James Vassell Jr. wants to be living testimony
by KAYLA DARNLEY Banner Intern
Mar 24, 2014 | 1636 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Vassell Jr.
James Vassell Jr.
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Worship, CrossFit, dance and ministry are at the top of 28-year-old James Vassell Jr.’s priority list.

As a pastor’s kid (commonly known as a PK), Vassell grew up in the church. He traveled around with his family from Canada, Connecticut, New York and Jamaica to Cleveland, which he now calls home.

“My dad (Dr. Daniel Vassell) taught me how to live by faith and I’m still learning how to do that on a day-to-day basis. Moving from home to home and church to church, I would say I am a good example of God’s grace, mercy and peace. My family has taught me to accept where you are and find the benefit out of it,” Vassell said.

To raise money to go to various countries, he preaches and sells his own CDs. Vassell plans to minister in South Africa, Indonesia, Belgium and Canada.

“I love challenging Christians. Get out of your culture,” he emphasized. “I go to churches to do ministry (in other countries) to challenge their views so that they may see God in a new light.

“Recently in Belgium, I couldn’t imagine being treated so well and being loved and accepted by so many people, even when I was challenging their thought process. The amount of people who invested in my CD was phenomenal. The support of people has left me shocked,” Vassell said.

In the next year or two, he simply wants to get messages from people about how this ministry has changed their life positively, how CrossFit Gryphon is now encouraging them to follow their own dreams or how they have found stability.

He wants to be a living testimony to people who are afraid to follow their dreams and make the sacrifice for God.

“My dad is my living proof and I want to be living proof to others,” Vassell said.

The story behind Vassell’s new album, “Clarity,” is certainly of interest.

He quit his job as a counselor and went into ministry full time. He called Jeremy Carauthers, a friend and at-home recording artist, and asked to record one song.

After recording the first song, Carauthers told Vassell to record an entire album. From there the two worked together and created the album.

“I used the concept of the blind man who Christ heals. When asked if he can see, the man tells Jesus he can see, but only sees men standing as trees. Those who are sinners find Christ, give their lives to Him and find healing, but they do not find complete healing because they don’t see the way God wants them to see. Christ prays over the man a second time and the man can see clear as day afterward.

“This album represents this story. It is 12 different genres of music that blend into one another to take one through a prayer of clarity from God,” Vassell said.

Vassell has done many jobs over the years. He has been teaching dance for 10 years at a variety of places. He has done choreography for schools including Cleveland High School and Cleveland Middle School, worked at Momentum Academy Dance studio, and has also worked with Tennessee Wesleyan College and Lee University. Yet he calls one place his “second home.”

Located in the Old Woolen Mill in Cleveland, James works at CrossFit Gryphon. This warehouse was once barren and empty, but Joe Griffin, owner of CrossFit Gryphon alongside his wife, Amy Griffin, saw a gym. He used the pipes that were inside the walls and made monkey bars, pull-up bars, etc. He had a vision and it continues to grow.

“We gutted this place that had two inches of dirt on the ground and made it into what it is today,” Griffin said.

CrossFit Gryphon is a family-based gym where people care about each other. The youngest member is 6 to 7 years old and the oldest is 65. All ages are welcome into this community of ‘CrossFitters.’

People help each other out through not only exercise but eating healthy, financial support and prayer. It’s not just about physical health at CrossFit Gryphon, but emotional and spiritual health as well, Vassell said.

“It is not just about having a gym and making money. It is about having an impact on people. We have all found stability in this area so why not give it to people who can’t find stability in other aspects of their lives? For instance, we say to the youth who can’t find stability in their families, school, or friends: ‘Come work out for an hour, and at least you can find something that’s consistent in your life that you might benefit from,’” Vassell said.

Steve’s Club is a national nonprofit organization that works with CrossFit gyms to provide a network of programs through which at-risk or underserved youth of any socioeconomic background can join the CrossFit community at a reduced, low- or no-cost structure.

CrossFit Gryphon Kids are trying to recruit kids into this setting of building individuality.

They are going to set up a system of required community-based work. People will be able to work out, but they’ll also find structure in which, once a month, they will go out into the community and help those in need.

“I’m a minister and I can meet people and interact with them, not just on a surface level but a genuine interaction. Hence, me going to CrossFit and meeting really great people here in Cleveland who care about me, my health, my finances, and my interactions with others. When my album came out, they were the first people to really support and buy it,” Vassell said.

Vassell’s dad has been an important influence in his life.

Dr. Vassell has a non-rofit called “Love Factor” which was formerly “Love Factor in Marriage.”

Focusing on marriage, the older Vassell also wrote a 64-page book, “Love Factor in Marriage,” to bring to light what love looks like in marriage, outside of marriage, and just in regular day to day life.

“Now that he is seeing the benefits of his marriage trickle down into his kids, it’s now not just about marriage. It’s about family and before you get married, and single life, and discipleship. Who better to teach about accepting who they are and enjoying life and their call but his son (me) who is single and doing ministry.

“His faith and love for his wife and family has really encouraged me to be a man that will pursue my faith and vision even when finances aren’t at par. He and this nonprofit organization have been teaching me that it’s not about the money at all, but when you’re preaching the message, you will be blessed,” Vassell said.

Vassell has two more albums coming out. One will be based on life before “Clarity” while living in sin. The other album will be coming out by the end of the year based on hymns that will be redone.