An end to waiting, and guarding against nothing

Once upon a time, we lived in a world in which we could make the desires of our hearts entries in our budget appear before us almost instantly. Then strange things happened in this world, and we were made to wait: resource scarcity, supply chain problems, and sickness conspired to delay nearly everything.

An end to waiting

In January, I finally received equipment that I had ordered more than a year previously. Surely my sigh of relief was heard from one end of the valley to the other. For your amazement and delight, I present to you the before and after photos:

BEFORE: one powerless, noisy switch
AFTER: two powerful, quiet switches

The marvel of it all has surely rendered you speechless, so I invite you to pause in your reading to recover.

Truly, these switches and their capabilities are far less important to you, to me, and to Wycliffe Germany than are the people they serve. These devices connect some dear people who play a vital role in Bible translation:

  • Our prayer coordinator stays in touch with the missionaries of Wycliffe Germany so that we (staff, retirees, and friends) can pray in specific ways for our brothers and sisters out yonder. She also prepares material that is published more broadly in the quarterly magazine.
  • Our public relations staff are responsible for that magazine, the website, and more. They visit churches, they design and staff exhibits for missions and youth conferences, and they create material that describes the work of Wycliffe and the milestones of success in Bible translation.
  • Our personnel staff become the point of contact for people who express an interest in serving with Wycliffe, be it as a short-term helper or a long-term member. They are in regular contact with the men and women who are in that stage between being accepted as a candidate and being sent out to the place where they will serve. The individuals and families in service are also under their care.

The work that these people do involves a veritable flood of communication and collaboration: email messages, phone calls, chats, databases, and a gazillion files. All of that flows through one electronic medium or another. The switches reliably direct those flows of data. When I do my job right, all of it happens in the background, hopefully unnoticed.

Guarding against nothing

I expect that each of us locks the doors and windows in the hope that no one will even try to enter—or that, having examined the window or door, an ill-intentioned person will conclude that it is not worth the effort. Some of my activities over the past few months have focused on the elements of security that we hope never get put to the test:

  • A backup server allows me to restore data if it has been lost. Data can be lost for reasons such as accidental deletion, disk failure, or data corruption. One of the latest threats of loss comes from ransomware, which locks away the data through encryption.
    • With the potential threat of ransomware in mind, I have been fine-tuning our backup scheme to provide the best chance of protection and recovery.
    • The server has aged, and I am researching a new one that will be able to serve Wycliffe for the next several years.
  • Within the next month or two, we will be replacing the traditional locks in our administration building with electronic ones, which simplify access for the right people and confound access for the wrong people.
    • The electronic locks and keys are managed through a system that I organize and oversee. It’s secured on a regular basis by the backup server I just mentioned.
  • Our email system relegates suspicious messages to the spam folder and obviously malevolent ones to quarantine. The idea is, of course, that the recipient will not react inappropriately to the garbage contained in such messages and inadvertently breach the security of their account—or worse.
    • Among the most despicable messages I see languishing (properly) in quarantine are those in which the sender rambles on and on about being “in complete control” of all of the recipient’s accounts and devices. The sender knows all about the recipient’s wicked internet habits. There’s just no hope for them but to pay the (anonymous) sender some amount of cryptocurrency. Otherwise, terrible things will happen. Why, they might even lower the temperature of the freezer and allow the ice cream to melt. It’s nothing personal, of course; the sender needs to make a living like everyone else.
    • Ugh. These messages are designed to instill panic and to provoke a hasty, costly reaction. They are full of nothing but hot air. You know who’s not full of hot air and empty promises? Jesus. I’m not trying to draw an analogy here, but I’m reminded of the encounter described in Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, and Luke 5:17-26. (Pick your favorite account.) Jesus showed those present that his words were not empty. Personally, I find his words encouraging in my work.

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope that you can see how the work that I do supports and facilitates Bible translation in the places where members of Wycliffe Germany serve. Many of them work in challenging places, which is why I rarely give details. My work has its challenges, too. You face your own challenges in life. If you support our ministry financially, I don’t doubt that you’ve felt challenged on that point as well. Take encouragement in the knowledge that we serve a God who does not issue empty promises—and he has promised to always take care of his people. Katherine and I are thankful to you for generously taking care of us!

And now, I will sign off with something more amazing and delightful than a pair of switches:

As seen from our house on March 17, 2022

Halt! Who goes there?

This phrase is probably familiar to anyone who has read a book or watched a film in which a person (or group) approaches a sentry. The sentry commands the party to stop and to identify itself verbally before coming closer. If the party asserts that it is “friendly”, then the guard gives the command to “advance and be recognized”. Once the party’s exact identity is verified to the sentry’s satisfaction, they are allowed to proceed.

Moving about on the internet is not so different, is it? Have you needed to enter a user name and password lately? Answer extra questions? Enter a separate code? I’m not even going to wait for you to answer that.

We are frequently asked to identify, authenticate, and verify ourselves in this world of ours. With more than 7.5 billion people estimated to be wandering the globe, it is often important to be certain that people are who they say they are. Confusion, deceit, or fraud can have disastrous consequences.

At work, I am guiding the staff and members of Wycliffe Germany toward the use of stronger forms of authentication for the systems we use. Some of us are caretakers of information about people, places, or situations that needs to be protected. When someone seeks to view an email account or open a file, we want the system to respond, “Halt! Who goes there?” To reduce or eliminate the possibility of unauthorized access, we put safeguards in place such as multi-factor authentication.

I’m not going to drone on and on about this topic. You can recall for yourself how you authenticate yourself and others while traversing the internet or even just answering the door. We do it all the time!

Some of the things we use to prove that we are who we say we are

What fascinates me is how often I come across the themes of identity, verification, and authentication as I read the Bible. Given the particular role I fill within a family of organizations focused on God’s Word, I can’t help but notice! Here are a few of my favorite examples, as reflected in the New Living Translation:

  • In Exodus 4:8, the Lord gives Moses instructions for authenticating the Lord’s commission to him: “‘If they do not believe you and are not convinced by the first miraculous sign, they will be convinced by the second sign.'”
  • In Deuteronomy 18:22, the Lord shares how to identify a prophet: “‘If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message.'”
  • In Joshua 9:3-15, the Israelites fail to verify the identity of the Gibeonites, accepting fraudulent evidence: “So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord.”
  • In Judges 6:17, Gideon verifies that it is the Lord commanding him: “‘If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.'” The sign freaks him out a bit.
  • In John 5:36, Jesus identifies himself this way: “‘I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.'”
  • In John 13:35, Jesus tells the disciples, “‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.'”
  • In Acts 2:22, Peter reminds the crowds, “‘People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.'”
  • In James 2:18, the author asserts the authenticity of his faith in this way: “‘I will show you my faith by my good deeds.'”
  • In Revelation 2:17, Jesus promises the following to the faithful: “‘I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.'”

See? The whole thing is woven through with authentication and verification. One could go on and on. When you read, keep an eye out for these themes. I will mention just two more:

  • Matthew 7:20, “‘Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.'”
  • Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

And those two things give a person a lot of food for thought—pun intended. When you pray, please ask our Father (and Gardener) to produce abundant, excellent fruit in our lives as we serve him through Wycliffe here in Germany. And may he help you yourselves to prove to the world around us just how fruity you are! Wait, that didn’t come out right. May the fruit of your lives prove your identity in Christ to everyone you meet!

You can’t take it with you anyway

Last night, our office was robbed — as well as several others across the International Linguistics Center. The thieves broke a window near my desk, and they stole all of the laptops that they could, including the MacBook that I use. Argh. Two other buildings were broken into in a similar fashion, and we don’t know yet how many laptops, monitors, and projectors were taken. As I write this, we’re working from a conference room while waiting for the fingerprint team to show up. Ugh.

The “positive” thing is that the thieves may have made some mistakes in leaving evidence such as fingerprints and footprints. As you work and go through your own day, please pray for the capture and arrest of these criminals — as well as for the recovery of the stolen equipment.

In the end, though, I remember that none of this stuff is that important: “Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33, NIV)

The people on this campus are working hard to give people around the world the opportunity to gain that treasure. If you don’t have that treasure for yourself — if all you have are the things of this world — then look to the man who made the statement above, because he’s the only one with the key to that treasure.

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