In order to win Olympic Gold and seal your fate in history – one must have belief. Now some, like the famed ending of R Kelly’s song sing I BELIEVE I CAN FLY – ‘Because I believe in me’ – then there are the athletes that transcend well beyond a belief that ends in themselves.
One such athlete and Olympic trials qualifier is Raquel Miller; female boxer – who, when boxing, writes Scriptures on her hands, literally. “I write on my hands before I get my hands wrapped. There is one Scripture where it states ‘Be bold and have no fear of them for God is with you and HE will not leave you nor forsake you.’ I don’t want to butcher the Scripture, but that is one I put on my hand,” shared Raquel.
Raquel Miller is a true believer in God who’s sole salvation is based upon the Christian Faith – attends worship services each and every Sunday; the only day away from her boxing training. And, as the youth of America would say ‘Don’t get it twisted’ – she identifies herself as a true follower of The LORD Jesus Christ and therefore separates herself, like Tim Tebow – QB for the Denver Broncos, as one who displays her faith proud and boldly amidst the sport in which she contends. Can we get an Amen? AMEN!
“I grew up in Christianity, but – unfortunately – my mom had dealt with many situations with the churches…so insisted on us reading our bibles and finding God our own way,” stated Raquel.
One incident where a friend was murdered outside her mother’s home was a major event in her life that caused a real collision with her faith. Although she was a believer in Jesus Christ she did not attend church on a regular basis, this incident moved her to accept an invitation from her sister who had just started attending a new church; BEREAN CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, SF.
Berean, led by Pastor Gary Banks and located on Divisidero, is where the young Raquel found refuge to help her cope with life and begin to understand more of how faith intersects life.
“A lot of times at church it was hard for me to get an understanding because I couldn’t understand the way the preachers were delivering the message,” stated Raquel. However, the struggle to understand the messages preached did not deter the young lady from receiving comfort. Raquel shares, “When I first got there (Berean Christian Fellowship), it was just like a sense of overwhelming emotion that came over me and he (Pastor Banks) asked if there was anyone who needed special prayer to come to the front and I just came to the front. Before I knew it I was on my knees praying and crying. I was 18 years old at the time. I just cried and it was the first time I had ever felt the Spirit telling me that I was going to be ok. I had been so scared I thought I was going to be killed. I didn’t know what was going to happen. A lot of my friends where dying and I never had really seen my friends get murdered. Yet this time it happened in front of my mother’s house. That was the first time I actually started really leaning on faith. From then on that is when I got saved and it was then that I would go to church, although still not consistently.”
Although Raquel would not attend church as consistently as she does now – she did read her bible although she was having a difficult time understanding what she was reading. She credits her father, who for most of her life has been absent, for providing her a simplified study bible to help her comprehend the truth of the scriptures. He also found faith in God and is now a very real presence in her life.
It was at age 19 that Raquel started a daily practice – getting on her knees and praying. Every morning she would get up and thank God and not too long after did her “calling” to boxing became really real.
Boxing is credited by Raquel Miller as bringing her closer to God. She recounts, “I started leaning on God. I am like “God I need you and I need YOU to tell me and show me if this is the path YOU want me on. Open the doors for me LORD and break down these walls – break down these barriers.” It just started sharpening my faith.”
Armed with a study bible she received from her father, she began to consume the Scriptures. “Since then the bible is the only book I actually read. In the back of my bible has like ‘Are you stressed, depressed are you worried’ it has all these areas where you can read chapters and scriptures. That has strengthened my faith so much and I have prayed consistently. I ask “God if this is the way show me. Bless me with good people. Keep me safe on this journey and that has exactly what God had been doing – HE has kept me high on faith,” stated Raquel.
Although her faith in God would increase she had a couple of moments where her ambition to have just one boxing match would fade to black. After her first gym experience – Raquel stated, “It wasn’t just a boxing gym and they didn’t really take me that serious. It kind of discouraged me because I didn’t feel the gym was a serious as I needed it to be. Also, I wasn’t disciplined enough. Like I said, I have always known how to street fight, so I didn’t know that boxing and street fighting were two totally different forms of fighting.
So when I got there I didn’t want to put in the actually work it took to spar. I was like – I know how to fight, let me fight – let me get in the ring and spar and fight. They said “NO!” They said, “If you want to box you need to show us that you are disciplined enough in the gym. You need to work on your stance, your form, your jab.” I was not disciplined enough so I said “Forget it; I don’t want to do it then. If you guys don’t want to let me spar then I quit.”
Although she quit she had not yet had her first boxing match and sensed God was not pleased. She recalls, “God just kept talking to me and HE kept saying ‘So you’re just going to give up? Like I told you try it and just see what you’re missing. Just have one fight and if that doesn’t go forward then you have completed it.’ So I let some years go by and at 21 years old I picked up boxing again. I walked into the gym and this time I was more determined and was like “I am going to see this through.” I walked into the gym and this time I’m a little older – so all the guys were like looking at me and I felt a little uncomfortable – but I said “I’m not going to let it stop me.”
Although her desire was to “not let it stop her,” it did discourage her. Now in her first boxing gym experience (now 21 years old) she became discouraged after having made major changes to diet by transforming all her eating habits. She was also dedicated to training and learning her craft on a level unparalleled in her life, at the same time – she felt as though she wasn’t being taken serious by the gym personnel. So she just quit.
After quitting Raquel recounts, “And so, God just kept working on me and saying “You’re just going to quit? At least give it your all – at least give it your all.” It was shortly after this encounter with God that Raquel took a vacation trip with a friend to Brazil.
Raquel would recommit herself to boxing and to her credit is now a 2012 Olympic hopeful in the inaugural year of Women’s Olympic Boxing. She has the opportunity of a lifetime to be among the first Olympians to represent the United States of America in a sport once banned.
“My goal is to be an Olympian. My goal is to take my place in history. People ask me if I am interested in going pro – the more and more I do it the more and more I feel like I desire to become a World Champion. However, right now my goal is my goal – to defy the odds and to write my name in those history books as the first young lady to say she became an Olympian and got the Gold Medal. My goal is London, England,” stated Raquel.
When asked if just making the Olympic Team would be sufficient – Raquel quickly responded, “No! Not good enough. First off, it’s a blessing. If God sees that I go that far then I am definitely blessed and honored for that opportunity, but I believe in pushing the limits. I only want the best for myself. I have been grateful and I am thankful for all the many blessings God has blessed me with – and if I am blessed enough to be a part of that history I will be happy, but GOD told me to set my eyes on the prize and that prize is the gold medal with hands raised. So that is what I am going for – my eyes are on the Gold Medal.”
NEXT: PART IV: THE BEAUTY
To Read Part I: THE BACKGROUND
To Read Part II: THE BOXER