British teacher David Bolam has been released after being held hostage by militants in Libya since May. The Foreign Office said Mr Bolam, who taught at the now-closed International School in Benghazi, was ‘safe and well’ and had been reunited with his family. Mr Bolam's MP in Craven Arms in Shropshire said he was ‘delighted’ that the 63-year-old was back home safely. It is thought the teacher's release was secured by local political factions and that money changed hands. Mr Bolam's kidnapping had not been reported at the request of the Foreign Office and his family. BBC world affairs correspondent Caroline Hawley said she understood demands for a ransom had been made to the school and that money was handed over to secure his release. She said it was ‘unclear’ how much money was paid and who paid it, but the Foreign Office was not involved in the negotiations. (Ps.105:1)
Prayer vigils in churches throughout the city are being held for those involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations gripping Hong Kong. Congregations are upholding Hong Kong in prayer as the protests are into their third day. (see world article 3). Among the leaders of the movement, under the banner 'Occupy Central with Love and Peace', are former Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and Baptist minister Rev Chu Yiu-ming. The Vine, an international church located a few blocks from the protests is open for 48 hours as a place of prayer, intercession, rest and refuge for those involved. Pastor Andrew Gardener said, ‘We're digging into prayer and worship over the next 24 hours which will be crucial, and on the practical side we're saying if you need rest, refuge, first aid, if you're hungry or thirsty come to us.’
‘It is impossible to comprehend what is happening in Algeria apart from a mighty move of the Holy Spirit and years of patient intercession and sowing of the Word,’ reports Greg Kernaghan of OM International who visited the country to report how Christians in this nation are faring. ‘People from all walks of life are coming to Christ in numbers that church leaders cannot keep pace with. Conversions and miracles are testified and there is an enormous hunger to be trained and discipled. Believers have been set free from fear and their zeal and compassion is felt across the land. The growth of the Algerian church in the past decade - encircled by Muslim unrest and antagonism toward Christians in North Africa - is truly miraculous. There are at least 75,000 believers in Algeria today and their number is growing.’ Kernaghan reports.
We truly experienced a move of the Holy Spirit at the Reinhard Bonnke Gospel Crusade in Greensboro, North Carolina.Once again we saw hundreds of churches join together across denominational lines to rally around the foot of the cross. Over the two nights, nearly 15,000 people joined together in prayer and worship and were touched by the Word of the Lord. Each night, hundreds of people streamed to the altars to make a decision to follow Jesus as Saviour after hearing the red-hot gospel message preached by evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. What a joy to see so many people move from darkness into light! Our team is busy even now working to connect these precious people into the participating local churches for follow-up and discipleship. On Saturday night, power from on high was on full display as evangelist Daniel Kolenda prayed for every person in attendance to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Many testified to being healed instantly during times of healing prayer.'
A major new translation of the Bible into modern Persian, launched in London Monday, marks a remarkable transformation for the Church in Iran. According to a news release from Elam Ministries, the organisation behind the translation, at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979 there were no more than 500 Christians from a Muslim background in the country. Now Iran is thought to have the fastest-growing church in the world. ‘A very conservative estimate puts the number of Christians in Iran at 100,000,’ said David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries, speaking in the news release. He continued, ‘The generally-accepted estimate is 370,000. Some believe there are 700,000, some over a million. Operation World puts the annual growth rate at 19.7 per cent. If that is the case, Iran will very soon have one million Christian believers.’ Yeghnazar believes there are a number of reasons why the church has grown so rapidly.
At a New Jersey summer camp children are encouraged to pray for the sick. A team member writes, ‘During the service I called out a word of knowledge about cancer and a woman with ovarian cancer came forward. The children prayed over her for over an hour, contending for the cancer to be gone. The scene was glorious as I watched the children praying fervently for a miracle from the Lord. One young boy told Lois that he had had a vision of the tumour being struck with a hammer. The lady visited the doctor soon after receiving prayer. There is no cancer anywhere in her body! The doctor told her that the mass was broken off like it was struck with a hammer and that it had passed from her body with no trace left behind. Amazing! When God heals a body, the works of God are displayed (Jn. 9:3)
A 17-year-old Great British Bake-Off contestant has said she is not ashamed of being a Christian as it is ‘such good news’. In an interview for the Christian Today website, Martha Collison said it is ‘the most amazing thing’ to be able to rely on God in difficult times. Martha, who is the youngest contestant on this year’s show, commented: ‘I think that being a Christian is one of the main things that defines me as a person’. She grew up in a Christian home and her father is an elder at their church where she helps with the children’s work. Responding to a question on whether she is especially conscious now of being open about her faith, she said: ‘I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of in having a faith, and especially being a Christian. It’s such a big part of my life that I couldn’t hide it and I wouldn’t want to. I’d rather be open about it’.
While the world's attention is focused on the threat of the Islamic State in the Middle East, Christians in northern Mali have returned to their shattered communities after French forces wrested control back from Islamist groups. Churches were desecrated and looted when the region fell under radical groups in 2012. French forces were able to take control but the reconstruction is slow and costly, and peace talks between the government and mainly Tuareg armed groups are still ongoing. Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Yattara, president of the Baptist Church in northern Mali, told World Watch Monitor most Christians who fled the region had now returned to their homes but their churches are ‘in ruins’. He said the church there has lost most of its buildings and valuable property, including vehicles. The damage done by the extremists has also affected the church's work in the area of community provision.