Archives For Olympics

The Briefing50+ Olympians connected to Illinois to watch in Rio
The Tribune is tracking more than 50 Olympic athletes with Illinois connections competing in Rio. The great majority, 67%, are competing for Team USA, with Canada, Jamaica and Nigeria each represented by two athletes with local ties. Twenty of the athletes are competing in track and field events, eight in swimming, seven in basketball and five in gymnastics.

Religious accommodations at the Rio Olympics
At the Rio Olympics, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are each represented by four chaplains, while four Roman Catholic chaplains and four Protestant chaplains are present to serve the needs of Christian athletes. Each of the religions has their own worship space able to hold roughly 50 people at any time, with different spaces available for Muslim men and women, who frequently pray separately.

Pew: More sermons endorse Clinton
According to a new Pew Research survey, candidates come up most often in sermons at black churches, where 28% have heard their pastors praise Hillary Clinton and 20% have heard them oppose Donald Trump. Presidential talk was reported far less among white evangelical Protestants, 78% of whom say they’ll be voting for Trump in the fall. Just 2% of evangelicals heard a sermon endorsing him.

Human-animal chimera studies coming soon
The National Institutes of Health says that it will lift the ban that prevented researchers from creating human-animal chimeras with stem cells. It will put in place a review process that would require two types of chimera studies to get further review.

World Vision staffer accused of giving millions to Hamas
The manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision was charged by Israeli authorities with funneling millions of dollars to Hamas instead of to Palestinian children in need. Mohammad El Halabi, who has directed World Vision’s operations in the Gaza Strip since 2010, is accused of listing Hamas members as farmers with disabled children so they could receive assistance.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Christianity Today, Time, Christianity Today,

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Christian leaders are engaged in debate over an Arizona bill that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

As the bill awaits signature by Gov. Jan Brewer, writers Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt have written an article for The Daily Beast taking issue with the bill and with Christians who say they should be allowed to refuse services – such as wedding photography or cake baking – because they adhere to a biblical definition of marriage.

Powers and Merritt said the logic behind the Arizona bill only works if Christian photographers or bakers or florists examine every wedding they provide services for to make sure that it meets biblical qualifications. They also called into question advice given by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to a Christian photographer who didn’t want to affirm a same-sex wedding by agreeing to film the ceremony.

In a post on his website, Moore responded to Powers and Merritt: “…The question at hand was one of pastoral counsel. How should a Christian think about his own decision about whether to use his creative gifts in a way that might, he believes, celebrate something he believes will result in eternal harm to others.

“…It’s of no harm to anyone else if Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt (both of whom I love) think me to be a hypocrite. It’s fine for the Daily Beast to ridicule the sexual ethic of the historic Christian church, represented confessionally across the divide of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. It’s quite another thing for the state to coerce persons through fines and penalties and licenses to use their creative gifts to support weddings they believe to be sinful.”

Read Moore’s full response at

Other news:

Shoring up hope in the Philippines
A team of six Illinois volunteers spent a week on Gibitngil Island in the Philippines this month, helping repair a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan. Read about their trip here.

Parents jailed for son’s death
A Philadelphia couple was sentenced to at least three years in prison after their son died from a treatable condition, Christianity Today online reports. Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who believe in faith healing, had already lost their son, Kent, to bacterial pneumonia in 2009. His younger brother, Brandon, died last year with the same ailment. “You’ve killed two of your children,” Judge Benjamin Lerner told the Schaibles. “…Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.” Read the full story at

Barna: Americans link violent behavior with violent entertainment
Recent research says 57% of all adults (and 69% of practicing Christians) believe violent action is connected to playing violent videogames, according to Barna. The percentages are slightly lower for movies (51% and 67%) and song lyrics (47% and 61%). Read more at

Worship and hockey: ‘Only in Canada’
The Olympic gold medal hockey game was broadcast on a Sunday morning in Canada. But that didn’t stop one church in Nova Scotia from cheering on the home team, The Christian Post reported. Bedford United Church streamed the game, a 3-0 victory for Canada, in its sanctuary, causing one Twitter user to post: “That’s an ‘only in Canada’ moment!” Read the full story at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

The newest piece of equipment in Three Rivers Association’s disaster relief trailer came from an unlikely source: 10-year-old Lily Eddington.

The Shorewood fifth grader wanted to help the association purchase a new, bigger chainsaw for the team to use after disasters like the November tornadoes that affected many communities across Illinois. She wrote a story that has garnered just over $2,000 in donations, enough to purchase the new chainsaw, another smaller saw, and other needed safety equipment.

Lily has the inside track to knowing about such a specific need – her grandfather is Dan Eddington, Three Rivers’ director of missions. “She knew through my father that they needed help raising money for that,” said Lily’s dad, Matt. “And she came up with the idea of writing a story, and he took the idea and kind of ran with it. And it worked out really well.”

Her grandfather helped Lily publish the story in booklet form, with her own illustrations. The story centers on a family trapped in their home after a tornado. Sisters Megan and Brianna take shelter in the basement with their parents (plus their cat and hamster), but a large tree keeps them trapped inside after the storm passes.

“Then they heard a truck pull up,” Lily wrote. “On the side of the trailer they saw the words, ‘Three Rivers Baptist Association Disaster Relief.’

“Suddenly they heard, ‘Come on guys, we need to get this tree off the house.’”

Read the full story at

Illinois workers join typhoon response
A team of Illinois volunteers is hard at work in the Philippines this week, helping rebuild a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan last fall. The Disaster Relief leaders also are repairing rain water collection sites on Gibitngil Island, where there is no natural water source. The team starts each day with a boat ride from Cebu Island, where they’re staying, to Gibitngil. “People in small shack houses greet us all along the way and some have even posted signs on their homes thanking our team for helping to rebuild their school,” said Rex Alexander, state director of Disaster Relief for the Illinois Baptist State Association. Go to IBSA’s Facebook page for updates on the team’s work.

Barna: Majority of Christians unclear on calling
Less than half (40%) of practicing Christians have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives, according to the Barna Group. And 48% of Christian Millenials (generally thought of as those born in the 80s and 90s) say they believe God is calling them to different work. That lack of clarity is the foundation for Barna’s three vocational trends for 2014.

Blog post puts church attendance under the microscope
Author Donald Miller blogged recently that he doesn’t attend church often. “…I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him,” wrote Miller, who has chronicled his faith journey in “Blue Like Jazz” and several other books. “So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.” Miller added that he experiences intimacy with God through his work.

Southern Baptist professor and blogger Denny Burk was one of many who responded to Miller’s post, calling his decision “a recipe for spiritual suicide.” Miller responded, and Burk has posted the exchange on his blog.

Christianity Today lists 8 Olympians to watch
Check out CT’s list of Christian athletes competing in Sochi. “We don’t root for them because they’re on ‘Team Jesus,'” writes Laura Leonard, “but all the same it’s nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world’s biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The news out of Newtown, Connecticut, is heartbreaking. Families suffering and broken over the senseless shooting that took the lives of 27 people at an elementary school, including 20 children between the ages of six and seven.

It’s impossible to answer the “why” questions that arise out of such a violent, evil act. But Christians can and should respond, said missiologist and author Ed Stetzer.

“First, pray,” Stetzer wrote on his blog, “Pray for hurting families and broken communities that have had their children ripped from them. Pray for churches to minister to the hurting. Pray for people not to lose heart. And, yes, pray for Jesus to come back and set this broken world right.”

The second response: “Don’t be afraid to say that the world is horribly broken. Speak about its broken condition. This brokenness is all around us. Evil is real – bad people are doing horrible things. The world really is broken…

“The brokenness of the world is on full display this day. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. All the silly “positive thinking religion” collapses on days like this. This world is broken and only God has the ultimate fix.”

And finally, “Do something,” Stetzer urged Christians. “Yes, hug your kids, but find a way to serve the others and be an agent of the Kingdom of God– an ambassador of Jesus in a world that does not follow him and His ways. Respond to this evil by doing good. Join Jesus on his mission.”

Read his full post here.

No to pro-life tags
“Choose Life” license plates may never hit the streets in North Carolina. Federal Judge James Fox ruled the plates are unconstitutional because there is no alternative pro-choice option. Lawmakers last year voted down an additional plate that would read “Trust Women. Respect Choice.” State Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the bill that created the plates, told WRAL-TV he’ll try again when the General Assembly reconvenes, but won’t budge on a pro-choice plate. “I’d be willing to sacrifice this [the pro-choice plate] before I’d be willing to vote for that. Read more

Most approve birth control mandate
Two-thirds of American adults agree with the healthcare mandate requiring employers to cover contraception in their benefits package, even if it runs counter to the business owners’ religious principles, according to a LifeWay Research survey. Fewer respondents, 53%, favor applying the mandate to Catholic and other religious schools, hospitals and charities. LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer said the study shows the public “appears unaware or unconcerned” that some business owners are fearful of losing their religious liberty under the new regulations. Read more

Hindu text used at swearing-in
Representative Tulsi Gabbard will make a very public expression of her faith at her swearing-in ceremony this month. Gabbard, a Hawaiian and the first-ever Hindu member of the U.S. House of Representatives, will use the Bhagavad Gita during the ceremony, instead of a Bible. “For Hindu Americans, it is a historic moment,” said Anju Bhargava, founder of Hindu American Seva Charities, in a Huffington Post report. Read more

Faith keeps gymnast balanced
Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas is only 16, but life has given her a book-full of lessons so far. She shares some in “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,” co-written with Michelle Burford and published by Zondervan. Douglas told Christianity Today, “I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little Scriptures I like to quote. That keeps me motivated when I am about to go out on the competition floor.” Read more

-With info from WRAL-TV,, Huffington Post, Christianity Today

If mission team members could share Christ in London, we can share Christ here at home.

If mission team members could share Christ in London, we can share Christ here at home.

HEARTLAND | Serena Butler

One of the questions we ask of mission trip applicants is, “Why do you want to go on this trip?” Someone once asked me, “Why do you take people on mission trips?” I could provide a couple of answers. One might be to expose people to a different culture and learn that there are fellow Christ-followers living in other parts of the world. Another might be so that we can take the Gospel to a location that does not have as much access to the Gospel as we do here in the United States. Yet another is to challenge the participants to rely on God like they have never done before.

One of the purposes of our trip to London was to expose the participants to evangelism techniques they could bring home with them and use in their own community. Sometimes we are willing to try new things on a mission trip because it is all a part of the adventure. We will stand in a busy train station and ask people if they are willing to take a survey, with the goal of leading them into a spiritual conversation, but we would not do that at home. Would we transform our sanctuary into a coffee-house for the purpose of reaching out to our community and walk every street in our town to personally invite each resident to attend that coffee-house? I don’t know, but I know the members of Southfields Baptist Church did that in preparation for the London Olympics. I was challenged by their determination.

Southfields Church is just a 15-minute walk from the front gates of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, home to Wimbledon. It is also a stone’s throw from the main Tube (London’s subway) station nearest the tennis site. For years the church never thought to minister to the visitors to Wimbledon, until the Olympics came to town. It gave them a new perspective and drive. Now, after the success of the Big Screen Olympic Lounge, they’re planning to provide the same outreach each year during the Wimbledon Championships. So, what can we learn from our friends from across the Pond?

Will the Olympics come to Clinton, Illinois? Probably not. But Clinton is home to the Pork and Apple Festival each year. Thousands of people come each year to Morton to catapult a pumpkin through the air. Millions visit the State Fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin. Many of our communities host yearly events that draw people from nearby towns.  What can your church do to creatively reach those people? Will it take work? Absolutely!! Will the work be worth it? If the gospel is shared and Christ’s love is made known … definitely, positively, YES!!!

I have challenged the London team to put into practice here at home what they learned there.

If they can start a spiritual conversation on an underground ride through the city, then they can start one with a co-worker. God will give us the strength to overcome our fears and take the first step. Then we just have to keep taking steps forward and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit wherever He leads.

A mission trip should not end when we come back home. The mission trip should be the first step in a new chapter in our life that teaches and trains us to re-evaluate how we are ministering and sharing the Gospel at home. May we be as bold and creative as our British friends who strove to share the Gospel with the world when it came to their city.

London Bobbies were among the many people Serena and the mission team members met.

These two Bobbies were among the many people Serena and the mission team members met and shared the Gospel with during their trip to London.

COMMENTARY | Serena Butler

Wow, what a trip! With everyone safely home and sleeping in our beds, we now have time to sit back and reflect on our time in London. As I sat last night and watched some of the Games on TV, I couldn’t help but think about all that took place. I found myself trying to pick out the Team Great Britain participants in the various events. As they mentioned places like Horse Guard Parade, I had visions of the Tube stations that service that venue.

But more than the Games themselves, my mind went back to the people we met. My thoughts and prayers were with people like the newspaper stand guy at Kings Cross who gave the team directions to the church on the first day. Or the Muslim man who Ian spoke with and, then another group encountered, who final made his way into Café Eden. A German and an Australian stumbled across Kings Cross Church while looking for a place to fulfill their traditional religious duties, and heard the truth about God wanting a relationship with us, not just traditional practices. One brought her friends to the Café the next day and even returned for church on Sunday.

I thought about Edgar who stopped into Southfields that first night to watch the Opening Ceremonies because he was lonely and wanted to watch with people from around the neighborhood instead of in his flat by himself. Throughout the week, he returned every day and many of us had the chance to have conversations with him about how much God loves him and understands his loneliness; and encouraged him to seek a relationship with God and to continue coming to the church.

Geraldine, the women I talked to on the Tube one morning, was also on my mind.  She had been baptized as a child, but had been away from church for a long time. We talked on the platform before boarding the Tube, where I had the chance to share the Gospel with her. We rode the train together and continued our conversation, and then just before she got off at her stop, she asked me to pray for her. I pray that God will bring others across her path to water the seed and finally bring her to the point of salvation.

There are so many others, like the ball girl from Wimbledon, the Pakistani man who volunteered at tennis venue, the lady in charge of the Southfields Tube Station, the head gamesmen at Wimbledon, the survivor of Sept. 11, the Bobbies who patrolled the area around the Southfields church, the Jehovah’s Witness who talked to Maddie for over an hour, the Muslim man I shared with at the station, the Muslim girl who Mari-Sue shared the Gospel with who missed her stop because she was so interested, and the hundreds of others whom we shared with while we were there. I am sure each team member has a list of their own.

But I am also reminded of the church leaders we met, encouraged, and were challenged by. Pete and Don at Kings Cross work so hard to minister in that hard neighborhood. May God continue to bless their efforts. Melissa and Nick and the other members at Southfields, may they continue to grow in their boldness to share Christ in their community.

Before I left, Melissa took me aside and told me that the church leaders have been discussing the possibility of opening the coffeehouse again during the annual Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. They were encouraged by our willingness to go out and invite others to come and to share the Gospel with them. They are seeking wisdom and asking God to help them reach out more to those who live in Southfields.

So many good things happened with so many hearing the Gospel! It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in the lives of everyone we met.

Two Americans in Paris

Meredith Flynn —  August 9, 2012

COMMENTARY | Serena Butler

There are certain things in life that bring comfort to us during times of trouble. Hugs, a cup of hot chocolate, a smile from a friend, knowing someone is praying for you – those are just a few of the things that come to mind. Recently I found comfort from something I never expected.

I was finishing up a mission trip to the Olympics in London when something went wrong. Our team had decided to end our trip with a day in Paris. We boarded the train and headed into Paris to see whatever time would allow. Crowded subways to us to Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and a boat ride on the Seine. Then we headed back to the subway that would take us back to the train back to London. When we got off the subway, one of our team members discovered that her wallet, which contained her passport, credit cards, and money, was missing. (We assume she was the victim of a pick pocket.)

Without a passport, you can’t leave France. So, the rest of the team boarded the train to London, leaving two of us behind. We made phone calls to the States, filed a police report, and found a hotel. This all happened on Friday evening, and the US Embassy wouldn’t open until Monday morning at 8:30 am. So we found ourselves in Paris, with a lot of time to get all our papers in order for our visit to the Embassy.

We arrived at the gate at 7:20 am Monday morning to find 13 people ahead of us in line. We later learned that they were most likely French citizens applying for Visas to the US. At about 7:30 they opened the gate and we stood in line to go through security. As soon as I showed my US Passport we were put into a different line that put us ahead of everyone else. We were the first admitted to the Embassy and were sitting inside by 7:35, being smiled at by portraits of President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Now comes the surprisingly comforting moment: I’ve heard others say this, but this morning I experienced for myself the peace and comfort that comes from knowing you are on American soil in a foreign country. I don’t think you fully understand it until you have experienced it. I felt a little bit of home and, most importantly, I felt safe. There were at least 13 other Americans there who had lost passports over the weekend and we spoke to them, joined together by the same circumstances.

As I sat waiting, I thought this might be something like the feeling we will have when we found ourselves ushered into heaven. Instead of the President, Jesus will be smiling at us. Instead of a portrait, He will be standing right in front of us. Instead of showing a passport, they will see our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life and they will point us to the open door. We will not have metal detectors or scanners to walk through, but will be greeted with open arms.

After a lifetime on earth, a place that is not our eternal home, we will finally feel at rest and at home, safely in the land of our heavenly citizenship.

Serena Butler blogged here about her adventures in London, and also will be featured in the August 13 issue of the Illinois Baptist. Sign up for your free subscription at