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BY DIERDRE MCCOOL WITH MICHAEL CONRAD
Most people know Jim Caviezel as Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” At Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption, we know him as an adoptive dad.
Caviezel and his wife, Kerri, are strongly committed to representing Christ well. The Caviezels have adopted three children (all with special needs) putting their pro-life stance into action. At the 11th annual Angels of Destiny dinner, Jim Caviezel will share his personal adoption story along with his powerful testimony regarding his role in the filming of “The Passion of the Christ.”
This Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption fundraiser will be held Thursday, Aug. 30, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the mystery pull and auction. The program begins at 7 p.m. Dinner will be provided by the Petroleum Club.
Reservation pricing is $125 for an individual and $200 for a couple. Click here to make reservations online. All of the money raised by the Angels of Destiny event will provide life-transforming services to children, women and families in the Oklahoma City community.
Sponsorships ranging from $500 to $50,000 are available for the Angels of Destiny event. For more information, contact Debbie Davis at 405-949-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with “The Passion of the Christ,” Caviezel’s notable roles include Private Witt in “The Thin Red Line,” Detective John Sullivan in “Frequency,” Jim McCormick in “Madison,” Johannes in “I Am David,” Edmond Dantès in “The Count of Monte Cristo,” golfer Bobby Jones in “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” and Carroll Oerstadt in “Déjà Vu.” From 2011 to 2016, he starred as John Reese on the CBS television series “Person of Interest.”
Caviezel’s latest role is Luke in “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” which premiered in theaters March 28 and arrives June 12 at digital outlets and June 19 on Blu-ray and DVD. From the studio of “Risen” and “War Room,” the movie tells the story of Paul who transformed from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to one of Christ’s most influential apostles. In this biblical epic from Affirm Films and Sony Pictures, Caviezel plays Luke who risks his life to visit Paul (James Faulkner, “Downton Abbey”) who is held captive in a Roman prison under Emperor Nero’s rule.
But before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of “The Way” and the birth of what will come to be known as the Christian church. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” also features Olivier Martinez (“The Physician”) as the Roman guard Mauritius Gallas, John Lynch (“The Secret Garden”) as Aquila, and Joanne Whalley (“Willow,” “A.D. The Bible Continues”) as Priscilla.
Dierdre McCool is the executive director of Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption. Michael Conrad is the media specialist for Lovell-Fairchild Communications, which handles publicity efforts for “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”
Top photo credit: Luke (Jim Caviezel, left) and Paul (James Faulkner, right) discuss recording Paul’s teachings in “Paul: Apostle of Christ.” © 2018 CTMG; all rights reserved.
The Board of Trustees of Central Christian College of Kansas is pleased to announce an exciting new opportunity for President Hal Hoxie (pictured at right). Retired Col. Hoxie will be transitioning into the role of president of the Butterfield Memorial Foundation located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Board of Trustees greatly appreciates the strong, dedicated service President and Mrs. Hoxie have provided Central Christian College.
Hoxie has served as president of Central Christian College of Kansas for over eight exciting years. Under his leadership, the college has continued to focus on a Christ-centered education for character, while continuing to execute a long-term strategic plan to ensure campus sustainability. Additionally, President Hoxie has been instrumental in developing an online division that facilitated enrollment growth to over 1,000 students.
During his tenure, President Hoxie has successfully presided over two accreditation visits and has significantly improved the college’s overall financial position. He implemented the College Work Program (CWP), which has had the dual effect of reducing operational costs and allowing students to work while attending college with little to no debt. In correlation with the CWP, and with full support of the board, President Hoxie initiated several small auxiliary businesses that provided job opportunities for students. These businesses, which include Kids’ Kampus Daycare, Kansas Certification Testing Center, Two Tigers and a Truck, and Heartbeat Coffee, provide 40 student jobs and also supplemental fiscal resources for the college.
Board Chair Dr. Gary Anderson said, “It is with sincere regret, along with a sense of excitement, that we accepted President Hoxie’s resignation. We as the Board of Trustees are very pleased with the progress that has been made under his leadership. We are also excited that he will continue to support our college in his role as president of the Butterfield Foundation. The trustees celebrate President Hoxie’s sense of God’s calling and look forward to a continued relationship in his new role. He and his wife, Kathy, will be sincerely missed.”
As part of its transition plan, the board has appointed the Rev. Dr. Leonard Favara (pictured at left) as interim president. Favara has served the college for over 18 years and has full support of the board to execute the strategic mission of the college during the transition. Anderson said, “Dr. Favara has served extremely well during his tenure as our provost, and we anticipate the same in his role as interim president of Central Christian College.”
The Venice Free Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California, recently celebrated Senior Pastor Jim and Suzanne Miyabe’s four decades of service.
The Miyabes have led a fruitful period of ministry for this resilient congregation, which started out way before World War II but then had to regroup and start from scratch to minister to the many lost and confused but hardworking farm families that moved back to the Venice-Santa Monica area after they left the Japanese-American internment camps following the end of the war.
For this festive occasion with a Hawaiian theme, the church changed from its usually sedate atmosphere to a sanctuary alive with palm trees, a little grass hut, beautiful flowers of many colors and everyone dressed in casual Hawaiian wear. During the festivities, church members reflected on how the couple’s 40-year ministry has helped so many get over the rocky places in their lives.
Angela Meadows began the program by playing her ukulele and singing Pastor Jim’s favorite hymn, which states, “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.”
Denise Suzuki Tang shared the many positive experiences she had while growing up at Venice Church with Pastor Jim, Suzanne and the inspirational teachers that convinced her to follow Jesus. Denise and her husband, Rob, left their comfortable lifestyle in Los Angeles to spend the past nine years in Thailand protecting street children from being sold into sex slavery.
Larrow Kaufman told how Pastor Jim officiated at his father’s funeral while he was personally struggling with growing up with a father who was never there for him. Jim simply said to him, “Grace, Larrow, grace.” Growing up at Venice Church, Larrow knew that meant “forgiveness and love.”
It is now “politically correct” to have friends of all backgrounds and races, but Jim’s multiethnic ministry started with him, his wife and his family more than 40 years ago.
Kiku Kubo shared how much it meant to her for Jim to visit her and her husband when he was terminally ill with cancer and then tragically and more recently with her daughter.
I could identify because my husband went through a major heart attack when I flew to Dallas to care for my terminally ill cousin Jill. That was followed by 13 bouts of congestive heart failure over the next nine years and then a major stroke. Pastor Jim was always there to talk and pray with my husband. No matter how sick he was, his hands became very strong as he grabbed Pastor Jim’s hands when he entered the room. They both laughed when Jim said, “What’s going on here, Richard? Even cats have only nine lives.” Somehow my husband sensed Pastor Jim’s spiritual strength and love as he held my husband’s hands and prayed with him and for him.
Thanks to Jim and Suzanne Miyabe, many people at Venice have taken on the ministry of healing, compassion and love.
Cheri Sakai is a longtime member of the Venice Free Methodist Church. Her writing has appeared in The Rafu Shimpo, the nation’s leading Japanese American newspaper.
Mark Dowley is the new chief operating officer of the Free Methodist Church – USA. Dowley — who served the last nine and a half years as the conference business administrator for the Southern Michigan Conference — took office Jan. 1 following the retirement of Larry Roberts.
“I’ve been Free Methodist all my life. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a pastor in the Free Methodist Church, and so it goes deep in our roots,” Dowley said.
Dowley said he wants “to emphasize providing excellent customer service to the people we serve, which is basically anyone who’s out on the frontlines for our denomination. … We want to be able to provide the tools from our side so that they can do their job well.”
Dowley has lived in the neighboring Michigan communities of Spring Arbor and Jackson throughout his life. He worked for and then purchased his family’s manufacturing company, which specialized in automotive hand tools. After selling the business in 2001, Dowley focused on real estate investing and development along with website and e-business development.
Through service in a variety of volunteer roles in the Jackson Free Methodist Church such as the finance committee, leadership team and drama ministry, Dowley became close friends with then-Pastor Thomas Ramundo. After Ramundo became the conference superintendent, Ramundo began seeking Dowley’s financial advice and eventually persuaded Dowley to join the conference staff.
Dowley’s hobbies include sleight-of-hand magic tricks. His father learned tricks from his grandfather who toured as a professional magician and became friends with Percy Abbott, who has been called “the Henry Ford of the magic business.”
Dowley met his wife, Diane, an elementary school teacher, at Spring Arbor University (from which he received a business degree in 1982), and they married in 1985. They have two children, Alex and Hannah.
On Feb. 23, 2015, Phyllis Sortor was kidnapped by gangsters while at a Christian school in Nigeria. Sortor’s abduction and eventual release made international news, but the full story is just now being told through the release of Sortor’s new book, “The Kidnapping of an American Missionary: One Woman’s Story of Courage and Conviction Under Fire.” Here is an exclusive excerpt.
My friend Ruth drives into the compound, followed closely by her husband, Reverend Hamul. Our three vehicles are parked under the shade trees in front of the Ogebe Free Methodist Church. I stand with Ruth and her husband, rejoicing over the morning’s success.
Suddenly, gunshots shatter the air, and several men dressed in black, with hoods pulled over their faces, run at us from every direction. As they come, they continue firing.
Rev. Hamul shouts out behind me, calling on the name of Jesus.
“In Jesus’ name,” I repeat slowly, frozen in place, not sure what’s happening.
The men are running straight for me.
Two of the gunmen grab my arms, pulling me across the compound toward the wall. One of the men hits me hard across the face. Then he hits me again. I am aware of dropping my cell phone. I trip and lose one of my shoes.
“Today is the day you die,” growls the man on my right. They pick me up and throw me over the wall. Then they haul me to my feet and begin dragging me up the hill behind the school.
Two of the gunmen hold my arms while another pushes me from behind.
Is this happening? Or is it a dream? I don’t understand. I hear a sudden cry from the direction of the school. Are people coming to rescue me?
My mind is somehow fogged up. My legs and feet won’t work right. The men keep pushing me up the hill over ground covered with fallen leaves and spiky, dry grass. The kidnapper leading the way avoids sandy patches, keeping to places where his footprints will not leave a mark. He’s rushing forward in a zigzag manner, uphill and down, trotting, walking, running
We’ve been moving for over an hour now. I’m trying hard to keep up, but it’s difficult. I’m so thirsty, so hot. I need water. I need to rest. But we keep running, running and running. I sink down to the ground over and over again, begging for water. Finally, someone thrusts a water bottle into my hands. After one gulp, the man takes it back. He pours some water on my head, which feels good and cools me down.
The tall kidnapper on my right notices my bare foot, takes off his own sandal and puts it on my foot. Then he shouts, “Oya. Oya.” Let’s go. Let’s go. He pulls me back to my feet. We keep moving like this for several kilometers.
Somewhere along the way, I am no longer able to walk on my own. I keep sinking to the ground, begging for water, begging to rest. Two of the men sling my arms around their shoulders and drag me along with them. This is the only way I’m able to continue.
I turn to the man on my right, a tall rangy man dressed in jeans, a military jacket over an embroidered shirt, a long vest, and billed cap. He’s not wearing a mask like the others. He has a pleasant, open face, and slightly protruding ears.
“What is your name?” I ask. “I am Alhaji Ismaila,” he answers.
“I am Rev. Phyllis,” I say.
We push on; the kidnappers taking turns helping me walk.
All I can think about is water. “Water, I need water,” I keep saying. But there is little available. Each man has only a small water bottle hanging from his belt, and they do not seem eager to share. I am so incredibly hot and thirsty.
We continue moving through the bush. Finally, I am told there is a “moto” ahead, waiting for us, and the reality of this situation nearly drops me to the ground. I’ve been kidnapped. There’s a car. A car that may take me out of this area, that may take me out of the state. Where will they take me?
How will anyone find me if they take me away from here? The terror leaves me breathless. I feel sick to my stomach and struggle not to throw up.
Oh God, save me. Save me. Save me.
A few minutes later we come to a motorcycle hidden in the trees. A masked driver waits. This is the “moto” Ismaila referred to. A motorcycle, not a car. Thank God. Thank God. Surely, we won’t go far on a motorbike.
I’m told to get on behind the driver. Ismaila pushes a hood over my head and tucks my hair beneath the black wool. There are eyeholes, so I can still see. He takes off his army jacket and makes me put it on. But despite this disguise, I know people would still be able to see my hands and legs as we pass by and be able to identify me as a white woman. If so, would they report to someone in authority, someone who would then know where to start the search? How I pray this will happen.
Ismaila gets on the motorcycle behind me. I’m wedged tightly between him and the driver. They keep pushing forward through the forest, weaving and turning as they go, scouts loping along in front and at our sides. There are many men in this gang. I count at least seven. I look around as best I can, trying to see familiar landmarks. At one point, I think I see Afad Mountain in the distance, but I can’t be sure. We could be on the west side of the mountain, but I don’t really know. It must be late afternoon. We’ve been driving through the wilderness for hours. I am so unbelievably thirsty and yearn for a sachet of the pure water we drink in Nigeria, although any water would do. We arrive on the bank of a deep, narrow ravine, a dry riverbed.
I’m taken off the bike so weak and stressed that I fall as I am pushed down the steep bank. I ask if we can dig in the dry riverbed for water, but Ismaila says there’s none there. The men push me along the ravine for a short distance, around several bends, to an area hidden by overhanging branches. They tell me, “Rest here.”
I collapse to the ground, my stomach lurching from exhaustion and fear. I throw up what’s left in my stomach and immediately pass out, coming to minutes later, still with my face in the dirt. Gradually, I become aware of the leaves plastered on my face, my mouth filled with earth and vomit. I can feel ants crawling on my legs. Never in my life have I felt so defeated, never in such despair.
Then I realize how I must appear to these men, these kidnappers. They must see me as repulsive, filthy and disgusting, weak and afraid, a helpless victim to be treated any way they please.
When I visualize myself as they surely must, I’m appalled and angry. It is then and there I decide that if I’m going to make it through this ordeal alive, I must take control of myself. I must show my captors the kind of person I really am — not a frightened and helpless victim, but a strong woman, a Free Methodist missionary, an American expatriate working with the state governor on a project impacting thousands. I need to establish myself, in their minds, not as an object to be reviled, but as a leader to be cared for and respected.
God tells me my identity is as Christ’s beloved. My present circumstances must never define me. This broken, helpless victim is not who I am. I must overcome these circumstances if I’m going to make it out of here alive.
I look around for a rock to sit on. Then I pull myself up, and arrange my skirt around my legs, brushing away the dirt and leaves. I’m thankful for my clothes: the shirt and jean jacket, the long skirt — though the hem is now shredded from the run through the forest — and the scarf tied around my neck. I use the scarf to scrub my face as best I can, then sit awaiting my captors.
The sun is going down. It’s cool and quiet in this ravine. I listen carefully to try and identify the kidnappers’ location. But I hear nothing at all — no bird song, no rustling of dry leaves or steps in the grass.
Maybe the men have left to find food. Maybe they intend to spend the night elsewhere, imagining me too weak to escape. As the minutes pass, I think maybe I can escape, but am I brave enough to try? If indeed the men have gone, I’d be a fool not to make the attempt. I continue to wait and listen.
I hear cows in the distance and children’s voices off to the left. The children are laughing, calling back and forth to each other. I’m sure they are Fulani boys, following the herd back to their camp after a long day in the bush.
Should I go to them and ask for help, ask them to take me to their family? I quickly dismiss the thought. I cannot involve these children. I won’t put them in harm’s way.
I think about walking back down the ravine to the right. I had noticed a patch of sand earlier, where I might dig and find water. I am so thirsty. If I walk toward the right and am caught, I can say I was looking for water.
After long minutes, I slowly stand and take one step toward the right. Instantly, several men materialize from the deep shadows, surrounding me, pointing their guns at my head. I tell them I just want to dig in the sand I’d seen on our way in.
“I told you there’s no water there,” Ismaila says sternly.
I ask him for a drink from his water bottle, and he allows one small gulp. I turn and sit back down on the rock.
Ismaila continues to stand over me. His face is turned away, but I decide to ask him the question weighing heavily on my mind.
“What is the plan, Alhaji?”
“Someone wants you killed,” he tells me. “Did you know we done follow you from the school this morning? We done see you enter one chief’s compound in that village along Ilagba Road. We done see you return to the school. My Oga was driving his moto. He done show me the one I supposed to kidnap and kill.”
“You don’t want to kill me, Ismaila,” I say. “I’m an old woman, a mother with children and grandchildren. Ismaila, is your mother still living? I am probably the age of your mother.”
“Yes, my mother [is] alive. In fact, she is about your age. You are the age of the mother who done borne me.”
“Would you like it if someone kidnapped your mother, Ismaila? If someone killed your mother?”
“No. I wouldn’t want someone to touch my mother.”
“Do you have a family, Ismaila? Are you married?”
“Yes, I’m married.”
“One wife or two?” I ask, smiling at him.
“Only one wife,” Ismaila laughs. “One wife is enough for me.”
“Do you have children?”
“Yes, three children — two boys and one girl.”
“What are their names?”
“Mohammadu, Abubakar and Aisha.”
“Those are lovely names. I have children too, and grandchildren, Ismaila, even great-grandchildren. They are very worried about me. You need to let me live, Ismaila. You need to take me home to my children.”
“You are right,” Ismaila says. “You are the age of my mother. I should not kill you. If you were a man or a boy, I could kill you. But you’re an old woman the age of my mother. I no fit kill you.”
Suddenly Ismaila straightens up and looks me straight in the eye for the first time. He says, “I promise that I will not touch you or allow anyone else to touch you.”
Read the rest of the story by going to fmchr.ch/psortor and purchasing Sortor’s book.