Dispatches From the Global Village

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Posted 3/10/14 at 10:43 AM | Brian Stiller |

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Haiti, a Place of Wide Gaps

Few countries display such extremes, from pervasive poverty to stores with most anything one could want; from literacy rates of fifty-five percent to the well educated; from curious and troubling religious practices to the inspirational and rigorous.

Haiti can be breathtaking in its beauty, yet troubling in its squalor. Less than a two-hour flight from south Florida, this country with African roots defies adequate description and self-evident reasons for its struggles and conditions. To understand Haiti, it must be felt.

Its long history includes one of the most astonishing military feats in history. In 1803, its ragtag army, kicking out Napoleon’s military, was the first army of its kind to successfully defeat a colonial power.

Of course, its recent history of brutal dictatorship—from Doc Duvalier to Papa Doc—stigmatized this Caribbean country; and even today, while ruled by an elected government, its ability to operate as a democracy is fragile.

The cataclysmic earthquake of 2010 ripped open the earth, toppling buildings and resulting in the death of a quarter million. Then as Haiti was lifting itself up by its bootstraps, two years later Cyclone Isaac blew its monstrous wind and deluge of rain, destroying much that had been rebuilt. FULL POST

Posted 2/6/14 at 11:52 AM | Brian Stiller

Dispatch From the Czech Republic

Church in Prague

The “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 ended 41 years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, transforming it into a parliamentary republic. Václav Havel, a hero and playwright was installed as president of this country that chose to divide into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This nonviolent overthrow was remarkable in Communist history. Responding to a half million demonstrating in Prague, this city of inspiring spires and castles, preserved from WWII bombings, began to rebuild but at real cost.

The Czech and Slovak societies have inherited two anti Christian movements: the anticlerical 1928 nationalist uprising and the communist takeover in the 1940s, which pushed the church underground. Compounding that is the legacy of corruption inherited from former regimes. This accepted bureaucratic hands-in-the-till mentality was more recently challenged when a Christian public servant took on the establishment.

Libor Michalek refused to do as instructed by his masters and instead exposed an embezzlement scheme. When he refused to exploit the public purse for political gain, the minister said, “Destroy it or it will destroy you.” When he then informed the Interior Minister that it was against his Christian convictions he was told he was on his own. Even journalists were afraid to pick up the story. Eventually it broke, and with taped messages vindicating the authenticity of his claims, it eventually landed in court (2010) where it has stalled. But not before he became a household name. Today Michalek serves as a senator, his Evangelical faith intact and his public witness unfiltered. FULL POST

Posted 1/21/14 at 6:16 PM | Brian Stiller

Posted 1/13/14 at 8:32 PM | Brian Stiller |

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What Country can Boast of Being one of the Most Christian?

No country boasts of being more “Christian” than Greece.

Not only is Greece totally defined as Christian it is most difficult to socially navigate if you aren’t just Christian, but Greek Orthodox. A professor, a publicly admitted communist said, “Of course we are all Christian. You can hardly register a child unless baptized by the state church. I’m an atheist but I’d be a fool not to be a Christian too.” A Christian leader in conversation happened to say he was Evangelical. The other turned in surprise and exclaimed with puzzlement, “But I thought you were Greek!”

Being Greek and Orthodox means one is linked by the umbilical cord of history, tradition and birth.

But let’s go back a step and first see how the Orthodox fits within Church history.
Countries in eastern, southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa have historically been shaped by Christian Orthodox Churches whose people make up some 100 million worldwide. FULL POST

Posted 11/12/13 at 9:22 AM | Brian Stiller |

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British Football Player's Faith Surpasses Impossible Odds

(Photo:Brian Stiller)
Robert Glover with School Children

It seems unlikely that an imposing former professional British football (soccer) player would end up as a social worker. And even more unlikely, is that he would be appointed by the Chinese government to help solve one of their most pressing problems – over a million orphans left on streets or languishing in countless orphanages. Not only has Robert Glover led in placing 250,000 Chinese orphans in Chinese homes in the last few years, he has signed an agreement with the King of Thailand to do the same there. His story tells of the mystical and sure guidance of the Holy Spirit in building out of personal gifting and skill to solve a seemingly intractable problem in places where we assume the name of Christ is unknown.

FULL POST

Posted 10/31/13 at 2:11 PM | Brian Stiller |

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A Community of Vision, Prayer and Peacemaking

It was the 1960s. Teenagers in Rome were as much into psychedelic music, mind-tripping drugs and hippy music as they were in LA or London. But not all. Countering the counter-culture, a group of young people in Rome eschewed the activities of their friends and sought a closer walk with Christ. Hungry for learning of the Bible, in quest for meaningful prayer and convinced that caring for the poor was a Christian mandate, they began to form around able and critical thinker Andrea Riccardi, himself then only in his teens.

Today the Community of Sant’Egidio has spread its influence and ministry to many in several countries, numbering some 70,000 as associates. It is made up of professionals who believe personal conversion is a beginning step to this walk of faith. It is not a religious order and being Roman Catholic is not a requirement, although most members are. They sign no covenant and make no explicit promises but all understand that daily prayer, Bible study and regular time spent with the marginalized and poor are what makes them as persons and communities vital in their walk with Christ and effective in their witness to the life of the Gospel. FULL POST

Posted 10/22/13 at 2:29 PM | Brian Stiller |

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Blood Revenge in Albania: Community Freed When Murderer is Forgiven

Tucked into southeast Europe, just across the Adriatic from Italy lies Albania, strung out along a mountainous coastline, unknown and unremarkable to most except for its post WWII declaration that it would be Atheistic: no religion allowed. Brutal. Harsh. Demanding. It was more than Communist in economic and social policy. Dictator Enver Hoxha prided himself on following Stalin. But he went further, declaring that anything religious would be outlawed. Churches, Mosques, Synagogues were demolished or turned into everything from barns to factories, making neighboring Communist dictator Tito of Yugoslavia seem like a saint. Few countries compared except North Korea.

Beyond persecution, belief in any religion was made illegal. That illegality ruled society. Creating within the culture a pragmatic, utilitarian, browbeaten people whose values rested uneasily on the quick sand of fear in being loyal to the state. The vacuum of its ideology held this historic community suspended between the absolute control of its president and a heartfelt desire to believe.

I sat with widow Elona Prroj in downtown Tirana’s Stephen café run by Christian entrepreneurs and listened to a story of which, in my initial meeting I had no warning. Blood chilling and bizarre, yet magisterial in its biblical vision. FULL POST

Posted 10/21/13 at 12:27 PM | Brian Stiller |

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Being Set Free: Canadian Christians Assisted Romania Pastor

(Photo: YouTube.com
Romanian Pastor Paul Negrut speaking at North Florida Baptist Church.

It wasn’t an unexpected visit, so when the secret police arrived asking for Paul Negrut, he knew his time had come. Others of his Christian friends had been swept up in the nets of Ceaușescu’s minions. Paul knew that for him it was just a matter of time.

It was in the 1980s, when the harsh heel of communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu held its ruthless rule over the people of Romania. Rising to power in 1965, he modeled his regime after Stalin, creating the infamous Securitate, imposing control, surveillance and dominance from 1965 to 1989. It was considered the most repressive regime in Europe. Finally during the revolutionary days of 1989, after he ordered his troops to fire on crowds gathered in Timisoara, they revolted, and he and his wife were shot as they tried to flee.

(Photo: Brian Stiller)
Pastor Paul Negrut, president of Emmanuel University

Since Paul served as a pastor, it wouldn’t be long before the police would pick him up. He was sent to a concentration camp rather than a prison so officials could avoid the annoyance of having to lay charges and completing his documents.

Paul, previously a clinical psychologist, had spent six years working in the local hospital but in time decided his real love was to serve as a pastor. In time he left the hospital and became minister of a Baptist church in Oradea. FULL POST

Posted 9/9/13 at 10:38 AM | Brian Stiller |

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Pentecostals Today

(Photo: Courtesy of Brian Stiller)

Life began for me on the Canadian prairies in a Pentecostal parsonage (manse). Along with four siblings I knew I was loved. Only as I began school did I feel the snub of peers: our church was seen as different. Often called "Holy Rollers" being Pentecostal in the 1940s and 50s meant you were on the wrong side of the cultural fence.

I lived comforted by the strength of family and friends and made bold by understanding that Christ, by his Spirit was in us. In it all I was made wiser and stronger.

These thoughts wound their way through moments of reflection during the World Pentecostal Conference in Kuala Lumpur this August.

My point of view is mixed: this continues to be my church home in which I was ordained for the ministry in 1968. However my vocational life has been spent within three non-denominational communities, which makes me both an insider and outsider. With that duality, here is my Dispatch.

It’s a curious and rowdy bunch. Starting off in 1905, led by a black preacher William J Seymour, at a converted stable on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, today the aggregate numbers of Pentecostals in their various denominational and charismatic stripes number around a quarter of a billion. FULL POST

Posted 9/2/13 at 9:26 AM | Brian Stiller

Malaysian Church Forgives Muslim Oppressors

News of Christians being given the boot in Muslim countries tends to override stories of remarkable opportunity, overshadowed instead by Muslim religion and politics, .

Malaysia, an elongated land mass fingering down from the Indo-China peninsula to the city state of Singapore, is a complex grouping of peoples and religions: Malay 70%, Indian 5%, Indigenous peoples 5%, Chinese 20%. Like Indonesia it is predominantly Muslim, so much so that the government makes popular its assumption that to be ethnic Malay one is automatically Muslim and if Muslim then Malay. Fixed in its statutes are regulations that make it unlawful to evangelize a Malay, and if a Malay chooses to convert, there is a protocol through which they must go to complete their conversion. The risks are so great that churches if holding an event outside of their church building must alert anyone reading that the event is a Christian event.

We were startled by the news on January 2010 that an Assemblies of God church had been burned to the ground. A breaking point in the struggle for Christians to operate with freedom, the catastrophe was turned to opportunity. Pastor Ong Sek Leang led me through the build up to what ended in his church lying in ashes. FULL POST

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