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

The winter of technical discontent

So far as our day-to-day work goes, not much changes. For the people we serve, that’s largely a good thing. The clients of my technical support and services want stability, reliability, and predictability. It’s when those qualities suddenly disappear that I receive a frantic message or phone call. In those cases, it helps to be able to think fast and perhaps even travel at short notice. Here are the highlights of the events that popped up over the past few months.

In December, my colleagues at Wycliffe Netherlands called and reported that their Internet connection had quit. The other tenants of their building in Driebergen were fine—only their office was affected. Shortly after determining that they had a problem that they could not resolve themselves, I started the three-hour drive north. I took three devices that I could use in place of the one that failed. In the end, though, it was only a power adapter that was faulty—a relief to me and to them. I spent the night there, took care of some smaller matters in the office, and then drove home to Niederdresselndorf.

In January, the backup file server used at Wycliffe Switzerland died. That sounds worse that it really was. When we replace these servers, our practice is to use the older file server to do daily backups. USB backup drives are used less frequently for longer storage. When the Swiss backup server failed, I needed to reconfigure the data arrangement and backup schedule to give them an efficient arrangement. It’s been working to my satisfaction—and theirs—for a several weeks now. In time, they’ll replace the working file server, and it will become the backup.

A few weeks ago, the director of Wycliffe Austria—who was attending a workshop here—consulted me on the matter of replacing aging equipment in her office in Linz. Since she claimed little familiarity with technology matters, I walked her through our own small office, pointed out the components of our network, and explained what role they play. She was grateful to have that overview and relieved to hear that new equipment would not cost nearly as much as she (and their board) might have feared.

Katherine’s work in the library associated with Wycliffe Germany has been steady. New books come in, loans go out to people doing linguistic and translation research, and God’s message finds its way into yet another language. She has been busy lately introducing the routines of the library to the woman who will oversee the work after we return to the U.S. for a year’s furlough. (More on that later!) We hope to begin a project soon that will unfetter the library from a local database to one that will allow people to search for and request items online.

If you’re praying for us, please pray for wisdom and patience in all that we do, especially when one system or another acts up.

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