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Published: Saturday, 5/15/2004

Methodists produce video showing landmine dangers

But the United Methodist Church's Board of Global Ministries is taking steps to help clear the streets, schools, churches, water wells, and other public areas from land mines in Mozambique.

Although the nation's civil war ended in 1994, unexploded land mines are still wreaking havoc on civilians who try to plant crops, attend school or church, gather firewood, or swim in lakes or rivers.

The UMCBG has produced a 15-minute video that shows the scope of the problem and the tedious, dangerous process of locating and detonating land mines that lurk just under the surface of the ground.

Workers use trained dogs and metal detectors to find the mines, then bring in remote-controlled armored vehicles to detonate them. Safe areas are marked off with ropes, one small section at a time. Many existing schools, hospitals, and other public facilities sit empty as they await the OK that all land mines have been removed from the grounds.

The church agency's video, titled From Landmines to Schools: Landmine Removal in Mozambique, is available free of charge by phone, 1-800-554-8583, or online at http://gbgm-ucm.org.

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Third Day is in the upper echelon of the Christian music business, having scored 21 Dove Awards, 20 No. 1 hit singles, one Grammy award, four gold records, and one platinum album in its 10-year career.

But with its seventh album, Wire, released last week on Essential Records, the five musicians in the band seem to be taking a long, hard look at the job of "Christian rock star."The title track uses the analogy of walking a tightrope in front of a large audience, who may secretly, or even unconsciously, be hoping the acrobat takes a tumble.

"Everyone's looking my way. They came to see the excitement firsthand. And hear all that I've got to say," Mac Powell sings. "Oh, it makes me wonder, 'What if I slip?' Will they catch me or watch me fall?"

The members of Third Day - singer-guitarist Powell, guitarists Mark Lee and Brad Avery, bassist Tai Anderson, and drummer David Carr - reflect on fame and living in the spotlight in the songs "Rock Star," "Billy Brown," and "San Angelo."

While fame may have its downside, the music on Wire is upbeat, triple-guitar-powered rock and roll with a Southern edge and a spiritual earnestness and openness. There's no way Third Day will slip with Wire. In fact, the disc debuted at No. 1 on the Christian charts and No. 12 on the mainstream Billboard album chart, selling 61,106 units the first week.

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Toledo's own Christian rock stars, Sanctus Real, will release a sophomore disc for Sparrow Records, Fight the Tide, June 15. A quick spin of an advance copy shows the four rockers - Matt Hammitt, Mark Grahlman, Chris Rohman, and Steve Goodrum - continue to grow as songwriters, musicians, and arrangers. Sanctus Real will follow the national release with a hometown CD-release partyJune 18.

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Looking for a place to worship?

Online match-making services are a high-tech phenomenon, but the people at www.beliefnet.com look for a different kind of match: They want to help people know which religious group lines up with their personal faith and values.

Beliefnet is a highly regarded religion site on the Internet, offering a timely and diverse mix of news and commentary on religious issues. While it tackles many weighty issues, its editors and contributors manage to keep a sense of humor.

The ability to take a lighthearted approach to serious subjects is seen in "Belief-O-Matic," an interactive online survey that asks participants a series of questions about their faith.

Do you believe in a single, corporeal (has a body), supreme, personal God? Or do you think there are multiple gods (or goddesses)? Has there been one/none/many incarnations of God? Is there terrible wrongdoing on Earth because humans inherited sinful natures from Adam and Eve, or is it a matter of human nature devoid of supernatural causes?

And just how important are these factors to you?

Click through a range of questions like these, and "Belief-O-Matic" will crank out a list of religions that line up with your views. The results will be ranked from 1 to 27 in order of the faiths that "most likely" are a match.

How accurate is it? The faith group that it put atop my personal list - giving it a "100 percent" match - accurately describes the church to which I belong. The 27th and last one on the list was "nontheist," another bullseye for "Belief-O-Matic."

I haven't done a scientific study, but "Belief-O-Matic" has scored a perfect match for everyone I know who has tried it.

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John F. Tricas has worked for ABC, CBS, and CNN television and was on the staff of the TV series In Search Of .●.●., hosted by Leonard Nimoy.

His latest project is an amazing, 77-minute video featuring interviews with Gerry Bowman, a mild-mannered, middle-aged New Englander with a mop of wavy gray hair who is convinced he is "channeling" the Apostle John.

Mr. Tricas interviews Mr. Bowman's family and associates, then turns the camera on Mr. Bowman for a 40-minute session, starting with the channeler closing his eyes, going into a deep meditative zone, then suddenly "awaking" with a totally different personality - supposedly that of the Apostle John, Jesus' disciple who is known in the Bible as a son of Zebedee and the "Son of Thunder."

Mr. Bowman-Apostle John matter-of-factly offers eyewitness accounts of walking the streets of Jerusalem with Jesus and witnessing the crucifixion, and discusses in an authoritarian tone such topics as the existence of extraterrestrials and life as eternal spirit beings.

Mr. Tricas said that although the situation "defies credibility," he ultimately became convinced that it is authentic.

"I know it sounds over-the-top, but the material checks out," he said. "After 15 years of research, it was time to bring John to the screen. If Jesus walked on water, then the apostle John speaking through a man in trance isn't that big of a stretch."

Information on John, Son of Thunder is available online at www.makingcontact.net or by phone at 919-919.542.6594.

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Praise and worship songs are for kids too, now that the Praise Baby Collection has been released by Audio Adrenaline's Big House Kids label.

Such popular worship tunes as "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," and "Open the Eyes of My Heart" songs are featured on the Praises and Smiles music CD and DVD.

The DVD features simple, colorful videos with the interesting option of hearing the lead vocals performed by either a female or a child singer, or just listening to instrumental versions of the songs.

One of the tenets of the Big House Kids philosophy is that "a child's brain and spirit develop to its full potential only with exposure to necessary enriching experiences (specifically music) in early childhood."



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