Aaron Von Riper, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Hunstville Texas, was called in to a car crash on June 6, not knowing that the victims were his own wife and son.
Amber Von Riper’s car collided head on with an oncoming pick-up truck. Amber was ejected from the car while her 7 year old son Jonathan was trapped inside.
“It’s my family. My wife was laying there on the ground,” Van Riper said. “I don’t know how either one of them lived. There was nothing left of that car.” Rescue workers were able to free Jonathan from the vehicle and both him and his mother were airlifted to the hospital.
Amber went through nine hours of surgery to repair a broken pelvis, while Jonathan suffered a broken arm and leg. The family’s medical bills were expected to total around $125,000
A GoFundMe page was quickly set up for the family, with friends and family members donating cash and posting hopeful messages.
Pop singer Taylor Swift donated $15,000 to the campaign, the highest donation the fund has seen so far. In addition, according the the GoFundMe page, the singer’s donation attracted others to the site, bringing in more money to help the family.
“Not a lot of people are just gonna drop that,” VanRiper said. “If it is her, I thank her from the bottom of my heart. She’s an amazing person.”
Billboard.com confirmed that the donation did indeed come from Swift.
As of June 18th, the GoFundMe page had raised over $120,000 in 11 days.
Hollywood working for . . . the church? Apparently, as Hillsong just signed with the William Morris Endeavor (WME). This is the first instance of a major Hollywood talent agency working on behalf of a church.
WME previously catered to faith-based audiences, representing clients such as Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and LightWorkers Media. The agency plans to assist Hillsong expand its TV viewership and produce new digital content.
Not that the Pentecostal church of nearly 100,000 weekly attendees needs much assistance. With services in 11 countries and over 10 million social media followers, the church has sold more than 12 million records worldwide.
Much of Hillsong’s success is credited to its pop-style worship, attracting multiple celebrity churchgoers. From Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner to Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, young stars tweet and share about their Hillsong worship experiences.
“Our singular, all-consuming passion is to build God’s Church and Kingdom on the earth, and see everyday people released into their purpose and calling,” senior pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston shared on the church website. The married pastors started the church in Australia 32 years ago.
“We believe in people – we believe in their potential and we believe in their amazing capacity to influence the world with good,” the pastors wrote.
WME’s upcoming plans for this megachuch? Previous arrangements hoped for a church documentary to be released in April, but plans with Warner Bros. fell through.
“It’s our hope that by sharing an up-close and unvarnished look inside our music and lives, we can shatter pre-conceived notions of what it means to follow Jesus in today’s modern world,” Brian and Bobbie’s son, Joel Houston, told the Christian Post.
“I want you to know that what’s being offered to you is not just a film, this is a life changer,” actor Shia LaBeouf recalled director David Ayer telling him. “We’re going to push it all the way to the edge. I want you to make this movie like you’ll never make another movie. You’re going to die on this set.”
The next day, LaBeouf began preparations for the film, “Fury.” Through National Guard training, the actor learned to work as a medic, a gunner, and shadowed an army chaplain.
He also embraced a radical spiritual conversion.
“I found God doing ‘Fury,’” LaBeouf told Interview Magazine. “I became a Christian man.”
In the WWII action melodrama — rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout — LaBeouf plays Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan. Serving in a tank squadron under the command of Brad Pitt’s character, Don “Wardaddy” Collier, Swan’s Christian faith often sets him apart from the other men.
“I could have just said the prayers that were on the page,” LaBeouf said. “But it was a real thing that really saved me . . . . It’s a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control. And while there’s beauty to that, acting is all about control. So that was a wild thing to navigate.”
LaBeouf described the film’s writer and director, Ayer, as “a full subscriber to Christianity.”
Having served in the military, Ayer strived to depict the spiritual and emotional struggles soldiers face — both in WWII and the wars of today.
In an interview with Relevant, Ayer described the paradox of warfare as “the nobility of knowing what you’re going to see and expose yourself to and the moral hazards that you’re going to experience in undertaking your duty with honor and with pride.”
“There’s great nobility in that,” he said. “I don’t know if people understand those things, and I want people to get a little insight into that.”
In addition to tackling the moral struggles defining military service, “Fury” illuminates the challenges faced by Christian soldiers.
“It was important to me to show how someone can lean on Scripture and their relationship with Christ in an environment where they’re seeing this much inhumanity and destruction,” Ayer said.
Ayer utilized LaBeouf’s character to depict the persevering strength flowing from a foundational Christian faith.
“It’s fascinating that, because of his faith, [the character is] not unafraid of dying, but he’s able to accept it and doesn’t see it as the end of the road,” Ayer said. “It’s hard to bring Scripture to life in a realistic and impactful way in film.”
It remains to be seen whether LaBeouf’s new faith will transform the celebrity’s lifestyle — recently tarnished by his arrest for criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, and harassment.
“I’m trying to find a way to have some control over my actions, my behavior, my ideas, my thoughts, my path in life,” LaBeouf said. “But it’s very new for me.
“My work in my film and my work in my life have influenced who I’ve become. Life imitates art. And so a lot of my choices, these characters that I’ve been playing, have actually built a person, they’ve raised me. So I’ve just been more careful about my choices. I’ve taken control back. After calamity comes hope. And I do feel a deep hopefulness in my life and in my work.”
Ayer wanted “Fury” to reflect this hope. “I’m a big believer that, no matter who you are, there’s redemption for you, and there is forgiveness,” Ayer said.
“Fury” hit theaters on October 17. Described as a “war horror film” by the New Yorker, the film was praised for its accurately traumatic, though graphic, depiction of WWII.
For more information and showtimes, click here.
The young man who accepted Miley Cyrus’ VMA Award on behalf of homeless youth – kickstarting the celebrity’s fundraising campaign – was sentenced to 6 months in jail on October 2 for probation violation.
Jesse told his judge that he would “like to be viewed as a good person, not as a nuisance to society,” according to The Oregonian.
Originally arrested in 2010 for misdemeanor crimes, relating to criminal trespass and criminal mischief, Jesse Helt avoided his required community service and meeting his probation officer. Searching for modeling work, Jesse faced homelessness when he relocated to Los Angeles.
It was at a youth homeless shelter that Jesse met Cyrus. After Cyrus’ visit, she decided to begin a fundraising campaign for the shelter, My Friend’s Place.
Among other assistance, the shelter provides meals, transportation, showers, clothing and supplies to youth experiencing homelessness. Last year alone, the organization served 1,418 youth –over one third of the youth dealing with homelessness in Los Angeles
The organization also offers more long term services and programs, including education workshops that address a variety of critical issues from drug abuse to mental health.
Though it remains unclear whether or not Cyrus previously knew of Jesse’s criminal record, the pop singer not only paid for his flight to Oregon, but also offered to cover all of his legal costs.
According to his mother, Linda Helt, Jesse is quick to assist a friend in need and always eager to lend a helping hand. Upon his return to Oregon, Jesse excitedly offered to help Linda fix up her house in Salem.
While expressing faith that God has a plan and is in control, Linda asked for prayer for strength for her son during this time.