It was a good news week for believers around the world with prisoners freed and prominent promotions, while the passion of God was shared right here in Manitoba.

VeggieTales co-creator bringing new Bible-based animated series to life

The Dead Sea Squirrels is a new animated series that will bring the story of Jesus' life to your living room.

The man behind the voice of Larry the Cucumber, also a co-creator of Veggie Tales, is working on a new Bible-based tv show, the Christian Post reports.

Mike Nawrocki's show will follow a 10-year-old boy named Michael who finds two preserved squirrels during an archaeological dig in the Dead Sea area. Michael decides to bring the squirrels home with him to show them to his friends.

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PRAISE: Nigerian pastor released by Boko Haram

A pastor in Nigeria has been released by the extremist group holding him captive after more than two months of imprisonment.

Pastor Bulus Yakuru of the Chruch of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) was first captured on Dec. 24, 2020, CBN News reports.

Three videos have been released since Yakuru's abduction where the pastor appeared, identified himself, and begged for government officials and Christian leaders to work to negotiate his release.

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'How sweet the sound:' Tennessee puts forth bill to request Christian song as state hymn

Tennessee could be singing a beloved Christian song as their official state hymn.

A bill proposed by Lawmakers this month proposes to make Dolly Parton's rendition of "Amazing Grace" the official hymn of Tennessee.

Rep. Mike Sparks and Sen. Raumesh Akbari introduced the bipartisan bill. The bill describes Parton's version of the hymn as among the "songs of history significance that have influenced this state."

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21 women imprisoned from underground church raids freed

More than 20 female Christian prisoners have been freed in Eritrea but the forces of the country have been accused of attacking churches in a nearby Ethiopian region.

The 21 women, all reportedly young mothers, had been captured last August and held in an island prison on the Red Sea after being arrested in 2017.

Their arrests were the result of a series of raids on underground churches by authorities in Eritrea.

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Periods no longer the end of education for girls in developing nations

An international charity is giving many girls their lives back with a simple feminine hygiene kit they create and hand out.

Linda Sidorow is a volunteer with the Springfield, Man., division of Days for Girls. She's been sewing for them for roughly six years since she retired. She spent 45 years as a Medical Technologist in Winnipeg. 

After Sidorow's daughter told her about the Days for Girls organization and how they helped teen girls in developing countries by giving them reusable pads, she thought it a great way to fill her time.

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Manitoba Inuit woman shares passion for God through song

Jamie Komaksiutiksak is sharing her earnest love of the Lord through music.

When Komaksiutiksak was 6-months-old, her biological mother sent her from Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut to live with and be adopted by her birthmother's cousin. The cousin had moved to Winnipeg after fleeing to the city as a child to escape residential schools. 

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Manitoban Mennonite pursuing rap career in Vietnam

A Mennonite man from Manitoba trying to succeed as a professional rapper in Vietnam has already made headlines in the City of Hanoi.

By day Luc Loewen, originally from Steinbach, is an English teacher to young Vietnamese students intent on learning the valuable language, by night he is a rapper, mixing beats under the moniker ‘Nuce.’

Marrying his longstanding interest in music with his recent passion for travel was not something Loewen ever thought would be possible.

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Roussin: 'There is absolutely reason to be optimistic'

The province's Chief Public Health Officer says Manitobans are at an important stage in the pandemic.

One year ago this week, Manitoba saw its first presumptive case of COVID-19.

"The pre-pandemic stage seems like a different lifetime ago to me, and to other people and I think that early on we went from hearing of a virus we weren't yet sure of its pandemic potential to one that quickly made its way around the world," Dr. Brent Roussin says.

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Ryan Stevenson single honouring last words his mother spoke to him

CCM artist Ryan Stevenson released a new version of his song 'When We Fall Apart' featuring power couple Amy Grant and Vince Gill. 

"The last words my mother spoke to me are the words to this song," says Stevenson on a Facebook post on the day of the release, March 5, 2021. 

His mother passed away roughly ten years ago and the song is a tribute to the strength she had in the end to encourage her son to grieve in a way that brings healing. 

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Local ministry cares for and welcomes persecuted pastor and family

After fleeing Pakistan from persecution, spending seven years in Thailand as refugees, the Gill family are glad to call Winnipeg their home. 

The family was persecuted because of their Christian faith, as Javed Gill, the father was also volunteering as a pastor. In 2020, they finally arrived in Winnipeg, Man. with sponsorship from churches in the city. 

Gill worked as a sports teacher in Pakistan and volunteered as a Pastor in his spare time. 

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Manitobans among most generous in the country, Steinbach most generous city in nation

A spokesperson for Statistics Canada says data released this week proves that southeastern Manitoba is among the most generous regions in our country, with two cities taking the top spots in the entire nation.

On Monday, Statistics Canada released information on charitable donations for the 2019 tax year. Spokesperson Francois Page says the data comes from tax forms. The statistics are compiled from tax filers who request a receipt and then declare it. Page acknowledges that their numbers are an underestimate because not all people claim all of their donations.

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UPDATE: 2021 JUNO Awards nominees announced, Manitobans named

Justin Bieber may be leading the pack with his award nominations, but two Christian Manitobans are receiving recognition for their musical contributions.

The 50th anniversary of the JUNO Awards will be celebrating the musical accomplishments of Canadians.

In 2020, the JUNO Awards were not held in person due to the pandemic. This year, the awards will be live-streamed on Sunday, May 16. Friday, May 14 is the date of the award's opening ceremony. 

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Crews rescue construction worker with basket and rope from bottom of excavated site

A worker is recovering after being extracted from a serious situation Tuesday morning.

While doing construction in the 100 block of Girton Boulevard, a worker landed at the bottom of an excavated site, rendering them incapacitated and injured.

After calling emergency crews, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) and the Technical Rescue Task Force arrived at 8:41 a.m.

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Local singer LMNK shares the impact a sister can have

A singer from Southeastern Manitoba is releasing a faith-based song called 'What Are You Running From?'

The Steinbach singer, Lorne Kauenhofen, goes by the stage name LMNK which are his initials. 

"I've grown up listening to music and singing. I remember when I was young, there's this one thought in my head that kind of encouraged me to keep going with music."

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Ministry house renos mean second chance for mother and daughter

After hitting rock bottom a young mom from Alberta is creating a brand new future for her and her daughter with a leadership program in Brandon, Man.

"In February of 2020, I ended up in a really bad situation. I was homeless, addicted to drugs, and without my child," says Maleigha Cox. 

At that time, her family suggested that Cox seek help at Adult & Teen Challenge in Brandon, Man. as that is where the women's centre is. After a series of divine interventions, Cox was on a plane bound for the centre while her daughter Eliza stayed with her parents in Alberta. 

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In the midst of a decade of war the Church grows in Syria

Civil war has been raging in Syria for a decade, causing death and untold atrocities. But, local leaders say, in the midst of it all they are clinging to hope in Christ and seeing His Church grow.

Victor Sadek tells Mission Network News that Christians in Syria are committed not only to their faith, but helping others grow in that faith. Sadek runs the Program for Theological Education by Extension (PTEE).

"This ministry works with and through local churches to provide theological education for Arabic-speaking Christians," according to MNN.

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LISTEN: Bear Rinehart joins Carrie Underwood on her latest single

The lead singer from NEEDTOBREATHE has joined Carrie Underwood on the new single on her upcoming gospel album. 

"We decided to ask Bear Rinehart, the frontman of NEEDTOBREATHE, I'm definitely a fan of him and that band," says Underwood on her Facebook post the day of the release. 

'Nothing But the Blood of Jesus' is the third single Underwood has released that is apart of her upcoming Christian album, My Savior, being released at Easter. 

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Brewed with Gratitude is back, bringing coffee and smiles to Virology Lab

The team at the National Virology Lab in Winnipeg was thrilled to receive a coffee break as a small 'thank-you' for all the hard work they've done during the pandemic. 

Charlene Ranadheera works in the Bioforensics Assay Development and Diagnostics department at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. She and her team were nominated for CHVN's Brewed with Gratitude and were the first to receive it once the promotion started up again on March 9. 

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Advocacy group helping children recover from abuse, violence, expanding

The Toba Centre's annual funding was more than doubled by the province as part of the newly-minted Stop Child Child Exploitation Awareness Week.

Still in their younger years themself, the centre has been helping 10 per cent of the approximately 4,000 children affected by violence each year that were reported to the police. They only work from police referrals.

"We provide a safe space for kids to come and be interviewed about concerns about possible child abuse or if they had been witness to violence,"  Karen Chymy, the Director of Operations, says. "It is a very serious, maybe the most serious issue."

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WATCH: Jon Buller brings new life to old Steve Bell song

While Steve Bell may have been nominated for another Juno award this week he says that one of the biggest honours he received came from another worship artist.

Canadian Christian artist Jon Buller recently took one of Bell's songs and recreated it for his YouTube channel 'Hear the Music Mondays.'

The original version of 'God Our Protector' has one verse and chorus that repeat. Buller added three additional verses to it for his rendition.

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Fifth Juno nomination for Christian artist Steve Bell

Steve Bell received his 5th Juno award nomination for his latest album Wouldn't You Love to Know? that he released on November 1, 2020.  

"What a delight," Bell says.

The nominations for the 50th Juno awards ceremony were announced on March 9, 2021, at 11:00 am ET. Bell is one of five Canadian Christian artists nominated in the category of Christian Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year.

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A way for homeschool teens and parents to connect with other families

Two upcoming homeschooling conferences are a great way for parents and teenagers to connect with those in the homeschooling community, and find encouragement. 

While homeschooling has children out of the public school, the idea is for family and community connection.

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They'll be back: U.S. survey shows churchgoers will flock back post-COVID

While things at churches aren't back to normal yet throughout much of the world, a recent survey says as health restrictions ease there could be more people than ever at some churches.

Lifeway Research surveyed 1,000 protestant Christians in the United States about what their plans are once COVID-19 is no longer an active threat to people's health.

The results show that many churchgoers say they will be back, with 91 per cent saying they'll attend servies at least as often as before. Almost one-quarter of those (23 per cent) say they now plan to attend church services more often than they did before the pandemic.

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'I didn't even have a bruise on my head from it'

One look at his damaged helmet and Jeff Steingart knew he needed medical attention.

Steingart, 54, was involved in a serious snowmobile collision near Falcon Lake on February 21.

Steingart says he remembers the leader of his group signalling there was traffic ahead. The next thing he remembers is being told he was going to an ambulance.

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Hope, peace, joy, and love: A year of faith in a pandemic

Over the last 12 months, churches in Manitoba have seen significant changes and have been forced to adapt quickly. But they've also seen and shown love and unwavering faith while facing the pandemic head-on.

As churches saw changing restrictions, the community didn't let physical distancing keep them from being good neighbours to one another.

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Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes' 'The Blessing's impact felt around the world

'The Blessing' has inspired listeners around the globe and it recently hit the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) gold certification.

The song was written at the beginning of 2020 when Kari Jobe and husband Cody Carnes went to Elevation Church to worship and collaborate. The tune came from this session and Elevation Worship alongside Carnes and Jobe performed it for the church just two days later. 

It's impact since that time has had a global effect.

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Roussin says masks conditionally not needed in church while seated

The Chief Public Health Officer is announcing a list of loosened restrictions, effective Saturday.

Starting on Saturday, mask restrictions in the province will be loosened in places of worship. 

While seated in a household group, Manitobans can remove their masks at a place of worship, if not singing. Masks are required while singing and when leaving their seating position. This is in effect until March 25.

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Jordan St.Cyr releases first inspirational EP, Be My Defender

Up until now, award-winning Christian artist Jordan St.Cyr has only released singles, but now he is sharing the long-awaited EP Be My Defender with fans.

"I've had these songs in my back pocket since, probably the middle of 2019. The plan was to release them early 2020 and then the pandemic hit and I wasn't able to use them to support any sort of touring," says St.Cyr.

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Man inspired by mentors, teaching others to turn dreams into reality

A Winnipegger is looking forward to inviting people into his workshop, giving them the tools to use tools.

Clay Pike is opening up his garage to teach children how drawings can become realities and adults things like how to do an oil change. The mechanic got his start with cars when he was 14 years old after a neighbour in Nova Scotia showed him the ropes. When his family moved to Winnipeg, he gained two more mentors.

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Province strikes up the band, allowing singing, wind instruments in schools

Students can soon toot their own horns after the latest provincial announcement for bands and choirs.

A bulletin sent out by the Department of Education is allowing schools to resume indoor singing and instrument paying in regular music classes. 

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Indonesia names Christian as new head of national police

An evangelical Christian has been named the head of national police in Indonesia.

General Listyo Sigit Prabowoto has vowed to use the position to support minorities in the country and fight extremism.

"The current president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, has been a consistent advocate for minorities and especially minority religious groups, even though he himself is a committed Muslim," says Vincent Michael of Forgotten Missionaries International.

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