TIME OF TRIAL
Since Brent and Leeann Cooper's interview aired on The 700 Club in 2005 they've had a "normal,"great life. Both were growing in their relationship with the Lord and each other.
However, drug related legal charges surfaced (a non-violent first offense) against Brent that had been out for several years before he got saved that took years to resolve. The charges were brought up in court.
Brent and Leeann believed God would deliver him, and they were trusting God and growing in the Lord. So they didn't talk about it much.
On January 11, 2006, the final court hearing was conducted and Brent was incarcerated that day. The Coopers weren't allowed to make any contact at all, and Brent was sentenced to three years in a state prison in Arizonia where the crime was committed.
Immediately they were forced to jump into the reality of the situation. Initially, when Leeann first heard Brent was going to be charged, she was shocked. Two days after he was taken away, she found out she was pregnant (they had been trying for a while). The very next night she was able to contact Brent and tell him she was pregnant. Brent's response was, "I knew it."
ALL THINGS WORKING TOGETHER FOR GOOD
At first, Brent was put in jail and could talk to Leeann freely. Then they moved Brent to prison and Leeann wasn't able to talk with him for a month. Only recently has Leeann been able to talk to Brent over the phone. Leeann believes that although their faith is being tested, they're being strengthened, and God has been showing them how strong they are.
Leeann says that even the love between her and Brent has grown stronger. She has been able to keep her joy and is still trusting the Lord. Leeann has a good support system. She has her parents and siblings living nearby. Her church, Joy Church, has been there for her, and being involved with the church encourages her. She also has a full time job at the Marriott Hotel and has a great support system there.
Brent has been doing well also. He has been ministering to people he's been in contact with while he has been at the jail and prison. He has lead 20 people to the Lord, prayed with 32 others, and there have been two manifested healings. He has been staying encouraged. He asks for letters of encouragement. Brent stays in the Word, prays in the Spirit, and fasts. He also has Bible studies.
Leeann stresses how Brent has really dived into the Word of God. In prison, he is more of a leader and has been guiding people. Many people have been encouraged overall by this seemingly negative circumstance in the Coopers' life.
Leeann's prayers have been that Brent would be transferred to Tennessee, that Brent would have favor in the appeal process, and that God would reveal what His will is for them through these circumstances (and turn these circumstances around for good and work out for others). The Coopers know that they have been called to serve God full-time. Leeann says it was stressful at the beginning, but Brent is the same man of God he was when he left. He is totally reformed, and he knows that he is only reaping what he sowed.
It's been on Brent's heart to minister to people who were like him. This experience could be paving the way for people who were like him. Although Leeann would like her husband home, the Coopers know that God will work everything out concerning how God will use them in ministry and their family.
A FIGHTING FAMILY
Brent Cooper, 31, has charisma, male model looks and a bright smile that is almost always on. Born into a family of boxers (his father was an amateur boxer and his cousin fought professionally) in Nashville, TN, Brent naturally loved the sport from a young age. He was also born into a family of zealous drinkers. “Everyone would get drunk and fight,” he says. “I thought that’s just how life was.” Brent first started fighting at age 15 when his father introduced him to Tae Kwon Do at the local gym. His family never went to church, but Brent was the first to go. He was saved at age 7 and his mother got saved when he was age 10. They went to church together. His father, an alcoholic, only went on special occasions like Easter. “I was a believer, but I didn’t have a deep, personal relationship with the Lord,” he says. So eventually Brent started drinking and stopped attending church regularly in his early teens. “I started following in my father’s footsteps,” Brent explains. “I was still a believer, so I preached to my friends even when I was drunk. That’s how I grew up, so I didn’t see anything wrong with it. To me, drinking was just good fun.” In 1997 he fought 18 fights in 10 months for Don King. Cooper’s boxing career was going well. But Brent’s manager decided to move to Virginia. He didn’t want to go, so he decided to call it quits and began waiting tables. That same year his mother died at age 43 from a seizure. Her death marked Brent’s turn from bad to worse. “I turned to drugs (cocaine) and alcohol to deal with the pain. I didn’t know how to turn to God for comfort,” he says. Brent married Leeann that next year. His drug and alcohol addiction took a toll on his new marriage. “It got really bad. There were times I wouldn’t come home all night,” Brent laments. With divorce on the horizon, Leeann did the only thing she knew to do. She got on her knees and pleaded with God to save her marriage.
A NEW MAN
After Leeann spent six months praying and surrendering to God, God started drawing Brent back to Him. “It was in baby steps. I stared listening to Joel Osteen, reading my Bible and seeking God,” he says. “I started changing.” Eventually Brent quit drinking. He says God strategically placed people in his life to encourage him in his faith. Brent and Leeann continued to read the Word and do Bible studies together like The Purpose Driven Life. One day while sparring with a friend at the local gym, recruiters came in for a new unscripted drama, The Contender, offering a $1 million grand prize. They asked him to audition. “It was all God. I had only fought two times in the past five years! But they liked me, my story and how I fought,” Brent says. He flew out to LA (along with 6- 7,000 contenders) and made it down to the final cut of 16. “It’s amazing what God does when you completely surrender your life to Him,” he proclaims.
Brent says it was awesome working with Sylvester Stallone, an executive producer of the show, and boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard who hosted the show. Sly and Sugar Ray came around and talked with the boxers each day, he says. Sixteen boxers came from all over the USA to live, eat, sleep and train together to participate in physically demanding challenges over 15 episodes. Each episode ended with a 5-round professional bout where the winner moved one step closer to the final round. On the final show in May, fans got to call in and vote for the winner. As a personal trainer Brent stayed in great physical shape, so when the call came to take part in the show he could compete. Again, it was just God moving powerfully in his life.
Brent says there were several Christians among the fighters, including Jonathan Reid who is also from Nashville. They’ve known each other for nine years and have trained together. Jonathan lost his bout on the show.
Just after Brent auditioned for NBC’s The Contender, Brent and Leeann received a flyer in the mail for Joy Church. They decided to try it out. “The pastor was preaching a sermon on Rocky (boxing),” he says. “We joined that day, I was speaking in tongues that night and we haven’t missed a beat since!” Brent and Leeann are country singers/songwriters and have a small recording studio set up in their house. They also help lead praise and worship at their church.
If you want to send Brent an encouraging letter while he's in prison, you can email it here: firstname.lastname@example.org
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.