Tag Archives: dan wooding

Refugees from world’s hot spots share their culture, learn about Christmas in U.S.

Published by:

Dallas police officer with refugee

By Dan Wooding
Founder of the ASSIST News Service

DALLAS – With tensions about refugees running at a high point in the United States, a Dallas-based refugee outreach, has arranged for a uniqueRefugee children enjoying their gifts Christmas event for refugees that have settled in its region.

Gateway of Grace, founded by a refugee, has turned the tables on the traditional “helping hand” this Christmas. Instead of serving meals to the displaced in North Texas — the displaced will serve their homemade dishes to North Texans.

“The goodwill we celebrate at Christmas extends to everyone,” said Samira Izadi Page, founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace. “This Christmas, refugees in our communities can give us the gift of meals from their homelands, even as we reach out to them with gifts and an explanation of what Christmas is about.”

According to a news release from Lovell-Fairchild Communications, the event —a Christmas Party for Refugees called “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Mankind” will be held Dec. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Wilshire Baptist Church, 4316 Abrams Road in Dallas.

More than 200 refugees, their families and volunteers will be on hand for a potluck lunch of native food from around the world from countries likeDallas police officer with refugee Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Senegal, Sudan, Congo and Syria, to name just a sampling of nations represented. And dishes will range from African rice to Uzbek stew to whatever the families bring.

“Each refugee family receives a gift card, and as live Christmas songs are sung, Santa Claus will share the story of St. Nicholas with children and explain what Christmas is about,” said the news release.

In 2014, of the 70,000 refugees arriving in the U.S., Texas received 11 percent – more than any other state, Page said. She knows their plight well. Her family fled Iran and sought political asylum in the U.S., where she eventually converted to Christianity, attended seminary and founded Gateway of Grace.

“The negative portrayal of refugees these days causes them to feel unwanted, to feel shame, insecurity, anxiety and fear,” she said. “With all that is going on in the world, this year, more than any other time, the message of Christmas is relevant in imparting dignity and worth to refugees. To shareSamira Izadi Page the joy of Christmas with refugees who have never experienced Christmas is a great way of removing some of the fear and anxiety and bringing healing into their lives.”

The event still needs volunteers for transportation and to provide gift cards plus necessary items for the refugee families including winter coats, baby formula and diapers.

To learn more or to volunteer, call Gateway of Grace at 469-324-8825 or go to http://www.gatewayofgrace.org.

Note: Samira Izadi Page is the founder and Executive Director of Gateway of Grace Ministries. She was born and raised in Iran as a Muslim. Samira and her family fled Iran due to persecution and obtained political asylum status in the U.S. Samira converted to Christianity and earned her Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry in Missional Church Studies at Perkins at SMU.

Samira has committed her life to bringing the hope and love of Christ to those whose hope, dignity, and humanity have been taken away by oppressive governments and circumstances. She frequently speaks nationally and locally at conferences, churches and other venues on issues of interfaith relations, Islam and Christianity, and refugee outreach. Samira works cross-denominationally with pastors and mission leaders and moves local congregations into new ways of mission and outreach.

VISION of Gateway of Grace:

To see the practical and spiritual needs of refugees in our communities met through compassionate, meaningful, Christ-centered relationships with the local Church

MISSION

To educate, equip, and mobilize the Church to bridge socio-cultural gaps between Christians and refugees so that refugees can know the hope of Christ through words and deeds of compassion.

SERVICES

Gateway helps refugees start over, many of them survivors of severe trauma, with donated furniture, pocket money, groceries, baby showers, job assistance, language lessons, and more. Most important, perhaps, Gateway trains volunteers and churches to adopt refugee families, the point where friendships form and assimilation begins.

Wooding: Opponents pour cold water on ALS Association‘s ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

Published by:

George W. and Laura Bush

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS) — Many around the world have been posting videos of themselves taking part in the “ice bucket Ann and Ted Bleymaierchallenge” to raise funds for the ALS Association, who are trying to find a cure for this terrible degenerative neurological condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I have been moved as I watched these videos of celebrities and ordinary folk, taking part in their “soaking,” for a cause that is close to my heart.

You see, I recently lost to this dreaded disease, Theodore “Ted” Bleymaier, a dear friend.

It was Ted and his lovely wife Ann, who were among the first friends we made when we, as a family, moved over from the UK to Southern California, back in June of 1982. They showed us great love and introduced us to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, then being pastored by Chuck Smith – the “Father of the Jesus People Movement” – and with whom I am now a “Media Missionary.”

Ted was then working for Maranatha! Music, with his close friend, Chuck Fromm, and spent many hours helping us to readjust to our new life in the “New World.”

But sadly, Ted’s life changed forever on March 27, 2012, when this super fit former Stanford football player, and his wife Ann, sat across the examination table from specialist, Dr. Kamisky, as he confirmed to them the devastating diagnosis for Ted of ALS.

“It is hard to put into words exactly what I felt at that moment,” he said shortly afterwards. “Other than a few mechanical injuries I had sustained playing sports all my life, I had never really been sick.

“I was 62 years old, in great shape with a beautiful wife, two daughters, a son in law and the greatest dog in the world named Berwyn. My wife and I were traveling the country helping non-profits put on fund raising golf tournaments and we loved it. This also afforded me a great opportunity to play golf as I have most of my life. In fact, with a career in the Air Force and then as International VP for Word Entertainment, I have been blessed to have played golf in over 40 countries around the world.”

Ted Bleymaier, who met Ann in the U.K. while serving with the US Air Force – she is from North Wales – continued, “Lou Gehrig’s disease affects the motor neurons; they die and your muscles atrophy. It affects the voluntary muscles, but not the involuntary. Your heart is not affected and for the most part you are fully cognizant of the fact that your body is falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it.

“You will lose most of your motor skills including the ability to breathe and swallow. To this day, they have not figured out what causes ALS and there are no known remedies or medications to cure the disease. In the US, only 2 out of 100,000 come down with ALS. 50% of the patients die in the first 18 months and 90% die in 3 to 5 years. As a result, there are only about 30,000 people in the US who have this disease at any one time.

“In fact, if it was not for Lou Gehrig, this disease would be almost invisible. If I may, let me take you back to 1939. Baseball was the biggest sport.by far.in the country and since Babe Ruth had retired in 1935, Lou was the sport’s biggest hero. There is no equivalent to Lou’s stature in our country today. He had not missed a single game in 17 years for the NY Yankees – truly the original iron man.

“As the season began, Lou was only batting 158 with just 1 RBI. He then gets diagnosed with a disease which no one had ever heard of and then two weeks later the Yankees and all of baseball honored Lou before the start of a home game. Lou never played another game and died within two years. This was later immortalized in the movie, ‘The Pride of the Yankees,’ starring Gary Cooper. In one of the most recognizable sport quotes of all time, Lou called himself ‘the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’

“WOW.now that is having an attitude of gratitude!”

Ted Bleymaier was so moved with learning of Lou Gehrig speech, that he received a standing ovation when he recited it at a Nashville Sounds baseball game in Nashville, not long after receiving the news that he had the same illness as the baseball great.

Sadly, Ted passed away this year at his home in Spring Hill, Tennessee, on Friday April 4, and that is why I have watched and cheered so many “ice bucket challenges,” especially those of my family members and also friends as they have posted the videos on Facebook.

But now recently, an eRumor has been circulating on the Internet criticizing this worldwide “ice bucket” phenomena.

One of the messages reads, “Everyone has seen video after video (on social media) of friends, family, and colleagues taking the #IceBucketChallenge for the ALS Association research foundation.

“The goal of which has been stated to find a cure for those suffering with neurological breakdown through diseases like ALS.

“For any who have witnessed such struggle in those we love, the sincere and desperate hope for a cure seems like a big payoff for a bit of ice cold water being dumped on the head!

“The only problem here is that–unknowingly–this very challenge is contributing to the ongoing destruction of human life–intentionally.

“The ALS association is actively now funding embryonic stem cell research and admitting that they likely will continue to do so in the future.

The message went on to say, “The funding of embryonic stem cell research means that children are created and at their earliest stages of life they are destroyed so that the stem cells (from usually the base of the brain) can be harvested to perform tests with.

“Embryonic stem cell research has proven zero percent effective in combating diseases like ALS and other neurological degenerative diseases.

“Adult stem cells – which can be harvested from living humans without them being killed – have on the other hand – proven vastly effective in making progress towards slowing down and in some cases seeing remission or reversal of degenerative defects.”

There have made other criticisms of the #IceBucketChallenge, one of which stated, “Be it that millions around the world die from a lack of clean water, while millions of Americans have now poured out tens of millions of gallons of it. Or the idea that ALS takes approximately 1.6 lives per 100,000 deaths, while hunger amongst orphans is taking the life of a child every 90 seconds with roughly 60 million orphans globally.”

So what is the truth behind all of this condemnation? Well, intrepid veteran eRumor investigator, Tony Ashlin, who runs Truth or Fiction, a web site started by the late Christian broadcaster, Rich Buhler, has looked into the stem cell allegations, and says that it is only true in just one case.

“The ALS Association funds one study that uses embryonic stem cell research, according to an August 23, 2014, article by the Minneapolis Star Tribune,” said Ashlin in a posting on his www.truthorfiction.com.

“The ALS Association said that the research was funded by ‘one specific donor who is committed to this area of research.’

“Additionally, the ALS Association said donors were able to stipulate that they do not want their donations used to fund any stem cell research, if they so choose.

“Human embryonic stem cell lines that are used in research come from embryos that were left over from in vitro fertilization, or from embryos that carry genetic mutations like cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs disease, according to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s website.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

“After a couple completes the in vitro fertilization process, they either continue paying for the leftover embryos to remain frozen or allow them to thaw, which destroys the cells.

“Couples in some states, however, also have the choice to donate the embryos to research or adoptive families, according to the institute.”

Ashlin added that the ALS Association said on its web site, “The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in culture with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough.” It admits, however, that “it has raised a great deal of ethical questions.”

So there you have it.  Many of the tens of thousands who have taken the “ice bucket challenge,” have often done so for dear friends, like Ted Bleymaier, who they have lost, and who made a huge impact on our lives.

They were not making any statement other than that!

Of course, there are those who appear to have as their life slogan, “You name it; I’m against it! They dedicate their blogosphere lives to criticizing others, as I well know, having been on the receiving end of some of these folk.

Of course, each one of us has a choice to make in participating, or not, in the “ice bucket challenge,” especially if one personally knows someone who has died from ALS. However, if there is only one case involved here in which the funding from the challenge is not being used, I am trying to figure out why there has been such a fuss, unless maybe it is to build up their mailing lists.

For me, I prefer to follow what Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Mark 9:41 NIV). You could substitute, a “bucket of ice water,” if you wish.

Where do you stand? I know where I do, and it all relates to a dear friend called Ted Bleymaier.

#post-3241 .CPlase_panel {display:none;}

Rick Warren’s youngest son takes life after struggle with mental illness

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LAKE FOREST, Calif. — Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” and senior pastor of Saddleback Valley

Rick Warren and Dan Wooding this year

Rick Warren, left, and Dan Wooding this year

Community Church in Lake Forest, Ca., has announced that his 27-year-old son, Matthew, has taken his own life.

In an anguished message sent to the church staff early on Saturday morning, Warren wrote, “Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us.

“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.

“You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.

“But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided.

“Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”

Pastor Warren went on to say, “Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’ but he kept going for another decade.

“Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back. Pastor Rick.”

On hearing the tragic news, Southern California evangelist and pastor, Greg Laurie, who lost his first-born son Christopher David Laurie, in an auto accident in Riverside County, Calif., in 2008 posted on his blog, “I too have had a son die, so I have a sense of the pain Rick and Kay are facing. But their circumstances are different and my heart goes out to them. At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word.

“There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel. God is with us. I know the Lord will be there for all of the Warren family and Saddleback Church as they grieve together.

He added, “Looking forward to that day when God will ‘Restore all things'” (Acts 3:21).

Founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, Saddleback Church serves the Southern California community with several locations, including in Lake Forest.

Pastor Warren, 59, author of the Purpose Driven Life, which is the best-selling hardback non-fiction book in history and the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible, has two other adult children, Amy and Josh, and five grandchildren.

Veteran actor Corbin Bernsen completes film on minister who walks away from God

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (ANS) — If you are fan of American TV dramas, you will immediately recognize veteran Hollywood actor, Corbin Bernsen, for his role as divorceCorbinBernsen attorney Arnold Becker on the NBC drama series days on L.A. Law, and also for his role as the retired cop Henry Spencer on USA Network’s comedy-drama series Psych. You may have also seen him as Roger Dorn in the films Major League (film), and Major League II. He has also appeared regularly on other shows, including General Hospital and Cuts.

In fact, he has appeared on over 50 magazine covers and earned both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, hosted Saturday Night Live, and appeared on Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show.

Bernsen was born in North Hollywood, California, the son of Harry Bernsen, Jr., a Hollywood producer, and veteran soap actress Jeanne Cooper, who plays Catherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1972. Bernsen is also a “double Bruin,” having received both a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA in Playwriting from UCLA.

But there is another side to the tough exterior of this Hollywood fixture, and that is his faith-filled film, Rust, which is about a minister who walks away from God, a journey which takes him back to this hometown where an incredible tragedy has rocked the small population and landed his childhood friend in a mental hospital.

Rust is a 2010 drama written and directed by Bernsen, in which he played Jimmy Moore and was released direct-to-video on Oct. 5, 2010. The film takes place in a Canadian town. The film is about how a midlife crisis of faith rocks his life’s calling, and former minister Jimmy Moore. But can he get to the bottom of this mysterious fire that has shocked the population and clear his boyhood friend Travis?

It is unique story of friendship and calling, and Rust (http://rustmovie.com) may well be Corbin Bernsen’s most personal project to date. Funded by and set in the real-life Canadian town of Kipling, Saskatchewan (and featuring local citizens in prominent roles), Rust was inspired by the spiritual journey that Corbin has been traveling since his father’s death in 2008.

So knowing this, it was hardly surprising to find Corbin Bernsen on the Red Carpet at the 21st annual Movieguide® Faith & Values Awards and Report to the Entertainment Industry held on Feb. 15, that attracted many celebrities to the occasion the Universal Hilton Hotel, a skip and a hop from the heart of Hollywood, aka “The Movie Capital of the World.”

So, as I talked with him, I first of all asked him why he was at the event, and he replied, “I’m presenting an award for a performance that has as faith influence in it, but I’m here because also because I’ve supported the Movieguide® Awards and Dr. Ted Baehr [its founder] and everything he’s done for thirty years to influence Hollywood. This kind of [family-friendly] film making — which is part of storytelling — can be not only good for business. It is not only good for people, but good for business.”

I then asked Bernsen, who has been married to British actress Amanda Pays since 1988 (they have four sons), if he felt that Hollywood had played a role in all the violence we have seen recently in the United States.

“Well,” he began, “I think we’re definitely culpable to some degree. However, it’s like anything in life and that is that you can’t put your finger on just one thing. For instance, was it an AR-15 weapon that’s out there that somebody [was said] to have used. Is that what really killed a child? No, that isn’t; it was an individual who had fallen from humanity. However, in that way, yeah, video games and movies have had an influence.

“I’m not a Pollyanna guy,” he continued. “I’ve been in them and I’ve produced them and I support them. But there’s also a place where you draw a line with who sees what. A lot of that comes down to parenting; to controls; and how old somebody can be to do something. But any kid, in including my 14 year old, can get his hand on stuff and that’s just crazy.

“When I was a kid, we used to play ‘army’ and take a stick and turn it into a gun. So there’s a part of human nature wanting to be a bit cavemen, battling it out for the cave and for food and that’s not going to escape us.

“But all these things are there and I’m not saying they have to go away, but they have to be controlled by parenting and tempered with allowing some light into a life as well.”

Jerry Mathers is still the ‘Beaver’ after all these years

Published by:

By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Jerry Mathers will always be remembered as the loveable “Beaver” Cleaver from the immensely popular TV show, “Leave It To Beaver,” but the actor recently said in an interview that Hollywood needs to create more family-centered programming.

“I think it’s very important that we still have movies that families can go to see like I did when I was a kid on Saturday mornings,” Mathers told ASSIST Ministries founderJerry Mathers Dan Wooding.  “We should be able to let our kids go to the movies and not really wonder what they’re going to be seeing. It is something that I think our kids deserve.”

Mathers showed his support for attended the 15th annual MOVIEGUIDE Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in Hollywood on Feb. 15.

The actor told Wooding, “Adults should be able to see whatever they want to see, but I believe that there should also be some programming that you can take your children to and not walk away and go, ‘Ooh, I wish I hadn’t seen that’, especially when they’re young.”

The Sioux City, Iowa, native played Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, a suburban boy who always seemed to find himself in trouble. Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, both deceased, played Beaver’s parents, June and Ward, and Tony Dow played Beaver’s older brother, Wally.

Clockwise from left, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Hugh Beaumont, and Jerry Mathers

Wooding said in his article, when the series was not renewed at the beginning of the 1963-64 season and many of the series stars wanted to move on to other projects, Mathers entered Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and from there he served in the Air Force National Guard (1967-1969). He was mistakenly reported as killed in action during the Vietnam War, but all of his duties were stateside. After leaving military service he attended and graduated from the University of California at Berkley in 1973 with a BA in philosophy.

Mathers said family-friendly TV and movies are a niche market that needs to be filled with people with great ideas that need to be supported. Therefore, parents can take their children to see the movies and not end up disappointed.

Learn more about Mathers at www.jerrymathers.com and MOVIEGUIDE at www.movieguide.org.

Proposed U.S. tax reforms could devastate charities

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) — The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is considering comprehensive tax reforms that will directly affect charitable giving – including

Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas

“limiting the tax rate against which contributions may be deducted; a dollar cap on total itemized deductions; [and] a floor below which contributions may not be deducted.”

The restrictions could be devastating for charities like SAT-7 (http://sat7usa.org), which broadcasts Christian satellite television to over 15 million viewers in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as our ministry, ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) – www.assistnews.net.

On Feb. 14, Ruth Thomas, VP for Finance and Administration at SAT-7 USA, testified at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington, D.C. She discussed the far-reaching importance of charitable deductions, as well as the integrity and efficiency with which non-profits like SAT-7 operate.

“Non-profits have struggled since 2008 because of the Recession. To hamstring the public’s generosity at this point would severely impact the good work of thousands of non-profits to change the law in such a way that limits the ability of non-profits to do good with well-established efficiency and effectiveness will mean that needs will go unmet, or must be addressed by more government spending, with less efficiency,” she told committee members.

Thomas manages the SAT-7 USA office in Easton, Md. She has been with the organization for 10 years. As a non-profit finance officer, Ruth works with the President, Board of Directors and International CFO to maintain a high level of transparency and accountability to SAT-7’s donor base. She ensures that the internal workings of accounting, marketing and development operations at SAT-7 are functioning properly.

SAT-7 has achieved a 4-star rating with Charity Navigator© for the past three years, has had BBB© accreditation since 2011, and is a member in good standing with ECFA® since 1999.

“Please join us in praying for the wisdom and discernment of the House Ways and Means Committee members, as they consider possible reforms for charitable giving tax laws,” said a spokesperson for SAT-7 USA.

To read more about the hearing, please go to: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=318995

American Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran fears supporters have abandoned him

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TEHRAN, Iran (ANS) The American pastor sentenced to eight years in Iran’s Evin prison is unaware of the groundswell of international support for him, and insteadSaeedAbedini fears he’s been abandoned, according to relatives who met with him this week.

According to Fox News, Saeed Abedini mentioned his doubt during a visit with relatives on Monday. It was a second time he was allowed to see members of his extended family since he was convicted. Abedini expressed apprehension and concern to his relatives about his fate and openly asked if there were international efforts to secure his freedom, according to advocacy group American Center for Law and Justice (http://aclj.org).

The story said that it is believed that Abedini’s downtrodden spirit is due to abuse and brain-washing techniques used by prison officials.

“It is no surprise that the Iranian prison guards are engaging in this kind of psychological abuse. We know that Pastor Saeed is undergoing physical beatings and torture. And we know there is growing concern about his health,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director for ACLJ, told www.FoxNews.com.

“Now, a troubling report that the guards are trying to take away his hope — by feeding him false information about his fate — trying to convince him that no one cares — that efforts to secure his freedom have ceased. This tactic is predictable, but also very tragic.”

“What the Iranian guards will never tell Pastor Saeed is that there’s a growing international network of support. … We continue to urge President Obama to personally call on Iran to release Pastor Saeed. And now that Secretary of State Kerry is on the job, it is time for him to follow through on earlier statements demanding that Iran release Pastor Saeed,” he added.

Abedini also has been unable to communicate with his wife, Nagameh, and their two children since being sentenced.

“When I heard this from my husband, I cried. It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten,” she said in a report posted on ACLJ’s website.

Abedini, a 32-year-old father of two, denied evangelizing in Iran and claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious prison in Tehran, the story continued.

“The exact crimes he was accused of only became public late last month, when the prosecutor outlined charges that Abedini undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and that he was attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam,” added the Fox News story.

“Supporters of Abedini believe the charges stem from his 2,000 conversion to Christianity and his involvement several years ago with house churches in Iran.”

Although Abedini’s lawyer has appealed the sentence, experts following the case think Abedini’s only chance at freedom lies with a grant of clemency from the religious clerics that rule Iran.

According to Jeremy Reynalds of ASSIST News, the American Center for Law and Justice recently reported award-winning musicians, Christian radio stations, and concerned citizens all across America and around the world are trying to get #SaveSaeed trending on Twitter and encourage people to sign the petition at www.SaveSaeed.org to free Abenini.

Reynalds said Ricky Skaggs, TobyMac, Bart Millard (Mercy Me), Kevin Max (DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline), Steven Curtis Chapman, Skillet, Rhett Walker Band, Air1 Radio, and thousands of others are helping to #SaveSaeed.

Report: Africa rises on World Watch List of worst persecutors of Christians

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ANS) – Africa, the continent of my birth, where Christianity has spread fastest during the past century, now is the region where oppression of Christians is spreading fastest, a new report says.

According to World Watch Monitor, the two-year-old Arab Spring has toppled autocrats across Northern Africa, but it also has energized militant Islamist movements that have killed hundreds of Christians and endanger thousands more, according to the annual World Watch List, released Tuesday.

The list, published by Open Doors International, a ministry to persecuted Christians, ranks the 50 countries it considers to be most hostile to believers during the year that ended Oct. 31. The countries on the list are home to about a quarter of the world’s 2.2 billion believers.

The story says that for the 11th straight year, North Korea tops the list, and Open Doors says it figures to stay there as long as its combination of “communist oppression” and “dictatorial paranoia” remains in place. The ministry estimates between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians live in the country, where they face arrest, torture and even execution if exposed. It is the only country where the list says “absolute persecution” reigns.

Two other African nations, Somalia and Eritrea, are included among the World Watch List top 10. In all, 18 African countries are included on the list of 50 nations. Five are ranked closer to the top than they were in 2012. Five others — Mali, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Niger — are on the list for the first time.

China fell furthest in the rankings, down 16 spots to No. 37. Its Christian population is growing faster than anywhere, and the government’s direct suppression of the Mao era has evolved into a wary watchfulness, according to Open Doors.

“There does seem to be the possibility of greater rapprochement,” said Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, director of Open Doors strategy and research, as Communist Party leaders begin to regard the church’s ability to moderate social tensions as an asset during and age of rapid economic and societal change.

Could Connecticut school shooting wake up the church in New England?

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

NEWTOWN, CT (ANS) — Clive Calver, the London-born senior pastor of Walnut Hill Community Church (www.walnuthillcc.org) in Bethel, Conn., and Walnut Hill, a network of five charismatic evangelical churches serving more than 3,500 people in western Connecticut, believes that the shocking shooting at Sandy Hook School, could wake up the Church in the New England state where he is now based.

Calver, who lives in Newtown, where the shooting took place Dec. 14, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza first killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home, and then gunned down 26 people at the elementary school — 20 of which were children — has released comments on the tragedy.

Calver, for former head of the British Evangelical Alliance, and later president of US-based World Relief, writing in Charisma News (www.charismanews.com), explained his involvement in the terrible incident.

“There’s never any indication that a day that starts as mundanely as any other will turn out to be so unfathomably unlike any other. But, this day, it didn’t take too long before we knew it was not going to be business as usual,” he began.

“As soon as I pulled into Walnut Hill’s car park, I was greeted outside by Paul Cathcart, one of our Pastors of Care, who said he’d received a reverse 911 call that there’d been a school shooting in-the town where his 8-year-old son attends school.

“With his wife, Stacy, on the way to pick him up, we then learned that the shooting was at Sandy Hook Elementary, their son’s school. Clearly, letting them drive themselves would have been careless, so I jumped in the car and prayed them through the 10-minute drive up I-84 to Sandy Hook.

“On the way there, Stacy received a text from a friend that their son Alasdair was safe, having been ‘rushed to safety,’ as Paul would later post on Facebook, ‘by a very courageous teacher.’ But, of course, that took only a palpable edge off our drive. What else would we find there?

“When we arrived on scene-the mad chaotic logjam of emergency vehicles, first responders, mini vans and frantic parents-Paul simply jumped from the car, knowing his son was safe, and sprinted into the fray to see how he could be helpful.

“I called in reinforcements, and two of our youth pastors and another of our care pastors came. We soon found ourselves at the fire house, where parents and children were being reunited. We prayed with anxious parents-several who attend our church-as they waited to see a glimpse of their child, unscathed. We prayed for little kids. We just prayed.”

Calver continued by saying that soon, things started to calm down; the enormity of what we’d soon learn had yet to be disclosed.

“I made my way back to Sandy Hook’s downtown, which basically consists of an intersection with a few shops and restaurants and a liquor store. And that was where I saw it, directly outside the liquor store: an A-frame sandwich board, with a hand-written sign that said, simply and poignantly, ‘Say a prayer,’ to remember the God that New England has — for too long — largely forgotten,” he said.

“I have no idea whether that shop owner knows Jesus. I have no idea his denomination, his political bent, his views on anything else. I just know that he knew what we needed to do on this day. We needed, of course, to say a prayer.

“When it began to dawn on everyone that 20 sets of parents would never be reunited with 20 small innocent children, we had four pastors in the room where the parents waited. My wife, Ruth (our Pastor of Women), was one of them. She and the others described the gut-wrenching scene when Gov. Dannel Malloy told them their children were killed as ‘a moment we’ll never forget.’

“They came back to the church wrecked, heartbroken and exhausted. And yet, there was still ministering to do that night. In an emergency meeting of our pastors and directors, we made a decision to cancel a scheduled performance of our Christmas musical, and instead hold a community prayer service so people could come, stand together and pray for one another.

“In just a few hours-with the word spread like wildfire through Facebook, on our website and via text messages-we gathered, 500-strong, to pray, to weep, to share and to worship the God we know as Protector, Comforter, Healer and Lord.

“We prayed. We prayed for the families of those who perished-including two mothers who attend our weekday women’s ministry and lost children; we prayed for those who were in that school and saw horrible things; we prayed for the greater Newtown community; we prayed for first responders; we prayed for each other. And we prayed-we prayed powerfully and pointedly-against the evil one, casting him out of our community in the name of Jesus.”

Clive Calver then said, “Earlier in the day, in that fire station, a guy walked past muttering ‘Jesus.’ But he said it in such a way that I knew he wasn’t crying out to the Lord; it was a cry of disbelief, almost an epithet. He knew His name, but it was quite clear he’d lost the meaning of the Name. He, like so many others in this part of New England — where we calculate about 3 percent are evangelical Christian-is living in pretty much a godless state. It’s a place where people have little time for God, and it must perplex Him that — when tragedy of this magnitude strikes — the churches fill up … for a time.

“Our prayer is that this evil, this unspeakable horror, would be the turning point for what God is doing in New England. We’ve spent the last nearly eight years here, breaking up the land and laying seed for a harvest — or revival in New England.

“Maybe, just maybe, this is the wake-up call. Maybe, just maybe, this is when the church springs into action, being the hands and feet of Jesus and shining His light in this darkness. People here need Jesus and it’s our job to introduce Him to them.”

He said that Walnut Hill Community Church is mobilizing. “We’re lining up counselors to minister to the grieving. We’re collecting money, to be spent in a way that will bring long-term benefit to a broken community. We’re linking churches together, so that — together with God — we go forward from this horrible day and come away better.”

The Katinas have come long way from American Samoa to Dodger Stadium

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LOS ANGELES (ANS) The Katinas have come a long way from playing in their father’s church in American Samoa, a beautiful unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, to performing before 30,000 people at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 8, on the first night of Greg Laurie’s Harvest LA outreach.

And what makes this Dove Award-winning Christian group so unique is that in today’s ever-changing music industry where bands arrive and then disappear into obscurity at a veritable breakneck pace, The Katinas have not only managed to roll with the changes, but they’ve done so with their original lineup intact for 21 years now.

Undaunted by trends and the changing tides of the online music revolution, The Katinas, who recently released their 10th English language studio album, Collage, is composed of brothers John (vocals), Jesse (vocals), Sam (keyboards), James (bass) and Joe (drums) have continued to write and perform on their own terms-and love every minute of it.

I caught up with some of The Katinas, who have 17 children between them, at the iconic Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, just minutes before they went on stage to share the Gospel message through their diverse catalog of songs, and was able to glean a little of their story

Their drummer Joe Katina told me that they have played at many of Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusades, and the first one was at The Spectrum, an indoor stadium in Philadelphia way back in 1996.

On recalling that night, he said, “I just remember a massive amount of people there and being nervous as we played in front of that large crowd and then I also remember Pastor Greg getting up there and sharing the Word of God and so many people responding to receive Jesus that night.”

Was it the largest crowd you had played before at that time?

“I’m not sure if it was because we also had the opportunity to play at a few Billy Graham crusades so but it was definitely one of the bigger ones,” said Joe.

I then spoke with Sam, the keyboard player, and asked him to share about how the band got started.

“We’re all brothers and we started the band in our home in Oceanside, California, where we were then living, but then in 1978, mom and dad went back and planted a church in American Samoa and we became our dad’s praise and worship band.

“And here we are some 21 years later, still loving every opportunity that God opens up for us.

John Katina, one of the band’s vocalists, then joined in the conversation and so I asked him what it was like to sing before such huge crowds.

“Man it’s always a humbling experience,” he began, “but also we just we take it as an honor because I remember being in the small island of American Samoa and we would have these dreams as little boys that someday we would sing for people of all nationalities, and different age groups, and here we get to do that in a venue like Dodger Stadium.

“So it never gets old for us and we’re just grateful for every opportunity.”

I then asked John what it was like for him when he saw so many people responding to invitation at the end of a crusade meeting to give their lives to Christ.

“We rejoice with the angels and we know that not only is there a party going on in heaven, but we often think back to the story of our dad when he came back from the Vietnam war,” he said. “He was an alcoholic and miraculously God transformed him from alcoholism and a lifestyle of abuse.

“So when we see the masses of people, like we anticipate tonight coming forward tonight, we think about our dad’s conversion and again it’s just another opportunity to rejoice.”

What happened to him and is he still alive?

“Oh yes,” said John. “After he got saved, we moved to American Samoa and he planted a church there and he’s still pastoring that church called Miracle Assembly of God, after almost thirty-five years and it is still going strong.”

I then asked Joe Katina how he would describe their music style, and he replied, “Our music is really a collage of different styles. We like to say we sing Rock and Soul as we grew up on R&B. We love harmonies and we love the old school music. So you know we try our best to reach people from all age groups and from all demographics of life. So it’s an eclectic style of music.”

I then asked Sam Katina if the band writes all their own music and he said, “Yes, we write a lot of our own songs, but we also collaborate with other writers outside of the group and then love doing praise and worship and we sing a lot of other people’s songs as well.”

I concluded the interview by asking John Katina how people can pray for the band and he replied, “We ask that people pray that we would stay faithful husbands and great dads to our children — you know that’s our first calling. But also pray that we would be sensitive to what God wants to say through us through our music and as we speak and just pray for our families. Pray for our kids there are seventeen kids between the five of us. So just pray for our families we know that balance of ministry but also our first calling to our families as well.”

With that the three members of the band were off to opening up the proceedings for Greg Laurie and also play as thousands streamed forward onto the turf at Dodger Stadium on that first night.

So for The Katinas, they were able to be a part in another great harvest of souls for God’s Kingdom, and they plan to continue to do this as they serve the Lord thousands of miles away from their homes in American Samoa.

To find out more about the band, please go to: