As the horrors of 9/11 sent shock waves around the world, they shook native New Yorker Stephen Baldwin to the core.
That day “was pretty much the straw that broke this camel’s back,” the actor-turned-evangelist said this week in a phone interview from a business trip to Dallas.
“If you had asked me the day before, ‘Do you think tomorrow two planes could hit the Twin Towers and they could fall down,’ I would have said, ‘No, not in New York, not in America in 2001.’ But it happened.”
For a year before that fateful day, Baldwin had been watching his wife go through “an amazing transformation” on a spiritual journey sparked by their housekeeper, who felt God lead her from Brazil to their home.
“She said to my wife, ‘You and your husband are going to become Christians and be involved in ministry.’ I replied to my wife, ‘Wonderful. Make sure she keeps the house clean.’”
Stephen, youngest of the four acting Baldwin brothers, had been raised Roman Catholic, but the former altar boy fell away from the church in his adolescence. He entered the Hollywood scene in the late ’80s and fell into all the excesses and temptations at his fingertips.
His resume is long and varied, co-starring in such hit movies as “The Usual Suspects” with Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey in 1995 and the spacey comedy “Bio-Dome,” with Pauly Shore, in 1996. He was a contestant in television’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” and “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here” in 2009, and is still active in acting, producing and directing, with a slew of projects in the works.
He’s found another direction, however, in Christian evangelism, and will be the featured speaker at this year’s Good Friday Prayer Breakfastat 7 a.m. April 18 at the Cedar Rapids Marriott.
Now 47, he’s been off drugs and alcohol since age 23 and married to wife Kennya since 1990. They still live in the New York metro area, and have two daughters, ages 21 and 17. He’s proud that the girls are both “authentically Christian,” with “very significant walks of faith.”
In 2000, after 10 years of marriage, seeing Kennya change through her daily devotion to prayer and reading the Bible changed Baldwin, too.
“You can imagine how interesting that was to me, which throughout that period, imparted a curiosity about the experience she was having,” he said. “So pretty quickly after 9/11, I took the plunge. But for me, doing all the things that you’re supposed to do wasn’t enough, so went and said my own little prayer, made a covenant with God, and basically said, ‘My experience with you better be more awesome than anything I’ve experienced thus far, or you’re gonna have a problem, because I’m Stephen Baldwin.’”
He says the difference in his life has been “like night and day.” He’s been involved in several ministries, including Livin’ It, an extreme sports ministry. And he travels the country and overseas, launching Christian film festivals and spreading the word of empowerment, which he’ll bring to Cedar Rapids.
“I’ll be talking about why and how I believe in the current timing of things, it’s important for everybody to understand the power of the individual. There is nothing more important than every one of us taking ownership in doing what I believe the Lord desires most of us, which is 1. to seek on a daily basis a greater understanding of loving him, and 2. sharing with anyone and everyone the message of salvation.”
IF YOU GO
What: Good Friday Prayer Breakfast
When: 7 to 9 a.m. April 18
Where: Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Rd. NE
Speaker: Actor Stephen Baldwin
Tickets: $19 at Lemstone Parable Christian Store, 1426 Twixt Town Rd., Marion