FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
Kristi McLelland grew up in rural Mississippi. She accepted Christ when she was 9 years old and was instantly drawn to learning the Bible. At 16, her pastor asked Kristi if she could do anything in the world, what would it be? She responded, “I want to teach the word of God.” Yet, she grew up in an environment that discouraged females from teaching or preaching in the Church.
Becoming a physical therapist seemed like a good career fit for Kristi so she got her undergrad in biology from Delta State University. But God had different plans for her future. While in college, her thirst for studying scripture grew and she began leading Bible studies and receiving invitations to teach at various churches and groups. Eventually, the church she was attending put her on staff.
After earning a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, she became a professor at Williamson College in Franklin, TN where she has been teaching for over 20 years.
THE GOD OF ISRAEL
In 2007, God opened the door for Kristi to study the Bible in Israel and Egypt. She explains, “I went to Israel and learned that God is better than I ever knew.” The meaning of God’s word came to life and she was forever changed. Since 2008, Kristi’s been taking teams to Israel teaching the Bible through its historical, cultural, linguistic, and geographic context. Her study trips to the biblical lands, along with her Pearls podcast and in-person and online courses, help Westerners discover and appreciate the Bible within the framework in which it was written. This new lens offers a deeper look into what the biblical characters meant by what they did, said, and wrote, inviting us to better experience the God who is constantly pursuing us.
When asked what her purpose in life is, Kristi says, “I am a bridge between the Western Church and the lands of the Bible.”
In 2017, while still on staff at her local church and teaching college classes, God began making Kristi uncomfortable. Kristi felt like the Lord was telling her it was time to resign from her position at the church. She knew change was coming but had no idea what God had in store. Kristi was afraid but felt she had to obey God, so she resigned from the church but continued her professorship at Williamson College.
While waiting on God for her next assignment, she felt lost. Trying to cheer her up, Kristi’s friends invited her on a girl’s trip. While on the airplane, Kristi was still wrestling with God. She decided to do something she doesn’t usually do. Desperate to hear from the Lord, Kristi opened the Bible and said, “Okay God, I need you to speak to me.” She randomly laid her finger on a scripture, and it landed on Psalms 78:19 which reads, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?” Kristi knew she was hearing from the Lord. Reading how God provided manna from Heaven for His children during their “wilderness” experience comforted her. God was letting her know that He would take care of her if she would only trust Him.
The word of the Lord found Kristi right where she was. Today, she encourages others looking for hope and direction to trust God. Kristi says, “The word of the Lord is moving through the earth looking for you. Are you tuned in to hear it? I know some of you are in the wilderness right now. I want you to know that He’s not going to fail you. You will not be the first person in all of human history that God fails.”
Kristi wrote Rediscovering Israel to help readers experience God and His Word more deeply. She says that as a culture, Westerners often read the Bible through a lens that asks, “What does this teach me about me?” But in the Middle East, they read scripture asking, “What does this teach me about God?” By reading the scriptures in the context that they were meant to be read in, we see the bigger picture.
The story of Jonah provides a good example. When asking Christians about this book most focus on Jonah. They might say Jonah was a prophet called by God to go to Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to go. So, God allowed him to be swallowed by a whale. Eventually, Jonah did what God asked of him but was bitter that God saved the Ninevites when they repented.
Kristi explains that the point of the book of Jonah is much bigger. It showcases the heart of God and how far He was and is willing to go to rescue His children. There were 120,000 people in Nineveh. Jonah was perfectly fine having them perish in their wicked ways because they deserved it. But God was not. The Apostle Peter confirms God’s this, saying, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9 KJV).”
JESUS & WOMEN
Kristi also founded JW Global, a ministry focused on studying how Jesus interacted with women in the Bible and how He still uses women today. Offering seven sessions, Kristi examines the historical and cultural climate of first-century Middle Eastern society to not only understand Jesus more deeply but to fuel our worship of Him.
She explains, “Women had a very good beginning within Israel's history. Women like Eve, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Abigail, Esther, and Ruth were held in honor and given respect. Through influential teachings and teachers during the Intertestamental Period, women lost much of their social standing. Instead of being held in honor, women were denigrated to a place of shame.”
As a city dweller, Vladimir Calderon walks just about everywhere. It fits his active lifestyle. One day, that lifestyle nearly came to a halt as he was leaving his Brooklyn apartment in June 2023. “I was preparing myself to go to the gym that day,” said Vladimir. “I was going down the stairs and my ankle twisted all the way to the right and right there, I just saw stars…It was so painful. Felt like a big stabbing in the foot.”
The 28-year-old figured the pain would wear off, but after a few days, his foot and ankle started to swell, and he decided to see a doctor. “They gave me an X-ray and told me that the foot was all fine,” recalled Vladimir. “One doctor gave me a hard boot where it wouldn’t move, but it wasn’t even working. It was actually making it more painful.”
After two months, his foot still hadn’t gotten any better, so Vladimir went back to his doctor who gave him a brace to wear. “They told me there was nothing wrong with it. I kept taking Advil’s over and over again. Even with the brace, the boot and the pills, I still couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” explained Vladimir.
He tried to ignore the pain and live each day the best he could. “Most of the times I would stay home,” said Vladimir. “It was just so painful; I couldn’t go out. This injury was controlling me in a way where I couldn’t do what I normally would…go to the gym, take a walk, go get groceries. It made me feel like an invalid person. Pretty much just defeated.”
Vladimir admits his faith started to weaken. “I was just like, ‘God, my pain is really, really strong. I cannot bear it anymore.’ I felt like my prayers were just bouncing off and just not going through,” explained Vladimir. “I felt discouraged that God wasn’t gonna heal me. He probably had more better priorities.”
On the morning of September 19, three months after the injury, Vladimir discovered God did care. “I was in my room sitting, staring at the T.V. but it was not on,” he said. “And then the Lord spoke to me in my heart and said, ‘turn on the T.V. Put on The 700 Club.’ I turned on The 700 Club.” Vladimir continued, “What made me sit still and watch was the anointing was so real. It was so strong. It felt like a warm blanket just came over me and wrapped me up.”
Then host Ashley Key gave a word of knowledge. “The pain is in the middle of your right foot,” said Ashley. “You’re not able to really put pressure on it, but He sees you and He loves you and He’s healing this for you in the name of Jesus. The pain will no longer be there. You’ll be able to walk normally. Test it out even right now, in Jesus’ name.”
“When she said that, it blew my mind,” recalled Vladimir. “I was just like, whoa, am I dreaming? It was so real. I remember me just moving my leg. This is amazing, I just got healed and at that moment, I was able to walk.”
Vladimir was soon back to enjoying his active lifestyle and has had no pain since. He also says the experience strengthened his faith in God. “I felt like I got restored back to brand new, like a factor reset,” said Vladimir. “That pain was no longer restricting me. I felt like I was able to do anything. I feel God’s love even stronger in my life. I see it more visible now. God can heal, and you definitely have to believe. And I’m definitely a testament to that.”
Larisa was born to a Jewish family in Ukraine during the second world war. Her father was drafted to the soviet army.
Larisa explained, “When the war started, my mother was pregnant. She made her way to the city of Chelyabinsk to find our relatives. In 1941, we heard that my father had died. It was very hard for everyone.”
Until 2022, Larisa lived a quiet life in Ukraine. Then another war broke out when Russia invaded. "It was a nightmare. There was combat all around us,” said Larisa.
Larisa, a widow, immigrated to Israel with only a suitcase. She moved into a home for the elderly, but lacked the household necessities she needed to get by. Then she learned about CBN Israel.
Larisa said, “I heard from my neighbors that there was someone I could call if I needed help. I reached out to CBN, who came to visit and asked me how they could help.”
First, we gave Larisa food. She also needed kitchen appliances and furniture, so we gave her a stove and a couch.
“I want to express my deep appreciation for the warm welcome I received in Israel,” Larisa said. “Despite the challenges I faced, the support I received has made a significant difference. I am gradually adopting to my new life and feel blessed to be here.”
FIGHTING FOR THE CHILDREN
Kirk Cameron isn’t afraid to step into battle when it comes to fighting for our children. With events like "See You at the Library" and BRAVE Story Hours, he is teaching children biblical values. In his latest children's book, "The Fox, the Fair, and the Invention Scare," which is the ninth book in the third Saga of BRAVE’s Freedom Island series, Kirk is giving families hope with a timely message of unity and compassion, especially in a world filled with division.
Within the pages, you’ll read about a young fox named Asher whose family has been disputing with a family of giraffes for years. When Asher, the Fox, and his peer and enemy, Stewart the Giraffe, come face-to-face at the town invention fair to compete, an accident causes both of their inventions to break. Scrambling to fix them before judging, Asher knows what Stewart’s invention needs, but he’s faced with the decision to help his enemy or watch him fail. He makes a courageous decision that changes the course of each family's hatred for one another for generations to come.
The idea for this book came from a personal experience Kirk witnessed while attending a “Restore America” rally. The audience heard from an older man and his wife about their gut-wrenching story of losing their teenage son who was shot and murdered by another young man in a gang. Their faith in God was the only thing that helped them survive the heartbreak. When the couple introduced a 20-year-old man to the crowd, he explained how, years ago, he got caught up in the wrong crowd, joined a gang, committed a violent crime, and was sent to jail. He said that one day, he was visited by this couple, only to find out they were the parents of the young man he murdered. They spoke to him about God‘s love, mercy, and forgiveness and told him that they forgave him. When he was released from prison, they adopted him.
ADVENTURES WITH IGGY AND MR. KIRK
Kirk and former Disney mom, actress Leigh Allyn Baker, are teaming up to create a children’s television show called Adventures with Iggy and Mr. Kirk. Imagine a live-action TV show that teaches solid morals, like a modernized Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood with high-energy hilarious dialog, animated stories, new surprise guest stars, and a puppet iguana co-star. Rather than focusing on confusing children with progressive ideas and themes of sexuality, this show is committed to teaching children the traditional and biblical values that will withstand time and build strong character for generations to come. This was a welcoming concept for the show's co-star Leigh Allyn Baker as she exited Disney and began speaking out about her intentions to align her work in entertainment with her values as a Christian just like Kirk when he starred in Growing Pains. The show is currently in production and set to air in August.
Kirk was not raised in a church-going home and described himself as an atheist from a very young age. When he was 14, Kirk had been working in the entertainment business for a few years and landed the role of Mike Seaver on Growing Pains in 1985. Within a few years, it was a hit show on ABC. (On the show, Mike eventually had a girlfriend named Kate MacDonald, played by Chelsea Noble, Kirk’s future wife!) Soon Kirk had everything he could want and as much money as he wanted to spend. He became a teen heartthrob, appearing on the covers of teen magazines, and was so convinced there was no God that he laughed at those who said there was.
All that changed one afternoon when he went to church and heard the Gospel for the first time. Kirk sat in the back of the church feeling very guilty. His heart was swelling with the hope that a God in heaven saw his sinful heart and would take the punishment for him, forgive him, and welcome him back into a right relationship with Him. A month later, Kirk, then 17, was sitting in his sports car and asked the Lord into his heart. He told a friend who was a Christian. That friend gave him a Bible which Kirk began to read. Kirk went on to star in many films but has since left mainstream film and television. He continues to work in faith-based productions.
To purchase Kirk's book, The Fox, The Fair, and the Invention Scare go to www.BraveBooks.us, and to watch Adventures with Iggy and Mr. Kirk, please visit: www.WatchBrave.com.
CBN’s impact around the world
Daily prayers for people across the country
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Ukraine and Poland
For 30 years, CBN has been serving the people of Ukraine
Through CBN’s Orphan’s Promise and Operation Blessing, we were able to quickly provide valuable resources soon after the conflict began, and we continue to support Ukrainian refugees.
Projected 135 million* watched a CBN program in 2022
CBN partners are reaching children around the world with the Gospel of Jesus through Superbook, a Bible-based animation series. In 2022 alone, children in 139 countries watched at least one episode of Superbook.
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