Helping Ex-cons Ministries to ex-offenders are getting lots of attention from the White House. In February the Department of Labor awarded $875,000 to Word of Hope Ministries, a program of Milwaukee's Holy Cathedral Church of God in Christ. With the money, Word of Hope will help 310 newly released prisoners acquire skills and job training. In January's State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $300 million initiative to aid the 600,000 inmates scheduled for release this year.

Virginity Pledge-breakers A federally funded study says nearly nine in ten teenagers (88 percent) break their virginity pledges. Researchers, including Peter Bearman of Columbia University, said the rates of sexually transmitted diseases were about the same between pledgers and nonpledgers. Since 1993, 2.4 million teens have signed cards promising chastity; the cards were part of the Southern Baptist Convention's True Love Waits program. Bearman said the pledges have helped delay intercourse for 18 months, and tend to promote earlier marriages and fewer sexual partners. "Virtually no one in the abstinence movement advocates virginity pledges as an end in themselves," said Linda Klepacki of Focus on the Family. "Pledges are simply a first step."

Christians Slaughtered As many as 400 armed Muslims hacked 48 Christians to death during an early morning prayer service on February 24 in Yelwa, southern Nigeria. Hundreds of Nigerians have died in related attacks. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, longstanding tensions between area Christians and Muslims were reignited in January when a Muslim leader implicated in earlier violence brought in 500 Muslim families. They were there to settle in villages and towns that displaced Christians had abandoned.

Faster Church Planting Avant (formerly Gospel Missionary Union) has announced a potentially revolutionary strategy: to start churches faster, allowing missionaries to "work themselves out of a job." The goal is to plant churches in five years, rather than the traditional ten or more. The first test will come in Poznan, Poland. "With increasing volatility in the world, mission agencies can no longer assume a long-haul approach," said Paul Nyquist, president of the agency. "The doors to countries, especially in unreached areas, open and close very quickly."

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