CHRISTIAN TODAY DIGEST - WINTER 2008

[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 christiantoday.com over the last three months.]

From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)1858 438260, Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275
email: info@torchtrust.org website:www.torchtrust.org
Registered Charity Number 1095904.

Contents

Welcome!

Welcome to this final edition of Christian Today Digest for 2008! If you receive it before Christmas, we wish you a very happy Christmas! If not, we wish you a very happy New Year!

Before we launch into this latest collection of news items from around the world, we have resources and events to inform you of.

DAISY player

What about "Flowers at Christmas" - in the form of a DAISY player? This player enables you to take advantage of our lovely clear DAISY CDs of library books and magazines. It can play all types of CDs (except DVDs), and the player will remember where you got to on each one; it also allows you to play the DAISY New Testament.

Other advantages are: battery rechargeable so available anywhere you want to listen; volume, tone and speed change to make listening comfortable; loud speaker or headphones; good clear sound; well-made player. So accurate that you can even home in quickly on any verse in the Bible.

All these features make DAISY players expensive, but we can now offer the Victor Reader Classic X for £230 (normally £250) plus £10 p&p in conjunction with Humanware UK.

To take advantage of this offer, contact Humanware on 0800 587 2589 or 01933415800 email: eu.info@humanware.com stating that you received this offer from Torch Trust. Humanware will then notify us that you have requested the Victor Classic X and will send you a VAT exemption form to verify that you are visually impaired and exempt from VAT on the player.

Note: this offer finishes end of January 2009.

Magazines on CD

We remind you that all Torch's magazines are now available on CD and can be played in any CD player. Unlike the cassettes, CD's do not need to be returned to Torch. Cassettes will continue for as long as it is possible to produce them.

DCF 50th Anniversary Cruise

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Disabled Christian Fellowship are organising a Mediterranean Cruise.

Contact: jenny@throughtheroof.org or 07864168216.

Louis Braille Bi-centenary

To celebrate Louis Braille's bi-Centenary, you are warmly invited to a service on Saturday 21st March 2009 at 12 noon in St Martin in the Fields church, off Trafalgar Square, London. The non-denominational service will be conducted by braille readers, with blind musicians playing the fine organ and leading the singing. After the service refreshments will be available. There are also food outlets nearby, or you can visit the church's caf� in the crypt. Do come and join us!

And now we trust that once again you will enjoy this magazine (many thanks for further notes of appreciation), and may you all know wonderful riches in Christ through the coming year.

Jill Ferraby and the editors.

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Billy Graham turns 90

World renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, will celebrate his 90th birthday on November 7th with an intimate family gathering near his mountainside home in North Carolina.

"I never expected to live this long, and it is hard to believe I have reached the age of 90," Dr Graham said.

"Every day is a gift from God, no matter how old we are. I have discovered that just because we grow weaker physically as we age, it doesn't mean that we must grow weaker spiritually. In fact, we ought to be growing stronger spiritually, because our eyes ought to be on eternity and Heaven - on the things that really matter."

Christians all around the world have been submitting their birthday greetings to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the ministry founded by Graham in 1950, and sharing their personal stories of how Graham has touched their lives. Tens of thousands of messages have been sent in so far and will later be presented to the evangelist as part of the birthday celebration.

Billy Graham spent more than six decades preaching the gospel to thousands-strong crowds at evangelistic crusades in more than 185 countries and territories. Since his last crusade in New York in 2005, Graham has remained an active spiritual guide particularly in the written word, writing columns for a number of Christian publications and nearing the completion of a book project based on his personal experience with growing older and how to be prepared emotionally and spiritually for what he says can be the most fulfilling years of life.

Graham expressed his hope in seeing his late wife, Ruth Graham, in heaven. His ministry partner of more than 63 years, she passed away on June 14th, 2007.

"I look forward even more to the time when I will be reunited with my wife in heaven, and neither of us will ever experience again the physical aches and pains brought about by age and illness," Graham said.

Dr Graham maintains a keen interest in the ongoing ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) under the leadership of his son, Franklin. This past year, he joined ministry board meetings and other activities as his health has allowed.

His legacy lives on in his son and grandson, Will, who regularly hold evangelistic festivals and rallies all around the world, including most recently one in Taipei in Taiwan earlier this month.

"I am proud of Franklin's leadership of the BGEA, and the way it is showing the love of Christ to a hurting world and using new technology to share the gospel message," Graham said.

Graham has also followed closely the race for the White House at a time of economic instability and an ongoing war on terror.

"President Elect Barack Obama faces many challenges, and I urge everyone to join me in pledging our support and prayers as he begins the difficult task ahead," he said.

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Atheist posters: "great adverts for Christianity"

A think tank set up with the support of the heads of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales says an atheist bus advert campaign will "encourage people to think about God".

The British Humanist Association's adverts have made headlines over their provocative slogan, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

More than £30,000 has been raised for the four-week campaign, which will see the posters splashed across 30 of London's bendy buses next January. Prominent atheist and author of "The God Delusion", Professor Richard Dawkins had offered to match donations up to £5,500.

The posters are the atheist answer to a number of high profile Christian advertising campaigns on London buses and billboards, notably the Alpha Course, whose posters ask, "Is this it?" and "If God did exist, what would you ask him?"

Ariane Sherine, a comedy writer, prompted the "no God" advert campaign when she called for a "reassuring counter-advert" to the religious posters on public transport that she said "threaten passengers with eternal damnation", according to The Telegraph.

"This is absolutely brilliant and I'd like to thank everyone who donated. The sky's the limit for atheists even if we don't believe there's anyone up there," she was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The BHA's Hanne Stinson said that if donations kept coming, the organisation would consider rolling the adverts beyond London buses, to trains on the London Underground, and possibly transport networks in more cities across the UK.

Faith-based think tank, Theos, said it had donated £50 to the campaign out of a conviction that the campaign would prove to be "counter-productive".

"It tells people to 'stop worrying', which is hardly going to be a great comfort for those who are concerned about losing their jobs or homes in the recession," said Theos director, Paul Woolley. "And what does it tell us to do when we stop worrying? Volunteer overseas? Give money to charity? Campaign for the environment? No. It tells us to enjoy ourselves. It would be hard to come up with a more self-centred message than this." He added, "Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity."

The adverts have been well received by other Christians.

The Methodist Church's Spirituality and Discipleship Officer, the Rev Jenny Ellis, said: "This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life."

She also defended Christians against Dawkins' assertion that "thinking is anathema to religion", saying that Christians were called by Jesus to "love God with their minds as well as hearts, souls and strength."

"Christianity is for people who aren't afraid to think about life and meaning," she added.

The head of Church Army, Mark Russell, expressed his support for the adverts in the latest entry on his blog.

"I love that the advert says 'probably'," he wrote; "it seems the atheists are not sure if there is a God or not! I hope people will take time out from the busyness of their everyday lives and think openly about the issues."

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Christians bring Bibles to work

[This was written in early October.]

A survey has revealed more people would be embarrassed to read a romantic novel on the bus than a Bible.

The survey, commissioned by Bible Society, also found that workers would regard someone reading the Bible in the office as more honest and trustworthy than other colleagues. Only 14 per cent felt that someone spotted with the Bible - the world's bestselling book - would be less fun to be with than other staff members. The study, conducted by leading pollsters ICM, shows people believe society would be better if more people read Scripture.

The survey was commissioned by Bible Society to coincide with Bring Your Bible To Work Day on 27th October. The charity wants to encourage each churchgoer to pack their Bible in their briefcase and slip Scripture in with their sandwiches - and make the Bible's message part of life where it can impact actions and decisions positively.

The event is a follow-up to Bible Sunday on 26th October, which centred this year on Psalm 119 and the theme "Buried Treasure?". Resources include talk outlines, a drama sketch and a free DVD.

Bible Society hopes that the morning after unearthing the Bible's riches - on Bible Monday - Christians will want to make the Bible part of everyday life by taking its message with them.

"These days people can have Moses on their Motorola, listen to God on their iPod, read Matthew instead of the Metro or look up Isaiah on the internet," said Beth Read, Bible Society's Church Development Officer. "The Bible's treasures are there waiting to be discovered. On Bible Sunday we unearth the Bible's message for ourselves, so on Bible Monday we can make it a part of our busy lives and help others encounter it too."

In the survey, 54 per cent of people said they would be embarrassed to read an adult magazine in public, and 25 per cent felt the same about a romantic novel. While 16 per cent would be ashamed to read a self-help book and 15 per cent a children's book, only 14 per cent would be embarrassed to be seen reading the Bible in a public place.

When it came to the workplace, 81 per cent believed a Bible reader was a religious person and 50 per cent would regard them as someone to trust or confide in. A total of 42 per cent felt they would be more honest with clients or colleagues.

As to whether the Bible should be read in public, a staggering 70 per cent agreed, while only 13 per cent felt it should be kept private. More than half those questioned - 53 per cent - said society could be better if more people read the Bible.

The results were welcomed by David Spriggs, Bible Society's Bible Consultant. He said, "We believe it's time to put Scripture where it belongs - back at the centre of our ordinary lives. We want the Bible to be as much part of the workplace as a mug of coffee. Engaging with it is not something that consenting adults should only do in secret! It's time the Bible was de-mystified."

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Church finance chief calls for "fresh start" to economic system

The chairman of the Lichfield Diocesan Board of Finance has likened the collapse of the world's financial system to Jesus' turning out the money changers out of the Temple, and said, "It's time to start again."

Speaking to members of the Lichfield Diocesan Synod at the weekend, Peter Sharpe, the former chief-executive of a mutual assurance company, said: "Some people who have been entrusted to look after other people's money have abused that trust. They have taken big risks with other people's money. It was a question of heads I win - big time - tails you lose - in a way that may blight your whole life."

Mr Sharpe said calls for more regulation were "disappointing".

"Why more regulation? Because it is often automatically assumed people in authority can't be trusted to act with self restraint and integrity any more."

He added: "Somehow it seems someone has said, 'this is not the way I want you to run my world and treat my people'. It seems someone has kicked over the tables of all the world's money changers and money lenders and said 'please consider carefully what you are doing - and start again, and while you're doing so, try to think a little less about serving yourself and a little more about serving others'."

He said that the financial system that encouraged some people to earn "what seemed to be obscene amounts of money while many others starved," was simply unsustainable.

"The poor earth simply doesn't have enough resources to satisfy this huge demand for self gratification, and we are all seeing the result," said Mr Sharpe. "It is on the watch of our generation that the feeling of we can't wait, we must have every thing now, has developed. We are overseeing the rape of the earth, and face leaving the next generation with huge debts. Why bother about funding public service pensions, let's spend that money now and leave the problem with the next generation. And what a problem it will be."

His comments were echoed by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, who writes about the financial crisis in his pastoral letter for November's parish magazines throughout the Diocese of Lichfield.

He describes demutualisation of building societies as a moral issue, saying: "The turning of building societies which operated for the long-term benefit of ordinary people into banks which operated for the short-term benefit of share-holders was also a moral issue. It was a sign of a society turning its back on Christian mutual help for the sake of short-lived fast bucks."

In his letter, the bishop says the money market had become "an idol that needed feeding" and he said a number of Christian principles apply.

"We should not worship mammon," he said, adding, "The market is a fine provision by governments of open spaces where people can trade their goods fairly without being robbed; but if some of the stall-holders start to buy up and take over the market robbery comes in again by the back door."

Bishop Gledhill continued, "Money is a blessing when it facilitates the exchange of goods but when it becomes good in itself there is a danger of ruinous gambling with the currency of nations - which is what has now happened."

He compared the motives of the markets with the new clergy ordained in Lichfield Cathedral in October.

"Many of them were cheerfully giving up good career prospects to serve on a curate's wage," he said. "I am so glad that our diocese has invested in two extra curates again this year. The money markets may crash around us, and we may regret, as a nation, giving into the siren voices of 'light-touch' regulation of the fat cats. But those who trust God for the future and take some risks for him will find they have made the surer investment."

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Former bowling alley becomes a church

A former Hollywood Bowl bowling alley has seen its well-used lanes become the aisles of a new black-led church in east London.

The venue, next to a Showcase Cinema, boasts a massive 29,800 sq ft ground floor which has become the new home for worshippers of Trinity Chapel, part of the fastest-growing church in London and Europe, the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

Negotiations on behalf of the church for a 15-year lease of the premises were handled by Olatunji Adebayo, managing director of TA Property Consultants Ltd, a London-based company specialising in purchasing and leasing property in the south east for Christian churches. TA currently has 350 churches on its books looking for larger premises.

Mr Adebayo said: "Trinity Chapel is one of very many black-led churches in London which is rapidly growing and looking to expand into new premises for worship and to house resources to help local communities. The former Hollywood Bowl was ideal for their needs."

He said the number of churches turning to him for help in finding new larger premises was evidence of church growth.

"Whilst the public perception is that church attendance is declining, in our experience, the black-led churches and many independent evangelical churches are rapidly rising in membership, hence the need for larger premises," he said.

Mr Adebayo is currently holding talks with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in a bid to have London's Planning Laws changed to enable more churches to take over premises formerly designated strictly for employment or commercial use.

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Interview with Colonel Paul Eaton

Colonel Paul Eaton is a committed Christian and active serviceman in the RAF. Last week, he helped to launch United Christian Broadcasters' new Forces Prayerline for servicemen and women and their families. He speaks here about what it is like to be a Christian in the Armed Forces and the prayerful support churches can offer.

CT: You are a committed Christian. What initially inspired you to join the Armed Forces?

PE: I wouldn't have said I was a Christian at the time, but one of the things I had been told when I was quite young was that service in the Forces and Christianity are not incompatible. And since I've become a Christian, one of the stories I take great heart from is when Jesus meets a Roman centurion, and praises him for his great faith. It seems to me that it's not incompatible and I've never had any particular issues with it since I became a Christian.

CT: Did you ever find yourself in a position where you felt you were being asked to do something at odds with your Christian beliefs?

PE: No. Actually what I found is that it is a tremendous help on operations because it gives you courage and hope and allows you to look at things with a higher perspective. A young soldier at the Forces Day of Prayer on Thursday said that when things were looking bad - they had lost their leader and the enemy was closing in and he could see the fear in his comrade's eyes - he had been hugely reassured by a text he had read just that morning from the Bible that just spoke right into that situation and he was able to deal with it and lead the other chap out of it.

CT: It's quite an unusual context to apply your faith in.

PE: It is, but of course there are more mundane areas that are still very important. I've been faced with difficult situations in terms of budgets and people suggesting, when there's a problem, that we should cover up what's gone wrong to show ourselves in a better light. And I said, "No, we're not going to do that, we're going to say that we made a mistake, we got it wrong and we're going to do something to put it right."

CT: Did that sit well with other people who were not Christian?

PE: If you're the boss and it's your budget, you've got to take responsibility for your decisions, and for me it's important to make the right decision and tell the truth and they seemed to accept that because they know, well actually, he's going to have to be accountable for it and he's clearly not worried about that. So I have found my faith hugely helpful in dealing with some of those difficult issues where there is perhaps a moral dimension.

CT: When you are on operations, presumably it's difficult to go to a Sunday service and you might not have the structures of faith that you might usually have at home. Is it easy to find that time to just be with God?

PE: I think it depends on how important your faith is to you. If your faith is important to you, you will find the time. On operations, one of the things that the Forces are good at is that they do provide spiritual support, so in most of the places you are deployed to, you will have access to a padre. It may not be every day but there will be a padre, a chaplain assigned to your unit, who is there to provide support and can supply you with any of the material you need. For example, the Forces have camouflaged Bibles available and there are field prayer books.

And there are services held on operations. When I was in Bosnia there were services. We weren't on the frontline but there were services every Sunday. And they were just held wherever they could be held, sometimes in a room somewhere or even in the open air. Chaplains are very good at doing that, at meeting the spiritual needs of people in the most difficult of places, particularly on operations. And it comes down to how important is your faith to you.

I spent a lot of time reading the Bible on operations. I had a small pocket Bible and I read it every night that I could.

CT: Servicemen have a reputation for being jack the lads. What did the other officers think of your faith? Were they indifferent when they saw you reading the Bible or were they curious? Was there anyone who found himself thinking about God who hadn't thought about him before being on an operation?

PE: Well, people have always treated me very kindly. I became a Christian about half way through my career so I didn't go through that phase as a young officer when you are perhaps more likely to come under pressure and be teased about it. And I take my hat off particularly to junior soldiers and officers who are in that situation. I think it is quite tough for them to live out their faith.

People have, by and large, been very kind to me and very gracious. They will sometimes say things like "oh you're a God botherer" but that's fine. I've been there, I've been on the other side of the fence, so I understand their perspective. I'm not afraid to talk about it and explain my faith if it's appropriate and it comes up, but equally I'm not going to give people a hard time if they have a different world view.

CT: I imagine you must have some very deep conversations with your comrades about the meaning of life, especially when you are faced with the possibility of death on a daily basis?

PE: That's particularly true on operations, but I would say that most of the time people avoid talking about faith, they just avoid the subject, they don't want to go there. And you can see in the conversation if someone is uncomfortable because they will either change the subject or they just won't respond to what you've said.

But on the other hand there are many people who are very interested. Chaplains are frequently deployed on operations and have some amazing stories to tell. One of the chaplains yesterday was talking about what he called "significant encounters" in a bomb shelter that was being attacked. He would get talking to someone and find out that they were either a Christian or were seeking answers. So there are opportunities to discuss issues of faith, particularly on operations.

Whereas in the past the military used to provide a degree of teaching and education about the Christian faith to all soldiers, through things like "padre's hours"; that has slowly faded out. So a lot of soldiers go off into conflict situations without ever having really heard or thought about the bigger questions of life and death and eternity. My view is that we need to redress that, and that's not in the sense that everyone should be converted. But everyone should at least have the opportunity to discuss the bigger questions of life, in the context of the possibility that God does exist and the possibility that they may be able to derive tremendous strength and courage through having a spiritual faith. It's about finding ways of doing that in a way that doesn't threaten people and is compatible with the Government's multi-faith aims.

The Forces have been brilliant at supporting people of all faiths. There is a temple for the Gurkhas next to the building I am in now and there are prayer rooms on other bases. The Forces have done a lot particularly for the minority faiths, but actually there are a lot of people out there who maybe don't go to church but see themselves as Christians and we're not necessarily doing as much as we can to support them.

That's why I think things like the Forces Prayerline actually offer a real practical service for people in a way that people can connect with and understand and give them the opportunity to reflect on the spiritual dimension of their life.

CT: Servicemen and women are portrayed as having a tough exterior and not overly sentimental or emotional. Is that just a misconception?

PE: Yes, I think that's how people in the military are often portrayed. The truth is that we're all human beings and underneath that hard macho exterior there are fears, there are worries, there are questions. And there are lots of issues that they are struggling with.

I think they don't necessarily like to make those public, which is why having a confidential anonymous prayer line is good because they can open up quietly to someone who is outside the Forces environment. It's a safe way of discussing these issues.

But the Forces Prayerline isn't only for people serving in the Forces, it's also for their families. The young families are under a lot of pressure and live in constant fear from day to day as to what the next knock on the door might bring. There is also the impact when soldiers come back from operations and they have seen perhaps some terrible things and they are not themselves and maybe they are very silent. And then they explode.

So there is a real impact on relationships. Marriage counselling and welfare services are really, really important, but prayer is one of the things we can bring to bear as well.

CT: A lot of Christians who run prayer stalls and stands say they often receive requests for prayers from people who would not describe themselves as Christians and who would never set foot in a church. Do you think that will be the case with the Forces Prayerline?

PE: I imagine so. One thing we are very keen to stress is that the Forces Prayerline is for anyone who wants prayer. It doesn't matter what their background is or what their stance on faith is, if they come from another faith or if they have no faith. If they want prayer and they want someone to pray with them and pray to God into their situation then the prayer line is for them.

I know UCB, because I have worked with them on this project for four years now, and I know that is their heart too. They don't ask people where they stand. No one will be asked what their faith is when they call the prayer line. They will be asked "what would you like prayer for?".

There will be people who never go to church, who aren't linked to a church, who are nervous about going to their padre or talking to another Christian but they are more comfortable with ringing a prayer line which is anonymous and confidential - and they can even put the phone down in the middle - and through that they can have prayer.

My hope is that there will be many people who will be blessed through the Forces Prayerline, no matter what need they have.

CT: What should Christians be praying for when it comes to people in the military?

PE: It's important to pray for the protection of our Forces and their situations. For wisdom and guidance of those who are leading them, because they often lead in very difficult circumstances. It would be great for people to pray for relationships and marriages, for marriages to be strengthened and not damaged by the psychological impact of war.

CT: Because that's quite a strain isn't it?

PE: It is and even from my own experience - I've been blessed with a very strong marriage - but it is difficult when you come back from operations and you've been away for several months and you come in and disrupt everything, you disrupt the routine.

And if you're not careful you can think there's something wrong with your marriage when it's not that, it's just that you've been away for a long time, you've seen some pretty awful things, and your wife has been struggling with the children. Of course, sometimes it's the other way around, the wife has been deployed and it's the husband that has been left behind.

And also it's important to pray for the children of those in the Forces, because children are not stupid, they know what's going on - although they sometimes pick up the wrong end of the stick. When I was deployed in Bosnia, the mail system wasn't working very well and when another day went by without a bluey from me popping through the door, my son looked up at my wife and said "Daddy's dead". I'm really glad that for once in his life he was wrong!

But there is an impact on kids and from a certain age they know what's going on and it affects them.

CT: What would you like society to be mindful of as we mark Remembrance Day?

PE: I think for me in the past Remembrance Day has been about the tremendous sacrifice that people have given in the past, but now it is also the sacrifice that is being given today. And I think it's really important that the nation understands that there are ordinary men and women out there on the frontline. And regardless of the politics of it all, they are there effectively to defend our nation and are undergoing tremendous pressure and stress and some of them are paying with their lives or serious injuries and it is really important to pray for people to remember that it is going on today. One of the things I think our people really value is a sense that the nation is behind them. It's not good when soldiers come home and people jeer at them in the streets or spit on them. Because then they think "Why am I doing this?"

I wonder if, for people coming back with war trauma, that sense that the nation is behind them is part of the healing process, that whatever they've been through they feel that it was worth it because people value what they've done?

It would also be good if people could pray for people to have a better understanding of what the Forces do on the ground. It would be really good if people had a better idea of what they were up to and what life was about. We sometimes miss the brilliant work that people are doing on the medical side, the logistics side, the communications side.

So it's important that the nation shows it is behind them. The Forces Prayerline is a part of the nation saying we are behind you, we are praying for you. But there are other ways to show that solidarity. One padre organised for the church in his area to send a card on Remembrance Day to the soldiers in his unit and apparently that was a real morale lifter.

CT: I can imagine the troops feel a bit forgotten sometimes with the financial crisis dominating the headlines.

PE: Something that dispirits our soldiers is that it is not only about fighting. A lot of our soldiers are doing really good work in the sense that they are helping to rebuild Iraq, rebuild Afghanistan. They are building schools, they are helping to build water systems and to deliver supplies to people. But very often the news doesn't report that; it focuses on the fighting because that's what people want to read about. But in all of that we miss all the really valuable things being done on the ground in support of the local population. And that's ultimately why we are there. To try and rebuild countries and make them stronger, to help rebuild communities, so they can support themselves, to be secure and have the sort of benefits that we enjoy in the West.

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Jamaican patois translation

One of the key pioneers behind a controversial new £250,000 translation of the Bible into Jamaican patois was in London in October.

Rev Courtney Stewart, General Secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, said, "Patois defines us. It is instinctively Jamaican. If God speaks my language then he communicates with me - where I am. It is crucial."

Already 40 per cent of the New Testament has been translated in draft form.

Patois is spoken by five million round the world but until now has been considered low status. Almost all Jamaicans know it, but only recently have the middle and upper classes spoken it in public.

The Bible Society is working with the University of the West Indies to develop a writing system that will effectively put patois down on paper for the first time, defining rules, punctuation, spelling and capitalisation.

According to the Bible Society, the 12-year project is much bigger than just another Bible translation. "It is the first official recognition of patois itself," the organisation said.

The first person to suggest a patois Bible was Dr Faith Linton, board member of the Bible Society of the West Indies. "The board was shocked," she admits. "Patois is considered by some to be irreverent and aggressive. In certain circles, people were ashamed to speak patois."

Traditionalists are concerned that translating the Bible into patois is another example of "dumbing down". Former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe said: "It's one thing to turn the Bible into modern vernacular, but to turn it into patois is utterly ridiculous. When you dumb down you take away any meaning it might have."

An example of the patois translation:

Luke's Gospel, Chapter 10 vv 30, 31:

Patois: Jiizas ansa im se, "Wan man a go dong fram Jeruusilem tu Jeriko an som tiif grab im. Dem tek we im kluoz, biit im an go we lef im haaf ded. Wan priis a go dong di siem ruod, si di man, an paas pan di ada said."

Revised English Bible: Jesus replied, "A man was on his way from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he was set upon by robbers, who stripped and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down by the same road, and when he saw him, he went past on the other side."

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Kaka declares God's love to fellow Brazilians

Brazilian football superstar and Fifa world player of the year, Kaka, told his home country of the love of God in a major televised outreach by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Kaka shared his testimony of hope and faith in Jesus Christ in a series of programmes be broadcast during prime time hours from Thursday 6th to Saturday 8th November in one of the largest evangelistic efforts ever to hit the country.

My Hope Brazil was inspired by Matthew 9, in which tax collectors and sinners gather at Matthew's house to have dinner with Jesus. The "Matthews" are Christians who invited friends and relatives to their homes to watch the special broadcasts before sharing their personal testimonies of God's love. They also invited those present to accept or rededicate their lives to Jesus.

More than 48,000 churches and 850,000 homes across Brazil, the largest country in South America, received resources and training to take part in the massive campaign.

"My Hope Brazil is one of the most exciting projects BGEA has had the privilege of facilitating," said Bill Conard, vice president of international ministries at BGEA, ahead of the outreach. "The churches in Brazil have put an enormous amount of time and energy into reaching their loved ones with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we expect God to do powerful things through their faithful efforts."

In addition to Kaka's testimony, Thursday's broadcast included a message from renowned evangelis, Billy Graham, dubbed into Portuguese, whilst Friday's broadcast featured a message from his son and head of the BGEA, Franklin Graham. Christian singers, Paulo Baruk and Aline Barros, performed during the broadcasts.

The BGEA evangelistic film, "A Vow to Cherish", rounded up the broadcasts on Saturday.

The next BGEA My Hope campaign will take place in Singapore from December 12th to 14th.

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Orissa attacks: "religious genocide"

The persistent and vicious attacks against Christians in India are "religious genocide", says one Christian ministry leader fresh from a visit to the persecution hotspot of Orissa state.

"This has been a religious genocide according to the UN definition of genocide, where persistently and systematically it is planned and not stopped," maintains Ramesh Landge, founder and director of Cooperative Outreach of India (COI), according to Mission Network News.

"It falls in that category of genocide, and we do agree with that."

Landge, whose ministry works with US-based Partners International, has been visiting the eastern state of Orissa, where the anti-Christian campaign is most fierce, to help the displaced Christians there.

More than 50,000 Christians have been displaced by the violence, and 30,000 of them live in relief camps while others hide in the jungles.

Since mid-August, over 4,000 Christian homes, churches and businesses have been destroyed by Hindu militant mobs. The number killed in the clashes, overwhelmingly Christian, range from 40 to nearly 100 depending on the source.

"There has been a lot of intimidation. There has been a lot of persecution. People have not been able to go back [to their homes]," Landge said. "If they do go back, the Hindu fundamentalists parties want them to reconvert."

But the ministry leader readily emphasised that although Christians have been suffering they have not renounced their faith and are continuing to stand strong as followers of Jesus Christ.

"This is the very first time in Indian history that such a long onslaught against Christians has taken place, and in a sustained way," he observed. "In a way, the government was part of it. They never tried to stop it. They were just silent spectators."

The global ministry Partners International, which supports local Christian ministries in the least Christian regions of the world, is trying to help provide relief items to the displaced, especially since winter is nearing, Landge informed.

He asks Christians elsewhere to help by praying for those being persecuted, advocating on their behalf in their respective countries, and donating to help physically ease the suffering of those being persecuted.

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Royal Mail Christmas stamps

The Royal Mail has broken with tradition this winter with the issuing of its first ever Christmas collection of stamps to feature religious and secular images at the same time.

The Royal Mail has issued special edition Christmas stamps for more than 40 years, featuring until this year only religious images.

The 2008 collections sees the religious 1st class stamp depicting the "Madonna of Humility" by Lippo di Dalmasio, with "Madonna and Child" by William Dyce on the 2nd class stamp. On the secular stamps are images of classic pantomime characters, including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Aladdin and Snow White.

Julietta Edgar, head of Special Stamps, Royal Mail, said: "Every year customers look forward to our Christmas stamps, which have been brightening up the festive season for more than 40 years. This year we are delighted to offer our customers a choice of Christmas stamps and the images will be seen on millions of letters and cards throughout the UK as well as on gifts sent across the globe."

The Royal Mail said it was expecting two billion items to be sent over the Christmas season, including 750 million Christmas cards.

It predicted Monday 15th December to be its busiest day, with 123 million items to be delivered compared to the average daily figure of around 80 million.

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UCB launches prayer line for Armed Forces

United Christian Broadcasters has launched a new prayer line to support members of the British Armed Forces and their families.

The "Forces Prayerline" was launched at St Clement Danes church in London on November 6, the Armed Forces Day of Prayer. The prayer line will be manned by trained volunteers across the UK and will be open to receive calls from distressed servicemen and women seven days a week. The service has been launched in partnership with senior chaplains in the Armed Forces and will be publicised widely in bases and Forces publications across the UK, UCB said.

Colonel Paul Eaton, who led the planning committee said, "The Forces welfare services are brilliant when there's a crisis - as I discovered when a young RAF airman of mine tragically committed suicide. But through prayer we may be able to reach people before the crisis breaks, bringing hope to those in despair, encouragement to those who are dispirited and comfort to those who are suffering.

"Of course, if the Prayer line saves lives or marriages, that's brilliant. But it's not just for those in dire straits; it's for everyday situations too, when we're concerned about work, the kids, our mates, our family, our next posting. So even for those everyday issues, I believe the Prayerline will be a tremendous help for those that use it."

Christians across the UK were invited to join in the Armed Forces Day of Prayer. Prayers were said for troops and chaplains deployed around the world but particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for family members and medical personnel.

Christians also prayed for God's protection over Britain from enemies, that He will "turn their hearts to peace and justice for men and women", read the official prayer outline.