This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Christian Today, The lead pastors of Hillsong’s London campus have announced their resignation. Robby Lewis and his wife Jenny are moving on after 12 years. Making the announcement, Robby said, “We’re standing here because of you, because of the encouragement, because who you are has rubbed off on us. We couldn’t be more grateful.” Hillsong UK youth and young adult pastors Daniel and Jo Watson have been confirmed as their successors. Commenting on his new role, Daniel said, “I’m expectant for what God is going to do in and through every single one of us. “There are more people who need to hear the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.” The Lewises did not say why they were leaving or what their future plans are, but their resignation came on the same day as Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston stepped down. Houston resigned as global senior pastor as he faces trial for allegedly concealing sex abuse committed by his father decades earlier. He denies the charges.
According to Christianity Today, when he heard the first boom, Feʻilaokitau Kaho Tevi was in line to get his car washed in Tonga’s capital city of Nukuʻalofa. He returned home quickly. Others sat in traffic as over the course of January 15 a volcano erupted in the island kingdom—one that NASA scientists later claimed was hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The blast dumped a layer of ash several inches thick onto buildings, cars, plants, and trees and generated waves that reached estimated heights of 50 feet, sweeping away coastline villages and resorts. Rushing water pushed boulders and debris onto roads. The undersea telecommunications cable connecting the South Pacific nation of 105,000 residents with the rest of the world snapped. And yet, “We feel that we have been the subject of the prayers of the worldwide Christian community,” said Tevi, the former general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches who has previously helped lead Tearfund natural disaster relief efforts in the region. He’s right. Anxious about the fate of their loved ones, many in Tonga’s 150,000-person diaspora have held all-night prayer marathons, organized vigils, and used social media to implore fellow believers to plead to God for the safety and protection of their loved ones. “These were sleepless nights for me and many Tongans around the globe,” said Sela Finau, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Taylor, near Austin, Texas. “We were desperately waiting to hear any word of life from the kingdom. While our communication line was down with family and the people of Tonga, we leaned onto our faith. We knew that our communication line with God was always open and that we could petition for God’s mercy and protection.” Many Tongans who have left the islands now live in Australia, New Zealand, or the United States, locations which gave them an opportunity to put the tiny community’s plight on the world’s radar. Many see the hand of God looking out for the kingdom of some 170 islands, given the disparity between the intensity of the disaster and the low number of casualties (three).
According to CNN, A Moroccan boy who had been trapped in a well since Tuesday has died, according to two media outlets, Morocco’s state news agency, Maghreb Arab Press, and SNRT. The 5-year-old boy, previously identified only as Rayan, was retrieved by rescue teams from the well on Saturday but did not survive his ordeal, state media reported. King Mohammed VI of Morocco offered condolences to Rayan’s family in a phone call, according to a statement from the Royal Palace. “Following the tragic accident that claimed the life of the child Rayan Oram, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God protect him, made a phone call to Mr. Khaled Oram, and Mrs. Wassima Khersheesh, the parents of the deceased who passed away, after falling into a well,” the statement said. The child was stuck in a well that reached more than 100 feet underground in the Chefchaouen province. Rayan fell into the well Tuesday afternoon and was discovered after he was heard crying, his mother said in an interview with state-owned Al-Aoula TV two days later. She said he was playing nearby before he disappeared, and that she quickly called authorities after finding out what had happened. As rescue efforts continued throughout the week, gripping much of the country, the hashtag #SaveRayan went viral across North Africa.
According to NBC News, Police in Colorado have identified and are searching for a man suspected of a shooting inside a church that left one woman dead and two men injured. Aurora police said Sunday that a warrant for first-degree murder had been issued for Jose De Jesus Montoya Villa. Montoya Villa, 31, is accused of opening fire inside Iglesia Faro De Luz on Friday night while about 20 people were at the church for an event, police said. A 36-year-old woman was pronounced dead on the scene. A 40-year-old man and a 42-year-old man who were wounded were taken to a hospital and expected to survive. A fourth adult was also taken to a hospital for other medical reasons, police said Friday. Their names have not been released. Montoya Villa, police said, has a personal connection with one of the shooting victims. Police are asking anyone who might know where Montoya Villa is to contact law enforcement.
According to BBC, The mayor of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, has declared a state of emergency in response to more than a week of truckers’ protests against Covid restrictions. Jim Watson said the city was “losing this battle” and “completely out of control”. He added the protests posed a threat to residents’ safety. There have also been reports of racial attacks. Ottawa’s centre has been paralysed, with vehicles and tents blocking roads. The “Freedom Convoy” was sparked by the introduction last month of a new rule that all truckers must be vaccinated to cross the US-Canada border, but the protests have morphed into broader challenges to Covid health restrictions. The protesters have since gathered in central Ottawa near Parliament Hill, and their demands have grown to include ending all such mandates nationwide and opposing the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to ABC News, More than a dozen people are dead and thousands are homeless after a tropical storm struck Madagascar over the weekend, the second storm to batter the island nation in weeks. Cyclone Batsirai made landfall on Madagascar’s eastern coast late Saturday before sweeping across the central and southern parts on Sunday. The storm departed Madagascar on Monday morning and returned to sea, but heavy rainfall is forecast for southern Madagascar through Tuesday, according to the country’s meteorology department, fueling fears of more flooding. The cyclone’s torrential rains and powerful winds flooded roads and farmland, ripped roofs from homes and buildings and knocked down trees and utility poles. According to Madagascar’s National Office for Risk and Disaster Management, at least 20 people have died and an estimated 69,000 others have been displaced from their homes due to Batsirai, which was classified by the country’s meteorology department as dangerous. Hundreds of schools were affected by the storm, leaving an estimated 9,271 children out of school. The cyclone also damaged various infrastructure, including disruptions to power and water supplies in some areas, the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said.
According to PEOPLE magazine, Tyrese Gibson is relying on the love and prayers of his fans as his mom battles for her health. The Fast and Furious actor, 43, shared on Instagram Sunday that his mother, Priscilla Murray, has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia and is being treated in the ICU. Gibson, who shared a photo of himself taking a break on set, said he received the news of Murray’s hospitalization “in the middle of filming,” describing the phone call as “the worst” he’s “ever gotten.” “My mother is in a coma, in ICU, with Pneumonia and she caught Covid they got her so sedated she can’t breathe or even eat on her own,” he shared, adding, “I need prayers the most sincere prayers from you prayer warriors.” Gibson asked, “Please guys praise you pray and even write out the prayers in the comments so that me and my family can read and be encouraged….I feel helpless and need my prayer warriors to cover my mother please please keep her father God she’s got so much more to do.” Once he arrived at the hospital, Gibson posted a photo taken outside Murray’s room in the ICU and thanked his fans for their “outpouring of prayers love and energy.” Gibson said his mom “is still here and she’s still fighting,” telling his followers, “Since I’ve arrived I feel the warmth of love and angels surrounding mother……. I feel this powerful overwhelming since of calm.” Gibson then asked fans to continue sending prayers for Murray, writing, “Life is to be lived from here I believe it and I ask that you continue to pray over my mother the prayers are working all of her vital signs are UP since last night I believe in the mighty power of Jesus to keep mother and cover mother WE have so much more to do.”
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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!