Thursday, April 30, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/30/09

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Two Aid Workers Freed in Darfur

Good news from Sudan, where two aid workers kidnapped in the perilous Darfur region have been freed by their captors. Via National Post:
Two Canadians being held hostage in different parts of Africa have reportedly been freed, apparently ending the women's ordeals in Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region and in Nigeria, officials said Wednesday.

Canadian aid worker Stephanie Jodoin and her colleague, French national Claire Dubois, were in good health after being released following more than three weeks in captivity, a senior official in Sudan's foreign ministry told Agence France-Presse.

"The Sudanese government confirms their release. They are in good health, in good shape," Ali Yussef said, according to the news service. "They will arrive in the evening [in Khartoum]."

Ms. Jodoin was seized on April 4 from her office in Ed el-Fursan, south of Nyala, about 100 kilometres from the Chadian border.

Meanwhile, a Canadian woman kidnapped two weeks ago in northern Nigeria was released late on Wednesday, the Canadian government said.

Thank God for this good news, and please continue to pray for the safety of the other hostages in Africa and around the world, and for the protection of aid workers who try to bring hope to some of the most wretched parts of the world.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Book Coming Soon!

I am pleased to announce the completion of my first book, A Pastoral Letter to the Captives, and other works, an anthology of historical hostage accounts from the late 17th century, the peak of the Barbary Pirate era. It includes a Foreword from our Chaplain, Pastor Ed Boston of Do the Right Thing and co-host of the Pray for the Hostages daily radio show. It will be available in May from Exagorazo Press, the publishing division of the As A Matter of Faith online ministry.

In this book I present letters and reports from the late 1600's, but the parallels to the modern piracy crisis are striking. Here is an excerpt from the Preface:
Imagine the scene: the crew of an unarmed merchant ship looks on in horror as their vessel is approached and boarded by a gang of pirates, guns blazing. The pirates herd their human cargo into smaller boats and head for shore, where the crew members will languish in slavery while they await rescue or ransom or death.

This was a common scene 300 years ago, when the Barbary Pirates ruled the seas, and it is a scene that has changed little in the past three centuries. Where ships once dreaded passing through the Straits of Gibraltar from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, modern mariners now face a similar situation in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, vital waterways for vessels traveling between Asia and Europe and North America.

In the late 1600s, Moroccan King Moulay Ismail oversaw a reign of terror that included the abduction of more than 25,000 Europeans, mostly unarmed merchant seamen, who were then used as slaves to build his new capital city, Meknes. Today's pirates are not necessarily state-sponsored, as were the Barbary Pirates, but are rapidly approaching that status as they funnel money from ransom payments into armed insurgencies in weak states like Somalia.

In this book, we present hostage accounts from the late 17th century, including the story of an arduous escape from Moulay Ismail's brutal captivity. We also see the encouraging letter American preacher Cotton Mather wrote to a group of captured New England seamen, and the joyful sermon he preached to celebrate their release five years later. Although the hostage narratives describe the horror and desperation of this terrible condition, they also speak of the strong faith that enabled the captives to survive their ordeal. It is this hope and faith that we wish to emphasize, particularly the power of prayer to sustain the hostages and to bring them their eventual deliverance.

For more information, check out our Facebook group or visit the blog. We are now taking preorders at the As A Matter of Faith website. While you are there, you can also sign up to be on our mailing list for future announcements. I hope you will check it out soon!

Morning Prayer 4/29/09

The Third Song of Isaiah Surge, illuminare

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/28/09

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead: We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Morning Prayer 4/28/09

Psalm 28

1 O LORD, I call to you;
my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; *
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the Pit.

2 Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, *
when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.

3 Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers, *
who speak peaceably with their neighbors,
while strife is in their hearts.

4 Repay them according to their deeds, *
and according to the wickedness of their actions.

5 According to the work of their hands repay them, *
and give them their just deserts.

6 They have no understanding of the LORD'S doings,
nor of the works of his hands; *
therefore he will break them down and not build them up.

7 Blessed is the LORD! *
for he has heard the voice of my prayer.

8 The LORD is my strength and my shield; *
my heart trusts in him, and I have been helped;

9 Therefore my heart dances for joy, *
and in my song will I praise him.

10 The LORD is the strength of his people, *
a safe refuge for his anointed.

11 Save your people and bless your inheritance; *
shepherd them and carry them for ever.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/27/09

Psalm 15

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

Morning Prayer 4/27/09

Psalm 25:1-9

1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O LORD, *
and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.

5 Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.

6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7 Gracious and upright is the LORD; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.

9 All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pirate Attack on Cruise Ship Thwarted

An Italian cruise ship with about 1500 passengers onboard came under pirate attack near the Seychelles Saturday, but the captain and crew were able to defend the vessel. Via CNN:
CNN) -- The captain of an Italian cruise ship foiled an attack by pirates off the coast of Somalia on Saturday by ordering his security crew to fire back, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Six armed pirates in a speedboat attacked the ship, which had about 1,500 people onboard, ANSA said. They fled after the security crew fired back.

The cruise ship Melody, which is owned by an Italian company, was on its way back to Italy after a cruise, ANSA said.

No one was injured in the attack about 180 miles north of the Seychelles.

Thank God for His protecting hand over this ship and it's passengers and crew! Please continue to pray for the safety of the ships which must pass through this vital waterway, and for the many hostages being held captive in this region.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/22/09

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Al Qaeda Releases Two Diplomats, Two Tourists Kidnapped in Africa

Good news from Mali: UN workers Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, kidnapped in December 2008 in Niger and later moved to Mali, as well as tourists Marianne Petzold and Gabriella Burco-Greiner, abducted in January of this year, have been freed. Via Fox News:
Presidential spokesman Seydou Cissouma said two Canadian U.N. workers, Robert Fowler and his aide Louis Guay, were set free along with two female tourists.

Al Qaeda's North Africa branch had claimed the kidnapping, saying it was holding Fowler, a senior U.N. peace envoy, and the others after taking them captive in neighboring Niger.

The U.N. staffers were captured in December, while the two women were members of a group of four tourists seized a month later. Cissouma had no further details and there was no word on the fate of the two other missing tourists.

A Canadian government spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The Al Qaeda group did not issue demands for the hostages' release, but in the past it has obtained ransoms for Western tourists kidnapped in the Sahara, the world's largest desert.

AlQaeda in Islamic North Africa, known by the French language acronym AQMI, is an Algeria-based group that joined Usama bin Laden's terrorist network in 2006 and conducts dozens of bombings or ambushes each month. It operates mainly in Algeria but is suspected of crossing the country's porous desert borders to spread violence in the rest of northwestern Africa.

Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of Edwin Dyer and Werner Burco-Greiner who are still in terrorist captivity.

Morning Prayer 4/22/09

Let the earth glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,
and all that grows upon the earth, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams, *
O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild, *
and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/21/09

Psalm 11

1 In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
"Flee like a bird to your mountain.

2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.

3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?"

4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men;
his eyes examine them.

5 The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence
his soul hates.

6 On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

7 For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.

Morning Prayer 4/21/09

Psalm 5

For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my sighing.

2 Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell.

5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all who do wrong.

6 You destroy those who tell lies;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
the LORD abhors.

7 But I, by your great mercy,
will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down
toward your holy temple.

8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make straight your way before me.

9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with destruction.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongue they speak deceit.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/20/09

Psalm 4

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

1 Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.

4 In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.

5 Offer right sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.

6 Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

7 You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.

8 I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

Second Red Cross Hostage Free

Good news from the Philippines: Andreas Notter, the Swiss Red Cross worker kidnapped more than three months ago along with two colleagues, has been freed. Via CNN:
(CNN) -- One of two aid workers still held by militants in the Philippines has been freed, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Saturday.

ICRC officials spoke briefly by telephone to Andreas Notter and confirmed he is free, an ICRC spokeswoman in Geneva, Switzerland, said, but no other details were immediately available.

A doctor was with Notter as a precaution, Nelson said. He remained in the Philippines but his exact location was unclear, she said.

"Considering what he's been through over the past 93 days, he seems to be doing quite well but is obviously very concerned for (fellow hostage) Eugenio Vagni, whom he spent the past 93 days with," Nelson said.

The Philippine News Agency said Notter's captors released him Saturday morning.

The agency cited a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, who himself cited "sketchy reports" that Notter was found by security forces cordoning off his kidnappers.

Notter was among three Red Cross workers kidnapped January 15 on the island of Sulu, in the far southwestern part of the Philippines, the ICRC has said.

The kidnappers released one of the hostages, Mary Jean Lacaba, earlier this month. The third staff member, Eugenio Vagni, remains in captivity.

Prayers of thanks for this deliverance! Please continue to pray for the safe release of Eugenio Vagni and for the safety of aid workers in the Philippines and elsewhere.

One Red Cross Hostage Freed in Philippines
Philippine Military Prepares to Rescue Hostages
Philippine Rebels Threaten to Behead Red Cross Hostages
Kidnapped Red Cross Workers Survive Gun Battle in Philippines

Sea Horse Released

Good news, as a cargo ship carrying food to Somalia that was hijacked last week has been released. Via CNN:
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Somali pirates have released a Togo-flagged vessel that was seized last week, the World Food Programme said Monday.

Pirates on four skiffs seized the 5,000-ton MV Sea Horse on Tuesday.

"We hear from the operators of the ship that it was released on Friday," said Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the World Food Program in Nairobi.

The ship was not under U.N. charter at the time of the hijacking. But it was on its way to Mumbai, India, to inaugurate a new route for the organization to deliver food from India to Mogadishu, Somalia, Smerdon said.

Piracy is rampant in the Gulf of Aden off the coasts of Somalia and Kenya with vessels seized regularly and often released only after a large ransom is paid.

Thank God for this good news! Over the weekend, a Canadian warship helped thwart an attack on a Norwegian tanker, and the Dutch navy arrested 7 pirates and freed 20 Yemeni fishermen who had been held captive. Unfortunately a Belgian ship, the Pompei, was hijacked on Saturday in the Seychelles.

Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of all the hijacked ships and their crews, and for continued success in thwarting the pirate attacks.

Morning Prayer 4/20/09

Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!

2 Many are saying of me,
"God will not deliver him."

3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

4 To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

7 Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Morning Prayer 4/17/09

Psalm 136:1-9

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.

5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.

6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.

7 who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.

8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.

9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/16/09

Worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. Psalm 96:9

Morning Prayer 4/16/09

The Song of the Redeemed Magna et mirabilia

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done, *
surpassing human understanding.

Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth, *
O King of all the ages.

Who can fail to do you homage, Lord,
and sing the praises of your Name? *
for you only are the Holy One.

All nations will draw near and fall down before you, *
because your just and holy works have been revealed.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/15/09

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Second American Ship Attacked, Escapes Capture

Just days after the Somali pirates vowed revenge for the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in which three of their fellow terrorists were killed, a second American cargo ship carrying food supplies to Kenya was attacked. Via CNN:
CNN) -- The Liberty Sun, a U.S.-flagged cargo ship bound for Mombasa, Kenya, was attacked Tuesday night by Somali pirates, according to the company and senior U.S. military officials.
Pirates attacked The Liberty Sun, a U.S.-flagged cargo ship, but were unable to board.

"The pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel, which sustained damage," said a statement from New York-based Liberty Maritime Corporation, which owns the vessel.

The ship is carrying U.S. food aid for African nations, the statement said. About 20 U.S. citizens are aboard the Liberty Sun, delivering humanitarian supplies from the U.N. World Food Programme, CARE and other groups, two senior defense officials told CNN.

The pirates never made it onto the ship and the vessel is now being escorted by a coalition ship, still bound for Mombasa, officials said.

Two senior defense officials said the Liberty Sun was being escorted by the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge. It is the ship carrying Richard Phillips, the captain of the container ship Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked last week. Phillips spent days as a hostage of the pirates before being rescued Sunday.

Thankfully this attack was thwarted by the nearby presence of the Bainbridge. Four other ships were hijacked yesterday: the MV Irene, with 23 crewmembers, the MV Sea Horse, and 2 Egyptian fishing boats with a total of 24 crewmembers. The Italian tugboat the Buccaneer, with 16 crewmembers, was hijacked Saturday.

Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of these kidnapped crewmembers, and for the safety of all those who sail in this dangerous part of the world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Morning Prayer 4/14/09

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/13/09

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Morning Prayer 4/13/09

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendour,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Captain Phillips Free!

Wonderful news! Captain Richard Phillips has been rescued unharmed, and three of the four pirates who held him hostage for 5 days are dead. Via CNN:
The official said Capt. Richard Phillips is uninjured and in good condition, and that three of the four pirates were killed. The fourth pirate is in custody. Phillips was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nearby naval warship.

Earlier Sunday afternoon Maersk Line Limited, owner of the Maersk Alabama, said the U.S. Navy informed the company that it had sighted Phillips in a lifeboat where pirates are holding him hostage off the coast of Somalia.

Phillips was spotted another time earlier in the day, the Navy said.

On Saturday, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into the hijacking of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates, two law enforcement officials told CNN. The probe will be led by the FBI's New York field office, which is responsible for looking into cases involving U.S. citizens in the African region, the officials said.

Prayers of thanksgiving for this successful rescue. Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of the remaining hostages in Somalia and around the world.

Captain Attempts Escape But is Recaptured
USS Bainbridge Arrives at Scene of Hijacking
Pirates Seize Ship With American Crew

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/11/09

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.

How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.

Morning Prayer 4/11/09

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/10/09

Crown of Thorns Nebula

Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

One Hostage Dies During French Rescue Operation (Updated: Victim Identified)

Update: Killed Hostage Identified as Florent Lemacon

One hostage and two pirates were killed during a rescue operation mounted by the French military on the hijacked yacht the Tanit. Via Times Online:
French special forces released four hostages today in a rescue operation on a French yacht off Somalia but one hostage was killed, President Sarkozy’s office said.

Two pirates were also killed and three captured as commandos swooped to release two couples and a three-year-old boy whose sailing boat, Tanit, was seized on April 4. There was no immediate word on which hostage had been killed, though it was confirmed that the boy, Colin Lemaçon, was unharmed.

The surviving hostages were in good health after the rescue, which was at least the fourth assault by French forces on pirates operating from Somalia in the past year. Thirty two French hostages have been released from the hands of pirates and, until yesterday, none were killed.

Mr Sarkozy ordered the assault after the pirates refused to accept proposals from French warships shadowing Tanit and tried to sail towards the coast, the Elysée Palace said.

“During the operation a hostage sadly died,” it said. “The President confirms France’s determination not to give into blackmail and to defeat the pirates.”

This tragic outcome highlights the danger the hostages we are praying for are in, and why governments are reluctant to attempt rescue operations, preferring to pay ransoms and buy a happy ending. As we mourn the loss of this hostage, please continue to pray for the protection of the other victims of kidnappings and hijackings, and for wisdom and strength for the government leaders who must make difficult decisions.

Bow Asir Freed

The Norwegian chemical tanker Bow Asir, with 28 crewmembers, captured by Somali pirates last month, has been freed. Via News 24 South Africa:
Oslo - Somali pirates on Friday released the Norwegian tanker Bow-Asir and its crew, having held it since March 26, its owners said in a statement on Friday.

"The chemical tanker Bow Asir was released on Friday 10th April 2009. However, the ship is still sailing in dangerous waters," Norway's Salhus Shipping said in the statement.

"All crew are unharmed and we wish to thank them for their handling of this difficult situation."

Prayers of thanksgiving for this peaceful resolution. Please continue to pray for the other ships being held captive in this dangerous part of the world.

Captain Attempts Escape But Is Recaptured

Update: Pirates Holding U.S. Hostage Reportedly Demand Ransom

The American captain being held hostage by Somali pirates since Wednesday jumped into the sea and tried swimming to the USS Bainbridge, but was recaptured by the pirates. Via CNN:
Phillips was believed to be trying to swim to the USS Bainbridge, a naval warship that is in communication with the gunmen holding Phillips off Somalia's coast, the official said.

The pirates jumped into the water, recaptured him, and returned him to the lifeboat, according to the official.

The U.S. military has every reason to believe that he was unharmed in the incident, the official said.

Phillips has been held since Wednesday, when the hijackers briefly seized control of his ship, the Maersk Alabama.

He is being held by four gunmen in the lifeboat about 300 miles off the Horn of Africa.

Meanwhile, two U.S. warships were on their way Friday to help the crew of the Bainbridge secure Phillips' release.

Please continue to pray for Captain Phillip's protection and swift rescue.

USS Bainbridge Arrives at Scene of Hijacking
Pirates Seize Ship With American Crew

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Morning Prayer 4/9/09

Psalm 102

A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.

2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.

4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.

5 Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.

6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.

7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.

9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears

10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.

11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.

13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.

14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.

15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.

16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.

17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :

19 "The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,

20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death."

21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem

22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.

24 So I said:
"Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.

25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.

27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.

28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

USS Bainbridge Arrives at Scene of Hijacking

The USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, is in place and ready to assist in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, held hostage by the hijackers who attacked the cargo ship Maersk Alabama earlier today. Via CNN:
The crew of the Maersk Alabama recaptured their ship from pirates, but their captain remained in the hands of the marauders, one of its officers said.

"There's four Somali pirates, and they've got our captain," Ken Quinn said in a ship-to-shore phone interview.

Capt. Richard Phillips was being held in the Alabama's 28-foot lifeboat after the pirates reneged on an agreement to exchange him for a captured pirate, Quinn said.

"We returned him, but they didn't return the captain," he said.

The hijackers boarded the Alabama early Wednesday, when it was about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia, a haven for pirates attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

It is fitting that the Bainbridge would be the ship sent to rescue Captain Phillips: it is named after Commodore William Bainbridge, a hero of the Barbary Pirates War who was himself held hostage twice.

Bainbridge joined the merchant service at the age of 14 and was given his first command at the age of 19. During a voyage in the West Indies, Bainbridge's ship, the Retaliation, was captured by the French, and he was held as a prisoner in Guadaleupe. While he there, he was able to negotiate not only his own freedom but that of nearly 300 captured American seamen.

When he returned to America, he joined the fledgling Navy and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a Captain in 1800. That year he commanded the George Washington as it was sent to pay the annual tribute to the Dey of Algiers, who then commandeered the ship to send a message to the Ottoman Sultan. When Bainbridge refused, the Dey haughtily reminded him "You pay me tribute, by which you become my slaves; I have, therefore, a right to order you as I please."

Bainbridge reluctantly acted a courier for the Dey, but wrote in his report to Congress that "I hope I may never again be sent to Algiers with tribute, unless I am authorized to deliver it from the mouth of our cannon."

Captain Bainbridge later commanded the Philadelphia when it was sent to patrol the Mediterranean Sea in 1803; when it ran aground off the shore of Tripoli, he and his entire crew were held hostage for two years. He later fought in the War of 1812, and in 1815 led a squadron to the fight the Barbary Pirates once more in the Second Tripolitian War.

Please continue to pray for the safe rescue of Capt. Phillips, and for the safety of the sailors aboard the Bainbridge, worthy successors to their honored namesake.

Pirates Seize Ship With American Crew

Evening Prayer 4/8/09

O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength. Isaiah 26:3; 30:15

Pirates Seize Ship With American Crew

Update III: Four pirates continue to hold Capt. Richard Phillips (above) hostage in a lifeboat.
Update II: Captain of Hijacked Cargo Ship Reportedly Being Held Hostage by Somali Pirates
Update I: Crew Regains Control of Hijacked Ship

After hijacking five ships over the weekend, Somali pirates today seized an American cargo ship with 20 crewmembers aboard. Via CNN:
It is believed that the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama then was hijacked, according to a statement from Maersk Line Ltd. If so, it would be the sixth hijacking over the past week.

The vessel was en route to Mombasa, Kenya, when it was attacked about 310 miles (500 kilometers) off Somalia's coast, the statement said.

U.S. government sources said the attack happened at about 7:30 a.m. local time. The nearest U.S. Navy warship was about 300 nautical miles, or 345 miles, away at the time, they said. The U.S. Navy issued another notice Tuesday warning mariners that the Somali piracy activity was extending hundreds of miles offshore.

A Maersk subsidiary in Norfolk, Virginia, owns and operates the cargo ship, Maersk spokesman Michael Storgaard said. He would not provide any details about the security arrangements on board the Maersk Alabama.

"We have very strict policies on the vessel. ... Crews are trained to handle these types of situations," Storgaard said from Maersk's headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark.

He said the company is in the process of contacting the crew members' relatives and setting up assistance for them.

"That is at this moment our primary concern," Storgaard said.

The Maersk Line is one of the U.S. Department of Defense's primary shipping contractors. But Storgaard said the Maersk Alabama was carrying "general cargo," most likely including aid supplies to East Africa.

Prayers for the protection and rescue of the crew. Please continue praying for the other captured ships and their crewmembers as well.

Morning Prayer 4/8/09

Psalm 55

1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;

2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

3 at the voice of the enemy,
at the stares of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering upon me
and revile me in their anger.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.

5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.

6 I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest-

7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;

8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm."

9 Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech,
for I see violence and strife in the city.

10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.

11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were raising himself against me,
I could hide from him.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave,
for evil finds lodging among them.

16 But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.

17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.

18 He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.

19 God, who is enthroned forever,
will hear them and afflict them—
men who never change their ways
and have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.

21 His speech is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.

23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/07/09

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead: We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Morning Prayer 4/6/09

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Morning Prayer 4/4/09

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Romans 15:13

Friday, April 3, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/3/09

Psalm 138

1 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
before the "gods" I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.

3 When I called, you answered me;
you made me bold and stouthearted.

4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, O LORD,
when they hear the words of your mouth.

5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.

6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly,
but the proud he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes,
with your right hand you save me.

8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

Morning Prayer 4/3/09

The Second Song of Isaiah Quaerite Dominum

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/2/09

Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised;

For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:

A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

One Red Cross Hostage Freed in Philippines

The Abu Sayyaf rebels holding three Red Cross workers hostage since January have released one, but continue to threaten to behead the others. Via Bloomberg News:
April 2 (Bloomberg) -- Abu Sayyaf militants freed the Filipino Red Cross worker they kidnapped more than two months ago in the southern Philippines. They still hold an Italian and a Swiss national from the charity who were seized with her.

Mary Jean Lacaba was released today at around 8:30 p.m. local time after negotiations led by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, said Colonel Eugenio Clemen, deputy commander of the anti- terrorism task force in the southern province, in a phone interview. She was taken to a military base on Jolo, Sulu’s main island, about 970 kilometers (600 miles) south of Manila, the capital, said Sulu Public Information Officer Sonny Abing.

Lacaba was seized Jan. 15 on Jolo island together with Red Cross staff members Eugenio Vagni, from Italy, and Andreas Notter, who is Swiss. Abu Sayyaf last week threatened to behead one of the three if authorities didn’t break the cordon they had formed around the kidnappers. The government refused, saying complying would amount to surrendering Jolo to the group.

Prayers of thanks for Ms. Lacaba's release. Please continue to pray for Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter, and for the Philippine soldiers who stand ready to carry out a rescue operation if necessary.

Philippine Military Prepares to Rescue Hostages
Philippine Rebels Threaten to Behead Red Cross Hostages
Kidnapped Red Cross Workers Survive Gun Battle in Philippines

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Evening Prayer 4/1/09

Almighty and most merciful God, kindle within us the fire of love, that by its leansing flame we may be purged of all our sins and made worthy to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.