Bodybuilding was Cesar Arocha’s ticket to the United States from his native Caracas, Venezuela. But it also has become a powerful evangelism tool.
He actually used graphic design to persuade his mother to allow him to leave Venezuela in 1992.
“This was my personal trick for her to send me here,” Arocha said. “I was a professional (bodybuilder) in Venezuela. I competed there and won many competitions. But I wanted to compete at the highest level in the world, and I knew I had to come the U.S.”
Bodybuilding was a stepping stone that would later develop into his joining Faith Force — a team of athletes coming together from all over the world to live out a calling and share a message of hope to young people.
Arocha was on a mission to pursue a dream of bodybuilding, and building himself up in the process. But his focus turned to a woman, Mary, whom he met while at the Art Institute of Atlanta. She also was into health and wellness, and they hit it off. They dated and soon fell in love.
At age 33, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and Cesar began a journey together that, he said was God’s way of helping him get his focus and priorities straight.
“She had already stolen my heart; we were married in December of 1994,” he said.
In 1996, the Arochas left Atlanta and relocated to Richmond Hill. Mary would take a position at the YMCA and Cesar with Savannah Morning News. They worked and raised their family for several years until job opportunities lead them to Asheville, North Carolina.
“God prepared my heart all the times I was looking at her on those hospital nights,” Cesar Arocha said. “As I was caring for her, my once stone-cold heart began to melt for her. In 2000, I asked God to take this cancer away. I prayed it that night and then the doctor said, ‘There is no cancer.’ The doctors could not explain it. God heard my prayer and healed her. Nov. 24, 2000, at 9 p.m., we gave our lives to Christ,” said Arocha.
When he was introduced to Faith Force, his initial response to joining the team was no, as it would involve travel. But when his wife heard this, she quickly talked him into doing it.
Since 2005, Cesar Arocha has traveled the globe with Faith Force. Over the years, this team has allowed him to not only travel but, he said, truly impact lives.
This is about more than just strength, he said. Faith Force is a calling for Arocha.
Recently, Faith Force was allowed to enter Bryan County Schools and perform for all 10 district-run schools in Richmond Hill and Pembroke. “Dr. Brooksher was on board from the get go,” said Arocha. Several Richmond Hill community members paid the assembly fees for all of the schools.
Despite not being able to share the Gospel in the schools, Faith Force focused on empowering students to hang on to their dreams.
First Baptist Church of Richmond Hill opened its doors to Faith Force to host nightly shows to the community for free. This allowed Faith Force to share more elaborate feats of strength and share the Gospel.
“Over 200 people gave their lives to Christ during this crusade in Richmond Hill,” Arocha said.
“Faith Force is a team of world-class athletes who use feats of strength to convey a world-class message,” according to its website. “Our athletes come from various backgrounds including: martial artists, bodybuilders, powerlifters, football players, World’s Strongest Man competitors, law-enforcement officers, soldiers and even ‘American Gladiators.’ The athletes perform amazing and exciting feats of strength, including some only seen at Faith Force crusades, in order to draw massive crowds of unchurched people.
“Faith Force, however, is not a bodybuilding team, but a faith-building team,” the site’s “About Us” section continues. “‘Once you get their attention, you go for their hearts.’ Throughout the crusade, athletes, who are also preachers of the Gospel, share powerful messages of faith and hope, as well as testimonies of God’s faithfulness and power in their lives.”