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700 Club

He Made a Bad Choice Longing to Fit In 

Nick Wells has found his passion as a successful gym manager and CrossFit instructor in Colorado Springs…yet just a few years ago at age twenty-eight, it seemed his future was over. "I had a sixty-year prison sentence. I was never getting out. I had determined either I was gonna take my own life or I was gonna die by suicide by cop.”

Nick had always been a good kid, many of his friends he knew from church. Then, when his was twelve, his mom, Laurie, a single parent of three, moved their small family from California to Colorado. Nick recalled, "It was kind of a culture shock. I didn't fit in. The rejection set in and I was like, ‘Well, I'm gonna fit in somewhere.’ Unfortunately, the people that I fit in with were the ones that were, you know, drinking and going out, and sneaking out. I felt wanted by that group.”

Laurie knew there was something wrong. “I felt like I had made the hugest mistake moving here because I left our support system. I always prayed for safety. I always prayed that the Lord would put a hedge of protection around him.”

At fourteen, Nick tried meth for the first time. He was immediately hooked. “I was like, man, this is it. This drug makes me feel cool, makes me feel confident. And so, I really started focusing on what can I do to get money for that?”

So, Nick began stealing and spent his high school years in and out of juvenile detention. "I could feel the sense of right and wrong but there was no like, driving force behind me, like, ‘Hey, you should stop.’ What I wanted, getting the drugs was more important.”

Laurie struggled with worry and fear. “It was horrifying. Every time I'd see a police car or an ambulance, I would be sure that somebody had shot Nick. And so, it was really hard to live like that. I was asking the Lord to please change the situation, take hold of Nick and give me my Nick back.”

After high school, Nick continued to rack up felony charges. Then, in 2006, when he was twenty-six, he was ordered to a military-style bootcamp. The discipline and structure helped Nick get his life on track. So, when he got out, he went to enlist. But with so many convictions, Nick was rejected. “I was like, man, I'm such a dirtbag, I can't even go and die for my country. I was like, well, people occupy hell and I guess I'm gonna be one of those people.”

Nick went right back to his old lifestyle. “There was not a day that I didn't do like four or five different burglaries or motor vehicle thefts. I was like, 'Man, you just need to change, you know?' And I'd have these like conversations and dialogues, and then I'd start to come down from the drugs and I'm like, ‘Man, I need the drugs.’ You know? And so, it was a constant battle, like I would feel, just torn."

His mom continued to pray. Laurie recalled her pleading, “Whatever it takes, Lord, I need you to do whatever it takes to get him back to you.”

Then, in August of 2008, Nick was arrested for the last time. By then he’d racked up nearly two hundred counts of burglary and larceny charges. Yet one crime stood out in his mind—he’d stolen a purse from a woman that reminded him of his grandmother. “They actually called her as a witness in my trial, and I'm sitting there looking at her and I just wanna apologize. That's kind of like this like epiphany moment in my life. It broke me. That's not who I am. That's not who I want to be. And so made a commitment to myself, I was like, this ends today. I'm never gonna be the dude that steals grandma's purse.”

Locked up with no access to drugs, Nick turned to food for comfort. His weight ballooned to four hundred pounds. “Here I am, I'm looking at the rest of my life in prison. I'm broken, at the very rock bottom, and there's no other way out. And then I just feel like there's God, and then He's telling me, ‘There is a way, and you are gonna be fine.’ You know? And I'm like, 'Let's go. If anybody needs a road to redemption, it's me.”’

By the time he received his sentence of sixty years, Nick was clean and had lost over 100 pounds through CrossFit training. He’d also rededicated his life to God. “I just started trusting Him. I knew that the Lord was protecting me. I knew that He was with me. I just started reading and then praying and just thinking to myself, you can do this, and the only way you're gonna do it is with God's help, every decision I make in my life.”

Nick became a certified CrossFit instructor and helped start a nonprofit for fellow inmates called Redemption Road Fitness Foundation. In partnership with CrossFit, they became the first CrossFit affiliate inside a prison. One hundred percent of inmates participating in the program have been reformed. “My goal is to stop that recidivism, to stop that never ending cycle of going back to prison. Through mentorship, accountability, and community, we can do just that.”

Through the program, Nick met a lawyer who pursued clemency for him and on May 10th, 2022 he was released after serving fourteen years. Nick recalled that special day, “I was just overwhelmed with joy, you know, thankfulness, gratitude, joy.”

Laurie was overjoyed as well. “It was just a celebration. It was wonderful!”

Since that time, Redemption Road has expanded to thirteen of the eighteen prisons in Colorado. When he’s not busy working and managing over a hundred volunteers, Nick enjoys spending time with his mom and mentoring others. Nick stated, “It's never too late. You're never too far gone, and you're never not wanted by God. It's never too late to make the right decisions. He's there, all you gotta do is ask.”

For information about Redemption Road and Nick Wells, please see below:

https://www.rf2.org/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/rf2crossfit

https://www.facebook.com/RedemptionRoadCrossfit

https://www.instagram.com/redemptionroadcrossfit

https://thephoenix.org/

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700 Club

We No Longer Go Without Food!

Jorge was a wood cutter by trade until one day a log fell and broke his leg in three places. He needed surgery to repair it, recalling, “Now I am thinking, 'How will my family survive if I am not there to provide for them?'"

He spent the next two months languishing at a government hospital because he could not afford to pay for the surgery that he needed. Jorge shared, “I cried in the hospital bed thinking about it.”

Meanwhile, his wife, Dolores, was home trying to pay for food for her children. Dolores said, “Just one week after the accident we were running out of money.” 

With a few dollars she’d saved Dolores started a business selling food. But they barely earned a dollar a day in profits and ran out of money. Six-year old Gabriela said they all went hungry, “It seemed like we did not eat a lot. We only drank water. At night I would get up to drink another glass of water and go back to bed.” 

When Operation Blessing in Honduras met the family, we paid for Jorge to receive the surgery he needed to repair the broken bones in his leg. Then to help Dolores provide for the children, we gave her what she needed to start a new business selling chips and snacks. Gabriela said, “They brought a stove and pans to make the chips. They brought everything.” 

Several months later Jorge was back to work as cutting trees. And since his wife’s business is doing so well, he helps with that too. Dolores explained, “With the money we earned, we fixed the floor in our house and even added electricity. And we no longer go without food for our children.”

Jorge shared, “I know that God will greatly bless you for what you did for me. The people who helped me are like angels on earth. May God bless you. This will be a testimony of God’s provision for us and I will tell it to everyone!” Gabriela, gratefully expressed, “Thank you for helping us!”
 

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700 Club

Series of Tragic Events Caught His Attention

“I grew up in a Christian home,” Jeremy said. “My dad was in the Navy so when I was a little kid, we moved around a lot. We settled in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I remember going to church so often. My mom was on the prayer team and my brother was on the worship team. I was that oddball that never connected well within church… I was a bad kid. When my brother was a worship leader, he was doing some of the same stuff I was doing and so I just began to have this idea of Christianity that it was this massive front to make you feel good about yourself. I had no want ever in my life to be a part of anything like that so I ran after the things that I wanted to run after.” 

Jeremy continued,  “Some of my friends started rapping together and battling people. What battling is, is having a beat and free styling right off the top. You would go back and forth and I was actually pretty good at it. I remember going to different areas and battling, and we'd win. We started building a reputation, getting in different studios, and started getting contract offers. I was really pursuing that lifestyle. But, within that lifestyle, there's just a lot of things that happen within that world. There's females, drugs, all that stuff. I didn't smoke a lot, but I smoked. I didn't drink a lot, but I drank, and it was just part of life. I love being with my friends. We all lived together and we were doing music a hundred percent of the time. This life made me think that I was invincible. When I would get up and rap and everybody would be cheering and excited, there were these moments that you felt like you were untouchable.” 

Then things started to change for Jeremy. He recalled, “As things started to progress in my life, I remember there was a season where my life just started falling apart. I had four friends get murdered within the course of two to three months. My license got revoked, I got in trouble with the law, and my car got taken away…I was just numb. One of my friends got killed for a hundred dollars. He was shot right in the face and was a good friend of mine. But to me, it was just a part of life. People get killed; people die…that was just my mindset.”

Then the intervention came. “My parents reached out to me and said, ‘Listen, if you move home, we'll give you a ride to and from work for free.’ So, I moved back home with my parents and that was really tough. I'm working at the shop and my dad's bringing me back and forth and one day, my dad couldn't give me a ride home. So, one of my good friends who battle rapped with me said, ‘Hey man, let's go to the spirit of prophecy class now.' I have no concept of what prophecy is at this point of my life. I was like, ‘Bro, what the heck is that?’ because I didn't want to go. The church was less than a mile from where I worked so I could walk there, and it wouldn't be a big deal. It was January, so it was really cold and so it was either walk home 10 miles in the cold or walk a half a mile to the church and he'd give me a ride home. So, the decision became quite easy to make,” he said.

“I sat there and said to myself, ‘I'm just going to get through this meeting. I don't want to walk home so that's the only reason why I'm sitting there. This big guy comes over to me and starts praying for me and my friend. But, he zeroes in on me and starts word for word telling me stuff that I'm doing in my life. He starts talking about some of the things I was doing with music and how I was running after certain things. I was thinking in my head, ‘please just leave me alone.' Then he says this statement, ‘Do you know the name Jeremy? I keep hearing this name Jeremy.' Internally, every bit of rationale that I could fathom at this point was gone. This guy doesn't know me, he's never met me, and I've never seen him before."

The roots of his Christian upbringing began to surface. "I remember thinking this reality that God is real, and I felt His presence, and I began to cry. I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is who God is. He's good. He knows me. He knows my name. My friend right next to me was getting rocked too, and at that point they stood us up and started praying over us to get filled with the Holy Spirit. I remember talking to one of the ladies who were leading the meeting after she said, ‘Jeremy, you were on the floor for over 45 minutes and you were praying in tongues, ‘Lord forgive me. Lord, forgive me.' I remember everything in my life that I thought would bring me joy and discovered that it was found in Him. Everything that I thought would bring me purpose and fulfillment was found in Him. That night was the beginning of my journey and it was just the glimpse of Him, the moment of Him, the bringing into reality all of the things that I've been trying to pursue and do, I realized that I couldn't do it on my own. It was His grace that empowered us to actually walk this thing out.” 

Jeremy started his renewed faith journey with an internship in the Philippines, then came back to the States and attends Pinecrest Bible Training Center. He met his wife there, got married, and they started pursuing full time ministry together. “We started doing Street Church for seven years. Every Saturday night we would go out and feed the homeless and preach. In those places, we saw miracles right on the streets of Norfolk, Virginia. We saw lives getting transformed through discipleship and practical things and in those moments, there was this birthing in me of a ministry called City Life. We got a group of people together and just really wanted to be able to minister to people who were my age. We started these rally-type services where we saw hundreds of people get saved in the first year. We went from 30 to 450 people in six months and essentially all we did was run after Jesus.”

Today, Jeremy is a full-time pastor in Dallas, TX and has four children with his wife. “Through all of these moments,” he recalled, “these testimonies are my history with God. I'm building a relationship that are monuments and are moments that I can look back to and be reminded that He's faithful when I'm faithless. He's good when I'm not. He is who He really says He is, and because He is who He really says He is, it allows me to believe that I am who I really am because of Him.”
 

700 Club

The Family Behind Father's Day

"The greatest gift I ever had came from God; I call him Dad!" -Anonymous

In those few words, the unknown author captured a truth poets, writers, philosophers, and preachers have been writing about for centuries: good fathers are indispensable in life and deeply missed when they're gone. In the words of Billy Graham: "A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society."

It's likely those very thoughts inspired Sonora Smart Dodd, the young woman who imagined a National Father's Day in honour of her father, William Jackson Smart. A Civil War Veteran and father of twelve, William suffered personal pain and loss, yet still managed to show Sonora and her siblings the meaning of unconditional, sacrificial love, expecting nothing in return.

An eighty-three-year-old Sonora said in a 1965 interview: "My own father never accepted Father's Day as personal to himself, but to all fathers, worthy Fathers."

Today, Betsy Roddy passes down their story. She's Sonora's Great Granddaughter and William Smart's Great-great Granddaughter and says much of what she knows she heard from Sonora herself.

Betsy shares: "I think she viewed him as a dedicated father. The very fact that he went against the norm, the norm would have been upon his wife's passing that the young children would have been farmed out to relatives to raise. He didn't do that; he never considered doing it. He was clearly dedicated to family. It simply wasn't a requirement in those days, in that era, for widowers to take on the role that he did, what he did.” 

William's story as a father began when he took up farming after serving in the Union army in the Civil War. At war's end in Arkansas, the now 22-year-old Union Artillery Sergeant married Elizabeth and had three children. Thirteen years later, his wife died, leaving him to raise his children alone. He went on to marry Ellen, a widow with three children of her own. Their first child together was Sonora, followed by five boys. Now, there were twelve.  

Betsy says: "They all got along, and they called themselves steps, halves, and sibs, so it was the joke in the family."

Later they all moved westward to a soldier's homestead in Eastern Washington. But in 1898, 18 years after they married, Ellen died in childbirth. With his six youngest children Sonora and her five brothers, still home, he again put his own pain aside to be there for them. 

Betsy shares: "She recalls a story on the night of her mother's funeral, that her youngest brother ran out into the night kind of crying and looking for his mom and her father followed him out there, brought him in, sat by the fire, and rocked him to sleep and sang to him. And as she recounts, in that moment, her father became father and mother to their entire, very large family."

That sense of strength, caring, and protection would carry Sonora's family through many good and bad times for years to come. Then, in 1909, Sonora, now a 27-year-old wife and mother living in Spokane, Washington, attended to a Mother's Day service that actually brought her father to mind.

She went and talked to her minister afterwards and said, "I love what she said about mothers and Mother's Day, but what about fathers? When do they get their time in the sun?"

After careful consideration and thought, Sonora called on churches to establish a National "Father's Day." Within a year, she had convinced church and government leaders, including the Washington State Governor, to set aside every third Sunday of June to celebrate Fathers.

On June 19, 1910, Presbyterian and Methodists churches throughout Washington observed the first Father's Day. Sonora, of course, went to church that morning and, afterwards, she spent her day delivering Father's Day gifts to elderly shut-ins.

By the following year, Father's Day was being observed around the world, and Sonora would have nine more years to celebrate with her father before his death in 1919. Still, it wasn't until 1966, when Sonora was 84, that President Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, in 1972, it would be signed into law by Richard Nixon, calling  on U.S. citizens to "offer public and private expressions of such day to the abiding love and gratitude which they bear for their fathers."

Shortly after, on her 90th birthday, Sonora received a telegram from President Nixon thanking her for this great tradition, a day we remember the undeniable need for good fathers in our families, communities, and societies. 

Betsy reflects: "It was extremely gratifying to her. Imagine she's been working on this since 1910. So, 62 years later, it really, it becomes real in a very codified sense of the word. I think it signaled the level of importance that she always had for this legacy, and not just because of her own father, but for fathers everywhere. She was really dedicated to the idea that we need to celebrate them. They really do amazing things.”
 

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