Monday, December 19, 2011

Ken Klay, our chief technology officer, e-mailed us an article from BBC News about the digitizing of textbooks. South Korea is planning to completely replace paper textbooks with digital ones. Exciting, right? Taking advantage of technology available, being able to run electronic searches through the books, put in links to cross-references, even have animated illustrations! Should make education so much better, right?
"The sad truth is that students can learn just as badly with a class full of computers, interactive whiteboards and mobile technology as they can with wooden desks and a chalkboard," said science and ICT teacher David Weston, founder of the consultancy Informed Education. - "Digital Textbooks Open a New Chapter"
This statement is the most important one in the article – digital technology is useful, but it is all just tools. A chisel in the hand of a craftsman will produce something far more excellent than a precision saw or laser in the hand of a typical person. The real value is in the wisdom that goes into the work.

So yes, we hope to be the "cool techies" who bring digital textbooks and computerized experiments to education in Africa. But if that is all we contribute, we will have done them very poor service indeed. Our focus is to give them education that has a godly worldview, that teaches students to understand the world around them, to know God, and to know how to apply that education to every area of their lives. That's why we're going after education as a system—curriculum, teachers, administrators, school boards, all of it together needs to have this purpose if education will truly be transformational.

This was Anthony's response:
Many will be coming into this market. We cannot win with the weapons of the world, but if the Lord intends to have us help Africa have a transforming curriculum, He will help us to miraculously do it. 

I can imagine how Gideon felt when he had so few men to fight and then God whittled  him down to 300. We read the story and know the outcome, but he didn't know what was going to happen. It is not like Israel hadn't lost a fight before. I think his heart was in his throat as he approached the battle. 

I have written of storming the gates of hell, quite frankly I believe we are hitting that gate now. Yet, we are feeling our weakness and frailty greatly. Shall we rejoice like Paul? For when I am weak He is strong. 

I have no doubt we need more people, more money, more of the Holy Spirit ... wow, how can those compare? They really do not. I thank God for each of you an all you are doing. I encourage each of you to take the time to bask in the light of the Lord, for as the Holy Spirit has more way in our lives, then God can work in us to will and do as He desires.

I pray for each of you and in particular Claude and Joe who are so overworked. I pray for times of peace and rest. I pray we will all know what we are to do today, to do it with all our heart and to trust God for tomorrow as He gives us light and guidance.

Thank you Ken for this reminder that the battle is fierce and that the battle is the Lord's.

Please fight with us on your knees.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quite a surprise!

When a package arrived via Amazon from the TEN3 team, saying to open on December 6, I figured maybe it was a book or something. Here was my reaction to the THRiVE:

In case you don't know, a THRiVE is like an iPad, but by Toshiba.

Now let me say that I've never really wanted a mobile device. We've talked about getting an Android to start working on mobile implementation of our curriculum, but I was figuring a few years in the future. I've viewed tablets like Americans in 1900 viewed the horseless carriage--a toy for the rich. Nice if you just want something to carry around and browse, but I need a workhorse. I know they are the computers of the future, but I figured that until they had F1-12 keys, full-service office programs and archive managers, it would be laptops for me.

It's kind of funny how the topic in church tonight was James 4:2-3, "You lust, and don’t have. You kill, covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask. You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures." In this case, I received what I didn't even think to ask for (and am still astonished at the generosity of my dear colleagues). So what will I spend it for? I pray it will be to teach people to use it as a tool to focus on God, rather than be distracted from Him.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday I was working on the Creating Styles chapter of our Computer Essentials book, changing it to be based on OpenOffice Light on Puppy Linux, rather than the standard OpenOffice on Ubuntu. I was frustrated a lot of the day by the exercise documents. I had already rebuilt them twice. The first time it was for AbiWord, the default word processor for Puppy. Then, when I learned we could use OpenOffice Light, I jumped at the chance because that's a more powerful program that does what we teach much cleaner. So I made the documents over again to work on OpenOffice, this time with a more simplified template than we had in the original. And when I was working on chapter 4, I had realized that I didn't have certain styles we needed in the template, so I had to add them to the template and reload it onto each of the files. Then in the Creating Styles chapter (chapter 5), I tested the exercise modifying the Internet Link style, and found that it messed up things everywhere, and it was something that could look fixed but still carry a hidden problem. So I spent a lot of the day cleaning out those files and restructuring the exercises to avoid this issue. Great, I was thinking. A huge part of the day put into re-re-redoing these same files.
Then, when I just had a couple of hours left in the evening, I was finally ready to go through the chapter. It transitioned almost perfectly! I've never gone through a chapter so fast!

I've been reading Proverbs lately, praying certain verses over myself and TEN3. We are having to make so many critical decisions towards our huge vision:

to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech

The education we are building will never prosper and remain without wisdom from the Lord. So often during our arduous Skype meetings, talking about how to expand the types of education we are doing and how to serve the schools in all the countries that are asking us, how to become the top education provider in Africa, I wish I could see down the years to know what we need to anticipate. But we are given just to see today, and we must pray for wisdom to act on what we know now, trusting that God will see to the steps that come after.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Doing what I had dismissed

In his awe-inspiring book The Pleasures of God, John Piper suggested that the reason there are still so many unreached people groups is that there are disproportionately few "Paul-type" missionaries as opposed to "Timothy-type" missionaries. His differentiation is that Timothy became a pastor who eventually settled down to minister in one church most of his life, whereas Paul was always on the move, planting churches in many places. Piper called for more Paul-type missionaries. I could see his point, but thought it seemed impractical--engaging a culture requires being able to communicate fluently with them, which for most unreached groups means many months of language study and training, and even longer in culture immersion before they will really hear what you have to say. Paul had the benefit of a common language used everywhere he went, many Greco-Roman cultural ties, and religious influence from the Diaspora he could rely on to make his message understood. So I dismissed Piper's plea as largely wishful thinking.

So I was surprised to be reminded of what he said when we talked with Christie a few weeks ago. She said that our ministry is very much like Paul's--he would build relationships in one location, then move on to a new one, but keep up the discipleship process with letters and occasional visits. Likewise, have built relationships in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, making disciples there and teaching them to pass on the word of Christ through education to more disciples. We are repeating this discipleship process with more educators in Nigeria, Zambia, Ethiopia and CAR. At the same time, we use e-mail and visits to continue teaching and consulting those we trained before.

How ironic that God given me the ministry that I had dismissed as an idealistic dream! Granted, we aren't working with unreached people groups; we are serving English-speaking Christians. But as we equip churches to take this prime opportunity to reach the next generation for Christ, I believe it will be a strong part of equipping them to send out the quarter-million missionaries the African churches want to send to the unreached peoples of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two long but blessed days

We had marathon Skype meetings yesterday and today. Praise the Lord that Christie was able to join us for many hours!

We covered our plans for 2012. A few key conclusions:
  • We're not going in November. We think we can get the pilot teacher/principal training kicked off via distance, and then Anthony and Joe can come up in April to wrap it up and start the next round in Nigeria, then go to Cameroon to do the same thing there.

  • It would be good for us in curriculum to join them to work with the writers, but it would probably be more effective if I could spend six months in Nigeria meeting personally with the writers every week. My dream would be to spend a few months in Nigeria and then the next curriculum "events" in other African countries.

  • Christie even told me this morning, "JennyBeth, I need you here. I will fast and pray for that." Please join her in praying for my support so that I can be available to go anywhere I need to.

  • Now, to unwind from all that sitting at the computer with some set dancing! :)

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Planning with passion

    Anthony wrote this in a planning document we reviewed today:

    I’ve had chances to do things that made big bucks and I’ve passed them by. This is the first time where I’ve seen a chance to give millions of kids an education better than the one I got, one that points them to the King. I DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS CHANCE! I DO NOT WANT TO GET 5 YEARS DOWN THE ROAD AND SEE SATAN STOLE THE CHANCE. WE MUST MOVE NOW. WE MUST TAKE THIS STRONG HOLD! OR WE MUST DIE TRYING!

    This is the urgency in all our hearts. The growth of the churches in Africa, the priority they have placed on rebuilding their education infrastructure, the incoming tsunami of technology--all these things indicate to TEN3 that now is possibly the best opportunity there has ever been to make Christ known to a whole generation in dozens of countries. What never ceases to amaze me is that this is a vision as fantastic as a young person could imagine, and yet I get to work toward it with colleagues who have the maturity to pursue it realistically, and faith in the God who alone can make it happen.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Puppies and Gnomes and eternal Truth for Africa

    Mom looked over my shoulder at my screen the other day and read aloud,

    ~~~When Ubuntu leaves Gnome these may change. However, Puppy may use these. We need to double check that when we have Internet access.

    Her tone was something like, "Are these real words?" And yeah, it's pretty unconventional terminology.

    That note is about what I'm working on now, which is switching the software our Computer Training Outreach (CTO) is based on. Windows is expensive, and of course we're not going to teach our schools to pirate it, so we based the CTO on Ubuntu, which is a quality free operating system that comes from South Africa. Since joining TEN3, I've come to use Ubuntu for about 70% of my computer work, even personal work.

    However, in consulting our partner schools in Nigeria in August, we discovered to get enough computers, they are having to buy them old--so even though Ubuntu is "lighter" than Windows, they still can't run it well. So we've seen a need to switch to Puppy Linux, which is specifically designed to run on older machines.
    Cute, isn't he? Our model is for the schools to have many older computers with Puppy Linux, from which they will teach things like typing, file browsing, and introductions to word processing, spreadsheets and drawing.
    The schools will also have a few newer computers with Ubuntu and Windows on them. The students will first learn to apply what they learned in Puppy to these systems.
    This is extremely strong pedagogy, because it doesn't just teach students what buttons to press to get an effect--that kind of thing changes all the time in computers. Instead, students learn how to learn, how to be comfortable with any new system or program they have to use.

    This is a lot of work for Anthony and me, but if you could decipher anything from that red paragraph, it indicates that we would have had to overhaul things for Ubuntu anyway. Computers are always changing! That's a strong theme in our material, that computers, and many things in the world, are always changing, but the truth is always the same. God's Word is the only definitive source of knowledge, the only thing you can securely build your life upon.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    I'm pretty well convinced God has blessed me with the most amazing team ever to work with. I was laughing last year, at the fact that I was traveling with all middle-aged men, that I didn't know whether that made me the spring chicken or the odd duck. "We're all odd ducks," George responded. Which I guess is why I'm so comfortable with this bunch and so happy to work with them. The years that they have had walking with the Lord, years of experience in the thick of difficulties as missionaries, has given them priceless wisdom, knowledge and character.

    Mark, Claude, Joe, me, Anthony, Ken, Ray, Jim

    I spent a lot of my free time just listening to them, as they would talk about the Bible, their experiences as missionaries, or church history and how that relates to social and intellectual movements. Joe is one of the few people who will positively wear me out intellectually! I love listening to Ray sharing what inspires him, Ken's explanations of how things work, and George's and Joe's amazing bush stories.
    I'm really humbled how they respect me as a colleague and look after me like a daughter.
    If there is conflict, it is constructive. If there is a problem, they deal with it. I don't think pettiness exists in their universe.
    They do not hesitate to apologize.

    Probably my favorite thing relates back to my memories of youth group mission trips. It bothered me that of all the time we might spend in a vehicle or otherwise "off duty," we'd talk about the silliest things, sing annoying songs, even gossip, but seldom would worshipful conversation or singing happen spontaneously. With this team, sure, there are jokes and goofing off, but it was common to hear them whistling "Greater than All Our Sin" or humming "Redeemed" while doing dishes, and it was guaranteed that there would be meaningful spontaneous conversation about God and what it means to serve Him throughout the day.

    This made it soooo much better through those three weeks as we dealt with the stress of having to re-do our plans time and time again as circumstances surprised us, making decisions about expenses to pay, how to work with people who came in and had missed four days of instruction, etc. I was encouraged each day to be told how God has been faithful in the lives of each of my team, as I saw how He is active in all our hearts today.

    And yes, we did have fun fellowship as well...
    Claude and Mark playing ping-pong
    One of my favorite moments was playing pool with George, and it was so dark we had to lean in 6" from a ball before we could tell whether it was a stripe or solid! I won, but only because he mistook the 8-ball for one of his!

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Thanking God for a blessed time; looking forward to the future

    "Rainy season had arrived again and Yaaya was happy. Even though it meant long hours working in the fields, he enjoyed the cooler weather and watching green plants spring up everywhere. It seemed like even the animals were happier now that the rains had come. Of course, it was early in the season yet, and Yaaya was already aware that many people seemed to get sick during the rains. In fact, he had been quite sick himself last summer, with awful aches and chills for the better part of a week."
    --doesn't sound quite like your typical college textbook, does it? We are trying the approach of building our Biblical Health and Life Management curriculum from a continuing story. This will hopefully accomplish two things – give our writers inspiration for writing their material creatively and with focus, and help our students see that these lessons relate directly to their own everyday lives. We are NOT making those courses that students sit through thinking "Why do I have to take this? I'll never use it." Instead, we want our students to read these stories and think, "Yeah, me too--" and from there they will want to pay careful attention to the lessons that apply to these stories.

    So we spent a lot of time collecting stories from the writers -- stories about the issues that are common among African young people, stories about the difficulties they face in education, family life, career pursuits, and more.
    As we gathered these stories, we considered what Scripture has to say about the issues and how we will teach it in the material, which is best summarized in this beautiful quote:
    I believe that no teacher should strive to make men think as he thinks, but to lead them to the living Truth, to the Master Himself, of whom alone they can learn anything, who will make them in themselves know what is true by the very seeing of it. I believe that the inspiration of the Almighty alone gives understanding. I believe that to be the disciple of Christ is the end of being; that to persuade men to be His disciples is the end of teaching.
    George MacDonald, Creation in Christ
    There are so many other things to share ... how good it was to be face-to-face with my colleagues, the new friends I made, how crazy our situation was when the conference first started, how wonderful the rain was, how I learned a couple things about cooking in Nigeria ... Ah, well. Blog material for later ;)

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    A new definition of thanks

    I'd like to start off my reporting with a poem I've been working on:
    (with thanks to Jordy Williams, whose poem inspired a device in this one, and Christie Dasaro and Ruth Sallah, for helping me understand the language)

    From west Africa I learned a phrase,
    "Mungode Yesu"; it's Hausa,
    so it means far more than
    "Thank You Jesus" in my
    pampered, perfect American.
    For Hausa is the language
    of bartering over patterned cloth
    and smoked fish, the language hummed
    by AIDS widows under thatched roofs,
    moaned by malaria patients sharing a hospital bed,
    of women who carry their babies from that
    hospital, to bury them, and must fight
    to live the next day. Mungode Yesu,
    in the language that calls its people
    five times a day to pronounce fear of Allah,
    the language of sweat in the fields,
    drought and blood and tears and widowhood,
    partaken with wounds associated with that name,
    in Hausa "Thank You Jesus"
    testifies to the impossible
    to hope where it was unknown,
    mocks the darkness with the precious sounds,
    "Mungode Yesu."
    This is Mr. and Mrs. Sale Abdullah, M-background evangelists who welcomed us to their home last year. Sale went to heaven in January.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    There and back again

    I feel kind of bad that I didn't post at all while I was in Nigeria. Please understand that we had just one USB modem we were sharing among nine people, and a lot of the time it was very slow or didn't work at all. Thank you to those of you who prayed for us anyway. The Lord was there, and we are returning with much to do ahead of us. I am so thankful for how He continues to guide us. It has been a blessing to get to know the partners the Lord has brought us. Some of them are really strong in what they're doing; many others are struggling, but we know that the Lord does great things as His servants simply yield to Him.

    I'll give a fuller report in a day or two, once my head is a little clearer. I've spent the last 42 hours or so traveling via cars and planes, so I'm a little out of it! Please pray for George, Claude and Mark, as Irene has interrupted their travels home.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Rejoice with me!

    Well, I got the last courses exported Saturday night. It looks like I may have to redo the Computer Essentials ones--a few little mistakes, but still, I like it looking really good. Still, it's such a relief to have the big haul behind me.

    I just got an e-mail from Travel the World Visas that my visa got shipped via FedEx today, and should be delivered Wednesday.

    I've gotten word that we will be staying in a facility where we can all be in the same building, no more than two to a room (as the only woman going, I'll get my own apartment), close to ECWA headquarters, at a pretty good price. It sounds like it might even have running water!

    Ruth replied to my e-mail; she got the material I sent her and is eager to help us with our conference.

    Happy, happy, happy dance!!!

    The team at the Colvins (Debbie Colvin is the lady in pink; David took the picture) for supper. Karogo, Nigeria

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Shoot a cow.

    That's a fun saying I picked up from Ruth, whom I can hardly wait to see in two weeks. She said it whenever things went wrong, and I thought, "I like it! It sounds Texan!"

    The good news is that I have only one course left to publish. Everything that needs to be printed in Charlotte has been printed, and the things to be printed in California are in the works.

    The bad news is sometimes these books fight me every update. I've read through and edited every subdocument, and have skimmed through the master document, fixing the settings and layout. Then as I skim through for a final check before exporting the PDF, I discover an error--a blank paragraph, a missing letter on a prominent heading or something. So I open the subdocument, fix it, and update the master document. Then I begin to scroll through again and realize that the update caused at least one graphic to disappear. I re-update hoping that will bring it back. It does; but now a cross-reference that was working fine the last 10 updates now points to the wrong place, and I know from experience that there's nothing to be done but get rid of the reference and do a hand-typed substitute. Then of course, I have to update again and make sure nothing has messed up this time...

    I'm sure there's a spiritual application to this. And it probably has to do with the sanctification process of humans, how we can grow so much in the Lord and still never arrive at a pure heart in this life...always finding corrupted fibers that are so intertwined in our making that there is no scrutinizing how far their effects go.

    Pandora just played "The Old Rugged Cross" for me. How appropriate to my train of thought, the compulsion to die daily...
    with which I am well content, for as surely as this course will be published, I will be found sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Frustration pacified

    Well, things are looking a bit more encouraging for my visa! I finally was able to talk to a rep of the company that processes the payments and learned that the way the money orders are supposed to be made out has changed and they will be sending mine back. So I've sent them another one, and hopefully they will process it quickly! Then I've got to get all the other documentation I need together and send it to D.C., and as long as they get it back to me by the end of the month, I'm good to go!

    This incident really led me to wonder about the place of frustration in the life of a disciple. To what extent should the "do not worry" "be anxious for nothing" trust in God override the normal human reaction when we're trying to accomplish something very important to us and keep getting hindered to the point of considering drastic options that may still not help? The ageless dichotomy of relinquish and responsibility. Just another art my Father is teaching me, as I remind myself not to be discouraged that I don't learn it faster.

    Thank you for your prayers. How I thank my Father also for inviting us just to rest in Him.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Quick prayer request

    I started the online application process for my visa several weeks ago. A visa to Nigeria costs $120, and last year I was able to pay via credit card. However, this year I tried several times and the transaction never went through. The alternative was to get a money order from the post office and send it to an office in Connecticut. So I did, and saw that it was delivered on June 4. But so far I still have not received the acknowledgment that the payment has been received. I sent an e-mail last Wednesday to the contact address they gave, and have not heard back from that either.
    Please pray that my payment is accepted and credited quickly, and that I not be anxious about having to pay $120 again. I still am so eager to return to my friends and that inspirational hope I found last July in Nigeria. I can hardly wait to see all the Lord will do there!

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Pages flying from processors to printers to planes!

    Oops, so sorry to have dropped the blog for so long! I warned you I'd be busy!
    Quick update on my progress:

    • Orientation Guide done. Printing starts today!
      • The Orientation Guide gives a great overview of TEN3's history, goals and calling. If you'd be interested in reading it, let me know!
    • Principals Guide done, ready to be printed!
    • Integrity Advance handout done. Will probably be printed in California.
    • Writers Guide almost done. There's ALWAYS something to tweak with this one, so I'll probably wait until the deadline to stop working on it and call it ready.
    • Material Development Guide much the same as the writers guide.
    • Spreadsheet Essentials moving pretty fast. I'm maybe 1/3 of the way through it.
    • Computer Essentials--Ray is still working through his pedagogical edit. Less than two chapters to go! Then I have some things to clean up on it.
    • Bible course: George has it all written, praise the Lord! I've got to get to editing this one too, but it should go pretty fast.
    • Teachers Guide: Please pray for Anthony as he works on this one despite many interruptions.
    So my keyboard will be smoking for the next few weeks, but I'm enjoying it! So excited to have my tickets to go back to Nigeria purchased. Praying for the teachers, principals, writers and editors the Lord wants to work with us, for adequately prepared material, for open hearts and guided steps. Also still praying for the Transformational Education Center, which we are seeing as more and more critical to getting the 2-Year Tertiary Degree written!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Pressing on!

    Praise the Lord that the TEN3 team has been given permission by the SIM Nigeria director to come to the country in August! It's looking like I'm going to fly out on August 3 and return on August 27. Praise the Lord also that I have been given enough one-time donations to cover the cost of this flight. Those of you who heard my report last year may remember that I went with six men. This time it's going to be seven men and me! Our new CEO, Claude Kennedy, will be coming with us. Some of the team members still need some gifts to be able to go, so I'd appreciate prayer for that.

    In the meantime, I will be VERY BUSY preparing! A quick list of things I have to edit and publish:

    1. The TEN3 Orientation Manual for all workshop attendees
    2. The principals' introduction for the ECWA principals who will be there
    3. The teachers' guide for the fifteen or so teachers we will train, God willing.
    4. The Curriculum and Material Writers Guide for those who will be joining us as curriculum writers (we're hoping for about twelve)
    5. The Material Development Guide for editors (I'd like to work with Ruth and train two)
    6. Computer Essentials, our introductory computer course
    7. Spreadsheet Essentials
    8. Our CTO Bible course, which goes with the computer courses. This is a survey through the entire Bible as a single story.
    Please pray for me as I work on all this, that I will be diligent and discretionary in my time, that my computer(s) will cooperate and not mess up the master documents as I update them, that I keep all the data together in the right places so that Ken will be able to package them correctly. Most of all, please pray that the materials and our presentation of them will be instrumental in transforming the hearts of educators and students to be like Christ.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Great reading that will help TEN3

    A fantasy writer has agreed to have the proceeds of her next 100 book sales go to TEN3:
    Partnership with TEN3 - Pen Dragon
    If you like to read good imaginative stories, here's a way to feed your fantasy need and help TEN3! :)

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Good news stateside

    I mentioned in my prayer letter that God is answering some prayers stateside to allow TEN3 as an organization to move forward. I'll explain a little more about that here.

    One of the many reasons I greatly appreciate my team is the prevalent heart of servanthood among them. Anthony, Joe, George and Ken all have so much wisdom and experience with missions in Africa, they are more than qualified to do the administration for TEN3. Yet they only do because they have to--what they really want to do is just teach and disciple people. The time devoted to these administrative requirements of a cross-continental organization is actually something that has been slowing down TEN3's work in preparing our student, teacher, principal and consulting material. So we have been praying for somebody who wants to help us bear this administrative legwork. Official acceptance is pending, but we have somebody who wants to do this for us! Praise the Lord!

    Also, TEN3 is very close to getting our 501(c)(3) status, which will make contributions to TEN3 tax-deductible. Now, to be clear, SIM is already tax-exempt, so donations to us as missionaries through SIM has always been deductible. This is for TEN3 raising funds as an organization for our projects, including our workshops, the Transformational Education Center, equipment and more.

    With so many doors opening in Africa and the ways the Lord is empowering us here, we believe that our time is now! Please pray for an extra measure of wisdom and guidance for all of us, and for the funding for our projects and for us as missionaries, that we may be unhindered in bringing the truth of Christ to Nigeria and all over Africa.

    He is risen!

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Following directions we don't understand

    This morning I helped one of my team members, Ray, with his work on our computer material. Ray, who normally uses computers on a pretty limited basis, is our pedagogical editor for Computer Essentials. This means he is taking the course to test it out, and makes notes where he has trouble, and adds edits and questions to help our students.

    We talked over Skype this morning because he was having trouble with a section on how to use GIMP, a graphics program. He was almost through the section, but was unable to fill his word path. So I explained to him how to set the foreground color and use the bucket fill tool. He did and said nothing happened. He must have misunderstood one of the instructions, I thought. So he sent me his file and I tried it. Sure enough, the words remained colorless. So we opened a new file and walked through the process together. This time we got it to work.

    Curious, I went back to the original file, wondering why in the world the fill color wasn't working. Then I checked the layers box and noticed the View icon was off. The layer was hidden. As soon as we set it to View, the color was there. Ray had done it right all along; he just couldn't see it!

    I compare that scenario with life following God. He gives us instructions and we try to follow them, but then things don't seem to work out. That's when I start second-guessing myself. Did I really make the right decision? Do I really understand what God wants me to do? Am I messing up God's plan for my life? These are actually times of blessing, because it leads me to examine my heart, my motivations and desires and assumptions. I discover things I have let come between me and God.

    Even then I don't really understand why things aren't working out. But sometime afterward, God does something to show me that, at every step where I tried to follow Him, God was leading me to right where He wanted me. I just couldn't see it then.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Praise for progress; prayers for peace

    I never would have pictured myself in a technical computer job. I would have thought it too tedious for me, and I hate it when electronics don't cooperate. Nevertheless, the Lord has given me a meticulous and analytical mind, and it's been good to apply it to get better results in my job. A few years ago Anthony set up an extension with a menu to set styles, stand-out boxes, reminder icons and more. When I first started working with him in August of 2009, I didn't even know what a logical attribute was, much less a macro. Now I'm able to use both AND put them in the extension, so I can send it to the rest of the team and to make their work formatted just like mine. It's pretty exciting to have the opportunity to learn so much without any formal training. I pray that I'll be able to teach many workers in Africa with the same patient mentoring heart as Anthony has taught me.

    On another note, please pray for Nigeria. The first of three days of elections this month was supposed to be Saturday, but has been postponed to Monday (which, accounting for the time difference, will start about three hours from this post). Elections in Africa tend to be very volatile times, and this postponement has already got tempers flaring. Please pray that the people of God will be the presence of the Prince of Peace there, and that leaders of vision, wisdom and integrity will be elected all over Nigeria.

    Thanks to all who read this for your care and prayers. May you have a glorious day!

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Striking picture

    This is Tunde Jacob and I our last day in Kagoro. I'm not sure why I like this picture so much, but I do.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Hold up our partners

    Please pray for EICSI*, the school that Anthony started many years ago. The success of discipleship via African-style computer education is what inspired TEN3's current mission to build transformational education on the level of a full university degree. EICSI have had a lot of struggles lately, and the unrest in Jos has hit them hard, emotionally and economically. It has become so severe that the staff have not been paid for the last three or four months.

    The Lord is the Potter who lovingly created EICSI for His glory. This school remains in His hands; please pray that as they falter, He holds them together and uses this to make them an even greater impact than they have been before.

    *ECWA Information and Computer Science Institute, better known locally as "ECWA computer school."

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Well content in whatever circumstances.

    Those who hear TEN3's history are familiar with the story of when Anthony was asked to start the best computer school in Nigeria. He planned on raising $30,000 for a computer lab. Instead, the Lord provided only $300 and six 10-year-old computers. But Anthony was faithful with what he was given, and from that grew EICSI, our computer school in Jos that has given about 1000 students an education that is hard to find anywhere.

    That initial "planning huge" and receiving only a little to do it with has been TEN3's tradition. We were laughing in a meeting the other day about how TEN3 has a hard time bringing ourselves to do budgets, because in the past the team has planned thousands of dollars of expenses, and then went on living on the very little we have coming in. To be honest, that is one of the things that has endeared me to TEN3. I love this depending on the Lord for provision for every single step. I also appreciate the fact that it is faith that keeps us going--that's all we have. Our common calling is enough to keep us together despite living so far apart.

    But we also recognize that if we are going to accomplish the mission we have set out to do, we are going to have to grow organizationally. The team tried to assure me the other day that I'll be in charge of most of the money coming in, but that's actually what worries me! More people and more money sounds like a recipe for trouble.

    And yet I know that faithful is He who called us, and who continues to guide us. The God who has kept TEN3 going and encouraged with very little resources can also keep us true to His ways of love as we go forward.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    This quote is essentially TEN3's motto

    I spent quite an intense week getting the administrators' manual published and ready for the Computer Training Outreach workshop TEN3 is holding for two weeks starting next week. I realized just how often in our manuals we bring up the following quote:

    "I believe that no teacher should strive to make men think as he thinks, but to lead them to the living Truth, to the Master Himself, of whom alone they can learn anything, who will make them in themselves know what is true by the very seeing of it. I believe that the inspiration of the Almighty alone gives understanding. I believe that to be the disciple of Christ is the end of being; that to persuade men to be His disciples is the end of teaching."
    --George MacDonald. "Justice." Creation in Christ: Unspoken Sermons

    Please pray for the administrators who are coming to Minnesota for training to start or improve their computer schools. Pray that the time is blessed, and that they are led to the living Truth so personally that they cannot help but persuade others to be His disciples.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    I just got an update from Christie

    Can you imagine what it must be like to be too afraid to leave your home? University students were attacked last Friday and Saturday, more than thirty were killed. Schools are still trying to resume normal schedules; they risk closing permanently if they don't continue, but just walking around certain parts of Jos puts peoples' lives in danger. They don't get used to this; please pray.

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    Anthony sent me a piece a while back to include in our curriculum. He called it "An Old Man with an iPod." Here is an excerpt from that:

    Who me?

    If you were to ask me in the spring of 2010 if I'd want an iPod, I would have said no way. I'm “Baba Computer” and I like a real computer, something we a screen you can see. However, the Lord had other ideas for this old man. Through a string of events I ended up with an iPod Touch before leaving to return to Nigeria for the first time after having cancer. It had been nearly a decade. I had strong feeling that the Lord wanted me to have this newfangled toy, that He wanted to teach me something.

    Sure enough, one day as I'm walking down the streets of Kagoro on my way to lead a training session, I put my ear-buds in and turn on some old music that I used to listen to when I was a young man in my twenties. The next thing I know I'm transported from Kagoro to somewhere else. It was not back home in the USA. No, it was into worshiping the Lord with the old music that had been so dear to me. It was as if I were walking on cloud nine.

    I had always known music is powerful, but I really hadn't experienced this kind of thing before. I'd never had an iPod that brought back the old music and made it so clear and even loud in my ears that it drowned out everything else. I thought to myself, "No wonder the young people love these things. Oh, I so wish they all were listening to music that praised God!"
    Music is powerful, and it can carry you before the throne of God or it can bring you to the depths of despair and destruction. In fact, some music drives people to such a frenzy that they will harm or even kill others. This new technology is such a wonderful tool. As Dr. Yohanna Byo once shared with me, the computer can be a tool for us to know God better or we can become slaves to the computer. I can't think of a more succinct way to put it.
    . . .
    [Think also of] how powerful the worship of God is. In our lives there are many powerful influences – healthy ones like love of our family and friends, the joy of sex in a marriage, and the gratification of doing your work well, to name a few; and unhealthy ones like drugs, sex out of a marriage with one wife, and violence as examples. Yet, none of these compare to the real worship of God. Maybe that is part of the sense of what Jesus taught in Luke 14:26:
    If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

    Of course, Jesus didn't mean for us to hate our family, but our love for him is to be so much greater that in comparison with our love for God our love for them seems so insignificant.

    As a young person, that may not seem reasonable. I know for me, I was walking with the Lord many years before I realized this and started experiencing it in worship.1 It is true. If you continue to walk with the Lord, you will know it too, so that those times when the music in your iPod leads you to be walking so closely with the Lord no matter what is happening around you, will be great times of joy. Then you'll be able to thank God for the technology he has given you. Just keep in mind that God does not lift us up so much so we can constantly be listening to our iPod, but to fill us up so we can take the ear-buds out and reach out to the hurting ones of the world, serving them and cleansing their wounds and bringing them to the feet of Jesus that they may know him, too.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Pressing prayer requests

    Our hearts are stilled by the grief in Jos, but time will not stop advancing, nor has our calling ceased. Here is a summary of our current prayer requests, sent along by Anthony:

    With all the trouble in Jos it has been very hard to communicate. We need some info so we can move forward with planning. In particular, please pray for:

    * Peace for our brothers and sisters.
    * Determining the costs for the workshops this summer. We need to know:
    ** Cost of having enough computers to train the teachers
    ** Cost of printing
    * Continue to work out the plan with ECWA and TEA3.
    * Planning for the Transformational Education Center (TEC)

    Thank you for praying; it really does avail much:
    “I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.” Thomas Lye

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Celebration shattered

    "Things are not yet normal, we can not move around freely now because there are still a lot of silence killings in the city.
    Things have been really terrible for us, we were hit so badly in this present round of crises from December 24th (bomb blasts) and January 8 massacred. . . Please, pray for me, it has been very devastating for us in the family, church and the community"--Christie, Jos, Nigeria

    Oh, Father, we are wounded, and I nigh at a loss to go on while our partners grieve. We continue to pray for peace, continue to work towards better things, continue to believe; but to hear her sorrow from across the ocean, the prayer and work and faith seem cold sans this:

    "I should be there."

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Not results, but legacy.

    "Too often the church buys into the five-year plans of the business world. But God tends to work in five-generation plans. He moves over the years and generations. It often took a generation for the gospel to take root in a place, so why are we so unwilling to spend time, even our entire lives, to see the gospel go forward?" – Anthony Petrillo, TEN3 Curriculum and Material Writers Guide.

    Somehow, as God gradually began to stir my heart for being active in missions, He was also growing my respect for those who devote their entire lives to service – the kind of long-term service from which they may never see great results, but the impact of which grows for generations. A five-year plan might have a fifteen-year impact. But a five-generation legacy of continual sowing can yield a harvest of immeasurable magnitude. That is what I want to be part of; and that is a key reason I love TEN3.

    Another example Anthony likes to use is of wood, since he likes working with it. Thorn wood grows quickly. It is light and easy to carve. Thus, pieces made with thorn wood are cheap and do not last long. Mahogany, on the other hand, is a tree that grows slowly. The trees are strong and long-lived, and items made out of this expensive wood are strong and last a long time. There is a place for thorn-wood items, but we want to build something valuable and long-lived, like mahogany. It will take much time and hard work, but will be more than worth it.

    "So is this what you're going to be doing for the rest of your life?" E asked me after I came back from Nigeria this summer. My reply: "I'm called." I'm in this for the long run. I can see myself still doing stuff with TEN3 when I'm sixty. Or maybe in another fifteen years I'll be able to hand off my position to somebody in Africa, and I'll be doing Bible translation with frontier missions. Only the Lord knows, but I believe that our labor of faith will continue to expand and bear fruit long after our names have been forgotten.