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Religion Today Summaries, December 29, 2003

Compiled and Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 29, 2003

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

  • Pro-Life Leader Says When God is Expelled from Schools, Students Suffer

  • President Receives Evangelical Ambassador

  • Missionary 'Reality' Series Aim to Inspire and Inform

  • Senior Citizen's Ministry Offers Drug Addicts 'New Hope'

Pro-Life Leader Says When God is Expelled from Schools, Students Suffer
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A pro-family activist is denouncing a North Carolina public school for suspending a Christian guidance counselor. Concord High School recently suspended Beth Pinto with pay for sharing Bible verses with a student who was struggling with homosexuality.  Although the student requested biblical advice, according to school officials Pinto's actions violated the so-called "separation of Church and State." But the guidance counselor's suspension was lifted after the high school received hundreds of complaint calls from local parents and Christians across the U.S.  Now Pinto has been fully reinstated, and has gained a large number of Christian supporters who remain fed up with the school.  One of them is Pastor Flip Benham with the group Operation Save America. Benham contends that many public school administrators across the United States are employing the same strong-arm tactics that were used in the Concord case. The activist comments that it is a sad day when God has been expelled from America's schools and banished from its schoolyards, and His presence replaced by metal detectors, condoms, drugs and unprecedented violence. Operation Save America members recently held a demonstration at Concord High School, encouraging Christian pastors, parents, and other concerned citizens to speak out against the intimidation of Christian employees and against attempts to bar expressions of Christian faith from school campuses.

President Receives Evangelical Ambassador
Compass Direct

Three weeks after assuming office, President Carlos Mesa of Bolivia met with evangelical leaders in La Paz, the first official meeting in more than a decade between Bolivian Protestants and their head of state. "We expressed evangelical support for the democratic process in Bolivia," said Johan Candelin, Goodwill Ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance, who met with Mesa on November 7. "The situation is so fragile and difficult, that any support for the democratic process is badly needed." Congress elevated Mesa, 53, to the presidency on October 17 after his predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, was forced to resign and leave the country following weeks of unruly protests which left more than 60 people dead. The meeting provided an opportunity for evangelicals to raise an issue close to their hearts: religious liberty. "The basic understanding during the talks with President Mesa was that religious freedom is an important issue and that evangelicals should have the same religious freedom as all other citizens," Candelin said. "It has permitted us to harmonize and adapt our national strategy for the defense of religious liberty within our Biblical principles," added Bruno Ossio, president of the Evangelical Alliance of Bolivia, who arranged the audience.

Missionary 'Reality' Series Aim to Inspire and Inform
Allie Martin, Agape Press

The creators of a new reality television series say they wanted to give a unique look into the world of frontline mission work. The series, called Travel the Road, follows the adventures of 28-year-old William Decker and 24-year-old Timothy Scott.  Over an 18-month period, the pair traveled to 25 countries, covering more than 40,000 miles while they shared the gospel, chronicled everything on videotape -- and carried only one backpack. Michael Scott, executive producer of the series, explains that the show offers viewers a first-hand look at the life of a missionary.  "We're trying to inspire a new generation of missionaries to go into all the world and preach the gospel," he says. Scott, a pastor's son, says he has received e-mails from across the world telling him that the series has inspired viewers to realize the Lord has placed a similar calling on their lives. According to the producer, the focus of Travel the Road differs significantly from reality series such as Survivor that include large monetary prizes. "[In our case] the TV show was secondary," Scott says.  "What was most important [to us] was the mission." Travel the Road can be seen every Tuesday and Saturday night on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. 

Senior Citizen's Ministry Offers Drug Addicts 'New Hope'
Charisma News Service

A former drug addict in his 70s is rebuilding lives and transforming the streets of a Florida city. Manuel 'Manny' Álvarez, founder of a Miami-area ministry for substance abusers named New Hope CORPS (Counseling, Outpatient, Residential, Prevention Services), is older than most who have dedicated their lives to street ministry. At 76, "Manny" is not allowing his age to stop him. Because of his tireless devotion, bottomless compassion and unwavering tenacity to follow God's call, thousands of people in South Florida have been rescued from lives of addiction and homeless poverty. For years, Álvarez was a heroin addict, alcoholic and drug abuser. He's also been in prison. Upon his release from a drug-rehab program, he attended a community college. He persevered and at age 65 received a master's in counseling. The approach to rehabilitation at New Hope focuses on Jesus and the liberation from sin He offers. New Hope offers a balance of spiritual growth and structured living. New Hope averages between 60 percent and 80 percent for its success ratio. In addition to its primary resident-addiction program, New Hope comprises other programs, each with a separate focus. There is the after-care program that allows graduates of the residential-addiction program to rent a room at the facility while they begin taking on the responsibilities of a new job and new life.