Hillsong + Rosanna Arquette + Christian Hosoi Brian Sumner + Dan Merchant + Machine Gun Preacher President Jimmy Carter + Phil Wickham
faith hope love
08 Hillsong: God is Able
On-Screen, On-Stage, Movies or Music
12 Rosanna Arquette & Randy Wayne
From Family Struggles to Forgiveness: Rosanna Arquette & Randy Wayne Share Personal Connections to their Latest Film
40 Joyful Noise
Making a Joyful Noise with Dexter Darden
24 Jacques Cesaire
14 Christian Hosoi & Brian Sumner
Football, Faith & Finding His Way
18 President Jimmy Carter
Professional Skateboarders Set the Pace for Action Through Strong Faith He Continues to Wage Peace, Build Hope and Share
44 Dr. Seahorse
The Sound Behind This Indie Pop Duo
46 Tia Ross
Passionate about Motivating the Teen Spirit
24 Dan Merchant
48 Edgar Gonzalez
The Questions Most Hate Answering: Filmmaker Dan Merchant Digs Deep into Politics & Religion
Machine Gun Preacher
The Real Machine Gun Preacher
Muay Thai World Champion Exemplifies Forgiveness and Perseverance
Whether Singing to a Small Audience or Stadium of People He Makes an Impact
Baseball in His Blood: Chicago Cub Edgar Gonzalez
50 Bill Kennedy
17 Years Behind Bars: An Account of Serving Time for A Crime He Assures He Didnâ€™t Commit
Outreach: 56 Project 25
Students Rise to the Challenge of Creating Change on Their Campuses and Around the World
Expressions: 60 On the Set of Hardflip
Influential Friendships As a child, the people you know in life are all at an arms reach – your family, your neighbors, the others kids in your class at school. When you are older, you start to realize just how interconnected communities and cultures can be; discovering how small the world really is. You accept the idea that you could have friends in other countries, friends with different beliefs, friends that are famous, friends that are in need and in this day and age, even virtual friends. In this issue, I made three very special friends; one in politics, one in music, and one in film. President Jimmy Carter (page 18) exceeded my expectation in every way. Not only did I read his latest devotional book titled, Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President, but having a conversation with this man provided so much wisdom into peace, justice, and the positive influence of power. The 39th President was witty, warm, and incredibly humble for someone who previously ran the free world. The way he’s been able to navigate fame, family, and wealth in the midst of intense scrutiny and political pressure, is a testament to his unchanging character, the power of prayer, and a commitment to always lead life by conviction. Our time together was both a personal highlight and a challenge to continue to lead a life of unwavering faith. As a small local church in Australia, Hillsong (page 8) stepped out in faith with their worship band and now has global influence through their incredible music. Millions of people sing their songs on Sunday mornings in services and favorites like, “Shout to the Lord,” “Inside Out,” “Hosanna,” and “Mighty to Save,” have inspired and influenced young and old alike. Just a few of the reasons why an afternoon with worship leader Dave Ware would empower anyone to boldly pursue the Lord. I believe one of the most influential mediums is film. Little resonates more with people than a good story. Of course this can be told through books, song, television and other formats, but few can really move a person like an inspirational movie. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to co-produce Hardflip (page 12), starring John Schneider, Rosanna Arquette and Randy Wayne. It’s a powerful story of forgiveness and also includes pro skateboarders Christian Hosoi and Brian Sumner. The process was an unforgettable journey and I’m thrilled to share this gripping film with you. What is both encouraging and daunting is the thought that one is not only influenced and shaped by the people they meet in life, but that they in turn are constantly influencing and shaping the people they meet. I leave you with a challenge; all of us have influence on some level, how are you using yours? God Bless, Editor-in-Chief 06 Risen Magazine
PUBLISHER :: Allan Camaisa EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF :: Kelli Gillespie CONTRIBUTING WRITERS :: Shelley Barski, Kelli Gillespie. Patti Gillespie, Nikki Jimenez, Megan Murray, Jimmy Rippy, Mei Ling Starkey, Nathaniel Wisan, COPY EDITOR: Patti Gillespie
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The views and opinions expressed by the subjects interviewed are not necessarily those shared by the publisher or staff of Risen Media, LLC. All interviews remain the sole property of Risen Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of Risen Media, LLC. Copyright © 2012 “Risen” is a Trademark of Risen Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Randy Wayne Cover Photo :: Tim Tadder President Carter Cover Photo :: Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library risenmagazine.com 07
God is Able
H I L L SONG :
Writer: Kelli Gillespie | Photographer: Javier Torres
f you attend church regularly, chances are you’ve sung, or maybe even know by heart, the words from one or more of the worship songs from the group Hillsong. Millions more watch and listen to their music on YouTube which include favorites like “Shout to the Lord,” “Inside Out,” “Hosanna,” and “Mighty to Save,” – which was awarded the 2009 Dove for Worship Song of the Year. The local Australian church has global influence with Hillsong locations in nine different countries and the worship team has a commitment to inspiring and empowering the authentic worship of Jesus everywhere. Worship leader Dave Ware carved out some time for Risen before Hillsong took stage on the final stop of their, God is Able, tour.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: I think any band would be happy with just one or two huge hits, but it seems like everything Hillsong touches is incredible. What is it about your songs that resonate with people? Dave Ware: It is like Proverbs says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes…” [Proverbs 3:7] so we are still figuring it out. Different seasons have called for different methods, but the one thing we have been strong believers in is being a church of the new song. That’s why we bring new songs every year. And some of those songs get on an album, but we fully believe that bringing new songs as a church, brings freshness, vibrancy, and a motivation for people to draw near to God and connect with him. That is something we’re passionate about. RM: Such a great mindset. It seems like it would be so easy to make it about routine and think it’s just another show, getting on a stage, doing your thing, blessing people… all of that is true, but how do you keep your heart continually in the right place? DW: Well we don’t even consider ourselves a band. We are all just part of the church and we happen to be on the worship team. We like to call our shows worship nights, because we are not trying to push a certain album, that’s not our motivation. Our motivation is to bring people together and worship God. And every single person on the platform tonight is heavily involved back home in church. This is probably our longest tour so far. We are never away from home, our families, or our home groups at church for more than three-and-a-half weeks. That’s a pretty long time for us. That in itself kind of demands you to have your heart checked because you are not just flying around the world doing all these big events, but you are actually part of a church, and you’re accountable, and you have leaders and people
who look out for you and sharpen you and love you. So the main thing is we are just part of a church family who happen to do albums, which happen to send us out, and enable us to go into the world and spread the gospel and gather people and worship God together. RM: Tell us about how this collaboration works, and how the group changes as people come and leave. Is there a try out, or way for potential members to prove themselves? How are those decisions made? DW: I know at the core of our church, at the backbone of our church it is based on relationships. I personally didn’t have to do an audition to be part of the team; I kind of just started serving back in the day in youth [group]. I was actually a drummer then and they needed singers. So a lot of it is need as well. I started singing in church and relationships opened doors. Whenever there was another need to be filled, then I’d be around, and that’s just how I kind of got here. But there’s not a grooming process, as such. People definitely give you feedback and help you to get better, but I don’t think that all those years ago, people were like, “David is going to tour in five years, let’s get him there.” I think it’s just like everyone on the team puts their hand up for whatever is needed and for some of us that turns into being on a tour going across the world and showcasing what we do at home. RM: Tell me about the God Is Able, album. I’ve read that it talks about current events and seeing God at work, but how do you view the album? DW: My personal view of it is that it was very timely. It was the middle of the year last year when it was introduced, and it was a time when our church comes together; we call it a miracle offering. It’s where we see the need across the world and within our church, and how we as a church can give risenmagazine.com 09
that. I reckon anyone in that kind of a situation, where they just open their heart to God, God would reveal himself to them. I think sometimes we carry the weight of other people being saved a bit too much. We need to depend on God and just do our best, and where we fall short, he picks up the slack.
You want people to know that you are singing to a real God. It's not a show at all. into that. At the same time, all these things were happening, floods and what not. For me personally, I saw a lot of people’s lives being impacted by that song [God is Able] because of the time it came out and it was very inspirational. I also think it’s one of those songs that is kind of timeless. Everyone is always in a situation where you just need to know God is able. God did bring it out at the time that it needed to be out. RM: I’m sure people often say how much your music has helped them. Are there a couple of stories that have helped motivate you, where you think, “Oh, this is why we do this!”? DW: Yeah. You hear a lot of good testimonies - a lot; whether its people saying thank you to me personally, or to the team, or whatever. One of the biggest compliments that I got on this tour was from a lady who came up to me and said, “I can tell by the way you guys worship that you actually have a relationship with God, and that you guys have a testimony.” So, I sat down with this lady and she said, “ You specifically, I know just by the way that you sing and you worship that you have a testimony.” I [then] told her my testimony and we were blessed by that. What you want to come across is authenticity. You want people to know that you are singing to a real God. It’s not a show at all. It’s not a show. RM: For people who wouldn’t know what a relationship with God is like, what do you do? DW: Well, I’ve heard it preached so many times: our job is not to heal anyone, or set anyone free, or to save anyone; but it’s to paint a picture of a God who loves us. We show the truest picture we can, with the tools we’ve been given, which is [through] song and lights, and what not. [We try to] really point people towards God in the hope that they would open their hearts to 10 Risen Magazine
RM: Being with Hillsong, how have you seen God use and grow you? DW: The most significant part of my story is being part of the bigger story. We were at a few churches that didn’t really know all of our songs and saw this journey happening before our eyes. I come from a small campus back home and we’ve quadrupled over the last five years. Seeing that journey, people coming in, and [being] kind of uncertain with the style and what not, to now having a campus that from a worship perspective is flourishing, [has been amazing]. Everyone is just into it every Sunday, and gives everything. We got to see a few places where there would have been a bit of uncertainty at the beginning, but then during the night, [we saw] God really open up their hearts. And being able to be used to point people to God in such a passionate way was such a rewarding feeling. I love it. Sometimes I love it more than being in places where they’re pumped from the very beginning, because you can actually see the change in front of your very eyes. People coming in, with folded hands, and all this presumption, because I don’t know what their hearts are saying, or what they’re thinking, but just seeing them come in like ‘this’ [arms folded] and eventually be like ‘that’ [arms outstretched]… it is pretty rewarding. RM: Well yeah! Talk to me about that because it’s rare for the average person to see so many different cultures worship. You get the opportunity to be in South America, or Africa, actually you’ve probably been in every continent, seeing people’s hearts and the way they worship. Does it seem universal, or do you have to adapt your style for different cultures? DW: Every time we leave, people [from our church] remind us, “Just do what you do at home. Just lead people how you would at home.” And even if they are a bit uncertain at the beginning, it always ends up being the same. Everyone is crying out to God, everyone is surrendered. That’s how I treat it. I treat it like I’m leading worship at home. RM: What would be a defining thing that, when people think of Hillsong, you would want to come to mind? DW: There are a few things that come to mind, but they all start with God. I’d really want people to walk away with a sense of knowing that God is real and that God is able. I think that’s such a throw-away line in prayers and what not, but if you look at the average person who comes in [to a service] and maybe they were abused as a child, or maybe they’re on the verge of being homeless… and they hear these songs of hope pointing them to a God that is able, it becomes such a life changing statement. To really know that God is a healer, God can save you, is so very important.
From Family Struggles to Forgiveness:
Rosanna Arquette Randy Wayne
Share Personal Connections to their Latest Film
nyone who is a parent knows that raising kids is challenging. The task is even more daunting when it has to be done alone. Single parents have to juggle between working to provide financially, trying to nurture, discipline, encourage, and show love. Children rarely understand the sacrifices and pressures that parents make for their well-being. But why should they understand? Isn’t one of the great aspects about being a kid that very naivety and the innocent lens from which they view the world? Unfortunately, when it comes to parent-child and family relationships, the result is often an experience of brokenness. The new family drama Hardflip wrestles with the theme of family dynamics while exploring just what happens when one lets go of anger and pain by forgiving those who have been the most hurtful. To Save a Life’s Randy Wayne stars as Caleb and Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction, The Whole Nine Yards) plays his mother. John Schneider from The Dukes of Hazard, and most recently Smallville, stars as the absent father trying to reconnect with his son. Set in the skateboarding world, pro skaters Christian Hosoi and Brian Sumner play themselves. Acting is in Arquette’s blood. The oldest of five in a famous family (Patricia, Alexis, Richmond, and David are all in the film industry), Arquette shares that when it comes to her siblings, “We’re all really close but we don’t talk about the business much. I grew up in a very liberal household. My parents were artists and musicians, political activists, very left-winged, hippies, we lived in a commune and we were raised with all religions.” However, when addressing core family values she relates, “I’m old fashioned. My daughter comes from a broken home and that’s hard on a kid. The friends of mine that have really successful kids all have great solid families. They have dinners together, they vacation together, and I think that’s really important. I feel bad that I wasn’t able to provide that.” Arquette readily admits she can relate to that aspect of her character and the idea of having to navigate being a single mom while shooting movies. “Balancing work life and personal life is really hard. I need to work and be creative, but it is hard with my daughter. Obviously I haven’t done it successfully because I’ve been married three times. I do believe in marriage and every time I thought it was going to be the right thing; but it wasn’t. It’s very tough to be [physically] away. I had to make a lot of sacrifices in my career because most projects film so far away. For me it’s a no brainer, my daughter comes first.” “Some lessons kids have to learn the hard way too. As a parent one hopes a child will take advice because they understand the wisdom and teaching that can come from a protective parent, but sometimes lessons are best understood by trial and error.” Arquette talks about the tough love that had to be exercised on her own daughter. “The danger of living in Los Angeles, and on the West side, is growing up with the thinking that the world is pretty easy and life just gives you anything you want. I had to put an end to that. [My daughter] had always gone to private school and I took her out last year and put her in public school – it was an experiment. In some ways it was like, ‘This is the real world, there is no hand-holding and caudling, there are tons of kids, and you’re not special.’ She hated it; but I think it was a good wake up call. I am allowing her
Writer: Kelli Gillespie | Photographer: Nathan Petty
to go back to her private school, but she now appreciates it and recognizes the privilege it is to attend and won’t take it for granted. She still was angry with that initial decision.” Wayne, who plays Arquette’s son in the movie chimes in. “A lot of times parents don’t go about showing love the right way, they are not sure what to do or what to say so kids take parents the wrong way. A lot of kids that grow up without parents, mistakenly think that nobody cares about them. But they do. That’s why it’s so important to treat the people you love properly because you never know if they are going to be there the next day.” Wayne also connected with his character. “Caleb’s going through so many family problems because he’s just like a normal kid.” He adds, “Most of the time I separate a role from my personal life, but sometimes I do draw from my experiences. I’ll take a little moment of my life that is similar to the situation and I’ll magnify it. But I like to keep it simple. I’m not too much of a method actor.” Hardflip proved to be a little different for Wayne when it came to emotions. He shares, “I actually had a breakthrough on this film and for the first time I started balling in at least one or two scenes and I couldn’t stop. Even when I left the set I was still crying for an hour or two. When you make it really personal and take it to heart, your body doesn’t know that you’re acting. When I read the script there was so much anger and so much emotion and I wanted to humanize Caleb a little more. He’s an 18 or 19-year-old skateboarder, so I’d try to make him a bit more stable and just have these moments of emotion.” One of his favorite scenes was shared with Arquette. Wayne explains, “I got all my emotions out and it was a very freeing moment as an actor.” The anger and frustration boils up in the home and eventually carries through into the hospital when Caleb is forced to face the fact that his mom has cancer. Situations in life that can’t be controlled, especially when a person has to face the possibility of death or losing a loved one, can many times cause individuals to question their faith and call on God. Arquette found herself searching when a real life scenario presented itself years earlier. I believe in a higher power and to me that’s God, and God is love. And I’ve seen angels. People don’t believe me but my daughter almost died from Odwalla Apple Juice years ago; there was E. coli in it and some kids died. My daughter had total liver collapse and [in the hospital] she had to be put on dialysis. My mom who is incredibly spiritual says, ‘We have to pray.’ So my mom and I were holding hands and I saw eight gigantic, huge, like 8-feettall, women angels. All of them had these huge wingspans; I saw them. And one of them was holding my daughter over herself. There were these two [angels] and it was like they were putting my daughter back in her body. Then she woke up. Her dad was in the room too and she told him, ‘I want to watch TV.’ So I believe in angels for sure.” The unexplainable is something people either take comfort in or are fearful of, but can certainly cause a re-evaluation of life and what is truly important. Whether it’s the dysfunction of a relationship with an individual or within a family, the hurt can linger on. Hardflip encompasses a journey of twists and turns to unveil the importance of unconditional love and forgiveness. risenmagazine.com 13
Professional Skateboarders Set the Pace for Action
Christian Hosoi Brian Sumner
Writer: Kelli Gillespie
he upcoming movie Hardflip, features captivating and compelling skateboarding scenes. The live action boarding can be credited to the skills of professionals Brian Sumner and Christian Hosoi. While these two pros may be known throughout the world for their boarding skills, they recently shared with Risen how they met, the experiences that brought them together and the faith that they now share.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: What first intrigued you about Hardflip and made you want to be involved with the movie? Brian Sumner: A friend and pro surfer, Matt Beecham, had worked on the film Cutback, with the same director as Hardflip, Johnny Remo. Matt called me and said, “Johnny has a script that is set with the background of skateboarding and obviously with you being a Christian, I think you might want to come alongside.” So I met with the director, we ate some pizza, and he handed me a script. Then for whatever reason, my 10-year-old son picked up the script and just started reading it. Within two days, he finished a 90-page script and said he understood it and loved it. [I thought] If you can tell this story to a kid and he gets it, [coupled with the fact that] I began to see layer upon layer of biblical truths in it, it became clear that this was a project I wanted to be involved with. I wanted to help and make sure the heart of it was for reaching others. It was really cool to see it all happen. Christian Hosoi: I thought it seemed like a great project that I could be a part of and [help] change people’s lives. And really that’s what I want to do in this world, change people’s lives. The film is all about relationships, redemption, discovery, and second chances. It’s about overcoming obstacles in life and the struggles people go through. It’s interesting how skateboarding is the platform for it, but also the backdrop for what the real message is, and that’s the Gospel, and that’s Jesus’ love, mercy, and forgiveness being revealed through the characters in the film. This movie could bring a lot of restoration and reconciliation between relationships and I think that’s super important today, because we’ve got a fatherless generation. Kids are out there, wanting to be mentored, wanting to be disciplined and loved and cared for, and it’s just not happening. You look at the product of that, you see these kids and they are just rough. This movie is a great tool in the hands of God to change the world we live in. RM: Not only are you both great skaters, but you are friends too. Brian, how did Christian impact your decision to follow Christ and your friendship now? BS: I heard of Christian when I first started skating. At 13 years old in Liverpool, I had watched a contest event he was skating in. He was of an older generation; I always looked up to that stuff, but I was primarily a street skater. Years later when making it over to America, I ran into Christian a few
times when he wasn’t doing so well. It was some five or so years later when I was going through [some stuff myself ] and [searching] for the Lord that I ran into him again at the Lake Forest Park, at an event at The Skate Lab, and then again at Vans [Skate Sponsor]. I was trying to figure things out. Christian had just gotten out of prison and heard I was “searching”. When [we talked] he invited me to church. I had also met Pastor Jay Haizlip who was skating with him at Vans one night. Just after that I showed up at the church and heard Pastor Jay preaching out of [Bible references] Galatians 5 and Matt 7:21, the word of God spoke to me that night eight or so years ago, and I have been close with Christian ever since. Today our faith comes before our skating and we have the same goals. We hang most days, and are always doing some kind of ministry together, even aside from serving at the same church. RM: Speaking of some of those challenges, Christian, you’ve been very open when it comes to discussing your time spent in prison. What was it for you that helped make a change in your life? CH: It’s funny how people finally cry out to God in a rock bottom experience, and for me, it was that. It was me not being able to get myself out of a situation – all my strings were cut, there were no resources for me to draw on, so I finally cried out to God. And from a prison cell I said, “God if you’re real, will you help me?” And in the prison cell I questioned, “God why am I here? What did I do wrong?” I’m sitting there pointing my finger at all these people that I thought should be here [behind bars] and [why] I shouldn’t, and in reality, I’m not responsible for anyone else, I’m responsible for my choices. In that place I cried out to God and God revealed himself through his scriptures. My wife Jennifer said, “Christian, you need to go get a Bible.” And I was like, “What are you talking about? I need a lawyer. I need an attorney. I need bail, babe.” She said, “No we’ve got to trust in God; God’s going to get us through this [trial].” And that was the moment that I finally opened up my heart and asked God to come in and he revealed his truth to me. I was in a prison cell, but really a revelation happened. It was like I had been in a prison of sin and death my whole life, and then actually being in a real prison cell, [allowed me to ask] and to be set free by the Lord. He loved me and died for me to give me that freedom and the liberty to live a life of peace and joy and forgiverisenmagazine.com 15
ness and mercy. His grace empowers me to continue living for him and it all started in a prison cell. That’s where I got set free. It’s mindboggling how that happened and how God spoke to me in that place [so that] I realized I was in prison my whole life. But that’s who God is; he’s an amazing God. RM: Sometimes situations can be hard to understand and the importance of trusting God and his plan. Brian, you have such an interesting story about the trials in your marriage. Will you share a bit about what you endured? BS: I wasn’t a Christian at the time [when I met my wife], so I don’t know
Yes, I consider myself a role
model, and not because I’m so great, but because I trust in God, and I believe in God, and I want to be used by God... -Christain Hosoi
that I knew she was the one, but I knew that I was passionate. I’m a guy with tunnel vision; most men have tunnel vision. The Bible talks about Adam naming all the animals – a woman doesn’t want to do that, but men want to do something like that. I fell in love with skating and I fell in love with this girl at 19 years of age. She’s a little bit older than me and after being here [in the U.S.] for only four months, and madly in love, I said, “Do you want to get married?” And we took off in the car to Vegas. Not being a Christian at the time, I’ll say this, we knew as far as the world can know, that it was right. We had passionate love, but here’s the reality, you kind of love people because of the way they look, or the way they think, or the way they act, or the way that they treat you… so this is my wife and we’re madly in love, but what is it that I love about her? Is it the way she looks, the way she acts, the way she makes me feel…because if it is, then really I love myself and the way it makes me feel. This is the same way a person would do drugs, or need fame, or attention, or world peace in order to feel good about themselves – I was getting something out of it. And within a year or two of being married, with everything the world ministers to you about what’s better out there – the girl here, or the girl liking the guy that’s flirting with her in Starbucks – we were divorced. Years later, a long story, and God transforming powers… my ex-wife and I did both become Christians and we got re-married. RM: Wow! Talk about forgiveness; now you know that she is the perfect partner for you. BS: Today if you were to say, “Is she the one?” I would say, “Absolutely.” First Corinthians 13 says that love never ever fails. So our marriage can never fail unless we give up loving each other. It’s kind of like we say we love people unconditionally, but really we only love them as long as they keep our conditions. We say, “That’s my wife so long as she does this, this, this and this…” and when she doesn’t, then suddenly we’re questioning God on it. I’ll never get divorced, all the things she could probably do… even the things that the Bible says you’re entitled to get divorced for, and I probably wouldn’t. Because 16 Risen Magazine
now, if I love her, the way “Brian” loves her, the best she’s going to get is my attention and a consented word that she’s going to be my wife. But in reality, to love her, the way Christ loved the church, which I’m called to do, then we will never fail and she’s definitely the one. The point [here is that] you shouldn’t marry someone that is unequally yoked; you should marry a person that is pursuing the Lord, loves the Lord, and is living a life of ministry – that will be your spouse. RM: God has definitely gifted you both when it when it comes to skateboarding and many look up to you two in the sport. Christian, do you recognize yourself as a role model and accept a certain amount of responsibility, or do you just try to live true to who you are? CH: I knew I was an influence back when I was young. I turned pro at 14 years old and I knew I had a huge influence on people, but I didn’t really understand the impact that it would have on their lives. Now as a Christian, I’m looking at my children and I want them to be just like me. Yes, I consider myself a role model, and not because I’m so great, but because I trust in God, and I believe in God, and I want to be used by God, and that right there is not a prideful thing, but a humbleness that I’m just a servant of God. I want to be that example to this generation and it first starts with my kids, then my friends, and whoever else. Hopefully, they see the Lord in me and they see the light of Jesus Christ living in me. Everyone says actions speak louder than words, because it’s true. But if your words can back it up, then that’s double the power. I think kids are looking for someone that will tell them the truth, love them for who they are, not judge them, not condemn them, but tell them God loves them and he desires to have a relationship with them, and that requires change. God doesn’t call us to stay where we are, he doesn’t leave us where we’re at once he saves us; he desires us to go further with him. I’m still growing, I’m still getting better and making better choices, I’m still falling more in love with the Lord everyday and that’s what a relationship should be like. RM: Especially for boys and young men to have that leadership. Too many homes are missing a father, which is also one of the main themes in CH: It’s good to have an earthly father and to know him, but really it’s about understanding who our father in Heaven is. Our earthly fathers can be great, but it doesn’t even compare to our Heavenly Father who is all-loving, allknowing, and all-caring and wants to be there unconditionally. In our world there are so many conditions that fathers put on their children that are just wrong. But once you know the Heavenly Father, all that other stuff just becomes something that needs to be sorted out and worked through. RM: What do you want people to walk away with after watching this film? BS: It’s really a movie about forgiveness. It’s about the pain you might have felt or the misunderstandings you might have and how there is normally an answer and a solution, and ultimately it’s the cross [where Jesus died for man’s sins]. The pain from the past can be dealt with and it’s something that skating or family can’t fill, but the Lord can.
Christain Hosoi Photo: Orion Comstock
18 Risen Magazine
Through Strong Faith He Continues to Wage Peace, Build Hope and Share
Up Close with President Jimmy Carter
Writer: Kelli Gillespie | Photos: Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library
here have been millions of influential people in America, thousands of leaders, and hundreds of celebrities, but only 44 men have been President of the United States. Only one of those presidents has ever received the Nobel Peace Prize after leaving office. Jimmy Carter may have had humble beginnings coming from Plains, Georgia, but even after serving in the military, gaining wealth, and running the free world, President Carter exhibits a humility that is not only admirable, but lived out daily. His personal faith and commitment to peace around the world is unparalleled, but worth striving to replicate. The 39th president, professor, and avid Sunday School teacher shares lessons on prayer, gives advice to the youth, and reveals his thoughts on the nation’s many blessings.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Many students graduate from college and are still unclear about what they want to do with their life. They wonder about their purpose, their passion and what they are “called” to do. When did you know you wanted to run for president and at what point did you recognize that Commander-in-Chief was actually where God wanted you to be? President Jimmy Carter: I didn’t even think about running for president until after I had been governor [of Georgia] for two years. After the 1972 convention in Miami when we lost that election, I decided that I would run for president. We had about five people that were part of a small group where we discussed plans. We made very meticulous plans on how we would deal with all 50 states. There were 31 states that had a political contest in them and we decided to enter all those contests. I never did feel that I was anointed by God to be president. But, I have felt all through my life, when I had a tough decision to make, I [would] turn to God in prayer making sure the decision I made was the best I could ascertain, and was [also] compatible with God’s will. I don’t have any doubt that sometimes God says, “ Yes” and sometimes God says, “No”, and sometimes God says, “ You’ve got to be kidding!” I think God answers our prayers oftentimes by opening and closing doors. If we want to be an astronaut, or a medical doctor, or a surgeon, or something like that, if that’s what we desire, and that’s not our possibility, then we just have to come to alternative routes to satisfy. RM: You’ve stated, “We tend not to notice how much we’ve come to accept.” Making decisions and staying firm to beliefs can be challenging without a strong support system to hold you accountable. Who was that group for you and how did you stay on top of your prayer life, studies, and just fellowship with other believers? JC: I prayed more, and for a larger percentage of the day when I was in the White House, than during any other part of my life. I was faced with decisions that needed to be made that sometimes were very difficult and I wanted to be sure I made the right decision for the well-being of the people in my
country. I had terrible challenges with war and peace and nuclear threats, and things of that kind when I was in the White House, and I asked God for guidance that I would make the right decisions. That was the most trying time in my life as well. I’ve always been able to consult closely with Rosalynn [Carter], who shares my faith. As a matter of fact for the last 35 years she and I always end the day by reading out loud to each other from the Bible. One night she reads, the next night I read. And the last 20 years or so we’ve read the Bible in Spanish so we can learn more Spanish. We go all the way through the Bible and then go back and read the Bible again. Right now we are in the book of Hebrews. We find different meanings to the verses depending on our lifestyle and when I go back and teach it (which is about 35 times a year). I usually spend time comparing modern day events – either headlines in the news media, or experiences Rosalynn and I have had at The Carter Center – with biblical teachings on how it applies to my life or how it applies to America’s life as a nation. RM: Speaking of current events, America has been such a blessed country. Why do you think we’ve been saddled with so many issues, from housing and the banking crisis, to high unemployment and disasters; what are your thoughts from a faith standpoint on where the nation is at? JC: We have a particular blessing from God in our country, as some people have particular blessings from God in a material way. But that doesn’t make us secure to anyone else, and I realize that. We have a bountiful nation; we have basic freedoms, harmonious neighbors, oceans on the east and west; we have everything you could ask for, but that really means we have a lot of obligations to share our blessings with other people. And we don’t do that adequately. One of the things the United States could do is be the champion of peace. We have not done that. I think we are looked upon by the rest of the world like the most bull-like nation on earth. We are one of the least likely to share our portion of wealth with deprived countries. We probably provide about one-forth as much, for instance, as Norway or Sweden, Austria or the Netherlands, Denmark or so forth would share. Sometimes I’d say we’re too risenmagazine.com 19
Hamilton Jordan, President Carter and other White House staff aboard Air Force One., 07/20/1977
Amy Carter and President Carter participate in a speed reading course at the White House., 02/22/1977 at ease just enjoying our own blessings without accepting the responsibility that goes with a particular blessing. And when we say we’re suffering, we still have an average family income in this country of $55,000. When we finished doing the last election in Liberia, half the people in Liberia have less than a half a dollar a day. If you put it in perspective with the rest of the world, America really isn’t suffering in a material way. RM: Culture definitely affects society’s behavior. Obviously overgeneralizing a bit here, but it seems this generation tends to be more selfish, and there’s an obsession with fame, chasing wealth, and a sense of entitlement that reigns… what can you share when it comes to taking responsibility, humility and submitting to God and what he has for one’s life? JC: Of course that should apply to every human being; a commitment to peace and justice, humility, service of others, forgiveness, compassion, and love – the characteristics that exemplify the life of Christ. I’ve just finished my 30th year as a college professor at Emery University and I see student body’s come and go and it’s a cycle effect. I don’t really believe that the young people today are any more selfish or self-centered then they were when I was in college. The outside pressures are different. I don’t believe our young people are any worse or better on average through the years. RM: With your teaching on college campuses and in Sunday School, what advice would you give to the youth of America, or what presidential wisdom would you pass on to the current generation that you hope they would embrace? JC: I’m the only president that ever quoted a high school teacher in his inaugural address. And I quoted the same high school teacher in my Nobel [Peace Prize] address. My favorite teacher in my life, an old maid school teacher named Miss Judy Coleman, said, “We must accommodate changing 20 Risen Magazine
times, but cling to unchanging principles.” I think that encompasses as concisely as I can imagine, advice to young people. I think every generation has to accommodate changing times. Now with instant communications around the world, and with Twitter and Facebook and that sort of thing, we have to accommodate those changing times, but there are principles that don’t change. And that’s what I teach every Sunday in my Bible lessons, the principles that don’t change, and never will change; the basic moral values that should permeate the life of a human being, or the life of a family, or the life of a nation. I quote a verse from 2 Corinthians [4:18], where the Corinthians asked Paul what are the things that are permanent in life? And he said, “The things you cannot see.” Which was a very strange and mysterious answer. But the things you cannot see also describes the moral life, or the life of Jesus Christ. You can’t see a commitment to peace or justice, or humility, service… but those are the most important things. I also believe every human being is given an adequate amount of intelligence, influence, and education to meet the demands of God. For instance, I use the example of a child with Down ’s syndrome. If you ever meet any person with Down’s they are the most loving and caring people that you could possibly imagine. Yet, they are looked upon as handicapped, but I think in the eyes of God they approach perfection. RM: Keeping your principles was something you were able to do quite well when it comes to faith and politics. You incorporated God on the campaign trail, included scripture in your inaugural address and address to Congress. You mentioned that you prayed more in office, but would you say your faith grew or suffered during your political career? JC: It suffered during my political career. I was a state senator and I ran for governor in 1966 and my main opponent was a racist, named Lester Maddox. His fame came from his segregation commitment. I was very moderate or progressive on the race issue and I lost to him. He was elected by the legis-
President Carter with his grandson, Jason Carter, and Amy Carter in a tree house on the White House grounds., 03/10/1977
Of course that should apply to every human being; a commitment to peace and justice, humility, service to others, forgiveness, compassion, and love –
the characteristics that exemplify the life of Christ.
lature, not by the people – it’s a complicated subject. But I lost my religious faith. I just felt like God had let me down and that my political and religious careers were over. [My] sister Ruth Carter Stapleton, at that time was a very famous evangelist known all over the world. She wrote five books and she would speak to audiences of 25 to 50 thousand people in different countries. She heard about me and came down and tried to minister to my loss of faith. She pointed out that when a person has a serious setback of failure, disappointment, sorrow, or loss, then that [setback] should be a contribution to one’s own patience and self-assessment and could lead to greater faith, and greater expanded life. And she convinced me of that. So I started what you might say, my new religious life. I had given up on politics, but then it turned out in the next election that I was chosen to be governor and went on to be president. I’ve had ups and downs in my political and religious life. RM: I love how you said, “When we pray without ceasing, we get help without interruption.” When have you felt prayer be the most effective in your life? JC: I think the prayer process not only gives us the feeling of – I wouldn’t say inferiority – but a matter of subjugation to God’s will. But if our prayers are not answered then we have an obligation to search for an alternative
compatible with our influence and human characteristics to make the most of the remaining years of our life. That’s always been my basic belief. I’ve changed my mind quite often in my lifetime. When I was a child the only thing I wanted to do was go to Annapolis and be a naval officer because that was only one of the two free colleges in the United States during the Great Depression years when my family didn’t have any money. And that prayer was answered. When I got out of the Navy I wanted to be a successful businessman. I didn’t even think about running for office until I had been out of the Navy for eight years and I was pretty advanced in age. I ran for office to save the public school systems from the segregationist pressures. I changed my career plans often. RM: I would think transitioning from presidency back to a normal life could be challenging, but it seemed to be not only effortless for you, but you’ve been incredibly successful too…opening The Carter Center, being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, continuing to volunteer. What is the most fulfilling way for you to spend your time post-presidency? JC: The Carter Center is a full-time job. We have programs in 73 nations in the world. Thirty-five of those are in Africa and we are constantly involved risenmagazine.com 21
I think every generation has to accommodate changing times.... but there are principles that don’t change.
in all the elements concerning human rights. Eighty percent of The Carter Center budget is devoted to medical and the health field where we try to address hundreds of millions of people who suffer from diseases that we no longer [experience] in the rich world. That’s where most of our effort goes. We [also] help with elections. We deal with four or five of the most troubled and challenging elections in the world every year. I’ll be in Egypt all next week trying to help bring peace and democracy to Egypt. We’re the only organization that has been welcomed by leaders to witness there. We have a broad agenda and Rosalynn and I can basically go down the menu of things we actually want to do, or don’t want to do and we have enough authority and influence to choose the ones we think will be the most challenging, adventurous, unpredictable and gratifying. We are very fortunate. RM: It’s such a blessing to others that this is how you choose to spend your time. I’m curious about how you navigate between knowing your platform and the sphere of influence you have, and leveraging your name and talents to help showcase Jesus and his teachings to others, versus feeding your ego and enjoying the glory and accolades. It’s very human to revel in praise or take joy in having others know of our actions. JC: What you say is very accurate. [Laughing] But, I have a natural restraint on me and that is by living in Plains, Georgia. We only have 635 people that live here. We have 11 churches for that 600+ people. We have a very tiny church and what our church has decided to do is have a special ministry, maybe not equal to anywhere else in the world, I don’t know, where we deal with visitors. And we have anywhere from 100 to 870 visitors [weekly] in our little church with 30 members. We welcome people that have never been to church before, and people of all different faiths. I try to point out the common things we share which are much more overwhelming than any differences between us. Being in a tiny town and being called, “Jimmy”, by all my fellow citizens, not “Mr. President”, and that sort of thing is kind of a reminder to me of not getting carried away with Nobel Peace Prizes and titles like President.
RM: You’ve mentioned your wife several times throughout the interview and I have to congratulate you on being married 65 years to Rosalynn. Your relationship is admirable especially knowing how confusing and challenging relationships can be and heartbreaking that so many end in divorce. How did you unwaveringly know that this is who God had as your partner in life? I had read that at first she said no to your [marriage] proposal, but then changed her mind! And why do you think it’s been able to withstand all this time? JC: I can’t really say how we knew we were destined for each other. I had a sweetheart who was Miss Georgia Southwestern College in a distant town, and I had to go find another date before I went back to the Naval Academy [because] she had [to attend] a family reunion. I picked up Rosalynn on a blind date and we went to a movie. The next morning I got up and my mother was cooking breakfast and she asked, “Jimmy, what did you do last night?” I said, “Since Annelle was busy, I had a date.” She said, “Who with?” and I said, “Rosalynn Smith.” And she said, “What did you think of her?” and I said, “She’s the one I’m going to marry.” So I knew it after the first date, but it took Rosalynn a little longer to decide. We share so much. We learn to give each other space and we don’t impose on each other. We have our own lives and careers that are different, but we cooperate whenever we possibly can. And as I mentioned, we end every day by reading the Bible to each other out loud. Our religious faith and our common commitments to The Carter Center and family, and trying not to go to bed angry with each other even though we have some differences,[makes our relationship work]. Editor’s note: If you’re looking for something to challenge and encourage your daily walk with Christ, check out President Carter’s most recent book titled, Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President. It’s based on three decades of practical Bible teaching, compelling political and personal experiences, plus offers a refreshingly honest wisdom that is rooted in the word of God.
Photo: Jim Standridge
The Questions Most Hate Answering: Filmmaker Dan Merchant Digs Deep into Politics & Religion Writer: Megan Murray
emember that rule about never discussing politics and religion in polite conversation? Apparently no one told Dan Merchant. Merchant is the writer/producer/director, of Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, a film in which he investigates the polarizing social issues that have long kept Christians and society at odds. In the film, Merchant takes to the streets to ask five simple questions about Christianity in an effort to answer the quandary, “Why is the gospel of love dividing America?” Fresh from a recent screening of the film, (the 183rd to be exact) Dan sits down with Risen to talk about bumper stickers, perceptions and the power of asking difficult questions.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: What experience or encounter inspired you to make a film like this? Dan Merchant: I traveled to Ethiopia in the spring of 2004 as part of a United Nations trip to see the progress that’s been made since the droughts of 1984.There I met lots of Christians and Muslims and saw them getting along with each other. I met Christians who lived in huts and had to walk miles to get water, [who were] happier than I was. As best I could figure, they were happier because they believed God loved them, which I believed, but it didn’t make me that happy. There was one kid in particular I met and we were talking about our faith and he said something to the effect of, “Even though our skin color is different and we speak in different tongues, we are brothers because we are brothers in Christ,” and I thought, “Oh that’s nice, he must have a different picture of who Jesus is.” My vision of Christ was this blonde, blueeyed Dutchman Jesus. So I asked “Who is Jesus to you?” And he answered, “My father died of AIDS, but not for me, my mother died of AIDS, but not for me, but Jesus Christ – He died for me.” And the thing that’s embarrassing to repeat is that the first thought I had was, “Wow this kid really believes this stuff.” The next thought was, “Wait a second, that’s what I believe – but I want it the way he has it.” I want faith like that. I thought I had it. How is this guy happier than me? I’m in America, I grew up on a cul-de-sac and I met Jesus like 46 times in youth group. I came back that spring and it was the run up to [President George W.] Bush’s re-election. It was a highly debated, us vs. them, red-state vs. blue-state, Christian vs. non-Christian, gay vs. straight – all these divisions… and the questions spurred on by the kid were, “Who are we as Christians in America, and why don’t any of them yelling on TV remind me
of Jesus?” And that was the starting point for asking some of the questions I ask in the movie. Really, the film is a detective story about questions I don’t understand. As it turns out the questions that most people – gay, straight, atheist, Christian – had also been asking. RM: The majority of the movie is made up of interviews. Why is there power in starting a conversation rather than a debate? DM: I address that question with a Phillip Yancy quote in the beginning of the film that says, “Nobody ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.” It became very clear that the “us vs. them” is fueled by a great misunderstanding of who the other is. We don’t really know each other. We speak different languages; we come to the table with different assumptions. Really, the goal of the movie is to suggest a third paradigm which is “we.” As a Christian if you read the Bible, inconveniently it is exposed that God created everybody. It’s absolutely biblical. So if I believe the stuff I say I believe, I probably ought to take that seriously. I’ve become pretty comfortable about being right about everything and when you’re right about everything you take this cold comfort in dismissing those who are “wrong.” That’s not how Jesus did it. So if I’m going to follow Jesus, then I have to do a better job. RM: He never said “Clothe yourself in self-righteousness…” DM: [Laughs] That’s right. The Bible says “love one another” and it’s like, “uh oh, that one’s hard. He just set the bar high.” The movie stirs things up with Christians and atheists alike and really brings us together because it puts forward Christ’s idea that love is a different kind of being right; a more complete version of being “right”. Truth doesn’t exist without grace. Truth risenmagazine.com 25
answer to every question and be able to prove it with the scientific method. If we are trusting God, the rest of it is pretty easy. Photo: Matt Baugher
Dan Merchant with Matt Lauer
RM: How do you deal with controversy that comes in response to your film? DM: The controversy is the scandal that is Jesus. If you really have a problem with that, then you need to take it up with Jesus. I’m not inventing anything; I’m plagiarizing Jesus. It’s not my fault if you’re offended by loving someone you don’t like; deal with it or don’t be a Christian, call yourself something else. I didn’t make the rules. The movie is a good conversation starter. Most people come away feeling convicted. It’s like a wake-up call for Christians. The fact that people could have heard of Jesus and not heard of “love one another” is baffling to me, but it’s true.
Truth doesn’t exist without grace. Truth without grace is a bulldozer coming through your wall. without grace is a bulldozer coming through your wall. But with grace it’s a very different thing. That’s the paradigm. Things change when you lead with love, grace, kindness and compassion. Those are languages that everyone understands. There’s no confusion about the message that’s being communicated when a person is washing your feet and they’re there to care for you and feed you. It’s not just a biblical gesture; it’s meeting a need, its practical. You’re meeting their most basic need and you care about them. And that’s transformative to both the person giving and receiving. RM: In part of the movie you take to the streets in a jumpsuit covered in Christian and anti-Christian themed bumper stickers – what was the idea behind such a public display and what were you expecting? DM: I was wondering how to have a conversation with people who don’t agree with you, if it was even possible. It sounds idiotic to go on the streets and talk to people about religion and politics unless they agree with you. The bumper stickers to me represented the way to oversimplify complex issues and boil them down to a one-way form of communication. We are shouting at each other and nobody’s listening. The idea of wearing competing bumper stickers was a signal to whoever I encountered that I was open to the conversation. Having both views showed that I was willing to listen. RM: At one point in the movie you say, “There is a lot to be gained or lost in the way we choose to engage others.” How does this translate in a culture that values being right all the time? DM: Our culture values being right at the expense of everything else. If I tell you you’re wrong, the door is slammed shut; there’s no relationship or opportunity for growth. We run around like we’re supposed to judge like God judges, and convict like the Holy Spirit convicts. We are not qualified to do either of those jobs. We’re supposed to be modeling as freely as we can, the things Jesus did. When we are around people who don’t think like us, it can be very helpful to us in a way that we’ve been too self-righteous to notice. I used to be super defensive about my faith. I thought I had to have every 26 Risen Magazine
RM: What role does the media play in shaping people’s faith? DM: Depending on how much stock a viewer puts in media, it can be fairly influential. What’s damaging and very dangerous is that the media oversimplifies and sensationalizes. All the sound bites are of people saying things that are inflammatory, crazy, dramatic and confrontational – good drama makes good television. It’s unfortunate that in the last 15 years the news programs have become entertainment shows. I wish there was a bigger difference between The Daily Show and CNN, but there’s not … except that Jon Stewart is better and funnier. It’s about entertainment, it’s about holding viewers, it’s about selling soap. RM: When do you feel gratified in your work as a filmmaker? DM: There are moments when you’ll read a scene on a page or see a scene in the movie and think, “That came out of my head just how it’s supposed to.” It’s pretty neat when the idea floating around in your head becomes a scene on the screen. With Lord Save Us, I’ve been to 183 screenings. To be able to stand in front of the audience after the movie and see how they are effected and hear how it touched them, is a pretty neat thing as an artist who sat alone in an edit room three years ago… its powerful. I’m pretty grateful for that. That beats $200 million at the box office.
Photo: Tim Abare
Gerard Butler as Sam Childers Photo: Andy Barron
Photo: Kevin Evans
Writer: Nathaniel Wisan | Photographer: Ilze Kitshoff
ew people can say they’ve picked up a machine gun, rescued children from war zones, and started an orphanage in the Sudan. And while many people go through life wondering if they’ve made a difference, Sam Childers will never have to ask that question. His faith, and machine gun, have led him from African villages to Hollywood boardrooms. Risen spoke with Childers about his past, current motivations, and the movie that reflects his life titled, Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: How accurately did the film, Machine Gun Preacher, portray your life? Sam Childers: You know, the whole first part of the movie was right on and the entire movie is based on the truth, but I think people that know anything about movies can understand that when you have 30-plus years put into a two hour movie, the timeline is all messed up. The African scenes are amped, but that’s all part of Hollywood and such. I tell people if you want it really accurate, you can check out my book called, Another Man’s War. RM: Not many people pick up an AK-47 and go rescue a child, but clearly you must feel this is a necessary way to save kids… so where do you see God in what you do most? SC: If God wasn’t in what I do, I don’t believe I’d be alive. One thing a Christian pastor said after seeing the movie was, “I can’t stand here as a pastor and say I agree with everything the reverend has done. But I will say to those who don’t agree, what would you think is the answer [to injustice]? Because, if you don’t agree with what he’s doing, then you should have a way to fix the problem yourself.” If a person doesn’t agree with my ways, that’s fine – that’s what freedom is all about, that we believe in what we want to believe in. But if you’re not going to believe in something, and if you’re not going to support something, you should have another way that would fix the problem. RM: Some of your solutions are, and need to be, quite intense. What then does quiet time with God look like for the Machine Gun Preacher? SC: It’s every day that I’m living and I’m breathing. My entire day is with God. I talk to God like he’s my best friend because he is. Frankly I pray as part of my life; it’s not like I kneel down beside my bed and lift my hands up in the air in some ritual prayer. My entire life is always talking with God. I think sometimes we’re brought up in the old way, or traditional way, where
we believe that prayer must be some big ritual to serve him. I don’t believe like that. RM: At one point in the film there is talk about the motivation for killing. Addressing the fact that Joseph Kony [Lords Liberation Army Leader] started off with good intentions but then became very destructive…how do you not blur the line and stay true to your convictions? SC: I have never said that I have killed anyone. I have never said to anybody in interview, or anywhere, not even in my upcoming documentary have I said that I killed anyone. That part of the movie is pure Hollywood. I believe [guarding your heart] is an issue you have to deal with every day. I believe that those issues are no different than any other Christian has to deal with. People think you can kill someone with a gun, which is true, but you can kill someone’s spirit with a word. A lot of people want to focus on the movie and say, “Oh this reverend killing all these people,” but what I have to ask the Christians out there is, “How many people have you killed with your mouth?” There is no difference between killing someone’s spirit with a word and literally killing someone with a bullet. You will have to answer for both. RM: With the republic of South Sudan becoming an independent nation this past July, how does that effect what you’re doing? SC: As of July 9th,  South Sudan became recognized as a country of their own. A lot of people think the problem is solved, but it’s not solved. Joseph Kony is only a little bit of the problem; the big problem is Sudan. The president of northern Sudan is Omar al-Bashir and he’s still causing trouble in Abyei, Nuba Mountains, and Birao where fighting is still going on to this day. It’s very unstable. And al-Bashir is the one that financed and still gives support to Kony. Our hope as Christians, and our prayer as Christians, should be that al-Bashir is taken out of office. I truly believe his days are numrisenmagazine.com 29
RM: Where does your motivation come from? SC: You know, maybe it comes from the person I used to be thirty some years ago and I just want to try and make up for it. I don’t know. I wake up every morning thinking about doing good. I wake up every day thinking about feeding more people around the world. I believe saving lives can be like an addiction and I chose to go that route in life. Everybody has freedom
bered. All around the world countries are getting tired of dictators in office and murderers in office. In Libya they are forcing people out of office, so my hope and prayer is that the president of Northern Sudan will be taken out of office soon.
to choose what they want to put their life into. I chose to use my life to help rescue people.
RM: It’s clear the situation in Africa comes first to you, even ahead of your own family. How do you view your priorities, and what is your rational behind it? SC: I do put Africa first…it is God’s work. And if we’re in alignment with God, it’s not about putting your wife first or your children first, it’s about putting God first; then your wife and children. I never abandoned my family. My wife was okay with me going, but my daughter did feel like I put the African kids first before her. And for many years of my life, my daughter and I had a problem. After seeing my dedication over all those years though, my daughter now runs the nonprofit.
SC: Well you know I’m not concerned with it in my daily walk because I know the word of God [Bible]. The people that truly don’t know the word of God are the ones that will ask that question. My answer is that our promises are not for sure on this earth. Our promises are after we leave this world. That is when we have the promise that there will be no more tears and no more sorrows. We are not free of more pain until we leave this world.
RM: Africa is only a small portion of what your organization, Angels of East Africa (AOEA) is doing. Talk about your expansion. SC: We have projects in Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan. We [also] speak around the world about drugs and alcohol in high schools and we’re constantly doing seminars to help children stay away from substances. We have a campground in Pennsylvania where we work with troubled youth and people with addictions. We are also getting involved in sex trafficking in the United States. We have a very serious problem with sex trafficking going on right now, so we are working on these issues. RM: How can people be motivated to understand what injustices are happening around the world, and then actually step up and start to change it? SC: I think it starts right in our own neighborhood; we’ve got children dying here in America. Most people don’t care about that. If you don’t care about children dying in your own neighborhood from drugs and alcohol and suicide, then why would you care about [children] overseas? I think getting people motivated is going to begin here in our own country and once they begin saving people and changing lives in America, then it will expand around the world. 30 Risen Magazine
RM: In your line of work, the opportunity presents itself often to ask, “Why do bad things happen to innocent people?” How do you answer that in your own daily walk with what you’ve seen?
RM: What has been the biggest challenge in your relationship with God? SC: In the movie it showed that I had a really bad day and went back to drinking after I quit…that was Hollywood, not part of my life. I never went back to drugs or alcohol in twenty some years since the day I quit. I never went back to drugs and alcohol one time. I was a little worked up about it, but one pastor told me, “Sam, for all those people who do mess up, it shows them that Christ will accept them again.” There are so many times people do mess up and some stay in that pig pen thinking God isn’t going to forgive them, so there will be some good that will come out of that liberty in the story. RM: It’s apparent how much God has changed your way of life. For others who don’t have drugs, alcohol or crime in their past, what would you tell them so they understand their life story is just as significant? SC: What you’ve got to remember is that my testimony is not a good testimony. The best testimony you can ever have is when you can stand up and say you’ve been free of drugs your entire life. That’s a good testimony. My testimony has a lot of scars in it and constant points of sin. There are things in my testimony I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. So, I don’t call my testimony a good testimony. I think if a man or woman can stand up and say, “I’ve always been drug free, I never drank, never smoked, I’ve always held onto the word of God and to my faith,” well, that’s a good testimony.
Photo: Phil Bray
(L-R) Gerard Butler and Sam Childers
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Muay Thai World Champion
Exemplifies Forgiveness, Perseverance Writer: Jimmy Rippy | Photos: Rob Springer
t 19 years of age, Melchor Menor became a professional Muay Thai fighter. Since that time, he has secured two world champion titles. Born in 1974 in the Philippines, Menor moved to America as a young child and eventually reached the top of his sport. Gaining worldwide recognition in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and in professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), has provided this gifted athlete, and now father, great exposure to share his story of forgiveness, faith, and perseverance.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: Most kid’s dream of becoming a pro athlete, but in traditional sports like football or baseball… so what lead you in the direction of Mixed Martial Arts? Melchor Menor: I honestly believe that I fell into this sport by accident. When I was 18 years old I went to the gym one day and was just messing around with my friend from high school who was a brown belt in karate. A professional trainer came up to me and asked if I wanted to fight. I laughed thinking, “Why didn’t you ask the[guy with the] brown belt?” After only one month of training, I was introduced to promoters and in the ring, in Las Vegas, in front of 1,500 people at Union Plaza. I remember thinking, “Is this what’s supposed to happen?” I had no clue. A lot of people in the sport of Muay Thai and kickboxing were there, a couple of movie stars were there, and for me, I was in awe of the whole thing. Next thing I know, I get walked up to the ring with no headgear, eight ounce gloves and a pair of shorts. That was my first experience as a fighter. Looking back on it I was just young, and I worked full time after high school, so fighting was my way to do something with the rest of my time after work. RM: You won your first fight? MM: I did by knockout. It was a unique experience. When I knocked my opponent out, I remember going to him and thanking him for being my opponent. I didn’t even know if that’s what was proper at the time, but I did it anyway. The crowd was cheering for me. I walked out of the ring and people were cheering for me and asking for my autograph. It was just so surreal going in there for the first time. I thought, “Hey this is cool, maybe I might try to do this again.” But, I wasn’t really thinking about making a career out of it. I was just going along with it as things were happening. RM: You ultimately went on to have a career as a professional athlete gaining two world champion titles. In your opinion, what is the path that one takes
to become a world champion? MM: I think that one of the most important things a person must have is perseverance. I continued my training even when I didn’t want to train. I had injuries along the way and times of significant hardship. There were times when I couldn’t afford transportation to the training gym. Some things just hit you in life and they can deter you or put you off on the sidelines if you let them. The difference with me was that I kept coming to the gym and did my work. I saw a lot of my friends at the time stop or get swayed out of the way…I hadn’t seen them for weeks, and weeks would become months, then years. I went through the same hardships they did, but I bounced back and kept myself in the gym doing what I needed to do, preparing physically and mentally for a fight. RM: What other areas in life do you find that same perseverance as important? MM: There are a lot of things and situations that have happened in my life, that if I didn’t know how to get back up on my feet, I don’t think I’d be the same person that I am today. I believe everything that happens in the ring translates into life outside of the ring… from understanding what it means to persevere, to disciplining myself to get back up and keep going. Sometimes in life it feels like you just keep getting knocked down again and again. So then, it’s what you do with it that matters. Even the discipline that it takes to train, and then being in the mindset that you have to be in, going into the ring – going into warfare. Again, I believe that everything translates or parallels life. RM: What were some of those personal knock down moments for you in life? MM: One of the closest people to me betrayed me in my career. I struggled to deal with the sense of injustice and betrayal. I actually left the sport for a while. I went back to work and took some time away before I was able to risenmagazine.com 33
I believe everything ‘‘that happens in the ring
return to it. There was something inside of me that just kept telling me no matter what – go back, get back in there. Here’s the ironic thing about it; I could have chosen to go back via another route, but I chose to return and confront an awkward situation and to forgive that person. RM: So then, actually if you didn’t know how to forgive people who’ve wronged you, then you might have not had a career as a professional athlete? MM: Yes, understanding what forgiveness means allowed me to be able to get back to what I loved doing. The experience gave me a great deal of selfrealization of what I could become and who I could become. I did not get that in my upbringing with my own father. When I went back and forgave that person, I remember feeling like a huge weight was just lifted off my shoulders – it was the best feeling. He gave me a big hug and right away I went back to doing what I loved, training and working out. RM: I notice the Bible verse reference Isaiah 12:2 is written on your shorts… what does that mean to you? MM: When I first came to San Diego I opened a small 1,100 sq. ft. gym that had a ring and a small office. I didn’t know anyone in town. My bedroom was in the back office. I had a small refrigerator and a little microwave, and my shower was a hose at the back of the building. I literally lived there for about six months. One of my students gave me a Bible. He said, “Coach, I don’t know if you believe in God, but here is a Bible.” So, one night in October of 1996, I opened that Bible for the first time. I read the whole Gospel of Matthew that night. I remember crying because of what Jesus did for humanity and then coming to a realization of who God is and it changed my outlook on life. My faith in God is one of the foundations I hold very dear. It has allowed me the strength to endure everything that I’ve had to go through. I find myself praying all the time and thanking [God] for being there with me through difficult times and just caring for me so much! RM: There has been significant growth in the UFC and the international sport of mixed martial arts in recent years. What are your thoughts on how the sport is perceived and why it has become so popular? MM: In one sense, the sport is a great platform for anyone who wants to learn a martial art and to understand what it takes to get to that next level in a physical or mental way. You learn a lot about you in the journey and as a 34 Risen Magazine
translates into life out‐ side of the ring… from understanding what it means to persevere, to disciplining myself to get back up and keep going.
sportsman. Unfortunately, [because of ] all the media attention there are people who don’t have a strong foundation and look at all of this and say, “Wow! I can be the next superstar.” That is where I think things can go wrong. I did it as a means of wanting to learn the martial arts and for bettering myself. That’s what Muay Thai meant for me. RM: Recently, you’ve done some stuff in movies and you were on season 14 of the Ultimate Fighter show on television. Do you have any future plans for film and television? MM: It was a unique experience. I’ve been fortunate in my career to meet the people that I have met, which led to being on a reality show and in documentaries with National Geographic and the History Channel. I got to be in a movie which is coming out this summer  starring Kevin James, playing myself as a MMA coach. These are all unique experiences and I’m thankful to have had them because it’s opened up many new opportunities. RM: Finally, you have two young children, both boys. What kind of message do you think this sport could give to boys or young men in general? MM: I think if someone teaches kids properly what it takes to be a professional combat fighter, not just the athleticism, but teaches them the perseverance and endurance it takes to get to the top level as a professional athlete, then I definitely believe that kids could experience tremendous personal growth through training and competition – and that is a very positive thing.
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Whether Singing to a Small Audience or Stadium of People
Phil Wickham Makes an Impact
Writer: Shelley Barski
hil Wickham wants to influence people to encounter God, hear the truth, and inspire hearts to look for something deeper and bigger. As a contemporary Christian artist raised in a home full of music, this talented singer talks with Risen about the impact of his songs, the modern church, and living out God’s will.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: You started leading worship [through music] when you were 13-years-old. What inspired you to start? Phil Wickham: I didn’t want to at first. I was the shy kid at a new school. My parents were, and still are, Maranatha chapel worship leaders, so we moved to be closer to their work. I didn’t have friends around so I decided to learn guitar. My youth pastor asked me to play for a Saturday night youth group service. I knew 10 worship songs at that point and played with him. I remember loving being involved in something that I invested time in and where I saw people respond to God. I started doing it every week and thinking, “ I want to use music to point people to God.” God started opening doors and I’m super, super blessed. I’m 27 now, so about half of my life I’ve been doing it, and I can’t believe I’m still doing it! RM: Did you know it was your calling then? PW: I wanted to know what God wanted me to do. I wanted to have God bless and me follow the blessing. I was afraid of being where God didn’t want me to be. It took me many years to realize that this was what God called me to do. I went to community college because I thought I would have to get a real job, but in the next two years I got so busy with music that I thought maybe I could do this as a career. I felt called in the moment when a church asked me to play, but I didn’t know where I was going to be in a year or two years – and I kind of still don’t. I would love to keep doing this, but if God wants me to be a pastor or work at Starbucks, or be home more or whatever, I am open to that. RM: Depending on where you perform -- at a church or a stadium, or any other type of venue, do you have a different mindset or feeling going into a show?
PW: In many ways, yes, I have a different mindset; in other ways, it’s totally the same. It’s a massive thing to know your audience. When you’re on stage, whether it’s delivering a speech or playing music, it’s important for me to know what the goal of the moment is or the goal of the event and to come alongside that with my own personal goals and what I want music to do in people’s lives. At a huge event like Harvest Crusade I’m given 20 minutes to drive one message home, but if I’m performing at a coffee shop, I am able to tell more stories and shake people’s hands from the stage. Ultimately, I want the music to move people not just in an emotional way, but also in a spiritual way—and that goal never changes. RM: How have your fans responded to your music? PW: I get a couple emails a week from people who have been influenced by my songs. One song in particular that they seem to connect with is Safe. There’s a very simple message in the song. It’s just reminding people that the same Jesus who healed lepers, cripples, the blind—the Savior who died for our sins—is here with just as much power to do that today. It seems sometimes that the simplest of messages hit home in a massive way. One story I just read in my email was from a girl in Las Vegas who is a court stenographer. One day a man who didn’t like the verdict opened fire on the courtroom and shot the deputy, who was her friend. The girl leaped over to help him and as she was holding him in her arms she remembered a song she heard on the radio that day, “ You’ll be safe in his arms…” She had the courage to ask him if he knew Jesus and he said he did and ended up dying. I felt so honored that some song I wrote in my living room was on her mind during a time when she was freaking out and really needed it. risenmagazine.com 37
Ultimately, I want the music to move people not just in an emotional way, but also in a spiritual way—and that goal never changes. RM: Incredible! Tell me about the songwriting process then, especially for one of your most famous songs, Beautiful. PW: It’s hard to choose a favorite song of mine because I feel like so many of my songs are almost like journal entries and I remember why I wrote them. They bring a whole season of life to mind. There are some that stand out though and I’m stoked to play them every night. It almost doesn’t become my song anymore. Beautiful is one of those. It came a little bit differently than most of my songs. I usually have a title before I have anything else. I’ll know exactly what idea I want it to be about and it will take me weeks or a couple of months to really flesh out that idea. I won’t push myself to go any faster than it needs to go. But, Beautiful came about when I was playing worship at a youth camp. The speaker was talking about creation and went to the verse about how his love reaches beyond the heavens. He tied God’s love with astronomical measures and I was moved by that. We played the same four chords as the students left and returned to their cabins and the song just came to me. I sang it straight through and went back to my cabin and finished the song that night. It was finished in like an hour. RM: Do you try to do something different with each album? How has each one shown your progression as an artist and your walk with God? PW: I hope it has shown a progression as an artist. I’m excited about my newest album, Response. It’s a flowing worship set of 11 songs. This album is more about singing with people instead of singing to people. Heaven Fall Down is a prayer to God to be a part of the worship that we’re entering into. RM: What has it been like balancing your family life with your music career? PW: The first year of marriage was the hardest. Two of the first three months of our marriage were [traveling] on a bus. When we wanted to talk out issues, there were 12 other people living on the bus with us. This created some problems, but I also felt like those problems helped us grow really quickly. Before I was married I would always say yes to any opportunities, but then I found that it was okay to say no sometimes. With my new baby, I really want to make sure I’m home. I think we’ve found a good balance. RM: What is one thing that you see the modern day church lacking? PW: I get to go to so many churches in my job and sometimes I go and 38 Risen Magazine
think, “I want this church in my town because what’s happening here is amazing!” And sometimes I’ll go and not really click, but I feel like the people are doing what [they think]they’re supposed to be doing. I don’t feel like it’s the modern church’s fault. Real persecution is not really happening in the Christian church in America and I think that’s such a blessing. I think those who are challenged to stand up for their faith become stronger and more passionate in their faith. I think for the most part it’s easy to be a Christian in America. When people were being killed for their faith, those were the moments where the church exploded and grew. It’s a bit easy to sit in a pew on Sunday mornings. It’s a lot stranger to say, “I’m a Christian” in Europe than it is here [United States]. There is a desperate need for fellowship there and it’s such a different social temperature. It creates a real passion and sincerity because there is a real hard line between saying, I’m Christian or I’m not.
Making a with
Dexter Darden Writer: Mei Ling Starkey | Photographer: Van Redin
Dexter Darden has been singing his entire life. Really. He began singing in a church choir at the young age of three. But aside from seeming a natural fit for the role of Walter in the movie Joyful Noise, Darden brings a unique experience and understanding to the role. He took time to share with Risen about his own faith and challenges and gives a message for young people struggling with their identity.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: How would you describe your faith journey? Dexter Darden: I grew up in church and knowing Christ. My mother and father were very involved and I got my foundation from the church. Plus, I grew up singing and playing the harmonica in church. Now it is about growing in my faith and really [having] my own view as I grow into adulthood. RM: In the movie, your character, Walter, has Asperger’s syndrome. How did you prepare for your role? DD: My cousin has Asperger’s syndrome and we are the same age. I have experienced it hands-on growing up with him. I did a lot of my research through him and also researched it online. The combination of both helped me prepare for the role.
RM: One of the emotional scenes in the movie was when your character is having a conversation with his mom about how he views having Asperger’s syndrome. He tells his mom that if he loves her, she should hate God because God was the one that made him this way. Why do you think it was important for the characters to address this issue? DD: Walter goes through an emotional struggle. His whole life he’s wanted to fit in and not be socially awkward. His best friend is “Mr. Popular” and the bad boy too. Walter just wants to feel like he is accepted, but he feels like he is a problem. He wants to know if God loves him and his family, why was he created in a way that he is such a burden. It was important for him to find out that he wasn’t a burden, but a blessing. It was a little bit of an emotional breakdown with himself and struggle with his family. RM: Has there ever been a time in your life where you have struggled with similar thoughts? DD: I was born with sickle cell anemia. Growing up with it was a struggle in its own. Then, when I was eight-years-old, my father passed away. Dealing with the passing of my father and sickle cell was an emotional struggle 40 Risen Magazine
similar to Walter’s. I too turned to my mom to help me process everything. RM: How did your faith get you through that? DD: Being brought up in the church, you learn that everything happens for a reason. Whether you have sickle cell anemia, lose a parent, or have cancer, we can go back to the fact that God has a bigger plan. My mom would remind me that God had bigger plans for me. I had to trust God and his plan. RM: Based on your experience and what your character went through, what message do you have for a young person that might be struggling with their identity? DD: Going through your teenage years can be rough. You are trying to find out who you are as a person. Take your time with your decisions. And know that everything is happening for a reason. Seek spiritual guidance from your family and friends because they won’t steer you the wrong way. RM: Joyful Noise talks about using your gifts and talents not to bring glory to yourself, but instead, to God. Is this hard for you personally as an actor? DD: God gave me these gifts and this is my calling. I feel like if I am using my gifts in the right way and doing it the way that he would want, then, I’m glorifying him because he is the one that blessed me with these gifts. RM: What challenge do you have for others about using their gifts and talents? DD: Practice and use your gift and talents. Focus on them and bring them to fruition. God gives us the ability, but we need to find it within ourselves to work hard on that craft. Whether it is singing in the studio, taking a piano lesson for four hours, or going to the gym to get better at basketball, God gives the abilities to us, but we need to access them and use them to the fullest so he is glorified by the gifts he gives.
Joyful Noise Co-Stars: Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, and Jeremy Jordan Risen Magazine: You’re so talented when it comes to both music and film. When have you felt God working through you or showcasing your gifts for a greater good? Dolly Parton: I was brought up in the church. My grandpa’s a preacher and my mother’s very spiritual and religious and I’ve always wanted to do things for God. I’ve always wanted God to use me. I’ve always wanted to be a vessel. I pray that prayer every day that God will use me to help people and to uplift mankind. I really feel this film was a God-gift to me. It was a wonderful way for me to use my talent in being able to write some of the songs, and just being able to be me and be part of something that is really a piece of praise to God. So it was a joy. RM: You both [Parton & Latifah] do a great job of giving back. What has your heart now; where do you see the biggest need? Queen Latifah: I think there are so many ways to give. It’s as simple as taking the clothes you don’t wear anymore and giving them to the Salvation Army to make sure people can just afford to go in and buy. It’s anywhere you
can give, in the way that you feel. There are other organizations that are up and running so well that I don’t need to go out and start a new organization; I just need to help them so they can continue the good work they are already doing. There are numerous ways that you can contribute to make sure you are having an impact on society. DP: When you get into a position to be able to help, you really should. I think it’s always wonderful when you can lend your name to stuff that can help other people, whether it’s your voice or your charitable work RM: Bad Boy or Church Girl… what is the best way for teens to navigate labels or break free from a certain stereotype? Keke Palmer: I feel like you should just live your life and at the end of the day you know what’s right, and you know what’s wrong. And as long as you’re trying your best, that’s all anybody can ask for. Be who you say you are, don’t let other people tell you who you are. Jeremy Jordan: Be your own label. Don’t try to have to fit in; find your own way. Be the best version of you that you can be too. risenmagazine.com 41
Football, Faith & Finding His Way:
JACQUES CESAIRE Writer: Nikki Jimenez
Defensive lineman for the San Diego Charger’s, Jacques Cesaire, may come off intimidating as he’s crouched down at the line of scrimmage. But get him surrounded by hundreds of eager kids for a family event like Superfest San Diego, and you’ll find out that playing and living like a champion for him is much more than tackles, blocks and sacks. Cesaire shares with Risen the importance of prayer, mentors, and accountability.
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Risen Magazine: What does it mean for you to serve the community as an athletic role model to young kids?
Jacques Cesaire: It’s tremendous because if I didn’t have people like that for me when I was a child, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. One of my role models growing up was actually one of my sports mentors, a coach. He was a guy in my life who always told me to play with integrity, work hard, always do things the right way and then good things will happen. I think it’s important for all athletes to try to give back, because we are showing kids the way.
RM: You’re a seasoned professional football player finishing your ninth year with the Chargers by starting all 16 games. How do you define success year after year? JC: Success for me is what kind of impact I can make on someone’s life. Obviously, God has given me a platform to work with and I can’t just sit and hog it all for myself. I need to give out as much knowledge as I can because that’s what people did for me when I got into the league. [Our team] has won games, we’ve lost games, but it’s the imprint that you leave on people’s lives that is important.
RM: The NFL almost wasn’t a reality for you with some of the decisions you were making in college. Your grades dropped, you started partying and drinking and you nearly got kicked off your school team. What changed for you and how did you embrace that change?
JC: Good people kicking me in the tail! My coach, my girlfriendnow-wife, and a lot of friends were continually telling me that I could do something better with my life, and that I didn’t have to [be a] shadow. I could be great if I wanted to. If I didn’t have people like that pushing me every day, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. 42 Risen Magazine
RM: Your mother was a big influence for you, introducing you to a Bible. How has your spirituality affected your game?
JC: It’s funny, my mom handed me my first Bible. She told me to pray and I thought it was silly. But I kind of gave it a shot and in the beginning, it’s like this with all Christians, you feel good saying, “Hey, I’m praying.” I had a lot of conviction in my heart and I knew God was changing my heart from the inside. As I grew in my spirituality, I knew I had to take more pointed steps than just praying before a game. I knew I had to really study the Word of God [Bible] and become a man of God in order to make it in this league. People may not know this, but there are a lot of Christians in the NFL, a lot of men of faith in the league. Not a lot of men may wear it on their sleeves, which I think they should, but for me, I know I needed God in my life during the NFL season. You have so many ups and downs, so many things going on in your life, but if you have that one constant rock in your life, you’ll have peace.
RM: Have you ever experienced any persecution from people in the NFL for being a Christian?
JC: Not really from any of the players. Everybody kind of respects everybody and they respect the decisions you make and how you live. Some people say, “Do you really pray that much? Do you really believe in God?” I [tell them] that I can’t look at my daughter or my son and not believe in God. I see him in my life through my kids. You have to approach one day at a time. Obviously the devil is always looking to accuse you for something in front of God. Don’t ever start a day without getting on your knees. Don’t ever go to sleep without getting on your knees, because it’s a rough world out there and you need Christ in your life every day.
The Sound Behind This Indie Pop Duo Writer: Shelley Barski
(L-R) Trevor Davis and Mark Suhonen
In many ways Trevor Davis and Mark Suhonen are like the odd couple. Davis has an outgoing and laid back style while Suhonen is reserved and detail oriented. Together, Davis’ passionate lyrics and Suhonen’s ingenuous mixing have created what many feel is a fun and unique electronic pop sound. It’s a sound that not only inspires one to save the world, but to get down on the dance floor. Risen talks with this duo known as Dr. Seahorse.
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Risen Magazine: Who are your musical influences?
Mark Suhonen: A lot of 80’s electronic music. Depeche Mode, Devo, Michael Jackson, U2, Björk and Postal Service. I like music that reaches into a new creative place and reveals something I’ve never heard before – a new idea. I love creating musical ideas and a lot of those artists have that. I have a hip-hop gangster rap influence and I also grew up on classical music. My dad was a classical musician and my mom a pianist so I think our music has a bit of that too. I hope so.
Trevor Davis: Anything non-conservative. I grew up in a black church and they worshipped with full abandon. One of my favorites is Rage Against the Machine. I like music that feels like your arms are fully spread, which I do on stage a lot.
RM: What inspired your most famous song, Symptoms of Trend? And what was your writing process like?
TD: The song was inspired by another song I wrote called, Soldier, which for some reason people really liked. Symptoms of Trend is a different version of the same emotional level and attitude of Soldier. The original version was actually really slow and heartfelt. But it was too cheesy and ballad-y. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we made it sound more groovy?” So Mark threw in some simple beats. A month later, he told me he was done. Sometimes it just clicks and you know it’s going to be easy. I usually don’t get to go behind the curtain until a song is almost done. I don’t enjoy doing the process part of songwriting at all. Sometimes I just like to finish my part and show him.
RM: Where would you like to see Dr. Seahorse in 5 years?
MS: [On] a tour bus. [Both laugh] Somewhere more cozy because we’ll be older and don’t want to be out late at night driving to a bar. It doesn’t have to be a certain stage or place, just as long as it’s progress from now.
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RM: What is one thing that you see is lacking in the modern day church?
TD: I would like to see church be less like a corporation and more like a farmer’s market where everyone is participating. The church should be built upon the “consumer’s needs.” Too often I see co-dependency where the leader needs the followers and vice versa. It’s not healthy. Many times I will feel obligated to do the triple back flips for people when instead I just need to love them. I want to feel free, not overcompensate. Leaders should be looking to God and not the congregation. MS: I’m an introvert and one-on-one type. The church has lacked a bit of the intimacy I desire. If I’m sitting amongst a thousand people and a guy is talking to one of us, it doesn’t resonate. Small groups are even sometimes too big. We look at the church and the big picture and see how many people we can reach. I just want one [church] that is going to make a big difference.
RM: Has there been a mentor in your life that helped you reach your full musical potential?
TD: My vocal coach/jazz singer/pop coach. [I’ve] been taking lessons from her since ’98. Now I teach voice. I felt like I didn’t have to do a bunch of changing. I was already trained and she enhanced it.
MS: One drum instructor when I was in drum line in high school. He was kind of a jerk actually, but he taught me to work hard and strive for excellence. He would always command, “Do it again. It’s not perfect.” My parents encouraged me too. They actually told me to drop out of college and do music. I have them to thank. My wife is my biggest fan as well and I have her to thank too.
is Passionate about Motivating the Teen Spirit Writer: Nikki Jimenez Photo: Christopher Hughes Ellis
Raised among drug addicts, prostitutes and gangs, Tia Ross found herself pregnant at age 16 and questioning God. “Why would you put me in this situation? Why am I in these circumstances?” But in God’s faithfulness to respond, he revealed his answer to Ross at age 19 when she was faceto-face with a 14-year-old prostitute in juvenile hall. Risen talked with Ross and follows her revelation to empower, inspire, and transform teens through an organization called, Motivating the Teen Spirit.
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Risen Magazine: You’ve experienced first-hand the devastating results of alcoholism, drug abuse, and gangs. How does growing up with these experiences fit into your outreach to teens?
Tia Ross: Being a single teen mom was really challenging. It made me grow up fast, but it also helped me because now I’m able to stand in front of a teen and be imperfect. So often adults are constantly trying to make teens do what’s right and protect them, but they talk at them. I love working with at-risk youth. When I was enrolled in San Diego State University, I had the opportunity to do student work at juvenile hall. I was given four cases to follow and my very first case was a 14-year-old prostitute. Working with her, it became apparent to me why I was there. Who else would be appropriate to relate to this young girl? Even though God protected me from prostitution, I felt able to relate to her struggles.
overwhelmed, scared, forced to deal with the pressures in life at all ages. At MTS workshops, we are committed to sharing with teens and adults the tools needed to deal with the changes in life.
RM: How do you interpret Motivating the Teens Spirit (MTS) mission to empower, inspire, and transform teens?
TR: What empower looks like to me is simply helping a teen tap into a power they already have, but may have become detached from. God formed us and we are birthed with power. So empowering teens is my privilege to help them see and recognize that they can go after their dreams and not be stuck in life. In inspiring teens, I hope to share my story of hope and the belief that circumstances are not who we are – they’re just experiences. I want to inspire teens to live life to the fullest and not give up. Transforming teens is my favorite. Transformation requires a process and the first step is to be willing. [My questions are:] “Do you want something different in life? Are there areas in your life you want to change?” If yes, then they have to be willing to do something different. Transformation causes us to look at the ugly, but if we’re willing to do that, we can tap into the power to change it.
RM: Who is the MTS program designed for?
TR: They are designed for anyone from a leadership team to your at-risk teens, because we’re all about allowing teens and adults see that they’re not alone. Everyone knows what it feels like to be
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RM: How has your spirituality shaped your career and passion for the organization?
TR: Growing up, I’ve had friends [and family] die from gangs; I had access to any drug I could think of, and I think [to myself ], there’s no way I should be living now. I should be a statistic. But even though I had a daughter at 16, was on welfare and in the middle of crises, I still finished high school and went straight to college to graduate with a criminal justice degree. I couldn’t see God’s hand at the time, but when I met Lisa Nichols (founder of MTS), and she offered me a position to work with her, something inside of me said to just do it. As a facilitator, God holds me in a space of accountability. I’ve reached a point in my spirituality that I have to stay in lesson so that my stories can touch people. In order to lead other people and teach, my life has to constantly be a life of learning lessons. It’s one thing to speak and read about honoring God, but it’s another to live it. I want to be what God has called me to be and know my authority in it. God has put me in this world as a cultivator. People plant seeds and then God sends me in – to a place of hardened soil – to get in the dirt and do the stuff most people don’t want to do. I soften the soil and help teens grow.
RM: What are the future plans for Motivating the Teen Spirit?
TR: In the last 16 years we’ve prevented more than 3,000 suicides and touched the lives of more than 92,000 teens. We know a lot of our teens go off and make changes, so we want to create a connection through social media and provide a community where people who experience our workshops can stay connected. We also are committed to raise scholarships so that no teen is turned away, but offered an opportunity to be in a safe place through Motivating the Teen Spirit.
Baseball in His Blood:
EDGAR GONZALEZ Writer: Nikki Jimenez
His father played on the Mexican national baseball team and his brother plays for the Boston Red Sox, so it seems logical that Edgar Gonzalez would be destined to become a professional player himself. As this Chicago Cub infielder talks with Risen at the family’s Gonzalez Sports Academy in Chula Vista, California, he shares just how this sport brought him closer to God and how he’s using his talents to help other athletes understand how faith can play the most important role in their career.
Risen Magazine: Between your father and younger brother Adrian, in the majors, is there any rivalry?
Edgar Gonzalez: My dad put my brother and me in baseball. My brother and I support each other. We love each other. Adrian was actually happier when I made it to the big leagues than when he made it. I was happier when he made it. We look after each other. I’m older than him and he’s always looking after me. There’s no rivalry whatsoever, except when we were younger playing whiffle ball in our backyard. Other than that, it’s support.
RM: How has the culture of professional baseball changed and in what ways were you maturing?
EG: For baseball teams, you go to a field and you do your game. You have some time before the game and that’s probably how I started getting closer to God. I was getting closer to Jesus Christ because there’s so much time to think about everything. After some games they [other team members] would have Bible studies too, so I would go. I grew up Catholic and right now, you can say that I’m a Christian… I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I had always considered myself a follower of Christ, but not until I went to Japan in 2010, did I mature the most. I couldn’t even understand the TV, so I [took the time] to sit down and read. When I started reading, that’s when Jesus started really working on my heart more. It’s more important to me how much a person reads and really gets into the Word [Bible] because when you don’t, it’s harder to feel God’s love. That’s the way he talks to you. Going through the ups and downs of baseball struggles is what gets me closer actually. I know those times are ultimately in God’s plans. Every single time I struggle with something, I go to him and pray.
RM: God has taught you a lot through baseball, but you probably didn’t think that would be with a fastball to the head?!
EG: [Laughs] I always tell the story that I would pray. I wasn’t very strong in my faith at that point, but I prayed, “God help me get to the major leagues. You do whatever you want for my life.” Looking back, it was the wrong prayer. But he gave me the major leagues, and once I got there, I got too complacent. I wasn’t doing my part
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of talking to him and spreading his word. I got hit in the head by a fastball, and then as soon as I came back I separated my shoulder. It was an injury-riddled year and I think at the end of the day, I sat down and said, “Whoa. What’s going on with this year?” Actually at the end, something good came out of it because I started getting close to God. Even though it was a tough time for me personally, I don’t think that’s what really matters to God. What matters to God is how much closer you get to Him. It was a good thing for me. I didn’t think that when I was going through it, but I do now.
RM: When spending time with youth, like at this Superfest event, do you think of yourself as a role model and how your experiences can influence others?
EG: I don’t really consider myself a role model because I just try to help any kid that wants to be helped. That’s why we started our program here at Gonzalez Sports Academy, because I wanted to try to give kids the same opportunity that I had when I was young. I’m also trying to implement Bible studies here every other Friday with different athletes. The reason is to show that it doesn’t matter what sport you are in. A lot of times people may think that [their] sport is completely different… [their] sport doesn’t relate to God. So they go to church and think that’s where they can relate. But I do it in my daily life – right before a game, right after a game, during a game. God is in your life and in your job. I want to show that every athlete needs God in their sport too, and faith and sports do mix.
RM: Is there any practical advice you can give to today’s youth or a motto you live by?
EG: Trusting God is more important than anything. If it wasn’t for my trust, I don’t know how I could handle the situations I’ve been in. I also always live by hard work; hard work and trust. I don’t think I’m a champion just because I play a sport. I think I’m a champion because I have God in my life. Athletes are just like everybody else. We go through the same things and I want people to understand that everyone can be a champion because they have faith in God.
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17 Years Behind Bars:
Account of Serving Time for A Crime He Assures He Didn’t Commit Writer: Kelli Gillespie | Photographer: Rob Springer
magine growing your business from $1 million to $40 million dollars in six short months, by the fourth year your company reaches $157 million, meeting with the President and numerous members of Congress, owning a magazine, and feeling on top of the world, and then suddenly be forced to file for bankruptcy, being accused of starting the Persian Gulf war by a federal prosecutor, and subsequently serve 17 years of a 20 year prison sentence. And by the way, all for a crime that the convicted claims he never committed. Meet Bill Kennedy, a man whose life has resulted in a fascinating story of injustice, betrayal, forgiveness, faith, and an unwavering commitment to the truth that not even Hollywood could create. Fresh out of prison, a very raw Kennedy shares with Risen the emotional journey and how his relationship with God was the only hope during the past two decades behind bars.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: What was your family life like growing up? Bill Kennedy: In 1963, my dad took me to the five-and-dime and bought me a nickel pack of gum. That’s when it was a nickel. And he gave the cashier a twenty dollar bill and said, “I want it in change.” So he got all this change and he said, “Now son, these coins have silver and Gresham’s law is a law that says when the government takes the silver out of the coin, it becomes bad money, it forces out good money. So these coins have become very rare.” I always remembered that and I started reading economics.
RM: And thus your love of precious metals and money began? BK: And politics. When I was 23 years old, I decided I was going to be financially independent by the time I reached 30. I sold insurance because it was the only way I could work for myself and still [develop] my political beliefs. By age 30, I was able to have enough income coming in from renewals that I really didn’t have to work more than a couple days a week. This allowed me to run for Congress in 1978. The campaign was hard and I lost everything; my wife and I almost even lost our home. RM: Wow! That has got to be really hard. Did that make you re-think your political or business aspirations? BK: Well you know what? I decided that when I’m 35, I’ll just be a millionaire and I’ll finance my own campaign. RM: Wait, what? Tell me your plan on how to make the jump from almost losing your house, to, “Oh, I’ll just become a millionaire”? BK: Here’s where the nickel pack of gum comes into play. Early on I started investing in silver and became a millionaire through those investments. Then because I believed in silver so much I started my own precious metals company, Western Monetary. I believed in it so much that I believed people ought to own it. In fact, [at the time] I fired my best salesman because he was selling silver, but he didn’t own any. If you don’t own any, how can you be telling people, “Hey, just put a small percentage of your assets in it and keep doing what you’ve been doing to make your money, and if a crisis comes – similar to what we’re experiencing now – you’ll have silver, and you’ll be good.” So everyone had to own it and believe in it. I was a marketing guy and one thing I always did was to think outside
the box; always think about better ways to do things. The company grew from $1 million to $40 million dollars in sales in just six months. My problem lies more [in the fact] that I was arrogant and stupid in thinking I actually knew how to run and maintain a company of that size. RM: Unbelievable. So you hit your financial goal. Did you set another time marker for a political career? BK: Yes. A friend of mine, Larry McDonald, who was a congressman from Georgia, was on Korean Airline Flight 007 that was shot down by Russia in 1983. I had just seen him a month back and I got so mad about what had been done. I decided to get back involved in politics and I was going to try and influence policy in the United States within five years. It was nearing an election year and Peter Grace, who was the chairman of the W.R. Grace Company, had been asked by President Ronald Reagan to do a detailed study of how to cut the federal budget of the United States. Peter Grace showed in his 49,000 page report, The Grace Commission, that the Federal government budget could be cut by a third. My staff took that report and during the next year, reduced those 49,000 pages to 168. What we created was The Taxpayer’s Survey of The Grace Commission to be used in the ’84 election campaign. We sold it at cost for a quarter to these huge tax limitation groups, because we wanted them to buy it in bulk and mail it out as a gift. I wasn’t looking to make any money on it, just get it out. We sold over 700,000 copies. RM: You now have this book circulating; you also bought a magazine called, The Conservative Digest…what’s going on with your company? Were you pretty much just the figurehead? BK: Yeah, I made a lot of the big decisions, and they were wrong. Problems were developing with my business and there were cash flow issues, yet we’re now selling 2.5 percent of the world’s supply of silver and in 1986 we sold about 3 percent of the world’s platinum supply. When the business started out it was more of a mom-and-pop set-up and I hired a couple of guys to help me, but it grew to $100 million dollars. RM: These same guys were in place and probably ill-equipped at running a business of this caliber. BK: Exactly. But I look back now and I think, I’m out of my league and I risenmagazine.com 51
couldn’t see it. And I always say, “ You can always tell an arrogant man, you just can’t tell him much.” What happened was our company’s mailing list generated $5 million dollars of income in 1987, and the list got stolen by guys who went out and started their own business. Long story short, we wound up in Chapter 11. This former businessman turned lawyer, Keith Danley got hired and he worked with my criminal, bankruptcy, and civil law firms, and he went through two million pages of documents and decided what was going to
I at least had the comfort of knowing 16 wives and 48 children got to keep their husbands and fathers home. matter. So he knew everything about me, and they all came back and said, “There’s no crime here. This is a fast growing business and even a good manager has trouble handling it, and Kennedy had no experience.” RM: However, you did get picked up by the FBI, indicted, and taken to Denver. At a bail hearing, you were no longer just dealing with your bankruptcy but your international relations because the prosecution pointed towards something else too. Can you explain what happened? BK: Oh yes, the prosecutor says, “ Your honor, we have evidence that this man [pointing to Bill], started the Persian-Gulf War.” And the judge takes off his glasses. I’m sitting over there in my orange jumpsuit because I’m detained, and he says, “So it wasn’t [President George] Bush, or [Saddam] Hussein… it was this man [Bill Kennedy]?” The problem is that Danley really thought we had started the war because we played a role in getting the word out to senators that were sitting on the fence about war. President Bush only got a vote of 52-48 to got to war. We went to trial a year later. [At this point] I’m broke, so I’m stuck with a court-appointed lawyer. In white collar cases you usually have people who come together and say, “We’ve got this problem, what are we going to do?” And they begin lying. One of the things that happened at trial is that the judge said, “No one ever said Kennedy or anyone else lied.” And he told the prosecution, “They had 60 witnesses and after 28 witnesses unless you got somebody that says that this guy lied, then your case, your side of the trial is over with.” He also said, “This should have been a civil case, and not a criminal case” because of the fact that there’s no evidence of lying. That’s what fraud is: you lie to get people’s money. RM: But you stayed on trial and it was one of the longest trial in Colorado’s history with a final decision by jury. BK: Yes there were 23 of us indicted, three on the foreign agents case, and then 20 on the metal fraud case. And only three would plead guilty. Also, I’m the only guy who was common to both indictments. What I want to iterate about the trial is that you don’t have to commit a 52 Risen Magazine
crime to go to prison. The interesting thing was my lawyer said, “They’ll never convict you because they don’t have any evidence.” And yet the Holy Spirit told me that they were going to convict me, and everyone else was going to be acquitted. RM: You felt that you heard that? BK: I didn’t hear it audibly. But you know how you just get an impression? It was just like: you’re going down. I told my lawyer early on, before the trial, “I want you to let the jury know, I made the major decisions that bankrupted my company, they did not. I do not want my employees to go to prison, and if somebody has to, I’ll do it.” With 23 people indicted, the prosecution could only get three of them to roll over and testify. But they lied. They lied, and get this; they lied about something that never did happen. But they had signed plea agreements for 20 years which would later reduce to two years for helping the government. RM: Wow! So how did you feel then when you got convicted and all the others were pronounced innocent? BK: I was devastated; but it was not unexpected because I felt I was going to go down. However I at least had the comfort of knowing 16 wives and 48 children got to keep their husbands and fathers home. Out of 107 counts, I think the jury found me guilty on nine… but one of them was racketeering, and another one was money laundering. Metal fraud is five years in prison, but you add money laundering and you get 20 years. So instead of doing five years, I got 20, and did 17 years in prison. RM: Such a unique perspective to keep. BK: Well, if I was guilty of anything, [it was that] I was reckless. You know I was like a pilot who knew how to fly a Cessna [a single engine biplane] and thought he could fly an Airbus [a double decker jet]. But these people were all good people. And they had all risked their futures because they all could have rolled over. The only men that did lie, and help the government [prosecution], and lied against themselves and us, were the non-Christians. And you know what really hurts? I had fired them earlier on, about two years before the company went bankrupt, and then I hired them back, because I felt sorry for them. Because I have a heart if I see someone in need, and these guys couldn’t find jobs. But God had his hand on me. RM: That is when you just have to let go and trust that God is in control because you can replay that so many times in your head and just stew about how your heart was taken advantage of and betrayed. BK: What’s even more interesting is that one month later, they put leg irons on me, they cuffed me and they turned me over to the FBI. They walked me into the U.S. Attorneys office and put me in the conference room where they’ve got the IRS, the postal inspector, FBI agents, and in walks, my prosecutor and another AUSA (Assistant U.S. Attorney). And he [my former prosecutor] says, “Mr. Kennedy this is Bill Hayes over here, and he’s ready to indict you on bankruptcy fraud and money laundering issues, dealing with Kuwait, and this law firm. However, if you would like to cooperate with us in the Kuwait trail against the U.S. Ambassador [to Bahrain] Sam Zakhem, by stating that Keith Danley was never your lawyer, then he won’t indict you.” My lawyer comes in and tells me, “They’ll give you 2-5 years, from the 20, if you testify for them.” But I wouldn’t do it. I was in the conference room and I said, “I want to go back [to prison]. We’re done.” RM: You wouldn’t lie and they thought you would? BK: If you’re a criminal, that’s what you do. [Sarcastically] I mean, do you realize how many people would say they were Bin Laden’s girlfriend if it meant they get to go home?
RM: Was it always a clear decision in your head that your integrity was worth your full sentence? BK: Yes. I got sentenced on Monday ( January 5th, 1994), and was taken downtown on that Friday. And they [prosecution] thought, now that they got me for 20 years, I’m a criminal, so they thought I would sign the plea agreement and they knew I would be lying, because they knew Danley was my lawyer. They knew I would be lying. RM: Danley actually later admitted that he helped the government by giving them your whole defense. BK: Yes. It would be like the Green Bay Packers stealing the plays of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. It took me two years to believe that any human being would do that to anybody. But I have forgiven him now. However, he knows he’s going to have to testify, and I think I can get my conviction overturned and clear my name. That’s one of my big weaknesses, trusting the wrong people – although I’m getting a lot sharper. RM: To me injustice is one of the hardest things a person has to go through, so how were you able to not have your faith rocked? Life is not fair, but when you are doing everything you think is right, and it’s still not working out, how did you deal with that? 54 Risen Magazine
BK: I think the most important lesson is, life’s not fair and you are going to be treated unfairly someday. It may be a cheating spouse, it may be getting fired, or not getting a promotion, but we’re all going to go through it, and the question is how are we going to respond? And that’s why I’m telling all this background. You can be totally innocent but wind up in prison; you do not have to commit a crime. RM: It is all in how one responds to trials however, some consequences seem easier to handle then 20 years in prison. Where did you even begin? BK: I tried to focus on the fact that God was teaching me to rely completely on him through all of this. My life verse is 2nd Corinthians 1:9 “In our hearts we felt the sentence of death, but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.” I was 46 then, and I knew I’d be 63 years old by the time I got out of prison. RM: How daunting. Did you think you’d do the full 20 years? BK: No I thought it would just be a couple of years. RM: When did you think it would be the 20, or did you always have the hope of just a couple more years? BK: Well Tim LaHaye and Dr. James Dobson were working diligently for
my release. So every couple of years I had hope to get out of prison and so God let me do my 20 years in two-year segments. [Laughs] That’s the great thing about how God works. RM: What was your prison experience like? What did you learn? BK: Well, I was in with really dangerous people. They mix white collar with hard criminals and murderers. But God began working on me. Tim LaHaye [author Left Behind series & Kennedy’s longtime friend] had given me five chapters [of the Bible] to read. They were: Galatians 5, Ephesians 4-5, Colossians 3, and John 15. He said, “Bill read every one of these chapters, every day for 30 days, and it will change your life.” And I did that. And I started getting all the other inmates reading [the Bible] too. Then God started convicting me of sin. And every day I would read those chapters and the Holy Spirit started to allow me to see myself the way God saw me, and how a lot of people saw me. And it wasn’t a pretty picture. I went through a whole roll of toilet paper with all my tears, and I think God introduced Bill to Bill. I just wanted one thing: joy. When you wake up in prison, it feels like you wake up in hell – immediate depression. God gave me Galatians 5:22-23 and every morning for the next thousands of days, in the first few minutes of waking I’d pray, “God give me love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” By about 1:00 p.m. that would wear off and I’d ask God to fill me with the Holy Spirit because I would start getting depressed. I started going to chapel seven nights a week and young men started coming up to me and they’d say, “Will you help me?” I had seven men a day and I spent an hour with them each individually. RM: So you started your own prison ministry? BK: I started having this impact on people and I conducted a Bible study. A guy named Kenny would come over to my cell all the time. I didn’t know why. I asked Kenny, “What is it about me that you’re interested in?” He said, “Bill, when I was 13, I’m 32 now, I shot my best friend in the head just to see how it would feel. I’ve spent every year in prison except for 28 months since I was 13.” And he says, “ You’re the first free world Christian I ever met.” He gave his life to Christ and went to church more than I did. RM: What is one conversation with God that really stands out to you? BK: I came from a family that never showed any love. My mother didn’t know how, and neither did my father. So I asked God, “I’ve got to know if you love me? I know the Bible tells me you do. But, do you love me?” That afternoon at the compound I just started weeping with joy because I felt the Holy Spirit coming over me and God’s love just engulfing me. It was a very poignant time in my life because I felt God’s love. I tell every Christian, “Ask God if He loves you? And then [ask him] to show it.” I think sometimes we don’t feel loved so it’s very important that we ask it. We’re so doctrinally oriented that sometimes we don’t realize the emotions. RM: As I hear you talk it’s convicting from the standpoint that you were able to utilize all your time reading the Bible, memorizing scripture, and conversing with God and others… we all should have these as top priorities. Do you ever ask God about the 17 years from the perspective of, “Is this the only way you felt you could reach me? Is this the only way I would listen? How come this path was chosen for me to learn this way, while maybe you use some other form of communication to get the attention of someone else?” BK: You know the story of Job, where everything is taken from him [ Job 38], and he pleads with God, “God I just want to know why?” and God says, “Who are you to ask me?” Unfortunately, this is the way we feel about God, like he’s just our pal – and yes he is, but on the other hand, he’s God. And I had no
right to ask. I always wondered. That’s only normal. But the point being, I’m the kind of guy that likes to take charge and one of the things I’d keep saying is, “Hey Satan, you think you got me, but we’re going to turn the cards on you. Because what God is going to do with my life is going to make yours miserable!” I just felt inside my heart God saying, “I got this. I know you’re hurting, but it’s all going to work out.” You learn to trust God and the way you trust him is to go through experiences. God let me know all through my imprisonment that he was going to give me an amazing testimony. God is the author of our joy. RM: What would you say to someone that feels like they are in prison – whether it be an addiction, depression, or whatever stronghold has them bound right now – what advice can you share to help remind them it’s all temporal?
got to know if you love me? I know the Biible tells me you do. But, do you love me?”
BK: First I’d reiterate God is the author of all joy. God loves you. Ask God what it is that he wants you to learn? Write a list of everything you need physical, mentally, spiritually, and pray over it every day. I used to spend an hour every day in prayer. I would pray over my list and I was like a new man. Get yourself alone with God and let him go to work. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great uncertain things.” The Psalms are written for hurting people. They have very psychological issue in them and the psalmist said in 19:10, “Show me my errors, show me my hidden faults.” We don’t know our own hearts, so we have to go to God. Realize that you cannot sin yourself into satisfaction. [My advice is to] also find some people who are good for you, and love you, and most importantly get the focus off yourself, and onto others and what you have to be thankful for. RM: Once you got out of prison, was there one thing you wanted and what were the biggest differences to you about the world since you entered prison 17 years ago? BK: I wanted McDonalds [Laughter] and people drive really fast. [More Laughter]
Students Rise to the Challenge of Creating Change on Their Campuses and Around the World Writer: Kelli Gillespie
veryone, regardless of age or background wants to feel like their life matters; like what they do makes a difference or at least helps to bring a positive change in someone else’s life. Oftentimes, pastors will point to The Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25 in the Bible as an example of how being responsible with a little, can lead to the ability of reaping a lot. The basis of the story is that a master gives three men money and then goes on a journey. When he returns to settle his accounts with them, he finds that two of the men doubled their money, and one was afraid and had only the same amount he was initially given. The master was pleased with the first two and extremely disappointed with the third. In Matthew 25:29 the master says, “For the one who has will be given more and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” These same principles have become the foundation for Project 25, a program where middle school and high school students are given $100 dollars with the challenge to see who can make the biggest difference with what they have been given. San Diego’s youth answered the Project 25 challenge in many unique ways; from feeding the homeless and providing backpacks, to raising money for cancer research, designing community murals, and supporting teachers facing lay-offs. Their efforts weren’t just on a local level either; some projects had global effects like caring for Japanese tsunami victims and funding secondary school for a student in Malawi, Africa. Altogether, students performed 12,000 hours of community service through Project 25. Nate Landis is the man behind the vision that has taken off like a wildfire and ignited the passion for service in the hearts of many young people. Landis founded the non-profit, Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), to connect kids to the resources of the kingdom of God by linking churches to schools. By pointing to healing, hope, and transformation through Jesus Christ, UYC equips kids with skills needed to take on any aspect of life. Risen talked to Landis about this incredible project and the rewards of working with youth. 56 Risen Magazine
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: How did you come up with Project 25? Nate Landis: I was sharing about the ministry of Urban Youth Collaborative at the Barnabas Group[a national ministry whose members have a passion to serve other ministries with their diverse passions and talents] one morning and Denny Bellesi [founder of the organization Kingdom Assignment] came up to me and said, “I do this thing called Kingdom Assignment where we give out $100 bills and ask people to do something for others after reading the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Then they have to report back in a few months. The stories are amazing. Maybe you could try it with your clubs. We might be able to fund it.” He gave me one of his books and walked away. At that time UYC had 27 clubs going every week. I wrote a proposal and they gave us a check for $2,700 to launch the idea in San Diego. My good friend Mark Bell, High School Pastor at The Rock Church, started dreaming with me about what might be possible. We came up with the name Project 25 to give the concept a memorable identity and connect it to the parable in Matthew 25. Our first year was such a success that we expanded it to 50 schools the second year and invited Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) clubs to join us. In year two, we added the online sign-up and YouTube posting feature. This made it easier for groups to join and share their stories with each other. RM: Wow! So with the teaming of the organizations, how many schools do you allow to participate? NL: Between UYC and FCA, we facilitate 112 campus club meetings every week throughout San Diego County. We will invite all 112 clubs to sign up for Project 25 this year. The first 50 school clubs that register online will be admitted into the service challenge. To receive $100, each participating club must agree to: • Read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 • Prayerfully identify a need in their school, community, city, or world that they want to meet to make a difference • Work as a team to multiply the funds for the sake of others and the kingdom of God • Post a one-minute YouTube video that gives an account of their work and tells the story of what they did • Come celebrate what God did through them at the Project 25 Campus Awards – our red carpet program hosted at The Rock Church. RM: What surprised you the most about the way kids responded to Project 25? NL: I was blown away by the creativity and significance of the projects our
Adults are the coaches in the spiritual game of life.
Kids play on the field. They’re the ones that make things happen... kids came up with. We live in a culture where the media mainly offers negative images and stories of young people. We wanted to challenge students and provide opportunities for them to showcase all the good that they are capable of. They rose to the occasion. Kids will rise to whatever expectations we place on them –whether high or low. As a team, our kids leveraged their $100 with non-material assets, creativity, relationships and hard work to meet needs around them. For kids with fewer material resources, this project taught them to harness all the other assets available to them in their communities. Altogether, our kids learned that “life to the fullest” comes from what we give away, not from what we take or keep. That’s what Jesus meant by saying, “Those who try to save their life will lose it but those who lose their lives for me will find it.” I think our kids learned this firsthand through Project 25. RM: What is the most rewarding aspect of working with middle and high school kids? NL: I get stoked when kids realize that they are vital leaders in the kingdom of God. Good youth ministry happens when youth become the ministers who transform their schools, families, neighborhoods, teams, and communities through the power of God. Adults are the coaches in the spiritual game of life. Kids play on the field. They’re the ones that make things happen through relationships with their friends. Every revival in history has had three things in common: prayer, confession of sin, and young people. I believe God will bring a revival to our nation when middle school and high school students don’t wait until they turn 18 to make a difference in the world. God doesn’t check IDs. He only looks to risenmagazine.com 57
see if someone’s heart to ready to respond to him. My greatest reward comes from watching students realize that they can be powerful change agents for the kingdom of God wherever they live. RM: Why did you start Urban Youth Collaborative? NL: I started UYC because God began showing me how many of San Diego’s middle and high school kids are never in church. We did a survey of churches in San Diego Unified School District a few years back and found that 90 percent of kids have no regular or meaningful connection to a local church. God wants his kids back. We’ve developed a strategy for getting local churches linked with campuses where they can do meaningful work, both spiritually and in other holistic ways. It all came to a head for me one day at a stop sign in front of San Diego High School. I was getting ready to pick up football players for the pregame meal and chapel service that we hosted for them every Friday. Suddenly, the bell rang and this multi-racial sea of 3,000 faces came pouring out of the school. My car was surrounded by students who had little chance of knowing Christ if nothing changed. Plus, the football team had 18 academically ineligible players that year and many students in poverty. As I looked out at the students walking by, I thought to myself, “These kids are never going to come to church unless we find a way to go to them first.” Then, almost audibly, I heard God say, “Whom shall we send? Who will go for us? Who will reach these kids?” I started to cry, raised my hand in my heart that day, and said, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” I had a new marriage, a mortgage, and a comfortable youth pastor job that let me afford a San Diego standard of living. When you have a master’s degree in Divinity, the Presbyterians take good care of you. That night, I 58 Risen Magazine
went home to my wife and said, “Honey, I think I need to quit my job. God wants me to go after the kids that nobody is reaching.” She looked and me and said, “I think that sounds wonderful sweetheart.” So, five years ago, I left everything to start UYC. Today, we have 38 churches working with 2,000 kids every week at 60 middle and high schools from San Ysidro to Oceanside. RM: Incredible. How did UYC’s partnership with Fellowship of Christian Athletes develop? NL: I believe God has led UYC and FCA together to accomplish our goal of seeing an outreach Bible club on every campus in SD County by 2020. We want to see that happen at all 280 public middle and high schools by linking each campus with a local church. In turn, we walk each church through proven options for holistically serving students beyond the weekly meeting. FCA is one of UYC’s key ministry partners. We work collaboratively with them at all 60 campuses where our churches serve. Last year they provided 75 full-ride scholarships for our inner-city students to attend sports camp at UCLA for a whole week. That amounted to $35,000 worth of scholarships. They also provide scholarships for our students to attend their annual Holiday Bowl breakfast each winter. Given our high level of partnership throughout San Diego County, it was natural to include them in the second year of Project 25 as well.
It doesn’t take much to make a difference.
While all the schools involved in Project 25 significantly impacted those in their sphere of influence, three walked away with top recognition for their creativity, uniqueness, and ability to let their talents touch everyone around them. Here’s a glimpse and the first, second, and third place winners of 2010:
La Costa Canyon High School (LCC)
Project Summary: LCC’s club felt God leading them to help Kie, a senior at their school whose spinal cord was injured in car accident, leaving her in a wheel chair. They raised $800 by selling discount cards to assist with Kie’s physical therapy costs. They announced their gift through a benefit concert in Kie’s honor. Now a freshman in college, Kie’s dream is to walk across the stage to receive her diploma in four years at UC Berkeley. What did it mean to you to win first place for your project? “It was great winning first place. But the thing that meant the most was watching kids come together at LCC to do something for their fellow students that radiated Christ’s love for others so everyone else could see. That’s what mattered most. First place was just the icing on the cake. The reward of making a difference meant more than the trophy or first place.” -Greg Vesely, Lead High School Pastor, Horizon North County What did you enjoy most about being part of Project 25? “Kie remained so sweet and positive throughout her struggle with a spinal cord injury. We wanted to help bear her burden of the expensive physical therapy, easing the stress of her family. This not only emulates God’s grace for Kie, but also for the 300 other people at the concert who heard the announcement of FCA’s donation.” -Greg O’Neil, Student Leader, LCC High School
Earl Warren Middle School
Project Summary: Three “groms” (young surfers) from Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach rallied their campus club to raise $1,000 that sent 10 in-need kids to Walking On Water Dream Surf Camp. They bought a surf board for $100 (through a big charity discount) and multiplied their money by selling 500 raffle tickets. Pro surfers Matt Beachem and Bryan Jennings joined students in promoting their creative cause.
How did you come up with this idea for your project? “We wanted something that represented our school or should I say our favorite thing at school, surfing. I also wanted more of my friends to go to Walking On Water surf camp, so I thought the best way was to get them raising money to help other kids go. Seeing how good raffle’s worked to raise money at a bunch of Xtreme Sports outreaches, we worked a bro-deal through Bryan Jennings to score a fresh board from Surf Ride for a hundred bucks. We also knew that if we could get pro-surfer Matt Beacham on the YouTube video, our hits would go through the roof.” -Tyler James, Student Leader, Earl Warren Middle School Why is it important for junior higher students to realize they can make a difference in someone’s life? “We learned that a small group of groms could come up with an idea to help people in a big way. We raised a $1,000. It showed us that all things are possible and we can do something for other people and not just ourselves.” -Tyler James, Student Leader, Earl Warren Middle School
Kearny High School
Project Summary: Kearny High’s club – called “The Break” – learned about a student in Malawi (Africa) who kept getting kicked out of school because she could not afford the $100 per year fee. They decided this shouldn’t happen and that kids everywhere should have access to education. They sold candy and pooled together club money usually spent on pizza. Through their candy sales and voluntary “pizza fast,” they turned $100 into $500 to send the student to high school for all four years. What difference did you see on a global level with your project? “The project was a tangible opportunity for our students to exercise their leadership gifts and realized that their small steps of faith can do tremendous things around the world. Some students from San Diego’s urban community literally changed the life of a young person across the globe.” -Noel Musicha, Youth Pastor, Flood Church What is your favorite aspect to being a part of Project 25? “UYC’s Project 25 initiative was the single most unifying project for our students at Kearny High School. One of the opportunities that the project gave me as a youth pastor was a chance to identify students that are motivated and that desired to grow as leaders. These past five months I have worked specifically with those students in a unique and intensive leadership development program which I believe has gone a long way to shape and develop their skills.” -Noel Musicha, Youth Pastor, Flood Church
Scan a code with your phone to go directly to the video link of each of the winning projects risenmagazine.com 59
On the Set of Risen Mediaâ€™s New Movie:
This family drama is set in the skateboarding world and stars Randy Wayne, John Schneider, and Rosanna Arquette. Pro skateboaders Christian Hosoi and Brian Sumner appear in the film and supervised all of the skating. Hardflip is directed by Johnny Remo and was shot in San Diego and Venice Beach, California.
Rosanna Arquette with Executive Producer Allan Camaisa
Director Johnny Remo (left ) with Randy Wayne 60 Risen Magazine
Jason Dundas (sunglasses) flashes a take-two scene prompt with co-stars.
Venice Beach Skate Park
Director Johnny Remo with Brian Sumner
Jason Dundas (left) with Christian Hosoi risenmagazine.com 61
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