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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.”

700 Club

Family Made Whole on Father’s Day 

“I've never had a thought of-of – before all this happened, never had a thought of uh raising young kids at 50-plus years old. I mean, you know, that never had crossed my mind,” says Barry Abernathy.  

He and his wife Beverly had already raised two daughters into their teen years when their older daughter Chassady came home from work at a daycare center excited about two foster children.

Barry remembers, “She came in one day talking about these children and she said, 'Daddy, the little boy,' she said, "You're just not going to believe it.'  She said, 'He's got a hand exactly like your hand.' And she said, 'It's exactly like yours.'"

Barry was born missing most of his fingers on his left hand, still he is a two-time Grammy nominated banjo player and singer with the group Appalachian Road Show

Chassady knew the kids were struggling and pleaded with her parents to help, “I called my mom first and I sent her a picture of Tyler. And she uh said, 'Chassady, you're crazy.' Cause I mean, I had the tendency to call her about kids before, but I was like, 'Mama, this time's different. You got to – you got to come meet him at least.' And she just let it go. And I told my daddy and he said, 'You are crazy.'"

Barry told her, “Well, honey, there's no way. I mean, we-we're not fosters. It-it takes, you know, months of classes and-and you've got to – got to get educated on how to handle foster kids. And-and we're not even prepared.”  

The siblings, Tyler and Zoey had already been through eight different foster homes in the last two years.

Beverly was reluctant to get emotionally involved, “I work in the court system and I see these kind of things happen, like kids placed foster homes and everything. And I was like, 'I will never get that attached.' I tried to like stay away from it, keep it separate from our life.”

“I was really crying cause I felt so strongly about it,” said Chassady. “Because I had met 'em and I knew if they had met 'em, that they'd feel the same feeling I did. It was just a drawing towards them, both of them.”

A few weeks later Barry was leaving town for a concert, before driving off he felt prompted to stop by the daycare center and meet the kids.

With a slight glisten Barry recalls, “The little boy Tyler was the first one I seen. He was in-in a-a class. And they were – kids were out playing. He was sitting at a little bench table-like thing with one of his friends. And my daughter Chassady had shown him me playing uh, I-I – the "Dance, Dance, Dance" video of uh Appalachian Road Show where I was playing the banjo with no fingers. Well, he had never seen – he had never known a dad, hadn't had a dad. And uh he had never seen anybody with a hand like his. So he immediately, to my dismay, he immediately thought I was his dad. So he looks up and he did his eyes like that. And he reaches over and gets a little buddy and pats him on top of the head and he said, 'Hey, wook, that's my dad.' And he jumps up out of his chair and he starts running to me and he just runs and just, I was standing there, and he just jumps up and grabs a hold of me. So I pulled him on up and he grabbed me, and he grabbed my face and he looked back like this and he said, 'Are you my dad?' And I said, I just kinda froze. You know, I didn't know what to say. And he said, 'You my dad.' And he reached up and kissed me on the cheek. And he patted me, and it was touching. I mean, it was very, very touching.”

Barry then found out Beverly had also felt drawn to the kids, “He called me and he's like, 'I went and saw the kids.' And I said, 'Well, I did too.' And he's like, 'Whew.' He's like, 'What do you think?' And I said, 'I really don't know what to think.'" 

Barry recalls, "She said, 'Do you think we're going to – we're going to need to do something?' I said, 'Well, what can we do? We're not foster parents.There's nothing we can do.'" 

Things weren’t working out with the current foster family, so the Abernathy's arranged to take the kids over Father’s Day weekend. 

After a great time together, they got word Zoey and Tyler would soon be sent to an orphanage.

In a more serious tone Barry states, “The state had called and said, 'We're going to come get them.' So immediately everybody went to jumping and saying, 'Hey, can y'all – can y'all keep these kids a little while, while we're working something out?' And we were like, 'Yeah, we'll – we will.' It's amazing how something-something like that could happen and in a couple of days, it come to fruition. And nobody, nobody knew but God. Nobody did.”

The Abernathy’s went through the steps to become foster parents, then they made a big decision - 10 months after that Father's Day weekend visit – through a zoom court date, Tyler and Zoey were adopted and officially became part of the Abernathy family.

Barry smiles, “It was a blast. Yeah, it was – it was a – and I think the kids, they-they recognized it, you know, even, they – I don't know that they knew what – Tyler says, 'Doption.' He didn't know what 'doption' was, but – exactly, but he knew that he was an Abernathy.”

“I can't like remember my life before them," says Chassady. “Like there's no other way to describe it other than like they belong to us.”  

Her sister Emma feels the same way, “I'm thankful that God brought 'em into our lives because, I don't know, it's just, you know that they're here for a reason. Like when we adopted them, that morning, you could just like feel it, like the Lord was with us and you just knew it was right for sure.”

“The correlation between us and these children and God and all of His children,” says Barry, “you know, I thought of that a lot, we're all adopted in the family. And not just adopted, but we're-we're made partakers. I mean, we're-we're – we're partakers of-of-of life through Him."  

Beverly smiles as she says, “Tyler, all the time says, 'Thank you, mommy. I appreciate you.' He lo – he thanks-thanks us for the house, everything. And it's just like to see the world through their eyes, the simple life, that's what it means. Nothing else matters.”

Barry reflects, “Father's Day will take on a different meaning. The fact that we-we took these children in on Father's Day, uh the family came to-together as a whole on Father's Day last year. And it'll always be special to me. The uh, you know, where it might not have been as special before, uh just to know that the way God dealt with us and what He – what He gave us and what He uh, what He required of us, you know, all that coming together on Father's Day. Uh, it-it'll be a special day from now on, as long as I live, for sure.”

700 Club

 First Abandoned—Now Loved!

After Srey Ni’s parents abandoned her, she went to live with her grandmother, who was also raising Srey Ni’s cousins. “I had to take care of my cousins every day. Grandma Oeun was busy selling things, so she didn’t have any time for me. That made me feel sad and lonely,” shared Srey Ni.

One day, a neighbor invited her to an after-school program supported by CBN’s Orphan’s Promise. Srey Ni said, “I was very happy and excited to go. I was able to make new friends. The teacher welcomed me and I was excited to learn.” The afterschool program at the church was the first time she ever heard about Jesus through CBN’s Superbook. Srey Ni said, “I watched the story about when Jesus was born. It taught me that God loves me and that Jesus came to earth for me.”

After watching the story, she prayed with her teacher to become a Christian. Srey Ni said, “I love you Jesus and believe You will forgive me and fill me with Your love.” Immediately she said her life began to change. She became more loving towards her grandmother and her cousins. “Every morning, I prayed for my cousins and grandmother to know Jesus. I also took one of my cousins to watch Superbook. He and her grandmother become Christians.

Srey Ni said, “I am very happy that God heard my prayers for them and did such a great miracle.” Grandma Oeun added, “Srey Ni has changed. She became a good student and even helps me around the house.” Srey Ni is not lonely anymore. She said, “I know God loves me. God used Superbook to bring 'God’s Love' to me, my cousin, and grandmother.”

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