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Student ‘rassles’ with God’s call

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Many seminarians wrestle with their call to ministry. You could say Keith McCray “rassled” with his.

For more than a decade, the current Boyce College student’s life revolved around bodyslams, headlocks and turnbuckle tussles. Yet after 12 years on the professional wrestling circuit, McCray — formerly known to his fans as “Steve Storm” — finally gave in gladly in his match with his calling. And God won his life.

Now, the only thing he has to remind him of his days in the ring is a necklace with his symbol as a wrestler — a lightening bolt … and seven separated shoulders, a missing tooth, two major knee injuries and a finger that will never be straight again.

“I’ve had more concussions that you can count in my career,” said McCray, a bachelor of science student at the Louisville, Ky., college affiliated with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But each one was worthwhile because it brought me to where God wanted me.”

McCray’s life, though, did not start out so violently. Born outside of Philadelphia, he attended church regularly and was baptized at age 10. Soon, however, he began following a different path — one patterned after a rebellious brother rather than the Word of God. When McCray graduated from high school, he was still straying. He began a search for meaning.

What he found was Uncle Sam.

“I went into the Army because I was trying to find what I was looking for,” McCray said. “I got there, and there was still that void.”

He advanced quickly and joined an elite counter-terrorism unit.

“It was a complete adrenaline rush, but there was still a gaping hole,” McCray said.

It is a career about which he cannot talk much. “When we were called in, we were not called in for negotiations,” he said. “As my commanding officer told us, ‘We were there to use body bags.’ … It’s not something to brag about, but it’s something that we were taught.”

After six years, McCray got tired of pushing his luck and searching for significance in the Army. So he decided to wrestle for meaning in another ring — the professional wrestling circuit.

“I thought it was going to give me what I needed as far as the fame, the fortune, the prestige, the whole nine yards,” McCray said. “I did it, and I did get the fame, the fortune and the prestige.”

But God was not in the picture.

McCray achieved great success in this face-paced, fast-growing entertainment industry. He wrestled with several federations, including the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling.

His most successful tour was with the ECW — Extreme Championship Wrestling. The ECW was known for its “Bring Your Favorite Weapon” nights, where fans would show up with anything from stop signs to staple guns.

McCray is full of wrestling stories. One is his worst injury night while fighting a fellow wrestling friend.

“By the time it was all said and done, I had seven stitches in my lip, had lost a tooth, had a concussion, torn [cartilage] in my knee, and my finger will never be straight again,” McCray said.

Yet, despite his fame and fortune, God had yet to enter McCray’s ring. He was empty, but one day God woke him up: A severely blown knee did the trick.

“As soon as I heard the knee pop, the first thing that popped into my head was, ‘Oh God,'” McCray said. “For so many years, I hadn’t thought about him. And all of a sudden I needed him.”

It was a typical little prayer, McCray said. He would give his life to God if God would help him through surgery. God kept his end of the bargain. McCray did only for a little while. Then God woke him up again.

“I blew out the other knee,” McCray said.

But McCray still hadn’t gotten the message totally. McCray left wrestling — partly to run some Gold’s Gyms, partly because of his injuries and partly because of his dissatisfaction with the wrestling business.

“It had gone from the cartoon, comic book heroes to all of a sudden a more edgier and racier product,” McCray said.

McCray spent eight years with Gold’s Gym.

“Again, I thought I had everything in the world,” McCray said. “I had the notoriety from my career. I had a fantastic position. The perks were incredible.”

God gave him everything he always thought would bring meaning and significance, then took it away. New management forced McCray out of Gold’s.

“I was left with no job,” McCray recalled. “I was just totally, utterly lost. I had no clue what to do.”

Life had pinned him down for the count. So one night, in despondency, he started praying to God.

“I actually shot up out of my chair and looked around,” McCray recounted. “And I dropped to my knees and I renewed a relationship that was long overdue.”

God revealed to him a calling as well — youth ministry.

“After I renewed the relationship and God showed me where I was, he started bringing me along,” McCray said.

He began to look for colleges. He considered a few, but he knew Boyce College was the place to be. He had read about Boyce and its theme verse — Luke 10:2, “the harvest is abundant but the workers are few” — on the college’s website. McCray couldn’t get the verse out of his mind.

“Every time I turned around that verse just popped into my head again,” he said.

He came to Boyce last year to obtain a degree in youth ministry, believing that God can use his past to reach youth. In fact, McCray would like to use wrestling as a platform for the gospel.

“Satan has used everything he could to distract the kids, and it’s about time we use some of the things we have to attract them,” he said.

McCray also uses his gifts to minister to Southern Seminary and Boyce College students. He works as a fitness instructor at Southern’s Health and Recreation Center.

It’s a ministry McCray takes very seriously. “Baptists have a really bad reputation as being ‘buffet Baptists,'” he said. “If you eat properly and exercise, you can add 15 to 20 years to your ministry. That’s 15 to 20 years of touching people’s lives.

“I may not be able to save a lot myself, but if I get people … in shape and add 15 years [to their ministry], I get a lot of assists,” he said.

McCray doesn’t know where his future matches in the ministry will be, but he knows the “best is yet to come.”

“God has given me a lot abilities and skills,” McCray said. “And wherever he wants me to use them, I’ll use them.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: KEITH McCRAY, ‘RASSLIN’ WITH GOD and STORM HAS PASSED.

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  • Bryan Cribb