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To Empower and Encourage

Have you ever met a person and they get you fired up in a good way? A person who instantly motivates you? Who empowers you?

LaMorris Crawford has that God-given appeal.

With LaMorris after a Bengals game in Cincinnati

He’s like this now. But if there was ever a person who could have given up on life, it was him.

LaMorris was born on Chicago’s South Side and knew what it was like to be poor. His environment included poverty and violence.

His mother gave birth to him when she was 16. The next year, she was shot and killed.

He still has no idea who his father was.

Life for him consisted of cruelty, drugs, and financial hardship. It was not fun.

He was raised by his grandmother and went to school occasionally to get fed or to play sports.

By age 11, he was a gang member. Three years later, he entered the drug-dealing business.

LaMorris was angry and confused. But he was also a gifted athlete and excelled in basketball. He started on the varsity squad as a freshman in a large competitive high school in Chicago. He loved the spotlight and being part of a team.

I spoke with LaMorris before a recent revival service
at Cornerstone Nazarene in Wheelersburg, Ohio.

“I was a popular kid in high school,” he told a packed congregation at the Cornerstone Nazarene Church in Wheelersburg, Ohio last week. He enjoyed the action on the court, and he also used the time as a respite from the cruel world that awaited him after the buzzer sounded. “I could have played D-I.”

But a low SAT score squashed any dreams of that happening. Soon, it was off to community college.

At 19 years old, LaMorris was still angry and confused.

Then his cousin found Christ, and he saw a change that made him long for salvation himself.

“He had His
hand on me
even when I was doing wrong.”

LaMorris gave his life over to the Lord.

The anger turned to joy.

The confusion turned to freedom.

The violence turned into love.

He found rest for his weary soul. He found what he needed. A life of frustration was now on fire for the glory of God.

After he finished up at the community college, he transferred to Olivet Nazarene University where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, the first person in his family to accomplish this milestone.

A life headed in the wrong direction was turned around by the hand of God.

Today, he is on staff with Athletes in Action and serves as chaplain for the Cincinnati Bengals, a far cry from his days of poverty and violence in Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an itinerant speaker.

“I look back at where God brought me from, and His hand has been on my life,” he told me before the service. “He had His hand on me even when I was doing wrong.”

“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

I John 4:4

He met his wife Megan at Olivet, and she is a big part of his ministry. They have four young children ranging from ages four to nine. His goal is to be the best example for his kids, giving them something he never had during his childhood.

“I went to men in my church and asked them how to be a Dad,” he said. “I had no clue because I had no one to watch.”

During the NFL season, LaMorris and his wife hold weekly Bible studies for Bengal players and their wives.

“I talk about leadership and how to get to the next level,” he said. “I love to empower them and encourage them to be better. That is my job and I love it.”

LaMorris speaks from experience. He has seen the dark side of life and has been in the deepest wells of despair. Still, God loved him even when he sold cocaine.

“The challenge for any person is the one you see in the mirror,” he said. “That is where the battle for life takes place. To crucify your flesh is the battle.”

He has seen the struggle for life and death, and he has come full circle with a message for the world that our Heavenly Father has a plan for you.

If God can take LaMorris out of his circumstances and place him into a world where he makes a difference to others, He can do the same for you.

LaMorris spoke the truth to the congregation that night, and it was well received. Several people came forward, and a sweet movement of the Holy Spirit was evident.

If you need to make a change, do it now.

I appreciate his passion and his method to tell everyone about Christ’s love. I’m glad to call him a friend and grateful he wrote the foreword for my book – Bengal Believer: 40 Who Dey Votions for the Cincinnati Faithful — which will be released soon.

A big Who Dey to you, LaMorris, and your family.

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