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FROM THE PUBLISHER
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
Becky Harris Overton
Kristi Overton Johnson
Dr. Jeff Smith
Dr. Ron Toole
Creative Director/Graphic Design
Amy Zackowski • email@example.com
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.
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
STORIES by REAL PEOPLE so you can
experience REAL HOPE!
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.
REFRESH YOUR SOUL
by Kristi Overton Johnson
Johnson is the
and In His Wakes,
divisions of KOJ
in the Lake Area
Region with her
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
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.
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
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
about their struggles,
successes, and, most
relationships with God.
Be sure to check them
out. For even more
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
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
• 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
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
In Christ Alone
by K.C. Wilson
Having canceled the
charge of our legal
stood against us and
condemned us; He has
taken it away, nailing
it to the cross.
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.
Love You Like
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
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
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
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
He wants what is
best for me and
He will do
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.
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
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
photo: Neil Sullivan
Emma Sheers lives in
Australia with her
husband, Rick, and
Marley and son,
Rory. Emma is
a four-time World
World Record Holder,
and winner of over
DRIVING FOR THE
by Becky Lathrop
Whatever work you do,
do it with all your
heart. Do it for the
Lord and not for men.
photo credits: Roger Clark
gift from God?
In all I’ve ever attempted,
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
experiences, I realized
security we had
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
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
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
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
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
“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
FREE AT LAST!
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
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
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
their victories on
I finally “got”
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.
Grandin Family Practice
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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
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
God and living
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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,
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
A NEW SEASON:
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
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 email@example.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
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
10th Hiawasse, GA
12th Clemson, SC
14-15 Greenville, NC
D2R Schedule Dates continued on page 31
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,
I was not strong enough
to fight through life. I was
unhappy with how I
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.
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.
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“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 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
“Yes, and if I remember right, you are going
for Senior Vice President, so let’s stay focused,”
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.
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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
audio devotionals told in everyday
life analogies that bring our
24-7 God to you— no matter
how busy your day may be!
CHAMPION’S HEART AWARD
Master Russ and
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Champion’s Heart, PO Box 968, Keystone Heights, FL 32656.
Never Quit by
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,
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!
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
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”
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.
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
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
Smell The Flowers
I have to
skiing is what
I do, it’s not
who I am.
I have to
stop and smell
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
“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!”
Program Director Mercy Ministries St. Louis
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.
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
• 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,
Hawthorne, Starke, Waldo
& surrounding areas.
Point Norris, NJ
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!
24-25 IHW/INT Tournament
7th Bend, OR
8th Bend, OR
10th – 13th
Every Saturday at 7 p.m.
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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!
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