Religion Today Summaries, April 16, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 16, 2004

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • Amidst Violence, Ministry Demonstrates Christ's Love, Reaches Out to Iraqi People
  • Imprisoned Pastor Fears for His Life in Chinese Prison
  • Israeli Christian Applauds Bush for Supporting Israel in the West Bank
  • Tattooed Pastor’s In-Your-Face Evangelism Impacts New York

Amidst Violence, Ministry Demonstrates Christ's Love, Reaches Out to Iraqi People
Allie Martin, Agape Press

Recent kidnappings and attacks by terrorists have not kept workers from one ministry out of Iraq. World Vision, based in the State of Washington, currently has 67 staff members working in Iraq on a number of projects.  The organization supplements its on-site staff by hiring local professional staff for much of its relief work, thereby providing employment, boosting the economy, and allowing community members to take charge of their own rebuilding. Although violence against civilians in Iraq has increased in recent weeks, World Vision spokesperson Andrea Swinburn-Jones says much work is being accomplished in a hostile environment. "In our programs in northern Iraq, we've managed to rehabilitate more than 200 schools -- and in excess of 100,000 children now have access to clean, rehabilitated schools," she says. Swinburn-Jones says the workers actions are speaking very loudly to the Iraqi people.  "In one of the areas that I travel into, they said when we first came [that] they weren't quite sure what to make of our organization," she shares.  "They were very aware that we are Christian organization." World Vision is also sanitizing water systems and equipping health-care centers with basic medical supplies.  "We're driven by work of Christ," Swinburn-Jones says.

Imprisoned Pastor Fears for His Life in Chinese Prison
Voice of the Martyrs

Pastor Gong Shengliang, the imprisoned leader of the South China Church, told relatives during a prison visit Monday that he fears for his life in Hongshan Prison, Wuhan City. “If you are able in any way, please transfer me to another prison,” Gong begged his three sisters during a 10-minute visit on Monday. “Otherwise, just come and pick up my corpse.” VOM sources said that Gong had to be carried into the visiting hall at the prison by four other inmates, as he could not walk. When one of the sisters pressed the guard for an explanation of Gong’s injuries, the guard said that the pastor fell while he was washing windows in the prison. Gong was washing the inside of the windows, yet somehow fell outside the building, according to the guard. The sisters were only allowed 10 minutes with Gong, and were separated by two panes of glass and forced to talk via a telephone. When one of Gong’s sisters complained of his injuries to the prison director, Sun Wenquan, she was told that Gong is a model prisoner in every respect except one: he refuses to denounce his faith in Christ, and he will not stop praying and preaching. “He is so into the Bible that he has lost touch with reality,” the sisters were told.

Israeli Christian Applauds Bush for Supporting Israel in the West Bank
Agape Press

The head of Christians for Israel USA is applauding President George W. Bush's support for keeping Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Pastor James Hutchens says the West Bank is actually the traditional heartland of Israel, Judea, and Samaria, land that he says "was promised by God" to the Jewish people. He feels President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should remember those biblical promises when they negotiate the future of the Holy Land and "allow God to have the last word in this." The pro-Israel group spokesman says he realizes the two nation's leaders will not be bringing the Bible to their talks, but he says, "they need to bring that knowledge to the negotiating table and negotiate accordingly." Hutchens also agrees with Bush's rejection of a Palestinian right of return to Israel. The U.S. president feels refugees should become citizens of a future Palestinian state instead.

Tattooed Pastor’s In-Your-Face Evangelism Impacts New York
Charisma News Service

New York City preacher Rick Del Rio has redefined what it means to be Pentecostal, with his tattoos and earring. The pastor of Abounding Grace Ministries (AGM) doesn't apologize for any of them because he and his congregation are busy trying to minister to punks, anarchists, Satanists, vampires, bikers, gays, drug addicts, alcoholics, the homeless, seniors and families from low-income public housing. "We deal with people nobody wants, so we kind of look like them," Del Rio, 51, said. Del Rio's multiracial church is a flagship for creative inner-city evangelism programs that work. Every year the ministry and its in-your-face evangelism touches thousands of lives. "Our church is a clinic where the sick and broken can come," says Del Rio. Marilyn Martinez, attends the church now, adds: "This is like a little house of miracles. I'm not doing drugs anymore. It's wonderful to serve Jesus." Programs include a Christian coffeehouse, youth outreaches, evangelistic events, block parties, after-school learning programs, creative arts and a 90-acre camp in the Catskill Mountains. The annual budget for the church and 11 staffers is $550,000. Nobody gets rich. Because of Del Rio's connections in the streets, the police call him regularly to help defuse potentially explosive situations. He once coaxed 12 gang members to his apartment to prevent a retaliatory gang war. "I prayed with them and let them vent," he says. "I didn't say, 'Don't curse,' and I got to build relationships."