SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — “When a brother meets sorrow, we all feel his grief. When he's passed through the valley, we all feel relief.”

Words from the hymn “God’s Family” proved especially poignant on a recent Sunday, as two Churches of Christ — one of which lost its building in the Nov. 28 wildfire that ravaged the popular resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn. — came together to worship God. The song’s special meaning was evident on this Lord’s Day as more than 200 men, women and children assembled at the Sevierville Church of Christ — including two-dozen guests from the displaced Gatlinburg Church of Christ.


“I've sang that song in many situations, but I experienced that song … in a way I never have before,” said Gatlinburg member David Barton, holding back tears. "While our number is small, God's family is not small. And they have reached out to us … in ways that you can't even begin to describe or appreciate."

Just a few days earlier, residents of Gatlinburg — 14 miles south of Sevierville —awoke to a cloud of smoke and haze. Rain was overdue, and wildfires had reached the nearby Chimney Tops Mountain in neighboring Smoky Mountain National Park. Before the day finished, the fire would spread to the city, claiming more than a dozen lives and destroying hundreds of structures, including houses of worship. Rain would come in from the west, but not before the damage was done.

On this cold, damp Sunday morning, members and visitors trickled in to worship at the Sevierville Church of Christ. If not for the fire, a similar picture would have unfolded at the Gatlinburg Church of Christ, a vibrant congregation with only 35 local members but an active outreach to visiting tourists. Minister Rod Rutherford preaches for the Gatlinburg congregation, which reaches the community with a radio and television ministry and often tops attendance of 150 during peak tourism season.

The Sevierville and Gatlinburg churches have long shared a close fellowship, Sevierville minister John Daniels said.

Daniels and the Sevierville congregation made the decision to open their building to the brothers and sisters affected by wildfires, not only for worship but as a temporary storage site for relief supplies. The Sevierville church even canceled a monthly potluck meal due to its fellowship hall filling up with boxes of food and other emergency provisions supplied by Nashville, Tenn.-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort.


Rutherford, the Gatlinburg minister, walked around the Sevierville church foyer passing out bulletins still featuring a cover picture of a beautifully
Save for an emotional tension lingering just beyond the smiles and hugs, it seemed hard to realize that days earlier, the fire had destroyed the church’s 42-year-old building and the homes of several members.

Standing strong amid the trials, Gatlinburg members still showed up to worship their Lord.

“The church is the people. That's New Testament Scripture right there, " said Gatlinburg member Randy Vernon, who teaches a Bible class. “The building is just a convenience for us, and we'll get our convenience back here in a few months.”

In a congregational meeting following the service, Gatlinburg church secretary Barton described an outpouring of relief from the church family in Sevierville and around the world.

The church had received calls and prayer from as far away as Oregon, Scotland and Puerto Rico, Barton said. Initial monetary contributions numbered close to $60,000 with final numbers expected to be much higher, he said — enough money for a 12-month lease on the building where the congregation planned to meet the next Sunday; enough money, coupled with insurance, to begin construction on a new building; and enough money to provide for members in need.

"It's been overwhelming, the support that we've had," said Lisa Tant Campbell, a Gatlinburg member who lost all her earthly possessions in the fire. "We're very grateful for it and thankful. To God be the glory."

With gift cards, checks and emergency supplies streaming in, Campbell, her family and other victims counted their blessings in the midst of grief and could not help but acknowledge the hand of God.


Judy Sortore, with granddaughter Annabelle, stand in the fellowship hall where supplies
are being stored. "This is wonderful," said Judy Sortore, holding her granddaughter Annabelle as
she walked through a fellowship hall inundated with food, toiletries and miscellaneous supplies.

Sortore and her husband, Richard, lost their house and two connecting apartments where their son, daughter and their families had been living. Despite the loss, the Sortores still found themselves worshiping and thanking God for his provision.

“God has provided everything we needed,” Richard Sortore said. “It's been a little difficult, but we all got out with our lives. All of our needs are met.”

As the lights went out in the Sevierville church building following the service, congregants returned to their homes and temporary places of shelter. A sense of peace prevailed as words of “God’s Family” kept echoing in the minds — and hearts — of those touched, but not overcome, by tragedy.

“And sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry. Sometimes we share together, heartaches and sighs. Sometimes we dream together of how it will be, when we all get to heaven, God's family.”


Churches in Louisiana encourage members to be people of prayer and of action.
IMG 0581July 18, 2016
“Our goal is to take a stand against injustice as a whole,” said Joshua Fowler.

Fowler is the minister for the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, La. The congregation of about 200 sits just about three blocks away from where three officers were killed and three others were injured Sunday in what police are calling an ambush.

“No one (at Goodwood) was immediately impacted by loss of life, but many are affected by the loss of security in their community,” Fowler said.

The shooting happened while many were in Bible class Sunday morning. Alerts began to ring on phones throughout the building, leading Fowler and church leaders to make an announcement letting the congregation know what had unfolded just blocks away.

As officers searched a neighborhood adjacent to the church, Fowler says the security of the members was a top concern. The building was locked down, with someone posted at each entrance, allowing members and visitors to still enter while protecting themselves from any possible danger.

Not far away, at the South Baton Rouge Church of Christ, church leaders let members know they were monitoring the situation closely. Minister Mark Hadley says the congregation is a little over a mile from where the shooting happened, but many of the members travel through the area to get to church.

While details of what happened are still being investigated, Fowler says the community was already hurting and churches were already working to bring healing since the death of Alton Sterling earlier this month.

“I think the difficulty we face is when you speak to one tragedy, I don’t want to isolate anyone that has an equal sense of injustice,” Fowler said.

Fowler says the churches in the area are working together to bridge divides, especially those which may exist due to race.

While he says those efforts have been going on for more than a year, the recent Sterling case shows them the efforts to unify churches, brothers and sisters, in the area needs to be a priority.

“If we are going to stand, we need to stand united as an entire body,” Fowler said.

At South Baton Rouge church leaders have challenged members to not only pray but to be people of action, to get involved in their neighborhoods, their schools, their community.

The hurt from recent events has reached deep into every part of the Baton Rouge community. Fowler's hope is that Christians will be able to figure out how they can move forward together, overcoming any divide and uniting not just as a community but as the body of Christ.

Ninety Christians show how to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs — and their families.
p08 kelaney 0416KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Sometimes, I long for a break — a few hours to do whatever I’d like without taking my shadow along.
At the same time, letting go of control and trusting someone else with your loved one can be difficult. 
But when you get the chance, it can be pure heaven.
My family had such an opportunity recently when the Karns Church of Christ hosted a parents’ night out event for children with special needs. Through the Forever His ministry, the church reaches out to families in our community.
It worked out for our daughter, Camille, to attend, and I must say I was a little nervous to take her and leave her with mostly strangers. I did know a handful of people who would be there. I filled out an extensive questionnaire and was able to explain and tell them things they needed to know about my daughter, her disability and her needs.
That night, we walked in the door, and they immediately welcomed my daughter by name. I did not know a single face in the crowd, so it was crazy that they knew who she was! We did see the familiar faces a few minutes later, and her night began. 
About 25 special-needs children, ranging from 3 to 23 years of age, participated in the event. About 90 individuals volunteered their time to make this a success. They even gave the parents some dessert to take for our night out.
My husband and I went out to dinner at a nice restaurant and walked around a shopping mall. We had about four hours to spend all by ourselves. It was heavenly. I once had built-in babysitters with Camille’s two older siblings, but they are now nine hours away in college.
When we arrived back at the church building, we were greeted and taken to Camille. She was playing cornhole and surrounded by at least five people attending to her needs. Yes, you read that right: five people. She was having a blast!  
A couple of younger, typically developing kids were playing with her and taking turns. She didn’t even notice us for a few minutes, and when she did, she smiled and was so excited for us to see her playing a game.
A few minutes later, she ran over to a group of adults, of which we knew only one person. She hugged them, dropped herself on the floor and raised her arms for them to help her up. They all dutifully reached down and helped her up and proceeded to each give her a hug. She came back to the game and finished playing.  
No one skipped a beat, no one thought it odd, no one questioned, and she just did her thing. Her two buddies knew right where she was and watched her like a hawk.
It was refreshing to see and feel the love for my child. Churches are where you find the heart of Christ. The heart of Christ is where you find unconditional love for all people. I realize it is not this way in some churches. But, for the most part, people do care. They may not understand, but they do care. They may not always get it right and know what to do, but they genuinely do care.
Thank you to Karns Church of Christ. Your Forever His program is awesome and awe-inspiring. It takes committed individuals to plan and execute such an event. These people were serious about their love for others — all others. 
It showed. 
It was beautiful. It was a blessing. (One of the attendees’ families drove about three hours each way so their daughter could attend.)
I would be remiss if I did not say how much fun Camille had at the party. She doesn’t really communicate in full sentences or talk bunches, but she talked all the way home. She was able to tell me everything she had to eat while there, and there were quite a few items she mentioned. She sang several church songs on the way home as well.
It was good for her socially, mentally, physically and spiritually. 
BOBBIE LYNN RIDER, a member of the Arlington Church of Christ in Knoxville, is a writer, speaker, wife and homeschool mom. She writes a blog at meant to encourage and bless mothers and caregivers of special-needs individuals. This article is adapted from her blog with permission.

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Down to less than a dozen members, a congregation in rural Oklahoma faced death. Its minister prayed for God’s will, and the church found that it possessed the keys to growth.

p17 sundayservice 0815CARNEGIE, Okla. — Bryce Marshall was ready to call it quits. 
So was his church.
The 27-year-old was “burned out, tired, frustrated and seeing no results,” he said, after nearly two years as part-time preacher for the Carnegie Church of Christ — his family’s home for three generations.
In its heyday, the church in this dusty, western Oklahoma farm town of about 1,700 people boasted 120 souls in its pews. But that was the late 1970s. The church had declined ever since, said Marshall’s father, Greg. 
By 2013, Sunday attendance was less than a dozen. 
“I never dreamed we would ever get in the situation of having 10 to 12 people,” Greg Marshall said. “I’ll be honest, we were just sitting there kind of like we thought we were on an island. Everything got negative.”
The silver-haired saints who remained consoled themselves by saying, “No one wants to hear the Gospel,” and the like, Greg Marshall said. They talked about selling the building, buying a van and busing everyone to a church in Fort Cobb, about 11 miles east.   The church could have been one more casualty of a shrinking fellowship. In the past quarter-century, Churches of Christ declined by 165,177 souls — or 9.8 percent — according to the 2015 edition of “Churches of Christ in the United States,” published by Nashville, Tenn.-based 21st Century Christian.  The 2015 directory lists 147 fewer Churches of Christ in the U.S. — 10 fewer in Oklahoma — than its previous edition in 2012, The Christian Chronicle reported recently.
Marshall’s wife, Margarite, remembers how disillusioned her husband had become in those darks days two years ago. Pregnant with their first child, she told him, ”Something’s got to give. Either you just quit and we go somewhere where we can get spiritually fulfilled and not aggravated … or we need to change it.”
“About that time,” she said, “God started opening all these doors and windows for us.” FRUSTRATION, DREAD AND A PRAYER WALK That first door wasn’t in the church building. 
On a hot July afternoon in 2013, Jim Weaver strolled into Carnegie’s NAPA auto parts store, where Bryce Marshall works. It’s a family business opened by his grandfather 50 years ago.
Weaver had been all over town, asking folks who preached for the Church of Christ. His search led him here.
“I had no idea what he wanted.” Bryce Marshall said. 
He asked Weaver to join him in the store’s office.
 “I’ve always been very conscientious about what people would think about me preaching,” he said. “I’ve never been a heathen or anything, but I’ve always felt like people might say, ‘Who are you to be a preacher? You’ve got no training. You’re just a regular guy.’”
He didn’t even know what to preach about on Sundays, he told Weaver, so he just focused on what he was going through in his life.
Weaver’s response: “You’re on track. That’s what people are looking for: relevance and honesty.”
Weaver, a member of the Oakcrest Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, once served as a missionary in Portugal. Now his mission field included the small towns of western Oklahoma. He founded a nonprofit, Rural America Ministries, to help churches reach and revitalize their communities through the Gospel. 
The two agreed to stay in touch and talk about ways to revitalize the Carnegie church. In the months that followed, Weaver made regular visits and invited Bryce Marshall to lunch. 
At first, little changed. Margarite Marshall gave birth to their son, Kohen, and Bryce Marshall had to move his desk and the computer he used to write sermons into the laundry room of their rent house.
“I just got to where I loathed going in there,” Bryce Marshall said. The work took time away from his son. He also began to dread the text messages from Weaver inviting him to lunch. On one visit, in March of 2014, Weaver didn’t even want to eat. He just wanted to walk around the city park — and pray.
“And I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? I haven’t eaten,’” Bryce Marshall recalled. “I’m walking around town, where everybody knows me, and they’re all looking at these guys who are just talking to thin air.”
Soon, he began to realize that “I was holding onto the Christian coma we had gotten into,” Bryce Marshall said. “We had the habit of huddling up together and patting ourselves on the back — ‘well, you’re doing good, you’ve figured it out, you go to the right church, you’ve been baptized’ — instead of just reaching out to everybody. It wasn’t looking like the New Testament church.”
By the end of the prayer walk, “I started letting go of the frustration” he said, “and accepting that maybe God had a little different plan for us.”
He did. A YOUTH GROUP OF ONE The Carnegie church’s revitalization didn’t start with a miraculous catch of new souls. 
And it didn’t start on Sunday morning.
J.W. Prather, a member of the nearby Mountain View Church of Christ, was attending the Carnegie church’s Wednesday night Bible study because the start time, 7 p.m., was convenient. His daughter, son-in-law and 12-year-old grandson had recently been baptized and came along.

 Margarite Marshall watched the grandson, Brennan, struggle to follow along with the adult Bible class.
“He was bored out of his mind,” she said, “so I talked to Bryce and said, ‘I’ve got to do something about this. He’s baptized. He’s got to be fed, too.’ So we started a Bible class for him.”
After a few weeks, a woman who had been visiting the Carnegie church brought her 7-year-old grandson, Julian, doubling the size of the youth class. Julian, his mother and his siblings had been attending a nearby Baptist church that offered pizza and games on Wednesday nights. But Julian loved Margarite Marshall’s class and begged to come back. Soon, his entire family was attending — and members of his extended family. The youth Bible class swelled to 11.
Three months prior, Bryce Marshall had considered canceling the church’s Wednesday night service, he said, “and now we had more on Wednesday night than we had on Sunday.”
After a few months, Julian’s mother, Julia Chavez, started bringing her family to Sunday morning services as well. Julian and his cousin, Alan, were baptized. Bryce Marshall asked Julia Chavez if she could sense a difference in her walk with God since she started attending. She said she could.
Why? “Because you guys speak from the Bible,” she said. “Your study and lessons are from the Bible, and that’s it.” ADOPTING A COMMUNITY As the Bible class grew, Jim Weaver and the Marshalls started looking for ways the Carnegie Church of Christ could reach out to its community. 

Weaver learned that the city had purchased new playground equipment for a park near the church building but needed workers to assemble it. Weaver put together a team of students in the Rural America Ministries program for the task. The church promoted the new playground equipment in the local newspaper. 
Later, the church hosted a fall festival in the park, with assistance from students at Oklahoma Christian University
Margarite Marshall launched an “adopt-a-grandparent” program to connect the church’s influx of children with its senior saints. Now the excited children run into the church building and hug their adopted grandparents. 
A new spirit of community exists in the congregation, she added, and with it has come baptisms and visitors. On a recent Sunday, attendance was 52. 
Looking back, the couple sees God at work, bringing Weaver into their lives, challenging them to look for new opportunities — just as new souls began to show interest in the church.
“It could have been like every other time someone walked in those doors — they would have walked right out,” Bryce Marshall said. “But God had the timing all lined out to where, when that door was open, we were ready. We didn’t know it, but we were ready.”  A WONDERFUL PROBLEM The future of the Carnegie Church of Christ is far from certain. On a summer Sunday, as Bryce and Margarite Marshall visited family in Texas, just a handful of old souls gathered in the pews for Sunday morning Bible class. 
Afterward, longtime members including Walter Owens and Ninalea Davis talked about the church’s recent growth. They pray it will last.
“We’ve got some young folks real interested,” said Owens, age 88. “That’s a start.” As Greg Marshall led hymns from a well-worn copy of “Sacred Selections for the Church,” a few more souls drifted in, including Juan and Nancy Orduna. They started attending recently and love the church’s preaching and fellowship, Juan Orduna said.
John Pickens, a visiting minster from Edmond, Okla., preached about the importance of baptism.
“Y’all need to get some water in your baptistery,” he said, glancing behind him from the pulpit, “because you never know when you’re going to need to baptize someone.” 
As Pickens preached, the Ordunas’ 18-month-old daughter, Juancy, began crying loudly. 
In the small auditorium, everyone noticed. And no one minded.
After decades of decline, Greg Marshall said, “It’s a wonderful thing to have the problem of kids making noise.”

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MackLyon SearchEDMOND, Okla. (BNC) by Phil Sanders — We are saddened to announce the loss of our dear friend and brother in the Lord, Mack Lyon, who passed from this life to be with the Lord at 11:15 pm on August 5.

Brother Lyon was a great soldier of the cross and enjoyed an opportunity to minister to more people in his life than anyone in his generation. Like David, he served the will of God in his own generation and fell asleep (Acts 13:36).

Mack Lyon loved the souls of men and loved preaching. In his last days, he constantly dreamed of being able once again to preach. As a young man, he was made to leave home if he were going to preach the gospel. He chose the Lord over his own parents.

Those who heard Mack Lyon from week to week loved him. How could they not love him? He spoke the truth in love and cared about every soul. He never exploited anyone but gave countless materials away free.

Mack ended his programs with compassion. Speaking of the booklets and CDs Search offered, brother Lyon would say:

“They’re free. Everything’s free, due to the generosity of your friends —members of some churches of Christ in the area. They’d be very, very pleased to have you visit and worship with them. It’s been a pleasure to have you join us today. Do it again next week, too. Will you? God bless you. We love you.”

"We are saddened for our loss but rejoice that he has reached his goal of being with the Lord forever," the ministry said on its Facebook page.
Lyon's son, Chris, "mentioned how (his father) had worked all his life for this day," reported the Edmond Church of Christ — the longtime sponsoring congregation for "Search."
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family as well as the 'Search' TV family and church family," the church's post said.
Mack Lyon in 2005. (PHOTO BY LYNN McMILLON)The Christian Chronicle detailed the roots of Lyon's ministry in an in-depth profile in 2005:
EDMOND, Okla. — A miracle of modern technology changed Mack Lyon's life. At a time when not every family owned a radio, the 14-year-old's father brought one home. The young Lyon started listening every Sunday to evangelist W.L. Oliphant's program out of Dallas. Lyon, who grew up on the banks of Muddy Boggy River in rural southern Oklahoma, had never traveled farther than the Coal County seat. He certainly had no idea how far Dallas was from his family's white, two-story farmhouse. “I just knew it was a long, long way by horseback,” said Lyon, now 83. “And yet I can sit out here at the end of the road, and I can hear the gospel preached in a powerful way in my home. And that just overwhelmed me.” One night that summer, after Oliphant's program ended, Lyon dropped to his knees. “I just prayed to the Lord that if he would let me live to be an adult, I would give my life to preaching the gospel using radio,” Lyon said. God, of course, had bigger plans.
Minister Phil Sanders joined "Search" in 2009, gradually assuming all the speaking duties as Lyon's health deteriorated.
Until Sanders' arrival, Lyon had been the program’s only speaker. Lyon started “Search” on a small NBC affiliate in Ada, Okla., in September 1980 when he preached for the Wewoka Church of Christ.
In 1982, Lyon moved the ministry to the Oklahoma City area and put it under the Edmond church’s oversight.
The program made Lyon one of the most recognized faces in Churches of Christ. "Search" now airs in all 210 U.S. television markets, appearing on nearly 150 local cable stations and 50 radio stations, according to the ministry's website.
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I know I will alway remember him.
John Murphy

In a Latino trailer park, Terry Davis pays his blessings forward. 

NORCROSS, Ga. — Terry Davis found Jesus on a “JOY bus.”

Growing up in a housing project on Atlanta’s south side, Davis slept on the ground to avoid flying bullets.
“I still shake when it comes to bullets and sounds of the guns,” said Davis, now 43.
p12 groupphoto 1214
A group of Corners Outreach's homework club participants are all smiles as they pose for a photo with Terry Davis, the faith-based nonprofit's director. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
But the East Point Church of Christ's bus ministry showed him hope and a better way of life, he said, recalling that “JOY” stood for putting Jesus first, others second and yourself last.
Now director of a faith-based nonprofit called Corners Outreach, Davis treasures memories of the faithful Christians who invested time and energy in him.
These days, he pays his blessings forward in this northern suburb of Atlanta — with a predominantly Hispanic trailer park serving as his mission field.
“What makes Corners Outreach incredible is the comprehensive way Terry Davis and his co-workers have immersed themselves in the community,” said Don McLaughlin, pulpit minister for the North Atlanta Church of Christ.
From a Vacation Bible School-style summer day camp to an after-school homework club, Corners Outreach seeks to serve as “salt and light in a dark world” — as referenced in Matthew 5, ministry leaders said.
“Terry just wants the kids to succeed in life,” said Ana Laura Solis, a mother of two and resident of the 207-unit Norcross Mobile Home Village. “There’s a lot of gang activity, drugs and stuff, and he doesn’t want our kids to go that way like most kids could.”

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ryan-championCADIZ, Ky (BNC) — Authorities have arrested and charged 36-year-old Ryan Champion with the deaths of his mother, father, and sister, as well as that of Vito Riservato, according to a Lexington TV website.

Ryan’s father Lindsey was an elder in the Cadiz congregation.

The Kentucky State Police have been investigating the murders of Ryan’s mother Joy Champion,  his father Lindsey Champion, his sister Emily Champion and Vito Riservato. They were all found shot at the elder Champion’s residence in Cadiz on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Ryan was the sole survivor of the incident. The investigation gave probable cause for an arrest warrant for murder.

Ryan said he and his sister were visiting their parents and on returning from church, Riservato arrived and began shooting. Ryan said he gained the upper hand on Riservato and killed him.

The bodies were found in and around the elder Champion’s residence.

Ryan claimed that he met Riservato only a week ago. Friends stated that the two had known each other for years.

Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly thanks ‘our great, compassionate, merciful God’ as he speaks at ACU, urges believers to help West Africa.

Dr. Kent Brantly had a message for all those inclined to panic about a possible Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

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Dr. Kent Brantly speaks during an interview session at Abilene Christian University.

“There has been a lot of panic, a lot of — I hesitate to use the word hysteria — around the events in Dallas,” he said during a visit to his alma mater, Abilene Christian University. The medical missionary and Ebola survivor urged people of faith to spend time praying and seeking ways to help the people of West Africa, “not worrying that, because we live 100 miles from a hospital that treated a patient, that we are at risk.”
Two days before Brantly spoke, during ACU’s homecoming weekend, Thomas Eric Duncan died from Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Two days after Brantly’s visit, health officials announced that a second person — Nina Pham, a nurse who had treated Duncan — tested positive for the deadly virus.
“My heart is broken for his family,” Brantly said of Duncan, a native of Liberia, where Brantly served in a post-residency program with Samaritan’s Purse and contracted Ebola.
“The truth is Ebola is a very serious disease,” Brantly said in an interview with ACU Today editor Ron Hadfield while on campus. “But I want to be very clear that — for someone who is not in contact with a person who is sick with Ebola — there is no risk.”
Brantly’s photo appeared on TV sets across the U.S. as the physician battled the virus. Around the world, people prayed for him by name — and for Nancy Writebol, another American who contracted Ebola while serving in Liberia. Both were treated and recovered from the virus at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. 
Since his recovery, Brantly has spoken about his ordeal in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer and written a piece for Time magazine.
En route to Abilene, he received a phone call from the Nebraska hospital treating photojournalist Ashoka Mukpo, also diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia. The two men have the same blood type, so healthcare workers asked Brantly to donate blood, hoping that the antibodies he acquired would help Mukpo in his fight. Brantly stopped at a nearby hospital and made the donation. 
More recently, Brantly donated blood to help Pham, who is being treated for Ebola in Dallas.
“This is not about me,” Brantly said, repeatedly, as he spoke at ACU. “This is about our great, compassionate, merciful God and our neighbors who need our help.”


Brantly, who grew up in the pews of the Southeastern Church of Christ in Indianapolis, came to ACU in 1999, “unsure of what I wanted to major in,” he told a capacity crowd in the university’s Moody Coliseum. 
“It was here that I first began to feel the Lord’s calling on my life to serve as a missionary,” he said, adding that the university “helped me learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ.”
He graduated in 2003 with a degree in biblical studies but returned for an additional year of science courses after he decided to pursue medicine. 
That year, during a medical mission trip to Central America, he met his future wife, Amber, a pre-nursing student at ACU. The couple and their two children worshiped with the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas, before moving to Liberia in late 2013.
“I want people to know we are just regular folks seeking the Lord’s will for our lives,” Amber Brantly said in an interview with ACU Today. “We only did what we felt he asked us to do, and because we had already died to ourselves in order to follow him, we didn’t think much of it when he called us to Africa.”
Her husband’s voice cracked with emotion as he talked about the people they served. He noted that, when he was interviewed on NBC, the network reported the number of Ebola cases in West Africa at about 4,000. A few weeks later, the death toll exceeded that number.
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college-avenue-defuniak-springsDEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (BNC) by Robert Alexandre — Last night here at College Avenue we met for our regular Wednesday evening service at 7 p.m. Around 7:25 p.m., my wife Susan was teaching her class and started to smell smoke. She went next door to make sure the other teacher wasn’t burning a candle.

When my wife saw the other teacher did not have a candle lit, she asked me to check my office while removing the kids from the area. I had her call another man back there. She checked the storage room, and it was on fire. She grabbed the fire extinguisher and handed it to the man who came to help.

I called the police. When everyone had entered the building that evening they noticed nothing odd. When my family and I got there around 6 pm, we found nothing odd or out of the ordinary. We believe that sometime between 7:00 and 7:25 someone sneaked into our supply room and started the fire.

Fortunately the fire was small, and when my wife and the other brother found it, the fire had not yet spread to paint cans that were in this room nor to the carpet where it could easily spread. We are thankful to God that no major damages were sustained.

We also recognize that if we had been any later in recognizing the problem that this would not have been the case.

We got home at 11:30 p.m., after finishing the first part of the investigation. It is arson. It is considered a hate crime and because we were in service and thus occupying the building it is considered attempted murder.

The state investigator has taken our statements and we had to sign sworn affidavits. The ATF from Georgia was here overnight. The investigation is ongoing.

Please pray for our congregation as we seek to serve the Lord in the town of DeFuniak Springs.

Robert Alexander is the preacher working with the College Avenue congregation. The photo above depicts the congregation 2014 Vacation Bible School.

mike-landonGROTON, Conn. (BNC) —Preacher Michael Landon died Oct. 4 of a rare and aggressive disease surrounded by his wife and children.

Michael was born in Oklahoma to Christian parents, so he was privileged to grow up attending church and gave his life to Jesus through baptism at the young age of eight.

Mike attended Oklahoma Christian College where he met and married Susan. They both graduated there. Mike later graduated from Harding University Graduate School of Religion with an MA and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a PhD.

Mike and Susan worked in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for eight years and were blessed with three children.

They planted a new congregation, but he also taught in the leadership training school and led an organization working with children of low income families.

Mike preached for congregations in Louisiana and Kansas before beginning to teach missions and Bible fulltime. He taught at Barclay College, Southwestern Christian College and the Center for Christian Education before moving to Groton.

Mike published a book with University Press of America on poverty, several articles on the Bible in Restoration Quarterly, and presented scholarly papers on the Bible and missions at numerous professional meetings.

I first met Mike in 1977 at the World Missions Worship, hosted that year by Oklahoma Christian College. Mike was the student leader in charge of the event. The next year it was to be held at Freed-Hardeman College, and I was the student leader. So I stayed in Mike’s dorm room at his invitation, and when he caught a free moment, he shared tips and ideas for the next year.

Mike and Susan invited my wife and me to go with them to São Paulo, Brazil, but we already had formed our mission team to another city. Still, we kept in touch and enjoyed our contact with them.

After their move to the U.S., the Landons returned to Brazil periodically, and in one of their more recent visits Mike came to São José dos Campos and taught a seminar on the DaVinci Code.

Mike wasn’t afraid to stand against the tide, question assumptions, and challenge traditions. He was committed to the Scriptures and the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was thoughtful in his statements, rigorous in his research, and kind in his interactions.

The brotherhood is poorer in his absence.

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