Newsletter, December 2009

It’s funny, but the print version of our newsletter was mailed and received before this post. However, if you read it here, you’re also going to get an update to the bit I wrote in the letter about a trip I just made to North Carolina.

Ten of us gathered at the JAARS center in Waxhaw to talk about how we could make the online help desk easier to use for the Wycliffe workers worldwide. Two of those people were my future colleagues at Wycliffe Europe, Ken Haugh and Martijn de Vries. Two people came from Orlando, and another came from Calgary.

Right now, a person putting a request in to the help desk has to complete 10 fields. That may not sound like many, but some of them involve complex categorization of the request. Yuck. Only geeks care about that stuff. As a result of these meetings, we’ve cut those fields down to as few as five. We’ll find out how useful folks find these changes when we make this new look active at the end of January.

So, here is the newsletter. Pick the medium that suits you best!

December 2009: A Liddle Good News (for reading on-screen)

December 2009: A Liddle Good News (for printing)

Chipping away at the future

So here’s a report on our preparing to go to Germany:

Despite uncertainty in the housing market, our Realtor – the fellow who helped us buy our house – doesn’t think that we’ll have a problem selling it. I’m working on replacing the flooring in the family room, living room, and hallway, which he agrees will help the house’s appeal. It’s really nice to finally tear up what I’m certain is the most hideous vinyl pattern on the planet. If you don’t believe me, I can mail you a sample.

One big task that we face is figuring out where the boys will go to school. Not only does it have the obvious effect on their education, but it will also determine where we live. Katherine and I are collecting information on what it would be like for them to go to local German schools – we’re writing and talking to people who have done the same thing, writing to school leaders, and learning more about the school system. My prayers about this matter always revolve around getting accurate information and resisting the development of an unreasonable bias toward one option.

After we make this decision, it’ll be easier to formulate a budget for our ministry in Germany so that we know how our current financial support stacks up against what we’ll need there. Before we go, we’ll need to seek out the people God has set apart to complete the funding of our ministry. In fact, Wycliffe won’t clear us to leave the U.S. until we are fully supported – that’s one of the ways they look after the best interests of their members. Jesus thought it common sense that a person would make sure that he could finish a project before starting it (Luke 14:28-30). Our ministry is no different.

The winds of change are blowing

I’ll just cut to the chase, and then fill in behind that.

Yesterday, Katherine and I officially accepted an invitation from Wycliffe Europe to begin working with them next year. We will leave Dallas, and I will join their small IT staff – Martijn de Vries and Ken Haugh – who are working on expanding their operations.

There are 20 Wycliffe organizations in Europe. Each of these is smaller than Wycliffe USA but no less active in recruiting people for Bible translation. Some of the countries also have active translation projects. Presently, Martijn and Ken support the smaller Wycliffe offices, such as Wycliffe Hungary and Wycliffe Romania. A few of the larger ones have been able to recruit their own IT staff, but some have as few as 2-3 members in the main office. Rather than go to the effort and expense of establishing on-site IT services, Wycliffe Europe will develop a central point for such services at its office in Holzhausen, Germany (see map).

With Wycliffe’s efforts growing at a rapid pace in Africa as well, there are also increasing needs for computer help across the continent. The people and offices in Africa face the same challenges in Europe – it’s often difficult to recruit or fund staff to provide services locally. It’s also hard for these people to schedule help from the U.S. or the major centers in Asia because of time zone differences. Therefore, Wycliffe Europe has been asked to increase their capability to provide timely help to these people, too.

Ken Haugh and I have known each other for a few years. We worked very closely together on choosing and setting up an online help desk system for Wycliffe members to use around the world. At the time, he was assigned to JAARS and living in Waxhaw, North Carolina. After the project became well-established, he and his wife took up their present assignments with Wycliffe Europe.

Toward the end of June, Ken approached me with the question, “Have you ever given thought to returning overseas?” He had no idea that the thought had been developing in our minds and hearts for quite a while!

It didn’t take much prayer, conversation, and deliberation for Katherine and me to be convinced that God was the author of this invitation. We’re both very excited at the prospect of getting more closely involved in meeting the needs of Bible translation. And I’m thrilled to finally be making use of my college major … German!

Our hope – if it is the Lord’s will – is to be situated in Germany in time for the boys to begin the 2010-11 school year there. If we live in the same area as the Wycliffe offices, then Jonathan and Caleb will attend a local German grundschule. If they are not able to learn German quickly enough to do that, then we may move to southwest Germany so that the boys can attend the Black Forest Academy as day students. In that case, I would periodically make the four-hour trip to the office to take care of matters that cannot be resolved remotely.

There’s going to be a lot more to share with you over the weeks and months to come, and we have a lot of work to do to get ready. Please start praying now that we’ll find a buyer for our house when the time is right – that’s probably the biggest item on the list!