Watching faith become sight

In the letter written to the Hebrews, we read, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV) While preparing for a new term overseas in our Wycliffe ministry, I’d say that we’re witnessing many instances of “what we hope for” as well as “what we do not see”. You’ve probably gone through such periods in your own life—it’s the details that appear different. Read on to understand what it’s like for us right now.

Our family is about two months from our scheduled return to Germany. In faith, we have purchased tickets for a departure on August 5th. Each of us has a valid passport. These are things we do see. Easy enough. There are other things, which we do not see but we hope for, that must take form so that we can actually go.

The faithfulness of the churches and individuals who support us allows us to report that we do see a great portion of our monthly financial needs met. That is thanks to the Lord we serve, who works through these generous people. The “ministry budget” approved for our next term in Germany, however, is more than what we receive now. The difference is driven by increases in the cost of living and the need to plan for sudden, large expenses. To reach 100% of our ministry budget and be free to depart, we need to receive an additional $270 each month. This amount is part of what we hope for.

One sudden expense came from the home that we own in Texas, which we are renting out until we can sell it. Early this year, we were surprised by a large bill for repair work done between tenants. These expenses are being paid back by the incoming rent, thankfully, but now the rent isn’t covering our mortgage. Until the end of the year, provision for the mortgage payments and our own housing expenses is another thing we do not see … yet.

We also experienced higher expenses during this year in the U.S., where the cost of living has been greater than in Germany. These situations have taken a worrisome toll on our savings. The increase in our ministry budget will help us prepare for and recover from such periods as we serve Wycliffe internationally.

Our initial home will be an apartment in the building close to the top of this picture.

Without faith, those things that we do not see could tempt us to lose confidence. But our amazing God has bolstered our faith by encouraging us and lifting our hopes!

He has blessed us with certainty in our housing over in Germany. When we arrive, we’ll be staying in an apartment at Wycliffe’s Karimu conference center. The original booking went through the first few weeks of school.

This is the front of the house that we hope to call home beginning in December.

We were thrilled to have time to look for long-term housing, but our Lord wasn’t done yet! We received word that a family we know from church is building a new house and wants to rent their current one after they move in December. After some waiting and uncertainty, we learned that the house would be available to us! It seems just what we hoped for.

What a relief to know that we would have a place to call home! But our Lord wasn’t done yet; he wanted to take care of the interim period, too! The fabulous folks at Karimu worked hard to clear us to stay in the apartment all the way until December, barring extreme circumstances. We are amazed by all these developments and thank God continually for his goodness to us. As we face so many things that we do not see, the gift and blessing of assurance in this aspect of life overwhelms and encourages us.

We are confident that our Lord still isn’t done. If he can settle our housing arrangements in Germany, well in advance of our departure, then surely he can and will provide for everything else. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “… I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT) Katherine and I believe wholeheartedly that God’s “good work” in us includes our serving him and Wycliffe in Germany.

By what means will he “continue his work”, transform our faith in what we do not see? It will include our brothers and sisters who care for and pray for us. Perhaps it will be you. Perhaps it will be someone you know who also understands the importance of continuing God’s work in this world. Please think about this and consider supporting our ministry regularly so that we can resume our service to Wycliffe in Germany:

The Wycliffe Ministry of David & Katherine Liddle

That link to our ministry page at Wycliffe’s website can always be found on the “Join Us” page at Liddles.net. Regardless of whether you give or not, we ask you to pray to the God we serve that he will give confidence and assurance to all the areas of life in which there are things we do not see. We can’t do this on our own; we need the Lord, and we need you. Thank you for your love, and your concern, and your generosity!

All work and no play …

… could have made working in Austria very dull.

The Wycliffe office in Linz, Austria, needed an update to its network equipment, if you’ll recall. With the boys’ spring break around the corner, Katherine and I planned for the whole family to make the trip together. She found a great place for us to stay in a village about 20 minutes from the city:

The view from our vacation apartment outside of Linz

Just one day later, the view looked like this:

How Gramastetten looked the day after we arrived

The funny thing was that I had put our summer tires on the car just a few days before we left. The day the snow fell was the very day that I drove down to the office in Linz to do my work. I couldn’t be sure how much snow was going to fall in the upper elevations—the village of Gramastetten being  915 feet in elevation above Linz, and I was a bit concerned about my return trip up the windy rural roads. Despite the worry, I got the job done:

New and rearranged equipment, reducing chaos

The installation that I did there in Linz became the first location in which all of the networking gear comes from the UniFi line of products from Ubiquiti Networks. The software in this inexpensive equipment makes it easy to us to monitor and manage it all from one central location. That feature takes a burden off of both local staff and those of us who support them. It’s working great, and everyone is quite satisfied with the improvements.

With that day of productivity done, Katherine, the boys, and I could enjoy the remainder of our time in Linz. We visited a few museums, took a long bike ride along the Danube, and enjoyed the traditional afternoon coffee and cake.

A view across the Danube of the Lentos Art Museum, from the Ars Electronica Center

When we drove to Austria, we arrived there after dark, so we couldn’t enjoy all the scenery along the Danube—though the lights of villages across the water were enchanting. On our return trip, we were treated to a number of small towns tucked into the folds and curves of this beautiful river. And we saw that we weren’t the only ones:

Ships like this one are a common sight along the river

After our return home to Germany, our preparations for our furlough in the U.S. began to accelerate. In late June, we moved out of our apartment and over to the Wycliffe center. As I write this, we are five days away from our departure. Nearly everything that needs to be stored for the next year is in a cellar or attic location, and the last bits of sorting and packing are underway.

In the U.S., we’ll take up residence in a townhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, just minutes from my younger sister and her family. My mother is not much further away. Jonathan and Caleb will be attending Hempfield High School, which we’re all sure will be a vastly different experience from Dietrich Bonhoeffer Gymnasium and the German school system. The next year could be quite the adventure!

When you pray for us right now, thank the Lord our God for keeping us so well here over the past six years. If we get to share with you in person about this time, you’ll understand how much we have cherished it. Ask him also to give us endurance and perseverance as we pack, giving us the wisdom to know what to take and what to leave behind. And may we have patience with one another as our flight home draws nearer, and nearer, and nearer …

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!