Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Publishing is like a trip across the desert

When I was twelve, my family took a road trip from New Jersey to San Francisco and back. One of the most astonishing sights was the Great Salt Flats - a desert of salt, even flatter than my home South Plains, as far as the eye could see in every direction. Well into the flats, we spotted something peculiar beside the road ahead. We couldn't yet make out what it could possibly be, so I read for about ten minutes and then looked up for it again, sure it would be close now. It was still too far away to figure out even what its shape was. So I read for another ten minutes or so, looked up and found it was, though noticeably bigger, still quite far away. I bet it was nearly an hour from the time we first noticed it to when we passed it and could see it was a huge cactus-shaped sculpture with sports images (soccer ball, bowling pins, etc.) attached.

I think back to that astonishment at just how long it took to reach the sculpture, the impossibility of telling the distance due to the monotony of the salt flats, when I'm publishing something. When we've finished the writing and basic editing phases, it feels as if I'm almost done. Yet then once I put all the chapters into a master document and start reading it for final fixes, well, they just keep coming. I'll find a screen capture of code that doesn't follow our conventions, so I have to go back, find all the files with the error, fix them, make the screen captures, crop them, open each chapter, and reinsert the pictures. Then I'll find a chapter where we didn't include the exercise answers, and then in making the answers realize that it requires a step we never taught them, and references things we haven't indexed ... No matter how much time I try to allow for this phase, it always takes three times as long as I thought.

But, like that crazy road trip, I actually really enjoy publishing. I love books and learning so much it's a joy to get books ready to teach African students comprehension-based learning that also challenges them spiritually. That's been my favorite part so far, writing the "Eternal Thoughts," discipleship topics at the end of this chapter. They're nice little lessons in themselves, but their real power comes in the way they open the door for the teachers to engage the students, wherever they are in their spiritual journeys and "Lead them the the very Truth, to the Master Himself from whom alone they can learn anything" (George MacDonald). (See my Eternal Thoughts post for an example.)

Both the desert analogy and the discipleship I'm working on remind me of a passage I studied recently, Isaiah 40:3-5:

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (ESV)

May we in our own hearts prepare the way of the Lord, raising up the pain and hopelessness, leveling down the pride, and praying for the glory of the Lord to be revealed in us.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Remember our siblings who suffer

I'd like to take this week to ask for prayer for a partner. Rev. Samuel Kargbo is a pastor in Sierra Leone who contacted us about starting a computer school to minister to the youth in his village. It's a dream fit, because our program is designed just to help a community like his start a small but effective school affordably and grow. However, soon after he started correspondence with Ray, our New Ministries Coordinator, ebola hit his village. They have been weeks in basically quarantine, trying desperately to contain the ravaging disease. He recently wrote Ray,

Your mails always give me joy and hope that my family has a host of brethren praying for us, especially during this horrible time of Ebola Virus epidemic.

We are employing your indulgence to remember the Ebola virus victims in your daily prayers. Some homes guaranteed are not properly taken care of. No adequate provision of food items and not even a proper security. A lot of them go out with in search of food, thereby passing the virus with those that they come in contact with in the public transport buses, in the market ...€ because they are not secured and no adequate food provided.

We have some kids that have become orphans as their parents have died from the Ebola virus disease. We also have some widows and widowers. The ebola virus has actually caused a lot of trouble among our people. Our small congregation lost five people, one man, two women and two kids.

Sam and his family have been experiencing illnesses which they cannot get treated because everything is being poured into stopping ebola. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia as they continue to suffer and strive for life. May the Lord rescue them from the hand of the evil one who attacks them with this disease, and then I pray for an opportunity to give them a chance for something better, power to implement long-term improvements in every facet of life, with TEN3 education.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

I would normally consider it most germane (I love that word) to wait until next week to put a "Thankful" post, but today I've been so reminded of my blessings that I'm overflowing. I am truly awestruck at just how good God continues to be to me. First, of course, there's that whole salvation bit – loving me enough to come to this miserable world where I am, to suffer and die to bring me life, to restore me from the fear and pride that enslaved me, to bring me into His wonderful life of love. That's enough to sing of forever. And yet He keeps making it more wonderful. He brings along my way so many precious people who give me sparks of His grace. He's given me the opportunity to learn—to read and think and understand things like the story arc, programming logic, stoichiometry, periodic motion, contentment, pedagogical principles, the effects of media on the family, and write about them. Then on top of that He's given me such an amazing opportunity to use the fantastic gifts and talents He's given me to be part of His Kingdom spreading among the rich, beautiful hearts of Africa. And as if that weren't more than enough, then He brought into my life one of His sons who humbles and challenges me with his devotion to the Lord, and who blows me away with how much he loves me.

How can it be that amid all this I sometimes still find myself sinking into doubts that tempt me to grumble? And how can it be that in those times, He sends me yet another reminder that His grace is unlimited ... like the couple who told me today they want to join my support team, though they're probably struggling with their finances even more than I am. Blown away again.

What can I do in the face of all this lovingkindness? Nothing but fall to my knees whispering, "God is so good. God is so good. So very good."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Church planting with computer schools

"That's not missions."

I've heard that more than a couple of times when I've described what I do or what I'm going to Africa for. Missions is coming into some grass hut village to play with kids, hand out clothes, and give a revival-style service so they all raise their hands to accept Jesus. At least that's what people seem to have in mind a real missionary does.

There are quite a few problems with this idea. While there ARE some great valid ways to do short-term missions, to do what I just described would be disastrous. Most people who have never heard the gospel don't speak English well, if at all. And wouldn't you be highly suspicious, probably even hostile, if a strange-looking group of people with loud equipment showed up in your neighborhood asking to talk to your children and telling you to convert to a strange religion?

Of course you would. Anyone would. "But that's how Paul did it," some might object. Yes, he did travel a lot of places and sometimes plant churches fairly quickly. But he had a lot of advantages going for him. Everywhere he went, people spoke Greek, a language he was already fluent in. Even though he was the apostle to the Gentiles, you'll notice he almost always started by preaching at Jewish synagogues, to people who already believed in the God of Abraham and knew the Scriptures. So it was a fairly simple matter to introduce Jesus as the Messiah they were waiting for. Then, when he did preach directly to Gentiles, it's evident that he was well-read in their poetry, philosophy, and history, because he used those in preaching to them. He knew their culture well enough to start where they were at, and when they did convert, they joined churches that had Jewish believers there who could teach them the Scriptures. There was a discipleship structure already in place.

With that background, I can explain how really our model is closer to Paul's than you might at first think. We, too, take advantage of our language being prevalent in Africa. We train people who are fluent in English, but encourage them then to teach classes in the local language when that will serve better. That way, we can reach potentially hundreds of villages speaking hundreds of different languages without our little team having to take the time to learn them all, which would be impossible. We also work with people who already follow God, equipping them to disciple new believers, in their own communities and in new territories.

But our starting point, rather than the synagogues or acropolis like Paul used, is with a felt need in Africa--education. Education allows missionaries to build relationships, and relationships are what missions is all about. As people learn to trust their teacher, they learn to trust the One in whom their teacher trusts. The teacher can learn the worldview and deepest needs of the students, and learn how from there to show them that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who can transform every aspect of their lives.

Therefore, we're praying now for missionaries to be able to take our Computer Training Outreach and use it for church planting. Say a Nigerian takes our CTO at a center in his village and gets excited about the gospel. Say he hears that churches need to be planted in a village in Rwanda. With 24 laptops, he could go start a computer school in that village, a self-sustaining center for teaching the Bible as the story of redemption. He's leading people to Christ and giving them the foundation for a biblical worldview. He could train both church leaders (hopefully having them sent to places with more advanced training, too) and people to run the school, and after a few years move on to a new village ... perhaps taking a few Rwandians along to learn how to do the same thing in new places.

Multiplying, sustaining discipleship. If that's not missions, what is? Please pray for the places that want to start these computer schools already (we're hoping soon to put specific school profiles on www.ten3.org), that they get them running and running well. Also pray for the students who will go through them, that they may become godly power users of technology, and Christian leaders, wherever God leads them, be it staying at home serving their communities or going to new lands to make disciples themselves.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Eternal thoughts

As we write computer courses, we consider how best to incorporate discipleship points for the students that the teachers can use. Sometimes it's exercises that require them to read and think about a Bible passage while applying a computer skill. For instance, in Computer Essentials, they practice their word processing skills on a document of Ecclesiastes. One thing they have to do is compose headings for the whole book. Other times, we just incorporate "Eternal Thoughts," tying some principle they had to practice on the computer to life in the perspective of eternity. Here's an example:

Eternal Thoughts, Programming & Databases 1, chapter 6, "Decisions"

Computers only make the decisions we tell them to. We have to tell them the conditions ahead of time. If this is true, do this, if not, do that. Human beings are much more complex in the way we make decisions. We'd like to think that we make all our decisions rationally, doing what makes the most sense and what we know is right. But emotions are also very powerful in our decision-making. Advertisers and propagandists know this, and make sure to send you the message that the decision they want you to make, whether to buy a certain product or support a particular politician, will lead to good feelings. They also try to make you feel bad if you don't make that decision. People's "gut reaction" also sometimes guides their decisions – a sense they can't explain that something is the right or wrong decision. Psychologists usually attribute this to perceptions we haven't consciously processed, memories we haven't consciously associated with the situation at hand, etc. Spirituality also influences our decisions – Satan will throw anything that he knows affects your decisions, whether it's reasons or fears or lusts or dreams, to try to tempt you. On the other hand, people who have walked with Jesus a long time develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit so that they begin to sense what is right even when they don't have enough information to base their decision on logic.

All these influences factor into our decisions, in a way that even we don't fully understand. We sometimes don't know why do the things we do. How then can we hope to make the right decisions? We certainly cannot just idly hope that whatever we decide will be right. We are far too prone to sin for that. The old saying that "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail" is true when it comes to sin. That's especially true for the sins that Jesus addresses in the sermon on the Mount about anger, retaliation, sexual sin, and worry. Those are sins that we commit when our emotions overtake us – we are usually not even capable of reasoning logically in the situations when we are tempted to these things. That's why it is very valuable to "program" ourselves ahead of time, that "if this happens, then I will do thus, no matter how I feel." If the decision is already made when we are capable of thinking, we can stand firm in it even when our feelings pressure us to sin.

Thinking these things through and deciding beforehand to do what is right can save us from a world of hurt. But we can't anticipate every temptation. That's why it is so important to be growing and walking daily in the Lord, seeking him in prayer and the Scriptures, disciplining ourselves to obey him in the small things, so that we are made to be more like him. As we do that, gradually our "first instinct" instead of selfishness will become to honour Christ.

Consider the following passages and how you are applying them in your life:

I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10, ESV

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

Ephesians 6, ESV

Monday, October 6, 2014


Kenneth and I are studying through the book of Matthew together, and last night we finished up the Sermon on the Mount. That is one of the hardest passages in all of Scripture! As we exegeted it, this passage cut me to the heart:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (7:21-23).

These are not heathens. They're not backsliders. They are heroes of Christian ministry! They confess Jesus as Lord. They did all kinds of great Kingdom work. Yet they didn't do the Father's will. They did all these great things for God, even with God's power, it seems, yet without really knowing or being known by Him. And it pierced me because I have such a repeating history of pressing on with my great works, but really just wanting my own acclaim, my grand agenda. Or thinking I know best. Or have to be the best. I worshiped perfection for far too many years, and saw last night that I still retain so much of the pride that drove me to it, driving me still in the areas where I act as if it's too much to humble myself and listen, to put others above myself.

And so I must revert to the prayer, ruefully given too many times and not enough, for my gracious Father to forgive me, to teach me to love as He loves, to do no more my will but His.

Staff retreat 2014

I've finally got the pictures from the staff retreat, so without further ado, here's the lowdown of our conference: We came from all over; Ray from California, me from Texas, Ken from Minnesota, several from the northeast, Christie from Nigeria, and Gilbert from Zambia (sort of; he had been traveling all over North America!) We gathered in lovely Charlotte, NC. We opened each morning and afternoon session in prayer and worship, for if we are not seeking the Lord, what is the point of anything we're doing?

One of our major topics was getting the CTO implemented. It's not a lot of good to work so hard making a great product (which we have) if nobody's using it! So we discussed with Christie, Gilbert, and Ray how we can best help 7 centers in Nigeria, 3 in Zambia, one in Sierre Leone, and one in Kenya start running the CTO to reach their young people for Christ, teaching them the gospel while they learn godly use of technology.

We also brainstormed ways to help more schools run the CTO:

Some of these suggestions were just funny ones when it was somebody's turn who couldn't think of a new one ... and we needed a few laughs to keep up our energy! The one on the upper-left hearkens back to my previous post. ;)

Another major topic was a registrar model to enable Africans to make educational accountability of the CTO into a sustainable business, and support each other in forming and maintaining standards. By this time, we were getting pretty tired, as you probably are too by the thought of this much detailed discussion:

But we still had do discuss the direction my department, the curriculum department, is taking. We have two main thrusts of development now. The simple one is materials to teach a broader audience like African families and pastors about technology, with its uses and dangers. The more involved one one is more advanced computer training that will help schools run more sustainably, give graduates more opportunities to serve needed technology fields, and give teachers the training and tools to start developing, their own Christ-centered transformational curriculum. As we come alongside to help them develop it, we will also make it available across Africa so that the teachers' hard work can make an impact everywhere.

And of course, it's always great just to fellowship with the team. Since we met at SIM-USA headquarters.

We also got to connect with some of the wonderful SIM home staff:

I hope you enjoyed that little taste of Charlotte and the blessing it was to get to strategize with the team. A few things you can be praying for in light of what took place:

  • The 7 centers in Nigeria that want to offer the CTO. Pray that the business plan we started to draw up will solidify as Christie gets more data, and that there will be no obstacles to them opening and teaching the gospel through computer training.
  • The centers in Zambia that are interested in offering the CTO, that they will get the right personnel dedicated to championing and teaching it.
  • The possibility of other missionaries using our CTO as integrated church planting in new locations.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I want a doppelganger

One of the strangest struggles I've had as a missionary is having to be just one person. That's actually pretty classic for missionaries. We struggle with work identity, as we often have many disparate responsibilities on the field and not just one clear role. I struggle with having so many things that need to be done that I can do in the ministry but just not enough time to do them all. Missionaries struggle with culture identity, as we never fully fit into the culture where we serve and yet over time are changed enough by it that we don't quite fit in with our "home" culture either.

I've been especially struggling lately, since I was supposed to leave for Zambia this month but still don't quite have enough support to go, with longing to be in two places at once. I'm longing so badly to be over in Zambia, helping the centers to get started with the CTO and getting channels of transformational curriculum flowing in Africa, instead of just swirling over here. But I've got to acknowledge that God is using this extra time in the States for important things I didn't expect to prepare me; I just still find myself wishing that I could send a doppelganger of myself to Zambia to get started without needing support or other needed issues worked out. And maybe have one learning French for me, since I can never seem to find the time for that lately however I mean to. And have one doing all the little things like indexing one of our courses that still needs it, cleaning up the wiki where I keep track of our curriculum development, one to spend more time with family and friends ... etc. But the fact is that God only meant for me to be one person, who works hard to serve His people in Africa but also loves her family and dance class, who develops her mind as much as she puts it to work, who accommodates both who she is and who her boyfriend is, and yes, still has to eat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Struck down, but not destroyed

There are so many great things I want to share about the week-long staff meeting we just had in Charlotte. We gathered from all over--from the home our westernmost colleague to our easternmost is nine time zones! But before I share the exciting things, I find it important to share our most grave prayer request.

Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a meal at George and Kathy's house (pictures to come soon, I hope!). Kathy began to ask Christie, my colleague and dear friend, about the situation for Christians in the area of Nigeria where she and her husband minister.

"The situation is very bad," she said. "This dress I am wearing today, I had it made to wear at my cousin's wedding. He was supposed to be married at the end of August. But in July he was killed in an attack. There was one day a blast from a car bomb so close to me that my office shook. Since churches have tried to put up security around their buildings on Sunday, the terrorists now wait in the streets and follow the Christians as they drive home to kill them. So before you go to church, you have to tell your children how much you love them, because you may not make it home alive. They have taken more villages in the north and declared there will be no Christians there. Some villages, they have killed everyone there. There was one village where they killed all the men but left the women. The children had to watch the women dig graves to bury their husbands. The terrorists have weapons our military doesn't even have, and no one knows how they got them."

Please keep the Christians of Nigeria in your frequent and earnest prayers, that the Lord will overcome the evil one and even use his ploys against him, as this violence is causing some to turn away from their religion and to Christ. Pray that our ministry will be used to bring the light and peace of Christ especially here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Incarnational ministry

One of the most important lessons missionaries can learn is "incarnational ministry," which basically means just doing what Jesus did. Go and live with the people you want to reach, not in some locked-up sterile building, but actually among them, whatever kind of housing they live in, eating their food, wearing their clothing, speaking their language, running on their schedule, giving up rights to yourself you never knew meant so much until you realized they don't exist in this setting. Jesus did not come to preach aloofly what God expects of us, but to humbly BE God with us--amid all the dirt, pain, sickness, bureaucracy and hypocrisy, oppression, racism and messiness of earth, working redemption to make us holy. And that's what missions is all about--being servants of Christ, living His life in their world, that His touch might redeem every part of their lives.

So you might ask what that means for me, ministering for Africa from a laptop in Texas. Well, that's a lot of the reason why I'm needing to move to Zambia--there is a lot that an organization can do just as well at a distance, but to really disciple people to develop transformational education, to see what their needs are and how I can serve them to reach their communities, I need to be there in person. Please continue to pray that my remaining $900/month will come in quickly for that reason.

My last post about making the principles and programs fit in different contexts also ties into incarnational ministry--there's never going to be one package that fits all, yet all these different educators in different countries want to accomplish the same goal, and the same Savior works to bring it about. So please pray for me and Christie as we meet later this week to figure out how best to implement our curriculum the particular situation that the school in Nigeria finds itself. Please pray not only for success for E-ICT, but also that it will help us work with other schools in other countries - that in Nigeria, Zambia, Sierre Leone, Haiti, and many other places we may see students getting a biblical worldview, learning what it means to use technology in Christ, and applying it to more and more areas of their lives.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Uphill all the way ... but singing

Just because you've finished your task doesn't mean the work is done. That's what I've been learning this week as we've been trying to help schools that want our Computer Training Outreach. You see, we developed what was requested, an all-inclusive computer training program that teaches godly use of technology and the gospel with culturally relevant, proven successful pedagogical principles. It has minimal hardware and teacher requirements so schools can start it with limited resources. It's all finished and ready to use. And yet we're not done with the struggles to reach African students with transformational education. Because, when something's not working, you have to change things; that's what we did in using the educational principles. But changing things means it takes more work to implement it. There are school programs already running, with accreditation and government requirements that are different in different countries. We developed the program as one lump, but in Africa, you buy things in little pieces, not a big lump. Also, the scheduling and crediting of courses is different in different places. So what Anthony and I are having to work on is how to help schools in Nigeria, Zambia, and soon other countries to offer the CTO and have it fit their scheduling, pricing, and accreditation situations. I find this work rather tiring compared to my normal work, because there are so many "ifs" to deal with. Prayers for wisdom would definitely be appreciated. 

Also working on summaries of the courses that compose the CTO so our consulting and communications people can explain clearly what's in them. Then will need to get back to the filing seminar material, the Mothers & Media Bible Study, the GUI chapter of our programming course ... not to mention needing to raise the remaining $850ish/month I need to head out to Zambia! I am thankful to have so much work that is such a joy, to know that it can bring many to Christ; there's no greater joy than knowing and making Him known, and I consider myself utterly blessed to have this way to do it. But oh, how we need God's grace to see it implemented!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rolling right along with work, and somehow life still happens too :)

Whenever I have a lot I'm doing that I could write about, I'm so busy doing it that, well, I forget to take the time to write about it! But here's a quick snapshot of life and ministry lately:

There are a lot of materials I'm working on for our partners, especially Christie:

  • A manual that guides teachers through a seminar on the principles of transformational education. As Christie calls it, it's training on "how to teach like Jesus," how to make disciples as a teacher of any subject. 
  • A seminar on file storage and using the Cloud - both the advantages and the dangers of having your data in someone else's hands. That, incidentally, got me speeding up a look into moving some of our own cloud use to more secure options. 
  • A Bible study to accompany the Mothers and Media seminar. This helps African families consider the effect of media on them and consider how to best protect themselves and their children from the financial, emotional, and spiritual threats of media and implement instead godly use of technology.
  • A programming course
  • I'm also supervising (but not doing a lot of direct work) the development of a networking course, and possibly a computer systems course soon, too.

In addition to that, of course, I'm trying to get that support up to 100% so I can move to Zambia in September. For a refresher, and some new information, I'll do it in Q&A format:
Q: I thought your departure goal was August?
A: Yes, it was. But the TEN3 team realized we could really use an in-person conference of all our staff, and the earliest date we could practically schedule it was September. So I'll be attending that in Charlotte before I go, and am so looking forward to being with my colleagues again. There's just nothing like fellowship with people who share a kindred spirit and vision in the Lord.

Q: Is it September for sure?
A: No, still need another $810/month or so pledged (I'm waiting on a few people to confirm their amounts, so that's why I say, "or so.") I can't buy the plane tickets until I'm at at least 80% (about another $300/month), and can't leave unless I'm fully funded. So still hoping and praying!

Q: What will you be doing in Zambia?
A: At first, it may look a lot just like what I'm already doing, working on the blocks of curriculum with the team in the US, but from Zambia. However, I'll be making contact with educators who share our vision to work together on curriculum that meets what they want to accomplish, uses the transformational educational principles, so that they can not only make their curriculum more effective, but what they develop can be shared with similar schools around Africa and the Caribbean. We've also been looking into the possibility of my teaching a CTO, either to help a school get it started, or to help ministries improve their staff's computer skills.

Q: What about your boyfriend?
A: Yes, in case you, dear reader, didn't know, amidst my crazy life I decided to make it even more complicated by getting into a courtship, when I met Kenneth, a man who is as passionate about knowing and serving God as I am. (Okay, it wasn't right when I met him; it was after about six months of "yes, you're one of the best things ever to happen to me, but we can't date--this is not going to work!" ;) He is planning to move to Zambia too, but we're still working out the "when" and "how." Yes, this is going to be crazy hard if we have to sustain a long-distance relationship, but we're praying and investigating options and trusting God will work it all out.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Looking here and ahead: an interview

Someone asked me questions in response to my latest newsletter. Thought they'd make a good content :)

1.  What excites you most about the opportunity of relocating to Zambia?

Really being in touch with the people I've been trying to serve for the last four years, and being able to partner with them to get curriculum written in so many areas we've wanted to see developed: biblical health and life management, different fields like computers, business, and accounting, possibly even primary-level education!
I'm also excited about possibilities that I might have to help ministries offer the program we have already developed.

2.  Beyond your professional life, what are you passionate about?

Well, God is the passion of my life, and that's really why I am so passionate about my work is that it channels my passion for God, knowing and making Him known. Growing up, I loved school because all the areas of learning illustrate God's handiwork and character. Now I get to make disciples sharing that.
But to give an answer that has nothing to do with my professional life, dancing. I've always loved it. Irish set dancing has been an important part of my life for the past four years. Fortunately, I hear tell there is salsa dancing in Lusaka, so I'll have an outlet!

3.  What is one personal challenge you carry with right now?

Figuring out how my ministry and life plans are going to fit with my relationship with Kenneth. Loving my boyfriend and my work so much and not knowing how a long-term commitment to both would work is taking quite a bit of faith! But it will be worth it, I'm sure :)

4.  What are you reading right now?

Hebrews (with rabbit trains into Psalms, Isaiah, and Habakkuk)
Time of Singing (Christian poetry periodical)
Little Russian Philokalia (devotional book; gift from Kenneth)
Basics of Biblical Hebrew
Unhidden by Don Richardson (attempts to unify physics at the molecular and cosmic level with the nature of God with the ideas of values as dimensions and a hierarchy of laws that apply to both the material and moral world)
The Church in God's Program by Robert Saucy
Donal Grant by George MacDonald
The Cosmic Dancers by Amit Goswami (a fun one on the physics of science fiction classics)

5.  Any final thoughts you want to leave with us?

"Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
'For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But My righeous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.'
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the persevering of the soul."--Hebrews 10:35-39

6.  What would you be doing right now if money and time aren't an issue?

Exactly what I'm doing now. Except, with time not an issue, more of it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Posted in an SIM periodical recently:
We have a system that placed missionaries into the stratum of Christian superheroes. Forget pastors being one step below God; we’ve all watched pastors fail and fail big. They must be mere human beings. But missionaries are people just short of godly perfection. That interpretation partly comes about from the same problem I have in comparing myself to missionary heroes in books. You can’t compare a partial story (the best and most interesting parts of their lives and ministries) to your entire story––blemishes and failures and all the unpolished pieces of your life.
But being a missionary does not make you a rock star. In fact, we’ve found that being a missionary is a surefire way to bring hurt, heartache, and challenges. Becoming a missionary doesn’t make you automatically nearly God-like. Rather, we see that it regularly (and sometimes painfully) highlights failures, shortcomings and areas of sin lodged in our lives. Living as a missionary does not mean that as you walk through the market everyday people will fall at your feet in repentance, begging to know the way to salvation. We find that getting opportunities to fully and powerfully share the gospel takes hard work and a long time, and seeing lives change at these invitations really has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. --Steven Shepherd

I haven't been too frustrated with the "you're a missionary you must be a super Christian" attitude--probably because I've continued to live in the US all this time, they get to see me in my normal life, and it does seem a bit more, well, normal, than everybody's concept of a missionary. And maybe because I'm still young and new at this, all the excitement I put into my newsletters and blog posts is genuine. But I still resonate with a lot of what Steven said; I've found mission life to be a continual dichotomy of hope and discouragement, vision and drudgery, joy and frustration, all to the superlative. Which suits me well--I think I was made to live in extremes. For instance, I love getting excited about the idea of raising 2000 laptops to be teaching the gospel to 20,000 students a year. And then in real life that means a zillion phone calls and trips to get a few "maybe"s, hours on the floor surrounded by laptops as I take them apart, cleaning and exchanging optical drives trying to get one to boot, while rebooting another for the tenth time in hopes that now I've fixed whatever its problem is--and wearying as that is, I love that part, too.

Thanks for all your prayers as I finished up the material for the ICCM. It was a long two days at the end of last week, but I got it all done! Now back to working on laptops, a programming course, a networking course, and, as usual, support-raising so I can hopefully get to Zambia this August! That is the area in which I am most glowing with excitement, with the idea of living in that beautiful country and working face-to-face with people who are ready to help transform lives by the gospel in education. See my financial needs page to track my progress.

Christ is risen! Hallelujah!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Partnering with Computing in Mission conference

Now that I'm back from MissionPrep, the remainder of April will be focused on getting materials ready for a groundbreaking workshop. The International Conference for Computing in Mission (ICCM) has met annually in the US for a long time, giving mission geeks a chance to share helpful sessions and fellowship. The first ICCM-Africa is scheduled to be held in Kenya at the end of April, and TEN3 has been invited to participate. My colleague Ken is going to be presenting sessions for those interested in moving from Windows XP (since it's no longer supported) to Linux. Our Zambia director, Gilbert, is going to be presenting our Computer Training Outreach as opportunities that ministries can use to bless their communities with computer skills and the gospel.

My part in this is getting together materials that the attendees can take away, both to reinforce the sessions they got--if they took Ken's Linux session and/or Tim's network troubleshooting session--and to give them a taste of how practical and thorough TEN3 material is. We're hoping that this will help the attendees remember, apply, and pass on what they learn, and that it will open doors for us to provide the CTO to more places in Africa. Plus, we're planning on expanding the materials for these sessions into full-blown courses that schools can use.

Please pray for me as I work hard on making this material the best it can be. Also pray for grace for Ken, Gilbert, Tim, and the rest of the presenters and attendees, that the Lord use the ICCM to bless them personally, and to bless all our ministries.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MoveIn ministry

Today's MissionPrep lesson included a field trip to MoveIn headquarters. What's MoveIn? Glad you asked.

It's the simplest mission model I've ever heard. If you're a Christian with a heart for making disciples among the unreached, keep your regular job and just change living situations. Move in to a poor unreached community. In big cities, there are whole apartment buildings in which the residents are over 90% from unreached ethnicities, and so likely have never heard the gospel. Then talk to your neighbors as you wait in the elevator, the laundry room, the lobby. Knock on their doors and offer them a pie. They'll probably invite you in and eagerly converse. No 4" orientation manual, no support raising, no creative visas, no traveling troubles. Just move in and prayerfully live life among the lost and hurting ... like Jesus did. 

As we got in the car to head back to the conference building, one of the attendees, Eric, echoed my thoughts almost exactly: "It seems like that should be the default Christianity." I really hope that catches on--Christians being intentional about incarnational ministry among those within their reach.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

MissionPrep topic: Theology of Suffering

I'm finishing my first of two weeks of MissionPrep in Toronto. Yes, it's cold! (I'm really hoping I get to go ice skating sometime while I'm here!) This is the last phase of required training before I can move to Zambia. Yay! The subject is how to minister effectively and thrive personally in another culture. Topics have included spiritual formation, cross-cultural communication, different worldviews, theology of suffering, and incarnational ministry. All these are breezed over pretty quickly; the idea is to introduce issues and get us to ask questions to pursue on our own.

Probably the topic that has stuck out to me the most has been the theology of suffering, and the topic of risk assessment tied into it. I already understood that suffering is part of the Christian life, that it brings us closer to Christ and allows us to share in His glory. Likewise, risk is part of missions--after all, the mission field is essentially the front lines of the cosmic war we are in. There will be casualties. But the question that troubles me is, what's the line between being willing and being foolhardy? That's so hard to say since there are many biblical examples of fleeing, avoiding, and embracing suffering. Now, Zambia is far from a high-risk area--it's quite peaceful, which is one of the reasons I've been assigned there rather than a "hotter" area of Africa. Anthony's risk/benefit analysis was that it would be better for everybody if I were to be in Zambia. And honestly, I don't think I'd have any anxiety about going to a more dangerous place if it was decided that's where I could minister most effectively. The question bothers me more on an emotional level, with personal risks I've chosen lately--choices for growth and potential blessing that I knew also would hurt. I guess the scary part is not knowing how much pain I'll find before it's all over. And for that reason, my think-it-through mind sometimes freaks out, because I want to know what I'm getting myself into. It's like anytime I'm getting stuck with a needle, I watch--because I cope better knowing the gory details than wondering what's happening. And yet I recall in my prayers over this decision, somehow I was more at peace with the idea of going forward with the unknowns than walking away. The ever-so-still words that came were, "This will change you. It will have a cost, and it will be worth it."

Please be in prayer for the remainder of this training, and that I will indeed hear a word behind me when I turn to the right or to the left saying, "this is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21). Finally, praise the God who loves us enough to suffer.

Friday, March 7, 2014

First Mini Mission Trip Sunday

Whenever I blog, it seems, is the only time I remember that I should have blogged multiple times over the last few weeks, but I got so busy with everything going on I forgot how much I have to tell :)

So for today I'll just focus on the event I'm excited about for Sunday: the mini mission trip. I'm taking my church on a 90-minute "mission trip to Africa." They're going to help set up some donated laptops into a mobile lab for a teacher in Africa to offer the CTO. During that time, I'll get to share how important it is to know God's story if we are to use the computer for His glory rather than let sin use it to rule us.

I'm a little nervous about the time limit--the mini mission trip was designed to be a 4-hour event, and while I am cutting out the biggest time-consuming part of the event, I have no idea if it will work out to take the proper amount of time or not. I'd appreciate prayer that we get through it with no unsurmountable glitches, and more than that, that the Lord will use it both to reach students in Africa and to bless everyone who comes with this experience with what the Lord is doing to make His glory great among the nations.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Which is better: one, or one million?

If anybody gets tired of me raving about the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, please count that against my communication skills rather than the radiant course content. If you don't believe it can be that good, take it and see if your heart is not burning every week!

I've told people the course really took me "full circle." The first few weeks were incredibly affirming, because its focus was exactly what TEN3's passion is, telling the whole story of God's glory, making disciples whose lives sing that song. However, the next section made me struggle, because the focus was on Christ being worshiped in every people group. It made me want to give everyone that glorious vision. But then, I wondered, how am I supposed to then ask them to support me when I'm working with reached people groups, with people who are already Christians? I started to think I wasn't doing the really important work for the Kingdom like the missionaries who go to the unreached.

But then the last speaker pointed out that to get the task done, we don't need everyone with a passion for God's glory among the nations to be goers, or even goers and senders. We also need mobilizers. Imparting the vision, training, and resources to go to the unreached can be even more strategic than going oneself. "Which is better, 16 or 54?" he asked. He showed us the math of how if some of us take the role of mobilizer, it will multiply the number of goers. I think I heard God quietly ask me in that moment, "Which is better, 1 or 1 million?"

We in TEN3 believe that the most dangerous player for the Kingdom is the African church. Their passion for God is incredible. They are in a great strategic position to advance the Kingdom because they have not yet been consumed with the -isms that are crippling the West and hindering Asia. That's why they've been hit so hard by the enemy: in the mid-1900s, political and economic moves took the education system away from the Church, and it crumbled. It has left Africa behind in this rapidly changing world, dependent and still struggling in many places with basic survival when they should be storming the world. The entire continent was largely immobilized.

Now they are fighting back. West Africa has set a goal of sending a quarter million missionaries across the unreached of North Africa, and then to the rest of the 10/40 window. But they may still be immobilized by economics, instability, syncretism, etc. unless the Gospel penetrates the thinking of the whole culture. They need sound, Christ-centered education directing their understanding of all of life, or they will ever be needing people to come provide them with clean water and medical care instead of not only doing that for themselves, but also sending it to others. If we can give education with a sound biblical worldview, godly use of technology, and biblical health and life management, combined with our partner ministry Integrity Advance training them on essential values for sustainable institutions, to enough students to awaken them to the power of living under Christ, it can transform their helplessness to the power they've always meant to have in the Kingdom.

Part of me hopes that someday I'll get to go to the unreached. But for now, I'm not asking that people support me to reach one people group for Christ. I'm asking for support to mobilize an entire continent to advance the Kingdom of God to the unreached.