I heard the sounds of Monks chanting and smelled burning incense as we climbed the steps to the
Buddhist temple in remote China. With every step, I prayed under my breath that God would give
me discernment. I trusted Him to help me make the right choice, if I was faced with one.
God was busy in my life – teaching me to trust Him and hear His voice. I auditioned and applied for
Survivor eleven times – every six months for five years – knowing it was something He was asking
me to do. I faced rejection after rejection and ridicule from folks who just didn’t think God would
ever ask someone to go on a reality show. With the blessing and agreement of my husband, I kept
I knew God’s voice. I had no doubt He was calling me to be a Survivor and I completely trusted He
would guide me each step of the way on my journey. So as I prayed to Him at the temple, I had no doubt I would know if I were crossing the line. Little did I know the choice I was going to face would send ripples throughout the world to millions of people watching.
Survivor is a game where sixteen Americans from every walk of life are stranded in the middle of
nowhere and are left to fend for themselves. They are divided into two tribes and every three days,
there is an Immunity Challenge and the loser of the challenge has to go to Tribal Council and vote
out one of their members. When there are ten Survivors left in the game, they make up a jury as
they are voted out and they decide from the final three who will walk away with the million dollar
Before the game began, I made it clear that I wanted the other people on the show to get to know
me as a person before they found out about my faith. It’s not that I’m ashamed at all to be a
Christian – but I know the impressions and judgments that people make when they find out that
you are a Christian. Immediately, they assume you are judgmental. They file you away in a box
without getting to know you first. I wanted them to see me as a real person – not a stereotype.
The show’s host, Jeff Probst, began to speak. He said the local people just wanted to welcome us
with a ceremony and they knew we all had our own religious beliefs and this ceremony was purely for
welcoming and blessing, not worship.
During the next hour or so, we went from room to room in the Temple. The monks were chanting
something I could not understand while incense burned and things were spoken over us. The people
were extremely friendly and seemed so warm. I wanted to respect them and learn from their
I began to feel a very intense spiritual battle going on when we entered the final temple room. The
monks put down sixteen pillows on the floor right in front of this enormous golden statue of Buddha
that was surrounded by literally hundreds of smaller golden gods.
They asked us to bow down on the pillows. I remember thinking “Well, I suppose I could just bow down and pray to Jesus – He knows my heart and would never hold this against me. I mean, it’s just a game, right? And I wouldn’t want to offend the locals. Plus, they said it wasn’t worship, so this is just part of the ceremony.”
As my heart pounded, I tried to put one knee down on the pillow. Immediately, I felt the presence of God like never before. It’s as if He picked me up from the floor and said, “Now you’re crossing the line!” I turned to one of the producers and said “I can’t do this”. He shrugged and so I got up quickly and quietly and stepped out of the temple, crying and shaking from having such an intense experience with God. Someone was going to be offended – and it couldn’t be Him.
Once the ceremony was over, Jeff Probst called us all down in front of the Temple and said “So, Leslie
– I noticed you didn’t make it through the entire ceremony” and I responded “I didn’t mean to be
disrespectful, but it felt like worship to me.” Then he said “Even though we told you this was not a worship ceremony…” and I replied, “You know, I’m not a religious person but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ and I’m only going to put my face on the floor for Him."
Then Jeff said “Aren’t you afraid of how this might play out in the game?” and I said with confidence, “You know, I’m really not. I’m going to play the game and be me. If they like me, great. If not, I’ll deal with that.”
So much for my strategy of keeping my faith to myself! I often think back to that moment and
giggle when I realize how naïve I was to think that I could keep my faith to myself. I mean, Jesus
Christ means everything to me!
I did not walk out of that temple because I was afraid God would be mad at me. I did not walk out for
religious reasons and that is why I said I wasn’t religious. I walked out because I have a relationship
with Jesus Christ and I just couldn’t break His heart by bowing before another god.
I thought about how my husband might feel if he saw me kissing another man. I could tell him that I
was thinking about him the whole time, right? Yeah, right! It would still be heart breaking for both of
us. I have no desire to kiss another man. Even thought he knows my heart, I can’t help but imagine it
would still be hard to see. Not to mention what our children would think! I knew my children were
watching the show. How would I explain to them if I bowed to a foreign god? I just couldn’t do it.
The day I walked out of that Temple, I knew it could cost me the game. I knew there was a possibility
they could pull in an alternate to take my place. I knew judgments would be made immediately. I
knew all of this, but I didn’t care. All that mattered to me was Him. I sobbed outside of the temple
as I realized He means more to me than anything!
I was voted out in the third episode. I hated to go, but I learned something so important – Man’s
rejection is always God’s protection! I lost seventeen pounds in nine days on the show – I was very sick
and nothing would have made me quit, so God knew it was time. I found out the reasons they voted
me out were because I got along too well with the other tribe, I played too nice of a game and they were nervous I would join up with the other tribe at the merge.
I have had tremendously positive responses from believers world-wide because of that Temple
scene. I have also had some persecution from folks who think I was intolerant, rude and
inconsiderate. Some Christians even opposed me because I said I wasn’t religious. I think they
thought I was lying, but in reality I was trying to make a point that there is a difference between
religion and relationship with Jesus.
I suppose everyone has an opinion. That is one thing God has taught me through this experience – His opinion is all that matters. Galatians 1:10 says “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of
God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Every day we are faced with choices. Sure, our country was founded on Christian principles but more often than not you will find most people don’t really know who Jesus Christ is and how He affects our everyday lives. So that means we are stepping into a Survivor situation every day when we walk out our door. Some of us are in a Survivor situation within the walls of our own homes. Our choices reflect our beliefs and whether we realize it or not, our choices speak louder than our words could ever speak.
God taught me so much through this adventure. I learned never to give up on a God-given dream no
matter how impossible it seems and that stepping out of my “Christian Bubble” is difficult but He
gives me strength to do it. I learned to stand up for Him, no matter how difficult. But the biggest
lesson I learned was that God means more to me than anything else in the world. And that is worth
way more than a million bucks!