“Alone Yet Not Alone,” sung by Joni Eareckson Tada, is in the running for a Best Original Song Oscar at the March 2 Academy Awards. The song, one of five nominees, is in a movie of the same name set in colonial America and produced by Christian filmmakers. Said Eareckson Tada: “A quadriplegic with limited lung capacity is the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie … but isn’t that just like God to display his glory through utter and complete weakness; for that I’m deeply grateful.”
The American Bible Society has named Roy Peterson, CEO of The Seed Company, as its new president. ABS, one of America’s oldest institutions, fired president Doug Birdsall last year, a move many criticized since it came only months after he took the position. Prior to his work at The Seed Company, a Bible translation group, Peterson worked as president and CEO of Wycliffe USA. Peterson starts at ABS in February and will try to help the organization overcome a string of financial and leadership challenges.
Russell Johnson, who played high-school science teacher Roy Hinkley on the 1960s show Gilligan’s Island, died Jan. 16 at age 89. Generations of the show’s fans know Johnson as “The Professor,” a man who could fix anything—except the hole in the bottom of the S.S. Minnow. Johnson spoke of the show’s lasting appeal in a 2004 interview: “Parents are happy to have their children watch it. … No one gets hurt. No murders. No car crashes. Just good, plain, silly fun—that’s the charm.”
The U.S. government believes an American soldier captured in 2009 is still alive after a new video of him surfaced in mid-January. Officials think the Taliban, which captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, is holding the man somewhere in Pakistan. The Taliban has said it would free Bergdahl, 27, if the U.S. releases several top operatives from the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Last summer, Bergdahl’s parents received a letter they believe their son wrote.
Acclaimed Italian conductor Claudio Abbado, 80, who led some of the finest orchestras for more than 50 years, died on Jan. 20 in Bologna, Italy. Abbado, whom some critics called the world’s most powerful conductor, spent a decade as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and had stints leading the Vienna State Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic. Abbado in 1997 won a Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist (with orchestra).
Imprisoned American Christian Kenneth Bae appealed for the U.S. government to secure his release during a brief “press conference” in Pyongyang on Jan. 20. Bae, who was sentenced in 2012 to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, apologized for committing anti-government acts, but most people believe North Korean authorities forced the confession. Bae, hospitalized for the past several months, said, “It seems now I should return to prison.”