Month: September 2017

REVIEW: Steve McQueen”s faith explored in powerful new documentary

He was the “king of cool,” the highest-paid actor in the world, and the idol of moviegoers from coast to coast. Some even called him the next John Wayne

But for Steve McQueen—who starred in more than 30 films and 20 TV series during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s—it wasn’t enough. Fame didn’t satisfy him. Neither did women, motorcycles or cars.    

In fact, McQueen didn’t find inner peace until the final months of his life, when he accepted Christ and had plans to tell the world about his new-found faith. But that public testimony never came, as McQueen died in 1980 at age 50 following a bout with cancer, having told only a handful of people how Jesus had saved him.

A new documentary may change how we view McQueen. Called Steve McQueen: American Icon, it follows his journey from a troubled youth to Hollywood stardom and then tells us the rest of the story—that is, how McQueen converted to Christianity. It is hosted by Greg Laurie, a lifelong McQueen fan who serves as pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif. Jon and Andrew Erwin (Woodlawn), along with Ben Smallbone (Priceless), directed it.

It is scheduled to show in theaters only two nights (Sept. 28 and Oct. 10), and is one of the most powerful and inspiring documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s also one that churches easily can get behind. (There’s no language or sexuality.)

“The only time he was truly happy was when he became a born-again Christian,” Marshall Terrill, the author of Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon, tells Laurie in the film.

McQueen’s pastor agrees: “There was a peace. There was a calmness” in McQueen.

Laurie also interviews McQueen’s wife (model Barbara Minty McQueen), actor/director Mel Gibson, stuntman Stan Barrett, and even the pilot who taught McQueen how to fly.

McQueen had a difficult childhood. Both parents were alcoholics, and he bounced back and forth between family members before he was sent to a reform school for boys with behavioral problems. He took an interest in acting partially because of his desire to meet women. Acting was therapeutic, providing an escape from his past and allowing him to pretend to be someone else.

His first hit was the television show Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-61), and his first big-time movie The Blob (1958). He earned his reputation as a tough guy with a series of western and action films, including The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963) and Bullitt (1968). His final hit was The Towering Inferno, the top grossing film of 1974.

McQueen seemingly had everything. He was the highest-paid actor in the world and even dated a girl who—get this—dumped Elvis to date him. Yet toward the end of his life McQueen dropped out of Hollywood and turned down major acting roles, sensing something was missing from his life. He finally found it thanks to a series of providential encounters: one with a Christian on the set of a film (who gave him a copy of C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”) and the other with a pilot who was teaching him how to fly. McQueen was attracted to the inner peace he saw in Christians.

During the final hours of his life when he was awaiting a risky surgery he even met Billy Graham, who gave McQueen his personal Bible.

Steve McQueen: American Icon is Ecclesiastes on the big screen: A man obtains fame and fortune and then reaches the end of his life and proclaims: All is vanity.

McQueen’s discovery is one that all of us need to hear.  

Steve McQueen: American Icon is unrated. It contains no language or sexuality, and only minor violence through McQueen’s movie clips.

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Flooded church mission revived to serve families in Houston”s 5th Ward

HOUSTON—Liz Neal kept talking to the driver of the white F-150 pickup as it crawled forward in a food distribution line at Houston’s Farrington Mission Sept. 9. Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated the region, hundreds of other drivers—in a line that wrapped around the block and down the highway feeder road—came for basic food and household supplies. And volunteers like Neal made sure they left with so much more.

For two unbearably long weeks, beginning Aug. 27, the Farrington Mission had been closed. Unprecedented rainfall overflowed Halls Bayou and filled the mission and neighboring homes with water. For seven years the Northeast Houston Baptist Church ministry had served Houston’s Fifth Ward, an economically depressed area of the city. And, now, when the community needed them the most, they could not help.

In addition to food and clothing distribution centers and community outreach programs, the mission houses the Source, a Christ-centered women’s medical clinic. Hundreds of clients a month receive life-affirming counseling and medical care including 4-D ultrasound imaging of their babies. A tour of the facility reveals recovery work here is progressing faster than in other parts of the building. Del Traffanstedt, NEHBC associate pastor, said the reason is obvious.

“We save babies every business day,” he told TEXAN. “Every day we’re closed, we lose a baby.”

The church had just completed $21,000 in improvements “and it was all gone,” Traffanstedt said. The $15,000 4-D ultrasound machine, which clinic staff scrambled to protect, may have been saved. Technicians inspecting the machine should have a prognosis soon.

It will cost $75,000 to repair the mission, with $40,000 of that going toward the clinic. Due to the prohibitively high cost NEHBC did not have flood insurance, choosing instead to put money aside for the proverbial rainy day.

So it has been with a sense of urgency that volunteers from outside Houston and Texas have come alongside the church to gut, clear, clean and restock the facility. Supplies for restocking the shelves began “while there were still fish swimming in the gym,” said Kristyn Roberts who, along with her husband Evan, volunteer as Farrington Mission intake directors.

She began by collecting the food and bedding from short-term shelters after they closed. Then the semi-tractor trailers, cargo vans and pickup trucks began to arrive. Two of the semi-trailers pulled in the morning of the Sept. 9 distribution. One of the trucks, and an accompanying cadre of volunteers, came courtesy of three Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky.

While repairmen continued their work in the food pantries and kitchen, the gym became the mission’s receiving and distribution center. Volunteers scrambled to unload and sort the supplies in an already crammed gym. From sorting newly arrived supplies to getting boxes to staging areas outside for disbursement, volunteers prepared and handed out 429 boxes filled with food, toiletries, bedding, cleaning supplies and, if needed, baby supplies to families in need.

And as volunteers filled cars with supplies, Neal and the NEHBC evangelism team made sure no one pulled away without hearing the gospel.

“This is what our people do,” NEHBC pastor Nathan Lino told the TEXAN as he pointed to church members, fists full of gospel tracts and Bibles, moving from car to car checking on the occupants’ welfare—both physical and spiritual. By noon, the gospel had been shared with 2,000 people. On Monday, NEHBC received 10,000 more gospel tracts overnighted from the North American Mission Board to continue their evangelistic efforts.

One of the recipients, Leester (pronounced Lee Esther) Francis, waited patiently under the awning covering the mission’s sidewalk. She, her daughter, and her daughter’s three children, ages 23 and 11-year-old twins, are staying in a hotel while her home undergoes repairs with the help of her sons and brother.

“It’s God’s work,” she said of the storm and her displacement. “I serve the Lord. He [said] he would never leave you or forsake you if you serve him.”

Another woman who had visited two other food distributions sites that week only to leave empty-handed arrived at Farrington hours before the 9 a.m. start time and left grateful for the provisions.

But even with the generous donations from across the country, it still was not enough. Supplies ran short with cars still lining the street.

Houston Police officers, who had arrived at the mission once traffic flow surrounding it became more than the volunteers could handle, signaled for traffic on the feeder to stop and for the white pickup to leave the mission. Neal stepped back from the truck as the female driver, provisions tucked into the truck bed, eased onto the feeder road.

Neal said the woman told her she was a believer but did not feel close to God. The current circumstances didn’t help. Neal encouraged her to read the Bible and gospel literature she had given her and ensured her God would draw close.

And Farrington Mission will be there.

Beginning Oct. 2 the mission’s normal operations will gradually come back online. Mission volunteers continue to trust in God’s provision when they can’t see it. At the end of the Sept. 9 distribution there were enough boxes for 120 families, Lino said. So the church prayed Sunday morning. By Monday morning two 18-wheer trucks and one cargo truck had already delivered food. Another 18-wheeler is expected before the Sept. 16 distribution.

“It just keeps multiplying,” Kristyn Roberts said. “It’s incredible.”

Get up-to-date information, find opportunities to volunteer, and give online at

“God sent them,” flooded homeowner says of Baptists

HOUSTON—Paul Matlock, 73, was sitting in his yard, staring into the distance, overwhelmed, when Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers arrived.

Floodwater from Hurricane Harvey had climbed more than 6 feet inside his home; it was chest high when he managed to escape with his wife Diana, 63, and their toy fox terrier. They had flooded twice before but never this badly. They knew when they left that they would probably lose almost everything they owned. And the sight when they returned confirmed it.

They had just finished restoring their home following last year’s “Tax Day” flood. A granite countertop and brand-new stainless steel appliances lined the kitchen where Diana Matlock enjoyed cooking for friends and family.

Little is salvageable now.

“I spent three days trying to figure out what I had done to make God so mad at me,” Matlock said as he watched SBDR volunteers carry items to the curb. “I’ve lived a pretty moral life. And [the hurricane] affected all of my immediate family and my wife’s family in Louisiana.”

His spirits were immediately lifted when he saw that he had not been forgotten by God—in fact, he was being helped yet again. When the SBDR trucks rolled into the driveway, his first thought was to grasp the volunteers’ hands and join them in a prayer of thanksgiving.

“I’m convinced God sent them here,” Matlock said.

For thousands upon thousands of homeowners like Matlock in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist volunteers are on-site or making plans to be there to add their labors and share their faith.

At the Matlock’s home, SBDR unit leader Brian Batchelder, whose unit is with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said the couple knew what needed to be done but had no idea how to do it alone.

“We provided the how,” said Batchelder, who attends Broadview Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas. “People need to see Jesus in the middle of a crisis. That’s why we come—so people can see what Jesus means to us and how he can help them.”

When Matlock teasingly asked volunteers not to scratch his ruined truck, Batchelder knew the homeowner was beginning to find hope.

A smaller moment encouraged volunteers Linda Parker and Glenda Warren, both of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa. When they arrived with the SBDR mud-out team, they first found Matlock almost in tears and despondent. No one had touched anything, and the stench of mud and mold was overwhelming, even with a mask.

The only thing Matlock wanted to find was his father’s 1942 class ring from Oklahoma Baptist University. Matlock kept it on his nightstand in a handmade wooden box, but everything in the room had been scattered by the floodwater. Together, they scoured the room, finding the ring as well as a large container filled with photographs that somehow had been untouched by the flooding.

“Little things like that are irreplaceable,” Parker said, adding, “Just the fact that someone was doing something took the burden off his shoulders.”

SBDR volunteers say they try to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus, easing the spiritual burden as well as the financial through providing cleanup aid at no cost.

“These folks have lost everything,” Batchelder said. “It just breaks my heart to take all their stuff to the curb and to have to pay someone to do that.”

Batchelder’s voice broke as he recalled his first volunteer experience, following Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At the end of every project, he and the volunteers signed a Bible and gifted it to the homeowners as a tangible reminder that they are never alone.

“This isn’t about us—it’s about Jesus,” he said, gazing at the gold-shirted volunteers working in the Matlocks’ house and debris-laden yard. “We’ll be gone, but he’ll still be here.”

Matlock and his wife were unable to escape with anything but a few pieces of clothing and family mementos. What little remains of flood survivors’ lives is under constant threat by looters. Three homes have been looted in the Matlocks’ neighborhood, but local law enforcement has increased patrols in the area, and Matlock believes his home will be safe.

SBDR volunteers expect to be stationed in Texas for many months as assessment and recovery continues.

The scope of the devastation is staggering. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the nation, bigger than the state of New Jersey with a population of more than 2.3 million within city limits and 6.5 million throughout the metro area. Across the state, Hurricane Harvey affected more than 6.8 million people in 18 counties. As the days pass, the damage and death totals continue to rise.

So, too, do the number of volunteers. In Matlock’s area, SBDR has partnered with Champion Forest Baptist Church. A church-wide call for volunteers supplemented the ranks by more than 2,000 people. Together, SBDR and Champion Forest have cleaned more than 400 homes, with many more scheduled for the days to come.

The impact of Hurricane Harvey remains mind numbing.

As the Category 4 storm crept across Texas in mid-August at an agonizing 2 miles per hour, the rain—more than 51 inches—kept falling, and the rivers and bayous kept rising.

The water rose quickly in downtown Houston, climbing to almost touch interstate exit signs and inundating local businesses, killing more than 70 people, necessitating more than 75,000 rescues and causing up to $190 billion in damage. An estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain—enough to fill the Houston Astrodome 85,000 times—fell in Texas and Louisiana over a six-day span.

PALs ministry mentors boys from single-parent homes

PLANO A priceless moment between single-mother JoJuana Turner of The Colony and her son occurred recently when 15-year-old Joshua showed his mom how to fish, a skill he learned from PALs mentors at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. 

“[He showed] me how put together a fishing rod the correct way, how to hold it. He taught me something. This was due to PALs,” Turner said, adding, “It is a precious memory. I am so proud of him.”

These types of stories make PALs founder Joe Perry smile as he prepares to retire at the end of August following nearly two decades as Prestonwood’s minister of missions, his last stop in a pastoral career spanning 33 years serving churches in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Perry, a former coach, plans to remain active, continuing to sponsor PALs at Prestonwood while exploring ways to partner with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to expand the program.

PALs (Providing Adult Leadership) started after men on a church dove hunting retreat expressed a desire to do something for boys without a father in the home.

Perry seized the opportunity and pitched the concept of PALs to the group. 

“Throughout my life, God has put me in situations where I’ve been aware of the needs of inner-city boys in particular, but (also) boys in general who don’t have dads.”

—PALs founder Joe Perry

“Throughout my life, God has put me in situations where I’ve been aware of the needs of inner-city boys in particular, but (also) boys in general who don’t have dads,” Perry said.

These situations included coaching at Alexandra, Louisiana’s all-black Peabody High School in the 1970s where Perry noticed most players were from single-parent homes. “We didn’t even have enough dads for a booster club,” he recalled.

Later, as a Little League coach in Oklahoma City with two sons himself, Perry recruited boys with absentee fathers to play on his tournament teams, paying expenses with donations. His awareness increased of the great “void” faced by fatherless boys.

With PALs, Perry felt he was finally doing what God had called him to do about the issue.

Funded then as it is now by donations, PALs launched in 2001, providing outings at no cost for boys from single-parent homes along with volunteer mentors. The format evolved into hunting or fishing weekends.

“Hunting and fishing are what we do because many of my mentors are just good old boys,” Perry chuckled.

“Over 300 boys have done at least three trips per year,” Perry said. “We seldom encounter a boy who, once he goes on a trip, doesn’t want to repeat.” 

Boys may start PALs at age 8 and participate through high school, provided they have begun PALs by age 14.

Mentors go through training, an intense personal purity analysis, and a background check, Perry said. Rules are strict. Adults and boys are never alone together, except when deer hunting, a trip reserved for boys 10 and older.

Being a mentor is “rewarding” but “tough” and “not glamorous,” Perry said. 

PALs annual outings include a dove hunt near Wichita Falls, a deer hunting trip near Brownwood, a fishing trip to a ranch near Sherman and a trout fishing excursion and tour of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center at Athens. Sometimes hog hunts or summer sand bass or striper fishing trips are held.

Mentors and boys spend nights in tents or church family life centers. Trips involve up to 18 boys. 

Each trip incorporates segments from the biblically based REAL curriculum Perry has developed, emphasizing the responsibilities of manhood. Topics include prioritizing a relationship with God, choosing a spouse, exercising leadership, avoiding peer pressure, preparing for a career, handling anger and being honest.

Rochelle Sladky, whose three sons participated in PALs, called Joe “great at fostering relationships and pointing them to the cross,” adding that her 29-year-old son always calls Perry when he comes to town.

PALs gave her sons “stability” and “examples of what it looks like to be a good husband [and] good father,” Sladky said. 

JoJuana Turner laughed that while Joshua balked at messy tasks at home, he could gut a fish or deer with ease in PALs.

“He told me, ‘You just do what you have to do, Mom,’” Turner said, adding that Perry “has made a footprint on Joshua’s heart that will last a lifetime.”

Perry references the James Dobson claim that if good men would spend four to five hours with fatherless boys four to five times a year, the effect on their lives would be profound.

“We know this is true. We have seen it,” Perry said. 

Of all the boys in PALs, he said he knows of only one who has had a minor scrape with the law. That boy straightened out, Perry said, adding that most “are active and faithful in churches. They are great men.”

Perry said he has nothing but admiration for single-parent moms of boys: “Most men couldn’t do the job a single mom does.” He intends to keep helping them through PALs.

For more information on starting a PALs program, contact Perry at

Bayou City Fellowship, Champion Forest Baptist Church mobilize to meet needs of hurting city

HOUSTON—On the future site of Bayou City Fellowship’s new sanctuary sits a metal building that has suddenly turned into a makeshift headquarters for disaster relief.

Cases of water, cleaning supplies and food sit stacked several feet high as volunteers scurry to organize donations that keep pouring in.

Across the room, church members work around the clock, dispatching demolition crews to homes throughout the city, where floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc.

“The great thing about Houston is Houston is a working people, and our church is a working church,” said Bayou City pastor Curtis Jones.

Even while the storm was dumping heavy rains on huge swaths of the city, Jones said his church rallied to meet needs. Men from the congregation went out in boats to rescue individuals and families who were trapped in their houses, and the church set up a disaster relief page on its website to start accepting donations and mobilizing volunteers.

“I think this moment is the point of all those sermons for all these years. When our neighbor needed us most, we showed up and turned up in Jesus’ name,” Jones said. “For me it’s been devastatingly beautiful to watch people’s lives be torn apart by this water but to see our church pitching in to rebuild.”

The response to the crisis has been widespread, with churches throughout the area offering their resources and time to anyone in need.

Like Bayou City, Champion Forest Baptist Church has utilized its facilities to collect supplies, and as of Sept. 2, the church had sent more than 1,000 volunteers out into the city for cleanup.

“This is an opportunity to be the gospel, to offer something with no expectation of anything in return, just truly giving and loving,” said Champion Forest mobilization pastor Jeff Skipper.

Outside of Houston, churches from throughout the state and nation have also extended a helping hand. Bayou City is currently preparing its facilities to house volunteer groups from out of town; and regardless of church size, Jones said there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to take part in relief efforts.

“Every church, no matter what the size has men and women who can do sheetrock and who can do plumbing, and we’re going to need all those things,” Jones said. “We’re going to need all those little churches who can send us teams of 10 and 20 people for the next six months, at least.”

Although the process of restoring the city is likely to take years, Jones is hopeful that it will lead to a transformed Houston, and most importantly, to transformed lives.

“Houston has been plunged beneath the waters, and I’m hoping that God will raise it up to newness of life. That’s only something he can do. We can rip out sheetrock, but only God can transform a life, and definitely only God can transform a city.”

Get up-to-date information, find opportunities to volunteer, and give online at