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’23 Blast’ portrays life of SBTS alumnus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — When Travis Freeman lost his eyesight in high school, his chances of playing football were destroyed. But his battle with adversity and illness birthed a ministry and the focus of a new movie.

The film, “23 Blast,” based on Freeman’s journey after contracting bacterial meningitis, releases today (Oct. 24) in 600 theaters across the country.

“The movie isn’t the Travis Freeman story,” Freeman, a two-time Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate, said. “It does a really good job capturing the spirit of my story. I want people to be encouraged whether by watching the movie, 23 Blast, or reading the book, or following me on Twitter or hearing me speak.”

The movie chronicles Freeman as he went from a healthy teenager and football player to a hospital patient with an illness that left him blind in 1993. Freeman has also published the autobiography “Lights Out,” available online.

His story gained national attention as news outlets like USA Today, The New York Times, and NBC’s Today Show covered Freeman’s journey as a football player who lost his sight. But he didn’t expect Tonni Hoover, a family friend from Corbin, Ky., where Freeman grew up, to bring his story to movie theaters. Hoover and her son Bram, Freeman’s high school football teammate, co-wrote the screenplay for 23 Blast, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Freeman graduated from Southern Seminary in 2007 with a master of divinity degree and again in 2012 with a doctor of philosophy.

He said his time at Southern prepared him well for this season of life and ministry. He also believes his education equipped him to better serve others, as he established the Freeman Foundation, a parachurch ministry to train and educate people about disabilities. The foundation’s mission statement is to “inspire people to overcome the disabilities they face in their life.”

“The mission statement is to promote the truth that disability does not equal inability,” he said. “My education at Southern began to help me think in these ways about the church and social justice and the Gospel and theology. It has helped me be able to articulate what I felt 21 years ago when I lost my sight.”

Hershael W. York, Southern Seminary’s Victor and Louise Lester professor of Christian preaching, praised his former student’s determination and love for unbelievers.

“Travis is an unusually gifted man with a resolve and a grit like few others. The determination that motivated him to play football and inspired the movie has multiplied many times over and now compels him to preach the Gospel,” York said. “Travis may not have physical sight, but he clearly sees the lostness of the world and has a burden for evangelism. No one who meets him comes away unimpressed, but no one who hears him preach can leave unchallenged.”

Freeman tells his story to churches and ministry groups, and is an adjunct professor in the missions and ministry department at The University of Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. He teaches New Testament, Old Testament, preaching apologetics and other subjects.

He expresses confidence that blindness or any other disability does not equate to inability or the end of life, but believes God’s sovereignty becomes more real when tragedy occurs.

“Life does not end when tragedy comes into your life,” he said. “When we look at the Gospel, we see, I think, God has a plan, that God loves and cares for us no matter what our present circumstances might be.”

More information about Freeman, 23 Blast, or Lights Out is available at travisfreeman.org.

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  • RuthAnne Irvin