In time, however, he realized his missteps. In 2000, he rejoined his former cast members for a Growing Pains reunion movie. With a decade of spiritual growth under his belt, he stood in front of his TV family and apologized. "I was a 17-year-old guy trying to walk with integrity, knowing that I was walking in the opposite direction from many other people. I didn't have the kind of maturity and graceful way of putting things perhaps that I would now," he says.

Cameron's fellow actors immediately embraced him. "He is [once again] the Kirk that I remember," costar Jeremy Miller told E!. "He is the fun-loving, playful, generous, amazing person that we all grew to love."

All grown up

Nowadays, Christian audiences know Cameron for his role in the Left Behind films, which are based on the best-selling book series. The latest installment, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, premiered last fall on home video.

Cameron is excited to be involved in Christian films, despite their decidedly lower budgets. "Instead of staying away from a small-budget, independent movie," he explains, "I wanted to get involved and say, 'What can I do to help raise the bar and make it better?' I think we've been able to do that from the first to the second movie."

One of the perks of doing Left Behind is the opportunity to once again work with his wife, who is also featured in the films. Cameron and Noble live in a Spanish-style home on an oak tree-lined acre of property near the Santa Monica Mountains. The house is perfect for their large family.

"Chelsea and I knew we wanted to have a big family," says the happy father of five. "We got talking about the subject of adoption. We decided, 'Wow, there's a lot of kids who need families.'"

The couple adopted their son, Jack, and soon thereafter were surprised to find that Noble was pregnant. "Olivia being conceived—it wasn't something we were planning," he says. "We were very surprised, but at the same time, thrilled." They adopted one baby per year—for three more years—bringing the brood to their present total. And Cameron hints that the family could possibly grow even larger in the future.

In addition to the Left Behind movies, the actor is currently enthusiastic about his partnership with Way of the Master Ministries (www.wayofthemaster.com), a program designed by author Ray Comfort to teach Christians how to share their faith effectively. It's something that might have helped Cameron when he first became a Christian at the height of his popularity. He now writes for the Way of the Master website while considering acting offers, which he admits aren't quite as frequent as they were a decade ago.

p>Yet Kirk Cameron isn't worried about his mainstream Hollywood career. "My job is my job," he says. "I'd love to be on a hit television show again, but not for the sake of being on the cover of all the magazines. I'd do it simply because I was putting something great into the hands of American families."

Cameron takes a final bite of his omelet and pushes his plate away. "As I've matured as a man and a Christian, I've gone from an actor who's become a Christian to a husband and a father who wants to lead his family in integrity and in living a life of faith."

Not bad for a guy who once basked in the limelight and wore his atheist badge with pride. It was a bumpy journey, but that cool kid with the leather jacket and smart mouth is all grown up.

A Christian Reader original. Dan Ewald is a writer living in Venice, California.Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today's Christian magazine.
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