BY TRISHA CODER
Justin Martin grew up in Lynwood, Calif., near Compton, an area known for its high crime rate. When he was 8 years old, his cousin Alfred was shot and killed over a Walkman. Alfred was a senior in high school, was on the honor roll, and competed on the football and track teams. He was just weeks away from attending the University of California at Los Angeles on scholarship.
"You couldn't ask for a better person," says Martin, assistant professor of psychology at Whitworth. "He was someone to model and look up to." Following Alfred's death, Martin's aunt gave him the one thing she knew would remind him of his hero: Alfred's comic book collection, which Martin loved. As a child, he had immersed himself in the world of superheroes, watching cartoons and collecting cards. But during middle school he put superheroes aside after he discovered a love for Jesus Christ.
Martin's father worked on Chevron's oil rigs in Alaska and was often away from home, leading Martin to spend stretches of time with his great-aunt. "She would pray for an hour or more a day," he says. "You know, the anointing oils on our heads. I got a lot of the foundation there, and in high school I decided to get baptized. That was the point I was feeling like I was making a choice to create a better relationship with God."