Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A bambi, a coffee and a tea

I had three great visits with three different people today.  The first was with an old friend.  He’s a high school guy who desperately wants to study medicine in the US.  He’s also the most serious Muslim I know.  He called me up today and we headed out “for a coffee.”  Rather than a coffee, I chose a “bambi” which is sort of like hot chocolate milk.  We talked about a wide range of things, but mostly about the Bible, the Koran and various people’s perspectives on Mohamed.   As usual we challenged each other with the seriousness of each other’s belief.  My message to him is always the same:  Someone has to pay for your sins…will it be you, or will you allow Jesus to pay the price for you.

My second coffee was with one of our nominal church members.  This time it was a very, very strong Macchiato in another of the numerous cafes in town.  I was actually on my way to the bank to do some business and I had to make on those perennial American decisions:  Do I do the task on my life, or do I interrupt my schedule and hang out with a brother for a while.  I chose the later today and enjoyed a great cup of macchiato and good conversation.

My third visit was with our landlord.  Instead of coffee, it was “Russian tea.”  Made in a sort of double-boiler tea pot, it’s great stuff to finish the day with.  We talked about our kids, the new Prime Minister, the electric situation and all the normal topics of family conversation in Kosovo.   We left a little earlier than is typical in order to make a training meeting with the teammate.

I never cease to be amazed by the capacity for relationships that my Albanian friends seem to have.  No one is ever too busy to take time for a cup of coffee.  Obviously that has implications for business; it also has implications for great relationships.  Wouldn’t most of us love to have friends that would help you out at almost a moment’s notice?  That’s the people I live among.  Sometimes Kosovo drives me crazy.  Most of the time living here humbles me.  But today was one of those days where I just feel fortunate to live here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ah Spring time

Ah, Spring time in Kosovo.  I don’t’ know much about the source of the info below, but I heard this on the news too.  Nothing to get worked up about folks, just folks stretching their legs after a long winter.

Hand Grenade Destroyed In Downtown Pristina

Pristina, 20 Mar 06 (Radio Srbija i Crna Gora) – Special forces of international forces in Kosovo, defused a hand grenade placed near the headquarters of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce and Democratic Party of Kosovo in downtown Pristina. Kosovo Police Service (KPS) spokesperson Sabrije Kamberi stated that police were information of a suspicious device this morning, after which part of downtown Pristina was blocked with the help of KFOR Special Forces, and bomb was destroyed in a controlled explosion.

This is the second bomb discovered within 24 hours and destroyed in downtown Pristina. Sunday evening, around 18:00 hours, police were informed that a hand grenade, dating from WWII was found near hotel “Grand”. A KFOR unit also destroyed this bomb. In both cases, there were no causalities or damage.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

New Kosovo PM weighs in on independance

     Many are hopeful that new Prime Minister Agim Ceku will be a man of integrity and honor to lead Kosova on its next steps, whatever they might be.  This week both the UK and the EU said that an independent Kosovo was almost an inevitability.  Please be praying for peace!  I don’t know a ton about Ceku, but he has lead the Kosovo Protection Corp to fulfill the multi-ethnic standards demanded of it.  The KPC, or TMK as it’s known here, is multi-ethnic and functions well.  I think it speaks well of Ceku that he was willing to address the Serbian minority in the Serbian language (see KosovaReport report below).

     Kosovo's new PM has said he expects the territory to become fully independent of Serbia - hours after Belgrade said it would oppose any such outcome.  Agim Ceku was speaking after being sworn in as prime minister in Pristina. Serbian foreign minister Vuk Draskovic earlier told the BBC his country could never accept an independent Kosovo.
     The UK has meanwhile said independence for Kosovo - currently governed by the UN, though formally still part of Serbia - is "almost inevitable".  British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Kosovo's status could not be resolved using any solution based on the situation before 1999, when the province was still fully controlled by Belgrade. Nato air strikes in 1999 forced Serbian forces to withdraw from the province, where they had been accused of repressing the ethnic Albanian majority.  Kosovo has since then been a UN protectorate. This year saw the start of UN-brokered talks to decide whether it ultimately gains independence.

Serb concerns
     Mr Ceku said on Friday that he wanted negotiations to lead to a democratic and tolerant Kosovo.  "The creation of the state of Kosovo is the will of its people and this government," he said.  Mr Ceku was sworn in as prime minister following the resignation last week of his predecessor, Bajram Kosumi, who lost his party's support in a reshuffle.   In his first speech as leader, Mr Ceku pledged to protect the rights of Kosovo's minority Serb community. 
Switching from the Albanian language to Serbian, he said the Serbs "do have and will have a future in democratic Kosovo" and urged them to take part in political life.  Mr Ceku is an ethnic Albanian commander whose soldiering career started in the army of the former Yugoslavia.  He went on lead the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in their fight against Serbian forces.  Belgrade accuses him of war crimes against Serbs and has voiced disquiet at his appointment as PM.  Kosovo's 120-seat parliament backed Mr Ceku's nomination by 65 votes to 33 on Friday.
     Earlier on Friday, the Serbian foreign minister said his country could never accept a fully independent Kosovo.  Mr Draskovic told the BBC that the result would be a humiliation for Serbia, dangerous for the region and the whole of Europe.  The province is still legally part of Serbia and Montenegro - but it has been under UN protection since 1999.  Mr Ceku is currently the head of the Kosovo Protection Corps, a civil emergency force.  He is said to be very popular among Kosovo Albanians and has been seen as a dynamic leader.  Kosovo Albanians, who make up the majority, want independence for the province. But Serbia is concerned about the rights of the Serb minority.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Albanians & Macedonians United Together

It’s hard to put into words the impact of the last several days.  In some ways, I’m still stunned, having taken away much that I understand, and at the same time haunted by things just beyond my conceptual reach, phantoms of blessings yet to be understood.  Last night I returned from an historic two-day conference in Bitola Macedonia which I attended to with two national co-workers, Naim and Fatmir, along with Jason, another missionary working with the BUM church in Prishtina.  I say historic because to the best of anyone’s knowledge, it was the first time in history that Albanians from Kosovo and Albania together with Macedonians had gathered together in one place to pray, hear from God and to seek his face for Unity in the Church.


None of us really knew what to expect from the conference.  Though billed as a “prayer conference,” the theme was “unity” and the main speaker was Ruth Ruibal, the wife of a martyred pastor from Cali, Columbia.  Gathered together in an old, mountain “resort” hotel were representatives from 24 nations.  I didn’t get them all, but they included:

Albania                          Australia                        Bosnia                           Brazil

Columbia                       Denmark                        El Salvador                    England

Finland                          France                           Germany                        Italy

Kosovo                         Macedonia                     New Zealand                  Norway

Sweden                         United States                                                     


So two hundred of us gathered there, listening to what God has been doing in one of the most violent cities on earth, Cali, Columbia, over the last 10-15 years.  Ruth’s husband was a pastor/evangelist in one Cali and was gunned down in 1995 on his way to a pastors’ meeting.  But this only happened after the pastors in Cali gathered the Christians of the city together in unity for prayer over their city.  On a number of separate occasions, the Church of God gathered together, up to 45,000 believers, to intercede for their city.  And God responded in awesome ways.  You can learn more about that from their website, or her book.  As powerful as her testimony and preaching was, equally powerful was the effect that it had those of us at the conference.


Numerous people stood and confessed their hatred for others of the various ethnic groups.  They asked publicly for forgiveness…and forgiveness was given.  As I write this I sense the weakness of my words to convey what happened.  As I said, this was the first time in history that a group this large has gathered together to ask for forgiveness, pray for unity and strategize how to reach each other’s ethnic groups.


The history of the Balkans is the history of the failure of the church.  The dividing line between the eastern and western Church goes right through the Balkans and it is the church that has failed this region.  That fracture happened a thousand years ago, resulting in the Great Schism of 1054, but the effects of that fracture carry on today.  But what I saw at this conference, were the descendents of those same Catholic, Orthodox and now, Muslim, people coming together united.  Now they follow Jesus Christ, not the pope, the metropolitan or Mohammed.  God is doing what centuries of war, millions of dollars or the United Nations has been unable to do…bring people together for forgiveness and reconciliation through the Church of Jesus Christ.


Not only was there much talk, prayer, and forgiveness, there was also a lot of strategic networking.  There was a lot of offline conversation about how to reach the Albanian people in northern and western Macedonia.  And it wasn’t just Albanian pastors and foreign missionaries having these discussions.  It was Macedonia pastors asking for help from the Albanians.  Help us reach your people here in Macedonia.


Only God knows what will come out of this conference, but God is doing a new thing that hasn’t been seen before in the history of this region.  And I don’t think that’s just hyperbole. 


I’ve uploaded a bunch of pictures to my Flickr site.  You can find this set here.