Muscles with a message 

Evangelical Power Team strong-arms youths into drug-free lives

click to enlarge 3a9f_sevendays-23061.gif

When eight-year Power Team member Jeremy Baker breaks 12 to 18 slabs of concrete in front of a group of elementary school kids, he intends to communicate a positive message.

"I figure if I'm a kid and I'm anywhere from 9 to 17 years old, and a guy comes in in a suit and tie and tries to tell me not to do drugs or drink, I'm gonna clown him," he says. "So we use our muscles, height, talent and accolades to perform feats of strength and get young people's attention."

According to Power Team member Riley Israel, the team, based out of Dallas, Texas, originated 30 years ago when a professional football player noticed the influence he had on people because of his athletic status and decided to use it to communicate a positive message.

"We want to be positive role models," Israel says. "And kids feed off of it."

The Power Team is composed of 20 licensed and ordained ministers who are also bodybuilders, former professional athletes and martial artists. The enormous team members average 6-foot and 300 pounds. This year, they will visit nearly 1,000 schools and reach roughly 1 million young adults.

"The Power Team represents integrity and character," Israel says. "Not only do we talk the talk, but we walk the walk."

According to Israel and Baker, the team aims to encourage the current generation of children to make the right choices and believe in themselves.

"What we do is incredible: snap two-by-fours, run into walls of ice," Baker says. "When we are breaking baseball bats or breaking out of handcuffs, kids see the action and their walls come down so we can get the positive message into their hearts."

click to enlarge The Power Team turns concrete to rubble this weekend - at First Southern Baptist Church.
  • The Power Team turns concrete to rubble this weekend at First Southern Baptist Church.

Though the group's emphasis from the beginning was to spread the message of Christ, when they visit public schools, the Power Team's inspirational messages focus on the power of choice and how to create and fulfill goals and dreams. They convey the messages through anecdotes of friends who have made the wrong decisions and are no longer here to speak about it.

Suicide is one of the topics they tackle, which, according to Israel, is the third-largest killer of young people. With such a heavy issue, it's no wonder ripping a phonebook in half or breaking a baseball bat in two lightens the load a bit.

"The most rewarding thing for me is getting letters in our office from people saying that our visit caused them to be successful," Israel says.

The members don't see themselves as supermen, however.

"We're not superheroes or celebrities, we're men who have a passion and desire to reach this generation," Baker says. "We want to communicate that if we can overcome difficulties, they can too."


The Power Team's "evening program"

First Southern Baptist Church, 1409 Palmer Park Blvd.

Nov. 15-18, 7 p.m.; Nov. 19, 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Donation: $2 suggested; call 633-4625 for more information or visit fsbc.org.

Note: This program, unlike the closed programs in schools, contains a strong religious message.

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