he could combine his talent for lyrics with love for God excited him.

andy-mineoMineo renewed his relationship with Jesus, got involved with Intervarsity campus ministries, and gave up secular recording.

“I remember walking in one Saturday to the rehearsals they would have and seeing a whole bunch of people my age, urban, inner city, loved hip-hop, loved the arts, and loved Jesus,” Mineo said. “And I thought, ‘This is unreal!’”

Mineo released his first mixtape, Sin is Wack, in 2009. He drew a lot of attention when he sang hook vocals on “Background” for Lecrae’s Rehab album. In 2011, he signed for Christian label Reach Records and joined the Christian hip hop collective 116 Clique (as in Rom. 1:16), famous for being “unashamed of the Gospel.”

He released Heroes for Sale in 2013 and in 2015 Uncomfortable, which cracked Billboard’s top 10.

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“With a mix of thought-provoking lyrics combined with encouragement and a range of beats, Uncomfortable is an ambitious and bold entry into Christian rap and hip hop that convicts, inspires, and encourages,” noted Chris Major of The Christian Beat.

Aside from his musical creativity, the pull of Mineo’s music is his “reflective lyricism, that connects with his fans through shared struggles, self-discovery and raw emotion,” according to Narratively. His sincerity about his own struggles with temptation comes out clearly in his rap “Tug of War.”

“It’s essentially me just sharing my life, sharing my failures, my struggles, my successes, my joy that I have in God,” Mineo told BillyGraham.org. “I hope what I can do through the music I’m making now is point people to this hope that I found.”

Mineo doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a “Christian rapper” because he’ll lose appeal among the secular audiences he’s trying to win to Christ.

“Excellence is the best marketing tool, and I know my music is excellent,” Mineo said. “So if people listen to it and just objectively they can enjoy it and say, ‘Wow, I like this. This is good,’ then they’ll have the opportunity to soak in the content and say, ‘Oh, he has a different perspective.’” Finish the story, which was written by my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.