Monthly Archives: December 2009


[this is part two in my series on hope]

In the former Yugoslavia, in Croatia, is the city of Vukovar. The horror of the war that broke Yugoslavia up was shown in the film “Harrison’s Flowers.” It is a pretty tough movie to watch in places because of its realism. Real is often tough.

Vukovar was once a thriving multi-ethnic city on the Danube river that had drawn thousands of people from all over Yugoslavia to work in a huge shoe factory and the related supporting industries. There were Croats, Serbs, Hungarians, Bosnians, Macedonians and others. But the war changed all that. In some senses, the war began with the siege of Vukovar from August 25 to November 18, 1991. Atrocities ensued and thousands fled the city.

I first went there six years ago during Thanksgiving 2003. What I saw then was a city that had, in many ways, been turned into a broken shell. Today, six years later, the city is on the mend, much of it is now repaired. But there is understandable mis-trust among groups since the war was fought along ethnic lines. A counselor there told me that many, perhaps most of the residents of Vukovar suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to their experiences and the physical state of the city. You don’t forget a war when the house across the street is empty because it was shelled and burned out in the war.

A friend of mine there fought in the war suffered greatly when he was captured and held in a prison camp. He suffered greatly for years after. Then he became a follower of Jesus and, over time, he began to see relief from his symptoms. Today he is well and is a leader of his church. God has and is doing works of reconciliation. People of different ethnicities are friends, co-workers, fellow worshipers. This amazingly vibrant church is one of the means God has used to bring blessing to people. A couple of years ago a house in town burned down. It was the home to a family of one ethnic group and it was incredible to see the people of other ethnic groups untie around these folks and help rebuild their home. There is great hope in reconciliation when people look to Jesus, as he is the great reconciler.

If you would like to donate to support the ongoing work of reconciliation in Vukovar by supporting the church there, you can do so at

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a brick and a bakery

[Today, I embark on telling a series of stories on what is going on in the world that I see. It’s not just to get you riled up, nor is it just a means for me to vent. These are stories of hope. I want to give you a chance to join me in making a difference. Here’s our first story…]

Early one morning, in a city in the former Soviet Union, a worker arrived to find two small girls asleep in the bakery she managed. During the night, the girls had broken in to the bakery to fill their empty stomachs and then fell asleep in a corner behind the counter: Sasha and Oxana* were six and three. The angry manager called the police, who took the girls to the police station. Social services were called in. Somehow, these officials were able to determine the girl’s names and find their mother, who was drunk. When she sobered up, she told the Social Services workers that she could not care for the children any longer. She did not know where the girl’s father was, perhaps he was in prison for drugs. They were homeless. She told them to keep the girls.

For over a decade, I’ve been visiting Eastern Europe, over and over again I see the plight of abandoned children due to substance abuse.** Last month, I heard the true story you just read. I met the girls in their new home.

Sasha and Oxana are real persons, they are now seven and four years old. Imagine a cute bubbly four year old, that’s Oxana. You see, the Social Services in this Eastern European city have discovered that the best care in the county is found in the Second Chance Homes. These homes are in the country, staffed by caring, well trained workers (I visited three of them. They provide a warm, clean environment where the children live in good conditions and are well fed. Not only are these children returned to classes in the local school, but they also learn responsibility through chores, and when old enough, they learn a trade. In one of the homes, on a farm, the older children learn how to care for animals and use farm equipment. As a Christian organization, the leaders in the homes not only help with homework, they live and teach Biblical principles to the kids. I have known the leader of the shelters for eight years. I am glad to be associated with them.

When I was there in November, I was able to provide some funding for the shelters. This Christmas season, would you consider helping Oxana and her sister and roommates? Please prayerfully consider making a donation to support the Second Chance Homes for Children, $25 can go a surprisingly long way. You can donate online or by sending a check to Christian Educators Outreach, be sure to make note that your donation is for “Second Chance”. For more information on just how to help us help the Second Chance Homes, click here.

*Details (including names) have been changed to provide some protection of privacy.
**A recent statistic showed that “in 2007 alcohol-related deaths constituted 40% and 22% of all deaths among adult men and women, respectively.” This does not consider the number of parents in prison resulting from offenses caused by their alcoholism.Institute for Demography and Social Studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

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Covenant Christmas Chapel

I started a tradition in 1995 at Covenant. The Christmas Chapel. For me and a few others, a highlight is when I read the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke’s Gospels to the background of Silent Night by Mannheim Steamroller.  I’ve been invited back to read again today.

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Driving back from DC today, I caught some coverage of the President’s speech in Norway (receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (for those on Mars)). Listening to extensive excerpts of the speech, his words and tone made me think of the Korean War Memorial in D.C., the pinnacle of which has this quote:

“Freedom isn’t Free.”

Then I thought of Oct 1, at Scott Stadium, when Bono ad-libbed these words in a quiet moment during a song… “Freedom was born on Christmas day.”

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princess returns to her realm

I’m driving the Princess of Obuda to the airport tomorrow so that she can return for an official visit to her realm from her exile to America. Great crowds are expected to line the roads out of the Bp airport all the way into the city for this glorious event. A brass band will be on hand to play as she comes through the customs door at hte airport. On her agenda will be a visit to the OTHER capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire and visits with other leaders of adjacent realms. Stay tuned for developments.

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got ticked off again

do I have anger issues?

I got ticked off again in a meeting the other day when in a meeting it became clear that denominational barriers were going to prevent unity and the opportunity for people to work together for the cause of the Gospel… because of insecurity and bureaucracy…Why can’t people get over the stinking past and move forward without getting hung up on their blasted opinions about this and that rule, tradition, or doctrine? WHY??? sorry, it was time to vent.

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