Monday, October 22, 2012

Regarding the time I was on Wheel of Fortune and won a bunch of money (i.e. How God changes lives for His glory)

Many of you reading this have watched this story unfold over the past 3 years, while some of you are learning it for the first time.  I have posted the videos of my appearance on Wheel of Fortune below  for your reference.  It was very fun and amazing.  But I want to make it very clear from the beginning that this is not about me!  Please forgive me for poor grammar or for not always expressing things the way I would like. Try to look past the errors and remember this as a story that God has written. It is about miracles and about Christ’s redeeming love. Enjoy!

Three summers ago, I received an email from another home schooling mom that Wheel of Fortune was looking for contestants. I had signed up to be a contestant several years before but was never contacted. My husband had always urged me to try to get on the show because I was so good at solving the puzzles. I went to the website and found out they had a new system called the Wheel Watchers Club. Each time you watched, you would enter the bonus round puzzle on your account and you received points. There were other activities you could do to earn more points. After reaching a certain number of points you were entered into the contestant pool. I did this for about a month until school started when I found it difficult to keep up.  Nevertheless, in November I received an email inviting me to audition in Los Angeles 2 weeks later. I started watching as many shows as I could, played online versions and searched the internet for tips on being a contestant.

I was so nervous at the audition. First we had to stand up in a room of 200 people and say our name in a loud projecting voice. I am so thankful for all of my church choir and high school  drama performances! Then we were called on to try to guess a letter and solve the puzzle like in the game.  I guessed a couple of letters and solved and I won a Wheel of Fortune tote bag!

Then we had to take a written test. It had different categories with puzzles with only some letters showing and lots of blanks. It was quite difficult. Then we were given a break. They would consider our test score plus our game trial performance and narrow it down to 40 contestants.  Well I made it through. Then we were called on to stand in the front with 3 other contestants and pretend to spin and compete. I don’t think I did very well on this part. 

However about 2 weeks later I received a letter saying that I would definitely be on a show in the near future. Most contestants wait years, I only waited 2 months! I amped up my studying and often stayed up late. In January I received a call asking me to come down the following week. It helps that I only live two hours away!

During this time the idea of adoption kept coming up. We already had three children and were thinking our family was complete. We had always talked about adoption before, but it seemed impossible under our circumstances. We lived in a small two bedroom apartment with no yard or patio and all three kids were crammed into one bedroom. We had just read about George Muller and his orphanages. It was such a challenging book for my faith! Then I saw the movie The Blind Side. It seemed like the theme kept popping up everywhere. My heart kept feeling stirred. I was afraid my husband would think I was crazy, so I just prayed that God would make it clear what we should do.

We started praying about my appearance on Wheel of Fortune and that whatever the outcome,   God would be glorified. Sure some extra money would be fabulous, but we know our happiness is not in wealth or possessions, but comes from our salvation in Jesus Christ.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-20

The Wheel of Fortune show taping
This was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My nerves were out of control! Six shows were going to be taped in one day and I was going to be on the third one.  During the show, it was hard to concentrate. They kept saying stand this way, look this way, spin the wheel harder, speak louder, clap all the time.  

Wheel of Fortune Part 1:  

So the show started and three puzzles went by and I didn’t win any money. But I kept praying and later found out that my husband was sweating bullets and praying for me the whole time.  Then all of a sudden something happened.  I kept landing on big money and I kept getting multiple letters. And it was the Prize Puzzle. I actually didn’t know I had landed on $3500 because they told us not to look at the wheel. I almost said another letter but quickly realized there were more “D’s”.  That landed me $13,800. Then I solved and got the Prize too- a two week cruise for two to Hawaii! From $0 to $20,886 in 2 minutes!

Wheel of Fortune Part 2: 

The third puzzle was going well and then my mouth repeated the last letter I said, even though my brain was thinking another letter.  (Yes, lots of people have reminded me of my mistake, so you don’t have too. J).  Although I missed the third toss-up, luckily I got another chance.Just as I was getting into it, the timer buzzed and we would have to do speed round. While Pat spun the wheel and explained the rules, I had about 20 extra seconds to study the puzzle and that’s when I figured it out.  That moment seemed divine.  I had been doing so poorly- then all of a sudden it just seemed like things were rolling. (I'm not sure why Pat had such a hard time pronouncing my name- it's Gen-try, not Gent-ry)

Last was the Bonus Round. Before my taping, I sat in the audience and watched the two previous tapings. I did not figure out the bonus round puzzle nor did the contestant.  I was a little intimidated, but kept praying. The theme for the week was Going Green so I had that in the back of my mind.  I had a strategy for picking the letters depending on what letters would come up.  Once the letters in the puzzle appeared, I definitely knew the second word was atmosphere. So it was easy to choose the letters that I knew were there, plus another one just in case. I knew what the puzzle was as soon as all the letters came up! I had told my dad the night before that the category “THING” was the hardest because they always do abstract concepts, not an actual thing like a chair.  Then Pat opened the envelope and I had won $30,000 more! $57,236 in less than 20 min! It felt so surreal.

What do we do with the money?
We started praying about what to do with the money but we mostly were hoping to move into a bigger home.  My husband was doing laundry on Saturdays because I couldn't walk down the street w my 3 little kids toting a heavy laundry basket and with lots of back pain ( I had back surgery several years prior). We didn't have a yard or even a patio for my kids to play outside. 

On one drive out looking at houses my husband all of a sudden said maybe we are supposed to adopt.  I couldn't believe it but I also knew those words must have been inspired by God because it was so much on my heart. But during our search we quickly realized that Santa Barbara CA real estate was way out of our price range. We even looked at mobile homes and we couldn't even afford that!

In the meantime we also attended an adoption conference. There one speaker encouraged us to not be afraid of what God might be calling us to do because of financial reasons. You see we knew we could either buy a house or adopt internationally (which we had always felt called to). So what were we supposed to do? We began looking into foster care/adoption but quickly found out that because of our current housing situation and because our youngest was not old enough, we did not qualify for their program.  We also started researching international adoption. My husband is from Peru and we had always thought about adopting there. It just seemed to make sense. We spoke the language and knew the culture.  As we began looking into the program we found out Peru was only allowing special needs adoptions.  That’s when we became open to special needs orphans. I had worked in a special education day class and because of a back injury had to quit. But I loved that job and loved working with children with special needs. 

So we began to contact agencies that work with Peruvian adoptions.  Through one of the websites, we found Reece’s Rainbow and their grants for special needs adoptions, specifically for children with Down syndrome.  When I started browsing the website with all those faces and profiles my heart was broken and stirred. Who has the right to discard these babies; precious children made in God’s image?  I would browse those web pages for hours. There were two girls and one boy that stood out to me in particular. But since we didn't have a house and we had just received the money (after waiting about 7 months), I wasn't sure if the timing was right.

After a couple of months I felt like God was challenging us to step out in faith. George Muller did it. The money was sitting there. We knew if it was God’s will He would provide the funds for a house and for the adoption. We didn't know how, but we were ready to be surprised by Him again!

~Watch the Changing Lives segment at the end of Wheel of Fortune tonight to see what happened after I won!~

Read Part 2 here

1 comment:

  1. How cool, Gentry! Our whole family watched it together. Can't wait for part two!


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