Thousands flee Tripoli homes as battle rages on outskirts

Members of Libyan internationally recognised pro-government forces ride in military vehicles on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Hani Amara

By Ahmed Elumami

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Eastern forces and troops loyal to the Tripoli government battled on the outskirts of Libya’s capital on Wednesday as thousands of residents fled from the fighting.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar held positions in the suburbs about 11 km (7 miles) south of the center. Steel containers and pickups with mounted machine-guns blocked their way into the city.

Residents reported LNA planes buzzing Tripoli as anti-aircraft guns fired at them. On the ground, Haftar’s forces were fighting Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s soldiers at the former international airport, witnesses said.

A Reuters reporter in downtown Tripoli could hear the gunfire.

The United Nations said at least 4,500 Tripoli residents had been displaced, most moving away from homes in conflict areas to safer districts. Many more were trapped, it said.

The LNA forces moved out of their stronghold in east Libya to take the sparsely-populated but oil-rich south earlier this year, before heading a week ago toward Tripoli, where the internationally-recognized government sits.

Libya has been divided and anarchic since the 2011 toppling of then-strongman Muammar Gaddafi. He ruled for more than four decades before falling in a Western-backed revolt.

Since then, political and armed factions have vied for power and control of Libya’s oil wealth, and the country split into rival eastern and western administrations linked to shifting military alliances after a battle for Tripoli in 2014.

The United Nations wants to bring both sides together to plan an election and way out of the chaos.

“I JUST WANT TO SURVIVE”

On its Facebook page, Haftar’s forces published a video purporting to show their seizure of a government base in the Aziziya district of southern Tripoli. The images, which could not be verified, showed a vehicle on fire and soldiers firing in the air, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said it was extremely concerned about the “disproportionate and indiscriminate use” of explosive weapons in densely populated areas.

Half a million children were at risk, it added.

As well as the humanitarian consequences, renewed conflict in Libya threatens to disrupt oil supplies, increase migration across the Mediterranean to Europe, scupper the U.N. peace plan, and encourage Islamist militants to exploit the chaos.

Islamic State killed three people in a remote desert town under LNA control two days ago.

In Tripoli, nearly 50 people have died, mainly combatants but also some civilians including two doctors, according to latest U.N. casualty estimates. The toll is expected to rise.

Several thousand migrants, detained after trying to use Libya as a staging point for crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, have also been caught up in the crisis.

U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday it had relocated more than 150 of them – among several thousand in total – from one detention center in south Tripoli to a facility of its own in a safe zone.

One official at that detention center said he flung open the doors on Wednesday and released another 150 migrants for their own safety due to the proximity of clashes.

The United Nations, United States, European Union and G7 bloc have appealed for a ceasefire, a return to the U.N. peace plan, and a halt to Haftar’s push.

But instead of that, he was moving men and equipment from southern and eastern Libya to a forward base at Gharyan, a town south of Tripoli, according to a foreign diplomatic source observing the deployments.

Opponents cast Haftar as a would-be dictator in the mould of Gaddafi, though he projects himself as a champion against extremism striving to restore order to Libya.

Haftar was among the officers who helped Gaddafi rise to power in 1969 but fell out with him during a war with Chad in the 1980s. He was taken prisoner by the Chadians, rescued by the CIA, and lived for about 20 years in Virginia before returning in 2011 to join other rebels in the uprising against Gaddafi.

Despite the flare-up in conflict, normal life was just about continuing in Tripoli, a city of roughly 1.2 million people, though prices were rising and businesses closing earlier than usual, residents said.

“I don’t care who wins or loses, I just want to survive with my family,” said a teacher in Tripoli who hoped to get out.

(Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis in Cairo; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Firefighters battle to save communities from epic California fire

FILE PHOTO: A firefighter knocks down hotspots to slow the spread of the River Fire (Mendocino Complex) in Lakeport, California, U.S. July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Crews battling the second-largest wildfire ever recorded in California fought on Monday to keep flames from descending a ridge into foothill communities, as reinforcements arrived from as far away as Alaska.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, made up of two separate conflagrations that merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, had burned 273,664 acres (110,748 hectares) as of Monday morning and was still growing, on track to potentially become the largest in state history.

“Unfortunately, they’re not going to get a break anytime soon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Hurley said of firefighters who had cut buffer lines around 30 percent of the blaze as of Monday. “It’s pretty doggone hot and dry, and it’s going to stay that way.”

Hurley said some temperatures could reach 110 degrees (43 Celsius) in Northern California over the next few days with 15-mile-per-hour (24 kph) winds fanning the flames. Environmentalists and some politicians say the uptick in the intensity of the state’s wildfire season may be linked in part to climate change.

The Mendocino Complex, which has destroyed 75 homes and forced thousands to flee, is the largest of eight major wildfires burning out of control across California, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday to declare a “major disaster” in the state.

“California wildfires are being magnified made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

A total of nearly 3,000 people were fighting the flames, including firefighters from Arizona, Washington, and Alaska.

Some 200 soldiers from the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, have also been called in to help in one of the most destructive fire seasons on record.

On Sunday, 140 fire managers and specialists from Australia and New Zealand underwent special training and were outfitted with safety gear at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise before being deployed to battle fires in the Pacific Northwest and California.

Crews battling the Mendocino Complex on Monday were focusing on keeping flames from breaking through fire lines on a ridge above the foothill communities of Nice, Lucerne, Glen Haven, and Clearlake Oaks, said Tricia Austin of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“If it were to be carried outside of those lines they have on the ridge, it could sweep down into those communities, that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” Austin said.

Elsewhere in California, the two-week-old Carr Fire on Saturday claimed the life of 21-year-old apprentice lineman Jay Ayeta, who died when his vehicle crashed as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain in Shasta County, according to PG&E corporation.

He was the seventh person killed in that blaze, which has scorched more than 160,000 acres (64,750 hectares) in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Jonathan Allen in New York, Laura Zuckerman in Pinedale, Wyoming and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

U.S.-led coalition, pro-Assad forces, clash in east Syria

A Syrian Army soldier loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad forces stands next to a military weapon in Idlib, Syria January 21, 2018. Picture taken January 21, 2018.

By Phil Stewart and Lisa Barrington

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) – The U.S.-led coalition and its local allies in Syria struck pro-government forces with deadly air and artillery fire overnight to repel “an unprovoked attack” near the Euphrates, the coalition said on Thursday.

The incident underscores the potential for further conflict in Syria’s oil-rich east, where the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias holds swathes of land after its offensive against Islamic State.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russia and by Shi’ite militias backed by Iran, has said he wants to take back every inch of Syria.

The pro-government forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham” east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, said a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The attack was carried out by 500 troops backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars but the coalition and its local allies killed more than 100 of them, the official said.

Syrian state television reported that the coalition had caused “dozens of dead and wounded” by bombing pro-government forces. But a commander in the military alliance supporting Assad disputed the death toll, saying seven pro-government forces were killed and 27 injured.

The U.S.-led coalition had alerted Russian officials about the presence of SDF forces in the area far in advance of the thwarted attack, the U.S. official said.

“Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted (enemy) attack,” the official said.

The United States and Russia maintain regular contacts in eastern Syria to prevent unexpected confrontation between the forces they support there.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the pro-government militias involved in the incident had been carrying out reconnaissance and their activities had not been previously agreed with Russia.

SKIRMISHES

No American troops were killed or wounded in the incident, officials said.

Some U.S. troops had been embedded at the time with the SDF, whose headquarters in Deir al-Zor province had been a target of the attack.

One SDF fighter was wounded, the official said. Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the SDF’s most powerful element, the Kurdish YPG militia, described the clash as “skirmishes” and said each side had returned to their former positions.

“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” the U.S. official said.

Neither U.S. officials nor the U.S.-backed coalition have offered details on the identity of attacking forces.

The coalition said in an email the pro-government forces had initiated hostilities with artillery fire, tank maneuvers and mortar fire after a steady buildup of forces over the past week.

A reporter for Syrian state TV station Ikhbariya described the groups it said had been bombed by the U.S.-led coalition as “local people fighting (Islamic State) and the SDF”.

Russia’s Interfax cited the Defence Ministry as saying the incident showed the U.S. goal in Syria was not to battle Islamic State but “the capture and withholding of the economic assets”, an apparent reference to the Khusham oil field.

Russian commanders held talks with coalition representatives after the incident, it added.

The coalition said the attack occurred around 8 km (5 miles) “east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham”, a town southeast of the provincial capital Deir al-Zor city.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington, Lisa Barrington in Beirut, Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Editing by G Crosse, Michael Perry, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)

Death toll from Egypt gun battle rises to 52 killed: sources

CAIRO (Reuters) – At least 52 Egyptian police and conscripts were killed and six more wounded in a gun battle on Friday during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the western desert, three security sources said.

Sources had said late on Friday at least 30 police were killed. Egypt is battling an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, that has killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.

The interior ministry released a statement on the operation on Friday but has so far not given any details on casualties. At least 23 police officers were killed and the other victims were conscripts, the sources said.

Security sources on Friday said authorities were following a lead to a militant camp in the desert where eight suspected members of Hasm Movement were believed to be hiding. The group has claimed attacks around Cairo targeting judges and police.

A convoy of four SUVs and one interior ministry vehicle was ambushed from higher ground by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades and detonating explosive devices, one senior security source said.

Militants are mostly fighting in remote northern Sinai where the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. Attacks mostly hit police and armed forces, but militants have also targeted Egypt’s Christians and tourists.

(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; writing by Patrick Markey/Jeremy Gaunt)

Hezbollah, Syria army launch offensive at Syrian-Lebanese border

Lebanese army soldiers patrol a street in Labwe, at the entrance of the border town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

By Laila Bassam and Tom Perry

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched an offensive to drive insurgents from their last foothold on the Syrian-Lebanese border on Friday, a pro-Damascus military commander said.

The operation targeted insurgents from the Nusra Front group in the mountainous outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal and areas near the Syrian town of Fleita, the commander said.

Media run by Hezbollah reported significant gains by its side in the early stage of the operation.

A Lebanese security source said refugees living in the area were fleeing toward Arsal and the Lebanese army was facilitating their passage with U.N. supervision.

U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled said only a small number of people had fled to Arsal town so far.

“UNHCR has only received confirmation … that two Syrian families have arrived in the town of Arsal from the outskirts,” she said.

Several thousand Syrian refugees occupy camps east of the town in an area known as Juroud Arsal, a barren mountainous zone between Syria and Lebanon that has served as a base for Islamic State militants, jihadists and other rebels fighting in Syria’s six year civil war.

Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said Nusra militants were under attack in Juroud Arsal and in areas near the Syrian town of Fleita. A military news outlet run by Hezbollah reported Syrian army air strikes on Nusra positions near Fleita.

Al-Manar broadcast footage showing an artillery gun being fired from the back of a truck flying the Hezbollah flag. Plumes of smoke were shown rising from the hills.

Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group backed by Iran, has played a critical part in previous campaigns against insurgents along the border, part of the much wider role it has played supporting President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war.

The Lebanese army is not taking part in the operation, the commander in the pro-Damascus military alliance and the Lebanese security source said. The Lebanese source said the army had assumed a defensive position, was monitoring militant movements, and would fire if it came under attack.

The Lebanese National News Agency later reported that the army had fired on a group of militants trying to flee the fighting toward Arsal town.

ARMY REINFORCEMENTS

The Lebanese army, a recipient of U.S. and British military support, deployed reinforcements on the outskirts of Arsal in anticipation of the operation this week to prevent militants from crossing into Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian war has been a major point of contention in Lebanon, facing criticism from opponents including Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. Hariri’s Future Movement on Thursday said the anticipated Arsal battle was part of “the services” offered by Hezbollah to “the Syrian regime”.

Hariri said on Tuesday the Lebanese army would carry out a carefully planned operation in the Juroud Arsal area, but there was no coordination between it and the Syrian army.

The Nusra Front was al Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian civil war until last year when it formally severed ties to al Qaeda and renamed itself. The group now spearheads the Tahrir al-Sham Islamist alliance.

In 2014, Arsal was the scene of one of the most serious spillovers of the Syrian war into Lebanon, when jihadists briefly overran the town.

Negotiations failed to secure the militants’ withdrawal from the Juroud Arsal area to other rebel-held parts of Syria.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said time was running out for Syrian militants along the border near Arsal to reach deals with Syrian authorities, saying it was “high time to end the threat of militant groups in Arsal”.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam/Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Jon Boyle and Hugh Lawson)

Christians caught up in Philippines’ urban battle with Islamists

A view of a fire caused by continued fighting between the government soldiers and the Maute group, in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 28, 2017.

By Tom Allard

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Reuters) – Bishop Edwin Dela Pena was sipping coffee after dinner in a southern Philippines coastal town last Tuesday when he received a phone call: it was from one of his diocese priests, who sounded panicky and distressed.

Father Teresito “Chito” Sugarno, the vicar general of Marawi City, had been taken hostage by Islamist militants along with about a dozen of his parishioners.

“He was only given a few lines to deliver, and it was simply echoing the demands of the kidnappers – for the troops to withdraw,” said Dela Pena. If the demand was not met, he was told, “something bad would happen”.

There has been no further word from the group of Christians since they were caught up in a ferocious battle that has raged between Islamist insurgents and Philippines soldiers in Marawi for the past week.

As many as 180,000 people, about 90 percent of the population, have fled the usually bustling lakeside town nestled in lush tropical hills that, almost overnight last week, became a theater of urban warfare.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao – the country’s southernmost island and an area the size of South Korea – as troops outside Marawi closed in on  Isnilon Hapilon, who was proclaimed “emir” of Southeast Asia last year after he pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Mindanao has long been a hotbed of local insurgencies and separatist movements: but now, Islamist fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries have converged in Mindanao, stoking fears that it could become a regional stronghold of Islamic State.

More than 90 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Christian, but here Muslims are in the majority. In 1980 Marawi proclaimed itself an “Islamic City” and it is the only city in the country with that designation.

For the small Christian community of Marawi, however, life in the city had until recently been peaceful and prosperous.

“We don’t consider ourselves Muslims or Christians, we are just friends,” said Dela Pena, who has lived for 17 years in Marawi but was out of town when the violence broke out.

That peace was shattered some months ago, he said, after the army bombed an encampment of Islamist groups some 50 km (30 miles) away.

“They said they pulverized the whole camp, but these people simply transferred their base of operation from the jungle to the urban center, to the city, Marawi,” he told Reuters in an interview from Iligan City, 37 km (23 miles) from Marawi.

“They came in trickles, a few people at a time. They have relatives there. They lived, they recruited,” he said, adding that authorities appear to have missed the looming threat.

Members of Philippine Marines walk next to an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) as they advance their position in Marawi City, Philippines May 28

Members of Philippine Marines walk next to an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) as they advance their position in Marawi City, Philippines May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

CATHEDRAL ATTACKED AND TORCHED

Chaos was unleashed upon Marawi when troops searching for Hapilon were ambushed by heavily armed militants.

More than 200 local and foreign fighters from the Maute group and others allied to Islamic State fanned out across the city, seizing the main hospital and prison before attacking the Cathedral of Maria Auxiliadora.

Inside, nearby residents told Dela Pena, Father Teresito and a group of worshippers were decorating the church for a holy day to celebrate the life of Mary, a sacred figure in both Christianity and Islam.

Dela Pena said they ran to the nearby bishop’s house, hoping they would be safe there, but the militants burst in after them. That evening, after bundling their captives into vehicles, they torched the church, according to the residents.

Photos showing the priest, a young man and a woman slumped against a wall have circulated on the internet. Dela Pena believes they are being used as human shields by the militants.

“I cannot imagine. I have no words to describe it,” he said.

Still, he remains hopeful that the city can unite again. The vast majority of Marawi’s citizens, whatever their faith, are appalled by the violence and disruption, he said.

“I think we can begin something more effective in terms of working together, in terms of dialogue, in terms of peaceful coexistence,” he said. “After all, we have shared the same predicament.”

(Additional reporting by Karen Lema in MANILA; Editing by John Chalmers and Lincoln Feast)

Iran minister warns Saudi Arabia after ‘battle’ comments

Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan delivers a speech during the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran will hit back at most of Saudi Arabia with the exception of Islam’s holiest places if the kingdom does anything “ignorant”, Tehran’s defense minister was quoted as saying on Sunday after a Saudi prince threatened to move the “battle” to Iran.

“If the Saudis do anything ignorant, we will leave no area untouched except Mecca and Medina,” Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying.

“They think they can do something because they have an air force,” he added in an apparent reference to Yemen, where Saudi warplanes regularly attack Iran-aligned Houthi forces in control of the capital Sanaa.

Dehghan, speaking to Arabic-language Al-Manar TV, was commenting on remarks by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said on Tuesday any contest for influence between the Sunni Muslim kingdom and the revolutionary Shi’ite theocracy ought to take place “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia”.

Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the Middle East and support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. Iran denies Saudi accusations that it sends financial and sometimes armed support to groups hostile to Riyadh around the Arab world.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman waves as he meets with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 11, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman waves as he meets with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 11, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

In unusually blunt comments in a nationally-televised interview on Tuesday, Prince Mohammed ruled out any dialogue with Iran and pledged to protect his conservative kingdom from what he called Tehran’s efforts to dominate the Muslim world.

“We know that we are a main goal for the Iranian regime,” he said. “We will not wait until the battle becomes in Saudi Arabia but we will work to have the battle in Iran rather than in Saudi Arabia.”

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Editing by William Maclean and Angus MacSwan)

U.S. Officials Believe ISIS Leader “Jihadi John” Killed in U.S. Airstrikes

Multiple news agencies are reporting today that Islamic State leader “Jihadi John” was possibly killed during an airstrike in northern Syria led by the United States.

According to ABC News, a U.S. official stated that the jihadist, Mohammed Emwazi, was hit after leaving a building in Raqqa, Syria and entering a car. The official added that it was a “clean hit” where Emwazi was basically “evaporated.”

“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, on Nov. 12, 2015 targeting Mohammed Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John,'” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

“Emwazi, a British citizen, participated in the videos showing the murders of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and a number of other hostages,” Cook said. “We are assessing the results of tonight’s operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate.”

In the ISIS videos, Emwazi always wore all black, covering his entire body except his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He soon became a symbol of the Islamic State’s brutality after being featured many horrific videos where he killed innocent people in various, sadistic ways.

British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the airstrike was a combined effort between the U.S. and Britain and was an act of self-defense, according to CNN.

“We always said we will do whatever is necessary to track down Emwazi and stop him taking the lives of others,” he said.

He added, “I want to thank the United States, the United Kingdom has no better ally.”

CNN adds that while officials are confident that Emwazi is dead, the Pentagon would not officially confirm his death at this time.

In another blow to ISIS, Reuters reports that Kurdish forces were able to seize back the Iraqi town of Sinjar back from the Islamic State on Friday. The Kurdish troops were able to take several of Sinjar’s public buildings including a cement factory, hospital, and wheat silo. Officials believe this win over the terrorist organization may give the Kurds the momentum needed to take back Mosul.

“The liberation of Sinjar will have a big impact on liberating Mosul,” Iraq Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani told reporters atop Mount Sinjar, overlooking the town.

The operation has not only liberated the town, but has cut off vital trade routes that ISIS used to move weapons, oil, fighters, and other commodities.

All Fun and Games, Until the Darkness Begins (Pt. 2)

It was my birthday weekend; my buddies were passed out from smoking weed laced with something that had caused all of us to hallucinate. I was the only one awake. The feeling of being entirely alone swept through me in horrifying waves of fear. While everyone slept, odd memories started to come forth and I remember thinking about God and Heaven and hell. This voice in my head began contradicting and disproving the Word of God to me, whispering it through my brain. I remember running to the bathroom and vomiting blood. That was when I really knew I hadn’t just been smoking weed. I still do not know what it was that had been slipped to us, I just remember sitting on my stairs feeling as if I had been sucked into another world. Was I crazy? No. Was I high? Yes. That is what drugs do, but I was aware enough to know that this was not just a simple case of hallucination. Continue reading

All Fun and Games, Until the Darkness Begins (Pt. 1)

It has always struck me as funny how people’s image of you is never the image you have of yourself. Whenever I tell people here at the ministry my testimony, they are always a little bit shocked.  Most here have only known me for perhaps the past four to six years and when I tell them that I used to dabble in drugs and not live for Jesus, they are like “What?!”  Even Pastor Jim, when I first got here and I told him some of my testimony said, “Well my goodness, I thought you were a good church boy all along!” Continue reading