Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe

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Fundraising: Damaging inspite best intentions [blog]

A ministry leader from South East Asia shared today his and his compatriots’ frustration with the NGO’s – Christian and non-Christian alike – at a gathering in Singapore I am attending this week. The problem seems to be that these ‘comers’ are present in the country only until there is money in the project account. Once the money is gone the workers leave. Locals call this ‘one Land-cruiser come, one Land-cruiser go.’ They see this type of situation being repeated time after time, with no change in sight.

Another, similar situation occurred when (some) missionaries came with their projects. Instead of researching the prevailing worldview and then developing materials that will speak and relate to the local population, they ultimately offer their funds only if the locals take their materials/approach and work with them. This is quite detrimental for the national workers and not really helpful to anyone. But, this is what (some) Christian missionaries apparently do.

On the other hand, locals do not take ownership of the things they have been given, and sometimes given with love and sincere heart. When a church building is being built from abroad (whether donors, volunteers or else), local believers are doing nothing to keep it in good shape. Several years would pass and once the original missionaries come again – they would be greeted with: “Where were you? We are waiting for you to repair the building, it is in a poor condition, and we have no money to repair it!”

Clearly, this local church did not take ownership of the building that had been built for them. A similar situation is with wells and other community projects, I am told – in SE Asia. Yes, in many parts of the world people need help. Food is scarce, civil unrest and wars, corrupt government, low or weak education, no health system are daily realities of our world, and all that combined with the natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis.

When will various aid groups and organizations, and also Christian missions leave behind their pre-designed programs and projects, stop playing hide-seek games with their giving government agencies and foundations and start to act responsibly – developing self-reliance and not dependency among the recipients? When will the true interest of the needy people come up on the fundraising priority lists? When will our various organizations forget about project funding and turn their work into empowering nationals to do the work, taking pride and ownership in what they do?

Unless we hear reports from the field that the above is happening, we will continue to hear only about how many more millions is needed for this or that. Unhealthy financial dependency (a new missionary colonial era actually) is creating a vicious circle of never having enough (on the receiving side) and giving for the Lord’s work out of wrong motives and guilt (on the donor side). We must break from that ‘remnant of the past’ practice into building self-reliance for growth and development (sustainable – a very modern terminology). Making false and inflated reports, satisfying administrative needs of some boards in some foundations or institutions, closely following the ‘dollar per convert ratio’ missionary model of the West is not good anymore.

Good Lord has better things for us to do – and this is why I like what TWR Cambodia team is doing for their people and their country. Interested? Visit http://www.facebook.com/TWRCambodia

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Christian Leadership site [blog]

This site is a new on-line leadership development web initiative. It plans to provide regular updates in form of articles, on-line training modules, webinars, etc. at www.christian-leadership.org. Colin and Lorna Buckland, who run this site, have been in Christian ministry for a long time. Colin observed and commented:

  • Over 70% of Church ministers consider church expectations to be among the top ten sources of stress in the ministry.
  • Around 50% of Church ministers feel pressured by the breakdown of their family life.
  • Over 50% of Church ministers observe increasing levels of stress.
  • Over 30% of Church ministers feel that their family suffers from insufficient time together
  • Over 50% of Church ministers feel that lack of time is a major stress factor.
  • Less than 10% of Church ministers enjoy their devotional life.

If you are interested, they offer a free four-part mini-course on-line. One other series is called Man’s Plans and God’s Purposes. Colin and Lorna are on their mission journey – to help people in ministry – one of their advice is: Do not try to do the impossible for God, but do your best and leave rest to God of the impossible! Here is another brief observation:

I should have been a fireman . . .

Some Christian leaders enjoy the need to be needed and encourage an ‘I’m always available’ expectation within the community that they serve. Feeding emotionally on the late night calls and the ‘it’s only me’ day-off phone calls is all very well, but the cost in stress is high. The fireman approach to ministry is ultimately destructive to the minister and his or her family. The rush and tear of the ‘emergency minister’ may be intoxicating but is dangerous…”

Are you a Christian leader? Do you feel exhausted lately? Under stress?


Christians are Minority in Europe [blog]

“But there is no need to panic,” says Jiří Unger, president of the European Evangelical Alliance, originally from Czech Republic, often emphasized as the most atheist country of the old continent. Unger wrote a Foreword to the Deborah Meroff’s book Europe: Restoring Hope (OM Publishing), my favorite but tough read these days. Unger is an optimist.

It was perhaps even 15 years ago when John Mulinde, of Uganda, spoke about Europe as of a paralyzed man from Luke 5. This man was brought to Jesus by his four friends, who finding no way to bring him in (because of the crowd) went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through roof tiles – right before Jesus. By four friends Mulinde meant four continents: Africa, Asia, North and Latin America, i.e. missionaries coming from these lands. As I was contemplating over that powerful picture, somehow I saw the Balkans being like the bleeding wounds on that sick man. Strong and hurting.

Years have passed, some war and hate ‘wounds’ have healed, but I see more hurt in Europe than before. There are 20 European countries in which there is less than 1% of an evangelical (born again Christians) presence. Three countries are holding the first three places in the world in suicide rates: Belarus, Lithuania and Russia, one-third of children born in the EU countries only (27 nations) are born out-of-wedlock, more than 200,000 women and girls for sex slavery annually are smuggled out of Central and Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union, with half of them ending in Western Europe and roughly one-quarter in the US … and the list of wounds goes on and on.

It is not easy to read Deborah’s book. However, I highly recommend it to everyone interested to listen – and mostly because of the segments in each chapter titled: What Can You and Your Church Do? In this brief break in between difficult stories she offers to us to be intolerant of stigma and discrimination, to pray, do research, talk and learn, to volunteer and give resources, to use special events… in other words, to get involved.

Are you involved?

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Q: Did you know that there is a World Map of Happiness? A: So what? [blog]

Five years ago, a University of Leicester social psychologist Adrian White prepared the first ever ‘world map of happiness.’ The occasion was the 2007 Happiness Conference. He analyzed data published by UNESCO, the CIA, the World Health Organization, UNHCR, and several other sources, using data related to health, wealth and education.

Aren't they happy?

Photo credit: Kristina Valentova

Adrian White said: “The concept of happiness, or satisfaction with life, is currently a major area of research in economics and psychology, most closely associated with new developments in positive psychology. It has also become a feature in the current political discourse in the UK. There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator in conjunction with measures of wealth. It is also notable that many of the largest countries in terms of population do quite badly. With China 82nd, India 125th and Russia 167th it is interesting to note that larger populations are not associated with happy countries.”

First three most happy countries by this map are Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria – and in this order. Curiously enough, there were eight countries/territories where data was not collected: North Korea, W. Sahara, Liberia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Greenland and Serbia! Was that because the Serbian citizens are not so happy, or because a survey on a tough situation in a country in transition in Southeastern Europe would be considered a security risk for researchers? Whatever the reason, my country is not gauged on happiness. But, except amused by this fact, I am not shortened of any knowledge.

I listened recently Edmund Spieker at member care media on the issue of safety in the midst of chaos. Interestingly, Edmund was not speaking about our satisfaction with life, delight with our large population/country or health, wealth or education – but the Bible and his family. Jesus said ‘in me you have peace!’ Edmund shared: “Real and permanent peace and happiness are found in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus alone…”

This is why it is good to use search engines on internet and try to find more resources on the topic of your interest, as I did today. UNESCO and other sources on this map on happiness are notable, specialist and expensive organizations, still much research and knowledge (not to mention wisdom), is also available elsewhere. MemberCareMedia has several hundreds of quality programs dealing with life issues. My search on happiness revealed five to listen today. Happiness is a complicated issue permeating various aspects of our lives, not only the aforementioned three.

How do you define happiness?