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700 Club

A Man’s Journey to Freedom, Forgiveness and Redemption

“I’m on the road to Angola,” Ronald Olivier said thinking on his bus ride to one of the most infamous prisons in the United States.  ‘Man, what did I get myself into?’ I heard all the stories of Angola, I know they prey upon the young. My mindset is this, ‘I’m going through these gates a man, I’m going to leave out a man, whether I walk out or in a box – if I have to die.’”
 
Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, added Ronald Olivier as an inmate at just 18-years-old. Looking back, it was his father leaving home that set the stage for what was to come.
 
“My father was everything to me,” Ronald said. “I was really hurt, and I felt abandoned, and that turned into anger. When I really needed a man to guide me and navigate me through what was happening in the neighborhood, I had none. It was the beginning of the crack epidemic. Me and my friends, that's when we veered towards selling drugs, stealing cars, anything that was going on in the neighborhood we was doing it. We became a part of it.”
 
But this new lifestyle would soon catch up with him. On Christmas Day, 1991, Ronald was confronted by a gang of young men, one of whom he’d recently had a fight with. Afraid, Ronald tried to get away, but then he felt someone grab his jacket from behind – he pulled out his gun.
 
“It was two guys that I shot, pools of blood,” Ronald said. “Two days later, I found myself arrested.”
 
One of Ronald’s victims would recover, but the other died. Only 16-years-old, the extent of the consequences he was facing didn’t fully set in until he found himself being tried as an adult for first-degree murder – the death penalty on the table.
 
“I didn't want to die,” Ronald said. “That's when I heard my mother's voice, so loud in my ear, ‘If you’re ever in trouble that I can’t get you out of, you call on Jesus.’ So, that’s what I did in that cell. A lot of people say, ‘Don’t make a deal with God.’ Well I made a deal with Him. I said, ‘Lord, if you don’t let them kill me, I promise I’ll serve you the rest of my life. For the first time in my life, there was a peace that I couldn't explain. It was this inward calmness that gave me an assurance that I was going to be okay.”
 
And then the verdict came – guilty of second-degree murder, life in prison without the chance for parole. But something inside kept telling Ronald not to lose hope, even as he was being sent to Angola. There, he soon started meeting Christians who helped guide him in the right direction.
 
“They was walking out their faith in the midst of all the chaos,” Ronald said. “I was amazed. I found out how important it was to get in the Word and study, to develop a prayer life. How important it is to fellowship with other believers. Guys who mentored me, came to fill that void in me of being a father figure. And of course, God stepped in and was that figure also. He's the greatest father of all. He began to change my heart from the inside out.”
 
Ronald took Bible college courses and received a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry. He began ministering to fellow inmates, and then was given the opportunity to go to other prisons as a missionary. 
 
“When I got to share my faith, or share the Word, and see God change other people lives, I was so full of joy,” Ronald said. “I felt fulfilled, because here it is, I'm operating in purpose. I’m getting the sense of this is what I was born to do. That's how I kept hope and kept faith. I kept His Word in my mouth. I spoke that I was going home, I always said that I'll be going home.”
 
Years later, the Supreme Court ruled that minors could not be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ronald found himself back in court for a re-sentencing. He was excited for a possible chance to get out, but there was someone in the room that he first needed to make peace with.
 
“I was very, very remorseful and sorry, and I thought about the victim's mother,” Ronald said. So, we had this conversation. I said, “Ma’am, I take full responsibility for the life of your son. I just pray you’ll find it somewhere in your heart to forgive me.’ She said, ‘I don’t hate you, I forgive you. I believe you deserve a second chance.’ That was more important than me getting home. For her to say that it was like even though I was handcuffed and shackled, I felt them come off of me. It was another level of freedom I have just went to. That’s something supernatural, beyond me or anyone. It was only God there.”
 
His parole granted, Ronald was unanimously voted for release in 2018. After twenty-seven years of incarceration, he was finally going home. He has since started a family and reconciled with his father. He now works for the Louisiana Parole Project where he continues to minister and encourage former inmates as he helps to rebuild their lives. He also recently wrote a book: 27 Summers – My Journey to Freedom, Forgiveness and Redemption.
 
“I wrote it for hopeless people, anybody who is down and out and feels like their life will never change,” Ronald said. “God can do anything at any time through anybody. If He did it for me, He can do it for you. He’s just looking for somebody to believe Him.”

 

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700 Club

The Toll of Pain

Durga lives in a small village in India. She has deformed lower jaw caused by a benign tumor. The condition causes her both physical and emotional pain. “I've tried everything to fix it at home, but nothing worked,” she told us. “Now, my lower jaw swelled up, and it's really hard to eat or even drink water."

Durga said she now lives in self-imposed isolation, hiding from the cruelty of the community. “What people say about my face is really hurtful,” she said through her tears. “Their words broke my heart. It even made me question how I could go on living.”   

Finally, she had the courage to remove her face covering during our interview with her. “There have been times when I thought about killing myself.”  

Durga told us her family is poor and cannot afford surgery to repair her face and jaw. So she sits, waits, and hopes. “Whenever I see people who look ‘normal,’ I wish I could be like them too, a pretty woman like anyone else. It's hard to deal with the depression, especially when people bring up marriage. I can’t even think about that. All I want is to have surgery, but my parents do not have money for it,” she said.

Then Durga heard about Operation Blessing. Thanks to your support, we were able to provide multiple free surgeries to remove a benign tumor and repair her face and jaw.  

“Thanks to you,” she said, “I've now started a whole new chapter in my life. I'm thrilled! I keep looking at myself in the mirror because I can't believe how beautiful my face looks now. People who saw me after the surgery don't even recognize me! I've been dressing up and going to the market feeling confident and happy.”

Durga says she now has a happy life, one that she never thought was possible before.  

“I'm really happy that I can eat and drink without any problems now. I want to express my sincere gratitude to all the people who supported my operations. Thanks to you I have a brand-new life!” she said with a big smile. 

700 Club

Seen, Heard and Healed

“I had a couple of surgeries. Steroid shots in the neck. Steroid shots in the back. I would have lidocaine patches, anti-inflammatory gel, ibuprofen, Tylenol. I’d go to chiropractor. I’d go to acupuncturists, just anything that I could do,” Marie says as she recounts all the ways she tried to alleviate some of the pain."

For ten years, ER nurse Marie Cronin did whatever she could to find relief from the chronic pain in her neck, back and knees, the results of a car accident and, later, a fall at work.

“I'm on my feet 12 hours a day. Pulling people up, pushing stretchers, you know, starting IVs. I could tolerate it during work, but when you're in pain, trying to care for somebody in pain, it's hard to concentrate,” says Marie.

While out for a walk at the park in December 2020, Marie had hopped up on a wall to take a picture of some beautiful scenery.

When she jumped down...Marie recalls, “Instead of, you know, landing where you bounce on your knees, my knees gave out and I just hit the ground right on my – right on the coccyx bone. And I heard that clicking. I could feel everything in my – from my neck – like dominos it sounded like, click, click, click and everything pulled to the right. I thought, 'Oh my goodness, what did I do?'"

When she returned to work, the pain Marie had battled for ten years, was much worse, and so was the stress and anxiety.

“I used to worry about the pain not going away and me not being able to do my job. Sometimes it took away some of the joy that I had doing my job, but definitely impaired what I needed to do,” Marie says

Marie turned to God in prayer, like she had been for years – but this time it was different.

Marie describes her life after her latest injury, “So, just about three weeks I was praying. I was crying in bed at night. Just in that moment I was so desperate for Him to hear me. My prayer every night to God was, 'I know that You can heal me, please take this pain away. Let me wake up in the morning without the pain.'"

On the morning of January 22nd, Marie sat down for her daily prayer time. “Because I remember my prayer was, if I can't get any relief from this, I don't know what I'm going to do. I have faith more than a mustard seed; I know You can heal me. I need You to say my name because I need to know that You see me in this moment,” says Marie. Then Marie turned on The 700 Club, just as Gordon and Terry had started giving Words of Knowledge for viewers.

Gordon prays, “There’s someone your name is Marie, and you are trying to with your right hand to reach that area of your spine that needs healing. And you’re frustrated, you can’t reach it because of the pain. God sees you right now. He is calling you by name. And He is saying to you 'I am healing you. I am restoring your spine. No more pain. No more curvature. Everything is going to be in proper alignment. No more pain.' Be released and be healed now, in Jesus name.”

“And in the moment, as my jaw is dropped, I sit up and it's gone. Every bit of neck pain is gone,” Marie says reflecting on that moment.

Today Marie is living her best life, still free of pain and anxiety. She continues to work as an ER nurse where she can share her story and point others to God. Marie shares her thoughts, “God sees you, you're His child. If you really reach out and-and with all your heart ask Him to come into your heart and help you, He will. He will.”

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700 Club

Comedian Pursues Laughter Through Tragedy

TUMULT AT HOME

Chonda can tell any story from her life and make it fall-down funny… but it’s also true that she’s experienced great sorrow and pain. Much of her childhood trauma stemmed from her father, a pastor, and his frequent infidelity. More than once young Chonda innocently walked in on situations that confused her, and later, when she understood more, angered and disgusted her. “My father had a girlfriend in every church. And on the rare occasions he was not having an affair with one of the local ladies, he was locked away in his room under a heap of depression,” she explains.  

The abuse he doled out to his family was both verbal and sexual in nature, she says, including angry words and whippings with a belt. At the same time, Chonda adored her mother and deeply felt her pain and humiliation. Shortly before Chonda graduated high school, her dad left the family, which brought both financial hardship and great relief.

A couple of years berfore that, one of the other great heartaches of Chonda’s young life occurred. Her older sister, Charlotta, was driving to work on a rainy morning, when she hydroplaned into the path of an oncoming car. The vehicle hit hers on the driver’s side, and Charlotta, just twenty, was killed instantly. “My faith in God was not shattered, but it sure was starting to show some cracks,” Chonda admits. “Mom was devastated, Mike (her older brother) and I were crushed, Cheralyn (her younger sister) was a lost soul.”  

Two years later, when Chonda and Cheralyn were finally rebounding, both had starring roles in the school musical, Oklahoma. On the last night of the show, Cheralyn wasn’t feeling well. After a couple days and several tests, they learned the cause: leukemia. It was a rough next few weeks, but thankfully, the family learned that Mike, Chonda’s hero, was an exact match for a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was scheduled for a few days later on a Monday…but would never happen. “Cheralyn died on Saturday morning,” Chonda explains. “Only twenty-one days from her diagnosis.” She was just fifteen years old.  

SUCCESS WITH A PRICE TAG

Chonda married her best friend and high school sweetheart, David Pierce, in 1983. The pair were deeply in love and welcomed their first child, Chera, into their home about a year later. They worked various jobs, including Chonda imitating country legend Minnie Pearl at the Opryland Theme Park. She loved it and received great reviews, though after six years, she yearned to be a stay-at-home mom and left the job.  

Chonda continued imitating Minnie at various gigs for extra money, and because she loved it. At a convention for South Central Bell, Chonda, as Minnie, introduced the president, and soon started ad-libbing as herself. The crowd ate it up. “THAT was the breakthrough moment in my career,” she says. From that came more invitations to entertain at conventions and gatherings, and in time, Chonda started touring with her own comedy routine. By then, they had a son, Zach, and David was truly happy to stay at home with the kids. As Chonda shared onstage about the various traumas in her life, she found it resonated, especially with women. “I found that the more I shared about myself, the more they would talk to me. My comedy and confessions were becoming comfort and compassion for others. And the one receiving the most healing was me.”  

Managing finances was not a strong suit of either Pierce, and unfortunately, Chonda hired some well-meaning, but incompetent managers. “Yep, his firm was collecting a total of 52% of my income, which left only 48% for the government to take,” she quips. Though making plenty of money on tours, they went broke before getting much needed, sound advice from more experienced managers and accountants.  

As her tours and audiences grew larger over the years, Chonda spent more time away from home, which exacted a heavy toll her marriage and family. “The better he was a being the fun parent, the more I felt resentful, partially from guilt and partially from the fact that I hated being the visiting warden. Bottom line, I missed my kids. I watched Zach play soccer only once. I missed Chera’s junior prom. Those regrets still haunt me from time to time.”  

In the early 2000’s, after a decade of touring and all the ups and downs of life at home, Chonda crashed. She was deeply, clinically depressed, and sought help at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. With the love of her family, time, therapy, medication, and slowing down, Chonda found her way back. “I truly believe one can find complete healing from most anything with a combination of both fact and faith. The Bible taught me I am not alone. But it wasn’t until I felt I was truly alone at Vanderbilt that I learned to rely on my faith.”   

THE GREAT HEARTACHE 

The next dozen or so years brought more ups and downs. Chonda adjusted well to meds and was able to continue her work. As the kids became older and more independent, though, Chonda and David drifted in their relationship. He began to drink to cope with his pain. Trying to fund DVD projects, a recovery center, and detoxes for David, their finances bottomed out again. They had to let go of their dream home, and the couple separated for 18 months. Chonda remembers feeling the weight of it all one particular day: “My mother had passed away a few days before. David was struggling and was away in a detox facility. Zach was at school in California, and Chera, well, she was still far away physically and emotionally.”  

By 2014, though they had reunited, David’s struggle continued. “His drinking got worse, and his health began to fall apart, but I didn’t realize how serious it was as I was finishing up a long tour,” Chonda remembers. Soon after that, he suffered bleeding in his brain and didn’t recover. Chonda was with him till the end. She says she has made it through these ten years by the grace of God and the help of very good girlfriends of forty years. “They have taken the sting out of widowhood for me.” Her advice: “Just be there. Listen to them. Talk only when necessary. Because what most widows need is time and a loving friend in the room.” 
       
THE NEED TO LAUGH

Chonda believes that a big reason people respond to her shows, DVDs, and writing is simply the need we all have to laugh. She acknowledges that these are dark days in our world, and we all need some freedom from so much heaviness. She also wants to help people let go of regrets, knowing all too well how they tear us down and that the devil likes to bring them up. “It’s the enemy’s favorite thing to do,” she says.  

And having dealt with deep depression, Chonda wants people to know there is no shame whatsoever in therapy and medication. To that end, she and her beloved big brother, Mike, opened a recovery center years ago in Murfreesboro, TN, which grew into five facilities, called Branches Counseling Center. With a full range of qualified professionals, they help those dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, shame, and weight loss. More information is on their website, www.Branches.org. “It is a place where my brother and I can both say, “Look what God has done with our broken lives.” 

For more information about Chonda Pierce and to check out her upcoming tour dates, please visit www.Chonda.org. To purchase Chonda's book, please click the link: Life Is Funny Until It's Not.  
      
     
 

CBN’s impact around the world

USA

Daily prayers for people across the country

CBN’s prayer team prayed with over 1.2 million callers in 2022 alone, while also praying with people through email, social media channels, live chat on the website, and written correspondence.

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Highlighting testimonies of God’s faithfulness

Vida Dura or “Hard Life” stories are sourced throughout Latin America and produced in Spanish to reach a region with testimonies of people who hit rock bottom and turn to God for change. CBN has a prayer center in Latin America to support people through prayer and faith resources.

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Serving in the wake of natural disasters

CBN's Operation Blessing was on the ground quickly in the wake of the devastating earthquakes in Turkey, providing much-needed food, relief supplies, and medical aid. After large-scale natural disasters, Operation Blessing strives to be the first to arrive, and the last to leave, tending to the needs long after the news cameras leave.

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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.

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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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