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Rumour, deception, hoaxes, urban myths and legends have all utilised the printed page. Faxes and emails (especially emails) have greatly increased the spread of rumours, deception, hoaxes, urban myths and legends. Some of these are aimed at Christians - and Christians are all too eager to pass them on to hose on their email address lists and fax contact lists.
Some are more plausible than others - but just because something looks like it COULD be true does NOT mean that it IS true.
Urgent prayer requests are often accepted at face value and without question by most Christians. However, prayer requests that are misleading, only partially correct, or totally untrue can cause embarrassment, a waste or misuse of valuable time and energy.
Since April 1999 the Southern Baptist International Mission Board of the USA has been troubled and concerned by false emails circulating concerning one of its missionaries, Mike Hutchinson, formerly of West Africa. They have tried to correct the hoax/erroneous emails with broadcast announcements, as well as printed, email and Internet announcements and corrections. But the rumour keeps on being circulated by well-meaning, but uninformed, Christians.
The following is a 1999 example of the false information email:
I JUST RECEIVED THIS REQUEST. MIKE HUTCHINSON, AN IMB MISSIONARY, AND HIS FAMILY NEED OUR PRAYERS. FORMERLY OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN LONG BEACH, MS. THIS MISSIONARY IS CURRENTLY IN GUINEA-BISSAU, WEST AFRICA. HIS CAR WAS SURROUNDED BY MUSLIMS AS HE AND HIS FAMILY DROVE HOME. AFTER PATIENTLY WAITING AND ASKING THEM TO MOVE, THEY FINALLY PULLED AWAY FROM HIS CAR. AS MIKE STARTED TO DRIVE AWAY, A 16 YEAR OLD MUSLIM JUMPED (OR WAS PUSHED) IN FRONT OF MIKE’S CAR AND WAS KILLED. THE MUSLIMS ARRESTED MIKE (TOOK HIS PASSPORT) AND ARE PLACING HIM ON TRIAL FOR MURDER. IF CONVICTED, HE WILL BE HANGED IMMEDIATELY. HIS WIFE, LYNN, AND HIS FAMILY (CHILDREN 12,10,9) ARE STAYING WITH ANOTHER MISSIONARY FAMILY. PLEASE PRAY FOR GOD’S INTERVENTION. PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH YOUR CHURCH, PRAYER CHAIN,EMAIL LIST, AND ANYONE ELSE YOU KNOW WHO WILL PRAY FOR THIS MISSIONARY.
Southern Baptist IMB representatives have expressed concern ’at the continuing rumour still circulating via e-mail that has created confusion and unnecessary concern for a West African missionary…“Mission supporters are e-mailing prayer concerns to other intercessors, and in the process, spreading a rumour that Mike Hutchinson, who was a Southern Baptist missionary in West Africa, is about to be tried for murder and in danger of being hanged. Like a lot of rumours, this one contains a kernel of truth, but the majority of facts in it just aren’t true…It’s wasting a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of prayer concern is being generated that just really could be better directed toward real, urgent needs that are current”….“It is true that Mike was involved in an unavoidable traffic accident in which a 16-year-old boy was killed, but there was no mob involved, he is not being tried for murder, and he is not in danger of being hanged.” On 20 April 1999 on a road near Fatik, Senegal, a teenage boy stepped in front of the Hutchinsons’ vehicle without looking and was struck by their car. The boy died while the Hutchinsons were trying to transport him to a nearby hospital. The Hutchinsons then drove to the police station where Mike Hutchinson turned himself in. Hutchinson was briefly detained and his passport and driver’s license were taken, but he was quickly released, pending a hearing. He and his wife Lynn continued to carry out their ministry while awaiting trial.’
The authorities treated the matter as a regrettable accident and the matter was resolved in mid-July 1999. Mike Hutchinson and his family have since returned to the USA and now live in Mississippi.
Please check circulating emails for accuracy and authenticity before you pass them on. Avoid being guilty of passing on false or fraudulent information, hoaxes, or urban myths.
(From TACL Vol 21 #2 April/May 2000)
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