Sunday, October 16, 2005


We're in Adelaide, South Australia for a week with Marie's sister and brother-in-law. Having a great time!

The trip across was pretty gruelling: up at 5am, checked in by 7:30am, on the plane by 9:20am, and 3 or 4 hours later in Melbourne. Then through customs - what a mission! - and onto the Adelaide flight. Phew.

So finally, when our bodies were telling us it was about 2pm, we arrived in Adelaide just in time for lunch.

Adelaide is hot right now. The air is different here, that's the only way I can describe it. It's dry heat here. In fact it's dry everything. There are trees around, but they're all a browner shade of green. Makes me both appreciate home, and enjoy the diversity that's in the world.

Went to church this morning at Richard & Lynette's church, Paradise Community Church. It's similar to Hillsong, big church, pentecostal, etc. Not usually my scene :) ... and yet doctrinally I agree with most everything they believe. One of these days I'll do a blog post about my feelings about the problems I have with "big church".

I guess I'm being confronted with them, in that Richard and Neti are quite involved in the leadership and music teams of the church. They are "big church"people. And yet their hearts are most definitely about what God is about - looking after people.

It's helping me identify why I sometimes feel uncomfortable with church situations; that it's not just me, and that I'm not being judgmental.

At the same time, I'm also seeing that my problems are with structures, and sometimes great people can do great things in those structures. But the temptation and the danger is there for abuse of power, glorification of man instead of God, and mixed motives behind appeals for money or support. But I guess our flesh finds any way it can to get into God's work.

I'm just mumbling stream-of-consciousness here (or steam-of-consciousness?) but no doubt some more serious and together thoughts will form... hopefully! ;)

Anyway, today's speaker was Pastor Chris (can't remember his last name!) from The Potter's House in the USA. Good stuff. Highly emotionally charged, black gospel, with a great hunting story (you had to be there). This guy knows how to communicate with a crowd; he said he's been preaching since the age of five.

His key messages: God's maths is different from ours, the third generation is about explosive growth! But it doesn't come without getting a weapon. So take your weapon - whether that's God's promise to you, praise, a gift He's given you or whatever, and "take the shot". Even if you miss, take the shot. You'll never know if you don't try.

So that was the message this morning. I'll be back with more later!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Rapture Index

The Rapture Index

I heard about this via the National Business Review, of all places! Very interesting.

Green evangelical

This interview with environmentalist and leader of the National Association of Evangelicals in the USA is great reading. Very refreshing to find a Christian in the public eye who knows how to talk openly with the media.

Some choice snippets:

"Dominion does not mean domination. It implies responsibility -- to cultivate and care for the earth, not to sully it with bad environmental practices."

"There are still plenty who wonder, does advocating this agenda mean we have to become liberal weirdos? And I say to them, certainly not. It's in the scripture. Read the Bible."

"Q: My understanding is that you publicly rejected an offer by the leaders of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation to join forces.

A: I said, 'Not for now.' Look, there are those in my community who are concerned that environmentalists are advocates of population control, of big-government solutions, or New Age religion, and have apocalyptic tendencies. In the latter case, there's some irony in my opinion. It's like the pot calling the kettle black.

I am trying to reason with my community that we've earned our spurs in co-belligerency -- collaborating with groups we wouldn't otherwise work with, in the name of the common good. I say, if we've worked with Free Tibet on religious freedom, the Congressional Black Caucus on slavery, Gloria Steinem and feminists on rape, and the gay and lesbian lobby on AIDS, why can't we work with environmentalists?"

Like the pot calling the kettle black. I got a laugh out of that one!

It's great to hear a Christian talk about the environment. All I've really heard on the issue is from Radio Rhema, where Bob McCroskie is convinced the Kyoto Protocol is a fraud. It very well may be, but what about the other environmental issues?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why is Jesus named after swearword: child - The Other Side - Breaking News 24/7 -

Why is Jesus named after swearword: child - The Other Side - Breaking News 24/7 -

I know this should be a very sad statement on the state of religious knowledge among children today, but I think it's really, really funny!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This guy is just asking to have a movie made about him

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Former Drug Dealer Frees Abducted Child Soldiers in Sudan and Uganda

By Maria Sliwa
Special to ASSIST News Service

NIMULE, SOUTH SUDAN (ANS) -- With a physique like Jean Claude Van Dam, 42-year-old Sam Childers has hunted alligators in the U.S. and has smacked down miscreants in Africa. This titan, who could easily pass for Hulk Hogan’s younger brother, sold hard drugs in the late 70s and early 80s and was a rider with the Outlaws, a motorcycle gang in Florida. He has since put his notorious ways behind him and now uses his muscular prowess to save lives in Sudan and Uganda. (Pictured:
Sam Childers).

On a recent morning, Sam surveys the orphanage he built on the 36 acres of bush land he cleared four years ago in Nimule, South Sudan. His orphanage is a safe haven for children who are captured out of, or are lucky enough to escape from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel paramilitary group operating in Uganda and Sudan, which has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department. Though Sam’s gut is overstocked with intestinal fortitude, the terror that rages around his orphanage is so frightening that just thinking about it can send a cold shiver of electric sparks up and down his sturdy spine.

Sam is a pastor and is the only white commander in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), another rebel group, which, like the LRA has troops in Sudan and Uganda.

Despite the exhilarating jolt of adrenaline he feels while fighting the LRA, Sam says that if he is captured he will likely suffer an excruciating death, as he says he has been warned more than once of the LRA's intent to brutally kill him.

Yet the possibility of slaughter, which Sam faces daily, could be carried out by those considered the least likely to wield the slightest ferocity. As pint-sized threats—some as young as eight—the child soldiers of the LRA are capable of striking a human target like Sam with fatal precision.

In March of this year, a band of these small predators attacked a group of women who were collecting firewood near the border of Southern Sudan: just a few miles from Sam’s orphanage. The juvenile attackers managed to effortlessly hack off the lips and ears of seven of the victims and abduct several others.

The children of the LRA perform these acts at the bidding of their adult counterparts and make up about 80 percent of the rebel group, according to the United Nations. The LRA has kidnapped more than 20,000 children since 1988 and today its captives constitute the largest army of child soldiers in Africa.

Joseph Kony, the LRA’s founder and leader, is a Ugandan and former Catholic catechist whose ideology is based on Christianity and witchcraft. A recent Reuters article says Kony’s group was first armed by the Government of Sudan. According to Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, there are unconfirmed reports that “factions of the Sudan’s military are still sending weapons to the LRA.”

Believing that he is a modern-day prophet enforcing the Ten Commandments on earth, Kony tells his followers that God has commanded him to punish anyone who works with the Ugandan Government or refuses to obey his message. Though many of the adult soldiers willingly endorse Kony’s campaign of violence, most abducted children do not know why they are fighting.

"Thousands of children have been raped, brutalized, drugged and forced to inflict unspeakable violence on others,” wrote Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, in the foreword to the 2004 book published by IRIN: "When the Sun Sets, We Start to Worry: An Account of Life in Northern Uganda."

But children are not the only victims. Since the LRA began attacking civilians in 1986, they have forced some 1.6 million people in Northern Uganda out of their villages into internal displacement camps, according to the U.N. Disease is rampant in these camps, as they lack proper food, sanitation and medicine. Civilians are afraid to go back to their villages because of the constant fear of another LRA attack and therefore they remain in the camps.

Last month, Sam and his soldiers went to Magwi, one of the most dangerous towns in Southern Sudan because of its high occurrence of LRA violence.

”It was a suicide mission,” Sam says. “Joseph Kony and his men were ambushing villages and butchering civilians, while we were there.”

Although he was unable to capture Kony, Sam says that he and his soldiers emerged from the fighting unharmed and brought 25 former child soldiers, ages 4 to 14, to his orphanage.

Despite Sam’s sometimes overbearingly tough exterior, his manner can be surprisingly gentle. When he is at his orphanage, children often tag alongside him. He takes a personal interest in each one, calling them “my kids,” and frequently nurses their wounds. Even the more traumatized children can’t help but giggle when he jokes with them. (Pictured: Some of Sam's children).

Sam built the orphanage in 2001. It is managed by village women who cook, clean and take care of the children and by his own soldiers who protect the compound and oversee other day-to-day operations. Sam has used his experience in construction to build dormitories that house 110 children. He has also built showers, outhouses, the beginnings of a school, a pen for four pigs and seven chickens, a cooking area, a church, storage rooms, two security posts and a few guesthouses for short-term visitors who occasionally arrive from the U.S. He even installed a flushable toilet, something that is unheard of in the bush.

Sam and his staff also travel to surrounding villages to distribute food, clothing and medicine.

“We will go out and de-worm the people, as their bellies get real extended from the worms,” he says. “We give out medicines, especially when there are epidemics.”

For the past five years, the SPLA has been assisting the Ugandan Government in fighting and capturing LRA soldiers. As both a pastor with Abundant Life Ministries and a SPLA commander, Sam can be seen praying with a group of soldiers before they go out and attack areas where the LRA are active. He stockpiles weapons for SPLA soldiers at his orphanage. Many of his soldiers are also pastors. According to Sam, one of the reasons why the orphanage has remained untouched by the LRA is because the LRA knows it is well protected.

But there is a downside to this. Although there are a variety of medicines available for the children at the orphanage, the soldiers who work in the dispensary have no medical background and do not know how to administer these drugs properly. They also do not know how to prevent illnesses from occurring. Ringworm is contagious and tends to run rampant among the children. Though medicine is administered, those caring for the children don’t wash the children’s bedding and clothing after applying the medicine, so the ringworm easily spreads again. The bodies of some of the children are covered with ashen colored circles from the infection.

“We desperately need a doctor or nurse on staff,” Sam admits. “The problem is that whenever we hire a medical person, the conditions are so dangerous out here that they leave in a few months to get a better job.”

Despite these problems, Sam says his kids are much better off in the orphanage then in the villages, because unlike the villages, his orphanage provides safety, mosquito nets and three meals a day.

Sam says that his life of crime started to change 24 years ago, when Clyde Carter, a cousin of former President Jimmy Carter, hired him to work on his house. He says he was living in Florida at the time and earned a lucrative income working construction jobs and selling drugs.

“I was heavily into drugs then,” Sam says. “I was on heroine, cocaine, every kind of hard drug before meeting Clyde. He was one of the first ones to influence me to stop taking dope.”

But seven years after meeting Carter, Sam was still selling drugs for a livelihood until he “hit the wall” one day and decided to come clean. He says his drug dealing was wreaking havoc on his wife Lynn, who became a Born Again Christian in 1986. Sam also became a Born Again Christian in 1991. They were both ordained as ministers with the Full Gospel Assemblies in 1995 and are pastors at the Boyers Pond Shekinah Christian Fellowship church, in Central City, Pennsylvania.

When Sam first heard about the child soldiers in Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda in 1998, he began rescuing them. He says he knew that despite the atrocious acts these children are forced to perform while slaving as soldiers, they could live happy and productive lives once they were freed and placed in a better environment.

Last year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, invited Sam Childers to testify against the LRA. But some observers fear that because the ICC has no enforcement capability, its move to highlight the LRA could fuel the war and disrupt the ongoing attempts for peace negotiations between the Government of Uganda and the rebel group.

Sam disagrees. “Joseph Kony needs to be stopped no matter what Uganda or anyone else thinks,” he says. “The U.S. and other countries need to step in and stop this guy immediately. He should never be negotiated with or given amnesty, because he needs to pay for his crimes. When you look at his crimes, it is not against just adults, it’s against little children. I mean raping little children and chopping them up. This stuff is unreal.”

Sam does agree that the ICC has limitations and that sometimes it takes years for the ICC to do anything. But he reasons that in such desperate circumstances at least the ICC is doing something as opposed to nothing.

As LRA violence continues to rage and appears unstoppable, some voices are being heard.

In April of this year, a number of high profile people spoke out at a press conference in DC. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), and actor John Amos, formerly of The West Wing," along with representatives of World Vision, condemned the LRA, while calling on the international community, led by the Bush Administration, to make the protection of the children a priority.

As he forges ahead in Uganda and Sudan, Sam says he wants to expand his work to other countries where children are also being exploited. During his visits to the bush area of the Congo, Sam received numerous reports that Kony’s rebels were setting up LRA operations and abducting children in that country. Sam says he is preparing to build an orphanage in the Congo and will begin rescuing children there soon.

It is dinnertime back at the orphanage in Nimule. After a long day of freeing children from the LRA, Sam and his soldiers rest their AK 47s against a gray concrete wall in the dining area, wash their hands in a nearby basin, and enjoy a meal of fresh caught fried fish, corn meal porridge and red beans, which they wash down with a mixture of instant coffee, unprocessed sugar and powdered milk.

“The things I have done in my past were really bad,” Sam tells his soldiers. “But despite that God protected me, and with his grace I will help the children in whatever way that I can.”

Maria Sliwa often lectures on modern-day slavery, has published on boy slave rape in Sudan and is the founder of Freedom Now News, ( an international human rights news service.

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Kairos film script competition

I'm sooo tempted to enter this... don't want to submit a half-finished script though...

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

A New $50,000 Script Contest Seeks Entries By First-Time Writers Of Religious Films Acknowledging God

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

HOLLYWOOD, CA (ANS) -- Dr. Ted Baehr, Chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission™, has issued an extraordinary appeal to first-time screenwriters with a compelling religious message to enter a competition that will give a chance to break into the big time and get their scripts read by top Hollywood executives. (Pictured:
Ted Baehr speaking at the Movieguide awards).

Dr. Baehr made the appeal while announcing the First Bi-Annual John Templeton Foundation Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays, which is co-sponsored by the Templeton Foundation and the Christian Film & Television Commission™.

“The top three winners not only will receive prizes totaling $50,000, their names and scripts will also be announced at the 14th Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, attended by more than 200 top executives, filmmakers and celebrities,” he said in an interview.

Dr. Baehr went on to say, “Very seldom do scriptwriters, new or old, get read by major Hollywood studios and producers. We have had several of the six biggest studios say that they would read the scripts that win. This is a chance, if you win, to get read by DreamWorks, Disney, 20th Century Fox and Universal and that is a tremendous asset for any scriptwriter.

“It is so hard to get recognition and the people who said they are going to read by those at the very top of the studios so this is going to be an incredible blessing for any scriptwriter that wants to write a great script.”


When asked if he felt there was the talent out there, Dr. Baehr replied, “To be perfectly frank, I think that there is more talent out there than could be possibly be imagined. The problem with Hollywood, and with any industry, is that you stick with just your friends and it becomes very closed and they just don’t get to see beyond their own community of interest. This also happens in academia – they call it ‘The Ivory Tower’ – and also in business. So it is not just like it is a Hollywood thing. It is the way life is. You stay with your friends and your associates and sometimes you see that there are people out there that really could be a blessing.

“If you look at the movies this year; the year has been a disaster for the box office and most of the movies have scripts that are very weak. Many are fantastic bores with 40 minutes of establishing character. Nobody wants to wait 40 minutes for the character to be established; they want to get into the action.


“I get scripts all the time and book proposals and books drafts that are much more exciting than many of the big budget movies that came out of Hollywood this year, so I think we’re doing Hollywood a tremendous favor by opening up the process to people in the hinterland.”

Dr. Baehr then had some practical advice for people who wish to enter scripts for the competition.

“They need to read some books on scriptwriting so they can understand what scriptwriting is about. If they would do that, I know there is great talent out there. My favorite statement comes from Steven Spielberg who said that someday he is going to wake up and some 15-year-old kid from Des Moines is going to have written the most successful movie of all time. And I believe that this is what could happen this time around. It could be a kid or be a 50 something news reporter or anybody, but there is somebody out there who is going to do a tremendous story and we are hoping that we can find that person.”

He went on to say, “The biggest problem is not producing a cohesive, intelligent script; it is understanding that you have to have a plot point within the first ten pages, and you need to understand that dialogue is conflict. So they should understand the basics of scriptwriting and they could do that by reading a book like, ‘The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives’ by Lajos Egri. This will show them how to make a script great. This and other books could help them and they should also get a copy of the software called ‘Final Draft Pro 4.’ They should also be craftsmen, people who like to tell stories and write.


“I’m always getting people who claim to scriptwriter, but they couldn’t tell you a story if you plied them with rum. So, you need to get people who like to tell stories and who can learn the craft of scriptwriting.”

When asked if there were topics that were out of bounds for the competition, he said, “There is no genre that is out of bounds. It can be science fiction or sports or romance; in fact it can be any genre. The writers have to be people who want to tell stories of faith and values that are spiritually uplifting, not spiritually depressing. We say in the competition rules, however, that we don’t want occult or New Age materials. We are looking for traditional faith and values stories given the great tradition of the monotheistic religions.”

Dr. Baehr explained, “This new prize for films yet-to-be is designed to encourage aspiring screenwriters to create more movies with storylines that help to increase man’s love for and understanding of God, similar to the criteria for the Epiphany Prizes for Inspiring Movies and TV.”

The John Templeton Foundation Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays includes a $25,000 grand prize and runner-up awards of $15,000 and $10,000 each. First-time scribes need to submit their scripts right away to be considered for this inaugural edition of the prize, which will be awarded along with the annual Epiphany Prizes at the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Gala on March 2, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California.

“We hope the establishment of the Kairos Prize will encourage talented young screenwriters with new ideas and a great respect for the Christian faith to move forward on that project they have in mind, and to inundate Hollywood with moral, inspirational movies,” said Dr. Jack Templeton, son of Sir John Templeton.

Sir John Templeton has long believed that the media, and specifically the entertainment media, plays a role in how individuals form their ideas about faith and values. For this reason, nearly ten years ago he and Dr. Baehr established the Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Movies & TV, to honor those films and shows that help increase man’s understanding and love of God, similar to the famous Templeton Prize awarded every year for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities.


Specific criteria for the Kairos Prize describe screenplays that are wholesome, uplifting and inspirational, and which result in a greater increase in either man’s love or understanding of the “one true creator God.”

Dr. Baehr, as Founder and Executive Producer of MOVIEGUIDE®, and Founder and Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission™ works to provide a bridge between the entertainment industry and the traditional family audience. Every two weeks throughout the year, the commission publishes MOVIEGUIDE®, which reviews and recommends movies for their moral and spiritual principles, as well as their production values -- films that tell a story that is both redemptive and inspiring to their audiences.

“We are so grateful to Sir John, and now Dr. Jack Templeton, for their recognition of the impact of entertainment on faith and spirituality,” Dr. Baehr said. “Not only do they realize this, but they want to do something to make a difference. The Templeton Foundation investment in inspirational and God-based filmmaking has already impacted Hollywood, and we hope to see this new prize do so to an even greater extent.

“While more than 50,000 original screenplays are submitted every year to the Writers Guild of America,” Dr. Baehr concluded, “lackluster box office numbers show that by and large, the best and most creative scripts are still not being discovered and produced. The Kairos Prize offers a real chance for the untried and fearful “Davids” to take on the Hollywood Goliath. This prize package is larger than the vast majority of hundreds of other scriptwriting contests, and it is one of the few guaranteeing the script a review by a major studio or producer. We are pleased with their participation, and recognize its invaluable contribution to the careers of our winners.”

More information and submission guidelines are available online at The deadline for early entries is Nov. 25; the late deadline is Jan. 6. Quarter-finalists will be notified by February 1, 2006. The three winning scriptwriters will be recognized in front of key entertainment industry leaders, producers and talent at the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Gala. In addition, key entertainment industry studio executives or independent producers will review the winning script and/or agree to hold a pitch meeting with their creative development team and the winning screenwriters, following the awards presentation.

Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). Wooding is the co-host of the weekly radio show, "Window on the World" and was, for ten years a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He also co-hosts three days a week a live phone-in show called "Pastor's Perspective" with Brian Brodersen which is carried on KWVE, Santa Ana, California, and other radio stations across the USA. Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hit and run evangelism

Hit and run evangelism

I can relate to this story, and I find the idea of non-violent communication mentioned here very interesting. We all want to connect to one another as human beings, regardless of belief. That's what I longed for in my days in a small church, where we were being trained to hand out tracts.

Matter of fact, I got evangelised the other day in Albert Park. Shame. I really felt for the old man who was talking to me; he had so much good intentions and I believe a caring heart, but he was a talker, not a listener.

Unlike the story I've linked to, this guy was able to talk with me for quite a while, but it was definitely along scripted lines. He stopped when I told him I was a born again Christian, and gave me a couple of booklets he'd written.

Even though we were on common ground now, there was still a huge distance between us. He wasn't talking to me as a person, he was talking to me as a Christian. Big difference.

And now that I'm getting back into church, and getting back on track, I need to remember that. It's easy to get sucked back into 'churchianity', the culture Michael Card sings about in Present Reality:

A once a week observance
Where we coldly mouth your words

Sometimes I get anxious about this, and God has a way of slipping in something to ease my mind. Like our church holding a conference to leaders for the express purpose of helping us love better. Nothing more, nothing less. Wow. If there's anything the Church as a whole needs more, it's that.

I used to think if people saw some of the cool Christian stuff there was, they'd be impressed and want to know more. They've seen it. Christian stuff - music, books, movies - is in the mainstream, at least in US culture, and the people I talk with aren't impressed.

It's not our minds, or our short term emotions that need to be engaged. To a skeptical world armed with head knowledge and philosophy which can explain anything away, God wants to prove Himself to people through other people who can love. That's a very serious, very long-term programme.

Thank God He's committed to it!

Being known

"But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—"
Galatians 4:9a

Tonight as Marie and I prayed I just felt the reality of being known by God in a profound way. Nothing big, just a quiet knowing that he sees right through me. I saw it as a picture - like my skin was transparent and my skeleton was visible. But not in a yucky way. ;)

I just sat there for a while and soaked in the sense of being known by my Father. Because I'm realising that I know myself very little. I've had a sense of honesty as long as I've been self-aware, but when it comes to things of the heart, I realise I'm not too familiar with myself at all. It's not that I'm being dishonest, I just don't honestly know what's in my heart sometimes. Thank God that He does - and He still loves me.