Krystal texted her friends, “I don’t know what we’re getting into but come to my house and check this out.” After watching the “How to Start a Group” videos, Krystal jumped in.
And it all got started with just a white and black I am Second wristband. After receiving the bracelet from her youth pastor, she checked out the website, watched the small group videos, texted a few friends and started her I am Second Group.
A group of five high school students turned into twenty-five students or more packing out Krystal’s house within just a few months. After reaching out to her band friends, the word spread to the Drill Team, and reached all the other groups in the high school. Before she knew it, everyone was asking what I am Second was. Each Tuesday night, people from all groups of the school began hanging out together, playing some Game Central, eating snacks, and discussing the I am Second films.
This buzz in the hallways, attracted even the younger kids, who began begging their parents to drop them off each week. Now when the phones go off at school it’s because they are texting each other about the group. Throughout the week, the students make a point to help one another apply what they discussed and share what they learned with other friends. When Spring semester hits, the students train new group leaders for the next year. Today, the group continues to multiply into one group after another.
Interested in getting involved in student-led I am Second groups? Check out I am Second Students.
One kid had “satan” written across his chest and many people had scars covering their forearms. Some would only stay a minute, but then you get those few who just wanted someone to listen. Whether it was a down pour or scorching sun, kids would trickle by the booth and ask what I am Second was all about. Check out these stories from the volunteers and kids who visited the booth.
“I had a long conversation with a sixteen year old named Leah. She came to the tent and started crying. Without saying anything to her, I walked over and gave her a hug. She bawled on my shoulder. We talked for hours about the things she has bent through in life: raped and pregnant at twelve years old, lost the baby, sexually abused at fourteen by a thirty year old man now in prison. I prayed over her and we talked for a long while about her ambitions in life. She wants to go into the medical field and help people. I gave her an I am Second Bible and she promised she would read it. She was beaming when she left our tent for the day.” – Joe; Cleveland, Ohio
“I walked my butt off trying to find two teenagers at ‘Warped Tour’ in Cuyahoga Falls. No matter how swollen my feet were or how many miles I probably walked to find them, I did find one sign for I am Second. I stopped to take a break and there was the sign. I continued to look for my teen’s I brought with me, but at the same time was looking for a booth. By the grace of God, I remembered when my son gave me my rubber bracelet to wear when I finally decided to go back to church almost two years ago, since my divorce seven years ago. I truly am enlightened to find this booth. I am back and I am ready to give it all to Him.” -Emily; Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
“Okay. So here’s my story for the campaign I am Second. At the Chicago date for Warped Tour, I spotted the tent for I am Second. It interested me, so I went up to the tent and talked with a man. He told me what they were about and I told him I full on supported them and explained to him how I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for a number of years now and how I was almost six months free of cutting, but I was finally telling myself life was worth the battle and things would get better. He hugged me and told me how proud he was of me for overcoming my battles. I fully support this campaign and what they’re about. Everyone should check them out when they have time!” -Amber; Chicago, Illinois
“I had a really good conversation with a kid named Colten. He said he had been dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide when he was alone at home every night. He said he felt like he didn’t have a purpose in life and didn’t know why he was here and had no one to talk to about what was going on(mostly bullying and being picked on). I talked to him for about 15-20 minutes just about his life and things going on. Towards the end of our conversation he voiced that he really wanted to start going back to church and it had been five years since his last attendance. All of his memories from church were really positive and he really enjoyed his youth group but it had been so long that he was scared to go back. He tried going with his last girlfriend and as they were on the way he got sick to his stomach and started throwing up from anxiety and nervousness. So I encouraged him to try it again and he promised me he would. It was a great encounter and I have been praying for him. Hopefully he will get back involved with church and use the 24/7 chat if he needs to.” Ben; Volunteer in Kansas City
Dylan Stopher was given his first I am Second wristband while volunteering at a Newsboys concert. Whether it is at his job as a Funeral Director, with his youth group, or back in South Africa, Dylan uses every opportunity he gets to ignite a fire with the message of Second. While Dylan has numerous opportunities to share with individuals in the states, his most inspiring moment involves sharing Second on his first trip to Johannesburg, South Africa.
When he arrived, Dylan and his team were invited to attend a BBQ, but declined the invite to host a youth gathering instead. Dylan, a lover of rap music, asked the group if they had heard of the Hip Hop artist, Lecrae. He was astonished to find none of the teenagers knew him. At that moment, he played Lecrae’s I Am Second film. He quickly noticed the youth were captivated as this young artist who looked like them and talked about the radical freedom he found outside the world of drugs, theft, alcohol and gang activity. Tears and conversations gradually filled the room. By the end of the gathering the youth flooded the product table wanting an I Am Second wristband and other tools. Before you knew it, the team ran out of all the product!
Later that night, a man found Dylan because he sincerely wanted a wristband. They began to talk. He opened up about his previous crack addiction and how Lecrae’s film encouraged him to find his identity and hope elsewhere. The night came to a close when Dylan gave this man his I am second volunteer t-shirt.
It all started when a young guy named Ethan was diagnosed with a rare cancer four years ago. Last year an 8th grader named, Peter, got his buddies together on Friday mornings to pray for Ethan at a middle school in Midlothian, TX. They began using I am Second materials and as they opened it up to others, it immediately went to 80+ students.
J’s Coffee Shop is an outreach ministry where we encourage our regulars to invite friends who belong to different faiths. We try to make it not seem so much like church so they won’t feel intimidated. It actually started out as a homework club, but after three to four times the kids figured out it was more fun if they didn’t bring their homework. We do a very short devotion time. Aside from that we just hang out, eat, play games, etc. When I use the IAS videos for devotion time, I usually make some comments about the content and I always invite questions, but I don’t force the issue. We have watched dozens of films such as Propaganda, Vitor Belfour, and Wayne Huizenga.
Most of the discussion takes place in the kitchen afterwards whether one-on-one or in small groups. After the Propaganda video, one kid said that “He explains the truth like a boss”. Another kid was very moved by the Vitor Belfour story, having spent a number of years in a Russian orphanage before being adopted and brought to the US. He said a lot of his story was similar. I think you could have heard a pin drop when I showed the Wayne Huizenga film. They’re pretty smart and I think they picked up that me showing them a film featuring a rich and entitled man was me calling them out as somewhat entitled.
The kids identify with the films and often times they know the people giving their testimony. It’s enlightening for them to see people who seem like they have it all together don’t always have it all together. Many of the kids have realized that having wealth and power does not guarantee happiness. It is hard to say specifically how their lives are impacted, but I know the films are contributing to their lives. Plus, they keep coming and their parents aren’t making them. I’ll take that as a win.
For more information about the I am Second tools, click here.
Until the Summer of 2012, I was not a runner, in fact until my church announced the FIT FOR LIFE 5K – I had never participated in a running race. With some simple social steps and a small group of I Am Second volunteers we created a Facebook group where we would team up, wear the Finish Second shirt, and be united as a team to run.
Now, two years later the I Am Second Runners Group exist to support and to encourage any runner to run, but to always FINISH SECOND- we share stories on how the gear sparks lively conversations and we join forces to create teams on any race at anytime.
With every race I do, I wear my FINISH SECOND shirt and it is amazing how it allows for people to engage in conversations – some identify with the message of I am Second and they shout –” awesome shirt” others say “I love your shirt”. But, the ones I really enjoy are those people that come to me and ask me , “What does I am Second mean?”
I can recall last year when at the TooColdToHold Race this girl approached me and asked, “Why do you wear that shirt? What do you mean Finish Second?” I was able to be open and share my heart with her to let her know that I don’t have it all together. It is my faith in God that enables me to finish any race. I have realized that everything makes sense when I put God first in my life.
The I am Second Runners Group shares this common bond -To live SECOND: to know that we run this race because we were born to do so. We say, “find some running partners, forget what lies behind, strain forward to what lies ahead, and press on toward the goal.” Now, after 20 plus races, I run social runs, run training runs, and lead running groups. I fill my calendar with half marathons and trail runs that go beyond the proverbial 26.2 but at every race, I wear the same shirt, to start a conversation, to FINISH SECOND.
To get the gear and start a conversation please visit the I am Second Store and share your stories with us!
When you hear “Israel,” what comes to your mind? Is it deserts, camels, markets full of tents and vendors, or men in military uniforms? Have you ever asked yourself what it would be like to live a life of Second in Israel, or anywhere else in the world today?
Over the past few years in America, it seems open religious expression has lost its cultural support- no prayers in school, don’t say “Jesus” in public spaces, people going to court for speaking up. Now more than ever, we’re told it’s imperative that we remain politically correct, regardless of what we may feel in our heart to be right or wrong.
But despite our own country’s resistance, we have a freedom we still take for granted. For years now, Stefan, Eitan, and Yair have been collectively working on creative ways to spread the idea of Second in Israel. With several organizations and tools in Hebrew and English, they bring a creative and technologically savvy approach to spreading the idea of Second. In fact, it’s their goal to use much of I am Second’s approach when spreading the message of hope, except for one aspect of it: the gear. They can’t put up a billboard, pass out flyers, or even wear the same gear that we so freely wear here in the U.S.
We, as Americans, have the luxury of using our I am Second gear to start conversations and explain what it means to live Second. However in Israel, to discuss how they live Second faces more resistance, and even giving someone the gear without saying a word is deemed as bribery, particularly when it comes to I am Second and what’s behind it. Stefan remarks, “[we] are seen to be traitors to our own people as those who have ‘converted’ to a different faith altogether and are no longer a part of the Jewish people in any way.”
Much of this resistance in Israel is due to a history of persecution associated with the church. Anything that has to do with living Second is seen as something very negative because of the associatuion with the crusades and even the Holocaust events that happened in the name of Jesus by ‘christians’. Because of this, when the idea of living Second is mentioned in Israel one of the first things that comes to their mind is persecution.
Stefan comments, “If you are [ethnically] Jewish, you can believe in anything. You can be a Buddhist, a satanist, into new age, magic, witchcraft…anything and you are still considered Jewish. But, if you become a follower of [Jesus] you are no longer considered a Jew but a Christian.”
Due to the historical scars, it is nearly impossible to share what it means to live Second in any easy way. Nevertheless, Stefan shares many stories of friends who declare a life of Second because of their boldness despite the resistance in their country. And the group’s ability to harness technology and impart creativity is helping them take the idea of Second to the next level in Israel. You can see that here at oneforisrael.org.
What does this mean for us? Let us take advantage of our freedom and engage our communities. Let us take advantage of our freedom to wear our Second gear and share a life of Second. Let us join our Israeli friends in boldness to declare a life of Second in the midst of resistance. Because despite not being able to use the I am Second wristband to start conversations, the Israeli group still wears the message as a simple reminder to themselves: there is hope!
Take advantage of October’s promotions when you get the gear this month at iamsecondstore.com:
- 10% off Activeware : NO PROMO CODE NEEDED
- 10 FREE wristbands with $30 order : promo code 5910 for IAS wristband; promo code 5911 for YSS wristband
I was told I would never make it to see the age of thirty. As a 10 year old child, I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes.
In 1998, I had made it to my Senior year in a very prestigious art school. I was living the life and my diabetes was taking back seat to the independent and chaotic lifestyle I was leading. I was a very talented fashion illustrator. I was motivated, on fire for the fashion world. I knew it was only a matter of time before I broke through. I knew I had great talent and, honestly, I was pretty arrogant about it. I knew the plan that lay ahead of me and nothing was going to get in the way of that… so I thought.
It wasn’t long after that, while in my last semester of school, that I began to notice some subtle, then not-so-subtle, changes in my vision. Everything became blurry and warped and I was seeing something floating in my field of vision. I brushed it off quickly.
“No time for insignificant issues such as this,” I thought. I had a portfolio to put together, a graduation to attend and a plane flight to catch out of Nowhere, Ohio.
I took a vacation with my Mom, which ended in her scheduling me an appointment with our family friend who was an ophthalmologist. As we sat and talked about the old days, he got a terrible look on his face. The next words out of his mouth were words no diabetic ever wants to hear.
“You have severe diabetic changes in the back of your eyes, Amy.”
Those words lingered in the air and then seemed to fall on me like a ton of bricks. “What does that mean?”, barely speaking the words in an audible sound. I knew what it meant. I had read all of the books. I had heard all of the warnings from doctors throughout my life.
It meant blindness.
I was immediately booked with a surgeon and, as he analyzed the situation, he decided to try to do some work to stop some of the bleeding that was going on in the blood vessels in the back of both of my eyes. He started laser work immediately, but warned me that the more laser work he had to do, the more blind spots I would have in my field of vision.
He sent me on my way to wait and see what this treatment would do. Within days, I had lost all vision. The next step was to do a very detailed eye surgery which involved going into the eye and cleaning all of the fluid out. He scheduled me for this and soon I was waking up from my first eye surgery. Another followed for the other eye and amazingly, a form of my vision was back. There were definitely some permanent differences, but I could see. The world was great once again.
This wasn’t the case, as my surgeon sat down to talk to me about some things. He said he believed I needed to see a kidney specialist. In all of his years of training, he saw how this severity of eye problems almost always had a correlation with kidney failure. He was right. I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of kidney failure and yet another journey transpired shortly after.
Dialysis started a whole new realm of reality for me, as I became very sick. The treatments were going terribly, if they were going at all. I was allergic to the very thing that was supposed to keep me alive. Every access they placed for treatment failed. I lost my vision again, due to all the stress of the actual dialysis treatment and being so recently out of surgery. I became very frightened, believing I wasn’t going to make it through this.
It was during this time that I really started to lean on the Jesus. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior several months prior, as I sat in front of a TV by myself with failing vision, but now He was becoming real. I began to realize that He was the only chance I had of making it through this nightmare. If anyone could bring me through, it was Him.
1. Keep A Positive Attitude
I knew in my spirit this was something I was going to have to do if I was going to make it out of the valley. I spent a period of 1 ½ years blind. I had to learn to adapt. I had to learn to look at the positive side of things, even if it seemed there was nothing positive in sight. My sight was gone. This was my reality; however, God left me with a ray of hope in the darkness. I was able to see light sources, so I would pretend the light I saw was Him. That way I always knew He was there with me. Trusting in God in even the worst circumstances is one of the reasons I find the Bethany Hamilton story so inspiring. Check it out if you haven’t already.
2. Do Something For Others
While on dialysis, my Mom and I found a mission that we could do together. We became the dialysis center’s welcoming committee. She would decorate and greet the patients and their families, while I put my artistic talents to work. I would make the patients holiday gifts and cards to cheer them up in such a disheartening environment. To see their faces light up gave us both joy and it gave me purpose. Janelle Hail, founder of the National Breast Cancer Association, learned the same through her struggle with cancer. Watch her film here.
3. Let God Use What You Have
We have to allow God to use what we have, no matter how insignificant it may seem. He can multiply whatever we give. Never underestimate the ability of a willing heart. God sees the heart above all else and knows the motives with which we do things and He honors those who are willing to offer whatever they have to honor others. We saw this time and time again in the dialysis unit.
4. Don’t Settle For Mediocrity
It’s only natural to see our abilities and think that’s exactly what God wants for my life; however, that could just be a small portion of the plan He has in store. He can take us on a detour to show us other abilities, stronger abilities and gifts that we ever dreamed possible. Don’t settle for mediocrity and live your life according to what you see for it. Instead, live a life of excellence by allowing God to lead you into the destiny He has chosen for you.
5. Praise Him For His Goodness
No matter what our situations look like, God is good. He is the same yesterday, today and always. His love for us never fails. Even in our darkest times, He is right there, guiding us to our victory, when we allow Him. We have to remember that we don’t see the whole picture of our lives. Our human minds only see a limited scope; however, God sees the whole thing. He sees what is down the road and how He is shaping and molding us to fit perfectly where He wants us. Praise Him in the storm, because on the other side of that storm, you will find your rainbow: A promise He makes to each one of His children to not harm them, but to give them a future. Allow Him to work in and through you. You will never be disappointed. His plan is always the best plan.
Today, I am 10 years post-transplant, with a beautifully functioning kidney (Chen) and pancreas (Miller). I no longer have to be on dialysis and I am no longer diabetic. I am 8 years past the expiration date I was given as a child. I have my eyesight with only minor imperfections. I am healthy and it’s all because of Him. Would I take back anything I have gone through to get where I’m at today? The answer is an emphatic “NO”. I believe everything I’ve been through was for a reason and that reason is to help someone else on his/her journey. There were great difficulties along the way, but by God’s grace, I made it through every valley and now I’m standing on a mountaintop!
Amy Thase-Jacomet is a double organ transplant recipient who learned through many hardships, that God is the one true and faithful constant in her life. She has learned to be very grateful for life and all of its circumstances, because each and every thing we encounter leads us to a greater level of development where we are able to help others in need. She is a writer, an artist, a lover of life and people and now also a wife. She got involved with I am Second through a simple Facebook post which led to a much deeper level of involvement. Once she became involved, she was hooked.
She is I am Second’s newest staff member serving as digital content editor but in a way she’s been part of the team since the beginning.
“I didn’t know anything beyond the billboards,” she said. “My friend, Annie, saw them too and went to the website. When she saw what it was about, she got so excited. Every day she would ask me ‘Did you watch this video? Did you watch this other video?’”
They decided then that they would be more than consumers of some cool films, they were going to join the movement to spread the message. As senior staff members at their school yearbook, they convinced their teacher to let them put an I am Second spread in the yearbook. With an email to I am Second and an interview with the leaders behind the movement, they became one of the first publications to feature the movement.
College came and she got involved with I am Second groups. Texas A&M became the nation’s first school to officially launch I am Second on their campus. (Learn how you can launch groups here: www.iamsecond.com/groups.)
“I invited my friend, Julie, to my I am Second group,” Ashley recalled. “Everyone loved her, accepted her. I think that’s why everyone loved the group. It was a place of acceptance. She didn’t always want to come but always felt drawn back, always came back. She had a tough home life, some bad things happened to her. She found herself dancing at a strip club. We had a lot of hard talks. She wanted the community our group offered but didn’t always know how to accept it. But eventually something clicked and she got what we were all about. Today, she leads a group of her own at her school. Her life is totally turned around and it started right there in our I am Second group.”
“It’s stories Iike hers,” Ashley said, “that makes me believe in this movement, the power of changed lives. It just wouldn’t make sense for me to be anywhere else. I am Second normalizes the deep personal conversations. Gets you talking about the deep things of life without making things weird, gets you talking personal and open so easily. That’s what really sets it up for success.”
From the beginning, when I am Second launched as a local media ministry in Dallas with billboards and commercials, Ashley has been hooked on the movement that changes lives. From T-shirts to wristbands, billboards and films, to the I am Second groups that continue to change lives, Ashley has seen lives changed again and again.
Start your own I am Second movement at work, school, and home with something as simple as the I am Second gear. Get it all here: www.iamsecondstore.com, and don’t forget to use one of September’s promos below.
10% off all Signature Collection Items (Includes everything under “Signature Collection” category) Promo code 5909
Free baseball cap with $40 purchase (IAS or YSS Black Twill Unstructured Low Profile Hat) Promo code 5906- I Am Second ; Promo code 5905 – Yo Soy Segundo
Free College Spiral Notebook with $40 purchase Promo code 5907 – “2” Graphic College Spiral Notebook ; Promo code 5908 – “Hope” Graphic College Spiral Notebook
Surrounded by a sea of parked cars, crispy grass, and enthusiastic concert goers, David and his friend, Brandon, joined the team of I am Second volunteers at Celebrate Freedom 2013. The field around them filled with multi-colored umbrellas, lawn chairs, and beach towels as David and the rest of the volunteers engaged the crowds to share their story and make an impromptu IAS video right there on the spot. David himself connected with I am Second through one of the stories from the site (Lecrae: www.iamsecond.com/lecrae) and couldn’t wait to hear the stories of everyday people. Hear the stories David uncovered in his conversations with people.
Thanks to the volunteers who make I am Second events possible and to the brave people who reach out to the movement everyday with their real stories. Keep living Second!
“One night at my brother’s house, we decided to tell our stories,” said Lavance Meeks. “We told our ‘survivor of’ stories. It was a lot more powerful than we thought. We had survivors of rape, sickness, fatherlessness, doubt.”
Anyone who was willing shared.
“It was out of a lot people’s comfort zone to share such deep stuff,” he recalled. “But we felt we had to share.”
They thought about filming their stories. Lavance saw some I am Second films but knew his friends needed something closer to home, a story from someone they knew.
“My friends don’t know Tony Dungy[link to film] or Lecrae [link to film],” Lavance explained. “But they know me. I wanted to do my video because these people knew where I came from. They knew my past. They grew up in my neighborhood.”
So despite the warnings and fears, Lavance and others began to film their stories.
“The reaction has been strong,” Lavance recalled. “People call and text me all the time now wanting to talk about fatherlessness, about their own problems and issues. They ask me to talk with their children and family. I’ve told my story at churches, at a youth detention center. I’ve been so humbled by the reaction, by how much people have been inspired.”
“I didn’t do this to get pity. I don’t do this for sympathy. I don’t do this so somebody can come and pat me on my back. I’m not even doing this to diss my dad. I just want people to understand that God is your real father. God said in his Word that he would never leave you or forsake you, that his grace is sufficient. That means that no matter what, as long as you got Him, that is all you need. God has proven that to me.”
Do you have a story? Go here to submit your own story www.iamsecond.com/contact/share-experience
Hassan startled awake to a rough hand clamped firmly over his mouth. Heart racing, he felt the cold muzzle of a gun in his right temple.
“Don’t say a word.” A masked voice whispered the command in the dark. “Get up, and come with me.”
For several minutes, Hassan rubbed sleep from his eyes as his kidnapper shoved him through the streets of Cairo’s old city. Hassan had no doubt he had been discovered as one who leads Muslims to faith in Christ. Despite his best efforts to tell people about Jesus without raising suspicions, the government had found him out. It was one of the riskiest places in the world to share Jesus with Muslims.
Hassan had moved to this section of Old Cairo two years earlier. Gifted at bringing Jesus into conversions with Muslim friends, he had yet to see anyone in this neighborhood become a Christ follower. But he had tried daily.
Stumbling through one quiet block after another with a gun in his back, Hassan cried out to God, Isn’t anyone awake to help me? But two hours before the morning call to prayer, Cairo still slept. Not that anyone would care, of course. An imam pushing a Christian through this place wouldn’t garner any sympathy for the victim.
The rough grip on Hassan’s right arm shoved him along quickly, jerking him intermittently for course corrections deemed necessary by his captor. As his death march progressed, Hassan’s thoughts drifted to his rapidly concluding mission here in Egypt. He had studied Islam for years—learning the Qur’an, the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad compiled several centuries after his death), and the teachings of most leading Islamic scholars—all for the purpose of knowing the adversaries he hoped God would transform into brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord had birthed a passion in Hassan to reach Muslims, but all of his preparation didn’t matter, it seemed, on his way to becoming another Egyptian martyr.
“Up the stairs.” The harsh voice interrupted Hassan’s musings.
Hassan wondered how his secret had been revealed, and by whom.
Blood pounded in his veins from fear and the exertion of a five-story climb with his captor up the back steps of an aging building.
“We have to jump off this building onto the roof of that one over there. It’s the only way to get in.”
For the first time since leaving his apartment, Hassan looked squarely at his abductor’s face. Only then did he realize the man had blackened his face to obscure his features. Hassan glanced into the gaping space at which the man now pointed his gun and then stared back at the intense eyes spewing from the dark visage.
“There’s no way I can jump from this building to that one!” Hassan blurted.
“You can, and you will. Get a running start.” His captor pointed the muzzle at Hassan. “You go first.”
Whether death would come from a bullet or a fall to the pavement fifty feet below, Hassan didn’t know, but he believed his companion would use his weapon with the slightest provocation. At least the jump—even if it failed—would extend his life a few more seconds. And if he made it across the gap, who knows what might yet save him?
Adrenaline—and angels, perhaps—yielded the most magnificent leap of Hassan’s life. He landed with room to spare, and his obviously practiced kidnapper thumped beside him, pistol still in hand, two seconds later.
The assailant seized Hassan’s right arm again and forced him toward a hatchway in the abandoned warehouse. Hassan was sure he would never again see the night sky. He whispered, “Jesus, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”
The man flinched almost imperceptibly at Hassan’s prayer. Hassan noticed the fleeting cut of the man’s eyes toward him. The grip on Hassan’s arm tightened.
“Open the hatch door, and climb in quickly.” The gun again pointed the way.
Hassan saw himself struggle through the opening as if he were a player in a movie thriller. He hoped the scene wouldn’t end too quickly, and once inside the gloomy structure, the plot took a startling twist. He recounts what happened over the next several incredible minutes.
“I stepped into a foreboding room, lit with a single candle, fully expecting my immediate execution. Ten obviously Muslim men stood in a circle and stared at me as I entered. They ordered me to sit down. When I complied, the menacing atmosphere changed instantly. The mysterious group smiled at me.”
The man who had kidnapped Hassan spoke first. “We are imams, and we all studied at Al-Azhar University. During our time there, each of us had a dream about Jesus, and each of us has privately become a follower of Christ. For a time, we didn’t dare tell anyone about this. It would, of course, have been our own death sentences. But finally, we could hide it no longer.
“We each prayed to Jesus for His help to learn what it means to be His follower. Over time, He brought us together, and you can imagine our amazement when the Holy Spirit revealed that there are other imams who have found Jesus as well. Now we meet here three times a week at night to pray for our families and for the people in our mosques to find Jesus too. We know you follow Christ. He led us to you.”
Hassan recalls, “I was speechless. Then I was so relieved, I laughed for several minutes while the group watched.”
The kidnapper finally explained the point of this clandestine encounter. “I’m very sorry I had to frighten you with the mask and the gun, but I knew it was the only way to get you here. It was just too dangerous any other way. I apologize. But now our question is, will you teach us the Bible?”
Want to read more? Find the whole story and more in the new book Dreams and Visions, by Tom Doyle . Click here to get the book.
Stories of people declaring, “I am Second and Jesus is First” are happening all around us and around the world. Muslim, Jew, or agnostic, whatever your background, wherever you are with God, Jesus offers hope. Watch the stories of dozens of people who have found that hope at www.iamsecond.com.
Local Fort Worth youth pastor, Craig, trains and mobilizes his student to tell their story and start Second groups in their schools using I am Second films and small group materials. Several groups start almost immediately. Within 6 months, 20 students had started Second groups in 15 different schools and were seeing lives changed right before their eyes. This is Craig’s story…
“Lucas began a group at [his local] high school with some of his basketball team that met at his friends house before practice. The group had met two or three times and the kids began to find accountability and support from the Lord and each other. But one day the father of the boy who lived in the house sat in on the meeting. It was that Sunday for the first time in 15 years that family went to church as a result of the testimony of the group.
“Hannah (a HS junior) began a group at [her] high school. She is the only student from our church that attends this school so she was on an island. That did not stop her. She advertised, promoted and got the word out about her group. The first time she met (last Monday) she had over 40 students show up. They divided by grades and she appointed leaders to each group to ask the questions. All of a sudden multiple groups were started.
“All this to say that God is good and we are excited about where God is going to take us.”
SIX MONTHS LATER
“I wanted to give you an update on our youth group. As of this last week we have over 20 students beginning groups in their schools. We have 15 different schools represented. The impact on our kids has been amazing. They are really beginning to own their faith. I can not thank I AM SECOND enough for all that you all do.”
Download I am Second Group materials free here.
Get the I am Second Church Kit and learn how you can launch your whole church, youth group, or ministry.
Bare walls, an old carpet, and holes where light fixtures were being installed greeted us as we stepped into the new I am Second Nashville office. An old-school projector splashed the I am Second logo onto the side wall where it was being painted on. The Nashville launch had been two years in the making but the day had finally arrived and the city buzzed with excitement.
We passed several billboards as we drove in from the airport, each with the simple and enigmatic I am Second logo, daring the Nashville populous to ask, “Then who is First?” A cadre of local churches and ministries had committed to join the I am Second launch with a church wide I am Second campaign using the newly released Church Kit (check it out here).
Each would build on the citywide momentum established by billboard, radio, and various advertising outlets. I had flown in from Dallas to work with Angie Clawson, I am Second Nashville Director, in getting these churches and ministries trained and up to speed in launching the I am Second campaign. The first training started early that evening. Pastors, small group leaders, and other ministry leaders from around the city gathered to learn more about the movement that had landed on their doorsteps.
(Connect with the Nashville team by emailing email@example.com.)
“The billboards went up this week but already just this morning I had two people ask me what it meant to be Second. They saw my I am Second wristband and wanted to know more. Never before had I had such obvious opportunities to share Jesus with strangers,” one of the trainees said at the training opening.
We walked through all the tools contained in the church kit including the graphical support, small group materials, gear, book, and much more, but more than anything we talked about the power of story that the church kit utilized.
Everyone has a story. Simple or profound. Every person has a story both powerful and important. One that needs telling. One the world needs to hear. The I am Second church kit empowers and unleashes hoards of people to just start telling their story. Whole churches, entire ministries, and small groups can all be empowered to start telling the story of why Jesus is First in their life.
As more trainees flowed in with similar stories of more spiritual conversations being sparked by the local advertising, the bracelets, and T-shirts, the excitement became even more tangible. They began seeing that the potential of unleashing thousand of people around the city to share their story, the message that Jesus is First in Nashville.
Several years before, I had witnessed the launch of my home city, Dallas, with similar excitement. We had no written tools. No book. No Second group materials. And only 12 short films on a fresh new website. Nashville loaded with 4 years of I am Second experience, a host of valuable new tools, 90+ films, the new I am Second church kit, and a goal to bring on board 50 churches this year, promises to be an even more exciting event than I witnessed in my own city.
Keep up with the excitement and follow the Nashville movement? Like the Nashville Facebook page here.
When three students at Guyer High in Denton caught word of a Second student group in a neighboring town, they had to see it for themselves.They were seeking a way to reach more people for Jesus and felt that I am Second could help.
“We want it to be a movement in our school; something that inspires people.” — Megan Washam
With permission from their parents to skip first block, they drove out to Hebron High on an early Friday morning and met with leaders of their Second group. Convinced that I am Second could work for their school, they returned with a renewed passion and began praying that God would do amazing things through them. He did.
“It’s just the atmosphere…God being present in the school, it makes such a difference.” — Suzie Palmer
WIthin weeks they moved from a small group to 30 students, then 40, then 60 and so on until they could no longer be contained by the class room that once held their meetings. Every Friday morning these students arrive an hour and a half early to worship, share stories, and pray together for each other, their school, and their leaders.
“God is doing great things here and we’re just happy to be a part of it.” — Tiffany Walker
60-Days-of-Second: Follow along as 15 bloggers journey through 4 readings each from the new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Together they will blog through 60-Days-of-Second. Get the “Live Second” book in stores NOW.
Day 28 by Kate Conner
“The mark of a follower of Jesus, of one who lives Second, is not perfection (though that will come in the end); it is the fight, the struggle to turn the tides of our desires towards the Maker of our souls” -Live Second, 43.
I have an addiction. Like all addictions, it’s ugly. When I write it you’re going to make some judgments about me, no matter how hard you try not to. No matter how hard you try to remember that we all have our baggage and that Christ died to save me, when I say,
“I am addicted to having and wanting expensive things,”
some presumptions are going to force themselves into your minds.
You might presume that I grew up in privilege, and in a sense, you’d be right. I’ve learned that “privilege” is enormously subjective, but I’ve also learned that the suburb in north Raleigh where I grew up places me in the very upper echelon of global society. Maybe even American society.
I got a car when I turned 16, and my parents paid for it. When I crashed it the following year I got another car. I traveled a lot; I went to France on an exchange trip when I was in the 7th grade and to the Bahamas for a family wedding when I was in the 11th. I had nice prom dresses that I didn’t pay for, and, while I still have a sizeable student loan, my parents paid for three-quarters of my private 4-year college education. This was absolutely the norm in the community where I grew up. My family was not wealthier than my friends’ families – in fact, we had a lot less than some of them.
I’ve never struggled with anger, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, substance abuse, gossip, or eating disorders, but I struggle against materialism and consumerism still.
After five years in full-time ministry. After five over-seas mission trips which exposed me to third-world poverty. Three years after God gave me an enormous burden for cross-cultural missions. After three years of moving towards minimalism, three years of deliberately increasing my giving. After years of living meagerly on one income with 2 kids (and one on the way), it’s lurking under there – in my sinful parts like a dark, dirty cancer.
A.W. Tozer wrote this about sin, specifically materialism and greed:
“The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple.”
This is true of all sin, and it is at once terribly depressing and wonderfully encouraging.
It’s depressing because it hurts. It’s depressing because it’s exhausting. It’s depressing because we don’t ever get to stop fighting. It’s depressing because we might never stop wanting whatever terrible thing it is that we want. (What is it for you?)
But it’s wonderful because we are not alone. This addiction, this struggle, this desire that will. not. go. away. is what Paul was talking about when he wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
It’s wonderful because Paul is a pillar of the Christian faith; he wrote 13 books of the Bible. He served God so fearlessly and faithfully that when we read accounts of his life and faith he almost sounds superhuman. It’s wonderful because, as Doug writes in Live Second, “The mark of a follower of Jesus, of one who lives Second, is not perfection (thought that will come in the end); it is the fight, the struggle to turn the tides of our desires toward the Maker of our souls.”
I recently wrote a post about how much I LOVE living in a teeny, tiny house – how it is one of my new favorite things. There are a lot of surprising, magical reasons, but upon further reflection, I think one I didn’t list in my post was that it keeps me fighting. It’s not a bloody, battle-weary kind of fighting; it’s a peaceful, joyful, falling-in-love-with-my-cozy-home kind of fighting. The tiny house forces me to do that which I know I SHOULD BE DOING anyway, and they payoff is nothing short of miraculous. Deep, abiding contentment. I love this little home more than any other place we’ve ever lived.
I’m at peace today, despite my dirty little longing for fancy clothes and a new car. I have peace because God is huge and vast and omnipotent and His selflessness and generosity in me is enough to conquer the selfishness hiding there a million times over.
His forgiveness is complete, perfect, enough (for my addiction, and for yours).
He’s on my side. He’s for me. He’s with me (and you).
He’s my shield and my sword and my portion in the fight. And His grace is sufficient, Hallelujah.
Check out Kate’s regular blog at kateelizabethconner.com where she writes about stuff: funny, serious, good, hard, embarrassing, inspiring stuff. Tell Kate what you think below.
60-Days-of-Second: Follow along as 15 bloggers journey through 4 readings each from the new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Together they will blog through 60-Days-of-Second. Get the “Live Second” book in stores TODAY!
Day 25 by Kate Conner
“Jesus knew the greater the sinner, the greater the appreciation for the beauty of forgiveness” -Live Second, 39.
You want to know what’s really cool about snagging the Live Second week on “Struggles?” You open up your book and see this.
Then you watch the video. And sweet mother, if you have not watched the video, go do it right now.
You want to know what’s really NOT cool about snagging the Live Second week on “Struggles?” You might actually have to confront your struggles. Publicly. On the internet.
My experience with Live Second began with this powerful video and a powerful story packed with powerful truths. But hidden in the account of all of that mountain-moving power (read it here) is an ugly, condemning reality.
We, as a race, are so married to our comfort zones and status quos that we would forfeit divine healing if it meant we got to keep our worlds exactly as we know them.
We would deny another man healing from the litany of demons that torment him because, to be honest, it’s weird for God to work that way – to go around healing crazy people, rearranging demons, and sending massive herds of pigs into lakes. Surely there’s a way to bring peace and harmony to the world without making such a scene.
We think, “I’m not sure I want healing around here if healing involves drowning 2,000 pig demons.”
Or, to bring it home, “I’m not sure I want healing if healing means I have to confess – out loud to another person – my addiction. If it means the humiliation of another person knowing my thoughts and my selfish motivations. If it means actually feeling sorry and not just saying it. If it means discipline. I don’t know if I want healing all that badly if it means I have to live second.”
But that’s the condition. It always has been. Jesus says, “Here’s the deal. You give me all your ugly, and I will destroy it and give you all my beauty in its place. Give me your weariness and I’ll give you my rest. Give me your sin and I’ll give you my purity. Give me your selfishness and I’ll give you my compassion. Give me your anger and I’ll give you my grace.”
Christianity is an upside down, inside out way of being. It bucks against everything in our nature, against every instinct of self-preservation. Christianity says lose yourself; yourself is messed up. Take Christ instead. Jesus can deliver from legions of demons, but it will look illogical and upside down. It will look like living second in a world that thinks second is foolish.
I’m wary of using a metaphor here, because it’s clear that Jesus delivered this man from literal demons (and delivers us still), but it is significant that this demon’s name was Legion, because there were many. I suspect that you are like me. I suspect that you don’t need deliverance from one demon, you need deliverance from many.
Oh, I don’t know: consumerism, materialism, self-pity, vanity, selfishness, pride, unbelief, lust, discontentment, greed, gluttony, laziness, unforgiveness, fear… You know, just off the top of my head.
The beautiful, liberating, powerful truth is this: that whole daunting legion of demons cowers before Christ’s mercy. He is able to deliver from each of them – from all of them. The problem is, we tend to say, “Jesus, come into my life! I need you! Welcome to my inmost being! I’m just going to have to ask that you not move anything around in here.”
Or at least, that’s what I’ve said to God this week.
God: Confess your attitudes and thoughts to your husband.
Me: I can’t. He’ll think it’s all my fault…
God: Let me work in your heart during church.
Me: But they’ll see me crying. I’m still too new here; they don’t love me enough yet. I’m a pastor’s wife. I can’t…
God: Ask your friend for forgiveness.
Me: It’s water under the bridge, from too long ago. I can’t.
All week I’ve whimpered, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”
And all week God gently whispered back,
“Kate, so that you may be healed.”
Sweet, sweet healing; it’s all any of us really want. I hate my struggles, my demons. They are suffocating and oppressive and they peck away at the best parts of me. And so, the most significant moment in my Live Second journey was this: It was the moment Jesus, merciful Jesus, ready and able to deliver me from all of my wretched demons, lovingly asked me,
Why are you holding on so tightly to something you hate so much?
My challenge to you this week is this: Don’t be those townspeople. I’m sure they weren’t bad people; they were probably really normal and sensible. But don’t be embarrassed for Jesus; don’t be afraid to let him heal you. Don’t be afraid to believe that he can heal the people around you from demons – SERIOUS demons. Demons like meth addiction.
Don’t be so off-put by how it looks that you forfeit the only thing that will make your life right again.
Jesus is merciful. Jesus is able. He is faithful to heal and redeem the ugliest, most scarred and oppressed bits of your life. He will turn everything upside down in doing so –
but you should let Him.
Check out Kate’s regular blog at kateelizabethconner.com where she writes about stuff: funny, serious, good, hard, embarrassing, inspiring stuff. Tell Kate what you think below.
Next for the 60-Days-of-Second: Day 26- “Reckless” by Kate Conner
“I teach United States history to 11th graders at our local public high school. My classes are filled with diverse groups of students. I take my responsibility to prepare these young adults for state testing and graduation very seriously. I also believe real teachers present more than just academic educational materials – we have a God-given platform to reach the next generation and help them break life’s chains. I also take that opportunity very, very seriously.
“I have been showing an I am Second film each Friday in my classes. I pray all week about which one I should feature. God has been faithful to impress upon me just the right one.
“Many of my students listen to hip hop music, so one of the first films I screened was about Lecrae. I have 2 boys that started listening to Lecrae, and they are now learning about Christ through his music’s message. Our school is known as an athletic powerhouse, so the videos from well-known athletes are particularly relevant while presenting positive role models that themselves have become Second. As we came upon the holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, I showed the Ken Hutcherson film. What a powerful testimony about how hate and prejudice can be tamed by Christ. You could have heard a pin drop in my classroom at the end.
“Recently I screened the Ashley Rawls I am Second film. When it was over, my students started asking questions about Jesus and salvation, about grace and mistakes . . . . Wow! At their request I shared the gospel of Jesus with that class.
“I can clearly see God is working in my students’ lives. I Am Second is helping me share about He who is First in a greater way!”
– A “Second” 11th Grade Teacher
Are there people you “teach” formally or informally? It’s easy to share I am Second films via Facebook, Twitter, and the Email App. Just click “Share This” on the bottom right corner of each film page at iamsecond.com.
My I am Second journey began at a NASCAR event. A big billboard truck with a T.V. screen was playing I am second films. Amidst the high-octane excitement they caught my attention and made my heart race for the Lord. I picked up some of the literature there and passed it along to my friends. Then, this past summer our church’s youth group went to camp where they too were introduced to I am Second. God was up to something.
Unexpectedly, I was laid off from my work as a millwork superintendent. I was praying that God would show me the green light to do what was next for me. That’s when I found the online group leader training for I am Second groups on the website and signed up. We had a great teacher and group of people in our sessions. The highlight for me was the “Live and Tell” at the end of each session. I was so supercharged when we went through the “My village” session that I made a list of 50 people that need Jesus. Actually, I talked to 66 people that week. If I was working, I’d never have had the time. Go God Go!
Earlier this year we started an I am Second group that kicked into overdrive and split into two groups by the third week. We invited the leaders of a teen and young adult bible study to our group and they caught on to the movement immediately. Now they lead a small army of young adults, as many as 45 people from high school age to their early 20’s, at a local fish camp. They’re identifying leaders to branch off and lay the track for more small groups. Go God Go!
God took the challenge of my job layoff and turned it into fuel for His race to the kingdom of Christ.
– Chris P.
Get Connected. I am Second small groups are designed to connect people with one another and with God through an authentic, action based discussion group. In an I am Second group you’ll be encouraged to discover your purpose in life through Jesus.
Everyone at our leaders’ conference sat in stunned silence as the young college student shared these words. Nancy was coming regularly to a Second group at the Univ. of North Texas. She told us how she studied the Bible with the others in the group, and even made commitments about how she was going to do what it said. But she freely admitted that she still was wrestling with whether to put her faith in Christ, particularly because of some of her lifestyle decisions.
So when asked why she was involved in the group, even though she was not sure she believed what was being discussed, Nancy said, “Why wouldn’t I want to go where I feel loved? I’m not against Christ, I’m just not sure about Him.”
How many other people around us are like that? Just waiting for someone to show enough interest to engage them in the conversation?
The American League MVP, his wife and three daughters woke Christmas morning to a new tradition.
Mom and Dad were to give their girls only one gift each. They would all hop in a car and head to a homeless shelter later in the day to visit with those who would be lucky to receive anything at all.
The significance of today’s holiday is to celebrate the birth of a man who would make the ultimate sacrifice for others. Josh and Katie Hamilton’s goal is to teach their daughters that Christmas isn’t about receiving a bounty of presents underneath a decorated tree.
About a week ago Duche spoke to in the inmates involved with I am Second at the Dawson State jail. After presenting the Gospel, Duche left all the inmates one of his cards that had his story of transformation from drug dealer to Christ follower. Three days later, Duche got a facebook message from a 17 year old girl, named Michelle (name changed for privacy), saying that her mother had seen Duche in prison, had sent her his card and told her to contact Duche via facebook. She said she liked Duche’s story and she would like to meet Duche someday, but she knew that would probably never happen. She was content with a new facebook friend.
Duche looked up her facebook profile and saw that she was from Lubbock, TX. I am Second had an event in Lubbock at Texas Tech partnering with Campus Crusade and Duche invited her to come. He knew this would be awkward for a lonely high school girl to come to an event with hundreds of people she didn’t know, but she came anyway. When Michelle’s father dropped Duche off, the father asked, “What kind of event is this?” Duche gave him an I am Second tract and invited him in, but he said, “No, no, I’ll come back and pick her up.”
We’re excited about partnering with Campus Crusade at Texas Tech University in Lubbock this weekend! Here’s Ashley’s perspective:
“It’s just two days before I get on the road with my friend, Havana, to begin the exciting eight hour drive to Lubbock from College Station. We’re leaving Thursday afternoon to spend the weekend with the Campus Crusade group at Texas Tech. These wonderful people have opened up over a dozen homes for all of us- we’re coming from Texas A&M, UNT, UT Tyler, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Sam Houston State.
Friday afternoon, about 25 A&M students will begin to pull out of their driveways to road-trip up to Tech and join our very-much-missed friends from all these other campuses. So why on earth are we even venturing out on this long drive from College Station to our rivals up at Tech?
HIGH SCHOOL MULTIPLICATION
We received a phone call from what we thought was a youth pastor asking us to come over and help start some I Am Second groups at a local high school, Hebron High. So, we sent our best curriculum writer and trainer over to help them, but when Doug arrived, he discovered that it was a high school senior who was just looking to make a difference in his high school. Doug helped that senior, along with five of his friends, launch the first ever I Am Second group at Hebron High with much success.
Each one of those guys went on to launch their own groups, and by the second semester, they had outgrown their meeting space and gone through all of the curriculum we could offer them.
Today, less than eight months later, those six seniors have turned into over 100 high school students meeting once a week before school starts.
Oh, and what about curriculum? The seniors are filming their own personal testimonies and writing their own curriculum to go along with it.
These kids are on fire for Jesus Christ and are pursuing a life of being Second.
“I don’t want boring religion God. I want You.”
There was a mosh pit. There was loud, heavy music. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
As I walked back to our booth at the Brian Welch concert a few nights ago, I heard him singing over and over again, “I don’t want boring religion God. I want You.” Those words struck me. It’s the anthem of the broken, the hurting, the bored, the lost—those in need of life-transformation. But it’s not religion that’s going to get them there. It’s God.
I was deeply moved as I stood in the crowd looking around at a group of believers singing/screaming, “You’re washed by the blood”, and cheering as Welch told his story of how he came out of a destructive lifestyle into the arms of his Heavenly Father. These means of worship—the metal, the screaming, the head-banging–were foreign to me. I was actually skeptical about the whole thing. That was, until I was there, experiencing God move in that place. These were people who had been redeemed just as I have been. But the group wasn’t subscribing to conventional “religion” as we know it. It wasn’t a Bible Study, or a worship service on a Sunday morning with 5 songs and words on the screen. It was raw worship. They’ve experienced God, and they were moved enough to scream about it. As Brian said, they “won’t shut up about it” because of all God has done.
Overall, it was just encouraging to see something that was different. It kind of brought a new meaning to the words “sing to the Lord a new song”. It gave me chills to see Brian reaching out to his fans to share with them who God was, sans the traditional church service and “walking down the aisle”. God was there, and it was in no way boring.
As we approach Memorial Day – Monday, May 25 – former Army Capt. Chris Plekenpol can speak to his combat experiences and journey of faith during a time of year when we remember our fallen heroes. He commanded a company in Iraq for a year beginning in September 2004.
Chris’ poignant experience in the military, including how he dealt with and what he learned from losing his first man in combat, is featured on the I am Second Web site. I am Second is a multimedia campaign designed to help people discover their purpose in life through Christ. Its site contains the video stories of struggle, transformation and restoration of celebrities, athletes, pastors and everyday people alike.
Chris Plekenpol is a West Point graduate who is currently attending Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author of “Faith in the Fog of War” and is a highly sought after speaker.
The I am Second Web site has had almost 900,000 visitors since it went online in December 2008 as an initiative of Dallas-based e3 Partners Ministry, Inc. Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten and Greg Ellis, Texas Rangers baseball star Josh Hamilton and singers Jason Castro and Brian “Head” Welch, among others, share their personal stories of faith on the site.