The worst newsletter writers in all of Christendom bring to you the summary of summaries, an imitation CliffsNotes® of our Wycliffe ministry since 2013.
That’s bad. That’s really, really bad. It’s award-winning bad. And bad means not good, not right. It’s not right that I fail to communicate with the people who care about the work that we do for Wycliffe and with the people who faithfully ensure that it continues. Without regular contact, I’m apt to focus on what is in front of me and to put out of my mind that and those who are not in front of me. We have two conflicting sayings in English, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Our ministry to Wycliffe has been steady and predictable for many moons now. Yes, you can indeed read about it—and see pictures!—in our newsletter. It’s a short read:
If you read that, then the following pictures and descriptions will make more sense. Since the newsletter was actually written, Katherine has moved into the library’s new space, and I have finished assembling my wireless access point mounts.
We have been here in Germany for more than a year and a half, and I have still to write and publish a classic newsletter. You know, the kind that arrives in the mail, even on Saturday. For now.
Before we left the U.S., I was in the habit of taking every Tuesday afternoon off and working solely on activities related to keeping people informed about our ministry and to building up that group of people who give generously so that we can serve. Guess what habit didn’t get packed in the pile of luggage we brought with us? I could blame TSA, but that would make this excuse go from bad to worse.
Last year, I started planning a number of projects at the request of my colleague, Martijn. (Or is he my supervisor? My superior? I do report to him, but we’re quite casual with hierarchies here.) As my plans developed, I realized that one project might lead to another, and also that all of them would, in the end, overlap and benefit each other. (Now let’s pause while fans of The A-Team say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”)
The first one that I started on involved extending the capabilities of the office’s firewall to allow people outside the office to use a VPN connection to access information and services inside the office network. Most people are using it to access a financial records system that we were able to centralize because of the VPN. These co-workers of ours are in 12 different countries, and the finance system helps them to keep funds flowing to their Wycliffe members “in the field” and to the translation projects they support.
Now, to keep you from getting bored with details, here are summaries of some of the other things I was working on a bit at a time, throughout the last year:
Planning and setting up a fixed address for our Internet connection. This would help our VPN to be more stable.
Setting up a new domain (eu.wycliffe.net) for the services we offer to people outside the office and for our office network. This move would simplify the names we use for servers and services.
Building a new, virtualized domain controller to handle the servers, computers, and user accounts for the office. Since accounts managed by this server can be used with some of the other services offer (or will offer), it simplifies logging in. The VPN benefits from this development.
Installing and configuring a server that can act as an electronic repository for all of the files that the office generates, accumulates, and needs to keep. With our staff spread out these days, the software on this server will help us share information and collaborate on new work.
Create a virtualized server to run software that enables people to securely share and synchronize files. Within Europe and just outside it, there are many people who work in difficult areas and who don’t need folks peeping at the data on their computers. By keeping their source files with someone they trust, they feel safer.
Constructing a small “cluster” of virtual server hosts, as something of an experiment. Such a cluster can ensure that, if one of the hosts has a problem, the virtual computers run on it can be swiftly and automatically moved to another host. As we provide more services, we may need to ensure a higher degree of reliability. Two business-grade desktops may not seem like much of a cluster, but they work!
Updating our existing server. This one device hosts seven virtualized computers. Each of those has a distinct function, and separating them on different servers keeps their services from running into one another. That would make my job much more difficult. Because we only have one host server, this effort benefited from the cluster I built, as I was able to move each virtualized server to the cluster in order to keep its service(s) running. Once the cluster was running all of the virtual machines, I could shut down the main one and take my time in updating its hardware and software.
Hopefully you have spotted at least some of the ways in which these projects influence one another. Not all of them are done yet, and I still feel like this “flash mob” of projects has yet to gather fully in the room and begin to sing. But the more important pieces are in place, including the last item.
Mentally, it has been a challenge to keep track of the path of each project and evaluate how progress in one will affect my efforts in one or more of the others. I’m the kind of person who likes to have everything in place and ready before introducing it (them?) to others. The thought of describing this work in one or more updates, before it took some recognizable form, made me uncomfortable. So I didn’t write. That was really quite wrong of me, and I do ask you to forgive me.
Finishing the main server upgrade felt like a worthy accomplishment. It’s a fully complete task, and it eases my work on the projects that are still in progress. That’s where the title of this update comes in.
Of course, there are many other ways in which I’ve managed to be helpful to my brothers and sisters who are actively getting the message of our God to various peoples and languages around the world. With much of the mental burden of these projects lifted, I hope that my fingers will write more freely about those experiences. When you pray for me, please pray for clear thinking and planning, and for a good understanding of the different pieces of the puzzle I am assembling.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
These verses came to my mind on Sunday morning when a fellow in our class asked, “There were plenty of large, influential cities around during Jesus’ day. Why did God choose such an insignificant place and time for Christ’s ministry and death?” Now go back and read those verses again. The answer to the question is clear: Our God works that way to prove he’s the one doing the work – not us.
When our God called me to work with Wycliffe, it was the least likely path I would have imagined for myself – missionaries were always other people. Like the apostle Paul, my Lord had to bring me pretty low to make me see the error of my ways and the superiority of his ways. The very best things in my life and ministry now come when I die to my self and let the Lord do the work.
One of the weakest aspects of being missionaries is our reliance on other people for our income. Most folks have to persuade just one person or company to hire them, while we need to partner with many people in order to form a viable ministry. By the standards of this world, that’s not a very reliable way to work. But we serve a God who looks at that situation and says, “Sweet! Now I have something I can work with!”
Then there’s the fact that most missionaries’ partnerships come through their relationships with others. When it comes to relationships, I am certainly weak. There are many times when I would rather “die” than “die to my self” to make a new relationship or tend to an existing one – even in marriage!
Yet when I play to my strengths, thinking myself clever, my efforts can fall flat. Here’s a case in point. I recently offered my skills and time to nine local congregations – free computer help! Sounds good, right? Well, I received a dismal response. In the meantime, I have a full classroom on Sunday mornings as I teach what? Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. More relationship stuff! Seriously, God?
Please pause for a moment while God refers me back to the verses up at the top.
OK, I got the point.
This week, we who follow Jesus will remember a long list of weaknesses. He didn’t resist arrest. He didn’t put up a defense at his trial. He didn’t complain about the abuse heaped on him. He didn’t call on his followers to rescue him from being fastened to a wooden cross and hoisted up to die. You don’t get any weaker than in death.
Our God used Jesus’ death – that weak, foolish thing – to set the stage for the most powerful thing ever witnessed. And if we’ll just die, too – die to self – then he can do more powerful things through the new life he gives to us. He can send the most unlikely people as missionaries. He can enable the most unlikely people to send those missionaries during one of the most difficult economies ever. Why, he can even enable me to have a relationship with you who send us! Now that’s amazing!