This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to News4Jax, A Jacksonville church pastor said in the last 10 days, six of his church members have died from COVID-19, and more of their members are currently in the hospital. Senior Pastor George Davis at Impact Church in Arlington told News4Jax on Friday his phone hasn’t stopped ringing in the last week. “In the last 10 days, we have had six members of our church who passed away from COVID. Four of them were under the age of 35. All of them were healthy, and the only thing they had in common was they were not vaccinated.” He says 15 to 20 members are now in the hospital, another 10 or so are at home with the virus and three to five vaccinated members also tested positive. “It’s pain,” Davis said. “These are actual people that I know, that I have pastored. One 24-year-old kid, I’ve known him since he was a toddler.” Davis said it was late July when they first learned a member tested positive. From then, it’s been a cascade of additional cases. Those who passed, he says, weren’t in the hospital long before they died. During church services, Davis said the church requires masks, the auditorium is thoroughly cleaned in between services, it practices social distancing and offers hand sanitizer. Davis said Friday he’s certain after speaking with the families of those members they contracted it from somewhere outside of the church. Even though the church follows CDC guidance, Davis is pushing to get more people vaccinated. Davis said, “All I know is my heart’s passion is to help the people that I’m called to serve and do whatever I can to help see to it that they are in a healthier place.”
According to the Associated Press, The founder of the Sydney-based global Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, has been charged with concealing child sex offenses. Detectives served Houston’s lawyers on Thursday with a notice for him to appear in a Sydney court on Oct. 5 for allegedly concealing a serious indictable offense, police said. “Police will allege in court the man (Houston) knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police.” Houston, 67, suggested the charges related to allegations that his preacher father, Frank Houston, had abused a boy over several years in the 1970s. Houston said, “These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter. I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.” Hillsong said in a statement the church was disappointed that Houston had been charged and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process. A government inquiry into institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse found in 2015 that Houston did not tell police that his father was a child sex abuser.
According to Faithfully Magazine, Paige Hilken, wife of pastor Christopher Hilken and with whom she had five children, has died by suicide, North Coast Church pastor Larry Osborne revealed in a sermon broadcast on Sunday. “Hey, North Coast family. I’m sure by now that most of you have heard the terrible news that Paige Hilken, Christopher Hilken’s wife, took her life earlier today,” Osborne announced in a message recorded Saturday, July 31, and published to YouTube the following day. Osborne said Pastor Hilken had taken time off in the past several months “to focus on helping Paige through the sudden onslaught of mental and emotional pain that she was battling.” Paige, who had recently given birth to her fifth child, had “just checked into one of the top places in the nation, one of the best clinics that deal with what she was going through, but sadly it wasn’t enough,” Osborne said. A GoFundMe campaign set up for the Hilkens had amassed $363,392 by the writing of this article. The initial goal of the campaign, organized by Paige Hilken’s sister Renee Finley, was $25,000.
According to the New York Post, An 8-year-old Hindu boy has become the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in Pakistan after he intentionally urinated in the library of an Islamic religious school. The boy is now being held in protective custody and his family is in hiding. The child — who was not named — allegedly urinated on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept. A blasphemy charge in the deeply religious country can carry the death penalty. A family member said, “He is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week. We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities living here.” Many members of the Hindu community in Rahim Yar Khan, a conservative district in Punjab, have fled their homes after a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple in the aftermath of the incident.
According to WHIO, From pop-up medical tents at Houston’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital to an official emergency declaration in Austin, hospital systems across Texas are buckling under the strain of rampant COVID-19 hospitalizations. As the Lone Star State emerges as an epicenter of the nation’s latest COVID-19 surge, intensive care unit beds are nearing capacity, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked medical facilities statewide on Monday to postpone elective surgeries to alleviate the coronavirus-fueled congestion. Abbott also noted in a Monday letter to the Texas Hospital Association that the Texas Department of State Health Services is working to mobilize out-of-state help for struggling hospitals. While welcomed, the state-level steps have not yet alleviated any pressure on Harris Health System, whose LBJ Hospital ICU was 100% full Monday afternoon, with 63% of those patients being treated for COVID-19 complications. The system’s Ben Taub Hospital’s ICU was 95% full, but only 27% of those patients are being treated for COVID-19 infections. More than 150 miles away, health officials in Austin activated the “Warn Central Texas” emergency alert system, designed for disaster response, on Saturday, noting that the city’s COVID-19 saturation was “severely worsening” and had reached a “critical” point. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 9,462 COVID-19-related hospitalizations were reported Saturday, the state’s highest hospitalization figure since Feb. 6 and an increase of 30% compared with the previous Saturday.
According to Reuters, One abducted girl from the Nigerian town of Chibok has been freed and reunited with her parents seven years after Boko Haram militants kidnapped her and more than 200 of her classmates, Borno state’s governor said on Saturday. The raid on the school in the northeastern town one night in April 2014 sparked an international outcry and a viral campaign on social media with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Governor Babagana Zulum said the girl and someone she said she married during her captivity surrendered themselves to the military 10 days ago. Zulum said government officials had used the time since to identify her and contact her parents. Some 270 girls were originally abducted by the Islamist group but 82 were freed in 2017 after mediation, adding to 24 who were released or found. A few others have escaped or been rescued, but about 113 of the girls are believed to be held still by the militant group. Zulum said reuniting the girl with her relatives raised hopes that others still in captivity will be found. He said the girl will receive psychological and medical care as part of a government rehabilitation program.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Amirah “Mimi” O’Neal, the daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’ Neal and VH1’s Basketball Wives’ star and executive producer, Shaunie O’ Neal, has committed to play basketball at Texas Southern University, according to an Instagram post. She was previously a walk-on at her father’s alma mater Louisiana State University, but is now the second family member to bring their talents to Houston after her younger brother, Shaqir, announced in May that he was joining TSU’s men’s basketball program. Amirah is a 6-foot, 1-inch forward who averaged 17.2 points per game as a junior in high school, according to LSU’s website. She also earned the 2019 MaxPreps California All-State Girls Team honorable mention and is a two-time All-State honoree. She joins a team, led by former WNBA Houston Comets star Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, that finished 20-10 in its 2019-20 season and was headed to the SWAC Championship as the No. 2 seed until COVID-19 nixed the tournament.
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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!