It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

kermit-3 In about 1972, Jim Raposo wrote a song made popular by Jim Henson singing as Kermit the Frog, ‘It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green’ and such words were never more true than in the world today for some who consult with international organizations and are painting whole countries green! Kermit, apparently has begun to understand the dangerous times in which we live. It is a shame that some of these consultants are not as kermit-2well aware. When I say it’s a shame, I mean shame in the most Asian culture seriousness of the word. Perhaps an allusion to another time in our country when being green was a euphemism for being a novice, inexperienced and in capable of functioning on their own, particularly in dangerous situations, is the best way to understand the color.  

I enjoy allusions to cinema and when those illustrations also include John Wayne, so much the better! In El Dorado, John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun hand who refuses to go against his old friend who is the sheriff in the middle of a range war. Instead, he comes to his aid. The sheriff, J.P. Harrah, gets very irritated at a new friend of Wayne’s character, named Mississippi (James Caan) and turns toward him, gun drawn. Thornton (Wayne) says, “Now wait a minute J.P., he’s a little green…” el-dorado-1

Like an unripe fruit, he was not ready. In this case, he was not ready to be on his own in a dangerous situation.    

What does this have to do with this consultant advising this international agency on security and using the color green? The plan, apparently, was to review the security needs of every country in the international organization’s wheel house. They would then color code them as to the level of security training necessary. There were four categories, red being the highest risk and requiring the most training, orange, yellow and then green. Thirty-four out of sixty-five areas of responsibility worldwide, 52.3% were rated as GREEN and were considered LOW RISK. The most heinous part is that the LOW RISK countries required NO TRAINING. Some extremely basic 3 hour introductory videos are shown to everyone but beyond that – No Training!

Low risk countries included all of Europe; including Germany, France, and Spain and we all know how safe those places are today. Ukraine, recently invaded by Russia with war still prevalent in the eastern cities only rates a YELLOW – two days of training!

Although Eastern and Western Mindanao were considered separately, the Philippines was listed as GREEN, no training needed. Western Mindanao is RED and Eastern Mindanao is only YELLOW – requiring just 2 days of training! I could continue; but, you can imagine that if over 50 percent of an organization’s countries, or areas of responsibility, require no supplemental training at all, what is the level of situational awareness of the people working in those countries?

Let’s take a further look at Mindanao. The company divides it into Western and Eastern as we described earlier. Those were the names used before the emancipation. The correct name for Western Mindanao is the Zamboanga Peninsula. Remember, it is shown as RED and the remainder of Mindanao or what was labeled as Eastern is YELLOW – requiring only two  days of training so near to one of the most hateful bunch of Al Qaeda factions out there. Now, realize that all of Mindanao is only 37, 654 square miles. That is less than the State of Ohio which is 44, 825 and can be traversed easily in a few hours. The Zamboanga Peninsula is only 572.74 square miles, which is comparable in size to New York CITY which is 468.90 without its suburbs! So, here I am in Ohio saying that in NE Ohio I’m okay, only a yellow; but, if I travel a few hours to near Cincinnati, bang- I’m in red territory.

Let’s jump off the island of Mindanao and consider the rest of the Philippines which is GREEN – no additional training needed. Manila, the capital city is about as far away from Mindanao as you can get and still be on the archipelago.  By air it is only 561 miles to Manila from Mindanao and 1040 miles by land and boat. Forty two hours travel in the latter and only 59 minutes in the former. Plus, the airfare currently is only $91 one way. Employees of this company living in Manila are GREEN and require no additional training while they are only $91 and 59 minutes from some of the worst Al Qaeda terrorists in the world.

The United States is listed as GREEN yet shootings, stabbings, kidnappings are on the news almost every night. Should not every American have some understanding of how to be situationally aware enough to protect themselves? Apparently the employees of this organization do not require it. The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

No doubt, those involved in this organization went about their task in good faith and put a great deal of stock into what they were being told. I would really like to know what kind of a grid was used to determine the levels of risk.  I would also like to know how, any group responsible for the lives of their employees, and, due to their diverse spread across the world, their employees’ spouses and their children, can consider any of them to not require any real training.

Sadly, if I were to hazard a guess… a deciding factor was cost. To the organization’s credit, they weren’t specifically trying to save themselves money because the brunt of the cost of the training would be born by the employees themselves. That is the way this company is structured. You could say, that a company that was bearing its responsibility correctly, (or  I believe the argument could be made to carry their responsibility morally), should be providing the training at no cost to the employee; but that is not the way it is currently for most of these contract-type employees. 

Over fifty percent of this organization’s area (and probably an even much higher percentage of their actual employees and families) are living in GREEN areas. Very seldom in writing is there an opportunity to use this word, so here goes, I am flabbergasted!

If you could see me right now you might think you were intoxicated or had a head injury because you might just see two of me… because I am simply beside myself on this one!

I truly believe that the organization involved here is attempting to do their very best; but, internally they have almost no expertise by which to filter what they are being told by outside consultants. I have no idea the credentialing of these consultants. Maybe, in many areas they are considered experts. However, it is this one person’s seasoned opinion that they are very wrong in the way they are directing this organization.  I urge any group that decides to depend solely on the opinions of someone or some group from outside their own agency on how best to protect their own people to use the very utmost of caution.

One last movie analogy, in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, the malefactor must decide which chalice he believes to be the cup of Christ. If he picks the right one, he receives immortality, the wrong one brings death. As the Nazis villain decays into a pile of dust, the ancient crusader left to guard the cup says very simply, “He chose poorly.”crusader

 

 

Out of the Darkness

In the classic story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the book; not the made for TV movie, there is a moment high atop Mt. Crumpet where the Grinch had taken all of the Who’s Christmas… to dump it! In that moment, according to the good doctor, there is a sound wafting over the snow. What he writes next is so critical to our understanding of how, at times, God speaks into our lives. “It started in low. Then it began to grow…”[i] What is important to note here is that, for the Grinch to hear it, he had to stop what he was doing even though he was teetering on the precipice of a bodacious cliff and was so close to completing a task that he had set out to do. He had to STOP right then and LISTEN or he might have missed it completely!

How often have we missed hearing what God has for us because we just had to finish this one thing or I have such an urgent issue right now that I better take care of it first? Being on a precipice of a cliff can meet that standard! Elijah had to wait for the whirlwind to pass before he eventually heard God’s still, small voice. (1 Kings 19) We can receive an incredible blessing if we just listen. Sometimes, it comes in the sweet soft melodies of a beautifully played flute and at other times it can ring out of the darkness in a crescendo of sound that says to us in no uncertain terms, Christ is King eternal, righteous, and holy forevermore!

Across the platform in the building, where our part of the church meets for worship, is our wonderful worship team. From singers and soloists to musicians, we are truly blessed to have such a dedicated team. The platform is mostly showered in light with more to the front and fading toward the back. Along one side it is noticeably darker. In the recesses of those shadows is one musician. I wonder often how she can see her music score in such darkness; but, she obviously does and does so very well. At times, one has to be really listening to the music to hear a sweet counter-melody of a flute whispering so gently out of that darkness. At other times, in the height of a crescendo of praise rings out the punctuation of the chimes that brings chills to the neck and thrills the soul. As quickly as either began, they end. The darkness again envelopes the sound and the musician. Very nearly invisible; yet so incredibly powerful.

Have you experienced hearing God’s voice to you, out of the darkness? At times when we are so incredibly busy or teetering on the precipice of an emotional cliff, comes the sweet soft melody of a flute, the sound of voices singing in the distance, the voice of a friend, or a sense of awe from reading God’s Word; the right passage at just the right time. At other times, when the darkness threatens to overcome us and swallow us up into a place of non-existence, God also speaks. His voice resounds through the darkness as sharply as the mallet upon the chime declaring to us His nearness which beckons us to come back to the safety of His arms.

In whatever way that God is speaking to you; STOP and LISTEN; for the blessing you are about to receive is wondrous indeed. Dr. Seuss wrote that the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. I don’t know about that, particularly; but I do know, your heart will never be the same.

[i] Seuss, Dr., How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Random House: NY 1957

FULFILLING PROPHECY

Refugees are pouring into the surrounding countries as fast as time and space will allow.

“As regional and global powers search for a solution to the Syrian civil war, fighting on the ground appears to be on the verge of worsening. Both loyalist and rebel forces are preparing for two new offensives within the coming months that will greatly influence the trajectory of the conflict ahead.” (STRATFOR)

syria-russia-us-airstrikes_0

(Stratfor.com)

The fighting rages on with ISIS in the Middle East.

Vladimir Putin has placed his military in the region, a move seen as an overt attempt to make Russia the premier ally.

The U.S. continues some ham-handed airstrikes and half-hearted strategies. (It is not, I assure you that our military personnel there are half-hearted or incompetent but rather they are hobbled by a non-involvement type of involvement that only Washington could produce.)

Throughout Syria persons of nearly every faith are losing either their lives or their homes. Refugees are pouring into the surrounding countries as fast as time and space will allow. ISIS has made it clear that they intend to take over the entire region and only Sharia Law will be permitted. Those of Christian faith will have two choices, capitulate or die. Russia, that great ‘bear from the north’ is becoming the premier presence in the region, as if setting the stage for some future conflict.

Listen as your mind reads the next few lines, written by the Prophet Isaiah over 700 years before Christ was born. At the time he wrote, the nation of Israel had been divided into two nations; Israel (North) and Judah (South). The Northern Kingdoms had been taken captive by the Assyrians and it had, for all intents, ceased to exist. Isaiah speaks of a future time when peace would reign on the earth but before that would come. He wrote that there would be only one place left for those who worship the One True God to do so. Right now, in the Middle East, the only relatively SAFE place for Christians, Jews and even Muslims to worship freely is – believe it or not – Jerusalem.

So it shall be in that day:
The great trumpet will be blown;
They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria,
And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt,
And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13 NKJV)

Perhaps it is time that our world leaders should take a page out of President Obama’s book. Better still, they should take all of the pages out of President Obama’s book and start focusing on what is real and true instead of socialist, atheistic, amoral doctrine repackaged and inspired from somewhere other than heaven.

Author’s note: It is understood that not every piece of socialist doctrine is necessarily atheistic or amoral. This is a description of the three characteristics of Obama’s new foundation for America. They are sometimes intertwined and, at other times, mutually exclusive.

Who Knows?

Central & Eastern Europe I have been wanting to write this particular story for quite some time. This is an amazing story, to which I cannot do full justice because it began a lustrum, at least, before I met this amazing man and will probably carry on long after I have the ability to write intelligently. (Yes, I know some argue that even now my faculties are slipping just a bit! I appreciate the reminder!) I have my first book due to be published by year’s end and in it I quote, Brad Collins. I list him as a Canadian Hockey Coach but that is just the tip of the ice (hockey ice that is). The quote I use in the book is very short and I have used it here as the title of this piece. Whenever confronted by one of life’s major questions, Brad would turn to look at me, usually as he was driving the van…  because while in Bosnia we seldom slowed down for more than a chance for coffee and then it was ‘on the road again’ and Brad would simply shrug his shoulders and say, “Who knows?”

Brad was not being flippant  as if the question was not worth pondering; but more that he had become resigned to the fact that for most of the major issues in the world, he had not been consulted by God as to how he, Brad, might handle them. Therefore,  Brad was more than content to allow God to take care of whatever it was.  Also, it was less of a question than it was a reminder as to Who it was that really KNOWS!

Brad first entered Bosnia during the war between the Serbians and the Bosniacs in the 1990’s. The plight of the refugees, particularly the children, touched him deeply and he knew then that God would return him to Bosnia to work with these children. And work he did! Beginning with a few used hockey sticks and even less money; he began putting up flyers around Ilizda and soon some boys began to watch this odd game that involved knocking a puck around with a stick and slamming it hard into the net to score a goal. That was something they had never seen and a sport they had not yet mastered. The growth was slow but over the years the Lord blessed the ministry and the Bosnia Herzegovina Sports Foundation sent young men to play in the International Floor Hockey Championships and Brad and his senior players were hosted on Hockey Night in Canada The teams were visited by John Vanbiesbruck in Sarajevo, and the NHL Players Association provided them with equipment and training the likes of which they had never seen. Tough love was what welded the hearts of these mostly Muslim, but some Serbian, boys to Brad’s and over the years through tough times and good; the boys became men and they taught a new generation of young players and not just in one city but in three. I would guess that easily a thousand kids have been touched by ‘Coach’ and he was touched by every one of them.

Not very long ago, God provided an amazing help-mate for Brad. Bethany, his wife came alongside and has been an inspiration and  breath of fresh air to the musty old locker rooms normally the site of much of Brad’s life lessons! Bethany  can now work with the girls and those who like music, love to sing and play musical instruments. It took a host who just kept inviting and a blizzard that kept her from fleeing; but it truly was God that brought she and Brad together.

Some tough days are ahead for Coach as he is back in Canada now, waiting in a hospital in St. John’s New Brunswick for a triple by-pass involving the major vessels of his heart. He has another serious blockage in his carotid artery as well. I expect to be with Brad and Bethany in a few days and I know, without a doubt, if I would look at Brad and ask him what he thinks the outcome will be, he would say, “Who knows?” He really is saying that he knows Who knows and that is quite alright with him. As long as God has charge of every detail, there will not be a single detail missed.

I’m going to challenge Brad with a video I saw just recently. It is a hockey goal I want Brad to master while he is recovering from his cardiac surgery. A young boy standing on the far side of a pond with a hockey stick and a puck… the pond is not frozen, in fact it is the middle of summer. He slaps that puck and it goes skimming across the pond, up the bank on the far side and striaght into the net that he has set up! I know Brad will have to practice it quite a bit so, just to make it tougher, I’m only going to give him one puck. If it sinks while he’s practicing, he’ll just have to go get it!

There are few men on this earth that I consider very dear friends and brothers. Brad is one of those I cherish the most. Join me in saying some prayers for Coach and for his bride, Bethany as they go through this week together. How quickly will Brad be able to send that puck across the pond and into the net after this tough surgery… Who knows?

Brad and Bethany

Brad & Bethany

East Jerusalem Attacks Intensifies Shadow Wars Within the Country

East Jerusalem Attacks Intensifies Shadow Wars Within the Country.

East Jerusalem Attacks Intensifies Shadow Wars Within the Country

The attacks during the fall of 2014 by ISIS or The Islamic State against Christians is unparalleled since the Romans lay siege against the few remaining Jews atop Engedi after slaughtering Jews across Palestine and throughout Jerusalem in the latter half of the first century

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By considering the most recent attacks, there are two primary concerns that can shed light on the dark places where the shadow warriors plan. There is darkness in the hatred fueled by lies. There is darkness in the vicious attacks that turns hatred into violence. Expats who are called to battle the shadow wars do so by bringing light to the dark places within the parameters of calculated risk.
The recent attacks in East Jerusalem bring into focus the problem that Benjamin Netanyahu has in the battle that Israel faces against lone-wolf terrorists whether they are homicide bombers or murderers out for a spree killing. The most recent attack was the brutal murder of two Orthodox Rabbis by two Arab cousins, Uday and Ghassan Abul Jamal who appear to have been neighbors of the Synagogue in the predominantly Arab southern East Jerusalem area of Jabel Mukaber. The media has picked up on the term grass-roots terrorist attacks. Such attacks have become the core of the shadow wars.
Recent reports have focused on a two-pronged problem for the Israeli government. The first is the random nature of the events carried out without what seems to be any serious pre-planning but are spontaneous attacks of opportunity fueled by systemic hatred agitated by virulent propaganda. If it were possible to stop the flow of the propaganda, it may be possible to reduce the number of attacks. The apparent lack of planning or at least any sophistication in planning is evidenced by the use of weapons at hand and targets of opportunity. It also signals something deeper. There must be a source of fuel for the fire of anti-Israeli hatred. That fuel is being supplied in large degree by known sources of anti-Israel propaganda. The most obvious means for Israel’s President to deal with them is to shut them down unequivocally. Hunting down the source of the propaganda would intensify the media driven strong-arm reputation of Israel’s security forces. As effective as such a hunt might be, the focus will be negative particularly because it will be centered on those exercising their ‘rights’ to express an opinion. The hunt for the propaganda purveyors would result as well in two other concerns:
1) The international community would have one more reason to ostracize the nation (assuming they need a reason at this point)
2) If the government shuts down one source of the propaganda another crops up. As with the Hydra, cutting off one of the many heads not only allows the others to continue to operate but it immediately springs two new ones who might take weeks for the intelligence to re-locate.
Shadow wars thrive on lies.
Re-Tooling a Previously Successful Response to the Shadow Wars
Beginning in the 1970s and through the 1980s Israel was dealing frequently with homicide bombers usually from the propagandized militant loners who sought to take a stand or make their mark against what they saw as an Israeli occupation.
It took some time and a great number of lives for Israel and the IDF and others to determine the only course of action that would effectively stop the onslaught quickly and reduce the number of civilian casualties. An automatic green light was built into the op-plan; immediately upon gaining target acquisition on the homicide bomber the first unit to engage would take him out. There was to be no discussion, no negotiation simply target acquired/threat neutralized. There are two striking differences between the two types of attacks.
1. The current attacks seem to be a blitz type assault. The assailant(s) arrive on–scene, enter and begin the attack whereas the homicide

bomber (that could be neutralized) arrived on-scene, made his presence known and then waited for a response from someone.

2. The targets of the homicide bombers appear to have been planned. That pre-planning sometimes gave the slimmest chance for the IDF to

intercept their  targets. These new assaults appear to not to be pre-planned. In the most recent attacks there was no information that would have given

investigators any direction to send them for a pre-emptive strike.
The Israel population has been an effective part of the stemming the tide of homicide bomber operations by immediately reporting anything suspicious. On more than one occasion, a local citizen seeing something even remotely suspicious warned those in the area and notified authorities. Those precious seconds were the difference between an effective intervention and a deadly attack. The question becomes, “Is it possible to help citizens identify this new threat quickly enough to make an educated report to authorities?”
The Arab-Israeli citizens have lived within a conundrum. They live freely and openly in a society that they are told they should hate. They live in a country from whom they hold a passport, a citizenship, and see as a homeland that has provided all of their basic needs including healthcare throughout their lives. As an Arab they are told they must hate these people who are their neighbors, co-workers, and friends. The people who are telling them these things have never provided for them any of the necessities just described. They have never provided even a modicum of such stability to their kinsmen who live outside of Israel but within the Palestinian controlled regions.
In 2013, there were an estimated 1,658,000 Arab Israeli citizens (also called Palestinian Arabs in Israel) which is almost 21% of the total Israel population. For the most part they peacefully co-exist. This, we are certain, drives the Palestinian leaders crazy; hence, the continual on-slaught of Israel hate propaganda. What the Arabs, who are not Israeli citizens, need more than a propaganda pushing proletariat are real leaders who genuinely care about their people. Perhaps then the grass-roots events will be more productive than destructive. Until that happens, the President of Israel will always be battling a shadow war.
AN EXPAT RESPONSE to THE SHADOW WARS
The Apostle Paul makes the case for the work that he does and the effort that he puts forth. He does not waste his time nor his effort with things that are futile. He gives his full strength and devotion to the work. The analogy is from his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes, “Therefore, I run thus; not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” He also explains that when a soldier prepares for war he must be free of those things that would distract him from the battle. A distracted soldier puts himself, his squad and the objective at risk.
Expats that are missionaries are residing within a country where they have chosen to live for the purpose of serving Christ and His church. Their objective is cause enough to willingly risk their safety and perhaps that of their family. Dr. Riggs makes it very clear in his work: “In Times of Crisis” the biblical principles and countless examples by giants of the faith which show that when risk taking is necessary, they are calculated risks. Knowing that God has called you to a particular people and He has asked you to serve in areas of unrest during times of increased trouble; His promises to be with you always are very clear. The Bible never guarantees physical safety but rather informs His followers that they should not fear what man can do to them. True Christians can know that their eternal safety is secure. There remains two primary considerations with which every expat living in troubled circumstances must wrestle.

1. How does my staying when times are explosively unsteady balance against my first responsibility to my family? (This does not specifically

require that the expat have children with them on the field but there are extended family members as well to be considered.)
2. How does my staying or my leaving impact the national believers with whom I work?
a. Am I putting them in more danger, being a westerner affiliated with them? Am I painting a target on them, so to speak, if I stay?
b. If there is no risk of added danger, does my leaving negatively affect the Gospel message?

The attacks during the fall of 2014 by ISIS or The Islāmic State against Christians is unparalleled since the Romans lay siege against the few remaining Jews atop Engedi after slaughtering Jews across Palestine and throughout Jerusalem in the latter half of the first century. More Christians have been murdered for their faith in the Twentieth Century than in all the 19 previous centuries combined. The 21st Century is setting a trend that will cause it to far out-distance even the 20th Century for violence against Christians. At the same time, when Christians become targets of terrorists, it is important to remember that terrorists kill indiscriminately.
It matters not to them whether Islāmic children are killed or Jewish as well as Christian women and children. Their desire to control by striking such intense, paralyzing fear into the hearts and minds of the public precludes them having any heart for those who are dying.
There is but one complete solution to the Shadow Wars. Never will the Israeli President be able to stem the flow of the lies being spoken and printed about Israel. No matter how well trained, how fast the response or how actively the citizens of Israel become in aiding the authorities to stop the homicide attacks; they will continue – though hopefully at a reduced number. The only possible source of peace from the Shadow Wars is from the One who is the light of the world, the Prince of Peace. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

THREAT to AMERICA: Islamic State (ISIS) outside the Levant (al Sham)

Most counter-terrorism experts would agree that the threats or danger the nation faces when it stands against terrorism are to be expected and it is a calculated risk which is necessary to take. The risk is imposed by returning disenchanted citizens who favor jihad over the ballot box. It must be made clear that they are not welcome here and that Americans will do whatever it takes to meet the challenge.

9-11 Never Forget 9-11 Never Forget

The Ministry Minute: When there’s Only a Minute for Ministry

Ministry Minute
Ministry Minute

SEPTEMBER 10, 2014                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Dr. ROSS L. RIGGS

 

 

 

 

 

THREAT to AMERICA:

ISLAMIC STATE (IS – ISIS/ISIL)  OUTSIDE the LEVANT (al SHAM)

 

 

 

Arrow Diagram Threat to America
Arrow Diagram Threat to America

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