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Obituary received by Baptist Press
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WATERLOO, S.C. -- Mary Pauline Hogg Saunders (“Mama John”), 90, a longtime nurse with the Foreign Mission Board who engaged in front-line ministry during the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s, died at the Veteran's Victory House in Walterboro, S.C., on Wednesday morning, April 23.
Mama John was a member of First Baptist Church in Walterboro where she attended Sunday school and worship as often as she was able. When she was unable to travel, she attended the worship services at the Veteran's Victory House.
Mama John was a lifelong Baptist, as a young girl attending the Citadel Square Baptist Church in Charleston where she met and married the late Davis Lee Saunders. It was also at this church that she and Davis responded to God's call for missionary service. Mama John trained as a nurse at Roper Hospital in Charleston and served in the Army as a nurse during the Second World War, 1945-46. After marrying Davis, she accompanied her husband to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where she worked as the school's nurse while she and Davis prepared to go to Africa as missionaries. Dr. and Mrs. Saunders worked with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission board for 40 years, retiring to Dr. Saunders' home place in Walterboro. Throughout the years, in whatever way she could, Mama John ministered to people as nurse, teacher, friend, spiritual advisor and co-laborer. She was an abiding and faithful witness to the love of God.
Mama John was known as a person who loved people even as she understood God's love for her. She strongly believed in the ministry of "touch" and was always prepared to offer a hug and a prayer to anyone she would meet along the way. For many years, her beautiful contralto voice could be heard both in congregational singing as well as in solo performances sung in churches and various religious meetings. For many years in Kenya/Tanzania, she would carry an old pump-organ alongside her medical bags as she ministered in small villages and towns. Mama John was fearless, working not only in the bush and poverty stricken areas of Eastern Africa, but also in Northern Ethiopia, Somalia and Mozambique. Her energy and spirit seemed undaunted. No matter where she lived, even in her retirement years, she was always inviting women, old and young, to develop an active life of prayer and study. She had been an avid reader, rising early each morning long before the sun appeared, to spend time in devotion, Bible reading and prayer. In many ways, Mama John was a contemplative whose quiet time with her Lord fueled each moment of every day.
She is survived by six children: Mary Lee Thomas (Geoffrey) of Woodbridge, VA., Danner S. Neal (Tony) of Williamsburg, VA., John A.L. Saunders II of Charleston (Jeri), SC., Nina S. Ellison (Craig) of Columbia, SC., Cathy Henson of Panama Beach, FL. and Jeff L. Saunders (Mary Kate) of Walterboro, SC. Mama John is also survived by 9 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
Bill Gothard responds to allegations
By Warren Cole Smith
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WORLD News Service) -- More than a month after stepping down as president of the ministry he founded, Bill Gothard released a statement that attempts to respond to allegations of sexual impropriety that ultimately led to his resignation from the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP).
"God has brought me to a place of greater brokenness than at any other time in my life," Gothard wrote in the statement released April 17. "It is a grief to realize how my pride and insensitivity have affected so many people. I have asked the Lord to reveal the underlying causes and He is doing this."
But the statement denied some of the more serious charges leveled against Gothard by the group Recovering Grace, which earlier this year released statements from 34 women detailing incidents dating back to the 1970s. The statements accuse Gothard of sexual harassment and—in one case—sexual abuse that included fondling but not rape.
"My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong," Gothard wrote. "They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent."
Recovering Grace issued its own statement today, saying that despite "several positive aspects" found in Gothard's statement, it nonetheless leaves the group "troubled." The group said it "concluded that Gothard's statement, as it stands, is incomplete."
The group singled out Gothard's assertion that he did not touch a girl "immorally or with sexual intent."
"There is a clear contradiction in this portion of Gothard's statement, since the specific behaviors he confesses to (holding hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair) are behaviors that even our broader culture views as sexual in nature between adults," Recovering Grace's statement read. "These unwanted behaviors are grossly inappropriate with students and subordinates, and sexually confusing to sheltered young women brought up in the strict 'purity culture' espoused by Gothard and his followers."
The group pointed out that because Gothard's actions occurred in the workplace, they would fall under the legal definition of sexual harassment. "This behavior was persistent and sexual in nature," the group's statement read, "and must be acknowledged as such."
Recovering Grace also said it feared Gothard's statement "leaves the door open" for him to return as the leader of IBLP. "Gothard did not outline a plan for avoiding similar failures in the future," read the group's statement, which also asked whether he had submitted himself to the authority of a local church or sought professional counseling. "It is our firm belief that Gothard needs to take these important steps going forward, lest he find himself repeating his past mistakes. As an outward manifestation of good faith and as a valuable method of public accountability, we would hope to see Gothard outline the corrective measures he is going to implement."
Recovering Grace's concern that Gothard might return to leadership of IBLP is rooted in the fact that the organization's board of directors left the door open for his return. The board appointed an interim president, Tim Levendusky, on March 14, but it has so far not indicated publicly that it is searching for a permanent replacement. The statement announcing Levendusky's appointment instead said that a "Christ-honoring review process shall continue and a future statement will be issued once the review is complete and submitted to the Board of Directors."
In the 1970s and '80s, Gothard filled 20,000-seat auditoriums with evangelical Christians who came to hear his weeklong seminars on biblical principles and practical applications, which included warnings against rock music and exhortations to stay out of debt. His seminars, attended by more than 2.5 million people, were particularly popular with the rapidly growing homeschool community.
Eritrea again persecutes Christians of officially recognized faith
ERITREA -- (Morning Star News) -- Eritrea is again persecuting even officially recognized religious bodies with the arrest last week of five Christians set to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to Open Doors.
The Christian support organization announced today that security officials in the capital, Asmara, arrested Petros Yosief, Bemnet Tesfay, Aklilu Tesfay, Ermias Hadgu and Aron Mehretu. The arrests came shortly after the church announced on April 20 that they would be ordained for pastoral ministry.
"The arrests clearly show how even government recognized churches, namely the Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Lutheran churches, are not free from government control," said an Open Doors source on condition of anonymity.
Authorities in Eritrea, where an estimated 1,500 Christians are languishing in prison for their faith, are holding the would-be Evangelical Lutheran leaders at Police Station Number 2 in Asmara, according to an Open Doors press statement.
"The arrest of these pastoral candidates reminds us of one of the greatest challenges churches in Eritrea face," said an Open Doors worker. "Due to the constant turnover of pastors due to arrest or threats, continuous and biblically consistent pastoral care for Christians is hampered."
In 2005, Eritrean authorities cracked down on the officially recognized Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), persecuting those who supported a renewal movement within the church and who protested religious persecution. When Patriarch Abune Antonios, head of the EOC, objected to the persecution, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki arranged for him to be deposed, placed under house arrest and ultimately replaced by a government official.
It was the EOC that had reportedly urged the government to crack down on the other religions in the first place, resulting in making all other religious bodies outside of the four who registered in May 2002 illegal.
"Since then, many thousands of mostly evangelical Christians have suffered severely at the hands of a regime known for its human rights abuses, appalling prison conditions and widespread use of torture," writes Elizabeth Kendal of the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin. "Even teenagers are not spared and must complete military service in military training camps before they can graduate from school. Separated from their parents, religious persecution in these camps is systematic and severe."
At its worst point, persecution in Eritrea resulted in an estimated 3,000 Christians incarcerated for their faith by the end of 2010, with most held in shipping containers in desert camps and others in underground cells, Kendal writes.
"The conditions are inhumane: Children and the elderly are amongst the prisoners sharing skin diseases, dysentery and other horrors in confined, unventilated spaces," she notes. "Torture is routine. Amnesty International has reported on the tortures suffered by Christian prisoners. Several Christians have died in custody and others have perished in the desert trying to escape."
In 2010, the U.S. Department of State estimated 50 percent of the Eritrean population was Muslim and about 48 percent Christian; the Pew Research Center, however, estimated at that time that nearly 63 percent were Christian and 36.2 percent Muslim.
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