Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Twist on C.S. Lewis' Screwtape...And something to think about




Picked this up from a feed this morning and it made me stop and think a little bit.  Granted, the majority of it is a little over the top, but there are some things in here that should make you stop and think.  Can you support your support for the war in Iraq (or lack of it) based on principles?  It’s easy to support something because the “plausibility structure” around us supports it.  That is, it’s easy to get swept along with the thoughts and feelings of our social networks without reflection as to whether those thoughts are principled and biblical or not.  We must continually evaluate why we think what we think.  We are going to be misunderstood as a group by the world around us.  But we can be understood by those closest to us.  I’m continually amazed at the perceptions my international friends have of evangelical Christians.  And then we talk together.  Usually after explaining something their response is, “Oh, well you’re not like the rest of the Christians.”  I think I am, I think we’re just misunderstood.


Note:  The writer doesn’t credit C.S. Lewis and the “Screwtape Letters,” but it’s obviously built on that.

Is someone messing with the law on religious freedom?

Sorry, this is a long post but it’s an important one.  If you are interested in religious freedom and Kosova, and after all, who isn’t, read through this.  It might sound like a bunch of legal jargon, but it translates quite quickly into reality on the ground for us.


If you could contact your congressman, that would be great.



                                                                                                  26th November 2004


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ




As many of you are now aware, there have been some developments regarding the Law on Religious Freedom over the last weeks which greatly concern the Protestant Evangelical Community in Kosova.


Since mid-2003 a Working Group consisting of representatives from each religious group in Kosova plus OSCE (Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the US Office and the United Nations Office have been working together to form this Law.  The representative for the Protestant Evangelical Community is Artur Krasniqi from the Fellowship of the Lord’s People in Prishtina.


Last week the Working Group was informed that the Law had been submitted to the Kosova Government without their completion or approval.  In addition to this, specific articles and statements that had been agreed upon had been removed without their consultation or agreement.  One of our concerns is that it is at a time of the Government hand over that the Law has been submitted to the Government and is being ‘pushed’ through for approval.


The intention of the Protestant Evangelical Community is to register as a ‘Religious Community’.  If this action is not recognized, we would automatically be a ‘Union of Natural Persons’.  This would not benefit us in any way and could even have significantly detrimental consequences.


The representatives of the Religious Communities have raised concerns over the following -


Section 30.3  - The process for the registration of Religious Communities


The Working Group agreed that in keeping with the right to protect an individual’s right to disclose their religious affiliation, the government would accept an affidavit signed by the representative of the group asserting that it has 500 members in order to satisfy the requirements of the Law. 


However, if there is reasonable doubt about the accuracy of the information provided, the competent body (Ministry of Public Services) would, through an independent judicial inquiry, seek confirmation of the accuracy of the numbers while ensuring the privacy of the members and that their rights under the law would not be violated.


The unilateral removal of this agreed provision is very problematic and confirms the fear of many of us, that the government might use such a provision to deny or reject genuine requests for the registration of Religious Communities.


Article 13 - Associations


This article has been added to the Law without any consultation with the Working Group. 


It is of great concern to the Protestant Evangelical Community that

Associations / Unions of Natural Persons would not have any benefits or rights under this Law.  Not only are these groups ignored and given no rights in the Law but there is ambiguity with the definitions of all groups including ‘Religious Community’.  Additionally, Article 1 requires registration of Associations, which contradicts Article 13, calling into question the point of registering if no rights are granted as a result.


Article 11 – Categorization of ‘Religious Communities’


Despite declaring in the Preamble that the Law provides equal rights and obligations to Religious Communities without any discrimination, Article 11 makes a categorization of Religious Communities into ‘Existing Religious Communities’, that are traditional religions. However, ‘New Religious Communities’ will need to fulfill certain conditions to be registered. 


Our complaint is against the distinction that is being made between ‘Existing Religious Communities’ and ‘New Religious Communities’.  Being registered as a ‘New Religious Community’ infers that upon registration they will be categorized as a secondary group. All Religious Communities should be given equal treatment whether new, old or considered “traditional” and no one religion or religions should be singled out for special favour or treatment


The Liaison for Religious Affairs to the Prime Minister


From previous encounters with this representative, we believe the Protestant  Evangelical Community has due cause to be concerned about his neutrality and impartiality.  We believe his intentions are dubious and he is not working in the interest of all religious communities in Kosova.


Christianity in Kosova


The Christian Community is a minority in a predominantly Muslim community.  We have enjoyed freedom of worship since UNMIK assumed authority in Kosova but now we are afraid and concerned that the Law on Religious Freedom will jeopardize the freedom to worship we presently enjoy and that could diminish when UNMIK hands over the reigns of power.


We hope we have articulated the issues and clearly conveyed the concerns that affect the Christian family in Kosova


We ask for your prayers and your support of these serious issues that will affect the future of the Protestant Evangelical Community in Kosova and the right to exercise our religious freedom.   In light of the serious nature of recent events, we would like to urge Institutions to write letters regarding the above issues to the Kosova Government and UNMIK.


If you require further information, please email us on





Yours in Christ

Prishtina Churches




Getting moved into the basement of the center. This isn't framed well because the electricty was out and I was shooting completely in the dark. Shefqet was a big help yesterday!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mini-Retreats, Coaching & Mentoring 15 Nov-03

NOTE: I wrote this last week, but because of technical reasons, couldn't getit sent out.

Dear Team,

We want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving this week and remind you that we'rethankful for you. God has really blessed us in so many ways, but Ispecifically wanted to write and thank you for giving to the Great CommissionFund, which enables us to be here! Thank you!

Field Retreat Report

We just returned last night from a three and a half day "mini-retreat" in
Bitola, Macedonia. Our speaker for the weekend was Dr. Rick Mann, the Provost of
Crown College in Minnesota. His topic was coaching and mentoring and it was good stuff stuff. Dr. Mann led us through three pretty intense days of thinking about coaching, mentoring and leadership development. I've been looking back through my notes trying to pick out something that would both give you a sense of what we learned and also offer something worthwhile your own growth and edification.
Let me give you this one thing on levels of leadership.
We all start and develop from the level of "personal self-development and/or family leadership." That is, the fundamental level of leadership is
leading our selves and later, our families. If we never lead another thing in our lives, we will always lead ourselves. It is largely up to us to determine the kind of person we will become. It is what Stephen Covey calls "personal mastery." Here are some questions that point to this

  • Are you developing the capacities in your life that will lead you where you want to go?
  • Are the foundations of character, discipline and integrity well-founded in your life
  • Are you practicing good spiritual self-care?
  • Can you complete what you start to do?
  • Can you follow through on the commitments you make?

These are some of the characteristics of personal mastery and
self-leadership. Dr. Mann said that through our lives many of us have the
opportunities to rise to different levels of leadership. Being involved in
volunteer leadership, like leading a Bible study or working with a community
group demands additional leadership skills. If we leave college and enter
the work force there are issues of professional leadership to attend to.
In our 30's we may have additional opportunities (to be honest, I can't read my
handwriting on the notes I took, hence the ?? ;) ) Finally we may be in
position to influence change on a regional or national level.

Here's the point though. Our ability to influence others rests on a foundation of personal mastery, or character and integrity. People can still rise to various levels of leadership, but the more gaps and weaknesses in our base of "personal leadership" the weaker we are. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York led a traumatized city through September 11. But

later the judge in his divorce trial ruled that he wasn't fit to have custody of his children.
There were some gaps in the base of his pyramid.

I want a strong pyramid base in my life and I was challenged this weekend to

continue building that base by practicing the disciplines in my spiritual,
emotional and physical life.

Center Renovation Report

While we were gone in Macedonia, things were moving forward with our center
renovations. It is exciting to start picking out tile and paint!
Please pray for our worker, Ragip. Ragip has just returned to Kosova from
Germany where he has been for the last eight years. He has three children,
two of which were born in Germany and speak better German than they do Albanian.
In fact, this is a common issue among ex-pat Albanians and their children. Often
they've been forced to return to Kosova, but the mother-tongue of their children
is not Albanian! Pray for him and his family. We're hoping that this
relationship would develop into a significant one spiritually.

Ragip has been a real blessing so far. I don't think any of the wallsin our building are square, but he's been doing a great job laying the tile out beautifully.

Early last week he re-plastered and painted the basement. This will be our therapy and computer lap space (and temporary home for the church, until more
renovations are completed. Ultimately, our church will meet here, but I've got enough picture on this page already!

National Church Meeting Report

Last week we asked for your prayers about a meeting that was to be held today. Yesterday some of the national churches in Kosova made another attempt to form a unified national church. For years the national church has tried and failed to come together in a unified manner. But now the government is about to pass new laws for the governance of religious
organizations. The new law requires each "official" religion to have at
least 500 members, among other things. Guess what? No single
evangelical church here has that many members. As a result, the local
churches are being forced to work together in ways that previously were

Initially I was about as interested in attending this meeting as in watching

a train-wreck, but I had been praying and asking you to pray as well. I
have to report that there was a very healthy spirit of cooperation and respect
at the meeting, and a lot of laughter, which is often a good sign. In the
end we agreed to form a working group to come up with the structures of a new
national church organization and meet again in the near future. Praise God
for this first step towards a unified Body here in Kosovo.

Thanks for your prayers and your gifts! We see evidence of both every

day...and we're thankful.

Jeff & Melissa

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Great tool for cataloging your photos

I first saw this on Marc Orchant’s blog, it’s called Picasa and it’s a tool for cataloging and manipulating your photos.  I’m a little slow on the pick-up, but I finally got around to downloading it today.  It works pretty nice with their companion product, called Hello.


Marc’s original post:



Picasa home page




Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Here's Ragip working happily away on the first floor our our center building.

Monday, November 15, 2004

15-Nov - Finally we have a community center...sort of

Hey gang,

It’s been a fun last couple of weeks and I thank you for your prayers! God’s been at work here and I believe it is in response to the prayers of his people!

New Believer – I first mentioned him a couple of weeks ago. He started coming to our Bible studies in response to the Bible Seeding Team in September. Not only has he been coming, but he is the most faithful member of the core-group!! This last Thursday, Shefqet made a decision to follow Jesus in a public way, in front of those of us who were present. Praise the Lord for a new member of the family. You’ll eat with him one day at the “marriage feast of the Lamb” with Christ in heaven!

Gjilan Community Center – This week we finally signed a two-year contract for a building. We’ve got a lot of work to do, as you can tell by the picture, but we’re off square one! I cannot
believe how long this has taken. This is partly because I am, frankly, pretty inexperienced. Part of this is that we have wanted to find the “right” place. Partly too it’s a product of trying to cement a healthy partnership between CAMA Services, International Ministries and our local partner, who doesn’t live in Gjilan. Yikes.

After signing the contract we bought our first paint and tile to begin the renovations. We’re going to do renovations in two phases. The first phase is to renovate the basement and the first floor. This involves tiling the floors, installing a bathroom, painting and furnishing the place. Half of our rent each month will help pay for these renovations. The basement will host our computer lab and occupational therapy center. The first floor will host our bookstore and visitor center, and temporary meeting space. Phase two will hopefully begin in the spring, which involves refinishing the second floor, where you see the five open windows and the open door. The second floor contains a large room that will ultimately host our large meeting room for church, meetings, forums, etc.

We’re excited about the opportunities that this location provides! I have been doing some "mindmapping" on its potential and how we're thinking of rolling out the ministry here. Ifyou're interested click here. God’s going to work here!!! It’s also going to cost a lot of money to do the renovations. If you feel led to help with those costs you can contribute to Kosovo Church planting by sending a check to the C&MA National Office marked “Kosovo Church Planting” in the memo line, or you can give online by clicking

Muslim Holiday – This weekend marked the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan (or Ramazan, as they call it here). The end of Ramadan is marked by the holiday called Bajram…though you’ll see a different name in other Muslim countries. Here Bajram is celebrated by three days of visiting friends and family, eating a lot of sweets and giving kids money (kids always have an angle ;) ). On our way to visit our old Landlord’s house, we were greeted by the nightly call to prayer (1MB, mp3, RealMedia)

Important National Church Meeting – I really want to ask you prayers for an important meeting on Monday, 22 November. The provisional government of Kosova has some legislation pending on regulating religion in Kosova. By and large, it looks like it will protect the rights of all the major religious groups in Kosova. However, in order to qualify for protection under the law, each religious group needs to declare that they have 500 members. Now, that’s not a problem for the Islamic community, or the Orthodox, or even the small Catholic community. HOWEVER, for the evangelical community that’s a challenge. The only way the evangelical community can pull that off is if ALL the Christian groups in Kosovo can come together and register as a collective organization. I can’t even tell you how difficult that has been in the past. Over the last five years there have been 4-5 separate efforts at creating a unified “national church” organization. Each one has failed as different groups of nationals and missionaries pulled in different directions. This time it’s serious. Please pray for a mighty movement of the Holy Spirit so that we can stand as a unified group before the provisional government here.

New Relationship for Sharing Christ – I also want to ask you to pray for Venhari and
his friend Agron. Venhari used to work at a small boutique next to my house. His first or second question to me as an American was, “Do you really think that Osama Bin Ladin was responsible for Sept 11? No real Muslim would do such a thing, he said. That continued into a discussion about Islam. Since then we’ve had a several conversations about Christianity and Islam. Pray that Melissa and I could build these kinds of relationships together. Sorry Venhari’s head is cut off, his friend Agron took the picture ;)

Car Bombing – I mention this, not so that you’ll worry, but just because it was interesting. Imagine for a minute the nicest Wal-Mart/Super K-Mart in your state. Imagine that folks from all over the county come daily to do their one-stop-shopping. The walk up and down the isle is shopping bliss, putting the best things Wal-Mart has to offer in their shopping carts. Now imagine that one day, inexplicably, someone drives a car into that beautiful shopping paradise and that car blows up four hours later. That’s what happened in Ferizaj this week, at our newest shopping paradise called Ben-Af. Well, fortunately hardly anyone was hurt and the young owner, who owns a similar store in Prizren, promised to rebuild the multi-million dollar (though uninsured) store. All this in a country with seventy percent unemployment. Things that make you go Hmmm.

Lot of love, hope everyone is doing well.

Jeff & Melissa