Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome! (Part Two)

Welcome to the second and final part of the Cliff Note version of my life story. 
        My heart is for husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons to hopefully relate to me as someone who is flawed, who has been on a long journey, and who still isn't done yet, but who is also redeemed, "predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son" (Rom. 8:29).
        I thank the Lord Jesus that your long journey has converged with my long journey right here in this blog for such a time as this.  Time is short and we both have a destiny that's being unfurled before our very eyes!

~~~

After several days of prayer, I believe the Father wanted me to stay in the business, but this time, to get it right.  So I did.  I put one foot in front of the other and lived for each day.
        God was so gracious that I soon found myself witnessing to other models, photographers, photoshoot crews, and even clients while on jobs.  My favorite times were sitting in a dressing room waiting for the next shot sequence and giving the gospel to other models.  God often showed up powerfully for a few moments in a day, then I was on a plane going to the next place, never seeing those models again.



     Slowly but surely, God exalted my career to an amazing level.  I realized I had made it when clients were asking for me constantly and when I started working with other male models I had admired early in my career.  Soon I learned that I was on the elite team--I was one of the top 20 male models in the world, seeing my face in magazines and billboards in many countries around the world.  But this time, I was careful.  I had learned my lesson hard.


    I now learned that when you take a stand, like declining a very lucrative cigarette campaign when the client wants only you, you make a lot of people angry and scratching their heads, but the impact is powerful on those who observe.  And it was powerful in my career.  God has always been faithful to me, but when I was faithful to him, He took care of me.  I was making plenty of money without those kinds of campaigns, and people were getting saved!


 The one thing I did not get on top of, however, was my inability to have a relationship with a woman, something I had never learned in my life.  I dealt with the hurt and lack of intimacy through many relations with other women.  When I would find a woman with whom I wanted a relationship, I didn't know what to do.  Eventually, I had a nervous breakdown that ended my modelling career.  It was July 23, 1992, the day I will never forget.
        A girlfriend broke my heart (but remember, I was a horrible boyfriend).  I was living in Munich, packed up my suitcase, and got on the next plane to Los Angeles.  Not knowing where to stay or who to turn to, I ended up at the doorstep of my spiritual mother--the woman who had taken me under her arm, prayed for me when I was in the cult, and who led me to the Lord in 1979.
        When I saw her face at the door, I convulsed and melted into a pile of snot and tears in her entryway.  She wouldn't touch me.  She wouldn't hug me.  She wouldn't so much as pat my head to say, "There, there, everything's going to be alright."  No, she looked at me sternly but lovingly and said, "So I guess you finally mean business with the Lord now?"
        My mentor nursed me back to health, spent months counseling me, and prayed for my life and sanity daily.  After six months of intensive spiritual rehab, as I call it, it was all or nothing with God.  I entered seminary, something I knew God wanted me to do.  Because I had plenty of money, I could study full time, and boy, did I!  I raced through a masters program, taking courses during all the seasonal breaks.  After a short fourteen months, I was handed a diploma and started working on staff at a large church.
        My heart had always been for evangelism and on the mission field, however.  I waited another two years before I heard the Lord tell me it was time.  So I began a ministry that would take me to a place where I had done modelling work, a place that won my heart, and a place where I believed God wanted to plant me--South Africa.  The Lord wanted to put me in a city I had never visited, Port Elizabeth.  
        So I raised enough support from dear friends, sold most of my belongings, and ended up at a backpackers' lodge in P.E., not knowing what to do next!  Well, that's when it started.  The day after I arrived, I had to find a map of the city.  The local drug store was out, and they pointed me to a tourism center that would certainly have one.
        When I walked in, a sweet woman of color was trying to help me, but her accent was different and very thick.  I wasn't used to it.  That's when a stunning girl with short blonde hair and a sparkle in her gorgeous eyes popped out from an office behind her.
        "Can I help you?" she said, in an overly friendly way.
        "Sure!" I said.  (I wasn't an idiot.)
       Well, it turns out that this girl not only gave me a map, but overheard me on the phone there trying to find a way to apartment hunt.
       "Look," she said sweetly, "You DON'T want to take a taxi or bus there.  Why not let me take you around.  I'm sure my boss won't mind."
        She drove me a few miles away, and as I was looking at a particular flat, we were talking to each other as if we were a married couple.  "What do you think?" I asked her. 
        "Uh, I think you can do better.  Why don't we look at other places."
        While in the car, she suggested I take her brand new car (she only had known me for about an hour).  I agreed.  After I dropped her off, I got back into her parked car...and screamed to the Lord.
       Now because of my background and the breakdown, I felt God tell me not to date or even "look upon" a girl.  It had been four years. 
        "BUT GOD!?!" I blurted out, no one hearing me but Him.  "She's soooooo CUTE!"



        It was then that I had an unexplanable peace come over me.  I knew this was the one for me.  And in that first week I had been back in South Africa, Adéye knew I was the one for her.  In fact, it was a very busy, God-orchestrated week.  The Lord also arranged for me to get the perfect apartment, car, home church, and a daily drive-show on the local Christian radio station.  Mind you, this all happened within seven days!  Do ya think God wanted me there (tongue moves in cheek)?
        Within a very short time, I realized that God was giving me a growing audience, one that I never in my life would've imagined--youth!  Through my radio show, I started getting invitations to speak in high school assemblies, camps, conferences, and VBSs.  What a fantastic opportunity to tell kids about Jesus!  I pulled my girlfriend into the picture.  She had such a sweet, simple, sincere love of Jesus, and was wonderful in front of a crowd.  Together, the two of us addressed high school students of all races, sometimes hundreds at a time with the gospel message.  Many gave their lives to Christ. 

A captive audience at a high school assembly.
       Three months after we first met, I proposed to Adéye.  Being a radio personality had its perks.  I was given permission to do something off-color.  I recorded a thirty-minute segment of my show, pretending I was live in the studio.  Actually, I was live part of the time, then I popped in the recorded tape, and jumped in my car to surprise Adéye at a friend's house, where she was listening to my program on the radio.  All of a sudden, she hears the recorded Anthony propose to her.  Meanwhile, I'm waiting outside her door, with an enormous bouquet of flowers and a newspaper crew in tow.  After I asked her to marry me (on the taped radio segment), I barged in to get her answer.

Moments after a recording popped the question.
        Being on radio, I formed special relationships with up-and-coming musical talent in South Africa, and often used them in evangelistic concerts I organized.  One such group was The Benjamin Gate, now dissolved, whose lead singer Adie is now married to Jeremy Camp.
        Another such band was known as Tree.  What a weird name, I thought.  But we soon became friends.  Lead singer John Ellis and the rest of the band moved to America and became known as Tree63.

John Ellis and the band Tree, later known as Tree63.
        The greatest event the Lord gave me to do was an outdoor celebration on a public beach for New Year's Eve on 1999.  Normally, tens of thousands of unsaved people--black, white, and in-between--gather to get wasted on the beach.  A group of Christians phoned me to ask if I would organize a huge event there, host it, and give the salvation message.  With their funding, we set up an enormous sound system and stage.  Police estimate 55,000 people showed up, all who heard the Good News of Jesus Christ!  We had music, video, dancing, salvation messages, and tons of new converts.



Me (center) pumping up the crowd.
         The next year, we moved to Perth, Australia, where I wrote and directed an evangelistic musical in a large church in which many came to Christ.  But afterward, things happened more on a smaller scale.  I helped a friend of mine plant a church in Perth.  Then we felt we had to move back to America and perhaps do the same thing there.  We helped plant house churches and later I served as a chaplain for a hospice, leading dying patients (and often, family members) to Jesus.
       Whether it's ginormous events...whether it's one on one with a forgotten elderly woman...whether it's being in front of a barrage of camera flashes at a Milan fashion show...whether it's having your picture taken with a forgotten orphan...God has his way in our lives.  Take it from me, a Summa Cum Lauda from the School of Hard Learned Lessons.  As Solomon says, "...even THIS is meaningless," without the deep-seated knowledge-awareness-whateveryouwannacallit that "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13).  And "apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing" (John 15:5). 
        I am so undone, guys.  I really am.  I am so...well, ordinary.  My life is nothing without Christ.  But with Him, I "live and move and have [my] being!!!" (Acts 17:28).  All of our so-called "accomplishments" are in vain...they are "dung," as the apostle Paul says...they are "loss." 
        I was reminded of this when the other night I decided to Google my father's name.  Dad died five years ago.  At the time of his death, he was at the peak of his career as one of the top architects in Dallas and and nationwide.  He was high in demand and his buildings were scattered from coast to coast.  But when I Googled his name, I found just one entry.  Some old architect directory still had my father as alive and they listed the address of his office.  Forgotten so soon.
        Man of God, let us make our lives count together.  By ourselves we are an army of one.  But with all of us arm in arm, linked together with Christ, we are an army of The One.  More than conquerors.
        God bless you and powerfully prosper you as you fight as a warrior for Jesus, the Christ.  Remember the words of well-wishing in the film, Gladiator, as the men fought in battle--"Strength and Honor!"

11 comments:

  1. Morning Anthony - welcome to blogdom!!

    I'm looking forward to following your blog - as well as continuing to follow your bride's. You well know by now that I think you guys rock!

    As far as being an RH - I'm back in that boat right now. I was an RH over our first adoption - all the way up until I saw our daughter IRL. For the next one - I was a champion - and during the third...well...Marie and I took turns being 'reluctant' - but maybe that's why God (at least in part) gave us to each other.

    But for the moment at least - I don't feel it. Waiting for God to change that in either Marie or I!

    Looking forward to a deeper friendship -

    aus (and co.)

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  2. I have never met either one of you before, but I love you guys!

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  3. Anthony,
    Sorry I am not a man:) I read your wife's blog and LOVE it, and I have a friend who lives in my town who is adopting two special needs babies from EE in part because of reading your wife's blog. They are coming home this summer, and I am SO EXCITED to babysit for them. Your family has been an inspiration to me to think about how precious every life is, how every child, no matter their situation, deserves a family. Thanks for blogging, as your story is riveting, and it's nice to hear a male perspective.
    Julie

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  4. AMEN!!!! WOW!! Keep on keeping on :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing your incredible journey!

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  6. Thanks for sharing, Anthony. My wife loves your wife's blog and when she shared a few posts I said "I like his writing, does he have to be so darned good looking, though?", not knowing your history of course. We have two adoptees from Africa and 4 bios including one T-21. We are struggling a little (ok a lot) so I am looking forward to inspiration from your blog.

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  7. I want to know what you are doing now, and what you have done since moving to the US ::)

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  8. Brenna Kate, thanks for asking. I've been ministering in many different settings and am currently looking for a tentmaking job.

    Anthony, No Greater Joy Dad

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  9. Dude there are some things I had no idea, you might of told me but in explicit detail is amazing to really get a feel for it. Crud dude, always inspiring and always loving, love ya man, and the fam.

    David

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  10. Hello Anthony, i am a newly wed(3rd/Nov/12-to be precise)in my mid 20s. I enjoy reading yr wife's blog- she has inspired me to greater heights in the area of adoption. My husband and I are looking forward to adopting though we are not sure when and how many. We are crazy lovers of Christ and long to serve Him daily.
    I can't wait to introduce my husband to yr blog!
    Thank you for allowing God to 'partner' with you in His Kingdom.

    Esther T

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    1. Welcome, Esther. And we're so happy for you and your marriage! God bless you guys.

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