ORANGE COUNTY, CA
Dr Robert H Schuller in ‘critical condition’
Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST and the ASSIST News Service writes…
Dr Robert H Schuller, famed televangelist and founder of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, is in critical condition in a Los Angeles-area nursing home and is not expected to make it through the week, family members said Tuesday (March 31, 2015).
Deepa Bharath, staff writer for the Orange County Register (http://www.ocregister.com) s aid that according to his daughter-in-law, Donna Schuller, the reverend’s condition has been deteriorating since he had an exploratory procedure in January examining his digestive tract.
Dr Schuller preaching at the Crystal Cathedral
Donna Schuller, a regular contributor to ASSIST News Service, said her father-in-law is not on life support and is breathing on his own, but is extremely weak because has not ‘eaten for several days.’
Robert A Schuller and his wife, Donna
‘He was talking normally a couple of months ago. But since the procedure, he was whispering. And later, he could barely mouth words. He is asleep most of the time, but seems to be at peace,’ she said.
Donna Schuller said passing during Easter week would be a fitting exit for her father-in-law. Choking up, she added, ‘He doesn’t seem to be in pain. He’s had a wonderful life and he’ll pass gracefully.’
Dr Robert H Schuller started the Garden Grove Community Church 60 years ago in 1955, renting the Orange Drive-In Theatre and conducting services from a snack bar roof. As the congregation grew, the Protestant ministry began broadcasting its services through the Hour of Power, a syndicated TV program broadcast to millions of viewers worldwide.
In a separate story, the OC Register said that the Crystal Cathedral was dedicated in 1980. The cathedral and the grounds were sold in early 2012 for $57.5 million in bankruptcy-court proceedings to the Catholic Diocese of Orange. The facility has been renamed Christ Cathedral.
The ministry moved to St. Callistus Catholic Church about a mile away and is now called Shepherd’s Grove. Robert Schuller’s grandson, Bobby Schuller, is now pastoring the church and is now the host of The Hour of Power TV telecast. Although the name of the church is Shepherd’s Grove, the congregation’s corporate name continues to be Crystal Cathedral Ministries and continues to produce the program.
Arvella Schuller, the wife of Dr Robert H Schuller, who was said to be the force behind the church’s iconic Hour of Power television program, died in February of 2014 at the UCI Medical Center after a brief illness. She was 84.
BREAKING NEWS. Good Friday, April 3, 2015.
ASSIST’s Michael Ireland reports: LOS ANGELES, CA (ANS, April 2, 2015) – The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, California televangelist and founder of the television ministry the Hour of Power, died today, according to his family. He was 88 years old. (See latest ASSIST web news – http://www.assistnews.net
Assyrian Christians flee jihadists to southeast Turkey
Dan Wooding also reports that State offensive begun in late February against Syria’s dwindling Assyrian Christian population is accelerating a steady trickle of Christian refugees trying desperately to reach safety in Turkey, northern Iraq and Lebanon.
But, according to World Watch Monitor (https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org), their future is far from guaranteed as refugees in Muslim-majority Turkey where, according to Turkish press reports, the government recently dug a trench on the Turkish side of the border and sealed off the two border crossings with Syria on March 9.
‘Most Assyrian Christians escaping from IS and other jihadist groups now controlling huge swaths of northeast Syria over the past two years have made their way to Mardin and Midyat, two cities in south-eastern Turkey’s historical homeland of Syriac Orthodox Christianity,’ said WWM.
Syrian mother brings her baby across the border to an uncertain future
‘Although the Christian population has dwindled here to only 3,500, ancient monasteries and churches still dot the city skylines. The mother tongue of Syria’s Assyrian Christians, who are known as Syriacs in Turkey, is closely related to Aramaic, the language of Jesus.’
A young Armenian Catholic who calls himself Kevork is one of 150 Christian refugees from Syria who live in Mardin. He crossed the border into Turkey in October with his cousins. Smugglers demanded $400 from each of them for passage across the Khabour River separating the two countries.
‘My family is still in Syria. They are afraid, so my goal is to get to Europe and bring them there. They know that life is better there because you have your rights to live and work,’ he said.
Christian refugees cannot flee Syria by conventional means. Since the Turkish border crossings were closed, only commercial trucks and emergency medical vehicles can pass. So the Assyrians must pay smugglers to help them across the border, as did Kevork, or risk overland travel past extremist checkpoints to Lebanon or northern Iraq.
The story went on to say that one Christian refugee who managed to escape Syria by plane and arrive in Mardin is a man who calls himself Gabriel. He could board a plane because he had a passport due to his previous service in the Syrian military.
Most poor residents of northern Syria cannot fly because they do not have a passport.
Gabriel’s city of Qamishli has been under siege by IS ever since the militants’ February attacks that emptied out a cluster of Assyrian Christian villages along the Khabour River in Hassaka province. A month later, some 220 or more Christian villagers kidnapped in the attacks are still being held hostage.
On March 19 two of his friends were killed fighting in a Christian militia that is supported by Kurdish militia forces. ‘Without the Kurds, we would have been slaughtered. Christians don’t have the support of an army or militia,’ he said.
All of the refugees declined to give their real names for fear of retaliation against their relatives.
Syrian refugees walk with their belongings after crossing into Turkey at the Turkish-Syrian border, near the south-eastern town of Suruç in Şanlıurfa province.
Morning Star News says that he is one of four church leaders who oversee aid distribution. They raise funds from the Assyrian Diaspora in Sweden, Germany, the United States, Australia, and other Western countries. The church distributes funds and food to refugees in the city.
At any given time there are approximately 150 Assyrian refugees from Syria and Iraq in Mardin. They stay in apartments near the church, or whatever other space that locals can provide for them. Others stay in the empty houses vacated by the thousands of Assyrian Christians who left southeast Turkey in the 1980s, during a period of violence between the Turkish military and Kurdish separatists.
‘They usually stay here for one or two months, up to a year,’ said Father Akyuz, priest in charge of Kirklar Church the centre of Syriac Orthodox Christianity in Mardin, with over 200 congregants on Sunday. ‘If they have the chance to go to Europe, then they go.’
Two years ago the Turkish government proposed a plan to build a refugee camp for 10,000 near Mardin, with space for 6,000 Muslims and 4,000 Assyrian Christians. But only three Assyrian refugee families were willing to stay there. Most prefer to avoid the camps that the Turkish government has provided for the 1.7 million Muslims who have fled Syria’s civil war over the last four years.
‘They don’t want to stay at the camps because they think they will only be in Turkey for a few months anyway. They think they will be able to go to Europe and don’t want to live under the restrictions of the camp,’ said Tuma Celik, a member of the Federation for Syriac Associations Turkey.
Because the Christians do not stay in refugee camps, they do not receive living assistance from the Turkish government, although they are issued an ID that entitles them to receive medicine and basic health care at hospitals.
Celik’s organisation provides aid for the 50 Assyrian families living in and around the city of Midyat. They collect funds from the Syrian Orthodox churches in Istanbul and distribute them in the form of bankcards loaded with $25 each.
The past is coming back
‘The Assyrian refugees in Turkey see themselves as experiencing genocide against their people,’ said MSN. ‘The first massacre occurred in 1915, when the crumbling Ottoman Empire killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians and 300,000 Assyrians. Forced out of their ancestral homeland, the Assyrians fled to villages near Dohuk in Mosul province. In 1933 a second Assyrian massacre was launched by the new state of Iraq. Some Christians remained, but most fled across the border into northeastern Syria’s Hassaka province.’
Kevork said, ‘(Islamic State) is trying to commit genocide against us. After 100 years the past is coming back to us.’
But Father Akyuz sees more hope for Assyrian Christianity in Turkey. The predominantly Muslim nation is doing more to recognise the heritage of its tiny Christian minorities. The nearby Artuklu University offers courses in Syriac language study, which was essentially illegal until a decade ago. There is now a Syriac-language preschool in Istanbul. The national government has finally promised to give Syriacs permission to build a new church there, to become the first officially recognised new church building in Turkey since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
‘Our future is connected to the future of Turkey,’ Fr Akyuz said. ‘If the Republic endures, then we will be able to endure.’
WARABROOK (NSW), AUSTRALIA
Releasing children from poverty and giving them a future
Compassion Australia is a Christian holistic child development and child advocacy organisation that works in partnership with more than 6,200 local churches of various denominations to foster the spiritual, economic, social, physical and emotional development of children living in extreme poverty in over 26 developing countries worldwide.
Meaningful and effective committed program
Based in Warabrook with regional offices in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, the organisation now has over 150 committed team members and many more volunteers who offer their time, energy and skills towards the organisational vision of seeing the transformation of lives, communities and nations through releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.
Compassion’s unique Holistic Child Development Model takes a child through a process of growth and fulfilment in all dimensions of life: spiritually, economically, socio-emotionally and physically. This dedicated organisation believes holistic development is a long-term approach that starts even before a child is born and continues through to school age and beyond.
This is why it has chosen to wisely implement its effective ministry through four vital areas:
• Child Survival (Womb to three years)
• Child Sponsorship (Ages three to 22 years)
• Leadership Development (Ages 18 plus)
• Critical Interventions (As needed across Compassion’s programs)
Compassion started in 1952 when Presbyterian minister Everett Swanson (below) felt compelled to help 35 orphaned children in South Korea.
At the time, the Koreans were a people uprooted – broken by the horrors of war. Reverend Swanson (left) grieved that war had ravaged the country, propelling millions into abject poverty. Specifically, he lamented the plight of Korean children.
He would walk the streets of Seoul daily, praying for these hurting children. One morning, with the cold air stinging his face, he saw policemen scoop up piles of rags from a street corner. As he walked closer, he realised these were not rags, but orphans who had died in the freezing conditions overnight. Everett Swanson couldn’t rid his mind of the images.
This experience planted the seeds of Compassion International. With the recruitment of passionate sponsors he provided food, education, clothing, and spiritual nourishment to a group of 35 orphaned and vulnerable children in Korea. By 1977, Compassion was supporting more than 25,000 children (Info sourced from Peter Greer and Chris Horst coauthors of Mission Drift. Helpful link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2014/02/24/a-tale-of-two-presbyterian-ministers-mission-drift-at-the-worlds-first-child-sponsorship-organization/#ixzz3Vq9IVkW9
Compassion Australia Ltd was officially registered in 1978 and saw over 1000 children sponsored by Australians in its first three years alone.
A global partner of Compassion International, whose headquarters are located in Colorado Springs, USA, it supports more than 1.5 million children through 12 international partner countries who provide the funds, resources and program development assistance that enables Compassion’s programs to be implemented around the world.
Compassion Australia’s Relationship Managers are Andrew and Lynette Merry (Pictured below with Compassion International’s President Emeritus Dr Wess Stafford).
The Merrys delight in recounting the stories of young men and women who, sponsored by the organisation, have found Jesus as Saviour and success in life, proving that the long-term approach works.
Andrew and Lynette have ministered in many countries around the world, including running overseas training programs. They regularly share in local churches. Link: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0412857126.
Child sponsorship details: www.compassion.com.au
New research shows Christian media barely reaching beyond the faithful
Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service (http://paper.li/Michael_ASSIST/1410485204 / email@example.com) reports that Christian broadcasters have a devoted following.
In an article Bob Smietana, senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, says Christian books remain popular with churchgoers and evangelicals as do Christian movies (About four in ten Christians having seen one in the last year).
Many ignoring Christian media
The survey shows that many Americans ignore Christian media, according to the most recent research conducted in a new study on the use of Christian media from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), included an online survey of 2,252 Americans and a phone survey of 1,009 Americans.
‘Christian media delivers teaching, music, and entertainment to a predominantly Christian constituency, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. ‘Not surprisingly, those who embrace Christian teaching will value and consume these the most.’
According to the article, researchers found demographic splits between those who frequently or sometimes listen to or watch Christian broadcasts and those who rarely or never tune in.
Self-identified evangelicals (69 percent), weekly church attendees (62 percent), and African-Americans (54 percent) are more likely to watch Christian television. They are also more likely to listen to Christian radio compared to 32 percent of all Americans.
More Protestants and nondenominational Christians (45 percent) watch Christian television than Catholics (28 percent). Radio has a similar denominational split. Just under half (41 percent) of Protestants and nondenominational Christians tune in, along with 1 in 5 (21 percent) Catholics.
Christian books fare about the same as Christian broadcasting. About a third of Americans (33 percent) say they frequently or sometimes read Christian books. Two-thirds (65 percent) rarely or never read Christian books. Still, many Americans have little contact with Christian media.
The need to be more effective
‘Great movies hinge on great stories and the Bible is filled with great stories,’ says Stetzer. ’These numbers show that many are watching, and perhaps this will encourage more and better films.’
Christian media has found a significant audience online, as online media now has more fans. ‘It’s stunning to see how many American believers are listening to or watching Christian media,’ said Dr Jerry Johnson, president of NRB.
She added, ‘It’s also encouraging to learn how new forms are emerging. But we must be more effective stewards of all media forms, especially to reach those who have yet to believe.’
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm specialising in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church. For more information about assessing and researching the impact of your ministry, email Scott McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ed. Note: We wonder how these USA findings compare with Australia and other countries.
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN
Pastor jailed, lashed after radical Muslims threaten him
Dan Wooding also writes that a Sudanese pastor was jailed and tortured for more than three months after Islamists who tried to kill him accused him of being a spy, sources said.
According to the Sudan correspondent for MSN (http://morningstarnews.org), Adam Haron, a 37-year-old convert from Islam and a native of West Darfur, Sudan, said Muslim extremists called him on November 9 and 10 threatening to kill him if he continued to proclaim Christ among Muslims in Aweil, near the Sudanese border.
‘This pastor of a church in an undisclosed area of South Sudan, Haron had gone to Aweil, about 800 kilometres northwest of the capital city of Juba, to plant a church,’ said the story.
‘Evangelism is not illegal in South Sudan, where Christians outnumber Muslims, and the Transitional Constitution following the country’s secession from Sudan in 2011 guarantees religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith.’ Haron said he knew the Muslims who threatened him as they were from his home region of West Dafur. The following day they tried to kill him when a Land Cruiser with no licence plate nearly ran him over.
Homes ablaze in Kordofan (Photo courtesy Operation Broken Silence)
MSN went on to say that Haron, who came to South Sudan in 2010 after converting to Christianity in 2005, said that three days later six armed men, including three in military uniform, entered his hotel room in Aweil and started to search his personal bag and laptop and scattered his clothes around. They also took his cell phone. As the armed men ordered him to get into their car, they began kicking his legs and groin. ‘Thank God, who protected me from serious injury from them,’ he added.
One of the assailants took out a pistol, pointed it at Haron’s head, and asked him if he was a Christian pastor. He answered, ‘Yes, I am a pastor,’ and they took him to a detention centre in Aweil. The story then stated that Haran said the three men in uniform were military intelligence personnel. Based on a military officer’s interrogation of him, he concluded that the radical Muslims had the military personnel arrest him after falsely accusing him of being a spy for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party.
On November 15 two soldiers gave him 364 lashes using a tree branch as a whip. ‘We will beat you every Saturday in this way,’ one of them told him during the lashing.
Haron told MSN that he was encouraged because he was considered worthy to suffer for his faith and replied, ‘I am ready to die for the sake of the gospel.’
Inmates in a South Sudan prison
They threw him into a narrow cell, his legs bound with chains. On January 3 he was transferred to another gaol cell. He was released on February 18. Haron, who pastors an underground church made up primarily of converts from Islam, said he was gratified that the mistreatment tested his faith.
‘This detention has been a great encouragement to my spiritual life,’ he said.
• Koorong Books, Blackburn Store books/CDs/DVDs (Link: www.koorong.com)
• Grace Revisited by Dr Jim McClure (Link: Biblical Perspectives / email@example.com)
• I’ll Cross the River by Hope Flinchbaugh (www.liftjesuscross.wordpress.com)
• Nana’s 3 Jars: Giving Generously by Carol Round (http://www.amazon.ca/Nanas-3-Jars-Giving-Generously/dp/0692280197)
• The Heart is the Target by Dr Murray Capill (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/190-6422316-472740?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The=Heart=is=the=Target)
• A Sheltered Life by Jeremy Reynalds (Link: http://www.ashelteredlife.net)
• Mary, Red Dagger and other books by ASSIST’s Dan Wooding (Link: www.assistnews.net)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Two-and-a-half centuries after his death, the complex life of composer Johann Sebastian Bach continues to fascinate. His colourful life was anchored in his belief that ‘music has been ordered by God’s Spirit’ – so much so that he began each composition by scrawling Jesu, juva (Jesus, help me) at the top of a blank page and concluded each with SDG (short for Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the glory).
Through the eyes of noted music and culture writer Rick Marschall, the intensely personal yet boldly public faith that earned Bach the nickname ‘The Fifth Evangelist’ takes on fresh meaning.
From a survey of Bach’s family and its deep Christian roots to a behind-the-scenes look at how he crafted his masterpieces, this book paints a picture of an astonishing figure and his relationship with his God. Rick Marschall brings Bach’s enduring music and influence to the post-modern world and to all who would draw inspiration from his relentless pursuit of divinely ordained creativity. Link: RickMarschall@gmail.com See also this month’s Opinion.