Former Slave Goes on Hunger Strike for South Sudan

“The situation in South Sudan is heartbreaking, and such a horrible waste.” — Faith J. H. McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Program Director

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — A South Sudanese activist and former slave is calling on President Obama to act quickly to stop the destruction of the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan.

The country has been riven by ongoing conflict since December 2013, instigated by a coup attempt against the government by the former Vice President of the country.

Simon Deng, who is from the Shilluk ethnic group and is a United States citizen, believes that the only solution is for the U.S. President to press the government of South Sudan and President Salva Kiir Mayardit, as well as all of the other parties in the conflict into controlling their militias to stop the fighting.

To call attention to the conflict, Deng is conducting a hunger strike outside The White House, hoping that the Administration will act on behalf of his people. He explains in an open letter to President Obama why he is launching a hunger strike.

“South Sudan only exists as an independent country today thanks to the United States of America,” he reminds Obama. But “the senseless renewal of civil war since independence,” has resulted in approximately 70,000 South Sudanese dead, 2 million displaced, and some 4 million on the verge of starvation.

Deng compares the role of the United States to that of a midwife, bringing a new baby (South Sudan) into the world. “Yet in the intervening years, it is as if South Sudan was an infant left to fend for itself,” Deng laments. “While we [the U.S.] were present and active for the whole process leading up to the birth, afterwards we turned away, washed our hands, and moved on.”

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J. H. McDonnell commented:

“As Simon has said, the United States has had a special relationship with South Sudan from the time that it was still part of Sudan and its own government was waging genocidal jihad against it.

“It is easy to see the influence of the Islamist regime in Khartoum in what is now taking place and how they are taking advantage of the new nation which is still full of war-traumatized people – even up to the top leaders.”

www.TheIRD.org

HBU Announces Archie W. Dunham College of Business

Archie and Linda Dunham

Houston Baptist University announced it has received a $15 million gift from well-known Christian business executive Archie W. Dunham and his wife Linda. The gift represents the largest single gift in the University’s history and will fund scholarships, provide assistance for the Dunham Bible Museum, and result in the naming of the school of business.

HBU President Robert B. Sloan, Jr., announced the naming of the Archie W. Dunham College of Business. “We have long been blessed at HBU to be able to point our students to Archie and Linda Dunham as examples of the transforming power of Christian faith and Christian influence in the world,” said President Sloan. “It is now an added privilege to be able to point to the Archie W. Dunham College of Business as a further tangible expression of our gratitude to the Dunham family.”

The announcement was made at the May 12, 2015 meeting of the HBU Board of Trustees. “Archie and Linda Dunham represent everything we celebrate at HBU: Christian faith, character, service to others, generosity, and excellence in all the things that truly matter,” said Sloan. “Probably the best testimony to everything that Linda and Archie exemplify can be seen in their outstanding and faithful children and grandchildren.”

Archie W. Dunham is the Non-Executive Chairman of Chesapeake Energy. He served as Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Conoco Inc., then as Chairman of ConocoPhillips, following the merger of Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Company. Previously, Archie served on the boards of Phelps Dodge Corporation, Pride International, DuPont, Louisiana Pacific Corporation, Union Pacific Corporation, Chase, and Consol Energy. He is also a member of the Deutsche Bank’s Americas Advisory Board. Dunham and his wife Linda are members of the HBU President’s Leadership Council, and they are active members of Second Baptist Church. The Dunhams’ son Cary is a 1993 graduate of HBU.

“Linda and I have observed the growth and positive impact on students of Houston Baptist University during the last nine years under Dr. Robert Sloan’s outstanding leadership,” said Dunham. “We believe that HBU is becoming one of America’s leading Christian Universities where integrity, ethics, and moral leadership are being taught to a new generation of future leaders. Linda and I are honored to be associated with the University.”

The Dunhams were recognized for their commitment to HBU with the President’s Lifetime Award at the Spirit of Excellence Gala in November 2014. They are past recipients of the Spirit of Excellence Award. They have supported a number of major on-campus projects that hold their name, including the Dunham Bible Museum, Dunham Theater, and Dunham Field for the University’s newly constructed football stadium.

A Journey Through the 23rd Psalm

By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield

During bible times most people could neither read or write. Knowledge of history and everything else was passed along by traveling minsters or musicians. King David who grew up as a shepard wrote the 23rd Psalm as just such a song. There are 150 psalms in the Old Testament. The 23rd has probably been read, recited, etc. more than the other 149 combined. But how many of us have ever taken a close look at it, or even put effort into truly understanding its message ?

Lets start with verse one,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. “

Is scripture telling us that we will never go hungry, or homeless or experience want ? Certainly not. What it is saying is that God will fill the voids in our life, whether they be physical, spiritual, emotional , or whatever. What it is saying is that God is more than sufficient to see us through when some part of our world is lacking.

Now look at verse two,

“ He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. “

Here we are told that God will not lead us to struggle or hardship. However if we become distracted from him, and his word our broken world certainly will ! God constantly tries to lead us to a place of peace and happiness. But the question is are we listening to him, or to this world and the circumstances of our lives ?

And then verse three says,

“ He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

This can be thought of as a two part verse. The first part talks about God restoring our soul, of giving us strength to see us through what the world tosses our way. The second part in a way continues the message of verse two. It explains why God does what verse two promises he will do. God values each one of us more than we will ever comprehend. However part of what verse two promises is that he will use his action in our lives to bring glory to him through our example. We know he will deliver on his promise because by helping us he is actually accomplishing his own goals.

Verse four talks directly about God and how he comforts us though this world’s struggles,

“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

We cannot see God, so we cannot see his rod and his staff. However we as Christians gain much comfort from our knowledge of his presence in our lives. Much as a sheep gains comfort from the knowledge that the shepard is watching over them. Like many Christians my wife and I have crosses hung around our home. We do not do so because we worship the cross. That would be idolatry and sinful.
We do so because the crosses and other religious symbols remind us of God’s provision in our lives. Provision which even extends to the sacrifice of his own son ! Knowledge of God’s presence will chase fear out of our lives, and bring us much comfort. It can be helpful to have physical reminders of this around us.

Verse five talks about God’s desire to pamper us,

“ Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. “

Back in biblical times one of the most common ways to honor someone was to throw a feast in their honor. The bigger the feast the bigger the honor being rendered. Scripture tells us here that God honors those who follow him, more than those against them, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact it is saying that if you honor God in private, he will honor you in front of the whole world. Oil in biblical times was very expensive. Only the richest and most powerful could even posses it. What God is telling us through David in this part of verse five is no amount of luxury is enough for those that follow God.

In verse six David closes this chapter by expressing confidence in God’s will for us,

“ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. “

When it comes to his people God doesn’t quit, and he doesn’t give up ! From our very first breath to our very last God holds out hope that we will continue to turn to him. No one is beyond his salvation, and all are worthy of his protection and guidance. It is our fallen world that distracts us from him and what he would do in our lives.

Gospel for Asia Redoubles Disaster Relief Efforts in Nepal

Greatest Enemy Relief Workers Face after Latest Quake is Fear
KATHMANDU, Nepal, May 13, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — Gospel for Asia Compassion Service Teams in India are assessing the destruction caused by a 7.3-magnitude earthquake yesterday that killed at least 37 people and injured more than 1,100. Relief workers right away began responding to immediate needs by providing medical care and relief supplies, as well as continuing to offer crisis counseling and prayers for the victims. They are also working to determine damage to churches, Bible schools and children’s centers. Photo: Gospel for Asia missionaries from India and local Believers Church members in Nepal distribute desperately needed relief supplies to isolated villages, most of which have been unreached with either relief aid by the government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Supported by Gospel for Asia, teams from Believers Church were already in Nepal to deliver food, clothing and other supplies to victims of an April 25 quake. The Associated Press reported the earlier disaster killed more than 8,150 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. In addition to the 37 victims today, the news service said the quake killed 16 people in India and one in Tibet. Raahi, a Gospel for Asia photojournalist, said his team had stopped for a rest while driving to a rural area to deliver relief supplies when yesterday’s earthquake struck, just as they were getting out of their car. The tremor prompted screams from people and sent many scrambling for the first available open space. “People were screaming and crying,” he said. “Kathmandu now looks like a ghost town, with only 25 percent of the shops remaining open. People are afraid to enter any buildings. Restaurants are mostly closed. Many have stopped coming into Kathmandu to work. They are too afraid.” Many people will be sleeping outside in Kathmandu, including the Gospel for Asia-supported relief workers who gave away the last of their temporary relief tents earlier today. “There is fear among everyone,” Raahi said. “You can just feel it. People who have already lost so much are beginning to lose hope. Tomorrow we will continue on with relief work. Pray that we can get to our destination safely.” Gospel for Asia has worked in Nepal for more than 25 years. For decades, the ministry has also provided disaster relief throughout South Asia when tragedy strikes areas it serves, such as after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Gospel for Asia supports 450 churches, 20 Bridge of Hope children centers and Bible schools in Nepal. Some were destroyed or damaged by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake in April, Nepal’s worst in 80 years. Many church leaders and members lost their homes or can no longer safely live in them. More information about Gospel for Asia’s disaster recovery efforts in Nepal can be obtained at www.gfa.org/info/nepal-earthquake. Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) is a mission organization sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.

Christian Legal Drama, ‘Prayer Never Fails’ Explores Freedom of Religion

MADISON, Fla., May 12, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — Prayer Never Fails, a new faith-based film that supports freedom of religion in American schools, will begin shooting July 6, 2015 in Madison, Florida.

“Prayer Never Fails, which tells the story of a high school basketball coach that is fired for praying with a player, is a timely film, which explores issues of faith, prayer, and freedom of religion. It covers all topics that permeate headlines and struggles of the heart,” according to Los Angeles based Producer, Scott Seegmiller.

Despite the fact that Florida has not renewed it’s tax credit program, the production team has decided to shoot in Madison, Florida. Seegmiller, has recently launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com to raise $100,000 in twenty days to offset losing tax credits and to give people the opportunity to get behind this amazing message.

“Film is about building long lasting relationships, memories, and emotions that stand the test of time and we chose to shoot this film in Madison, Florida because the entire city was so welcoming… its culture demonstrates a true love for cinema. But in doing so, we will lose the tax credit benefits that shooting elsewhere would have provided,” according to Wes Miller, the lawyer turned Writer-Director.

“Our goal with this Prayer Never Fails is to spread the message that religious freedom and expression should include the ability to pray anywhere we go, even at school,” said Seegmiller. “This film is designed to open the hearts of lawmakers and educators and encourage people to join in the discussion to protect our religious freedoms,” noted Miller, who strongly believes schools are battle grounds for children’s souls.

Persons supporting the film project will have an opportunity to get involved with the production of the film. “From pre-buying a copy of the movie, buying a gift for a coach that has helped them out, to being an extra or an Executive Producer on the film. It’s a rare opportunity to be part of a film from the ground up,” pointed out Seegmiller.

“If you believe in the importance of prayer, and more so, if you believe that teachers shouldn’t have to forget their faith when they check-in for work, then ‘Prayer Never Fails’ is a movie for you,” said Miller. After all, the only thing necessary for good to triumph over evil is for good men and women to do something.

To make a pledge visit, bit.ly/prayerwins

Biola University Launches Historic $180 Million Comprehensive Campaign

LA MIRADA, Calif., May 11, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — On Saturday, May 9, Biola University publicly launched the most ambitious fundraising effort in its history, a $180 million comprehensive campaign titled, “A Soul of Conviction, A Voice of Courage: The Campaign for Biola University.”

“This is the largest, most ambitious fundraising campaign in Biola’s history — by a long shot — because our dreams for Biola’s future are big,” said Biola University President Barry H. Corey. “We dream of a more affordable and more globally accessible Biola, a university with the reach and capacity to provide biblically centered education on a scale we have never seen before in our history.”

The historic fundraising effort — the first comprehensive campaign in Biola’s history — seeks to raise support for student scholarships, facilities, academic centers and online learning.

In total, $152 million has been given or pledged to the campaign to date, including the largest donation in Biola’s 107-year history, a $12 million gift from Alton Lim of Long Beach.

The highest campaign priority is addressing the challenges of college affordability, with $85 million — nearly half of the overall campaign goal — slated for student scholarships. Another $74 million will go to build facilities that inspire learning, the largest of which is the $63 million Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health.

The campaign’s goals also include $13 million to influence the world of ideas, largely through new academic centers, and $8 million to extend Biola’s global reach through international partnerships and the expansion of online programs.

The university announced the public launch of the campaign on May 9 at a black-tie “Conviction and Courage Gala” at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, just a few blocks away from where Biola was founded in 1908. The Ace Hotel is the current home to one of Biola’s original 7-foot red neon “Jesus Saves” signs, shining brightly today as it did in 1935 when it was first installed atop Biola’s north dormitory at Sixth and Hope streets.

Eric Metaxas, author of The New York Times No. 1 bestseller “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” and recently released, “Miracles,” was the keynote speaker for the May 9 event. Metaxas also just launched “The Eric Metaxas Show,” — a new nationally syndicated radio program — on April 20, 2015.

The announcement moves the five-year campaign from its private phase, which began in January 2012, into its public phase, which is projected to conclude at the end of 2016.

“Over and over again, we have felt such confirmation from God that we are pursuing the things that he wants us to pursue,” said Adam Morris, vice president for advancement. “This isn’t just about big gifts. We recognize every donation, no matter the size, as a sacrifice and act of faithfulness to the Lord. Every gift moves us closer to the finish line — and closer to where we believe God is leading us as a biblically grounded, major national university that desires to make a global impact for Christ.”

For more information about The Campaign for Biola University, visit biola.edu/campaign. Read more on Alton Lim’s donation here: now.biola.edu/news/article/2015/may/09/biola-university-receives-historic-12-million-gift.

Believers in India Respond to Nepal Earthquake Victims

Those Who Lived Through Previous Disasters Now Providing Prayer, Food, Clothing, Funds and Relief Workers for Others; Actions Demonstrate Strength of Church in South Asia.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, May 8, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — Members from many GFA-supported churches in India are responding unconditionally to the disastrous April 25 earthquake in Nepal with widespread prayer, fasting, generous giving, clothing and food drives, as well as sending relief teams to help restore their neighboring country.

Photo: Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries, Believers Church pastors and Bridge of Hope staff pass out rice to earthquake victims in the Nuwakot District of Nepal. Twenty Believers Church members in the district lost their homes in the quake.

They are taking their own initiative to help bring relief there, knowing first-hand what it’s like to go through significant natural disasters in their own country.  Their actions demonstrate the strength of the Christian church in South Asia.

“Many who have personally experienced the devastation of powerful earthquakes and storms are now responding to help others,” said Dr. K.P. Yohannan, founder and international director of GFA.  “The local church, led by and composed of nationals in South Asia, is rising to the occasion by helping to meet the needs of earthquake victims.”

Among those responding are Believers Church congregations in the Uttar Pradesh region of northern India. Churches from this area have already sent truckloads of blankets, rice, flour, bread and other foods, and are collecting funds to send more.

One of the most generous responses is being organized in Delhi. After suffering through an earthquake in 2001 that killed more than 10,000, one of the leaders on the field, Dr. Simon John, said he can personally sense the sadness many Nepalese are suffering. “As soon as we heard about the earthquake, our staff individually and collectively started praying for bereaved families and working to collect relief supplies,” he said.

In the Punjab area, floods and landslides destroyed thousands of homes a year ago, with heavy rains again badly damaging wheat crops this spring. Yet field leader Pastor Martin said churches there immediately began to support victims in Nepal. “Three days after the earthquake, we had collective prayer and fasting,” Martin said. “Our churches will be continually praying for the people as we trust God to rebuild Nepal.”

Gospel for Asia-supported Believers Churches in Kolkata have contributed enough donations to set a goal of rebuilding at least 100 homes, providing rations to 200 families for two to three weeks, and providing for children’s educational needs. Members also plan to collect donations of clothing and send it when conditions in Nepal make that feasible.

Numerous churches have already been involved in fasting and prayer, such as in Bihar, which called for a three-day period of special fasting and prayer for God’s grace, peace and healing in Nepal. Church-wide observances are scheduled for May 8 in Delhi and May 12 in Udaipur.

Gospel for Asia has served the church in Nepal for more than 25 years. For decades, the ministry has also provided disaster relief throughout South Asia when tragedy strikes areas it serves, such as after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

GFA supports 450 churches, 20 Bridge of Hope children centers and Bible schools in Nepal. Some were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake, Nepal’s worst in 80 years. Many church leaders and members have lost their homes or can no longer safely live in them.

Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) is a mission organization sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.

By Faith with Frank Shelton: Episode 2

New App Boosts Church Leaders’ Ability to Minister to the Sick

SOUNDS A BIT PRICEY ESPECIALLY FOR NEW AND STRUGGLING CHURCHES WHO COULD PROBABLY USE THE HELP MOST. HOWEVER I FIND IT AN INTRIGUING AND EXCITING IDEA. I WOULD ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO CAN TO GIVE IT A TRY, AND LET US KNOW HOW IT WORKS OUT.-Pastor Crutchfield

Church Staff Apps launches “Care Connect” — first-of-its-kind app for keeping tabs on worshippers’ support needs

FLECTCHER, N.C., May 5, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — Church Staff Apps, LLC has announced the national launch of a first-of-its-kind app that gives church leaders the power to minister to the sick more effectively than ever.

The app, called “CareConnect,” provides pastors, clergy and lay leaders up-to-the-minute updates of the health situation of members of their congregation if they are ill, hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated.

A color-coding feature alerts church leaders to immediately determine the relevant needs of each person. It shows them whose situation is urgent, whether someone is recuperating, or if their issue has been resolved. It tells them if someone needs to be visited, where they are located and their current health status. It lets them know who last visited the person and what needs were expressed.

“In effect, it keeps everyone in the loop and ensures that the individual is getting the best possible ministry,” said Ed Frisbee, the app designer and founder of Church Staff Apps, LLC. “Users love the fact that they can glance at the people listed and through the color-coding identify how serious their condition is. Reading notes of previous visits empowers them to pray more personally and more meaningfully on follow-up visits.”

Frisbee, Worship Pastor at Trinity of Fairview in Fletcher, and son of a pastor, came up with the idea for “Care Connect” after an embarrassing personal experience.

He said, “I will never forget the day someone from my choir mentioned that their mom, who was also a church member, had been in the hospital for nearly a week and I was clueless. I felt about an inch tall. I hadn’t known, and neither had anyone else in the church leadership, so we hadn’t called them or visited them or been able to pray for their needs. Thankfully, this person was gracious and forgiving but we all know there are some people who, unfortunately, would leave a church and never return because they would feel uncared for.”

Now when someone calls the church office with information, the office personnel can instantly upload it to the Care Connect app and email to every staff member. The uploaded information is constantly updated—securely and confidentially—which helps coordinate visitation so that no-one receives too many or too few visits.

Added Frisbee, “Care Connect takes so much pressure off everyone on the church leadership team. The information is accessible 24/7. You don’t have to be in the office, or even in the country.”

While Care Connect is Church Staff Apps’ flagship product, the company has several others in the pipeline all designed to help churches communicate more effectively.

The Care Connect app is available through iTunes, Google Play and Windows Store. Users sign up online at www.churchstaffapps.com/care-connect to setup username and password. After a 30-day free trial period each church pays just $15.00 per month for a license.

For more information please visit: www.ChurchStaffApps.com.

By Faith with Frank Shelton: Episode 1

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