VL - Issue 8 - May 2013



Spring 2013




For Calm



At Last!

Jump In!

with In His Wakes

Special Watersports Edition Featuring…

April Coble • Les Todd • Emma Sheers

KC Wilson • Becky Lathrop

Kristi Overton Johnson

www.championsheart.org 3


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4 www.championsheart.org


Recently, I was

reading the account

from Matthew 4 where

Jesus was led into the wilderness

by the Spirit of God to be

tempted by the devil. Sounds odd

doesn’t it… God leading His precious

Son into a wilderness so that the devil

could tempt Him?

Worth It All

Thankfully for all of us, Jesus Christ passed

the test. He didn’t give in to His flesh. He didn’t

take matters into His own hands. He didn’t question

God’s faithfulness and provision. He didn’t seek His

own agenda. He didn’t seek to please people. Rather,

Jesus kept His heart and mind focused on His Father

and His purpose. In the end, Jesus left the wilderness

strengthened and ready for His ministry here on earth,

a ministry that impacted the world for all eternity.

A ministry that ultimately changed my life, and yours!

Throughout 2012, I prayed that God would refine

me. I asked Him to examine my life and the ministry

He had entrusted me with and to reveal things that

needed to be pruned away so that I could truly become

the person He designed me to be and so that my ministry

could reach God’s people exactly as He intended.

I never really thought about what I was asking God

to do. I had heard people say, “Don’t ever pray for patience!”

But no one had ever warned me not to pray

about being refined! I didn’t realize that this refining

process would literally turn my life and ministry upside

down. I didn’t realize it would lead me through a wilderness,

a place where I simply didn’t want to be; a place

that was uncomfortable, challenging, lonely, and to be

completely honest, painful. A place where my emotions

and physical self would continually be put to the test.

One thing that has kept me encouraged during this

refining process is the truth I see in Matthew 4: if God’s

children stay true to Him and avoid giving in to their

flesh and taking matters in their own hands, like Jesus,

they can emerge from the wilderness prepared and

strengthened for the life and ministry God has

prepared for them.

Although refinement is never pleasant, I’m learning

that it is truly necessary if a Christian wants to be made

into the image of God and if we want our lives to be

used by Him in a more powerful way. Just as a test is

necessary in school to reveal that a concept is truly

understood, God allows His children to go through

tests to reveal weaknesses in our flesh (our thoughts,

There are two ways we can emerge from these

tests: bitter or better. We can emerge exhausted

and filled with hate; or, we can emerge

e nergized and filled with hope.

attitudes, and actions) and to highlight areas where

we aren’t relying on Him. He also uses these tests to

prove areas where we are strong.

There are two ways we can emerge from these

tests: bitter or better. We can emerge exhausted and

filled with hate; or, we can emerge energized

and filled with hope.

Above all, Satan desires our testing time in the

wilderness to destroy us. The Bible says Satan prowls

around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may

devour. He knows our weak spots. He also knows

when we are weak and tired. He brings trials (often

during our weakest physical moments) in hopes that

the weaknesses in our flesh will flare up and consume

us, as well as those around us.

God, on the other hand, desires for these fiery tests

to expose weaknesses in our attitudes, thoughts,

actions, and beliefs so that our weak spots can be

purified by His Spirit. He wants the impurities burned

off of our lives so that we can reflect His image.

Unlike Satan, God wants us to have victory. Through

His Son and His Spirit, He even makes a way for us to

have this victory.

If you’ve found yourself in a wilderness, be

encouraged… if you let it, this time of testing can be

the best experience of your life. No, it won’t be easy. It

won’t be comfortable. It may hurt more than anything

you’ve ever been through in your life. But as you keep

your eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of your

faith, and as you keep your heart open to His correction,

you will emerge on the other side stronger in your

faith, perfected in your character, closer to God, and

able to be used by Him in a greater way. That makes

your trip through the wilderness worth it all.

In the following pages, you will read stories by

people who have been through God’s refining process

and emerged through the wilderness better and

stronger. Many of the articles are written by people

who I’ve met throughout my career as a professional

water skier. These people and their life journeys have

inspired me and I believe that as you open your heart,

you too will be inspired.

May God bless you on your journey,


Kristi Overton Johnson

Assistant Editors

Becky Harris Overton

Barbara Sullivan


Morgan Boettcher

April Coble-Eller

Barbara Collins

Bonnie Hagemann

Dalton Johnson

Kristi Overton Johnson

Becky Lathrop

Jerry Major

Ralph Meloon

Kayla Miller

Nate Miller

Carey Morford

Angie Sapp

Emma Sheers

Dr. Jeff Smith

Les Todd

Dr. Ron Toole

K.C. Wilson

Creative Director/Graphic Design

Amy Zackowski • amy@whisperingdog.com



Victorious Living

PO Box 968 • Keystone Hts, FL 32656

352.478.2098 • fax 888.837.9153

Victorious Living is published quarterly in Keystone Heights,

Florida. ©2013, all rights reserved by Victorious Living.

Contents may not be reproduced in any form without the

written consent of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right

to refuse advertising. The publisher accepts no responsibility

for advertsiting errors beyond the cost of the advertisement

itself. The publisher accepts no responsibility for submitted

materials. All submitted materials subject to editing.

Victorious Living’s


The mission of Victorious Living is to

provide hope for the heart and help for life

through the inspirational stories of people

just like you. We commit to provide REAL


experience REAL HOPE!

Victorious Living’s


Do you have a story of victory? Share it with

us! Your life story can change the life

of another. Submissions should be a maximum

400 to 600 words and are subject to editing.

To send your article submissions, go to

www.Championsheart.org and visit the

Victorious Living Magazine page.

www.championsheart.org 5


It’s not

about me...

by Kristi Overton Johnson

Kristi Overton

Johnson is the

founder of

Champion’s Heart

and In His Wakes,

divisions of KOJ

Ministries. Kristi

currently resides

in the Lake Area

Region with her

husband, Tim,

and three


In my editorial letter, I talk about how God

often leads His children through the wilderness

to be refined. His goal is to chisel away impurities

of the heart and mind so we can reflect His glory

and be ready to be used by Him for His purposes.

Satan’s goal, on the other hand, is for us to trip

over our flesh and fall flat on our faces in the dirt.

More than anything, he desires for us to wander

around the wilderness, totally consumed by our

emotions, so that we and everything we hold

dear is ultimately destroyed.

So how do we get through this refining

process with our heads held high in victory rather

than getting stuck in the wilderness and being

destroyed? Matthew 4 holds the secret: It’s by

knowing who you are in Christ Jesus, knowing

who God is, and looking at the world in light of

eternity, not in light of the here and now.

As I’ve read Matthew 4 in the past, I’ve always

focused on the targets of Jesus’ temptations…

the flesh, mind, pride, and object of worship. But

as I’ve revisited this passage in the midst of my

wilderness experience, I’ve begun to see Satan’s

motives behind the temptations.

Behind every temptation is this purpose: Satan

wants us to take our eyes off God and put them

on ourselves, our perceived rights, and injustices.

He wants us to think about “right now” instead

of eternity. He wants us to react out of our flesh

rather than respond under the Spirit’s guidance.

Satan wants us to feel entitled to take matters

into our own hands and to defend and prove ourselves

rather than trust God to provide for our

needs and vindication in His perfect timing.

Why? Because Satan wants us to fall into

sin so we step out of the will of the Father. He

doesn’t want us to carry out our divine purposes

on earth because he knows, if we do, he’ll lose

souls. We need to see the truth behind the trick:

Satan doesn’t care about our rights and our

comfort; he just uses them to get us caught up in

the moment so that we’ll react to a situation and

lose our joy, peace, fruitfulness, testimony,

relationships, and health (among other things).

You’ll notice in the first two temptations that

Satan issues challenges to tempt Jesus to prove

Himself and to prove God. Matthew 4: 3 says, “IF

you are the Son of God”, then turn these stones

into bread.” Satan tempted Jesus to prove His

deity. In Matthew 4:6 Satan tempted Jesus to

prove his deity and God’s love for Him when he

said, “IF you are the Son of God, then jump and

see IF God catches you!” The purpose behind

both of these challenges was to get Jesus to step

out of obedience and humility and step into pride.

Fortunately for all of us, Jesus didn’t need to

prove anything to anyone, least of all Satan. He

knew He was the Son of God and He knew in due

time that God would reveal His true identity just

as He had done at His baptism (Matthew 3:17).

He trusted God’s love for Him, God’s ability to do

anything, and to provide for His every need in

both good times and hard.

At any time, Jesus could have changed the

stones to bread and fed Himself. But He didn’t.

He knew His purpose was to glorify God in

Heaven, to serve others, and to seek and save

those who are lost. He focused on completing the

task and made honoring God and laying His life

down for others more important than satisfying

His flesh and proving Himself at that particular


Think about this sobering fact, if Jesus had

taken matters into His own hands, or felt the

need to prove Himself or defend Himself, He

would not have been obedient to God and able

to fulfill His purpose ... to be the perfect, spotless,

Lamb of God. Reacting would have cost Jesus His

purpose; and it would have cost us our salvation

through His blood.

It is this fact alone that helps me subdue my

flesh when it wants to scream out to the top of it’s

lungs in defense; or, when my flesh wants to

prove itself right in a situation. It helps me when

I want to take matters into my own hands or

worse yet, seek revenge. I know that as soon as I

rise up in my pride, or in my pain, and try to prove

myself or defend myself, I and others will lose.

continued on page 7

6 www.championsheart.org

continued from page 6

Jesus’ temptation has taught me

that life isn’t about me and my perceived

rights. It isn’t about my comfort

“right now”. It isn’t about having

things and power. It isn’t about God

performing miraculous deeds in my life.

Behind every


is this purpose: Satan wants

us to think about “right

now” instead of eternity. He

wants us to feel entitled to

take matters into our own

hands and to defend and

prove ourselves rather than

trust God to provide for our

needs and vindication in His

perfect timing.

Rather, life is about intimately

knowing God the Father, the Son, and

His Holy Spirit. It’s about trusting His

love and plan for my life. It’s about

laying aside my personal agendas and

desires so that I can complete the task

God has laid before me.

By knowing who I am in Christ (a

child of the living God), by trusting the

character and promises of God, and

by focusing on God’s bigger picture

rather than my comfort “right now”,

I can continue to move forward and

emerge from the wilderness purified,

strengthened, and ready for my

ministry. And so can you!

Are you in a situation where you’re

tempted to have the last word because

your flesh demands it? Are you

in a painful situation where you think

you have to act on your own behalf

rather than wait for God to move? It’s

time for us, as children of God, to tell

our flesh to shut up. It’s time to start

looking at the bigger picture and

grasp the truth that life isn’t about us.

It’s about God and what He wants

to do in us and through us. By keeping

our eyes on Him and His will, there

are no limits to what He can do in

our lives and in the lives of those

around us. v

Table of Contents Spring 2013

We hope you enjoy this special water sports

edition of Victorious Living. These stories of

faith and perseverance are sure to inspire you

as you pass through the waters of life.

6 It’s Not About Me Kristi Overton Johnson

8 A Mosaic Life Carey Morford

9 In Christ Alone K.C. Wilson

10 Love You Like A Cookie Les Todd

11 Delayed Dreams Emma Sheers

12 Driving For The Big Dawg Becky Lathrop

13 By The Grace Of God Kristi Overton Johnson

14 He Restores My Soul Angie Sapp

15 I’m Not In Control Barbara Collins

Throughout this issue,

you will read stories by

people who have been

through God’s refining

process and emerged

through the wilderness

better and stronger.

Many of the articles

have links and QR

codes that will take

you to websites with

more information

about their struggles,

successes, and, most

importantly, their

relationships with God.

Be sure to check them

out. For even more





and their

Christian walk, visit


Scan this code to watch Kristi’s

testimony of faith or visit


16 Free At Last Kristi Overton Johnson

18 Pursued Kayla Miller

19 Perfect Love Dr. Jeff Smith

20 Ministry News

21 A New Season: In His Wakes Update Nate Miller

22 Shackled No More! Morgan Boettcher

23 Teflon Bonnie Hagemann

24 Champion’s Heart Award

Master Russ and Tammy Carter

24 Never Quit! Dalton Johnson

26 The End Always Comes Jerry Major

27 Open Doors Dr. Ron Toole

28 Smell The Flowers An Interview with April Coble

30 Looking For Calm Water? Kristi Overton Johnson

www.championsheart.org 7


A Mosaic Life

by Carey Morford

Therefore, since we have been

justified through faith, we have

peace with God through our Lord

Jesus Christ, through whom we have

gained access by faith into this

grace in which we now stand. And we

boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Not only so, but we also glory in our

sufferings, because we know that

suffering produces perseverance;

perseverance, character; and

character, hope. And hope does

not put us to shame, because God’s

love has been poured out into our

hearts through the Holy Spirit,

who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5 NIV

Carey Morford is the Media Specialist

at Keystone Elementary and President

of Seeds of Grace, Inc. Visit their site at


She is married to her very best friend,

Isaac Morford, and they have two

daughters, Layla and Rigby.

I grew up hearing teachings that said God never causes the

painful things that happen to us. I agree that God never does

anything evil, and I often perceive pain to be evil; but what if

it isn't… at least always.

About a year ago, this “thing” happened in my life. I

thought I might die. I thought I might lose everything- my family,

my sanity, my faith. I was totally broken. I knew, from past

experiences that God was with me and that He would get me

through, but I was really mad. It was hard for me to hear God.

There were times that I talked to Him, but felt like a crazy

person, because why would a good God let this happen?

Now, only a year later, I'm still broken. I still feel angry and

confused sometimes. I wish I could have learned all of the

things I know now, just a year later, without going through

that hell… but what if I couldn't? What if I needed those experiences

to become who I needed to be to fulfill the purpose

God has laid out for me? What if someone else needed to see

me go through hell for a year, so they could be rescued from

hell for eternity? What if putting me (and some other people)

through that pain was actually the most gracious thing God

could do? What if He really does work all things for our good,

but maybe we don't know what good is?

That's a lot of “what ifs”, I know. And, honestly, just a year

or so out from under that pain, maybe it's just what I need to

believe to hang on to this faith; faith that has saved my life

over and over again.

Consider these things:

• I'm pretty sure the circumcision God required of

Abraham was painful.

• Jacob wrestled with God who purposefully

knocked his hip out of joint and left him with a

limp the rest of his life.

• Jesus experienced death on a cross so that He

could offer us grace.

• We are commanded to “take up our cross” which

I'm pretty sure is not supposed to be painless.

For other examples about God’s grace in the midst of pain:

• Read Psalm 42, or Isaiah, or Lamentations or any

of the minor prophets.

• Listen to “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, “Valleys Fill

First” by Caedmon's Call,

“Brokenness Aside” or “Alive” by All Sons

& Daughters.

• Read anything by Ann Voskamp.

Now, there is a flip side to this. Sometimes when we start

saying things like I'm saying, we start asking people to

rejoice over their pain, to celebrate it. But, I'm pretty sure that

is the wrong idea. We shouldn't fake it. Pain hurts. No one

likes it. And although the Bible says to rejoice in all things,

I'm pretty sure there is a way to do that with out being

untruthful about who we are and how we are doing in that

particular moment. I think maybe it's called hope.

In those first few minutes or days of pain, the best we might

be able to do is hope for joy, for rescue… but if we can hold

on, then our hope may just turn into joy.

Maybe it would be better if we started looking at each

other's crises as holy moments. Not moments to rush through,

not moments to wish away, and certainly not moments to

wish for; but moments when we know God could do something


Think about a shattered plate on the kitchen floor. It is

broken. It will never be a pretty or even practical plate again,

but in the hands of the right artist, it will be a beautiful

mosaic. As a plate it was rigid and limited, but in pieces it can

be anything.

Next time you are broken, see if you can muster a little

faith to believe that Jesus could make something beautiful

out of the mess. And then wait, wait for the moment when

the pain has healed enough that you can see it… the pieces

coming together again to make a new creation.

And next time you see someone in pain, even if it's a

stranger, even if they are doing the ugly cry or they are fighting

mad… maybe you could not look away, maybe you

would be brave enough to look that holy moment in the face.

And maybe You will see Jesus, and maybe you will act like

Jesus, and there will be grace, and hope, and love… and then

you will both be on the path to healing and redemption. We

could all use a little healing! v

8 www.championsheart.org

In Christ Alone

by K.C. Wilson

Having canceled the

charge of our legal

indebtedness, which

stood against us and

condemned us; He has

taken it away, nailing

it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14

Recently my dad and I were talking about

some videos he had been watching from different

speakers. One of the videos contained the

song Jesus Paid It All, performed by Colton Dixon.

The chorus in this song reads:

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

As I thought of this refrain, I was reminded of

how often I lose sight of this simple truth of the

gospel… Jesus paid it all. There is this daily

amazement when we remember and grasp the

truth that God sent His Son to die on the cross for

us and pay the price for our sins. This sacrifice

opened the floodgates for God’s people to come

into a daily relationship with Him.

God invites us to Himself, not because of

anything we’ve done, but simply because He

loves us. How amazing to realize that we

cannot earn God’s love through our

good works. God has already given us everything

we could ever need! He paid the price for

us, because we cannot.

I think about how often I feel like I have to

carry this weight to earn God’s gift of love. But

my attempt to earn His love through good

works is futile. My actions, if done simply out of

routine or to gain acceptance, gain me nothing.

Doing things for God isn’t bad, in fact, we

should want to do things for Him. But our doing

shouldn’t be a burden. Our doing shouldn’t be

something that keeps us from really enjoying

God’s presence. Our doing shouldn’t become

our main focus. Our doing should simply be a

reflection of our love for Him.

In reading the book, Jesus Plus Nothing Equals

Everything by Tullian Tchividjian, I was reminded

of the truth that there is nothing we can do to

earn God’s grace. It is Christ’s death on the

cross that frees us to fail in every area of life,

because He succeeded for us. In Christ alone we

can have victory.

As I grow daily in my faith and understanding

of Christ, I am overwhelmed with the

realization of how weak and small I am

compared to the presence and power of Christ.

Yet He loves me and desires a relationship with

me. There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn

or receive God’s love... it is a free gift I receive

through Christ alone. Knowing this has freed

me to enjoy my daily time spent with Him as

I surrender my life to Him, trust Him to change

me from the inside out, and make me into who

He desires me to be.

That is truly living free! v

photo credit: Bill Doster

To learn more about KC, visit http://youtu.be/riddOzuvSuE or

scan the QR code with your smart phone.

K.C. Wilson lives in Winter

Springs, Florida with his family.

One of the top water skiers in

the world, K.C.‘s true passion is

using his talents to touch lives

for Christ. K.C. is a Sophomore

at Florida Southern College.

www.championsheart.org 9

Love You Like

A Cookie

by Les Todd

As I look at my relationship with my children, I can better understand

my relationship with my Heavenly Father and grasp the concept

of His unconditional love. I love my children with all my heart. My love

for them grows stronger everyday. I would do anything for them.

My love for my kids, and now grandkids, is unconditional. I love

them when they are good and I love them when they do things that

aren’t so pleasing to me. I always want what is best for them and no

matter how old they become, I will always help make their dreams

come true.

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is simply hang out.

I love talking with them and hearing what is going on in their lives.

I feel so good when they ask me for my advice and include me in their

decision-making process.

I am blessed beyond measure when they share their appreciation for

my love. For example, there have been times when we go out to

dinner and my children say, “Thank you, daddy, for dinner”. That makes

me feel so good.

I especially love when my children, especially my girls, stop for a

moment and say to me, "I love you daddy". It melts my heart! I’ll never

forget the day my grandson looked at me and said, “I love you like a

cookie, Grandpa!” It doesn’t get any better than that!

And so it is with the Lord; I am His child and He is my spiritual

Father. He wants what is best for me and He will do anything for me.

That does not mean that life will always be a bed of roses. There will

be good times and not-so-good times. But through it all, God will

always be there right by my side, helping me overcome and loving me

to victory.

People often have a difficult time understanding the depth of God’s

love and the fact that it is unconditional. Some think they have to earn

God’s love. Others view God as a harsh judge or a distant entity who

is uninterested in what is going on in their lives. Many think God is

always displeased with them. But He’s none of these things.

God is a loving Father. He isn’t sitting with a large gavel in His hand

waiting to come down on us for all our failures. Rather, God is always

waiting with open arms, ready to receive us, ready to forgive us, and

ready to help us.

God’s love is unconditional and it is immeasurable. All God wants

in return is our love and our trust. He simply wants to be involved in

“I love you

like a cookie,


It doesn’t get any

better than that!

And so it is with

the Lord; I am His

child and He is my

spiritual Father.

He wants what is

best for me and

He will do


for me.

Les Todd enjoying a snack with his grandchildren.

our lives. He longs for us to come to Him and sit in His

presence, for us to share our heart’s desires, our fears

and joys, our triumphs and pains so that He can pour His

love upon us. Oh, how His heart must melt when we take

the time to climb onto His lap and whisper in His ear,

“I love you, Daddy! Thank You for all You have done for


Our relationship with God is just like our relationship

with our children. The only difference is that He is Perfect

and He loves us with a perfect love. Unlike an earthly

father, God will never fail us or lead us astray.

I want to encourage you to enter into a love

relationship with God the Father through Jesus, His Son.

Go to Him and simply share your heart. There are no right

or wrong words… just get in His presence and open

your heart to Him. Ask of Him and don’t forget to praise

and thank Him, too. As you do, God will cover you with

His amazing love and you’ll never be the same. v

Les Todd lives in Pierson, FL with his

wife, Cindy. Les is a father, grandfather,

fern grower, and has been the US

Masters Water Ski Tournament boat

driver for 27 years. Les’ passion is helping

people experience the love of God.

10 www.championsheart.org

photo: Des Burke-Kennedy

The past few years have been a real journey for

me, a journey that has led me back to the water and

competing against the best in the world after a four

year absence from the sport. In the midst of it all,

I have discovered joy and remembered why I water

ski. I’ve also learned to appreciate the gifts God has

given me and use them for His purposes.

During my career, I often became discouraged with

skiing. On several occasions I wanted to walk away from

the sport and do something completely different. Even

after I stopped competing, I found myself struggling as

my husband and I attempted to get our waterski park,

Oz Ski Resort, up and running in Coolum, a city in

Queensland, Australia. In fact, these struggles caused

me to lose my joy for the sport all together.

For eleven years, I faced obstacles that were seemingly

keeping me from stepping into the promise of

something I felt God leading me to possess and do.

It felt like my dream was becoming a nightmare!

There were many times along the journey where

I wondered if I was on the right track. I wondered if I

should give up on my dream. Throughout the journey,

Emma, with fellow skier Andy Mapple and announcer,

Des Burke-Kennedy at Moomba.

I kept asking God to make His path clear to me. I even

asked Him to take this dream of owning these lakes

and operating the ski park away from me if it was

only my will, and not His will for me.

I kept going back to the word I had received over

a decade before where God had shown me that He

would give me these lakes. When it looked like I’d

never see this dream come true, I would remember

this promise and keep trusting Him. He always made

a way and opened doors, even when it looked

hopeless. Through these challenges, God has shown

me the reward of never giving up. We are now skiing

on these lakes!

After opening the ski park, a desire to compete

again began to emerge in my heart. Initially I experienced

a lot of doubt about skiing again. People wondered

why I would bother to compete. It seemed, as a

former world record holder and world champion that

I had more to lose than gain. I also experienced fear.

God reminded me of these words of wisdom by

Joyce Meyer in her devotional, The Confident Woman.

“Fear causes people to bury their talents due to fear

of failure, judgement, or criticism. It causes them to

draw back in misery and live in torment.” Joyce challenged

her readers to “be firm in your resolve to do

whatever you need to do, even if you have to do it

afraid! To ‘do it afraid’ means to feel the fear and do

what you believe you should do anyway.”

In reading these words the fear of failure really

melted away. I realized that God wants me to be bold

in all I do and to not walk away from my dreams or

goals because things are hard or because I am too

afraid to step out and take a chance on Him.

With God, I found the strength and courage to

give skiing another go. In December 2012 I entered a

competition. My performance earned me a special

invitation to the Australian Moomba Masters, one of

the top international events in our sport.

by Emma Sheers

As I passed through the waters on the Yarra River,

I rediscovered the joy I had lost years before. For the

first time in my life, I saw the sport with new eyes and

a fresh perspective.

I saw it through the eyes of my daughter and son

as they played in the water with smiles a mile wide. I

saw it through the eyes of my students as I celebrated

with them their own personal best performances.

I saw it through God’s eyes as I sat on the dock with

a great group of girls doing what I loved to do,

competing at the highest level.

I soaked in the atmosphere, enjoying the beauty

of it all. In the midst of it all, an amazing thing

happened… I won the semi-final slalom round and

finished second in the finals.

To think of all the blessings I would have missed if

I had allowed my fear to keep me sidelined from the

sport I loved or if I had allowed my frustrations and

doubts to cause me to quit pursuing my dream of

building the Waterski Park. Persevering through tough

and often scary times brings great rewards.

If there is one thing I have learned over the years,

it is that God is sufficient and His strength is made

perfect in my weakness. When there seems to be no

way, God always makes a way. He never leaves me or

fails me.

It’s true that His ways and timing may be different

than what I anticipate, but He will never let me down.

He has proven this over and over again. He has

continually given me the strength and courage to do

what I need to do every day, whether it’s ski behind

the boat, wait for my dreams to come true, coach at

Oz Ski Resort, or be a wife, mother, daughter, sister,

and friend. v

God’s promise to Emma resulted in Oz Ski

Resort in Queensland, Australia. To learn

more about Oz Ski Resort, go to

www.ozskiresort.com, find them on

Facebook or scan this QR code with your

smart phone.

photo: Neil Sullivan

Emma Sheers lives in

Coolum, Queensland,

Australia with her

husband, Rick, and

their daughter,

Marley and son,

Rory. Emma is

a four-time World

Champion, five-time

World Record Holder,

and winner of over

90 professional


www.championsheart.org 11



by Becky Lathrop

Whatever work you do,

do it with all your

heart. Do it for the

Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23

photo credits: Roger Clark

Have you

recognized your

gift from God?

In all I’ve ever attempted,

it usually

takes me a long time

to learn something

new. I’m an above average

athlete, but I’ve

always had to work extremely

hard to improve

my skills and

overcome my lack of

natural ability.

Driving a boat, however, was different! The first time I sat in the driver’s seat of a

ski boat, I felt comfortable. I loved the “feel” of being behind the wheel. Fortunately,

I had friends who were patient with me as I learned to drive for slalom, trick, and

jump. As I worked hard developing my skills, I noticed that I was improving very

quickly. It wasn’t until someone said, “Becky, you have a gift behind the wheel of a

boat!” that I realized this wasn’t normal.

The first person who let me drive a ski boat was my college roommate. Not only

did she share her love of water skiing with me, but she also shared her faith in Christ.

My life totally changed when I allowed God to “take over the wheel” of my life. As I

gave everything to Him, including competition water ski driving, my life came together!

I realized I had been given the “gift” of driving. The best way to honor God, since

I believed this truly was a gift from Him, was to work hard to improve my skills so that

I could use it for His glory. Throughout my life I had seen so many talented people who

had not realized or utilized their true gifts in life. I didn’t want this to be me.

Over the past 20 years, I have had the privilege of driving many water ski events.

One of the greatest honors I have received has been to be one of the drivers of the

“Big Dawg Series” (a professional tour series for male skiers over 35). At every event,

I drive with passion out of my love for people, God, and the sport of water skiing.

My prayer is that every skier sees that I drive with integrity. My goal is to give every

skier the opportunity to perform to their highest potential. Since I am driving for the

“Ultimate Big Dawg” - GOD - I know this will bring glory to Him.

I am humbled to be a water ski driver and I am grateful to the tour organizers,

sponsors, and skiers who allow me to continue to be in that seat. I’m still learning how

to use my “gift,” not just on the water, but in helping others the best way I know how.

I would like to leave you with these thoughts… have you recognized your gift

from God? Are you utilizing your gift to help others and glorify God? God can use

anything to touch the lives of people. When the thought of stepping out in your gift

seems overwhelming or when you don’t feel worthy, I hope my favorite Bible verse

will spur you on. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives

me strength.” As you tap into the strength of “THE BIG DAWG”, there is nothing you

can’t do! v

Becky has been a driver for the Big Dawg Series since it began nearly

10 years ago. She is one of only a handful of female drivers in

competitive water skiing. She lives in West Palm Beach, FL and is

VP of Optimum Performance Solutions, an insurance consulting firm.

Kristi Overton Johnson loves the water!

But if there is one thing she’s learned, it is this… the only water that can bring

true satisfaction, worth, and victory is the LIVING WATER of God's Word. His water

has the power to quench every thirst of your soul and longing of your heart.


Are you thirsty for more in your life?

Sign up online for our weekly newsletters and REFRESH! your spirit today.

12 www.championsheart.org

By the Grace of God

by Kristi Overton Johnson

Mr. Ralph Meloon... a life against all odds!

Even though he’s 95 years old, you’ll still have a hard time keeping up with Mr.

Ralph Meloon. For over eight decades, he’s traveled the world representing his boat

company, Nautique, and most importantly, his Lord, Jesus Christ. By the grace of

God, he’ll continue to be on-the-go for God until the day he is called “home”.

His energy and longevity doesn’t surprise anyone, except Mr. Ralph. “I was a

sickly child, the runt of the family,” he says.

Mr. Ralph remembers back to his childhood days of being bedridden and being

taken to numerous doctors. “Back in the old days, they didn’t have all the medical

advances they do today, so it took a long time to figure out that I had a terrible

infection in my throat. This infection caused poison to drip constantly into my blood

stream, causing me to be sick to the point of death. Through my teenage years,

I underwent five surgeries on my throat.”

At the age of 12, Mr. Ralph gave his life to Christ, and with the Lord’s help, he overcame

these and many other obstacles. He laughs in amazement and humility as he recounts

the experiences of his life. “You have to understand,” he says. “I wasn’t expected

to live past my teens. But by the grace of God, I’ve outlived everyone in my family!”

Not only has Mr. Ralph survived, but he has thrived. “I’ve always been short,”

he says, “but even at 5 foot 7, I was able to play basketball in high school and be

on a team that won a state championships.”

It wasn’t long before Mr. Ralph joined his father, W.C. Meloon, in the boat

building business. “I’ve been a part of building boats to the glory of God since I can

remember. I still go to the office every day.”

Through the Nautique company, Mr. Ralph has traveled the world, visiting over

89 countries, even selling boats to kings and queens. It isn’t the life that was predicted

by his doctors, but it was, and is, the life ordained and orchestrated by his

God… a life against all odds!

“To think that God chose me, a sickly runt of a child to be used for His kingdom.

To think that He could use a boat business to touch thousands of lives for Christ

all over the world. To think that I would be alive

today at 95 years old, traveling the world, working

at the office, and still married to my beautiful

wife of 75 years! To think that God still

chooses to use me even now! It’s amazing and

all I can say is, ‘To God be the glory for the

things He has done!’”

If you have the time, Mr. Ralph will have

a story… my suggestion is that you take a

moment and listen. Perhaps he’ll share how

God miraculously opened doors for his company so

that he could ultimately spread the Good News of Jesus

Christ. Perhaps he’ll share how he smuggled Bibles and

sound equipment behind the Iron Curtain for large

evangelistic crusades. Perhaps he’ll tell you about building

boats for the government in World War II; or, about

witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall and the celebrations

that followed. “Everyone kept telling me that it was

because of my presence there, the presence of God within

me, that had caused this miracle to happen!”

Or, perhaps he’ll tell you the story of leading someone to Christ. At 95, his mind

is sharp and he remembers every name of every person he has ever met and had

the privilege to lead to Christ. People from all over the world! It’s his greatest

memory and his greatest honor.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll become one of his stories as he has the

opportunity to lead you to Christ, too. v

far left: Mr. Ralph

autographs the engine

cover of an original 1949

Correct Craft Dart owned by

Billy “Boat Doctor” Sutton of

Monterey, LA. Mr. Ralph

personally invited Billy to

bring this boat (which he

bought from the Correct

Craft museum 6+- yrs ago) to

the 50th Masters.

left: Mr. Ralph, doing what

he does best — working the

crowd, preaching the gospel,

and talking up Correct Craft

boats at the 51st Masters.

above: Ralph and his wife

of 75 years, Betty.

Masters photos courtesy of Timothy Morfoot

www.championsheart.org 13

Our God is a God of

restoration. He can and wants to

restore our broken dreams, mistakes,

regrets, and injustices.

Have you ever had someone hurt you? Have you

ever made a bad choice? Has life ever brought you

pain? God can restore your life.

What does restoration mean? It means that something

is brought back to its former position or condition.

We are all familiar with an old car or furniture

being restored; it is the same way with God, but even

better! God is not only able to bring us back to our

original condition, but He is able to bring us to a place

where we are far better off than we were before!

Zechariah 9:12 says that God will restore double

what was taken from us. As a young girl, I had my virginity

taken from me. My dream, like most young girls,

was to save myself for my future husband, the man of

my dreams.

Do not fear disgrace;

you will not be

humiliated. You will

forget the shame of

your youth… For

your Maker is your

husband — the Lord

Almighty is His name

— the Holy One

of Israel is your


Isaiah 54:4-5

I had dreamed of my

wedding day, of being a

beautiful bride, dressed

in all white, pure before

my God and my man.

But that dream was

stolen from me at the

age of 13 when I was

tricked by a boyfriend

into a situation where I

was raped. Just like that,

my virginity, along with a

piece of my soul, was

ripped away from me,

gone forever.

That event was life altering for me. After that, my

life began to spiral into a self-destructive downward

pattern. I went from being an honor student to not

even caring about school. I quit going to school and

started hanging out with the wrong crowd. I went

from not allowing a boy to get too close to me to giving

my body to any person who wanted it. I began

doing drugs and drinking alcohol. By the age of 15, I

was severely depressed and by the age of 16, I was

Baker Acted and put in a psychiatric ward. They diagnosed

me with Bipolar disorder.

How had I come to this place in my life? This was

not the life I had dreamed for myself. It was like life

had side-swiped me and left me in a ditch on the side

of the road.

By the world’s standards, my “life accident report”

would have read, “Totaled. Non-salvageable.” But

praise God, I’m not judged by the world’s standards.

When God arrived on the scene of my life, His report

read, “Total restoration!”

Joel 2:25 promises that God will restore the years

that the locust swarm devoured. In Isaiah, God promises

to pay us back double for every unfair thing that

has ever happened to us (Isaiah 61:7).

Just like God did for Job, He is able to restore double

everything that has been lost in your life. God can

make your life better, even better than it would have

been had those bad things never happened to you. He

can make the rest of your life so rewarding and fulfilling

that you will no longer grieve over the past hurts

and troubles, but instead use them to help others who

have gone through similar situations.

You may be thinking, “How could your body be

made new?” I know that from a physical standpoint I

cannot receive my virginity back, but I am more than

just a body. I am a three-part being. I have a spirit,

soul, and body. No, my body may not fully recover from

the physical damage that has been done, but God has

completely healed and restored my soul (my mind, will,

and emotions). And He can do the same for you!

by Angie Sapp

God is ready to touch your soul with His resurrection

life and power. He is ready to resurrect those

things in your soul that are dead and bring new life.

The Bible says that if we are in Christ, we are a new

creation. Old things have passed away, and all things

are made new (II Corinthians 5:17). God is able and

willing to heal you from the inside out and bring you

to a place of total restoration and wholeness. Nothing

will be missing in your life and nothing will be broken.

You will be totally transformed by the power of God!


I know this to be true because I am a living

testimony of God’s restorative work and power. He

has restored all of my lost hopes and dreams. I am

now living my dreams. Though I am not a complete

and finished work, I am in the process, by the grace

of God, of being transformed from glory to glory

(II Corin. 3:18).

Job 42:12 promises that the latter days will be

greater than the former days for those who trust in

God. I want to encourage you today ... it doesn’t

matter where you start in life, it only matters where

you finish! What the devil meant for evil, trust that

God will turn it around for good (Gen. 50:20) and

cause you to finish well.

I have peace knowing that today when God looks

at me, He sees me as pure before Him as though I was

a virgin. The blood of Jesus has washed me white as

snow and I have been restored. My dreams of being

a beautiful, virgin bride, dressed in all white, have

come true. I am the bride of Christ and Jesus is my

Bridegroom (Mark 2:20). v

Angie Sapp lives in Melrose, FL with

her husband and daughter. She

received an AA from Santa Fe

College and a BA in Theology from

Life Christian University. Angie is the

Life Resource Director at Champion’s


14 www.championsheart.org

I'm Not In Control

by Barbara Collins

The last five years have been very sobering. With the

decline of the economy, my husband’s salary was cut,

I lost my job, our house, and a lake lot that was paid

for and to be our retirement home. In addition to this,

my dad passed away leaving me with the responsibility

of taking care of my mother who is in the latter

stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Prior to this, I guess you could say that life was

“smooth sailing.” As a middle class American couple,

my husband and I thought we had all the bases covered

for a secure future. We worked hard, saved our

money, and had great plans for our retirement. As a

teacher for over 30 years, I always assumed I would

teach until the day I decided to leave. I also assumed

my parents would be around for years. My mom and

dad had always been so strong. I depended on them

for advice and to be my safe haven.

When all of this happened, I asked the cliche’ question,

“Why?” I also wondered what in the world I was

going to do. I had planned for my future and worked so

hard to ensure everything would be OK and now everything

I had put my trust in was gone. I realized for the first

time in my life that I really wasn’t in control of anything.

When reality hit, it sent me to my knees and to God.

I have been a Christian since I was twelve years old.

I’ve always tried to live a “good” Christian life. But as I

evaluated my current situation, I realized that, although

I went to church and read my Bible and believed in God,

I didn’t really have a relationship with Him. I didn’t really

trust God with my life nor did I bring Him into my

decision making process.

All these years, my husband and I had thought

we were in control. We were secure in ourselves

and what we had done to be prepared for our

future. We had trusted in our finances,

careers, relationships, and the things we

could accomplish rather than the One

who was truly in control and the One

who was truly trustworthy. Only

God knows the future and

only He has the ability

to see us through


Through these

experiences, I realized

that the

security we had

in ourselves

was false and

futile. Only God

can give true security...

not a job,

money, or even

how long we

have with a

loved one. True security comes through our relationship

with God (made possible through His Son, Jesus

Christ). This relationship is one that will never fail and

never end.

In Isaiah 43:2, God promises that He will be with us

as we go through the waters of difficulty and as we

pass through the fires. He also promises that during

these times, the water will not overtake us and the fires

will not consume us. This means that as we go through

difficult times, God will be right by our side, bringing us

safely through, and providing for our every need.

Through the process, He will strengthen us and develop

our character.

This is exactly what has happened in my life. With

every trial, as I’ve looked to God, He has comforted

and provided for me. He has also strengthened my

faith and helped me grow in my relationship with Him.

It’s been an amazing journey.

In the last five years, I have gained a closeness with

God I never knew possible. I’ve learned to trust Him

with my life, to bring Him into my decisions, and to rest

in Him. He has perfect timing. He alone knows the

whole story.

As I look back over my trials, I can see that God was

always right there in the midst of them and working

things out for my good. For example, God knew that I

was going to need time with my mom and dad before

my dad passed away. Because my job was cut, I was

given two months with them that I would have never

had otherwise. God also knew I needed to be free to

care for my mother. She needs me and I need her. We

have been given a precious gift of time together. During

this journey, my husband and I have also grown

closer than we’ve ever been and we’ve both grown in

our faith. We’ve seen God provide in amazing ways.

Yes, sadness will come, affliction is inevitable; but

joy is promised to those who serve God. The story of

Job gives me much hope. Job went through a very difficult

time, but because he remained faithful to God

and trusted Him, God restored to Job twice as much as

he had lost.

How can a person be bitter about their past when

God promises so much for the future? The key is forgetting

what lies behind, remembering that God is

with us and loves us, and looking forward to what lies

ahead. God is in the restoration business. As we take

our eyes off our circumstances and place them on

Jesus, the One who holds tomorrow, our lives will be

restored and joy will be found. v

Barbara Collins lives in Anderson, SC

with her husband, Dean. She has a BA

& Masters Degree from Clemson University

in Elementary Education and is

a published author. Visit her website



A Baby

on Skis!

At 9 months old, most

babies are just learning to

climb. Not Water Baby!

In this true story, author

Barbara Collins brings to

life the journey of a

baby who learns to ski

and goes on to become a

national champion. The first

book in the Water Baby

series, Water Baby Learns

to Ski, will surprise you

in more ways than one with

its delightful story and

charming illustrations.

“Through Barbara Collin’s Water

Baby series, your child will learn

important character values and become

a champion on the waters of life!”

— Kristi Overton Johnson,

World Champion and

Former World Record Holder

To obtain your copy, visit




www.championsheart.org 15


by Kristi Overton Johnson

photo credit: Thornton Photography

I would be lying if I said retirement from professional water skiing was easy. Since

I was four years old, water skiing has been a huge part of my life. When the time came

when I couldn’t ski, when I couldn’t be who I had always been or done what I had

always done, it was hard.

For years, a part of me longed to be back on the water. I didn’t really have an urge

to compete; rather, I wanted to be a part of the sport again. I wanted to be back in

the “circle”.

As a non-competitor, I felt like an outsider. When I attended events and watched

the athletes hanging out in the skier’s private areas, being interviewed for victories,

and being introduced in opening ceremonies, my heart would break. I felt “less than”.

From 2003 (my first year off the water) until 2007, I fought these emotions. I continually

pushed them deeper and deeper inside of me until one day, I didn’t feel them


“Praise God,” I thought, “I’m over it! My self worth isn’t based on being a skier

anymore!” I thought I was free of the emotions that had plagued me for years. I

would soon learn otherwise.

In the summer of 2007, an unexplainable desire began stirring in my heart to

compete again. Several times I would wake up during the night and have this

crazy thought about going to compete in the World Championship - an event that

was to be held mere weeks away, in Austria, nonetheless!

To compete in this event would be insane, at least that is what my husband told

me. I could count the amount of ski sets I had taken in the previous five years on one

hand! I could count on the other hand the amount of workouts I’d had in the gym.

My competitors, on the contrary, had been training for years for this one event with

one goal… to win. Going to ski in front of my peers after a five-year lay off and very

little practice was not my idea of fun. I did have some dignity.

But the more I prayed about this crazy idea, the stronger the desire began to grow

in my heart. I began to sense that competing was something God was placing on my

heart to do. Why? I didn’t know. It didn’t make any sense to me or anyone.

With less than two weeks to prepare for the World Championships, I started training

and making arrangements for my trip. My time on the water was limited, so I had

to make every set count. My mind focused intently on the task at hand, quickly bringing

up mental images and sending them forth to my body.

Fortunately, my body, although ravaged by pain, responded to my mind’s direction.

I actually skied surprisingly well during those two weeks of preparation, consistently

posting scores that would be high enough to win the event. I was also pleasantly surprised

to discover my hips didn’t hurt while I was skiing (I had undergone a total

pelvic reconstruction in 2004).

With every pass, my confidence began to rise. Could God be leading me back to

the water after a five-year retirement for a gold medal, a medal that would bring

glory to His name and an opportunity to build a stronger platform for my ministry? I

had just read World Boxing Champion, George Foreman’s, God in My Corner. Surely,

God was going to bring me back to the top of the podium once again just like He did

for Big George! Maybe I’d even have my own commercial and line of appliances!

I would soon realize that this adventure wasn’t the journey to gold I was hoping

for. Rather, it was a journey to finding true freedom from things that were still holding

me captive. It was about finding true victory and finally realizing my true worth.

As I look back, I have to laugh. At that point in my life, I was sure that I

was completely free of having my identity determined by my performance

on the water. I thought I was free from trying to “be” someone. I thought

I was free of being afraid of what people thought of me. I soon found out

that I wasn’t free at all, I just had not been in a position where those things

had had the opportunity to rise up and expose their ugly head.

On August 26th, my son Ty and I arrived in Linz, Austria, at the 2007 World Championships.

Two days after arriving, I found myself standing on the starting dock with

skiers from all over the world, wondering the same thing I was… what in the world

is she doing here?

When my turn arose, I tuned everything out to the best of my ability and slipped

into the water, ready to give it my all. My first pass was amazing. I felt strong, in

rhythm, and at peace. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I dropped in the water

for the boat judge to shorten the rope for my next run.

My second pass, still a warm up pass for me, started very smoothly. Around the

third buoy, however, my rear hip gave way in the turn. I stayed in the game and

quickly turned buoy number four. I knew if could stay calm, I could make it to the end

of the pass and regroup. But when I went to turn the fifth buoy, my back hip collapsed

again and I was done. I let go of the rope and skied towards the far side of the lake,

away from the crowd, and tried to gather my emotions.

I was in complete shock. This was an opener pass for me, a mere warm up. How

could this be happening?

A flow of questions entered my mind, “Why God? Why call me back to the water?

Why make me go through all the physical pain to prepare for this trip? Why allow me

to ski so well in practice and get my hopes up for a victory?”

I am embarrassed to admit, but I was angry. For the first time in my life, I was

openly angry at God. Pride rose up in me that I didn’t even know existed. Finally the

words, “How could YOU do this to me?” erupted from my mouth and heart.

With those words, my emotions changed from being in shock over my performance

to being in shock over my words! I just sat in the water with tears running

down my cheeks and said, “I’m sorry, God.”

In that moment in time, a not-so-pretty side of myself was revealed, a side oozing

with pride, frustration, irritation, anger, fear, and embarrassment. I could only

imagine what people were saying about me on the shoreline and in the water ski

chat rooms online. I felt so humiliated. I felt like God had led me to slaughter.

continued on page 17

16 www.championsheart.org

from page 17

More than anything, I had

wanted to give God glory in my

performance. I wanted the world

to see what He could do. I wanted

everyone to know that with Him,

all things were possible.

But as I look back at this

situation, I see a common theme.

Although I wanted God to receive

glory in this journey, I wanted it to

come in a way that was pleasing

to my flesh… like through a

successful run on the water! Little

did I know this journey wasn’t

about my skiing pointing people

to Him; rather, it was about my

skiing pointing out areas of my life

that needed some fine tuning.

Kristi listening to

participants of In

His Wakes' "A Day

to Remember"

program share

their victories on

the water.

I finally “got”

that Godloves

me regardless

if I ever stand

on a podium

again or not.

In the middle of a cold lake in Austria, God began a work of freedom in my life.

Over the next two years, this work would continue on the water as I continued to

compete at selected events. Try as I might, my skiing performance never reached

my pre-retirement level. Over and over again I took to the water and came home

without a medal and without a paycheck. In fact, I didn’t even make it through

to a finals round. It was a humbling experience.

But during this time, I began to experience something that I had never experienced

in my 30 years of competing… peace. For the first time in my thirty year

career, I actually enjoyed the ride! For so long, I had so much pressure built up on

the inside of me to perform at a certain level and to win, that I missed the beauty

of the journey.

Now, in the midst of this journey, I finally got it. I finally “got” the fact that skiing

was a gift from God, one that was to be enjoyed and to be used for His glory.

I finally “got” that my worth wasn’t determined by the scores I posted.

I finally “got” that God loves me regardless if I ever stand on a podium again

or not. I also “got” that God never leads His children to slaughter, as I first

thought. Rather, He always leads His children to victory. It’s just that victory often

comes in ways we didn’t expect or desire.

The truth is, God loves us so much that He allows us to go through situations

that He knows have the potential to move us to the next level in our faith (to the

top of God’s podium, you might say). They have the potential to purify us and

make us more like Him so that we can experience the incredible life that He died

to give us… a life of peace and joy. It is a life of freedom!

By the end of 2009, my skiing improved dramatically. I experienced running

passes I never dreamed I would ever run again. But during the final competition

of that year, I tore the ligaments in my left knee. After surgery and rehab, the desire

to ski was gone. Just as quickly as it had risen in my heart for the World

Championships in 2007, it had now disappeared. And I was okay with that.

A year later, my world slalom record, a record that had stood for 12 years,

was finally broken by my friend Regina Jacquess. As I learned of her performance,

I was shocked at my reaction. There were no tears, no sobbing sessions, or pity

parties… there was only joy as a wave of relief and peace washed over me. It

was at this moment that I knew that I was free, free from being “Kristi, the skier”,

and free to be who God called me to be. v

Kristi Overton Johnson is the founder of Champion’s Heart and

In His Wakes, divisions of KOJ Ministries. Kristi currently resides

in the Lake Area Region with her husband, Tim, and three

children, Ty, Dalton and Ivy.

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www.championsheart.org 17


by Kayla Miller

When my parents first sat my brother and me

down to tell us that we were moving from Oregon,

the place that I had lived my whole life, to some

small town with one stop light and a Subway chain,

I thought my world was being smashed into

oblivion. I knew for sure that I would never be the

same, and this much was true… but not even close

to the way I had imagined.

In 2007, my parents accepted the position of

directors of In His Wakes ministries. We moved to

Florida so my parents could learn the ministry and

prepare for our many months of traveling across the

United States.

When I moved to Keystone Heights, FL as a freshman

in high school, it was hard. All I wanted to do

was fit in, but being part of a “ministry” family made

it seem like I had a label that read, “I stand out!”

And to make matters even worse, I was now going

to have to spend my summers, not with my friends,

but with my family. I wouldn’t even be living in a

house where I could retreat and get away, I’d be in

a motor home! Needless to say, I was not pleased.

If you asked me now, I would say that I love being

with my family and getting to be a part of what they

do. But God has done a 180 degree work in my heart

over the last seven years.

I was an angry teen, mad at my parents for

making me “do” this ministry and mad at God for

making my parents “do” this ministry. I can sum up

my life from my freshman year in high school until I

graduated with one word… BATTLE!

My life was one giant battle from

the minute the motorhome tires

rolled across the pavement at

the beginning of the season

until they stopped

months later. The fights

were endless, as were

the tears. So many

times I tried to run

away when we’d

stop for fuel at a

truck stop, only to be

chased down by a

father that was a little

faster than me.

Growing up in a

Christian home was

a good and bad thing. It was

good because I was fortunate to

learn about Christ and His love at an

early age. But for most of my high school

years, I lived in a state of resentment because I felt

I had no choice in the matter. I was told what to

believe and told to be good which only made me

want to be bad.

I rebelled for a long time, fighting with my

parents when the real battle was deep inside my

heart. But God, in His love, always had a hold of me.

He continually drew me to Himself even when I shut

Him out for good.

I never thought

that loving

God and living

selflessly could

be so exciting.

Ironically, my surrender to the Lord came at a

point in my life when I had finally realized the one

thing I had always wanted… FREEDOM. After I

graduated from high school, I was working at a

coffee stand and completely living for myself, yet

I was the most unhappy I had ever been!

One day my father told me about a camp where I

could snowboard all day long. He mentioned that it

was a Christian camp and I may have to read the

Bible some each day, but given my circumstances, I

really couldn’t think of a better deal.

You can imagine my shock when I arrived at this

program called YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Lakeside,

MT where the whole idea of the organization is

to know God and make Him

known to the nations. I could

sense the Holy Spirit the

moment I stepped on site.

It was there where I

finally encountered the love

of God in the most real

and tangible way possible.

It was there where I

found true freedom as

I entered into a relationship

with God that was

my own.

I remember one night when our group worshipped

God around a burn barrel. As the fire rose,

we danced and sang in our new found love

for Christ. I stood beside that burn barrel and

watched as a piece of paper filled with all my fears,

insecurities, worries, doubts, and all my questions

burned away. In this act of surrender, I felt God’s

arms wrap around me and accept me for who I was.

From the time I was eleven years old, I had

searched for acceptance in people, especially boys.

But when my heart surrendered to Christ, I realized

I had found my One True Love. I had found the One

who accepted and loved me without any strings attached…

only pure, untainted love. I had found the

One who thought I was beautiful, important, worthy,

and smart. I had found the One who wanted me for

me! I realized I didn’t need the approval of man and

I decided from that day forward to live for an audience

of One… GOD!

When I realized how much God loved me, it blew

my mind. The most natural thing in the world for me

was to want to take that love and spread it to all

those around me. I was blessed beyond belief to

be able to go to India for two months and be a part

of what God was doing there.

I never thought that loving God and living selflessly

could be so exciting. But I’ve had more fun

doing the Lord’s work than anything I could have

ever drummed up in my own head!

Although I’ve found joy and freedom in Christ, like

all humans, I still have my struggles. There are many

things I want to hold on to.

continued on page 19

Kayla Miller, age 21, lives in Bend,

Oregon. Currently, she’s “living the

dream with Christ” as she travels

cross-country, ministering with her

family. Follow The Miller’s adventures

on the In His Wakes’ Facebook page!

18 www.championsheart.org

continued on page 18

One of my biggest struggles has been with my identity. Even after my surrender

to Christ, I remained so consumed with my physical appearance that I

found myself struggling with an eating disorder. But even in the midst of my

confusion and doubts, God still used me. He continually wrapped me in His grace

and pursued me with His love.

I’ve learned so much since I chose to follow Christ. Many of these lessons

have been painful, but not in a way that leaves a scar or mark. When I finally

come to a place of surrender, God’s lessons only leave joy.

People have asked me if there are things in my life that I would go back and

change. I wouldn't change a thing. I don't live in regret. I don’t wish I did or

didn't do certain things. This doesn't mean I’m not sorry for hurting people. It’s

just so clear that God has used everything to lead me to the place I am now.

And I wouldn't trade that for anything.

I love the woman God has shaped me to be and I am so excited to see where

He is going to take me in the years to come. For now, He’s taken me back to

the In His Wakes motorhome. And, for now, there’s no place I’d rather be! v

Kayla with her parents, Nate and Ivy, at the American Water Ski

Educational Foundation Hall of Fame Banquet in May 2013.

Perfect Love

by Dr. Jeff Smith

I established my dental practice in Melrose, FL in

1982. Melrose is a small, one stop light town, east of

Gainesville. I chose to serve in this community mainly

because of the desirable climate and the many beautiful


After graduating from Emory University School of

Dentistry, I followed my heart to North Central Florida

to establish a private practice and pursue my love of

waterskiing. Over the years, this community has

shown support to me and my family in many ways.

My appreciation for this support reached new heights

last year when I was diagnosed with Stage II Testicular


There is no fear in love.

But perfect love drives out fear.

John 4:18

As anyone who has experienced cancer

can tell you, once the diagnosis is made,

it takes ahold of your life in a dramatic way.

For me, having to negotiate several surgeries

and eventually three months of

chemotherapy was a life-changing event.

I grew up in the Catholic Church,

serving as an altar boy and eventually as

a Eucharistic Minister. Faith has always been central

to my character, but recently my appreciation for

God’s love grew to new heights.

Throughout my treatment I continually received

letters from friends and patients, as well as from many

people I had never met before. Prayer groups from

churches throughout this community constantly lifted

me up in prayer.

Many people of strong faith reached out to me in

my time of need and shared God’s Perfect Love with

me. My friend, Bob Tebow, shared many lessons that

helped me rise from the darkness of fear and doubt

to a quiet confidence and complete faith that God

would provide for me and my family.

I recall early in the diagnosis asking God to guide

my doctors to heal me. I would ask Him to help me to

continue to be able to provide for my family and other

things which I thought were most important.

But as I grew through this process, I began to

notice my prayers changing. Little by little I let go of

personal pleas and began to simply trust that

God was in control, no matter what may come.

I remember the feeling that overcame me when I

finally said, “God, this is in Your wheelhouse. I will

follow You wherever You lead me.”

When I let go of my fears and simply trusted Him,

a new sense of peace settled over me like I’ve never

experienced. From that moment on, I woke up each

day and thanked God for my

life. I thanked Him for my “yesterday” and thanked

Him for the truth that my “today” was in His hands.

I am one year removed from my chemotherapy and

thankfully, I remain cancer free. My practice also

survived the six months of compromised health. Now

that my chemotherapy port is removed, I am able to

get back on the water and enjoy my love for water

skiing! I give all credit to God for my health and my

business. His Word brought me such confidence and

peace. And the opportunities He gave me to share my

faith helped me continue to move forward.

I now refer to myself as Jeff Smith Version 2.0. I’m

a new and improved man. My faith is stronger and

by God's grace, I am in a position to help others who

face similar challenges and share God’s Perfect Love

with them. v

Dr. Jeff Smith lives in Melrose, FL with his

wife, Susan, where he operates his

dental practice. They have two adult

children, Cory and Natalie. Jeff is an

advocate and legislative contact for the

dental profession. Jeff is currently

General Chairman for Florida Swimming.

www.championsheart.org 19


Investing In Youth: 2013 Scholarships

On Memorial Day weekend, Kristi Overton

Johnson Ministries will present the following

scholarships in order to recognize excellence and

strength of character…

The “In His Wakes’ Jr. Masters Scholarship”

is an academic award that is presented to a

competitor of the US Jr. Masters Water Ski and

Wakeboard Tournament.

The “Kristi Overton Johnson Sportsman

Award” is presented to a Jr. Masters competitor

who exemplifies the heart of a champion both on

and off the water.

The “In His Wakes ‘A Day to Remember’

Scholarship” is awarded to four graduating

seniors who have participated in the IHW “A Day to

Remember” program. Interested Participants need to

email nate@inhiswakes.com for consideration.

The “Emily Rund Champion's Heart Scholarship”

is awarded to two Keystone Heights High School

Seniors who exemplify the heart of a champion. It is

designed to honor students that possess a heart

filled with passion, perseverance, integrity, purpose,

and hope.

Last year’s recipient of the IHW Scholarship, Taylor Woosley, was baptized by Kristi Overton Johnson

at the US Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament.

Resources: Champion’s Heart Life Center

Need help finding a job? WorkSource, as well

as The Salvation Army, Clay Behavioral Mental

Health Services, Answers, and North Florida

Community Action are all on-site partners.

We also have relationships with other county

organizations to meet your every need! Contact

Angie at 352-478-8076 for more information.

Quigley House will begin on-site counseling

for domestic violence on Wednesday, May 22nd.

United HealthCare is also a new partner!

On Saturday, March 23, hundreds searched

for Easter Eggs and heard the Easter story

at Champion’s Heart Life Center.

Find Out More

Don’t know what it’s all about?

Find out more at inhiswakes.com


Get off the dock and into the

water to help at one of our events


We need your financial support

now more than ever

20 www.championsheart.org



IHW Update

April of 2012 was a month filled with constant breakdowns of boats and vehicles- a month

where our ministry team struggled to maintain our focus on God’s calling. April of 2013, however,

has been quite the opposite! Even “Lazarus”, the boat that sank last year, a boat once declared

dead and beyond repair, is back on the water and running better than ever thanks to the efforts and

hearts of Karen and Vince Doughtery of Discount Inboard Marine! Thank you DIM!

Whether things are falling apart around us or running smooth as can be, I’ve learned the best

thing I can do is to continue to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.

I’ve also learned to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians

6:10). When I do these two things, there is nothing that God cannot do and there is nothing that

we cannot overcome.

As we continue in our season of introducing youth to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ

through water sports, I humbly ask that you keep us and our participants in your prayers. Your

prayers provide protection, provision, and the strength for our In His Wakes team to continue to

move forward!

Please pray for...

• those who have made decisions at our events. Pray they will continue to grow in their faith.

• continued open doors to host our events and share the gospel in secular arenas.

• safety and good weather.

• strength for our physical bodies and peace for our minds.

• mechanical and technical items to continue to operate properly.

• leadership decisions.

• financial provision. v


“Victory only comes when YOU…

get off the dock!”

This is the motto of the In His Wakes “A Day to Remember”

events. I’ve volunteered with In His Wakes throughout

my high school years and now I’m taking what I’ve learned

from them to college! At these events, the Word of God is

brought to people through water skiing.

As a water skier, I enjoy participating in these events

because I love to be on the water teaching others how to ski.

I also love watching the participants have victory. Seeing

them overcome fears and challenges to reach their goal of

skiing for the first time gives me the strength to continue to

strive for my own success.

I feel that every person is capable of having success

whether it is achieving a goal or acing a math test.

Success fuels everyone to do their best.

Each year, I can’t wait for the In His Wakes season

to begin! This ministry helps me have success teaching

others how to ski and it gives me the opportunity to be a

part of someone else’s success. When the participant’s yell

out the motto early in the morning, I know that before the

day is over, success and victory will be had by all.

Nate Miller is the director of In His

Wakes. He lives in Bend, OR with

his wife, Ivy. If you are interested in

learning more about In His Wakes,

contact Nate at nate@inhiswakes.com.

2013 In His Wakes D2R Schedule

If you are interested in hosting an

event in the future or desire to

volunteer at one of our events

in your area, contact Nate at


or call 352-745-0283.


2 -6 Melrose, FL

9-10 Camp Blanding, FL

13-17 Auburndale, FL

18th Chapel Service

Orlando, FL

24-28 Melrose, FL


23- 26 Masters

Callaway Gardens, GA

28th Northport, AL



30-31 Smith Lake, AL

Smith Lake, AL

3rd Nashville, TN

6th Florence, AL

8th Huntsville, AL

8-9th IHW/INT Benefit Tournament

Albany, OR

10th Hiawasse, GA

12th Clemson, SC

14-15 Greenville, NC

D2R Schedule Dates continued on page 31

Brittany Riviere

Melrose, FL

www.championsheart.org 21

Shackled No More!

by Morgan Boettcher

Throughout my life, I have faced many struggles that

I thought defined me. I was not brought up in a

Christian home and I was never taught about how amazing

God is and the unconditional love He has for me.

As a child, I was put in several uncomfortable

situations by people I thought I could trust. I was too

scared to tell anyone what had happened so I buried

the secrets within myself. As some may know, those

kinds of secrets can eat you alive, and eventually they

will destroy you.

In the seventh grade, my oldest brother convinced

me to try weightlifting, and I am so glad he did. I was

truly blessed to have a lot of success in this sport.

I was the first weightlifter to attend the Florida State

Championships five years in a row as well as the first

female lifter to win the State title as a freshman. As a

sophomore, I was Runner-up and Lifter of the year, and

as a Junior I placed third. I also lifted in an Olympic

National Championship and placed second. I’ve been

told I may be inducted in

So if the the Florida High School

Son sets Hall of Fame as the most

decorated female lifter.

you free, But even though I

was physically strong,

you are

I was not strong enough

to fight through life. I was

unhappy with how I

John 8:36

looked. I felt as if I was

alone, unloved, and unwanted.

I was depressed.

To help ease my internal pain, I turned to alcohol

and drugs. It started in my sophomore year. I would

come to school with a mug full of liquor. At first

it numbed the pain I felt; but eventually, it stopped

working, so I started to do drugs. I began with

smoking weed and then began to pop pills. I was on

a downward spiral.

The summer after my tenth grade year, I began to

cut. I took razors out of the tool box and locked myself

in my room. As I cut myself and watched the blood run

down my arms, I finally felt alive, as though I was not

invisible, a feeling I felt most of the time. But like the

alcohol and drugs, it eventually stopped working too,

no matter how deep the cuts.

I finally confided in a friend. She asked me to go to

church with her. Reluctantly, I agreed to go. My friend

also gave me my first Bible. I could have never

imagined how excited I would be to get this gift.

Having never read the Bible before, I found it strange

how I would wake up in the morning and a verse

would be on my mind. I would then look this verse up

in the Bible, read it, and instantly feel peace and

happiness. At that moment, I knew that God was real.

I loved Him, and I wanted Him to be a part of my life.

truly free.

With my new relationship with God, I was able to

quickly free myself from drinking and drugs. But not

cutting. Even worse, I began to have thoughts of

suicide. Every minute of every day, I would think of how

I could end my life.

During this dark time, I lost my brother. After his

death, I started to stray from God. But God didn’t let

me get far. Our youth pastor, Pastor Brad, called me

and told me about a local camp called Camp Decision.

He encouraged me to go. So I did.

The first couple of days, I regretted going. But then,

during one afternoon service, my heart was touched. I

began to pray that God would help me stop cutting and

that He would take away these bad thoughts. I asked

him to help me overcome these obstacles in my life.

Rather than trying to free myself from cutting,

I knew I needed God to free me. So, I asked God to

remove the shackles I had entangled myself in. I gave

these shackles, my past, to God, and when I did,

I instantly felt relieved. By His grace, I have been free of

cutting and thoughts of suicide for five months now.

I have become strong enough to live my life because of

Him. I now know that I am not defined by my past.

God loves me and He has a future for me.

We will all face challenges at some point of our lives.

Some challenges are brought into our lives by others,

some we may bring into our own lives. At times, we

may wonder how we will ever make it through. But

we must remember that with God, we can overcome

anything. In His strength, we can be free to truly live. v

Morgan Boettcher, age 17, lives in Keystone

Heights and attends KHHS. She is

a decorated weight lifter and hopes to

represent the USA in the Olympics. She

plans to be a pediatric nurse.

Subscribe or give a gift subscription today!

Suggested donation: $ 20

Subscribe online at championsheart.org, click “subscribe”; call 352-478-2098 or fax in the

form on the back cover; to place your order. Office hours: Tues. - Thurs. 10-3

22 www.championsheart.org



“Like Teflon…” That is what I say to my executive

coaching clients. You have to be like Teflon when

others are throwing darts. Just let it slide right off like

eggs on a Teflon pan.

It’s not easy to do but this is one of the best

responses when colleagues, former friends, or even

family members are throwing verbal darts. In all my

years of coaching, I’ve seen many responses to gossip,

interpersonal difficulties, and even out-and-out

professional and personal attacks. I’ve seen scenarios

blow up into something much bigger than it originally

started out, and I’ve seen scenarios where it just went

away over a few days or weeks. In my experience, the

latter is much better. There is less collateral damage,

and the number of people injured by the verbal

response and defense is minimized.

I know you are probably agreeing with me so far.

You may be thinking “Right! That’s exactly what

people should do.”

It’s easy to say, and it’s easy for me to write, but

let’s face it, it is VERY difficult to do. Think back on your

most recent experience of someone saying something

about you either professionally or personally that

wasn’t true or accurate in the way that they were

positioning the information. Our first response is

almost always to defend ourselves, to set the record

straight, and to clear up the other person’s incorrect

thinking. Most of us have in fact, jumped into the

verbal tennis match more than once, me included.

The only problem is that it doesn’t work. It almost

never gets the result that we want. Instead of making

our point and clearing the air, what typically happens

is that we come across as defensive and as operating

on the exact same level as our attacker.

On the other hand when we don’t engage, the

whole scene usually fades away over the next few

days or weeks. I can think of a recent experience in

my home when my husband and our teenager were

beginning the cycle of a heated back and forth. Since

I wasn’t in the engagement, I could see more clearly

by Bonnie Hagemann

and started helping my husband by

saying “Abort! Abort!” He realized he had

been sucked into the battle and immediately

just stopped talking. Our teenager, left with

no one to battle, stomped off to curl her hair

only to reemerge a few minutes later in a good

mood as if the whole incident had never happened.

A workplace version of this scenario happened to

one of my coaching clients last year. A Vice President

in a large, publicly traded company was the target of

internal sabotage by another Vice President who

hoped to outlast him, since he couldn’t seem to outperform

my client. My client wanted to punch his lights

out but had opted for an out-and-out confrontation,

preferably with their boss in the room. I came in as he

was preparing his points for this crucial conversation.

“Wait!” I said. “Let’s think this thing through. What

do you expect to gain from this confrontation?”

I asked.

“I expect to straighten this jerk out and hopefully

my boss will see what an idiot he is!” He answered.

“I hear you, and I know you want to do that, but

I would like to challenge you to take a different


“Well, ok,” he answered. “What approach is that?”

“I propose that you do absolutely nothing about what

he is saying,” I said as I saw his face turn a little pale.

“Hear me out,” I said. “Instead of using your

energy to prove him wrong, what if you use all of that

energy to get more results for the company? Which

one do you think will yield the greatest harvest in the


“Probably the results,” He answered, clearly

disappointed to have to give up his encounter with

the enemy.

“Yes, and if I remember right, you are going

for Senior Vice President, so let’s stay focused,”

I encouraged.

He got the message and did not confront his

workplace nemesis. Within seven days, the whole

thing had died down and turned into nothing. We can

never know for sure, but I feel confident that if he had

confronted his peer, it would have turned into a big

deal with Human Resources having to get involved

and an irritated boss in the middle of it.

You may be experiencing a situation where the

verbal attacks are coming straight for you and causing

you a lot of pain. I know I’m asking a lot, but just this

once, experiment with me… don’t answer. Be like

Teflon and let it slide right off. I have a feeling, you are

going to like the results.v

Bonnie Hagemann is a member of

the Board of Directors for Champion’s

Heart Ministries. Bonnie is the CEO of

Executive Development Associates, a

28-year-old internationally known

boutique consulting firm that

specializes in executive development,

executive coaching, and high

potential development. To date,

Bonnie has 11 published works.

Need wisdom for a business

decision? Visit Bonnie’s blog at

https://bonniehagemann.wordpress.com or use

your smart phone to scan the QR code.

Great New Products

Available Now! Life Lessons for 4

Living Victoriously

3 In His Wakes Shirts

Support your favorite water sports

ministry! Find shirts, books and

more on our website store at


If you've ever felt inadequate,

frustrated, overwhelmed, or

simply wondered where God

is in your life, you'll enjoy this

collection of short stories by

Kristi Overton Johnson.

Order from our website at www.championsheart.org

On The Go with Kristi5

a God-inspired devotional

CD with over 80 minutes of

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24-7 God to you— no matter

how busy your day may be!

www.championsheart.org 23


Master Russ and

Tammy Carter

Master Russ and Tammy pictured with

their daughter, Master Grace, and new

black belts, Dalton and Ivy Johnson.

Congratulations to Master Russ and Tammy Carter, recipients of this issue’s

“Champion’s Heart Award.” Master Russ and Tammy have operated PAK’S Karate in

Keystone Heights, FL for thirteen years. They have touched many hearts, young and

old, through their passion for karate and passion for Christ!

Recently, my son, Dalton, and my daughter, Ivy, had to write their 1st Dan Black Belt Thesis.

As they shared their heart, it was obvious the impact the Carter Family has had on their lives. It

was also obvious that Master Russ and Tammy are people who have Champion’s Hearts!

Below is an excerpt from Dalton’s thesis: ~ Kristi

Do you know someone with a Champion’s Heart? Write to us and let us know!

We’d like to recognize champions in our upcoming issues.

Email nominations to kristi@championsheart.org or mail to Champion’s Heart, PO Box 968, Keystone Heights, FL 32656.

Never Quit by

Dalton Johnson

I enjoy the Bible because I learn things about God.

I also enjoy the stories inside the Bible because it is

cool to see what God has done in the lives of people.

I know He can do the same thing in my life! My

favorite verse is Phil. 4:13 because it says I can do all

things through Christ who gives me strength. My favorite

Bible stories are when Jesus walked on the

water and when He multiplied the fish and the bread

to feed thousands of people. This means He can

make much out of little, like me. I also like the story

of David because God used him in battles and although

he was young and puny, God gave him

strength to kill a giant.

Sometimes I struggle with things and I need God’s

help to face my giants. One of my biggest giants is

language arts because there is a bunch of reading.

When I was younger, the doctor diagnosed me with

dyslexia. Dyslexia means that it is hard for my brain

to see the words and letters correctly. Like my d’s and

my b’s get mixed up. When I was younger, I would

watch other people read and because I couldn’t, it

made me feel jealous and sad. I also felt anxious. My

mom home-schooled me for three years to help me

build confidence and overcome my fears.

She also put me in karate because she thought it

would help me in these areas...she was right! I

started karate many years ago when I was nine.

Karate was very hard for me at the beginning. Because

of my dyslexia, it was hard for me to move my

feet and my hands in different directions at the same

time. Master Russ and Mrs. Tammy kept telling me

not to give up. I didn’t. With lots of practice and hard

work, I have learned every form. It’s hard to remember

them all, but I know with God’s help, I can do all

things, even these forms.

What I like about Mrs. Tammy is that she is fun.

She sometimes lets me slide on a couple of things.

She gives me love (not saying Master Russ doesn’t).

She helps me on my forms and gives me confidence.

I’ve learned that most

things aren’t as hard as

I think they will be. I can

accomplish many things if

I will just try.

What I like about Master Russ is that he pushes

me. He tells me to never give up and he also says

good job when I do something right. He is tough and

makes me tougher! He wants me to be confident

that I can do anything.

The Carters have helped me in life because they

have shown me never to give up. I can do things now

that I never thought I could. I’ve also learned a lot of

life skills like responsibility, perseverance, concentration,

and respect.

To be responsible means to do the things I am

supposed to do whether I am asked or not. Perseverance

means to never quit. Since I didn’t quit

karate years ago, I am now a 1st Dan Black Belt!

continued on page 25

Dalton Johnson, age 12, lives in Keystone

Heights with his family. He is a black belt

in karate and loves the great outdoors!

24 www.championsheart.org

Did you know you can

view past issues of

Victorious Living at any

time? Just visit


continued from page 24

Learning perseverance has helped me in

school. Because I didn’t quit reading, I can now

read many more words per minute than I could

at the beginning of the year. I am very proud of

myself. I’ve learned that most things aren’t as

hard as I think they will be. I can accomplish

many things if I will just try.

I have also learned to concentrate. Staying focused

is a weakness of mine. In karate I’ve

learned to focus when a lot of things are going

on around me.

I’ve also learned to give respect. Respect

means to treat people with kindness and with

good manners. I have learned to give people respect

and look them in the eye and shake their


Being a black belt isn’t just about having a

belt that is black. It is showing that I will do the

right thing. It is showing that I will treat people

with respect. It is my responsibility to act like a

black belt and live out the life skill words I’ve

learned from Master Russ and Mrs. Tammy. Now

I have a responsibility to the younger belts to

teach them to do the right thing even when the

Masters aren’t looking. I also have to teach them

the things I know, like forms. I can’t just treat the

younger belts anyway I want to. I have to be nice

and they will give me respect.

Thank you Master Russ and Mrs. Tammy for

letting me come to your class. Thank you for loving

me and for giving me lots of chances. Thank

you for not giving up on me. v

707 NW 13th Street • 352.372.8551 • Fax 352.338.1965


www.championsheart.org 25

The End

Always Comes

Back in October, I was privileged to be involved in the Steamtown

Marathon in my hometown of Scranton, PA. Never did I think I would

ever run a marathon! I’ve never been a runner, I wasn’t even involved

in track in high school. My only exposure to the sport was a P.E. class

in college. But somehow, at age 47, I found myself training for a


Preparing for a 26.2 mile run when I’ve never really run a day in my

life was an incredible challenge. But it was a challenge that taught me

many things. I learned the value of setting small goals so that I could

move forward to accomplish bigger ones. I also learned the truth that

whether I was coming to the home stretch of a small goal, or whether

I was crossing the finish line of the marathon, as long as I kept putting

one foot in front of the other, the end would always come.

During my training, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “… let

us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Now, I know the writer wasn’t speaking of a literal marathon, but

of a spiritual one - the long run we are all on; the run of following

Christ and staying true to Him. The secret to finishing this race is the

same as the secret to my finishing the marathon… it is running with

a spirit of perseverance.

For believers in Christ, life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, often full

of hurdles, that each one of us must face. That crisis, that call with bad

news, that diagnosis, that storm, that wayward teen, they are all part

of the marathon through which we must persevere. The good news is

that as long as we keep running with our eyes focused on Christ,

taking one step at a time, we will reach the end!

All that God asks us to do is look to Him for strength and to

persevere. Only God knows the time and the result of the end that will

come. And only our faith can lead us there.

Maybe the end will be healing, relief, shelter, or the comfort of a

friend. Perhaps it is going home to be with our Father in Heaven. In all

of these, the Lord reaches out to welcome us with open arms as we

cross the finish line.

James 1:12 (NIV) says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under

trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown

of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

I can’t really encourage you today with “The Seven Secrets to

Successful Christian Living”, but I can encourage you with these next

verses in Hebrews.

“Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer

and perfecter of faith. For the joy set

before Him He endured the cross,

scorning its shame, and sat down at the

right hand of the throne of God.

Consider Him who endured such

opposition from sinners, so that you

will not grow weary and lose heart”

(Hebrews 12:2-3).

In these verses we are given several keys to victory. First of all, we

are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the only One who can get us over each

hurdle and across the finish line. If we focus on the hurdle or the

distance we have to travel, we will never make it because

we will start looking down away from the goal.

We are also told to look past this life to our real home

in Heaven. By keeping His eyes on the joy of being with

His Father and the joy of completing His will here on

earth, Christ was able to endure everything and everyone

that came against Him. We have to remember that

this marathon we call “life” is not so much about what

we see on this journey; it’s about our relationship with

God, His will here on earth, and what lies beyond the

finish line - our eternal future with Him.

The crown He will grant to those who are

faithful is worth the pain of mile 23! So keep

putting one foot in front of the other, looking

forward to that day when you cross the

finish line and hear these words, “Well done,

good and faithful servant! Come and share your

master's happiness!” (Matthew 25:23 NIV) v

by Jerry Major

Jerry “Maj” Major, III

lives in Scranton, PA

with his wife, Marilyn.

They have three

children Jay, Kyle,

and Jenny. Although

an avid water skier,

Jerry’s true passion

is helping youth

discover true joy in

a relationship with

Christ. Jerry is the

director for Northeast


Youth For Christ.

photo credit: runphotos.com

Hall of Fame Induction

On April 20th, 2013, Kristi Overton Johnson was inducted into the AWSEF Hall of Fame for her

accomplishments in the sport of water skiing. Other recipients were Cory Pickos and Jim Grew.

Kristi is pictured with her parents, Parker and Becky Overton, and her brother, Michael.

Scan the QR code or visit https://vimeo.com/64855605 to see Kristi’s recent

Hall of Fame video.

26 www.championsheart.org

Open Doors by Dr. Ron Toole

On June 22, 2012 I almost bled to death. By the

grace of God I lived!

At 72 years old, I’m a competition slalom skier. I

was introduced to the slalom course at age 54 by my

son. I was instantly hooked! I’ve always enjoyed

water skiing, especially competing and pushing myself

to new levels.

Last fall while I was practicing, I miscalculated my

turn and hit a buoy. I fell forward and my left arm

went through the triangle of the ski handle all the

way to my arm pit.

The boat jerked the rope so tightly that the

aluminum tube in the center of the handle bent into

a “V” shape. That “V” grabbed my skin, biceps

muscle, artery, vein, and nerve, and ripped them out

of my arm. They were lost in the lake. All the other

muscles of my upper arm were damaged or torn

apart. The only thing I could see between my

shoulder and my elbow was bone.

When the accident happened, my life jacket kept

my head above water until my ski partner who was

driving could get me onto the transom of the boat.

He beached the boat and went for help.

While I waited for him, I got extremely weak and

was in significant pain. Pretty soon I noticed that

I was getting tunnel vision. In the medical part of my

dental school training, I’d learned that tunnel vision

under these circumstances meant that I was about to

bleed to death.

I knew my only hope was the Lord. I began to

pray, “Lord, if you are ready for me to come ‘home’,

I’m ready to be with you in Heaven today. I know you

will take care of my family.”

My vision started to get worse. So I prayed some


“Lord, if you need me to do something else for

You on the earth, then please send me a sign.”

Instantly, my full vision returned. The pain stopped

and I no longer saw any evidence of further bleeding.

I also felt an incredible comfort and warmth all over

my body. The feeling was unlike anything I have ever

experienced. It was euphoric – unbelievable!

Although no words were ever exchanged, I knew

without a doubt that I was going to live. I felt comfort,

contentment, happiness, and euphoria all at the

same time. How is this possible? Because at that moment

Jesus covered me with His unconditional love.

As I was life-flighted to the hospital, I found peace in

His presence. I found myself closer to God than I had

ever been.

The Bible says in James 4:8, “Come close to God,

and God will come close to you” (NLT). God’s presence

in my life is the reason I am alive today!

It’s been a tough journey,

I have to admit. But I

wouldn’t change a thing.

These open doors and

my newfound closeness

with God makes

everything that I have

been through worth it all.

Within five weeks of the accident, I underwent six

operations including skin grafts and reattaching and

repairing the muscles that remained. The doctors

originally thought I would need 10 to 12 operations.

Through the miracle of God’s intervention in my healing,

and His wonderful influence on my doctor and

his team, I healed quickly – not like a 72 year old

man would normally heal.

My recovery and healing have been miraculous.

After physical therapy and exercise, my muscles and

tendons are all functioning at some level, and still

improving. Praise God!

It’s been a tough journey, I have to admit. But I

wouldn’t change a thing. Prior to my accident, I had

heard Nick Vujicic preach. Nick was born without any

arms and legs. When asked if Jesus would miraculously

restore his arms and legs, would he want Him

to, he answered no.

Because of Nick’s deformities, many doors have

opened for him to share his faith, especially in Africa.

In Africa, deformed babies are often left to die; therefore,

few people have ever seen an adult with one or

more limbs damaged or missing. Due to their curiosity,

hundreds of thousands have come to hear

Nick preach and thousands have professed their faith

in Christ. Nick says he would have never been able

to reach these people but for his deformity.

Dr. Ron Toole lives in Conroe, Texas, with

his wife Sylvia. He is a doctor of dentistry

and currently holds the South Central regional

record in his age group for slalom

skiing. Now retired from orthodontics,

he operates an aerial photography

business with his son. You can view Ron’s

testimonial video at vimeo.com/62723433

or simply scan this code with your


I now understand his statement. Since my accident,

I have had the opportunity to privately share

my faith with many people and encourage them in

their lives. I never would have met these people but

for my accident. I’ve also had the privilege to speak

to over 10,000 people through a video produced by

my church. This video continues to touch lives

through the internet.

These open doors and my newfound closeness

with God makes everything that I have been through

worth it all. Would I like to have my biceps back?

Sure. However, I’m at peace with my life. “Forgetting

what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which

God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”

(Philippians 3:13). v

www.championsheart.org 27

Smell The Flowers

I have to

remember that

skiing is what

I do, it’s not

who I am.

I have to

remember to

stop and smell

the flowers!

For over three decades, April Coble Eller has graced

the waters of the world, winning titles and setting

records. Although her skiing resume speaks to the

success of her career, it’s her dedication to the sport

and her family, and her love for people that truly make

April a champion. In this interview with Kristi Overton

Johnson, April shares her heart and her faith.

Kristi: April, you started skiing at the age of 5 and

have been competing for over 35 years… what has

kept you motivated all these years?

April: Initially, it was the size of your trophy! In my

first competition, I got second place to you and your

trophy was bigger than mine. I wanted that bigger

trophy! But seriously, I love the sport and I love the

people I get to meet because of it.

Kristi: Although water skiing is an individual sport,

it takes a team to develop a champion on the water.

Who is your team?

April: My family. We’ve been in this sport together

from the beginning, pushing and supporting one

another. My father has always been my coach. My sister,

by the age of 12, was my boat driver, a position

now filled by my husband, Chris. To this day, I still train

with my mom. She will be 69 years old this year and still

competes in nationals. She is my inspiration.

Kristi: I know faith is a central part of who you are.

How has your belief in Christ helped you in both your

ski career and in life?

April: Prayer has helped me so much. Instead of

worrying, I try to lay my concerns before the Lord and

let Him handle them. He has always met my every need.

For example, during my senior year of college, I was

struggling to maintain my grades and compete on the

pro tour because I had to drive so far to train. I asked God for wisdom to know

whether I should continue to ski or not. God answered my prayer by miraculously

providing an amazing lake site right in my hometown. Before I had graduated, my

parents purchased the property and we opened Lakes of Coble Ski School. This lake

has touched so many lives.

As an athlete, God has helped me overcome many physical injuries. In 1998, I was

badly injured in a jump crash and had to undergo knee surgery. I was out of

commission for six months. But with the Lord’s help and a lot of hard work, I was

able to regain my position on tour. Two years later, however, I found myself injured

again, this time on the other knee. I will never forget the moment they rescued me

from the water and took me to the skiers' tent. My mom was so upset she was

about to pass out! I was more worried about her than my knee. But when I looked

over and saw you kneeling beside her, praying with her, I immediately felt God’s

peace, and so did she.

Kristi: You are a mother, wife, competitor, coach, and business woman… how

do you do it all?

April: It's just a juggling act with some serious organization. I often get

overworked and tired; I have to remember that skiing is what I do, it’s not who I am.

I have to remember to stop and smell the flowers! My Uncle Roger planted 2500

flowering plants around our ski school to remind me to enjoy all my blessings,

especially my family! I have been blessed with an amazing husband and 2 beautiful

children. Skiing, if I’m not careful, can easily consume my life and take me away

from the things that are most important.

When I start to burn the candle at both ends, life usually has a way of grounding

me! I remember years ago, at the end of a hectic day, going down the slide with my

then 2-year old son. His shoe got caught on the inside of the slide and my weight

broke his leg. I was devastated. Nothing like your child injured to get your mind back

on what truly matters.

Kristi: As a child, did you dream you would own your own ski school and coach

people from all over the world?

April: No. I actually went to UNC Chapel Hill and majored in Biology/Pre-Med.

My life long ambition was to help people. Little did I know that I would be fulfilling

that dream in a different way… on the water! I am living my dream of helping

others through a sport I love. v

photo credit: Bill Doster

28 www.championsheart.org


“We want to personally thank you for

allowing us to experience the ministries of

IN HIS WAKES. Because of your sacrificial

service, 118 children were able to participate

in something that they would have never

had the opportunity to do otherwise. Their

lives will never be the same as many gained

a sense of confidence that they never had

before. We appreciate your concern for the

needs of others, and value the sacrifices you

made to join our efforts in touching and

changing children's lives.”

~Dave and Joyce Meyer,

Joyce Meyer Ministries

“Thank you so much for blessing the

residents and staff of the Mercy Ministries

St. Louis Home! The “A Day to Remember”

involved huge breakthrough and incredible

fun for all of our girls!”

~Melanie Harbert,

Program Director Mercy Ministries St. Louis

www.championsheart.org 29

Looking For Calm Water?

by Kristi Overton Johnson

I’ve spent most of my life searching for one thing…

still, peaceful water. As a professional water skier, carving

through calm, still water was always my preference.

My family and I went to great lengths to find

water that was protected from wind and other boaters

so that I could train without interruptions. We went so

far to build a private lake! I can still remember the waters

rising in the freshly dug lake in Grimesland, NC,

and my excitement over having my own place to train.

“This is going to be perfect!” I thought. “No boats,

no jelly fish, and no waves!”

It didn’t take long to realize that my dream of perfectly

calm water was just that, a dream. We weren’t

on the lake a week before the wind found it’s way to

our little piece of heaven. Even our perfectly sculpted

shorelines quickly eroded, causing waves to bounce

back into the slalom course.

As a child, I began to imagine how wonderful it

would be if my parents would build a dome over the

top of the lake. With a dome of protection, I’d be able

to train in perfect conditions all year round. Never

again would I have to face the trials of the wind, the

rain, or the cold. How marvelous!

I’m sure it would have been, right up until the moment

I stepped out from under my sheltered dome

and into the real world of water skiing where perfect

conditions rarely exist. At that moment of truth, I am

sure my confidence and performance would have

been shaken to the core. I doubt, too, that I would

have come home the victor.

I have to laugh when I think about all the time I

spent in my career wishing and waiting for perfect conditions,

as well as all the time I wasted complaining

about these elements. No skier, especially me, enjoys

stepping off the dock when the wind is howling and

the waves are crashing. It’s not pleasant, for anyone.

But you know what? The turning point of my

career came the day when I decided to quit

focusing on the elements and all the “what

if’s” and simply face the waves. Victory came

when I quit complaining about the waves and

instead, found a way to ski through them.

Growth came when I quit sitting on the

sidelines wishing for better conditions and

If God be for us, who can be

against us? Since He did not

spare His own Son but gave Him

up for us all, won’t He also give

us everything else?…

Can anything separate us from

His love? Does it mean He no

longer loves us if we have trouble

or calamity, or are persecuted, or

hungry, or destitute, or in danger,

or threatened with death?…

No, despite all these things,

overwhelming victory is ours

through Christ, who loved us.

(Romans 8:31-17 NLT).

courageously stepped out of my comfort zone

and allowed those conditions to stretch me.

The truth of the matter is that these elements and

my willingness to face them head-on helped me

become a champion. The rough waters put me to the

test and proved my abilities. It was the victory in the

rough water and over the tough opponents that made

my career so rewarding. Winning in the calm and without

a worthy opponent would have been pretty boring!

The same is true in life.

As I look back over my life, I can’t help but think

about all the times I’ve sat on the “shoreline” waiting

for perfect conditions or wishing certain opponents

would just disappear. Like in skiing, I’ve often complained

about my plight and grown fearful over the

waves that tossed about me. I’ve often wished God

would just place a dome over my life so I could be free

from unpleasant, challenging circumstances and interruptions

from other people!

But as I’ve gone through this thing called life, I’ve

learned that just like calm, uninterrupted waters aren’t

a reality in water sports, unchallenging “waters” aren’t

a reality in life, either. Life has a way of churning up the

water. It has a way of sending waves our way.

Sometimes these waves come in the form of a constant

chop as we go through our daily routines and responsibilities

of life; but sometimes they roll in like a

Tsunami! “Here on earth you will have many trials and

sorrows” (John 16:33, NLT).

Many times I’ve wanted to ask,“Where’s the calm

water, God? Where’s the still waters you promised to

lead me beside in Psalms 23:2?” Sometimes the world

just seems like one big ocean!

But as I’ve faced each wave with Christ, I’ve found

several things to be true. First of all, I’ve discovered

that this verse isn’t about God leading me to a life free

of obstacles and interruptions. Nor is it about Him

leading me through a life free of challenges. Rather,

Psalms 23:2 is about God leading me to a place of internal

peace in the midst of the raging seas. Calm waters

and green meadows (places of rest) are found in

Christ, not in my circumstances.

As you read above, the turning point in my water

ski career came when I faced the literal waves headon

with courage and without complaint. Likewise, victory

came, and an intimate relationship with God

emerged when I shifted my focus from the waves that

raged around me to the One who could lead me

through them victoriously.

As I’ve looked to God to guide and direct me, He

has always been faithful to provide for my every need

and lead me to a place of internal rest, peace, and refreshment.

He has consistently led me through the

“waters of difficulty” and praise God, they have never

overtaken me! (Isaiah 43:2).

No matter how difficult the waters in life become, I

can promise you this… there is no wave too big for

God. There is no battle that He cannot win on your behalf.

So don’t let circumstances, people, thoughts, or

emotions keep you on the “shore” and rob you of the

joy of experiencing victory in the rough places of life! v

Kristi Overton Johnson is the

founder of Champion’s Heart and

In His Wakes, divisions of KOJ

Ministries. Kristi currently resides in

the Lake Area Region with her

husband, Tim, and three children.

30 www.championsheart.org


Compassionate, Professional Pet Care

2013 In His Wakes D2R Schedule

If you are interested in hosting an

event in the future or desire to

volunteer at one of our events

in your area, contact Nate at


or call 352-745-0283.

continued from page 21

We offer:

• Customized visits for pets of

all shapes and sizes

• Visits scheduled according to

your pet’s individual needs

• Dog walking, personal

attention and play time

• Pet taxi service

• Farm animal care

• Home care tasks

Serving Earleton, Melrose,

Keystone Heights,

Hawthorne, Starke, Waldo

& surrounding areas.













& 9th






Greenville, NC

Greenville, NC

Vienna, MD

Point Norris, NJ

Windham, ME

Windham, ME

Windham, ME

Merysville, OH

Grayslake, IL

Elkhorn, WI

Elkhorn, WI

Cambridge, IA

Porterville, CA

Porterville, CA

Sheridan, CA

Sheridan, CA

For more information, contact Bill and Deborah Coleman at 352-234-5760,

352-246-6025, or by email at Info@lovinghandspets.com.

The Lion of the Tribe

of Judah is Roaring!






Bend, OR

Bend, OR

Albany, OR

Vancouver, WA

24-25 IHW/INT Tournament

Vancouver, WA


7th Bend, OR

8th Bend, OR


10th – 13th

Arvin, CA

Every Saturday at 7 p.m.

Champion’s Heart

205 Magnolia Avenue • Keystone

Heights, FL 32656

Each week features a unique

guest worship and word minister!

Check our website to see a

listing of upcoming leaders.



Get a FREE copy of The Joshua Accounts!

www.championsheart.org 31

Victorious Living

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Non Profit Org

US Postage


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Victorious Living as much as we have enjoyed

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