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Oklahoma Megachurch Holds First In-Person Services in ‘Touchless Environment’ Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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After weeks of prayer and thoughtful preparation, Life.Church in Oklahoma City has reopened its sanctuary for weekend worship services.

The Oklahoma City campus — along with the multi-site church’s other 21 locations — held gatherings on Saturday and Sunday after weeks of monitoring health guidelines and best practices for meeting safely.

Bobby Gruenewald, founder of the YouVersion Bible app and a pastor at Life.Church, described the body of believers as “an important place of refuge for those seeking peace, comfort, and healing.”

Gruenewald went on to say he is “confident” in the steps Life.Church has taken to create a safe environment for returning congregants.

“We feel confident in our church’s ability to create a sanitary, touchless environment that allows for physical distancing and exceeds government recommendations for safety,” the pastor explained. “However, we encourage our attendees to make the best choice for their family as they consider attending a physical location or continuing to worship with us at Life.Church Online.”

Over the weekend, Craig Groeschel, founding pastor of the Oklahoma megachurch, preached a message on the importance of remaining positive, calling his congregants to be “unshakably optimistic about the future,” even in the midst of trying times.

“Optimism is not a denial of the reality,” he said. “It’s not blind faith.”

All members who want to attend an in-person service at Life.Church are asked to reserve a seat at the campus they plan to visit. They also have to answer the following questions:

“Am I showing any flu-like symptoms?”
“Have I had a fever of 100.4 or higher in the past 14 days?”
“Have I had prolonged exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?”
“Is there any medical reason why I believe I shouldn’t be around others?”

If a potential church-goer answers “yes” to any of those four queries, he or she is “strongly encourage[d]” to attend church virtually online rather than traveling to a campus for a worship service.

In order to ensure proper social distancing, the church has significantly reduced the number of people who can attend any given service at any of the church’s 22 locations.

Life.Church, it should be noted, has not yet resumed its children’s component, LifeKids.

Chris Beall, one of the church’s campus pastors, described the in-person services on Saturday and Sunday as “super emotional.”

“We’re gonna make adjustments going forward, and this is a very fluid situation,” he explained in a video posted to Facebook on Monday, encouraging congregants to check the church’s website for the most up-to-date information about worship services.

The megachurch’s reopening came the same week Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced plans to begin phase two of reopening the Sooner State on Friday.

Stitt said Monday that 25,000 coronavirus tests were performed last week, marking a 50% increase in the number of tests administered the week prior. The number of cases, he noted, remained flat. As of Wednesday, state health officials reported a total of 4,852 coronavirus cases and no new deaths.

The number of people hospitalized in Oklahoma for the coronavirus has been declining for six weeks, even as more people have tested positive for the illness. There has also been a steep decline in the number of people requiring intensive care for the coronavirus. On March 31, for example, there were 562 Oklahomans in the hospital for COVID-19. By Tuesday, that number was down to 218.

Sources:Faithwire

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North Korea is facing a severe food shortage

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Addressing a meeting of senior leaders, Mr Kim said: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense”.

He said the agricultural sector had failed to meet its grain targets due to typhoons last year, which caused flooding.

There are reports that food prices have spiked, with NK News reporting that a kilogram of bananas costs $45 (£32).

North Korea has closed its borders to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Trade with China has plummeted as a result. North Korea relies on China for food, fertiliser and fuel.

North Korea is also struggling under international sanctions, imposed because of its nuclear programmes.

The authoritarian leader of the single-party state talked about the food situation at the ruling Workers’ Party central committee which started this week in the capital Pyongyang.

During the meeting, Mr Kim said that national industrial output had grown by a quarter compared to the same period last year.

Officials were expected to discuss relations with the US and South Korea during the event but no details have been released yet.

In April, Mr Kim made a a rare admission of looming hardship, calling on officials to “wage another, more difficult ‘Arduous March’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little”.

The Arduous March is a term used by North Korea officials to refer to the country’s struggle during the 1990s famine, when the fall of the Soviet Union left North Korea without crucial aid.

The total number of North Koreans who starved to death at the time is not known, but estimates range up to three million.

It is highly unusual for Kim Jong-un to publicly acknowledge a food shortage. But this is a North Korean leader who has already admitted that his economic plan has failed.

The problem for Mr Kim is that when he took over from his father, he promised his people a more prosperous future. He said they would have meat on their tables and access to electricity. This has not happened. Now he’s having to prime the population for more hard work.

He is trying to tie this into the global pandemic, and state media reported that he pointed out to party officials that the situation across the world is getting “worse and worse”. With so little access to outside information, he can paint a picture of things being bad everywhere – not just in sealed off North Korea. He also described efforts to beat Covid-19 as a “protracted war”. That signals that border closures are not easing any time soon.

That is the concern of many aid organisations. The sealed border has prevented some food and medicine getting through. Most NGOs have had to leave the country, unable to get staff and supplies in or out.

Pyongyang has always called for “self-reliance”. It has closed itself off, just as it may need assistance and it is unlikely to ask for help. If it continues to push away all offers of international assistance, as ever, it may be the people who pay the price.

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Christian pastor killed over outreach to Muslims: ‘Today Allah has judged you’

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A radical Muslim has confessed to police in Uganda that he killed a 70-year-old pastor earlier this month because of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims by sharing the Gospel.

The accused, identified as Imam Uthman Olingha, told police he killed Bishop Francis Obo, senior pastor of Mpingire Pentecostal Revival Church Ministries International in Odapako village Mpingire Sub-County, on June 11, Morning Star News reported.

Olingha was one of the Muslim extremists dressed in Islamic attire who stopped Pastor Obo and his wife on their way home from a market at about 8:30 p.m., his wife, Christine Obo, said.

“Olingha openly confessed to police that he can’t regret that he killed the bishop because he did it in the cause of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims. He added that Allah will be with him in jail, but the kafiri (infidel) deserved the killing.”

One of the attackers told the pastor, who oversaw 17 churches across the region and had been sharing Christ with Muslims, that he was an “infidel” who caused Muslims to leave Islam and “blasphemes the words of Allah,” and that, “Today Allah has judged you.”

A week before the murder, the couple had invited a former Islamic teacher to testify on how he became a Christian at their church, Christine Obo recalled. Area Muslims were also upset with the church because it offered the former Islamic teacher a pig as part of a micro-enterprise livestock project that helped raise funds for the church, she added.

Describing the incident, she said, “As I moved a few meters in a hurry trying to save my life, I heard a little noise and wailing from my husband and realized that his life was in danger.”

When she reached home, she was trembling and unable to speak, she said, and her children took her to a hospital. When she regained consciousness the following morning, she told her oldest son and his siblings to go to the site.

“Reaching there, they were shocked and fearful as they found a big number of Christians and relatives gathered around the dead body mourning their bishop after being murdered by Muslims,” Obo was quoted as saying.

According to World Watch Monitor, a homegrown Islamist rebel movement organizing in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo has emboldened Ugandan radicals to persecute Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs earlier noted that Uganda’s history has made it vulnerable to the influence of Islam as “Arab countries also continue to invest significant resources into furthering Muslim interests in the country.”

In Uganda, persecution is mainly seen in the form of local Islamists persecuting Christians, mostly in areas where “radicals have been steadily encroaching.”

“Radical Islam’s influence has grown steadily, and many Christians within the majority-Muslim border regions are facing severe persecution, especially those who convert from Islam,” a Voice of the Martyrs factsheet explains. “Despite the risks, evangelical churches in Uganda have responded by reaching out to their neighbors; many churches are training leaders how to share the Gospel with Muslims and care for those who are persecuted after they become Christians.”

Last December, a mob of Muslim extremists in Uganda reportedly killed 41-year-old former imam Yusuf Kintu a week after he converted to Christianity.
Sources:Christian Post

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