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Choices by Connie McNeill

When Nancy Reagan was First Lady, she launched an anti-drug campaign called, Just Say No! Her critics and those who worked in healthcare, law enforcement and other industries that saw the ravaging outcomes of illegal drug use, laughed at the campaign concept! I was a young adult who had been a teen when marijuana came to my hometown. 

It made sense to me that you could simply say “no” to a number of bad choices including illegal drugs. I always felt like, regardless of the pressure placed on me to say “yes” that I could say “no.” Let me acknowledge that those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol (or various other things) can certainly find themselves unable to say no on their own once they have said yes.

Now I believe that I felt that way because of the support I had from my parents, clear expectations they had of my behavior, my choice of friends whose parents were parenting in a similar way to my own, and persons I chose to guide me—teachers at school, coaches, church leaders.

Really, one could just say no. I am so grateful for those folks who re-enforced my efforts to make “best” choices; they influenced me for the good.
Hang in there parents and teachers. Hang in there church leaders and neighbors. Hang in there friends and family. Hang in there every one of us to give all the support we can as influencers for the best in the lives we touch.

Posted by Connie McNeill at Thursday, July 19, 2018
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Why Slovakia? By Becky Gossett

Why Slovakia?  What did you do?  Why do you keep going back?  

Since returning from our trip to Vazec, Slovakia a few weeks ago, I’ve answered many questions about our time there. For a variety of reasons, it is difficult to answer the questions in a way that honestly and completely conveys the experience.  

Harold Philips has planned several trips to Slovakia to support the ministry of CBF field personnel Shane and Diane McNary, who work in the Roma community.  Harold likes to say “this is the last trip” as he waits for someone to ask if we can go again. Bill and I have had 3 “last” trips now.  

Our time in the village of Vazec each year includes these components: living in a house with about 12 people from all across the US (and also from Romania), teaching English in the public school, leading a VBS-type afternoon with Roma children from the settlement on the edge of the village, meeting with the adults from the local church, and meeting with the young mothers from the settlement. The REAL purpose is to make connections with people… sharing Christ’s love, learning about them, and (honestly, for me) learning about my values. On many levels, the group that descends upon this little village must listen/learn from/adjust to its members while also learning about the people of the place. I thank God for this complicated experience each year.  

Here are some random lessons I’ve learned, and thoughts about my time in Vazec over the three visits:

  • One caring adult can bring hope and joy to another adult or child through continued involvement over time. The best example is the way the people respond to Harold Phillips when he comes in a room. He is like everyone’s favorite uncle. 
  • Music can make anyone smile. ANY music…ANYONE.
  • My limited language skills cause me frustration. Children all around the world speak more than one language. Why don’t I? I rely on translators… and hugs. 
  • I am still learning about the dynamics of this village, which traces its history to the year 1280 and has about 2,400 people. Vazec has endured communism in its not-so-distant past. The village faces the challenges of how to include a people-group with very different ways. The resilient people in the village have come through many changes over time. 
  • Christianity looks different in different communities. We can all learn from one another. 
  • There are incredible people who work every day to make life better for those in the settlement. They are led by an angel named Danka and her husband, Daniel. They created a nonprofit organization, Jekh Drom (One Way), and face obstacles unlike those we have in Liberty, Missouri to provide a better life for those who struggle most. There is now a preschool program for Roma children, housed in a nice facility built with the help of CBF. Because of the tenacity of Danka and a few others, the children who attend will have a much better chance at success in the public school now.  
  • I want to be more like these people.

For more information on the work of Danka and Jekh Drom in Vazec, follow on Facebook.

at Wednesday, July 11, 2018
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The Land Where Jesus Walked by Steve Hemphill

I first visited the Israeli Occupied Territories of Palestine in 1986. I went to visit my British friend who was a volunteer at the Evangelical Home for Boys in Ramallah. That 2-week visit changed my life and led me to return the next year and a lifelong love of the Arab world, where I have lived and visited many times.

The Home was an Anglican mission which has since disappeared from the scene. Similarly, the First Baptist Church of Ramallah where I worshiped has long since closed. At that time, I spoke no Arabic, so I was hesitant when an old Arab gentleman in his Sunday 'go to meetin' keffiyeh (robe) came running up to me outside the church door. I was certainly surprised when he yelled as he approached “Hey, they tell me you're from Kansas City, my brother is Chairman of the Political Science Department at KU!” Everywhere I went the Palestinians loved Americans, loved American TV and dreamed of visiting or emigrating someday. The optimism in the late 80's was based on the belief the U.S. would mediate a solution to the Israeli occupation. But as the occupation dragged on and grew more aggressive, the Arab population grew more militant Muslim. The relatively large Christian population of the West Bank has largely disappeared as they either emigrated or died. Bethlehem has been a Christian village since soon after Jesus' time but, no more.  

The Anglican priest who ran the Home had previously served as Deputy Mayor of Ramallah and was a friend with Yassir Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. I recall him telling me the Americans should pay attention to Arafat because he was moderate compared to the violent extremists waiting to take his place. His comments were prescient as Hamas gained influence and the plight of the Palestinian people led to Al Quieda and ISIS.

The young boys at the Evangelical Home have long since grown to adulthood. Some immigrated to Europe and we are Facebook friends. Presumably, most were unable to escape and remain there as either closeted Christians or converted Muslims. I've returned a few times over the years and lament how few Christians remain in Palestine. I pray that someday, the land where Jesus walked will once again welcome his people back home.

at Monday, July 9, 2018
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