Tag Archives: Santa Monica

760 patients in one day at Guatemala clinic new record for LMM


Lighthouse Medical Missions in Guatemala

Aided by an influx of local doctors, Lighthouse Medical Missions broke all previous records Wednesday seeing 760 patients in one day at its clinic in Coban, Guatemala.

“This is insane,” said LMM founder Dr Robert Hamilton.

Previous daily records hovered around 400 patients, said head nurse Alison Hagoski.

The new high is all the more astonishing considering that LMM’s founder is in Santa Monica nursing his shoulder after surgery. Dr. Bob rued the missed opportunity to help in the countryside city in the mountain jungles where the green-and-red-splashed national bird, the quetzal, hides.

In fact, the 19-member team includes only one doctor. There are four registered nurses, two vocational nurses, an ultrasound technician and an army medic. The rest are students interested in medicine, translators and enthusiastic volunteers.

Organizers expected low patient numbers.

The practice of contracting local doctors to assist with the load has a long tradition in LMM, which for 20 years has gone mostly to Africa. But the local doctors sometimes abandon the job at half day to attend their own practices. And they often don’t adjust to the streamlined system of using pre-filled prescription cards.

Something special and unusual happened this year as the local doctors flooded and melded well, despite the language barrier. Read the rest about the Guatemala medical mission.

The lie of love

img_2246The biggest lie of love and marriage is that it doesn’t take work, it just blossoms, flowers and grows naturally without any effort. Such is true love.

If you have any issues to work out, if there are disappointments and misunderstandings, if someone suggests marriage counseling, then obviously you didn’t find your true #SoulMate and so you should call it quits (never mind the damage to children) and continue the quest for #TrueLove.


Love takes work. Work at communication, work at hatcheting down your expectations, work at sacrifice. The myth of love is the fulfillment of selfishness. But the reality is that love must be selfless. Just like Jesus did.

For these reasons, the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica, my church, holds marriage retreats twice yearly. We stay in a #PismoBeach hotel, saunter around quaint town, eat piping hot fried fish and listen to a few inspiring sermons of some brutally honest people who tells us the nuts and bolts of a successful marriage.

img_2255Dude, people get it when it comes to car maintenance. People get it when it comes to continuing education or career advancement. People get that investing time and money is necessary to keep things running smoothly. But when it comes to marriage, people don’t get it. Their false premise is the lie of the romantic music: if it’s true love, it shouldn’t take any work.

A man shared with one of the couples. He lasted eight years in marriage. “I just wasn’t willing to put in the work.”

Our church is very fortunate. I’m at 26 years, and mine is one of the newer marriages. In the new church Dianna and I are founding in Van Nuys, CA, there aren’t any married couples. But we want to lay a foundation for singles to know and understand how to succeed in marriage.

Even though they lose, they are the golden generation


This was the class that reduced teachers to tears.

But something happened in the intervening years to our current crop of freshmen. The former devil-may-care rascals stopped creating classroom chaos, stopped ditching homework assignments and stopped terrorizing teachers. They started speaking respectfully to adults, started improving their academics and started serving at church.

Never mind their latest defeat against Crossroads Christian of Corona 6-58 on Friday. As freshmen, they’re developing into a fearsome strike force of future Lighthouse football.

What brought about the transformation?

img_0329In a word: Zach Scribner.

Zach Scribner is not only football coach. He’s  also youth pastor and the Lighthouse Church School janitor. By some means, Zach inspired the bad boys of current 9th grade to shape up. If they didn’t behave with their moms at home, he would punish them by NOT letting them clean the church and school at 6:00 a.m.

“Zach and Justin (Kayne, co-coach) have really turned me and Garrett (Lahood) and some of other players around,” Levi said. “He’s helped us realize it’s cool to be good. They lead by example. When we were younger, they were the cool guys that we looked up. Seeing them set a good example made us want to follow.”

So just forget that Lighthouse Christian Academy continues to hemorrhage on defense. (“We got find a way to make stops,” moaned Coach Justin Kayne. “We gotta find a way to stop the big play on 3rd and 4th down. Otherwise, it’s just a blowout.”)

This Los Angeles crew of Christian school players will get to winning. It just may not be this year.

In fact, they already won –  when they got character squared away. Read more about the triumphs and losses of our football team.

The Santa Monica LCA had a ‘sick’ football game

img_0154After throwing up all week, Justin Berry was expected to throw down.

He decked his pads, suited up and caught one of LCA’s two touchdown passes Saturday.

“There was no way I was not going to play,” the sophomore said. The tall basketball player used those basketball hands to grab over the head of a corner back and scampered into the End Zone.


Feeling under the weather, Justin Berry still played.

Blame 95 degree heat. The Lighthouse Christian Academy looked bewildered and disjointed as they fell 14-75 to Bloomington Christian School, whose team numbers as much as half of LCA’s entire student population.

“We weren’t ready for the heat,” said Coach Zach Scribner. “That caused tons of mental mistakes. We’re going to do lots of conditioning, lots of blocking and lots of tackling this coming week.”

img_0159Saturday’s game featured the debut of rugby player, senior Daniel Jones, who offers some bullishness to our mostly freshman team. Daniel was a forced to be reckoned with and made some tackles and runs, but lack of experience also saw him block on the back to annul Levi Photenhauer‘s touchdown.

Other than his TD and some nifty catches, Justin was laggy due to his sickness.

“I played sick — in both senses of the word,” he quipped. Read the rest of the Christian school football Santa Monica article.

After Africa, they chose a medical career


Cathy Kayne at her graduation, with her family.

After helping on two medical missions in Africa, Cathy Kayne decided to become a registered nurse – and that she did at 56 years of age.

The Culver City resident is part of a lesser touted statistic for Lighthouse Medical Missions: the number of volunteers who make medicine a profession.

To date, there are at least three doctors and half a dozen nurses who got their first taste of dispensing medicines in the hinterlands of West Africa where the word “acute” defines medical needs almost as much as “chronic.”

Kayne went to Sierra Leone in the spring of 2005 and to Burundi in the summer of 2008 to help in a logistics capacity

“It brought me a lot of joy to be out in the field and involved in helping people in a medical capacity,” Kayne said. “It caused an old childhood dream to resurface. I had wanted to be a nurse but didn’t get the chance to pursue it. When I went to Africa, I realized this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” Read the rest of the article.

Losing is winning in marriage


Give in to your spouse a thousand times. That’s they way you win — by losing.

Marriage rewards an overflow of joy to those who manage to figure out its elusive secrets. The road to happiness is selflessness. It’s ironic: you get what you want (not everything) by giving up what you want.

Of course, newlyweds have all kinds of expectations. Maturity comes when we let go of those expectations. No one is good enough. If you divorce this one because of problems, the next will have a different set of problems. And maybe you would be courageous enough to recognize the principal problem is you.

And me.

I’m the principal problem in my marriage. If I work on changing me, on being more loving for my wife, she’ll be happier. And when she gets happier, she just automatically works on making me happier.

The picture is of Jenny and Josh, graduates and former students of mine from the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. There are all kinds of reasons why they shouldn’t get married (money, youth, etc.) But I applaud their go-for-it attitude. If you are determined to make it work, it probably will.


Our school takes kids to Africa, this is Ruby’s experience on the medical mission

IMG_0968By Ruby Swanson, LCA sophomore

While other students were vacationing and relaxing over Spring Break, I was working — in Africa on a medical mission. I consider myself blessed to participate.

As a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, I jumped at the chance to join the associated Lighthouse Medical Missions in Tanzania on March 25 to April 3. My dad did his best to repress all the usual parental fears of malaria, terrorism and the like to let me go. From the Christian school in Santa Monica, I traveled 36 hours to Africa.


We stayed in the the Ryan’s Bay Hotel overlooking the glorious Lake Victoria. Every day we held clinic in which doctors and nurses attended to hundreds of patients. Each night, we attended church services.

On the first day of clinic, I assisted Doctor Bob Hamilton, founder of the Lighthouse Medical Mission, at the pediatric station. So many sick children came in it was heartbreaking. It was also really inspiring because even though they were sick because they were giggling, playful, happy kids.


The second day I worked with Katelyn Myer in the pharmacy. She had all the supplies super organized and was on top of everything. However, the serious medicine hadn’t arrived because terror threats in Brussels tied up the meds shipping out from there. All we had was Advil and stuff like that.

It was really hard to have to tell someone who had walked miles and waited hours that we didn’t have the medicine they needed so desperately. The meds came later in the week, so people who had been given prescriptions came back to fill them.


The people lined up for free medical attention in Mwanza, Tanzania.

I spent the next few days assisting at the nurse station and those were my favorite days of clinic. My main job was to hold down kids who were getting shots, getting blood tests or getting abscesses drained. It was really cool seeing all of the nurses at work and inspired me to maybe pursue a career in that field.

When the nurses didn’t have anything for me to do, they gave me some free time to play with some of the kids visiting the clinic. One time I brought out the bubble machine and I was immediately surrounded by a bunch of laughing, jumping, awestruck children. It didn’t occur to me until later that they had never seen bubbles before.


The last day I assisted Doctor and Mrs. Czer at their station treating people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia and etc. Everyday at clinic was rewarding, even though you were hot and tired by the end it was all worth it to have been able to care for these people.

The last day was cut short so that team members could do their own thing before attending a dinner at the pastor’s house. Liz Peterson, fellow LCA student Sasha Photenhauer and I went on a hike with the guys while all of the other girls went shopping.


I’m glad I chose the hike because I got to experience Africa’s beautiful scenery and even take a selfie with a Zebra! Each moment of the trip was spectacular; but the ones spent at the clinic are by far the most special to me.

By going to Africa I realized just how incredibly blessed I am to live here in America. I realized just how little material things really mean and how much I take for granted. Africa taught me to appreciate everything I have and to think less selfishly.

I experienced God in ways I never had before and I am so happy that He sent me on this trip. I encourage everyone to go on a medical mission if they are given the chance to because it something that completely changes the way you view the world, others and yourself.

Not only that, but you are able to serve God by serving people, and the Bible says that people are treasure. I can honestly say that going on this trip changed my life for the better.

This article, written by one of my students, originally appeared here.

Rocky, Rambo and Ross got redeemed


Stallone in the purple jacket.

Action megastar Sylvester Stallone has always done his own stunts, which sometimes resulted in broken bones and hospitalizations. The Italian Stallion’s faith in Christ survived many blows as well, until the Hollywood prodigal found his way back to the Lord.

“I was raised in a Christian home,” Stallone told the Dove Foundation. “I was taught the faith and went as far as I could with it until one day I got out into the so-called real world. I was presented with temptation and I lost my way and made a lot of bad choices.”

rocky-balboa_punched_ignStallone, 70, was born in New York City. His father was a hairdresser and beautician. His mother ran a gym, being an astrologer, dancer and promoter of women’s wrestling.

His birth was accompanied by complications. The obstetrician used forceps that accidentally severed a nerve causing paralysis in portions of his face, contributing to his trademark mad dog look and slightly slurred speech.

His parents divorced when he was nine, which may have had a bearing on his poor school performance. Evicted when he was 24 and sleeping at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Stallone accepted a role in a soft-core porn movie for $200.

sylvester stallone“It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope,” he told Playboy.

He landed some other minor roles but hit huge success with the 1976 Rocky, which won three academy awards and seized the American consciousness. The underdog boxer became an American icon.

Six sequels and a Special Forces series called Rambo followed that success. The Expendables came later. From the dregs of society, he was catapulted to the summit of Hollywood success, and the flush of money and fame brought a glut of temptation.

“All of sudden you’re given the keys to the candy store and temptation abounds, and then I began to believe my own publicity,” Stallone told Pat Robertson in an interview. “There’s no question. I admit it. I just lost my way.”

He divorced twice, first from Sasha Czack and then from Brigitte Nielsen. He is currently married to Jennifer Flavin, with whom he has three daughters.

His personal struggles have become fodder for the introspection in some of his later films. His 48-year-old half sister Toni Ann Filiti succumbed to lung cancer in 2012. In his most recent film “Creed,” Rocky Balboa needs to be pushed to fight cancer by Donnie Johnson, the youngster Rocky is training to fight in the ring.

By his own account, Stallone spiraled downward for 12 years until he finally had a prodigal son epiphany and decided to return to the faith of his childhood.

“Finally I realized it had to stop,” Stallone said. “I had to get back to basics and take things out of my own hands and put it in God’s hands.”

Even in the anti-Christian environment of Hollywood, he unabashedly acknowledges his faith in Christ – and he spills enthusiasm about going to church.

“The more I go to church and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now,” Stallone told Focus on the Family. “The church is the gym of the soul. You cannot train yourself. You need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else.”

Now older and wiser, Stallone admits to some distaste for the shallow violence of his earlier films. But he stands behind the Rocky series.

“This is a story of faith, integrity and victory,” he said. “Jesus is the inspiration for anyone to go the distance. You could compare his courage to that of David, who as the epic underdog defeated the giant Goliath in battle. It’s a metaphor about life. ”

A sequel to Rambo has been in the works for some time, with discussion of one version being a rescue of missionaries out of ISIS’ control in Iraq. But this film may never get done.

The Stallone trademark for his movies is that he does his own stunts. This has resulted in injuries that he has tried to mask with tattoos on his shoulders, chest and upper back. The first tattoo was a portrait of his wife Flavin.

For Rocky IV, he told Dolph Lundgren (who played his Russian opponent): “Punch me as hard as you can in the chest,” he said at a Comic Con panel. “Next thing I know, I was in intensive care at St. John’s Hospital for four days. It’s stupid!”

The injuries too are a metaphor because when we wander from Christ, they tend to make us reflect about what is most important and bring us back to Jesus. It would seem to be something Stallone would say.

This article was written with Alex Cervantes, a student of the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, where I teach. It was originally published on God Reports.

‘Two strikes’ scared him, so this gang banger turned to Jesus


Edgar Cervantes in his car. He delivers for the deli and he drives to outreaches all over to share about Jesus.

By Jasmine Cervantes and Mark Ellis

Little Edgar Cervantes shrieked with terror when the cops raided his home in Pacoima, California, hauling his mom, dad and uncle off to jail for the drugs, hot money and stolen jewelry retrieved on the property.

The tyke, then only 6, was unceremoniously dumped off with his grandmother. From a tender age, he was marred.

By the 11th grade, Edgar had fallen into a calamitous family pattern: smoking marijuana, stealing, partying and fighting. Pacoima, a poor neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, was a gang war zone in 1990s, so Edgar, joining the fray, became part of the Pacoima Cayuga Street Locos gang.

He was tagging, handling plenty of illicit money and ditching classes. Three times he got arrested for grand theft auto. While kicking back with some “homies” one day, he got introduced to Nadia, and they started dating. After a few months, she told him she was pregnant.

Edgar “freaked out” because he was still young and lived with his parents. Nadia wanted Edgar to take responsibility and come and live at her house with her parents, who were shocked but wanted to make the best of the situation.

Edgar, who had dropped out of school, started working but maintained his drug use and gang activities. He preferred his drug trips to spending time with Nadia. After an extended time of not getting Edgar to change, Nadia got fed up and asked him to leave.”

Nadia was left alone working and raising her baby, Jasmine.

Every day Edgar woke up feeling depressed and lonely. He quit his job and turned to heavier drugs – crystal meth, for example – to numb the pain and forget about losing his girlfriend and daughter. The meth produced erratic emotional states and made him violent.

At one party, a homosexual was trying to “hit on him,” and Edgar wound up beating him so badly that he went into a coma. After weeks lingering between life and death, the victim woke up – and Edgar was spared a murder charge. Find out how Jesus saved Edgar – click here. There’s a big surprise at the ending.

Jasmine Cervantes wrote this article as an assignment for my English class at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on the Westside of Los Angeles.

The new frontier

Other townsAs a newbie, Peter doesn’t understand why Jesus doesn’t stay in the spotlight. After all, the Lord has successfully gathered a great crowd after healing sick and freeing people from demons. Then, right when He’s won Galilee Idol, He sneaks off to pray alone.

Peter, who fancies himself Jesus’ campaign manager, comes and tells him, “Everybody’s looking for You.” (Mark 1:37)

Jesus just mystifies him: “Let’s go to other towns so that I may preach there also because that is what I was sent for.” Why wouldn’t he capitalize on the crescendo?

Peter didn’t understand, as many Christians today, that the highest priority is not popularity or prosperity. It’s extending the message of salvation to others and to still others.

Once upon a time, Americans looked for new frontiers. Some still do, scientists, for example. But Christians? Are we basking in the glory of perfect services with quality music and preaching while the huddling masses in other towns languish with no hope?

I’m taking on a new frontier. I’ve moved out of luxury and into poverty, from Santa Monica to Van Nuys. There’s a method to the madness: God has called me to save souls elsewhere. After a month, there’s already one family in the Thursday night Bible study — thanks to y’all’s prayers. (Sorry, I can’t resist “y’all” even though I’m not from the South. English needs a plural second person pronoun.)

Dr. Bob shows the baby-calming hold in Tanzania on medical mission

Dr. Robert Hamilton, a member of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica (my church), went viral in December with a video of a simple hold to calm crying babies. It seems not many people knew about this hold before, and it racked up 18 million views. He was interviewed on Good Morning America and by a host of over media.

He became famous. But that’s not why I admire him. I admire him because he does medical missions for free. He’s even done two in my church in Guatemala (which I am no longer pastoring). Here he does the hold in Tanzania, where they just gave meds to hundreds of people in Mwanza. It’s a cute video.

Barabbas wasn’t a bad guy


Chilling with my bud, Jesus.

No, Barabbas didn’t have snot dripping from his nose. For two years now, I’ve played Barabbas in the Easter play, and the directors tell me to act like a psychopath. Apparently, this comes naturally to me. Yeah, Miko the Psycho.

But I can’t find this reading in my Bible. Barabbas was an insurrectionist (one Gospel calls him a murderer, but the other explains the context more precisely)  in the scattered uprising against he hated Roman Empire. As such, he would have been something of local hero, much like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

So when the multitudes chose Barabbas over Jesus, it wasn’t an irrational act. Both were wildly popular with the people, so Pilate shrugged.

Barabbas was, however, a polar opposite of Jesus — not the demon-possessed against the Spirit-possessed. Rather, the earthly Savior vs. the heavenly Messiah.


Barabbas is always taking on the Roman Empire. Do you like the realistic background? It’s the Lighthouse Church School. We used a classroom as a dressing room.

At the end of the day, Barabbas’ utopia was only going to be on earth. It was only going to be temporal. After the Romans, another empire would come and smash Palestine. Such was inevitable because Palestine was a crossroads connecting three continents, a bridge where the newest conquerors had to pass.

So Barabbas was more like Obama, trying to bring a better world. This is a good thing. I’m not deriding it. But some people are so busying focusing on making this life wonderful that they forget there’s another, eternal life to work for.

Our Chinese students loved surfing at our Santa Monica Christian high school

Chinese international student Santa Monica

The author, left, is a student in my World Literature class and completed this article as an assignment

By Jasmine Zhang, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

The first time Brenda Liu and I, students from China, surfed and felt the crash of the waves, we thought we were going to die.

“I was so scared,” said Brenda Liu. “The big waves almost killed me. I saw how the big waves could whirl people away.”

I am from Yunnan, a highland in Southern China. I had only seen the sea in pictures and video before.

The sea exercised a wonderful attraction over me. I love the sea and swimming. I like surfing, even though I am not very good at it. So when I enrolled at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, I opted for surfing elective. Actually quite a few of us Chinese foreign exchange students took the class, which in the Fall semester had seven students.

美国留学Brenda agrees with me about surfing. “I thought: ‘I am young. I should try something new and different and keep learning,’” Brenda said. “I knew how to swim and snowboard, so I thought surfing would not be so difficult.”

It turns out it WAS difficult for us international students. But it is fun.

“At the beginning, I was so excited and felt that I was going to do something very marvelous,” Brenda said. “I was surprised by how the sea is really salty. I basically didn’t even stand on the board the first time.”

Even though at our first outing we didn’t surf too spectacularly, we did see a dolphin, something we had never seen before. “That was the most interesting thing,” Brenda said. Read the rest of the story 美国留学.

One coach is chill, the other, read to kill

Christian high school coachesIf you mess up on the football field, one coach is forgiving. For the other coach, that’s the end of you.

“I’m probably too soft,” admits Coach Zach Scribner. “And Justin is maybe a little too intense. We sometimes disagree on strategy and how to push the players to their potential, but I always stand behind him”

When it comes to coaching style, Justin Kayne and Scribner, who tag-team train LCA‘s 8-man team, could hardly be more of polar opposites. Though they are inseparable friends from high school, they are not Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on the sideline or on the practice field.

Scribner is an easy-going guy who likes golf. Kayne revels in the testosterone proofing of this American iteration of Roman gladiator sport.

When things go bad, Scribner is unflappable, while Kayne throws his clipboard down and growls about writing letters to league organizers for a bad call from refs.

Scribner perfected his coaching technique by playing Madden. Kayne credits his coach, former LCA Principal George Neos, a Dartmouth star, with smelting steel in his heart. Read the rest of the article here: Christian sports.

She forgave would-be killer

immigration attorney los angelesWhen the gang-banger was on trial for nearly killing her brother, Cynthia Santiago wrote a letter to the court asking for leniency.

“We are Christians. We believe in forgiveness,” said Santiago, 31, now an immigration lawyer based in El Segundo. “We prayed for him (the shooter). We prayed God transform his life. I’m not the person to pass that kind of judgment on another human being.”

Santiago said her brother got involved in a race-based altercation at 20th St. and Delaware in Santa Monica in the early 2000s, and he was shot with a 22-caliber gun from close range. One bullet shattered his jaw and another pierced his heart and lung, she said.

He was rushed to St. John’s where he lay unconscious for nearly three weeks. When he woke up, he asked about his kids. After months of physical therapy, he returned to normal life.

Santiago’s extraordinary plea for clemency is part of the troubled past of a Santa Monica once beset by gang violence. Part of the reason she chose law is because she saw her own parents, as working class residents, struggle to get sound legal advice for her troubled brother. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Santiago was the flower girl in my wedding 25 years ago. My wife and I lost track of her when we spent 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. When I found her on Facebook 24 years later, I’m surprised to see her all grown up and a lawyer! I praise God she, coming from a family without college students, had the wherewithal to study and achieve a dream. It seems to me that her choice to forgive is extreme and compelling. Her choice to help the neediest who need help only makes me admire her more.

Happy winter solstice in Santa Monica

winter solstice in santa monica

In effort to oust nativity scenes from the bluffs, the atheists posted this display. They caged their sign because supposedly Christians were going to vandalize it.

The atheist nuts here in Santa Monica actually think that they can supplant Christmas with the shortest day of the year, which ancient ignorants imbued with superstitious meaning.

Now this sounds like it could really upstage both Santa Claus and Jesus with an abundance of warm fuzzies, doesn’t it?

Christmas is about love. If you can downgrade love to a simple scientific question of neuro-chemical synapses (as some scientists are trying to do), then you might also be able to deconstruct Christmas. Love is at the center of Christmas — whether it is the family meal, gift-giving or decorations.

The foundation of Christmas is Christ. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to save it. You won’t be eclipsing love any time soon — nor will make Christmas drop off the calendar.

Banned from baking, she bounced back to a hot business

sweet laurel bakesDepression loomed for Laurel Gallucci when her doctor forbade three years ago her favorite indulgence, cakes, because she contracted a rare autoimmune disorder.

Instead of succumbing to sadness, the Lighthouse graduate sought healthy alternatives and parlayed her delectable discoveries into a Venice-based business, Sweet Laurel Bakes, that is the latest rage in the paleo diet fad.

“I was on a personal quest to find health,” the 29-year-old said. “I wanted to bake things that I and other people could enjoy that would have positive and healthy outcomes.”

The second of seven children, Laurel was part of the Czer clan that joined the Lighthouse Church from Pastor Rob Scribner’s popular conservative Republican bid for congress. Though Scribner ultimately was not elected, he attracted to the church a contingent of people who liked his sharp thinking on politics and the role of God in American history.

yumLaurel’s mom, Kari Czer, became the cornerstone of the only Christian kindergarten in Santa Monica. Lighthouse Church School‘s kindergarten boasts reading proficiency before Christmas.

Her dad is the quiet and steadfast Dr. Lawrence Czer, a cardiologist who leads the heart transplant program at  Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He’s an internationally-respected pioneer in stem cell research for heart disease is a regular on the Lighthouse Medical Missions to Africa.

Laurel enrolled in the Lighthouse Church School as a sweet smiling tyke who excelled at pretty much everything she did. She graduated from Lighthouse Christian Academy in 1984 and then from UCLA with a degree in history and then got a masters in education from Pepperdine University.

SweetLaurel-11When she was 26, Laurel married Nick Gallucci, an engineer who recently joined Lighthouse Church. As she was a passionate baker, they fell in love over banana bread.

Then for reasons unknown, she started experiencing problems that led to her diagnosis of autoimmune disorder. The doctor blacklisted all of Laurel’s favorite foods.

Instead of going glum, she bounced back with a quest to find palatable replacements to her baking savories.

She tinkered with the paleo diet, which theorizes that humans should eat like hunter-gatherers, avoiding processed, refined and sugary foods. They also do cross-fit training to replace fat with muscle.

“I don’t like to say that I’m paleo,” she said. “A paleo diet means you eat a lot of meat, do cross fit, have big muscles and that’s not really who I am. I like to say that I eat grain free, refined sugar free, and dairy free.”

In her quest for tantalizing treats that unfrown her doctor’s face, Laurel discovered a niche in L.A.’s ever-evolving health crazes. She’s been featured on popular blogs and healthy-eating articles. In the online magazine Chalkboard, she was called a “kitchen goddess and a real life mermaid” for her exquisite cuisine and her slender figure. Read the rest of the article: cooking class.

Why my son got injured

IMG_8402When Robert said he wanted to play football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Christian high school in Santa Monica, I responded no, no, no. NO WAY, JOSE!

But the school didn’t have enough players, and he really wanted to play. So I told him to work out hard, build up his muscles and terrifyingly signed the papers for him to play.

Eventually, I caught on to something much more important than sports. Football was a draw. It pulled people into our school and church — and hence also to Christ. Since it was evangelism, I could no longer front reservations because we give our all for Christ.

Actually, his first injury, over two years ago, came from soccer. His recovery was long. He got back into sports and was a key member of LCA’s football team. As a senior, he injured his other ACL. As I write this, the surgeon just told me that the operation went well.

Playing high school sports create lasting memories. But something more important is at work at our school. Students are being brought to salvation and discipleship (they learn discipline, effort, team work, responsibility and other biblical characteristics).

How can you say no to your kid participating in Christian school sports — whatever the sport?

Christ on the football field?

varsity sports Christian school Santa MonicaLike Christ, he hazarded his life to help his buddies win.

And the Saints won 54-15 against Concordia High School of Sylmar, their first win of the 2015 season – thanks to a 200-pound senior who was already injured.

The Cougars were the first to score.

“They were just moving the ball. We couldn’t stop them,” said Coach Zach Scribner. “I don’t know what it was. They had too many beefy guys. They just kept pushing the line. Rob (Ashcraft) basically stepped up and said, ‘I’ll go in, and I’ll play on the line.’ And we stopped them.”

Rob – named after Lighthouse schools founder Pastor Rob Scribner, the former LA Rams kickoff returner – had been injured on Sept. 11 in a game against Rolling Hills Academy. The risk of further injury was high to step out of the field.

But this was his senior year, a last chance to grab glory and make memories – and his team needed him. So Rob, with a torn ACL, gave it all. He made one touchdown reception and threw as quarterback another touchdown pass.

In the third quarter, his leg gave out, and he collapsed.

“Fuuuuudge!” he shrieked in pain. To continue reading click varsity sports Santa Monica.

Lilliputian Lighthouse takes on Gulliver rivals in flag football

Lighthouse Church School

The boys from the Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica

Gregory Heffley, the anti-heroic protagonist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, thought middle school should be divided by height and weight instead of academic ability to avoid bullying.

His observations have been pointedly spot-on for Lighthouse Church School flag football this season. Drawing on a miniature school population of 60, they have stitched together a team to face towering muscle-bound opponents.

So the Lilliputians from Lighthouse took on another set of Gullivers and lost Tuesday 20-26 against Turning Point School at McManus Park.

“We had a great game. We stopped them on defense,” said LCS Coach Nate Scribner. “We lost by one touchdown, and that touchdown was my fault. They scored on an interception that was my fault. We made better blocks today. We have sixth graders playing against all these older guys.”

Lighthouse is just this year re-starting its flag football program. With inexperienced players jumbled together, it’s been difficult to get everyone doing their job proficiently. Sometimes kids run the wrong play. Blocking has been a downfall.

But through the patient work of the coaches, the team has slowly improved. In a game against Westside Neighborhood School on Sept. 29, the Saints strung together their first progression of plays leading to a touchdown.

Then on Oct. 6 against Crossroads B, they won.

Before half time, the Saints were marching in towards victory 12-7 when coach tried to score just more touchdown to fortify their lead. The fateful pass got picked, and the Saints were trailing at the half 14-12.

In the second half, the Tornadoes — with one player at 5’11” and two players almost as tall — were the first to score, but the Saints responded with a TD and with extra points tied the game at 20-20.

Turning Point scored and then time ran out on the Lighthouse push to counter the score.

“The kids should hold their heads up high,” Coach Nate said. “They pulled a lot of flags. Our guys are just beginning to grow and just beginning to figure out how to run. They played great. I hope they had fun. We should only remember those plays that worked right.” This story originally appeared on the Santa Monica Patch here.

A new sheriff in town: Lighthouse Church School’s flag football

Christian middle school West Los Angeles

My son, Hosea, hikes the ball. The losing streak snapped.

After a stinging loss the day before, the Lighthouse Church School flag football team bounced back to beat Crossroads B 22-14 on Oct. 6 – the first victory of the season for the recently rebuilt program.

“The team is improving daily,” said Coach Josh Scribner, whose son Marcus plays on the Santa Monica team. “We’re on a very fast learning curve. Most of our players have no previous experience. But they are committed to each other and working hard.”

Suddenly a 5-game winless streak broke to the jubilation of kids and parents. Learning how to block was a key, coach said.

Lighthouse has been something of a football powerhouse. With its senior pastor a former NFL player and a former principal a Dartmouth champion, you would expect domination in the Pacific Basin League.

But changes in coaching and a drop of student enrollment combined to sack Lighthouse’s program. The middle school has gone three seasons without a team.

That all changed when Pastor Josh Scribner returned from a 10-year pastoring stint in Utah. His son was a Pop Warner star, and he was an accomplished football player. His brother, Nate, a former quarterback at Santa Monica College, also offered to coach.

There’s a new sheriff in town. Read the rest of the article.

A bright spot on a dismal loss | Christian football team loses vs. Hillcrest

Lighthouse Christian Academy football

Checking Caleb for concussion after he got zonked.

Get that guy some glue.

One of the bright spots in Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s 14-66 loss to Hillcrest Christian of Thousand Oaks was a freshman who just became old enough to play.

Caleb Zerihum made tackles. He foiled receivers. He ran down ball carriers. He scrambled after Tex Hagoski to provide some key blocking on a touchdown run. He grabbed an onside kick. He caught a pass.

And he dropped the ball – twice.

On the onside kick, Caleb nabbed it deftly. Coach had told him to smother the ball, but the freshman is famous for forgetting instructions. Or maybe he thought he would try his hand at being the charging bull Tex who sprints, slashes and bashes his way through defenders.

Caleb is bashful, but on Friday, he didn’t bash his way through the onslaught of Hillcrest tacklers. He got hit so hard he fumbled the ball.

Later in the game, he Caleb caught the ball, and in his eagerness to elude defenders he bobbled the ball. His moment of glory fizzled.

For the next game, will that be Elmer’s or superglue? Continuing reading Christian football.

Holdout helper | Why she didn’t go on medical missions for so long, and why she’ll be on more

medical missions | Africa and elsewhere

Andrea at far left, took to the clinic like a duck to water

For 22 times, her boss and mom pressed Andrea Campos to go on a Lighthouse Medical Mission – and she always declined.

“I just didn’t have a passion for Africa,” the Santa Monica native said.

After almost two decades of them wheedling her, Andrea, 37, finally relented. She is now in Guatemala, translating and writing prescriptions on 10-hour shifts with no breaks and only a half hour lunch.

But, if she was the holdout in a family of big LMM volunteers, this week she has plunged into the labor-intensive clinic with a vengeance.

Some volunteers are awkward, squeamish around blood, befuddled by Latin jargon, duty-dodgers who wanted the applause, not real work. Not Andrea. She’s totally in her element, holding her own like a pro.

“This is definitely NOT my last mission,” Andrea said. “You just see the hope in their eyes of getting better. I’m seeing people with their eyes fill up with tears.”

On its third day of clinic in Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Missions attended to 125 patients in Villa Nueva, a small municipality on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Today is expected to be the busiest day.

Andrea has worked as a receptionist on and off since 1998 for Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who will pleasantly pester patients and friends to help the medical missions he founded and leads.

Not only has Andrea put her medical familiarity to good use in Guatemala, she’s also taken over much of the administration. She’s re-organizing hotel and food for the volunteers with her keen business acumen. From age six, she’s been money-shrewd when she lived in Puerto Vallarta and charged school mates to use her eraser because it was “from America.” Read more about participating in Christian medical missions.

But was it smart to bring her special needs girl on medical mission?

Medical Missions | Lighthouse | Central AmericaNow Dal Basile knows for sure that it wasn’t foolhardiness to bring her special needs daughter on a medical mission to Guatemala.

Originally she worried that Michelle Villasenor, whose academic level is second grade, might could get lost in a crowd and never be found again. Dal has performed as a nurse on almost 30 medical missions, mostly to Africa, and taking Michelle was never even contemplated.

But Lighthouse Medical Missions leader Dr. Bob Hamilton prodded Dal to bring Michelle on this trip, fairly near, to Guatemala. Not too quickly, Dal acquiesced. Would the Santa Monica mom regret the decision forever?

On Tuesday any vestige of doubt about the wisdom of bringing Michelle was quashed.

That’s because Abigail Esteban appeared with heart palpitations provoked by anxiety over her own special needs daughter, a case of developmental delay fairly similar to Michelle’s.

“She broke down crying,” Dal said. “I told her I know what it’s like to have a special needs daughter, and I know that God can work in your daughter’s life. I told her, ‘God chose you because you’re a gifted person.’ I went and brought Michelle. And Michelle prayed for the woman. Michelle perked up. She relates to special needs people. She bonds.” Continue reading.

A developmentally disabled angel on a medical clinic

Lighthouse Medical Missions | Guatemala

Michelle in front, and Dr. Bob behind. Her sisters Christy (left) and Andrea (right) with their mom, Dal (far right).

Michelle Villasenor for 17 years has packed the meds but never been able to go on a medical mission with Lighthouse. That’s because she’s developmentally delayed. Her academic level is 2nd grade and her language skills are low.

Her mom, Dal Basile, has been one of the biggest supporters of Dr. Bob Hamilton’s medical missions. She works as a vocational nurse on the clinics, most of which have gone to Africa. And she does something incredibly important: she painstakingly packs millions of pills, hygiene kits, dolls, and other gifts to be handed out free of charge at the clinics.

Taking her daughter, who could get lost or suffer a migraine, has been simply out of the question — until now.

The trip to my church in Guatemala is closer to Santa Monica. It’s not as intense as Africa.

So to the delight of the other 18 team members, Michelle is here. She’s smiling and teasing her friends. Her mom calls her an angel, and I agree. Tomorrow we open doors and take care of patients. I thank God that my little friend will be helping.

A fallen hero raises other heroes

This is my son. Thank you for praying for him.

This is my son. Thank you for praying for him.

Yes, Lighthouse slumped to its third loss in the football season Friday against Ribet Academy (42-44), but if you looked below the surface, something more important was going on, something victorious. God was at work, and the 11 kids who took to the field left it with their heads held high.

Heroes were christened.

Senior Rob Ashcraft (yes, that’s my son) was taken out of the game on the first kickoff. Without their strong all-terrain player (he plays fullback, running back and wide receiver on offense, right end on defense), the team needed somebody to step up and fill the void.

Always camera shy, Alex before the game.

Always camera shy, Alex before the game.

And that’s what happened. A125-pound sophomore Alex Cervantes emerged as more than the timid team member who only played because he was pressured into it. In his heart, Alex is a basketball player. When it comes to football, he was pretty much scared of the big thrashers.

But on Sept. 11 against Ribet, Alex came up with a couple of touchdowns, a number of receptions, a key interception and a tackle of a bigger after whom he kept scrambling and would not let go.

“I feel like sometimes I’m not very helpful, that I’m small,” Alex said. “But yesterday I felt like I was helpful. I felt like I was part of the team.

Part of the team may be an understatement. Among the 60 Lighthouse fans in the bleachers, many were shouting out his name for his gridiron heroics. “I felt good about myself,” Alex confided.

texIf the truth be told, the Pacoima native has suffered something of an inferiority complex and wondered if he could ever fit into the private school from upscale Santa Monica. In one game, Alex shot up from “outsider” to hero status.

This is more than everybody’s-a-winner gibberish. Of course, the Saints long to win games. But if we look at other factors, it’s hard not to see how God is doing what He wants to do. And if the ultimate goal of Lighthouse is to bring souls to Christ, we have to conclude that we are winning. Find out more how Lighthouse is rescuing at-risk youth with studies and sports.

He was our student last year from Taiwan

study in America from TaiwanBy Elvin Chen, a Lighthouse Christian Academy student from Taiwan in 2014-15

My school in Taiwan was 3,000 students – all boys, so when I came to Lighthouse Christian Academy with only 45 students, a co-ed school, I was surprised. As a Taiwanese who wanted to study in the America, I never imagined I would wind up at  a high school that was so tiny.

When I met my host family, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, Pastor Zach is so strong. His muscles are so big. I will need to be careful and not make him mad or he will beat me up.”

Actually, Zach Scribner is extremely nice. I never had problem with him. He was also a teacher at the Lighthouse high school – and he was the coach of the football team (hence, the muscles).

elvin-yosemite-1024x682As he was my host father, it wasn’t easy to get out of football. At first I thought football would be fun to try, even though I had never seen a football before.

After the first practice, however, I thought, “I’m done with that. I must quit in order to survive. I will never do this.”

But quitting wasn’t that easy. Pastor Zach was my host father – I couldn’t let him down. And the team didn’t have enough players without me. The guys needed me. These were my new American friends, and I couldn’t let them down either.

Read the whole story: 中国留学生

Tex’s Team | This is the school where I teach and my son studies

Santa Monica Christian high school | footballThen Tex got mad.

In the first half of Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s loss to The Rock Academy of Point Loma on Sept. 4, Tex Hagoski played well.

In the second half, Tex played like Attila the Hun. He scored the Saints’ only touchdown and converted, smashing and spinning his way mercilessly through four defenders to fall across the End Zone line.

The Saints were simply outgunned. For 10 years, the Warriors were in the much more taxing 11-man league. But they voluntarily descended to 8-man football this year, and the they brought with them overwhelming experience. The Saints lost 8-42 on the San Diego gridiron.

Tex’s runs and tackles were a Lighthouse signature. By coaches’ estimates, he carried the ball for 170 yards, made 10 solo tackles and joined five group tackles. It was his reception on a gun sprint pass that brought respectability to the Saints’ loss. Read the rest of the article: Santa Monica private school.

This ice-breaker is a gut-buster | Santa Monica Christian High School

This is how we welcomed students today to the family of Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Westside college prep with a strong Biblical base.

This sort of thing is not my specialty. The donut-eating race was promoted by the student council, of which my son is a part. It seems like the new kids really felt welcomed. Now it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get into studies. As always, I’m teaching English literature and Spanish. I’ll keep y’all up to date, and I thank you for your prayers for our school.

Getting to winning

Autobahn BU14

Fueling between games at the OC Kickoff Classic tournamente in Orange County.

Hosea’s club team has lost some games pretty badly. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t even scored since Hosea joined.

That all changed Sunday. The 13-year-olds from Autobahn Soccer Club in Santa Monica came from behind to win 2-1. It was a thrill and a confidence booster for the kids.

But how did they get from losing to winning? Competent coaching plays a large role. Winning soccer games consists of fitness, technical and tactical knowledge, pure talent and the right attitude. The coaches, Herve Roussel and Pierce Maher, have been patient teachers. They don’t yell at the kids and apparently don’t get frustrated.

Coaches aren’t everything. Parents play a role. They encourage the kids to believe in themselves. I’ve seen discouraged kids slog out onto the field. Before the game starts, they believe they’re going to lose. And they do.

soccer club in Santa Monica

Coach Pierce goes over some of the positives of a loss the day before their Sunday victory.

Kids play a role. They are improving practice after practice. They need to believe in themselves. They will perform at a higher level if they play with confidence and passion.

The funny thing is that this team’s “best players” left the team looking for a winning team. A hemorrhage of talent can discourage anyone, and yet the coaches, parents and kids have remained encouraged.  I guess the “stars” didn’t believe in the newcomers, among which was my son Hosea, who hasn’t been playing with confidence previously. As the older stars leave, the new stars have to rise up.

This has everything to do with your and my life. We have to get to winning. We can be on a long losing streak. But if daily, we work to improve one of these areas:

  • fitness (think emotionally or spiritually)
  • technical and tactical ability (grow intellectually daily)
  • pure talent (there isn’t a person on the planet that God hasn’t given some special gifting)
  • believe in yourself (the psychological battle is perhaps the toughest).

Keep believing in your dreams — and get to winning!

Neophytes learn how to fight in Santa Monica Christian school football

Christian school Santa Monica | football

Tex Hagoski, with Coach Justin Kayne

One jittery kid forgot to put in his mouth guard. Another contracted a last-minute mysterious disease that incapacitated him. A bunch of kids missed tackles.

And that’s how the newbies got the heebie-jeebies at the Saints 2015 opener of 8-man football on Aug. 28 in a 20-34 loss to better-financed Crossroads Christian School of Corona.

“I’m always nervous before a game,” admitted LCA senior Tex Hagoski. “But then I either hit someone or get hit by someone and I remember that it’s not so bad.”

Hagoski gave and took plenty of hits. He ramrodded through the defensive line on punishing run after bruising run. Plenty of pain was dished out for everyone. A Crossroads player broke a leg. The Saints walked off the field battered but proud — they had given all.

“It hurt,” said Abraham Morales, a sophomore. “I was afraid when that kid messed his leg up. But I had to keep going because their team was going to come back stronger.”

It was Abraham’s first game, along with about half the squad. He’s been hard-working and faithful in practice. And on Friday night, he proved a critical element in the chemistry for Saints football.

Fellow sophomore Alex Cervantes felt much more at ease this, his second year. He came up with a touchdown-scoring reception on a long pass that surprised the Crossroads Cougars. They left him completely unguarded as they mistook the play for a run and all players swooped in for the kill. Read the rest of the story: education and sports.


photo(154)Dianna and I are going on 25 years of marriage this October.

It makes me wonder, Why would anybody get divorced? Things just get better — if you’re willing to work on them. Why would anybody do anything else?

A bit nervy… Need to keep trusting Jesus

John Mira | Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica

Mike Ashcraft and John Mira, members of the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica.

I’m writing this from LAX. We put the ticket on the credit card, and so I’m off to Guatemala. My fundraising campaign has been a bit hair-raising. Hahaha. JK. What I mean to say is that you can still donate because I haven’t raised all the funds yet. Gofundme is convenient gofund.me/MikeToGuatemala

Taking this trip is moving by faith. I’m praying and believing that God will bring in all the finances. It’s easier for me to just stay in America and not risk, but there are critical needs now in the church I founded 16 years ago — paperwork that only I can do as the owner of the school, el Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

Pastor John Mira is going with me. He was born in the Philippines and got saved in the United States. He became a lawyer, works with stocks, but his real vocation is preaching the gospel. He’s passionate about it.

He was one of my first friends when I returned to the States five years ago from the mission field. His son was in my class, and I reached out to him. And he always encouraged me. This is the first time I’m tag-teaming up with him for some spiritual warfare abroad.

I ask you to pray for us! Thank you!

How a Taiwanese student came to our Santa Monica Christian high school

Taiwan | study in America | high school

At left, eating pizza with a new friend in America.

Elvin Chen drank coffee like water, staying up to 3:00 a.m. every night, as he studied intensively for his national high school entrance exams in Taiwan to get into the best schools.

He did everything he was told, practiced constantly, went to school 14 hours a day. Even on holidays, he gave no time to relaxing but kept poring over his books.

But no matter how hard he tried, he scored low. Like many countries, Taiwan’s national exams are restricting; if you don’t do well, you are eliminated from the better colleges and careers. One slip-up, and you’re sunk.

So much was riding on the test that nerves sunk him.

“I started crying, ‘Why God? It’s unfair,’” he recalled. “I worked really hard, and I didn’t achieve my goal.”

Then Chen’s father spoke to him. “You did a great job, even if you didn’t achieve your goal. Don’t feel bad about this. You already learn the best lesson of your life.”

What was that lesson? That “failure” is the door to success. That hard work is the key to success, regardless of setbacks.

His father opted to send him to America. For the 2014-25 year, Elvin (not his Chinese name) studied at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Read the rest of the article about how a Taiwanese high school student came to America.

Why I refuse to be ‘promoted’

Lighthouse Church School

With some youngsters at the Lighthouse Church School

I was the senior pastor at Guatemala’s Door Church. We had a school and four churches. Still I taught a grade.

Why? Because daily contact is daily discipleship. You’re not winning anyone to Christ, you’re not forming any leaders by pushing paper. The generals may devise strategies, but the war is won in the trenches. So I continue where the war is won.

Santa Monica Christian school

It was a water balloon war day

Another school year is ending. I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy and coach soccer for the counterpart Lighthouse Church School. These Santa Monica Christian schools are a safe place in a topsy-turvy world of moral confusion, in which kids are encouraged to try all sorts of sin and to stop calling it sin. My kids attend Lighthouse.

And it is my joy to be winning souls to Christ there. Young ladies are rescued from cutting, and boys from rage. Hopeless kids turn from drugs to happiness. How could money be better?

Christian primary school | Santa Monica

With my young friends Mosie and Josie.

I don’t earn any money. I do this for free. And it’s worthwhile. Because it’s what Jesus is doing. It’s revival.

By the way, nobody is even asking to promote me. A promotion would be a demotion if it removes me from human contact and making disciples for Christ.

Eating disorders and self image

Needless to say, we are so proud of our students Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica who put together this short for a film class. Eulie Scheel, Hasset Anteneh and a cameo appearance Daniella Mezrahi. Eulie’s mom is Marcia Harden, creator of Code Black.

This video probes eating disorders, self image, depression and self worth. It’s a tear-jerker.

Privileged to have on staff a 20-year missionary

Christian school staff

With her brood on 50s day, Brenda Bowen, a missionary for 20 years in Africa.

With an art degree, she became a high-powered finance manager, then ditched it all to be a missionary’s wife in Africa for 20 years.

After so many unusual twists in her life, Brenda Bowen is now teaching 6th grade at the Lighthouse Church School.

Good thing she was a military brat. She got used to moving around.

Actually, it’s hard to describe Mrs. Bowen as a brat because she’s so loving, sweet and humble.

“Mrs. Bowen is really good at art, and she loooves to help kids,” said Ana D.,  her student. “She’s hip. She won’t yell at you. She’s very understanding. She knows when something is up, and she’ll do something positive about it. She’s a well-rounded teacher. She does tons of things. Just the other day we did clay.”

She never got her second degree in education because her father, a major in the Air Force, looked askance at perennial students. So with a bachelors degree from Southern Florida University, Mrs. Bowen landed a job with 1,000-employee Dun & Bradstreet’s Insurance. Read the rest of the story.

If everybody pitches in, we can do something BIG

lighthouse medical missions

Dr. Bob with the reason we all work so hard.

Dr. Bob Hamilton started medical missions in 1998. To fund these expensive ventures, he went from upscale to large-scale. When the high-end dinners didn’t work, he launched a walkathon around Santa Monica.

We just completed the seventh annual Walk to Africa. I and my family were a few of the 100 volunteers.

Walk to Africa walkathon | Santa Monica“It was not a home run; it was a grand slam,” pronounced Dr. Bob the next morning in church. “Lighthouse is a family. Scores of people came together in a phenomenal way. We go on display in the community. The event really does touch the community.”

My job was a cheer people on at the 6-mile mark, offer food, point out the bathroom, point out the right direction after they rested. I can take satisfaction in doing my all — just a small but integral part — in raising $115,590, over half the goal.

Walk to Africa

I’m the tall guy, with my wife, my son and a Chinese student holding the sign

My cousin called me the Energizer Bunny. I just want to see big things done for God. I don’t want to die not having spent my energies for Jesus.

Extraordinary staff at Christian school Santa Monica

mrs cheeryAs she lay on her recovery bed at home, Lisa Clancy, a cancer survivor, realized she could help high schoolers.

“I heard the kids at the house talking about the troubles in high school,” she said. “I felt like God was telling me that this is where I could help. High school can be a tumultuous time for teenagers.”

Mrs. Clancy is a volunteer extraordinaire at Lighthouse Christian Academy. She does everything from answering phones to counseling kids. And the extraordinary thing is that kids actually confide in her. She’s a high standard for loving staff among Santa Monica Christian schools.

“She is always there for me when I need advice or a little cheering up,” said Lizzie Hofer, a junior. “I can talk to her about anything and not feel weird that she is my friend’s mom.”

Mrs. Clancy is mother to two Lighthouse students and one graduate. A native of Chicago, Mrs. Clancy and her husband moved to Santa Monica four years ago with their four boys.

Now she is teaching an elective that helps students to discover their strengths and plan a future career. It’s called Passion Present Purpose and with nine students meets twice a week for an hour and a half. To teenagers, the future can be daunting, but Mrs. Clancy helps break it down. Continuing reading.

Worth more than $5 million

He's worth more than $5 million.

He’s worth more than $5 million.

I’ve been overly anguished of late because my church, in dire arrears, is selling the property we purchased years ago for our high school, the Lighthouse Christian Academy. The property comprises three buildings and a yard; it has a double-story hall used by the high school, a church and a parsonage. The goal has been to keep the church a church in Santa Monica.

I’m appealing to all my blogging buddies to pray. This comes to a congregational vote May 20. I think we are behind in payments tens of thousands of dollars. We purchased the property for $2 million (something like that), and the sale price is $5 million.

The buyer won’t keep the church. One less church for Santa Monica. And, it seems to me, we are scaling back our commitment to Christian education. The high school will continue by packing the high school kids back in with the grade school and middle school kids at the main church building. We are past the eleventh hour.

She's worth more than $5 million

She’s worth more than $5 million

What disturbs me also is that the secular buyer has a backer with $5 million cash to pay for it. Why do the Christians NOT have someone who can splash the cash to get us caught up with the bank loan and keep this property for God’s use?

I’m breaking my genre here and appealing for prayer and funds. If you know anyone who could donate $1 million (sorry, I don’t know the real numbers because I’m not on the Church Council)  to keeping Christianity moving forward in Santa Monica, please contact me. Should I set up a gofundme account?

If you can give a $1 million, I can introduce you the reasons why you should give that money. There are almost 50 kids at Lighthouse Christian Academy, each of them a miracle of the power of God to transform lives, to rescue lives before they become totally destroyed. We have seen Lighthouse students become pastors and lawyers. We have seen lives be rescued out of gangs and other sins. To this ministry, I have dedicated my life. I teach here for free. My kids attend school here. I believe in this.

I can’t rule out the possibility that God would have something bigger for us in the future. But I also can’t get out of my mind that we’re not supposed to sell this property.

I wish I could give you the backstory behind these photos and tell you why these kids are worth more than $5 million each, but obviously I’m not at liberty to do so. They are stories of heartbreak and hope. You can find out more about Lighthouse Christian Academy by clicking here.

Overjoyed on her second Africa medical mission trip

Africa medical mission trips

Joni with one of the children

By Joni Vosburg

As I return from a far-too-short trip to Mwanza, Tanzania, I find my thoughts continually returning to the wonderful people we met and treated in our medical clinic.  Last spring I first joined Lighthouse Medical Missions as a volunteer on the Guinea-Bissau Team.  I was in nursing school at the time and met Christa Czer there who introduced me to Dr. Hamilton.  That first trip taught me a lot about myself, and rekindled my love for helping people who are in dire need.
Santa Monica Africa medical mission

With my great friend, Christa Czer

While it was a great experience to work as a scribe and pharmacy crew member, it was nothing like the thrill of being an actual medical team member this year.  As a nurse I felt more personally responsible for the patients I cared for, and left with the feeling that I was able to make a sincere difference in people’s lives.

Joni Vosburg

With the team on our half-day off.

Working with two other brand new nurses and friends, Christa and Claudio, was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  We took nothing for granted, worked together on unfamiliar maladies, and made it a point to try to educate our patients in ways to prevent further illness.  One of our most serious cases was a woman that had undergone a surgery over a year ago in her auxiliary area (armpit). The wound became infected, never healed, and had begun tunneling further into her tissue.  We were able to see this woman all five days of our clinic to clean and dress the wound and administer antibiotics. Christa was even able to work with one of our interpreters to find a nearby clinic where she could continue to get treatment at no cost. 

joy in Africa

This is joy.

The people of Mwanza were amazing to work with, both as patients, and as assistants working with us.  They are such a strong community and I have no doubt they will continue to thrive as God works his wonders through them.  I am already excited for the next chapter in the Lighthouse Medical Missions book, and hope to join the team again in another life-changing journey.   Please make a donation or register for Walk to Africa.  It is your support that makes these teams possible!  www.WalkToAfrica.com

The deaf heard: Africa Medical Missions

Africa Medical Missions

Felipe Rodriguez (at right). Whether he’s in Santa Monica or Tanzania, he says where he goes: “The party is here.”

When the doctor peered into the patients right, “deaf” ear, he saw larvae, living and dead. With a few scrapes with Q-tip, he extracted the critters, and the deaf man could hear again!

This is what happens in the rest of world, where medical access is limited either by availability or cost. This is what happens when Lighthouse Medical Missions comes to town. Their recent clinic in Mwanza, Tanzania, attended to 1,200 — HIV patients, malaria sufferers and insect-invaded ears.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Felipe, in the middle, with fellow volunteers.

“It’s crazy stuff,” said Felipe Rodriguez, who pitched in on the trip.

Not only are the locals dramatically impacted, the American volunteers are too. Fun-loving Felipe hit it off the kids. “Every where you go, the kids grab your hands and want to go with you,” he said.

Africa medical missions

Now that they have seen conditions in Tanzania, they no longer live in a bubble.

When the group visited wildlife on a nearby island on Lake Victoria, Felipe joined some students on a field trip to take selfies with them. They acted like rock star fans.

“Your smile will heal all their sicknesses and wounds,” Felipe said.

Africa medical missions

In Tanzania.

‘Really hard’ saying ‘Goodbye’ on Africa Medical Mission

Africa Medical Missions

Carla, with one of the children she fell in love with.

Carla Cedillo got spooked as soon as she set foot in Africa.

“Africa is a different world,” she said. “I felt like we were in  a movie. I felt like we were an infomercial that says, ‘For  $1.00 a day, you can help save a life.’ I remember my mom saying there are poor people in Africa, but it never hit home until we we went to Africa.”

Lighthouse Medical Missions

In the pharmacy

On the Lighthouse Medical Missions trip to Tanzania in 2015, Carla, who works at the Lighthouse Christian Preschool, fell in love with all the children. “I wanted to hold them all,” she said. “They were all so adorable.”

When a little child came through the clinic with her tongue attached to the bottom of her mouth, Dr. Bob Hamilton offered to cut it loose immediately. “I thought blood was going to gush everywhere,” she said.

African Medical Missions

With her brother, Arti, and some Tanzanians

During most of the 5-day clinic, Carla manned the pharmacy and gained a great appreciation for pharmacists. “It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Now I know why pharmacists are always in a bad mood.”

When the clinic was over and it was time to head to the airport, it hard to say “Goodbye.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Medical Missions“They kept telling us, ‘We’ll see you in Heaven.’ That true but it was really hard,” Carla said. “I think about them everyday. I’m sure they’ll think about us everyday for the rest of the lives.”

Africa Medical Mission: ‘I really wanted to be like Jesus’

Arti Cedillo | Africa Medical Missions

Arti made friends with his guitar.

Yes, he called himself “a Satanist” when he was a punk kid rebellious towards his parents’ Christianity. Yes, he beat up kids and got kicked out of schools. Yes, he played hard rock with — um — not the best lyrics.

But when he faced a truly demon-possessed person, it was different. Arti, who turned his life over the Lord years ago and was now serving in Tanzania on the Lighthouse Medical Missions, freaked out when the lady he prayed for started behaving erratically.

Africa Medical Missions

The crowd waiting a turn to see a doctor.

After the first day of assisting doctors at the clinic in Mwanza, Arti requested permission to set up a prayer station and pray for all the patients after doctor visits. “I really wanted to be like Jesus and lay hands on the sick and see them recover,” he said.

That done, he was engaged in praying for a lady with back and leg pain. When he asked her to forgive all who had harmed her, she grew eerily silent. Then she started getting aggressive.

Tanzania Medical Missions | AfricaArti knew what he had to do (expel the demon in Jesus’ name), but he got scared. “I’ve never performed an exorcism before,” he said.

When it was done, he led her to get her pills. But he watched his back, lest she become aggressive again. His buddy, Johnny Huerta, didn’t seem to have the same fears. He went over to her and gave her a hug.

“I was more afraid she would jump on me, and he was more concerned to let her know that she was loved,” Arti reflected.

Lighthouse Medical Missions

Santa Monica pediatrician, Dr. Bob Hamilton, who founded and leads Lighthouse Medical Missions, in Tanzania in Spring 2015.

Arti turned his life over to the Lord in the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, which is part of the same church that indirectly oversees Lighthouse Medical Missions.

The lady showed up at church that night. She raised her hand at the altar call to receive Jesus. She testified that the pain in her back and legs was gone.

“She came possessed and oppressed with pain,” Arti marveled. “She got delivered and saved. Then she had no pain. God is so good.”

Arti saw the supernatural on the “natural mission” of dispensing medicine. He also saw how to become more like Jesus and minister compassion.

Endless energy for marathons and medical missions

Dr. Bob Hamilton | Lighthouse Medical Missions

Dr. Bob pauses from the L.A. Marathon at mile 23 to take a picture in front of his banner. It is rare to get him to take a pause.

If the U.S. needs an alternative source of energy, it might try connecting a power line to Dr. Bob Hamilton’s house. They could tap into his brain – or his heart – and siphon off his excess personal energy during the night to supplement the local power grid.

On Saturday night, Hamilton, a board member for Santa Monica Symphony, was relishing Vijay Gupta’s masterful violin interpretation of Beethoven’s toughest concerto in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Korea Town.

On Sunday morning, he was running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds for another pet project, African medical missions.

I was stationed at mile 23 to snap his picture and interview him. He wasn’t talking about pain. He wasn’t groaning about crawling to the bitter end. He was jogging at a good pace, and he was planning his work immediately after the race.

“I’m going to Africa in a week and a half, and I’m thinking that I have a lot to do before I go,” he said as I jogged alongside him.

What, no rest – even after a marathon?

At all times, Dr. Bob is a tornado of activity. And thanks to a mythical work rate, he’s established Pacific Ocean Pediatrics in Santa Monica, served on half a dozen community boards and headed 22 medical missions to Africa and elsewhere. Read the rest of the story.

Mexican food unites with pediatrics in Santa Monica to help Africa | LA Marathon

Gilbert's Restaurant | Santa MonicaBetween the two of them, mother and son have run 16 full marathons, but never before did they run one for Africa.

On Sunday, Estela and Johnny Huerta, part owners and operators of Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican Restaurant in Santa Monica, are running the L.A. Marathon to raise funds forAfrica medical missions. Johnny has seen people in abject poverty before.

“Seeing their appreciation for things we would consider small exposes the privileges we take for granted here,” said Johnny, 25. “We feel entitled, but really these things are a blessing and privilege. I’ve run other marathons, but running for Africa makes it more special.”

At last count, $2,838 was pledged for the 10 friends who are running with local pediatrician Bob Hamilton for Lighthouse Medical Missions, which twice yearly sends medical teams to some of the remotest spots on the globe.

Only 10 days later, Johnny will board a plane to fly to Mwanza, Tanzania, along with 24 others on this year’s Spring team outreach.

“I’m excited,” Johnny said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m a little bit nervous. I think I’m going to come back with a whole new perspective as to what’s important in life. I want my heart to break for what breaks God’s heart. I want to feel what He feels.” Read the rest.

He was just a tyke at Lighthouse when I taught there. Now he’s a hero.

saving Iraqi refugeesAs a scout for the U.S. Marines 4th Light Armored Battalion, Tyler Smith is no stranger to weapons. But now in Iraq on a dangerous mission near the Islamic State war, the Santa Monica resident is completely unarmed.

Tyler, who studied and worked in Santa Monica, is currently deployed in Iraq with Operation Soul Shepherd helping refugees. He and seven other men as part of an advance team are setting up a safehouse for women and girls who have been raped by ISIS jihadists.

“I couldn’t let myself sit at home doing nothing while people here were suffering so immensely,” said Tyler. “I CAN help, so there’s no reason not to. I’m just a man trying to do the right thing. I’m not a hero.”

Not everyone agrees with his self-effacing.

“Every one of these guys are heroes,” said Paul Neier, founder of Mississippi-based non-profit that fights human-trafficking. “They made made a choice to go into harm’s way. The craziest thing about this is they are in the belly of the beast. They have no weapons to defend themselves.”

Read the rest of the article.

Revival at our Christian high school

high school revivalOur students are experiencing revival. After frolicking on slopes of Utah snow, they savored a sermon by Pastor Zach Scribner and then Five Guys burgers. Since there was a community board, they posted “Jesus loves you” notes.

And even them I’m stuck here in Santa Monica writing articles about the Islamic State and not enjoying the fun, I rejoice. While other religious schools have trouble with church kids bolting their faith, at our Christian high school in Santa Monica kids are embracing Christ wildly.

Chinese students in Los Angeles high schoolThis is what I pray for, what I work for, what I live for. To see the fruits brings indescribable satisfaction.

I pretty much got kicked off Reddit, a mecca for sarcastic atheists. Have you seen American Sniper? You could call Reddit “American Snippier.” In any case, post after post mocks Christian warnings against sin.

Chinese students learn to ski | California high schoolOnce I read about a former Christian school kid forming a “support group” for those who were subjected to the horrors of being forbidden alcohol. I remarked on that message board that it was ironic that some ran from alcohol to Jesus and that others from Jesus to alcohol. I never heard from him. Nor do I know if she could appreciate the irony.

Excuse me for being so curmudgeonly on this post, but I’ve seen so many suffer and even die for flouting God’s ways. It is a joy to see kids embracing God’s ways. Some of them have been bullied in public schools. Some were lost in cutting. Now they are living happy serving Jesus. Why would you make fun of that?

I’m proud of the kids

Lighthouse Church School

There was no one faster in the league than our midfielder and defender, Caleb.

We were down 0-2 at halftime, and the kids walked off the field dejected.

Hey! We’re only down two goals. It’s not over! Let’s go out there and win this! I gave specific instructions to the kids. We needed more longer balls, through balls that our forwards could run on and beat defenders.

When the whistle blew, my son Hosea and his partner, Garrett Lahood, zipped through the midfielders and defenders straight to goal with three crisp passes. Garrett smashed it home. Woohoo! Now let’s get some more!

Santa Monica Christian school

Garrett’s quickness and ball-handling skills made coach move him from defender to forward.

But we didn’t win. Our inexperience began to show more. Errors were made, and our opponents, Westside Neighborhood School, beat Lighthouse Church School 7-1.

I’m not upset. Winning would have been almost impossible. For our small school with a co-ed team, to have made it to round 2 of playoffs was already an impossible dream. I’m proud of the kids.

It was a fun season. Kids learned about soccer, teamwork, effort. These are lessons they must apply to life.

A happier coach

soccer girls | Santa MonicaI ran into two soccer coach friends at Wednesday’s game. They command winning teams and winning salaries. They were winning players.

I have a winninger attitude. I’m the happier coach. I coach for free, and I’m seeing the fruits of my labor, most importantly kids drawn to Christ at a Westside Christian school.

So far we have lost every league game of Middle School soccer in CIF Pacific League Basin. Monday will see if we finally win one.

Despite the dismal outlook, I’m enjoying the positives:

  • Our goalie, an adapted basketball player, won the opposing coach’s praise with “five first-rate saves.” “We thought we weren’t going to be able to score on you,” he said.
  • We limited an A-team to four goals.
  • My son scored a goal.
  • My son juked four defenders to get to goal and almost scored an individual effort.

More important than game highlights are kid highlights:

  • Kids are really enjoying soccer.
  • One kid told me he used to not like soccer; now he really likes it.
  • Beginners are scoring (at practice), and that’s  a thrill for them.
  • There’s such a good feeling of Christian good attitude and fun.

So I wouldn’t take the paid coaching position. The unpaid is better because the rewards outweigh financial compensation.