Last summer I received an e-mail regarding a film that was soon to be released online entitled “The Greatest Fight”. Intrigued, I clicked on the link (www.thegreatestfight.com) and soon learned that it was a documentary on Ken Shamrock, considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the modern UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
Immediately, my mind was flooded with images and memories of a guy named Jerry Perez, whom I had met nearly 20 years ago while I served with Cru at Fresno State. What made me think about Jerry is that he was really into the UFC. Those were the early days of the sport, actually, and it really hadn’t achieved mainstream status yet. But Jerry and his family watched every UFC pay-per-view event as they were broadcast, and had recorded every one of them onto VHS tapes.
Jerry was a student I met on campus while sharing my faith. Our paths crossed and I had the privilege of leading Jerry to Christ and helping him with his initial growth in the faith. I wrote about my experience with Jerry in a newsletter, which you can read about at: goo.gl/inuVkr. Jerry and I connected because we had both been wrestlers in high school and it was Jerry who introduced me to the UFC world.
One weekend when Jen was out of town, Jerry came over early in the day carrying a stack of VHS video tapes that included every UFC pay-per-view broadcast since its inception just a few years prior. We spent hours that weekend watching the entire history of UFC fights and it was there that I became acquainted with early UFC legends such as Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock.
The website for “The Greatest Fight” explained that the film is a window into the struggle Ken Shamrock experienced as he came to the end of his fighting career. But more than that, the film shows a larger story emerge, “one where a man’s total identity is being changed.” I realized that the movie was really about the spiritual changes that Ken Shamrock experienced.
Watch Ken Shamrock’s testimony on the 700 Club
I thought back to Jerry Perez. The last 6 months that Jen and I were in Fresno before moving to Davis to start Cru, I began to see less and less of Jerry. He was working to make some extra cash and didn’t seem to have as much time for Bible studies and on campus meetings. One of the last times I talked to Jerry I remember him saying something to the effect that while he appreciated the time I had invested in him over the last year, he had decided that the Christian life just didn’t work for him. To say I was bummed would be an understatement. Over the years, I would think about Jerry from time to time, but I had no real way to connect with him.
But when Jerry came to my mind last summer, I thought, “maybe he’s on Facebook.” A quick search revealed that he WAS on Facebook but his profile was configured in such a way that I wasn’t able to initiate with him. I then wondered if he might be on LinkedIn, which is sort of a Facebook forum for business professionals. I quickly located Jerry on LinkedIn and was able to send him a message. To my surprise, Jerry responded within an hour or so. We exchanged several messages back and forth which led me to think that perhaps Jerry had not given up on God as I had thought all these years.
Over the Christmas break, our family was able to travel together outside of the SoCal area for the first time in 2 years. We spent several days in Fresno visiting Jen’s family and the first day we were there, I arranged to have breakfast with Jerry.
It was amazing to connect with Jerry after almost 18 years and see that he’s married, with kids, involved in church and seeking to follow the Lord as he looks to get involved in the local Gideons chapter where he lives. It was a very nice Christmas gift from the Lord.
Thanks so much for your prayers and partnership with us, which have allowed us to help people like Jerry make life-impacting decisions that lead to true spiritual transformation!