Top News Articles of 2021 Christians Should Know About
- Kayla Koslosky ChristianHeadlines.com Editor
- 2022 6 Jan
While 2021 was filled with shock, grief, and sadness, it was also filled with hope, courage and perhaps a glimpse of the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. The year brought the loss of Christian pillars, the insurrection of the U.S. capitol building, new challenges to Roe v. Wade and much more. As we embark on a new year, let’s review some of the more influential moments of 2021.
Here are the top news stories of 2021 that Christians should know about:
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1. The Capitol insurrectionSlide 1 of 9
On January 6, 2021, the day Congress was set to certify now-President Joe Biden as President-elect of the United States, Trump and QAnon supporters attending a “Stop the Steal” rally-turned-violent-riot stormed the U.S. Capitol building. The rioters believed that the 2020 election had been stolen from then-President Donald Trump.
According to the Associated Press, at least one person was shot, five weapons were recovered, and 13 people were arrested in connection with the insurrection. Police dawning full riot gear were forced to deploy tear gas and percussion grenades to clear people from the Capitol building and the surrounding area. Further, lawmakers were forced to evacuate the chambers and seek shelter.
In the wake of the insurrection, many Christian leaders took to social media to condemn the action and urge Trump to do the same.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler called the action “unleashed anarchy.” He tweeted, “What we are seeing in Washington now is the refutation of our American commitment, a form of unleashed anarchy which is the enemy of ordered liberty, and President Trump is responsible now for unleashing mayhem. Pray that God will rescue us from this.”
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear also called out President Trump, tweeting, “Peaceable transitions of power have marked our Republic since the beginning. It is part of honoring and submitting to God’s ordained leaders whether they were our choice or not. We need you, @POTUS to condemn this mob. Let’s move forward together. Praying for safety.”
Others who condemned the action and called on Trump to do the same include Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, former Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Council president Russell Moore, author and Oak Hills Church pastor Max Lucado, and author and speaker Beth Moore.
The evening of the insurrection, Trump issued a controversial official statement to rioters saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”
He continued, “We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt. It’s a tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they can take it away from all of us … from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So, go home. We love you, you’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home.”
One week later, the U.S. House of Representatives moved to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” making him the first U.S. president to be impeached twice.
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2. Challenges to Roe v. Wade Brought before the Supreme CourtSlide 2 of 9
On May 17, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a lawsuit surrounding a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law, enacted in 2018, forbids a woman from receiving an abortion after 15 weeks of gestation unless there is a medical emergency or a fetal abnormality. After the law was passed, the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi sued the state and won in a federal district court. The state appealed the decision and lost, leading Attorney General Lynn Fitch to bring the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Fitch is asking the Supreme Court to evaluate the constitutionality of abortion on demand and the definition of viability as defined in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
If the court decides to uphold the law, ultimately rejecting the 1973 definition of viability, Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
On December 1, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case. Experts have suggested that the oral arguments came out heavily on the side of the pro-life agenda.
During arguments, Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart asserted that abortion should be a state issue, not a federal issue. Several justices, including Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Comey Barrett, appeared to take kindly to this suggestion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito also asked questions friendly to the Mississippi law.
"It is hard to see how pro-lifers could be more optimistic about how this argument went," Dan McLaughlin, a former attorney and a senior writer at the National Review, said. Still, he cautioned, "We've had the football pulled away from us before in big cases, so take all of that with a grain of salt."
For the law to be upheld, five of the nine Supreme Court Justices have to vote in its favor.
No decision has been issued on the case yet.
In September, the Supreme Court issued a different abortion-related decision. On September 1, the Supreme Court decided not to block a Texas law banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law also specifies that its enforcement is left up to private citizens. Despite allowing the law to stand, the court also allowed abortion clinics to continue their lawsuits against several state officials.
According to an analysis by the pro-choice group Guttmacher Institute, at least 21 states will ban abortion through new and existing legislation if Roe v. Wade is overturned in 2022.
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3. Biden Administration Vaccine Mandates Are Challenged in CourtSlide 3 of 9
With the emergency use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines came private, state and federal vaccination mandates. Many mandates have been challenged in the court, including President Biden’s mandate demanding private businesses with 100 or more employees to require their workers to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for the virus weekly.
Faith-based employers Answers in Genesis, Daystar Television Network and the American Family Association filed a lawsuit against the mandate, asking the court to issue a stay to the requirement. In early November, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay, leading the Biden Administration to suspend the mandate. In late December, however, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the stay issued by the Fifth Circuit Court, reinstating the mandate. The suit was then brought to the Supreme Court, which is set to hear oral arguments on the case in early January.
Also before the Supreme Court is a Biden Administration mandate requiring healthcare professionals working at facilities receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Faith and political leaders have been outspoken in their views on the vaccine mandate. In September, Southern Baptist Convention leaders issued their endorsement of the vaccines but condemned the idea of forced vaccination.
In October, 101 Ohio clergymen signed a letter to President Biden arguing against a vaccine mandate. The laypeople argued that a mandate would violate an individual's personal and religious freedoms.
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4. Southern Baptist Convention Launches Sex Abuse InvestigationSlide 4 of 9
Following the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention sex abuse report published in the Houston Chronicle, the denomination has faced mounting pressure to reevaluate its processes for reporting and handling abuse allegations. In 2019, the Houston Chronicle found that since 1998, approximately 380 SBC leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Some abusers would jump from church to church, abusing children and adults, and some churches knowingly employed registered sex offenders.
After the report was released, then-SBC president J.D. Greear urged SBC Executive Committee members to investigate several churches mentioned by name in the document. Greear also brought on attorney and abuse survivor Rachel Denhollander to advise the denomination on how to move forward.
The denomination was initially set to discuss reform at its annual meeting in 2020. The meeting was canceled, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just before the 2021 annual meeting was scheduled to take place, SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Council president Russell Moore resigned from his position, claiming that denominational executives had made working within the denomination unbearable for him because of his outspoken advocacy against sex abuse. Then, when the meeting finally did occur, 18,000 SBC messengers showed up to hold the EC accountable for their lack of action on sex abuse reform.
The messengers overwhelmingly voted to initiate an investigation into how the EC handled abuse allegations and determine if executives mistreated abuse survivors.
This move forced the EC’s hand, leading them to launch an independent investigation into the denomination led by a group called Guidepost Solutions.
After the investigation was launched, more issues arose within the denomination, with many believing the EC should waive its attorney-client privilege in order to allow full public transparency on the subject.
After much debate, SBC leaders decided to waive their privilege, leading to a wave of resignations from higher-ups, including EC President Ronnie Floyd, EC Executive Vice President Greg Addison and EC member James Freeman. The SBC General Counsel also split with the denomination following its decision to waive its privilege.
While the first steps have been taken in reforming the SBC’s handling of sex abuse allegations, this is an ongoing issue.
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5. Beth Moore, Russell Moore Leave the SBCSlide 5 of 9
In March, author and Bible teacher Beth Moore announced that she was leaving the Southern Baptist Denomination and cutting ties with her publisher, Lifeway Christian. Lifeway Christian is the publishing and distribution arm of the SBC. They will reportedly continue to support Beth but will no longer publish her books.
Beth announced her departure from the denomination in an interview with Religion News Service.
“I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists,” Beth told RNS. “I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.”
According to the news outlet, widespread sex abuse within the denomination, the rise of Christian Nationalism and the debate over Critical Race Theory within the denomination all played a part in Beth’s departure.
Russell Moore resigned from his role as President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Council for the Southern Baptist Convention just two months later. In June, he also declared that he was leaving the SBC personally.
In a letter published by Religion News Service about the inner workings of the SBC, Russell lamented the Executive Committee’s refusal to advance issues of racial justice and sexual abuse reform.
Russell is currently working as a public theologian at the prominent evangelical magazine Christianity Today.
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6. Crisis in HaitiSlide 6 of 9
Haiti has had a tumultuous year, facing everything from the assassination of its president to a natural disaster that claimed the lives of thousands.
In the early morning hours on July 7, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, 53, was assassinated after 28 armed shooters, believed to be foreign mercenaries, stormed his home. Moïse's wife was also injured in the attack but survived.
Moïse had ruled over Haiti since February 2017. While in office, he faced accusations of corruption and widespread demands for his resignation. Haiti's opposition even argued that Moïse's five-year term should have ended in February 2021, but Moïse insisted that he had one more year in office. Political hostilities in the country continued to grow when the October 2019 parliamentary elections were delayed, leading Moïse to rule by decree over Haiti until his assassination. Officials are still investigating Moïse’s murder.
Still reeling from Moïse’s assassination, Haitians were again struck by tragedy on August 14, when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the island nation. According to USA Today, 2,248 people were killed in the quake. An additional 12,763 were injured, and 300 were declared missing. The earthquake destroyed over 7,000 homes and damaged at least 5,000 more, displacing countless Haitians.
Also in Haiti, as political tensions and crime rates continue to grow, dozens of missionaries and pastors have been kidnapped or gone missing.
In October, 17 missionaries – 16 Americans and one Canadian – were kidnapped by the 400 Mawazoo gang in Haiti. The missionaries were abducted while traveling to Titanyen after visiting an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area.
As Christian Headlines reported in October, the gang’s leader, Wilson Joseph, had requested $17 million, or $1 million each, for the freedom of the missionaries. Five of the taken missionaries were children.
In late November, the gang slowly began releasing the missionaries. On November 21, Christian Aid Ministries, the organization the missionaries are a part of, announced that two of the hostages were released. A few weeks later, on December 6, three more hostages were released. The remainder of the hostages were able to escape in the night on December 16.
In April, the gang also kidnapped five priests and two nuns. They were later released. In late October, a 79-year-old American pastor and two congregants were also taken by the gang. They, too, were released.
Amid the rising violence, in November, the U.S. State Department urged Americans still in the country to leave.
“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti now via commercial means. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the risks of traveling to or remaining in Haiti in light of the current security situation and infrastructure challenges,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said.
“Widespread fuel shortages may limit essential services in an emergency, including access to banks, money transfers, urgent medical care, internet and telecommunications, and public and private transportation options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Haiti with departure if commercial options become unavailable,” the government warned. “Seats on commercial flights currently remain available.”
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7. The Taliban Takes AfghanistanSlide 7 of 9
After President Joe Biden began pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in mid-August, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and the Taliban terrorist group came into power.
After the Taliban took Afghanistan, the U.S. sent 1,000 American troops to aid in the evacuation of Americans, those holding special immigrant visas and at-risk Afghans in the country. The Taliban gave the U.S. until August 31 to complete its evacuation process and pull all troops out of the country. By the deadline, the U.S. had evacuated 82,300 people. Still, between 100-200 Americans were left behind.
Also during the evacuation process, 13 U.S. military personnel and at least 60 Afghans were killed in a set of suicide bombing attacks outside of the Kabul airport. An additional 140 people were injured.
Under the Taliban, religious freedom and rights for women and children are at risk. Somewhere between 10,000 to 12,000 Christians call Afghanistan home. Most of them are Islamic converts. The Taliban, however, promotes Sharia law, which forbids Muslims to convert to Christianity. The punishment for doing so is often severe and can include death.
When the Taliban lost power in 2001, Afghan women and girls were granted freedoms that have once again been taken from them. Over the last twenty years, women have been able to hold jobs outside of the home and attend college. Under the Taliban, women are banned from doing either.
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8. Biblically Significant Archaeological DiscoveriesSlide 8 of 9
In 2021, archaeologists made several ancient discoveries that tie back to biblical times.
At the start of 2021, archaeologists in Machaerus, Jordan, identified a courtyard believed to be where John the Baptist was condemned to death. The courtyard was initially discovered in the 1980s, but it was not identified as a part of Herod Antipas' throne until 2021, archaeologist Győző Vörös said.
Then, in July, archaeologists uncovered a pottery vessel from a storage pit dating back to 1,100 BC at the Khirbet el Rai site during excavations in the Judean foothills in Israel. The jug featured a 3,100-year-old inscription of the name "Jerubbaal" or "Yeruba'al,” the same name Gideon was given. Gideon’s story is told in the biblical book of Judges.
According to the Times of Israel, this could be the first archaeological discovery to provide hard evidence linking back to a biblical judge by name.
In August, archaeologists uncovered what they believed to be physical evidence of a biblical earthquake in Jerusalem. The earthquake archaeologists believe to have found evidence for is referenced in the books of Amos and Zechariah. It is said to have struck during the divided kingdom and after the reigns of both David and Solomon.
Later that month, Israeli archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a Byzantine-era gold coin believed to have been minted in 638 or 639 AD by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius. On one side of the coin was a depiction of Heraclius and on the other side was a depiction of Jesus’ Crucifixion.
According to the director of the excavation, Dr. Yoav Arbel, the coin, which also features an Arabic inscription of its owner’s name, provides further insight into life in the Byzantine era.
In September, using 3D scans, biblical archaeologists discovered a “boat-like formation” matching the biblical description of Noah’s ark in eastern Turkey. It has not been confirmed if the boat is, in fact, Noah’s ark, but scholars with the Noah’s Ark Scans project believe it is promising.
In December, archaeologists found a 2,000-year-old synagogue in the town of Migdal in the Galilee, Israel region. The town is the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. It is also an area Jesus is believed to have spent a great deal of time.
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9. In MemoriamSlide 9 of 9
House Representative Mike Reese
On January 2, House Representative Mike Reese died of a brain aneurysm at 42 years old. Reese was first elected as a representative of Pennsylvania in 2008. He was re-elected on November 3, 2020, but perished before serving out his term in office. From 2019-2020, Reese served as caucus secretary of the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus.
House Representative Ron Wright
On February 7, Representative Ron Wright of Texas died of Coronavirus at the age of 67. Wright had been battling lung cancer for several months before he contracted and eventually succumbed to COVID-19. While in public office, Wright received several awards for his civil leadership, including Volunteer of the Year, Man of the Year for Community Service and Hero of the Homeless.
Senator Bob Dole
On December 5, at the age of 98, World War II veteran, Kansas Senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole passed away in his sleep. Dole was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in early 2021. Dole began serving in public office following his time fighting in WWII. He was first elected as a House Representative to Kansas in 1960. In 1975, he would serve as a U.S. Senator. While in office, he supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act and the Veterans Health Care Administrative Flexibility Act, among others.
Dole also ran for president three times, in 1980, 1988, and 1996, but never won.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell
On October 18, Colin Powell, a political trailblazer who served in multiple Republican presidential administrations and was a military official, died from health complications. He was 84.
Powell served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush and as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and for the first few months under President Bill Clinton. Under President Ronald Reagan, he was deputy national security advisor.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale
Former Vice President Walter Mondale passed away on April 19, at the age of 93.
Mondale served as Vice President under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. As vice president, Mondale attempted to establish peace in the Middle East, aided in the ratification of the Panama Canal treaty, helped resettle Vietnam War refugees, and offered support for affirmative action. The cause of his death was undisclosed.
Reverend Frederick K.C. Price
On February 12, Reverend Fredrick K.C. Price passed away after contracting COVID-19. He was 89. During his life, Price founded the Crenshaw Christian Center, a megachurch in Los Angeles. The church, which started with just 300 members in 1973, grew to have more than 28,000-members. Price retired from the church in 2017, passing the ministry down to his son, Rev. Fred Price, Jr.
Controversial conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died on February 17 after battling lung cancer for some time. He was 70. Limbaugh’s longstanding and popular daytime radio show, The Rush Limbaugh Show, debuted nationally in 1988 and helped make AM radio a profitable medium. Limbaugh, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump in 2020, has also written several books and even hosted his own television show in the 1990s. Limbaugh was a professed Christian and one of the loudest voices in conservative talk radio. He is a member of the Radio Hall of Fame.
Renowned evangelist Luis Palau passed away on March 11 after battling lung cancer for three years. He was 86.
For more than five decades, Palau, through his Luis Palau Association, worked to share the Gospel in at least 75 countries. Palau, who ministered in both English and Spanish, is also the author of dozens of books and was often referred to as “the Latino Billy Graham.” According to Religion News Service, at least 30 million people were introduced to Christ and the Gospel during his years in ministry.
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On April 9, Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, passed away. He was 99 years old. Philip was born as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on June 10, 1921. At 18, he joined the Navy and served in World War II. He later married Queen Elizabeth before her ascension to the throne.
Philip was an advocate for environmental protection. From 1961 to 1982, he served as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund. He later held the international president and president emeritus roles within the organization.
Philip also chaired the judging panel for The Prince Philip Designers Prize for more than 50 years. Designers and engineers could win the prize by exhibiting exceptional innovation in their field. The Duke of Edinburgh Award, which honors youth achievement, was also named for Philip.
He and The Queen have four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Controversial megachurch pastor T.B. Joshua died on June 5 in his apartment after experiencing some discomfort. His cause of death was not disclosed.
Known by his followers as 'The Prophet,' Joshua gained a following in the late 1990s as a prosperity Gospel preacher.
Joshua was listed by Forbes as the third-richest pastor in Nigeria in 2011. At the time, his estimated net worth was between $10-$15 million.
Joshua faced many controversies throughout his career, including being shut down by YouTube for claiming he could cure church congregants of their same-sex attraction and sending around 4,000 bottles of his anointing water to those battling the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia. Joshua’s followers claimed the water could work miracles.
Former Casting Crowns drummer Andy Williams, 49, passed away on July 9 after being hospitalized for injuries sustained from a motorcycle accident. Williams was reportedly riding his motorcycle to church one July morning when he was struck by a vehicle. He suffered severe trauma to his brain and body.
Williams was a member of the Christian rock band from 2001 to 2009. He left the band to start a new band with his wife, Kelly.
The father of Contemporary Christian Music, Ralph Carmichael, died on October 20. He was 94.
In the 1960s, Carmichael began making faith-based music that possessed modern musical elements. This type of music would later be termed "Contemporary Christian Music."
During his life, Carmichael composed over 300 gospel songs, including "The Savior Is Waiting," "There Is a Quiet Place," "Reach Out to Jesus" and "He's Everything to Me." He also started his own record label, Light Records, and music publishing group, Lexicon Music Publishing, in 1968. Carmichael, who later served as the president of the Gospel Music Association, sought to promote up-and-coming Christian artists through his companies.
Ministry leader and Daystar Television Network founder Marcus Lamb died from COVID-19 on November 30. He was 64 years old.
At age 15, Lamb began his ministry journey by preaching as an evangelist. After graduating from Lee University in Cleveland at 19, Lamb would launch his first ministry, Word of God Fellowship, in 1981.
By 1985, Lamb founded a Montgomery-based Christian television station called WMCF-TV, “45 Alive,” a full-power television station. WMCF-TV was Alabama’s first Christian television station.
Then, in 1990, Lamb would move to Dallas, Texas, to start KMPX-TV 29, or TV 29, which would also become a full-power station in 1993. Daystar Television was born four years later.
Lamb was often called the “Walking Bible” because of his immense knowledge of Scripture.
Pastor David Yonggi Cho
On September 14, Pastor David Yonggi Cho, the founder of the world’s largest megachurch, died. He was 85. His church, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, announced in a press release that at the time of his death, Cho had been receiving medical treatment for a brain hemorrhage he suffered in 2020.
Born to a Buddhist family in 1936, Cho would convert to Christianity at 17 after doctors said he was dying from tuberculosis. According to Cho, God delivered him from the disease, healing him miraculously.
In the 1950s, Cho would enroll in Full Gospel College with the hope of pursuing ministry. After graduating from the school in 1956, Cho would plant a tent church in Seoul that eventually became Yoido Full Gospel Church. Yoido Full Gospel Church is now the largest megachurch in the world, with over 750,000 members and more than 500 locations across South Korea.
Dr. Melvin Banks
On February 13, Dr. Melvin Banks Sr., the owner of Urban Ministries, Inc., the largest Black-owned and operated independent publishing company in the United States, passed away at 86. Banks, who attended Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, was known for teaching about historical people groups in the Bible. In an effort to fight back against the whitewashing of history, Banks often called to attention what the real-life physical features, including skin tones, of Biblical figures would have looked like.
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Rapper and musician DMX, or Earl Simmons, died on April 9 after being placed on life support following a heart attack. He was 50. After enjoying a long and successful music career, in 2012, Simmons announced that he was entering into ministry. He soon became a transitional deacon in a Christian church but hoped to become a full-time pastor one day. During the pandemic, Simmons also hosted a series of bible studies on his Instagram account where thousands would tune in to hear about Jesus.
It is unclear what caused Simmons’ heart attack, though some outlets speculated that it was caused by a drug overdose.
Evangelist Stephen Lungu
On January 18, African Evangelist Stephen Lungu passed away from COVID-19. Lungu, who was at risk of death from COVID-19 because of his diabetes, was 78.
Lungu grew up on the streets of Zimbabwe, where he became involved with a gang. He once testified that he came to Christ after abandoning an attack he and fellow gang members planned to carry out on evangelicals meeting in Harare. After hearing the pastor at the site of the attack preach, Lungu said he decided to give his life to Christ.
Lungu would go on to receive mentorship from author and British missionary Patrick Johnstone before becoming an evangelist himself. During his life, Lungu, often referred to as “the Billy Graham of Africa,” would work with Dorothea Mission and African Enterprise in an effort to share the Gospel with the world.
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