The abandoned children of Eastern Europe

February 20, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Bulgaria used family-style care centers to remove children with disabilities from state institutions. UNICEF says the Bulgarian orphanage population dropped from about 7,500 in 2010, to fewer than 1,200 children today.

Across the Black Sea, Georgia has had even more success. It reduced the number of state-run orphanages from 50 to two. The number of orphans dropped also, from 5,000 in 2005 to about 75 now, UNICEF says. However, Romania has made the largest improvement. The European Union has provided millions of dollars in aid to support Romanian child-welfare reforms. Private aid agencies like Hope and Homes for Children have helped place children with foster families or smaller homes where they experience a more usual childhood.

Main problems faced by children in Bulgaria:

Poverty

Bulgaria remains one of the poorest countries not only in the EU but also in the Balkans. Some parents cannot even afford to provide proper nourishment for their children. Furthermore, food deficiencies, which hit youngsters hardest, prevent children from growing up into healthy young adults. Romany (Gipsy) communities are mostly affected by poverty. Their children are often required to work in order to make ends meet. With unemployment at over 80% for this minority, the adults suffer greatly from discrimination in the workplace. In turn, this affects the children since their unemployed parents cannot provide for them at a basic level.

Street children

Many steps have been taken to implement children’s rights and respond to the needs of those most at risk on the streets. There have been campaigns to increase public awareness and improved public understanding of the situation. Today, between 2,500 and 4,000 children are still sleeping rough. These are mostly Romany children finding shelter in Bulgaria’s larger cities. Besides the fact that these children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and economic or sexual exploitation, they live their day to day lives in horrific conditions. Lack of caring adults and a lack of food are just some of the realities faced by street children.

Child Stats: UN Data on the Plight of Children Worldwide

Orphans: An estimated 153 million children worldwide are orphans (UNICEF).

Child Labor: Worldwide, there are 168 million child laborers, accounting for almost 11% of children (ILO).

Education

  • 263 million children and youth are out of school (UNESCO).
  • An estimated 61 million primary-school-age children are out of school; 53% of them are girls (UNICEF).

Health

  • There are 69 million children worldwide who suffer from malnutrition (World Bank)
  • In 2017, 75% of malnourished children lived in less developed regions (WHO).
  • Nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of 5 can be attributed to undernutrition, resulting in the unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year (UNICEF).
  • 66 million primary-school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone (WHO).

Mortality

  • In 2017, 15,000 children under the age of 5 died every day, that’s equivalent to 1 child every 17 seconds (WHO).
  • Leading causes of death in under-5 year old are birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. About 45% of child death are linked to malnutrition (WHO).
  • 2.7 million children die every year in the first month of life, and a similar number are stillborn (WHO).

Poverty: Children represent roughly a third of the world’s population but account for almost half of all people living in extreme poverty (UNICEF).

Refugees & Migrants

  • An unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are children (UNICEF).
  • 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children are missing in Europe (Europol).

 War & Conflict

  • There are over 250 million children living in countries affected by conflict (UNICEF).
  • 1 in 4 of the world’s children live in a conflict or disaster zone (UNICEF).
  • 20 people are forced to flee from their homes every minute (UNHCR).

BibleTech 2019 or BUST: A Decade Later

February 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Explore the intersection of Bible and technology at this year’s BibleTechconference, coming to Seattle on April 11–12, 2019.

Learn about advances in biblical studies from over 25 leaders in the tech, Bible translation, and publishing industries. Plan on discovering new ways technological advances equip us to explore and share God’s Word.

Presentations at the conference include:

  • Alexa, What Does the Bible Say . . . ? by Peter Venable — What does Cortana have to do with Eden? If you’ve ever wanted to ask Siri for recent scholarship about the hypostatic union—or if you’re not sure why you’d want to do that—this is the presentation for you. In this talk, Peter Venable will talk about using conversational interfaces like these in Bible study or research. Venable asks of these tools: Is it a gimmick or a necessity?
  • The CLEAR Approach to Bible Translation by Andi Wu and Randall Tan — Statistics show 1 billion people don’t have a complete Bible in their everyday language. That’s over 2,000 languages that need a Bible translation—one that doesn’t sacrifice quality. Andi Wu and Randall Tan of the Global Bible Initiative will present an innovative drafting tool for Bible translation, making it possible to create new Bible translations quickly and accurately.
  • Visualizing Textual Critical Data for English-Speaking Laypersons by Mark Ward — What if the best way to understand textual critical data is not by focusing on differences in the Greek New Testament texts? What can we learn by looking at the texts’ similarities instead? In this presentation, Mark Ward reveals his new project—a unique visualization of Greek New Testament textual critical data.

See the complete list of topics and speakers at Faithlife.com/bible-tech.

Join us on April 11–12 in Seattle, WA, for BibleTech! Register now.

REVELATION RELOADED 2019

February 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Sunday: 20 Signs of the Last Days

Monday: Spiritual Solutions from the 7 Churches

Tuesday: Rapture of the Church

Wednesday: A Place Called Heaven

Although the Book of Revelation has been vastly studied and interpreted throughout church history, usually the focus is on one major issue within the text, namely, the role and future of the church. The main reason for this has been the in-depth prophetic and pastoral messages to the Seven Churches. The value of the messages to the Seven Churches of Revelation is constituted by the fact that they are the last recorded Biblical messages to the Christian Church. For this reason, the letters to the Seven Churches obviously do not contain all of the usual elements used in the New Testament epistolary form.

Network of the Seven Churches of Revelation (PDF)

Read also: Revelation Revealed

Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality Praxis

February 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

Dony K. Donev, D. Min.

“I sit down alone: only God is here; in His presence
I open and read this book to find the way to heaven”
– John Wesley

Our search for the theological and practical connection between Pentecostalism and Eastern Orthodoxy continues with yet another publication by St. Vladimir’s Press titled, Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice. The book represents an ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox and Wesleyan confessions and it emphasizes how theologians from both sides are attempting to discover commonalities in theology and praxis. To come together, not so much as theologians and thinkers, but as practical doers motivated by the proper interpretation of Scripture. As observed from the title, as well as through the text, these similarities are not necessarily in theological convictions, but in the proceeding Biblical approach toward interpretation of Scripture.

Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice is a compilation of essays from the Second Consultation on Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality under the editorship in 2000 of S.T. Kimbrough, Jr., who contributed the chapter on Chares Wesley’s’ Lyrical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. I must issue the caution that the book is not an easy read, at least not for the reader who intends to understand it. But it is by no means a book to be easily passed by Pentecostal scholars searching for the Biblical roots of Pentecostalism within the Eastern Orthodoxy.

The book begins with an interesting observation of the exegesis of the Cappadocian Fathers by John A. McGuckin, and continues with an article on the spiritual cognition of my personal favorite, Simeon the New Theologian by Theodore Stylianopoulos. Although the discussion on Gregory the Theologian, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa was thoughtful and presented in an interesting manner, the essay on St. Simeon struck me as well structured, but a bit shallow.

An interesting approach was taken in Tamara Grdzelidze’s essay where she presented an orthodox perspective of the Wesleyan position on authority of scriptural interpretation. The essay had a very strong exposition in regard to the Wesleyan understanding of the importance of Scripture in Christian living. However, the latter part, which dealt with the influence of tradition, was not investigated to its full capacity, which left the text (perhaps on purpose) open to multiple interpretations. Nevertheless, this issue was resolved later in the book by Ted Campbell that dealt with the subject from the Wesleyan perspective.

A central theme throughout the book was the comparison of prayers and song lyrics from both camps. Although I am no musical expert, I must agree with the authors, that theology within music has played an important role in both Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions, as it continues to do so in the everyday spiritual experience of the Pentecostal believer. This rather practical approach seemed to be the heart of the discussion where both sides could agree.Finally, the role of the Holy Spirit is viewed as central for the reading, understanding and practicing of Scripture in both the Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions. For the Pentecostal reader, it may be easy to accept this presumption as similar to the Pentecostal experience, yet the book describes it in terms which will be somewhat foreign to many Pentecostals. Although the said similarities between the interpretations of Scripture may be self explanatory for the western Pentecostal reader, they may be easily disregarded as unimportant by people who practice theology and ministry in an Eastern European context due to the ever-present tension between the Orthodox and Protestant denominations. But even if the Pentecostal scholar gathers nothing else from this book, he/she must remember this one thing: The time has come for a formal Orthodox-Pentecostal dialogue, like the one which the World Council of Churches has been trying to put together since 1991.

New Bulgarian Bill on Religion Brought Back to Parliament for Corrections

February 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

The new bill on religion was voted in Bulgaria on the last working day of 2018. As we celebrated the holidays thinking the drama was over, yet a new bill was being drafted. At the beginning of the parliamentarian season, on January 31, 2019 several new corrections were introduced to the just voted-in bill as follows:

  1. $10,000,000 in stipends to be given to the Eastern Orthodox in the form of salaries
  2. A similar type subsidy in the amount of $400,000 will be provided to the Muslim confession
  3. A one time tax amnesty would be given to various confessions for prior debt toward the Bulgarian state. In the case of the Muslim confession, this one time amnesty has been calculated at $8,000,000. The amnesty amount for the Eastern Orthodox Church is yet to be calculated due to the thousands of churches and monasteries they occupy across the country.

These are just a few of the changes being proposed currently. More will follow as the bill goes for discussion on the Parliament floor. But one thing jumps out from the text that is worth mentioning. The large government “stipend” is designated to the “Orthodox and Muslim confession” (singular). Such in Bulgaria does not exist. Yet!

If the authors wanted to indicate two separate religions, just like in the English language more so by Bulgarian grammar rules, they should have used the plural confession(s). The phrase is repeated several times in the document eliminating the possibility of a grammatical error or a simple typo. If the new bill purpose to merge Orthodoxy and Islam under the same state budget will become clear soon.