By Melissa Wuske
Letters Help Imprisoned Christians
While he was in prison in Kazakhstan for two years, Yuri Pak received more than 1,200 letters from supporters through Voice of the Martyrs. Pak was falsely convicted of calling in a bomb threat, most likely because he had converted to Christianity. Because of prison restrictions, Pak didn’t actually get to read the letters, but as they began to come in, he started to be treated better by prison officials as the officials began to realize that people around the world were paying attention to Pak’s story. Pak said similar letters also helped his fellow inmate Yklas Kabduakasov, who is still in prison, be treated well.
Some of the letters did make it to Pak’s wife, Olga. “Our family is extremely grateful to each one of you for your prayers and letters with words of encouragement and faith,” she said. “Your prayers and letters helped us to go through this difficult trial without losing our faith and courage. We believe that ‘your labor is not in vain before the Lord.’”
Nondenominational Christians on the Rise
The number of Protestants in the United States who don’t identify with a particular denomination is on the rise. According to a recent Gallup poll, about 1 in 6 Americans are nondenominational Christians.
“Churches that adhere to specific and historical denominational affiliations appear to face the biggest challenge in American Protestantism today,” the report said. “Increasingly, Christian Americans . . . prefer to either identify themselves simply as Christians or attend the increasing number of nondenominational churches that have no formal allegiance to a broader religious structure.”
“Very few churches I know anything about are truly, totally, exclusively ‘nondenominational’ in the sense most people think,” said Roger Olson, theology professor at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. “In almost every case where I am asked about a church that declares itself ‘nondenominational,’ I can find some affiliation of that church with some network of similar churches.”
These “networks are reinventing how evangelicals and others cooperate and shaping ministry in many contexts and across various denominational barriers,” said Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today. But Olson sees “a trend toward what I call ‘generic Christianity’ that is very feeling-centered and pragmatic and somewhat anti-intellectual.”
Africans and the Digital Economy
“It is critical that Africans are able to participate in the digital economy,” said Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a 26-year-old entrepreneur from Nigeria. But with its vast array of currencies, it’s difficult for African consumers and companies to do business online—and more than half of the global growth of population in the next three decades will happen in Africa.
Aboyeji’s business, Flutterwave, allows Africans to use their local currencies, and Flutterwave integrates the banking and currency exchange services so that business don’t have to.
A Unique Find
Jude Sparks, age 9, was running to hide from his brothers when he tripped over what looked like a piece of fossilized wood. “It was just an odd shape,” Sparks said. “I just knew it was not something that you usually find.”
At home, he and his mother, Michelle, did some research. “It didn’t match perfectly with elephants, so then we said, O.K., I guess it was something else,” she said.
They emailed Peter Houde, a biology professor at New Mexico State University, who identified the remains as part of a Stegomastodon, an elephantine creature—not a mastodon, but similar in appearance. Houde hopes the full fossil can become part of the university’s fossil display.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).