Friday, October 18, 2013

Around the World to Thailand

The second country in my series of Around the World essays is Thailand, a tropical country located on the Indochina Peninsula in South Eastern Asia.  Thailand, at 198,000 square miles (larger than California yet smaller than Texas) is the 51st largest country of the world.  
"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."  --Psalm 24:1
  
The seventy-six provinces of Thailand cover varied terrain.  In Thailand you can find mountains, rainforests, coral reefs, waterfalls, beautiful white sandy beaches,  exquisite Oriental architecture, and the ruins of Ayutthaya (once the largest city in the world). The country is bordered by Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia,the Gulf of Thailand, and the West Andaman Sea.  Thais pride themselves in being the "land of the free;" Thailand is the only country on the Indochina Peninsula never to have been colonized by Europeans.

My Thai Heritage
One reason Thailand fascinates me because it is the land of many of my ancestors.  My grandmother Siripon was born in Lamphun, Thailand, the 9th of 10 children.  Her father's progenitors belonged to what was once the royal family of Lamphun (Thai provinces had their own dynasties until the national King Chulalongkorn stripped them of their powers in 1897); he worked as a farmer.  My grandma  grew up on the family farm raising rice, peanuts, soybeans, and peppers, and helping cut sugar-cane.  Most of the work was done by hand, but they also had oxen which worked pulling carts.  
Mae Ya Waterfall in Chiang Mai
When Grandma was 15 years old, she moved to Chiang Mai to live with her sister.  When she was a little older she opened a beauty salon and met my grandfather, an American merchant marine, in Bangkok.  After they married, they moved to Ubon where my mother was born.  Shortly before the outbreak of the Vietnam War, they moved to Nakhon Phanom, a province which saw some of the worst fighting between Vietnamese insurgents and U.S. troops.  Across the river from their home they could hear and see shooting and fighting. As a result of the war, in 1975, my grandfather returned to the United States, bringing with him my grandma, mother, aunt, and uncle.

History
Before the Thais moved to Thailand, the region was inhabited by various Mon-Khmer and Malay civilizations.  Little, is known about Thailand before the 13th century because literary sources are scarce.  However, archeological evidence suggests that rice was grown in northeastern Thailand as early as 4000 B.C. and bronze metallurgy work was done there before 3000 B.C.  Several city-states developed throughout the area, each with its own king.  Of these, first the Sukhothai Kingdom was dominant, this kingdom established trade with Cambodia and India and developed the Thai alphabet.  Next the City of Ayutthaya, on a small island encircled by three rivers and surrounded by rice terraces, became powerful.  King Ramathiboidi, the first ruler of Ayutthaya (ruling from 1351-1369), established Buddhism as the official religion and compiled Dharmashasta, a legal code.  

Portuguese Ambassador Duarte Fernandes established Europe's first official relations with Thailand in 1511, and Thailand became known to foreigners as the Kingdom of Siam.  Ayutthaya became a hub of trading with the Dutch, French, Chinese, and Japanese.  As one of the most prosperous cities of eastern Asia, Ayutthaya had a population of about 1 million, making it perhaps the largest city of the world in 1700 A.D.  However, the political arena became turbulent with princes and officials fighting among themselves, and the kingdom began to decline.  The Burmese attacked in the 1750s and again in the 1760s.  In 1767 after a long siege, the walls of Ayutthaya were broken down and the Burmese sacked and burned the city.  Ayutthaya's last king died of starvation 10 days later while in hiding.
Ayutthaya Ruins via Wikipedia
A troubled time in Thai history followed, but by 1769 General Phraya Taksin had defeated his rivals and driven out the Burmese invaders.  He became king and chose the city of Thonburi, across the river from Bangkok, as his capital.  He worked to reestablish trade and also was interested in a cultural revival.  Unfortunately, the strain of his office took its toll, and he went mad.  His fellow general, Chakri, became Rama I in 1782, and moved the capital to Bangkok.    His grandson, King Mongkut or Rama IV, is the king shown in the films The King and I and Anna and the King.   Mongkut spoke Latin and English, as well as 5 other languages.  Both King Mongkut and his son King Chulalongkorn (who reigned from 1868-1910) instituted many reforms. King Mongkut opened new waterways and roads and instituted new laws protecting women and children's rights.  King Chulalongkorn freed the slaves and introduced schools, railways, Thailand's first post office, and a civil service system.  

King Chulalongkorn
Rama VI or King Vajiravudh, who reigned from 1910 to 1925, sent 1300 Thai troops to France in 1918 to show Thailand's support for the Allies in World War I.  During the reign of Rama VII or King Prachadhipok, the bloodless Revolution of 1932 transformed the country from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy patterned after the British model.  The king outlawed polygamy in 1934, shortly before abdicating and retiring to Britain.  His 10 year-old nephew, Ananda Mahidol was appointed as his successor.  In 1939 the country's official English name was changed from Siam to Thailand.  

There was sharp conflict between various factions of the government, and the military faction came into power with Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram.  The government, though nominally a constitutional monarchy, was ruled by the military.  
Thailand's Grand Palace which served as the home of the kings from 1782-1946 (via Wikipedia)
In January 1941, Thailand invaded Indochina to recover certain areas which once belonged to Thailand.  This sparked the Franco-Thai War.  The well-equipped Thais quickly took Laos from the Vichy French and attempted to invade Cambodia.  The French counterattacked two Thai-held villages on January 16th; this lead to a very fierce battle, but the French were eventually forced to retreat.  The Thai pursuit was checked by French artillery.  The next day, the French fleet engaged a Thai naval detachment in the Battle of Ko Chang and scored a decisive victory, sinking 2 torpedo boats and 1 ship.  On January 24th and 28th, Thai bombers raided the French.  Japan volunteered to mediate the conflict, and on the 31st a ceasefire was signed.  On May 9th, a peace treaty was signed in Tokyo in which the French, coerced by the Japanese, ceded disputed border territories to Thailand.  

On December 8, 1941, shortly before the strike on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese demanded permission to move their troops through Thailand to the Malayan frontier.  Thailand did not respond to the Japanese ultimatum, and Japanese forces invaded Thailand.  Thai and Japanese troops clashed for 8 hours until the Thai prime minister ordered an armistice, granting Japan permission to use Thailand as a base for the  invasion of Malaya.  On December 21st, an alliance was signed with the Japanese, and on January 25, 1942, Thailand declared war on the United States and Great Britain.  However, the Thai ambassador to the United States Seni Pramoj refused to deliver the declaration of war, and so the United States refrained from declaring war on Thailand.  
The Bridge Over the River Kwai in 2004 (via Wikipedia)
The Japanese built the Burma Railway, spanning from Bangkok, Thailand to Rangoon, Burma using forced labor in 1943.  Approximately 160,000 Asian workers and 60,000 Allied POWs worked on the railway; of these 90,000 Asians and 60,000 POWs died as a direct result of the construction.  The construction of the railway is counted as a war crime committed by Japan.  The film Bridge on the River Kwai, though mostly fictional, was based on the construction of the railway.  Conditions were, in fact, much worse than what was depicted in the movie.  

Ambassador Seni Pramoj organized the Free Thai Movement which provided the Allies with valuable intelligence, and was the only resistance organization to use its own fighter aircraft in World War II.  The Tham Seree Thai cave in Sakon Nakhon Province was used by the group to store supplies, and is currently an historical attraction.   The resistance movement was aided some members of the Thai royal family as well as certain government officials.  

After Japan surrendered in 1945, Thailand was forced to pay reparations in the form of rice sent to Malaya on the demand of the British.  Thailand also had to return all territories won in the Franco-Thai war to France.  King Ananda Mahidol, who was in Europe during World War II, was able to return to Thailand.  Unfortunately, the king died of a gunshot wound under mysterious circumstances.  His younger brother, Bhumibol Adulyadej, became King Rama IX on June 9th, 1946.  He is now the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history.  
King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit
In 1947, a military coup ousted the government of the time and led to 30 years of military dictatorship.  In 1973 democracy was reinstated for a short time, but the military took over again in 1976.  For most of the 1980s Prem Tinsulandond (who was affiliated with the military) served as Prime Minister.  He was democratically inclined and restored parliamentary politics.  In 1988 General Chatichai Choonhaven was elected to replace him.  In 1991, the 17th military coup since 1932 occurred, and civilian Anand Panyarachun became prime minister.  

In 1992, General Suchinda Kraprayoon was elected.  The country was very divided, and during the"Black May" of '92 nearly 200,000 people protested in Bangkok, demanding Suchinda's resignation.  A military crack-down ensued, which resulted in 52 confirmed deaths and many disappearances and injuries.  The Thai Royal Family, fearing a civil war, appeared on television and called for an end to the violence.  King Bhumibol summoned Suchinda and the leader of the pro-democracy protesters, Chamlong.  The site of both men together on their knees (as royal protocol requires) before the king as he demanded an end of the conflict and pleaded for peace quieted the nation.  Suchinda resigned; Chamlong told the demonstrators to return to their homes, and new elections were held.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis began in Thailand when the Thai baht collapsed.  The economy began to recover in '99 after economic reforms.  

In 2003, 2000 suspects were killed in an anti-drug crack-down.  The government blamed these killings on criminal gangs, but certain groups blame the deaths on the government.  In 2004, Islamic militants killed over 600 people in terroristic attacks in Southern Thailand, and martial law was instituted in the area of the attacks.  The insurgency continued with bombing attacks in 2005.  Coordinated attacks on June 16, 2006 hit 40 government buildings.  Overall, thousands have been killed in the conflict.  In February 2013 the Thai government and Muslim separatists of southern Thailand signed their first-ever peace talks agreement.

Thailand was affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Over 5,000 Thais lost their lives as a result of the storm.  In 2005, the bird flu, H5N1, threatened an outbreak, killing 14 people.  

The latest Thai military coup occurred in September 2006.  By August 2007 a new constitution was approved by the military leaders and popular vote, and February 2008 saw the return of civilian rule with a democratically elected government.  But the political crisis was not over.  From September 2008 into 2012, there were protests and violent clashes between members of the Thai political parties.  
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (the first woman  Prime Minister of Thailand) via Flickr
The Thai government under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has recently been endeavoring to balance the budget and reduce the nation debt.  However rubber and rice farmers launched protests demanding increased subsidies, with approximately 12,000 farmers blocking roads and railways and threatening to shut down city halls in August and September.  The government gave in to the farmers demands, paying $681 million directly to rubber-growers' bank accounts and spending over $8.5 billion to buy rice from the rice-growers at above-market prices.

The People and Culture
   Thailand has a population of 66,720,153.  75% are Thai, 14% Chinese, and 11% are from various other ethnicities.  Buddhism is the predominant religion: 94.6% of the people are Buddhist, 4.6% Muslim, 0.7% Christian, and 0.1% other religions.  

Thailand has a GDP of $365.6 billion.  12.3% comes from agriculture (rice, cassava, rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, and soybeans), 43.6% from industry (tourism, textiles, agricultural processing, cement, computers and parts, etc), and 44.2% from services.  The country is the world's second-largest tungsten producer and third-largest tin producer.  The unemployment rate is  only 0.7%; 7.8% of the population live below the poverty line.  The GDP per capita is $5,473.75, and the public debt is 44.5% of the GDP.  (See the CIA World Factbook)

Thailand's literacy rate is 93.5%.  Education is compulsory up to the age of 14, and the government provides public schooling for children up to the age of 17.   Many students attend private schools and homeschooling is legal.

The traditional way of greeting for both men and women is the "wai," in which the younger person bows his head with his hands pressed together as if in prayer to show respect and the older person responds in similar fashion.  Thais usually speak softly and avoid confrontations.  Thailand is also known as the land of smiles.  The head is considered sacred, and thus touching someone's head is considered very rude.  Similarly, the feet are considered "dirty," so shoes must be taken off when entering a house.  Thais are generally very neat and clean people.  They also place emphasis on self-control, and emotions--especially anger--are not displayed in public.

Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice, and rice is an essential element of Thai cuisine, eaten at almost every meal.  Thai food is known for being spicy.

Tourism
     Bangkok, Thailand is home to the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo, the largest crocodile farm in the world with over 100,000 crocodiles.  The crocodile farm boasts the world's largest captive crocodile, Yai, who is 6 meters (19 feet, 8 inches) long and weighs 2465 pounds.    But if, perchance, visiting with crocodiles doesn't suite you, there are many other options.
Ko Chang Beach via Wikipedia
Divers enjoy visiting the Similan Islands and various other locations in Thailand where there are beautiful coral reefs.  Rock climbers can practice their sport on the Ri Leh Cliffs, and shoppers can visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest weekend market in the world with 15,000 stores.
Thiawand Wall in Rai Leh via Wikipedia
Nature lovers can visit rainforests and see elephants, monkeys, birds, snakes, and deer; see the Bangkok Aquarium, explore Phra Nang Diamond Cave, or tour the Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden which covers 500 acres. There are also beautiful white sandy beaches.  Waterfalls can be found throughout the country.  History buffs can visit the Ayutthaya ruins, the Bangkok National Museum, the Grand Palace, many historical Buddhist temples, and the Phru Phra Bat Historical Park.

Nong Nooch Botanical Garden
Thailand is a truly beautiful and exotic country; it has a rich history and is filled with natural wonders, friendly people, and fantastic Oriental architecture.

Monday, October 14, 2013

God's Protection

One of our hens, Lark, recently hatched 6 adorable chicks.  None of our hens over the years have had much success with hatching eggs because most are easily distracted and move from one nest of eggs to another.  But Lark picked a nest in the back corner of one of our buildings a stayed there for weeks.  Her persistence paid off!  Now Lark is extremely protective of her chicks, pecking anyone who gets too close and defending her chicks from all ostensible dangers with her feathers puffed out to look twice her size.  

Everyone knows how vicious mother bears can be in defense of their cubs, and my poor dog learned a long time ago how frightening a mother cat's claws can be when she is defending her brood from potential intruders.  The defensive-mother instinct is one of the most powerful instincts of nature.

God cares about us even more than Lark cares about her chicks.  In fact, he loves us more strongly than even human mothers love their own children.  Isaiah 49:15 says, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."  He is our defense and our help when we are in trouble.  The Bible says, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."  

In the book of Matthew, Jesus cried, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"  The Lord is looking for someone who will trust and believe Him.  Jerusalem of old times rejected and crucified their Savior.  Do not reject His love.  "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on the behalf of those whose hearts are perfect toward Him."  We make mistakes, but no matter what our problems may be, God is greater; He doesn't make mistakes.  Claim His promises, walk in His ways, and trust in His guidance and protection.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty...
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust." --Psalm 91:1&4

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Treasures of Small Town Iowa

When we make deliveries of the concrete pads we sell for propane tanks, we often like to take country roads which lead us through small towns. 

Every area of the country has its own secrets which only locals know.  In our neck of the woods most everyone knows that "Lonny's" is where all the farmers go to drink their coffee, swap stories, and eat peanuts; the thrift store behind Subway is the best place for bargain shopping; my dad's shop is where to have welding done; the blue pick-up truck belongs to so-and-so, etc.  But outsiders are clueless (and my dear readers would still be lost trying to discover these local secrets from the tips above without additional help from locals).  


While we certainly haven't cracked the enigmas of any of the small towns we drive through, we have skimmed the surface to discover a few of the small town treasures.

Rhodes, Iowa has a population of 305 and was founded in 1803.  Driving through the town, we wondered what treasures it held.  As we neared the center of the town we saw a tank!

The Vietnam era tank  (pictured above) was placed on display  in the early 1990s.  The treads of the tank reach to a height of about 5 feet.  During the Vietnam War, the tanks would plow through vegetation, leaving paths behind them which troops could follow without having to cut their way through the jungles.  At the park and veterans' memorial where the tank sits, we met Jerry, who as a member of the city council helped arrange for the tank to be moved to Rhodes.  He explained to us that the tank was now welded shut, but in the case of a national emergency the welds could be removed and the tank could be put back into service.  

I didn't get any good full-body shots of the tank, so here's one from randomiowa.com
Another town we drove through is State Center, the Rose Capital of Iowa.  State Center is a slightly larger town with a population of 1,468.  Some of the flowers in the Rose Garden were starting to fade, but enough of the roses were vibrant enough for it to still be a photographer's heaven!

A park bench












And such is the beauty of small town and country life!  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Around the World to Bosnia

This is the first of a series of Around the World Wednesday essays giving a brief history & overview of countries around the world.  While browsing through old notebooks, I found this essay I wrote several years ago on Bosnia-Herzegovina which, revised and updated, will serve as the first post of this series.
Psalm 46:8-10
"Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.  He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.  Be still, and know that I am God:  I will be exalted in the earth."

Begin at point 0,0.  Travel 43 degrees, 52 minutes north and 18 degrees, 25 minutes east; you will find yourself in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula, north of the Adriatic Sea, to the east of Croatia, with Serbia and Montenegro to your east and southeast respectively.  You will be in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  Bosnia-Herzegovina, at 19,971 square miles--less than half the size of Iowa--claims 7 major rivers, several waterfalls, 16 miles of shoreline on the Adriatic Sea, one of the two surviving ancient European forests (which covers half of the country), and a 13th century fortress.  Yet, this small, beautiful land has often been racked with wars and horrors.
Ostrozac Castle via Wikipedia
History
Formed in 1189, Bosnia lost its independence to Ottoman Empire conquest in 1527.  In 1908 it was annexed by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  In 1914, a Serbian patriot named Gravilo Princip assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, and his wife in Sarajevo.  This sparked World War I, a war which claimed approximately 7 million lives, but left Bosnia virtually untouched.  After the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the South Slav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia).
Meeting of Chetniks and other guerrilla groups during World War II in Bosnia
Yugoslavia was invaded by Germany on April 6, 1941, and Bosnia was ceded to the Independent State of Croatia.  Croat leaders undertook to exterminate Serbs, Jews, Communists, Antifascists and others in death camps.  Between 80,000-100,000 people were murdered in the Jasenovac extermination camp alone.  Many Serbs joined the Chetniks, a guerilla resistance group.  The Bosnian terrain provided ideal conditions for resistance.  As Basil Davidson wrote, "Bosnia was the geographical mother of the partisan movement, providing ample space amongst its mountains for training and development."  The Chetniks fought both the Nazis and the multi-ethnic Communist Partisans lead by Tito and eventually backed by the Allies.  After the end of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina become one of the 6 constituent Republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Tito.

In 1990, Yugoslavia began to break apart as Croatia and Slovenia declared independence.  The Serbs in Bosnia preferred to stay with the Yugoslav federation, but the Bosniaks and Croats wished to declare independence.    In 1992, Bosnia split into the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska) and the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia.  The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared Herzeg-Bosnia illegal.

After a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia--boycotted by Serbs--in which 99.7% of the 63.4% of people who voted voted for independence, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence.  On April 6th, open warfare began in Sarajevo.

Secret discussions, known as the Karadordevo agreement, between Serbia and Croatia on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been held as early as March 1991.  Following Bosnia's declaration of independence, the Serbs attacked.  The state administration of Bosnia effectively ceased to function, having lost control of its entire territory.  The Serbs wanted all lands mostly populated by Serbs.  The Croats also aimed at expanding their territory at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Bosnian Muslims were the only ethnic group loyal to the Bosnian government.

Republika Srpska soon had most of the country under its control.  Bosniak houses and apartments were ransacked or burnt and Bosniak civilians were captured, beaten, and killed.  Families were separated and massacres and atrocities were committed.  Serbian forces undertook an ethnic cleansing campaign, and thousands were murdered in the Srebrenica genocide in 1995.  In Sarajevo, children were a primary target for snipers, and according to one survey, after all the atrocities the children witnessed 90% claimed they did not even want to live.  The Serbians were finally pushed back after a NATO bombing campaign and a ground offencive by the allied forces of Croatia and Bosnia.  In December 1994, the signing of the Dayton Agreement in Dayton, Ohio by the presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia brought a halt to the fighting.  Over 100,000 soldiers and civilians of all ethnicities had been killed.

Government 
Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a federal democratic republic with a bicameral legislature and a presidency consisting of three members: one Serb, one Bosnian, and one Croat.  An international civilian implementation overseer or High Representative, though not a government member, has authority to dismiss elected and non-elected officials.

Suffrage is universal.  The voting age is 18; however, 16 and 17 year-olds can vote as well if they are employed.
A Waterfall on the River Una
The People and Culture
Bosnia has a population of 3,875,723.  Of these, 48% are Bosniak, 37.1% Serbs, and 14.3% Croats.  Bosnian and Croatian are both official languages.  The citizens of Bosnia are also divided into various religious groups: 40% are Muslims, 31% Orthodox, 15% Roman Catholic, and 14% of various other persuasions.

49% of Bosnians live in cities and towns. The agricultural sector, which accounts for 19% of the GDP, does not produce enough food to meet the needs of the country; so some food must be imported.

Bosnia's GDP is $32.43 billion.  Bosnia's main industries are steel, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, manganese, bauxite, vehicles, textiles, tobacco products, furniture, tanks, aircraft, oil refining, and domestic appliances. There is 44.6% unemployment, and 18.6% of Bosnians live below the poverty level.  The GDP per capita is estimated at only $8,400.  The public debt is 43.8% of the GDP. (See CIA World Factbook)

Bosnia has 98% literacy rate.  It also has a rich culture in art, music, theater, and literature.  The country also hosted the 14th Winter Olympics in 1984.

Men usually shake hands upon meeting, but among the Muslims it is forbidden for women to shake hands with men unless they are related.  Families are most often patriarchal.  Bosnians generally do not look each other in the eye when speaking, but look aside to promote concentration on the theme discussed.  Guests always bring a small gift when visiting the homes of friends.   Bosnians are known as friendly and hospitable people.

Tourist Attractions
Sarajevo is home to many museums including the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (established 1888), the Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art, the Alija Izetbegović Museum, and the Museum of Sarajevo.

Bosnia is also noted for its ski slopes.  Modern resorts, inexpensive passes, and reliable snowfall between December and March make it a fun for ski enthusiasts.

Visegrad Bridge via Wikipedia
Other interesting locations include the Shrine of Our Lady Medjugorje, the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Visegrad, Mostar "the City of Sunshine," the Kastel fortress, Una National Park and the waterfalls of the river Una, Sutjeska National Park (home to Bosnia's highest peak and beautiful native forest and the location of a great battle of World War II where the Partisans defeated a massive German army), the Kravica Waterfalls, Ostrozac Castle, Jajce (city of the Bosnian kings), Doboj and its 13th century fortress, Konjic and Tito's underground nuclear bunker, and the Lower Tara river canyon (the deepest in Europe).

Mostar via Wikipedia
Bosnia is a historical treasure trove, which though often racked by conflict, has shown its resilience through the ages.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What God Does is Forever

"For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.  Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.  They continue this day according to thine ordinances:
 for all are thy servants."  --Psalm 119:89-91

One of my favorite Bible verses is Ecclesiastes 3:14, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."  There is much uncertainty in this world.  We never know from one day to the next whether we will be in a car accident, if there will be another mass shooting, or if some struggle in the Middle East will explode.  But there is one thing that we do know, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is our Rock of Ages.

Hebrews says, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old like a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."  God is dependable; He is always there for us, no matter how the world falls apart.  

No one can stop God from fulfilling His plan  in your life.  Trust Him, and do not worry; His plan for you is good.  Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of Ravensbruck concentration camp, would often hold up the back side of an embroidery to audiences.  She explained that while we sometimes may only see what looks like a tangled mess in our lives, God can see the beautiful side of the embroidery all the time.  Someday we will be able to see everything beautiful from His vantage too, and we will thank Him seeing us through every trial.  Trust Him; He is faithful.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Civil War Reenactment

Sunday morning, September 8th, we left home at about 8:50 to drive to Mason City, Iowa to see a Civil War Reenactment.  The drive was, thankfully, uneventful.  We stopped at an auction on the way, as we had heard that postage stamps were to be auctioned.  The stamps were common--no thousand dollar finds--so we finished our trip to Mason City.
We arrived in time to chat with our friends the Dirksens (who had kindly invited us) and the Lenz sisters, whom I had heard speak at a ladies conference this spring.  Then the South Carolina regiment infantry drills began.  After watching the troops prepare for the battle, we walked over to the concession stands, conveniently situated in no-man's land (between the Southern and Northern camps) and obviously owing allegiance to neither side.



We bought quesadillas at a Mexican food trailer and delicious root-beer at Doc's (below right)


The tent on the left sold reenactment memorabilia: swords, hats, handkerchiefs, post cards, etc.

While we ate we listened to this couple play civil war songs.  

The Northern Camp--isn't the blue dress that the lady in the background is wearing beautiful?

After taking a quick look at the field hospital below, I decided I didn't want to be injured in any battles.

Cannons, including this one, guarded the banks of the Southern camp.

We took seats in the grass across the creek from where the battle would be held.  Soon the Southerners and Northerners bravely marched onto the battle field.


The Southern Army preparing to fire.


Northern Artillery.  Both the Southern and Northern cannons were *very* loud!


The first Southern soldier fell, and the Northerners began advancing


But the situation didn't really get bad until a  group Northern soldiers slipped across the creek, breaking up onlooker's "picnics" and outflanking the Southern army.



Onlookers watched as the North continued advancing and the South continued retreating.



Soldier after Southern soldier boy fell until with a final cannon blast their final escape route was closed and the Southern army lay dead and wounded on the banks of the lake.  The North won again.

And everyone returned to their camps.  

"What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace."  --Confederate General Robert E. Lee