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The Runway Model Evangelist

The Runway Model Evangelist

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Hashmareen Griffin has vivid memories of her childhood in Sri Lanka, as the terrorist group Tamil Tigers began to wreak havoc. She attended a boarding school two hours from her family’s home in Nawalapitiya, in the hill country of the South Asian island nation in the Indian Ocean.

In the early days of a decades-long civil war, one day after classes Hashmareen saw rioters setting fire to houses. When Hashmareen’s father, George Daniel, came to drive her home that day, they saw rebels stopping vehicles, pulling out the occupants, and shooting them. That night, mobs on buses carried bats, knives, and machetes, intent on killing residents in their residences.

Although Hashmareen’s well-respected father oversaw government-operated tea estates, he figured the nation had become too dangerous a place for him and his wife, Dagma, to raise their three daughters. He began making plans to emigrate to the U.S. Hashmareen knelt by her bed nightly praying for God to open the door to flee the country. George’s brother Errol Valentine Daniel, a Columbia University anthropology professor, sponsored the family, who managed to move to Seattle three years later, in 1983.

While moving to a vastly different culture has its challenges, the family’s Pentecostal faith made the transition smoother. Hashmareen is a third-generation Assemblies of God follower. Her grandfather Daniel Sangaralingum accepted Jesus as Savior at an AG missions church in Sri Lanka at the age of 13. Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist, but only 2% Christian, including 90,000 Assemblies of God adherents.

Hashmareen adapted in school in the U.S., excelling at a variety of sports: track and field, tennis, and volleyball. At the age of 14, while walking in a shopping mall with her mother, the 5-foot, 11-inch tall Hashmareen caught the eye of a New York modeling agent. Subsequently, Dagma signed a contract on her daughter’s behalf and before long the striking teenager found employment at some of the world’s most illustrious fashion houses. Hashmareen became a professional international runway model, strolling in cities ranging from London to Milan. She began modeling clothes created by designers such as Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, and Valentino. She appeared on fashion magazine covers and in television commercials.

Although she had lived a somewhat sheltered life, Hashmareen sensed God’s protective hand and vowed to not compromise her faith. While some of her peers cavorted with older men who supplied alcohol and synthetic designer drugs, she steered away from such behavior, vowing to remain sexually pure until marriage. She let her protective booking agents know she would only do modest photo shoots: no lingerie or swimsuit pictures. She also eschewed advertisements promoting alcohol or cigarettes.

By 17, Hashmareen had developed a reputation as a clean-cut girl, uninterested in modeling risqué attire. She evangelized anyone she could talk to: makeup artists, hairstylists, designers, journalists, other models. Several came to faith in the Lord because of her influence.

“Every industry needs Christians who share God’s Word, who go into all the world and make disciples,” she declares.

DESTINED MARRIAGE
As a young adult, Hashmareen continued to attend Westminster Assembly of God in Seattle. In 1995, Rich P. Wilkerson, pastor of Trinity Church in North Miami, Florida, preached a four-day revival at Westminster. He spotted Hashmareen in the audience, and after a service quizzed then-pastor John S. Gregg about Hashmareen. Playing matchmaker, Wilkerson then told his associate staff evangelist Allen L. Griffin that Hashmareen would become Allen’s wife.

When Allen and Hashmareen first set eyes on each other they had the same sensation.

The couple wed in 1998. Hashmareen, then 25, continued modeling another five years. Hashmareen, who has no trace of her British accent from childhood, retired from the business at 30 after she gave birth to son Israel, now 18. Son Isaiah came along two years later. Today, the Griffins serve as evangelists affiliated with Calvary Ormond Beach, an AG megachurch in Florida where James D. Raley Jr. is lead pastor.

While they travel the world preaching, the couple also are involved with Excellerate, a nonprofit Allen and Hashmareen founded in 2012 to equip unadopted teens in the foster care system for a positive transition to adulthood. Allen, who is African American, serves as president of the organization and Hashmareen is national director. Allen, who grew up in a home with 26 foster siblings, is an ordained AG evangelist. He earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate from Southeastern University.

The foundation of Excellerate is a four-month program in which students learn life skills, career opportunities, financial responsibilities, and social skills. Upon completion, the young adults receive a free vehicle through the program. Praise Assembly in Beaufort, South Carolina, where James L. Gardner Jr. is lead pastor, has started an Excellerate program at its facility and three other AG congregations are lined up to do so by spring.

MODELING GOD’S WORTH
In her various roles, Hashmareen has opportunities to speak into the lives of teenagers who may be struggling with self-esteem. Based on her experiences, the poised, personable, and effervescent Griffin teaches girls that modesty is a godly path to maturity.

“We teach young women and young men that our image and our true purposes in life are in God,” she says. “God sees us in a different way than we see ourselves.”

Humans often have a distorted picture of their worth because of fear and insecurity, she believes.

“Most women struggle with comparing ourselves to others,” Griffin says. “We tend to be insecure and feel unqualified in so many areas of life.”

Katlyn Moncrief Bryan considers Griffin a mentor, both as a speaker for women’s conferences and as a business manager. Bryan, 31, invited Griffin to help her guest co-host the Atlanta-based “The Christian View” TV show a couple of times in the past two years.

“I love that Hashmareen is so real and so strong in her Christian walk,” says Bryan, whose husband, Jeremy, is a credentialed AG minister. “She really is a light in the darkness, and comfortable being around different groups.”

Bryan says Griffin is an inspiring example of a godly Christian woman.

“Women need a vision of those who are firm in their faith, have great marriages, and great careers,” Bryan says. This fall, Griffin is making an appearance on Bryan’s program “The Koach Katlyn Show” to discuss mentorship.

Bryan and Griffin are collaborating on a Christian evangelistic TV show called “The Garden” that will air next year and feature a panel of pastors’ wives. It will be available on social media and YouTube.

Photos:

Lead Photo: The Griffin family (from left) consists of Israel, Isaiah, Hashmareen, and Allen.

1st Photo: Hashmareen (leaning against father George) and her young sisters Roshini and Shevanthi all were born in Sri Lanka.

2nd Photo: Hashmareen is planning a TV venture with friend Katlyn Bryan.

3rd Photo: Hashmareen began modeling as a teenager.

4th Photo: Allen and Hashmareen are involved in helping foster youth transition to adulthood.

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