Former UFC fighter Justin “The Viking” Wren may have left the Octagon, but he continues to fight for those less fortunate and even wrote a book about it, “Fight for the Forgotten,” about the plight of the people of the DRC Congo.
FOX411: Why did you transition from being an MMA fighter to a missionary?
Justin Wren: I think it was kind of a natural transition for me in my life, not for most, but I had gone through a depression that came kind of birthed out of childhood. I got bullied growing up and at 13 years old I started dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, and that battle continued even as a professional athlete. I had a struggle with depression for 10 years, addiction for six full years. I even missed my best friend’s wedding being his best man because of being on a drug binge, and so after I found my faith and becoming 11 months sober that when I found my Pygmy family in the Congo. I kind of thought I can fight against people, or I can fight for people. I did a fight three weeks ago on Spike TV and won, but I’m doing that for my family now.
FOX411: How were you called to the Congo?
Wren: The first time I had no clue but to go and see and meet the people, and whenever I met I fell in love with them. It’s kind of crazy. It’s the second chapter in the book because I actually found them through a vision. I know that sounds crazy. I’m not some kind of weird, religious kook, but I was basically 11 months sober and was praying, “God, what do you want me doing with my life?” I saw myself in the rain forest, I didn’t know where. I saw myself with these people walking down this path, and hearing this awesome drumming and beautiful singing whenever I got into the village I saw this suffering with ribs protruding out. I could tell these people are suffering and I could tell they didn’t have clean water. Three and a half weeks later it actually came true.
FOX411: What was the response from the local children?
Wren: I look a lot different. I’m the hairiest dude a lot of people in the States have seen, so a lot of times I’d be the first guy they’ve seen with white skin with the biggest beard they’ve ever seen – a lot of them don’t have body hair or arm hair like I do, and also I would become almost like a human jungle gym or playground for them.
FOX411: You named the book after the “forgotten people.” Tell us some of the most troubling things you have witnessed?
Wren: The chief of the village pulled me aside and said no one knows of our suffering. We don’t have a voice. Can you help us have one? He said everyone calls us the forest people. We call ourselves the forgotten, and that’s true. On the planet Earth today there’s more slavery, with 27 million estimated. The non-Pygmies have stolen their land and they enslave them on their own land that they’ve lived on for thousands of years. They use them for very cheap labor. They pay a family of three or five people maybe two small bananas to share for a full day’s labor. I also had two children in my hands that passed away. The first one who passed away was named Andy Bow. He’s forever gripped my heart and his family. His mother is the only surviving one of the family. He passed away from waterborne illness - just not having clean water. There’s a statistic: 5,000 children each and every day under five years old die just because of dirty water. We all know about Ebola, that took 11,000 lives, and we all know about Cecil the Lion, but this just seems to fall on deaf ears, or maybe people just don’t know that 5,000 kiddos die every day because of just not having clean water. Something we have at our fingertips.