Be careful what you write about …

… you just might get more of it.

Winter must have read what I wrote recently and taken affront at the title. “Discontent? I’ll give you discontent!” The week before last, one crucial element of the network in Austria—a switch that I’m scheduled to replace next month— decided to quit outright. Anything that couldn’t connect over the wireless network was out of luck. Incoming VPN connections? Nope, sorry. But let’s now give Sabine Oetzel, the director of Wycliffe Austria, a round of praise for her willingness to let some IT goon in Germany talk her through the process of re-routing cables so that essential hardware and services could be connected again. The week after Easter, Katherine, the boys, and I will take a working vacation to Linz so that I can install the new equipment.

Maybe it was our planning another working vacation that triggered the next thing. (Or maybe it’s just a little bit fun being mock-superstitious.) The last time we made a trip like that, it was to go to Amsterdam to replace the Bomgar server that enables our IT staff and many other people provide remote support.

Amsterdam, May 2012: Objects in picture are now taller than they appear.

So what happens this week? That replacement appliance decides to get finicky and stops working. With help from the people who run the data center, I managed to access it again and download fresh backups of settings and user accounts. The next day, it went down for good. Argh. Please pray with me that its replacement arrives in time to go with me to the Netherlands at the end of the month. I’ll be going up there anyway to provide support for a large conference.

I promised that I would write more about our upcoming furlough. This summer, we will have been living and working here for nearly six years. Now it’s time for a break. In July, we will come back to the U.S. to spend one year away from Germany and with our family, friends, and supporters. Lord willing, we will return here in July 2018—but not to the exact same work situation.

Over the course of our time here, I have realized a few things about myself. I have felt somewhat unfulfilled in the remote support work that I normally do. It’s not that the work is unnecessary or unworthy of attention—the stories I have related here make that point.

What I realized over much time, thought, and prayer is that—despite being a ‘healthy’ introvert—I have a strong need to work with my clients face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder. When I have those faces in front of me every day, I perceive an added dimension to the service I provide and the satisfaction I receive from it. Remote work often feels empty to me.

I approached my team leader, Martijn de Vries, with my dilemma. He approved an idea I had to approach Wycliffe Germany with the suggestion that I work exclusively (or primarily) for them. With the addition of the new Karimu conference center, they have the largest campus in Europe and the greatest need for on-site support.

Courtesy of https://tagungszentrum-karimu.de/internationales-tagungszentrum/tagungszentrum-fotos/
Wycliffe Germany and the Karimu Conference Center (Photo courtesy of www.karimu.de.)

Wycliffe Germany does not have a staff member dedicated to technical matters, and that situation could easily threaten or reduce their ability to host effective meetings and conferences. So I went to them in October and said, “I see your need and would like to help.” In December, their leadership team replied that they would gladly have me there full-time.

So we have a plan for our return: Katherine and I will each be spending our working hours with Wycliffe Germany and Karimu. Our plan for furlough is still developing, but a few things we know: we will be living in vicinity of Lancaster, PA, and we will be visiting the people who have been faithfully praying for us and supporting our ministry with Wycliffe.

When you pray and think of us, please pray for successes in my trip to the Netherlands and our trip to Austria. Pray for wisdom and perseverance as we plan and sort and pack in the coming months. Finally, pray for a satisfying schedule of appointments with folks during our furlough … and for rest. Thank you!

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Beyond the countdown … and getting adjusted

It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks, friends, but at last we are here in Germany!

After leaving Missouri with a full trailer behind our car, we bolted east to Pennsylvania, where we spent time with my (David’s) side of the family down at the shore and in lovely Lancaster County. Then the real packing began, and we managed to fit all of our belongings into duffels, trunks, and boxes that met the weight requirements. There was so much that we needed a limo service to cart us to the airport.

We had some concerns that an air traffic controller strike in Frankfurt might cause some delays for our flights, but that strike never happened. Praise God! Our travel through London-Heathrow to Frankfurt went very smoothly. We even found a restaurant in London that could accommodate Caleb’s food allergies and provide him with a hamburger patty. Again, praise God!

In Frankfurt, we were met by my colleagues Martijn de Vries and Jeff Pubols, who lives and works in South Africa. They brought two vehicles to carry us up to Niederdresselndorf, where we are staying at Meisenweg 1 at the home of our director and his wife, Frank and Uschi Lautenschlager. Jonathan and Caleb are thrilled to be here, and it’s hard to rein in their curiosity and desire to explore absolutely everything.

Katherine and I have accomplished a few of those little bureaucratic details since we arrived. Yesterday, we registered with the township, the Gemeinde Burbach, which is an important step towards acquiring the final work permit and visa. We looked at a flat to rent, but it was too small for us to be content during the long rental period required by the landlord — we do expect guests, after all. We also made arrangements with Wycliffe Germany for them to handle the transfer of donations from our generous financial partners through Wycliffe USA. Thank you, friends, for making this all possible!

This morning, I’m going to drive out with Martijn to Muecke and the site of the Deaf Bible Translation Conference that we will provide support for next month. We’ll be assessing what we need to help make the technological part of the conference a success. It’s great to be getting down to work again!

More to share, including pictures, later — tschuss!

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Resume the countdown!

On the NASA website, you can read this about Atlantis’ launch for STS-135: “There was a slight delay at T-31 seconds while retraction of the Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm, or “Beanie Cap,” was verified.” After several email messages, in which cost-of-living discussions and proposals were passed back and forth across the ocean, the delay in our own countdown was lifted. Today I read, “… you are cleared to depart as planned.” Hallelujah!

When you pray to the LORD our God, please pray for us to stay focused on our departure from Missouri next week and to remain active in our preparations for that trip and the one on August 8. And pray that we won’t leave anything important behind. We can’t do this without you!

P.S. We can, however, go to Germany without removing our beanie caps.

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