Sunday, April 23, 2006

ESL Team Arrives

Yesterday we picked up a team of ESL teachers at the Prishtina airport.DSC03609  We were actually a few minutes late picking them up  because we got stuck behind three a small convoy of Swedish armored personnel carriers on the way to the airport.  The team was ready and waiting when we arrived.  There are six of them; the two men aren’t pictured here as they were guarding the rest of the baggage.

They’ve come to teach a week long intensive English course at our community center in Gjilan.  They’ll teach three tracks this week, two groups of youth and one large group of adults.  We’re looking forward to a busy week!

As a way of stretching our legs and getting adjusted we had a picnic up at Novoberdë which is an ancient city that was once mining center in Kosovo.  Novoberdë is an amazingly diverse place.  It is now nothing more than a hilltop, but it features the ruins of an ancient fortress, a mosque, a Bektashi turbe and the ruins of an ancient, probably Catholic, church.  All that’s missing is a synagogue, and it’s possible the ancient trading center once hosted one.CastleWall

Tomorrow we start English classes.  We’ll post more later.  You can check out more pictures on my Flickr site.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Kosovo PM can't go to Easter service

It’s making big headlines today that Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Çeku’s request to attend Easter services at the Orthodox church in Graçanica has been denied by Bishop Artemije.  Now, I know this looks like a big stinky, intolerant thing in the West.  Everyone ought to be able to go to everyone else’s worship services, right?  That, we say, is the tolerant thing to do.

The thing is, I’m not sure it’s a fundamental human right to attend someone else’s worship service.  Sure, if you’re invited that’s great.  But on the other hand, I think a group of worshippers has the right to worship without including people from another belief.  Some acts of worship are private.

That said, the Bishop didn’t offer that as a rationale for refusing Çeku’s request. The Bishop’s answer:

"We told him that, considering that we have been living with the status of refugees for nearly seven years, outside our residence in Prizren, which was burned during the riots on 17 March 2004, along with our cathedral and many other holy places, we are not able to welcome Mr Ceku before we have returned to our restored residence, and our people have returned to their homes," Bishop Artemije said.  Read the article here

Forgiveness is pretty difficult when the history is long and politics are entrenched.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Unintentional Cross-posts

Over the last week I’ve been trying out Blogjet, a fantastic tool for writing and managing blog posts.  I started trying to use this product about a year ago, but earlier versions could never handle the proxy server that I use…or something.  Anyway, it never quite worked until I downloaded the latest version a couple of weeks ago.  It’s awesome!  Unfortunately, I’ve unintentionally posted missionary stuff to my geek blog and vice-versa.  For those of you who read my blogs directly from the web you may never have noticed.  For those of you who use a feed-reader, you’re probably getting irritated or wondering why I’m posted stuff to both blogs I write.  The answer my friend, is sheer carelessness.  I’ll try to do better in the future.

Take your daughter to work day...sort of

Had a great visit to the police station this morning, following up on lasts weeks robbery at the Center. Melissa had to go to Prishtina, so while Reilly was in preschoolMadison at Police Station, my older daughter Madision tagged along with me. I had her bring her homework with her, which she was desperately trying to finish. It's all in Albanian and there are LOTS of distractions for a 1st grader in a police station. When we entered the police station I asked her, 'Do you think we'll see any bad guys here?' She didn't answer but smiled big and held me tight.

During my interview we essentially went back over the same information I had given the patrol officers who first responded. No big deal. We'll see what happens.

Following our time with the police I had a meeting with two US Army chaplains. They were great guys who came over to say hello and talk about life and ministry in Kosova. Madison tagged along with me there as well…sort of a 'take your daughter to work day.' Naturally both the chaplains had their assistants with them. These are the guys that watch their chaplains backs and carry the firepower. We sat in our little church room with rifles and packs laid carefully on the floor. It just struck me today how nonchalant my kids are about soldiers, assault rifles, armored personnel carriers and stuff. Ah, that's nothing, that's what home looks like.

Just another 'take your daughter to work' day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Off to the police station

You may remember that a few days ago we had two computers stolen from our community center here.   Yesterday, I dropped by the Center to check in and found two police investigators there talking to people.  They had just extended and “invitation” for Naim, our national co-worker, to come down the police station for a visit.  Since I dropped by, they also gave me a written “invitation.”  Later he told me about his visit.  He went down, was shown into an interrogation room, read his rights and was questioned about the robbery.   This morning at 9:00 it’s my turn.

New Kosovo PM: Will tackle corruption

The new Kosovo Prime Minister, Agim Ceku is really making big claims to improve civil society on a number of levels. Yesterday we hear this:
Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku today pledged that he and the government will fight corruption in Kosovo society. In his weekly radio address Prime Minister Ceku said that the Kosovo government will not accept corrupt individuals and that they will be subject to the law.
Ceku has also made bold claims about creating a multi-ethnic society here. Personally, I'm very encouraged by the language coming from the PM's office. Of couse, the proof is in the pudding...we'll see what actually happens.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 asked for it

We’re always careful about the way we handle out English classes.  Our students come with the expectation of learning English, not of being proselytized.  We’ve heard a number of example of Muslim groups requiring Koranic studies as a condition of humanitarian aid.  The people here, Muslim people, felt cheated by that.  For that reason, we try to make sure that our English classes are just that…English classes.  But when we’re asked questions…watch out.

Tonight one of my students asked about the meaning of the “bread and the wine” that  “we eat” at Easter. 

That triggered a nice conversation about the “old covenant” and the “new covenant” that we have in Christ.  I had the chance to explain about the Passover and the old covenant based on the Law of Moses and the new covenant based on faith in Christ.  It was great stuff.  My students seemed especially open to what I had to say and I hope to follow up more later!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter 2006

We celebrated Easter this weekend, along with millions of others.  As missionaries we always feel like we walk a fine line between celebrating our own traditions and being careful not to impose or lay those traditions over on a compartively young church.  For example, one of our western traditions is Easter egg hunts and candy.  Like many traditions, I have no idea why we do this, but it’s a fun family time.  Saturday night we had our missionary team over for dinner and had a great time of food and fellowship.  Later that evening the kids had an Easter egg hunt and everyone had a good time.  Today we took our core group up to Prishtina to worship with the mother church in Prishtina.  We had great Kingdom time together.


Some of the egg hunters: Madison Singfiel, Jennifer Strunk, Reilly Singfiel, Luke Brinkman, Joshua Brinkman


DSC03580Amelie Bower is not to be deterred.








Amelie made it into the post-hunt group shot


DSC03597My girls in their Easter dresses.  Mom stayed up late sewing new bitty-baby clothes for the event, so the girls had to ensure they were part of the pictures.







DSC03604Today we took our Gjilan Ringjallja Church gang up to Prishtina.  Our “mother church,” BUM hosted a joint service and potluck in new theater across the street called, “Theater of the Father.”  Okay, I don’t understand the name either.  Here Pastor Femi Cakolli is greeting the churches who came from the cities of Deçan, Prizren, Gjilan, Suharek, and another new church plant in Prishtina.

We had a great service together, which featured a sermon from Mark Orfila, a AOG missionary from Deçan.  After the service we had one of the larger “potluck” dinners I can remember.  We ate everything from traditional Albanian pita to curry chicken.

Today was a great demonstration of the Kingdom of God and unity in the Church.  Unity is a stretch in the Balkans.  Everyone knows too much about each other and both history and folks memories are long.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Home assignment reflections: Getting rid of junk

This summer my family will enter into many missionaries’ quadrennial adventure…home assignment.  This will be our first opportunity, but I’m already learning how much junk even a lowly missionary can accumulate in four years time.  That’s why Rick Brenner’s article, “How not to accumulate junk” struck both my fancy and my funny bone.  Check out his article, it applies equally to folks in the US and expats like myself.

Brenner outllines a long series of rules for keeping junk.  His method of getting rid of junk?  First check out his rules on accumulating junk:

Here are my rules (plus some others) for accumulating junk:

  • I might need it someday
  • I can't remember why I'm saving this, but it might be important
  • I think I can get rid of this, but I'm not 100% sure
  • I know I'll use this eventually, when I get the time (or energy)
  • I don't need this now, but if I ever do need one, it will either be expensive or impossible to find
  • Remember when we used these? Wow — I bet you can't even get them anymore.
  • Maybe I can sell this on eBay — oops, the going price is still too low.
  • I borrowed this, and I should return it, but I'm so embarrassed that I've had it so long...
  • I can't throw this out — maybe it isn't mine
  • Hmm, I wonder where the missing parts of this are — maybe I'll find them
  • I don't actually know what this is, but I'll keep it until I can figure it out
  • Ah, this is that box of stuff I sealed up when I last moved, thinking I would toss it if I didn't open it in a year. Can't remember what's in it. Better not throw it out yet.
  • This was a real bargain. Be a shame to get rid of it.
  • If I lose X pounds, I know I look good in this
  • This is a great book. I should read it. []
  • This was a great book. Maybe I'll read it again.
  • This was a great movie (album). I know I'll want to watch it (listen to it) again if I ever get another VCR (turntable).
  • Who's that standing next to me in this picture? Better keep it until I can scan it.
  • Ah, my first planner — maybe. You never know when you'll need an alibi for 7:30 AM, Tuesday, March 23rd, 1993.
  • That computer has sensitive data on it. I better keep it until I can erase it. [GreenDisk, Tech Soup and the Computer Recycling Center]
  • Look at that, the postal rates for 1987. Neat-o.
  • I wonder how long I have to keep these financial records. Legally, I mean. Better keep 'em. [Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement]
  • Another ballpoint pen. Might come in handy sometime.
  • Wonder what's on this floppy (Zip disk, removable cartridge, mag tape)? Better keep it for now.
Did any of these strike a cord?  I’ve kept tons of stuff because “I might need it someday.”  Oh, how I laughed.  Maybe that just because yesterday I threw away a bunch of language learning notes I’ll never look at again.

Okay…the secret to getting rid of the extra junk that’s falling out of you filing cabinet, closet, desk, [insert junk containment construct].  Break one of your rules each day.   Check out his article for yourself.



Thursday, April 13, 2006

Break-in at the Center

Today was one of those classic Balkan days.  I had a great conversation with two of our church members about one of the teachings of Jesus.  A few minutes later we were calling the police to report a break-in.  Seriously.  Last Sunday, while we were away, our core group had a discussion about the meaning of Jesus’ parable of the two brothers.  The first told his father he wouldn’t work in the vineyard, but later did.  The second said he would, but never went to work.  There was some misunderstandings about Jesus’ audience here that threw the whole meaning of the parable out of whack.  I had one of those “this is why I’m here” moments when they realized Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, not his disciples.  One of believers eyes popped open when she realized how one little mistake in understanding the context of a passage can really affect the interpretation. 

A few minutes later I went downstairs into our therapy clinic to look for crutches for someone.  As I went to unlock the door I noticed it was already unlocked.  This was strange, but I thought that one of the workers might have momentarily stepped out.  I went in and immediately noticed that both of the clinic computers were gone…stolen.  A few minutes later, after making sure I had all the facts, the police where called and came to fill out their reports.  Who knows what will happen now.  The value of the computers was about $1900.  As big a loss as that is, the data on the computers is a greater loss.  All the clinic patient records where there as well as an unknown amount of information about the therapy training program that my collegue is working on.  Bummer.  My co-worker Di has been working for months on a program to train local nurses in Occupational Therapy, a type of therapy unknown and highly valuable here.  This may be a major set-back.

Please be praying that God would convinct the theives to, at a minimum, return the data that was stolen…okay, that’s not likely but we believe in a God of miracles, right?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Home from Slovenia

It’s good to be home after spending a week in Slovenia where we had our annual organizationalField Forum 2006 Group Pic business meetings.  We stayed an another few days for vacation, which was a nice break too.  I am amazed, having now traveled in all the countries of former Yugoslavia, how different each one is.  Slovenia appears to be the most modern and advanced of the five former republic.  Traveling through Serbia, especially Belgrade, reminds me of what an actual city looks like.  There is nothing in Kosovo to compare with much I saw on the trip.

Trent Passing the Baton (Medium)Our meetings were great, our speaker excellent.  Pastor Denny Krajacic from Butler, PA, gave us some great messages which were really timely.  We also elected our new leaders for the following year and, most importantly, perhaps, celebrated the ministry of Trent & Sharon Thornton, our departing field director.  Trent passed the baton of leadership to Mark Brinkman, our teammate.

Everyone, especially the kids, had a blast at the children’s program and at the enormous indoor pools of Terme Catez.  The annual Field Forum is a special time for the kids of the field.  This year was especially great as the gang from Black Forest Academy from Germany came down as well.Reilly byself (Medium)


You can find more Field Forum pictures on my Flickr site.