Transitions: Seasoned Pastors Offer Experience
Transitions: Seasoned Pastors Offer Experience

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Calvary Chapel Ministry Reaches Inner-City Philadelphia Neighborhood with the Gospel & God’s Love

Story by Jessica Russell
Photos by Geraldine Wilkins

Calvary Chapel Magazine first ran this story in Issue 61, Fall 2014. Rock Ministries Calvary Chapel Kensington (The Rock) was founded in 2003 by Buddy Osborn to reach at-risk juvenile boys through a boxing ministry in the inner-city neighborhood of Kensington, Philadelphia, PA. The outreach grew to help whole families as well. Buddy was ordained as a pastor in 2012, at the age of 50, by Calvary Chapel Philadelphia Senior Pastor Joe Focht. Pastor Buddy also started The Rock School of Urban Ministry (therockphilly.org/school-of-urban-ministry), which provides an immersive learning experience to train and equip students to serve on the American inner-city mission field. For more information, go to therockphilly.org.

A group of young adults from Calvary Chapel Kensington in Philadelphia, PA, left the church building on a Friday evening. They were about to share the Gospel, desiring to see God’s Spirit at work on the streets of Kensington, a particularly rough section of the city. The believers had just finished singing worship songs and asking God to reach empty souls. So they weren’t surprised when Bill, a homeless man who was using heroin, started walking with them.

Addict encouraged

Calvin Walker, center, from Rock Ministries CC Kensington in Philadelphia, PA, prays for another man while Jillian McMahon, left, carries bags of toiletries to distribute. Believers from the fellowship regularly minister to the spiritual and physical needs of their friends and neighbors.

Kelsey, who attends the church and lives in their women’s discipleship home, walked next to Bill. He asked Kelsey how he could find peace. She answered, “When you surrender your whole life and say, ‘OK, Lord, not my way but Your way,’ He’ll bring that peace.” Bill asked the group to pray with him as he asked Jesus to save him from sin and be Lord of his life. Giving glory to God, the team’s leader, Danielle Terramani, noted: “That was Jesus. That has happened before—we’ve left the building and someone was there at the church doorstep, just waiting to hear that Jesus loves them.” Danielle added that the team sometimes struggles with fear before they evangelize, like worrying about how they will start conversations with people. But, she recognized, “When God does something like He did with Bill, it’s confirmation that we’re just entering into the Spirit’s work.”

Prayer circle

During Friday night evangelism, Danielle Terramani, far left, takes a break from playing her guitar to intercede for a young man struggling with a drug addiction.

After walking a few blocks, the team stopped on a corner to sing worship songs and distribute tracts. While Danielle was playing her guitar, she noticed a young man and woman standing in front of her. “I asked if he needed prayer,” she recalled. “He seemed desperate for the Lord.” Another believer prayed for the young woman. “She was at the end of her rope,” said Danielle. “They both stayed around for a while and received prayer.” Before departing, they were given Gospel materials and invited to church.

Into His Marvelous Light

Buddy Osborn was attending Calvary Chapel Philadelphia, PA, when he founded Rock Ministries in 2003 as an outreach program to disciple at-risk juvenile boys. As the outreach grew, ministries were added to reach whole families. In 2012, Buddy was ordained, and officially began holding Sunday services as Rock Ministries Calvary Chapel Kensington (The Rock).

“I’ve never seen a better parable of sin than on the streets of Kensington; sin controls the neighborhood,” began Assistant Pastor Craig Cerrito. “People who are involved in the drug lifestyle—which largely characterizes the neighborhood—are slaves to it.”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” John 8:34

Saved evangelism

Kelsey, right, prays for Bill. The man met the believers as they were exiting the church, and he followed them down the street to ask spiritual questions. Bill wanted to learn about Jesus and know why they follow HIm.

Craig had much to learn about the inner city when he began serving at The Rock eight years ago. “I’m originally from the Rhode Island suburbs,” he mentioned. “I had to learn about street life. I just didn’t understand any of it.” Over time, Craig realized that the inner city is full of people struggling with sin, just like anywhere else in the world. The difference, Craig concluded, is that, “The contrast between light and dark is so strong that you can see the light; there is no veneer here. The inner city is dark, and Christians need to go to where the dark is. Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world’” (Matthew 5:14a).

He continued, “If your whole existence is living where the light is—a wonderful Christian family, friends, fellowship, and church activities—then the light is only there. The purpose in heading to the mission field is to see people saved. The inner city is ignored because it’s hard. But there comes a point in a Christian’s life when you just have to do what’s hard. It was hard for the apostle Paul to risk his neck every time he went to a new town. You won’t see God in the incredible ways you could unless you go to where it’s hard.”

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Boxers pray

Boxers from The Rock gather for prayer before their community outreach begins. Gemet Argaw, far left, serves as The Rock’s head coach, and Pastor Buddy Osborn, second from left, founded and oversees the program.

Christ the Solid Rock

“What happens first when you build a house?” Pastor Buddy asked a crowd of boys in the park. “You build a foundation,” one kid shouted out. Buddy then asked, “What happens if you build a house and its foundation is on sand? What happens if you build one on rock? When the wind, rain, and storms come, which house will stand and which one will fall?” A young man covered in tattoos answered, “The house on the sand will fall because its foundation is weak.” Buddy smiled and proceeded to explain that only a Christian life built on the solid foundation of obeying Christ can endure until we stand before Him to account for our lives. Buddy stood inside of a makeshift boxing ring with his hands positioned in a boxing stance. “Push me,” he instructed the young man. But when he was pushed, Buddy didn’t budge. “Bro, I’m 55 years old and you can’t move me? That’s because of my foundation.” Buddy later insisted, “God’s not done with that young man. We’re going to see him again. That kid can one day be a pastor of a church, a father, a husband, and a tax-paying citizen.”

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62:2

Park boxing

Young boxers show off their skills during a neighborhood outreach in May. Dozens of people came to watch the demonstration. The believers encouraged onlookers to attend church with them on Sunday.

The demonstration was part of a boxing outreach on A Street in Kensington. “We went out with a ring made up from four posts and some ropes. It was reminiscent of when we first started the ministry,” recalled Buddy. Similar outreaches happen weekly near A Street, led by Lizzie Savar, who moved into Kensington in 2011 to serve at The Rock. The church hopes to have one missionary living on every street in order to reach as many people in the community with the Gospel as possible. So, the young woman lives on one of the most dangerous streets in the neighborhood, and she has become friends with many of her neighbors. “They’re so hungry for righteousness and for someone to look them in the eyes and say, ‘You have worth.’ That’s my message to all of them.” Buddy added, “Lizzie’s doing the groundwork. Now we’re going to go in and make a presence there. We’re going to win some souls for Christ.”

Buddy shares with teens

Buddy explains to several young men how Jesus Christ is a firm foundation. The men came for boxing and heard a Gospel message while there.

Arian, a boy from the neighborhood, walked to the park in a brand new, self-designed T-shirt with “Rock Ministries” written across the front. He had started boxing lessons a few weeks before and was eager to be part of the group. Arian was introduced to The Rock when Lizzie invited him to an outreach in the neighborhood. “He came to church that Sunday,” Lizzie recalled. “After church, he helped stack all the chairs and then cleaned off tables.” Arian then went to the Monday evening Bible study. “We were reading in Genesis,” Lizzie recalled. “We read a little bit, and he asked to have a Bible.” The next week he enthusiastically reported, “I read my Bible. I read about the seven days of creation.” When Lizzie saw him next, he had finished Genesis and was in Exodus. Pastor Buddy acknowledged, “We need young boys who purpose in their hearts, like Daniel from the Bible. My biggest joy in ministry is seeing the young guys raised up.”

Lizzie chats with youth

Lizzie Savar, far right, distributes invitations to a boxing demonstration in the park. Tony Bruno, second from right, talks with young men.

A known drug dealer said to Lizzie, “Thank you for everything you’re doing. It’s really making a change in the community.” She was amazed that the young man would leave the corner he was working just to tell her that. Lizzie recognized in that moment that God was doing something miraculous in her neighborhood—and still is. The dealer continued, “If you ever have any problems, you let us know.” Lizzie told him that she would be away for a few hours and jokingly asked him to keep an eye on her car. When she later returned, he proudly assured her that no one had messed with her vehicle.

The Call to Missions

Lizzie couldn’t explain why, but the little boxing ministry on Kensington Avenue called The Rock intrigued her. She was not a boxer and didn’t really fit in there; the ministry at that time in 2008 was primarily aimed toward at-risk juvenile boys, and Lizzie was an established career woman from the suburbs and an attendee of nearby Calvary Chapel Philadelphia. Nevertheless, she found a bench inside the building and sat down to watch. The following week, she resumed her position on the bench. “There were no women here at the time—I felt so uncomfortable,” Lizzie remembered. Yet, for the next month, she felt compelled to keep going back. Then one day, she heard that kids were interested in playing guitar on the second floor but had no one to supervise them. “Well, I was just sitting on the bench, so I volunteered to sit with them upstairs instead. That was the beginning of our second-floor ministry.” In addition to music classes, Lizzie was soon helping to implement an after-school program for boys and girls and a women’s Bible study.

Lizzie talks to a man

Chatting with one of her neighbors, Lizzie reminds him about the boxing event nearby that was just about to begin.

“I knew I was called to missions,” Lizzie stated, “but I thought I would move to Argentina or El Salvador.” She had already been studying Spanish in 2011 when she felt God communicate that her mission field would not be a third-world country—it would be Kensington. After commuting to The Rock for several years, she sold her suburban condo and moved to the Kensington community in order to live full-time with the people to whom she was ministering. And with a large Puerto Rican population in her neighborhood, learning Spanish was not in vain. “Not only am I learning the speaking language, but I’m learning the drug language—how to read what’s happening on my block to know when it’s okay to be outside and when it’s not,” she commented.

So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Buddy salvation

After the Sunday sermon, Buddy prays with three individuals who wanted to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Living Life Together

A teenager approached Lizzie in her new neighborhood to offer her a free sample of heroin. She rejected the narcotics and invited him to The Rock instead. “The morning is a busy time here. You see a lot of drug activity,” Lizzie observed. She explained that on an average day she encounters children dressed in their school uniforms, weaving around drug dealers doing their morning business, to get to school. “So I’ll just take my dog for a walk around the block and be a positive influence. I’m just being normal, taking a walk, being kind, and praying.” She added: “This is my home. Those are my neighbors. When was the last time you reached out to your neighbor? And how many people are hurting, depressed, or too busy in your community? Imagine what prayer could do for your neighbors—just seeing them and praying that if they don’t have Jesus, that they will see that something is missing in their lives.”

Three people talking

Ministry leaders, Gemet, left, and Linda, center, greet a friend.

“Living life and allowing somebody into your world—that’s what discipleship involves,” Lizzie stated. When Linda Mottolo was a new believer at The Rock in 2009, Lizzie invited Linda to go grocery shopping with her. The women became friends, spending time together frequently—doing errands and talking about the Bible. “I got to disciple her, and now she’s up and running.” Lizzie shared. “At the time, I didn’t even know that’s what was happening. But I look back and see Linda, who now runs The Rock’s food pantry. She would say that our friendship had a lot to do with that.”

“Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. … All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:11b, 13

Craig counsels

Craig counsels a woman, who came to church looking for help.

Linda remembered, “Buddy came knocking on doors in our neighborhood, saying, ‘We’re having church this Sunday. We go right through the Bible.’” It was 2009, and Linda wanted nothing to do with religion. When he knocked on her door, she declined his invitation to church, but a month later he was back. This time, Buddy shared his testimony with Linda—about growing up in Kensington, going to prison, and then being transformed by Jesus. Linda was shocked to learn how many similarities she and Buddy had. “He grew up two doors down from where I live now,” Linda said. “So I went to church. They broke down the Scriptures to where I could understand.” Though she had at first been concerned that she wouldn’t fit in at a church because of her rough history, she was quickly relieved when she discovered that The Rock was a place for broken and weary people to be restored by God.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Sisters fellowship

While waiting for the service to start, friends read from a choir songbook.

“It was hard for me to believe that God would accept me,” Linda confessed. “I had kids without being married. I sold drugs at one time. I could never see Him forgiving me.” She was deeply impacted when she learned what Jesus endured on the cross to pay for her sins. “This Man did that for me?” she had asked in awe. Linda joined a new believer’s class in 2010, where Assistant Pastor Craig Cerrito took the attendees through the basics of the Gospel. In time, Linda read in the Scriptures that Jesus would forgive her if she repented. She asked Him to forgive her and be Lord of her life. Linda later acknowledged that God had been pursuing her for years. “He never stopped chasing me,” she reflected.

Believers came alongside Linda to disciple her. “Gator would go over the Bible with me and explain it. He would sit down with my kids and talk to my daughter’s boyfriend and tell him how a man should act. Gator doesn’t beat around the bush,” said Linda. Jimmy “Gator” Sherman, who spent 20 years in prison before he began coaching boxing at The Rock, added, “I can relate to a person who’s been to prison, who’s struggling on drugs, or who’s homeless because I’ve been there. But I also understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and I’m so grateful and want to share that with these young ones around here.”

Lucille and ladies

Lucille Osborn, center, talks with women in the sanctuary before church. Ladies frequently come to Lucille, Buddy’s wife, for advice, Bible questions, and hugs.

God Guides, God Provides

“I was facing 180 years of incarceration,” recalled Buddy Osborn, senior pastor of Rock Ministries Calvary Chapel Kensington. Buddy was raised, along with his nine siblings, in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia by his single mother. Eventually, he began work as a union roofer and was quickly involved in organized crime. “Unbeknownst to me, the FBI had electronic surveillance, and they were listening to everything that was going on.” Buddy was indicted on RICO (racketeer-influenced corrupt organizations) charges in 1987. He served 28 months on strict house arrest, having been deemed “a threat to the community and a menace to society” before serving five years of an eight-year sentence in federal prison. After his release, Buddy asked Jesus to forgive his wrongdoing, and God radically transformed his heart; he began attending Calvary Chapel Philadelphia and serving with their prison ministry.

In 2003, as Buddy was preparing to start Rock Ministries, he purchased a run-down, abandoned building to convert into a gym. He soon discovered that his new neighbor was one of the witnesses who had testified against him 16 years before. During his trial, Buddy had been particularly angry with this witness. He remembered whispering to his co-defendant, “If I ever see him again, I’m going to take his tongue out and kill him with it.” Instead, Buddy led the man to Christ. And in 2009, the man donated his building to The Rock—giving them space to hold Sunday services.

Lucille and Sara talk

Sara Bouchet, left, talks with Lucille. The women were excited to exchange stories about their week.

“The building we now have as our church is from the same man whom I had said I would do harm to,” Buddy admitted. “I understand the people here because I grew up in Kensington. But I also understand that the ministry has nothing to do with me—it has everything to do with the message of Jesus Christ.”

In addition to boxing, the fellowship also offers men’s and women’s Bible studies, after-school programs for children, music classes, and Bible studies for individuals who struggle with addiction.

“Buddy’s vision was so powerful that I just knew it was given to him by God—to come back to where he was raised and reach the boys through boxing,” said Lucille Osborn, Buddy’s wife. “I would be involved on a surface level, but it stopped there. He mentioned one time that it was important that we reach the families of the boys, and that could only happen through Sunday service,” Lucille recalled. She continued, “That rocked my world because I was not ready to leave the security of my home church.” The Osborns had been happily attending Calvary Chapel Philadelphia and living in the suburbs. But when it came time to start an official church, they left and moved just minutes from Kensington. “His ministry interrupted my world,” she said.

Deborah Mottolo

Deborah Mottolo prays during women’s Bible study. She is a new believer at The Rock CC Kensington and recently came out of a homosexual lifestyle.

Lucille wondered how she could safely bring her daughter Leigha into the inner city. To her delight, Leigha found her place at the church and recently started helping with the church’s drama ministry. “God is so good because our daughter is flourishing here,” said Lucille. “And I see that God has a role for me with the women—as much as the church needed a leader in Buddy, the women needed a leader too. I would not have chosen this, but I see the wisdom in God choosing me to come alongside Buddy. I can’t even imagine not coming to church here—this is our family, and these are our friends.”

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. … The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Psalm 37:3, 23

Mekdes talks to group

Mekdes Birega, second from left, encourages ladies at women’s Bible study as she explains God’s abundant love for each of them. Mekdes is Gemet’s wife and serves as a missionary to Philadelphia.

Proud to Follow Jesus

With a tattoo proudly declaring her homosexuality written across her face and a reputation for regularly being drunk, Deborah Mottolo never expected she would consider herself a Christian. “I used to mock Jesus,” she admitted, “and now I worship Him.” Deborah lives with her sister, Linda, in Kensington. After Linda started following Christ, believers from The Rock would frequently be at their house—one of which was Lizzie Savar. “I didn’t like Lizzie. She would come to my house and ask me questions. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say because I knew it was true,” Deborah shared. Lizzie would enter the room, greet Deborah, and sit down next to her on the couch. Annoyed, Deborah would ignore her and turn her back toward Lizzie. “That Lizzie will stick with you, though,” Linda commented. In 2012, Deborah went to a women’s breakfast and Bible study at the church and then to a service the following Wednesday. “I just wanted to check it out. Buddy was speaking, and Lizzie came in and sat next to me,” said Deborah.

Before long, Deborah realized that her life was incomplete without Jesus. She accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Now Deborah celebrates a new life in Christ. “The enemy had me for so many years. I told people I was born gay, and that was a lie. I was drinking, doing drugs, and cursing. But He is changing me, little by little, and I never want to look back,” she exclaimed. Deborah started getting tattoos when she turned 18, and they now cover her face, neck, and arms. Lizzie commented regarding the tattoos, “She loves Jesus and wants the tattoos removed. I think that’s amazing, but they are a part of her testimony.”

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Encountering Christ

Afterschool bible study

During CC Kensington’s afterschool program, Christy Hoffman helps a girl with her reading assignment.

The only thing restraining Brian Wimer from alcohol and drugs was the thought of going back to jail—again. The temptation was too strong to bear in his own strength, though, and he constantly found himself intoxicated. “I would hit the streets, come home, and then go out on the streets again,” recalled Brian. He came home one day to find his mom holding his already packed suitcase. His father looked at him and demanded that he get in the car. “He pulled up at the train station and said, ‘Just get out of here. You care more about these streets than you do your family,’” Brian remembered.

Brian then spent years living on the streets before he decided to get clean. While recovering from drug and alcohol addictions, Brian was invited to The Rock. His girlfriend Dawn followed him there shortly after. “Christ met us at the door,” Brian stated. “Recovery programs took me as far as they could, and when I came here, I felt the power of Christ for the first time. Of course we have our biological families, but these people are definitely family members too. With no other motive than to help us know Christ, they give everything they have.”

Kids hug teacher

Kids in the afterschool program say goodbye to one of the volunteers on her last day serving in the ministry before moving.

When the couple began attending The Rock, they were not married but living together. The congregation was reading through 1 Corinthians at that time, learning about purity. Through hearing God’s Word, Brian and Dawn felt strongly that they should make their relationship right before God. “I’ll never forget the day I called Buddy to tell him that Dawn and I were on our way to get our marriage license. We were on cell phones, but I could picture him dancing on the other line,” said Brian.

As God transformed their lives, the newlyweds were restored to their families. “I terrorized my mother and father,” Brian acknowledged about his former lifestyle. “Well, I spent the night at their house on Mother’s Day. Now, I have keys to their house. At times of trial and tribulations, they call us for advice.” Dawn also said that for the first time in her life, she has keys to her parents’ house. “I work for my brother. I had my daughter [visit with me] for the first time on Mother’s Day; I started to cry, and she gave me a big hug,” Dawn shared. “And I can’t thank anybody but God because I know He did that for me.”

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Craig and Yared listen

Yared Argaw, right, Gemet’s son, listens and exhorts another man after church. Attendees linger after service in the gym, where they can enjoy soft pretzels and conversations with new and old friends.

A Bible sat on a desk in the intern office of Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe (CCBCE) in Vajta, Hungary. No student was able to decipher what language it was written in, though. An intern asked several people if they could read it, but no one could—except Gemet Argaw. “That’s my language!” the Ethiopian refugee celebrated. The Bible, which had been left behind by a former Ethiopian student, was now in the possession of Gemet, who had been struggling to understand the English Bible he had been provided earlier.

Before the 2008 Olympics, Gemet, an Olympic boxing trainer, traveled to Hungary for an international coaching course. But while in Hungary, a political election back in East Africa caused trouble for his family, which could have put his life in jeopardy if he returned. “Don’t come home,” an Ethiopian friend advised him over the phone. Gemet then became a refugee. A missionary met him at the refugee camp and invited him to CCBCE. Gemet embraced the offer to study the Bible—his family followed him there two years later. While in Bible college, Gemet heard about The Rock. Boxing is my gift; I want to use it for God, he realized. In 2010, Gemet and his family moved to Philadelphia as missionaries to Kensington.

The former Olympic trainer now serves as the head boxing coach at The Rock, and his wife Mekdes serves in the women’s ministry. Their eldest son Yared leads Bible studies and runs The Rock’s missions program, which accepts short-term teams from around the country to serve with them. The family never anticipated they would be on the mission field, but they said that God changed their thoughts and directed their plans to The Rock. “This is a good opportunity to serve the Almighty God, and nothing compares,” declared Gemet. “God has a plan; that’s why He brings people here from everywhere.”

Gemet bible study

Gemet guides a younger believer at CC Kensington through God’s Word. Every Tuesday, men from the church have breakfast together followed by a Bible study.

Vessel for Honor

Johnny Rivera reached for the gun tucked away under his clothes. He aimed for a young man in the car driving past him. Johnny pulled the trigger—five times. Bullets flew and grazed his rival’s arm. Johnny felt no shame; this was just part of life for the tough 15-year-old. His only regret was not getting a better shot. In retaliation, the same enemy of Johnny’s fired back and hit him. The bullet, which is still lodged in Johnny’s knee, reminds him of the perilous life he once lived—before he met Christ.

Shortly after Rock Ministries began, when Johnny was a teenager, he heard about the gym and signed up for boxing lessons. Buddy and others trained him in the sport and encouraged him to participate in Bible study. Though he scoffed at first, Johnny eventually gave in. “Being at The Rock and hearing the Word of Christ changed me,” Johnny later reflected. The young man quit dealing drugs and getting into street fights and began pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27

Now, 10 years later, Johnny is Gemet’s boxing assistant. By God’s grace and with godly mentors like Buddy, Johnny’s life has been radically transformed. He works as an operating engineer with the union, has been married for nine years, and has three children. But above all else, Johnny said he has a burden to make God’s Word known and to be a bondservant of Christ. “I would like to see more people enjoy heaven and help others see the light,” he expressed.

Johnny, Buddy, and Gemet

Left to right, Johnny Rivera, Buddy, and Gemet discuss boxing techniques during an outreach in the park. Johnny first joined The Rock for the free boxing lessons, but learned about Jesus while there. Now he is the assistant to Gemet, who is the head trainer.

Just as he was trained both physically and spiritually by Buddy, Johnny now mentors younger men. “Marquan has been coming to The Rock for a year now,” began Johnny. “He’s been staying with me and my family every weekend for the last six months.” Johnny teaches nine-year-old Marquan about Jesus and boxing, just like he does his own sons. “I understand him and want to show him love,” stated Johnny, whose father was incarcerated when Johnny was a kid. “My dad got locked up and my mom was out prostituting and drinking—she abandoned us when I was three,” he explained. “By nine, I started smoking marijuana; and by 12, I was selling cocaine. I was in and out of fights all the time. By 16, I was living in my car.” But Marquan, said Johnny, has stopped picking fights with other kids, wants to go to church, and reads his Bible.

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21

Great and Mighty Things

Benjamin Tichy had two main goals for his life: to get rich and make a name for himself—and he was on his way. The young man competed in boxing and mixed martial arts. “I believed that in order to be successful in the world, you had to become a famous athlete,” he recalled. But when Benjamin blew out both of his knees in a fight, his dream was crushed. He turned to drugs to numb his physical and emotional pain and was soon addicted. “I went through a crazy season in my life where I just didn’t even want to live anymore,” he admitted.

Later, Benjamin took up residence in a halfway house, hoping to get clean from his substance abuse. “A friend told me about Jesus—he told me about forgiveness. I ended up at a Bible study, but I wasn’t getting it,” said Benjamin. As his struggle persisted, he moved in with his girlfriend, quit attending the Bible study, and entered in one last fight. “I broke both of my hands in the fight,” he stated. More than ever, Benjamin questioned what he was living for and contemplated ending his life. But just in time, his friend invited him to a Harvest Crusade, where Benjamin accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. “My whole life changed,” he exclaimed. “God restored my entire life.”

Ben shares gospel

Benjamin Tichy, left, explains Jeremiah 29:11 to a student from the public high school. Students are welcomed at the church to serve and work alongside interns to fulfill a community service requirement for graduation.

Buddy invited Benjamin to serve at The Rock as an intern, but Benjamin declined, not wanting to be around combat sports ever again. The athlete couldn’t shake the feeling that he belonged at the gym, though, and he eventually accepted Buddy’s offer. “We get up and have devotions, and then we have maintenance responsibilities in the building. We have Bible studies and evangelism—we are learning to be [spiritual] servants,” he shared. Another duty Benjamin performs as an intern is to train the boys who come to The Rock for boxing. “We get to work with the brand new kids who come in—most aren’t saved and don’t know anything about boxing. God gives us grace to share the good news with them and shape and mold them.”

Benjamin relates sports to Christianity when he teaches the boys: “A good fighter has to be patient and wait for his shot. In boxing, you might feel like you’re not good enough; you might feel like you’re losing, but you can’t just make decisions based on your feelings. In Christianity, you have to be patient and wait on the Lord.”

Looking over the past nine months of his internship, Benjamin recognized, “I learned things the hard way. I realize now that it’s not about being the best. It’s about learning to be disciplined and do all things to the glory of God. I’m starting to talk to my mother again and have conversations with my brothers. I met my wife here. I have peace and joy. Before I knew Jesus, I barely knew how to read. Now I love reading God’s Word so much. I wasn’t living before, and now I have everything I was looking for.”

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

therockphilly.org

therockphilly.org/school-of-urban-ministry

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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