As a college student in Texas, Kevin Durham was unaware of the journey that God was going to lead him on just a few years later. Finishing up his degree in Religion and Christian Life, Durham met Emily Copeland (a professional wakeboarder) and the pair got married in 2003. Shortly after, the two moved away from Texas and began to pursue Life together – both in and out of the wakeboarding industry. “One thing that we began doing together was having a church service at all of the professional events in the U.S. Pro Wakeboarding Tour,” tells Durham. While they were seeking God on whether or not their call was to evangelize full-time, God soon opened a door for Kevin to work at a large company in Orlando that manufactured wakeboards and water ski boats. “Though I didn’t have a degree in marketing, I did know a lot of people in the industry. I was offered the Team Managing position and it was amazing. I really felt like it was the calling of my life,” he shares. “We had 14 professional wakeboarders and 13 professional water-skiers on our team. The best part was that through all of the promotions, events and marketing, I was still able to do Life .”
One day, when Durham was at a friend’s house (professional wakeboarder Shaun Murray), God gave him a vision – to give athletes a platform to promote their story and to do it for God through a combination of documentaries, videos and testimonies showing what Christ has done for them. With that vision, This Iz My Story (TIMS) was birthed. “I felt as though an online venue would be best; we would shoot short videos on athletes sharing what God has done, but not in a preachy manner. Through taking this approach and method, I have seen God do some incredible things,” adds Durham.
Because of the enormous amount of traveling that his job entailed, Durham made a decision to step out in faith and quit his job so that he could focus his efforts onto the Life . Through friends and connections he had made at the company he worked for, he was able to get things moving forward, including a top-notch website that was created and donated to the Life . Today, This Iz My Story reaches out to a lost generation of youth by giving Christians of influence a platform to share their experiences in life and with Christ. In addition, TIMS offers multiple formats of each story for those who want to share their beliefs about God with their friends. “Our stories are downloadable so that people can watch and share them on ipods, mP3 players or even by embedding them,” Durham adds. As the Life feels that sharing faith in today’s culture is done effectively through “viral” means, fans can post and embed stories on Facebook or Myspace and share Christ with their friends any time of the day or night.
By visiting Thisizmystory.com, viewers can watch a variety of heartwarming and intriguing testimonies from today’s most popular athletes. Here are some sample stories that the website shares with its visitors:
Emily Copeland-Durham – Professional Wakeboarder
Growing up in Denver, Emily began wakeboarding around 12 years of age. Picking it up quickly, she started to compete on the amateur circuit at 13 and went on to go pro the following year. Gaining several wins her first year, she was sponsored and her career took off. As you hear Emily speak about her life growing up and her love for Christ, you are immediately drawn in by a young woman with a pure heart and strong desire to share her faith. In today’s world, Emily’s story is anything but ordinary. She is truly a positive role model for women. “I became a Christian at the age of four and recommitted at camp a few years later. I grew up in a strong Christian home and in my teenage years I really dug deeper into my relationship with the Lord,” shares Emily.
“Wakeboarding can be a very worldly sport – so I had to make a decision at a young age of exactly where I was going to stand, who I was going to be friends with, who I would spend my time with and where my relationship with God was going. I decided I did not want to be a hypocrite and I wanted to live my life for Christ; I did not want to ruin my witness in the sport of wakeboarding.” Emily wants to share with others that “no one is going to live your faith out for you – there comes a time in life when you have to be accountable and set standards and decide how you are going to withstand all of the temptations of this world.” As one of the older girls on the tour, Emily continues to be a positive example to those around her.
While on the tour, she gets together with a group of female wakeboarders each weekend to do a church service or Bible study. “I can really see the Lord’s hand in the middle of my sport and also while ministering to others. I like to talk to girls about self-image and purity. God has given me the confidence that I have; girls need to know that they don’t have to flaunt their body to be confident but just be confident in who you are in Christ.” You can watch Emily’s full testimony on the website.
Shaun Murray – Professional Wakeboarder
Born and raised in Southern California, Murray always had a love for waterskiing. Once his family moved out to St. Louis near a lake, waterskiing became “a before and after school sport”. He eventually was drawn to Florida to attend Florida Southern College and be a part of their water ski team. It was during this time that Murray became a fan of wakeboarding. “I remember that there was a local contest down the street from where I was working and I entered. Someone saw me and told me that I should try to do it professionally,” shares Murray. That “someone” was the editor for Wakeboard Magazine. On his advice, Murray decided to give it a shot – he made it to the finals, picked up a sponsor and his career has flourished ever since. “Though I eventually saved enough money to buy a house and realized that I could make this my career, I knew that I wasn’t seeking God’s will a hundred percent. I was trying to stay out of trouble but I wasn’t avoiding it. Not just in the wakeboard industry, but really anywhere in life, it’s pretty easy to find a place to get away from God or be sucked into other things,” he adds.
After a few years of the party scene, Murray suffered an injury to his knee, which he recalls being a real eye-opener, stating, “I had a wake-up call 6 months after my knee surgery. I couldn’t deny God’s existence and what He had in store for me. I decided to walk away from all of the things that were holding me back and made a commitment to read the Bible from front to back and spend time in prayer every day. These things have made all the difference.” Hearing the positive reactions from people who have watched his testimony encourages Murray that God’s hand is always at work. “My hope is that more eyes will see it and more ears will hear it; it’s awesome that I get to use wakeboarding as a tool for God and can help change people’s lives,” he adds.
Plans For the Future
This Iz My story is currently funded through donations and Durham decided from the get-go that he would not draw a salary from the Life . To make ends meet, he works a “regular job”. “Funding is always a struggle for almost every Life – but God has helped us every step of the way. The biggest blessing for us is to do Life out of our hearts and passion and not because it is part of a job that pays us,” tells Durham. He shares that the Life is going live with a bigger vision in January of 2012, when they will partner with churches and create “This IZ My Story” groups. These groups will eventually shoot videos, share their stories and have the opportunity to post it to different social media venues. “Their friends and family will have the opportunity to hear what Christ has done in their life and it will be a neat opportunity for evangelism; taking the great commission and watching the gospel spread, that is what we are here for,” he adds.
For more information and to watch testimonies, please visit www.thisizmystory.com.
Marisa can be reached at [email protected].