Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Helping Children At-Risk for Abuse through Home Visiting

In 1976, while a Medic in the Air Force, I worked as an orderly in a civilian hospital. In what was a rare instance, I was asked to spend the evening on the pediatric floor, sitting next to the bassinet of a 6-month-old baby girl with a broken leg. At the time I was unaware of the surrounding circumstances. Sometime later I learned that the same baby was brought back to the hospital, DOA – she was a victim of child abuse.

Some experiences are seared in our memories. As pastors and ministry leaders we often find ourselves in the middle of the searing process; whether we have had the arduous task of reporting an instance of abuse or counseling the abused, now grown.

But, we are not without hope, for we know that the One who knits within the womb sees each one and takes note of their need (Psalm 10 and 139). And it is this seeing, steadfast love, found in the cross that compels us to advocate on behalf of these little ones and help their young mothers.

There are some things we take for granted when a baby is born. The added stress of caring for another life should be, by God’s design, softened by the presence of a spouse and the guidance of parents and extended family members. Unfortunately, today, among many young expectant mothers, the father of the child is not a supportive figure if he is involved at all.

To make matters worse, many of these young women have little or no support from their own parents. The young mothers are caught in a terrible cycle of irresponsible living. And, while not a guarantee, this lack of support often leads to sad futures for both mother and child.

Research shows that incidents of child abuse and neglect are lowest in households with married parents. In a long-term study of 644 families in upstate New York, children living with a single parent were two times more likely to be physically abused than children living with both parents. Overall, as many as 700,000 incidents of abuse and neglect are reported each year, and these figures tell only part of the story. The General Accounting Office estimates that as many as 500,000 additional incidents escape documentation each year, due to missing data and poor reporting procedures among other factors (see chart.)

A number of Christian leaders have become so concerned that we have created a new organization called Shepherding the Next Generation, which supports cost-effective ways to reduce abuse and neglect among children in poor, at-risk families. We have identified one highly successful strategy that can cut child abuse and neglect nearly in half. It’s called voluntary home visiting and many states are now supporting it.

What is Home Visiting?

It’s a strategy in which a parent (often a single mom) volunteers to have a professional or paraprofessional – frequently a registered nurse – come into the home and offer guidance and support so that the mother can become the skillful parent God intended her to be. Research has shown that pairing nurses with young, poor women experiencing their first pregnancy can be very effective in reducing child abuse and neglect and improving parenting skills.

Read more

Or Else: Why America Needs Morality

During the course of any given month, publishers send me dozens of books to review. I don’t get the time I’d like to even page through most of them, but the other day one caught my eye. It’s called “After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.”

Now, I’m not into sensationalism, but the book was written by conservative commentator Mark Steyn. In the first chapter, Steyn penned something that stopped me in my tracks. He’s identified the source of our economic and governmental woes. And, I’m not shy to add, I’ve been talking about this for two years now.

Here’s what Steyn had to say:

“When government spends on the scale Washington’s got used to, that’s not a spending crisis, it’s a moral one. . . It’s not just about balancing the books, but about balancing the most basic impulses of society. These are structural, and ultimately, moral questions. Credit depends on trust, and trust pre-supposes responsibility. So, if you have a credit boom in an age that has all but abolished personal responsibility, it’s not hard to figure how it’s going to end.”


How did we get into this economic mess? The denizens of Wall Street, Capitol Hill, and yes, Main Street, U.S.A., cast prudence and responsibility to the curb and chased dollars, votes, and the good life. And it all came crashing down around our heads.

And have we learned anything since the crisis struck? Apparently not, as the recent escapades surrounding the debt ceiling show all too clearly.

Steyn predicts that if Americans do not change course—personally and corporately—the America we know will collapse within years, not decades.

Read more

Iran Pastor On Death Row Urges Faith In Christ

TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)– An evangelical pastor who faces execution in Iran for refusing to abandon his Christian faith has urged fellow believers to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and the “Word of God” despite persecution, according to a letter obtained by Worthy News.

Youcef Nadarkhani, 33, whose first name is also spelled as Yousef, was told last month by Iran’s Supreme Court that he can be executed if he does not recant his Christian faith and returns to Islam.

But in a letter written behind bars earlier this year, Nadarkhani makes clear the Bible tells Christians to expect persecution and that he remains hopeful whatever the outcome of his trial in this strict Islamic nation.

The “Word of God tells us to expect to suffer hardship and dishonor for the sake of His Name. Our Christian confession is not acceptable if we ignore this statement, if we do not manifest the patience of the Lord in our sufferings,” he wrote.

“Anybody ignoring it will be ashamed in that day [when facing God]. Let us remember that sometimes the leap of faith leads us towards some impasses. Just as the Word led the sons of Israel leaving Egypt toward the impasse of the Red sea. These impasses are midway between promises of God and their fulfillment and they challenge our faith,” the pastor added.

Read more

UN wants new global currency to replace dollar

In a radical report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said the system of currencies and capital rules which binds the world economy is not working properly, and was largely responsible for the financial and economic crises.

It added that the present system, under which the dollar acts as the world's reserve currency , should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration.

Although a number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency, the UNCTAD report is the first time a major multinational institution has posited such a suggestion.

In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving.

Read more

Kids see sex on television, not the web

August 8, 2011

Kids see sex on television, not the web

WASHINGTON — A new study has a bit of good news and lots of bad news for parents worried that their children are being exposed to sex online.

The good news? Most kids say they aren't exposed to a lot of sexual material on the Internet.

The bad news? Most kids say the opposite about television and music.

As reported in USA Today, between 16 and 25 percent of children say they are exposed to sexual material on the Internet, while 75 percent say they are exposed to it on TV and 69 percent in their music. The data is from a study that will be published in the journal Pediatrics. The director of the study, Michele Ybarra of Internet Solutions for Kids, is conducting a longitudinal study, following a group of about 1,500 kids for six years.

She presented her study at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting.

"We're following them through adolescence to understand how exposure to technology and experiences in technology are influencing their behavior," Ybarra was quoted as saying.

Her study also had another bit of good news: only 5 percent of kids have participated in "sexting." Other polling has had that percentage much higher.

But the study doesn't mean parents shouldn't take precautions. In fact, other data suggests that porn is a major problem among kids, teens and young adults.

In 2009, the fourth-most searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under was "porn," according to data by For all kids — those up to age 18 — sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.

A 2008 study of undergraduate and graduate students ages 18-26 showed that 69 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women viewed pornography more than once a month. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Research.

From the Christian Examiner

Churches Unite to Free Oppressed N. Korea

With the declining popularity of dictator Kim Jong Il and the pending transfer of power to his son, some are predicting that communist North Korea is headed for a collapse.

As a result, Christian leaders believe this is a critical time to call upon the power of prayer for freedom in the oppressed county.

A Painful Picture

Danny Lee, 24, remembers his childhood in North Korea. His grandmother raised him alone after police arrested his Christian mother. Like thousands of others, she found herself in a concentration camp.

She fled the country after her release, and at 17, Danny escaped to China to begin his search for his mother. He paid a broker who helped to facilitate his escape.

"I thought, 'I want to get out of here' ... because everything was so hard," Lee recalled to CBN News. "And I didn't have too much, no food."

But escaping from North Korea is not easy, even after crossing the Tumen River into to China.

"China doesn't protect," filmmaker Justin Wheeler told CBN News. "China looks at them as economic migrants, and so will not protect North Korean refugees currently."

Hiding: An Escape Journey

In the documentary "Hiding," Wheeler follows five North Korean refugees like Lee on their harrowing 3,500 mile journey from China to southeast Asia. It's a modern day underground railroad, but most never reach freedom.

"I think one of the most shocking moments was with a conversation I had with one of the refugees in the film. He actually escaped North Korea because he had a dream about King David in the Bible," Wheeler said. "And he had never heard of the gospel before. He had never heard of Jesus. He had never heard of God before."

Wheeler is part of LINK, a human rights organization that helped Danny Lee and other North Korean refugees find freedom. The Southern California-based group has hosted 400 screenings of its eye-opening film across the country, raised more than $100,000, and launched 110 new LINK chapters at high schools and colleges.

"We want to redefine the way people think about North Korea and the North Korean people," said LINK executive director Hannah Song. "We want to provide emergency relief to North Koreans wherever they can be reached."

Read more

Boy's Family Credits Prayer for 'Miracle'

A 12-year-old boy on a trip with his youth group to a Washington state beach disappeared under the water for 20 minutes.

After an intensive search, rescuers found his unresponsive body and feared the worst. But today, Dale Ostrander is alert, responsive and talking.

His parents credit the power of prayer.

Rescuers frantically searched for the young Ostrander on jet skis, after he got caught in a rip tide off the coast of Washington that dragged him under the water.

Nicole Kissel, 12, was body boarding nearby when she heard Dale's cry for help.

"I went to the bottom of the sea floor. I could feel it. I felt his pants and I had pushed him up, then I went up," she recalled. "I said, 'We have to keep swimming.' The board was almost to land. I was swimming and I looked back he was next to me. I grabbed the board and he was gone."

Ostrander's youth group on the beach immediately began praying.


British Christians Respond with Prayer and Action as England Erupts into Anger and Violence Following Shooting by London Police

LONDON, UK -- Christian leaders in London and across the United Kingdom are calling for both prayer and action to help those affected by three days of rioting.

The rioting and looting follows the shooting death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham, London, last week.

Billy and Caroline Kennedy, Leaders of Pioneer, part of the New Community Network at Central Hall, St Mary Street, Southampton, told ANS: “I'm sure, like us, you've been glued to your TV screens and twitter accounts watching the unfolding events in London and in other cities across the UK.

“There are many friends of Pioneer, churches and community projects that we are linked with being affected by the recent turmoil. We are also aware that you will know others beyond our network who find themselves in a similar position.”

The Kennedys said: “We wanted to write to you all and encourage you to see if there are ways you can help and support those affected. We can often feel overwhelmed by the scale of what is going and feel paralyzed. But there are things we can do, whether we are local to the areas most affected or not.”

The Kennedys suggested “a simple phone call, text or email to check people are okay would be appreciated.

“For those of you on twitter, you'll be aware that the top three tweets trending globally are #riotcleanup, #prayforlondon and #londonriots.”

The Kennedys are directing friends to “(which) is a very practical response to the events of recent days. If you are in the areas affected why not get involved and encourage your congregations also. What a great response.

“For those of who can't get to the affected areas, we can pray,” they said.

The Kennedys also told ANS that Pete Grieg, 24-7prayer, will be recording a short video later today from Tottenham, giving some prayer pointers. Readers are asked to keep an eye on

**Phil & Julie Stokes, leaders of The Well Community Church in Camberwell, organized a prayer meeting last night for local Christians. At 12.00pm today they will be meeting with the Southwark Borough Council, where Phil serves as Dean to the Council.

**Steve Clifford, in his role at the Evangelical Alliance, is being called on for comment. Pray for wisdom.

**Patrick Regan, director of XLP and member of The Well, has already been quoted on TV as someone who has the respect of some of those who are involved with the rioting.

“Let's pray for the police. I have a number of friends who serve in the police force. Let's pray for wisdom for those in charge and safety for every officer,” the Kennedys wrote.

“It's time for the church to stand up, pull together and work and pray for a new day in our nation,” they said.

Adrian Hawkes, who runs a ministry in north London, wrote: “Obviously many of Rainbow (Fellowship) live in Tottenham, although most of us were away at our camp, 200+ there. People getting saved... but Gareth and Jo who lead Rainbow live right by the main fire, I understand his garden is covered with ash, we also have friend who lived in a flat above the carpet shop which was the first place to go up in flames, they escaped with their baby to their car and went to stay with in-laws, they are part of another London church.

“Coming to the office today I can see the cloud of thick black smoke pouring over our area, our office is in Edmonton, London, (in the) borough of Enfield. Yesterday coming home from the camp, even areas that were not immediately affected where all closed by 3.00p.m., shuttered and locked up with streets very quiet, even in Barnet. I do think most importantly that our young people need to hear that there is a God to live for, who gives us real purpose in life. Currently we are running a small college where we take in NEET young people (Not in Education Employment or Training) they do not have any purpose.”

Pastor David Wise, of Greenford Baptist Church, located in the London Borough of Ealing, where riots occurred Monday night, writes: “As you will already know Central and West Ealing were areas where there was rioting and looting last night. We are calling GBC together tonight to pray from 8PM till 9PM.”

Following some concern for safety, the Seventh-Day Adventist youth department has now severely downgraded this evening’s pre-arranged event and are only planning on a few experienced Youth leaders meeting at Tottenham.


Bitterness really can make you sick

Tell one person they make you sick, it's hyperbole. Tell dozens of people over time that they make you sick, and you may have a real medical argument.

Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal report that constant bitterness can lead to physical illness, affecting everything from organ function to immune response and vulnerability to disease.

The findings, which appear in the new book Embitterment: Societal, Psychological and Clinical Perspectives, shed light on the complex ways in which people's attitudes and feelings affect their health.

"Negative emotions typically have the power to influence our biology," says Carsten Wrosch, an associate professor of psychology.

"They can . . . release more cortisol into circulation, which in turn, can communicate with other body systems — the immune system, for example. And if there's immune dysregulation, such as systemic inflammation, that increases the person's likelihood of developing a host of different diseases."

Plainly, in blaming the world for your problems, you invite even more woes upon yourself.

Wrosch and his co-author, Jesse Renaud, identify failure as a major culprit behind bitterness, which sees people pointing fingers at external causes for their shortcomings rather than looking at their own actions.

"It's not only the failure; it's the way people attribute causes to the failure," explains Wrosch.

Read more

Countries With Worst Religious Freedom Grades Are Mostly Islamic

( – Muslim-majority countries score worst across a range of measures in a comprehensive new study tracking government restrictions on religion as well as social hostilities involving religion around the world.

The study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, released Tuesday, found that nearly one-third of the world’s population lives in countries where religion-related government restrictions or social hostilities rose significantly between mid-2006 and mid-2009.

Geographically, the Middle East/North Africa region boasted the largest proportion of countries – 30 percent – where official restrictions on religion increased over that three-year period.

Digging deeper, the 117-page report reveals that countries belonging to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) dominate many of the most serious measures tracked at the end of the survey period in mid-2009.

Seven of the ten countries with the highest – that is, worst – grades when it comes to government restrictions on religion were OIC countries – Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia. The other three were China, Burma and Eritrea.

Of the 10 countries on that benchmark index, six are designated by the U.S. government as “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom violations – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

A separate index in the Pew report graded countries according to levels of social hostility involving religion. Eight of the top ten countries in that index were Muslim-majority states – Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Egypt. The other two, India and Israel, have Hindu and Jewish majorities respectively, and large Muslim minorities.

In an index measuring official interference with religious practice, 18 out of 26 countries (69 percent) whose government “prohibits worship or religious practices of one or more religious groups as a general policy,” were OIC members – Brunei, Chad, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The other eight were Burma, China, Eritrea, Laos, Madagascar, Monaco, Tuvalu and Vietnam.

A grading of countries where conversion from one religion to another is restricted was also dominated by Islamic states, accounting for 25 out of 29 countries listed (86 percent). They were Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The four non-Muslim countries were Eritrea, India, Israel and Vietnam.

Taking the conversion issue a step further, among 13 countries where there were incidents of physical violence over conversions from one religion to another, 10 (77 percent) were Muslim – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. The other three were India, Mongolia and Nepal.

Sixteen out of 26 countries/territories where “religion-related terrorist groups” perpetrated violence that resulted in ten or more injuries or deaths” were OIC members – Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan and Yemen

The 10 non-Muslim countries were Central African Republic, China, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Nepal, Philippines, Russia and Sri Lanka. (The report does not provide a breakdown of actual attacks, but in at least some of those countries – India, Israel, the Philippines and Russia – terror activity is largely attributed to Islamist groups.)

Read more

Feeding the Poor Through Pay-As-You-Go

Kathy had been out of the job market for about 25 years—instead staying home with her three children—when everything fell apart. The 50-something resident of Edison, in north-central New Jersey, had worked part-time as a file clerk to help pay for her three daughters' college tuition. But she left that job after her father died and her husband suffered a heart attack. Then her husband left, leaving Kathy without an income to provide for her children.

"It's a little scary," says Kathy, who asked that her full name not be used. "The rug was pulled out from under my feet."

Kathy isn't alone. In some communities surrounding Edison, 27 percent of the population lives below the national poverty level.

For Kathy and many others, a church in nearby Highland Park offers a unique solution. A Better World Café, one of a handful of "pay-as-you-can" restaurants in the United States, provides clients with good meals and job training, among other things. Hosted at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, the idea for the restaurant was hatched in 2009 in a group working to meet local needs.

At one meeting, Lisanne Finston, executive director of Elijah's Promise, a faith-based nonprofit, discussed "food insecurity" just when the recession was pushing more people into food pantries. Someone mentioned hearing about restaurants where customers pay only what they can afford. Jean Stockdale, executive director of Who Is My Neighbor? Inc., another New Jersey faith-based nonprofit, Googled the concept. Then she e-mailed Denise Cerreta, founder of the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, arguably the country's first pay-as-you-can restaurant.

"It seemed like a solution for a lot of problems in our town and for the low-income families in our area," Stockdale says.

Stockdale and Finston pursued the plan, and A Better World Café opened in October 2009 at the church.

Read more