Category Archives: Children

Child Welfare System Increasingly Relying on Relatives to Raise Children Exposed to Trauma

This article strays a bit from our usual topics. However I feel it contains information many Christians will find both interesting and useful. I also feel strongly the the Christian Church in all its many flavors is uniquely positioned and qualified to help mount the challenges it highlights. -Pastor Crutchfield.

 

WASHINGTONSept. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Thirty percent (127,819) of children in foster care are being raised by grandparents or other relatives, a six percent increase since 2008. In the wake of the opioid epidemic, that number is even more dramatic in the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic like Ohio, which saw a 62 percent increase in the number of children placed with relatives in foster care since 2010. For each child in foster care with a relative, there are 20 children outside of the system with a relative.

According to a new report by Generations United, grandparents and other relatives who step in to care for children, play an important role in mitigating trauma, which children in the child welfare system experience at starkly higher rates than the general population.

More than half of the children in the child welfare system have endured four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), leaving them 12 times more likely to have negative health outcomes – substance use disorders, mental health problems, and engaging in aggressive or risky behaviors – than the general child population.

“Growing up with a childhood full of trauma and abuse, there were very few moments where I felt safe and very few people with whom I felt protected. Being put into my uncle’s care was the best decision that could have ever been made for me,” explained Kindra, whose last name is withheld to protect her privacy. “It wasn’t an easy road by any means, but I have no doubt in that it completely saved my life.”

Compared to those in care with non-relatives, children in foster care with relatives have more stable and safe childhoods and a greater likelihood of having a permanent home. The have better mental and behavioral health, and are more likely to report always feeling loved.

“These relatives are the loving and protective arms for babies, children and youth who’ve experience trauma,” said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United. “They are caring for children with multiple high-level needs and they should get the support required for the families to thrive.”

Unlike parents or foster parents who plan for months or years to care for a child, grandparents or other relative caregivers usually step into their roles unexpectedly. At a moment’s notice, they are forced to navigate complex systems to help meet the physical and cognitive health challenges of the children who come into their care.  Grandfamilies are less likely than foster families to have access to specialized training and support from professionals that have expertise in helping children, who have experienced trauma, heal.

“One thing I know to be true: you can’t love away the effects of trauma from neglect and abuse,” said Jan Wagner, grandparent caregiver, Michigan“Our children need the same amount of intensive therapy and services as a traditional foster placement and we, as their caregiver desperately need the same to help them heal.”

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Reform federal child welfare financing to provide more trauma-informed support to prevent children from entering or re-entering foster care
  • Increase availability of and access to trauma training and supports designed for grandfamilies
  • Address barriers to licensing relatives as foster parents
  • Ensure grandfamilies not licensed as foster parents can access financial assistance to meet children’s needs

Generations United will release The 2017 State of Grandfamilies in America report Sept. 13 at a reception, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm, in room G-11 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Generations United will honor Senator Susan Collins (Maineand Senator Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) with its 2017 Grandfamilies Champion Awards at the event.

The report, which also includes a resource list and profiles of grandfamilies, will be available at www.gu.org on Sunday, Sept. 10th. For an advanced copy or to schedule an interview with one of our experts, contact Alan King at aking@gu.org. (An expert can also do interviews in Spanish.)

Generations United is home to the National Center on Grandfamilies, a leading voice for issues affecting families headed by grandparents and other relatives. Through the Center, Generations United leads an advisory group of organizations, caregivers and youth that set the national agenda to advance public will in support of these families. www.gu.org

SOURCE Generations United

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The First-Ever National Conference on Christian Grandparenting

STREAMWOOD, Ill., April 25, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — On November 15-17, 2016, the very first national conference on Christian grandparenting, The Legacy Grandparenting Summit, will be held at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, the Legacy Coalition announced today.
The Legacy Coalition is a newly formed ministry envisioned by national leaders in children’s, youth, and family ministries which focuses on equipping Christian grandparents to be intentional disciplers of their grandchildren. Founder, Larry Fowler, has been joined by ministry veterans Wayne Rice, Steve and Valerie Bell, Dr. John Trent, Dr. Ken Canfield, and others in launching this new ministry.
Fowler explains, “While the 30 million-plus Christian grandparents in America have incredible potential to influence their grandchildren, the grandparent-grandchild relationship is ignored and under-resourced by churches and the Christian community at large. We, the Legacy Coalition, believe it is time for a change.”
Wayne Rice, regarded by many as one of the fathers of youth ministry, has come on as the director of conferencing for the Legacy Coalition. Rice realized, ” Not once in thirty years did I ever talk about the influence of grandparents.”
The first-ever conference of its kind, the Legacy Grandparenting Summit, is designed to set a new course. Featuring an impressive lineup of over thirty speakers including respected authors and pastors like Chuck Swindoll, Gary Chapman, Josh McDowell, Michelle Anthony, Tim Kimmel, and Crawford Loritts, the conference will focus on encouraging and equipping church leaders to give attention to this huge army of potential disciplers.
Fowler went on to say, “We want grandparents to have a renewed vision. The wisdom and seasoned perspective of grandparents makes them natural influencers. Yet this potential for spiritual impact goes unrecognized in churches and in the Christian community at large. The barriers to an effective relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild are overlooked and not addressed. Grandparents don’t know what tools are available for them to use with their grandchildren.”
In light of this vacuum of encouragement, The Legacy Coalition believes it is time for a national movement that re-engages those in the second half of life with a vision reaching their grandchildren
For more information go to legacygrandparentingsummit.com.
To learn about the Legacy Coalition, go to grandparentingmatters.org.
  The Legacy Coalition is a faith-based ministry. To partner financially, go to grandparentingmatters.org/#donate.

American Heritage Girls Make Big Impact This Christmas Season with Our Nation’s Heroes

CINCINNATI, Ohio, Dec. 22, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — During this Christmas season, American Heritage Girls demonstrate the true spirit of giving by honoring Fire Departments, Police Departments and fallen soldiers nationwide.

Troops prepared and delivered treats to their local Fire and Police stations as thanks to the community’s first responders. The small acts of kindness came from big hearts of gratitude. These giving projects are a vehicle of practical instruction which AHG provides through the character development program for girls 5-18.

Wreaths Across America Day on December 12 stands as an additional example of American Heritage Girl’s commitment to service. Troops across the nation assisted in placing thousands of wreaths upon military graves, this being part of the annual ceremony that gives tribute to deceased military. Throughout the country, uniformed American Heritage Girls aided in the placement of wreaths in numerous veteran cemeteries.

53rd District, Ohio House Representative, Tim Derickson is just one of the many State Representatives throughout the country that attended their local ceremony in which American Heritage Girls served as an active part. “I am honored to have the opportunity to commend American Heritage Girls Troop Ohio 1412 and the 288th Pathfinder Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol on sponsoring 621 wreaths. The time and effort Ohio Troop 1412 has dedicated to this organization, and to veterans’ events throughout the year is truly remarkable. Every member of this Troop should be proud of her contributions and selflessness.”

American Heritage Girls is celebrating 20 years of ministry. AHG membership has grown 30-50 percent in the last four years and has over 40,000 members globally. For more information, visit www.americanheritagegirls.org. Follow AHG on Instagram @ahgfun or Facebook facebook.com/AmericanHeritageGirls

Founded in 1995 in Cincinnati, Ohio, AHG is a faith-based character development program dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. AHG girls across the nation and the globe participate in badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities and outdoor experiences.

YouVersion and OneHope Debut The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible

We are used to seeing books and other things turned into apps, e-books etc. This is a great example of how an app can be turned into something more traditional, and less digital. -Pastor Crutchfield

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oct. 13, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — YouVersion in partnership with OneHope today announced the release of The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible. Extending the successful Bible App for Kids app experience, the illustrated Storybook Bible transfers stories from the app into an engaging book format that will help bring the Bible to life for children of all ages.

“Parents and kids love the way the stories and characters are depicted in the app and have asked for a way to enjoy them on the printed page as well,” said Bobby Gruenewald, creator of YouVersion and innovation pastor at Life.Church. “We believe this generation has the potential to be the most biblically engaged group of all time, and we want to create exciting and engaging resources to help children learn about and understand the stories in the Bible.”

The Bible App for Kids launched Thanksgiving Day 2013 and since that time has been downloaded more than 8.5 million times and in nearly every country of the world. Currently, the app is available in nine languages—English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin, Korean, Russian, German, Dutch and French—with several additional languages in development.

“The numbers are more than we could have ever predicted. Technology and digital tools have significantly helped kids experience the Bible in a new way,” said Rob Hoskins, president of OneHope. “Now the Storybook Bible will help families connect with God’s Word offline, too.”

The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible depicts 28 narratives from the Bible with colorful illustrations, engaging storytelling, and learning questions designed to make the Bible easy for children to understand and for families to read and discuss together. Available October 13 on Amazon or via BibleAppforKids.com, The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible made the Amazon best-seller list during its first week of presale.

Created in partnership by YouVersion and OneHope, free accompanying materials—coloring sheets, curriculum, parent resources—for churches and parents can be downloaded at bibleappforkids.com to help even more children experience God’s Word.

About the Bible App for Kids:
The Bible App for Kids was created by YouVersion, a ministry of Life.Church. The app is designed to give children a delightful Bible experience all their own. Developed in partnership with OneHope, the Bible App for Kids is a free app that has been installed more than 8.5 million times and is available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin, Korean, Russian, German, Dutch and French. YouVersion also created the Bible App, which has now been downloaded more than 190 million times, offering 1,150 versions of the Bible in 850 languages across every mobile platform.

About OneHope:
Founded in 1987, OneHope is an international ministry that is changing lives by sharing Scripture with young people around the world. Each Scripture program is age-specific and customized based on research OneHope conducts among children, youth, leaders and educators in the countries where it works. In collaboration with churches and ministries—and working with local governments, schools and non-governmental organizations—OneHope has reached more than 1 billion young people in more than 125 countries with a relevant Gospel message.

United Churches of Christ and Boy Scouts sign Historic Agreement

The United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America re-established a formal relationship today (Oct. 5) with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding local UCC congregations chartering Scout troops.

Signed by Michael B. Surbaugh, BSA chief scout executive, and the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president, the document affirms the recently-adopted BSA resolution that removed the restriction on gay adult leaders and employees, and formally states that UCC congregations chartering BSA units can conduct scouting programs according to their own values of inclusion and extravagant welcome for all.

The agreement follows similar recent moves by the Unitarian Univeralist Association, and the Union for Reform Judaism. About those earlier moves Zach Wahls an Eagle Scout, and Executive Director of Scouts for Equality had this to say, “We are planning to work with our members and partners to charter 1,000 new Boy Scout units in the next twenty-four months. With both the Unitarian Universalist Association and Union for Reformed Judiasim back, it’s clear we’re off to a great start.” Asked about the UCC’s new agreement with Boy Scouts of America, Cathie Adams, President of Texas Eagle Forum, and former Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas issued the following statement to Faith That Inspires Action, “I suggest that parents take note of what is being taught to their children in churches and schools. It must be consistent with their beliefs. If it is not, then they must protect their children from strange teachings. Train up a child in the way he should go is NOT only a suggestion. It is a tried and true principle that promises blessings to the children and their parents.”

Rev. John C. Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president, who signed the agreement on behalf of The Church of Christ, had this to say, ” As a former Boy Scout growing up, and one committed to the open and affirming ministry of the United Church of Christ, it brought me a great deal of pride and satisfaction to be able to sign my name to that memorandum of understanding,”

Speaking about the July policy change that made this agreement possible Robert M. Gates National President of the Boy Scouts of America said ““Everyone associated with scouting agrees to follow national policies and comply with BSA’s behavioral standards; no youth may be denied membership to our organization on the basis of sexual orientation; and no council can deny a charter to a unit that is following the beliefs of its religious chartering organization.”

The UCC had pulled back from any formal ties and had withdrawn its letter of endorsement in 2001 because of BSA policies of excluding boys and men based on sexual orientation. The BSA changed its policy regarding youth in 2013.

The MOU states, in part, that “the United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America will work cooperatively with each other within the policies and regulations of each organization to establish and nurture scouting units as an expression of the nurture and outreach of the ministry of the United Church of Christ and its member congregations so that boys, young adults, and adults may grow in their relationships with God, develop into responsible citizens, serve the needs of others, and develop personal fitness to achieve their greatest potential.”

“Since its founding more than 100 years ago, scouting has been important to many congregations in United Church of Christ. Today UCC congregations sponsor more than 1,000 units of scouting with nearly 28,000 participants,” Schuenemeyer said. “Our commitments to justice and the inclusion of all people in the life of the church continue to call us to engage in actions that promote a just and peaceful world that affirms the gifts and ministry of each individual. That is why we welcome this opportunity to engage with colleagues in Scouting, the UCC and other faith traditions to foster inclusive Scouting programs.”

Read the text of the Memorandum of Understanding.

Editor’s Note: Large Portions of this article were taken from a United Church of Christ press release authored by Barb Powell.

Orphan Helpers Applauds Honduras’ Recent Actions to Help At-Risk Children

Virginia-based Nonprofit Works with Honduran Government to Address Child Welfare, Juvenile Violence, and Border Crisis

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Aug. 11, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — Orphan Helpers commended today the new Department of Children, Youth and Family (DINAF) in Honduras for taking important steps to improve the lives of children in government custody, as the government also deals with children involved in the border crisis.

DINAF was established in June by the President of Honduras aimed at improving services and conditions for abused and neglected children and at-risk youth. During the past several weeks, DINAF has taken several key steps, including:

  • Working to provide homes at private, non-governmental organizations for more than 300 children currently living in substandard government institutions.
  • Planning to outsource the administration and operation of juvenile detention facilities that have been wracked by violence.
  • Expediting hearings on reports of child abuse and neglect to address family issues immediately or provide protective services.
  • Launching public service campaigns to warn parents about the dangers and penalties for risking their children’s lives and attempting to smuggle them across the U.S. border.

“Orphan Helpers has been working for more than a decade to provide services and programs for the orphaned, abused, and incarcerated children of Honduras. While much work remains, the recent steps taken by the government are the most promising structural changes we’ve seen to improve the lives of these children,” said Greg Harris, Orphan Helpers Executive Director, who met recently in Honduras with government officials, non-profit leaders, churches, and business owners.

“The Department of Children, Youth and Families is making much-needed reforms in the child welfare system. On top of that, they’re doing it while trying to deal with the huge numbers of children coming back to Honduras after being deported from the U.S. and Mexico. Orphan Helpers is pleased the government is reaching out to non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, and churches to be part of the solution.”

In addition to its regular day-to-day work inside the government-run orphanages and detention centers, Orphan Helpers is assisting DINAF at the government center in San Pedro Sula where children are returning from the U.S. and Mexico. Orphan Helpers also is serving on a government advisory panel to provide recommendations for improving programs and conditions at juvenile detention centers.

Conversations with FaithInspires: Best Selling Author Loree Lough

Author Loree Lough

I first met Loree when she was doing research for her 2011 novel From Ashes To Honor. She is an incredible talent devoted to using her gift to giving faith compatible entertainment. She has published 100 novels working with some of the top fiction publishers in the business. I interviewed her so that our readers here could get to know her just a little bit better.

 

Before you became a writer, you toured as a musician. Can you tell us a little about that ?
First, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here!I started out in a little pub called The Rocking Horse Inn, in a suburb of Chicago, where my dad arranged to have me sing one of the many songs I’d written with a friend of his, Bobby Pierce. Somehow, although my guitar wasn’t in tune with the piano, Bobby’s band managed to follow along with me. The guys in the band also asked if I knew any other Country songs. I did, I sang, and they played and harmonized. The audience liked it so well, they invited me back. Then my dad got the wild idea that, with an agent, I could perform in places other than Chicago. I auditioned for a guy (whose name I can’t recall!) at Artists Corporation of America, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He liked my style, booked me in a few small pubs nearby, and when the feedback from my bosses was positive, he found me work all across the U.S., where I sat in “the piano lady’s” spot in hotel lounges — just my Yamaha guitar and me — crooning whatever tunes the patrons requested. And the rest, as they say, was history.
How did you come to be a writer ?
My husband’s job took the family to Richmond, Virginia, where I answered a NEEDED: NEIGHBORHOOD CORRESPONDENT ad in the local paper. After 4 or 5 of those newsy articles came out, the editor asked me to write a story about the area’s EMT services (so my involvement with first responders goes WAY back!). She liked the feature, assigned more stories, and soon, editors from other newspapers and regional magazines were calling with story assignments. When we were transferred back to Baltimore 2 years later, I had a “clip book” filled with nearly 300 published articles, which I showed to editors here, and soon, they, too were giving me assignments. At last count, I had more than 2,500 articles in print (more, if I count those “ghosted” for professionals in techincal and trade publications).
What was your first big break, and how did it come about ?
As my “clip book” continued to grow, I noticed a disturbing trend: Editors, making changes to salient facts in the stories to appease advertisers. One night over supper, I said to my husband “If I’m gonna write fiction, I might as well try my hand at a novel!” I signed up for some fiction-writing classes at the community college, read every how-to-write-a-novel book I could get my hands on, and joined local and regional writers groups. And then I sat down to “try my hand” at writing a novel. I submitted POCKETFUL OF LOVE in November of ’93, and it was released in August of ’94. Twenty years later, my 100th book, SAVING ALYSSA, was released.
After over 100 published novels how do you keep the fresh ideas flowing ?
Ideas are like air…they’re everywhere! At the movies, in church, browsing the aisles at Wal-Mart, watching TV. When something (it rarely matters what) piques my curiosity, I play the “What if…?” game. Example: Local TV news covered a story, days before Halloween, about some teen boys, pulling a harmless prank. They made a dummy of old clothes, old shoes, and an old hat, and gave it a pumpkin head. Then they tossed it onto the railroad tracks. You can imagine the surprise of the engineer, who called authorities…who started an hours-long search for “…the vagrant that had stumbled in front of a moving train.” Search dogs joined search and rescue personnel, helicopters flew overhead, only to discover a newspaper-stuffed “man” wearing holey clothes and sole-less boots. So I asked myself “What if those boys caused more trouble than a couple hundred accumulated manhours and thousands of dollars in rescue equipment? What if they scared that poor engineer so badly, he suffered a heart attack? And what if, after hearing on the news how their little prank went wrong, it changed the course of their lives?”The result was “The Turning Points” series for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. Each novel began with the building and placement of the dummy, as told from a different boy’s point of view. The stories pick up years later, and feature boys-turned-men: A cardiologist, a cop, a lawyer, a firefighter. Yep. All that from one 2-minute segment on the local news!
What does your Christian faith mean to your writing ?
It’s such a part of who and what I am that it naturally finds its way into everything I write. It’s what keeps me going when times get tough (and they get tough often in this wacky business!). It’s what motivates me to push onward when I’m tired from back-to-back all-nighters, trying to meet deadlines. It’s what helps me devise stories around everyday occurrences, and highlight character traits that mirror our own. I guess I could have saved you a lot of time by saying “My faith is everything!” LOL
How many hours a day do you write ?
Most days, I put in 8 solid hours of writing time. That does NOT include research about the era and area where a story is set, and finding beautiful one-of-a-kind prayers for first responders, written by talented, spirit-filled pastors like my pal, Reverend Robert Crutchfield. It also includes interviews with people working at the jobs/careers I’ve given my hero/herone. Everything from the weather to holidays, from clothing to modes of travel, from words used during that time period to books and newspapers of the day. And it doesn’t include time spent staying in touch with readers and fellow writers on social networking sites.
You write sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair, how does this affect your writing ?
I hate to sound cliche, but the exercise ball lends balance to my writing! LOL Seriously? I sit here for so many hours in a row that good posture is critical. Before The Ball, all this sitting gave me a stiff neck, backaches, wrist and leg cramps. This new one is weighted with sand, so it doesn’t try to escape when I stand up! LOL
What one tip do you have for somebody who is looking to improve their writing skills ?
I urge them to sign up for classes, workshops, seminars. Read every how-to-write book they can get their hands on. Join writers groups in the area, and attend conferences whenever possible. Conferences are fantastic places to network! Not only will hopeful writers meet others facing the same struggles, they’ll pick up tips to avoid some of the pitfalls. They’re also great places to meet, face to face, with editors and agents, and (God willing!) open the door that will shorten the proposal process.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current work in progress ?
ONCE A MARINE is the first novel in the “Those Marshall Boys” series (Harlequin Heartwarming). A contemporary novel set in the Denver/Vail area of Colorado, it features Zach Marshall, a former Marine who, after his sister is attacked, puts his self-defense skills to use by opening a studio where he teaches others how to protect themselves from similar attacks. There, he meets Summer Lane, whose attack left her too afraid to leave her house for nearly two years. ONCE A MARINE is due for release in January.
Also releasing in January, CURRENCY OF THE HEART, the first in my “Secrets on Sterling Street” series for Whitaker House. Set in Denver in the 1880s, it’s the story of two strong, stubborn people who are more interested in protecting the secrets of their past than in assuring a happy, stable future…alone or together.
Thank you so much, Robert, for introducing me to your friends. I’m honored, and hope everyone will feel free to contact me on Facebook or Twitter, where I’m happy to answer more questions about their quest for publication, or these stories!
COMING SOON:
Secrets on Sterling Street (Whitaker House historical series)
Those Marshall Boys (Harlequin Heartwarming contemporary series)
AVAILABLE NOW:
A Child to Love (Heartwarming contemporary series)
For Love of Eli (Abingdon’s Quilts of Love series)
A Man of Honor (Abingdon’s First Responders series)
Lone Star Legends (Whitaker historical series)Join me at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ &
http://www.loreelough.com/!

Faith Leaders and Human Rights Organizations to Have Prayer Vigil and Public Witness at Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — The event is part of the #bringbackourgirls campaign.

The vigil will be on Wednesday, May 14, at 9:30 A.M.
The address of the Nigerian Embassy is
3519 International Ct NW, Washington, DC 20008.

Here is the Facebook Event Page:
www.facebook.com/events/668553516514594

The vigil will include: leaving 276 flowers in front of the Embassy, prayers for all the girls, speeches and  praying with mothers and family members “live” from Nigeria via the internet.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney, event organizer and Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, states,

“We stand in solidarity with all the kidnapped girls of Nigeria, their families and loved ones.  We agree with  Dr. Martin Luther King when he says, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent  about things that matter.’

“We cannot be silent or indifferent when hundreds of young girls are kidnapped in full view of the world and threatened with being sold into slavery and trafficking.  We must stand in the public square and shout with a loud prophetic voice, ‘Bring back our girls.’

“These are not just the daughters of Nigeria but they are our daughters also.  As we gather in prayer and public witness, we ask God to intervene to protect and return these girls safely to their families.

“We also call upon the Nigerian government, the government of the United States and the entire global community to use every resource possible and leave no stone unturned in ensuring these precious ones are restored to the loving arms of their families.”

Rev. Kris Keating, Executive Director of World Horizons USA and currently in Nigeria helping the families, adds,

“I came to Nigeria not because I think it needs me, but because I am moved by the tragedy of the girls’ abduction and if I was one of the fathers, I would find comfort in knowing that people loved enough to come from far away to stand with me. I am here to love and learn. Will you pray with me today, by name, for those abducted girls?”

Brandi Swindell, Founder and CEO of Stanton Healthcare based in Boise, Idaho, comments;

“As a woman and CEO of women’s charitable health clinics across the nation, my heart breaks for these precious young girls and their families.  This tragedy points to the fact that women around the world are specifically targeted for acts of violence and terror.

“This attack on these young girls of Nigeria is an attack on all women throughout the world.  As I gather in front of the Nigerian Embassy in prayer and public witness, I stand in solidarity with my sisters across the globe calling upon God for mercy and calling upon the nations of the world to treat all women with equality, human rights and justice.

“We cannot rest or be silent until they are safely returned home.  Our message today is clear and simple.  Bring back our girls!”

True Love Waits Relaunched, Refocused with True Love Project

FRANKLIN, Tenn., Jan. 15, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — Building on the deep and rich legacy of the True Love Waits movement, which for two decades has helped millions of young people pursue lives of sexual purity, LifeWay Christian Resources has relaunched True Love Waits through a video-driven Bible study for students called The True Love Project.

The eight-session curriculum was written by author and speaker Clayton King.

The True Love Project seeks to communicate God’s design for relationships to a new generation of students and young adults who may be struggling or confused about love, dating and sex. In a culture that has largely abandoned a traditional

view of marriage, it is a summons for the next generation of students to understand their sexuality in light of the gospel, according to Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources.

“True Love Waits has been a tremendous movement, orchestrated by God, to spread the biblical message of sex and purity to a younger generation,” Trueblood said. “Now, God has opened the door for the True Love Waits message to be restated, to once again point people to the gospel through this very important issue in our culture.”

In the midst of a culture that is sex-saturated, Trueblood said today’s generation needs a new message “to see how the gospel impacts their purity and how their choices in purity are about more than their sexual decisions.”

The refocused message has been inherent in True Love Waits from the beginning according to Dr. Richard Ross, one of the co-founders of the movement, which was introduced publicly in 1993. At the time, he was a youth ministry consultant for LifeWay and a student minister at a local church. The first 53 students to participate were from his church.

In their commitment, these early adoptees were “affirming their love for Jesus through their commitment to purity,” said Ross. Since that day, an estimated 3 million students have made that pledge around the world.

For King, that legacy is something on which he wants to build.

“I spoke at one of the very first True Love Waits DiscipleNow weekends,” he said. “I signed the [commitment] card, along with hundreds of thousands of students, and I still meet people today who give testimony to a season in their adolescence when they began to discover God’s design for love and intimacy through True Love Waits.”

The new curriculum captures the gospel-centric focus implanted in the original and that Trueblood wanted to bring back to the forefront.

By beginning lessons in the broader paradigm of the story of the Bible — Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration — Trueblood believes King’s lessons will give students the proper perspective for later lessons dealing specifically with sex and purity.

“We believe students can live pure lives in Jesus’ power,” King said. “We also seek to communicate the forgiveness and restoration that Jesus offers those who compromised their sexual purity in the past. Just because you messed up doesn’t mean you give up.”

For more information, visit TrueLoveWaits.com.

Calif. school district: choirs can’t perform at best acoustic venues if they’re churches

Attorney sound bites:  Jeremy Tedesco  |  Matt Sharp

GILROY, Calif. — Alliance Defending Freedom sent a California school district a letter Tuesday after its superintendent barred school choirs from performing at venues with superior acoustics merely because they are churches.

“Exceptional musicians deserve to perform at facilities with superior acoustics, regardless of whether the venue is religious,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Gilroy Unified School District is wrong to end its longstanding tradition of allowing choir groups to perform in acoustically superior churches, hurting both the musicians and the local community. The choirs are not performing in the churches for any religious reason.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains that the superintendent’s action is legally unnecessary because “GUSD’s acoustic-excellence criterion is the epitome of neutrality. It does not favor religious or secular venues. Rather, it favors venues with excellent acoustics, regardless of their religious or secular character.”

The letter also explains that, by jettisoning GUSD’s constitutionally sound “acoustic excellence” criterion for selecting choir venues, the superintendent is exhibiting an unconstitutional hostility toward religion.

“A handful of misguided complaints and one official’s misunderstanding of First Amendment law should not be allowed to harm this acclaimed choral program and deprive its 200 members of the best possible acoustical venues for their performances,” added Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We hope that the GUSD Board of Education will immediately reinstate its policy and allow choral program directors to select the best performance venues based on the acoustic excellence standards it has adhered to for years.”