Charger chaplain survives stroke, headlines opening night at SWC

DEL MAR, Calif. — Nearly 11 weeks after suffering a life-threatening stroke, San Diego Chargers Chaplain Shawn Mitchell, delivered a powerful message at the opening night session of Spirit West Coast at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Shawn Mitchell, the senior and founding pastor at Oceanside's New Venture Christian Fellowship took the stage after a video presentation of his medical crisis and subsequent miraculous and total recovery.

Mitchell was hospitalized March 9 after sustaining a stroke that prompted doctors to tell his family he might not survive the first 24 hours. Through prayer and rehabilitation, Mitchell did survive and on Easter morning, made a brief appearance at the church's annual Sunrise on the Shore service, held March 23 at the Oceanside Amphitheater.

On May 17, a week before three-day music festival, Mitchell officially returned to the congregation, telling his flock that he wouldn't speak at Spirit West Coast or anywhere, until he had come home to New Venture first. The pastor's declaration, church leaders said, drew a tearful and lengthy applause.

On May 23 as Mitchell took the stage between the bands Leeland and the Newsboys, the pastor garnered even more applause from the crowd, which was drenched from an unseasonable winter storm.

"You and I are breathing for a reason," he told die-hard festival-goers. "And God wants you to discover that call on your life. If you're breathing, you're blessed."

These words from a man whose ministry has been blessed since he launched New Venture in 1989 with a total of seven people. Today, the church has been rated as one of America's "50 Fastest Growing Churches."

Prior to starting the church, Mitchell was making a name for himself among San Diego Chargers players as he served as their chaplain, conducing chapel services, Bible studies and other meetings. Mitchell also travels with the team from time to time.