Monday, July 15, 2019

China Continues to Hold North Carolina Pastor John Cao

By Tim Gamble
July 15, 2019

In March of 2017, Chinese authorities arrested Christian pastor and missionary John Cao, a permanent US resident living in North Carolina with his American wife, on charges of "illegal border crossings" between Myanmar and China. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in 2018 after a perfunctory court hearing, despite the fact that Cao had been routinely making the border crossings for three years with the full knowledge of the Chinese government. Since his conviction, Cao's legal appeals have been delayed seven times. In the most recent development, Chinese authorities are refusing to allow Cao to appear in person before the court, stating that any appeals would be "paper only." 

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reports that Cao's "health is deteriorating, and he’s lost over 50 pounds. He’s forced to share a cell with a dozen inmates and only 1 bed."

Observers believe that Cao's arrest, conviction, and denials of an an appeals process, are part of the ongoing crackdown on Christianity by the Chinese government. The crackdown consists of the harassment and shutting down of many Christian churches and schools, including the bulldozing of some church buildings, the removal of crosses from public display, the arrest on spurious charges of many Chinese pastors and other Christian leaders, among other measures.

John Cao converted to Christianity in his 20s, attended seminary in the US, married an American citizen, and settled in North Carolina as a legal permanent resident. He and his wife have two sons. He has been doing missionary work in Myanmar and China for decades, traveling between North Carolina and Asia. He founded sixteen schools for improvised children and set up various anti-poverty programs during that time.

China, which remains under strict communist control despite opening up to capitalism in recent decades,  has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. The Communist Party in China, which is officially atheist, has approximately 70 million members. However, the strong growth of evangelical Christianity in China has resulted in slightly over 100 million Chinese Christians (approximately 75 million Evangelicals and 27 million Catholics. Also, the Chinese Orthodox Church, an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church, has about 15,000 members).

This situation of Christians outnumbering official Communist Party members is at least partially behind government crackdowns on Christianity over the last few years, as they seek to exercise control over Christianity in China. Communist governments, and all other collectivist regimes for that matter, demand that the citizen's top loyalty be to the State, not to God, the Church, or even the family. The State essentially sets itself up as God, and hates competition for that slot. 

The ACLJ, which is representing John Cao's family, has an online petition calling for John Cao's release.  

Sources:  1) Information provided by ChinaAid, 2) Information provided by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), 3) Information provided by Voice of the Martyrs.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Preparing quickly for a near-term SHTF event...

Survival is a long-term project. Developing self-reliance. Learning skills. Acquiring a bug-out location or homestead. Developing and fortifying that bug-out location or homestead. Hardening your home. Planting fruit and nut trees. Developing a community of like-minded folks. These things take lots of time - years or more. In fact, the survival lifestyle can take an entire lifetime to fully develop.

But what if we don't have an entire lifetime to prepare? What if we don't even have a few years? What if the threat we are worried about is only months, or even weeks, away? There will be no time to find, buy, and develop that perfect homestead or mountain retreat. No time to find or build that perfect prepper community. No time to make major changes in our lives. No time to develop the multitude of skills that would enhance our survival. 

Don't let those worries stop you. Keep preparing, and keep pushing for your long-term goals. But, while you are working on those long-term goals, there are steps you can take right now, that can be accomplished relatively quickly, to prepare for a more immediate event.  Here is my advice to someone wanting to prepare for a major SHTF event they believe might happen in a few months: 
First, stockpile lots and lots of water, food, first aid & medical supplies, personal hygiene supplies, cleaning & sanitation supplies, and other useful items. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, stockpile wood for it now. Make sure you have a least a few hundred dollars in cash stuck back in a safe, well-hidden place.

Second, work on enhancing your personal and home security as much as possible in the coming weeks. Get a gun if you don't already have one, and learn to use it! Stock up on ammo. Consider replacing your easy-to-kick-in doors with heavy duty security doors. Consider installing burglar bars on your windows, and enhancing the outdoor lighting around your home. Make sure your smoke detectors are working, and get a couple of fire extinguishers if you don't already have them. Go over security plans with your family.

Third, do not skip or put-off appointments with your doctor, dentist, or eye doctor. Get those things taken care of now, just in case you can't later.

Fourth, do not skip or put-off any needed car maintenance or repairs. Get the oil changed. Inspect and fix the brakes if necessary. Service the transmission. Get new tires if you need them. Replace the battery if it is getting old. You don't want to have to deal with a broken-down vehicle in the midst of an emergency. If you can safely store some extra gas (in containers designed for that purpose), do so. Don't store gas inside your house or apartment!

Fifth, if you don't already have a bug-out location, figure out somewhere else you can go in an emergency - perhaps to a relative's or friend's house (somewhere away from where you are now, and away from a big city). You may even want to preposition some clothes, food, and other supplies at their house. Don't have a friend or relative you can stay with? Maybe your best bet would be camping at a national or state park, or private campground. Decide where, determine how much it will cost, and make sure you have the appropriate gear. Put together a "bug-out bag" for each family member as a part of this step.

All of these things can be accomplished relatively quickly if you make it a priority. As I said earlier, keep working your long-term plan in addition to these steps. 

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Fitness and the Aging Prepper

I'm a middle-aged man with type 2 diabetes, and vision problems related to my diabetes. My knees aren't what they used to be, and my left shoulder doesn't work quite as well as it should. But don't worry, this article isn't about me. I just want to make it clear from the start that I am no young whippersnapper who doesn't understand the difficulties older folks face. When it comes to fitness and the aging prepper, I am the aging prepper. 

We all understand the importance of fitness. I don't believe I have to sell anyone on that idea. Rather than wasting time convincing you of something you already know, this article will address three issues when it comes to fitness and the aging prepper. First, what fitness objectives we should pursue as we grow older. Second, how we can meet these objectives. Third, how we can overcome the many obstacles we face in pursuing these objectives. 

Fitness Objectives for the Aging Prepper

I have decided, as an aging prepper, to center my fitness plan around three main objectives. Here are those objectives in order of importance:

     1) To achieve and maintain a healthy weight. What is a healthy weight? It will differ from individual to individual depending on factors such as sex, height, build, and age. An even better indicator to go by would be body mass index (BMI). Consult your doctor to decide weight is right for you.  

2) To improve and maintain flexibility, agility, and balance. Flexibility is the ability to move your joints. Agility is the ability to change direction quickly. Balance is the ability to maintain a specific body position while either being still or in motion.
All three tend to decline as we age, especially if we don't take steps to maintain them.

     3) To improve and maintain physical endurance. Physical endurance is the ability to maintain effort or activity over extended periods of time. The better your endurance, the longer it will take before you become too tired or weak to continue your efforts. And the less sore your muscles and joints will be the next day.

Other fitness objectives, such as improving and maintaining speed and strength, may also be important, but I have decided on these three as the most important to work on as an aging prepper. 

Meeting Fitness Objectives

There is some bad news. Meeting these (or any) fitness objectives will take time and effort. Fitness is not something you can buy from Amazon and have it delivered tomorrow morning. You have to work at it. And the results won't be instantaneous. Fitness requires patience. But meeting your objectives will be very worthwhile.

There is some good news. It can be done. And it doesn't require a lot of money. You don't need a gym membership, or expensive equipment, or even fashionable workout clothes.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Go for a walk. Walking is great exercise, and free. Start with a 15-minute walk each day, and over the next several weeks try to work your way up to 45-minutes tor even an hour. You can walk around your neighborhood, in your local mall (a great way to walk on a rainy day), or at local parks and greenways. I even know an older couple who walk laps inside their local Walmart most mornings, rain or shine.

Be active. Yard work - such as cutting grass with a push mower, gardening, raking leaves, or chopping wood - makes great (and free) exercise. In fact, anything that raises your pulse rate and causes you to lightly sweat counts as exercise. 

Stretching exercises and calisthenics are easy, don't require special equipment, and can be done just about anywhere. Just remember the exercises you used to do in gym class back in your school days - jumping jacks, sit-ups, toe-touches, leg squats, windmills, push-ups, and so forth. You can also find lots of videos on You Tube with fitness exercises and workout programs, ranging from basic beginner videos to much more advanced workouts.
 Exercise balls aren't expensive (most are under $30, some under $20) and are a great for yoga, pilates, and other types of exercise, as well as helping improve your balance. You can simply sit on an exercise ball while you watch television or work on the computer. You'll work on your balance and burn a few more calories at the same time.    

Speaking of balance, walking around the house with a book on your head really does help. It'll improve your balance and your posture at the same time.

Consider yoga or tai chi.  Both will help with all these fitness objectives. Again, you can find lots of videos on You Tube. Avoid the new age and eastern spiritual aspects if you are uncomfortable with them, but the physical exercise part is great. 

Whatever exercises you choose, be patient. Start slowly, and gradually increase your workout as your fitness improves. And, of course, consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program or making major changes in your diet, especially if you have a chronic health condition.    

Overcoming Obstacles  

"I'm too old."  
"I'm too out-of-shape."  
"I have bad knees."  
"I have a bad back."  
"I don't have the time."   

Excuses. We all have them. Often times those excuses are very real. But they are still excuses. They are still reasons we give to not do something that we know we should do. 

Everyone has obstacles in their life. Those obstacles seem to only grow as we age. But an obstacle doesn't have to become an excuse. Instead, find a way around that obstacle. It won't be easy. It will take effort. It will take determination. It may take creativity. But you can do it. And it will be worth it.

Most obstacles (excuses) are really just mental barriers. Remember the story of the four minute mile. Prior to 1954, running a mile in under four minutes had never been done by any athlete at any level. In fact, many people thought it was physically impossible for a human to do so. But, in 1954, Roger Bannister broke through that barrier, running a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. Since then, over 1400 athletes have broken the four minute mile. The current record stands at 3 minutes, 43.3 seconds. Its not that humans suddenly become faster in 1954, but rather that the mental barrier of the supposed human physical limit was eliminated as an excuse.

What excuses, real or imagined, are holding you back? What can you do to eliminate those excuses? Or to find a way around, over, under, or through, those excuses? Obstacles are real, but you don't have to let them become excuses.

The American College of Sports Medicine's Complete Guide to Fitness & Health isn't just for young people or professional athletes, but covers the entire life span - from birth through our senior years. It has chapter devoted to flexibility, as well as on specific health conditions such as diabetes and cancer. 



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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Seven Core Skills of a True Survivalist

Survival isn't something that just takes place in the wilderness or during an extreme emergency. Survival also takes place in everyday life, during good times as well as bad times. There are many, many specific kills that are useful for survival in particular circumstances, but there are seven core skills that any true survivalist needs to master.

1 - Health and fitness is a skill, because it is something that doesn't come naturally, especially in the modern world. Like any skill, it must be learned, and takes time and effort to develop. It can't be bought from Amazon and delivered to your front door the next day, like you could buy your food storage. Developing the skill of health and fitness requires work, sacrifice, and time. Perhaps that is why its still on many preppers' "to do" list, still waiting to be checked off when we finally get around to it. Well, its time to get around to developing this fundamental survival skill.

Need information on healthy living? See my 2016 article Steps to Good Health. You may also find my article from earlier this month, Ways to Improve Your Health and Fitness for Free!, to be useful.

2 - Self-reliance is an attitude put into action, thereby becoming a skill. Like the skill of health and fitness, self-reliance doesn't come naturally for most people today (in fact, modern society is intentionally set up to discourage self-reliance, but that is a discussion for another article). Self-reliance must be learned, and takes time and effort to develop. I've previously identified these key components to self-reliance:
  • Assume responsibility for your own life.
  • Take the blame for your own life.
  • Be informed.
  • Know where your going.
  • Make your own decisions.
  • Know where your going.
  • Learn skills.
  • Gain experience.

For a deeper discussion of self-reliance, see my article from last year, What Exactly is Self-Reliance? 

3-  Problem-solving is a series of closely related skills, and flows out of our self-reliance. This means if we don't develop our self-reliance, we'll never become a good problem-solver. Problem-solving means recognizing when a problem exists, taking on the responsibility to solve the problem yourself (not waiting for someone else to solve it), analyzing the problem to understand what is really wrong and what needs to be done to fix it, and then actually doing your part to fix it. Fixing the problem usually entails using previously developed skills and/or learning new skills.

4 - Situational Awareness is another skill that doesn't come naturally because modern civilization has made us used to being relatively safe as we go about our day-to-day lives. We depend on the government, laws, and societal norms to keep us safe. We expect the police and other "authorities" to be only moments away, waiting to rush to our rescue should we need them. But this is largely an illusion. The world is a dangerous place, and situational awareness will help us to safely navigate it. 

Situational awareness is much more than just paying attention to what is going on around us, although that is an important starting point. It means paying attention, knowing what to look for, and knowing how to assess (make decisions about) your surroundings. 

For a complete explanation, read my article on Situational Awareness and the OODA Loop, which has been described as "the best guide to situational awareness available on the Internet" (excuse my shameless plug).

5 - Self-Defense, as well as the tools used for self-defense, is an unalienable right, a Biblical concept, and guaranteed by the US Constitution. We have the absolute right to defend ourselves and others from unprovoked violence and aggression. But, to do so successfully, we must learn how. Self-defense, both in both its lethal and non-lethal forms, is an important core skill we must learn and develop. 

You may be interested in reading my statement on Self-Defense and the Use of Force.

6 - Financial Management is a basic skill needed in our everyday lives, but it is one that is rarely taught and therefore is missing from most people's skill sets. A broad topic, financial management includes living within our means, controlling our impulses, being employable, goal setting, budgeting, avoiding and/or getting out of debt, developing an emergency fund, saving for retirement, saving for major expenses, and generally managing our money to best benefit us and our families. It doesn't just include dealing with money, but all forms of wealth, which could include our homes, land, businesses, food, and supplies. 

I written many articles on financial management over the years, so just scroll through this website to find those that interest you. My most recent money article is Tips To Get Ready for the Next Great Recession, which I believe is only a couple of years away.

7 - Soft Skills are often overlooked, but can be extremely important for survival. Soft skills are general skills that are often seen as part of our personality, and as such are typically self-learned without realizing it while we are growing up. Examples include communication skills, team work, creativity, and getting along with others, but there are many others. Although typically learned while growing up, they can be developed as adults. 

See my article Soft Skills Preppers Need to Develop for more on this topic.

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