ATP Ministries has nothing to do with Adenasine Tri-Phosphate, the molecule that is broken down and used for energy, but founder Victor Marx uses a lot of it in his visits to juvenile detention facilities.
Marx holds a seventh-degree black belt in Keichu-Do Karate, a seventh-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and a fourth-degree black belt in weapons. He was also a weapons instructor and competitive shooter in the U.S. Marine Corps. But he chooses to use his lethal skills to "lead, not chase, people out of eternal danger and into the loving arms of God," reads his biography on the All Things Possible Ministries Web site.
ATP Ministries focuses on troubled youth, particularly those in juvenile detention facilities. Marx presents martial arts displays and tells the story of his own afflicted childhood to reach out to the youth.
"He kind of breaks the iceeveryone wants to see his martial arts skills," said Marx's assistant, Amy Youssi. "That just thrills the kids. Then they relate to him, and they listen, and they'll listen to the message of Jesus and salvation and hope and deliverance and healing; someone like him who had so much trauma and healing. The fruit is amazing, the harvest, once he gives the alter call."
Marx was not always so open about his past.
"I used to not tell my story, but through sharing my story I have been able to touch the lives of many kids," he said.
Marx's childhood was littered with a father mixed up in pimping and drug dealing and four step-fathers who were alcoholics and frequently involved in criminal activity. He finally found a sense of normalcy, he said, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, an environment in which he thrived. Through counseling, Marx was able to come to terms with his past in order to serve others.
Marx became a Christian after his father turned his own life around.
He and his wife, Eileen, were "living in Hawaii, and God called us to go into ministry," he said. "So we left what we were doing and left a financially solid lifestyle."
The couple moved to Colorado to work with Focus on the Family, where Marx worked as an assistant to James Dobson.
"God was faithful," Marx said. "He said, 'If you trust me I'll take care of you.'"
It was at a juvenile detention facility there that he did his first martial arts demonstration and shared his story.
"Out of the 75 incarcerated kids (at the demonstration), 53 gave their lives to Christ," he said. "It was supernatural. It's still supernatural to this day."
Marx said he felt God's message to him was clear.
"God said, 'I want you to reach a group of kids no one wants to touch,'" he said. "So we left that ministry with no money (to start ATP Ministries)."
The ministry is now based in Murrieta, Calif. and Marx travels to detention facilities as far away as Boston and Maine and said he does 24 outreaches a year.
Marx recalled one case of a 9-year-old sex offender who, through the martial artist's testimony, realized that he no longer had the right to hurt someone in retaliation for hurting him.
"There are a lot of kids turned upside down," Marx said. "Their innocence has been intruded upon.
"We can reach someone like (the 9-year-old) and keep him from growing up to be like someone who killed Chelsea (King)," referring to the San Diego teen who was raped and murdered earlier this year. A registered sex offender has been arrested in the case.
In addition to its martial arts presentations, ATP Ministries personnel send boxes full of Marx' book, "With God All Things Are Possible," to juvenile detention facilities across the country. They also try to respond to all the youth who send letters.
"It's supernatural work God is doing, reaching these kids, I guess, with my story," Marx said. "The secret to what we're doing is people praying."
For more information, visit www.atpministries.org.