Countries

Aug 31
2013

Kathmandu

Even though we flew completely different routes, amazingly we all arrived within a few minutes of each other at the Kathmandu airport on Friday morning.  Unfortunately some of the luggage for Abby’s extended stay here in Nepal didn’t make it, but they will be here on the 2nd.

After a quick rest, shower and some lunch we went to visit the new offices of of our Nepal partner which up until now had been in their home.  Our partner had invited a young woman to join us that he wanted me to meet.  Her name is Rashmi.  A beautiful young women with amazing blue eyes who has been deaf since birth.  Her husband signed and translated for us.  She is a very accomplished artist naturally and is now studying at Kathmandu University.  She draws all of the anti-trafficking posters that our partner distributes to police stations, bus and train stations, schools, etc.  She wants to use her art to help with the anti-trafficking work.  I wish she could meet our great friend, Ruth Jackson, who never stops thinking about the ways in which she can use her art for good.

Rashmi, along with her paintings, has started doing painting on canvas shoes.  We all thought they were fantastic and think there is a potential for selling them….especially to benefit the Red Thread Movement.  She wants to train the girls in the safe house to do the painting which will give them an income, but will also give them a way to express themselves.  They often can’t articulate what they have gone through in either the spoken or written word, but can express their feelings in art.Image

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After leaving the offices we visited our partner’s family at their home which is where the sewing center activities take place as well.  We were able to meet some of the girls doing the sewing and see the new cutting machine that they have available to them.  It was great to meet Rosni who is now completely in charge of all the shipments that we receive of bracelets and other goods.  Before returning to the hotel they prepared the most wonderful Nepali meal for us all to share.

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Aug 29
2013

Team Visit to Nepal

An Eternal Threads team departed on Wednesday, August 28th for a visit to Nepal.  The team includes Eternal Threads’ founder, Linda Egle, board member, Diane Rose, and two staff members, Breahna Jordan and Abby Youngblood.  Breahna is the director of the Red Thread Movement and Abby will be remaining in Nepal to live in the safe house for nine months.  We are so excited that she will be able to serve this ministry in such a powerful way…spending time with the girls and helping our partner with so many tasks.

UPDATE: With a little more drama than we would have liked at the DFW airport today, we are all on our way to Nepal.  We are going different routes, but will meet up in Frankfurt for the last legs to Delhi, India and Kathmandu.  Don’t you love that name – Kat-Man-Du!!!!  I always get a kick out of saying it.

I’m very anxious to see our Nepal partner, the staff and especially the rescued girls in the safe houses.  It is always the greatest blessing and the reward for traveling half way round the world to be able to be with them.  They are the reason for it all and they are worth it!!!  Their courage, resiliency and their willingness to build a new life is inspirational in ways that are hard to describe.  They have come from remote mountain villages where they may have never had an opportunity to go to school, where they helped with household chores from the time they were little girls that most women never have to do…collecting wood and feed for animals, building open fires for cooking, and carrying water home from the stream.  Their families are desperately poor and they may have even suffered abuse in their own homes, which made them especially vulnerable to traffickers.  As most Nepalese people are, they are sweet and humble even after being deceived and abused by the traffickers.

It is the love and compassion they receive from the young women “manning” the border stations who rescue them, the house mothers and other rescued girls in the safe houses that gives them the confidence that they can rebuild their lives.  Receiving vocational training in sewing or beautician training gives them the practical skills needed for that life.  Every time you give a “gift” of a sewing machine to someone from our website, you are empowering these girls.

I’ve never been on the border at exactly the right time to witness a rescue first hand, but I love to hear the dramatic stories of their rescue.  This news report appeared in a Nepal newspaper of one such rescue.  Usha Gurung who did the rescue is the most senior staff member of KI Nepal.  These girls are amazing…knowledgeable and courageous.  They are not willing to let anyone slip through their grasp.  I can’t wait to tell Usha…”good for you and thank you.”

BHAIRAHAWA – A teenage girl from Tanahu district, who was being trafficked to India by three men, was rescued from Belahiya border in Rupandehi district on Wednesday evening. …an organization working against human trafficking, rescued 17-year-old Sima Thapa as a group of traffickers were trying to take her across the border. The three men fled leaving behind Thapa when they were stopped at a check post. Thapa, a native of Arunodaya VDC-3 in Tanahu, was drugged by the three men she had met in a passenger bus headed for Bhimad Bazaar.  “When I woke up I was in Belahiya. They threatened to kill me if I did not do what they told me. I relented and walked along with them,” said Thapa. While two of the traffickers walked ahead to cross the border, Thapa was instructed to walk along with the third man and identify him as her uncle if inquired. Usha Gurung, in-charge of … Belahiya check post, said Thapa’s nervous expression suggested something was suspicious about her being there with a man. “When we stopped them for questioning, she first said that the man was her uncle. Not convinced, we pressed her to tell the truth when the man ran away. She later told us what had happened to her,” said Gurung. Police Inspector Mohan Bahadur Khand of the Belahiya Area Police Office said Thapa was handed over to her parents on Thursday.

Stay tuned…hopefully we’ll be blogging several times during the visit.

Apr 17
2013

Journey West

On Sunday, April 14th, our Afghan partner and I traveled to the western city where our projects are located.  It was nice to have a companion for the journey.  Going to this city is like entering another world in Afghanistan.  It is much different than Kabul.  Thankfully, it has not been damaged as much over the decades of war so there are avenues lined with huge pine trees.  The entire city has mature trees (something you don’t see in Kabul) and parks with loads of trees and flowers.  It seems to be a more “normal” city rather than a war zone…people going about their daily lives…shopping, taking children to school, visiting neighbors.  All in all I prefer it to Kabul except for the fact that as a woman I am less free.  I never saw a single woman who didn’t have a burqa or chador. I’m able to wear a long coat and head scarf but we had to be cautious not to attract unwarranted attention.

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Our first project visit on Monday was to an area just outside the city to visit the tailoring course.  My partner brought his family with us to help with the “attention” factor.  This is the second course we have done for women in this area and will begin a third at the beginning of next month. Even though our partner had taken some wonderful photos and videos before it was such a pleasure to visit the young women for myself.  There are 10 in each class ranging in age from 18 to 30…most of them being around the age of 20. Because this is such a poor area none of them have ever had the opportunity to go to school so having the opportunity to learn this skill is a huge benefit to they and their families.  We passed out graduation certificates to everyone and our partner will present them with the supplies they need to start their business when they finish at the end of the month.  These supplies are purchased for only $120.  Anyone interested can give this amount for one of these young women on our website in Life Changing Gifts.

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I was also able to meet one of the young women (17 years old) from our first class who now has a business in her home and the 26 year old woman from our remote village whose story was in my last blog.  I had several questions for them which is such a new experience because never in their lives has someone asked them their opinion about anything.  They would not take their chadors off or even let me fully see their faces.

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We talked to the young woman about her business and what might help her be more successful.  We concluded that we could help the women get more customers in their neighborhood if they had pieces of fabric that their customers could choose from rather than having to travel into the city to buy it. Our partner is going to try and find a wholesaler that would give us a good price for bulk purchases of fabric.  The women are given their sewing machine and set-up supplies when they finish the course, but they would have to repay the loan for the fabric as they are able to make it into clothing for their customers.

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After visiting the tailoring course I had the pleasure of taking my partner and his family to lunch at an Afghan restaurant which is something that they as a family had never done before.  It was a treat for all of us to be able to spend time together.  Our partner’s three sons are ages 12, 7 and 4. (photo below)  His oldest son is a very intelligent boy and LOVES to go to school.  Unfortunately, because they had to move several times he is only in the 3rd class instead of the 6th as he should be.  The government school that he goes to will not let him take exams to advance to the grade that he should be in for his age.  I discovered that the solution to this was that he attend a private school.  I didn’t have the expense of educating children of my own so this was an easy decision for me.  I gave the funds to our partner when I left yesterday so that he can attend the private school.  I can tell that this young man will do well with every opportunity he is given.

After lunch we visited the jewelry project that we have been supporting since a good friend of mine began the project when she lived in this city for a year and a half.  She taught the women to make the beautiful jewelry that we now sell on our website and the young Afghan woman you see in the photo below has carried on the project to employ the women.  I collected some of the Pearls of Perseverance bracelets that were finished and we worked on some new designs as well.

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The remainder of our time was spend sourcing raw materials…a very fine cashmere comes from this part of Afghanistan.  I’m hoping we can employ some women make some beautiful infinity scarves and gloves that you will love.

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Apr 13
2013

Kabul Spring

It’s early spring in Kabul.  All of the fruit trees are in bloom and the new trees that have been planted by the mayor of Kabul are covered in the bright green leaves that only spring provides.  It’s hard to find evidence of hope springing up in a country and a city that has been crushed by war for decades, but nature seems to give it’s signs of renewal no matter what else is happening.

Friday was spent catching up with ET’s partner and visiting a Tajik refugee woman and her two daughters.  She has been making the wonderful organza jewelry bags that you’ve received if you’ve ever bought some jewelry from Eternal Threads.  Since I knew I would be seeing her and could carry the bags home in my luggage I gave her a fairly large order for this trip.  This photo with her two daughters was taken in the garden of the home where they live in front of the fruit tree in bloom.

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Today was a very successful day for us.  Our partner and I were able to find the offices of Operation Mercy. a Swedish Organization that specializes in Self Help Groups for women.  I met with the Afghanistan National Coordinator, Khalida Hafizi (photo below).  She was very helpful in giving us the information needed for us to do this program for the women in our projects.  I first saw the Self Help Groups in Afghanistan when I was here in 2007 and have since seen the concept in south India and Nepal.  It is a fantastic approach to helping women.  I am still impressed by the micro-lending concept started by Mohammed Yunus in Bangladesh, but I’m even more in favor of the self-help concept.  Women form groups in their own communities, elect officers and a board and begin saving their own money which they will eventually loan to each other.  From what I have witnessed this approach is even more empowering to people than receiving a loan because they learn how to do it themselves with their own resources.  The groups are also given literacy training and education in human rights issues.  In countries like Afghanistan where women are so isolated even from each other, these groups are of great benefit to them socially and economically.  Our partner is anxious to learn how to start these groups in our area.  Facilitators will be chosen from the women’s groups themselves and they will travel to Kabul for a one week training course hopefully by summer.

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I did have a couple of spare hours in the afternoon to go to Chicken Street to do some shopping.  You’ll be seeing some of the items on the Eternal Threads website eventually (photo below).

Everyone from the guest house had dinner at a wonderful Lebanese restaurant where I was able to visit more with the wife of a couple that are staying with us, but I  hadn’t had a chance to talk to.  They are English and she is a doctor.  They are also working with Operation Mercy in that little strip of Afghanistan that borders Tajikistan, China and India.  It’s one of the most remote places on earth.  They live at 10,000 feet in the winter!!!  She told me how cold it gets there and what the temperature is inside their house, but I think I blocked it out of my mind.  Incredible commitment.

On to western Afghanistan tomorrow to visit our projects.

Afghan Cheese Shop

Afghan Cheese Shop

Lunch - the most famous Afghan dish of lamb, rice, raisins and carrots.

Lunch – the most famous Afghan dish of lamb, rice, raisins and carrots.

Shopping on Chicken Street

Shopping on Chicken Street

Apr 11
2013

Return to Afghanistan

As I begin to write this I am in the hotel in Dubai where I spent the night on the way to Kabul.  My traveling companions and friends from the Lamia Foundation based in Nashville, TN joined me at the hotel late last night. The flight to Kabul leaves at noon today (Thursday, April 11th). I’m very anxious to see our Eternal Threads partner since I was unable to go this last year. We have a lot to catch up on and it’s a blessing to be able to meet face to face. Emails and cell phone conversations are great and we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without the advances in technology over the years, but nothing is as good as being together to share and encourage one another. It’s easy enough for me to get discouraged in the U.S. with the work we are doing and always hoping and praying that we will have the funding to fulfill our commitments we’ve made to help the women, but I know how much more it takes to stay upbeat and hopeful when you are working in the field against almost insurmountable odds.  They are the profiles in courage!

There are those who weigh in on what we do and analyze the projected results by the standards of …”is it enough?”…”are you really helping?”…”what good can it do to help a few when the problems are so immense?” Even though we constantly do evaluate what we are doing and try and answer all of these questions for ourselves, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that some analysis is best left to others.  You can’t really do this unless you believe that HOPE is what you are giving along with the skills and income for products made and it is that hope that is the intangible result of what we do. It is hope that inspires others to do great things in the world around them. I see it over and over again and it inspires me.

When our partner in Afghanistan wanted to start another tailoring course in the village where we work, I asked him to send me an email with his thoughts about the reasoning for it. Below is his response which for me was affirmation of all that we are trying to do and quite frankly what our military, NGO’s, government agencies and any one involved is hoping for….inspiring others that their lives can be better.  Here is what our partner wrote:

“When we first started our work the village leader and most of the men would not let our village women participate in our community programs because they always traditionally keep the women far from public skills and education. It was a shame for them if a woman would go out and learn something, even next door or in a neighbor’s house.

But with the affection of our community programs for the village women and the benefits and income they make from Eternal Threads programs it totally changed the mindset of the men in our village. So now, even men and village elders are asking us for more programs for women.

We have carpet-weaving, embroidery and education programs, which are very beneficial for the village people. So now they are asking for tailoring skills programs for the village women. If they have women tailors in their own village then it will help 10 women financially to buy food and other things they need for the winter season.”

After starting the course he sent me the story below in the words of one of the women trainees. (We have since sent money for her to buy food for her family so that she can remain in the course and not be forced to make other choices.)

Story of one of Eternal Threads’ tailoring program trainee

“I am a 26 years old widow. My husband died 3 years ago when he fell off a building working in Iran.  I have 5 children, 4 girls and 1 boy. I was asked many times to remarry different people in our village. Even the village boss is asking me to marry him, but he has 3 more wives and I don’t want to marry him or anybody else.

My husband’s brother is taking care of my family, and also I wash clothes and do other work in the village to pay for food to eat. The village boss and my husband’s brother are trying to force me to marry the village boss because my husband’s brother works for him. He says if I don’t marry the village boss he will lose his job and he will not take care of us anymore.

Fortunately, the Eternal Threads program came in like a “saving angel” who lifted my hopes and made me hopeful to live again.  So, I decided to participate in these classes to learn tailoring skills because I want to show them that a woman can also work and take care of my children. If I marry the village boss, he will sell my daughters and get all that money for himself. I don’t want to do that. I want to participate In Eternal Threads Tailoring Program and be a tailor, making money and taking care of my children and not be dependent on them. I am really trying to learn the tailoring to show even the other women in the village that women are not slaves or servants. Women also can do what a man can do.

I started resisting against them. I hope and wish that I am not ashamed In front of my village men and women, because I am the first woman standing against the village boss and their wrong believes. Please stay being my supporters.”

Someone asked me in an email just before I left the U.S. why I work with women in other countries and why I don’t care about women in the U.S.?  I care very much and I can’t necessarily explain why some of us are called to do what we do. I applaud the magnificent efforts of those that are working on projects for U.S. women…especially my friend Joyce Dalzell who founded Faith Works in Abilene, Texas. I think that no matter what our circumstances are we can all be inspired by those who overcome odds to change their lives for the better. I think American women (and men) of all circumstances can stand with women anywhere in the world and we will be better for it.

On Sunday I will travel to the area where our tailoring courses are. I can’t go to the village because it would put our partner in danger to be seen by “some” as working with a foreigner, but I will be able to visit the tailoring course in the city and the jewelry project that we support. I have graduation certificates to give to the women just finishing the course. They actually finished at the end of the month but are continuing a few more days for my visit. This will be the first time I have been able to visit them and I wish that all of you reading this could be with me. These women suffer in ways that is truly unimaginable to most of us. Just being in their presence is humbling to me. They are the ones who can change the world around them if they are given the skills to improve their lives and that of their families. Men in Afghanistan are realizing that it is a good thing for their wives and daughters to be educated and to be part of the society. HOPE rises to the top.

Village Tailoring

The Village Tailoring Course

On Friday we meet with a refugee woman and her daughter living in Kabul who make the wonderful organza bags that we put your purchases of jewelry in.  I’ll try and blog as often as I can so stay tuned and thank you for your support and encouragement.

P.S. When we landed today and walked out of the airport to go to the parking lots where our trusted driver meets us, it was a spectacular spring day and the air was “peaceful”.  (The only way I know how to describe it.)  A strange feeling considering where we are, but I tried to soak it in on the walk to the car…it’s a good way to start.

Blessings from Kabul,

Linda

Oct 5
2012

Threads of Hope for Afghan Women

Eternal Threads is hosting an event on Thursday, October 18th to raise money for women’s tailoring courses in Afghanistan.  This will be a unique come and go event filled with food and music from the region as well as handcrafted items made in Afghanistan that will be available for purchase.

There will be wool carpets made by the women in our carpet weaving project in a remote village, vintage galim carpets that are famous from the area of Herat where Eternal Threads projects are located, hand-embroidered pillows, hand-loomed silk scarves, hand-blown glass and handmade jewelry from a women’s project in Herat.  A special showcase of this event will be new and vintage hand embroidered Suzani wall coverings and bedcovers.  These are unique pieces (like those seen at Pottery Barn) brought back from Afghanistan by Eternal Threads founder.  All proceeds from the sale of these unique items will be used to fund women’s projects.

The tailoring courses are a lifeline for women in Afghanistan, allowing them to learn a trade that can help support themselves and their families. Each six-month course will provide 10 women with a beautiful, hand-crank sewing machine (which only costs $55 in US dollars!), her training and sewing supplies, and then a micro loan so she can start a home business.  It’s amazing how much just a little of our resources can change another woman’s life!  Most of us are aware of how bad the living conditions are in Afghanistan, especially for women.  These courses are truly a life-changing event for them.

The event will be downtown Abilene at 181 Pine St. from 7 to 9 p.m.  Eternal Threads founder, Linda Egle and Colonel Kristina O’Brien, Dyess Air Force Base will be speaking at 8 p.m.  Tickets are only $15 each.  Proceeds from just the sale of one ticket will provide sewing supplies for three months for one woman.

If you live in Abilene, call 325.672.6000 to purchase tickets or stop by the office at 101 Walnut St.  Tickets will be on sale at our next Open House on October 13th

Oct 2
2012

Afghan Tailoring Courses

ImageEternal Threads has begun tailoring courses in Afghanistan to give women the training they need to be able to have their own home businesses.  We have just completed one of these six month courses for 10 women and began a new course on September 1st.  These training courses are vital because they give women, especially widows, who cannot sell their goods in the open marketplace a way in which to create life-saving income for their families.

Our partner in Aghanistan oversees this project and a trained tailoring teacher is paid a monthly salary to work with the women on a daily basis.  The hand crank sewing machines that they use during the course will be gifted to them on the completion of the course along with a $120 small business loan.  This loan will to help them get started in their home business, providing money for start-up supplies and a sign for the outside of their home to advertise to their neighbors that they are in business.

Our Afghan partner describes the benefits of this project ~

“The tailoring course we have is really helping the women.  They are so happy coming to learn how to make clothes.  Even people from other parts of the city came to me and asked if we can have the same training in their area.  The women are so hopeful for the skill they are learning, they always talk to me about the future.  The women told me that when they are complete with the course that they will be a real tailor in the place where they live and they will be able to make money from this.  In this way they will feed their family members and help the man of the family financially.  In this case, they will not be under pressure from their husbands as they have been before because they are now also making money.”

If you are tempted to think that learning to sew is only an outdated hobby and can’t be that beneficial to women in the modern age, I’d like to recommend an incredible book ~ “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.”  This wonderful book tells the story of five sisters who survived the Taliban years on their own by having a tailoring business in their home. They not only employed themselves, but many young women in their neighborhood who had no way to survive otherwise.  This book is a testament to the perseverance and will that Afghan women have to survive and enrich the lives of their families.  They still desperately need these skills.  Watch this wonderful video of the women at the training center in Afghanistan ~ Afghan tailoring course

Oct 2
2012

Afghanistan Jewelry Project

Eternal Threads projects in Afghanistan include carpet-weaving in a remote village, tailoring courses for women and education for village children.  However, our involvement in Afghanistan originated in a partnership with Onemaker, an organization founded by a good friend, Jana Harp Dean.  Jana lived in Afghanistan for a year and half organizing a jewelry making project to give desperate women an opportunity for income to help their families.  Their first product was the beautiful King’s Garden bracelet which continues to be one of our most popular items.  Thousands of tiny glass beads are lovingly stitched together to make this exquisite bracelet representing King Zahir Shah’s beautiful gardens.  The artisans commemorate the late King whose reign was known for peace, educational opportunities for women and democratic reforms.

Onemaker’s project was turned over to the women when Jana left Afghanistan and the project is now being managed by a new Afghan partner.  The women are presently making the beautiful Pearls of Perseverance bracelets in several colors and the Mother’s Love garnet bracelet.

The income received from the making of these bracelets is vital to these women and their families.  Just wearing one of their bracelets is a symbol of the global community of women that Eternal Threads strives to create.  A community that can support those most in need of our help!!

Aug 24
2012

A journey worth making!!

An Eternal Threads team made a trip to Nepal in June of this year.  We traveled a lot of miles to visit our partner, but our journey seems insignificant to the one that rescued girls must take to restore the life that was almost taken from them.  Here is the story of their Journey of HOPE ~

Border Girls

It begins here…young women in purple uniforms in the blazing sun for 12 hours a day with only a handkerchief to block the heat at a far western border crossing in Nepal.  They stand at the entrance to the “buffer” zone and claim the lives of young girls who will be lost to the brothels of India if the traffickers can get them successfully into that zone.

They never divert their attention from the task even when we are interviewing them.  More girls are taken through this crossing than any other in Nepal, and they are not willing to let even one slip through their grasp.  They are tenacious and equally courageous.  They know their only hope of saving these young women is convincing them of what danger awaits on the other side.

Eternal Threads and the Red Thread Movement funds two of the border units that our partner in Nepal has established to stop the trafficking of young Nepalese girls (more than 12,000 girls a year are trafficked to Indian brothels).  At this station as many as 300-350 girls are stopped each month to interview they and their companions as to why they are going to India.  Out of these as many as 35 are saved from the fate that awaited them and either returned to their homes or taken to safe houses for a period of restoration that may last six months to a year.  Eternal Threads also supports one of these safe houses. (November 2011)

We have visited three safe houses on this journey and the experience is both numbing and exhilarating.  To think of what they have gone through and the healing that must take place is a task we cannot imagine, but with the help of loving house mothers, spiritual counselors and each other they are meeting the challenge head on determined to leave their past behind them and begin a new journey.  It takes time, a safe place and HOPE for that new life…something tangible to build on. (read Gita’s story in our April 2012 blog)

Vocational training in tailoring and cosmetology provide the hope that they will be able to stand on their own, provide for themselves and never again have to depend on someone who might betray them.  By the time they leave the safe house they have the skills to establish their own businesses and return to their villages as professionals and leaders.

A sewing machine for a new business.

On this journey the team visited a young woman who returned to her mountain village 3 years ago.  She has since started agricultural projects to employ young women as well as a tailoring training school.  Some of the young women in her sewing classes walk a day and a half to be able to take advantage of an opportunity that will likely save them from the deception of the traffickers for “job opportunities” in India.  Eternal Threads has sent funding for the sewing machines to put five of these young women in business in their home village where they will not only have a business but will train others.

Linda Egle and ET Staff member, Jennifer Patterson, at a sewing center.

Young women also receive training in sewing centers in cities along the border where girls are vulnerable to traffickers.  One such center has trained 300 girls…40 of them have started their own businesses.

Purchasing a sewing machine or a sewing certificate for a young woman in Nepal gives the gift of Hope!!

You can also purchase beautiful products made by the girls in the safe house giving them income to start their new life when they leave.

Be sure and watch this short video produced for Eternal Threads by one of our team members, Matt Pinson.

Also check out, Erik Tryggestad’s article and blogs for the Christian Chronicle.