Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Compass Direct News
International Mission Board
University of the Cumberlands
Suspected Drug Traffickers Kidnap Pastor in Mexico
Michoacan state church leader abducted during Sunday service.
By Elisabeth Isais
MEXICO CITY (Compass Direct News)--Some 500 worshippers were gathered for last Sunday's (April 10) worship service at the Christian Center El Shaddai in the Mexican city of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacan at about 8:15 a.m. when four masked men burst in firing machine guns into the air.
Before the frightened believers realized what was happening, their pastor, Josué Ramírez Santiago, had been whisked away. Divergent press reports indicated the kidnappers, suspected drug traffickers active in the state, were about 10 in number.
The following day, the pastor's family received news that the criminals wanted a ransom of 20 million pesos (US$1.7 million). Even if the family could raise such an immense sum - considered doubtful - payment would not guarantee that the victim would be returned alive.
Arturo Farela, director of the National Fraternity of Evangelical Churches, has asserted that organized crime syndicates and drug cartels have targeted Christians because they view churches as revenue centers and because churches support programs for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics.
"The majority of rehabilitation centers that have been attacked by organized crime in Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Tepic and other places belong to the evangelical community," Farela said in a declaration regarding the kidnapping of Ramirez. "Furthermore, some 100 Mexican or foreign pastors who lived in Ciudad Juarez have had to abandon the city because of the threats and demands for money. And of course many pastors and their families have been victims of extortion, threats, kidnapping and homicide."
Farela has stated that 100 Mexican clergymen have been kidnapped in recent years, with 15 of them losing their lives to organized crime. Asked if Compass could review his records of these crimes, Farela said he was not authorized to permit it.
In numerous other cases, children of pastors have been kidnapped, including one from Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, who has not been heard from for some six months. The college-age daughter of a prominent pastor in Mexico City was held by kidnappers for a week but was released when the criminals grew tired of the father's prayers every time they telephoned him; the family has not revealed whether money was given for her return.
Michoacan, the state where the most recent abduction took place, has been a center of much criminal activity and also of severe reprisals by elements of the Mexican army. The state where President Felipe Calderon was born, Michoacan was the first to implement an anti-drug military operation that expanded to northern and eastern states.
In spite of the operation, more than 34,600 people nationwide have reportedly been assassinated since it was implemented in December 2006, with most of those crimes tied to drug traffickers "settling accounts."
Student stands firm in face of persecution
By Alexander Oyler*
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alexander Oyler* (name changed) is a mechanical engineering student at Texas A&M University and a member of Living Hope Baptist Church, College Station, Tex. He recently spent six weeks in India as an SA101 volunteer. For more information on SA101, visit the website for South Asian peoples, http://www.go2southasia.org/special-interest/sa101/.
INDIA (International Mission Board)--While we were preparing for our summer job, our translator, a national Christian who taught me a lot about sharing the Gospel, said, "If you're going to be a Christian in India, you have to be prepared for persecution." I didn't know then that my life would be in danger. But I did know that he wasn't afraid. He was willing to go to any extent to see people come to Christ.
We trekked through the mountains of India, going village to village to learn about the culture. We shared our faith and gave out tracts and Bibles. In one village, we came face-to-face with a conservative Hindu group, angry that we were giving out Bibles.
An angry mob of about 15 men showed up at our guesthouse and ordered us outside. The way that they were yelling at us made us pretty confident that we were going to get beaten. We were nervous and afraid, so we prayed. As we walked outside, the translator looked back at me and said, "If they start throwing punches, don't fight back."
My first thought was, God give me the strength to not deny you. Don't ever let me be so scared that I deny you.
My second thought was about my friend, our translator. I knew that the chances were greatest that he would be beaten and I didn't know if I could watch that. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I didn't think I could stand by and watch this man get beaten — this man I had grown to love. So, I just prayed that their hearts would be softened, that they would be gentle.
And then, the last thought that went through my mind was to pray for a Paul-like conversion amongst these men.
They started talking about deporting us. They yelled at us. Then, they opened one of the tracts and made us read parts to them. The front of the tract says, "A word from our God." The verse on the cover is a verse from John that says, "Jesus is the only way and there are no other gods."
They asked us, "What does that say?" and "What do you believe?" and "What is your religion?"
We weren't about to deny Christ, but there are serious consequences for being honest with these people. So, we prayed for strength and said, "We're Christians."
God answered a lot of prayers that day. They asked to see all of our media, our pictures and video, which were focused heavily on worship and idols.
We knew that if they found that stuff, we would be in even more trouble. So, my partner gave them his camera that we were using to take silly pictures on. It wasn't a high-quality camera, but we showed them those pictures and they were satisfied. We know that God protected us because they had already seen my SLR camera and knew we had other cameras.
They asked for our documentation, and we were able to show them our documentation without giving it to them and without letting them see important things to write down.
They asked for all the tracts and Bibles we had with us, but since we had not finished our work, we weren't willing to give all of them up. So, we pulled out some of the tracts and one of the Bibles and gave them those. We hid the rest deep in our backpacks.
When they started to search us, we prayed that they would not find what we had hidden because we knew that would mean severe punishment. And for whatever reason they decided to stop searching and didn't find the rest of the materials. If they had found the materials, not only would those be lost, but we would certainly have faced beatings. The worst thing that could have happened would have been to lose all of our materials because we had no way to get others. In that area, we wouldn't be able to get more.
It is hard to believe how many prayers God answered in those two hours that we were being interrogated. Instead of beating us, they kicked us out of the entire area. No one was harmed. They didn't find out any more dangerous details. They only took a few tracts and none of our media.
We spent about an hour that night praying for the men, after we knew we had to leave. The next morning, they had called ahead and had people waiting for us. That was when we found out that they had burned the literature. But still, we prayed, "God, we know you're powerful enough. We've seen it in the Bible. We know you're powerful enough to save them."
There was a boy who had shown us around the village. He heard us share the Gospel at least twice while we were there, but we were never able to give him any literature. This boy snuck out of his village that night and came to us. He said, "I heard you share the Gospel. I heard about this, and I saw you giving people books about what you were talking about. I want one. I need one."
So, we gave this boy a Bible. He has a New Testament and a tract about Jesus. It was the saddest thing in the world to have to leave him there without sharing more. There are no Christians in this area, but this boy was thirsty for the Gospel.
Will you pray for this boy in India, who has no one to explain Jesus to him and people fighting him every step of the way? Will you pray for him as he reads his Bible? Pray that the Lord would give him understanding.
A student volunteer walks out of a temple in India with a convincted heart
By Heather Darnell
EDITOR'S NOTE: Heather Darnell, a student at Southeastern Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, recently spent two weeks in India learning about the culture and praying for South Asian peoples.
BANGALORE, India (International Mission Board)--I was a little apprehensive about visiting a Hindu temple. My Judeo-Christian roots and a few classes in world religion hadn't prepared me for knowing how to pray while others attempted to appease unmovable gods. I had visited a temple in America before, but this time I was in India and I expected the temple to feel foreign and strange.
Outside the temple, a crowd was gathered waiting to enter on an auspicious day for Hindus. As we stood there deciding whether or not to wait in line, a man's voice pointed out what everyone's eyes were saying: "Americans!" A temple employee quickly approached us, motioning to a sign we had neglected to read. "VIP entrance," he said. It was an extra 50 rupees to be a VIP but we paid it and skipped the line of worshippers.
We were ushered to a side entrance where we removed our shoes and washed our hands in presumably dirty water. Walking through a gate to an open air courtyard, I was dumbstruck as I gazed up at a three-story tall statue of Shiva sitting in the lotus position. Around the courtyard, worshippers could stop at various stations where they were encouraged to show their devotion by purchasing coconuts (or bananas) as offerings to leave for, or pour coconut milk on a symbolic representation of, Shiva. Worshippers could also throw coins into a pool of water, light candles, tie strings around trees or sit and pray.
A voice droned on the loudspeaker "Nama Shiva…Nama Shiva…Nama Shiva." Worship Shiva....
Signs around the courtyard encouraged devotion: "Perform this Ritual of Sacrifice into the sacred fire to receive health, happiness, luck and prosperity!"
The words "do you have faith?"echoed in my ears louder than the bells that were ringing to "trigger inner consciousness." I had heard these same kinds of words spoken before, in a much more familiar context. I remembered hearing things like: "Attend Church and give your tithes and offerings when the plate is passed to receive health, happiness and prosperity!"
These lines would not sound strange in the churches in my home country. But the similarities between the Hindu signs and the American sayings are striking. Are the churches I have attended preaching a deficient Gospel message by neglecting to instruct Christians on where exactly to put their faith? Do the messages contradict each other to create confusion? It is a chilling prospect.
Suddenly, it seemed wrong for me to tell someone to "have faith" or to "go to church." According to that language, the only word that would differentiate me from a Hindu is the location of our place of worship. Without Jesus, there is no distinction. I do have faith, but not in ritual or in the promise of a happier and more prosperous life through leaving gifts before carved gods.
Romans 5:1 tells us exactly where to put our faith; "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Our faith is in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross to rescue us from our sins, which separated us from the one true God.
I left the Hindu temple praying that, the next time I visit, the words I confront won't sound so similar to the ones I hear in church or the ones that fall from my own lips. I hope that I will see opportunities to share about my faith as opportunities to share about Jesus.
The challenge is in the contrasts
By Nathan Douthit
EDITOR'S NOTE: Nathan Douthit is a student at Auburn University. He spent last summer in South Asia. For more on short-term opportunities, http://www.go2southasia.org/special-interest/sa101/
DELHI, India (International Mission Board)--I am not sure I could've imagined such a place of contrasts. South Asia has a western façade but an eastern heart; extravagant riches and the lowest depths of poverty; the most spiritual darkness I have ever seen but the place where I have seen the light of the Christ shine brightest. It is not only a place with so many helpless, hopeless, and hurting, but also the place where I've seen the help, hope and healing of the Gospel lived out in real, tangible ways unlike I have ever seen in the US. Being in South Asia changes you.
It's one thing to hear the statistics of poverty, starvation, and preventable disease. It's another thing to look into the eyes of children who were left by their family because they couldn't afford to take care of them. It's one thing to hear of demonic oppression, idol worship, animal (and sometimes human) sacrifice, and the persecuted church. But to look into the eyes of the people who are afflicted by these things makes it real. How can I go back home the same?
My view of the Father has become even higher, my relationship with Christ even more real and personal, and my reliance on the Holy Spirit more complete. I have a responsibility now to what I've seen. As Luke 12:48b says: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
If you don't want your world rocked, and your life changed, you had better stay away from South Asia. If you want to improve your relationship with God and see what it means to live out the Gospel, come, serve, and see Jesus on a whole new level.
Cumberlands Baptist Campus Ministries students share smiles at local nursing home
WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (University of the Cumberlands)--While most college students spend their after lunch hours taking a power nap or in class, a group of students from the University of the Cumberlands Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) has chosen to use that time to serve others. Each Wednesday from 2-4 pm, these students travel to the Williamsburg Health and Rehabilitation Center (WHRC) to spend time with the residents.
This ministry is student organized and run. "Last year, several of us just went at random times for fun; then God showed me that we needed to start it up as a new ministry within BCM. This past school year, he has allowed me to lead an awesome group of people every week," said Stephanie Lawless, UC junior.
Over thirty students from UC have been involved in this unique ministry, making each Wednesday different. "God has blessed us with a large, diverse team of people. Each person has something unique to offer in service," Lawless said.
While the students are there, they do anything the residents want; they sit and talk, play puzzles and sing songs. They also play guitar, paint nails, crochet and have Bible lessons. Lawless added that as the ministry has grown, the group has been able to do more things. Now, they are able to split up and visit individual rooms as well as visiting in groups in the activity room. Once, the students even put on a circus for the residents in the lobby, complete with a unicycle, stilts and juggling.
"My favorite parts are those special encounters we have with the residents," Lawless said. "One lady we visit basically cannot hear anything. We go to her room and sing at the top of our lungs. When she started singing along with us, we started tearing up. She then told us of how she used to be able to go to church, and how she loves hearing singing when she can hear it."
One resident, Nancy Anderson, enjoys visiting with the students. "I love it. I like to talk, especially if it's about God. He's my best buddy in the world, and I'm glad I know him," Anderson said.
The staff at WHRC has noticed a difference in the residents since the UC students began volunteering.
"The residents really love it," said Joyce Boggs, WHRC activities director. "They just look forward to Wednesdays. They can't wait for them to come. They talk about it all week long. They enjoy the company and that people talk to them and care about them."
The student volunteers agreed that it is their favorite part of the week too. "James 1:7 says the essence of religion is to take care of the poor and the widows," said Ben Clayton, volunteer and UC Resident House Director. "This is one of the highlights of my week. I'm learning from them."
Faces of the elderly and hurting light up as they hear the voices and see the smiles of the UC volunteers. The WHRC ministry is a truly special thing. "We go to be a blessing, but we are blessed so much more in return by the residents and how God is working," Lawless said.
Beverly Kirk speaks on advocacy journalism at Campbellsville University's media appreciation luncheon
By Elena Groholske, student news writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (Campbellsville University)--"To quote George Strait, 'I've got some ocean front property in Arizona, from my front porch you can see the sea," Beverly Kirk said at Campbellsville University's 7th Annual Media Appreciation Luncheon on March 31.
Kirk is a former NBC correspondent and the founder and CEO of BevKirk International LLC, a media-consulting and professional services agency. She was the featured speaker for the annual event at CU. In quoting Strait, it was to say consumers must learn to take things at more than just face value and broaden their horizons.
Originally from Burkesville, Ky., Kirk began her career in media at WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, Ky., and at WLEX-TV in Lexington, Ky.
"The Media Appreciation Luncheon is a chance for the university to thank the local media for all of their hard work as well as an opportunity for students to meet and network with those who have hands-on experience in the media," Joan McKinney, news and publications coordinator for Campbellsville University, said.
Around 150 local media, Campbellsville students, faculty and staff attended this year's luncheon.
Kirk spoke on the rising popularity of advocacy journalism and its benefits to society. The American University School of Communications defines advocacy journalism as falling between pure advocacy and pure journalism. "What's the future? Is it advocacy journalism? Well, it's certainly going to have a bigger place at the table in the future. The reason behind the surge is money and resources," Kirk said.
"Traditional journalism outlets continue to shrink because of budget cuts and the fact that no one has quite figured out how to make as much money from the internet as advertising dollars provided to newsrooms in the past."
Kirk warned the audience to be on guard with the media, constantly check your sources and do not be afraid to confront the media if they are not doing what they should be. Kirk's final challenge was to take journalism into your own hands by becoming savvy and going about things in a way previously not considered.
The media luncheon showcased Campbellsville University's new radio station WLCU 88.7 FM and its first on-air broadcast.
Kirk not only was the guest speaker but also "flipped the switch" to turn on WLCU, and was on-hand to record the station's first live public service announcement.
Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University, and Al Hardy, dean of academic support, helped Kirk to turn WLCU's switch.
"As students learn the trade of broadcast journalism," said Dr. Keith Spears, vice president for regional and professional education, "the radio station will become their lab. The first broadcast class deals with producing public affairs and news, sports, public service announcements and other programming."
Campbellsville University is now the only private or public college or university that has an FCC licensed TV and radio station.
WLCU airs contemporary Christian music, information segments, public services announcements and news and weather segments. Students in the university's broadcasting class have recorded PSAs that aired during the testing phase of the station and will be used throughout the life of the station.
Campbellsville University now offers majors and minors in broadcasting and digital media, journalism and public relations. A minor is also offered in photojournalism. In addition, an area, essentially a major and minor combined, is available.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with over 3,000 students offering 63 undergraduate programs, 17 master's degrees and five postgraduate areas. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
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