Religion Today Summaries, April 2, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 2, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Church Groups Deliver Soap to Iraqi Children
  • U.S. Missionary Killed in Central America
  • Ill Boy Makes Wish for African Pastors to Be Given Bibles
  • Presbyterians to Cut Budget by $3.1 Million

Church Groups Deliver Soap to Iraqi Children
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) A coalition of church relief groups has delivered 11.3 metric tons of soap and laundry detergent to Baghdad to improve the health and hygiene of Iraqi children. The shipment of soap and detergent arrived in Baghdad from Amman, Jordan, on Monday (March 31). The soap will be distributed to 68 hospitals in central and southern Iraq. "To help break the cycle of malnutrition and diarrhea, it's important to ensure good hygiene practices," said Steve Weaver, an emergency response consultant in Amman for Church World Service. Before the war started last month, the same coalition delivered $91,000 in medical supplies to two hospitals in Baghdad. The group now hopes to raise $1.5 million for relief efforts administered by the Middle East Council of Churches. The shipment is allowed under United Nations sanctions through a permit granted to the Mennonite Central Committee. Since the end of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, Church World Service has given $3.8 million in assistance to Iraq. Along the Iraq-Jordan border, the Christian aid group World Vision has prepared for an influx of refugees with 10,000 blankets, 5,000 water containers and plastic sheets that can be used for temporary shelter.

Find out how you can help World Vision’s relief efforts here.

U.S. Missionary Killed in Central America

(RNS) A U.S. missionary was shot and killed in Guatemala last week during a roadside robbery. Kentucky native Todd Fields, 41, had been a Christian missionary in Honduras for 13 years. According to the Associated Press, Fields was driving a group of high school students to a retreat in neighboring Guatemala when the group was held up March 28. Elizabeth Hammons, Fields' mother-in-law, told a Kentucky paper that his van was carrying two other adult missionaries and the children of missionaries when it was robbed. "Men in a van pulled up alongside their van and tried to get them to stop and tried to run them off the road," Hammons said. Rather than pull over, Fields "tried to get away and to run them off the road." The robbers fatally shot Fields, but left the other two adults and students unharmed after taking them to a secluded area and robbing them. Fields and his wife, Lynnell, had lived in Honduras with their daughters Savannah, 14, and Sophia, 10. Wes White, director of personnel for Global Outreach, said Fields was beloved by the Honduran people as well as his fellow missionaries, and his death is a "tremendous loss."

Ill Boy Makes Wish for African Pastors to Be Given Bibles
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) An ill Texas boy recently chose to supply Bibles to African pastors when he was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Steven Downey, 16, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in July 2002. He learned through his church that ALARM, which trains pastors and ministry leaders, needed Bibles. When the North Texas chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to grant him a wish, Downey asked to provide study Bibles to ALARM. With the assistance of the Bible society based in Colorado Springs, Colo., ALARM pastors in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo received 210 French study Bibles. "Steven Downey is a young man working diligently to reach the next generation for God," said Tom Youngblood, the society's vice president of outreach, in a statement. Celestin Musekura, president of ALARM, said the contribution to the organization is particularly meaningful. "Steven's giving is indeed sacrificial, and none of us will ever forget this special `wish,'" Musekura said in a statement. Steven said he chose his particular wish because he believed it "was going to have the most impact for God's kingdom for eternity."

Presbyterians to Cut Budget by $3.1 Million
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) In an effort to balance its budget, the Presbyterian Church (USA) will cut its 2004 budget by $3.1 million by eliminating 19 staff positions and using $1.67 million from its savings account. The $126.9 million budget must be approved by the General Assembly Council, which acts as the church's board of directors, on Saturday (April 5), and then by church delegates at the General Assembly meeting in May. "It's done. We've accomplished it. It's balanced," John Detterick, executive director of the council, told Presbyterian News Service. Last year the church laid off 66 people at its Louisville, Ky., headquarters. The new round of cuts includes 10 current staff members and nine positions that are vacant. One-third of the cuts will come from reduced services, while 42 percent come from efficiency reforms. The cuts affect four church divisions but do not include any overseas missionary appointments. The Presbyterian News Service will save $127,500 by no longer distributing its stories in hard copy and rely instead on e-mail releases by next January. "All parts of the church are feeling the pressures," Detterick told the news service.