Should the Oakland Raiders bounce back from their close opening night loss to the San Diego Chargers at Oakland Coliseum Sept. 14 and miraculously mount a winning season, perhaps it will be because they have The Big Guy on their side.
No, that is not a reference to rotund Raiders coach Tom Cable, rotund Hall of Fame Raiders coach John Madden or fat-headed owner Al Davis.
The Big Guy in this instance is God, Yahweh, the Ultimate Referee. And local "Raiders for Christ" are looking to him for supreme guidance this season. Anyone who has followed the Raiders in recent years knows they need divine help.
Armando "Pastor Mando" Leon founded the Raiders Boosters of Orange County in 1983, when the ballclub was still playing (and winning) in Los Angeles. A life-changing experience in 2000 prompted Leon to become a pastor at Foursquare Gospel denomination church.
He remains a member of the Raiders Boosters although he handed the leadership reins to others years ago. Now he has founded a new ministry, Nation Ministry. That's "Nation" as in "Raider Nation" and "Ministry" as in "turning people on to God."
"The Lord several years ago put it in my heart to take the message of the gospel to the Raider Nation," Leon explains. "The Internet has become an effective method to relay the message of gospel."
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He's been able to use football images to spread the Word and his connections with the Raiders to help his ministry. The team, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary and officially promotes boosterism more than any other NFL franchise, is helping with Nation Ministry's family education programs that trumpet "playing by the rules" and warn about the dangers of gangs, alcohol, drugs and teen-pregnancy.
The Raiders and Nation Ministry have also teamed to provide an escape for at-risk families by allowing them to attend Raiders home games. For every home-game ticket you buy through the ministry this season, the Raider organization will donate money toward more tickets and stadium food vouchers that these families can use in the Coliseum's "family friendly areas."
For more information regarding tickets and ticket prices, visit NationMinistry.com.
And just pray, baby!