Alabama’s top faith moments of 2019 — Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa & much more
Alabama experienced an up and down 2019 in the heart of the Bible Belt, and the people of the state displayed their strong faith in God through the good times and bad.
Religion intersected with sports, politics, tragedy, culture and everything in between this past year in Alabama, and Yellowhammer News was here to cover it all.
Here are 2019’s top faith storylines from across the Yellowhammer State:
1). Tagovailoas, Hurts, rivals, oh my …
There are few things, if anything, more important to Alabamians than faith, family and football. Luckily, all three came together in 2019 on several occasions. And, although heartbreak was involved at times, the ultimate result was inspiring and uplifting thousands.
Take former University of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, for example. When he led the Crimson Tide to an iconic comeback victory against Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship, Hurts gave the credit to his Lord and Savior. “I put it in God’s hands,” he advised.
Well, this past year saw more of the same testimony. Enjoying a Heisman-finalist season for the Oklahoma Sooners, Hurts explained his key to success.
“You’ve just got to keep your faith,” Hurts said. “Trust God. Know your why. Know why you do what you do. Keep faith and keep moving forward.”
Current Bama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa also lets his light shine on and off the field.
In 2019, this was evidenced in trying times for the native Hawaiian.
After Tagovailoa suffered a devastating hip injury against Mississippi State this fall, he stayed optimistic because of his faith, expressing trust and confidence in God.
“God always has a plan,” he said.
Tagovailoa also retweeted former Alabama running back Shaun Alexander in reference to the injury.
“My confidence in life is not in my gifts, abilities, awards or accomplishments. My confidence comes from my faith in Jesus. His plan is perfect. Every part of the plan is PERFECT. Love you Tuaman. Walk through this like you was built to. Finish the Game. A legend is being made,” Alexander wrote.
This has been the theme of how Tagovailoa is handling his injury aftermath.
Speaking about his prognosis and recovery odds, he testified, “I firmly believe in the Bible, and the Bible says you walk by faith and not by sight. So, that’s pretty much what I’m holding onto — just trusting the good Lord. He’s the best doctor for me and what I believe in. I feel this is something that is bigger than me.”
The star quarterback also is using his faith as a guide in deciding his future football plans — whether he will declare for the NFL Draft in January or stay a final year in Tuscaloosa.
“Whatever God puts in my heart and my parents’ hearts, that will be the right thing,” Tagovailoa remarked.
And, speaking of his parents, Galu and Diane have displayed their faith publicly in 2019 as well.
In a joint statement after their son’s injury, they said,“We have total faith in God’s plan for Tua, and we know his plan is never wrong. God’s grace, mercy, love and faithfulness in our lives has never been more evident, despite this setback.”
Galu personally made headlines for two faith stories during the year.
First, he reaffirmed his faith and was baptized by Pastor Chris Hodges via the Church of the Highlands’ “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” series.
Then, amidst the make-or-break Iron Bowl this season, Galu found unity through Jesus Christ with a diehard Auburn fan.
Finally, speaking of the Tigers, Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl defended his Jewish faith in a major way again this past year.
After U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) equated current immigration facilities in the United States to “concentration camps” in past months, Pearl ripped her comments.
Pearl said, “Tell that to the people who died and survived those concentration camps that they don’t know the difference.”
“Never again is reserved for the 9 million people murdered including 6 million Jews,” he added. “The comparison is attempt to rewrite the holocaust! Stop!”
Additionally, at 2019’s “Bruce, Barkley and Basketball” golf tournament in Lee County, Pearl expressed his enthusiasm for Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville having “Israel and the Second Amendment covered.”
2). In the worst of times
With a record-setting economy powering increased prosperity, there were still many tragic moments that rocked the entire state of Alabama in 2019.
While all of the examples of faith shining through dark clouds were too numerous to count, the aftermath of deadly tornadoes this past year was a good starting point.
Just this month, in the wake of a tornado killing two and critically injuring others in Lawrence County, hundreds of thousands of people were inspired by the open Bible found unharmed amidst rubble. One of the verses on the open pages made the moment even more powerful.
“I will return after this. I will build David’s house again. It has fallen down. I will build again the parts of his house that have been pulled down. I will make his house new.”
Acts 15:16 ERV
Another recent tragedy has turned into inspiration, too.
Ozark Police Department Officer Samuel Yoh, who was shot six times (including three times in the head) in the line of duty earlier in December, now appears set for a “miracle” recovery, with “God’s almighty power” being praised.
While many of 2019’s tragedies did not have as positive of an ending, Alabamians were banded together in faith through many of them. This included prayer services held in relation to high profile kidnapping cases in the state.
3). Prayer as the power of love?
One under-the-radar storyline that touched hearts in 2019 pertained to the 70th anniversary of Pratt City’s Arthur and Bernice Lewis.
The secret ingredient to their lasting love? Faith.
Read that story here.
4). ‘Living Life on Purpose’
One consistent source of meaningful faith stories in 2019 was Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Living Life on Purpose” podcast. Hosted by Matt Wilson, this interview series has featured civic leaders, political figures and business titans, all talking candidly about their greatest purpose.
In one memorable episode this year, U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-06) talked about how faith is critical to restoring communities in Alabama and across the nation.
Another episode that stuck out was Wilson’s interview with Tommy Brigham, Jr., who discussed the intersection of faith and race relations.
UAB head football coach Bill Clark was also among Wilson’s 2019 guests.
The entire podcast series is a must-follow for those interested in faith stories. You can subscribe here.
5). Prison ministries
Alabama is currently facing a crisis with its corrections system, and some county sheriffs are attempting to provide sustenance for the heart and spirit of prisoners in efforts to reduce violence and recidivism.
In 2019, prison baptisms made big impacts not just on prisoners, but members of the public as well.
Overall, Alabama is coming off of a year full of evergreen, heart warming stories about faith. Here were merely some of 2019’s best:
7). THE top viewed faith story on Yellowhammer News in 2019
Finally, while there were many contenders, one faith story rose above them all when it came to views.
Thomas Roberts was an atheist for most of his life.
However, in his final days earlier this year, he was reborn, deciding he wanted to be baptized.
Read about this incredible story, made possible by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn