“Prepared in mind and resources”

Animis opibusque parati” So reads the inscription around the shield on one side of the Great Seal of the State of South Carolina. This phrase came to my mind lately as I thought about my responsibilities and activities during the changes that have come to the way we live and work.

The phrase is familiar to me because much of the state’s seal appears on the class rings of graduates of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, which I attended. I can call up the information quickly because I possess one of these rings and was required as a so-called “knob” to memorize the features and symbolism of The Ring to their finest details. But that’s not important right now.

Even as proposals were made to restrict the movement and interaction of people in the hopes of curtailing the spread of the nasty little bug, I began running through a mental checklist to gauge our preparedness for the increase in remote work and communication. If you look back at some of what I have written, you will see that a several topics have to do with resources necessary for working in this fashion:

  • VPN services: a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection creates a secure tunnel through the internet from where you are to the network where you want to be. In Fall 2018, I moved Wycliffe Germany to a new VPN system that is stable and easy to use. When more of our staff began working from home, all we needed to do was purchase additional licenses.
  • Cloud services: instead of resources being concentrated on one or a few servers inside the business network, they are distributed securely on multiple servers on the internet. Early last year, I changed the email for @wycliff.de and @karimu.de from a local server to Microsoft Office 365. Accessing email from anywhere is not a problem for my colleagues.
  • Meetings: we can’t gather in large groups, and even small numbers of people need to be cautious. Part of the Microsoft 365 system includes the chat and collaboration capabilities offered by Microsoft Teams. You can think of Teams as Skype on steroids. More of our folks are using Teams than before the restrictions; even Microsoft has commented officially on increased worldwide usage.
  • Communications: not long after we arrived for our second term in Germany, I upgraded the phone system. Once of the features of this system is the ability to use one’s business extension from an app installed on a smartphone or computer. No one needs to use their private landline or mobile number when working outside of the office.
Top: old router. Middle: new router, with 3 internet connections, each with happy, green lights. Bottom: phone system.

With the reduced number of people physically present in the office, and with the Karimu conference center closed for the time being, I have been able to make changes and upgrades sooner than I had anticipated. Remember the failures I wrote about in March to integrate our phone lines into a new router? Well, the slowdown in work on the center allowed me the freedom to concentrate on the problem and make a breakthrough. Just in time for increased usage, our phone system is operating exactly as it should be!

With all these resources in place, I was able to put together instructions for using each of them and send people off with their own laptops or borrowed ones. I continue to go to the office each day to monitor the systems and to be ready to help folks no matter where they are. Our next big challenge will be conducting the annual member meeting next month, but I think we’ll be ready.

Bottom left: “Brunwella”, our Meeting Owl with 360° camera. She enables a few occupationally-distanced colleagues to meet onsite with remote others.

So as I look at how the present situation has affected my work, I am thankful to the God we serve that he has prepared me for this time and has given me success in areas that make a difference to my colleagues and, in turn, to those still waiting to have God’s Word in their language. Not one of us is thankful for the virus, but the faithful can be thankful to the God who changes us and who prepares us to bear difficult events and circumstances in this life. We have an advantage, you know, because we know how the story ends.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, to his disciples, as recorded in John 16:33, NLT

The other side of South Carolina’s seal bears another inscription: “Dum spiro spero”. It means, “While I breathe, I hope.” Below this phrase appears the word for hope itself, Spes. Such a saying is not a bad thing to keep in mind during the present trial.

In other aspects of life, Katherine, Jonathan, Caleb, and I are experiencing and enduring much of the same things you are. The effects are perhaps less, since we live in a fairly rural area and there is a lower infection rate. What has not lessened, but rather increased, is our thankfulness for the faithfulness of the people who continue to pray for us and give to our ministry with Wycliffe. Nothing has stopped the spread of the Good News in the past, and this virus will not do so now. Thank you for helping Wycliffe keep spreading the good news of hope in Jesus!

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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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Go with the strength you have …

In the book of Judges, we encounter a fellow named Gideon. Though he felt himself weak and ill-equipped, the Lord treated him otherwise. He told Gideon, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” (Judges 6:14)

Now, we’re not heading to Germany to fight any Midianites—or to fight anyone at all, really—but we do feel ready to go with the strength we have. Our support is such that our regular needs will be met, so Wycliffe has agreed that we may go. Tomorrow, we will wing our way to Germany!

However, going doesn’t change the fact that our ministry budget feels as ill-equipped as Gideon did to handle surprise expenses. These have sprung up on us in the past year and could spring up again in the future. Many of you have undergone similar times, too, so you understand our concern. Allow me to invite you to consider adding your support to our Wycliffe ministry so that we are free to work for the Lord without worry. If you have questions, just write to us. Anyone wishing to give can see the options on our Wycliffe ministry page online.

Enough of that talk now. We’re going. There’s not much left to be packed. Everything that we’re keeping is in storage—or will be today.

(Teenagers not included.)

Tomorrow evening, the four of us fly from Philadelphia to Frankfurt, arriving in the morning. A friend will meet us and our stuff and take us up to Holzhausen. Then … we shall begin to feel settled again.

It’s been an interesting year here. We have loved being near my family and not far from close friends as well. Through church and recreation, we formed new relationships, too. When it comes to visiting the churches and individuals who support us, we have to say that we didn’t see as many people as we would have liked. You’re all too spread out in this big nation!

If we didn’t get to see you here, you are certainly welcome to visit us over in Germany! We would love to see you and show you what life and ministry is like for us. If you prefer to write, though, please keep in touch with us. We’ll let all of you know how our journey goes and how we settle in!

Please pray for this start to our next term overseas with Wycliffe. We’re excited about what’s to come!

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