For the week of November 11, 2004
Gifts through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program totaled almost $17.3
million last month, an increase of $1.5 million (9.7 percent) from the same
month last year. The total also stands nearly $2 million (3.1 percent) ahead
of monthly budget needs. That gets Southern Baptists off to a good start in
their new giving year – after they closed the 2003-04 budget at the end
of September a record $190 million in annual gifts. In addition to early Cooperative
Program gifts, designated gifts for October totaled $3.2 million, a decrease
of $174,748 (5.2 percent) from the same month last year.
Change of heart
Andrea Armstrong created quite a stir when she petitioned the University of
South Florida to allow her to wear Islamic garb while playing basketball for
the school. However, after winning her appeal, she has quit the team and told
her hometown newspaper she has recognized the error of her ways and has returned
to Christianity. “It was my loneliness and forgetfulness of my past teachings
that caused me to convert to Islam,” she said recently. “I know that
my actions caused great controversy over the past few weeks. I had no idea that
a decision that I thought I was making for myself would reach out so far beyond
myself and affect so many.” Coaches first told Armstrong she could not
wear the Islamic garb – long pants, a top with sleeves and a scarf –
in practice or games. Then, a decision was made to allow Armstrong to wear the
attire. A week later, Armstrong quit the team and moved home to Oregon. “I
thought Florida was what I wanted,” she said. “I did not realize that
with this move, I was slowly distancing myself from God, my family and friends.
Had I recognized the emptiness that I felt for what it was – a homesickness
for my family, friends and hometown – I would not have tried so hard to
fill it with an unfamiliar religion. I take full responsibility for my actions
and live in the certainty that God will forgive me.”
Citing an increasing openness to the gospel within the growing Hispanic population
in the United States, Southern Baptist North American Mission Board President
Robert Reccord has appointed a task force to help Southern Baptists reach the
people group. Southern Baptists already are starting 240 churches per year in
predominately Hispanic areas. However, growth within the Hispanic population
is surpassing all estimates, Reccord noted. “It is going to take unprecedented
communication and cooperation between national, state and local SBC leaders
to reach Hispanics in North America for Christ,” he said. The 15-member
task force is expected to offer recommendations sometime next year.
Nearly one out of five sexually-active teenage girls experience date violence,
a new Harvard study indicates. The study shows that one out of 10 teenage girls
report instances of dating violence. But that number rises to one out of five
for girls who have had sexual intercourse. The study of 6,864 teenage girls
also shows that girls who experience dating violence and have had sex are much
more likely not to use a condom during intercourse and to become pregnant. Researchers
suggested that is because they often are being forced to have sex and are unable
to take steps to protect themselves against pregnancy. Researchers also noted
the violence cuts across all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. “We
need to do much more to recognize this issue, …” said Jay Silverman,
director of the Violence Against Women prevention program at Harvard University.
“We have to do much more to create safe places, healing places, where young
girls can get the help they need so they can better protect themselves.”
Silverman also said the more involved a parent is in a childs life, the
less likely it is that the child will be involved in dating violence. “We
have to recognize it, … talk about it (and) … break the silence if we are
really going to help protect these children,” Silverman said.
Jesus film on Internet
Twenty-five years after its theatrical release, the “Jesus” film
has made its Internet debut. It can be viewed in 300-plus languages at www.JesusFilm.org.
The two-hour film is a biblical account of the life of Christ. It was produced
by Campus Crusade for Christ in 1979. “To our knowledge, a film has never
been freely available on the Internet in so many different languages,”
said Jim Green, executive director of The JESUS Film Project, which oversees
the film. The film also is available on VHS and DVD.
About 40 persons attended the recent Louisiana Missionary Parent Fellowship
at the Baptist Building in Alexandria. The event was planned for parents of
children serving as missions workers through the Southern Baptist International
Mission Board. Such events have been held annually since 1998, sponsored by
the Louisiana Baptist Womens Missions and Ministry Division. The schedule
included times of prayer, songs of celebration and speakers – Tom and Gloria
Thurman, Southern Baptist missionaries to Bangladesh for more than 30 years.
Former Southern Baptist missionary Bill Ichter led music. Ichter served in Brazil.
Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham has accepted an invitation to lead
a New York City crusade at Madison Square Garden in June 2005. Pastors from
more than 150 New York area churches gathered to extend an official invitation
to the evangelist. “In response to 9/11, the churches in New York City
expressed a collaborative effort to come together in response to a need,”
said A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn . “My
prayer is that this crusade will bring us to a stage of collective effort, where
each church plays a part, but we will make a difference together as a whole.”
The 2005 crusade will be Grahams seventh in the area and third at different
Madison Square Garden locations. A 1957 visit to the area was a significant
event in 20th-century church history – meetings that were supposed to last
for six weeks were extended to 16, and more than two million people attended.
Grahams most recent visit to New York was a rally in Central Park in 1991,
which set a record for the largest religious assembly in the city with more
than 250,000 in attendance.
Evidence continues to mount for the therapeutic power of non-embryonic stem
cells. Researchers at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago transplanted
non-embryonic stem cells into a 52-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis
in 38 joints. A year later, she is free of the disease, reports indicate. The
stem cells were taken from the womans sister. The August issue of the
journal Arthritis & Rheumatism includes a report on the successful procedure.
Stem cells are the bodys master cells that produce tissue and other cells.
Extracting stems cells from adults and other non-embryonic sources, such as
umbilical cord blood, does not harm the donor. However, procuring stem cells
from embryos destroys the embryo and is opposed by pro-life advocates. Research
using stem cells from non-embryonic sources already has produced successful
treatments for more than 40 diseases and afflictions. So far, embryonic stem
cell research has produced no effective treatments in human beings and has had
a tendency to generate tumors in laboratory animals.
While violence in public schools declined during the past decade, the number
of teenagers skipping school for fear of getting hurt has increased, a study
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates. The study attributed
the rise to an increase in schoolyard threats and lingering fear from school
shootings in the 1990s such as the Columbine tragedy. More than one out of every
20 high school students – 5.4 percent – skipped at least one day of
school because of safety concerns in 2003, the study found. That number is up
from 4.4 percent in 1993.