A well in the Gulf of Mexico leaking millions of gallons of oil for three months was finally plugged two years ago last week. That didn't stanch the outpouring of frustration experienced by those most severely affected by the episode.
An oil rig explosion off the Louisiana coast precipitated the leak and killed 11 men. It was the latest in a series of industrial incidents during the previous decade involving energy company BP, which also came under scrutiny after a 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Texas, oil refinery that killed 15 workers. Left behind in both cases are family members who are grappling with whether they will — or perhaps even should — forgive an inanimate entity such as BP. Some of them say it's a question their theology has forced them to confront.
LINDALE, Texas — Robert Nelson sees his volunteer position as mayor of this small East Texas town as an opportunity to serve God. He “seeks guidance” through prayer so the decisions he makes are for the betterment of Lindale.
“By doing that, we make the best decisions,” said Nelson, who prays before each City Council meeting. “We may get criticized by a few — but ultimately, after I have sought guidance on a decision, I can feel comfortable knowing that this is what was impressed upon my heart and mind.”
Nelson joined politics at the behest of Lindale’s community six years ago. He was already on the City Council and was sworn in as mayor in May of 2012.
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — Charlotte Krüsi uses her paintings to touch others and bring healing to their lives. She teaches others to render “art as worship” the way one might write a song and gathers with groups of artists to construct “prayer art” — a process, she says, in which the artist prays and then paints pictures other people.
“Prayer art is similar to what musicians do when they pray and prepare music to worship God,” said Krüsi, 55, at her East Texas home. “We artists pray and we ask the Lord, ‘What should we paint?’”
Worship art is also an “expression similar to dance” used to praise God, Krüsi said. The spiritually expressive art touches different people in different ways and often stimulates what she called prophetic visions.
“People look at the paintings and are touched by what they see,” said Krüsi, whose works have also been featured in non-religious art shows. “It always does something to their spirit. It brings them back to their childhood. It frees them up.”
LINDALE, Texas — Hundreds gathered in the Church United in Prayer event Saturday to pray for America. Denomination was ignored in favor of repentance and worship as multiple pastors and congregants came from various churches. Event speakers told ResonateNews.com they hoped the response would lead to prayer revival in the nation and emphasized the importance of unified prayer.
“We are the body of Christ, and we can have fellowship and unity,” said Joe Fauss, international director of Calvary Commission. “Coming together for prayer is one of the greatest things that can happen because we have to lay aside everything and just pray.”
Fauss delineated the prayer themes for the gathering and designated people beforehand — chiefly pastors — to lead each theme in two-minute prayer segments. He said the goal “is to break the bonds of wickedness through prayer, to come against the spirit of compromise and the lowering of standards.” America must return to its biblical roots, Fauss said.
In the mid 1970s, then 28-year-old Linda Fite's life began to take what she considered a great turn. Her career as a real estate agent in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., was thriving. She had an air of confidence in social settings and believed she was well on the road to self-actualization. Nearly four decades later she is author of a novel meant to warn people against influence she credits with her early success: Occultic activity that consumed one-third of her early life, drew her away from her children and contributed to severe strains on her marriage.
Fite's book, “Angels Among Us,” is the first in a planned series of novels about the pitfalls of casting too wide of a net into the spiritual world. The book — published by OakTara in February and available on Amazon.com — draws upon her experiences as a disciple of New Age philosophy. That period of her life began shortly after she abandoned her childhood religion of Mormonism. Fite said she didn't foresee negative consequences to her spiritual pursuits.
“I was a seeker. I knew there was a spirit realm, but I didn't think any of it was bad,” Fite told ResonateNews.com on Tuesday. “I thought it was all positive.”
LINDALE, Texas — When Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for pastors to plan “The Response,” — a huge prayer meeting in Houston last August — organizers hoped smaller community prayer rallies would pop up across the nation.
Some of that hope will be fulfilled in Lindale from 9:30 a.m to 1 p.m. Saturday when the second Church United in Prayer community meeting will be held by a coalition of Lindale-area churches and ministries. Lindale Mayor Robert Nelson, school Superintendent Stan Surrat and Barham Fulmer, president of Lindale Southside Bank will help lead prayers for the Lindale community at the meeting.
The event's purpose is to continue the prayer-petition effort for the nation, state and local communities that The Response began nearly a year ago, Church United in Prayer, or CUP, organizers said.
The expansion of black civil liberties since Rhode Island enacted North America's first abolitionist law 150 years ago Friday hasn't stopped slavery — as an issue — from being a lingering cultural wound. Most black Americans have in recent history endorsed apologies and reparations for ancestors' enslavement while a majority of their countrymen of other races strongly opposed those ideas, according to surveys. Despite the negative emotions the very word “slave” may still invoke, some black Christians are using the concept to connote spiritual redemption.
Four people connected with Teen Mania Ministries died Friday when their plane crashed in rural Kansas. Three people died immediately. Two survivors, Austin Anderson, 27, and Hannah Luce, 22, daughter of Teen Mania founder Ron Luce, were airlifted to hospitals in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita, Kan., respectively.
Anderson died of his injuries at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, said Cindy Mallette, Teen Mania's director of communications.
Five people were aboard the twin-engine Cessna 401 when it went down around 4:30 p.m. northwest of Chanute, Kan. about 90 miles southwest of Joplin, Mo., said spokesman Peter Knudson with the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane was en route from Riverside, Kan., to Council Bluffs, Iowa. The pilot, Luke Sheets, 23, of Ephraim, Wis., lost contact with air traffic control shortly after getting permission to descend to a lower altitude and crashed. Knudson said investigators were unaware of any distress call. The FAA is also investigating the crash.
Hannah Luce and Austin Anderson survived the crash and were able to walk to a nearby roadway and obtain help, Mallette said. Luce, of Garden Valley, Texas, suffered severe injuries including burns on 20 percent of her body and is in serious but stable condition.
TYLER, Texas — Mayor Barbara Bass led hundreds of residents in a prayer breakfast Thursday as part of the National Day of Prayer. Attendees said they felt blessed by the turnout and unity among attendees.
“Seeing how many people came reminded me of the body of Christ,” said Chris Witt, executive pastor of Grace Community Church here. “I was reminded this morning that there are a great number of workers.”
Gary Newman, a Shriner of Prince Hall, said the prayer breakfast addressed a felt need in the Christian community.
“You can’t help but get strength and power from praying,” Newman said. “That’s what this need is — not for money, but for more love and support from praying.”
Johnny and Shawn Casias remember a time long before Monterrey, Mexico, descended into bedlam. It was almost like another world, they said, when their parents became missionaries there nearly three decades ago. But years before John and Wanda Casias became homicide in January — having both been strangled to death amid an apparent robbery — they committed to stay in a city they knew was beset by gang-related violence. They were commissioned to share the Christian faith there and would not leave until God himself reassigned them, their children said.
“They knew they were put here and they knew their work helped a lot of people,” Shawn Casias, 42, told ResonateNews.com from Monterrey, where he lives and works. “It would have been a mockery of their mission to leave just because a few bullets were flying around.”
LINDALE, Texas — The creative team that birthed “Is That Really You, God?” — the story of missionary organization Youth With A Mission’s early years — met last week for the first time in nearly 30 years.
YWAM founder Loren Cunningham was visiting the YWAM Woodcrest campus here at the same time John and Elizabeth Sherrill were conducting a writers workshop with Loren’s sister Janice Rogers, who has co-authored all of Cunningham's books.
The last time they were all together was 1983 when they met in Kona, Hawaii, to begin the research for the book. “Is That Really You, God?” now ranks as one of the most-translated and best-=selling Christian books of all time.
“It’s a joy to see Loren again,” John Sherrill said. “What he and the YWAM family have done in the years since we helped write the book is simply amazing.”
“Church discipline” — a practice in which congregation leaders confront, correct and sometimes rebuke members for violating tenets of biblical morality — is garnering rare discussion outside of Christian circles. The topic's limelight comes as Seattle megachurch Mars Hill faces criticism — from Christians and non-Christians — for taking disciplinary measures that some say cross the line.
Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll has acknowledged his ministry's mishandling of a recent disciplinary action. However, he and other Christians who have been subjected to the process at their churches say they are thankful for the practice — which they base on the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17.
HIDEAWAY, Texas — The members of Hideaway Community Church have had to cope with the loss of their sanctuary since lightning struck it March 20. The fire has brought the congregation closer to each other and strengthened their faith, members say.
“It’s brought our people together, which I think is a wonderful thing in the life of our church,” said Curtis Crofton, pastor of Hideaway Community Church. Crofton said he looks at his congregation and sees that “instead of being discouraged, they are encouraged. Instead of being negative, they are saying, ‘we’re blessed.’”
Longtime member Dawn Swinnea said she sees God’s past provision as evidence of his purpose for the church.
One year ago, author and Michigan mega-church pastor Rob Bell caused a stir with the release of “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” The book calls into question whether hell is a place of eternal punishment and whether anyone will end up there to beginning with. Several rebuttal books and commentaries were written by theologians such as John MacArthur, John Piper and Francis Chan who hold traditional views about damnation for those who don't accept Christ as savior before death. These traditionalists were joined by allies they might not have expected: Atheist bloggers who believe Bell's teachings aren't true to the Bible.
Shawn Liu, a Florida social worker and self-identified ex-Christian, said he agrees with Bell's critics who say his views aren't doctrinally sound.
KONA, Hawaii — On the grounds of the University of the Nations is a curious sound I've not heard on many other campuses around the nation: laughter. But the happy sound seems to be a fixture here at the idyllic setting with a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.
Not that the normal “student stresses” — deadlines, projects due, demanding study schedules, character development and cranium cramming of all kinds — is absent here. There's plenty of that.
But students here take it upon themselves to gather after classes in great groups and do something unusual, when one considers what goes on in many of America's bastions of higher education. They worship.
And may I say they do it with strength, voice, volume, confidence, determination and purpose. They worship without apology, hesitation, awkwardness, self-consciousness, on the sidelines or hidden in the shadows. The after-effect, even days later, seems to be laughter — a manifestation of a type of release.
Kathryn Sue is eager to enter Japan to assist the disaster relief efforts there in the wake of last year's earthquakes and tsunami. But she and her husband, Burton, hope to restore damaged souls and psyches, rather than damaged buildings.
The Sues have launched The Butterfly Project. The strategy is to use creative arts such as music, dance, and painting in the healing process for Japanese citizens still reeling the disaster — which also led to a nuclear crisis and the deaths of at least 15,000 people. The Sues' vision is supported by four Christian organizations — Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope, The Evangelical Alliance Mission, Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society, or JEMS and San Diego Japanese Christian Church.
Sue said she's confident the arts can provide emotional sustenance to the people of Japan. She said adding a Gospel component will make The Butterfly Project that much more successful.
“Using the creative arts is a proven technique often used by some of the best hospitals in the world. However, using this as a 'ministry' will no doubt have an even greater impact on those it reaches” said Sue, 32, of San Diego.
Miranda Day doesn't consider herself a Christian artist. The gloomily raw nature of some of her lyrics belie the optimism that Christians expect in their brand of music. But, the 24-year-old Tylerite said, her songs do have a spiritual message — one that speaks of life, truth and consequences.
“When I was 7 or 8 years old, a lady who babysat me died in a car accident along with her baby. She was an alcoholic and she'd been drinking that day. I wrote “No Turning Back” about her — and the tragic price we have to pay for the choices we make sometimes,” Day said, whose music is a blend of folk, blues and rock. “Some people say 'Your music is too depressing, it's not Christian.' But that's life. Just because you're a Christian, that doesn't mean you're not exposed to some really difficult experiences. I want my music to reflect my life and what I've seen and gone through.”
Day said she hasn't felt compelled to make music into a ministry of sorts. But if anyone listens closely enough — and is spiritually receptive — they will recognize God's influence in her music, she said.
MEXICO CITY — It was while sitting at the trendy Bertico Cafe in central Mexico City late last Tuesday night that I had a bit of a revelation; many of us in the United States have it all wrong when it comes to Mexico. And many Mexicans can't understand what some Americans think about Mexico, because from their perspective, Mexico is a potential answer to the world, not a potential disaster, teetering on the brink of anarchy.
After decades of adapting to the American western border states from the New York-area Atlantic coast where I was raised, my experience of Mexico has either been chaotic border towns, or the sleepy, sedate Yucatan peninsula while doing research on Mayan religious practices. The idea of “world changing” was not on my personal list of options for Mexico from my contact with them.
But it was now in Mexico City that I finally saw some light, the first-hand heart of Mexico. It was a surprisingly familiar matrix to what I'd grown up with in the United States and lived among in Europe. I became a believer, one might say, as I heard a young Mexican tell me his country could change the world – if given a chance.
TIJUANA DEL MAR, Mexico — Sustainable change in worldwide communities through recognition of the true nature of poverty was the major theme of the four-day International Homes of Hope conference here. The U.S.-based charity has constructed and given away more than 3,500 homes in 12 nations during the past 20 years.
Representatives from 10 nations, mostly — but not all — Spanish speaking, heard new strategies in the offing to "truly transform" communities.
At the moment, most of the small homes have been built in Mexico for “working poor” landowners who cannot afford to build houses on their properties after paying taxes and making land payments. Homes of Hope has largely drawn on the efforts of short-term volunteers who pay to travel and then build the homes for these low-income families.
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — The four-hour prayer gathering hear Saturday ended with nearly as many people as were present at the its beginning. About 1,000 people, event organizers said, attended the Church United in Prayer, and barely anyone opted to leave the meeting prior to its conclusion.
The dimly lit sanctuary of Community Christian Fellowship Church — which hosted the event — was packed with enthusiastic “prayer warriors,” emotional worshipers and passionate preachers who hoped to have an encounter with God that would send ripples throughout the East Texas community and — among the more ambitious — the entire nation.
The Rev. David Hickey said he was “very happy” with the tone of the event.
“I feel like God came,” he said. “It went better than planned. There was a merciful transparency here that can't be manufactured.”
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — Charlotte Krusi says "worship art" is a refreshing way to seek the presence of God. She and a group of artists — both adults and children — will be using their paint brushes to “respond to God” during the upcoming Church United in Prayer on Saturday.
The free event features a coalition of area churches and ministries meeting at 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Community Christian Fellowship Church, 15704 Texas Highway in Garden Valley. About 700 to 1,000 people are expected to attend, event organizers estimated.
Krusi says the artwork of children in worship is extremely deep even in its simplicity.
“We all need a childlike faith and their freedom brings healing to the cluttered and wounded adult soul. In this era of overstimulation — both audio and visual — simple artwork can underline what the Holy Spirit is trying to bring to our hearts.”
God's heart can be represented in pictures, she said.
“Pictures speak a thousand words. I love a good teaching and many times find that during the teaching pictures come to mind. Some are personal and some are worth sharing. I try to paint what is on God’s heart,” Krusi said.
LINDALE, Texas — Corporate prayer events seem to be springing up in Smith and surrounding counties, inspired by the huge prayer and praise event, The Response, held in Houston in August. At The Response, at least 44,000 Christian believers converged at Reliant Stadium to offer prayers and repentance for America, joining with participants from about 88,000 unique Web down streams and views.
At least three similar prayer events in Smith County — in Garden Valley on Saturday, Lindale on June 9 and Tyler on Oct. 27 — have been scheduled under the name The Church United in Prayer, or CUP. The goal of the inter-denominational prayer meetings is to invoke “persistent and passionate prayer for our nation,” according to information from CUP organizers.
The June 9 CUP meeting is scheduled to take place at E.J. Moss auditorium in Lindale. The Oct. 27 meeting is to be held at Green Acres Baptist Church under the name, The Turning Point for America. The Saturday CUP event from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be held at Community Christian Fellowship church, 15704 Texas Highway 110. Participating will be at least seven church congregations and the staff of other local ministries. The free event is open to the public.
“This is completely an ad-hoc meeting, led by ministry leaders from a number of churches and ministries,” said a CUP organizer, Roy Devisscher. “We don't have a bank account and CUP is not incorporated. We're not even taking an offering. All this is about on Saturday is to pray and meet with God about our nation.”
The most important thing to do for the county and the country now is to pray, one pastor said.
“We are at a place in current affairs that no one really knows what to do,” said the Rev. David Hickey, pastor of Community Christian Fellowship. “The best thing we can do is call out to God for his mercy and direction.”
The Saturday event will be a three-hour “praise and prayer” time that will include musicians and ministry leaders leading worship and three distinct prayer focuses: personal repentance, prayer for the nation and prayer for the church. A live downstream of the event will be available with information published on Facebook at a “Church United in Prayer” page the night prior to the event.
“Prayer is the greatest weapon we have to fight against the ‘principalities and powers’ that seek to destroy our nation,” said Smith County-based musician Dallas Holm, a Church United in Prayer supporter. “The gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against the church united in prayer.”
Worship artists Paul Baloche, Jonathan Williams of Teen Mania and Josh Langer of Youth With A Mission are scheduled to lead the times of praise. Lindale-based artist Charlotte Krusi will lead a team of painters, rendering art live during the three hours as prayers and praise are offered.
Visit www.churchunitedinprayer.com for directions, a list of participating churches, ministry endorsements, vision statement, organizing committees and participating artists or visit Facebook at Church United in Prayer.
PHOTO BY: Patrick Butler Attendees pray and worship at The Response, an August gathering of prayer and repentance, in Houston.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A look back at significant religion stories of 2011 were held until the year was completely over. Links to all the full stories can be found at the "News Map" of ResonateNews.com.
DECEMBER: East Texans Rally To Support Nativity Scene
ATHENS, Texas — About 5,000 people, event organizers estimated, converged in a peaceful, strident-free rally here at the Henderson County Courthouse. The crowd choked the courthouse grounds to support county commissioners in their decision to display a nativity scene at the courthouse despite a Dec. 5 legal challenge by the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis. Waving several types of flags, banners and holding signs of support at the noon rally, the crowd spilled over into closed off Prairieville Street on the west side of the courthouse. Some participants even stood on the roofs of buildings surrounding the courthouse to get a better view of the proceedings.
DECEMBER: Muslim Leaders Say Hell Is Bin Laden's Likely Destination Mohammad Elfarra, imam at the Islamic Center of Menteca, Calif., said there’s no way to tell whether people such as Osama bin Laden who encourage murder will end up in hell. But he said such a fate would be justified based on the teachings of the Quran. Militants and their leaders such as bin Laden — who was killed in a U.S. Military strike — might be pardoned by God on the day of judgment because he's already been punished temporally. Other Muslim scholars believe that those whose actions are deemed condemnable could be pardoned by people in heaven who were harmed by the person’s offenses.
NOVEMBER: Cult Accusations Resurface Against Teen Mania
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — Is Teen Mania, the ministry to thousands of teenagers during the past two decades, a cult? That seems to be the takeaway from a provocative documentary aired on MSNBC. But far from being a clandestine location such as the polygamist compound in El Dorado, Teen Mania’s openness to major media is well known. Rolling Stone was given free reign over a course of days in 2007 to roam the campus and talk to anyone, anywhere at anytime. ResonateNews.com was also given complete access to the campus with no escorts and extending for a period of days. No supervisory staff was present during any interviews with interns, nor were any interns selected by supervisors for specific interviews.
SEPTEMBER: Christian Leaders Discuss Impact Of 9/11
When two passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City and another into the Pentagon and the world learned of the desperate midair struggle of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, people were confronted with the reality that evil exists, said Bob Long, preacher and leader of Rally Call Ministries. Americans have two basic choices on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the Rev. David Hickey, of Community Christian Fellowship in Texas. “I can hate the enemy, or specifically I can hate Muslims for what happened. Or I can choose to love God and humble myself to him. I think loving God is much better choice.” The Rev. Dr. Doug Stringer — founder and president of the humanitarian organization Somebody Cares America and cofounder of Global Compassion Network — said that the attacks should have been a catalyst for Christians to advance the ministry of Jesus. Instead, Stringer said, the events spawned by 9/11 have discouraged them.
AUGUST: Evangelistic 'Uprising' Hits Southern California
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Pastor Mike Harris said what happened in the big white tent of meeting at the Orange County Uprising was "not possible." But it was a letter from prison and a dream that finally caught the full attention of Harris after 200 young evangelists — called Circuit Riders — showed up in his "backyard.” “When these guys (Circuit Riders) came from Hawaii and Denver four weeks ago,” Harris, 44, pastor of Calvary Chapel Beachside said, “they told me, 'We're bringing 200 people, we have no place to meet, we have no housing. What do we do? Oh, and we want a tent!'" Bill Welsh, pastor of The Refuge Calvary Chapel church in Huntington Beach, said "What they wanted wasn't possible, but here we are tonight with 200 people and the Gospel going out into the streets. It's exciting."
AUGUST: The Response Draws Thousands For Prayer
Approximately 40,000 people attended The Response — a prayer and worship gathering — in Houston and 80,000 unique Web live stream connections were made, event organizers said. The thousands gathered to pray and worship in a spirit of humility, penance and petition to God in a packed Reliant Stadium. Gov. Rick Perry was perhaps the most anticipated speaker at the event. Pundits and the media speculated about whether he would use the opportunity to launch a presidential bid. But Perry left his personal politics in Austin. He made no mention of running for president, and said that God is not interested in politics — just people's hearts.
MAY: Day Of Prayer Continues Despite Lawsuit
Tyler, Texas, Mayor Barbara Bass opened the city’s 20th annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast by highlighting a 2010 legal challenge of the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer, brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. A federal judge ruled in favor of the challenge, Bass said. “This year we have a different response. On April 14, 2011, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the case against the National Day of Prayer. The appeals court ruled 3-0 that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their claimants did not have any standing to continue the case against congressional actions affirming the National Day of Prayer.”
APRIL: Teen Challenge Founder Dies In Wreck David Wilkerson, the fiery pastor, preacher and some say prophet, died in a two-vehicle wreck near Tyler, Texas. Wilkerson moved part of his East coast Teen Challenge operation — made famous by his book “The Cross and The Switchblade” about his encounter with New York City gangs — to Smith County, Texas, in the 1970s. He located his operation at the Twin Oaks Ranch on 500 acres. Wilkerson generously sold his property to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in 1980 at an estimated 10 cents on the dollar, said Jim Rogers, director of YWAM in Tyler at the time.
APRIL: Japanese Americans Seek Gospel Spread In Ancestral Nation Americans of Japanese descent are hoping their country of ancestry isn't driven deeper into a decades-long epidemic of despair after a massive earthquake and tsunami. Instead, some are hoping to redeem the tragedy by sparking a Christian revolution they say has the power to reinvigorate the nation. Japan has the second highest suicide rate among the world's leading economies, an analysis last year by the World Health Organization showed. Rick Chuman, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society, or JEMS, credited what he called the “returning movement”with a growing receptiveness to the Gospel in Japan. That movement encourages people of Japanese ancestry to promote Christianity in Japan— where Chuman estimates only 1 percent of the population adheres to the faith.
JANUARY: Lightning Rod In Education Policy Debate Leaves Office Don McLeroy — who runs a dental practice in College Station, Texas — had served on the Texas State Board of Education for 12 years. His tenure ended on New Year’s Day as a result of his Republican primary defeat the previous March. From 2008 to 2010, the board of education pushed through sweeping curricular changes in the subjects of English, history and science that critics claim impose a Christian worldview on Texas schoolchildren and by extension, students across the country. Textbook publishers have financial incentive to tailor their content to meet Texas criteria because the Lone Star State — which has the second largest student population in the U.S. — makes such a large volume of purchases.
When Michele Bachmann ended her bid for the Republican presidential nomination Wednesday, it marked a swift exist for a candidate who said she felt “that calling and that tugging” from God to seek the office. That statement has been the source of ridicule in some segments of the blogosphere. After abandoning her campaign, the comments section of abcnews.com's The Note political blog drew several references — all mocking — to Bachmann's claim of divine direction. One person quipped “I guess God does not love her as much as” Iowa caucus winner Mitt Romney. But some Bible teachers who have studied and written about discerning God's will are cautioning that Bachmann — an evangelical Christian and U.S. representative from Minnesota — wasn't necessarily wrong that God wanted her to run for president, even though her campaign ended early.
S. Michael Houdmann, president and founder of Got Questions Ministries — a Colorado Springs, Colo., organization dedicated to advancing biblical literacy and understanding of Christian theology — said Bachmann might already have served the purpose for which she was called to run for president.
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — His expectations were admittedly low at his local church when pastor David Hickey viewed a live downstream of The Response prayer gathering at Reliant Stadium in Houston last August. The “prayer for the nation event” had been called for by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the premise seemed to be ripe for a conflict of spiritual and political interest.
Hickey, pastor of Community Christian Fellowship, had come to the downstream for a three-hour “shift” to be with his congregation, but ended up staying for the entire seven-hour event.
“I just couldn't leave it,” he said. “It was that compelling. I remember thinking, 'this isn't the political rally I heard some say it would be. This is the real deal — 44,000 people really calling on God to change the direction of their lives, their communities, their state and the nation.
At the end of The Response, Hickey had one question.
“I needed to respond to what I'd seen,” he said. “I asked, 'What am I going to do about it?'”
Dean Gotcher Says Psychological Manipulation A Threat To Biblical Morality. Lectures Saturday and Sunday.
By Benjamin Adkins | ResonateNews.com contributor
Can anyone imagine being called by God to read psychology textbooks for five years straight?
That's one experience of many for lecturer Dean Gotcher as he once again journeys across the U.S. on his mission to expose “dialectical deceit.”
This weekend Gotcher brings his unique presentation to East Texas. Drawing upon the writings of psychology, Marxism, Bloom's Taxonomy and the Bible, Gotcher demonstrates the common thread of man's reasoning known as “the dialectic” and contrasts this with the Bible's instruction to “trust in the lord with all of your heart” in Proverbs 3:5.
This, he said, illustrates how dialectical thinking leads to a “paradigm shift” away from trust in God and what he has instructed (didactically) for believers, into a paradigm of thinking concerned strictly with the longings of the flesh.
Attendees of Gotcher's lecture this weekend will hear his subject taught skillfully for literally the price of a steak meal or ice cream sundae. The only cost to the audience of Gotcher's lectures is an optional meal or food item purchased at the lecture's location.
Gotcher (pronounced “Go-sher”) started off as a trained teacher and seminary student who eloped to a career in construction. Gradually, he said, God brought him to a path that would have him spend years reading psychology texts and studying, through university, the various governmental systems of such places as the Soviet states and Communist Yugoslavia, and their philosophical underpinnings. Today, he said, having amassed decades of research on the subject, he does his best attempting to inform Christians of the harm being done in how we “think.”
There was nothing in America generating the non-religious and religious ire, contempt, support, enthusiasm, warnings and media attention that The Response in Houston on Aug. 6. did. Dissecting the multi-layered and various responses to The Response prayer meeting would be fascinating, insightful, illuminating...and nearly impossible to get a grip on.
Billed as a “prayer-meeting for the national good,” The Response quickly became, instead, a litmus test for just about everybody who knew of its existence. The event was used to quickly determine if supporters or detractors were “saved,” sane, stupid, seriously faithful or spiritually impaired.
Surely none of this would have happened to the degree it did if the meeting had not been called for by Texas Governor Rick Perry. The event became a lightening-rod as wide-eyed journalists envisioned an apocalypse if Perry should ascend to the White House after such a prayer meeting.
From nearly every “corner” of the religious and non-religious landscape of the conceptual community of America came some sort of opinion, commentary, criticism or confession as to the motivation, purpose, agenda and validity of the event.
There were admonitions, from so-called “liberal” and “conservative” Christian circles alike, to avoid The Response because it was political. To the so-called secular media — a very inadequate descriptor — politics was mostly what they were interested in prior to an election year, to sell their papers, TV shows and podcasts by stirring up worst-case scenarios. Perry had not yet decided to run.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group whose stated purpose is “to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism,” asserted itself this year perhaps as never before. The 33-year-old Wisconsin-based organization filed a series of lawsuits designed to stem commingling between religion and civic institutions or the leaders of those institutions.
Although the foundation gained a larger platform for its advocacy in 2011, the year was also marked by a string of setbacks. In April, the foundation's legal challenge to the National Day of Prayer — Freedom From Religion v. Barack Obama, President of the United — was rebuffed by a three-judge panel. In an opinion written by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Obama “has made a request” that citizens pray, “he has not issued a command. No one is injured by a request that can be declined.”
Leaders of the foundation were not satisfied with the appeals court's reasoning.
“Is the 7th Circuit suggesting that unless the government is forcing citizens to pray — say, at gunpoint on the National Day of Prayer — there is no violation of the constitutional separation between religion and government?” the foundation's co-president, Dan Barker, asked in a news release.
The foundation has other challenges to the Day of Prayer pending, targeting the event at the state level in Arizona and Colorado. Speaking of the Arizona gathering of the event, Annie Laurie Gaylor, another co-president of the foundation, said it's unfair for the Gov. Jan Brewer to promote an event that non-theistic residents are necessarily excluded from.
“Rot In Hell,” a Toronto Sun headline admonished after the killing of former Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, who died in May. “BLASTED TO HELL,” the New York Post declared after violence- fomenter Anwar al-Awlaki was struck down last fall. The fate of the self-styled Muslim leaders’ souls became a topic of discussion among mainstream media outlets such as CNN this year and Christian websites. But the teachings of Islam regarding divine judgment and the afterlife are decidedly more nuanced than some provocative headlines would suggest, Muslim leaders say.
Mohammad Elfarra, imam at the Islamic Center of Menteca, Calif., said there’s no way to tell whether those such as bin Laden who encourage murder will end up in hell. But he said such a fate would be justified based on the teachings of the Quran.
“Everything points to bin Laden going to hell. But we have to be humble and say only God knows,” said Elfarra, who is a dentist.
ATHENS, Texas – About 5,000 people, event organizers estimated, converged in a colorful and peaceful, strident-free rally here today at the Henderson County Courthouse. The crowd choked the courthouse grounds to support county commissioners in their decision to display a nativity scene at the courthouse, despite a Dec. 5 legal challenge by the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis.
Waving several types of flags, banners and holding signs of support at the noon rally, the crowd spilled over into closed off Prairieville Street on the west side of the courthouse. Some participants even stood on the roofs of buildings surrounding the courthouse to get a better view of the proceedings.
“For God so loved the world,” one sign with a gold-colored heart read, “including Wisconsin.”
"This is not a protest," the Rev. Dr. Nathan Lorick, an event organizer, told ResonateNews.com before the rally. "This is a celebration to say 'Thank you' to our commissioners, to show them our support and to peacefully pray for our nation. This is a peaceful – but determined – gathering to help take our nation back to the spiritual roots it was founded on and has always enjoyed a full expression of until recently.”
Lorick said he's been inundated with interview requests from television, radio and newspaper outlets throughout America, and beyond.
GARDEN VALLEY – Bearded Woody Woodward, leader of the East Texas chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Bikers, lifted his head and peered out from under his cowboy hat. He narrowed his eyes Thursday as he learned the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Wisconsin had targeted the East Texas town of Athens to remove its Christmas nativity display.
“Wisconsin?” said Woodward. “What are they doing here in Texas?”
The question seems pre-eminent among many East Texan Christians having difficulty understanding why anyone in Wisconsin has a say in what Texas civic leaders do – or do not – decide for themselves. A letter was sent to Henderson County officials from the foundation on Dec. 5 claiming its courthouse nativity display was illegal and calling for its removal.
By Scott Tompkins | ResonateNews.com LONG BEACH, Calif. — A petite Chinese woman who once stood up to tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square is now battling what some are calling the greatest holocaust in human history — the forced abortions of some 400 million children in the last 31 years under China’s one-child policy.
Chai Ling, who herself had three forced abortions, was a featured speaker at the Call2All Global Congress on Christian missions here Friday.
“The worst part of this policy is that many are aborted simply because they are girls,” she said.
Ling has written a book titled “A Heart For Freedom” which details her story of student activism in China, her studies at Harvard and Princeton, her success as a business executive, her conversion to Christianity two years ago and her personal struggle against China’s “gendercide” through an organization she founded called All Girls Allowed.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Every country in the world has outlawed slavery but authorities such as the U.S. State Department acknowledge that millions of human beings are trafficked worldwide. Some may even be working nearby as maids, manicurists, restaurant help, farm laborers or sex workers.
Delegates at the Call2All Global Congress here this week heard several presentations aimed at rallying Christian leaders to action in ending what one speaker described as “the most heinous evil in the world today.”
The film "Nefarious,” a gut-wrenching documentary on the sex-slave industry, was shown to delegates Thursday. It outlined a strategy for action based on that of England’s abolitionist leader William Wilberforce: 1) acknowledging slave trade as a moral evil and mobilizing the church to pray; 2) exposing human trafficking and bringing it to the attention of civic leaders; 3) providing help for victims of the modern slave trade.
G. Stephen Goode, international director of Mercy Ministries for Youth With A Mission, or YWAM, hosted a Call2All workshop on human trafficking. Goode has served for more than 25 years in Bangkok, Thailand, which is widely known as the hub of Southeast Asia’s sex trafficking industry.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Most Americans don't want to think children in their country are being manipulated or coerced into prostitution, a group of young journalists and filmmakers say. But children and teens are prostituted every day in every city of the United States, said the media group who are attempting to draw attention to the problem.
Many people are surprised when they hear how prolific the sex trade is in their own back yard, they said.
In 2009 the journalists set out to document and uncover the reality of human trafficking in the U.S. They turned their documentation into a the feature film “Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth.” Their stated aim is to show the film twice in every state in the U.S. on a four-month tour to raise awareness, motivate action and be a catalyst for healing.
At a showing of “Sex+Money” here in late October, reactions to the film started with outrage and disillusionment and ended with the audience finding hope that they were not, in fact, helpless. After the showing a discussion was led by Dustin Barrington.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The conference under way here is showing a remarkable wave of new initiatives in Christian evangelism aiming particularly at people, places and areas of society where there is no significant Christian presence.
Presentations at the Call2All Global Congress — an annual gathering of Christian leaders for sharing missionary ideas — included topics as varied as business, language and mapping initiatives, video games and a flying car.
Paul Eshleman, founder of The JESUS Film Project which has been translated into more than 1,000 languages, kicked off Day 2 of the Congress. Eshelman led a workshop aimed at helping churches pray for, and send, workers to the world’s last “unreached people groups,” which are ethnic groups with little or no exposure to the Gospel.
David Hamilton, an international leader with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and YWAM cartographer Jill Thornton unveiled an advanced version of the www.4kworldmap.com, a system now widely used by missions agencies to identify the world's most underprivileged people.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — When Jesus Christ told his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation,” this “Great Commission” seemed like an impossible dream for 2,000 years. It isn’t any more.
Church and missionary leaders gathered in Long Beach, Calif., as the Call2All Global Congress opened its meetings this week with striking new evidence of the spread of Christianity around the globe. Walt Wilson, a former Apple Inc vice president who now heads an Internet-based initiative called Global Media Outreach, gave one of the most talked-about presentations of Day 1. He said technology enables Christian evangelism to proliferate like never before.
“There are now 5.5 billion cell phones in the world and the number keeps growing. An estimated 710 million Indians now have cell phone access and so do a billion Chinese,” Wilson said.
He demonstrated the SIRI voice recognition technology, which answers spoken questions and is now available on all iPhones.
CANTON, Texas — Wow. East Texas treasure was “discovered” Saturday night. There are times, there are moments when the heavens open, lightening strikes, and minutes of mind-boggling beauty is beheld in musical nirvana.
Such was Rambellwood's superlative second set at the Come Together Trading Company and retail store in Canton, Texas, on Saturday night. The business is also a “fair-trade” coffee emporium at 116 East Dallas St. in Canton.
The five-member family band from Winnsboro struck the chord, hit the note and touched the sky during a song trilogy called “Safe” that fairly electrified a late-staying audience at Come Together. Whooping and hollering, clapping and yelling appreciations, music lovers heaped praise and demanded more of the band made up of college-age musicians.
The Rev. Jeremy Nickel was among more than a dozen ministers who linked arms and held candles Monday at what they have blessed as sacred ground. It is Frank Ogawa Plaza, home of the Oakland, Calif., iteration of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began earlier this fall. Ministers from a diversity of faith backgrounds have offered moral support and counsel to protesters there, even winning over their skeptics who believed they might have been trying to subvert the cause with religious grandstanding.
Nickel and 31 others — including 16 clergymen — were arrested early Monday as police sought to break up the Occupy encampment near City Hall for refusing to leave on Mayor Jean Quan's orders. The act of civil disobedience embodies Nickel's theological values, he said. He is among thousands of Unitarian Universalist ministers representing all 50 states supporting the Occupy movement — which was birthed as a lament against what Occupiers say is rampant corporate greed and economic inequality.
Nickel said the movement in large measure civically embodies Unitarian Universalist philosophy. The religion has a history of aligning with egalitarian causes, including gender equality; bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender equality; and advocacy for immigrants facing deportation in addition to fighting what they deem unfairness in the economic system.
AUSTIN, Texas — A debtor nation. State and local governments in bankruptcy. Culture wars. The threat of terrorism, financial ruin, poverty, hunger and desperation. In dark times, does God call upon his children to lead?
Literally call them?
Enter Lela Pittenger, a new mother from Dripping Springs, Texas. Pittenger, 32, is a full-time caretaker for her husband's aging grandmother. She says God “told her” to run for the U.S. Senate.
Pittenger acknowledges how out-of-place it seems that someone like her is running for the Republican nomination for departing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat. With no money and no political pedigree it seems unlikely, she said, that God would appoint someone like her to help change the culture of Washington, D.C., and lead the nation out of a dark crisis.
A quiet revolution has been taking place in the world of Christian missions. Leaders of evangelical movements who once seemed suspicious or even hostile toward one another are working together in unprecedented ways to achieve a common goal — taking the message of Jesus Christ to all nations.
The Call2all movement — which will be holding its Global Congress in Long Beach, Calif., Nov. 29 to Dec. 3 — embodies this trend.
Over the last three years, Call2all has hosted these gatherings of church and missions leaders in over a dozen countries worldwide. Speakers for the Long Beach event include leaders of major missions agencies like Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth With A Mission, Every Home for Christ, Global Compassion Network and the Back to Jerusalem Gospel Mission. There has also been support from leaders in evangelical denominations like the South Baptist Convention, Foursquare International and the Assemblies of God.
Isn’t it everyone’s childhood fantasy to be in a family band? There’s mom playing the piano with the rest of us standing round, hot chocolate in hand, singing the melodies of our memories. The Ramseys are living our dream in the form of Rambellwood — an East Texas band launched in 1998. They’ve even manage to throw in cabinet making, organic farming and simple country living — every aging hippie’s dream. While their music is barely a whispered impression of the icons of the 60s, it certainly does reflect a tightly knit family folk — a rarity today. Their second CD is slated for release before the end of this year. They are also playing at 8 p.m. Nov. 19 at Come Together Trading Company in Canton, Texas. It's well worth checking out I’d say.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A documentary about alleged abuses at Teen Mania will air tonight on MSNBC. ResonateNews.com published a two-part series, “Inside Teen Mania,” last year. It is being republished to offer another news perspective on the controversial claims now being revisited on a national scale. Part one was posted Saturday.
“You have to form your own opinions based on what the Bible says and your own convictions. No one tells you what to think.” — Nathan Weibe, 19, second-year Teen Mania “Intern.”
By Patrick Butler | ResonateNews.com
Is it right that Christian ministries ask young people to be physically challenged in any way? Is it going too far to simulate stressful environments — such as living in a country whose government is hostile to faith in God — forcing feelings to the surface so students may deal with them?
Teen Mania focuses on classroom-style learning for most of the academic year, David Hasz, director of Teen Mania’s Honor Academy, said in an October 2010 interview. But about four to six times a year, there are optional programs, called Life Transforming Events (LTEs) that challenge the bejeebers out of the teenage participants, a second-year “intern” said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A documentary about alleged abuses at Teen Mania will air Sunday on MSNBC. ResonateNews.com published a two-part series, “Inside Teen Mania,” last year. It is being republished to offer another news perspective on the controversial claims now being revisited on a national scale. Part two will be posted Sunday.
By Patrick Butler | ResonateNews.com
Is Teen Mania, the Garden Valley, Texas, ministry to thousands of teenagers during the past 21 years, really a cult? Comparisons to dangerous cults become clearer when viewed through the comments of experts who actually belonged to a universally recognized cult — such as the People’s Temple of Jonestown, Guyana — and lived to tell about it.
Some questions about Teen Mania were raised in September 2010 when a former student — a self-described “recovering” participant of the ministry — drew the attention of a small East Texas television station with her claims of “spiritual and physical abuse.” The alleged abuse, extensively detailed on the alumna’s blog supposedly occurred at Teen Mania’s Honor Academy 12 years ago. The alumna’s claims led the Smith County television station’s newscast during four consecutive nights last year with largely inconclusive reports.
TYLER, Texas — A task force formed by Mayor Barbara Bass designed to address what city officials fear could turn into a growing homelessness problem is being met mostly with praise here. But some residents are questioning whether there is sufficient civic resolve to alleviate the problem after the City Council voted last year to deny a homeless shelter a permit — amid code violations — that would have allowed it to continue operating.
Jan Wood, who was an active volunteer at the shelter — the East Texas Rescue Mission — said its closure demonstrated a lack of compassion by city officials.
“They were heartless, all of them, including the mayor of Tyler,” said Wood, 75, a resident of the city for four decades. She said the mission — which was located in the northwest section of Tyler — provided an ideal opportunity for homeless men to rehabilitate their lives.
“That was the best area to give men access to jobs, medical care, etc. And it's very difficult to get a job when you don't have a place to live, a mailing address and a number where potential employers can contact you,” Wood said.
The Rev. Emmanuel “Emmy” Nnyanzi of Uganda's Parental Care Ministries, or PCM — the focus of a newly released book, “So Much More,” — will speak in Smith County at several events beginning Sunday. The 44-year-old pastor and his wife, Sarah, care for and educate about 1,000 orphans with the help of Tyler physician Mark Barret, his wife Monica and the staff of Parental Care Ministries USA located in Tyler, Texas.
Nnyanzi was nearly poisoned by his stepmother when he was 14-years-old and ran away from home. His journey to faith through difficult and life-threatening circumstances — and his challenge to forgive his tormentors — is chronicled in “So Much More.” The book is authored by Patrick Butler, former Religion section editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph and cofounder of ResonateNews.com.
Nnyanzi (pronounced “yawn-z”) is currently the overseer of 40 indigenous churches in Mbarara, a district in southwest Uganda about 120 miles from Kampala, the nation's capital. Barret became involved with the Nnyanzis and Parental Care Ministries after his wife, Monica, met Emmanuel Nnyanzi while on a visit to an orphanage ministry in Mozambique in 2008.
Nearly four decades after Philippine officials were alerted to the trend, informal settlements continue to make up a large segment of the country's cities. The settlements, more commonly known as squatter settlements, number 550,771 in the country's largest city, Manila, alone, according to 2007 data from the government's National Convention on Statistics. Squatting is the practice of taking up unpaid occupancy in a residence.
Tyler, Texas, resident Edwin Santos said Filipinos have been increasingly migrating to cities in search of economic opportunities not available in rural communities. But the bleak jobs situation they arrive to in urban areas makes finding affordable housing a challenging proposition.
TYLER, Texas — As the 10 days of repentance — which are bookended by the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the Jewish calendar — come to an end, Rabbi Neal Katz is savoring what is one of the richest times of camaraderie for him each year. Katz, of the Congregation Beth El here, said his temple swells with attendees annually during this time as those seeking spiritual and cultural enrichment come together.
But Katz, 38, said he's careful not to use this season as a time to recruit new members.
“You could be the kind of rabbi to take the occasion as a promotional opportunity, but that puts some people off,” said Katz, who has been the rabbi at Beth El for eight years. “I know some Christians have the experience of going to a Christmas church service and hearing the pastor sarcastically say 'See you on Easter Sunday.' You don't want to shame people who don't come regularly.”
Photo Courtesy Of Lydia SmithBy Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
MINEOLA, Texas — Statistically speaking, this area of East Texas has no more incidents of child abuse than any other community. The jurisdiction that it inhabits, Wood County, has seen 116 reported cases of child abuse this year through August, compared with 139 in nearby Upshur County, according to data from the Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center. But the severe nature of the episodes that have occurred here in recent years is leaving some wondering whether the city is under spiritual attack.
Kenneth Teo, pastor of Bethel Worship Center, a non-denominational church in Mineola, said he sensed that spiritual bondage might be the source of the city's problems.
“There's an air of darkness here. We're in the 'Bible Belt,' but there are many hearts that are still hardened,” said Teo, 60, who moved to the city a decade ago with his wife shortly after emigrating from Singapore.
SMITH COUNTY, Texas — “The heavens opened” is a figure of speech used to describe instances of heavy rainfall, but today some East Texans are taking it quite literally. On a day in which hundreds of congregants at Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Longview arrived for Sunday worship toting umbrellas as they prayed for rain — in addition hundreds of other believers in East Texas who were petitioning God with less fanfare — a powerful storm showered the region.
Just after 10 p.m., strong winds started to alter driving patterns for Tyler motorists. Soon, rain and thunderstorms entered the atmosphere, and at least a dozen East Texas counties were placed under a severe-weather warning.
As of Friday, local weather forecasters were pessimistic that the area would receive rain over the weekend, citing a 70 percent chance that no precipitation would come. By Sunday, the odds had reversed to a 70 percent chance it would rain. And so it did, initially only enough to dampen the ground Sunday morning. By late morning in Longview, the sun had emerged. The Rev. Charles Hunt, senior pastor of Woodland Hills, told his church Sunday to continue believing God for rain.
KILGORE, Texas — Attendance at this year's Christ Fest at Kilgore City Park was lower than previous years, according to organizers. But at least one of the bands performing at the event seemed oblivious to the turnout. To hear The Hubbard Family tell it, their target audience always has been and always will be an audience of one — the person for whom the event is named.
“I can't see him, but I can feel the presence of Christ in a real, intimate way,” said Emmylou Hubbard, 24, a singer-songwriter and guitarist for the band from Bullard.
Most in attendance at the event — a spiritual-revival-meets-evangelism-meets-concert gathering sponsored by the nonprofit 33 The Ministry — seemed to share the sentiments expressed by the band. Members of the quintet often spoke and sang as if they were emissaries at a Billy Graham outreach. They offered words of admonishment and hope to those who have not put their faith in Jesus.
“Jesus invites us to come try him for a while,” said Emmylou, invoking Christ's invitation in John 1:39 before singing “Come and See,” which she wrote.
Lorianne Hubbard, 19, sang “My God is Real,” a southern gospel classic, a performance in which she manifest considerable voice-control skills.
As Texas continues to suffer its worst drought in nearly half-a-century, some residents are pinning their hopes for rain on divine favor. In a fresh effort to show faith can be brought to bear for tangible purposes, members of Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, will host a special “Praying for Rain” worship program as part of its regular church services on Sunday. Charles Hunt, who has served as pastor of the church for seven years, said he is hoping for a robust turnout.
“We designated this Sunday 'bring your umbrella day.' We want people to come prepared,” Hunt, 57, said.
“I'm hoping that 350 people bring their umbrellas.”
Hunt said members of his congregation have been placed in jeopardy because of the state's drought conditions. Big Oak Park, a mobile home community in Longview, was surrounded by fires Sept. 4 — one of many outbreaks in the state during the previous three weeks brought about by parched land and high winds. The park's 100 homes were evacuated as firefighters worked to subdue the flames. The park was spared damage.
“We pick up a lot of kids from that park for Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible study,” Hunt said. “That was a scary, dangerous situation.”
AUSTIN, Texas — Bob Long’s granddaughter is 15 years old this year. The preacher and leader of Rally Call Ministries here is concerned that the young woman — who was just 5 years old when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred — will not be raised to fully appreciate the change that took place in America physically and spiritually on that day a decade ago.
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — Americans have two basic choices on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks, a Texas pastor said. The 10th anniversary of the toppling of the World Trade Center Twin Towers in Manhattan, and the destruction of part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., is on Sunday.
Bob Long is the Founder of Rally Call ministries in Austin, Texas.
By Cindy Mallette | ResonateNews.com
AUSTIN, Texas — Bob Long’s granddaughter is 15 years old this year. The preacher and leader of Rally Call Ministries here is concerned that the young woman — who was just 5 years old when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred — will not be raised to fully appreciate the change that took place in America physically and spiritually on that day a decade ago.
“Culturally one of our greatest strengths is moving forward, being irrepressible, unbeatable. But in that, we don't teach our generations to remember. We don't intentionally build a sense of nationhood into our young people. I have a real concern for the next generation because, for them, it's just a history thing. They need to be more aware of what happened that day,” Long said. “We need to look at the videos from that day. We need to do it more often. Not so it will result in making us angry, but so it would push us toward understanding the spiritual reality of events like that. There is a spiritual significance.”
America has a tendency to pack away painful moments in time until the rawness has passed. Long said that is a weakness — one that causes Americans to avoid confronting and dealing with the truth of good and evil in the world. “If something is true, then I have a responsibility to embrace it. If something's true, then I feel an innate, instinctive responsibility to respond to it, embrace it, be aware of it,” Long said.
When two passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City and another into the Pentagon and the world learned of the desperate midair struggle of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, people were confronted with the stark reality that evil exists, Long said.
“It was a spiritual wake-up call, not only to our own mortality and America's vulnerability, but to what is in the heart of man and his capability to do evil. That is a spiritual issue and it has to be responded to on a spiritual level. That's where it starts,” Long said.
When people saw what Long called “the face of evil” 10 years ago, they began to eagerly search for the face of good.
“Suddenly churches were filled. People were praying and they were seeking God. People were crying out to the God of the Bible,” Long said. “Everywhere you went, there was that sense of seeking. Evil of that magnitude can only be spiritual. And I think people who'd never considered those things before were considering them. I think we've lost some of that, but jumping ahead 10 years, I think some of the battles we're facing in the culture, and even politically, are causing people to awaken.”
Long said the hearts and minds of Americans were stirred as a result of the attacks — and that stirring led to a renewed sense of solidarity with their fellow man, to a sense of national pride and a desire for liberty. It planted the seeds for a movement of people who wanted to be more engaged in the future of their country.
“The cultural result in American's hearts was that people said, ‘Well, I've never been involved, I've never been to a town-hall meeting.’ Some of them said, ‘I've never voted before.’ Eight years after 9/11, I believe they began to sense a loss of liberty, a loss of freedom in our nation, and there was something instinctive in them that said, ‘this is not right,’” Long said. “In this country, we're at a crossroads. I am convinced we are in a political awakening that is leading to a spiritual awakening. If there's an honest seeking, that's going to lead you to spiritual answers. Now the church has to step into this political awakening and herald the truth on every level.”
TYLER, Texas — Hilde Marie Taylor was inundated with calls from her native Norway on this day 10 years ago. Although friends and relatives there knew she was not in harm's way, they wanted to express their sorrow that an event so traumatic as the terrorist attacks had occurred in Taylor's adopted homeland, the United States. Almost a decade later, Taylor received an equal outpouring of sympathy from Americans in the wake of a massacre in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, where she was born and raised.
The two attacks bear resemblance, both in terms of their death tolls relative to populations of the nations involved and in terms of the religion-related cultural values the apparent perpetrators claimed to be defending. Taylor said the similarities end there.
Anders Behring Breivik, who is accused in the July 22 Norway shootings “was acting alone,” said Taylor, 52, a retired educator in Tyler. “There is a force evil enough to try to destroy the United States — and it's not one person.”
Eric Sivertson, a second-generation Norwegian American, said Breivik's purported Christianity does not signal a significant threat from religious militants in Norway. Many Norwegians share Breivik's desire to preserve the country's traditional values amid an influx of immigrants with different religious and cultural backgrounds. But that desire has not led to radicalization on par with that of Al Qaida, he said.
“There's no comparison between what happened in Norway and what happened here in the U.S.,” said Sivertson, 57, a teacher in Tyler. “The 9/11 terrorists were part of a worldwide religious extremist movement. The Norway shooter was a lone actor.”
By Patrick Butler | ResonateNews.com GARDEN VALLEY — Americans have two basic choices on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a Texas pastor said. “I can hate the enemy, or specifically I can hate Muslims for what happened,” said the Rev. David Hickey, of the 1,000-plus member church Community Christian Fellowship in Texas. “Or I can choose to love God and humble myself to him. I think loving God is much better choice.”
The 10th anniversary of the toppling of the World Trade Center Twin Towers in Manhattan, and the destruction of part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., is on Sunday.
The entire nation will pause at different points to honor, recall, remember, bless, pray or otherwise pay homage to those who died in the attacks and those who died trying to save others at risk.
Hickey, whose church will have a special commemoration event Sunday morning, said he hope people will take time for “personal reflection and self-evaluation.”
Editors Note: The Rev. Doug Stringer is founder off Houston-based "Somebody Cares America, International, a worldwide network of compassion ministries and cofounder of Global Compassion Network.
By Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
HOUSTON, Texas — The Sept. 11, 2001, attack ushered in a surge of religiosity across the United States. Church attendance increased during the months that followed. “God Bless America” usurped “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. And, Americans gladly — even proudly — united behind a president who often invoked spiritual language as he sought to help the nation heal from the tragedy that befell it.
But within two years the president's faith became a source of controversy rather than cohesion. A segment of citizens grew tired of the increasingly high profile of religion in public life and some Christians became embroiled in a heated culture war. The Rev. Dr. Doug Stringer — founder and president of the humanitarian organization Somebody Cares America and cofounder of Global Compassion Network — said that the attacks should have been a catalyst for Christians to advance the ministry of Jesus. Instead, Stringer said, the events spawned by 9/11 have discouraged them.
“We've become overwhelmed by the sorrow and the stress of what's taken place in the last decade. But, this is the moment for the church to shine in the midst of all these things,” said Stringer, 55, who has led his global humanitarian organization from its Houston headquarters for two decades.
By J. Thomas Rogers and Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
During his formative years in India, Dr. Benny Prasad thought of himself as a shame and a failure. He didn't have great expectations for his life. He hoped to one day catch a mere glimpse of the world outside his native Bangalore — just one other nation would have sufficed.
At the aged of 16, wracked by depression and a sense of aimlessness in his life, Prasad contemplated suicide. But, instead of returning to the Earth, he circumnavigated it, crisscrossed it, and became an ambassador to every nation in it.
Prasad — whose life was salvaged after he became a Christian as a teenager — joined Youth With A Mission in 1998 with heart for music ministry. He would soon find his calling as an international troubadour. Prasad said that ambition — which he attributes to a commission from God — seemed unlikely to be fulfilled when he first received it.
“I couldn't understand how that was going to be possible because my monthly missionary support was $25,” Prasad said. “But God said 'I will provide for you and I will take care of you.'”
By 2010, Prasad, 36, had reached all 195 sovereign nations, 54 dependent countries and Antarctica — 250 territories in all.
“God gets the glory for fulfilling what he started,” Prasad said.
He said that the transformation in his life — from being a hopeless youth to becoming a world traveler — is attainable for everyone.
“If God could take an Indian to the nations, and use my life to be a blessing, no one is exempt from seeing God transforming their lives,” he said.
Prasad said one of the major challenges of traveling with limited resources is penetrating the corruption that travelers encounter when seeking to enter some countries. There are times when bribery is the only key to access such nations. Prasad said he has been able to avoid that pitfall.
“I went to every country and I've never ever given a bribe in any form in any place,” he said.
But although Prasad hasn't had to pay bribes, he says he travels with the mindset that he may one day have to pay for his mission with his life.
“When I go, I go as if I'm not going to return back. I inform my parents, I inform my base and tell them that this is my situation,” Prasad said, speaking of some of the dangerous places he's visited. “So far God has kept me alive for a reason, for a season and for a time. So I'm fine if I have to leave this earth. But I want to really be his light and his salt where ever I go.” For further information, visit BennyPrasad.com
In this interview, Benny P. tells how he survived rejection and suicidal thoughts to become the fastest traveler to all 250 nations of the world--without wealth or payment for his innovative musical performances with the "ben-tar", a hybrid instrument of guitar, tabla/drums and lyre.
Mumbai, India, is reputedly home to the world's most populous contingent of sex workers. They number in the tens of thousands in this city of nearly 20 million people. Among them are many mothers who struggle to make their work inconspicuous to their children.
Chacko Joy, an exchange student from India living in Tyler, Texas, said shielding younger children from knowledge of prostitution is particularly difficult.
“Prostitutes with infants sometimes have to take their children inside while they're 'entertaining' clients. Memories of these encounters are often seared into the child's mind,” said the 35-year-old Joy. “Even if they're too young to know what's going on, those memories often surface later on and have very negative consequences for the child.”
Harish Jonn, also an exchange student from India living in Tyler, said this exposure often desensitizes children to prostitution.
“They get used to the situation and seeing the mother handle the situation,” Jonn, 28, said. “It becomes a normal way of life for them.”
That familiarity helps facilitate children's induction into trafficking, said Steve Davis, executive director of the nonprofit Justice & Mercy International, or JMI.
“A lot of the children of prostitutes become prostitutes. Some of them will also be sold to work in different trades,” said Davis, of Franklin, Tenn., who spoke at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler on Sunday to share information about JMI's missionary trip to India in early 2012. “The part that we're focused on stopping is the sex-slave trade.”
MAIN STREET, HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Fun-loving "locals" descended on a weekly street festival Tuesday at a closed-off main boulevard in this beachside community known as "Surf City." But unbeknownst to would-be revelers, embedded in the throngs seeking pleasures of exotic foods, music or clothing among colorful street stands, were groups of "Circuit Riders" — determined young Christian evangelists from Kona, Hawaii.
Filling up on the fun was the furthest thing from their minds, said "Circuit Rider" Courtney Martin, 20. Martin, an Oregon native, was hanging out unobtrusively on Main Street with a small group of Riders who were blending in perfectly with the festive environment.
"We're here to share the love of Jesus, to tell people about him, and to introduce them to him if they want," she said with one eye on the crowds. "It's been a real surprise for me how people have responded in the past four days," of the Orange County Uprising "outreach."
Three Huntington Beach boys also evidently got a big surprise after running headlong into Courtney.
"Three teenage boys walked around the corner," Martin said, "so I just approached them, asking them if they had pain in their bodies or had any injuries."
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Singing "There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain," vocalist/composer Laura Hackett set the tone of Night Three of The Orange County Uprising Sunday as scores of teenagers and 20-somethings crowded the stage to chant the refrain with her.
In a remarkable display of vociferous verbal passion, commitment and faith fervency, young men and women clad in beach attire or jeans knelt at a makeshift stage in the wedding tent of the Hilton Hotel at 21100 Pacific Coast Highway and "gave their lives to Jesus" at the urging of keynote speaker Rick Wilkerson. Multiple hands in the audience were stretched out toward — and even laid upon — those who had "come forward" in this Southern California beach city perhaps better known for its party-to-excess capacity than adherence to any religious codes, stringent or otherwise.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Huntington Beach pastor Mike Harris said what was happening last night in the big white tent of meeting at the Orange County Uprising was "not possible." But it was a letter from prison and a dream that finally caught the full attention of Harris after 200 young evangelists - called Circuit Riders - showed up in his "backyard" here in Surf City four weeks ago.
"When these guys (Circuit Riders) came from Hawaii and Denver four weeks ago," Harris, 44, pastor of Calvary Chapel Beachside said, " they told me, 'We're bringing 200 people, we have no place to meet, we have no housing. What do we do? Oh, and we want a tent!'"
Harris shook his head at the recollection. He's been pastoring in this area for years and knows what the city will allow and the restrictions.
"I said to them, 'You're not going to get a tent. The city is really hard on us. We're the only church they allowed to have a big event downtown. You should have been here a year ago planning for this, and you have four weeks.'"
But Harris said he received a wake-up call from a prison inmate and a "crazy" letter.
Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos is undertaking aggressive measures to crack down on municipal corruption, international observers say. Those efforts are giving Colombians a glimmer of hope that the country's law enforcement officials will one day become trustworthy. But police there will have a lot of work to do to rebuild relations with a distrusting citizenry.
Camilo Solarte Bothe, a Bogotá, Colombia, native who has lived in the United States for two years, said citizens of his homeland would be wise to avoid encounters with police.
“I tried to avoid them. I tried to stay above reproach so I didn't have to deal with them,” said Bothe, 21, a Tyler Junior College alumnus and former player for the school's Apache soccer team. Bothe said graft is a major problem among Colombia's police officers.
“I was with a friend when he was caught with marijuana. The officer did the right thing to take it from him, but then he took the pot and started smoking it right in front of us,” said Bothe, who now attends Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss. Other Colombians who spoke to ResonateNews.com also said they were familiar with such abuses of power. They said it is not uncommon, for example, for police to make arbitrary traffic stops and demand cash in exchange for reduced fines — even in cases where no traffic violation was committed.
By Raymond Billy and Jeff Rogers | ResonateNews.com
KULDIGA, Latvia — Linda and Māris Prinduli didn't realize they were writing for their own solace when they recorded “Ābele baltā” — which translates “White Apple Tree” — the first CD of the Latvian band Jorspeis, which they founded. But, solace is exactly what the couple received from the music.
“People who have heard it are like 'You guys wrote the CD for yourselves,'” Linda Prinduli, 33, said while laughing. “All the lyrics are about 'Don't give up,' 'It's a new start for you,' and talk about God's love and his grace. It's funny, but it's actually true. The first CD is all about that. So, we kind of wrote prophetically.”
The band's music — which Prinduli described as a mixture of indie, pop and rock — was written to have an ethereal affect.
“What I've heard many people saying is that our music changes the atmosphere. I don't know how much they use their intellect to analyze each word of the lyrics. But, they definitely feel that the music somehow changes the atmosphere,” Prinduli said. “We as Christians know that the music breaks the spiritual atmosphere. That's what we've been praying for — that wherever it's played it would break the spiritual darkness. We've seen that happen.”
The hundreds of attendees gathered in a pair of churches here Saturday may have been watching The Response via simulcast, but they were by no means spectators. Photo By Raymond Billy/ResonateNews.comBy Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
SMITH COUNTY, Texas — The hundreds of attendees gathered in a pair of churches here Saturday may have been watching The Response via simulcast, but they were by no means spectators. The event — a call to prayer and fasting initiated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry — was shown at East Texas' largest church, Green Acres Baptist in Tyler, and at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, a decidedly smaller, yet highly influential congregation.
Dozens of people stood inside the Green Acres Crosswalk Conference Center, swaying with the music emanating from a large-screen television there. Some stood with arms raised, others with heads bowed. One attendee took a kneeling posture, her torso and face bent to the ground and hands extended across the floor, as prayers were orated.
Terry Bass, 59, said she was pleased by the emphasis of the event.
“It's God-focused, it's not man-focused. I really like the fact that they're not introducing anybody. The attention is not drawn to any person. I don't even know who this band is,” said Bass, referring to the team of worship-music leaders in Houston. “But all of the focus is on the Lord. So, that's what's standing out to me."
Response attendees agree in prayer that they will be 'more Christ-like" to hurting world. An estimated 30,000 people gathered at Houston's Reliant Stadium for the event. Photo By Patrick Butler/ResonateNews.comBy Patrick Butler | ResonateNews.com
HOUSTON — As the Response closed with the chorus, “I Exhalt Thee, O Lord,” the official tally of viewers and participants are in. Approximately 40,000 people attended the event in Houston and 80,000 unique Web live stream connections were made, event organizers said.
“That means that hundreds of thousands of people joined us in this historic day of prayer,” said Doug Stringer of Turning Point Ministries, and an event organizer. “We have received text messages from all over the world, saying “we believe that Jesus is being lifted up. This truly has been an historic day and I believe that something has transpired not only in the spiritual realm, but in the physical realm as we crossed our various barriers to come in the name of Jesus.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a final appearance saying, “This is a day many people will be talking about for years to come,” he said to enthusiastic applause. “I pray that our willingness to stand in the public square to honor the God who made us, will inspire others to turn their hearts to God … that people will be strengthened by his love and forgiveness, that is the essential building blocks that strengthen this nation we love. As we go out, I hope you continue to pray nation leaders, our president … that God will pour out his wisdom upon them.”
Those who attended The Response anticipating a Republican/Tea Party pep rally got something decidedly different. Although the event drew three state governors — all of them conservative Republicans — none used their platform to promote personal politics. Photo By Patrick Butler/ResonateNews.comBy Cindy Mallette | ResonateNews.com
HOUSTON — Those who attended The Response anticipating a Republican/Tea Party pep rally got something decidedly different. Although the event drew three state governors — all of them conservative Republicans — none used their platform to promote personal politics.
Perry called for the event in April, citing the need for God's restoration of a nation facing difficulties that only God can resolve. He invited the governors from the remaining 49 states, yet Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida were the only ones to accept the invitation.
Scott was unable to be in Houston for the event and gave a minute-long speech by video instead.
“We can all agree our nation faces tough challenges and we need God's help,” Scott said. “I learned to lean on Jesus Christ as a child, thanks to my mother's lessons. Since then, I have relied on prayer. I am grateful and proud that we live in a country where we have the right to live, pray and worship as we choose.”
He called on Americans to pray for wisdom for the nation's leaders, a statement echoed by the other two governors.
“God hears your prayers, and our nation needs it,” Brownback said.
He prayed that God would forgive the nation for being judgmental, unloving, self-centered and lacking in mercy.
“Help us to be humble in spirit as a testament to your nature. Heal our land by your mercy and grace,” Brownback said. “Forgive us for looking so much for your blessings instead of just looking for you.”
Gov. Perry was perhaps the most anticipated speaker on Saturday. Pundits and the media speculated about whether he would use the opportunity to launch a presidential bid. But on Saturday, Perry left his personal politics in Austin. He made no mention of running for president, and even went so far as to say that God is not interested in politics — just people's hearts.
“His agenda is not a political agenda; His agenda is a salvation agenda,” Perry told the audience. “He is a wise God, wise enough not to be affiliated with any political party — wise enough not to be affiliated with any man-made institutions. He’s calling all Americans, of all walks of life, to seek him, to return to him, to experience his love and his grace and his acceptance, experience a fulfilled life regardless of the circumstances.”
Perry's message was a gospel message, and a message of restoration of the church back into God's will.
“We know that there is hope for those who trust in him who fills our hearts with joy and gives us life,” Perry said. “This God who knows our imperfections, he didn’t leave us to live a life in our sins, but he paid the price for them. He who knew no sin, he gave his life in ransom for me. This loving and perfect God is also a personal God. He desires not a show of religion, but a deep connection with our innermost being.”
He urged Americans to repent before God, saying repentance is the only way to see restoration in the nation. He quoted from Joel 2:12-17, in which God promises his people that he will withhold is otherwise imminent judgement if only his people return to him.
“He relents from sending calamity,” Perry said. “Who knows — maybe he will relent and send a blessing.”
He also read passages from Isaiah 40:28-31 and Ephesians 3:14-21, passages that echo the promise of restoration to the church and any nation that repents of its sin and puts its trust in God alone.
Perry finished his talk with a prayer for America:
“Lord, you are the source of every good thing, you are our only hope. And we stand before you today in awe of your power, and in gratitude for your blessings, in humility for our sins. Father our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see angers in the halls of government. And as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness. We pray for our nation’s leaders, Lord, for parents, for pastors, for the generals, for governors, that you would inspire them in these difficult times. Father we pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would guard his family. We pray for our military and the families who love them. Father especially, for those special operators who lost their life yesterday in defending our freedoms. You call us to repent, Lord, and this day is our response. We give it all to you. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen. And amen.”
Thousands of people gathered to pray and a worship in a spirit of humility, penance and petition to God on Saturday in a packed Reliant Stadium. The demographic diversity of attendees underscored The Response's broad appeal. Photo By Patrick Butler/ResonateNews.comBy Patrick Butler | ResonateNews.com
HOUSTON — Thousands of people gathered to pray and a worship in a spirit of humility, penance and petition to God on Saturday in a packed Reliant Stadium. The demographic diversity of attendees underscored The Response's broad appeal.
Thousands raised their voices and hands in extended times of praise led by youth-oriented bands and "worship leaders" eschewing robed choirs or traditional church approaches to worship.
And not just Texas society joined. Response attendees came from neighboring states to join Texans in calling out to God for his mercy in a time of "economic, moral and physical" distress that event speakers said not only plague Texas, but the nation.
The governors of Kansas and Florida appeared via video clips encouraging and standing with The Response gathering. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas read the Bible from 2 Chronicles 7:11-15.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”
The American Family Association has become a popular conduit that millions of Christians pass their political and public policy concerns through before formulating their opinions. Since its founding in 1977, the organization has made a mission of flagging political, media and commercial trends it sees as an affront to biblical morality. But in promoting The Response — Saturday's prayer and fast gathering called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry — AFA founder Don Wildmon is happy to turn the focus to what he is for, rather than what he's against, he told ResonateNews.com on Thursday.
Wildmon, 73, said the prayer event is the culmination of something he's been hoping to see.
“About a year ago, I had the idea of a 1-million person rally on the National Mall in Washington. I talked to my friend David Lane (The Response national finance chairman) about the idea and we later decided to try Dallas for the event, which fell through, ” Wildmon recalled. “At some point, David began discussions with Gov. Perry about a day of prayer and fasting and the whole thing just sort of took off this past spring.”
Wildmon's role in The Response is to lend his prominent name to awareness-raising efforts for the event. He said he's please to do so, especially since Perry — a public official — has identified Christ as the antidote for what he sees as grave problems facing the nation morally, economically and even meteorologically.
As Texas Gov. Rick Perry sought to establish a day of prayer, fasting and seeking God’s will for the United States, called The Response, one of the first groups he turned to for help in organizing and promoting the event was the American Family Association.
Though The Response in Houston on Saturday is heavily billed as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical event, eschewing sermons, lectures and high profile keynote speakers, the AFA is no stranger to mixing the two worlds of politics and Christianity. The organization was founded to be a watchdog for protecting the Christian faith in America, and encourages its members to take action on a host of public policy issues. A description of “activism” items on the AFA website, www.afa.net, includes a long list of social and fiscal action alerts, from boycotts to petitions to cut government spending.
Tyler civic leaders, pastors, and ministry representatives converged on the city's largest church for a news conference Friday to lend their substantial support to The Response, a prayer and repentance meeting called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry scheduled for Aug. 6 at Houston's Reliant Stadium. City Councilman Jason Wright, at the lectern, reads a proclamation from Mayor Barbara Bass endorsing the day of prayer. Photo By Raymond Billy/ResonateNews.comBy Patrick Butler and Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
TYLER, Texas — Civic leaders, pastors, and ministry representatives converged on the city's largest church for a news conference Friday to lend their substantial support to The Response, a prayer and repentance meeting called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry scheduled for Aug. 6 at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
The news conference came one day after a federal judge in Houston tossed out a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The suit argued that the governor's involvement in the day of prayer violated the First Amendment's establishment clause. In dismissing the suit, the judge, Gary H. Miller, said that Perry “has done nothing more than invite others who are willing to do so to pray.”
The Rev. David O. Dykes, senior pastor of the 14,000-member Green Acres Baptist Church, stood with pastors and listened as Tyler City Councilman Jason Wright read what he called "A bold proclamation" from Mayor Barbara Bass designating Aug. 6 a “day of prayer and fasting” for Tyler, the largest city in East Texas.
The day of prayer is "imperative," said Wright, quoting the Bible.
“It is imperative that we do not let our light be hidden, 'but seek first the kingdom of righteousness and all shall be added,'” he said.
In endorsing The Response, Bass acknowledged that “given the trials that beset our nation and world, from natural disasters to the global economic downturn, it is time to convene the leaders and citizens of this great City of Tyler in a day of prayer and fasting,” according to the proclamation.
What started as the efforts of a man frustrated with “nominal” Christianity has blossomed into an interracial, interdenominational, interstate and international movement to empower benevolence ministries. Now Doug Stringer, above, founder and president of Somebody Cares America, is using his mediatory abilities to get Christians to heed The Response, the Aug. 6 day of prayer initiated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Courtesy Photo/ Somebody Cares America By Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
What started as the efforts of a man frustrated with “nominal” Christianity has blossomed into an interracial, interdenominational, interstate and international movement to empower benevolence ministries. Now Doug Stringer, founder and president of Somebody Cares America, is using his mediatory abilities to get Christians to heed The Response, the Aug. 6 day of prayer initiated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Houston's Reliant Stadium and simulcast at many churches throughout Texas and the United States.
Stringer, 55, is part of The Response's 13-person leadership team. His role is to marshal churches and ministries across the country to take part in the event. The Houston resident said early reservations he had about participating in the event have been allayed.
"When I was approached about the possibility of joining the leadership of this gathering, I needed to know 'Is it going to be an authentic day of prayer and fasting, or is it going to be political?'” Stringer told ResonateNews.com on Monday. Stringer said he was first contacted about The Response by Luis and Jill Cataldo of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. “After speaking with event organizers, I became confident that on Aug. 6, we will join together in Houston in a posture of sincere prayer and humility before the Lord.”
Stringer said he respects that Perry wants the American church to seek Christ to help the country overcome myriad challenges.
“Governor Perry has acknowledged that there are some things beyond government's ability to remedy. We've been faced with natural disasters, societal unrest and economic collapse all at once. We are in great need of direction from God at this time in our country's history.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling for a nationwide prayer movement he says will reverse what he sees as the country's current downward spiral. The governor has spearheaded an event, "The Response," to initiate prayer and repentance. Photo Courtesy Of Harley PebleyBy Raymond Billy | Resonate News
LINDALE, Texas — Mayor Jim Mallory's thoughts quickly turned to the poor as he contemplated concerns he plans to bring before God during next month's day of prayer and fasting. The event, called “The Response,” will be held Aug. 6 and will be anchored from Houston. It was spearheaded by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is encouraging the nation to “call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles” the U.S. is facing.
Mallory is set to issue a proclamation endorsing “The Response.” The mayor will hold a public ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Lindale's City Hall, 1816 N. Main St. to announce his support.
“Anytime we have a governor who supports prayer, we have to get behind him,” Mallory, 77, told Resonate News on Friday. “This is a great opportunity and I'm delighted to do it.”
Roy Devisscher, adult ministries pastor at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, said “The Response” has the potential to be a strong spiritual approach to dealing with civic matters.
“I know a lot of people want to know 'What can I do about the state of things in our country?' We can rally on behalf of our nation and pray that there's a course-correct,” Devisscher, 55, said.
Devisscher said he's most concerned about the moral state of the country.
“There's a deterioration of the values of this country. We need to take a prayerful stand against those things,” he said.
Mallory said he hopes to use his time of prayer to petition God on behalf of people suffering economically.
“We have a lot of poverty in our country and in East Texas. There are a lot more things we need to do as a people of faith to help them,” Mallory said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.2 percent of Smith County residents live below the poverty line, about 2 percent higher than the national rate. This is in spite of the fact that the county's jobless rate is more than 1 percent lower than the nation's, possibly pointing to a higher concentration of “working poor” here. But, Mallory is concerned that the weak state of the economy will cause more to end up among the unemployed poor.
“When you talk about poverty, sometimes it's people who have encountered bumps in the road where they've had economic hardships where they lose a job and before they know it, they're poor,” Mallory said, pointing to layoffs recently announced at The Trane Company, a manufacturer of air-conditioning equipment which is one of the largest employers in Tyler. The layoff are expected to surpass 500.
The mayor said his participation with Meals On Wheels has allowed him to see poverty up close in recent years. He said the experience has been humbling.
“You have people who can't walk and can't get out of a chair. But, many of them maintain a positive attitude about life,” Mallory said.
Mallory said he doesn't believe Perry has a hidden agenda in calling for the day of prayer.
“This is not political. I know some people think it is, but it's not,” he said.
Community Christian Fellowship, www.ccflindale.org plans to simulcast the Aug. 6 event from the church sanctuary.
A boy waits to see a medical provider at an Army Reserve clinic in El Salvador. Children this young are sometimes targets of gang recruitment efforts in the South American country. Photo By Staff Sgt. Kristen King/U.S. Army ReserveBy Raymond Billy | Resonate News
What some are calling a subculture of violence among El Salvador's youths is threatening to metastasize, locals say. Aggressive recruitment by gangs, coupled with a dearth of parental oversight in some areas, is helping to create social conditions in which hundreds of youths are being murdered each year.
Wally Cook, a missionary in El Salvador for eight years, said the dangers posed by — and to — the country's young adults are palpable.
“If you ask the average person on the street what the biggest problem facing this country is, they'd likely tell you it's juvenile delinquency,” said Cook, 59, who founded Amazing Love Missions in 2003 with his wife, Judy, to mentor El Salvador's youths. Cook said a “huge culture of abandonment” was contributing to crime among the country's young people.
“A lot of kids ask, 'Why don't I have a mom and dad?'” said Cook, who estimates up to 25 percent of the teenagers he works with don't have a father in the home. Many Salvadoran parents leave their children and come to the United States. They work and wire money back to their families, said Cook, who moved to El Salvador from Canton, Texas.
While the parents go north in search of jobs, gang members trained on the streets of the U.S. are flowing back into the Central American country. Many of these were the children of immigrants who joined the Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gangs to fight Mexican groups in Los Angeles. Upon their arrests in the States, many gang members were deported to El Salvador, bringing with them a new level of violence.
A woman holds bread received from the Baltic Bread Project in Riga, Latvia.
By J. Thomas Rogers | ResonateNews.com
RIGA, Latvia — Edgars, 20, wants "to be an assassin," he told volunteers from Cross Pointe church working in Riga, Latvia last week. The team of volunteers from the East Texas church were in Lativia working with the Baltic Bread Project, handing out loaves of bread as a sign of Godl's love when they met the young, would-be killer.
Edgars calmly described fights and murders that happened with his brothers against anyone that stood against their control of the neighborhood.
“If they didn't fight back, we let them live,” he explained. Edgars went on recounting in detail a nighttime brawl with policemen.
An hour-long talk with the volunteers revealed his reasoning: survival of the fittest, the futility of charity and the stupidity of the victims of poverty and violence.
The volunteers had already witnessed several homeless people with blood stained hands, fresh head wounds and purple facial bruising from recent beatings on the streets.
Edgars explained, “Eighty percent of the people are stupid. That is why they are like that (homeless). The other twenty percent believe in science.”
Prayer is the best hope for Texas and the nation, Lindale, Texas, Mayor Jim Mallory said to about 70 Response supporters on Monday at City Hall. "We are investing in the future," said Mallory, third from right. "Nothing could be more significant." The Rev. Roy Devisscher of Community Christian Fellowship and the Rev. Dan Cummins, right, of Bridlewood Church of Bullard stand with Mallory. Photo Courtesy Of Roland HeddinsSolemnity Of Aug. 6 Event Stressed At Lindale Proclamation
By Patrick Butler | Resonate News
LINDALE, Texas — Proclaiming that prayer works, Lindale Mayor Jim Mallory met with about 70 supporters of The Response on Monday at City Hall. Mallory read an official proclamation affirming Texas Gov. Rick Perry's call for an Aug. 6 day of prayer and repentance at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
“What we are doing here today is significant because it represents the values we are investing in the future,” said Mallory to the gathering, noting the children present. “This is no ordinary proclamation.”
Warrie Blackburn, mother of two, carefully listened to the mayor while she held her 3-years-old daughter, Addison, in her arms.
“I'm here because I'm concerned about where our nation is heading,” she said, as Addison snuggled into her shoulders. “My husband and I support the local prayer initiative of The Response. We will pray everyday before Aug. 6 and on Aug. 6, too. It's time to take this seriously.”
The Response will be simulcast to churches throughout Texas, including Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler at 1607 Troup Highway, and Lindale's Community Christian Fellowship at 15704 Texas Highway 110 North in Garden Valley, adjacent to the International Operations Center of Mercy Ships.
The Response prayer event will consist of three components, said the Rev. Dan Cummins, senior pastor of Bridlewood Church of Bullard. Cummins is promoting the event in East Texas and stood with Mallory and Roy Devisscher of Community Christian Fellowship during the proclamation.
A dilapidated building sits abandoned in Latvia's "Little Moscow" in Riga. The unassuming building once held items stolen from Jewish citizens by Nazis. Photo By J. Thomas Rogers/Resonate NewsBy J. Thomas Rogers | Resonate News
RIGA, Latvia — Each pair of eyes turns to spy the foreigner walking through the ghetto neighborhood here called Maskatchka, or “little Moscow.” This street has witnessed dark chapters of Baltic history, including the communist oppression of counter-revolutionaries and Nazi internments of Jews.
I pretend not to notice the locals while they pretend not to notice me. Russian, Latvian and Gypsy conversations spill out of the shops, parks and buses. The whole of Riga is a mash-up of cultures and customs, of history and modernity. But the bright LED signs and international businesses I spotted upon arrival at the airport disappeared once I rode across the bridge and arrived in Little Moscow.
Jordan Sanchez, another Texan far from Texas, lives here in Little Moscow and works as a photographer with Youth With A Mission, Riga. As we walk down the street he stops to point out an old building with cracked white paint and arched windows.
"When the Nazi's gathered the Jews in Latvia, they used this as an operation center. They stored all the Jews stolen possessions here," Jordan explains.
After a short tram ride, we arrive at the Occupation Museum of Riga. As a private museum they are independent of government or other influences over the content of their displays. They have the freedom and responsibility to represent the long history of atrocities in Latvia.
Carlis Regis, 34, is a guide at the Occupation Museum. He explains that “In 1918, when we established our country, our independence was declared. Latvia was independent 'till 1940 when Soviet troops came; then [in] 1941, Nazis, and after the war Soviet troops again in 1945.”
Grave cultural obstacles are stemming the prospects for child academic achievement in Senegal, missionaries say. Photo Courtesy Of Shannon Varis By Raymond Billy | Resonate News
What people in developed countries might consider child abuse is commonplace in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, some say. Many children spend their days on the streets begging, rather than in school. Some walk around naked — or nearly so — the result of parental neglect and poverty. This is the context in which staffers at Teen Bi — a youth center in the Hann Plage community — seek to give youths guidance.
American Amy Farley was a missionary in Senegal for three years and worked at Teen Bi. She said many of the children she cared for seemed emotionally deprived.
“They are so hungry for love and attention,” said Farley, who returned to the U.S. in May. “Parents in Dakar aren't as affectionate with their children as what Westerners are used to seeing.”
If many children in Senegal lack strong parental involvement in their lives, it is likely because rampant polygyny there has left families unbalanced. About half of all marriages in the country are polygynous, according the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued by the U.S. State Department. That arraignment has left many of the children with absentee fathers. It has also put a severe burden on women to earn incomes to support their families while also trying to raise children. Although women comprise 52 percent of the population, they performed 90 percent of domestic work and 85 percent of agricultural work, according to the human rights report.
Mothers are left with little time — or are too dejected from working — to spend with their children, Farley said. The challenge for Teen Bi staffers is overcoming the deficits wrought by this lack of child nurturing at home, she said.
“Communicating with them is difficult because I'm not fluent in Wolof and most of the younger children haven't learned French yet,” said Farley, 33, referring to the most common languages in the area. “They pretty much have to learn French if they're going to have a chance to advance economically.”
But the educational deficits with which Senegalese children must cope — 75 percent of females and 58 percent of males older than 15 years are illiterate, according to the human rights report — are not the only barriers Teen Bi has to break through. The emotional walls built up by sexual abuse are also formidable, Farley said.
Christian author, speaker and vocalist Sheila Walsh told a Tyler, Texas, audience of more than 700 women Friday that faith in Christ — not human effort — allows everyone to experience the full measure of God's love. Courtesy Photo
By Raymond Billy | Resonate News
Sheila Walsh wants women to know that true faith begins at the point in which theology and lifestyle intersect. This is not to remind women that “faith without deeds is dead.” No. Her message is geared toward women who understand that principle well — and practice it to the nth degree.
What Walsh would like women to learn from her message is that their actions should be motivated by gratitude to God, not a misguided attempt to win his love — which they already posses. Many women understand as much, she said. Whether they fully believe it is another story.
“Sometimes it seems like there's a chasm between what we believe and what we stand on,” Walsh, 55, told an audience of more than 700 women Friday at Grace Community Church in Tyler, Texas. The singer, motivational speaker and television personality said the lesson she teaches is one she previously had difficulty accepting.
“I had spent most of my life trying to be the perfect Christian woman and it almost cost me my life,” she said.
Born in Scotland, Walsh's preoccupation with being “good enough” for God was generated by the belief that she had done something to garner her father's scorn.
Her father suffered a cerebral hemorrhage is 1961 when Walsh was 5 years old. The hemorrhage left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. The incident changed his personality dramatically. He became abusive toward Walsh, she said.
The patriarch of the Walsh family was later placed in a psychiatric hospital. After he escaped from the hospital, he was found dead in a river at the age of 34. Sheila Walsh said her father's death left her to live with a profound sense of guilt and confusion.
Danielle Vuke, 27, pictured with her father, Tony, says his influence in her life helped her to maintain a healthy sense of worth and to avoid the self-esteem issues that often lead to ruinous behavior by teenage girls. Courtesy PhotoBy Raymond Billy | Resonate News
Gina Bauman's teenage years were marked by “alcohol and promiscuity,” she said. The 40-year-old Winona resident said drinking enabled her to behave in whatever manner attracted attention — particularly from boys.
“When a guy would sleep with me, I felt like he loved me. When a guy wasn't interested in sleeping with me anymore, I felt like he'd stopped loving me. I went looking for another guy who would 'love' me.”
Bauman's teenage dependence on physical relationships was the outgrowth of the emotional bonds she lacked at home, she said. Her father was unaffectionate. He saw his main role to be material provider. His interactions with his children were sometimes abusive.
“He would say that I looked fat or I looked like a cow. He was only joking, but he didn't realize how bad it made me feel,” said Bauman, adding that as an adult, she's been able to make peace with her father who apologized for his behavior.
Bauman witnessed in her teenage peers the same pattern of behavior that defined her youth. Bauman has also observed such adolecent struggles during her time as a public-school employee.
“Many young women are falling into immorality because they don't have a strong father figure. They seek their worth in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships instead of knowing they have worth apart from guys,” said Bauman, who estimated 75 percent of girls struggle with low self-esteem at Gladewater High School, where she worked for two years as a teacher's aide.
“If you share your abortion with someone and they react negatively toward you, God is working on that person's heart. He's trying to show them the dark parts of their heart and the judgmental attitude that they need to work on.”
By Raymond Billy | Resonate News
Barbara Bobo was 16 years old and moments away from a potentially life-saving surgery to repair a hole in her uterus. But, a physician only gave her a 50-percent chance of surviving the injury and left alone “to make peace with God.”
Lying there in her room at Doctors Hospital on Garland Road in Dallas, Bobo began crying out for God's forgiveness — both for her pre-marital pregnancy and the botched, clandestine abortion that ended it and jeopardized her life.
“As I opened my eyes, there were literally demons in the room,” Bobo, now 60, recalls. “They were laughing at me.
“I prayed again and asked God to help me. I didn't see God that day, but it was like an invisible hurricane swept those demons away. Immediately I felt the greatest sense of peace come over me. I didn't know whether I would live or die, but I knew I would be OK.”
But the peace she felt near midnight that night in 1968 was replaced by three decades of guilt over the choice she made to end her pregnancy. She didn't want anyone to know of the choice she had made as a teenager — least of all her Christian friends. C.A.R.E. BIBLE STUDY WHAT: Eight-week post-abortion Bible study WHEN: Thursday's from 6 to 8:30 p.m. WHERE: Centrepoint Ministries 418 S. Broadway, Suite 100 in Tyler WHO: Women who have suffered ill effects from abortion CONTACT: Barbara Bobo — 903-859-2388. Send email to: email@example.com Note: C.A.R.E. will also host a Bible study for post-abortive women in the fall
Former Dallas resident Anita Billups says restricting alcohol sales in Tyler likely isn't doing much to slow down would-be drinkers. Above, shelves stocked with alcohol in Dallas' Western Heights neighborhood is shown. Courtesy Photo By Mediafury Via FlickrBy Raymond Billy | Resonate News
“Dysfunctional” is the word Tyler resident Anita Billups used to describe her childhood family life. She remembers her father as a “rage-oholic” who passed the physical abuse he endured in his upbringing along to his own children. When she was 15 years old, her mother retreated, leaving Billups and her five siblings under the management of a man who couldn't manage himself.
Billups, 55, began drinking shortly after her mother's departure “to numb the pain,” she said. She was an alcoholic for more than a decade — and avoided coming to terms with the trauma of her youth. Now sober for 28 years, the Dallas native said she is not concerned about the recent push to liberalize alcohol ordinances in Smith County cities. She said the only thing wrought by restricting people's access to alcohol is annoyance.
“I don't think it matters,” said Billups, an insurance agent. “I'm not sure what the reasoning is for fighting alcohol sales, but if people want it, they're going to find it,” she said.
An often-cited rationale for curtailing alcohol sales is the threat intoxicated drivers pose to other motorists. During the Memorial Day weekend — a time traditionally rife with drunken motorists — Smith County officials arrested 29 people they suspected of driving while intoxicated, up from 25 during the holiday last year. Tyler — where residents may order alcoholic beverages in restaurants and bars but not purchase for take-home consumption — was the site of 20 of those arrests, up from 15 in 2010.
Billups believes incidents of drunken driving in the county are largely caused by people consuming alcohol on the way back from purchasing such beverages outside of the cities in which they live. She said opening the door to increased access to alcohol might reduce that kind of behavior and make roadways safer.
KYASENYA, Uganda - The congregation went wild at the 150-member church in Kyasenya, 60 miles from Mbarara, high up in the remote hills of the coffee-growing Lwengo district. The attending congregants at the mid-day Monday meeting — not to mention the Parental Care team members themselves — were taken by complete surprise Lwengo by a sudden answer to prayer more than eight months in the asking.
Team leader Dr. Mark Barret had been describing his efforts to the humble congregation — sitting on small wooden benches in the dirt-floor building — his yet-unsuccessful efforts to raise funds for purchasing land adjacent to the church to start a new Parental Care School. The steep hillside community is so remote, it is only accessible by a deeply rutted, rugged and rocky dirt track challenging any vehicle or driver daring to test it. Indeed, one of the two Parental Care vans became stuck in the mud during the daunting drive and had to be pulled out by the other.
Church members had been waiting nearly six hours for the arrival of “the visitors” — as foreigners are often called — greeting them with fresh enthusiasm as the Texas team was escorted into the church with songs and warm, smiling embraces.
This congregation of humble means had been praying for months to purchase land for their school. Barret has sought for supporters specifically for the Kyasenya project. The church’s past has been painful, after the former pastor absconded with the few finances the congregation had gathered.
Parental Care founder and pastor Emmanuel Nnyanzi had been asked in desperation eight months ago to help the struggling church. Nnyanzi gave $ 1,000 so the congregation could buy the land the church building sits on. A new pastor was found and the congregation became one of 45 churches Nnanyzi now oversees.
After much singing, greetings and some messages, Barret spoke slowly through an interpreter, choosing words carefully.
By Patrick Butler | Resonate News MBARARA, Uganda — “At first there was no clean water for drinking, no place to wash off and only a few places for children to sleep,” said the Rev. Emmanuel Nnyanzi — known to his friends as "Emmy" — as he gave a tour of the Parental Care Ministries school he founded in 2001.
“Team 10” trip members — those on the 10th Parental Care trip to Uganda — were regaled by hundreds of orphans and Parental Care students upon their arrival in this remote southwestern Uganda town.
But the deprivation the children once endured was before Dr. Mark Barret showed up in 2008, Emmy said, joining the efforts of Parental Care. Since Barret’s arrival, life hasn’t been the same for the estimated 120 children crammed into limited sleeping and schooling arrangements.
“After God brought 'Epa' to us,” said Emmy, referring to Barret by his honorary Ugandan name “the girl’s sleeping quarters was built, a well was put in, the children received uniforms and classrooms were built. All our friends in America have been a big, big help. Now the children are much more happy than before. The impact of (the Parental Care) donations from America have been huge.”
By Raymond Billy | Resonate NewsSteve Curry, a deacon at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, has been staging anti-abortion demonstrations outside of Tyler's Planned Parenthood office for two years. Photo By Raymond Billy/Resonate News
TYLER, Texas — Two days after Texas ratified a bill requiring women seeking abortions to receive ultrasounds, some East Texas opponents of abortion weren't resting on their laurels. Instead, a group of them protested on the sidewalk Saturday along Broadway Avenue in front of Planned Parenthood, the organization which provides contraception, medical services and abortions at nearly 1,000 locations nationwide. The group has held demonstrations on the third Saturday of each month for two years.
John Powers, 34, drove for more than an hour from Maydelle, Texas, to participate in the demonstration. He said people have underestimated the seriousness of abortion for too long and he hopes to be a part of changing that reality.
“My parents' generation dropped the ball on this and my generation did nothing. Maybe the next generation will do better,” said Powers, who took his children with him to the demonstration.
Steve Curry, a deacon at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, initiated the protests. He said he hopes to disabuse people of the notion that life begins at birth.
“When abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court, I didn't understand the implications. I didn't believe abortion would become common because I didn't think many people would do such a thing,” said Curry, 52, as he took a break from his protest to be interviewed by Resonate News. “When I was a kid, I was taught that life begins at conception as basic biology.”
Curry said even though most Tylerites likely share his opinion on abortion, he believes his protests are worthwhile because most people give tacit approval to the procedure by their inaction.
Economist and author Brian Fikkert told an audience assembled at Christ Episcopal Church in Tyler to guard against doing so much for the poor that it disempowers them. Photo By Patrick Butler/Resonate NewsBy Raymond Billy with Patrick Butler and Jo Meadow | ResonateNews.com
Economist Brian Fikkert told a Tyler audience on Tuesday that many benevolence programs intended to help the poor are demoralizing them.
Event organizers estimated about 100 nonprofit leaders, professional ministerial and lay leaders assembled at Christ Episcopal Church were told that effective anti-poverty programs are those that invest in the human resources existing within impoverished communities. The biggest hurdle, Fikkert said, is getting the poor to realize that those resources are resident — both in their neighborhoods and in themselves.
Fikkert — a professor of economics at Covenant College and director of The Chalmers Center for Economic Development, which seeks to empower those living in poverty — said reaching out to underprivileged people is a Christian imperative.
“What's at stake here is not just poor people; what's at stake here is the integrity of the Gospel,” Fikkert said, referencing Deuteronomy 15:7 which admonishes followers of God to “not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”
But, Fikkert also said that well-meaning people must recalibrate the way they think of poverty in order to deal with the problem from a systemic standpoint.
A group of nonprofit leaders and lay staff for “parachurch” organizations will convene at Christ Episcopal Church in Tyler on Tuesday to hear Dr. Brian Fikkert explain when helping hurts. That’s the title of Fikkert’s book addressing “faulty assumptions about poverty, offering holistic strategies for ministry and a paradigm shift on Christian ministry to the poor,” according to information from Fikkert and co-author Steve Corbett.
The free presentation is courtesy of the Fourth Partner Foundation of Tyler.
“We want (readers) to learn a number of things,” from “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself,” Fikkert said in an interview with byfaithonline.com upon the book’s release in 2009. He said that “poverty has multiple dimensions, it is not primarily about ‘providing.’ Helping can hurt; something is not always better than nothing; short-term help which feels good to the giver can often be harmful to the receiver; and start with what people have and build from there.
“Unfortunately, a lot of what is being done by our churches and parachurch ministries is out of touch with best theory and practices,” Fikkert said. “More importantly, much of it is simply inconsistent with biblical teaching concerning the nature of poverty and the human condition. I hope that God will use this book in some small way to help the church do better in embodying Jesus Christ to a broken world."
Smith County sponsors of the leadership meeting include Meals On Wheels, Mission Tyler, People Attempting To Help (PATH), the East Texas Food Bank, KVNE 89.5 radio, Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Ships, Bethel Bible Church, Grace Community Church, and Green Acres Baptist Church and the Fourth Partner Foundation.
Tyler native Robert Adair, left, with friends in Japan, where he has spent years as a church developer. He plans to return to the country for another four-year stint later this year, along with his wife, Roberta.By Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
Tyler residents Butch and Joann Adair never would have imagined their son would become an evangelical missionary. He committed his life to Christ as a preteen during a Green Acres Baptist Church summer day camp, but that didn't prevent him from going through a “rebellious” phase.
“He didn't always want to go to church, and we even argued with him over whether he would go with us,” said Joann, 59, of her oldest child.
During college something began to change in Robert Adair. His desire to see Japan transformed by the Gospel ended up transforming him from a would-be engineer to a courier for Jesus.
Adair, 31, graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1998. After enrolling in Texas A&M University, his uncle, a former resident of College Station where the school is located, recommended Adair visit Aldersgate United Methodist Church there. The church is highly missions-oriented and Adair decided to participate in its Japan outreach in 2001 as “an act of obedience” to God, he said.
“God really redeemed that trip to break my heart for the people of Japan,” Adair said, noting the country's low Christian population and widespread worship inanimate objects.
After finishing his undergraduate work in engineering in 2002, Adair made several short-term missionary trips to Japan before beginning a four-year stint in 2005 as a church developer.
By Kirsten Patullo & Hannah Robinson | Special to ResonateNews.com
Chris Tomlin Hometown Concert Resonate Photo: Kirsten PatulloOn May 4, people from all around East Texas came to celebrate the birthday of a famous area musician in an unexpected way. Chris Tomlin was born and raised in Grand Saline. There he started his music career that would one day take him all over America and the world.
Brandi Couch, of Tyler, said, “It was really cool that Chris Tomlin wanted to come out and give a gift to someone else for his birthday.” That gift was a free concert in the football stadium of his home town.
Crowd At Grand Saline Stadium Resonate Photo: Hannah RobinsonTomlin said he had expected only a few hundred people would show up. But he must have realized that he was wrong when he set eyes on a crowd of more than 1,000 people.
Before the concert began, the stadium was filled with many voices singing Happy Birthday to their small town hero. Alyssa Allegretto from Tyler, said, “Right after we sang happy birthday to him, the look on Chris’ face was full of joy and he was blushing.”
He sang new songs, including popular choruses such as “Our God” and “Follow You” as well as older pieces “Amazing Grace” and “How Great is our God.” But the entire set seemed to be loved by applauding fans.
Allegretto said, “It was energized and fun and totally focused on worshipping God. It was cool to see that many people come out.”
EDITORS NOTE: Kirsten and Hannah are teenage reporters with ImagiNations media camps and classes, taught by Resonate staff. To find out more about ImagiNations, visit www.ImagiNations.me
Beje Jones lifts her hands in praise during singing at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast held in observance of the National Day of Prayer in Tyler, Texas, on Thursday at the Harvey Convention Center. About 1,000 people attended the event a year after a federal judge ruled the Day of Prayer was unconstitional. Photo By Patrick ButlerBy Patrick Butler | ResonateNews.com
TYLER, Texas — Mayor Barbara Bass opened this city’s 20th annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast on Thursday by highlighting a 2010 legal challenge of the constitutionally of the National Day of Prayer, brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. A federal judge ruled in favor of the challenge last year, Bass said.
“This National Day of Prayer is founded on Judeo/Christian beliefs,” said Bass, Tyler’s first female mayor who presides over a city of nearly 100,000 people, the largest city in East Texas. “It is about serving a true God.”
Tyler’s event was held in conjunction with the 60th annual National Day of Prayer, held nationwide. It is the 20th event for Tyler.
“Last year when we met,” she told an estimated 1,000 attendees at the prayer breakfast, “there was a (federal) judge who decided it was unconstitutional for our government to designate a national day of prayer. This year we have a different response. On April 14, 2011 the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the case against the National Day of Prayer. The appeals court ruled 3-0 that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their claimants did not have any standing to continue the case against congressional actions affirming the National Day of Prayer.
David Wilkerson, renowned pastor and missionary pioneer, has died. He was killed Wednesday in a two-vehicle collision at the age of 79.David Wilkerson, the fiery pastor, preacher and some say prophet, died in a two-vehicle wreck near Tyler, Texas, on Wednesday. Wilkerson was the man most responsible for the arrival of mission ministries to Smith County in the mid 1970s, as various organizations such as Youth With A Mission, Last Days Ministries and Agape Force relocated to be near Wilkerson and his Teen Challenge organization in nearby Garden Valley.
Wilkerson, who was the founder of Teen Challenge and a Smith County resident, may have been involved in a collision with a semi-truck, said a family friend who visited East Texas Medical Center in Tyler to offer support to Wilkerson’s widow, Gwen, the only other passenger in Wilkerson’s vehicle.
“It’s not too clear what happened out there,” said the Rev. Roy Devisscher, who worked with Wilkerson on various projects in the 1980s. “Gwen seemed stable at the hospital tonight, but I don’t think she has realized what has happened yet. It’s all still pretty surreal and it hasn’t really hit people that David is gone."
Devisscher recalled the man who won the admiration of several U.S. presidents, held evangelistic meetings around the world, and was responsible for helping tens of thousands of teens past their life-controlling problems.
“I think what stands out to me the most is how this man took time to minister to me in his front yard,” Devisscher said to Resonate News on Wednesday. “I was working with him on a project, and I needed ministry. He came and prayed for me in front of his home. He was such and encouragement and help to me at that time.”Devisscher is now the associate pastor at Community Christian Fellowship in Garden Valley. The Wilkersons lived on the Twin Oaks Ranch property in Garden Valley seven miles west of Lindale, Texas, on Farm-to-Market 16.
Wilkerson moved part of his East coast Teen Challenge operation — made famous by his book “The Cross and The Switchblade” about his encounter with New York City gangs — to Smith County in the 1970s. He located his operation at the Twin Oaks Ranch on 500 acres. Wilkerson generously sold his property to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in 1980 at an estimated 10 cents on the dollar, said Jim Rogers, director of YWAM in Tyler at the time.
"He was walking on the property, praying and felt like God said, 'Twin Oaks Ranch doesn't belong to you anymore,' and David basically gave it over to YWAM," said Rogers.
The National Day of Prayer has been recognized by the United States government since 1952. Tyler Leaders will mark the day with the mayor's Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. Photo By heyFilbert
By Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
The National Day of Prayer, to be commemorated Thursday, is a time in which the nation's civic and religious leaders join together in a rare display of unabashed unity. Continued court challenges to the presence of religious symbolism in public life have made prominent figures on both sides of the sacred, secular divide more reluctant to display such comity.
In Tyler, Texas, however, the chasm between the faith community and public institutions is largely bridged by several leaders who have a foot in both worlds. These leaders say that a nationwide observance of prayer is acceptable, if not necessary.
The Rev. Ralph Caraway is a member of the Tyler City Council representing District 3, in addition to his day job as pastor of Saint Louis Baptist Church. He said that the United States' founding objectives, based largely on a desire for freedom of religion, make having a day extolling communication with God that much more meaningful.
“I value that I live in a country where I can pray openly and freely. I think a lot of people take for granted that we have such a privilege,” Caraway, 57, said.
Cary Nix, 52, the first-term Smith County commissioner representing Precinct 2, said the day of prayer is a way for the country PRAYER BREAKFAST
Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass will hold a prayer breakfast at 6:30 a.m. Thursday at the Harvey Convention Center. The center is located at 2000 W. Front St. The event marks the National Day of Prayer, which was instituted by Congress in 1952. to get back to its roots.
“Prayer is very important. This country was founded on Christian values and we've turned our back on God as a nation,” said Nix, a deacon and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church in Whitehouse, where he lives.
Caraway said the U.S. government has been less effective as public emphasis on God has been de-emphasized.
“Belief in God once gave the whole nation structure. Even though we had a government, the government was under the authority of God,” he said.
Jacqueline Strothoff, who graduated from David Wilkerson's Leadership Academy in 1977, said she owes much of her recovery from drug addiction to the Teen Challenge founder. Courtesy Photo By Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
In 1974, she was a drug addict and sometimes prostitute living in a psychiatric hospital. Today, she is the Rev. Jacqueline A. Strothoff, director of Women's Homes at Teen Challenge New England based in Providence, R.I., which helps women transition from the same lifestyle she escaped.
The change in Strothoff from who she was 37 years ago is in large measure the result of David Wilkerson's ministry, she said.
“David Wilkerson was critically important to my discipleship,” Strothoff, 62, said Sunday. “I wouldn't be who I am today if he wasn't who he was to me.”
Wilkerson's ministry — which centered on helping people out of drug addiction, gangs and prostitution through spiritual counseling — helped Strothoff years before she met him. While she was at the psychiatric hospital in Fairfax, Va., a friend of her father brought her the book “Please Make Me Cry!” by Cookie Rodriguez, who had come out of a life of prostitution and drug addiction with help from Wilkerson's Teen Challenge organization in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I prayed that if this was true, God would do the same thing for me,” Strothoff said.
She had accepted Christ as her savior while at the institution. After being released, she enrolled in Rodriguez' Teen Challenge branch in Dover, Pa. After receiving Christian mentorship through that program, she enrolled in Wilkerson's Twin Oaks Leadership Academy in Lindale, Texas, the inaugural class of the program in 1977. The class included 18 men and 18 women who trained under Wilkerson's watchful eyes.
“David wasn't an instructor for the academy, but he was always there. He ate with the students and he was always available to pray with us,” Strothoff said. “He was just always there to speak into peoples' lives.”
Strothoff said Wilkerson's leadership style was no-nonsense.
“During the orientation period of the leadership school, I remember him telling students that some of them wouldn't make it through the school. He said some would go back to the street and die there,” she recalled. “He wasn't people pleaser. He only wanted to please God and he cared too much about people to spare their feeling by keeping the hard truth from them.”
Wilkerson was instrumental in the existence of the Women's Homes in Rhode Island, Strotfhoff said. He participated in fundraisers for the homes in the early 1990s before they opened in 1995. She also said that he encouraged her leadership as a woman.
“He never differentiated between men and women and what they could or couldn't do,” Strotfhoff said. “He made me know that if I trusted in God, he would fulfill the desires of my heart — and my past didn't matter,” she said.
Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass will hold a prayer breakfast at 6:30 a.m. Thursday at the Harvey Convention Center. The center is located at 2000 W. Front St. The event marks the National Day of Prayer, which was instituted by Congress in 1952.
Gwen Wilkerson is the 'unsung hero' of her husband's ministry, biographer Betty Schonauer says. Gwen remains hospitalized in Tyler, Texas, following the wreck that killed Dave Wilkerson. Courtesy Photo By Raymond Billy | ResonateNews.com
The death of evangelist David Wilkerson has spurred an outpouring of worldwide tributes to a man many say is responsible for salvaging thousands of young lives from the depths of gang life and substance addiction. His is a legacy that won't soon be forgotten, they say. But in the wake of the two-vehicle wreck outside of Tyler, Texas, that claimed his life Wednesday, some are hoping that his wife, Gwen, gets the honor they say she is due for her indispensable role in her husband's life and ministry.
Betty Schonauer, of York, Pa., literally wrote the book on Gwen Wilkerson. “In His Strength,” the autobiography of Gwen Wilkerson, was released in 1978 and details the ups and downs of life as the wife of a famous evangelist. Schonauer said that to know Gwen is to know a woman of tremendous strength and faith.
“She wanted to live a quiet life and have a family,” Schonauer, 70, told ResonateNews.com on Saturday. “She never envisioned anything like the kind of high-profile ministry that she would be a part of with David. But, she was his strong and courageous supporter because that was what she needed to be for her family.”
During the early years of their marriage in the 1950s, David's travels as an evangelist took a toll on his relationship with Gwen. His first child, a daughter named Debbie, was born unexpectedly late and he wasn't present for the occasion. Things would settle down for a few years thereafter, only to become fast-paced once again following David's decision to use his ministry to reach out to disaffected youths in New York City, a ministry that sparked the idea for his Teen Challenge organization.
Darrell Creswell spent two weeks at David Wilkerson's East Texas home in 1978. He learned first-hand from an evangelist gifted at reaching troubled youths. Courtesy Photo By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Darrell Creswell fondly remembers David Wilkerson as one of the most compassionate men he's met. The Denver resident and itinerate evangelist said he's known a few others who have matched Wilkerson's love for people, but said it's a quality not normally seen — even in ministry circles. With the death of Wilkerson at the age of 79 — following a two-vehicle wreck in Cherokee County, Texas, on Wednesday — Creswell said a void has been left in the world of Christendom not likely to be filled soon.
“His kindness knew no end,” Creswell, 53, told ResonateNews.com on Thursday. “He once told me to say 'I love you' to every child I meet because it might be the only time that child hears it.”
That concern for forsaken youths was immortalized in Wilkerson's book “The Cross and the Switchblade. ” The book was later adapted into a feature film starring Erik Estrada as gang member Nicky Cruz and Pat Boone as Wilkerson. The story documented Wilkerson's evangelism in some of the toughest gang neighborhoods in New York City. Shortly after reading the book in 1978, Creswell had an unexpected encounter with Wilkerson.
Photo By Patrick Butler The Rev. Emmanuel Nnyanzi, of Uganda, arrives Saturday at the home of Dr. Mark Barret to a red-carpet welcome. Nnyanzi cares for 500 orphans at Parental Care Ministries in Mbarara, Uganda, an organization he founded about a decade ago.
A Texas minister said he hopes a poor Ugandan pastor will inspire his congregation with “faith, passion and power” as he offers comfort and aid to hundreds of orphans in his country. The Rev. Doug Clark of the multisite Grace Community Church in Tyler, Texas, was part of a party to welcome the man from rural Uganda.
With tears in his eyes, the Rev. Emmanuel Nnyanzi of Uganda pastor Emmy to his friends was warmly welcomed by his supporters Saturday into the home of Dr. Mark Barret, a local pediatrician. Barret is the executive director of Parental Care Ministries, which Nnyanzi founded to assist orphans in Uganda about 10 years ago.
Barret visited Africa a few years ago because he felt “God was telling me that I had to go,” and met Nnyanzi. The two men developed an Internet relationship; with Barret finally bring Emmy to America to share his vision of “Parental Care” for children in Uganda as the outcome.
“I became a Christian through his ministry. What a shock.” That email from Canada may best represents the flood of letters, Facebook posts and comments Resonate News has received in the last three days, as people worldwide reel from the shock of hearing that pioneering pastor, preacher and evangelist David Wilkerson has left this earth via a car wreck in Tyler, Texas, on Wednesday.
Some more comments are posted below. Scroll down to add your own rememberances, comments, tributes or prayers.
The Wilkerson founded Teen Challenge, World Challenge and the Times Square Church in New York City as well as holding international crusade drawing tens of thousands of people. A selection of the comments are posted below. Add your own to “Remember David.”
Anna Jones plays with orphans in Nairobi, Kenya's Kibera slum in 2007. Jones, who has made two trips to Kibera since her initial nine-month stint ended, said she hopes to return there this summer. Courtesy Photo
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Efforts to help homeless children in one of Kenya's most infamous neighborhoods were dealt a setback after a fire last week that destroyed a boarding school there.
The blaze occurred at Restoration Primary School in Nairobi's Kibera slum, displacing 33 orphans and 400 day-school students. For at least a decade, a growing number of nonprofit organizations from outside of Africa have sought to improve the lives of Kibera orphans — a demographic believed by UNICEF to number at least 50,000 children.
Before Jesus Christ was taken into captivity and crucified, he prayed for everyone who would believe he was sent by God “that all of them may be one,” according to the Gospel of John. That prayer is being interpreted differently among adherents of the Christian faith more than 2,000 years after his execution.
Photo By Julien Menichini/Courtesy A cross stands in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. To some Christians Jesus was merely pleading for oneness of belief among those who would follow him. Others say Christ was calling not only for dogmatic unity but also cooperation on a grassroots-level in sharing his teachings and practicing the kind of charity that he extolled. The latter camp perceives shortcomings among local churches to fulfilling this command.
Willis Lawton, a retired physician and Catholic believer living in Lindale, Texas, said denominational differences have prevented local churches from being a forceful presence in their communities.
“Different churches thrive in different areas of ministry but they're not coming together and strengthening each other,” said Lawton, who is working on a book on the breakdown of Christian unity.
Lawton lamented that not only have interpretational differences among Christians divided Catholics and Protestants, but Protestant denominations also.
“How do churches get together as a body in their community if they can't get beyond their doctrinal differences?” Lawton asked.
Steve Collett, a member of Community Church of Manchester, Ky., agreed that denominational divides where hindering local churches from being more affective.
“The biggest thing that needs to happen in America is for churches to come together,” Collett said.
Collett assists with addiction recovery programs at his church. Manchester has been a key front in Kentucky's battle against prescription drug abuse. Collett said the city was overrun by drug dealers and law enforcement officials who were giving them cover. He said after churches in the community decided to cross denominational lines, they were able to drive much of the crime and corruption out of the city.
David King, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Camden, N.J., said disunity among churches there has allowed crime and drug addiction to reign uncontested.
“Churches here are not looking out for their brothers and sisters,” King said. “If churches were doing more for their brothers and sisters, we wouldn't be having these problems,” he said, citing the need for more aggressive after-school and job-training programs in Camden.
SAKADO, Japan — A trip to Japan's most heavily damaged coastal areas gave me and my team of missionaries an up-close look at the scope of last month's earthquake and tsunami. The team — which included an 83-year-old, a Japanese pastor and an independent missionary's son — began touring the Tohoku Region on March 31 and returned last week. Courtesy Photo Ruin caused by the March 11 earthquake is shown in Onagawa, Japan.
HOW TO HELP
Baptist Bible Fellowship International has set up a relief fund. Send donations to: Japan Tsunami Relief, c/o BBFI Missions Office, P.O. Box 802757, Kansas City, Mo. 64180-2757. Questions about the fund are being fielded by the BBFI Missions Office at 417-862-5001.Upon arrival, we set up camp just north of Sendai in the small town of Rifu, which some of you might remember as having played host to World Cup matches in 2002. Our campsite was in decent condition despite the earthquake. We were thankful to have water and heat, although we couldn't shower.
Every morning began with worship and devotions starting around 6:15 a.m. During that time, we would also debrief from the previous day and talk about plans for that day. Following breakfast we would head to Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization, to fill our two vans with supplies then set out for the most needy areas.
Working in coordination with Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope, or CRASH, my team delivered food, water and clothes to the Tohoku Region. We saw the despair on many people's faces as we toured these especially devastated areas. However, all seemed grateful to receive the much-needed supplies. And there were opportunities to pass on the hope of Jesus Christ. This was important as many have lost all hope amid staggering death tolls.
In Ishinomaki's Ayukawa district, a whaling hub, more than three quarters of the area's homes were reportedly destroyed by the March 11 tsunami. Hundreds of the district's 1,400 residents either have been confirmed dead or are missing. Onagawa, a place known for its pristine beaches and nuclear facilities, was another stop on our journey. More than 10 percent of the town's 10,000 residents died or are listed as missing as a result of damage caused by the tsunami. Ojika, Kesennuma, and Higashimatsushima were some of the other cities we visited during our mission.
Because of terrible traffic congestion, we usually arrived back at the camp in the late evening, ate dinner, cleaned up, and talked about the next day. Bedtime was usually about midnight.
Thank you to all who prayed for our trip and who are giving to help these people in their time of need. Please, pray about what we can do from this point on. There is still much to be done. The cleanup effort alone will probably take years. The emotional and spiritual scars will remain for long after. There is also the great need to continue to tell them of the hope that is beyond this frail world, the hope that comes only through Jesus Christ.
James A. Smith is a missionary pastor to Japan with Baptist Bible Fellowship International.
TYLER, Texas — “Friendly” has often been an adjective used by residents and visitors here to describe the culture of this East Texas community. It is the kind of place where newcomers are shocked to find an eager contingent of free labor to help them get unpacked and settled in, some locals say. But for atheists and agnostics in this Christianity-dominated environment, that hospitality ceases to be universal the moment they divulge their religious indifference, some nonbelievers say.
Photo By Raymond Billy JennahRose English says she hasn't attended church in more than a year after her religion skepticism alienated some members of the Sunday school class she attended.Dawn Hatchard, 29, said she feared it would be difficult for her to adjust to life in Tyler when she relocated to the city in June. She assumed that Tyler would be highly conservative — a stark contrast from the environs of Oregon where she was raised — and feared she would struggle to connect with people. She said she was heartened by the initial friendliness of residents here. But, Hatchard said, some residents' welcoming disposition toward her changed when they learned of her non-belief.
“It's definitely a social qualifier in that it's an issue when it shouldn't be,” said Hatchard, a stay-at-home mom whose husband is currently stationed in Germany as a member of the United States Army. “People want to know what church you attend and if you're not religious, they shun you.”
Recounting stories of personal pain, rejection and how one of his 14 stepmothers tried to poison him, Emmanuel Nnyanzi, of Uganda, spoke Sunday at three meetings in Tyler, the largest city in East Texas. Grace Community Church staff estimated nearly 1,200 people heard “Pastor Emmy” as he is called, a poor, rural citizen of Southwest Uganda and whose schools serve more than 500 orphans.
He visited America — and his strong contingent of Texas supporters — for the first time this week. Supporters in East Texas persisted in bringing Nnyanzi to America despite financial obstacles.
“I was denied a visa to America five times,” said Nnyanzi, 43. “It is costly to be denied because there is a $140 non-refundable fee each time, transportation costs to the city and a hotel for an overnight stay. For a poor man, this is very hard, and the sense of rejection is very strong. But, I persevered, and here I am, to see my friends.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Landing in one of Africa's poorest countries last week, Grant MacLean visited Sierra Leone to help develop volunteer programs to assist the beleaguered nation. MacLean is the international director of programs at Mercy Ships, a medical charity headquartered in Garden Valley, Texas. The Africa Mercy, the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship, has just docked in the desperate nation for a 10-month term of service. MacLean was asked by ResonateNews.com to describe what he saw and felt in one of world's most struggling economies.
By Grant MacLean Dispatch From Sierra Leone
A wall of conGrant MacLeantainers fronted the hills outside my ship window in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Dust and heat greeted disembarkation and Africa waited at the end of the gangway. Sierra Leone with all her needs and potential, has welcomed the Africa Mercy with open arms. It has been seven years since a hospital ship has visited this port.
Meanwhile, God has been busy. Change is occurring, even if you need a seasoned eye to detect it. Although life expectancy is still only 48 years old and almost two children in 10 will not live to 5 years old, these statistics are actually an improvement.
Americans of Japanese descent are hoping their country of ancestry isn't driven deeper into a decades-long epidemic of despair after this month's massive earthquake and tsunami. Instead, some are hoping to redeem the tragedy by sparking a Christian revolution they say has the power to reinvigorate the nation.
“It's the first place where I experienced the sense that 'Oh my goodness, the world needs Jesus.' I'd feel that way about anyplace in Japan's spiritual condition, but my ties to the country certainly heighten my sympathy,” said Honolulu resident Joy-Gen Nakamura, 24, who said the calamity caused by the earthquake has made him more eager to share with Japan what he called the hope of the Gospel. Courtesy Photo Joy-Gen Nakamura, 24, who plans to visit Japan in May with Campus Crusade for Christ, said the recent earthquake and tsunami there has made him more anxious to share the Gospel in his country of ancestry.
After his family moved to the United States in 1994, the Nakamuras made frequent visits to Japan. Still, Nakamura said he didn't realize the alarming fact that suicide is common in Japan until his missionary trip there four years ago as a University of Southern California undergraduate.
Light traffic occupies the road in Morioka, the capital city of Iwate prefecture. A team of missionaries, including representatives from Wakaba Bible Baptist Church, are heading to Iwate next week to assistance humanitarian efforts there after this month's earthquake and tsunami.
Photo By Monoooki
By James A. Smith Dispatch From Japan
SAKADO, Japan — Wakaba Bible Baptist Church is partnering with other ministries in Saitama prefecture for a humanitarian mission we hope will bring at least a measure of comfort to some of the most stressed areas of the country. The two-week mission, which is scheduled to begin no later than April 1, targets Iwate prefecture, home to thousands of refugees following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami whose epicenter was about 100 miles south.
Staple items are hard to find at stores in Sakado, Japan. Many items are in short supply following the earthquake and tsunami that have ravaged the country. Widespread fuel shortages have also complicated the lives of residents of this northeastern Japan city. Courtesy Photo
By James A. Smith Dispatch From Japan
SAKADO, Japan — Reports have surfaced that the United States government is evacuating Americans from Tokyo in the wake of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, which also triggered a massive tsunami earlier this month. These rumors are false. The U.S. has been evacuating Americans from the city of Sendai, nearly 200 miles northeast of Tokyo.
GARDEN VALLEY — She was “sex-trafficked” in 16 states before she was 15 years old. Taking a time out last year from a “glamorous” high-priced call-girl lifestyle, “Shannon” spoke bluntly about her life and her change of direction at Living Alternatives maternity home in Garden Valley.
“Anyway, being a working girl seemed glamorous at the time,” Shannon said. “Well, it is glamorous when you’re young. The food, the clothes, the cities. Men with money. I got involved at such a young age, I didn’t know anything else.”
Teaser for Aftermath, a film by Tim Kim based on real events in Haiti
By Patrick Butler ResonateNews.com
"Water,” said filmmaker Tim SolWoong Kim, “is at the root of so many, if not most, justice issues in the world, that it’s impossible to ignore the devastating impact the lack of water- or too much of it — creates. Especially on women.”
Photo By Patrick Butler Filmmaker Tim Kim says water is a foundational justice issue. He is working on a film on Haiti that focuses heavily on the water crisis there.Ticking off a list of current hot-topic justice issues, Kim, who is in the production phase of his hour-long film on Haiti, “Aftermath," shook his head as if realizing anew the impact of water on life in general.
Shoppers peruse items at confectionary stands in Saitama, Japan. Life in the prefecture, north of Tokyo, has been disrupted since last week's earthquake. Food and energy shortages are widespread there. Photo By Sakura Mutsuki
By James A. Smith Dispatch From Japan
SAKADO, Japan — Citizens here are adjusting to the new normal following last week's massive earthquake and tsunami.
Because of the problems at the nuclear power plants, Tokyo and nearby prefectures — including here in Saitama — implemented scheduled power outages beginning Monday. But, because people reduced their power usage enough on Monday, some of the scheduled outages did not occur.
Nevertheless, the energy supply is still a major concern here. Locals are gassing up their vehicles as they anticipate a fuel shortage. I waited in line for about 35 minutes on Sunday evening to refuel my vehicle.
Jeff Liu still remembers the lofty status he acquired on the juvenile hierarchy by bullying those beneath him. The son of Chinese immigrants to Canada, Liu's menacing presence over other children gave him a sense of significance that wasn't coming from other sources, he said.
Liu, 27, said he struggled ac Courtesy Photo Jeff Liu with his wife and children Jenifer and Joseph. Liu was an accomplished bully growing up before finding a new identity in Christ, he said.ademically and, for a long time, doubted that he could amount to anything worthwhile. His father's perpetually negative disposition and discouragement from his sister didn't help matters.
By the time he reached the third grade, Liu's temper had become unmanageably. As the years progressed, Liu would often get into fights with classmates, even physically subduing older children. He said intimidating his peers earned him a status that became irresistible.
By Raymond Billy And Patrick Butler ResonateNews.com
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas — Young women facing the intense pressure of an unplanned pregnancy make the pilgrimage here from across the United States, a spokesman with Living Alternatives said on Tuesday. The mission of the youth "pilgrims" is nothing less than to save the life of their unborn children, so they may have a future and a hope.
Courtesy Photo A participant in last year's Hope Open Tennis Tournament readies for a shot during match at the event. The 15th annual installment of the three-day tournament will begin March 25.Funding for such a noble cause may seem a given, but even Living Alternatives — a 501 C3 charity registered in the state of Texas — has to hold events highlighting the meaningful measure of supporters, and once in awhile, throwing a party for them.
A mercy mission turned deadly at a medical screening in the African nation of Sierra Leone on Monday. Crowds waiting for medical attention became impatient at a stadium where staff from the 500-foot non-governmental hospital ship Africa Mercy was preparing to screen patients for medical attention.
Claire Culwell wasn't supposed to reach her 23rd birthday or, for that matter, the preceding 22 birthdays. But on Sunday she will reach the 23-year milestone, overcoming improbable odds to do so.
Photo by Cathy Krafve Claire Culwell met her biological mother in 2009. It was at that time that she learned that she had survived an abortion attempt.If things had gone according to plan, Culwell's life would have ended, along with her twin's, in her mother's womb. But clinicians did not detect Culwell's presence when they aborted her twin in 1988. It was not until 2009 that Culwell learned of her near pre-birth demise.
ROMA, Texas - Sounding grim and determined in a tough message to drug-cartels operating on the border of Texas and Mexico last week, DEA Special Agent Lanny Hall had a simple message. “Enough. We are sending a message to cartel killers that we are on them; we will always be on them, and we’re not letting go,” Hall said to ResonateNews.com on Thursday. Federal agents from the DEA, ICE and FBI joined forces with Texas Department of Public Safety, Sheriff and local police raiding known hideouts of drug runners in South Texas border towns after U.S. Immigrations and Customs agent Jaime Zapata was killed in Mexico last week. The raids were part of a coordinated coast-to-coast sweep coordinated by the DEA to announce their presence and persistence to criminal drug gangs that have ravaged Mexican border towns with fear and intimidation. The effect of the violence has spilled over into Texas, Satellite Imagery of U.S./ Mexico border near Laredo, TexasHall said.
The slum of Kibera, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, is shown from above with a pristine village adjacent. About 170,000 people live in Kibera. Courtesy Photo
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Stand in the center of Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, and you'll literally be standing in the center of a cesspool, some who have visited the neighborhood say. An area whose population is said by the government to be about 170,000 people as of 2009 — though some observers believe that number is drastically understated — Kibera is bereft of infrastructure and services that others in the country would consider necessary for basic sanitation.
Shoppers gather at a marketplace in Jos, Nigeria, in April 2010. Food prices are soaring in Nigeria, raising the prospect of a political uprising in the country, some analysts say.
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Amid political upheavals in southwest Asia and northern African, officials in Nigeria are bracing for the possibility that civil unrest could spread to its part of the continent. Not that this country — Africa's most populous nation with about 140 million citizens — is not already facing major challenges. It has long dealt with religious strife between Muslims and Christians. Oil crises seem always at the country's doorstep. But, the latest challenge to hit the country — rising food prices — are what some geopolitical analysts are suggesting might tip the scales of the country in favor of revolution.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, center, and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, right, participate in a news conference July 2, 2010, in Baltimore to raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs. Kerlikowske will be visiting Kentucky next week to evaluate the progress of officials there in combating illegal prescription drug use. Photo by Maryland Attorney General's Office
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
When a team of federal drug-control officials visits Kentucky next week, what it will find is a state under duress, some residents there say.
The officials will tour Kentucky to gauge the progress being made there on tackling what many are calling a debilitating drug trade — which includes the illegal sell of prescription medications. The team, led by Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, will be making a three-day visit to the state, a spokesperson for the offices told ResonateNews.com on Tuesday.
Kentuckians say a high rate of depression — fueled by what census data shows to be one of the highest levels of poverty in the nation — has many residents there eager consumers of narcotics.
Five People Die In Allentown Gas Line Explosion Wednesday; Hundreds Evacuated
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Five people died and several more were injured after a gas explosion Wednesday in Allentown, Pa. Hundreds of residents were evacuated from nearby homes, many of which were badly damaged or destroyed. Officials from UGI Utilities, Inc., believe a leaky 12-inch main broke, setting off the explosion.
Courtesy Photo The Rev. Donald Stone, pastor of Lehigh Presbyterian Church in Allentown, Pa., was blocks away from a gas explosion there that killed five people.“I've never seen anything close to this magnitude,” said the Rev. Donald Stone, 62, who has lived in Allentown — a city that has endured multiple industrial accidents over the years — since 1982.
Stone, the pastor of Lehigh Valley Presbyterian Church in Allentown, was in his home Wednesday just before 11 p.m. when he was startled by the explosion. The brick home rumbled for a few moments, followed by silence. Then, Stone heard “an avalanche of noise and activity” — horrified residents fleeing the scene, followed quickly by fire engines and ambulances.
In the minds of many Americans, few if any cities personify the word “libertine” quite like San Francisco. A place known for its easy-going sensibilities, it was recently calculated by the federal government to spend double the national Courtesy Photo The Rev. John Anderson, president and CEO of the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, Calif., was at one time homeless.average on alcohol. One website has recognized it as a tattoo enthusiast's paradise. But even in this city, where seemingly everything is permissible, the homeless population is viewed by many residents as a nuisance — if not a blight — on one of the nation's most picturesque locales.
Perhaps if the homeless weren't so visible, residents in this bastion of tolerance would be more welcoming to their presence. But visible the homeless are and have become increasingly so, according to city of San Francisco data. In a biennial survey of the local homeless population by the city — conducted solely based upon naked-eye guesstimates — San Francisco's vagrant population has risen steadily since the city to began counting them in 2005 at the behest of the federal government. Volunteers combed San Francisco last week for the 2011 installment of the homeless tally.
Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Lanny Hall describes drug trafficking on this road leading into Laredo on the U.S.-Mexico border. "They're looking for the dope," Hall said after observing several Department of Public Safety vehicles speeding by in the opposite direction. "We know we can't stop all drugs from coming into the country. What we're trying to do here is keep the lid from blowing completely off." Photo By Patrick Butler
EDITOR'S NOTE: ResonateNews.com Editor Patrick Butler is on the road with the Trail of Healing — a prayer-based convoy composed of people from Louisiana and Texas ministry organizations. The group is traveling El Camino Real de los Tejas in hopes of leaving in there wake peace and restoration from historical transgressions. The trail has six key stops and ended in Roma, Texas, on Wednesday. Read the story this weekend on ResonateNews.com.
By PATRICK BUTLER ResonateNews.com
LAREDO, Texas — Lanny Hall, 55, deals with what he calls the spirit of death and manipulation on a daily basis. Hall is a Drug Enforcement Administration supervisory special agent stationed in Laredo, Texas, and the situation on the border is more than sad, he said on the road to Laredo on Tuesday afternoon.
As a huge, bright Texas sun set on Interstate 35 south and an endless Texas prairie, an equally endless line of trucks make its way north from the South Texas town of Laredo. The January air is biting cold, and Hall is animated as he talks about the city he’s been living in for seven years.
Some of the trucks are undoubtedly involved, he said, in activities that Hall has made a focus of his career as a special agent and his spiritual calling as a Christian — the war against the unique darkness associated with international drug cartels.
ON TEXAS HIGHWAY 21 — The eight-car caravan of 25 people called the Trail of Healing started its day in “Aggieland” i.e., on the campus of Texas A&M University at 9 a.m. under the Century Tree. The campus landmark is a huge legendary oak tree with root-like boughs spreading out over the walkways leading to classrooms.
A prayer for the next generation of leaders was led by A&M student Amy Schlueter. Adults twice her age agreed with her in prayer for “the calling forth” of youths who would help engage their world, helping to anchor it in spiritual stability.
ALTO, Texas — Traveling through Texas with the Trail of Healing on Sunday was a lesson in dealing with current social problems in the Lone Star State, through historical roots of injustice. Walking the actual El Camino Royal — The Royal Road — at Mission Tejas State Park near Alto, was an exercise in research, faith — and facing harsh facts.
From tracing the steps of Damian Massanet — a priest who helped establish The Royal Road in 1691, to Davy Crockett — who walked the trail with his Tennessee Volunteers in 1836 — a convoy of 25 people prayed at historical Texas sights to help set right the wrongs of generations past.
It was not just European history recounted for correction, the group learned.
EDITOR'S NOTE: ResonateNews.com Editor Patrick Butler is on the road with the Trail of Healing — a prayer-based convoy composed of people from Louisiana and Texas ministry organizations. The group is traveling El Camino Real de los Tejas in hopes of leaving in their wake peace and restoration from historical transgressions. The trail has six key stops and ends in Roma, Texas, on Wednesday.
By Patrick Butler ResonateNews.com
NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The Trail of Healing arrived here Saturday on the second of a six-day journey across Texas. A group of intercessors from prayer-based organizations throughout Texas and Louisiana —where the trail began —are taking part in the sojourn in hopes of leaving peace and closure in their wake. Several stops along the trail hold painful memories for Native Americans.
The Church of Immaculate Conception is shown on Church Street in Natchitoches, La. The Trail of Healing began Friday in this historic Northwestern Louisiana city, the oldest permanent settlement in the state. Photo By Matt Howry
From Staff Reports ResonateNews.com
NATCHITOCHES, La. — A convoy of prayer warriors began an intercessory journey Friday on Day 1 of the Trail of Healing. Voyagers hoped to bring peace and cleansing to locales that hold painful history, particularly for Native Americans. Natchitoches is the historic starting point of El Camino Real de los Tejas, the path that the intercessors are trekking.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Five volunteers and one staffer from Parental Care Ministries visited Mbarara, Uganda, this week. Representatives with the organization visited one of its orphanages there and conducted a pastors conference. They also sought to update information for Parental Care's child sponsorship program and encourage the children. They filed this dispatch from the country on Wednesday.
Grace was placed at Parental Care School Mbarara Uganda in December. She is among the more than 2.3 million orphans in the sub-Saharan African country, according to U.N. Data. Courtesy PhotoMBARARA, Uganda — Grace is 5 years old. She doesn’t know exactly what happened to her mother and father; she only knows they are no longer with her. On the day they went away, all of her security, love, provision and protection left as well.
Grace's story is not unusual in this sub-Saharan African country. More than 2.3 million, or 14 percent, of the nation's children are orphaned here, according to the United Nations Children's Fund. Nearly half of those orphans lost their caregivers to complications from the AIDS virus, according to U.N. data.
This child was recently adopted from the Widows and Orphans of Ethiopia orphanage by a family in America. There are about 30 children in this orphanage waiting to be adopted. Courtesy Photo
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
The Jan. 22 anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the U.S. has been used as an occasion for abortion opponents to state their belief that life begins at conception and to affirm its sanctity for 38 years. During that span, efforts have been made — with considerable success — to limit the scope of abortion in the absence of an outright ban.
But, abortion opponents, particularly in the Christian community, also have sought to convince women not to use their legal prerogative to terminate a pregnancy. They have been advocating alternatives to the procedure such as carrying the child to term and putting it up for adoption. They also are seeking to ensure these children are matched with quality families and don't end up in foster care limbo.
Urban blight is not an uncommon sight in Camden, N.J., where an estimated 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Photo By Nic Justice
Some Residents Seek Spiritual Revival As “The Only Option.”
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Christine Richards, sounded despondent as she spoke Tuesday from her hometown of Camden, N.J.
“It's just getting worse here,” she said.
The “it” Ms. Richards, 65, refered to is an oppressive social climate in Camden, whose state of affairs — rampant crime, chronic poverty and widespread drug addiction — is born out of a potent mix of self hatred, rejection and hopelessness, some residents say.
Opportunities are scarce to savor civic achievement in this southern New Jersey city, located five miles east of Philadelphia. Once topping a national survey of the country’s most violent cities, Camden recently received a rare positive dispatch that it had dipped below St. Louis on that list in November.
Welcome news that Camden has become slightly safer was tempered Tuesday when 167 of the city's 373 police officers turned in their badges — the consequence of layoffs undertaken by Camden to cut a $26 million budget deficit. Some residents say the city has only a loose grip on law and order.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Amid the backdrop of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, members of the Christian community are working to make the issue a top public policy priority and a focus of community activism. Christian advocates for trafficked people, who spoke to ResonateNews.com this week, said the American church is not as proactive in combating this practice as it could be.
Human trafficking entails the commercial exploitation of people for prostitution or labor.
Kenny Rigsby, cofounder of For the Silent — a Tyler, Texas-based organization dedicated to fighting child trafficking — said consciousness among believers about the slave trade is uneven.
Rigsby said representatives from For the Silent recently spoke to a church congregation in Oklahoma where “most people had no idea how big trafficking is in the states. On the other hand, we spoke at a church in Kansas City, Mo., and they seemed pretty well-informed,” he said. “It's rapidly becoming a priority among Christians, but it's not a top priority.”
Photo by ResonateNews.com OVERCOMING: Ruby, right, Robert and Robin Green of Victory Bible Church of Arkansas, serve communion with Roger Merschbrock of the Louisiana Apostolic Prayer Network on Saturday at Grace Bible Church in Homer, La. Prayers for healing from racism and anti- semitism were offered by the Rev. Dr. Ruby Green. The meeting was held two days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
By Patrick Butler ResonateNews.com
North Louisiana has its own set of societal problems, said long-time state resident Judy Watson, who attended the Glory Invasion meetings at Homer’s Grace Bible Church Friday and Saturday. She was seeking answers and direction from God about drug addiction, recidivism, and lingering racism near Grambling University and North Louisiana Tech. University where she lives.
Don McLeroy, Longtime Texas Gadfly In U.S. Education Policy Debate, Not Re-elected
WORLDVIEW: Don McLeroy was a public school textbook-change advocate in Texas for 12 years. Texas is a national leader in textbook purchases, and influences many choices in textbook publishing, nationwide. Courtesy photo
By Raymond Billy ResonateNews.com
Secularists across the United States had extra reason to celebrate the dawn of 2011. On Jan. 1, one of the chief objects of their ire relinquished his post on what has become one of the most powerful committees in the country.
Don McLeroy — who runs a dental practice in College Station, Texas — had served on the Texas State Board of Education for 12 years. His tenure ended on New Year’s Day as a result of his Republican primary defeat last March. Though disappointed with the way his term ended, McLeroy said his dozen years on the board were gratifying.
“I’m very pleased with what I was able to accomplish,” McLeroy said during an interview with ResonateNews.com on his last day as a board member. “The last three years were especially rewarding.”
It was those three years that were perhaps the most nauseating to McLeroy’s adversaries in the education community — which is predominantly a left-leaning constituency, he said. From 2008 to 2010, the State Board of Education pushed through sweeping curricular changes in the subjects of English, history and science that critics claim impose a Christian worldview on Texas schoolchildren and by extension, students across the country. Textbook publishers have financial incentive to tailor their content to meet Texas criteria because the Lone Star State — which has the second largest student population in the U.S. — makes such a large volume of purchases.
Critics claim Texas’ new science standards — which point to gaps in evolutionary theory —undermine scientific consensus. McLeroy makes no apologies for the new standards.
BLESSING: The Rev. Dr. Jay Swallow, center, places his hand on the Rev. Tom Schlueter, facing left, and the Rev. Ken Bryan, right center, as he prays a blessing on the Trail of Healing meetings in Snyder, Okla. Nov. 13, 2010. Choctaw, Apache , Caddo and Kiowa Nations members join Swallow in prayers for Bryan, who conceived the event, and Schlueter, director of the Texas Apostolic Prayer Network. Three days of meetings were held at the Holy Spirit Impact Center of Snyder, the Rev. David Rhodes, pastor
Photo by Patrick Butler
"The greatest moments of Native History lie ahead of us if a great spiritual renewal and wakening should take place. The Native American has been a sleeping giant. He is awakening. The original Americans could become the evangelists who will help win America for Christ! Remember these forgotten people!" - Evangelist Billy Graham, attributed.
NOTE: This part two of a two-part series. Part one ran Nov. 21 at ResonateNews.com
By PATRICK S. BUTLER
Riding the happy wake of a Trail of Healing meeting on Nov. 13, Jay Swallow of the Cheyenne Nation ticked off what seemed like a familiar list of sobering statistics. He had been asked what remained “to be done” in ministry to First Nation peoples in North America.
Swallow is part of author Dr. C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles, according to information at Swallow’s Web site, www.2-rivers.com and ministers to more than 250 Native American Nations.
“It is generally accepted today that prior to Columbus there were about 18 million people here,” Swallow said. “When the first census that included Native Americans was made in the late 19th century, there were only about 400,000 that could be found or would identify themselves. We’re back up to about three and a half million, now.”
Swallow was dining at what could be compared to a joyous Thanksgiving Dinner Norman Rockwell might have painted. Along with his co-worker Frank Noah of the Choctaw Nation, Swallow and about 70 people of several cultures were noisily crammed into the home of the Rev. David Rhodes.
The excited din in the-after meeting crowd at the Holy Spirit IMPACT Center in small-ish Snyder, Okla., was a welcome backdrop to the oft-repeated tale of misery befalling Native Americans. Swallow’s own ancestor, Chief Black Kettle of the Cheyenne, was killed in a surprise attack on Nov. 27, 1868.
But now it was Nov. 13, 2010. Swallow and Noah were seated at the head of long table of about 12 people, some descended from former enemies. As he looked towards the open rooms at the representatives of the Comanche, Kiowa, Caddo, Apache, Lakota, Choctaw, Arapaho nations - among others - feasting with European descendents, Swallow summed up.
“What makes the Trail of Healing meetings significant is that they (ministry leaders) are speaking properly and in order into the issues of the land and what happened on the Trail of Tears so long ago,” Swallow said, “making real revival and healing possible. “The meetings are also significant because only about three percent of Native Americans call themselves ‘born again’ and are operating in their testimony. The Trail of Healing is being done in the right way."
RELEASED: Southern Cheyenne Dr. Jay Swallow, center facing left, and Choctaw the Rev. Frank Noah (behind Swallow,) pray for and bless the efforts of the Rev. Dr. Tom Schlueter and the Rev. Ken Bryan at the Trail of Healing meetings in Snyder, Okla. Nov. 13, 2010. The three days of meetings at the Spirit of the Lord IMPACT Center in Snyder, helped "reverse the Trail of Tears," said Swallow.
Photo by Ginny Bryan
By PATRICK BUTLER
It was not your father’s Native American reconciliation meeting that was held in southern Oklahoma near Lawton last week. Instead of focusing on past pains, covenants broken and suffering endured, the three days of The Trail of Healing meetings honed in on, “The healing of hearts so people could fulfill their God-given potential,” said the event organizer.
The Trail of Healing’s ambitious goal was nothing less than to become a catharsis andreverse the effects of the historic Trail of Tears – the forced and often fatal removal of Native Americans in the 19th the century – said the Rev. Ken Bryan, who conceived the Trail of Healing event.
And the meetings were largely led – and endorsed – by Native Americans who led in prayers for individuals coming to the “altars of healing,” and blessed the gathering itself, lending authenticity to the event's cultural relevancy, Bryan said.
“What you (organizers) are doing here at these meetings is the Trail of Healing,” said visiting Dr. Jay Swallow during Saturday night’s meeting in the tiny town of Snyder at the Holy Spirit IMPACT Center. “They are speaking properly and significantly inot the issues of the land and what has happened here (on the Trail of Tears).”
Swallow is a descendant of Southern Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle who was killed during a surprise U.S. Army raid at Washita River 142 years ago, this Nov. 27. The raid was led by Col.George Armstrong Custer.
Swallow, accompanied by Choctaw Frank Noah, is an advisor to more than 250 Native American Tribes. Swallow is also an official ambassador of the Cheyenne nation and founded the Two Rivers Native American Training Center with Nigel Bigpond, pastor of Morning Star Evangelistic Center. Noah relates to about 40 tribes as well as an advisor.
Jay Swallow, a Cheyenne, prays for Lisa French at the Trail of Healing ministry meetings in Snyder, Oklahoma on Saturday. Native Americans were invited to lead prayers for healing, and "commissioning" for all attendees on the second day of the three day meetings held at the Spirit of the Lord IMPACT center in Snyder, led by the Rev. David Rhodes.
Swallow said, "The Trail of Healing meetings have been effective because they are held on land where the roots of the territory involve native peoples. The leaders (of Trail of Healing) are speaking properly and signficantly into the issues of the land and what has happened here. We have a commission and we are passing it on. When we can commision others as (Native) representatives, there is a great release - not only of healing, but of a feeling of revival, like we've had here tonight.
Rhodes said the meetings have "been awesome."
"So far, the Trail of Healing has been a wonderful example of putting Native Americans into their rightful place of authority," said Rhodes on Saturday night after the meetings. "Tonight, Jay Swallow opened our meeting in prayer, and Frank Noah (Choctaw) closed it. In between, God's presence among us has been awesome."
The Trail of Healing meetings, sponsored by Kenshire Ministries and the Texas Apostolic Prayer Network, continue Sunday at 10 a.m. at the church located at 1401 E. Street in Snyder.
Look for a story and photo gallery on the Trail of Healing soon at ResonateNews.com
Native Americans led in prayer for "other cultures" at the Trail of Healing services in Snyder, Okla. on Friday. The three days of meetings, sponsored by Kenshire Ministries and the Texas Apostolic Prayer Network, are being held about 30 miles west of Lawton, near historic Fort Sill and in the heart of today's Commanche Nation.
Meetings will continue at 5 p.m. today, and at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Spirit of the Lord Impact Center, 1401 E Street in Snyder.
Blaise Foret of the International House of Prayer will be the keynote speaker at 7 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Community Christian Fellowship, 15704 Highway 110 North, located just north of I-20 and next to Mercy Ships of Garden Valley. Foret, who holds a degree from Liberty University in Biblical Studies and Church Ministry has been with the House of Prayer for two years.
The subject of the two sessions will be “Signs and Wonders; The Awakening.” The House of Prayer ministry, located in Kansas City, Mo. has specialized in “24-7 continuous prayer, ” said Foret, by teams of “intercessors” and musicians who pray in sets in specialized, focused times of prayer.
International worship leader and composer Paul Baloche (Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord) will lead worship.
A $15 fee will provide lunch on Saturday and an offering to go to the House of Prayer and Foret, said information from the church. Visit the Web at www.ccflindale.org.
REVIVED: Winkie Pratney, right, general editor of the newly released Revival Study Bible and his son William Pratney, talk about the completion of the ten-year-project Study Bible project from their home in New Zealand, via Skype on Tuesday. The Study Bible list 100 contributors and comes with a companion DVD that includes 300 rare manuscripts, out-of-print books and hundreds of articles.
Ten Years In Production: “The Revival Study Bible” Beats The Odds and Comes Forth
“The end is the return and restoration of a new relationship with God. Seek revival and you won’t have a real answer. You seek God, and you may have a revival.” - Author Winkie Pratney, general editor of The Revival Study Bible
By PATRICK BUTLER ResonateNews.com
The inescapable reality behind the concept of religious revival, said author and youth evangelist William “Winkie” Pratney is that when the love of God and needy men intersect, all heaven breaks loose. That subject is the focus of Armour Publishing's massive new Revival Study Bible, coming soon to the United States.
“When a revival comes to an area of the world, questions are inevitably asked by those wanting to know what's going on,” Pratney said in an interview from his New Zealand home on Tuesday. “They want to know why this is happening, why did God choose this place, these people and this time? After a revival, the question is asked by some, ‘How can we have this (a revival) happen where we live?’”
If a single word is needed to grasp the comprehensive nature of the hefty 1,973-page Revival Study Bible, it is “exhaustive.” Once immersed in its pages, revival not only seems, as Pratney said, “cyclical and repetitive” in history, it seems to be inevitable - if not somewhat elusive.
“Encouragement comes as people read the repetitive nature of revivals throughout the history of the church,” Pratney said. “God continues to move throughout time and in different areas of the world in a wide variety of circumstances.This Study Bible shows that he uses not always the biggest, best and most beautiful in a revival but the little, least and sometime the “losers” among us.”
Lest those from any theological persuasion misunderstand, however, Pratney cautions upfront and without hesitation that the subject of revival - or even experiencing a revival as result- is not the point of the Revival Study Bible.
I attended a pretty spectacular midday prayer meeting recently that included Claudia Altamirano of Leon, Nicaragua. To call such a meeting “spectacular” is remarkable to begin with… …and I don’t mean “spectacular” because there were miracles performed or such things. Or perhaps there was as I take another look at it.
It went like this:
I got to the meeting late (of course) and sat in as someone was praying for “provision.”That’s a pretty common prayer these days, because no matter what the media says, there are still plenty of people without work around us, wherever we are.
I was encouraged by the tone of the prayers – full of steady assurance that God was good, his children would be provided for and that peace would pass the understanding of circumstances.
For those who are counting, there are chapters and verses to go along every one of those thoughts and prayers. I guess I was counting, because I noticed this prayer time was “biblical.”Perhaps having been a newspaper Religion editor for years and years makes me notice things like that.
The meeting was wrapping up when an additional thought came – almost like a “p.s.” to a letter. Leave it to God to say something in a still, small voice, almost like a hint or suggestion that could have easily been ignored or put aside: “Pray for the Spanish speaking world.”
FAITH: Students lead prayer before class at Lindale High School in Texas as part of the global "See You At The Pole" prayer rally on Wednesday morning. National event supporters - such as Student Discipleship Ministries - hoped that more than three million students would participate internationally in the prayer time. Almost 300 students participated in Lindale - a town of only 4,500 - local student leaders estimated, making it the largest SYATP gathering ever held at the school.
By PATRICK BUTLER
The “Global Day of Student Prayer,” See You At The Pole" prayer rally for Christian youth was held early Wednesday morning. The faith-touchstone event for Jr. high and high school youth is now in its 20th year after a strong start by students in Burleson, Texas.
In 1990 more than 56,000 students joined in student-led prayers prior to school classes at campus flagpoles in four states, said information from See You At The Pole. Youth group students in Burleson - who had conceived of the event while in “intense prayer” - shared their idea of youth praying at their school flagpoles while attending a large youth conference in June of 1990. Students throughout Texas and in three other states joined in the first morning's, “cry to God for his Spirit to move” through their campus.
“This event today is all about students praying and asking God to reveal himself,” said the See You At The Pole Web site. The prayer time, “can provide powerful connections to pray and reach out (to fellow students) all year long.”
National level event "supporters" - who underscored that they are not organizers - hoped that up to three million students would participate world-wide. Students at each school are responsible to organize, publicize and run the event, eliminating the need for a central authority to control outcomes or prayers.
This year’s theme, suggested by event supporters for 2010’s SYATP was “Reveal” after a scripture found in the Book of Matthew, 6:9-13 which is commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer.” In the prayer led by Christ himself, Jesus teaches his disciples to ask for and extend forgiveness, not be led into temptation and that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
"She didn't shout. She didn't plead. She didn't have to. Holding the podium to keep her balance, her eyes gleamed. She spoke of forgiving her tormentors who perpetrated horror beyond belief."
ANOTHER LOOK: Patrick Butler
Not many who came out of the Nazi death camps of World War II could smile and forgive. Since the Jewish New year, Rosh Hashana just passed and Yom Kippur 2010 starts at sundown tonight, perhaps now would be a good time to recall the faith of Jew-hider, Corrie ten-Boom of Holland.
Corrie ten-Boom's faith passed the test of horrors in the shadow of death. Her's is a faith-in-God story no one should be unaware of, or miss. The poignant tale of the ten-Boom family who accepted the consequences of helping and hiding Jews in Holland during the Nazi madness, reveals their motivation from a sense of obligation to, and love for, Christ.
The ten-Booms tried to make amends for - and within - their own generation directly in the face of the most intense evil of the 20th century. Today we would call that, "Making a Difference." But this family paid for their compassion, courage and convictions with their lives without killing anyone. Does that type of faith live today?
Travelling To TaraPoto Yields Life-Changing Results
EDITORS NOTE: Melanie Wallace travelled to Tarapoto, Peru, in the jungle regions of the Andes Mountains in July with SCRUBS Medical Mission of Texas. She filed this report after her return to the United States
"This was a battle for the people, not just physically, but spiritually." - Roland Heddins, SCRUBS team member
By MELANIE WALLACE Special Correspondent to ResonateNews.com
Their destination was the jungle region of Peru, South America. Their purpose was to provide free medical care to the impoverished people of Tarapoto and surrounding villages, high in the Andes Mountains July 9-18. And team members with Lindale-based “Sharing Compassion, Restore Unity, Becoming Servants” (SCRUBS) had eagerly anticipated their departure date for six months, said the ministry’s co-founder Holly Garland. There was excitement in the air as 15 team members left Lindale on July 8 for the high Andes Mountain city of Tarapoto and surrounding small villages of impoverished Peru.
ABOVE: Melody Green, wife of Keith Green, speaks about her late husband's "radical obedience" to God and worldwide ministry, at the University of the Nations, Kona, Hawaii, July 28, 2010. Green was based in East Texas at Last Days Ministry on the present site of Teen Mania photo:Internet Vid-Cap
Webcast Recalls Passion of "Radical" Smith County Christian Musician Keith Green
by PATRICK BUTLER, ResonateNews.com
GARDEN VALLEY, Texas - Smith County-based Contemporary Christian musician Keith Green died 28 years today ago in a plane crash on the site of today's Teen Mania in Garden Valley. Green's musical and print media nonprofit organization, Last Days Ministry spanned the globe from Garden Valley, touching hundreds of thousands of lives.
At 7 p.m Central on Wednesday, Green and Last Days Ministry once again is "on" live and in color via the internet, and his message being viewed afresh by thousands of listeners worldwideThe Last Days Ministry anniversary event called "28-28-28" is being webcast live from the University of the Nations at this moment. The university was founded in the 1970's and still operated by Youth With A Mission today.
"Kieth Green died at age 28, on July 28, 28 years ago," said J. Thomas Rogers, who moderated the webcast chat room from his Smith County office.
A California musician who came to East Texas in the 1970's, Green was part of a missionary migration to Smith County that included David Wilkerson withTeen Challenge, Agape Force with Winkie Pratney and Youth With A Mission. The music ministries of Dallas Holm and Praise, The Second Chapter of Acts and Green would follow the evangelistic organizations coming to Smith County.
Later, Mercy Ships and Teen Mania would also relocate into north Smith County.
In addition to Green's sought-after music - with sometimes sharp-edged lyrics lambasting Christ-followers for their lazy indifference to the world problems of hunger and poverty - Green's splashy Last Days Newsletter printed at Last Days created world-wide ripples. The ministry's six-color press - located where the Teen Mania gymnasium now stands - churned out hundreds of thousands of the newsletters. Copies of the original newsletters are now available at www.keithgreen.com
In Hawaii, Green's widow, Melody said to a large audience that her young husbands "authenticity" was his draw 30 years ago, and still engages younger listeners today. Her husband "repented in tears" she said, of seeking fame and recognition for his musical talent.
"We need Keith's radical obedience today," said Mrs. Green. "We need to stop just showing up at church and being 'happy-clappy. I want to change the world, don't you?"