Don and Deyon Stephens know how to dream big. In 1978 they imagined launching a ship that would provide medical care to the poor in undeveloped nations. Thirty-three years later, Mercy Ships, the ministry the couple founded, has expanded that vision to include the world’s largest charity hospital ship.
“Jesus clearly, in the New Testament, gave us the great commandment and the Great Commission, so those are the bookends of Mercy Ships,” Don says. “Those are the two compass points that have helped me develop Mercy Ships.” read more
When Bethany Hamilton decided to hit the waves on Oct. 31, 2003, she had no idea one ride would forever change her life. Attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark, the then-13-year-old surfer lost her left arm and 60 percent of her blood. But according to Hamilton, she also gained an understanding of her purpose.
Hamilton not only returned to the surfboard but won several championships. She now travels the country telling others how her faith in Christ helped her overcome her challenging circumstance. read more
Every 15 seconds a child dies from a water-related sickness. The Passion movement is doing something about that. In April, the ministry will host its second Do Something Now event of 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas, with one goal: to marry worship and justice.
Passion conferences draw thousands of young people every year to pray, worship, and give time and money to causes such as funding wells in India or clothing the homeless. To illustrate the amount of wells being built in India, students are encouraged to pour water into tubes to represent what they give monetarily. At Passion’s January event in Atlanta, students gave more than $75,000 to purchase 24 wells. Overall, the conference brought in more than $1.1 million for charities. Passion leaders are hoping to provide even more wells next month. read more
“It seems to me that if the primary view of sanctification comes through simplicity, poverty, suffering, [then] if you don’t get those things it’s almost like when God blesses it’s hard to be sanctified because you don’t know what to do with it. What if God wants to sanctify you through not poverty but generosity, not suffering but blessing; and what if it’s not through simplicity but complexity?”
—Mark Driscoll, who questioned Francis Chan’s decision to leave his megachurch and give away everything last year. Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, suggested Chan might be following the “theology of poverty,” a belief that he says is just as detrimental as the prosperity gospel.
“I believe it’s motivated by love and a desire to be Christ-like; I don’t want to suffer needlessly or just to suffer. To me, the core issue here has to be love. I think in times of prosperity, for me, I look at Scripture and go: ‘Wow, this is awesome. Look at this great-selling book, all this money. What do I want to do? I want to give it to the people who need it.’ I get excited about that.”
—Francis Chan, who says he did not needlessly give away his money or step down from his church but was striving to be like Christ read more
Joe Hurston and his family know about giving. Hurston has given his life to missionary work in Haiti since 1978, living in the poorest conditions. But this year the tables turned and the longtime missionary family is learning how to receive.
Last year, while the family was away on a missions trip, a plumbing problem caused pipes to burst and flood their Florida home. For almost a year, Hurston and his wife, Cindy, and their three youngest children—Joliet, 17, Peter, 12, and Dieunika, 4—lived in an RV camper.
Hurston was recently working on his mission plane at Tico Airport in Titusville, Fla., when another small aircraft landed on the runway. Inside was Ty Pennington, designer and host of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, who gave him the news that his family had been selected to receive a new home. read more
For 16 years, Annie Lobért was known at various times as a prostitute, high-class escort and stripper. At the age of 18, Lobért willingly entered the sex industry as a rebellious and curious teenager, only to be sex-trafficked later into a life of coercion and threats—and utter misery.
“Ninety percent of prostitutes are sex-trafficked,” says Lobért, who finally broke free from the industry, became a Christian and now lives to help others who want to get out.
She says people don’t understand that although many women enter the industry on their own free will, they eventually lose control of their lives: “In the end, you’re trafficked.” read more
20 - Pastor Rick Warren‘s rank on the list of most influential Twitter celebrities. With around 220,000 Twitter followers, the Purpose Driven Life author was among the likes of the Dalai Lama, Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber, who led the Forbes list.
5 % of those who made New Year’s resolutions for 2011 resolved to improve their connection with God, according to a survey from the Barna Group.
56% of the new, 112th Congress identify themselves as Protestant, according to a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life analysis.
33% of people who attend church weekly and have three to five “church friends” say they are “extremely satisfied” with life. This compares with only 19 percent of people who attend church but don’t have close church friends, reports a study released in the American Sociological Review. read more
Former stripper and porn star Shelley Lubben found herself making X-rated films in the multibillion-dollar sex industry by the time she turned 24.
Known then as “Roxy,” Lubben starred in more than 30 films, her success fueled by the rage she built up from being abused as a child and teenager.
“‘You’re dead to me,’” Lubben recalls her father telling her when he kicked her out after high school. “When he said those words to me, the demonic spirits entered me, and I was never the same.” read more
Stovall Weems, a pastor who once fully embraced the partying lifestyle, now lives to reach the lost and help people passionately pursue God
Stovall Weems, the pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Fla., is demonstrating his passion for Christ in word and deed. As a result, he’s fueling the fire of not only his congregation but also of those around the world.
Though Weems was not raised in the church, today he and his wife, Kerri, are seeing the church they founded become one of the largest and fastest-growing in America. Weems says he is driven by his passion for the local church and reaching people. read more
We’ve all heard the saying, “Every little bit helps.” Because of Kiva, an online lending network, more than 468,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries worldwide can now attest that the saying is true.
Started in 2005 by Matt and Jessica Flannery, Kiva allows individuals to loan money—from $25 and up—to entrepreneurs in countries such as Cambodia and Colombia. The end goal: to end poverty. read more
With reports of teen suicide and bullying on the rise, the nonprofit ministry My Broken Palace (MBP) is creatively helping youth suffering from suicidal thoughts, self-injury, bullying and depression. Inspired by Psalm 34:18—“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”—this organization brings hope to teens using music, writing, painting and video on its Web community. read more
The Holy Spirit is on the move in prisons, and He’s targeting the wounded hearts of women inmates. According to Daughters of Destiny, more than 20,000 inmates attended the prison ministry’s evangelism events last year, with more than 7,500 making decisions for Christ.
“In the past, 7 to 10 percent of the inmates at a facility might attend our meetings. Now we’re seeing 30 to 90 percent,” says Annie Goebel of Daughters of Destiny. read more
A pillow can offer more than just comfort; it can deliver a message of hope. For the last two years One Touch Awakening has been distributing pillowcases, snuggle pillows and insecticide-treated mosquito nets to people around the world. A prayer team prays over each individual pillowcase and mosquito net, asking God to comfort the recipients and give them a renewed spirit as they rest their heads at night. read more
Did you know you don’t have to fly to the other side of the world to go on a missions trip? Try traveling across the street next time—it’s cheaper and you might affect just as much change. So says Nashville, Tenn.-based My Own Backyard ministry, which is redefining the concept of missions work.
The group equips volunteers to make a difference in their own cities through everything from monthly block parties to mentoring young people to creating “action days” for churches and groups to go out and serve their communities. read more
Prison Food Never Tasted This GoodThe America’s Chef Competition, part of the 14th America’s Food and Beverage Show and Conference held in Miami, included two special competitors late last year: Florida state prison inmates Terry Garrish and Lance Wissinger.
As part of the faith-based Bridges of America work release/therapy program, these men, who have since been released, completed rigorous culinary instruction and were entered in this prestigious tournament. Their entry is a noted milestone, as this is the first time that inmates have competed. read more
Sometimes changing the world begins after changing the clothes in your own closet.
Lindsay Giambattista, founder of Taylor’s Closet (TC) clothing store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., started by giving her extra clothing to at-risk teen girls when she was 14. She then began gathering outfits from friends and family, and soon she had an entire store full of merchandise. From there, Giambattista acquired a building and launched a full-scale ministry boutique.
TC is no ordinary thrift store, however. Giambattista’s boutique has made designer clothing available to young women and girls who would not be able to purchase such items for free. read more
Imagine if your child were abducted from school and forced into a life of slavery that included raising other children groomed to become soldiers. This scene isn’t just a nightmare for Filder Akech—it was her reality.
Ugandan rebels kidnapped Filder when she was 9 from her schoolyard, and for a year and a half, she cared for children born in the bush and forced to fight. Eventually, Filder escaped and now studies at a school in a village set up by Watoto, a holistic care program that serves abandoned and vulnerable children and women in Uganda. read more
Though Angel Mo grew up in poor conditions, he and his family didn’t neglect his education. But without the support of Food for the Hungry, Mo says he wouldn’t have been able to complete middle school and high school, and become the first in his community to get a university degree. Mo now teaches middle school and encourages his younger siblings to excel, as he was encouraged to.
“I thank Food for the Hungry for all the support and encouragement that I received since I was in grade school. I won’t forget that very crucial moment when a staff read Joshua 1:9 to me: [‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’] I memorized this passage as a child, and it was the hope that carried me through some very difficult times.” read more
In an effort to support ministering to Thailand’s “unloved” children, Abundant Life Children’s Home started Mai Tai Coffee with the hope that the coffee business would fully fund the children’s home. Currently at least 500 farmers have become Christians as a result of the ministry and are provided the materials and training to grow coffee. They’re also given above-market prices for the coffee.
The ministry’s leaders say this coffee business has radically transformed the lives of many in Thai villages.
“Through simple coffee cultivation we can fivefold and tenfold their annual income,” says Charlie Milbrodt, founder of Abundant Life Children’s Home. “It has a double purpose, that farmers are committed to tithe to the local church we have built in their village. This causes the churches to become self-supported where we don’t have to pay a pastor to oversee the church anymore.”
Buying coffee to support this ministry could reap endless dividends. read more