Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Saddleback Church Celebrates 20,000th Baptism
- Mob Forces Church to Close in West Java, Indonesia
- Boom in African Christianity Spills over to America
- Christian Workers Attacked in Two States in India
Saddleback Church Celebrates 20,000th Baptism
Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., celebrated the 20,000th baptism in its 25-year history in a quiet ceremony March 19, the Baptist Press reports. Pastor Rick Warren immersed 24-year-old Mario Soto after the 11:15 a.m. service. For Soto, who got engaged the night before, his decision to declare publicly his faith in Jesus Christ was an important step on the road toward marriage. After Amanda accepted his marriage proposal, he didn’t want to wait any longer to take the step of baptism. Warren said he was honored to mark the historic milestone. “It’s a terrific, wonderful experience,” he said. “You don’t forget your baptism. It’s an eternal memory.” Saddleback’s first baptism service took place in May 1980. “Ever since then we’ve used all kinds of facilities,” Warren said. “We’ve used lakes and rivers, ponds in the mountains, the ocean. And for a number of years when we didn’t have a building, we used Jacuzzis for Jesus -– anywhere we could find water.” Until 2004, Saddleback had averaged almost 1,300 baptisms a year going back to 1996. The past two years, however, the congregation has averaged more than 2,000 baptisms. "The cool thing is the stories behind [those] 20,000 lives," Warren said.
Mob Forces Church to Close in West Java, Indonesia
A Compass Direct release states that a mob of some 200 Muslim vigilantes forced Christians in Bogor, West Java, to abandon their church service on Sunday, The Jakarta Post reported today. Police were present but failed to stop the mob, composed of residents from the Griya Bukit Jaya housing complex. The mob forced approximately 190 Christians to leave a Pentecostal church building and agree to end services. They claimed the church had violated a 1999 decree issued by the governor of West Java and a 1969 Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB) regulating places of worship. Islamic groups have attacked and forcibly closed at least 60 churches in West Java over the past two and a half years, citing a lack of permits.
Students Forego the Beach in Favor of Prison This Spring
Students from across the country are heading to prison this April for Easter Behind Bars, where they will meet with inmates in a roundtable discussion and participate in Easter church services. Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley, former attorney general of Virginia, and Chuck Colson, Watergate figure, ex-prisoner, and founder of Prison Fellowship, join college students and local volunteers for an Easter outreach to hundreds of inmates at the Columbus-area London Correctional Institution and Ohio Reformatory for Women. On Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m. an outdoor service begins at London Correctional Institution—Main Prison. Then, on Easter Sunday, April 16 at 1:00 p.m. the Easter event begins at Ohio Reformatory for Women.
Christian Workers Attacked in Two States in India
Hindu extremists broke into a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center on March 17 in Madhya Pradesh state, beating students and significantly damaging furniture and equipment, a Compass Direct release reports. YWAM director Mukesh Jacob and his wife have since been charged with illegal conversion under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act. Hindu extremists also attacked three pastors during a street outreach in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on March 19; all three required hospital treatment. Local Christians say the attack was sparked by the presence of a Christian convert who was formerly a member of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.