Interference

Several weeks ago, I had to deal with a problem with the audio system in one of the five conference rooms we have at Karimu. When one of the cordless microphones was in use, a wretched static noise would obscure the speaker’s voice. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. It posed a distraction that interfered with communication.

The other two handheld mics were fine. Two headset mics produced even more noise. Nothing that my colleague or I did had any effect. We called in our local audio consultant. He was equally befuddled, frequently muttering to himself, Seltsam!. He double-checked the antennas; he reexamined the frequencies. Eventually, he packed up the works so that he could test it all in his own shop. Later, he sent everything to the manufacturer for diagnosis.

These details are somewhat beside the point. (But remember, I work now to the side of the point.) These rooms and their audio systems help people who have come from all over the world to meet together. A person does not travel great distances only to be stymied by static and noise.

At Wycliffe, we and our partners do go to great lengths to eliminate such interference. We visit nooks and crannies on this earth to listen to people we didn’t know speak languages that have never been written down. We spend years, even decades, working with those same people to decide how to write their language and to discover those who have a talent for reading and for teaching others. We painstakingly and lovingly work with them to transmit the good news of God’s kingdom in words and speech that bring the message clearly to their eyes and ears for the first time.

A fellow by the name of Jesus once put interference this way as he described the results of a farmer’s sowing seed: “Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.” (Mark 4:7, NLT) Later, he explained: “The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.” (Mark 4:18-19, NLT) It looks like some things don’t change, even after 2,000 years.

For our poor microphones, the interference came from two places: internal settings in the receivers, and a device installed in the same cabinet that has little connection to the audio system. For people without God’s message in their own language—or at least in one they know very, very well—interference comes from an unclear understanding of other languages. Even when we do receive God’s word, other things in our environment compete for and interfere with our attention and devotion. At least, that’s according to that Jesus fellow, if you can believe him.

Our victim of interference. The main culprit? That whatsit in the middle with the bright button.

The next time you hear static from loudspeakers or sense that something is getting in the way of your WiFi, I want you to remember the people who suffer from language getting in the way of their hearing and understanding God’s message. While you’re waiting for a good, strong signal to return, will you please pray for such people to receive that message clearly?

(This is the part where you say, “Roger Wilco.” Thank you!)

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“What do you have to show …?”

The full question is “What do you have to show for yourself?” Four months after our return to Germany, I sometimes ask myself this question. If you follow or support our ministry with Wycliffe, you might ask or think the same question.

So far as basic living goes, there are two quick things I would highlight. The first is that we’re still living in a flat on the Wycliffe center. There have been delays in the construction of our future landlords’ new home, so our move into their current one will be delayed until February. It’s not always easy or enjoyable to live without much of our own things, but we’ll be OK. The second is that the boys have settled back into the German education system, with just a few bumps and turns. Ask us sometime about the differences.

At the office, which is a mere 100 meters away, there’s a mix of results and progress. The anticipated switch to VoIP phone service hasn’t happened yet, but I think I’m ready to handle it. The most critical element in my budget request, the replacement of our physical servers, was approved. And I’m making progress preparing myself and our systems for moving our email service to Microsoft Office 365. The new year holds a lot of promise in my ‘realm’!

The area in which I have struggled, both in the results and my emotions about them, is the backup system. To make a long story short and understated, I found that it wasn’t doing what everyone thought it was doing. In rectifying the situation, I had to be patient in waiting between scheduled backups and diligent in pursuing the causes of errors. After weeks of work, I rejoiced at the sight of this summary:

Ah … the thrill of victory!

Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase before: “Enjoy it while it lasts.” Indeed. Software makers have many ways to throw one or more monkey wrenches into the works. One of those ways is to update their software. After updates to both the backup software and Microsoft Windows, here’s what stared me in the face:

Ugh … the agony of defeat.

Perhaps the backup system perceived the approach of Christmas and felt that it needed to reflect the colors of the season. Yes, let’s think of it that way, shall we?

A better vision of red, green, and gold.

Or perhaps it was looking to inspire me. It is often part of my job, I feel, to remind my clients that we live in a broken world. I point out that we work with gizmos that were conceived, designed, and manufactured by broken beings, using materials that are subject to a related brokenness. Sometimes, I have to take doses of my own medicine.

Christmas is behind us now. Or wait—is it before us? Perhaps—just maybe—it remains all around us. The only reason December 25th is at all special is that we are broken beings living in a broken world. We can’t fix ourselves, and we can’t fix the world. The only fix is the transforming power of Jesus of Nazareth … and Bethlehem.

Katherine and I work with Wycliffe to help make that fix available to every language spoken around this broken world. As you and we slide into the new year—as the Germans put it—may we run our lives year-round on the new version of life that Jesus made available. Oh, and don’t keep a backup of the old version. It’s obsolete, not to mention buggy.

Thank you for praying for us! Katherine, Jonathan, Caleb, and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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The past year happened, right?

This update may be the first you have received by email, or perhaps the first that you have received by email in some time. It may seem to have come out of the blue. Technically, that’s not true. It came from the cloud. Ha-ha. What is true is that Katherine and I have been getting our various lists in better order, and that includes adding or correcting addresses. Please read on!

After a long journey, I often experience a strange sort of amnesia: the period immediately before it seems to recede into a fog. The worst instances of this happen after vacations—after all, who wants to forget a restful holiday? I travel forewarned now.

Katherine, the boys, and I have been back in Germany for close to two months. To make a long story short—in case you want to stop reading early, our arrival and settling in has gone pretty well. We’re thankful!

A45 Autobahn
We arrived to blue skies and a dry land.

It was comforting to all of us to be back, but there was also a discomforting feeling of not having been gone. There was a sense of the past year and all of our experiences in the U.S. fading and seeming not quite real. Thankfully, contact with family and friends put that notion to rest!

Here are some of the things for which we’re most grateful:

  • a decently-sized apartment on the center to live in until we move into the house we’re going to rent
  • that our car was ready and waiting for us, and that it had been well cared-for
  • that our German driver’s licenses were ready and waiting for us at the DMV
  • that we had the chance to visit the house we’re going to rent and assure ourselves that it would suit our needs
  • friends and colleagues who gave us a warm welcome home
  • that the process of obtaining our residence permits went smoothly and quickly
  • that the boys have jumped right back in to their school and their extracurricular activities
Karimu and beyond
The view from our apartment, across the main lodgings of Karimu.

So, how’s work going? For me, there’s not been a dull moment yet. Shortly after returning to work, I began planning a necessary upgrade to the phone system. When the day of the upgrade came, it didn’t go quite as planned. I adjusted. A few weeks later, a hardware component failed. I adjusted. Such is my life and work, I guess. And there are more big projects to come!

Katherine has returned to her work in the library, but that’s not all! She’s also filling in at Wycliffe Germany’s reception desk to cover for a woman on maternity leave. (So, if I mess up the phone system, she knows.) Like the boys, she’s also resumed her exercise groups in the adjacent village.

It’s great to see on a daily basis that what each of us does influences the effectiveness of Wycliffe Germany and its contribution to the work of Bible translation throughout the world. Here are the topics for which you can pray as we work through the next few months:

  • the drafting and submission of the IT budget during challenging times
  • the nationally-mandated upgrade of phone service to VoIP
  • the expected switch to cloud services for email and some file sharing
  • the long-overdue change to the library catalog system

We’re glad to have you all to read about our ministry with Wycliffe, to pray for us personally and professionally, to maintain us in this life through your support, and to encourage us through email and social media. We feel the presence of the Lord our God in all of it!

Until the next time …

Sunset in the Hickengrund
Sometimes we’re treated to beautiful sunsets!
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