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Friday, March 31, 2023

Teaching freedom principles to Muslim students in socialist Kosovo through the Bible

Some volunteers in America don’t give up even if they die or are presumed dead.

This was the case with American veteran volunteers Bill and Susan Burtness of Illinois.

Now in their 70s, they advise fellow volunteers who may be tired of good deeds: “Don’t give up. the best is yet to come.”

“If you persevere, volunteer life will get better and better,” Burtness said from his home on January 10, 2022.

It’s not that hard and difficult times are absent from volunteering.

There was a time when Bill was in a cage in a hospital, tied to a concrete slab in a foreign country, and buckets of water were poured over him to wash away the blood.

To make matters worse, he was in a terminal ward in a Dutch hospital and was not destined to survive.

The Epoch Times Photo
Bill and Susan Burtness lived on a boat called Dilaram House in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1974. (Contributed by Bill and Susan Burtness)

“Yeah, it was pretty hard,” Bill said. “It happened when Susan and I were volunteering in Amsterdam, Holland in 1974 helping young hippie drug addicts come back to life.”

The Bertnesses have already moved to Switzerland, where they underwent basic volunteer training for three months.

One of the speakers recruited them to go to the Dilaram House in Amsterdam, staffed by volunteers.

“We lived in two 50-foot boats connected to each other at Steiger (pier) 14, in a community of about 50 people,” Susan Burtness said, “and we were there in volunteer heaven.”

“People could come visit and discuss their life concepts or problems. Some might go straight to boats with staff for a few months for longer term help. This is how most addicts quit heroin.”

Life was simple, she said.

“We all ate together, talked in groups and helped each other.

It was so great that we didn’t mind that we didn’t have many extras. It really didn’t matter.

“It was great to see these young people come back to life and see a whole new light in their eyes. Sometimes they looked gaudy and unkempt, but we recognized them and they were brand new creations to us. There is nothing that can compare to this. Nothing.”

The Epoch Times Photo
At the University of Pristina, students were eager to learn about freedom in Bill Burtness’s lectures. (Contributed by Bill and Susan Burtness)

However, there was one night when their paradise turned into a kind of hell.

“It was winter and I caught a cold,” he said. “I got spinal meningitis. I had convulsions, I bit my lips through and through. I was covered in my own blood.

“They poured buckets of water over me to wash me off. It’s good that I was out of it and don’t remember much.”

But Susan Burtness remembers too well.

“Bill’s face was so disfigured because he bit his lips so hard that I didn’t recognize him,” she said.

“He was lying in a straitjacket on a concrete slab, because he was injected with extreme drugs directly into the brain.

“They tried to save him and failed. All we could do was pray. Now we were the ones who needed help.”

The doctors tried everything they could think of to drain and cure the two abscesses in his brain, but nothing helped. Eventually he was transferred to the terminally ill and told to prepare for the worst by Susan Burtness.

To make it even more desperate, she discovered she was pregnant with their first child just a few days before he got sick.

“I was here waiting for my husband to die and me to be alone with our baby and I was thousands of miles from home. I was desperate.”

The Epoch Times Photo
Bill Burtness with students after class at the University of Pristina campus in 2009. (Contributed by Bill and Susan Burtness)

To make things even bleaker, if possible, her shocking memories of the night two weeks ago when he was taken to the hospital.

“The night Bill was rushed to the hospital, there was a big storm with howling winds,” she said. “It was pitch dark outside. The two boats hit the pier again and again.

“Suddenly the power went out and all the windows on the decks where we lived flew open and shattered.

“The boats broke away from the moorings, and we drifted into the sea.

“At the same time, Bill was yelling, “My head! My head!’ Everyone who could was on the dock, trying to get the boats back before they left for the harbour. Nobody could help us.”

After the staff and guests pushed the boats back to the pier, Bill Burtness was rushed to the hospital.

“I was just trying to understand the situation and hold on,” Susan Burtness said.

“I exploded. It was a very scary moment. I was literally entangled in the bonds of death, as if I was surrounded by streams of destruction. All I could do was pray.”

The Epoch Times Photo
BILL Burtness answers questions from his students after class. (Contributed by Bill and Susan Burtness)

The relationship they developed in Switzerland now brought them friends from all over the world.

“They also prayed for us,” Susan Burtness said. “They sent memos and called me and they were so encouraging. I couldn’t have done it without such support from other volunteers who understood us.”

Meanwhile, Bill Burtness was supposed to die along with the rest of the terminally ill in his room.

“I remember late at night I heard people in our unit cursing and crying,” he said. “Somehow I got up and went to their beds and prayed for these poor people. I don’t remember much after that.”

Shortly thereafter, Bill Burtness emerged from the terminal ward. He was the only patient to leave the ward alive.

Dr. Susan Burtness’s verdict was, “We didn’t do it. We recognize a miracle when we see it.”

Mind of a child

But Bill Burtness was different now.

“He was alive and walking, but he had the mind of a child,” said Susan Burtness. “We flew home to Illinois. Bill slept 18 hours a night while recovering.”

When he woke up from his dream, he was different again.

“Now he began to read, read, read,” said Susan Burtness. “He read books he had never read before; deep concept books on philosophy, leadership, theology and management.

“He started writing lessons about what he was learning. He’s never been like this before. He was not a teacher. He was an electrical engineer and his strength was in mathematics, not in philosophy.”

Bill Burtness began designing curriculums for his children, now three, and years later for their children and their friends.

Soon he was distributing his curriculum to interested people across America. Some private schools have even started using them. He published his research notes himself and started handing them out.

“It wasn’t clear where this was going to lead,” said Bill Burtness, but the research was so exciting and people seemed so excited to get the syllabus and notes that we didn’t stop. We got some money from that, but it didn’t matter.”

Then, during a volunteer trip to Kosovo in 2000 to build a freshwater well, their lives changed forever. They didn’t know it, but years of preparation should have paid off.

“The doctor, who also volunteered in Kosovo, received my published notes and gave them to the regent of the University of Pristina,” said Bill Burtness.

“This doctor made an appointment for lunch. The regent said he was impressed with the tapes, and the doctor blurted out, “And Bill wants to teach it as a course at the university.” I was shocked. I never spoke or even thought about it. I looked at the doctor and said, “Yes?” and he said, “Yes! You do!”

The regent agreed and said, “We can arrange it. When are you available?”

The offer was beyond what they could imagine.

“That was the only time I was even talked to about teaching in a university level class. They were going to pay us, give us an apartment and travel allowance. We got to work.”

12 students who will change the nation

The class “Fundamentals of American Political Thought” did not cause much excitement.

“In our first semester, we only had 12 students,” Susan Burtness said, “but we thought, ‘You can make a big difference with 12 people,’ so we dived into it.”

“We frankly told our students that the original source of American political thought was the Bible,” said Bill Burtness.

“I said bluntly that we would study the Bible to understand what it says about self-government, avoiding tyranny and anarchy, and preserving personal and national freedom for generations.

“I was not talking about religion, I was talking about the philosophy of government. I told them, “If you don’t want to study the Bible, this course is not for you.”

These 12 students stayed and made a big difference to the class.

“They brought their friends and there were 25 the next semester,” said Bill Burtness.

“Word of mouth attracted 60 students the next semester. Then 110. Then 300 students. Soon my wife was standing at the door and holding it closed while people were knocking on it, demanding to be let in. The Biblical Foundations of American Political Thought course was a great success.”

But the promise of payment remained unfulfilled, along with an apartment for living and business trips.

“The university didn’t have money, and they just didn’t have money,” said Bill Burtness.

“But since we lived in Amsterdam so long ago, we have gotten used to going forward with less to do more.

Volunteering has always been in our hearts and it was an opportunity to help shape the nation with its future leaders, to support liberty and liberty where they knew very little.”

Susan Burtness agreed.

“These young students came to us for guidance. They were so eager to learn. They were nice people who wanted to know how they should continue to live. We just couldn’t say no to them. “

Patrick Butler

To follow


World Nation News Desk
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