By Anna Grace Usery
*Editor’s Note: P.W.A. will be hosting an event at First Baptist Church of Oxford—located at 800 Van Buren Ave.—this Saturday, Aug. 17. Doors open at 6 p.m., pre-show begins at 6:45 p.m. and show starts at 7 p.m. General admission is $10, ringside admission is $15 and children under 5 can attend for free.
Jeremy Sartain, aka “Soul Train” grew up watching one of his biggest role models—his grandmother—fall in love with the sport of wrestling. After he accepted Christ into his life, he decided to one day combine his passions.
Though his grandmother died when he was young, those experiences huddled around a TV watching legendary Memphis wrestlers like Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant and Jackie Fargo slam each other in the ring every Saturday morning stuck with him.
What started as an excitement for the sport quickly became a passion when Soul Train had the chance to “compete in the squared circle” for a few years.
“I had the itch,” he said. “When you love something as much as I love wrestling you long for it.”
He wrestled for the next 10 years and shared the ring with the likes of Bill Dundee and Kamala “The Ugandan Giant.”
“I used every opportunity I got to share with guys in the locker room and fans alike about my true passion—the Lord—and always had the desire to promote once it was time to step away from the ring,” he said.
Soul Train thrived off creating strong bonds with his fellow wrestlers through their love of Christ. It was then he decided to pursue combining his passions after retiring from the ring to create P.W.A. – Pro Wrestling Association. The organization currently employs 30 wrestlers from the Mid-South area.
He didn’t want to create “just another wrestling show,” he said, but he wanted the focus to be on something that demonstrated more power and strength than what was taking place inside the ring.
“I wanted something that glorified the Lord,” he said.
P.W.A. has traveled across the region to local schools, churches and other organizations to use wrestling as a means for fundraising and camaraderie for spreading the Gospel. Although they’ve stayed local to Mississippi, there are a few foreign mission opportunities in Mexico, the Philippines and Africa they hope to pursue soon.
“There are a lot of people that will attend a wrestling show on Saturday night but have never darkened the door of a church on Sunday. So, when they come to take in the action, they get more than they bargained for…they get the Gospel portrayed to them,” Soul Train said.
At Oxford’s show Saturday, Aug. 17, the message at intermission will be delivered by Ron Horn, a 20-plus year retired wrestling veteran. His life took a dark turn when he began his career in wrestling, according to Soul Train, but straightened out when he found God.
“He has a powerful story that’s worth the price of admission alone,” he said.
Profits from Oxford’s show will benefit the Amazonian Huambisa people of Peru, who will receive Kohler Clarity Filtration Systems to create clean drinking water. Currently, the Huambisas collect rainwater to drink, according to the mission’s director Ronnie Conner.
Soul Train said he and Conner met while attending Community Church Oxford in the fall of 2015.
“As our friendship grew over the years I saw more of his heart for the people of Peru,” Soul Train said. “I told him then that I wanted on board to help in any way that we could.”
Each filtration system costs $120, and that includes the cost of transportation, navigators and translators needed to get the systems to the Amazon. The filter eliminates 99% of contaminates that taint river water. Conner said he’d like to provide at least 100 filters to Huambisa families that would last approximately two years.
Conner said in 2009 he had the opportunity to go to Peru with Fish Robinson, pastor of Community Church Oxford. It was the first time he’d been out of the country, much less to the Amazon jungle.
“How these people survive on little to nothing impacted me more than anything,” he said.
Working with the indigenous people gave him a sense of empowerment, like the Lord was working through him.
“The water filters we are taking is just relationship building,” Conner said. “Once we build that relationship we hopefully can go in there more often (to spread the Gospel.)”
Conner and Soul Train both said their efforts are to help people and be the hands and feet of Christ.
Soul Train said he constantly has Ephesians 6:12 in the back of his mind and uses the verse in his daily life.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”