Be overcome by beauty, not by hackers

Today is Pentecost Monday in Germany, which is a holiday for us. It’s not a bad day at all to write from a Wycliffe ministry. After all, the original day was marked by the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah in the many languages spoken by the people in the disciples’ vicinity. Now, we support similar work in this day and age—one in which the “vicinity” is the whole world, and the languages spoken or signed number more than 7,300.

That information has nothing to do with the title, but it’s a good reminder that the work that we and our colleagues do is not for naught—and that we’re not done yet.

Now, those pictures have more to do with the title. It’s good to be reminded of the beautiful things in this world before discussing the icky bits. Speaking of bits—cue that rimshot—it feels like my work for Wycliffe Germany has been dominated lately by security matters. No doubt you have seen or read in the news about one cyberattack or another. Part of my job is to guard against such a thing happening here.

In October, the reality of that responsibility hit close to home when our county government, Siegen-Wittgenstein, and its constituent townships were hit by a ransomware attack. Nearly all of their systems were disabled while the damage was assessed and a path to recovery was developed. We had just registered our change of address after moving into our new apartment, so that much was done, but we haven’t yet been able to get that address updated on our residence permit / ID cards. Friends of ours, who purchased a new car during this time, had to register it in a different municipality while the local DMV was offline. Ick.

One of my daily tasks is to look for and make a short study of the attacks that are experienced, the vulnerabilities and practices that enable them, and the measures that can be taken to prevent them. As far as it is within my ability, I ensure that Wycliffe Germany is unlikely to fall victim to known threats.

Wow, I needed that pictorial break from the ugliness of cyberattacks. Didn’t you? The good news is that I am presently able to keep Wycliffe’s systems in a good state. At the same time, I know that I will reach my limit someday, because it’s all getting more and more complex. For that reason, I’ve asked Wycliffe Germany to develop a plan for succession that will allow me to leave this position in late 2025 or early 2026—and leave them in more capable hands.

In the meantime, on any given day, you could find me helping guests with the presentation system, fixing an electronic door lock, replacing an older wireless access point, or ordering a new laptop for a member. Those things happen, too.

Ah, what better way to segue to Katherine than to pause and look at pretty flowers? She has just a few more classes and a practicum to conquer before completing her Master of Library Science degree. You really need to see her eyes light with excitement and interest when she describes her favorite topics and coursework in this study program. We humans use those 7,300 languages to describe life and the world around us, and the librarians among us employ their own language to classify and catalog it all. And my wife eats it up with relish!

Katherine’s work on transforming the catalog of the training program’s library is ongoing—and benefitting from her studies every step of the way. The old system is not at all suitable to the academic research done by Wycliffe linguists and translators. The new catalog is a giant leap forward in providing access to information that aids and sharpens the work of our Wycliffe colleagues. Since I help support both the live and test systems, Katherine and I sometimes get to work together.

This update wouldn’t be complete without a brief mention of our offspring. Those two are doing pretty well. They both came to Germany for Christmas—as seen in the top middle picture. The elder lad is gallivanting about the Pacific with the Marines, and the younger is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, contemplating the advance of his education and career. When you pray, please ask our God to grant them wisdom for every decision they make.

Katherine and I need much of the same as we go about our days. We’re grateful for your diligent support in prayer, giving, and encouragement. May the Lord our God bless you and protect you from all manner of harm!

“These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us….”

1 Samuel 25:15-16, NLT, regarding David’s protection
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Moving experiences

According to the elephant in the room, it’s been about eleven months since I last wrote an update here. Before I’m squashed by the pachyderm—or worse!—I’m going to note what’s been going on in the life and ministry that Katherine and I have together. There might even be a few pictures of us.

In mid-January, we ended our five-month visit to the U.S. and returned to Germany. We came back to the same apartment on the Wycliffe center that we lived in shortly before leaving. This time, though, it was just the two of us, since both of our sons now live on their own in the States.

In March, we had the very great pleasure of receiving an advance copy of the Kisafwa New Testament. Katherine and I were part of each of the teams that conducted the language survey of the Safwa people in 1998 and reported that they would benefit from their own translation. Holding the fruit of the fruit of our labor in our hands brought to completion all of the effort we put into every interview we conducted and every test we administered under trying conditions. We’re grateful to our God for the chance to serve him and the Safwa people in this way!

In May, Katherine flew to Colorado to be with her parents (and sister!) for a little more than five weeks and help them through a challenging series of medical events. It was a good visit for them all. Contrary to every expectation and betting pool, I survived her absence admirably. I’ve never gone on so many solitary hikes in my life!

Upon her return, Katherine immediately resumed her responsibilities, managing the course reserves for the language and culture classes taught during the summer. After that, it was time to ready ourselves to move into the apartment we’ll be renting until we leave Germany. Katherine was also preparing for the start of the third semester of her library sciences program at Texas Woman’s University. (She’s doing great, by the way.)

In October, we moved into our new apartment—and almost immediately had a visit from Katherine’s parents and sister! We loved being together, and it was hard to say good-bye.

So here we are in November. This month, Katherine and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We spent a long weekend at a quiet place less than an hour from Holzhausen that overlooks Lake Bigge and Lake Lister.

What’s next? More studying and homework, more cataloging in the library. More shepherding of all the technology in use by Wycliffe Germany, more preparation for the nasty things that can happen to those systems these days. But no more moves, so far as we know.

Thank you for reading today. Thank you for standing by us and behind us during our 25 years of marriage and during the additional years we’ve been ministering with Wycliffe Bible Translators. We know that it’s not been easy lately for those of you who give, and we honor you for facing that challenge with faith and with grace. May the Lord our God fill you with peace and with encouragement, and may he bless your Thanksgiving celebrations with abundance—and the wisdom to know when you’ve had enough!

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Planes, trains, and automobiles

For months, I have told people that I knew what I was going to write next. It’s true. I did know. It is also true that, for months, I put off writing what I knew I would write. Let’s put it down to this dizzying visit of ours to the U.S., shall we? Buckle up and return those trays to their upright positions, and I’ll share what we’ve been up to.

As I indicated back in July, we started our visit at the end of August by flying from Frankfurt to Atlanta. That’s not our normal routine, but we were to pick up a loaner vehicle from a generous church in the South Carolina Lowcountry—classic Southern hospitality boosted by the Holy Spirit, or perhaps the other way around. After visiting friends in the Charleston area, we headed north to Pennsylvania, dropping off our younger son outside of Camp Lejeune so that he could follow later with his brother. (Aww….)

A fitting chariot for our stay. We are supremely grateful for the comfort, which has greatly eased the stress of travel.

On Labor Day weekend, we had a small family reunion with my mother and sisters. After a few weeks of getting reoriented and helping the lad get moving toward life on his own, Katherine and I drove to Duncanville, Texas, for our first church visit (25 September) and meetings with Katherine’s global library colleagues. I also dropped in on my old IT crew.

A pause from driving lessons along the Susquehanna River.

My wife and I parted company at this point. Katherine remained in Texas for a few more days; to help our son further, I flew to Philadelphia and took trains to Lancaster. (Now the title is fully justified!) In that time, Katherine received word of a serious illness in the family, so next she drove to Colorado. I flew out in the first week of October and rejoined her. From there, we drove to St. Joseph, Missouri, for our second church visit (9 October)—and then back to Colorado.

As in this picture, taken in central Kansas, it seemed like there was always another road for us to travel.

From Colorado, we flew to Orlando, Florida, to take part in a week-long seminar at Wycliffe USA called Connections. There, we learned how to transition from crazy lives overseas to crazy lives stateside, and we met some of the people who manage some of the crazy on our behalf (read: finance and healthcare). The time impressed on me that each of us there, like the figures described in Hebrews 11:13-16, is still looking for a place to call home. In the meantime, we wander the earth, hoping for our God to put us to good use.

At Wycliffe USA. The pavement reads, “Declare His glory among the nations.”

We returned to Colorado. After a few more days there, including some with the older lad, I took the car and headed alone to Pennsylvania, leaving Katherine with her family.

After stopping for a day in Missouri, I journeyed straight to our third scheduled church visit (6 November) in Media, Pennsylvania. Then I returned to Lancaster. A few days later, Katherine flew to Harrisburg and was picked up by all three of her guys. We left our two rascals alone long enough to make our fourth church visit in Springfield, Pennsylvania (13 November).

The next week, Katherine and I drove down to Annandale, Virginia, for the fifth church visit in our schedule (20 November). Thankfully, we got a break in our travels for Thanksgiving. (Did you see what I did there?) We also got to spend time again with both of our sons. Such times make for a happy mama … and papa.

In Colorado, it was nice to walk for a change.

Our sixth and final church visit took us back to the D.C. area, in Fairfax, Virginia. We returned to Lancaster, but Katherine has flown to Colorado again, leaving me alone with this keyboard. (She’ll be back. I hope.)

Over all these trips, we’ve seen a lot of faces—the faces of family, friends, and a host of supporting sisters and brothers in Christ. We have also seen a lot of miles, according to the history gathered by my phone. (Yes, I let “them” keep track of me—someone probably should.) It reports that, since we began our journey to the U.S., I have travelled 10,466 miles by plane, 76 miles by train, and 8,118 miles by car. That’s an average of about 167 miles each day. For the past four years, we lived less than one mile from our offices in Germany.

Here are our faces, more or less. We took more pictures at rest than on the road. Huh.

During most of this time, Katherine has also been attending to her study program in Library and Information Science. She loves it, and she’s doing great—as if any other result was possible!—but it has added a layer of intense activity to everything else. Katherine will have a break from these studies until we get back to Germany next month. She’ll be far more settled next semester, but I know that she would appreciate prayers to the Lord our God for sharpness of mind and stamina.

I want to close with an observation. We returned to a country different from the one we left in 2018—and the churches reflected the changes. The situation reminded me of that of the Jewish exiles who returned from Persia to their homeland: they didn’t all go back, rebuilding took a long time, the results weren’t like “the glory days”, and they seemed to be surrounded by foes. Everyone was discouraged. But in a vision, the prophet Zechariah was told:

It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

and then:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin ….

Zechariah 4:6-10, NLT

Don’t lose courage. Don’t lose hope. Let’s look to the One who can achieve far more than we can on our own. Under His faithful care and yours, Katherine and I will return on yet another plane to Germany, where we will continue our ministry with Wycliffe. We had no fixed home here, and our home there will be different from the ones before. Please pray for our journeys in this world, and we will pray for yours.

A pretty picture from the end of a day, for the end of your reading, because you made it this far.
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