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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Another end to waiting, but better

A few months ago, a member of Wycliffe Germany came to me bearing a thick sheaf of paper. She is one of several people around the center who have worked in Tanzania, as Katherine and I once did. However, her work there is ongoing—she serves as a consultant to a cluster of projects in the south of the country. One of the languages in the project is that of the Safwa, who live in the mountains around the city of Mbeya.

In the 2002 Wycliffe publication From Akebu to Zapotec: A Book of Bibleless Peoples, the Safwa people have an entry under, of all things, the letter S. The entry is accompanied by an artist’s rendering of a photo taken during the sociolinguistic survey of the Safwa language in 1998. Katherine and I took part in that survey. We found that the Safwa had a strong sense of identity and preferred their language to Kiswahili in daily use. The Church was present, but its message and ministry was hindered by the use of Kiswahili. Those of us who surveyed the language concluded that the Safwa would surely benefit from Bible translation, but we also felt that such a project would be a long time coming.

Let’s come back now, 24 years later, to that sheaf of paper. What my colleague Andrea presented to me was a draft printout of the New Testament in Kisafwa:

The cover page of the draft New Testament in Kisafwa

My friends, this day was one of the most significant of my entire life. Later that day, I wrote to others that, if I did nothing else worthwhile in my life, the knowledge that these people would receive the Good News in their own language would be enough to content me. Praise God with Katherine and me for the proofing and the publication of this good work!

The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.

They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.

It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.

It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Isaiah 55:10-11, New Living Translation

Last month, Wycliffe Germany had its annual member meeting, which gathers together all those who are present in the country for the purposes of enjoying fellowship and conducting business. Yours truly ran the technical components of the main session, freeing others to give their full attention to their friends and to the meeting.

My command center for the Mitgliederversammlung

Next month, Katherine and I will be returning with our younger son to the U.S. for a 4 1/2 month home stay. We will help him settle into life and work, now that he has finished his schooling and a gap-year program. Moreover, we will spend long-missed time with our families, friends, and supporters. Our schedule is still taking form, so if you live in one of the following states and are interested in getting together, please let us know! We’ll arrive in Georgia, pick up a car in South Carolina, and then drive to Pennsylvania. From there, we will spend time in Texas, Missouri, Colorado, and Virginia, before leaving again from Atlanta.

We hope / plan / expect to return to Germany in mid-January. When we come back, we won’t come back to the house we’ve been renting since 2019, but rather to a apartment. An empty nest. When you pray, please ask the Lord our God to bless us with a great home stay, our son with a good start to the next phase of his life, and our ministry with sufficient support in prayer and finances to assure our next term of service. If you want to be part of that, you can join us! None of what we do would be possible without you!

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My, how time flies

Next month will mark 25 years since I first became a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was accepted, warts and all, towards the end of the month-long Quest orientation course held at Tahquitz Pines Conference Center in Idyllwild, California. Much has changed since then, and for your sake I will not attempt a list here.

Wycliffe USA was founded almost 80 years ago, to give a little perspective to the timeframe. About 20 years ago, the organization moved its headquarters from California to Florida. The orientation courses moved with it to the new facility in Orlando. It presently has a membership of more than 5,000 people.

Wycliffe Germany was founded close to 60 years ago. It has a membership of about 150 people. Its main offices in Holzhausen were established a few years after its founding, and all of the orientation and initial training programs happen on our center on the hill above the village.

As acknowledgments of the milestone reached in my ministry with Wycliffe, the thoughtful folks on each side of the Atlantic sent me a little something:

As you can see—once you get past one language barrier or the other—they are similar expressions of remembrance and gratitude. Neither group let this one person get lost or forgotten among the crowd of years and faces. Think of it: I serve alongside thousands of people in this effort to transform lives with the message of love and hope from the One who created the universe and everything in it. And Bible translation is just one facet of the work before us. We still need more folks from a wide range of skills and vocations to see our mission through from beginning to end. Wouldn’t you like to be recognized for that in 2045?

What I find more striking after 25 years is this thought: there are churches and individuals who have been praying for and supporting me during this entire time. That is a significant spiritual and financial investment, one that represents a great deal of confidence in me, in Wycliffe, and in the God we serve. I do not take that faithfulness lightly, and I do not know how to adequately express my gratitude. The Lord my God would do a far better job of it, and so I write: may the Lord our God look with favor on your persistence, devotion, and sacrifice; may he reward you in this life and the next for the trust and faith you have placed in my ministry to him.

As for me, I hope that my heart’s true response after this quarter century is as Jesus described in Luke 17:10: “I am an unworthy servant who has simply done my duty.”

Now I’m going to write as a parent. After nearly 20 years, Katherine and I underwent the agony-joy of seeing our firstborn leave home to begin life on his own. Our son, Jonathan, flew from Frankfurt to Boston at the end of July to begin his adventure and career with the U.S. Marine Corps. After spending two weeks in quarantine in Atlanta, Georgia, he proceeded to MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina, where he is now in the middle of boot camp. If all goes well, he will graduate on 13 November and travel from there to the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger in North Carolina.

Wasn’t his first big trip overseas just yesterday? I’m not sure whether he has more or less hair at the moment, but I am sure that his clothes are better organized.

Parting from my boy was heartbreaking, simply because I so enjoy his presence with us. At the same time, I know that he needs to advance in maturity and responsibility. I trust that the God he and I honor and serve will guide and provide for Jonathan as surely as he has done the same for me. Katherine and I don’t know when we will see him again, given the circumstances of the pandemic and the nature of his vocation. When that day comes, though, you will be hard-pressed to find two happier people on this planet! (Oh, I suppose his brother will be happy, too.)

Thank you for being a part of the 25 years that I’ve spent with Wycliffe. There’s more to come, it seems, so please don’t cease in your support for me, my family, and Wycliffe’s vision for Bible translation. It’s never too late to start, either! If you want to make a beginning, please click the “Join Us” link on the site. Herzlichen Dank!

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