Not the right man for the job

Don’t let yourself get carried away by the title; I am still the man in the job. As I describe some of my activities over the past few months, you’ll begin to see what I mean.

Have you ever had projects at work or at home that were intertwined? That is, at some point in the course of planning one project, you notice that it is somehow dependent on another—or perhaps on two. What’s worse, the tasks involved are a wee bit outside your knowledge or skill set. You’d love to hand the whole thing to someone else, but even that is tricky.

I am in the middle of a few such situations. Last year, Wycliffe Germany’s phone provider switched all the business lines in the country to internet-based calling. At the time, I thought this would be an easy move, but it’s not. The short story is that we needed to get a new router, one that is equipped to handle our main internet connection and those for our two sets of phone lines. With our campus being so busy—which is a good thing—it’s been hard for me to find time to make the final changes. Surely there is someone who can do this better than I can.

From the top: the old router, the new one, and the phone system.

The new router has made me realize how spoiled I was by the old one. The former device was powerful and had broad capabilities, yet I found it easy to understand how to program and manage it. The new one is not like that. I find this change to be like learning a new culture, and I ask myself similar questions: “How do these people think?”, “How do they categorize things?”, “What terms do they use for this and that?”, and so on. Surely there is someone who can do this better than I can.

Let’s go back now to that phone system. There’s an important piece inside that I suspect is slowly failing. It’s what connects the system to the phone lines, but it also uses an older method. I could replace that part, but if I can get the updated lines to work well with that new router, then I don’t need the part at all. In fact, I can eliminate the need for the device altogether if I virtualize it—make it a computer within a computer. If only I was prepared to do so!

In the fall, I installed a pair of identical, powerful servers that work together to host more than a dozen virtual servers that perform specialized tasks or host particular programs. If one fails, then the other takes over almost instantaneously. These servers are replacing another pair that are reaching the end of their serviceable life. In the course of setting up the new ones, I’ve made a few mistakes from which I could recover only with patience, determination, and the prayers of my brothers and sisters. Surely there is someone who can do this better than I can.

The new pair of servers. Each of those vertical elements is a hard drive bay.

Yes, surely there is. Yet that person isn’t here at the moment. There are firms who gladly sell the time and expertise of their staff for such matters, but to rely on them would take precious resources away from Wycliffe Germany’s raison d’être. It is often necessary to turn to such agencies for some of the complex applications we use—and my eyes widen when each bill comes across my desk for verification. Looking beyond the cost, I can also see that my mere presence and availability is a comfort and encouragement to my colleagues in their daily work.

It is still true that I am not the right man for the job. Knowing this helps me remain aware of my limitations and maintain some semblance of humility. And perhaps, in the eyes of God I serve, the qualifications of the right man are different:

  • “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?'” (Isaiah 6:8, NLT)
  • “Then the Lord turned to [Gideon] and said, ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!'” (Judges 6:14, NLT)
  • “Then the Lord asked Moses, ‘Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.'” (Exodus 4:11-12, NLT)
  • “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT)
  • “‘And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, “We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.”‘” (Luke 17:9-10, NLT)
  • “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, NLT)

I could go on with these examples, you know. They encourage me. Readiness, willingness, trust, reliance, humility, courage, and many other traits make a person right for God’s use as a conduit, vessel, servant, steward, ambassador, and so on.

These characteristics are also found in those who pray and give so that people like Katherine and I can go. Our God is probably not concerned about the rightness of the words that are prayed or of the account from which the support is given. He knows what is meant, and he knows what is needed. So, once again, we thank you for praying, and we thank you for giving to our ministry with Wycliffe—even when you don’t think you’re the right one for the job.

A different kind of post

There are many people who don’t like to read the first section of the Christian Bible that’s called the Old Testament. I’m not one of them; I rather like it. It helps me feel connected to the long flow of humanity who are God’s people.

Whether you’ve read the OT or not, there’s a good change that you’ve heard of the Levites. I’m not going to give you their full history here, but instead point out just a few things:

  • They served God full-time and received their living from Israel’s other tribes.
  • Their duties were divided among the three clans of the tribe.

One of these clans was called the Merarites. These are the folks I identify with the most. Read this from Numbers 3:

The descendants of Merari were composed of the clans descended from Mahli and Mushi. There were 6,200 males one month old or older among these Merarite clans. They were assigned the area north of the Tabernacle for their camp. The leader of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail. These two clans were responsible for the care of the frames supporting the Tabernacle, the crossbars, the pillars, the bases, and all the equipment related to their use. They were also responsible for the posts of the courtyard and all their bases, pegs, and ropes.

(Numbers 3:33-37, New Living Translation)

Full-time. Frames, posts, ropes, and stuff. Zuriel, I am totally with you, brother.

I just wish that the infrastructure that I take care of with my fellow Technites wasNetwork spaghetti as simple as Zuriel’s.

The Tabernacle was at the center of the Israelite camp. One thing that is close to the center of Wycliffe’s existence – and, for that matter, the center of many organizations, companies, and, oh, human relationships – is communication.

For 138 years, the telephone has served humanity as an efficient means of communication. Over that time, the basic concept hasn’t changed, but things sure look different under the hood now. If Bell and Marconi could see us now!

Last fall, our office purchased a new phone system to replace an aging one that was causing occasional problems. “Last fall?” you ask, “Why are you telling us now?”

BlinkenlichtenThe answer has to do with the timing of fiscal years and, uh, my complete inexperience with phone systems, whether modern or ancient. Progress in configuring our new-fangled contraption went slowly as I learned and experimented. Eventually, I was ready for us to order the new phones that would go with the thing. Thankfully, it’s a small office, and I was able to put the system and the phones into service this spring.

There are a few chief benefits to this phone system. First, it provides voice mail and email notifications to our well-traveled staff. Second, our staff members can connect their computers to the phone system over the Internet and use it to make calls at much better rates. And thirdly, we can eventually integrate interested offices in other parts of Europe so that it’s easier and cheaper to stay in touch. We are, after all, here to ensure their success in peopling and financing the Bible translation effort.

2014-07-02_10-15-44_50pctSo here I sit in my office, a more comfortable little command center than Zuriel ever enjoyed. Behind me is one screen that lets me tell the network how to move data to the phones and power them. The other helps me to easily manage the phone system and the phones themselves. (Black phone new, white phone old.)

I don’t have to haul physical posts and stands from one campsite to the next. The infrastructure I handle is different in this age. Instead, it’s a pile of plastic, metal, and wire that I set up to make sure that the fundamental need for telecommunications in place. Thanks to the new system, the people I serve can move campsites and – so long as they have an Internet connection – still stay in touch.


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