TULSA, Okla. — Street people lying on the grass and perched inside concrete nooks watch as a long, yellow moving truck backs under a downtown bridge.Interstate 244 rumbles with traffic overhead as men, women and children from the Park Plaza Church of Christ slide open the truck’s back door and pull down a metal ramp.
|Night Light Tulsa, a ministry that grew out of a Park Plaza Church of Christ small group, feeds people under a bridge in Tulsa, Okla. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)|
|Jonathan DuPont says the ministry's organizers "never want nothing in return except your good company." (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)|
|Kevin Nieman, in the orange T-shirt, grills burgers under the bridge. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)|
|The Lord has blessed me," says Vietnam veteran Steve Lovelace, who was baptized as a result of meeting the Night Light Tulsa volunteers. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)|
|40 days of Prayer recently held for Guidance in this endeavor|
MURFREESBORO — On Sunday morning, a large, empty room in the Lane Agri-Park Community Center will be transformed.
A handful of televisions and three projectors with screens will be carried into the room that also houses the Rutherford County Farmers Market during the summer. Chairs and dividers will be arranged into makeshift rooms. Even flooring will be laid over the cold, concrete surface of the open space.
“It’s a modern tabernacle,” Robb said. “We call it ‘portable church.’”
Congregations in the Church of Christ are not organized under a convention or diocese, so every church retains its independence. However, the west campus is not a new church, per se, Robb said. It is a satellite of the congregation on 1112 N. Rutherford Blvd.
Every Sunday, the 8 a.m. sermon delivered by David Young at the main site will be recorded and transferred to a disk, which will then be transported to the west campus, Robb said. At 10 a.m., the rest of the large congregation will watch the service.
The new location on the opposite end of Murfreesboro serves a practical purpose, Robb said. The congregation is made up of some 2,300 members — more than can be shepherded during the three Sunday worship services at the main campus.
There is a more ambitious goal at play as well, Robb said. The congregation hopes the west campus is the first offshoot in a greater branching network of churches.
The grand total of new churches the congregation wants to plant? At least 60,000, Robb said.
“That’s a vision for decades,” said Robb, who acknowledged the proposition is ambitious, to say the least. “This is part of a larger plan... It’s not a fly-by-night initiative.”
Lori Windham, a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas, represents the Oklahoma-based retailer in a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week.
Lori Windham, a member of the Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia and a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas, serves as counsel for Hobby Lobby in a closely watched religious freedom case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
“No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to open a family business,” Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a news release. “This case demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.”
Windham was quoted over the weekend in a front-page Wall Street Journal report on the case.
The Washington Post summarized Tuesday's arguments this way:
A divided Supreme Court seemed sympathetic Tuesday to the views of business owners who say their religious objections protect them from a requirement in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that health insurance plans cover all types of contraceptives.
With both spring snow and demonstrators gathering on the sidewalk outside, the justices spent a spirited 90 minutes debating religious conviction, equal treatment for female workers and whether the court would be opening the door for religious challenges to all sorts of government regulation.
It is difficult to predict a precise outcome based on the justices’ wide-ranging questions and statements. But a majority did seem to come together on the threshold question of whether a corporation can even hold religious views.
Read the full Post report.
Windham has served on a source on a few Christian Chronicle stories over the last year, including one on a Christian judge admonished for voicing concern on same-sex marriages and another on the constitutionality of "Released Time" Bible instruction at public schools.
Windham can be followed on Twitter at @loriwindham1.
IN UKRAINE AND RUSSIA, ministers ask Christians to abstain from angry words as they pray for peace and reconciliation.
“Hate destroys the world,” he said in a recent Facebook post, translated from Russian. “Hatred is a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of our enemy. Unfortunately, hatred has penetrated into the hearts of my loved ones.”
One flashpoint of contention between the two former Soviet nations is the ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. In late 2013, he rejected an economic deal with the European Union and decided instead to strengthen economic ties to Russia.
In late February, thousands of protesters poured into Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, accusing the president of corruption and living in luxury as many of his countrymen suffered in poverty. Clashes between protesters and police resulted in 77 deaths. The protests forced church members to close the Ukrainian Education Center in Kiev, a facility where students from three nearby universities enjoy cups of tea as they use computers and a free wireless network and peruse a collection of books on Christian living. About 50 to 100 students use the facility each day, said Vitaly Samodin, who directs the center and conducts English and Bible lessons there. A few of the students took part in the protests before they became violent, he said. “Most people couldn’t (and many still can’t) hold back their tears, thinking of the people who laid down their lives on the main square of Kyiv,” Samodin said in an email, using the Ukrainian-language spelling of the capital city.
His country’s newly appointed president, Oleksandr Turchynov, is a Baptist preacher. He “has called for all Christians and believers in the country to fast and pray for the peaceful resolution of the problem,” said Samodin, a member of the Nivky Church of Christ in Kiev. Samodin said he has found comfort in Scripture, including Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “where he talks about rumors of wars and the need for Christians to keep their faith so that love does not grow cold in their hearts.”
|Sasha Prokopchuk baptizes a woman in the Black Sea during a 2011 conference on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula — where pro-Russian militias recently seized two airports and raised the Russian flag. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)‘|
OUR LIGHT POURS FORTH’
In the two decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Churches of Christ have grown rapidly in Ukraine — especially the Donbas region of the country’s Russian-speaking east. Sasha Prokopchuk — who once served in the Soviet army and now ministers for a Church of Christ in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk — makes regular trips to Crimea to host a conference for church members and spiritual seekers. Konstantin Zhigulin, a church member and professional musician in St. Petersburg, led singing at the conference in 2011 and taught the attendees
Zhigulin, en route to the U.S. to visit churches in the Northeast with his quartet, Psalom, said he was praying for his Ukrainian brethren. “In this troublesome time, God’s church is called to be light to this world,” Zhigulin told The Christian Chronicle. “Our light pours forth from the way we carry ourselves in this moment.” Participants in the Crimea conference received Russian- and Ukrainian-language Bibles and gospel literature from Eastern European Mission, a church-supported ministry that has placed its materials in nearly 14,000 public schools across Ukraine and Russia. On April 1 the mission launches 31 days of prayer for Ukraine and Russia, ending with the National Day of Prayer May 1. Founded at the height of the Cold War in 1961, Eastern European Mission used to smuggle Bibles under the Iron Curtain. Its current president, Bill Bundy, said that “the difficulties in Ukraine remind us that EEM began this ministry to deliver Bibles under very harsh circumstances.” Despite the current tension, school officials in Ukraine continue to request Bible literature, said Bart Rybinski, EEM’s vice president for European operations. “Also, last week we received a request from a church in Crimea for a large number of Bibles,” he said. “Though they are in the eye of the storm, they continue to share God’s Word with people in their city.”
For home congregation, Robertson family’s celebrity a blessing and a challenge.
WEST MONROE, La. — Gasps of excitement wash over a crowded classroom at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ as Phil Robertson arrives for Sunday school.
Seventy pairs of stargazing eyes follow the bearded, camouflage-clad Duck Commander as he shakes hands with fans, thanking a couple from Canada for sending their ducks down south.The reality television star carries a well-worn Bible, the thick binding held together with duct tape, as he takes his seat facing the audience.
|Bobby Ross Jr.'s Inside Story column: What will Phil say at the Tulsa Workshop?|
Family of Philip Wood, one of three Americans on the flight, says it is 'sticking together through Christ to get through this.'
Philip Wood, a 1985 Oklahoma Christian graduate, was one of three Americans believed to be on Flight MH370, which was carrying 239 people.
"I just want to say from our family that Phil loved Christ, his family and everyone," Wood's brother James Wood wrote on Oklahoma Christian's Facebook page. "Our hearts hurt, but we know so many around the world are hurting just as much by this terrible tragedy. Christ is our hope and strength. Please pray for everyone involved during this difficult time."
In its statement to Dallas-Fort Worth station KXAS-TV, the family said:
Incredibly generous, creative and intelligent, Phil cared about people, his family, and above all, Christ. ... As a family, we are sticking together through Christ to get through this. Thank you for your understanding.
Philip Wood, 50, earned his Oklahoma Christian degree in computer science and was a member of the Delta Gamma Sigma social service club, university spokesman Joshua Watson told The Oklahoman.
Wood worked as a technical storage executive at IBM Malaysia, WFAA-TV reported:
"Do you want to know how it feels to lose a son at the age of 50?" said Sondra Wood, Philip's mother, Saturday from her Keller home.
"It's devastating. But, I know in my heart that Philip's with God and I plan to be there with him because I have a deep faith in my God."
His mother said she was enduring her loss through the help of loved ones.
"I will see him again one day," she said.
On its Facebook page, the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City said:
(Philip's) parents, Aubrey & Sondra Wood, were charter members of MRCC and their family is so very loved here. Memorial Road is praying for the Woods and all of these families!
Relatives told The Associated Press they had last seen the former North Texas resident when he visited home about a week ago.
'Beardless bro' Alan Robertson says he’ll be surprised if the Duck Commander focuses on homosexuality at the Tulsa Workshop.
On Friday night, March 21 — for the first time since the A&E Network suspended the Duck Commander over his remarks and then quickly reinstated him — the 67-year-old Church of Christ elder will take the stage at a major speaking event.The event is one that needs no introduction to most members of Churches of Christ: the Tulsa Workshop in Oklahoma — a free annual gathering started in 1976 and known for many years as the “Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop.”
|Alan Robertson poses with the world's largest duck call at the Duck Commander warehouse in West Monroe, La. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)“|
Reaching the World is Worth the Cost” is the title of the planned keynote that Phil and his beardless son Alan — who describes himself as a “Jacob in a family of Esaus” — will deliver in an arena that seats 8,000 souls.
“I think it’ll be memorable, and I think it’ll be rousing for sure,” said Alan Robertson, who spent two decades in the pulpit before stepping down in 2012 to help with the family’s burgeoning duck call business. “Get Dad with a houseful (of people), and it should be good.”Terry Rush, senior minister for the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa and a longtime workshop organizer, predicts an overflow crowd.
|Alan Robertson, third from left, dares to be different. He's pictured with his brothers Willie and Jase, father Phil, uncle Si, brother Jeptha and duck call makers Justin Martin and John Godwin. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALAN ROBERTSON)|
|Dan and Betty Ann Stovell from Canada pose with Kay Robertson after Bible class. In the upper left, Jep Robertson greets Texan John Morgan. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)|
Christians hear gunfire as they inspect a looted vocational boarding school designed to bring warring peoples together and share Jesus.
|Refugees in South Sudan. (PHOTO BY CHUCK DENNIS)|
During a recent visit to South Sudan, two church members saw firsthand the devastation that resulted from weeks of violence in the East African nation.
Chuck Dennis and Dennis Cady, members of the Faith Village Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas, helped construct a Christian vocational boarding school in the town of Bor, a focal point of the ethnically charged conflict. Cady's nonprofit, the Starfish Foundation, built the school in Bor, the capital of South Sudan’s Jonglei state, at the request of the state’s governor.The governor requested the school to help his people, who represent six ethnics groups, to learn moneymaking skills — and to learn to coexist peacefully, Cady said.
The town — and the school — were seized at least twice by rebels fighting South Sudanese government troops, Cady said. (See our recent coverage for an explanation of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.)
Dennis and Cady visited a refugee camp in Uganda, the South Sudanese capital of Juba and Bor to survey damage and assess needs.
Here's an excerpt from the church members' report:
Because of insecurity in the region we were able to spend only three hours in Bor. To make that possible we chartered a small plane which took us from Juba, waited on the ground three hours then took us back to Juba.
We are thrilled that our campus has received relatively light damage. Numerous windows were broken, three steel doors must be replaced and other things need to be repaired, but things could have been so much worse.
The marketplace in Bor. (PHOTO BY CHUCK DENNIS)
In the city, most houses are intact. Commercial properties did not fare as well. Most of the central marketplace has been burned, reduced to piles of mangled sheet iron.
Virtually every building, residential and commercial, has been looted. While people have houses to come back to, they are empty shells. Most houses which were burned had mud walls and grass or thatched roofs. Incendiary bullets ignited the roofs. We were told looting was committed by both rebel forces and civilians who merely took advantage of the lawless conditions. People are starting to return to the city, but not yet in great numbers. As larger numbers return we want to have in place assistance to help them rebuild their lives.
We cannot turn back the clock and undo what has happened in South Sudan since mid December. We can respond in such a way that opportunities to teach the gospel can be created. Scores, maybe hundreds, can be saved because they (will) listen after observing God's people responding quickly and sufficiently.
Contact the Starfish Foundation for more information.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If zombies attack, Vic Pruett will be ready.
The Florida minister jokes that he has a smartphone application that will help him fight back.
“I do love my smartphone,” said Pruett, who preaches for the Holly Hill Church of Christ, north of Daytona Beach. “I’ve got a map app, a running app, a calculator app, a movie listing app, a weather app, a level and measuring app, Bible apps, news apps and game apps, of course.”
|At the conference, Emily Hudkins and Michalie Brown catch up on their messages. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)|
Unfortunately, Pruett hasn’t found an app to make him a better husband and father or cause him to be faithful, honest and righteous, he said during the National Conference on Youth Ministries.
The advantages — and limitations — of technology were among the topics explored as nearly 400 youth ministers, vendors and speakers from 26 states and Canada gathered at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort.
From Pruett’s “There’s an App for That” presentation — focused on the fruits of the Holy Spirit — to Ultimate Escape ministry director Steve Holladay’s session on “Hook-ups, Sexting and Porn,” the recent conference reflected the changing realities of youth ministry.
“They’re plugged in. They’re technologically equipped,” Houston Heflin, a ministry professor at Abilene Christian University in Texas, said of today’s teens.
Heflin, author of “Teaching Eutychus: Engaging Today’s Learners with Passion and Creativity,” addressed a roomful of youth ministers.
His topic: “New Apps and Teaching Tricks to Help Students Learn.”
For example, Kinsley Sells likened an online video curriculum that her Tennessee congregation uses to a “church-based Netflix.”
“We have access to hundreds of lessons directed at students, and all this information is just one click away,” said Sells, youth minister for girls at the Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville. “God has given us technology to further his kingdom, and I hope and pray that we use it to strengthen and guide the next generation.”
At the same time, a gadget-carrying group of teens seemingly more connected — and more distracted — than any generation in history challenges youth ministers such as Charlie Sells, Kinsley’s brother.
“Taking up phones on a Wednesday night has become a necessity,” said Charlie Sells, who serves the Holland Park Church of Christ in Simpsonville, S.C. “Texting, Snapchat and checking social networks keeps them distracted, and we have to be more intentional about getting students to focus in for just an hour or so.”
With smartphones, teens can carry the Bible everywhere — in the form of an app, Pruett said. But the same devices can present a constant temptation.- See more at: http://www.christianchronicle.org/article/igods-and-other-devices#sthash.w4uMY2lm.dpuf