CHRISTIAN TODAY DIGEST - SUMMER 2010

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TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
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Contents

[This magazine has been jointly edited by Christian Today and Torch Trust for the Blind. All the articles were first published on the Christian Today website www.christiantoday.com over the last thee months.]

Welcome!

Welcome to this summer edition of Christian Today Digest! What a wonderful spell of good weather we've been enjoying - real summer weather! I cycle my seven-mile commute to work, and for weeks now, I haven't had to dress for rain - not even packing a raincoat in case I'm caught returning home in the evening!

But of course the longer this goes on, the more we'll be thinking about the possibility of drought - a situation that is a grim reality in some countries of the world. How we need to pray for rain in these countries - and for the ability to cope with the drought situation and all its knock-on effects.

This edition of Christian Today Digest includes five articles that mention the importance of prayer, one of which points out the huge capacity that children have to hear from God for themselves and to pray into situations in a very real way. They are blessed with an uncluttered approach to prayer - free of the religious trappings and the motivation of mere duty, all too common in adults.

So we pray you will be blessed by this magazine, and as you respond to the "prayer trigger" it contains.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Afghanistan suspends Christian aid groups

Afghanistan has suspended two church-based aid groups over allegations that the organisations are proselytising in the Islamic country. Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid cannot operate while authorities investigate the claim.

"We are not proselytising," Maurice Bloem, deputy director for international programmes at CWS, told The Christian Post. "If you would speak with the local community and organisations they will confirm that we stick to the code of conduct for an NGO (non-governmental organisation), which is you should do your work and not proselytise."

Bloem said as far as he knows this is the first time Afghanistan has accused CWS of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. CWS has worked in Afghanistan since 1979 and has about 300 staff in the Pakistan/Afghanistan area.

NCA also stated that it does not try to convert people to Christianity in Afghanistan or in other parts of the world where it works. Afghan television station Noorin TV broadcast a report in which it claimed Westerners were baptising Afghans, according to the New York Times. The report specifically named CWS and NCA, even though officials at Noorin TV confirmed with The Times that it has no evidence to support its claim.

The report sparked a demonstration by hundreds of students at Kabul University. Protesters demanded the expulsion of foreigners who try to convert Muslims - it is illegal to proselytise in Afghanistan. In 2007, a group of 23 Christian volunteers from South Korea were abducted by Taliban militiamen.

The hostages said they were in Afghanistan to provide free medical aid to poor Afghans. But their kidnappers accused them of proselytising and held them captive for six weeks. During the course of the hostage drama, the Taliban killed two men in the group. Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu was reportedly killed for refusing to convert.

The hostage incident drew international attention to the danger of Christian volunteers being accused of proselytising in Afghanistan. Similarly, the Taliban had captured eight Western humanitarian workers in 2001 and falsely accused them of proselytising. The workers spent 105 days in prison and were eventually freed. But some of the Christian workers returned to Afghanistan to serve the poor. Church World Service's Bloem said he "trusts" that the local authorities will conclude that the organisation is not trying to convert Afghans while serving them.

CWS is a US-based cooperative ministry of 36 Christian denominations and communions. It operates relief and development programs in more than 80 countries. Norwegian Church Aid operates in some 125 countries and provides emergency relief and development aid to poor communities and people in need.

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CBM reaches even more disabled people

CBM, a leading international disability charity, is celebrating after reaching more people than ever among disabled people. In 2009, CBM International helped nearly 24 million people with disabilities or who are at risk of disability.

There was a 15 per cent increase on the number of people helped by CBM in 2009 compared to 2008. CBM provided just under one million eye operations and nearly 74,000 orthopaedic aids. The Chief Executive of CBM, Dr Bill McAllister, said: "We are delighted with the latest results; none of this work would be possible without prayerful support. There is still much more to be done. Poverty will never be history until we address disability."

CBM used to denote "Christian Blind Mission" but works today with people of all kinds of disability. It remains true to the Christian principles that brought it into being 102 years ago. Dr McAllister added, "Our goal is to empower people to change their own lives. Our Christian values compel us to bring love and hope to people who may have been forgotten by their own communities."

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Season of prayer and action for nation

By Alan Channer

The organisers of a major day of prayer for the nation are hoping to mobilise churches and networks across the UK in a season of united prayer and outreach.

The national day of prayer at West Ham football stadium is expected to draw around 20,000 Christians. It is one of several events being held in preparation for a season of 500 days of prayer starting on August 1 and running until December 31, 2011.

The 500 days of prayer are being launched with a view to mobilising churches in prayer ahead of a major prayer gathering at Wembley Stadium planned for 2011 and a year of prayer scheduled for 2012 to coincide with the Olympics in London.

Organisers, Global Day of Prayer London (GDOPLondon), say they want June 13 to be a "catalyst" for a greater commitment to prayer for the nation and outreach in local communities, particularly evangelism.

GDOPLondon convener Dr Jonathan Oloyede said: "This year, prayer and mission are going together. There is a challenge to spread the gospel after praying. We want people to proclaim the gospel and introduce Jesus, speak about their faith, tell their story. This is what we should do in addition to, not instead of, acts of kindness."

A network of churches praying 24/7 has sprung up around London in the last few years. GDOPLondon is inviting churches across the UK to consider taking up at least one full day of prayer each month in an effort to build up a national chain of prayer.

Individual Christians are being asked to set their alarms or mobile phones to noon every day and take one minute to pray the Lord's Prayer over the UK. Later in the year, GDOPLondon is aiming to train and release around 1,000 youth leaders in sharing the Gospel.

Mr Oloyede said: "We want more churches to be praying churches. The national day of prayer is a catalyst for people to pray more actively for the nation and to get enthused for mission - enthused to tell their story. But it's also a call to action. We want to see more churches organising regular prayer meetings and outreaches despite their busy schedules. They can join together with other Christians in holding local, regional and citywide prayer gatherings and in holding events that point people to the gospel. Prayer and outreach must be included in our list of priorities."

The West Ham event has been endorsed by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Christians taking to the stage on the day include Christian MPs David Burrowes, Stephen Timms and Simon Hughes, and X Factor finalist and gospel artist Beverly Trotman. It follows on from a series of prayer events held in all 33 London boroughs as well as a number of towns and cities across the UK on the Global Day of Prayer on Pentecost Sunday last month.

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Christians pray for new Parliament

Christians recently joined in praying for the new Parliament and Government. As the incoming Government gets to grips with the challenges facing the country and Members of Parliament take their seats, many for the first time, the Evangelical Alliance says that now is a key time to support them in prayer.

Christian communities in Westminster and Whitehall were joined by others across the UK to pray for God's blessing in the political life of the country as part of the Week of Prayer for Parliament and Government from 5 to 11 June.

This year was the seventh annual prayer week. Run by Christians in Parliament and Christians in Government, it is supported by the Evangelical Alliance, Bible Society and 24/7 Prayer International.

Andrew Selous MP, Chair of Christians in Parliament, said the Week of Prayer provided a "significant and wonderful opportunity for us all together to seek the Lord's will for politics". He said: "His mercy, wisdom and blessing are essential for Parliament and for Government."

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Cumbria churches issue prayer

A special prayer has been written for churches to use in the wake of the killing spree by taxi driver Derrick Bird in the Lake District. Twelve people were killed when Bird drove his taxi around the Western Lakes region in Cumbria for three hours on 2 June, shooting people at random.

The prayer was put together by the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, President of the United Reformed Church Cumbria Area, the Rev Rachel Poolman, Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District the Rev Richard Teal, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster the Rt Rev Michael Campbell, and the Cumbria Baptist Network Minister, the Rev John Goddard.

They said in a statement that churches in the area would continue to play a longer term role in providing support and sanctuary to those who need it. They said: "The communities of West Cumbria are close-knit and hugely supportive, and we know that people throughout the area will be caring deeply for each other both now and in the months to come. Christians in Cumbria and further afield are praying for everyone who has been affected, and are doing everything they can to offer comfort and practical help at a local level."

A prayer for communities affected by the shooting

O God, Creator of us all, in your Son, Jesus you have walked the way of darkness and death, you send your Spirit of healing and truth to all in need.

We pray for those injured or bereaved by inexplicable violence. May your gracious compassion surround and uphold them.

We pray for all individuals and communities whose lives have been changed by this tragedy. May your sustaining love be present in all expressions of support offered and help received.

We give thanks for the commitment and dedication of the emergency services and pray that they may be given the strength they need to serve others.

We give thanks for the resilience and courage of West Cumbrians, and pray that the bonds of community care and concern may hold fast at this time. Amen.

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Getting the Gospel right

How important is it to get the gospel right?

"Infinitely important!" says Pastor John Piper.

Piper, from Minneapolis, was the featured guest speaker at a conference called "Back to the Cross". Organised by Wisdom & Integrity Ministries, the recent event was aimed at recovering and reinforcing the true essence of the Christian faith among believers throughout Latin America.

"We have to get this right if we're going to be the means of anyone's salvation, including our own," Piper underscored, as his address was translated into Spanish for the listeners. "We need to be saved because we are all sinners," he said. "There isn't any other way to be saved from hell into everlasting joy than ... [by] hearing and believing the gospel."

Piper, who is known for his expository preaching, outlined six aspects of the gospel for Christians. If one is missing, there is no gospel, he stressed.

Firstly, the gospel is a divine plan or purpose, he said. "We don't view the death of Jesus as an accident of history. This has been planned," he stressed.

Listing his second point, Piper said the gospel is a "historical fact" or event. "Christ died on a cross ... at a moment in history," he explained, adding that the resurrection of Jesus is also a historical event. "The gospel is not a theory; the gospel is not a philosophy or an idea; the gospel is not a way of thinking or feeling. The gospel is an event in history. When we preach the gospel we don't mainly preach our experience. We don't mainly preach about what has happened to us. That's important and that does come. But the main thing we preach is God has done something in history. He has sent Jesus Christ into the world and Christ died and rose again.

"Thirdly, the gospel is an achievement of God," he continued. "Namely, through Christ's death, the record of sins and debts has been cancelled for everyone. That record was nailed to the cross," Piper said to applause. "It's a beautiful picture of how my sins were cancelled before I ever existed. Not only has the wrath of God been removed through this substitution, the guilt of my sins is cancelled. Moreover, Satan's condemning power has been broken," he added.

"What is the one weapon in the hand of the devil with which he can damn you to hell? That is unforgiven sin. But if your sins have been cancelled in the cross, that weapon has been taken out of the devil's hand."

The fourth crucial aspect to the gospel is that it is a free offer to everyone for faith alone, Piper outlined.

"You are saved through faith, not of works. This is a huge part of the gospel," he emphasised. "You can't work for it, you can't grow up in a Christian home for it, you can't go to church for it, you can't get baptised for it, you can't keep the Ten Commandments for it."

Explaining how the gospel applies to each person individually, Piper explained that instead of wrath and guilt, believers now have forgiveness and reconciliation with God. "When I believe in Jesus I am united to Christ. Therefore, what he did and achieved becomes mine by this union through faith alone. His righteous life is imputed to me. What Christ achieved is counted as mine. And all of these things lead to one place - that I might forever enjoy the glory of God."

Piper is currently on an eight-month leave from his preaching role at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and from all ministry works. This is his first-ever break from ministry. After 30 years of preaching, the influential pastor announced in March that he needed to focus on his marriage and his family and that his ministry-pattern needed a "reality check from the Holy Spirit." He cited "ongoing character flaws" and pride. The Back to the Cross conference is one of a few speaking engagements Piper and his wife, Noel, agreed to during his leave.

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Gospel For Asia mourns murder of Indian missionary

By Brian Hutt

Gospel For Asia has expressed its sorrow over the murder of one of its missionaries in India last month. Ajit Bansi was constructing a new church in Assam when he was killed by an extremist anti-Christian group on May 20. He had gone to a nearby town to purchase materials for the final phase of construction but never returned. GFA said he was ambushed together with three other people and that all four were shot dead by the extremist group. His murder came just days before the church building for his growing congregation was due to be completed.

Gospel For Asia praised Pastor Ajit for risking everything to share the hope of Christ and serving his church of around 60 believers in spite of the risks to his life.

"Pastor Ajit was one of hundreds of missionaries risking their lives to share Jesus' love in this area," said GFA President K P Yohannan. "He was doing a great work, and his life brought hope to many people. It is extremely sad that this pastor never saw his dream fulfilled. Pastor Ajit left behind his wife and two small children. His church lost its pastor. They all need prayer in this very difficult time, as do the other missionaries in this area."

GFA leaders are caring for Pastor Ajit's bereaved family. They request prayer that the Lord will comfort them and provide for their needs.

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Most Christians cannot explain their faith, says apologist

The faith of most Christians, even that of many pastors, will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, says apologist Josh McDowell.

This is a concern because pastors' inability to present biblical truth comprehensibly and relevantly has led to children from Christian families leaving the church, research has shown. In the United States, the age at which nearly all such children leave church has dropped to 18 years and not even the children of many successful ministers are spared.

McDowell made his comments at a recent networking dinner among various men's ministries organised by Men-in-Covenant. MiC is the men's ministry of Covenant Evangelical Free Church. In his 50 years of ministry, McDowell has asked several thousand pastors and leaders how they could be certain Jesus Christ said "I am the truth" and not one of many truths or a truth. "Not one person has ever given me an intelligent, biblically-based answer," said the author of The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

During the past six years, he asked hundreds of Christians and leaders why they see themselves as Christians. Again no one gave him an "intelligent" answer. In the past 17 years, he has asked over 4,000 pastors, leaders and parents why they believe the Bible is true.

A mere six "came close to giving an intelligent answer. If anything is based upon truth, it's the Christian faith," he said. "Christians who do not know why they have faith or believe have a very difficult time expressing themselves to others. The saddest thing is people come to me and say, 'What's the answer?' I say, 'There's no answer. ... There are hundreds of answers.'"

Most Christians, even some pastors, don't even know one. On the other hand, the apologist said he could give 50 reasons for his belief that the Bible is true. Ninety-five per cent of Christians gave disappointing responses when asked why they believe Jesus is the Son of God. Asked why the Bible is true and historically reliable, Christians replied that it was what they had been taught by their church or parents.

A common response that most Christians gave to both questions was that it is "what I believe". To that, McDowell responded: "That's voodoo thinking. Where did we ever get that crazy idea that something is true just because we believe it? If that is true, then there will never be heresy. Everybody would be right."

On one occasion, 13 youth pastors at a large convention were unable to reasonably answer the apologist's question. Finally one young person stood up, walked toward him and told him he knew the answer. The young man promptly held up his Bible and said, "Because I believe it." And to McDowell's dismay, all the youth pastors applauded him. McDowell said, "Young man, do you know the difference between you, me and the majority of Christians in the world? To you, it is true because you believe it. For me, I believe it because it is true."

Another response the apologist received was: "Because I have faith." He commented, "Where did we ever get the crazy idea that faith makes something true? That's idiotic. That's so unbiblical you can call it heresy. God doesn't use faith to create truth. He uses truth through the Holy Spirit to create faith."

Christians, the apologist stressed, are called to explain their faith when asked. They are set free by the faith in the truth, he expressed, referring to John 8:32 - "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Yet others say Christianity is true because Jesus changed their lives. Even this will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, McDowell argued.

"Lies change lives; cults change lives," he said. To make such an appeal is "not the essence of Christianity," the author emphasised. McDowell said: "We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our neighbours, we owe it to the lost, to tell them not just what we believe but why do we believe it."

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New Haiti hospital

by Charlie Boyd

The chief executive of Compassion UK is getting ready to scale Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for a new hospital in Haiti. Ian Hamilton will climb Africa's tallest peak in just a few weeks time with the director of humanitarian agency LemonAid, Justin Dowds. They aim to raise £250,000 to provide a new hospital for the people on the island of La Gonâve after its only medical facility, the Wesleyan Hospital, was left in ruins following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 this year.

Hospital staff have had to use a make-shift tent to attend to the injured on the island, home to around 120,000 inhabitants. With thousands of people still receiving medical care as a result of the injuries they sustained in the earthquake, the island is in urgent need of a secure, stable and well equipped hospital.

"Haiti is the most desperate place I visit in my role as CEO. I took a reluctant Justin with me around three years ago. We dreamed up this plan of a sponsored climb of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, to raise funds. Even before the earthquake the 33-bed hospital was desperately inadequate for the needs of the people," said Mr Hamilton. "A new hospital will make the lives of La Gonâve's people safer, including thousands of Compassion sponsored children and their families; the kind of safety we take for granted."

Mr Dowds recalls, "When I first visited the hospital the dedication of the staff to do their very best in the crumbling structure touched me deeply. As we waited we saw a small boy rushed in with a deep cut to his abdomen that he'd torn as he tried to scale a glass topped wall. He arrived at the hospital on the back of a motorbike, literally holding his insides in. The hospital staff rushed him into surgery and with incredible skill saved his life. One of the nurses even donated a pint of her blood to save the child. That sealed it for me. I want to show that level of commitment to bring the very best hospital facility to the very least of these."

La Gonâve is one of several islands off the mainland of Haiti, officially the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Compassion is currently running 23 projects on the island in partnership with local churches, serving more than 5,000 children.

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Rebuilding the Walls - starting with prayer!

by Jane Holloway, of the World Prayer Centre, Birmingham

It is so encouraging to hear of the ways Jesus is continuing to mobilise his church to take prayer and the good news of Jesus on to our streets and into our communities with initiatives like Street Pastors, Healing on the Streets and Redeeming our Communities.

This year, millions of Christians took part in the Global Day of Prayer initiative in around 219 nations! Across the British Isles thousands of Christians have spent time in prayer, worship & outreach.

In Edinburgh, approximately 200 people gathered on Blackford Hill. To start, a couple from the local Korean church represented Asia and led in traditional Korean drumming and a traditional worship song. Then a Polish group, dressed in vibrant traditional costume, represented Europe. A group of Brazilians came to represent the Americas, lifting up the name of Jesus with drums, guitar and vocals. Some Filipino believers represented Australasia and brought a traditional worship song. Finally a group of Africans led in a lively celebration of worship.

In Armagh on Pentecost Sunday the Market Square Armagh, Northern Ireland, saw hundreds gathered together in the bright sunshine to unite in prayer for local, regional, national and global concerns. 90 days of blessing is now taking place across Ireland as Christians make random acts of kindness a part of every day lives.

In Northampton during the 10 days of prayer, teams of people representing 12 local churches took to the streets in the town centre with questionnaires and invitations to the Pentecost programme. Lots of great conversations took place with 13 people making commitments to Christ and nearly 50 asking for more information. Around 3,000 people took part in the GDOP celebrations in the park with a prayer tent and family zone enabling all ages to be involved.

In Swansea about 150 people from several local churches gathered. One location was on a hilltop with a commanding view overlooking the city; the other was at County Hall, which enabled prayer both in small groups and corporately to take place for those in authority, including our new national government, business and those in education. We also prayed for families, children and the church and the world through the Prayer for the World.

In Jersey they held their first ever united church GDOP event led by eight leaders from across the church in St Helier's Royal Square in front of the Parliament. A particular focus for prayer was righteous dealings in the finance industry, upon which the island heavily depends. Also, thousands of tonnes of Jersey Royal new potatoes should be exported, but through drought potato yields were less than 50% of normal, and the ground too dry to plant later crops. Farmers were desperate. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is preceded by this in verse 13: 'When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain …' We prayed, and two days later it rained hard all night.

And there are more wonderful stories coming in from around the nation of our God who answers prayer!

And so as the Global Day of Prayer season comes to a close, how can we continue to pray and work for the rebuilding of our society? I offer two practical suggestions:

The first: aim to be a blessing to those you meet in your every day life! During this 90 day season of blessing why not consider doing a "random acts of kindness". Who might the Lord be asking us to bless, help and encourage? Ask him and see!

The second: aim to pray for at least one person each day that you come across, sending up an arrow prayer asking God for the blessing of his peace and love to surround them and lead them wherever they are in their journey of faith.

In the words of Mother Teresa: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop".

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Teenagers challenged to grow own crops

The Bishop of St Albans has issued a summer challenge to people to get growing for harvest and not take their "five a day" portions of fruit and veg for granted. Bishop Alan Smith is encouraging people to learn what it takes to grow their own crops and do without their own snacks, as five portions of fresh fruit and veg are not an option for children in the developing world most affected by climate change.

The Diocese of St Albans has launched a Fruits of Justice Harvest Appeal to support the Church of England's Climate Justice Fund in helping communities in the developing world adapt to the effects attributed to climate change. The fund makes the case that carbon emissions per head in Britain are a hundred times more than those in Uganda, where flood and drought have both affected the Ugandan people in recent years.

The Anglican Church in Uganda is helping communities to adjust to these effects, which can mean that traditional crops and foodstuffs no longer grow, leaving children there eating wild leaves - far from "five a day". Working with relief charity Tearfund, the Ugandan Church is helping communities in Teso Diocese grow new drought resistant crops or recover from the loss of livestock caused by the floods of 2008. Children are now going to school with lunch to eat.

Launching the appeal at Townsend Church of England School in St Albans, Bishop Smith said: "Our 'five a day' is a distant dream for many children in Uganda. The Climate Justice Fund can make a difference and can help us to take responsibility for our own actions. After the disappointment of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December, it is more important than ever that we show governments that change is possible. This appeal is not just about compassion, it is about the church helping to build a movement for climate justice."

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Weapons-for-Bibles scheme

"Knife bins are making a difference and helping to prevent youth crime," practising Christian Michael Smith said at the recent launch of his new weapons disposal scheme, Word 4 Weapons. This charitable initiative focuses on encouraging young people to get rid of their weapons and embrace a positive lifestyle.

Smith was inspired to do something to stem the increasing numbers of stabbings and killings amongst young people across the UK and as a result founded the charitable organisation Word 4 Weapons in 2007. In partnership with The Salvation Army Trading Company, Ascension Trust, Christian Police Association, churches of varying denominations and others, Word 4 Weapons ran a pilot project last year placing knife bins across London where people could dispose of their weapons. In exchange they would receive a trendy bag called "All I Need" which contains a bible, Cops and Robbers comic, book of help plus much more to help them positively turn their lives around.

Word 4 Weapons now has 10 knife bins strategically placed in the London boroughs of Islington, Southwark, Ealing, Lambeth, Hounslow, Redbridge, Waltham Forest and Westminster. It is Word 4 Weapon's vision that a further 10 bins will be in place across London by the end of this year. Smith shared his desire for Word 4 Weapons to reach everyone: "When I turn on the news I see people of different races, faiths and cultures that have been affected by knife crime. That is why this needs to reach out to all people."

Inspector Mark Clarkson, formerly of Operation Blunt was also present at the event. He shared, "Word 4 Weapons gives a great opportunity for weapons to be exchanged as opposed to normal amnesties where knives and guns are handed in and there is nothing left to fill the void. Word 4 Weapons is unique in that it provides young people with the information needed to get out of a life of crime, drugs and get good jobs. It also provides an opportunity for more people to actively get involved in reducing knife and gun crime, as it is led by the community and not the police."

Bob Jandoo, President of The Lions Club, Seven Kings, presented Word 4 Weapons with a cheque of more than £1,175 to sponsor the knife bin in Redbridge. To date, the knife bins have collected over 500 weapons, some of which have been melted down and made into pieces of art as well as key-shaped awards to present to young people who have turned their lives around. The launch was joined by the Rev Les Isaac, founder of Street Pastors, Commander David Chinchen, Met Police Operation Blunt 2, Sultan Taylor, Borough Commander of Ealing, and the Rev Rosemary Mallett, vicar of St John The Evangelist Church, Brixton.

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Releasing children to hear God

All around the world, there are children with tragic stories to tell. Some of them live on the streets, others in war zones, some face hunger, others have been cruelly exploited or abused by adults, and some have simply never known love. In spite of the tragedy, God is raising up a whole generation of children such as these to be children of prayer with a heart to end injustice like never before.

On June 5 and 6, millions of Christians around the globe joined in the World Weekend of Prayer for Children, an initiative led by the international children's charity Viva. While many of those who took part were adults, Viva estimates that around 70 per cent of those praying were actually children. Chrissie, Viva's International Prayer Coordinator, is in the process of developing a child ambassador programme that the Viva Network around the world can adopt and use to empower children participating in its humanitarian programmes to be prayer activists.

She has just returned from a visit to South Africa and Uganda, where she met members of the Viva Network and spent time training them to hold prayer sessions in which children could feel safe, secure and confident enough to lead in prayer and hear what God has to say to them. Surprisingly, one of the first steps towards creating a positive prayer space for children does not lie in changing the children, but rather the adults.

"When we as adults teach children about prayer, we don't need to be the teacher because we don't want the children to be in learner mode, but rather participatory mode, where they are almost on an equal level with us," says Chrissie. "We want adults to realise that children can take their place alongside us. There isn't a junior-sized Holy Spirit! When the children move in the power of God, they have as much ability to hear the voice of God as we do. There's quite a cultural shift that needs to take place to get to the point where adults actually believe that children can hear God and give space for that, and then hear from God through the children."

It is all about helping children to realise that they can have an intimate relationship with God and even take the lead in prayer. In Uganda, children in the Viva network took the lead in organising prayer gatherings for the World Weekend of Prayer. "It's not about children sitting in rows with their hands together but it's about them really relating to God in a personal way and trusting the Holy Spirit in them," Chrissie continues.

The idea is not to press a prayer agenda onto the children but to allow them to discern the issues that God is giving to them. Very often those issues relate to problems affecting their own country and peer groups. On the final day of her visit to Viva in Kampala, Chrissie and the staff there decided to put theory into practice and hold a prayer party for some of the children being served by the network's support programmes. "The children were just grabbing the mics to pray! For children, there's nothing quite like being given the opportunity to try something. All it took was giving them the opportunity and they were able to do it."

It is Viva's hope that these children will become prayer ambassadors for their generation and take on even more leadership in the future. She said: "Children can very quickly catch the compassion of God towards issues of injustice or need and it is a real challenge to us as adult believers. It was a challenge to me when I saw them weeping before God. There is just such a connection. It's not a religious duty. And there is a real sense of injustice. Sometimes as adults in the church, we hear the issues so often that we become hardened and it's just tragic, because when you do begin to pray and touch into the heart of God, the tears flow. Somehow the children are closer to that than we adults are with all our religious trappings."

Releasing children to pray is only one side of the coin, however. Viva also wants to see more adults engaging in sustained prayer for children. In the run-up to the World Weekend of Prayer, the network ran a campaign called "Got a minute", which asked adults to pause for even one minute in their day to spend a moment listening to God and allowing God to open their hearts to the needs of the children around them. Chrissie hopes the annual event will help to captivate the heart of adults for this generation and help them to realise that they can make a difference in a child's life through prayer.

She said: "It doesn't have to be a revelation of children in Africa. My own desperate cry is actually for the children in this nation. There are so many children with mental health issues because of the needs of this nation. The needs are so great that we could shelve the needs of children in other nations for a while and focus solely on children in Britain. What's happening to this generation is just tragic. They may have material things but in terms of love and real attention, there are very few children today who get the sort of attention you know that the Father God intends for each one - that special awareness that we are all precious and significant."

There are some children in the world who are in need of especial prayer and they are the children who are trafficked abroad or kept holed up in a hidden room without their own identity and without anyone in the world knowing they exist, except their enslavers and those who partake in exploiting them. In South Africa, Chrissie was able to visit the boiler room set up in Cape Town for 24/7 prayer in the 50 days leading up to the start of the World Cup. The room left a deep impression on her. Done up like a dingy brothel, with dim red lighting, corrugated iron, a partition and teddy bear on the bed, it served as a powerful reminder that an event which means fun and excitement to most people, means untold misery and suffering for thousands of women and children abducted and exploited against their will by the sex trade syndicates that typically move into town whenever an event as big as the World Cup takes place.

Chrissie concluded: "The South Africans stood up against the syndicates and said, 'No, not in Jesus' name, not on our watch.' It's a real challenge to us in the UK, with the Olympics coming up in 2012. I'm pretty sure the syndicates are already putting things in place around the UK and the Christians here need to be just as alert and intentional in saying, 'Not on our watch.'"

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