“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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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 …

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