Friday, March 30, 2007

In the news: EU support for UN Kosovo plan

There has been a lot in the news lately about developments in Kosovo.  Yesterday the European Parliament announced its support for the UN plan for Kosovo; you can read more here.

The EU is also planning for a "massive presence" in Kosovo in the coming months.  The EU will send 2000 personnel to Kosovo in the comings months and is looking for grants in the area of 1.5 billion euro to be given.  Read more here.

Russia has been in the news lately too, claming that the UN plan will fail.  But as far as I can tell that haven't yet threatened to veto the plan at the security council.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Proposal before the Security Council

Yesterday, March 26th, UN Secretary General Ban Kai Moon presented Martti Ahtisaari's proposal on Kosovo to the Security Council.  He said:

Having taken into account the developments in the process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status, I fully support both the recommendation made by my Special Envoy in his report on Kosovo’s future status and the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.

Ahtisaari's official report to the UNSC leads with this:

"Recommendation: Kosovo’s status should be independence, supervised by the international community"

As far as I know, this is the first time the "I-word" (independence) has been used by a high-ranking UN official in an official documents.  The report later outlines why, "Independence with international supervision is the only viable option."

Check out Ban Kai Moon's submission and Ahtisaari's document here (PDF).

via South East Europe Online

Thursday, March 22, 2007

UN Envoy calls for Kosovo's Independence

The tension is mounting as the UN as chief negotiator Martti Ahtisaari now explicitly recommends independence for Kosovo.  He said:

The time has come to resolve Kosovo's status...Independence is the only option for a politically stable and economically viable Kosovo.

The Washington Post has more here.

What can go wrong?

The United States Institute for Peace, an organization established and funded by Congress, has posted an interesting article called, "Kosovo: What Can Go Wrong." It's a good look  at the status of Kosovo and the issues and parties that may make or break the "next status" of my adopted home.


via FreeKosova

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No more breathing, er smoking, allowed

In a startling move from the Kosovo  Parliament, smoking has been banned in public places.  Actually, the parliament passed this law a year and half ago, but the UN has still not signed off on it, signing it into power.

The beauty of living in Prishtina is that you can smoke everywhere,” said Luli, 24, while having a drink in Toto bar, last Tuesday.

But Lena, a girl seated next to him, said she will be happy if one day she could enter a bar without being choked from the smoke.

“I love to go out and have drinks with friends but when I go back home, my clothes and hair stink,” she said. Lena was one of the very few people inside the Toto bar who was not smoking.

When I returned from the US I actually had second-hand smoke withdrawal.  I was tempted to light three or four cigarettes around my living room just so I felt at home!

I cannot imagine in Kosovo without cigarette smoking.  Oh, I wouldn't object, but it would sure be strange.

Read more here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hooray for your pedigree...what about your vision?

It's been so wonderful on so many levels to travel through the churches of the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  I've met so many people that really make the CMA work...both on the local level, and also on the national and international levels.

I've been so blessed by many godly people who don't even recognize the depth of their own spirituality; I could spend hours listening to these saints as they unintentionally teach me about the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in their own lives.

I've met others who talk about their personal pedigrees.  They can go on at length about how long they've been in the CMA, how many missionary/pastor relatives they have.  Often times this is fun since I've met their kin and we can share in the tapestry that is our Alliance family.  Other times its troubling.

Recently, while speaking to a group, I mentioned that I didn't grow up in the CMA, but found it while in high school.  During the dinner which followed a woman sat down across from me and said, fairly declaratively, "You said you didn't grow up in the CMA...I was born and raised in it."  And then the pedigree started.

After a few moments I said, "That's great!  Have you ever been on a missions trip anywhere?"  Her face went blank.

"Ah... no, I haven't," she responded, beginning to look elsewhere. 

"Oh, come on now," I said with a smile on my face.  The disconnect between the pedigree recitation and personal experience obvious.

"Well, you know, there are those fears I have."

"Yes, I know...I have them too," I replied. 

A moment later the conversation turned a corner as one her children approached and I went on to chat with the other people around us. 

I hear a lot of pedigrees from people, how they share in the lineage of the CMA.  That's nice.  What I want to hear is not about their pedigree, but about their passion, how they share in the vision of the CMA.  Tell me about your walk with God!  Let me sit at your feet and learn from you!  Let the fire of my own heart grow as I hear your story, your longing for the Kingdom of God and the coming of Jesus. 

I praise God for the great physical and spiritual lineages many of us share.  I praise God for how he has used multiple generations of families within the CMA to accomplish his purposes.  Yet I praise God even more for those kindred spirits I find along the journey, those who are impassioned, not by their pedigrees but by the quiet, yet powerful work of the Spirit in their lives.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kosovo Mobile provider has new website

According to today's Illyria Post "Vala Mobile", Kosovo's only official mobile phone provider launched a new website today.  "Vala" has made some significant strides in modernizing their infrastructure and expanding their services in the last few years.  Until the long-awaited "second-operator" begins operation, Vala is the only game in town.

If you're interested, check out the new site.  The most attractive new service to me is the addition of GPRS service, which allows mobile users to access the Internet with their phones.  Vala has also completed agreements with operators of neighboring counties for roaming customers.  This is also, I believe, fairly new.  While this is only for "post-paid" customers, perhaps the days of crossing the border and losing your cell system are behind us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Russia as the "Next Status" vote draws near (-er)

The following is an article by Richard Holbrooke, lead negotiator for the US during the war in Bosnia.  On March 26th, special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari will present a proposal to the UN Security Council which will define the "next status" of Kosovo.  I wrote about this proposal several weeks ago.

The million dollar question is what will the Russian government do and how will the EU nations respond.  Since many people on my speaking tour seem to be keeping up with developments in Kosovo, I'll repost the entire article here.  Seriously, I'm amazed at how many people come up to me in meetings having read up on the latest from Kosovo.

Russia's Test in Kosovo

By Richard Holbrooke

Tuesday, March 13, 2007; Page A17

Obsessed with Iraq, the Bush administration and the public have paid too little attention to a series of Russian challenges to the stability of Europe. There is no doubt that President Vladimir Putin, emboldened by America's difficulties and the effectiveness of his energy diplomacy (which sometimes looks like blackmail), is seeking to regain ground lost in the decade after the Soviet Union's collapse, while at home Putin pursues increasingly authoritarian, often brutal, policies. Only when Putin harshly criticized the United States during a conference in Munich last month (with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham sitting in front of him) did Americans pay attention -- and then only briefly. Now a key test of Russia's relationship with the West is at hand, and Russia's actions could determine whether there is another war in Europe.

Remember Kosovo? It was the big story in 1999, when 78 days of U.S.-led NATO bombing liberated the overwhelmingly Albanian region from repressive Serb control. Its final status was left unresolved under a compromise U.N. Security Council resolution. The United Nations has administered the region, and NATO has protected it, ever since. But the United States and the European Union neglected the final-status issue while positions hardened in Kosovo and Belgrade.

On March 26, the formidable U.N. special envoy, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, will present to the Security Council a plan that would lead to phased independence for Kosovo, with strong guarantees for the rights of the Serb minority there. Belgrade is deeply opposed, as it has been to any change in the status of Kosovo, an area that the Serbs feel is part of their historic territory but that is now more than 90 percent Albanian. In the end, the Serbs will have to face the truth: Kosovo is gone from Serbia forever, a result of the policies of the former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

Serbia's future -- and it could be bright -- lies within the European Union, if it can get past its own paralyzing historical myths. A peaceful path to Kosovo's independence would open up the entire Balkans, including Serbia, to a promising new era of regional cooperation.

Enter Moscow, encouraging exactly the wrong tendencies within Serbia.

Putin says Russia will not support anything that the Serbs oppose. If this means a Russian veto in the Security Council, or an effort to water down or delay Ahtisaari's plan, the fragile peace in Kosovo will evaporate within days, and a new wave of violence -- possibly even another war -- will erupt. Ahtisaari's plan, probably the best possible under current circumstances, does not satisfy more extreme Albanians -- because it does not provide instant independence and because of its emphasis on protecting Serbs who chose to remain in Kosovo.

Yet instead of working to avert violence in Kosovo, Russia seems to be enjoying the opportunity to defy key Western countries, especially Germany and the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her superb special envoy, Ambassador Frank Wisner, have told Moscow and Belgrade that the United States supports the Ahtisaari plan, but until President Bush weighs in strongly with Putin (as President Bill Clinton did a decade ago with Boris Yeltsin), there is a serious risk Moscow will not get the message. That message should be simple: If Russia blocks the Ahtisaari plan, the chaos that follows will be Moscow's responsibility and will affect other aspects of Russia's relationships with the West.

Russia contends that the United Nations does not have the right to change an international border without the agreement of the country involved. But Kosovo is a unique case and sets no precedent for separatist movements elsewhere, because in 1999, with Russian support, the United Nations was given authority to decide the future of Kosovo.

Moscow's point about protecting "fraternal" Slav-Serb feelings is nonsense; everyone who has dealt with the Russians on the Balkans, as I did for several years, knows that their leadership has no feelings whatsoever for the Serbs. Russia is using Kosovo for its tactical advantage, as part of a strategy to reassert itself on the international stage. That is a legitimate goal, as long as Russia plays a constructive role -- but Moscow's recent behavior, from Georgia to Iran to some ugly domestic incidents, is not encouraging.

Now Kosovo is shaping up as the biggest international test yet of Vladimir Putin. If Moscow vetoes or delays the Ahtisaari plan, the Kosovar Albanians will declare independence unilaterally. Some countries, including the United States and many Muslim states, would probably recognize them, but most of the European Union would not. A major European crisis would be assured. Bloodshed would return to the Balkans. NATO, which is pledged to keep peace in Kosovo, could find itself back in battle in Europe.

Would the Russians really benefit from all this? Certainly not. European security and stability -- and Russia's relationship with the West -- are on the line.

Richard Holbrooke was the lead U.S. negotiator in the Dayton peace talks, which ended the war in Bosnia. He writes a monthly column for The Post.

via SE Europe Online

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 the table of giants

I'm here in a small North Carolina town, speaking at a pair of CMA churches along with colleague, Mike Farho from Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa.  While every church has its treasures, these two churches have more than their fair share.

I was invited to dinner last night by two old saints, former missionaries, also from Cote d'Ivoire.  I had met the man before, but not spoken with him very much; his wife was unknown to me.  In public they are quiet, though not withdrawn.  They sit in meetings seemingly eager to hear what God is doing in places other than their beloved Africa.  They are both small in stature, but great in spirit.

Last night my dinner time with them was all too short, as we had to hurry to a meeting at church.  Short, but precious.  I am constantly amazed at how God seems to speak through people when they least expect it.  These two dear saints, in casual conversation about their own experiences on the mission field, really spoke to my own heart.  They weren't trying to teach, they weren't trying to impress, they were just reaching out to me in the common language we both share: a love for the lost.

These two, along with their colleagues, worked among a tribal group that today number 300,000 Christians.  They remember vividly when that number was only 3,000 and shared with me about how God had brought the increase.

We shared about our experiences in spiritual warfare, that often misunderstood, appropriately least-glamorous of ministries.  We had both seen the enemy, up close and personal, actively bent on destroying the lives of people we knew, only to be foiled, not by us, but by the power of the Jesus Christ.

They're retired now and their ministry is primarily one of prayer.  Each morning husband and wife sit together in prayer for the missionaries of the Christian & Missionary Alliance throughout the world.  These two have seen more, suffered more, and have experienced more of God than I may ever...and they pray for me.

What a privilege to sit at the table of giants.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blogless days and pointed ponderings

I haven't blogged in quite a while.  After the first half of my fall tour I had four days at home to spend with my family which I wanted to do in a largely Internet-less way.  When I started the second part of my tour, this time in North Carolina, I got sick the day before I left.

That was exciting.  It's interesting when you have to pop Advil before a speaking engagement because you have fever induced shakes.  And so, coughing, sneezing and feverish, I plodded through the first several days of tour.  I don't know how you handle being sick, but I handle it by hunkering down, laying in bed when possible, and reading plain old fiction from old fashioned paper books. I definitely don't spend it blogging.

By today, however, I'm fat and happy and about to move from one city to the next.  Visiting this particular city stirred up various ponderings I occasionally have about God,  his calling and destiny.

While in this town I ran across a guy I knew from college.  In college he was passionate about missions.  In fact, he was far more passionate that I ever was.  He was involved in prayer bands (prayer groups for specific people groups), he was on a team that did performances in churches to raise awareness of world missions.  It seemed like he was involved in every missionary aspect of our school.  He also had a great call to reach the Native Americans.  I had none of that. 

When we did our senior missions research and writing projects I think he cranked out a work on reaching an Indian tribe out West.  I had no idea what to write about so I located a spot in on the globe with a nice climate and found an unreached people group fortunate enough to live there. 

Now, sixteen years later,  he is the assistant-manager of a discount store in this small town.  I am a missionary in Kosovo.

What is up with that?  I really don't get it.  Why, in the sovereignty of God, am I missionary watching God do great things why this brother is living in a small town, his college dreams apparently forgotten?

I don't believe it's because I am anything special.  In fact, this guy had heart for missions in college while I was messing around in student government.  I don't think it's because I'm more spiritual than him, or more gifted or anything else.  Did he make some mistake that disqualified him?  Haven't I?  Did he lose the vision for some reason; haven't I, only to regain it and press on?

So this is an odd post whith which  to recommence blogging, but I wonder about my brother and the strange divergence of our paths.  I don't understand it all, but I'm grateful that, for whatever reason, I'm working among the people of Kosovo with the Christian & Missionary Alliance.