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“God’s Compass” Receives Award for Best Screenplay at the 2016 International Christian Film Festival

A new film, “God’s Compass,” won the award for best screenplay at the 2016 International Christian Film Festival.

The film, starring Karen Abercrombie and TC Stallings, from 2015’s box office hit “War Room,” was released in partnership with Liberty University. The movie aired on the TV One Network and reached more than 57 million households over Easter weekend.

“I’m excited about TV One’s partnership allowing their audience the opportunity to see strong faith programming and having ‘God’s Compass’ as one of those benchmark films,” said Dave Mechem, VP Distribution Services at WTA Group. “Karen Abercrombie and TC Stallings bring a lot of credibility to our audience and this message of investing yourself into another person’s life rings true.”

“God’s Compass” is the third feature-length motion picture produced in cooperation with the Liberty University Cinematic Arts program’s Zaki Gordon Center.

“Being nominated as a film at the highest level of the faith market, and then to win the award in screenwriting, validates the incredible educational opportunity our students engage in as they go to the Cinematic Arts program at Liberty University,” said Stephan Schultze, executive director of Liberty Cinematic Arts department and writer/director of “God’s Compass.”

The movie tells the story of a retired school principal who takes in a young, delinquent boy and discovers a connection, bringing her and her son’s family together through a healing journey of renewed faith.

The film has also won the Dove Family-Approved Seal and has been endorsed by the American Family Association. Many Hollywood stars have also personally endorsed the film.

Screenwriter Dan Gordon says that the film is “a powerful, uplifting, heartfelt Christian film.” Perhaps it is this aspect of its storytelling which appeals to the masses so much — roughly 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 27% have no savings at all, so they may find characters in similar situations more relatable.

Liberty University has established itself as the trailblazers in the Christian film department. Indeed, “No other film school in the country makes fully funded movies with its students,” Schultze said. “Liberty University’s cinema department is giving its students a tremendous gift.”

Christian Missionary Held Prisoner By North Korea Credits God for Survival, Offers Words of Hope

Kenneth Bae isn’t like the average 45% of Americans who go on a summer vacations. Rather, he chose to spend his time sharing the word of Christ and was unfortunately detained in a North Korean labor camp for his beliefs.

In a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., Bae sent hope and words of goodwill to two other American Christian missionaries currently detained in North Korea.

Bae, a Korean-American tour guide, was running a legal tour company in North Korea when he was arrested in April 2013 for trying to overthrow the North Korean government through his Christian worship.

In his memoir about his time as prisoner, Bae notes that he was sentenced to hard labor for 15 years, and this included shoveling coal, farming, and digging earth.

But Bae refers to supernatural incidents that happened during his imprisonment that reminded him of God’s protection and inspired him to go on.

In his book, Not Forgotten, Bae wrote that the Holy Spirit held his hand through an interrogation, and he saw sparkling gold dust before hearing God explain that he was not alone. He also felt God lifting the hands of a demon off of his neck, and many times he found himself crying with joy while in the camp fields knowing he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Bae credits Jesus for his limited prison time. He only served 700 days of his 15-year sentence and was rescued after U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper visited to North Korea and secured his release.

Even after his ordeal, Bae remains hopeful and wishes to instill to the two detained missionaries that God will get them through the ordeal.

Christian Today reports Bae’s public statement as “Continue to have hope in the U.S. government that they are doing everything they can to secure your release and also just take one day at a time.”

Family Business Launches Into Beauty Industry With Revolutionary Minute Weave

A family business has set out to make themselves known in the multi-billion dollar hair industry.

Minute Weave, a small business based out of Atlanta, GA, hopes to appeal to women of color everywhere with their patent-pending invention. This hair system will allow women to create hairstyles in as little as 10 minutes, without any sewing or gluing and with no long wait times at the beauty salon.

Founded by a family of military veterans, engineers, and beauty enthusiasts, Miracle Weave was created so women worldwide could frequently change up their hairstyles.

Co-founder Marche Goldwire was tired of the commitment of conventional weaves.
She explains to Black Enterprise, “You buy the hair, pay for installation by gluing or sewing which takes hours, then you are stuck with that style, whether you like it or not, until you pay for its removal. We figured out a way to eliminate all these inconveniences.”

Goldwire hopes to give busy moms, fitness fanatics, and beauty aficionados versatility, functionality, and style without commitment.

Minute Weave attaches hair to a cap through Velcro technology. The collection comes with a custom Minute Weave cap, and there are four different styles of hair.

One can choose between straight, body wave, curly, and kinky curly styles. They all come in lengths between 10 and 20 inches, and are 100% Virgin Remy Hair that can be cut, washed, and styled like any typical hair.

In general, traditional extensions can cost anywhere from $300 to $10,000. If you are a Gospel celebrity like Tamela Mann, this cost may not be a problem for you. However, Minute Weave’s products start at $199, which can offer a budget-friendly option for many of Mann’s fans who would like to change their hairstyle as often as the gospel singer does.

You can donate to Minute Weave’s Kickstarter campaign by clicking here.

Christian Filmmaker Kevin Downes Urges Us to Find Our Purpose

While Americans are reportedly much happier on weekends when they aren’t working, if you love what you do for a living, you never have to work a day in your life. For Christian actor and filmmaker Kevin Downes, he believes that making film isn’t only his passion, but it’s his life purpose.
“I believe that God puts each and every one of us here for a specific purpose and reason,” Downes said.
Earlier this month, Downes spoke those words to King County residents as part of a celebration for National Prayer Day. During his speech, he urged the crowd to find their own purpose in life and not to stop until they realize it to its utmost potential.
“Certainly, back in 1994, God showed me what my purpose was,” Downes continued. “And that was to make films that glorify Him and glorify His name to people around the world.”
For the speech, hundreds of people gathered in Hanford Civic Auditorium.
Downes was born in Hanford himself and has worked on dozens of Christian films, some of which includes “Courageous,” and “Mercy Streets.”
When he made his first film, Downes told the audience that it came to be after making a pact with his friend and co-producer David White that they would make a film that would glorify God. At the time, neither of them knew much about the filmmaking process.
“We got together and we said, ‘We should write a script, but first we should pray that God will actually give us the wisdom to write a script,’” Downes said. “And we did that every single day.”
A great deal of work and only $80,000 later, the two finished “The Moment After,” a film so accidentally impactful that the film’s dialogue inspired a crew member to turn his life around.
Since the film was finished in 1998, it has been shown in more than 70 countries.

Movie projector and blank screen

From there, Downes and White’s dreams only got bigger, as they hoped that Christian films would one day hit the Hollywood mainstream.
“It was a bit of a pipe dream back in the ’90s,” Downes said. “Yet, today you see Christian films dominating the box office.”
And indeed, his dream has come to life. “Woodlawn,” his most recent film, cost $13 million to produce and another $12 million to market, making it one of the most costly independent Christian films since “Passion of the Christ.”
The film tells the story of an Alabama high school football team, inspired by Christian doctrine in the face of racial tension.

The Black Christian Entertainment Revival and Oprah’s New Show

At the same time that Hollywood is finally starting to take Christian films seriously (and by extension, the gigantic Christian audience), black Christian entertainment is skyrocketing. And when a new genre or trend starts making considerable amounts of money, Hollywood pays attention.

The rise of black Christian entertainment has been a long time coming, and entertainment journalist Jawn Murray told District Chronicles that daytime TV royalty Oprah Winfrey deserves much of the credit.

“I think Oprah Winfrey kind of got the ball rolling when she would give platforms to artists like BeBe and CeCe [Winans] and Donnie McClurkin and other prominent faith-based artists,” said Murray recently. “And then we saw people like Bishop T.D. Jakes and Tyler Perry launch faith-based film projects that were very lucrative.”

Oprah is one of the most powerful media personalities in the world, and the ruler of her very own media empire. Since retiring from her daytime talk show, she has continued to use media platforms like her TV network and magazine for everything from helping people to lose weight to figuring out where to recycle their old items if they aren’t able to use one of the 9,400 curbside pickup or 10,000 drop-off recycling programs in the country.

Thanks in part to the efforts of megastars like Winfrey and Tyler Perry, a new generation of black filmmakers is drawing attention to the Christian faith in new and exciting ways. Most recently, the faith-based film “War Room,” which starred mostly black actors, actually outperformed “Straight Outta Compton” over the Labor Day weekend box office.

And now, Winfrey is getting back in the game with a new scripted drama centered around a wealthy African-American family who runs a Memphis, TN, megachurch. The new drama, “Greenleaf,” will be the first scripted show on Oprah’s OWN network, and Winfrey says it will depict life in a powerful Christian family, warts and all.

“The church is such a powerful institution in the African-American community and, I thought, a bedrock for storytelling and for sinning and for learning how to forgive and to overcome your flaws and faults and all that. So it’s just a beautiful platform,” Winfrey said.

“I do everything from the point of view of intention, and the intention in all of my work is to raise consciousness and lift people up…I am not gonna do anything that is derogatory toward the church because I am of the church.”

CDC Releases Report Naming Behavioral Therapy Most Effective Treatment for Children With ADHD

A new report has been released on beneficial treatments for children with ADHD.

The report, released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that behavioral therapy — for both the child and parent — should be the first method of treatment rather than turning first to medicine.

In the report, the CDC expressed concerns that medication used to treat this disorder can have negative, long-lasting side effects. This includes irritability, insomnia, and loss of appetite that can hinder growth.

Additionally, the researchers are not able to prove the long-term effects for these medications.

The agency’s monthly report, Vital Signs, showed that 75% of children between two and five years old with ADHD are already taking medication.

ADHD has been diagnosed in 6.4 million children nationwide. On average, boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls. Most are diagnosed before the age of six, but only half are going to therapy.

The CDC is asking for doctors to refer the children to therapy before it is too late. As reported on Live Science, principal deputy director at the CDC Dr. Anne Schuchat explains, “Behavior therapy has been shown to help improve symptoms in young children with ADHD and can be as effective as medicine, but without the side effects.”

She goes on to discuss the benefits of therapy for the parents. Because parents may need help and support in raising their child with this disability, Schuchat believes therapy can provide a necessary outlet.

The therapy would focus on training the parents to address negative behavior, encourage positive actions, and improve communication between themselves and their child.

As the CDC cannot order anything by law, they are concentrating their efforts on advising state health departments and working with health organizations to boost visibility on the benefits of behavioral therapy.

Christian Music and Movies Rise In Rankings Together

Art comes in many different forms — from street performances to more specialized fields like blowing glass at temperatures of up to 2,400 degrees — but it is not always a particularly lucrative field. That’s all changing, however, for Christian bands, as the popularity of faith-based films continues to rise.

The Newsboys, a Christian band from Australia, got their big break in 2014 when they licensed “God’s Not Dead” to a production company for use in a film. The song also became the title of that movie.

And, for the first time, the Christian film became a real hit, and not just in the niche faith-based film genre. The movie brought in $62 million at the box office, helping to push Christian films into the mainstream of the movie industry.

A sequel to the film was released in April, which included scenes featuring the band and their music, and has already brought in $17 million.

The faith-based film industry has certainly been on the rise in recent years, and studios producing these films have been reaching out to Nashville’s Christian music industry for help with the marketing.

Not to mention, the success of the “God’s Not Dead” films has had a marked impact on the Newsboys’ sales. The title track from the first film went platinum, and the album was certified gold.

A new study, published by Movieguide’s Ted Baehr, shows the number of movies with strong redemptive, Christian content has increased 194% since 1996 and 38.3% in the years since 2012.

“For the last 20 years — and more — we’ve been showing Hollywood that movies with Christian faith and values not only inspire the human heart but also make good business sense,” said Baehr. “Hollywood is listening, and God is clearly blessing our efforts and our strategy.”

Utah Governor Signed a Resolution Declaring Adult Entertainment a “Health Hazard”

Photographic imaging and visual innovations define much of modern living. Life saving X-ray’s can be taken as fast as 30 frames per second, high quality photos can be taken with a phone — and thousands of people can satisfy carnal cravings on the Internet. In Utah, however, that might be about to change.

On Tuesday, April 19, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert signed two pieces of legislation designed to target what is called a “sexually toxic environment” caused by pornography. He even went as far as declaring the industry and its prevalence as a “public health crisis.”

Herbert’s Facebook page announced that the two bills would bring the dangers of the industry to light.

One of the documents, S.C.R. 9, declares pornography as “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” It cites the various detrimental effects of porn, such as the treatment of “women as objects and commodities for the viewer’s use.”

The resolution also states that pornography “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”

The point of the resolution was to bring awareness to the issue — it carries no punishing powers and doesn’t specifically ban pornography.

The second document, a bill called H.B. 155, requires computer technicians who find child pornography during their work to report it to law enforcement officials.

The bill stipulates that a failure to report any child porn would result in a Class B misdemeanor.

The governor and his spokespeople discussed in particular the alleged addictive effects of pornography and how this has been neglected in the dialogue around it.

The Republican senator who sponsored the resolution, Todd Weiler, said, ” I think most people today know that if they start using something like heroin or meth, they know that they have a risk of becoming addicted to it, but some people don’t know that about pornography.”

Utah is known for being particularly conservative and passing such legislation, but according to the Harvard Business School report, it is also the number one buyer of porn films in the country.

For This Earth Day Sunday, Animals Were The Primary Focus

Celebrated worldwide on April 22, Earth Day is an annual event held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

Many people take everyday measures by recycling or driving hybrid cars, which produce 90% fewer pollutants than gas-powered vehicles. However, there are also Christian activist groups that try to do more to protect the planet.

This year was no different, as a number of Christian groups focused their Earth Day messages on conservation, animals, and other issues related to taking care of nature.

Creation Justice Ministries, formerly the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program, has equipped churches with a treasure trove of Christian prayer, education, and action resources over the year for their celebration of Earth Day.

This year, however, they are shifting their focus to making the world aware that our earth is in the midst of a mass extinction.

Care for God’s Creatures is aimed at highlighting the ways individuals and congregations can celebrate and protect God’s Creation. It also reminds the Christian community of its interconnectedness with and responsibilities toward other living beings.

They are offering hymns, sample sermons, and multiple practical action steps for those wishing to protect animals as an extension of their faith.

As reported in Huffpost Religion, Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso described the organization’s inspiration.

“Last summer, Stanford released research providing that earth is experiencing a mass extinction right now: 1 in 5 species are threatened,” Alonso said. “We felt the urgency to life up that we have a moral responsibility to care for all God’s creatures, and that we are independent with them.”

She goes on to reference Ecclesiastes 3:19. It says that the fate of the animals and the fate of humans are intertwined and we both share the same breath.

Alonso believes that society as a whole does not understand what happens when we allow species to disappear forever, and that would undo God’s handiwork.

Creation Justice Ministries urges each church community to adopt Earth Day Sunday in their own unique way. Know that however — or whenever — you celebrate Earth Day, you are all apart of God’s tradition.

‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’ Took 14 Years of Life Lessons to Come Together

Wedding. Beautiful brideIn 2002, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” seemed to come out of nowhere. The story of two star-crossed lovers, their families, and their clashing cultural and religious values became an instant cult classic, with fans young and old producing $368 million in revenue for the film.

Now, 14 years after the original film’s release, the cast is back with another heart-warming and hilarious story of family, values, and tradition. And according to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” star and writer Nia Vardalos, the wait was entirely intentional.

“I was waiting for motherhood to come my way, to explore the emotions that a mom would know because I had written that Toula and Ian were parents at the end of the first film, and I wanted to keep the story linear,” Vardalos said in an interview with E!. “The wait for the sequel is completely my fault.”

Just like the wedding in the first movie, which had many complicated parts to organize, screenwriting is ultimately like a party, with hundreds of details to sync together.

“On my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, another mom said something that made me realize I had become my own Greek, suffocating mother. She said, ‘Just think, in 13 years they’ll leave us and go to college!’ And I went ‘Gulp.’ I sucked all the air out of the room and I realized, ‘Oh my God, that’s the sequel,’ and I started writing it that very day,” Vardalos recanted. “I worked on the script for almost four years.”

In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” the Portokalos family has grown in size. Nearly two decades later, Toula struggles to maintain a personal life with the weight of her overbearing family on her shoulders.

Meanwhile, Toula’s daughter, Paris, is about to graduate high school and is seeking the same independence that Toula once sought.

Christians Lending Aid to Each Other Regarding Health Care

A Christian medical home received a large donation, and health care ministries are lending aid to struggling Christians.

In San Antonio, TX, The New York Times reports, Chris and Sarah Doyle found out that their health insurance deductible would rise to $10,000, so they “spent a couple weeks praying.”

Samaritan Ministries International lent a helping hand to the Doyles by allowing them to opt out of insurance altogether. The ministry requires its members to help cover each others major medical costs as they come up.

According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the average expense for someone visiting the Emergency Room was around $1,318 in 2009. Because of the Affordable Care Act passing in 2010, Christian families can utilize the services of these ministries to take care of their medical expenses.

Samaritan Ministries International assigns its member families to pay the medical bills of other members. The money is mailed directly to the families in need accompanied by a handwritten prayer or letter of support.

These sharing ministries are not insurance companies, so there is not a 100% guarantee that members’ medical bills will be paid. Members are advised to trust that God will provide for them. The ministries say that the system of payments is helping Christians fulfill a Biblical mandate to share one another’s burdens.

Another Christian medical organization is receiving praise within the community as well. According to the Daily Citizen, Christian Home and Rehabilitation Center accepted a recent $6,000 donation from members of the Waupun Memorial Hospital.

“We’re proud to help Christian Home and Rehabilitation Center as it works to achieve this noteworthy goal,” Robert Nagle, chief of staff and medical director of Waupun Memorial Hospital, said. “Waupun Medical Hospital and our providers are glad to collaborate to ensure that we are meeting our community’s care needs.”

These medical benefits are affecting Christians in various positive ways.

Kyle and Stefani Burkholder, members of Samaritan Ministries International, were forced to pay $6,500 upfront for their daughter’s ear tube surgery. They didn’t know what they were going to do and waited for what seemed like forever for help.

Stefani said, “About 90 days after her surgery, sure enough, the money did start showing up. It was with handwritten notes — every day it was one, two, three notes, and she was reading them aloud, and I found myself just crying.”

“I feel like I’m loving on somebody instead of just paying my premiums,” Sarah Doyle said. “There’s something different about writing my check to someone who needs it.”

Christian Entertainment Industry Facing More Success

With plenty of Christian-themed movies being released recently, as well as a highly anticipated up-and-coming musical, the Christian entertainment industry is on the rise.

On Wednesday, “Miracles From Heaven,” a film about a young girl battling an incurable disease, opened to just under $2 million. Anna Beam, a 10-year-old who has pseudo-obstruction motility disorder climbs a tree and falls off and into a coma. After coming out of the coma, Anna describes a visit to heaven, and all her symptoms are gone.

“Miracles from Heaven” is just one of many religious films that have been released this Easter season. As CrossWalk reports, “God’s Not Dead 2,” “Risen,” and “The Young Messiah” are all faith-based films that are seeing some success.

Senior media analyst for ComScore Paul Dergarabedian said the success of faith-based films can sometimes be accredited to the star power that is associated with them. “The ones that have star power seem to do better,” Dergarabedian stated, “Having higher profile actors who are known for being in secular movies tends to give them a boost.”

That very well may be the case for the up-and-coming faith musical, “Passion.” Tyler Perry’s name is attached to this musical, so the star power is certainly there.

According to Christian Post, along with Perry, Seal and Trisha Yearwood will also be involved in the musical, adding even more star power.

Christian films are serving as more than just entertainment for people now. Like the 3.5 trillion photos that have been taken since photography was first invented, these films are acting as wonderful memories for families as well.

In an article by Variety, the changing of the ways in which these films are made is resulting in newfound success.

Devon Frankin, a producer on “Miracles from Heaven,” said that “People underestimate how much the faith-based community and the public at large wants movies that can inspire and uplift them.”

Christian film directors hope that their movies resonate with many people. “My hope is that people go in, have a good cry, and walk out with a renewed sense of life and of the joy of living,” director Patricia Riggen stated. “I wanted it to be inclusive of all faiths and speak to non-believers as well.”