Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Today - International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Kosova

Today is the International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Kosova.  While I'm along way away from my adopted home, I want to ask that you join with us in prayer for Kosovo.  The following is reprinted from a mailing from the national church organization, KPEC.

January 31   

 International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Kosova

How did it begin?
Eight years ago when the circumstances in Kosova seemed anything but peaceful and safe, at that time of terrible atrocities, violence, killings and oppression, the tiny Church here managed to email many fellowships and church and political leaders asking them to make the 31st of January a day to repent on behalf of this nation and to pray for God to intervene in the ongoing catastrophe that was taking place. Some of you many even have received this very first email and responded to the call.  We were so encouraged to see how Kosova had been laid on the hearts of so many faithful people who responded by interceding, and that prayers were not only lifted up to God at this time but also that through their first prayers God gave many a passion to continue in prayer for this land.  Although the war continued for months after the first Day of Prayer and Fasting we saw how God answered the many prayers that were lifted up to Him by miraculously protecting His Church.

Much has happened in Kosova during these past eight years, and we have seen how God has used the prayers of His people to effect change.  However, there is still an urgent need to continue as there is much in Kosova that is concerning for the Body of Christ here that we hope will be of concern for you too and will motivate many once more to  pray. 

This is why once again we would call you to focus your prayers on the 31st of January which will be the International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Kosova as in previous years, and also to spread the word about this event amongst your friends, prayer groups and congregations. 

Current Situation:

In addition to the political uncertainly that surrounds us, Kosovar society is struggling under terrible economic conditions.  The economy going into 2007 is, if anything, in a worse state than in 2005-2006.  17% of Kosovars live in extreme poverty with 35% surviving on less than $1 per day.  The rate of unemployment stands at 70% which means that most people live on the money that their relatives abroad send home.  Crime and prostitution are flourishing under these conditions. 

Meanwhile, swathes of villages are being disconnected from the power grid for non-payment of bills, while even those who are able to  pay every bill find their electricity and water turned off for hours every day.

Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray for peace in the hearts of men as well as in our communities and that this coming year will be marked by stability.
  • Pray for salvation for Kosovars and ability to take a stand for Christ without fear.
  • Pray that God will fill us continually with the hope of His assurance that His plans for Kosova are for a good future and not for harm.
  • Please pray for both the national political leaders of Kosova, President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime-Minister Agim Ceku and other key kosovar political leader, as well as for Joachim Rucker and other UN Leaders.
  • Pray for the unity and a good cooperation of all the churches in Kosova. Remember KPEC ( Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church ) as a tool for bringing 39 of churches of Kosova together.

There are 39 churches or church plants around Kosova today.  As we pray for our nation we have to be reminded that from the Church should flow life that will influence society outside the Body of Christ.

The life, hope and faith must begin within us and flow out.  God has done so much within the Kosovar Church during the past eight years, growing us in maturity and number.  However, there is much still that we long to see – transformation and multiplication.  We long to see God sending rain upon the dry ground, to produce fruit by making the barren places fertile and to see cracks disappear as the ground soaks in the rain making it one.  

  • Please pray for the Church to have a clear vision to see Kosova transformed from the inside of the Body out.

Thank you for partnering with us in praying for this nation. Please let us know if you are organizing a prayer event and would like any more information or resources.  Let’s together trust that God is and will be using our prayers on the 31st January to do wonderful things here that we would not believe even if He told us!  We look forward to sharing more with you of what He is doing amongst us and hearing from you of anything that God shares with you for Kosova as you wait on Him to share His heart and direct your intercession.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pray for peace in Kosovo

As the final status discussions and negotiations continue, internal political instability seems to be the order of the day.

Today an explosion took place at 6:15PM local time outside a political party office.  This particular party office, where a friend and I went to "ngushlloj" or offer condolences upon the death of President Rugova, is on the other side of town from where most of our team live.

At the same time, this is another in a series of explosions to hit Gjilan beginning last fell.  You can read more about this particular event here.

Please pray for peace and security for the Kosovar people and that the political situation would calm.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Finally warm in Palm Springs

I laughed when I was packing to tour Souther California, Arizona and New Mexico.  I knew the later two would likely be cold, but I expected SoCal to be much warmer.  Until yesterday and today, I'd been sadly disappointed.

I'm here with the folks at North Gate Community Church in Cathedral City (Palm Springs), CA.  As always, its been great getting to know the real people who make up the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  As an added bonus, the pastor of the church is and old friend my father's-in-law, which neither of us realized until last night.

After a great dinner at a Mexican restaurant last night, complete with live music we met at the church for a presentation on Kosovo.  Then this morning I met with the men's Bible Study group and had a fantastic breakfast.  In fact, I think this may have been the best men's breakfast I've ever attended.  Any time you can have eggs made to order it's a pretty good breakfast in my book.

This after noon I hung out with some of the youth of the church, hiking through the beautiful mountains that overlook Palm Springs.

I got to share with this gang what an awesome privilege it is to serve the Lord in Kosovo and challenged them to fully surrender their lives to the Master as the only path for their futures.

God's doing some good stuff in this historic church.  I learned from the pastor over dinner tonight that the building that the church once occupied was the oldest in the valley.  Originally built as a small chapel in 1817, it was significantly expanded in building projects in the 1920's and 1960's. 

That original building was sold several years ago and new construction will begin shortly on the church's new home.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Prescott AZ, Great people, busted lungs

I'm just about to speak to a group of AWANA "yungins" out here in Prescott, AT and am having a great time.  The Alliance Bible Church in Prescott is one of our stalwart ministry partners.  They want very much to engage with us in our ministry in Kosovo.  They want to pray, they want to love and support the missionaries, they want to give towards our support and they want to join us in ministry.

I had a great meal this afternoon with their "Missions Action Team,"
 which is their missions coordinating committee.  We had a great time discussing important issues like the pros-and-cons of Short-Term Teams, how their giving towards the Great Commission Fund affects us on the field and where we want to go in our future partnership.

I came back from lunch followed a 6AM prayer meeting and LARGE breakfast with the men of the church this morning.  One of my daily disciplines is to try to exercise, which I've singularly failed to do in recent days.  But today was the day.  I was going to take a long, aerobic walk or ride around my hosts home.

As I was anticipating all of this my host got home from work.  Ron is a great guy who loves the outdoors, loves bikes, horses and, in his words, "straddling anything he can get is legs around."  Let's go for a bike ride!!, says he.

Shortly thereafter I'm struggling to keep up with the young neighbor girl who's happily riding bareback through the Arizona high-desert.  Ron is sometimes in front of me, sometimes behind me having a great time.  This is a lot of fun, except that the sand keeps trying to swallow my mountain-bike tires and that my lungs are seriously laboring a 5,000 feet above sea-level.  Given that my home city of Raleigh, NC is a lofty 434 I'm hoping I can just die soon and get it over with.

Seriously though I had a blast being in the outdoors with Ron today.  On the other hand, I really, really miss my family today.  Tomorrow is my wife's birthday and I won't be there.  All things considered I'd rather be with them.  But if a guy has to be away from home, what more fun can he have than spitting his lungs up all over the desert.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Geek Disneyland and Rabbit Parts


Written on 1/18, posted on 1/23


One of the things I really enjoy about touring around the country is seeing places I've always dreamed of seeing but have never had the chance to see.  One of those places is Edwards Air Force base right outside of Rosamond, CA.  Or perhaps I should say Rosamond is right out side of Edwards, as the city is dwarfed by the sprawling base and not the other way around.

Edwards has been the site of almost every single advance in the US aerospace community in our history.  From its origins in the 1930s as an Army Air Force bombing range to today's test flights of the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Airborne Laser, Edwards has seen it all.

I was fortunate to visit the base courtesy of a Marine Master Sergeant and my friend Garold, mentioned in an earlier post.  Together we were able to visit the Marine Corps Air detachment at Edwards which hosts two squadrons of Marine helicopters.  Walking around and through these enormous helicopters gives one a keen appreciation for the lives that are daily on the line for the defense of our country.

Next door sits the Air Force Test Pilot School with its fleet of white T-38 trainers and F-16 fighters sitting on the flightline.  Driving around it's easy to see America's newest fighters sitting in their hangers; the unfamiliar shapes of F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters sitting in the desert cold waiting for their flights.

We also had the chance to visit an Air Force major who did his doctoral dissertation on nanotechnology and now devotes his talents to testing various systems for the Air Force.  From his building we could look across the flight line and see representatives of each bomber in the US inventory, the B-52, B-1 and the B-2 sitting on the asphalt.  Beyond them sat an enormous Boeing 747 that houses the Airborne Laser or ABL.  This aircraft serves as a testing platform for a laser weapon which is being designed to shoot down ballistic missiles shortly after their launch.

My father had raised me to be an engineer and my uncles are retired Navy & Air Force pilots.  I've loved airplanes since I was old enough to look up.  As a child I think I read every book on astronauts in my little town's public library.  For me, visiting Edwards was like visiting Disneyland, except everything is real.

Real too are the ever present swarms of  jackrabbits, familiar with the comings and goings of base personnel after so many years.  Looking around you can pick out little piles of fur spotting the fenced in portions of the base.  These fluttering little mounds are silent reminders of the ever present presence of airborne predators in the desert, desert owls playing their role in the ecosystem.  

It was hard to miss the similarity between those silent swift owls and all those warplanes on the flightline.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Back on the road in SoCal

I managed to begin my Spring tour in one of the worse cold snaps in quite some time.  The news this morning predicted that up to 75% of the citrus crop has been destroyed over the last couple of days as night time temperatures have plunged to around zero.

I arrived here Saturday afternoon after flying into Ontario, CA, a community right outside LA.  My flight was delayed for some time in Phoenix so I drove in the dark out to Rosamond, CA, the first stop on my Spring speaking tour.

I've enjoyed a warm reception from the folks at Wayside Chapel in Rosamond, CA.  Situated right next to Edwards Air Force base the city is home to huge numbers of military personnel and aerospace professionals.  After teaching in Sunday School and speaking at the morning worship service I had the privilege of having lunch with one of the men who worked on the avionics package for the F-22 Raptor, the most recent entry into the US air arsenal.

Last night I spoke again at a potluck dinner and then this morning at a Women's Bible Study.  The ladies were largely older, and largely the wives of men who worked in the aerospace industry.  It was fascinating listening to them talk about the aircraft that they or their husbands have worked on over the years.  One woman remembered quite vividly when "Captain Yeager" broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947.  It was fun to hear about some of the milestones in their lives.

We've been able to celebrate together some of the milestones in Kosovo as well.  We've been celebrating the visit that a few of the men from this church made to Kosovo a couple of years ago.  That visit caused on of those men to pursue the "ministerial studies program" in the CMA and has bitten the pastor with a bug for Kosovo that won't let go.

Yesterday I spent lunch and several hours with a family who are committed to missions and feel a strong sense of calling to work in Kosovo, serving the Lord however they might.

This church has a heart for Kosovo, largely driven by the vision of its pastor.  They want to come back and pursue a more intentional partnership with our team and our field.  I think as pastors in the Alliance continue to visit Alliance fields and connect with Alliance missions they can't help but feel part of something greater than themselves.  Honestly, I feel the same way as I visit Alliance churches around the country.  I too am part of something far greater than just ministry in Kosovo.  And, in truth, the CMA itself is just a small player in God's larger redemptive agenda for the world.

So far, cold weather, warm hearts and the celebration of important milestones have been hallmarks of this trip.  God's at work among his people!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Post-Conflict, post-apartheid countries

"Belgians and French and Dutch had been brought up in the war to believe that their patriotic duty was to cheat, to lie, to run a black market, to discredit and to defraud: these habits became ingrained after five years.

      -- Paul- Henri Spaak (Foreign Minister of Belgium)

I'm often intrigued by the attitudes of foreigners  regarding the ethics of contemporary Kosovar culture.  Few would argue that there isn't corruption in the system, that lying, theft and fraud aren't  systemic problems.

But I came across the quote above in Tony Judt's PostWar (p. 41) a couple of days ago and was struck.  I was struck mostly  because I have a good friend who is Dutch.  He's one of the most ethical and moral people I know.  His father grew up during the war and had still has memories of German troops marching through town.  The impact of five years of WWII was so profound that previously occupied countries were widely seen as morally decrepit. 

Most of us, myself included, only poorly understand  the dynamics of post-conflict countries.  Given that most Kosovar Albanians believe that the ninety percent population was under foreign occupation for decades (if not centuries) it's no supervise that there are parallels between the ethical situation of Kosovo and the occupied countries of post-WWII Europe.  Most of us just have really, really short memories.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Oh the difference a preposition makes

Google News sends me updates every day of news from Kosovo. I usually breeze through them pretty quickly, but today's headline caught my eye:

The headline is pretty striking.  A glance at the lead of the article tells a different story, as it includes the all-important preposition "at."  While this may be a typo, it is, unfortunately, not uncommon in headline writing in the Balkans.

By the way, the incident, in which 23 rounds were fired at the Serbian couple's residence, is a crime and should be punished.  Immediately after the war abandoned homes were occupied by Albanians.  In some cases this was simply a case of homeless people taking shelter, in others it was something like taking the spoils of war.

In any event, my understanding is that the law requires that the original occupants be allowed to take up residence in their pre-war homes. 


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