Monday, July 8, 2019

What did we talk about in Zambia?

So what actually happened in TEN3 during our conference in Zambia? First, of course, we prayed and worshiped together each day. There also was just the joy of being together, and the affirmation of our love for one another and our work together. Our four countries each reported the state of our ministry. The US side of TEN3 is going to have to be mostly on auto-pilot for the coming year, with Ken retiring, Jim and Karen slowing down to focus on health problems, and me having a baby.

Nigeria is advancing on many fronts, with the Families and Media ministry still reaching thousands of women and, as we had hoped, creating interest in the CTO. They are also continuing workshops for secondary school students on break, technology training for underprivileged groups, and now an outreach in the prisons. Our Nigeria director has also been invited to a curriculum conference for an association of Christian schools throughout Nigeria, which yields rather exciting possibilities for shaping the education across the country.

Tanzania is in something of a reset mode. There was a center running in Bunda last year, but Tukiko admitted that he had other priorities in his church that kept him from supervising it as closely as it needed. Then the location was no longer available and the teacher wanted to move on. However, his church was impressed enough with the program that they decided to construct a new center, with more resources and attention devoted to it. They are finishing that up. Ray went on to visit Bunda after our conference and got to meet the new young man who will be the teacher, and so we have him set up on our training site. Ken likewise got to visit Miriam, who is working toward opening a new CTO center in another city in Tanzania, encouraging her and her staff and leaving then with eight computers to get started.

Collins is still just getting started with the ministry. Thanks to partnership with another gracious ministry, we were able to ship him eighty-four laptops earlier this year, and he is starting in five locations with those, some doing the CTO for adults and some doing "Learning with Computers for Primary Students." I got to meet Charis and Zangi, the two girls helping edit the reading books.

We also discussed the next needed steps and perceived obstacles. The biggest obstacle is our standards/certification process. Christie told us that they cannot get people or institutions to pursue the certifications we offer because the requirements are seen as rigorous for little immediate benefit. On our side, I pointed out that we have not done a good job of recognizing and keeping track of those steps that are taken toward certification (mainly because we don't really have anyone assigned to do it). Her idea is to use equipment as an incentive for certification. Our three national directors together also discussed that they would like to begin evolving the programs somewhat on their own, starting with an upgrade of our "Pastors and Technology" seminar that could be used in seminaries. What Anthony picked up from those things is that the standards and certification process needs to grow organically as our national directors respond to the needs and desires in their contexts.

In a way, we are seeing exactly what this ministry was geared to do--the US side diminish while the Africans advance. We will still be their secretaries, writing down what they find and accomplish to share and formalize. And we will still look to raise equipment for them to use. Please pray for us as we continue to navigate these changes and seek to follow the Lord's direction. May the gospel go forward greatly as our ministry takes advantage of each of these opportunities to make disciples.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

My little world traveler

Well, we are back, and already in a whilrwind as my husband had to go back to work soon after we returned (actually he was supposed to return the very night we returned, but our flights were rescheduled and then his boss took pity and let him take one extra day), and I was asked to teach VBS this week! I'll do posts about the outcome of the trip, of course, but first, I just want to brag about this little guy:

I was quite nervous about taking a toddler on such a long trip, especially that involved several plane changes. I had heard stories of little kids screaming unstoppably after more flights than they cared to take, and mine is certainly as energetic and emotional as any. I would have been even more hesitant if I had realized that our trip to Livingstone would add an extra 18 hours of van/bus travel in the middle of it! But Nathanael handled it all like he was born to travel. Each airport was interesting to him, each takeoff and landing fun to watch. He got to where every time he saw a picture of an airplane, or saw a plane out the window, he would point and exclaim "A-dah!" ("airplane"). He even seemed to enjoy the bus. He loved Victoria Falls, and was constantly pointing and exclaiming "Wa-dee!" ("water"). We were also treated to a boat ride on the river, which he also loved. I'm not sure if he noticed the hippos or crocodile, but he did at least notice the Egyptian geese taking off from the water.

He also made friends at the airports:

I really wish I could have gotten a picture of the little girl about 8 months younger than him when they gave each other a hug! But I didn't have the camera out at the time.

Everyone was amazed at how well he took the whole trip. The 12 days we were traveling, he only had one total meltdown, and that was a situation that was straining the adults to the limit! He didn't sleep as much as he needed on the flight from Amsterdam to Toronto. We then had a four-hour layover in Toronto, but that was a busy one because our next flight was on a separate ticket, which meant we had to go through customs (which was a very slow line), claim our bags, change terminals, get our new boarding passes, re-check our bags, go through security, and get to our gate. We then got on the plane, sat for two hours, and then de-planed because a communication device was failing a test and they couldn't get a new one. THEN the line to get rebooked moved as slow as molasses in winter. I stood in line for two and a half hours while Kenneth struggled to stay awake and watch Nathanael. Everyone was getting quite frustrated, but Kenneth heard some people remark that if that little boy could keep a good attitude, they could too. We finally got our new tickets for the next day and some hotel and food vouchers. Then we had to re-claim our bags and catch the hotel shuttle. Nathanael started to fall asleep on the baggage cart, and when I picked him up, that's when he finally lost it. At that point, who could blame him?

Then on the plane the next day, he was once again happy as could be:

Before he konked out, that is:

But of course no matter how much someone loves traveling, there's always something special about coming home:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Travel plans coming together

International travel is always interesting; there's always sure to be something seem to go wrong and get you all nervous for a while! As our plans solidified for a face-to-face prayer meeting in Zambia this June with all our missionaries and national directors,and Rob our chaplain, to seek the Lord's direction for our ministry, this was already looking to be a different experience for me. First was the question, what to do about Nathanael? Leave him with his daddy? Take him with me? Take them both with me? Which would be worse, to take a toddler on probably 40 hours of flights, or leave him 12 days without his mama? If we took him, should we lap him or get him his own seat? We prayed about it, thought it over, and looked at what money was already available. Anthony told us there was enough ministry funds already to purchase the international tickets for the three of us, and with that, we decided that the three of us will go, so that the family could enjoy Kenneth's vacation time together, Kenneth can participate in the prayers and blessing of what God will do, and Nathanael wouldn't have to be without me. There was even enough to get Nathanael his own seat, which I was quite grateful for--while he'll still be under two years old, he is already as big, hungry, and squirmy as most two-year-olds.

Next, the itinerary was looking to be a pain. I've always had to book two separate tickets for my trips, because the travel agent cannot book me out of Lubbock. So I have to order a domestic flight to Dallas or Houston, usually picking up my bags and re-checking them to get to my international flight. But this itinerary was looking even more complicated because the route from Dallas to Lusaka involved an overnight in Dubai. Kenneth had heard some scary stories about tourists getting arrested in Dubai for the tiniest things, and even Pam, the travel agent, seemed pretty hesitant about the idea. She was working on itineraries for the whole team, giving us tentative ones with 48 hours to decide to book. Anthony wondered if we could get a domestic flight to JFK airport and join him and Nancy on their flight. (They live in western New York, about an hour from Buffalo.) We checked, but that would require an overnight in NYC, which would be extremely expensive, no doubt. Then he got an idea, "What about Toronto?" His daughter and her family live near Toronto, and that would be a fairly easy drive for them. "We could all crash at her place and fly out together from there," he suggested. Pam checked, and that was actually a couple hundred cheaper per ticket than what she had originally booked us.

So, we are flying to Canada first, staying the night, then to Amsterdam, then to Nairobi, then Lusaka. That means a twelve day trip: three days of travel, six days in Zambia, and then another three days of travel. It'll probably be rather grueling, but at least we'd get a rest in Toronto, I figured.

As soon as that was decided on, I looked up what we would need for the little guy's passport. Certified copy of his birth certificate. Ok, so I ordered that, and waited and waited. Turns out, Texas is incredibly slow with records requests. I ordered it on Feb. 13, and it finally came in on April 9th. So I hurriedly filled out and printed the online application, and we got the photo printed and the passport applied for this morning. They say it doesn't take longer than 6 weeks, so here's hoping, because after that we will still need to apply for the visas!

I was putting off buying the flights to Toronto until I had some more money raised, and then was rather dismayed when the Boeing 737 story broke. Sure enough ticket prices went up, though then when I saw I had been given several gifts, the prices were't nearly as bad as I feared. But, then there was another problem--it seemed all the flights either left at 6am, or arrived at 11pm. Leaving at 6am would mean we would have to leave the house by 4:30am, which would mean Kenneth would have to take an additional day off work, and his boss had already really stretched things to accommodate our trip. But arriving in Toronto at 11pm, with customs to clear, baggage to claim, a car to obtain, and a drive to make (in an unfamiliar area in the dark), would mean we probably would get to Elizabeth's after 1am, which would be quite an imposition on her family, not to mention exhausting for us! Kenneth said he'd double-check the dates to make sure he had right what he had requested. He did, and then I checked Expedia again and found there was a reasonably priced flight option, with just 3 seats left, that left at 7am and arrived at 4:30pm. Well, that would still cut in some to Kenneth's shift, but it would probably be workable, and certainly would be a better prospect for a restful evening!

So, things are coming together, it's just some extra work this time around. At least I probably won't be trying to bring a dozen laptops this time around! I probably will bring three for Christie, assuming that's still allowed on flights these days. (The rules seem to change every few years.) I admit I had my doubts a few times along the way that the trip would work out this time, but now it seems that the big things are out of the way. We still have to get immunizations and visas, transfer some money to cover our part of the food, transportation, and lodging while we're there, figure out what to do about our dogs, garden, and vehicle, and all sorts of little things like that. By the way, I still need to raise about a thousand dollars for those things. If you would like to help toward the trip, you can do so by clicking here. And especially be in prayer for us as we gather to seek the Lord, that we be attentive to each other and to His Spirit, and know the next steps we should take so that our many years of work may best serve communities, giving sound, practical education that grounds the students' minds on Christ.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

CEO? Not this tired Mama.

Anthony told me all the way back in 2011 or so that he envisioned me someday becoming CEO of TEN3 and Christie being president. And he told me a few months ago, as we began planning the prayer meeting I mentioned in my last post, that change is one thing he is pretty sure needs to happen this year. I guess I was okay with it at the time; I didn't object anyway.

But as he started giving me memos for preparing to take leadership, I began feeling overwhelmed. Even though there really isn't that much to do for an organization with such a small core, I just didn't want to. "Are you sure about this?" I asked at one point. "Yes, unless God just really throws something unexpected at us." Well, soon after I gave him some news he didn't expect: I am having my second baby in October. I pointed out that I really won't have the time or mental availability for months after the baby comes for new responsibilities. He accepted that, but was soon suggesting that I could still be CEO if I could even give five "extremely focused" hours per week. "But I don't have focused time--I have a loosely managed schedule consisting mostly of wishful thinking!" I protested. Lately, I can barely sit for five minutes at a time to get anything done before my toddler is tugging insistently on me, sure to begin screaming if I don't give him my full attention. I used to get really focused time in when he slept, and reasonably focused time while his daddy played with him, but pregnancy has had me so tired I usually have to use those times to nap.

So instead of my usual ambitious nature, I've been longing to quit something--I feel like a hamster on a motorized wheel and no place to get off. No matter how much I try to work (whether at my jobs or domestic duties), I get little done, and no matter how much I try to rest, I never feel rested. But I really don't have anything that makes sense for me to quit. Family and church are absolute commitments. TEN3? Surely God didn't lead me to ten years of work with this team to give up now. Stare of Owls? That's my investment in hope of things getting better, for TEN3 and my family. Martial arts? Wouldn't I be even more tired and frazzled if I didn't have exercise and social time?

So I'm really hoping that all this discouragement is just the pregnancy fatigue and hormones talking. The first trimester is almost over, so maybe in a few weeks I'll have more energy and less emotional reactions. And then? I hope we see the Lord work in Zambia, showing us a clear path forward by which Christie, Collins, and Tukiko can advance the ministry in every way that is on their hearts. I hope Stare of Owls' app gets finished and quickly gains popularity, turning a profit that can bless us as workers and enable us to bless TEN3. I hope that by early 2020 I can get into a good rhythm, giving sufficient love and attention to both my children as well as regular focused time to my jobs. Please say a prayer for me, for all these hopes, because I feel very much "poured out like water" and want so much to see fruit come forth.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

"In Quietness and Trust"

It's been rather quiet in TEN3 lately. The ministry is still moving--Christie and her team have many endeavors they are working on, both with their own school and with various other schools in Nigeria, Tukiko told us they are preparing to open a second school in Bunda, TZ, and the Lord blessed us with the ability to ship about 80 laptops to Zambia for free. I am still working with editors on some literacy materials, and have quite a few projects still lined up to finish.

But we aren't starting anything new. Deliberately. No new projects in Curriculum. Consulting has put inquirers from three or four countries on hold. With Ken, our technology administrator and school consultant, preparing to retire, we will soon be down to four people: Jim, who prays and tells people about TEN3; Ray, who introduces new inquirers and mentors some of our African directors; and Anthony and me, who do everything else. Frankly, Anthony and I agree we can't do it anymore. Not like this.

We've been praying a long time for more people to come help us, and Maria, a long-time volunteer, has been approaching missions to try to get us some more help, but so far, we haven't had any takers. So we are seeking a face-to-face meeting with Christie, Tukiko, Collins, simply to pray about the direction TEN3 should take. Though Anthony and I already have our ideas of what needs to happen and what we would like to happen, we want to come in with open hearts, listening to our siblings as we ask, "Do you still share the vision? What do you want to accomplish? How can we help you do it with what we have to offer?"

We've always intended to hand over the leadership of the ministry to them. But this is not the situation in which we envisioned doing it. We planned to have a thriving training system, with certified teachers, administrators, and writers, with several clearly standing out as gifted and having been mentored with us for years. But our country directors don't have anybody who has completed certification. That's where I really question if the ministry can continue and thrive. And it's honestly scary to wonder if the vision we have so earnestly prayed over, rejoiced over, lost sleep over, and worked toward so hard for nine years (even longer for the rest of the team) believing God gave it to us, won't happen after all. That fear is exposing the worst in me, how much pride I still harbor, how little I trust God, even after so much.

And so, both this ministry and my life are in a state of quiet, waiting to see what direction all will take. What God has in store for TEN3, based on so many factors that we have tried to address and many we never saw coming. And what I will do in my own heart, if I will humble myself and trust Him come what may.

Pray for us.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Launching something new

As I posted a few weeks ago, I have a second job with a start-up technology company, which we are hoping will help us personally keep afloat to continue the ministry, and also to help with certain things that TEN3 needs. Our first contract is doing the tech support for a school in western New York. Our second venture has been developing an app. It's just taking the idea of a student info system that has been available for a long time and making it accessible to a huge market that heretofore hasn't even considered it an option, adding a few features that they find valuable. We so far have 50 institutions interested in it, each of which we estimate, if they sign on, would bring us about 300 customers each. And if all goes well, that will be just the beginning.

Programming, testing, tweaking, and writing help for the app has taken a huge chunk of time. We are a few weeks behind when we hoped to release the first version, but today we announced the first release. There will certainly be tweaks to be made and bugs to iron out, and we have a long list of things we want to improve for the next version.

I'm kind of nervous. Will this side business, with the money and attraction it brings, and the example it makes of GUTS, be the last piece that we need to see our ministry reach as many people with the long-term impact we've always prayed for? Will it be yet another scrap in our pile of failed opportunities? Will it change the direction of our ministry, for good or ill?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Texas house, a Nigerian house, and God's glorious house

There are a lot of things I like about my house. The living room, with its ambient lighting and built-in bookshelves. The built-in storage cabinets in the bathroom and two of the bedrooms. The view off the back porch. But there are a lot of things I find myself wishing it had. A basement, both for tornado safety and to store the stuff for my husband's projects and experiments out of sight. Plumbing that doesn't leak and windows that aren't drafty. And that it were rodent-proof!

This is my dear colleague's house, provided by their church where her husband pastors, when I visited in 2016. It's a duplex, so she, her husband, and her two younger boys (her oldest is at college) live in half of this. She told me about the time they had to go buy all their water because a dead animal contaminated their well.

Now they've been asked to move to another church, in a part of the city that is notorious for drug-addicted youth. She hasn't seen her new house yet, but in a poorer community, she's preparing for it to be smaller and with fewer amenities than what she has now. She wrote, "Some people have been sympathizing with us, thinking it is not fair to move us to such a place, but where else can God display His power? We want to make Jesus known through people and places people despise. Please, pray for us, we have promised God that even if we will live in a manger as long as it is His work and He is the one leading us, we will do it. Humanly speaking, our flesh long for good things of life, e.g., good house, car, clothes, etc., but it is not about us, but Christ. 'Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fail and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.' Habakkuk 3:17-18"

She convicts me so much that I worry about my temporary home, when we are working each day on our eternal home in the Kingdom of God, where fire will test the quality of each one's work (1 Cor. 3:12-15). Lord, make me as faithful as this daughter of Yours.