A heart for Hawaii

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A heart for Hawaii (reporting from Honolulu): Pearl Harbor church has served military families for 59 years, but future at risk.

HONOLULU“Aloha!”

Mark Young stretches out each syllable of the traditional Hawaiian greeting as 150-plus church members and visitors fill the blue-gray wooden pews in a simple, A-frame auditorium.

“Welcome to the Pearl Harbor Church of Christ, where we keep a little bit of the States and a lot of the Polynesian culture together,” says Young, an Army major sporting shorts, sandals and a flowery shirt.

As the Sunday assembly starts, a fighter jet roars overhead — a reminder of the nearby U.S. Air Force and Navy bases known as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Over nearly six decades, the Pearl Harbor church has served as the temporary home for an estimated 3,000 military personnel and their families, minister and elder Steve Byrne said.

“I’ve been to congregations from Germany to Italy to all over the place, and there’s no place like this,” said Army Master Sgt. Q.P. Bean, arriving with his wife, Charidy, and infant daughter, Lily.

“When you walk through that door, you’re not a stranger,” the Alabama native added. “People just flock around you. It’s like a king or royalty coming in. It’s overwhelming.”

But Hawaii’s largest Church of Christ must raise $1.3 million to avoid eviction from the Navy property it has leased since 1956, said Byrne and fellow elders John Graham and William Wood.

This story appears in the March 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

A search for preachers — reality TV style

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A search for preachers — reality TV style (reporting from Malibu, Calif.): A video quest puts a modern twist on efforts to inspire a new generation of ministers. 

MALIBU, Calif. — “American Idol” for ministers?

“Survivor” with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit?

Welcome to the “Next Gen Preacher Search,” developed by Pepperdine University’s Youth Leadership Initiative.

The national contest invited students interested in preaching and teaching to submit five-minute videos for review and critique — and a potential opportunity to speak at a major event such as the Tulsa Workshop in Oklahoma or the Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

“I’m hoping idolatry is nowhere near, but we wanted to use an idea that young people would be kind of familiar with and something that would challenge them,” said Jeff Walling, the Youth Leadership Initiative’s director.

The ultimate goal: to inspire more young Christians to devote their lives to sharing God’s word.

“When we listen to folks in our Christian colleges, I hear them saying they have fewer and fewer students walking through the door saying, ‘I want to preach,’” said Walling, a frequent speaker at youth rallies and the former longtime preaching minister for the Providence Road Church of Christ in Charlotte, N.C.

No one was looking for a golden ticket to Hollywood, but 40 semifinalists were chosen to work with “mentor preachers” and fly to a recent two-day training event — either at Pepperdine or at Johnson University in Kissimmee, Fla.

This story appears in the March 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Lester Holt a humble newsman with a serious faith

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Lester Holt a humble newsman with a serious faith: NBC anchor finds journalism ‘faith-affirming.’

A few years ago, a group of communications students from Harding University in Searcy, Ark., visited NBC’s “Today” show studios in New York.

A familiar face greeted them.

“Lester Holt was so kind to take a few minutes and visit with each of our students about their goals and plans,” said Jack Shock, a Harding communications professor. “I was impressed with Lester’s focus on each student, even for just a few minutes, making each feel at ease in what could have been an overwhelming environment.”

I know the feeling.

Holt, a member of the Manhattan Church of Christ, extended a similar warm, friendly welcome to me in 2009.

Millions know the hard-working newsman as the anchor of “Dateline” and the weekend anchor of “Today” and the “NBC Nightly News.” In recent weeks, he’s made headlines of his own as the interim anchor of NBC’s top-rated weeknight evening news.

For at least six months, Holt, 55, will fill the anchor chair of Brian Williams, who was suspended for making false claims about being aboard a helicopter forced down by rocket-propelled grenade fire in Iraq in 2003.

This column appears in the March 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

‘In reality, baseball is a silly game’ — why one super-fan loves it anyway

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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Note from Bobby: I know you’ll enjoy this exceptional guest post from my son Brady, a 2014 preaching ministry graduate of Oklahoma Christian University and a lifelong fan of the Texas Rangers. 

By Brady Ross

Most baseball fans vividly remember their first major-league game. For many baseball fans, it was the day they fell in love with the game. They can still recall the first time they saw the freshly cut green grass, and the first time they heard the crack of a bat or the pop of a glove resound throughout the entire stadium. They may not remember the final score, but they can certainly remember who was playing.

I can’t.

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Brady and Mary at her first Texas Rangers game last year.

I can’t remember my first game. I can’t remember who was playing. I can’t remember the first time I sat in the sun for three hours, yelling my favorite player’s name, singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch while I ate a hog dog for which I paid a few dollars too much.

However, I don’t resent this. In fact, I consider myself fortunate. Because for me, baseball was always a part of life.

I attended my first major-league game before my first birthday. I’ve heard the story repeatedly over the years: I didn’t make it through the national anthem before the tears started. I spent the rest of that day in the hospitality room at The Ballpark in Arlington, which had opened earlier that year. While I was there, Nolan Ryan happened to walk through the room. It was my first encounter with baseball greatness, and I only wish I could remember it!

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America’s best ballparks: Ranking the top stadiums in the major leagues (part 2)

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

The best ballpark in America? I reveal it below.

Twelve major-league stadiums remain on my bucket list, including the legendary Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.

But I’ve been blessed to experience games at 18 current MLB ballparks.

Last week, I shared my “bench players.” And now, here are my “starting nine” (my favorite ballparks from No. 9 to No. 1):

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