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Dushan & Kalli Mikichi


Meet Dushan. I grew up in San Jose in a loving family where my parents were married and financially successful, with one sister, and no knowledge that God existed or a desire to know him. I knew that some people believed in God, but I equated their belief to the same level as the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. And besides, even if there was a God I thought I was “okay.” All in all I thought I was a “good enough” person to get to heaven if it did exist. I also knew people who scoffed at those who believed in God or religion, perceiving them as naïve, misled, or weird.  My parents put me in gymnastics as an energy outlet. It kept me busy and ultimately helped me get into college, where, on the gymnastics team, I met my wife Kalli.

Meet Kalli. I grew up in a small town in Southern California that you’ve never heard of. My parents were married, although not always “happily.” My siblings, (two sisters and a brother), and I were raised with a Christian faith, but did not attend regularly as our sports often coincided with Sunday morning church. My parents were loving, hardworking, and supportive, but my dad was a farmer and a Christian who’d lost his way, and we were poor both financially and spiritually. I learned biblical principles from my mom, but wouldn’t recognize them as such until later in life. I believed in God in my own superficial way, but I had idols before Jesus. Primarily, my love for gymnastics and desire to compete on a college level was elevated above all else in my life. I thought of Jesus as a means to attain my desires instead of seeking to live a life bringing Him glory.  In my mind my identity and self worth were directly linked to my success as a gymnast. God was very graciously long suffering with me in my half-hearted faith, and it wasn’t until I was in college that he really started to rein me in and use what little was there to bring me into a deep relationship with him.

At UCSB I competed on the Men’s Gymnastics team, lived with teammates, attempted my academics half-heartedly, and partied with my friends on the streets of IV. In the back of my mind I knew that drinking and partying still left me with an emptiness, but I thought this was just how it was supposed to be. I didn’t realize that my dissatisfaction came from the longing of my soul to know the living God personally.

I worked hard my freshman year of college to make the gymnastics team as a sophomore, as injuries in high school caused a set back in my plans. As I practiced at the gym and attended some competitions, I quickly noticed and developed a huge crush on Dushan. Hard not to, he looks Hawaiian and, obviously was in great shape. We became friends, and started dating at the start of my sophomore year. I completely adored Dushan for his quick wit, honesty, good humor, for the respectful way he treated me, and for his washboard abs. As a Christian I had a vague idea that you weren’t supposed to date someone who wasn’t a Christian, but at the same time I didn’t know or understand the reasoning behind that. I easily dismissed that concern as irrelevant because we had such a strong relationship, and that idea didn’t fit into MY plan.

When Kalli and I started dating I immediately knew that we would get married someday. I knew I loved her before the relationship was “official” and didn’t hesitate in telling her. In our quiet alone times together we would plan our future. We talked about how our wedding would look, how many kids we wanted, where we would live and what jobs we would have. I knew that Kalli was a Christian and when I, preparing myself with open mindedness, asked her how she wanted to raise our kids she said Christian. I knew that if my kids were going to be Christian I wanted to find out if God was real, and what Christianity was all about.

I told Dushan everything I knew about Jesus and what it meant to be a Christian. That took me all of about two minutes. This was the first time I realized how inadequate my faith was. I didn’t know enough to paint even a partial picture of the Gospel and the love of Jesus. In our weakness He is strong, and since I did such a poor job at sharing Jesus, Dushan decided that we should attend church regularly so that he could find out the truth for himself. Looking back I give all the glory to Christ for our coming to Him. Jesus met us in our depravity and began to take us into a real, meaningful relationship with Him.

A friend took us to a Friday night college group called Reality. We didn’t know what it was, but we had heard that some “surfer guy” was going to speak, and that sounded interesting. Reality was a college bible study where students from churches all around Santa Barbara came to worship and hear the word of God taught truthfully and powerfully by Britt Merrick. After attending Reality for a month, Dushan gave his life to Jesus. He started attending prayer meetings, which in my pathetic little faith seemed like something only for pastors and people who worked at a church. From this point on God took my own faith in Him to a new level.

Kalli and I grew in our knowledge and love for Jesus, but we still listened to the lies of the enemy with regards to premarital sex. We though since we planned on getting married eventually, that sex outside marriage was okay with God. He knew how much we loved each other. I thought sex before marriage wasn’t culturally acceptable in bible times, but we lived in different times and sex before marriage was the norm. We both reciprocated a genuine love for each other and sex seemed to be another piece of the puzzle that was neatly falling into place in our Godly relationship. Isaiah 55:8. We were about to be rudely awakened to the fact that our ways are not God’s ways. Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Reality both began teaching premarital sex was unacceptable to God.
At that point we were planning on getting married after college, and had been having premarital sex for about a year. Wanting God’s best for our lives and our relationship, we knew we had to change abruptly. After several “failings,” Kalli and I decided to set parameters that removed temptation completely. We even went as far as to stop kissing. It just was not worth the risk. After just over a year of premarital sex, we stopped, and maintained that for over a year before we finally got married two weeks after graduating from UCSB. Why in the world didn’t we just decide to get married sooner? I don’t know. That thought never occurred to us.

During this time, in my personal life I was being pummeled with trials. My dad was in jail, my identity in gymnastics had been stripped away due to a knee injury, and I had been losing friends because of my belief in God. My faith was growing, however. I found myself in Him, and realized the worth that God placed on me as a child of God, and I was able to slowly let go of the shreds and remnants of what I once held so dear. My forgiveness grew as well and while I had once disowned my dad, I now prayed daily for him, writing him letters weekly to share what I was learning about the character and faithfulness of Jesus. My dad died suddenly, tragically, in prison at the age of 52. It was April, 2004, three short months before he was to be released. I was devastated, but my faith was sound and I trusted God’s plan for my dad’s life. Now Jesus was my God and my earthly father as the bible calls him a Father to the Fatherless.

As we grew in our faith we felt the desire to share Jesus with the people in IV. Before coming to God, we had lived in the party scene, scurrying from one party to the next in the darkness expecting that each night spent partying something special might happen, and bring an end to the silent, nagging emptiness inside.  All of the searching through the streets had come to nothing, leaving our appetites unsatisfied. Though we still would listen to the lies of the enemy that next time it would be different. Finding Jesus, and leaving that behind, we knew we had the answer to that longing deep within and wanted to share it with those we had left to the parties. Through Reality we decided to go street witnessing with Korean Christian Ministry. We didn’t even have the courage to talk to a single person! It was a start, however, and when we heard the opportunity to bring the gospel to IV we jumped at the chance.

Before we started our Jesus Burgers ministry, everyone who gathered to share the gospel got a binder from Jacob with verses to memorize. We also studied the foundational truths of Christianity so that our faith was deeply rooted and unmovable. I think that was very important because a lot of the people we talked to were there to talk you out of your faith, rather than trying to come to terms with Jesus in their own lives.

Each night we would gather together and spend hours worshipping and crying out to God on behalf of the students that walked the streets. There was no formula or schedule, we just knew that we needed Jesus and we needed to be filled to overflowing so we could pour out His hope into the streets. We basked in the presence of the living God and were filled.  In stark contrast to the worship and prayer, I distinctly remember going out into the night and feeling the emptiness and the need for Jesus. It was written on the faces of those partying in the night. Knowing that God loved these people we went out into the night completely dependent upon God.

In my experience the simplest plans worked best. While giant snails and “Jesus Squirrels” hold some appeal, just depending on the Lord’s leading was clearly more fruitful.  Some nights I started conversations about Jesus, though many nights I served by cooking burgers, talking only a little to Baron cooking next to me as we cranked out burgers as fast as possible. Other nights I felt the Lord calling me to just be available. There were several nights where people would wander in off the streets, lost, or too drunk to walk, or bloody from a recent fight.  They came to the Jesus Burger house seeking help and refuge, and there was always someone ready and willing to help and pray for them.

Dushan and I loved the people of IV, while being scared as well, and were blessed beyond words to evangelize at Jesus Burgers. From my experience there are two instances that really stick out in my mind where I distinctly felt the hand of God use me at Jesus Burgers.

One night as the crowds faded and the cold and weariness began to set in, Dushan and I stood on the deck of the front yard chatting with friends as the clock approached 3AM.  As we were just about to say our goodbyes a guy jumped over the low, brick wall and landed in the middle of our little circle. We greeted him and not knowing we were the “Jesus Burger’s House” he asked us if we had any crack to smoke with him. We said no, to which he continued to ask if we had any alcohol or pot to smoke. Again, we said no and we told him that we were out to share Jesus with people who were partying. At the beginning of the conversation he was cold and calloused, and he mocked us. We talked with him and asked about his life. I can’t remember his hardships, but I remember how we revealed the love Jesus had for him. As we talked God softened his heart right before my eyes. It was as if I could see it melting into the Father’s hands. He opened up to us and was brought to tears. I looked on in awe as I saw the word of God penetrate to the heart of this guy. He didn’t accept Jesus that night, but we all laid hands on him and prayed for him. And he left a different person than the one looking for a substance to help him forget his life.

The other account I clearly remember was the only time I’ve had the privilege of leading someone to salvation in Jesus. The front yard and inside of the house was packed. We had just come out from prayer and worship and I felt an urging from God. I was looking for someone that God wanted me to talk to. I would stand with friends briefly, but knew that I needed to find someone specific. I had a few failed attempts at initiating conversations with people in the yard so I prayerfully kept moving. Finally, I began a conversation with a guy who I learned was from Ventura. He’d come to IV to party. I talked with him about God and he had openly shared the ways that he knew there was a God watching over him. His family and friends were involved with gangs, but God had protected him physically from dangerous encounters with gang members. He had never known about Jesus, but as I spoke the truth of God’s word through the verses we had memorized he knew that this is what he was searching for. He confided that he wanted to pray for salvation and I excitedly searched for a pastor for him to pray with. I quickly returned without a pastor, as they were nowhere to be found.

When I returned he said that he didn’t feel comfortable praying with a pastor.  Although I felt completely inadequate for the task we bowed our heads in the midst of the cold, crowded yard and he asked Jesus to be his savior. The bible says that when a sinner is brought to salvation heaven rejoices, and I could feel my own heart rejoice with all of heaven at the salvation of this young man. This was the first year of IV Church and I remembered his name and prayed for him for a long time, but now it has been so long that his name escapes me! I do still pray for his continued faith from time to time, as I know that Jesus knows his name.

Kalli and I eventually moved away from Santa Barbara, but our faith in God is unmovable. We face hard things in life like death and cancer, suffering and helplessness knowing that we have an unchanging God who is always loving and faithful. We have seen our family members come to Christ and know of friends that have fallen away. But, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and that His love endures forever. As we now raise our three daughters to know and love the Lord as we do, we continue to depend on Jesus and desire His plan and purpose in our lives.

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