By Jade Perez
In an effort to bolster youngsters’ self-esteem, more than 450 middle school age students from area churches listened to someone who had his life shaped by his faith.
Holy Rosary Church in Hawthorne invited Justin Fatica, a passionate speaker and co-founder of Hard as Nails Ministry, to speak to the students last Monday night. According to the organization’s website, Fatica has been an itinerant speaker for 20 years, having traveled to 44 states and four countries.
The event began with a few ice-breakers and words from 19-year old Hard as Nails missionary Leia Hunt, who explained the core teaching of the ministry, “Three Minutes of Power.”
“In the first minute you share about what your greatest challenge is; it could be something that happens now or even when you were younger,” Hunt said. “The second minute is how God carries you through these hardships and the third one is about what you’re grateful for.”
She added that when one can see the good in a negative situation, he or she will “soar in honorable things.”
Hunt went on to share her story. When she was two-and-a-half years old, she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer. After several rounds of chemotherapy and 26 surgeries, Hunt’s won her battle with cancer. However, it left her blind in her left eye. Throughout her childhood, she felt alone because there was no one at school who had an experience similar to hers.
But through those obstacles, Hunt said that her trust in God strengthened, which ultimately taught her to love herself and inspire others.
“I am so grateful for my cancer because I love being Leia and I wouldn’t want to be anybody else,” she said. “God only gives us as much as we can handle and everything He gives us, there’s a purpose. Now, I am able to stand up here and give you this message of hope and also help other people with cancer. But I wouldn’t have been able to do that unless I fought my own battle.”
In his ensuing address, Fatica joyfully instructed everyone to say, “You’re amazing” to their neighbor and later stated that through the millions of people he has spoken to, many don’t believe that they’re special.
“There’s people that think they’re not good enough or they don’t measure up,” Fatica said. “It’s because people sometimes let you down; they say that they love and care about you and then they hurt you.”
No matter what one goes through, whether it’s problems with family or school related, Fatica stressed to his young audience that everyone is good and that they matter.
Instead of hurting one another, everyone should lift each other up and make a difference in the world, he said.
Fatica ended his speech with an exercise where every student had to write on a piece of paper their biggest challenge.
He then read some of the challenges to the crowd in hopes of helping to make the students realize that they’re not alone and to trust they will get through any rough patches they’re facing.
Last week’s event concluded with everyone receiving a Bible, leaving students with a sense of positive feelings and love.