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October 14 - 20, 2018

Over 7,000 Evangelicals March in Parade through Jerusalem

Thousands of evangelicals paraded through the streets of Jerusalem in an annual event during the Feast of Tabernacles.

More than 7,000 Christians from over 100 countries attended the event, which the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) hosts each year during the celebration, which coincides with the Jewish Sukkot festival. The event is designed to show evangelical’s support for Israel and to remember the inclusion of Gentiles in the feast of tabernacles.

Marchers gathered in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park and march nearly two miles through Jerusalem’s streets waving flags from both Israel and their native lands. According to The Jerusalem Post, over 900 people who came from Brazil formed the largest contingent at the event. Ivory Coast boasted the second largest representation with more than 500 people in attendance.

Pastor Eliana Cabral, a United States citizen born in Brazil, told The Jerusalem Post that she supported Israel "because of the Bible’s injunction to love the people of Isra-el and to hasten the coming of Jesus as the messiah." She said, "We are supporting and praying for Israel, because if Israel is strong, then it will help bring Jesus for the second time. We are coming because we want to bring the Lord, who is Jesus, to the people, to Israel."

Another American attending the event, Eunice Jones, said she went to show love for the people of Jerusalem. "We believe that God has chosen Israel as the chosen people and that this land here is where he is going to come in the end, Jesus, the messiah. We’re waiting for the messiah, whether its the first time for Jews or the second time for Christians."

ICEJ spokesman David Parsons told Haaretz they have had many well-attended years, but this year may be "one of our best years ever." He also said they will have a "biblical feast" to mark Israel’s 70thbirthday.

The Jerusalem Post reported that some Jewish leaders warned Jews to avoid the march in past years because the ICEJ proselytizes, but ICEJ officials say they have a policy prohibiting the practice inside the nation of Israel.

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2017-18 Lottie Moon Offering Nears $159 Million

In the 100th anniversary since Southern Baptists named their global mission offering in honor of esteemed missionary Lottie Moon, churches gave $158.9 million to sustain their international missionaries worldwide -- the second-highest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions ever received.

"We praise the Lord and thank Southern Baptist churches who have again generously demonstrated their faithfulness in undergirding the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth," said Clyde Meador, interim president of the International Mission Board.

With the books on the offering closing Sept. 30, the 2017-18 Lottie Moon offering, at $158,890,638.47, neared the national goal of $160 million.

Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of national Woman's Missionary Union (WMU), which promotes the offering in partnership with IMB, also expressed gratitude.

"The breadth of missionary opportunity around the globe must be matched by a God-given vision to reach the lost," she said. "The totals of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering demonstrate an obedience to the Great Commission. We rejoice knowing these simple dollars will turn into seeds planted for the Gospel. We pray for a rich harvest among the peoples of the world."

The Lottie Moon offering is crucial in supporting nearly 3,700 full-time missionaries, who are key strategic workers in some of the toughest areas on earth. The offering -- and regular giving by churches through the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program -- funds missionary salaries, housing, medical care, children's education, field transportation and other expenses.

Since CP giving provides a substantive portion of IMB's overall budget (a budget of $264.4 million in 2018-19, according to Rodney Freeman, IMB treasurer and vice president of Support Services), every dollar donated to the offering goes directly to the IMB overseas budget, which directly supports missionaries and their work.

Southern Baptists have given more than $4.5 billion since beginning an offering to support international missions in 1888, Freeman reported.

'Why we come together'

Through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists directly support the work of their personnel such as:

-- Larry Pepper, who traded a space mission for a medical mission among the sick and hurting in Africa. See related story.

-- Scott and Joyce Pittman in São Paulo, Brazil, who partner with the members of a Kentucky church to reach the city of 22 million with the gospel. See related story.

-- Russell Woodbridge, who works alongside members of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., to train Ukrainian believers who are planting churches. See related story.

"Thank you, Southern Baptists, for giving so generously this year to the spread of the Great Commission to all the nations of the earth," said J.D. Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church. "This is at the heart of why we come together. May God make us abound in love for the lost around the world and faith in God's willingness to save them, and express that through extravagant generosity for the sake of making His name known in all the earth!"

The 2017-18 offering ran Oct. 1, 2017-Sept. 30, 2018, to align with IMB's fiscal calendar. The 2018-19 offering runs Oct. 1, 2018-Sept. 30, 2019.

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Sudan Releases Bible Shipments Detained in Port Years Ago

In a surprise move, Sudan has released shipments of Bibles long held in port, including one detained nearly six years ago, according to the head of the Bible Society in Sudan.

The Rev. Ismail Abdurahman Kenani, Khartoum-based director of the Bible Society in Sudan, said port authorities had been delaying several shipments of Bibles in Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. Besides the shipment detained after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir began a crack-down on Christian institutions in 2012, another one detained a little over three years ago was among those released in early August, Kenani said.

The estimated 2 million Christians in Sudan have endured a critical shortage of Arabic-language Bibles, he said.

"We are even planning to put an order for another shipment, because the need is still great here for the Bibles," Kenani told Morning Star News.

Port authorities have long given no official explanation for detaining the shipments, though one official told the Bible Society they were held up because they exceeded the limit of one container at a time. Intentional bureaucratic barriers also seem to have been erected.

"We came to learn that proper documents for the shipments were intentionally misplaced by one of the officers of the port authority," Kenani said.

The church leader told Morning Star News that Sudan released the shipments two months ago, on Aug. 7.

"All things are in the hands of God," Kenani said.

Detainment of Bibles in Sudan also took place before 2011, with one shipment held up for nearly four years, a Bible Society source said.

Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.

The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999.

Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

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Say Thanks to Your Pastor -- It's National Clergy Appreciation Month -- But Know 75% of Pastors Report Severe Stress

When's the last time you said thank you to your pastors and let them know you are praying for them? October might be a good time, since it's National Clergy Appreciation Month. And if your pastor is like many, they are feeling stress.

"Parishioners should share the burden of praying for our pastors. Week after week, we come to receive that which God has poured into them. We have many expectations of them," said author and ordained evangelist Fredrick Ezeji-Okoye. "How often does the congregant stop to consider the pastor's needs? If the pastor is doing all the pouring, how is he being replenished? It is time to become the ones who pray for our pastors."

Most people understand being a pastor can be a heavy load, even if they don't know many details of what is involved.

According to some statistics*, 75 percent of pastors report severe stress and resulting anguish, worry, anger, depression and fear, so perhaps it's not surprising that 1500 pastors reportedly leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

Of pastors surveyed, 57 percent would leave if they had somewhere else to go or another vocation they could do. Pastors also rank high in statistics on drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide, along with doctors and lawyers.

Even before he discovered these stunning statistics, Ezeji-Okoye had been called to minister to those who minister, led to create The Men of Faith Network, a fast-growing, diverse, multi-cultural network of pastors and leaders with a global outreach. The network provides pastors a support system and encouragement. Ezeji-Okoye also heads The Liberty Foundation LLC, a company that specializes in training church workers and consultants.

One day as he listened to his pastor praying for others he said he heard a still small voice asking, 'Who prays for the pastor?' which led to receiving God's assignment to create a ministry for pastors and an outreach for people to pray for pastors.

He further develops his ideas, providing encouragement and advice, in his recently-released book, WHO PRAYS FOR THE PASTOR? Aimed at pastors and parishioners, Ezeji-Okoye offers practical information aimed at supporting pastors.

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Texas Community Comes Together to Plan the Revival of a Historic African-American Church

New owners, a revitalized community and a commissioning board have come together to honor and restore a significant part of San Marcos history: the Old Baptist Church.

When the Old Baptist Church’s current owner, Kurt Waldhauser, acquired the property last year, he was unsure of its history and future. Originally, he had considered demolishing the boarded-up church, thinking it had remained closed and untouched for too many years to seem particularly significant. However, as he and his wife began researching its background, they learned it’s importance to the history of San Marcos.

According to Waldhauser, the original Old Baptist Church was actually built in 1868 elsewhere in San Marcos. Shortly after its opening, the building was burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan. Thirty years later, it was rebuilt in its current location.

"We knew we needed to do whatever we could to save the structure," Waldhauser said. "We don’t know how it’s going to happen, we don’t know how it’s possible to do it, but we know it needs to be done. That’s what we’re working toward."

Ramika Adams, board member and treasurer of the Calaboose African American History Museum, is one of the people leading the church’s preservation efforts.

"The wonderful thing is that when it was rebuilt, the new church was even grander than the one that was burned down," Adams said. "In rebuilding, the community of that time was saying, ‘You’re coming to take us down, but we’re coming back bigger and badder.’"

According to the U.S. Census, San Marcos currently has an African-American population of only 4 percent. At one point, however, a major African-American community thrived in the Dunbar neighborhood surrounding MLK Drive. From barbershops to restaurants and insurance agencies, Adams said it was a flourishing community until gentrification forced many of them out of San Marcos in the middle of the 20th century.

The church’s preservation project centers around honoring the rich history, while simultaneously turning it into a space where a new community can thrive.

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Chick-fil-A Employee Obeys God, Gives Homeless Man His Own Shoes

When Chick-fil-A employee Levi Jones recently saw a hungry homeless man hanging around outside the restaurant, he didn’t chase him off or call the police. Instead, he gave him a meal – and his own shoes, too.

The homeless man who didn’t have any shoes was sitting under a tree, not far from the Chick-fil-A building in Columbus, Ga.

"He had his eyes closed, looked very tired," Jones, who is 18, told WRBL-TV. "I went over to him. God led me over thereto speak to him. I asked him how he was doing, if I can get him any food. I noticed he didn’t have on any shoes on his feet. The Lord told me to give my shoes to him and that’s exactly what I did."

Jones and the homeless man, named Walter, had the same shoe size. Jones also gave him a meal and his favorite drink, Dr. Pepper.

But Jones – who was on the clock – now had a problem. He didn’t have any shoes to return to work. Management found some shoes that were four sizes too big to get him through the rest of the day. Jones didn’t complain, though, according to WRBL.

Todd Kalish, the operator of the Columbus, Ga., Chick-fil-A, said Jones’ actions mirrored those of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy.

"Truett told us always obey your kindhearted impulses," Kalish told WRBL.

Jones said he was driven by his Christian faith.

"I love Jesus and as His son. I’m called to live and walk just like Jesus did on the earth," Jones said. "Jesus hung around homeless people. He took care of people, loved on people, blessed people wherever He went and so I just wanna walk as my Father … walked and live that out every single day of my life."

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