Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Greg Laurie Booked for Major New Zealand Crusade
ASSIST News Service
A major evangelistic rally is to be held over three days in Christchurch in April next year led by California pastor Greg Laurie. The rally will be held over three nights at the end of April at Christchurch’s largest entertainment venue, and is expected be one of the biggest Christian events next year in New Zealand. In the past 16 years, Laurie has held some 60 crusades, attended by nearly three million people. “We have 24,000 seats to fill,” says crusade director Michael Brazeal, an associate pastor with Laurie who has been visiting Christchurch over the past two weeks to tie up arrangements. Mr. Laurie is a product of the southern California Jesus movement of the 1970s. As a typical teenager he experimented with drugs and alcohol, but was converted at age 17 after listening to a lunch-hour Bible study at school. He began his pastoral ministry only two years later, beginning with a small Bible study. Laurie was invited to Newcastle in 2003. The 25,000 who attended the series of four rallies in that city broke all attendance records at the entertainment centre where it was held. Mr. Laurie held a shorter event at Auckland later in 2003, then one-night rallies in Christchurch last year and again this year. These events were preludes for next year’s major event and confirmed to the Christchurch pastors who have invited Mr. Laurie that he relates well to Kiwi culture. Mr. Brazeal said Mr. Laurie was asked to visit because “it doesn’t matter where [a preacher] comes from, as long as he has a message. I have never met anyone who can cut to the chase like Greg. He transcends culture and age.”
Prayers for Kidnapped Peace Workers Continue as Deadline Passes
The Christian Post
Prayers for the four abducted Christian peace activists in Iraq continued as their families and governments sought word on their condition Monday – two days after a deadline set by their kidnappers to kill them. "We all look to each other and offer a kind smile or a warm hug whenever that other person feels that they can't handle it and that happens quite a bit right now," Ed Loney, brother of Canadian hostage Jim Loney, said. "It's a pretty delicate situation and we're trying to not beat ourselves up and to remain hopeful." The group responsible for the capture, the “Swords of Righteousness,” made no contact in the two days following the Saturday deadline they initially placed for the lives of the Christian Peacemaker Team workers. The group said they would kill the workers unless all Iraqi prisoners were released. Some churches across Canada, U.S. and Britain were filled with prayerful congregants seeking the safety of the captured four. Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups have feverishly released statements in the past week calling for the release of the Christian Peacemaker Team members, who were snatched at gunpoint in Baghdad on Nov. 26. Beside Loney, the other captives are: Canadian Harmeet Sooden, 32; American Tom Fox, 54; and Briton Norman Kember, 74.
Kidnapped Missionary Returns Home to Michigan
Looking gaunt and tired, a missionary from Michigan returned home to a warm welcome after being shot, kidnapped and held for ransom while visiting Haiti. Phillip Snyder's friends and relatives greeted his arrival with tears and cheers Wednesday at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. "Where are my little ones?" asked Snyder, 48, as several of his nine children surrounded him and gave him hugs. Snyder left for Haiti more than a week ago to bring back a 7-year-old Haitian child for eye surgery in Grand Rapids. On his way to the U.S. Embassy, Snyder, the child and the child's father were kidnapped and, in the process, Snyder was shot in the arm and shoulder. The kidnappers, who were members of criminal gangs, demanded a $300,000 ransom. Snyder and the others were released Friday after a missionary group paid them a smaller, undisclosed sum. The boy flew with Snyder to Michigan, where his left eye will be removed and replaced with a prosthesis. He will stay in the U.S. several months before returning to Haiti. Snyder, who has worked in Haiti for more than 30 years, said he planned to return there someday.
Burma: “More and More Restrictions” for Christians
In recent weeks, government restrictions placed on Burmese believers — especially those in rural areas — have been increasing. “More and more hard restrictions are imposed upon Christians throughout the country,” writes one ministry leader, “and even in big cities, house churches are closed down by the authorities. “Sooner than we can expect,” he continues, “Bible seminaries and colleges may be closed down and we may be forbidden to preach.” Another gospel worker writes from a remote region, “The government will not allow the building of a Bible school for the Lahu tribe. Also, a number of unregistered small churches and Bible schools have been ordered to close down recently.” Such restrictions come amid an apparent country-wide tightening of control by Burma’s military government. In addition, reports are emerging of drought and famine, though the Burmese government has striven to stifle such news. “The Lord knows all this,” the gospel worker continues, “and we are hopeful deliverance will come. Please pray that we may have medical supplies so we can help people and at the same time preach the gospel.”