PODCAST: Authorities in Florida are desperately searching for a 19-year-old college student (UCN 10.10.21)

This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to Daily Mail, Authorities in Florida are desperately searching for a 19-year-old college student who vanished from her apartment on Friday, leaving behind signs of a violent struggle, including bloodstains on a pillow. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Miya Marcano was last seen at around 5pm on September 24 at the Arden Villas apartments on Arden Villas Boulevard in Orlando, where she lives and works in the leasing office. Marcano’s family said Miya, who attends Valencia College, was scheduled to catch a flight to Fort Lauderdale that night, but she never made it to the airport. When deputies searched Miya’s apartment, they found that someone had blocked the door to her bedroom, reported Fox 35. The window in the bedroom was unlocked, and the room was disarray. A bloodstain was discovered on the missing woman’s pillow, raising concerns for Marcano’s safety. Miya’s father, local DJ Marlon Marcano, posted on social media: ‘there were signs of struggle in her apartment — and she may be in danger.’ The sheriff’s office has not said whether Marcano’s disappearance is being treated as a criminal matter. On Sunday, Miya’s family and friends held a prayer vigil outside her apartment building and begged for her safe return. Marcano’s father on Sunday posted on his Instagram page an impassioned plea addressed directly to his daughter: ‘Mimi, my heart is aching. I haven’t slept or eaten in days. Where are you baby??? Your whole family is here looking for you. We will not stop until you’re back home. I’m slowly losing my mind over here. Never have we ever gone so long without even a text message to each other. If your able to read this message, please know that your Daddy and the entire world loves you. Please don’t lose faith. We will find you…. I love you always and forever!’

According to Baptist Press, Local media is reporting that a deacon at First Baptist Church Port-au-Prince was killed and his wife kidnapped as they prepared to enter Sunday morning worship Sept. 26. Sylner Lafaille died later at a hospital from wounds he suffered in the attack that injured several others and was carried out by “a group of heavily armed men,” according to various reports. Lafaille’s injuries came after he tried unsuccessfully to prevent the kidnapping of his wife, Marie. Local media is reporting that a deacon at First Baptist Church Port-au-Prince was killed and his wife kidnapped as they prepared to enter Sunday morning worship Sept. 26. Sylner Lafaille died later at a hospital from wounds he suffered in the attack that injured several others and was carried out by “a group of heavily armed men,” according to various reports. Lafaille’s injuries came after he tried unsuccessfully to prevent the kidnapping of his wife, Marie. John Voltaire, Haitian Church Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, said the killings and kidnappings are indicative of the instability in Haiti.

According to MSN News, YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country. As part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox. Misinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube was contributing to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world. Vaccination rates have slowed and about 56 percent of the U.S. population has had two shots, compared with 71 percent in Canada and 67 percent in the United Kingdom. In July, President Biden said social media companies were partially responsible for spreading misinformation about the vaccines, and need to do more to address the issue. The change marks a shift for the social media giant, which streams more than 1 billion hours’ worth of content every day. Like its peers Facebook and Twitter, the company has long resisted policing content too heavily, arguing maintaining an open platform is critical to free speech. But as the companies increasingly come under fire from regulators, lawmakers and regular users for contributing to social ills — including vaccine skepticism — YouTube is again changing policies that it has held onto for months. YouTube didn’t act sooner because it was focusing on misinformation specifically about coronavirus vaccines, said Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice president of global trust and safety. When it noticed that incorrect claims about other vaccines were contributing to fears about the coronavirus vaccines, it expanded the ban.

According to Revolt, Music students attending Morris Brown College will have the opportunity to participate in a first-of-its-kind hip hop contest for inmates currently incarcerated in select State Department of Corrections facilities across the country. The “Original Hip Hop Track Contest” is hosted by Aventiv Technologies — a tech company that provides communications services and free educational and re-entry resources to correctional facilities. According to a press release, on Monday (Sept. 27) the college students will judge rap songs written by over 500 convicts and narrow them down to 25 finalists. Contest participants were able to write their lyrics and song titles to one of three beats donated by hip hop producer extraordinaire Zaytoven. The tracks, according to the press release, had to be clean to be considered. Songs were allowed to be up to four minutes long, and the lyrics could not contain curse words, gang references, or violence. Once the students chose the 25 best tracks, Christian rapper Lecrae will select the winner, record and produce their track on-site at the correctional facility, and release the song in partnership with Reach Records. All of the convicts who have access to music services and tablets provided by Aventiv Technologies will be able to hear the final version. “Aventiv is honored to partner with Lecrae, a long-time advocate of the incarcerated, and Morris Brown College to highlight these individuals’ creative talents, provide an artistic outlet, and offer a platform for the community to share their voices and gifts,” said Dave Abel, President and CEO of Aventiv Technologies. “We hope it’s a life-changing experience for the winner.” “There are very few opportunities that give those locked up a sense of hope, and even fewer that encourage and recognize the level of musical talent that sits in our prison system,” Lecrae said in a statement. “This contest does both, which is why I’m proud to be involved… “Our brothers and sisters in the incarcerated community are often forgotten, but with this project, I believe that Aventiv is committed to amplifying their voices in a bold and innovative way.” The winning song will also be released via streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music. Any revenue made through streaming services from the track will be donated to a charity that provides rehabilitative support for the corrections facility in the winner’s state. The winner will be announced on October 19, 2021, and the winning track will be unveiled by the end of November 2021.

According to Sports Illustrated, LeBron James said Tuesday that he was a skeptic of the coronavirus vaccine but that he ultimately decided to get inoculated. According to Sports Illustrated, James said, “I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family, and things of that nature. I know that I was very [skeptical] about it all, but after doing my research, and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but for my family and for my friends, and that’s why I decided to do it.” The Lakers’ general manager Rob Pelinka said last week that all his players would have to be vaccinated by the season opener on Oct. 19.

According to Christianity Today, Amid the Boy Scouts of America’s complex bankruptcy case, there is worsening friction between the BSA and the major religious groups that help it run thousands of scout units. At issue: the churches’ fears that an eventual settlement—while protecting the BSA from future sex-abuse lawsuits—could leave many churches unprotected. The Boy Scouts sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020 in an effort to halt individual lawsuits and create a huge compensation fund for thousands of men who say they were molested as youngsters by scoutmasters or other leaders. At the time, the national organization estimated it might face 5,000 cases; it now faces 82,500. In July, the BSA proposed an $850 million deal that would bar further lawsuits against it and its local councils. The deal did not cover the more than 40,000 organizations that have charters with the BSA to sponsor scout units, including many churches from major religious denominations that are now questioning their future involvement in scouting. The United Methodist Church—which says up to 5,000 of its US congregations could be affected by future lawsuits—recently advised those churches not to extend their charters with the BSA beyond the end of this year. The UMC said these congregations were “disappointed and very concerned” that they weren’t included in the July deal. Everett Cygal, a lawyer for Catholic churches monitoring the case, said it is unfair that parishes now face liability “solely as a result of misconduct by Boy Scout troop leaders who frequently had no connection to the parish.”

According to Daily Mail, Authorities in California have issued air quality warnings as two wildfires continue to rage in the state, threatening the world famous Trail of 100 Giants. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a statement this week urging residents near to the plumes of smoke being produced to stay indoors. Yesterday, The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation order for communities in the Camp Nelson area, urging them to seek a safer location. And only hours earlier, they had issued another evacuation order to residents of the Eshom and Hartland Camp areas – which are located just 80 miles north of Camp Nelson. It comes after the two wildfires raging through Sequoia National Park in California scorched the famed Bench Tree and are threatening the ancient groves as firefighters race to contain the encroaching blazes. Incident commanders said the Windy Fire, which has already charred 25,191 acres and is only 4% contained, burned into Long Meadow Grove along the Trail of 100 Giants. The area is home to 1,500-year-old sequoias.

According to Christian Post, American Christians have helped in the raising of funds used to restore an ancient church in the West Bank believed to be the birth site of Jesus Christ that was once on a United Nations list for world heritage sites in danger. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is not only a popular tourist destination for Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land but was named a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 2012. It was previously listed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger due to a “poor state of conservation” before its removal in 2019. Completed around the year 565, the church has not been majorly renovated since 1480 and was in danger of collapsing. But in recent years, the church has undergone several restoration projects to its roof, facades, mosaics and doors thanks to contributions from donors worldwide.

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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!