Friday, April 27, 2007

Early education

My daughter sent me a link to Prep courses ready kids for kindergarten, and I think I began to see why so many parents come to our homeschooling booths at different conventions all in a tizzy about their 2- and 3- and 4-year-olds needing quality education.

We have always shaken our heads in wonder: have they never read Better Late Than Early by Raymond & Dorothy Moore?

Read the article, however, and things begin to become clear. Just one snippet:

Being kindergarten-ready means more than it did even a decade ago. In the 1990s, states began drafting "learning standards" setting out expectations for their schools, including prekindergarten classes. At the same time, new brain research linked children's early exposure to language, books and music to their later success in school. And by levying embarrassing sanctions on schools failing to produce fluent readers by third grade, President Bush's No Child Left Behind program pushed districts to require more from younger pupils.

As a result, in many districts, skills once thought appropriate for first or second graders are being taught in kindergarten, while kindergarten skills have been bumped down to preschool. . . .

Amy Barnes, who is the mother of four-year-old Sylvan pupil Hank . . . "panicked" last winter, she says, when Hank's preschool teacher reported that he couldn't write his name, identify his letters, count to 30 or wield his scissors -- skills that the local school district tells parents it would like to see in incoming kindergartners.

"I feel we read all the time, but whatever I was doing at home wasn't working," says Ms. Barnes, who enrolled Hank for two reading lessons a week. . . .

Ms. Barnes, who is paying $4,000 for 10 months of tutoring, says that after six months, Hank is kindergarten-ready. "We're being proactive," she adds. "I don't want my child to be the one who always struggles."
Click the article link to learn more horrors. . . .

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A letter from The Protestant Church of Smyrna

While in Iraq last Wednesday, we heard news of three murders that had taken place in Diyarbakir, Turkey--the city from which we had driven to enter Iraq, and to which we intended to return for our flight on Thursday back to Istanbul. The victims: all Christians, all involved in Bible translation or Bible printing work. One was of German background; the other two were Turks--Muslims who had chosen to follow Jesus.

M, one of the men who accompanied us, knew the German fellow and debated whether he should extend his stay in Turkey in order to pay his respects at the man's funeral.

He decided against it.

The news of the murders filled the Turkish press for days. It was certainly front page news and the leading story on television through last Friday, when our group was in Istanbul.

I got the distinct impression that almost nothing was heard of these murders elsewhere in the world. Seung-Hui Cho's mass murders at Virginia Tech held the spotlight.

I want to mention the murders in Turkey for several reasons.

1) To bring them to light, in case you had not heard of them.

2) To help you, perhaps, gain some perspective on what life is like--or may be like--for many Christians in Muslim countries.

3) To share something I heard last Friday while I sat in the offices of the International Bible Society in Istanbul.

First thing I should acknowledge: I just found out the murders did not take place in Diyarbakir. They occured in Malatya, a city a little over 100 miles north and mostly west of Diyarbakir.

My brother just forwarded me a letter written by a Christian who lives in the area where the even occurred. She explains the situation in detail.

Dear friends,

This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46-year-old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, “Goodbye, son. I love you."

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35-year-old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honour from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord's presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as "seekers." No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of "faithful believers" in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it's like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o'clock.

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman's hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours.

---NOTICE: The following paragraph contains GRAPHIC DETAILS of the torture---
Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugur's stabs were too numerous to count. They were disembowelled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed. Fingers were chopped off, their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open. Possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured. Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.

Neighbours in workplaces near the print house said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.

Meanwhile, another believer, Gokhan, and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. "We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there," he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone's background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, "Police, open up!" Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.

Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated, with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur's throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targeted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public's attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to "buy their children's souls". Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favour of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, "We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here."

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favour of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, "he will serve time for Allah."

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honoured God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that "it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian." In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.

Necati's funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati's funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati's wife Shemsa told the world, "His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ. Necati was a gift from God. I feel honoured that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honour. I want to be worthy of that honour."

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati's funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. "Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do," she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, "She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do."

The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city. The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also."(Acts 17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. "Don't pray against persecution, pray for perseverence," urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya: all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.

Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Saviour. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.

We don't know the details. We don't know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.

But we pray--and urge you to pray--that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (24 April 2007)

Please please please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can, in as many countries as you can.

Please always keep the heading as: "From the Protestant Church of Smyrna" with this contact information:, (in Turkish).
I have just one more detail to add to this story.

While sitting in a Christian office in Istanbul last Friday, one of the men from the office came into the room in fury. "The Anglicans are worse than the Muslims!" he declared. "Yesterday morning I announced the funeral [for one of the murder victims] was going to be held in the Anglican church. Yesterday evening, the bishop told us there were to be no more than 125 people present, and there were to be no cameras!"

I didn't understand the import of his comments. Were such requirements not appropriate for a dignified funeral?

"No!" several people present replied in unison.

"Just last year--maybe six months ago--a western journalist was murdered here in Turkey. 300,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul to demonstrate solidarity and to register their protest. But now the Anglican bishop is trying to suppress the news of these murders from leaking out! It is an outrage! With friends like these . . . !"

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Storing Bottles: Business in a Kurdish Muslim context . . .

I must be careful not to speak beyond my knowledge. So please understand that my comments, here, are based on the small observations I made during 10 days in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey . . . and the testimony of several people who have lived in this part of the world for many, many years.
A few observations:
  • Walk up and down the streets in almost any community in northern Iraq or southeastern Turkey and you will find dozens of shopkeepers and artisans all selling very much the same items. No prices listed. All "just" waiting for someone to do business with them. In Diyarbakir, Turkey, I took photos of about 20 shoeshine men and boys all lined up, one next to the other, beside the railing in a public square.

    Talk about competition!

    But it's actually more like the automobile rows you find in the United States--you know, where all the auto dealers locate right next to each other.

    I found it was the same way in almost every marketplace we went. All the hardware shops were lined up, one right next to the other, in a single block; all the fabric stores; the spice shops; the women's garments; men's garments; . . . even a row of mannequin stores!

  • There were very few large stores. In fact, I can't remember seeing any that were over maybe 2,000 or 3,000 square feet, total. And those felt empty!
I asked about this phenomenon.

  • First, there is no lending at interest permitted in this society. Which means it is difficult--almost impossible--to get more money than is available within your own extended family.

    Second, you can't trust anyone, especially if they are outside your own family.

    Result: No enterprise can grow bigger than the extended family.
Bob told a story from his time in Iraq in the early 90s.

Bob was involved with an NGO (Non Governmental Organization; i.e., a charity) that sought to vaccinate Kurdish families' animals.

One day, a doctor came to him. "Brother," the doctor greeted him. "I speak the truth in the Name of Jesus: Dr. ______ of such-and-so city [about 80 miles away] is selling the [donated] vaccines to the government and pocketing the money. . . . I tell you the truth, as God is my witness."

Well, this put Bob in a terrible position.

Back in the early 90s, there were no inter-city telephones in northern Iraq: not land lines and definitely not cellphones. So to check out the allegations, Bob had to devote a day to go to City B, speak with the accused doctor, and return.

When he arrived, he challenged the doctor, who immediately denied the charges and said, "Here! I will bring you the proof!"

He then proceeded to bring out his paperwork and all the spent vials of vaccine.

"See!" he said. "The bottles. . . . We must always store the bottles in case anyone ever charges us with wrong-doing. . . ."

Question, now: Who was telling the truth?

Bob could not be sure, but he was tending to side with the doctor who had been accused.

"Why do people do these things?" he asked, hoping, perhaps, to gain some insight.

"It is the way we do things here," said the man. "And so we store bottles. For proof of innocence." And Bob had spent a day to ensure integrity of distribution.

TCKs--Third Culture Kids

Several years ago, David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken wrote a seminal book called Third Culture Kids. It describes and offers wonderful, practical, helpful advice to those who grew up in--or are now growing up in--a cross-cultural environment . . . and to the parents and others who associate with and may be able to influence these special people.

While in Iraq, I've had the opportunity to associate with some TCKs--and TCK parents.

I think of D. Born in Thailand of American parents. She lived four years in Thailand/one year in the U.S. all through her growing up years. When it came time for college, she headed off to Boston, then taught third grade for two years in an American school, and is now finishing a six-month term in northern Iraq.

"What do you plan to do when you leave Iraq?" I asked her.

"I look forward to going home to visit my parents for a few months," she said.

"Home?" I asked, unsure whether she was saying her parents happened to be in the U.S. at the moment or whether they were in Thailand.

"Thailand," she said. And then, more philosophically, "Home is . . . wherever I am or wherever I have been. Chengmai (Thailand) is home. Boston is home. Sulaimanya is now home. The house where I live is home. Our office is home. In fact, one time my colleagues laughed when I said, 'It's so good that our house is so close to our home'--meaning our house is so close to our office!"

After D, there was H. H is closer to my age. He was born in the U.S. of Southern Baptist missionary parents. After birth, however, he spent almost his entire life in Tel Aviv, Israel. That's where he grew up.

Now he lives in Beirut, glad for the fact that he wasn’t born in Israel. Otherwise he would be a hot target for the Hezbollah marauders in his area.

Of all the TCKs or close relatives, I spent the most time with M, a guy who grew up in the U.S., but went to Iraq in the early '90s. Since then, he and his family have lived in Iraq (3 years), Turkey (5 years), Germany (5 years), and the U.S. (2 years).

He said his son, now a sophomore in college, has had a hardest time adjusting to life in America. In fact, he seriously considered moving back to Germany. The American kids he bumped into just seemed so . . . narrow or . . . parochial or . . . unaware or something. . . .

"Give it time," counseled M. "This is your opportunity to help expand their worldview."

M's son illustrates the kinds of problems TCKs face and why Pollock and Van Reken wrote their book. Many years before Pollock and Van Reken wrote Third Culture Kids, several researchers had noticed and begun to write about the unique characteristics of children who grow up in countries and cultures that their parents don't call home.

If your parents have immigrated to the country where you live, you may face discrimination and the taunts of longer-term inhabitants. But you still know where you belong.

When your parents, however, keep talking about "home 'back in [the United States, Britain, South Africa, or wherever],'" then your identity is not so clear. You realize your "main" culture (where D spent four of every five years) isn't home; but when you go "home," that's not home, really, either. You don't quite "fit" the way the other kids do. Your interests are different. Your values, too. You look at the world differently.

So you're not a first-culture kid. You're not a second-culture kid. You're from a third culture. And strangely, noted the researchers, that "third culture" was similar for all kids no matter what they or their parents identified as their first and second cultures. Your parents are from Britain and you live in Papua New Guinea? You will find more in common with kids whose parents are from the United States and are spending most of their time in the Philippines than you will with either other Britons or natives of Papua New Guinea! --Same thing with the American kid growing up in the Philippines--he'll feel far more at ease with you than either other Americans or Filipinos. . . .

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Squatty Potties

This is one of those subjects you don't really want to talk about, but have to. At least, you do if you're in a country like Iraq.

If you will be offended by frank discussions of bathroom necessities, I encourage you to find another post to read. You need not bother yourself with this one!

Thank you.
Two weeks before I left on this trip, I wrote to my host, Bob:
One of the most mentally burdensome issues for me as I think about this trip: The squatty potties.

I have confronted a squatty potty two or three times in my life. I hated the very thought of using it. Talk about filthy and smelly! . . .

As I contemplate a week and a half of being in an area with such facilities, I realize it is almost impossible that I will avoid facing some extended periods near a hole and . . . messiness. And all kinds of questions arise:
  • How do you balance yourself for such extended periods?
  • When my system is acting up, I can't tell where the [unmentionables] will fly . . . which means, if I leave my pants down around my calves, I worry about possibly soiling them. . . . But to remove them completely (considering the filth that was on the floors of the h*ll-holes I recall!) . . . I can't imagine such a thing. So then I wonder: what does one do? Is there some kind of discrete "instruction book" to which you could refer me? Any coaching someone can provide? . . . I have this sense that a person who grows up in such a society is taught early on how to deal with all extreme circumstances. But I did not. . . .
  • What are the "rules" and conventions concerning "public" v. more "private" potties? (I have been in an airport in India (???) that had no doors . . . )
Perhaps some others would appreciate "hearing" answers. Or maybe I'm the only true neophyte.

He wrote back very graciously:

Let me see if I can set the squatty potties problem in its narrow context. First, the use of squatty potties begins after we leave Diyarbakir. . . . We will be staying at hotels in [Iraq]. In every hotel, I believe, there is a western toilet. So we are talking about problems during the day, when we are with our friends, and when we are traveling. When I use a squatty potty, I balance myself by putting my right hand on the wall behind me. There should be privacy, including a door, in each place. . . .

I am glad you are coming, and proud of you for coming despite the dread of what you may have to face. You can ask me anything at anytime without embarrassment.
His answer put me at ease, and I was fine with what he had said . . . until I got to the Turkish/Iraqi border and I was finally ready to have a movement. I brought a small quantity of toilet paper into the stall with me but found it barely adequate. Adequate, definitely. But barely so.

Meanwhile, someone came into the stall next to mine. He finished his business much more rapidly than I did and I could hear him using the water: sloosh, sloosh, sloosh!

"What is he doing? How is he doing it? How do the natives make this work?"

I got out and asked Bob for the details. "I mean, if I had grown up in this society, I would know. But I did not. Someone has to teach a child how to deal with all these kinds of things when she or he is growing up: 'What you do when you have to go #2. What you do when you vomit. . . .'" [As I said: excuse me for the details. But these are real concerns!]

Bob, ever the joker, said, "Come on! In America, with sit-down toilets, no one had to teach you! . . ." [Ri-i-ight! --Sarcasm.]

Bob answered straightforwardly and without embarrassment.

"You use your left hand. You wet it, then wipe yourself. Wet and wipe until you're clean. . . . Just be glad that you have water and don't have to use sand!"

"'Sand'!" I said in amazement. "What do you mean?"

"If you don't have water, then you use sand. And it gets really itchy on your backside until you get someplace where you can use water again. . . ."

[!!!!!] "Did you ever have to use sand?!?" I asked.

He shrugged yes and walked away. . . .
Confession: I've "gone native" a couple of times since. Water on the hand, hand on the rectum. . . .


You get to know yourself in a whole new way.
I was talking with one of the men we met, a civil engineer who works on water and sewer projects. He was quite willing, himself, to talk about the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different restroom mechanisms in the world today. He mentioned Thomas Crapper ["Oh, yes!" --He's the guy who invented the modern airlock sit-down toilet system like what most of us use in the United States. Yes. Last name Crapper. Where we get our word cr*p and why a certain place is called a cr*pper . . .].

He noted (what I already knew), that it is due to the understood use of the left hand (to wipe one's bottom) that one should never pass food in this part of the world by means of your left hand.

"It also puts a different spin on the significance for a criminal of having his right hand cut off. . . ."

"Of course, they cut off thieves' right hands not in order to force them to eat with their left hand. But it is because they understand the right hand to be the strong hand," I commented.

"True enough," he agreed. "But it does add a new dimension of understanding."
And then one final meditation semi-related to this subject.

Someone commented yesterday: "This is a stooping, squatting society. You squat to go to the bathroom. You kneel or sit on the floor to eat. . . ." [I don't remember what other activities he mentioned one does on the ground or on the floor. But it resonated. . . .] "We can't minister effectively in Jesus' name unless and until we are willing to stoop to join those to whom we want to minister, just as Jesus squatted to minister to us. . . ."

God at work in Iraq

"Is it possible we are seeing harvest time in Iraq?" I asked our hosts. We had just met over a dozen Muslim background believers in Christ--some natives of Iraq, some from Iran, some Turkmen, some Kurd--and one follower of Jesus from a religous sect called Kakayi--people who follow the Prophet Jonah in a form of worship that they hold completely secret. (We asked the now Christian man to describe what Kakayi worship looks like. Even though he no longer practices it, he would not say.)

And now, in the afternoon, our hosts had just finished telling us a number of astonishing stories of new faith in Christ. So many stories! I did not take notes, except for one. It seemed, almost, to "summarize" what we were hearing.

A young Arab Muslim from Baghdad had moved north to escape the fighting.

A follower of Christ from the United States, who moved to Iraq only a couple of months ago, befriended the young Arab within a couple of weeks of his arrival. One evening, the American returned home late--about 11 pm.

"How are you?" he asked. (But it is the normal polite greeting.)

"Not well!" the Arab replied. (A shocking, totally unexpected answer. Who says such a thing in response to "How ya doin'?" in the United States? Far less, who says such a thing when an American in a foreign country asks such a thing of a native?)

The American stopped. The Arab poured out his whole life's story: his frustration and disappointment with his father. The complete loss of relationship with his father. His attempt to replace his love for his father with love--near hero-worship--toward his older brother. But now the breakdown of relationship with his older brother.

"What should I do?" he asked.

The American replied: "Let us pray to Allah [God] and ask Him and be silent and listen and wait to see what He says."

So they prayed. And sat in silence.

The American, after a few minutes of silence, began to wonder: "What have I gotten myself into?" How long would it be before they decided they had been silent long enough.

But after about five minutes, the Arab broke the silence. "I know what I need to do," he said.

"You do?" asked the American.

"Yes. . . . I need to follow Jesus."

"Where did that come from?" I asked.

"Apparently, he had been seeking for something more back in Baghdad. This was just the time. . . ."

Other team members shared similar stories. One of the team leaders who has been in-country for several years noted that many have come to Christ in Kirkuk. He teaches them, and then, due to the violence and threats, they scatter. He teaches them, and they scatter.

At this point, a third generation of Jesus-followers doesn't even know about him. "The Gospel is becoming truly Iraqi."

He said many Muslims want to learn about Jesus, so they ask for the Jesus Film and other materials not only so they can watch, but so they can pass them on to friends--and the ones who are asking aren't necessarily even believers.

"A couple of Iranians were headed back to Iran. They wanted as many Jesus Film DVDs as we could give them. They brought a full suitcase back across the border. They want to start a church."

One guy I met, a Kurd, has led 18 others to faith in Christ in two years. And those he has discipled are discipling others. (One of his disciples was also present at the morning meeting . . . and the two of them were obviously leaders.)
In the midst of all the good news, however, there are also sobering stories.

First, stories of the hardships many new believers face. We need to lift the burdens of these brothers and sisters.
  • The brother whose wife keeps threatening to commit suicide if he does not revert. ["Self-immolation--where the person douses him- or herself with gasoline and lights him- or herself on fire--is fairly common in this area," someone said. Point: It is not a threat the man can take lightly.]
  • The brother (whom I met) whose wife has run away, with their daughter, back to her parents. He has no recourse. From her perspective, he must become a good Muslim again, or live without her and his daughter.
Then there are the temptations--many of them, sadly, brought on by western Christians! One that particularly struck me:
  • Two brothers who had been growing in Christ and had been doing good work as evangelists were approached by a certain western "mission" agency: "If you will work full-time in ministry, we will pay all your expenses. . . ."

    So now the brothers are "bought." They lose credibility with their peers, even though they have more time to devote to ministry.

    Such "bought" success stories are also very difficult to swallow for those who have done the hard work of planting, watering, cultivating . . . or enduring the pain associated with bringing to the point of birth and actually going through the birth process . . . only to have someone else, suddenly, take all the credit.

    But the team leader said, "I seek to remember the example of St. Paul: "By whatever means. . . ."
Oh. One last comment.

Someone noted that many Iranians hate their government. So they are turning to Communism. But then they grow disillusioned with Communism. So then they turn to Christ.

"It seems they find it easier to convert from Communism to Christ than directly from Islam to Christ."

". . . By whatever means. . . ."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Denver, Colorado to Diyarbakir, Turkey

I got up early this morning (as I often do). I'm in City #1 in northern Iraq, 10 hours ahead of Denver time.

"Northern Iraq" may be a misnomer according to the locals. When you cross the border from Turkey, I was told I should never refer to this area with the words the locals use. They refer to it as "Kurdistan Area of Iraq." And if they themselves weren't trying to be quite so politically correct, they would call it, simply, "Kurdistan."

I have to confess that in any- and everything that follows, my explanations are mere reports of what I have been told.

I left Denver on Monday, April 9, at about 2 in the afternoon. I flew Lufthansa directly to Munich, Germany, where I connected, not quite 10 hours later (11:40 pm Denver time; 7:40 am Munich time) to another Lufthansa flight, scheduled to take off an hour later, headed to Istanbul. Perfect connection and on-time journey to Istanbul.

We landed in Istanbul, just over two hours after take-off, at about 11 a.m. Munich time, noon in Istanbul.

Two experiences on the Lufthansa flights worthy of mention.
  1. I knew I needed to get some sleep quickly if I was to have at all a good experience on Tuesday. For some reason, I miscalculated the time differential as "only" six hours (when it's actually eight). But still, I figured I should get to sleep by 6 pm Denver time, only a few hours after takeoff, and just an hour and a half or so after "brunch" was served. In anticipation of the need for sleep and the time shift upon arrival in Munich (not to mention the further time shift, whatever it was going to be, upon arrival in Istanbul and Diyarbakir), when I woke up at 3:30 on Monday morning, I decided to stay up. I figured I'd be pretty close to ready for a nap, at least, by 6 pm.

    I was. And I got five hours of sleep--not much less than my norm at home.
  2. Lufthansa features two soft drinks I have never had before. I decided to try them both. The bitter lemon, in particular, is very good! If you ever get the opportunity. . . .
Back to Istanbul.

I had been told I would need to purchase a Visa shortly after landing. Signs seemed to point the way, though not perfectly clearly. When I got to the general location of where the Visa signs seemed to point, one sign indicated "Turkish Citizens" and one "All Others."

I went to "All Others."

The immigration official looked at my passport, scowled slightly, and said, "You need a Visa!"


He pointed to his left—the area where, I knew, all the "Turkish Citizens" were going. As I looked at him in bewilderment, he waved his left-pointing finger up and down, as if to say, "Keep going that direction."

So I turned back, went out to the main line of traffic, and continued beyond where the Turks were going. . . . Ahh! A sign! "Visa"!

I had been told I should expect to pay about US$35. The man behind the desk said, "Twenty dollars US or 15 Euro." I had some Euros with me, but I decided to use dollars. (Considering the exchange rate, I realized, as I walked away, the Euros would have been a better deal. . . . Oh well!)

Back to immigration. No hitch. On to pick up my luggage, a 57-pound suitcase and a large, 37-pound box of medical supplies. They both made their timely appearances and, utilizing a luggage trolley that I was able to snag, I headed toward the domestic terminal.

I sat down in the not overly-large waiting area, and proceeded to read some literature I had brought. I also glanced at a Turkish newspaper that seemed to be left on multiple seats throughout the waiting area.

Interesting, I thought: the paper uses far more color than any American paper I've seen—even more than USA Today. And most of the stories were (or are) single paragraphs: just "sound bites." Much of the paper is taken up with sports, celebrities, and market news. And it featured a relatively high number of women's photos compared to the number of women one sees on the streets (or in the airport) in Turkish society at large. Furthermore, the women in the paper seemed all to be dressed in western (and rather revealing western) garb—far different from what you might expect to see on the streets of Istanbul (let alone more conservative cities in Turkey).

I should probably also note: though I sat in a no-smoking area, the air was filled with the smell of cigarettes. All around the perimeter of the waiting area, in every restaurant, men sat smoking.

About 2:30, I recognized one of the men from my group show up in the Domestic terminal. By 4:30, it seemed, we had all gathered: two women and nine men.

Our flight on to Diyarbakir wasn't scheduled till 8:10, so we made arrangements to check our baggage and head out to a shopping mall where we might enjoy some fresher air than what was available in the terminal.

The Galleria, I was told, was the first modern, indoor shopping mall in Turkey. It was 15 years old. In its center there was an ice skating rink. As we walked in, we were a floor above the rink. As I looked down, I estimated there were about a dozen children and a single female attendant enjoying the ice.

Our group headed to the restaurant zone—virtually the entire ring of stores that surrounded the skating rink on the ground floor. Among several local outfits, there was a Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Not too different from most other large cities I've been in the world—including Beijing, China!)

"First order of business," said Bob, the leader of our group: "I want you to find a bank and change $50 into Turkish lira." --A kind of adult scavenger hunt.

We set off. Ah! There were two banks, and both of them were on the second floor. Closed! It was 5:30. They closed at 17:00. But there were ATM machines.

Among eight people, I was the only one with an ATM card. So I became money-changer. Standard exchange rate, I had been told, was about 1.38 lire per dollar. I gave them 1.4--70 lire per 50 dollars US.

As everyone settled back at restaurant alley, I decided to do some window shopping. Smaller than any American mall I've been in, this mall still featured the kind of shopping experience one might expect in any high-end mall in the United States: the same style of clothing boutiques (though few American brands), small electronics, etc., and two shops that reminded me of upscale malls in China and India, but nowhere else: a grocery store and a large appliances store. (I don't think I've seen shops in covered malls that feature washers, dryers, stoves, and so forth. Not where that is the store's only inventory.)

On returning to the group at about 6:15, I realized if I was going to eat anything that day, I had better buy it now. It appeared Bob hadn't eaten yet. I asked if he planned to eat. "Yes!" he said.

We first perused the grocery store. Bananas were 3 lire per kg. (Do the math: 3 lire is just over $2.10; a kilogram is 2.2 pounds—about 95 cents a pound.) Gouda cheese: 65 lire per kg. (Let's see: 2.2 pounds into 65 lire is not quite 30 lire per pound—well over $20 per pound!)

We purchased a couple of half-liter or three-quarter-liter bottles of fruit soda for 2.56 lire and headed out to one of the restaurants to get food.

We both chose the chicken equivalent of shish kebob (shish _____). As we ordered, Bob noticed they featured a frothy white drink. "Is that ______?" he asked.


"You've got to try some!" he told me. And ordered two mugs. When we got them, he explained that they were a yogurt drink. It reminded me a bit of buttermilk. . . .
By 7:45 we were back at the airport, and by 8:15, on the plane. We arrived in Diyarbakir at 9:45, collected our luggage, and . . . Bob realized one of his bags--the one with all his clothing--hadn't arrived.

Seventeen pieces of luggage: which tags didn't belong to him?

By 10:30, the security guard was growing impatient. "We are closed!" he said.

As the staff turned off the lights, we moved our bags outside . . . while Bob and an associate headed off to the luggage area to see what they could do.

About 11:00, we loaded three taxis and headed to our hotel. By 11:30, I was shot. I plugged my ears with the earplugs and covered my eyes with the mask I had received from Lufthansa, laid down, and slept soundly.
Wednesday morning, 5:30, I was awake. I took off the mask and pulled the plugs out of my ears and heard a cock crow almost immediately. I read my Bible as the sun rose, and eventually began taking pictures of the scenery outside my window.

7:30 we went to breakfast. Concerned about potential gastrointestinal distress, I went easy: a bunch of bread and two hearty bowls of lentil soup.

At 8:30, we decided to take a stroll through the streets of Diyarbakir. We headed to the city wall. Diyarbakir, we were told, had the largest (longest) wall of any ancient walled city—five miles long. Unlike the (solely decorative) wall of Jerusalem, which was built of relatively soft limestone (therefore useless for protection) in the 16th century (long after any wall could actually provide a city with protection), Diyarbakir's wall was constructed by the Romans . . . of basalt.

Our guide, a man who has worked among Muslims for many years, told us that just the year before, he had been shown a church building constructed by Muslim converts who had fought the legal battles necessary to acquire the right to construct and own a church building. Unlike others, who have chosen to pursue a less confrontative approach, these Turks have said they believe . . .

Key observation on the streets (something I have noticed elsewhere): "everyone" is trying to sell the same things. In the city square, there were at least 20 shoe shine men all lined up in a row. What is to differentiate their services? Nothing obvious! Same thing with shop after shop. They are all selling the same products.

No wonder there is so much poverty!

Yet cheek-by-jowl with the food shops, here was a row of gold shops with rows and rows of gold rings prominently displayed in the window. Where does the wealth come from to purchase such ornaments? [Hours later, I was informed, the gold jewelry serves as a store of wealth. It is also easily transported, and you have it with you at all times, so it is not easily stolen.]

Another observation: enormous numbers of young children working, not in school.

Turkey has compulsory education laws. "Their enforcement is somewhat lax," said my informant. [No kidding!]

Two key features of Diyarbakir:
  1. It was the place where, in 1925, Attaturk murdered his religious opponents. He had several dozen men, who opposed his "secular state" idea, hung in the square.
  2. Diyarbakir is at the point of the Euphrates where the river is large enough to support a raft all the way down the Baghdad and the Red Sea. It is the terminus for shipping. Thus its medieval claim to fame.
Whoa! The power just went out. I'm working on UPS power backup. I'd better post or lose everything. . . .
Also, internet connections here are exceptionally slow and my space bar barely works.

I will attempt to post more tomorrow. [It is, right now, actually 10:15 pm Friday evening here in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan.]

More stories later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Legacy Planning: Family Meeting, III

I guess I'd like to make two final observations inspired by our family meeting last Saturday.
  1. Luke raised a great question about "Our Money"--"family" money, or, in many ways, "John's & Sarita's money"--as opposed to "My Money"--the money that Luke (or anyone) earns himself.

    "I don't feel the same way about the money I get from Mom and Dad," he noted. He almost feels ashamed either to ask for it or receive it. The only money he feels good about using or spending is the money he has earned himself. . . .

    I thought that was a good observation and something we needed (and still need to, I'm sure) talk about: What is our attitude about money? What do we want for our kids? What do we specifically not want? . . .
  2. . . . I can't remember!
Oh well. Maybe some other time. . . .

Legacy Planning: Family Meeting Revisited

I listed my values (as brought up through this legacy planning process); I also quoted our "final" (actually, preliminary, first-draft-final) "Family Vision" statement as hammered out with the kids. I thought it might be interesting to look back on the "Family Vision" statement Sarita and I came up with (with a lot of help primarily from Terry Hunt) back on March 12th, and then, a list of the values (M's and L's!) of other family members (besides myself) that led up to our joint (all 6 of us) "Family Vision." I think it's interesting how and where various members' values coalesced and separated. . . .

So. Family Vision Statement as Sarita and I were able to state it on March 12th:
We, the Holzmanns, strive to live as a family iwth a purposeful and focused Christian culture. We value education and work that inspires the passion and skills for each person to pursue his or her Christian calling. We aspire to family harmony, consensual decision-making, and living life with integrity, balancing positive action, such as philanthropy, business decisions and intervention, with reflective prayer.
Honestly: I look at that satement and compare it with what we as a complete family unit came up with on March 31st, and I like our full family statement much better.

(Something else I should probably note: While Terry's influence was probably too great on March 12th [I think some of the slightly "strange" language came from his attempts to summarize what he thought he was hearing us say], when it came time for us as a family to come up with our statement, Terry had little if any influence. We really "did it on our own." Except--and this is why I mention it here--I want to acknowledge that I don't think we could have come up with such a statement on our own. What I mean is: We needed Terry and Greg--someone--to take us through the process. Even if we had fully understood the process, I don't think we could have done it on our own. The dynamics were different. We were able to speak with one another a bit more freely, I think . . . just because we had someone else lead us. If I had tried to lead the conversation, I sense, somehow, we wouldn't have been able to be quite so open . . . or something.)


And then for the other family members' values.

I won't reveal who said what. But I want, simply, to demonstrate both a lot of the commonalities and the differences.
1Relations w/ FamilyAchievement
Relations w/ FriendsSocial Status
Relations w/ GodAdventure
Make a DifferenceCareer
2Make a DifferencePassion
AchievementSocial Status
3Relations w/ FamilyAdventure
Relations w/ GodSocial Status
Make a Difference/GenerosityAcceptance
4Relations w/ FriendsRelations w/ God
AchievementSecurity (Job)
Yes. We obviously have some . . . diversity within our family! And I'm not wholly comfortable with all of it. We had a few places in which different members challenged each other and questioned how we could possibly move forward under the circumstances. . . .

I will be curious to see how all of these things continue to work themselves out in the future!

Optical illusion

A video shot with strobe lights produces some pretty nifty optical illusions. I particularly like the water droplets that split in two and just "hang there" in mid-air. And when the splashes go in reverse! . . . Wow!

How to reply to (the extremely disrespectful) "Whatever!" . . .

BBC News includes an article today:
"Unruly children used to answer back - now they just crush any comeback with a glib 'whatev-ah.' How do you respond to a word that kills off all debate?" . . .

It's a catch-all response which can mean many things, commonly "I don't care", but also "this is the end of the conversation." . . .

For some it's a humorous retort (replaced by fingers and thumbs in a W-shape for the non-verbal version) and a new addition to the slang lexicon, but for others it's a depressing symbol of an alienated generation.

Now teachers say they have had enough because it's constantly used to challenge their authority. . . .
So is there a decent response? How do you break past the obvious rudeness and disrespect?

Ralph Surman, a deputy head teacher at a primary school in Nottingham and a member of a government task force on school behavior, says he thinks the phrase is not disrespectful or rude. (!!!!) Instead, "It's like a toddler saying 'no.' They don't mean 'no' but say it to everything because it feels nice. The syntax feels nice on the teeth and the tongue."

However, even he admits that, by using the phrase,
young people are opting out of communicating and avoiding the use of language.

"It builds a brick wall around a world that you cannot reach into but that person can reach out of, if they wish to."

It's very difficult to respond to what is effectively a full-stop in the conversation, but the key is to give the child options by asking them a question.

"You lead the person in a different direction. . . . 'So are you saying to me you don't want to do this or you want to know what the other choices are?'

"You can say, . . . 'What did you mean?' And give them choices. It does work. People can communicate." . . .
Paula Roe, a secondary school teacher in a large comprehensive in the West Midlands, with 28 years of experience, says . . . [s]he prefers a zero-tolerance policy imposed by all staff. . . . "[I]t needs to be treated in the same way as a swear word or an expletive."
Happily, our kids never picked up this habit. But if they did, now that the BBC article raised the issue and got me thinking about it--and suggested some underlying means, even, of interpreting the phrase, I think I'd want to handle it the way I would any swear word. With younger children I suspected had "picked it up" without understanding: I'd want to make sure they understand it is unacceptable speech: "You don't want to use that word. We don't use that word in our family." If necessary, I'd explain its social meaning: i.e., something along the lines of, "If you use that word, you are telling the person that you hold him in low regard; you wish he were dead . . ."

And your thoughts?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Legacy Planning: What makes us Holzmanns? What are we all about? What do we want to stand for?

For me, the highlight of our first family legacy planning meeting came relatively late in the day but just before we hammered out a consensus vision statement.

We had all talked a bit about our top values (both "Most" and "Least"). I don't know that anyone felt that was particularly revelatory. Interesting. But only mildly so.

What blew me away was the next question we talked about (this was not in the Legacy Planning book): "Define what it means to be a 'Holzmann.' What defines you as compared to those around you?"

Whew! What would the kids say? Sarita and I had an opportunity to jump in on this as well, but we let the kids have their say first . . . and I was blown away. I had no idea what they would say. And I was shocked . . . and pleased . . . by their answers.

They seemed to agree unanimously: We are . . .
  • Happier
  • Healthier ("Not damaged")
We have . . .
  • Great Relationships ("We get along well one with another")
We are . . .
  • Complete/Whole ("We have unity")
  • Learners/Seekers after Truth
We . . .
  • Constantly Challenge "accepted norms"
  • Spur others on ("Iron sharpening iron"--Proverbs 27:17)
  • Constantly Seek "bigger/better"
  • Talk things out, seek to come to consensus
We have a culture of . . .
  • Inquiry
  • Help/Aid/Assistance
  • Trustworthiness
  • "Do it a minute" (just get it done . . . quickly)
Our top values include . . .
  • Education
  • [Religion] Follow God
  • Integrity
Funny . . . or maybe not: Sarita wanted to urge that we live lives of Order and Structure.

She met with some resistance. Not because we don't value those things or don't, perhaps, "wish we could." But several of us objected. "That is, most definitely, a huge value for you [Mom, Sarita], but ummmm . . . I'm not sure I can honestly say that's the way I live!"

I felt compelled to acknowledge what a blessing Sarita has been to all of us by providing that structure and order for us. But when she dies . . . I'm afraid that structure and order is going to die with her. We [whoever survives her] will feel that loss keenly. But . . . the rest of us, I'm afraid, don't necessarily hold that value nor live our lives with the kind of structure and order she does. . . .


Having come to this astonishing consensus about "who we are" and "what we value," Greg and Terry asked us to draft what we thought a vision statement for our family might look like.

We took maybe 10 minutes to draft our own versions. Then we wrote them up on large sheets of paper and hung them around the room. . . . And then set about to come to a consensus statement.

What an amazing process!

Our final statement (for Saturday, March 31st! --It is subject, of course, to revision):
We, the Holzmann family, understand that what we have been given allows us to personally and corporately influence others worldwide. Therefore, we seek to change our world--with God's help and for His glory--by training and equipping others to most effectively fulfill their God-given purposes.

We aspire to family harmony, consensual decion-making, and living life with integrity, prayer, and purposeful action.
Wow! I'm looking forward to future meetings. We have agreed to meet again the week after Justin returns from college in mid- to late May. We want to discuss the family "business": where are we financially? What resources do we have as a family . . . to impact the world . . . and to help each other?

Legacy Planning: Family Meeting

Well, we continue our legacy planning. Sarita and I had a meeting three weeks ago with Greg Smith and a guy named Terry Hunt. Terry, it turns out, is a fourth-generation heir of a very large family fortune. He turned my mind a bit--or, actually, a lot--concerning the idea of "giving everything away" as much as possible (rather than possibly passing a [financial] legacy along to our kids).

In essence, he argued for the idea that money in a future generation's hands can be used for good. And we should encourage them to use it for good.

Perhaps the most inspiring comment had to do with enabling our kids to do significant work whether or not they were paid decent wages to do it. Thus, as he said, a member of our family who "bought" our values might be highly motivated to do some deeply charitable work, but without financial backing, they might be unable to do it. With the family's backing, however, they could. . . .

(I am reminded of what we were told while on staff at the U.S. Center for World Mission: that the average "faith mission" missionary has to invest over two years to "raising support" before they can go to the field. How great a "waste" is that of the prospective missionaries' time? [I would say it's a big waste. And a poor use of most prospective missionaries' talents and spiritual gifts. Since when is it reasonable to expect an evangelist, say, to be an effective fundraiser?] And how great an obstacle to them actually gettting to the field? [Major!] How many drop out before they finish raising funds? [Lots!] . . .)

So, Terry suggested, why not provide funds?

He envisioned for us what he says his own extended family is doing. In essence, he said, besides their own jobs, the cousins and kids of the cousins who are older than 21 run a family foundation and a family "company." They hold each other accountable to their family's shared values and operate, in some ways, as a kind of "angel investors" group one for the other. . . .

Anyway. The ideas intrigued me.

But/and Terry's admonitions encouraged me all the more to proceed with legacy planning and the establishment of a family mission statement and vision statement.

I don't want to go through the entire process. But on March 12th, Greg, Terry, Sarita and I worked together to hammer out a tentative vision statement for our family. What we did that day would be a preliminary glimpse at what we intended to do together as a family with our kids on March 31st.

So Saturday, March 31st came.

Let me continue this in a separate post. . . .

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Google's latest BETA . . .

I saw the notice on my Google search page:
New! Get FREE breakthrough broadband with Google TiSP (BETA).
I clicked through:

Sign up for our free in-home wireless broadband service

Sick of paying for broadband that you have to, well, pay for?

Introducing Google TiSP (BETA), our new FREE in-home wireless broadband service. Sign up today and we'll send you your TiSP self-installation kit, which includes setup guide, fiber-optic cable, spindle, wireless router and installation CD.

TiSP in-home wireless broadband is:

  • Free, fast and highly reliable

  • Easy to install -- takes just minutes

  • Vacuum-sealed to prevent water damage

Interested? You can learn more about TiSP via the links below, or get started now.

Not sure why they would need a vacuum-seal to prevent water damage, but . . . I clicked the link:
Get Started with Google TiSP
I'd quote more, but I really don't want to violate their copyrights.

Sounds like an interesting service!

But there's just something about this offer that doesn't smell right. . . .

Alternative education in Germany returning to Nazi-era repression?

It appears as if the legal status of homeschooling in Germany is about equivalent to what it was in Nebraska, United States, back in the mid-80s. (Yes, people in Nebraska were being put in prison for homeschooling back in the mid-80s.)

Check out "POLICE STATE, GERMANY: 'Youth worker' lies about homeschool student". I see it as a pretty intractable problem.

How can a government, rightly (I think) concerned about "parallel societies" [think unassimilated Muslim fundamentalists, by way of example] . . . --How can a government deal with its legitimate concerns while also permitting freedom of conscience, freedom of inquiry, and freedom to pursue alternative perspectives?