Friday, June 30, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Turkmenistan!

Turkmenistan - Wikipedia

Turkmenistan - World Factbook

Turkmenistan - Nations Encyclopedia

Turkmenistan Project

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Turkmenistan, as it is customary in that country to remove shoes when entering homes.

Turkmenistan was once part of the Soviet Union and is now officially a secular democratic republic. In reality it is a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by President Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov is a real class act. While 58% of his people live below the poverty line, he spends the nation's money building palaces and statues of himself. He also calls himself the "King of kings" and in 2001 he published Rukhname, a spiritual guide that became an informal legal code for the country. It is a guide to Turkmen national cultural and ethical personal behavior, forcibly imposed on the country and claimed to make up shortcomings in both the Bible and the Koran. Niyazov got the puppet legislature to declare him President for life in 1999.

The constitution grants a very long list of individual rights, but there is no freedom of the press. No one is allowed to describe the President or his family negatively. Reporters are not permitted to mention that the President is a very short man, or that he wears a toupee, either.

While there is no official national religion, there is very little freedom of religion in Turkmenistan. The government allows for meetings of registered religious groups, but the process is so complicated that most groups do not bother attempting to register and exist underground instead. A group must have at least 500 members in the location in which it is attempting to register. That requirement alone undoubtedly keeps many Christian denominations unregistered. As of 2002, the only two religions that were officially registered were Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity. Approximately 89% of the population is Muslim.

As of 2001 there were only around 1,000 Evangelical Christians in Turkmenistan, and they are subject to state persecution. Earlier this month a Baptist Russian citizen residing in Turkmenistan was forcibly taken from his Turkmen wife and two young children and deported. One of the reasons he was deported was for holding religious services in his home. See the full story here.

Turkmenistan remains a country in dire need of the Gospel!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Take Off Your Shoes by Michael Griffiths

I obtained an old book entitled 'Take off your Shoes' by Michael Griffiths, which was published by OMF in the Seventies. It is about missionary work in Japan.

I saw this book six years ago,in the secondhand section of a Christian bookshop. I did not buy it, but it did make me contemplate the thought of being a missionary in Japan. I managed to find a secondhand copy on the internet whcih I received today.

Being written in the Seventies, it is probably out of date, but I feel I would really like to read it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fancy a Picnic?

It is about the time of year for picnics.

You should always remove your shoes before putting your feet on a picnic blanket. Not only do people sit on picnic blankets, but they put food on them. Resting shoes on a picnic blanket is like putting your shoes on the dinner table or even a dinner plate.

Many people who wear shoes at home will remove their shoes before sitting on a picnic blanket, but it is amazing that some people will keep their dirty shoes on.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Weed killer

Today when I came home for lunch there was a young man spraying weed killer on weeds growing along the side of the building. One weed he sprayed was directly in front of the steps going down to my front door. Then it rained this afternoon. I am sure that the rain water picked up some of the poison from the weed killer and spread it on the areas that my roommate and I, and any guests we may have, too, walk on to get to the apartment. I really don't want weed killer, even diluted weed killer, on my carpet. My hands were full, but my shoes still came off as soon as I came in the door!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Sweden!

Sweden- Wikipedia

The Official Gateway to Sweden

Government Office of Sweden

Sweden Information Smorgasbord

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Sweden, as it is customary in that country to remvoe shoes when entering homes.

I do love Nordic countries. There is plenty about them to dislike, but I still love them all the same.

My choice this week was inspired by England playing Sweden in the World Cup the other day. The score was 2:2, a draw, but apparently an acceptable outcome according to the complicated system of World Cup Soccer. Not that I like Soccer in any way.

Sweden was in the seventeenth century the greatest Protestant power in Europe. It controlled a powerful empire in northern Europe. However, it was decisively beaten by Peter the Great of Russia.

The Swedes have lived under one of the most expensive and extravagant welfare states in the world. However, they seem to be slowly realising that all that welfare has a cost.

The Swedish welfare state goes hand in hand with authoritarianism. Smacking children is illegal in Sweden, a very unfortunate policy. In fact, there is even an official list of names for children. Parents can only give their children names from this list. I bet my preferred choice of Seraphim does not feature.

On the other hand, homosexuality is tolerated. In fact, a few years ago, a Pentecostal pastor was jailed for preaching against homosexuality. However, he managed to sucessfully appeal against his conviction.

The other day I met an evangelist from Sweden. He said his application to study at the main theological college in Sweden had been refused because he had signed a letter to staff and students there affirming Biblical views on homosexuality. He said he was bringing this to the European Court of Human Rights.

I do love the Scandinavian minimalist style of inteirior design. I think it is very tasteful.

The Swedes have given the world Ikea. These shops sell some quite beautiful things, but unfortunately they all come in horrible flatpacks that are a nightmare to assemble.

Vietnamese Family in Worcester

The local newspaper had an article today about a Vietnamese family who had come to Worcester as refugees. They had prospered and were now a part of the community.

I was glad to see in the photograph that the family were all in their socks. They had presumably not abandoned the Vietnamese custom of removing shoes at the door.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Recently Published Book Advocates Shoes-Off Rule

I saw a new book on house cleaning in the bookshop today. It advocated making homes a shoeless zone and politely asking family, friends and guests to remove their shoes. It suggested putting a nice basket by the door for guests to put their shoes in.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Norway!

Norway - Wikipedia

Norway - World Factbook

Tidy little houses nestled among the trees greet you as you approach land. Small islands provide homes for the locals, whose boats you see neatly lined up on shore in a cove. At the end of the fjord you disembark in Oslo, the capital city of Norway. It is a city of history, neatly decorated with beautiful flowers and numerous statues.

As a recent visitor remarked, "Art, flowers, cleanliness are all an important part of Scandinavia." The city was clean, and the people were not slovenly. The buildings were not shabby. The Scandinavian appreciation for aesthetic neatness and cleanliness extends to their homes. It is customary in Norway to remove your shoes when entering a home.

Unfortunately they do not attend to their souls as well as they attend to their appearance and property. While 85% of Norwegians officially belong to the state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, and more belong to other Christian denominations, only 3% of the nation's population attend church on Sundays. Despite low church attendance, Norway is one of the world's top sending nations, with 1,060 missionaries serving in 82 countries in 2001. In return, 16 countries sent a small total of 59 missionaries to Norway.

The people of Norway have twice voted against joining the European Union, which makes Norway the only Scandinavian country that is not part of the EU, although they cooperate closely with it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hayfever- I do go on!

I was a bit sneezey this morning. Looks like I am getting Hayfever a bit.

Just a reminder, removing your shoes at the door will really help reduce your exposure to pollen.

If you or your family are Hayfever sufferers, I highly recommend leaving those summer sandals or flip flops at the door.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Properly equipped for carpet protection

My new apartment has very light colored carpet that was installed earlier this week and my roommate and I agreed that we should endeavor to keep it looking as nice as possible. We will therefore graciously enforce a shoes off rule. In order to facilitate such a request easily, I purchased a shoe rack to go by the front door. This is useful for a few reasons. We can keep shoes that we wear most often by the door for easy access and allow a place for guests to place their shoes. It will also help maintain a much neater look than just piling shoes by the door. It was not expensive and will provide excellent assistance to our efforts to maintain clean floors and a neat apartment.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Indonesia!

Indonesia Page in Wikipedia

World Factbook: Indonesia

Tourism Indonesia

The Ultimate Indonesia Homepage

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Indonesia, as it is the custom in that country to remove shoes when entering homes.

Most of us heard the news about the earthquake in Indonesia. Another big natural disaster.

Indonesia is made up of many islands, some large and some small.

The people of Indonesia are mostly Malay in ethnicity. They are predomminantly Muslim, though Bali is mainly Hindu. The Islam of Indonesia is more liberal than that of the middle east. It has been influenced in part by some pre-Islamic traditions. However, more militant and conservative interpretations of Islam are spreading in Indonesia. The terrorist bombing in the Bali nightclub in 2003 was a shock to the world.

Christians in Indonesia are mostly among the Chinese minority, though there are Christians among the Malays and tribal peoples.

The economy of Indonesia has not always been all that stable and the Tsunami of 2004 set it back somewhat. However, the country has considerable natural resources, as well as tourism.

Indonesia is a country in which Christians suffer persecution. For more information about the suffering church worldwide please visit these sites:

Barnabas Fund

Open Doors International