Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe

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The Man Born to be King [blog]

A decade ago, I was enjoying an imperial pint of Abbot Ale in The Eagle and Child Pub, at St. Giles’ street in Oxford, sitting right in the ‘Rabbit room,’ after spending a pleasant evening at the C.S. Lewis club in the Pusey House. That day I also visited the Oxford Quaker Meeting place (where C.S. Lewis got married) which is about 50 meters away from the pub, which is 50 meters away from the Pusey House.

I was admiring the work of Lewis and Tolkien and other Inklings.

From a circle of their friends to my mind comes Dorothy Sayers, most notably a UK detective stories writer, but her life was far from being dull. She was an Oxford student back in 1912 where women were still not being awarded academic titles for their studies. She wrote two essays in 1947, later published under a title Are Women Human? to emphasize the women rights. For many years she was a church warden at St. Anne’s Anglican church in London, she wrote Christian poetry: Catholic Tales and Christian Songs (1918).

Apparently she was a good friend with C.S. Lewis (none of them is around to confirm that), but she was a visitor to the Socratic Club and she knew other Inklings. Lewis read her The Man Born to be King every Easter, he stated. Dorothy wrote other Christian books too: Creed or Chaos? and also The Mind of the Maker.

In 1943 she declined an honorary doctorate in divinity from the Anglican church. I guess it was a statement. How about that?

To this day her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy is still the best one that exists in English. Umberto Eco stated that her Dante ‘does the best in at least partially preserving the hendeca-syllables and the rhyme.’

Why all this about Dorothy? Because of radio J! Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on The Man Born to be King. Quite something.

The Man Born to Be King is a radio drama based on the life of Jesus, produced and broadcast by the BBC during the Second World War. It is a play cycle consisting of twelve plays depicting specific periods in Jesus’ life, from the events surrounding his birth to his death and resurrection. It was first broadcast by the BBC Home Service on Sunday evenings, beginning on December 21, 1941, with new episodes broadcast at 4-week intervals, ending on October 18, 1942. The twelve plays in the cycle are:

The project aroused a storm of controversy, even before it was broadcast. Objections arose to the very idea — atheists complained of Christian propaganda, while devout Christians declared that the BBC would be committing blasphemy by allowing the Christ to be impersonated by a human actor — and also to Sayers’ approach to the material. Sayers, who felt that the inherent drama of the Gospel story had become muffled by familiarity and a general failure to think of its characters as real people, was determined to give the plays dramatic immediacy, featuring realistic, identifiable characters with human emotions and motivations — and speech-patterns. The decision to have the characters speak in contemporary colloquial English was, by itself, the cause of much disquiet among those more used to hearing Jesus and his followers speaking in the polished and formal words of the King James Bible.

In the event, although it continued to be criticized by conservative Christians — one group going so far as to proclaim the fall of Singapore in February 1942 to be a sign of God’s displeasure with the series. The public reaction to the series is described in the foreword to the published play scripts. The Man Born to Be King was generally considered a great success, both as drama and as biblical representation.

I wish you a nice Reformation Day!

Anti-trafficking Day in Europe (part 2) [blog]

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October 18 is European Anti-trafficking Day. The statistics say that in Europe there are 880,000 people who are victims of forced labor, including sexual exploitation. The situation is getting worse – example is that in 2010 less people were persecuted for this crime than in 2008. States are mostly trying to address the issues of catching and punishing the perpetrators, while NGOs are trying to address the issues that come as results of such activities.

Last Wednesday, on the EU day against trafficking in human beings, a high-level conference was held in Brussels on how to end this modern-day slavery. Globally there are nearly 21 million victims of forced labor. 80 percent of victims in the EU are women. At a speech at the conference, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström underlined the importance of cooperation across borders: “Trafficking in human beings is a severe violation of the most basic human right – individual freedom – and a horrific crime. It cannot be tolerated in any form, be it in Europe or anywhere else in the world. It implies an obligation, moral as well as legal, to act.”

There is one shelter in Romania where my colleague Paul went last week to try to help. Here are some excerpts from his blog (part 2):

A young man (still not sure if they really want us writing their names), currently at the shelter, had his drink spiked with a drug that knocked him out. When he woke up, he was beaten and raped and sold to various men. At some point during his slavery, a cardiologist told him that he had something very wrong with his heart and that he would die if it wasn’t treated. This wasn’t true, but the cardiologist said he would only give him the medical attention he needed if he provided sexual favors for him and all his friends.

After being rescued and taken in by Iana, one of the key groups that sponsored the shelter dropped their support since they only wanted to focus on trafficked girls.

I also heard about how traffickers were making 60,000 Euros/month on about thirty Romanian children in Italy. They got them to beg, even maimed some to gain more sympathy, and kept all of the money. If I understood correctly, those children were rescued and are in the process of being returned to Romania.

I had an awesome talk with one of the two guys at the shelter. He had been trafficked in Italy and was there so long that he basically speaks Italian as well as his native language, Romanian. Somehow we managed to have a great conversation, him speaking Italian and me speaking Portuguese. I just prayed God would give me words he understood.

in front of the shelter

I learned that he loves music (everything from AC/DC to Lil Wayne to Jimmy Eat World). He told me that he doesn’t believe in God at all but then added that he at least doesn’t have much faith in Him. As I looked at him and saw the amount of scars on his hands and face and couldn’t begin to fathom the things he’s been through, I imagined that he might feel abandoned by God. Would I think any differently if I were in his place?

Things aren’t immediately easy after arriving in the shelter and the circumstances differ for each one. One girl I met today had tried to kill her social worker. After stabbing her a number of times with a knife she had found in the kitchen, another one of the girls was able to stop her, getting stabbed in the process as well. Today, she is a different person. Another one of the girls used to severely cut herself. Today, she proudly showed Heather that all the bandages were gone and no longer necessary. Another girl had become a Christian and even shared at a conference for women about the grace of God in her life. Weeks later, she ran away and was found at the border with a forged ID, back with her pimp. She’s fifteen years old.

All I hope to do is share things from my perspective, someone who has had just minimal knowledge of trafficking before this week. For those of you who would love to have this opportunity, let’s pray together about how we can play a role in helping the trafficked and bringing the traffickers to justice. Those working effortlessly to rescue these kids and create a better life for them are true heroes.

Amidst all the commotion, I noticed “C” (the one rescued from trafficking in Italy and doesn’t believe in God) remaining disconnected from the rest of the group. He’s shy and introverted, and I’ve hoped to be very intentional about spending time with him. He went outside to smoke a cigarette alone, so I grabbed my football and went outside to join him. “B” followed me outside, wanting to join in. “C” went back inside. I was bummed on missing out on a one-on-one opportunity with him, but began talking to “B”. She was the one who boldly spoke about God’s grace in her life at a conference and then soon after ran away and was caught at the Hungary/Romania border with her pimp.

I asked her directly about the situation since my friend had made me aware that you can speak to them openly about most things. She told me of her high times with God, but now how she feels low and that God has left her and doesn’t speak to her anymore. She used to want to be a missionary to the pimps that were in prison. Now she doesn’t anymore. The Christian life is too difficult. She knows God loves her, but she’s not interested in pursuing Him right now. I didn’t know exactly what to say, but I know people from every background deals with this. I encouraged her to not focus on her feelings and to just seek Jesus. I also encouraged her to be open and honest with God, since He knew right where she was at and would never abandon her. We talked for twenty minutes or so. I know Heather has been encouraging her as well, so you can pray “B” retains the passion she once had. I think she may believe she has lost her salvation.

After our conversation was interrupted by a bunch of people coming outside, I went to a small room and prayed that God would give me a chance to hang out with “C” one-on-one, which seemed impossible with fifteen people or so in tight quarters. When I came out, all the girls were intently focused on some art project Heather had just started with them. “C” sat at one end of the couch working on a bracelet (he’s made three really nice ones for me already!). I sat next to him. For the next hour or two, we played games and drew pictures together, and he taught me a bunch of Italian. Heather said every time she looked over, his eyes were lit up and he had a huge smile on his face. Praise God!

You know those days you’ll remember for a very long time, if not forever? Today was one of those days. Everything clicked. Everything flowed. There were big smiles and genuine tears. We gave gifts and received them in return in abundance.

Story and photos: Paul Kitchener

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Anti-trafficking Day in Europe [blog]

October 18 is European Anti-trafficking Day. The statistics say that in Europe there are 880,000 people who are victims of forced labor, including sexual exploitation. The situation is getting worse – example is that in 2010 less people were persecuted for this crime than in 2008. States are mostly trying to address the issues of catching and punishing the perpetrators, while NGOs are trying to address the issues that come as results of such activities.

There is one shelter in Romania where my colleague Paul went this week to try to help. Here are some excerpts from his blog:

A few months ago, my friend Heather returned from Romania and excitedly shared about her experiences at a shelter for people rescued from sex trafficking. I was so fascinated and encouraged by all the stories she shared of God at work, that I asked if I could maybe be involved in one way or another.

To make a long story short, permission was granted, plans were made, and today I’m in Romania in the city of Pitești (70 miles northwest of Bucharest). I will be here six days and plan to write an overview at the end of each day. I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I desire to extend hope, love, and grace.

The drive to Pitești was an experience. Lots of swearing and swerving took place by the driver. Ha, but we made it safe and sound. The shelter has a gate and a fairly long, narrow driveway up to the home. Immediately after arrival, girls flowed out, overjoyed to see Heather again. I was greeted warmly as well and welcomed into the home.

At this point, I don’t know how much liberty I have to share names or photos, so I’ll avoid specifics. However, there are well over ten girls (ranging from 15ish to 25ish) and a couple guys (neither of whom were at the shelter the last time Heather was here). Each of them were rescued from sexual slavery in numerous countries and returned to Romania to Iana’s shelter. I don’t know a lot of specific stories at this point.

As I looked at these girls and guys, I could put a face to the statistics for the first time in my life. They had a joyful spirit. Some laughed loudly. Others smiled shyly. It was beautiful. They’re a big family. I don’t know if they’ve blocked out the memories of their past or skillfully mask it. Maybe it haunts them each moment, and they have learned to deal with it.

Many in that room have attempted and/or succeeded in running away from the shelter. Where to? Right back to their pimp. Why? Because he made them feel “loved” or gave them drugs are a couple of the reasons.

Many gathered around me, insisting that I looked like a singer that recently had a popular song on the radio. I laughed with them and joked about being his brother. One girl came and sat between Heather and I and proudly showed us an art project she had completed. A group laughed loudly as they recalled a guy pretending to be electrocuted. One of the two guys, very reserved, couldn’t help but smile as he told us of his plans to return to Italy one day to get a job.

Life is happening at this shelter. There are healthy meals. There is fellowship. There is education. There are friendships. There is routine. None of this would be happening without their rescue.

After a couple hours, we got situated at a small hotel close to the shelter, had some dinner, walked around a little bit, and prayed for God to use us however He sees fit in our short time here.

I personally have nothing to offer these victims of horrendous abuse. I don’t have answers for the disgusting crimes committed against them. But I do know of a God that formed them, knows them, and loves them passionately.

Story: Paul Kitchener

Photo Credit: Paul Kitchener

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Comenius – a Patron Saint for Postmodernists [blog]

Orbis Pictus – the first ever picture book was published in 1658. It was a kind of a picture encyclopedia for children with 150 ‘cuts.’ It was printed in Latin and German, a year later in English and a few years later in Italian and French also… It had a long-lasting influence on children’s education. In Czech was published first in Levoca, a beautiful city in Slovakia today. This was the first primer ever.


(Master) Teacher – Come boy, learn to be wise.

(Boy) Student – What does this mean, to be wise?

Teacher – To understand rightly, to do rightly, and to speak out rightly all that are necessary.

Student – Who will teach me this?

Teacher – I, by God’s help.

Student – How?

Teacher – I will guide you through all. I will show you all. I will name you all.

Student – See, Here I am, lead me in the name of God.

Children in Europe were subjects of programs that ignored the differences between children of various ages. That program required that all children learn Latin while reading classical texts far beyond their comprehension. The method was memorization and/or brutal punishment. One observer of XVII century schools stated that they ‘seemed to have been the invention of some wicked spirit, the enemy of the human race’. Comenius decided to change that and succeeded. We can call him a father of the modern day educational system.

Comenius by Rembrandt

Jan Komensky (John Amos Comenius) got his middle name Amos as being a very fond of people. Born in Moravia, he was a Bishop of the Moravian Brethren (Protestant), but later a persecuted refugee. He wrote a book Didactica Magna in which he discussed the concept of universal education. Comenius stated that school system should be consisted of: kindergarten, elementary school, secondary school, college and finally university. Sounds familiar today.

Comenius died in Amsterdam in 1670. He was a mystical theologian who believed in prophecies, dreams and revelations. He tried to make Louis XIV of France to go into a war against the enemies of God…

Happy October – the month of Protestantism.

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Gorgeous Ministry Photos [blog]

For some time now, my colleague Paul is creating some great illustrations that can be found both on www.twreurope.org and also our FB site at www.facebook.com/TWREurope. Here are some selected photos:







AWESOME! Thanks for watching 🙂