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When He Was Just Justin: The First Time I Met Justin Bieber

It was a Friday in June of 2008.  Our show was going live-to-air across the country at 9 a.m. and our guest had just arrived.  She was pretty and petite and seemed more than just a little nervous.  While she had come to tell her story (a remarkable story of God making His sweet Presence known to a terrified and suicidal young woman, completely turning her life around), Patti also had something else on her mind.  With guarded excitement and an air of uncertainty, she told us that her life was about to change.  Remarkably, God seemed to be opening doors for her son to pursue his music.  Her son was 14-years-old... and his name was Justin Bieber.

When I met him in our Green Room, my first thought was how young he looked.  To be precise, my thoughts were, "He's 14?  I would've guessed, maybe, 10!"  He wasn't silly or immature.  He was just small.  And he was polite and shy (and had a lot of hair) and smiled when he answered our questions. "Are you excited to move to Atlanta?"  "Yes," he said.  "Do you play any instruments?" "Yes, I play piano and guitar and drums... and I like to sing."  "Would you sing for us a little, here in the Green Room?" He smiled and looked at his Mom. With a nod from her he began to sing Chris Brown's With You, and his clear angelic voice echoed down the halls. It was obvious this boy had talent.

But it was his Mom, Patti Mallette, who we were to interview. During the show Justin sat in the shadows, watching his Mom as she gave details to a story of God's miraculous transformation, one that she lived and was excited to share with others.  During a break, our Producer, Bill Bray, asked Patti if she thought Justin might be okay to come on the set as we wrapped the program.  She smiled and agreed and Bill let Justin know where he was to sit.  In the final two minutes of the show I called Justin over and he squeezed in next to his Mom.  Patti then informed our TV audience that Justin had just been signed by Usher and they were moving to Atlanta to take a shot in the music industry.  To this day I wish I would've asked Justin at least one question, but all I could think of was that shy little boy whom I didn't want to put on the spot.

After the show was over and the studio lights came down, our Producer came onto the set with one more request.  Bill suggested we all gather around this precious little family and pray.  And pray we did.  We prayed God's protection and blessing and provision and keeping power as they were on the brink of diving into a business known for chewing up its victims and spitting them out, leaving them addicted, incarcerated or dead. It was a powerful, strong, warrior prayer, one that, no doubt, connected with the heart of God.  It was a prayer that propelled the rest of us to keep praying for this young man long after he left our studios. 

And we have prayed for him.  Often.  Little did any of us know that the small-framed boy hugging us good-bye would one day sell 13 million albums, have 3.75 billion Youtube views, gather 57 million Facebook fans, and sell out Madison Square Garden within 22 minutes of his concert tickets going on sale.  Astonishing.

And then there was the day, three years later, when we were shocked to discover Hollywood Producers wanted to use a portion of our interview with Patti (and Justin) in Justin's new movie, Never Say Never.  It was while sitting in the movie theatre, surrounded by hundreds of screaming teenaged girls, that we felt the need, once again, to pray for this young man. 

And as Justin is now 20 years old and some of his unwise actions and choice of friends have catapulted him into a different limelight, a strong, warrior prayer covering is definitely more necessary than ever.

And when I pray, I can't help but picture that little 14-year-old boy with a love for music, a lot of hair, and an angelic voice. 

Oh that we would all pray for that boy.

Here's a little snippet of that short interview we've had with Justin:



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Dear God, sometimes my "testing" season seems so long. Please give me courage to endure until the end. Help me not to bail! You said you would bless me for hanging in there - I will not give up on you or your promises. You are with me and will see me through this trial.