Last month eight college students took to their bikes in the hot summer sun to ride 2,500 miles up the East Coast of the United States. Determined to do more than pedal for pleasure, these young adults set out to raise awareness about women suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—dubbed the rape capital of the world.
The cyclists, who came from universities across the nation, stopped in 13 states and spoke to churches about the atrocities. They were inspired by the She’s My Sister campaign that, along with the American Bible Society, is providing practical help, healing and hope to Congolese women. read more
Male street prostitutes are some of the most overlooked and ignored people. It’s hard to find statistics and research on them, let alone ministries that target them. But John Green says that’s exactly why he has dedicated the last 20 years to these sexually broken men.
Emmaus Ministries, which Green founded, sends workers to the slums and back alleys in urban areas in search of men who are trapped in lives of prostitution, drugs, and sometimes mental and physical sickness. Green says the ministry workers aren’t pushy, but instead allow the men to come to them.
“We try to have a pastoral presence, prayerful presence,” Green says. “We’re definitely open to talking and engaging with guys but we really let guys come to us.”
About 75 percent of the male prostitutes that Green knows identify themselves as heterosexual, yet the majority of their clients are males. Male prostitutes often turn to drugs to numb the experience. This usually creates a deadly cycle as they continue to prostitute themselves to pay for their eventual drug addiction.
The Chicago-based Emmaus Ministries reaches out to men with both physical and spiritual solutions. Ministry workers intentionally build relationships with these men on the streets. During the day the men can come to their ministry center and receive a meal, shower, clothing and laundry services.
The center also provides prayer, discipleship and it helps men transition off the streets. Green says Emmaus is clear to the men about its biblically based position against homosexuality.
“We state very clearly to guys what we believe,” Green says. “It’s a very welcoming spirit and very welcoming one of compassion and love.”
He warns the men who want help but don’t want Christ that they are risking their lives.
“We’ll do our best to help you out of prostitution,” he says to them. “But you need to know that if you’re not going to base your recovery on Jesus Christ, you’re really at risk.”
Many of the men were sexually abused as children, and Green says he’s worked with men dying of AIDS and in and out of jail. But he has also seen God completely transform lives and has watched as some of these men recover, accept Christ, become leaders in their church and even get married.
“That’s what Emmaus is,” Green says. “This is sometimes the Lord’s last chance in reaching one of these guys.
“It’s been a joy to watch how the Lord has carved out lives coming out of such chaos.” read more
After winning five Emmys, writing, producing and directing numerous big-budget films (including the blockbuster hit Gridiron Gang), LEE STANLEY has found that ministering in Hollywood is less about preaching the gospel and more about living a life modeled after Christ. He recently sat down with Charisma’s Associate Editor Felicia Mann to share his thoughts on silently witnessing in Tinseltown.
CHARISMA: You’re a Christian and a filmmaker. Many would say the two can’t coexist. How would you categorize yourself?
Stanley: I’m a filmmaker who is a Christian. When I found Christ, my big thing was that I was going to change the world with my Christian films, and the Lord made it very clear: You are a Christian who is a filmmaker and you are to make films for all of those that I died for.
CHARISMA:Do you inject your faith and beliefs in to your films?
Stanley: In films that I do, I will not violate the principles and love of Jesus Christ if I have financial and total creative control. I don’t want the principles that I have surrendered to be violated because somebody thinks it’s going to be better at the box office.
CHARISMA: From your unique perspective, what’s the state of Christianity in Hollywood right now?
Stanley: When Christians make Christian films, they’re blatantly Christian. Before I knew Christ I was invited to a premiere of a new movie. This was 34 years ago; I knew nothing about Christ. I was excited to go to the premiere because it was the first one I was ever invited to.
It was an OK movie until about the last half of the last act, and then it became what I would call a blatant “come to Jesus” movie. Not only did I feel embarrassed, I felt every eye in the theater was staring at you-know-who because somebody tipped people off that you-know-who wasn’t a believer. I felt betrayed, and frankly trapped. When I came to Christ, I remembered those things.
CHARISMA: What would you tell those who are working in Hollywood who may feel alone in their faith and as if they have to fight by themselves?
Stanley: Stop fighting. Care more about your fellow man than trying to show them what a wonderful Christian you are by your testimony. That repels people that don’t know Jesus Christ. Conduct yourself in a proper manner. Stop telling your own story. Sooner or later, if you stay strong in your principles, presentation, character, morals and ethics, the opportunity [to witness] will suddenly rise to the surface.
CHARISMA: Do you have an example of this in your life?
Stanley: This happened to me with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who starred in Gridiron Gang. One late evening—about 2 o’clock in the morning—we were filming. My assistant came up to me and she said, “Lee, The Rock ... has got a tremendous pain in his stomach.” So I went to Dwayne’s trailer. I said, “I’ve got one thing to offer you, Dwayne. I believe in prayer. I’m a born-again Christian.” Dwayne jumped out of his chair, grabbed my hand, and we prayed together in the name of Jesus.
A few minutes later, he felt well enough to come out and be on set and do his stuff. I couldn’t have done that if I had conducted myself in any way that violated the principles that Christians talk about.
CHARISMA: You’ve won numerous awards in Hollywood and attribute them to God’s grace. How else have you seen God move in your career?
Stanley: The first project that God ever put on my heart was Desperate Passage. The Lord impressed upon me years ago that I was going to make a film where I took violent juvenile offenders out of a maximum-security prison and that I’d take them seaboard on my sailboat and make a film that would impact the nation. Of course, what He didn’t tell me was that everything He put on my heart was against the law!
It took us four years to get that court order [so I could film the young men]. It happened, and that’s the miracle. The court order said I had no restrictions. We went to sea for 10 days to make the film.
Emmy Awards time, we were nominated for four Emmys and we won two. God kept His promise. It’s by God’s grace, by God’s favor and by God’s anointing that we pulled that off. read more
When disaster strikes, David Canther, founder of Active Christians That Serve World Relief, is usually one of the first to respond.
The interdenominational faith-based disaster relief group, affiliated with Northland Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla., was on the ground assisting victims just days after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the southern coast in 2005 and an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.
The team of volunteers, made up of high school- and college-aged young adults, along with adult members of First Response Teams, were eager to respond after destructive tornados struck communities near Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., in April.
The ministry trains young adults to clear debris, serve hot meals from their mobile kitchens and give emotional and spiritual care to victims of the disaster. In Alabama, ACTS fed 19,400 hot meals and trained numerous youth response teams that were deployed from area high schools and colleges.
“We try to follow the Christ model of service. Jesus’ first response was always to meet the needs of those who were hurting around Him,” Canther says. read more
For some Christians Facebook may seem like a mindless waste of time that only distracts one from living a Christ-centered life. But the social networking site has also helped millions grow closer to Christ through daily interaction with God’s Word—and now there’s proof.
According to the Unofficial Resource for Facebook website, the Facebook pages Jesus Daily and The Bible have more interactions among their fans than any other Facebook page, including the NBA page and MTV Roadies combined.
Jesus Daily helps Facebook users find ways throughout the day to respond just as Jesus did, and The Bible fan page posts Scriptures for people to meditate on.
The Bible’s Facebook page founder says the social media tool should be exploited for the benefit of seeing lives transformed.
“I wanted to encourage people into a deeper relationship with God—to go deeper into God’s presence—and I know one clear way to do that is by immersing yourself in the Word of God,” Mark Brown says in a video explaining why he started the Bible’s Facebook page. “In those pages you don’t encounter just ink and words. You encounter the Holy Spirit as God works through those words with the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us.
“The Bible isn’t about information, it’s about transformation—us becoming what God wants us to be.” read more
Tommy Green wears many hats: father, associate pastor, band member and author. But his driving passion is to share the gospel with punkers and assorted non-conformists.
Formerly employed by a banking company, Green left in June 2009 for full-time ministry as a college pastor at Salt Lake City Foursquare Church. But his leading entrée into the straight-edge subculture is as lead vocalist for Sleeping Giant, a heavy metal-style band that released its third album in late June.
“Sleeping Giant has been a total gift from the Lord,” says Green, whose group will tour this summer to spotlight the album Kingdom Days in an Evil Age. “God caused it to be more influential than we ever thought it would be.”
Sometimes drawing tens of thousands of fans to its concerts over the past five years, the band has seen people healed of deafness, broken bones and other ailments.
It’s also seen a flock of young adults accept Christ, since Green mixes evangelistic messages into each set. Afterward, some non-believers tell him they never appreciated the reality of God.
Originally involved in Salt Lake City’s straightedge scene while in high school, Green moved back from California after a divorce. His wife, Krissi, plays an integral role in his ministry, helping teach young adults at church and joining him for speaking engagements.
“It’s all to testify to who Jesus is,” says Green, who recently self-published his first book. “I think we’re supposed to create space for people to worship God in a different way.” read more
As South Sudan secedes from the Muslim-dominated north and officially becomes a nation on July 9, Aid Sudan says there is no better time than now to minister the gospel and meet the physical needs of those living in this poverty-stricken area.
The nonprofit organization hopes to help build a strong spiritual foundation in South Sudan as the infant country builds its identity after years of civil war.
“We just see it as such a crucial time for the body of Christ to invest, to help spread God’s word to help this new nation as it gets on its feet,” says Sarah Thompson, Aid Sudan’s director of administration.
Through the ministry’s Village-to-Village project, Aid Sudan has gone into communities and built schools where children were using dirt and sticks as chalkboards and chalk. The ministry also built water wells where kids used their sleeves as filtration devices to clean the polluted water.
Aid Sudan also operates a radio station that broadcasts to South Sudan in tribal languages. The station and its affiliates deliver the Word of God in story form in addition to news, community training and lessons on health and hygiene.
“It’s unbelievable how we see God moving,” Thompson says of the nation’s transition. “Our main desire is to be faithful. We see this as a crucial time for the body of Christ to help spread God’s Word and to help invest, and we’re blown away by what’s He’s already done.
“It’s just kind of ripe for the spread of the gospel,” Thompson says. read more