Monday, November 23, 2015

Full speed ahead!

This summer I composed a start to the requested primary curriculum, and sent it out to await feedback. The other main projects of my department were networking and programming, but my job was just keeping tabs on it and giving feedback as Anthony and George worked. It was an incredible relief since I was so preoccupied with the wedding, and moving, and all the house disasters such as those described in my previous post, I couldn't have kept up with more work and my sanity.

As I already mentioned, though, my responsibilities are increasing, as I am needing to fill the role now of communications manager and treasurer. And I've found learning treasury work to be rather tiresome; the steps are not very intuitive, so every task seems harder than it should be. I'm definitely wishing for a real accountant to volunteer to take that over! Please pray in the meantime that I serve our team well and learn what I'm supposed to in this process.

On a brighter note, Anthony returned from a very successful trip to Tanzania. Ray's work skyping with them to explain our model worked so well that for once Anthony trained a group in ten days and knew they weren't overwhelmed; they already understood what about our education makes it different and successful. By God's grace, they hope to start their classes by the end of the month. Anthony also reported that they were very interested in the primary school programming material I was developing--that would be something that nobody else around offers, that could put their school forward as one that really knows what it is doing. Which means I need to make adjustments for it to be self-contained, rather than integrated into a regular primary school, and publish it hopefully within the week.

We were already a small team, weak in many ways, but strong in trust, caring, and experience. Now we're being cut back further, and the people we lost were incredible. But we have no sense from the Lord that we're supposed to pull back. We have faithful partners in Nigeria, a school starting in Tanzania, people asking in Zambia and Tanzania, and we can still serve them. Anthony's leading is still, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," and my reply is still, "Aye sir." Perhaps all we can give them is a start; these eager administrators and teachers will have to carry the transformation on throughout the continent, and they can do it. That's why we've been working all along. God's people in Africa have done wonderful things with education, turning old donated equipment in a little office space into a school that was teaching people better than anywhere and leading them to Christ. And they can do it so much more, if God be with us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Problems as a hopeful preview.

Leaky roof.

Handles, screens, and glass missing from storm doors.

Broken window panes, with frames that don't cooperate in the replacement process.

Running toilet that led to the bathroom flooding.

Lots and lots of dirt.

Rodents in the kitchen and dining room.


Flat tire.

Headlights out.


These are a few things Kenneth and I been dealing with this first month of marriage. Has it stressed me out? Some, yes. But then I remember, this would be quite par for the course if we were moving to the field, with culture shock on top of it! That actually gives me hope, that maybe this is preparation for one day when we'll call Africa home. We still have no idea how it will work out--we have the willingness, but the way is still a mystery. It always is.

In the meantime, I am so very thankful, amid all the things to fix and do, to have a spacious place to live, the privilege of continuing to work for TEN3, and for a truly wonderful husband to share all this craziness with. And yes, he has been babying me this whole time I've been sick.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What if there is no "plan"?

It's a favorite phrase among American Christians that God has a plan. But I've been thinking lately that's a bit of a misnomer. I like to plan. I like to figure out how to best maximize my time and resources to accomplish my priorities. I really like to plan because I want to be purposeful with my short time on earth. That's why we like to say that God has a plan, too--we believe He has a good purpose for the things that happen, one beyond our understanding. And surely that is important to believe.

But a conversation with a new friend the other day made me think, "You know, if God really does have a plan, why doesn't He make it more clear, at least our part of it?" I struggled for a long time deciding where to go to college because I wanted to follow God's plan and didn't know what it was. Even as I approached college graduation and was pursuing the mission field, I struggled because, again, I felt I should go into missions, but what was God's plan? And then even reflecting on my life, moving over a dozen times growing up, and TEN3's struggles as we pursue inlets in certain communities only to see them fizzle, my thought became something like, "If this is the plan, it's the most convoluted plan I've ever heard of."

Which has gotten me thinking that to say God has a "plan" isn't quite accurate. Plans are for efficiency, for accomplishing particular goals on a particular timeline in a particular way. Plans require contingencies. If God just had a plan, what hope would we have, since we'd inevitably mess it up?

I can't think of any Bible verse that says God has a plan*. It does, however, have a great deal to say about how He is at work in everything--waters, winds, and earth, plants, animals, and people (Ps. 104), all that happens (Is. 44:7), lies and schemes and politics and settlements (Is. 44:24-28), wars and weather, light and darkness (Is. 45), death and life, rising and falling (1 Sam 2:1-10). And the purpose that we see, expressed over and over in Scripture, is that all people "may know that I am the LORD." We also see throughout the Bible that we can accomplish this in either of two ways: by being His faithful servants, shining out His glory for people to see, or by being disobedient and displaying for the world that sin brings death and destruction, showing by example that life in Him is better.

That's why I think now that God doesn't have a "plan" for our lives in the sense of having a clean system of accomplishing specialized goals for us. Rather, He has a purpose, to be known. And He is sometimes known best in the convoluted mess, in our failures and struggles and frustrations, in the messy business that is life and death. In all those things, He will accomplish that purpose through us, whether we cooperate and join in the glory and love He fills the earth with, or refuse and show the world how horrible sin is.


Update: I later remembered that the oft-quoted Jer. 23:19 does say God has plans for His people. But the passage as a whole (which I really wish people would study; it's become my pet peeve when this verse is quoted out of context) still supports my overall point: God works His purposes in all that happens, which will work unto life or death for us, depending on how we respond to Him.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cut back, but pressing forward

"Why God? Why?"

Sound familiar? Probably, though it may sound surprising from me, since I'm usually so bubbly about what I get to do. But the fact is, TEN3 faces quite a share of setbacks and disappointments that don't make sense to us.

We've always been setting up TEN3 to grow. We've had dreams of becoming one of the biggest publishing houses in the world, of consulting and certifying hundreds of schools, training and certifying teachers in all those schools. After all, we're wanting to serve needs prevalent throughout the world's second-most populous continent! We have to grow, right?

Yet we lose vital people. Matt Sabo, who did such an amazing job with our communications, could only serve a year or two before returning to a job at a for-profit company. The same happened to E, who was our communications manager a few years ago.

And now Joe, one of our longest-serving and most-gifted members who has been our CEO, is likewise having to step down from most of his TEN3 responsibilities and look for outside work. Just when the centers in Nigeria are getting started, just when Tanzania and Zambia are starting the consulting process, we have to lose someone that important? Why, God?

The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.”
Judges 7:2-4

Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever make it, if all the thought, discussion, writing, travelling, and workshops we've been doing will finally come together into a sustaining and growing system that serves students as we've envisioned for so long. We just never seem to have enough people and resources for the task. But if we did, would we really relate to our brothers and sisters we serve who live in constant difficulty and lack? And would the Lord really get the glory for what He did through us?

Please pray for us as we make adjustments so that we can continue to move forward:

  • For Christie Dasaro and Isaac Tanam as they oversee schools, including three startup centers, in Nigeria amid all their struggles.
  • For an official treasurer for TEN3, and for grace for me to learn what's needed to serve as Acting Treasurer until we get that person.
  • For Joe to get the right job to provide for his family.
  • For Anthony as he now must take up CEO responsibilities in addition to his full-time job as a network administrator and his recording his work to make curriculum for us.
  • For us all to be attentive to the Lord and abiding in Him, that we may do His will and He get the glory.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wanting what we need

Perhaps one of the biggest struggles in long-term ministry is the conflict between what people want and what they need. It's a conflict with more than one layer. For example, sometimes when missionaries prioritize what the people "need," they do it with a superiorist attitude that doesn't look at the people's needs from God's perspective, but from their own. Many mission fields have suffered from this mistake.

But in our case, we developed exactly what our African partners told us they need, what God had shown through His word, experience, and research is needed. All the Christian teachers and leaders who examine it have affirmed, "This is wonderful." Yet, as they try to implement it, they find it's not what students want. We've always known that as educators, we are offering a most curious commodity: so often, the more people pay for it and the less they get, the more pleased they are. In other words, they want the prestige and power that comes with education, but they don't actually want to take the time and effort to learn. If you know a teacher, you've probably heard how true that is. We don't want what's really best, we want what gratifies us quickly.

That's the most recent struggle our partners in Nigeria face: students become impatient and drop out because they don't want to take the time to learn the computer well; they want a few quick courses that will certify them for a tech job, even if they won't really understand it, much less be able to do it well.

That frustrated me when I heard Christie's discouragement--we've put so much effort into making the CTO the very best education, and she put so much effort into making it available, and people don't want it. But then I thought, "How much more grief does God feel, that He sent His Son to die for our salvation, and so many people don't want it!" And yet God did it knowing how many wouldn't want Him. He keeps sending the offer, rejoicing over those who do receive Him. We hope for that joy too, encouraged because even the impatient students love our Bible course that draws them into the message of redemption.

Therefore, my prayer, in which I ask you to join me, is for God to work in the hearts of people all over the world to desire Him. I pray that it start with me, that He reveal and change those ways in which I desire the quick relief rather than His patient and faithful work, however difficult I may find it. I pray also that He connect us with the people whose hearts He is already working in to desire to learn to be wise and discerning servants of God as they use technology.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Learning to work like Nehemiah

My pastor has been going through the book of Nehemiah, and so in preparation for this Sunday I read chapters 3-4 today, and several things stuck out to me:

  1. The variety of the people working. People living in other cities, leaders, merchants, goldsmiths. I loved how 3:12 mentioned that Shallum and his daughters repaired a section – that's my kind of women! But everybody recognized that it was their collective responsibility to build up this city. Likewise, though Christians are diverse in ethnicity, giftings, resources, and position, we are all given the same task, to build up the New Jerusalem (Eph. 2:19-22; Rev. 21:2-3, 9-14; 1 Cor. 3:9-13). Nobody is above this work; nobody is beneath it.
  2. They faced opposition stoutly. How often do we Christians back down easily concluding, "It must not have been God's will"? But the fact is, doing God's will guarantees opposition; the enemy will do all he can to derail God's kingdom. He will tempt us to sin, discourage us, afflict us in terrible ways to try to stop us from building well. Do we build with a weapon on us at all times, ready for whatever he may throw our way to draw on the truth and life breathed into us by our Savior? Do we stay in communication with each other so we are attentive when an attack happens and can rally to support each other? Do we keep ourselves clothed in prayer at all times?

So many times in TEN3 we have been discouraged. We've had financial difficulties, communication difficulties, members attacked in health or family matters, plans fall through. We draw much from the example of Nehemiah on apportioning the work, each doing what needs to be done, keeping alert for attacks, praying together regularly, and drawing on you, our prayer partners, to support us in the work as well. We continue to trust that by God's grace we may build up His temple by helping His servants in Africa to bring people to know and follow Christ Jesus, equipped them to be faithful workers too.

Let us press on until the city is finished!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Computers, wisdom, and worship

I know it's often considered bad form to start with an apology for not posting in a long time, but wow, two months is ridiculous. Sorry, readers, and I assure you I will continue posting here; just for some reason that may or may not have to do with a wedding coming up in two months, my mind has been going frantically in many directions and forgot about posting. But, without further ado...

My main TEN3 focus lately has been on the primary school computer curriculum, guiding teachers to teach kids to program using Scratch (See Combining computers with discipleship for kids with Scratch.) One of the projects they do is a music video. How do we disciple students by teaching them to make a music video? Here's an excerpt:

Ask the students what a computer is for. They may list practical reasons like helping businesses to work or helping people do research. Or they may mention entertainment reasons like making pretty pictures or fun games. Bring out how the computer has good practical/material uses and artistic uses, but it's just a tool; it never guarantees a good result.

For instance, they'veve already seen with their debugging how it can have problems. A computer is a powerful tool for doing mathematics, but if the person using it does not have a sound understanding of mathematics, they will still get wrong answers. If you've taken Spreadsheet Essentials, you were exposed to many instances when the spreadsheet would show you a wrong result because of faulty logic in setting up formulas. The Debug It! 2.4 was an example they've already encountered in which the wrong mathematical logic was used. We created MathError.sb2 as another example you can show them.

Likewise, the computer can be an incredible tool for creating art. It can make vivid animations, direct spectacular light shows, and mix music in previously impossible ways. But just having a powerful computer with a fancy program like Adobe does not mean what it produces will be good art. The person using the tool has to have the aesthetic sense of how colours and shapes or notes and rhythms go together, and the understanding to implement it.

Ponder So far this is true. There is rapidly coming a time when computers will actually be able to produce good art on their own. This has been considered impossible, but the algorithms being used on advanced computers now are enabling them to learn on an astonishing complexity level, so that they can even evaluate beauty. It will be interesting to see how society changes when computers can do most things that before only humans could do!

There are other levels besides simply skill with solving maths problems or making aesthetically pleasing art that are important to truly use the computer well. There is also the need for wisdom.

What is wisdom? Often we think of it as intelligence, knowledge, or common sense. Christians often try to emphasize the importance of applying knowledge rather than ignoring it, like we need to use a tool rather than simply leave it on the shelf. But that is still an intellectual picture; the biblical sense of wisdom goes a bit deeper. If you read Proverbs and other ancient Hebrew wisdom books, you can see that their concept of wisdom has a strong moral component. To cheat someone, even if profits you materially, is considered foolish. To commit adultery is considered foolish. And yet wisdom is not exactly the same as moral integrity; for instance, the ability of Bezelel and Aholiab to make the articles for the tabernacle in Exodus 36:1 is called wisdom. The true sense of wisdom, then, is to understand the character and ways of God, to perceive it in the world, to be able to follow it in our conduct and express it in our works. (For an excellent discussion on wisdom as it pertains to the arts, see Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer. It's probably too difficult for your students, but Schaeffer's insights will benefit you and help your perspective as you teach.)

We're going to give your students a simple practice that will hopefully help them begin to see their computer use as a means of worship, because everything we do should be for God (Romans 11:36, Colossians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:31). Pray for them that through not just this exercise, but all their education, they will learn wisdom – to know and follow and worship God in all things. The assignment is to make a music video to "How Great Thou Art" which is a music file we have provided for you. First have them listen to the song; the words are also provided. See the Resources folder for pictures they can use for backdrops and sprites (mostly from openclipart or by using, and of course you may obtain your own if you prefer. Encourage them to think about the message in the words and the music, and to think about what God's greatness means to them, and make their video truly communicate that. Don't grade them harshly if it doesn't turn out so beautiful; remember that not everyone will have that gift. Grade them on the completeness of the project, but encourage them to think of it in terms of worship and therefore do their very best.

I appreciate your prayers as I continue to work on this, that the Lord would guide me to develop just what is needed. It's not always easy, especially when I notice things like the motion blocks require use of negative numbers that the kids won't have learned yet! But I'm honored and overjoyed to have this opportunity to help teachers disciple their students in this way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just when I thought...

Just when I thought my life couldn't possibly get any better ...

I had it all - godly parents and friends, a loving church home, my education, the satisfaction of doing what I knew God had made me to do in His Kingdom.

Then I met this guy.

And that's about what he looked like when we met, because I was holding my friend's baby, and he decided it was his turn to love on the kid.

Next thing you know, we had been talking for two hours about biblical interpretation, gospel presentation (including elements of last week's post), prayer routines ... During the course of that, I mentioned my ministry's need for laptops (If you're new to my blog, see 2000 Laptops.) and he offered me his late mother's computer. And when I went to pick it up, he also took me out to lunch, and we again talked for hours about missions, politics, the economy, and faith. Then he asked me to pray with him in the park, and that's when things got interesting.

We both impressed each other. We'd found a match when it came to being serious about walking with the Lord, loving to study the Scriptures, and being intelligent and applied enough to follow each other. He asked me out.

And I turned him down. Nope, nope, this wasn't going to work. We were too different, I had too many interested men in my life, and besides, I was going to Africa.

It took quite a series of flirts, misunderstandings, apologies, and "not-calling-it-a-date"s before my resistance broke down and I was ready to admit that he might be, after Jesus, the best thing that's ever happened to me, and just maybe this could work out.

After about five months of "not dating," it still took about fifteen months of officially dating and wrestling with the challenges posed by the potential pairing of an Eastern Orthodox convert and an Evangelical missionary. We had crazy long talks about our points of disagreement. We wrote each other hundreds of pages worth of research papers. We began praying together every day. And, fortunately, we did have a lot of fun on the way, too:

Having fun with Kenneth's nephew Clayton at the Science Spectrum

And finally, I had to acknowledge that, without him, I could no longer say, "I have it all." I wouldn't have a proper historical perspective on things I teach without his vast repository of trivia. I wouldn't have as strong a prayer life without joining in his prayer disciplines. I wouldn't have as good an interpretation of the Bible as I need without his training. And I couldn't become the person God wants me to be without Kenneth's love. We've both gained the confidence that God will see us through all our difficulties as we begin a life together in September.

How thankful I am for God's incredible goodness in giving me better than I had ever hoped or dreamed in a husband and partner who will be with me, to challenge, protect, and nurture me in Africa, and all the places the Lord may take us. And how thankful I am too for you, dear readers, for your prayers and encouragement to us.

I love you, Kenneth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Beautiful Gospel

I'm taking a break from my normal posts about the happenings of my ministry with Africa to post what has been burning in my heart, the very reason I do all this ministry: the Good News of Christ.
I have a growing concern for the evangelical church. To put my concern to the test, I asked, both in person and online, a number of faithful churchgoing evangelicals who would proudly label themselves conservative, to critique the following gospel presentation:

God created the world good. But mankind fell by disobeying Him, so now we are all sinners going to hell. The only way out is if the price is paid for our sin, so God sent His Son Jesus to earth as a man. He lived the perfect sinless life we couldn't, and died on the cross so that those who believe in Him can have a relationship with God which enables them to live better now and go to heaven when we die.
"What's wrong with it?" I asked. Answers included that it uses terms an unchurched person wouldn't understand, it doesn't describe the need for repentance and obedience, "a better life" is not guaranteed by believing in Christ, it emphasizes what we get rather than the point of bringing glory to God, and in general it doesn't explain enough "why."

Only one person caught that it doesn't mention the resurrection, and that was someone who had heard me talk about this before.

I thought up this test out of my own experience as a teenager reading the Left Behind series. There was a scene in which someone witnessed to a friend, and told a gospel similar to what I just gave. "Okay, is there anything else I need to do?" asked the listener. No, that covers it, I thought. Then I read on: "You have to believe that Jesus rose from the dead," the witnessing character added. D'oh! I thought. Though that was about thirteen years ago, studies and circumstances lately brought that memory to mind, making me wonder, How is it that the resurrection has become an afterthought?

The resurrection is the central point of the gospel! Of the eight gospel sermons we have in Acts, not one of them talks about going to heaven when we die – actually, that is scarcely mentioned in Scripture. Not one says that Jesus paid the price for our sins.[1] Every single one of them focuses on Christ's resurrection. The disturbing realization that I could have heard a gospel presentation that ejected the main point and not notice forces me to ask the question, Do we know the gospel at all?

Are we actually preaching what the apostles preached and died for? One thoughtful respondent of my test mentioned that my little presentation did not explain why Jesus' death is really necessary for our forgiveness, what heaven and hell really mean, and the problem questions that can come with the view of justice that come with a superficial concept of these. I think a lot of those questions would be put to rest if we centered on the resurrection:
We are not saved because Christ died …

We are saved because He conquered death.

We are not saved because Christ took our guilt away …
We are saved because He took our sin away.

Sacrifice was not for vengeance …
It was to give life.[2]

Christ does not cover our sins, as if they remained underneath …
He covers our nakedness.

The pinnacle of salvation is not being dead in heaven …
It is being raised physically and incorruptibly.

Christ does not save our souls …
He saves the whole person.

Christ did not redeem just mankind …
He redeemed all creation.

What was it the apostles preached?

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
--Acts 2:14-39, ESV
Notice the points of his message:

1. What the prophets foretold was happening before their eyes. Quotes should not be used to make a point out of their context, and the apostles are not exempt from this; when they quoted a verse, they were referring to the whole passage, knowing their audience would be familiar with it. Most of the Jews' education at the time centered on learning the Scriptures, and they prayed the Psalms regularly. So they would have in mind the whole message of Joel, pointing to a locust plague, a coming army invasion, and other disasters like wildfire and drought to show the people the devastating effects of sin, how it destroys us, our land, even our animals, and our ability to worship. In chapter 2 God calls the people even now to repent that He may give a blessing, and then describes God having compassion on His people, driving back their destroyers, restoring their land and in that time, pouring out His Spirit on all flesh. All this redemption, blessing, the driving out of the sin and its author that was destroying them, was accomplished by Christ, so that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

2. Jesus was attested by God with mighty works. What were his mighty works attesting? He drove out blindness and gave men sight, saying "I am the Light of the World." He cast out demons saying, "The Kingdom of God is among you." He freed those bound by Satan in disability. He raised Lazarus from the dead proclaiming, "I am the resurrection and the life." He fed the people, as Joel prophesied that they would have plenty to eat, saying "I am the bread of life." All his miracles attested that He is the deliverer promised from old, salvation from Satan, sin, and death.

Peter's next point?

3. You killed him. You were so bound in sin, so loyal to Satan, that you delivered up your Savior to him. But God knew that we would. It was all part of the plan. Because death could not hold him. David's hope of being saved from death was fulfilled in this Holy One who would not see corruption, and would rescue the souls of men from Hades.

4. He has poured out the Holy Spirit. Again, the promise of life Joel spoke of fulfilled.

5. He reigns. Psalm 110 is entirely messianic, proclaiming that Christ is Lord, the Son of God, who rules amid His enemies, becomes priest, shatters His enemies, and brings peace. Christ has broken the power of His enemies, become priest, and begun to reign. So repent, and be baptized in his name.

Again in Acts 3, the message:

And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

The gospel points here are mostly the same, but in a different order:

1. God glorified Jesus.

2. You delivered Him over to death.

3. God raised Him up.

4. He gives health.

5. God foretold this to the prophets and patriarchs.

6. Repent that you may receive forgiveness and refreshing on the land.

Now, if you've taken my considerations seriously, one more challenge:
The other gospel sermons in Acts are in 4:8-12, 5:30-32, 10:34-43, 13:16-41, 17:22-31, and 26:1-23. Read them and make outlines of their main points. Be sure to look up the context of all OT passages quoted; the footnotes in your Bible should point you to them. Notice what they emphasize, and what they don't. And relish the beauty of the gospel, that though we were blind and hopeless slaves to the enemies of God – Satan, sin, and death – Christ came to where we are, subjected to them that He might conquer them all and free us. He now offers Himself: Life, Light, Righteousness.

[1] I make a distinction, which I see upheld in the Bible, between paying for sins and forgiving them. What is paid for is kept. What is forgiven is dismissed. Look carefully at the language everywhere the Scripture discusses salvation for this distinction.

[2] Leviticus 17:11. I could give references for all these, but I think my audience will recognize most already. I gave this one because it's a bit more obscure.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Is your curriculum really all that different?

I've mentioned some of the things we want to accomplish with the Scratch curriculum. But you may still be wondering if it will really be all that different from all the curriculum that's been written before. Here's a little more info with the why and how I'm designing this curriculum differently to accomplish transformational education:

  • Integration: Something everybody in education talks about but nobody does. All of life is integrated, such that everything somehow depends on everything else (the butterfly effect is coming to mind), so why do we try to teach in comparmentalized subjects and refuse to give them up? Education is only as effective as students can use it, so why don't we have students building on the basics of learning across all "fields"? Besides having the students build projects that present facts they're learning in other subjects, our curriculum outline has them practicing their composition and math skills in their "computer" class. 
  • Relationships: Did you know that the grade system was designed by John Dewey as part of his effort to destroy Christianity? In early American education, all the kids in town were in the same schoolroom learning together. The older kids would help the younger kids learn. Dewey knew that the more he could separate children from their elders, and even from older children, the quicker he could change the thinking of coming generations. We're working to reverse that by building in projects in which older kids present to younger kids and teach them. We also encourage the schools to schedule a day for the parents to come see what their kids have accomplished. God teaches us through our relationships, and so this curriculum is designed with that in mind. 
  • Worship: We can talk about a Christian education all day long, but it doesn't amount to anything if the kids aren't learning to do everything they learn to the glory of God. I've included artistic programming projects designed to give kids practice using the computer to compose worship pieces.

Please continue to pray for me as I correspond with ECWA and develop this curriculum, for continued wisdom and enabling.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Choppy waters

I like to think I'm pretty fearless, at least when it comes to things I should be able to get my mind around. I am quite friendly with spiders. I've enjoyed shooting and martial arts classes. When I'm getting stuck with a needle, I watch with interest. I can speak to a crowd. I can go to a not-so-safe part of Africa with no anxiety greater than "did I get all my paperwork right?" I've subbed classes of sixth graders.

But I don't care for thrill rides. I'm not afraid of them; I'll get on them for the sake of socializing. I just don't like the feeling of g forces and adrenaline. Maybe it's from being prone to motion sickness.

That's sort of the feeling I get when life gets uncertain. I know God has a plan, and that He will work it out for the best if we trust and follow Him. But there's still that tightness in the stomach, the sense of strain.

Oswald Chambers (I believe; can't find the reference) said, "Huge waves that would frighten the ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them." Sometimes I get that. I can be excited about things that dismay a lot of people. But other times, I'm gritting my teeth.

TEN3 is looking at some rapid changes in the coming months. We will probably be losing some important personnel. I certainly can't say I feel good about it; I greatly value my colleagues and will miss working with them. And it also makes me wonder, we've been such a small and in some ways weak organization already, struggling to get things going … how will we continue?

Lord, teach me to so trust You that I can embrace every wave, knowing that though things may be lost, You will see us exactly where You want us. Teach me to recognize and trust Your hand in all the ways You work. Teach me to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Combining computers with discipleship for kids with Scratch

It's a silly gimmick, I thought when I first heard of Scratch. Teaching elementary school kids to program. Why would they need programming at that age?

In fact, when the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) requested computer curriculum for primary school kids, my first thought was again that kids that age don't have practical use for a computer, at least not that justifies the effort and expense in Africa. But as I prayerfully considered it, I realized this was a golden opportunity. The fact is, more and more, computers are saturating kids' lives, and Africa is not exempt. So if we are to teach them to use the computer in a godly way and not be blindly formed by whatever it tells them, we have to start early. "You know, programming would be just the thing for that," I realized. It would demystify the machine for them, showing them that computers really are only as good as the instructions given to them. They would understand early on how to use it to its full advantage, and get plenty of clear examples of its limitations. Furthermore, Scratch offers ways to integrate with other subjects and even bring older and younger children together. Fourth graders can write an interactive storybook which the second graders can read. Fifth graders can make motion-involved games to illustrate physics to the fourth graders. And all along the way, we can teach them how we too are programmed, and so we had better pick our programmer wisely!

So now not only are we working on a system called Puppy, now we're working with the Scratch cat! This cute little guy was designed to teach kids how to program. See those puzzle-piece blocks to the right? Those are commands they can string together. Way to go MIT!

You can play with Scratch for free, too at!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Strategic Chaos

I sometimes wonder if I dizzy you with all the things I talk about that I do. Computer Training Outreach, Biblical Health & Life Management, Programming & Databases, primary school curriculum. ICCM seminars, Mothers & Media seminar, Families & Media Bible study. Going to Nigeria, going to Zambia, talking to Kenya and Uganda, praying about Tanzania and Sierre Leone. Writer training, editor training, teacher training. The needs are SO GREAT throughout Africa, and the opportunities so potent, that we get excited easily about possibilities to serve.

Some of these possibilities fizzle, some of them stay open but the going is oh-so-slow, some of them lead to unexpected twists, and some of them take off beyond what we could ask or imagine. Tons of prayer and strategy goes into how we choose where to go, and then more often than not we get re-directed through circumstances – but in that we see the Lord's guidance. Computer training was our starting point, which TEN3 wanted to move beyond, but it became a priority as our "launch base." On the other hand, primary education went from a "hopefully someday" idea to golden opportunity to connect that computer training launch base to all the venues we've dreamed of reaching.

I don't know if I could possibly summarize these years of development into something anyone would actually read, but I can tell you this much: our goal remains the same. African churches overcoming the severe challenges they currently face and emerging as world leaders in education and the spread of the gospel. Our methods remain the same: train educators in discipleship and sound educational principles, give them materials to enable them to implement those principles, consult them how to run them sustainably. The possibilities for partners and venues open and close, but they always eventually bring us right where we need to be.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lord, forgive me. Lord, change me.

"As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom."--Daniel 7:21-22

Kenneth and I studied this chapter today, and he pointed out just how dire things will become for the people of God before the end. We will be oppressed on all sides. There will come a time when our apologetics for Christianity and even our arguments for morals will be defeated, when the gospel is corrupted almost everywhere and eventually disbelieved, when lawlessness increases and love grows cold, when for the "good of the world" those who still cling to Christ will be killed by the droves.

"Oh find me faithful. Find me faithful," I prayed. For that devastation won't come all of a sudden--the areas of sinking sand Christians have set themselves upon will spread until they give way. Even if it doesn't happen in my lifetime, what is done in my lifetime will set the stage. I may well be accountable one day for some place where the Church stands or falls. And that is a frightening thought as I consider all the places where I've been susceptible to distortions, listening to those who proudly speak in Christ's name but have no understanding of Him.

After I finished that rather distraught meditation, I saw an e-mail from a supporter with a Lenten devotional from LakeRidge UMC. It was on the efficacy of prayer when we do it for its true reason--to abide in Him. For when we abide in Him, our hearts are reshaped to have the mind and love of the God who is able to do more than we ask or think.

It's time for repentance, for humbly seeking His face and not His blessing on what I think deserves it. Once again I must seek to abide in Him, knowing that apart from Him I can do nothing. Only then can I hope for the second part of my prayer -- that somehow my service to the people of God will preserve faith for the Son of Man to find when He returns (Luke 18:8).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mothers and Media Bible Study

Today's the day Christie (the lovely lady with me in the picture on the left) was supposed to present the Mothers and Media seminar to about 1500 women, if she could secure transportation. (I haven't heard yet if she did.) Women tend to leave that seminar wide-eyed at the enormous effects that technology can have on their children. They have been coming to Christie asking, "What do we do now?" Which makes me realize that it's not a day too early that I got to work fleshing out the Bible study for families to follow up with the seminar, teaching them to ensure that their children can use the media as a tool for honoring God and can identify and reject the destructive lies it proffers. Here's a sample of what I have so far:

(From chapter 6)

The media is a powerful influence in our lives. Recall what we said in the introduction how technology changes us even as we use it. John Dyer started with the example of a shovel, how even as we use it to change the land, it changes our hands and muscles and even our minds. Later in his book, he points out how different media have changed the way our minds work. For instance, when books become common, people's minds change. We become able to develop more elaborate and complex linear thought, as we began reading longer stories and more elaborate arguments than oral transmission allows for. However, people also start remembering less, because it is not so important to memorize things if we could always look it up again.

Television has also changed the way we think. For instance, research has indicated that people's attention spans have decreased with the decreased time between commercial breaks. In other words, the TV "trains" our minds to pay attention for a certain amount of time, and then the mind expects a break, and we become restless if we don't get it. The Internet, while it has made an unfathomable amount of information available to anyone with access, has decreased people's memories and attention spans even more, because it develops the habits of skimming dozens of articles to find what we want, skimming the short social media posts, going from one e-mail to another quickly. Dyer points out that there is an especial spiritual danger in this, because spiritual growth requires meditation, that is, periods of time focused on the Lord in prayer and thinking on the Scriptures. If our minds are so used to quickly jumping from one page to the other on the Internet, it reduces our capacity to be still and focus like this.

But even more formative than the media we use is the messages we ingest from them. Their influence is not neutral. The messages are always designed to influence you. Dramas are designed to influence your opinion of people and the kind of life you want. Advertisements are designed to make you want things. But surely the news is not manipulative, right? ...

Watch some news broadcasts from whatever stations are available to you, but instead of passively listening, try to discover what they are trying to make you feel. What or whom do they want you to have good feelings for? What or whom do they want you to have bad feelings for? If two stations are trying to make you have the feelings for opposite things, how do they change the stories to support their side?

Television is so enjoyable because it tells stories. God is a storyteller (just think of how many lessons in the Bible are told with stories), and so he has made humans generally enjoy stories and get a lot of benefit from them. Many terrific stories have been told on television that may change a person's thinking, inspire them to be a better person, help people understand those different from them, and even just to help people relax if something is causing anxiety.

It also can keep us aware of the outside world through the news. If we keep up with the news, we can be more responsible citizens and know better how to pray for our world and serve our communities. It also makes us aware of special opportunities and things of interest to us.

It can also be very educational. Some channels, especially on satellite, show all kinds of wonderful things about the universe God made that you may not have learned otherwise. There are also educational documentaries, history shows, etc. There are many educational television programs for children, too.

Many spiritual uplifting things are broadcast via television. Many churches broadcast their services on TV for people who are sick or otherwise physically unable to go to church. Good films presenting Bible stories and Gospel messages, and programmes with worship music, are filmed and shown on television.

However, television also offers many bad things. We do not control what is broadcast and when. We usually have little choice as to which channels are available in our homes. For discerning adults, this is manageable, because we can make a responsible decision about what to watch. But if there is a television in the house, this means that all kinds of things can be accessible to the children's minds who are too young to be discerning.

For all the wholesome and uplifting programs on television, there are countless that are not socially or spiritually healthy. Whether they are storytelling shows or information programs or even advertisements, a lot on television is filled with messages that are contrary to the Bible. Many of them may be full of good qualities, but have certain lies that they also propagate within the overall message. They may promote immoral lifestyles, hurtful stereotypes, or false information to make a point. Watching them can have a powerful, but ever-so-subtle, impact on the mind.

There is an illustration about making frog soup. Yes, it seems that some people do make frog soup, and you cannot do it by throwing a frog in hot water. It will jump out immediately! But if you throw it in cold water, it will stay and swim around. And if you very gradually raise the temperature, he will not notice, and stay in the pot. By the time he realizes he is in danger, he has been too weakened to jump out and will die.

Mental influence works the same way. If we as moral people are exposed to something clearly wrong, of course we will immediately reject it: "Oh, that's terrible!" But if we allow little things that are wrong into our minds here and there, gradually our willingness to tolerate it increases, until people can see horrible things or hear horrible messages without reacting at all. Children are especially impressionable to this. We must constantly evaluate all of the message being communicated in what we watch, listen to, or read, against what the Bible tells us, so that we are ever accepting the good and rejecting the evil.

Even some Christian programmes may not be helpful to us. Many Christian programmes are full of false promises about what God wants to do for you that are very un-biblical. If you watch or listen to preachers through the media, be careful to evaluate if the preacher is really teaching the word of God or just things that sound appealing. Evaluate: does the preacher teach from whole passages in context – talking about the historical period when it was written, what the whole book's message and teaching points are, making clear the message the book was written to convey – or does he just quote a verse here and there to support what he wants to say?

1There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Isaiah 11, ESV

This is a prophecy about Jesus, who was a descendant of Jesse and his son David. Jesus is the coming King who will judge all the earth. What does verse 3-4 say about how Jesus judges? He does not judge by what ____ _____ ____ or by what ____ _____ _____, but rather he judges with __________________ and ________. God's judgement is not based on how we present or defend ourselves, what the world sees and hears and says and values. Rather, God's judgement is right. It is true and fair. We need to have pure hearts, clear spiritual eyes, so that we do not think according to what the world shows us or tells us, but according to what is true and right. We need to understand the impact of media and how it is used to influence us. Then we can start to see how we can respond.

-- the above is copyright TEN3. Feel free to share any of it that blessed you, but please attribute it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The wilderness

"I will punish her for the days of the Baals
When she used to offer sacrifices to them
and adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me," declares the Lord.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness
And speak to her heart.
Then I will give her her vineyards from there,
the valley of Achor [trouble] as a door of hope.
And she will sing there as in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
It will come about in that day," declares the Lord,
that you will call me Ishi
And will no longer call me Baali.
For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety.
I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.
--Hosea 2:13-20, NASB

Years ago I attended a Shane Bernard concert in which he introduced his song "I Miss You" with the story of a time he moved to Lubbock because it seemed to match the spiritual desert he found himself in. He quoted verse 14 of this passage and explained how miserable it is to be in a spiritual desert, and yet there one discovers the tenderness of God.

This whole passage speaks to me now, of how desolate it is indeed to have all one's preconceptions about worship and who God is stripped away. I experienced it in a small way the first time I was in Africa, worshiping with my brothers and sisters there and being confronted with a sense of God that was, well, foreign. But I readily adapted to that sort of culture shock. I wasn't really in the wilderness until now.

Circumstantially, my life is exceptionally good now--I'm healthy, and have been able to make it a year and a half on support and am supplied for at least a few more months. My relationships with my boyfriend, family, colleagues, and friends are all great. Work is going pretty smoothly. But the "theology shock" I've been in lately has taken away so much of my presuppositions that I don't feel safe or comfortable anywhere. Every angle is hostile--no place seems like it will ever be home again. I'm in a wilderness--the wilderness that in its desolation makes us receptive to the provision we don't get in a land of comforts, that in its bleakness makes us see God more clearly so that we can call Him by a different name, that in its harshness lets us experience the tenderness of God, find He has given our troubles and regrets to us as a door of hope, and sing like when we first experienced His salvation. Nobody really likes the wilderness ... but to be there is precious.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Where are we going from here? Part II

As I mentioned in my previous post, a request from Cameroon got us working on a Programming & Databases series. Meanwhile, another rather unforseen set of circumstances started the curriculum department working on another course. Anthony needed a job. He just didn't have enough missionary support, even combined with his wife's pottery business and Ambit marketing, to take care of the family. He was offered a job as the network administrator for a Christian high school. He was hesitant about it, though. Even though his nickname is "Father Computer," this was not his forte in the field. As he talked with Ken, TEN3's technology officer, about the possibility, Ken replied, "Well, you suck at networking. But if you do this and learn it, we'll get a course out of it. And I've thought for a long time networking is the next major need for computer studies in Africa." Then George, who is good at networking, offered to help him learn it, and write this course. So they've been working on it over the last year, researching, setting parts of the system up, having to wipe everything and start over, and documenting as they go.

When we reported to Joe, our CEO, what we're doing, he challenged us on it. This was not like the plans TEN3 had been laying for a long time, that we'd get curriculum designers together to design degrees in particular major fields under transformational principles, and then find African educators to write the material for that curriculum. No, we replied, we're not going according to that plan. We tried that for years, and while we'd make progress in some areas, we never had all the pieces for that to come together. And in the meantime we've been made aware of different needs and opportunities. African partners have told us that transformational education for primary and secondary schools is more important, since so many don't even make it to universities. Furthermore, the opportunities for getting material writers are more school-specific than we had previously thought. We're going to have to work through teachers where they are at. And it will be a lot easier to introduce new courses and ways of teaching one little thing at a time than to develop an entire innovative way of doing college and trying to dump it in people's laps. But all these things, and these little ways the Lord has led us to work on programming and networking, are opening up for us a better way of accomplishing our vision of Christ-centered, Africa-specific curriculum than we had imagined.

Okay, okay, that's vague. Let me try to clarify. One of the needs Christie shared with us is "Transformational Teacher" training--a generalized version of our CTO teacher training, but made for teachers of any subject, not just computers, getting them to think of themselves as disciple-makers and to adjust their teaching according to effective discipling principles. I responded to that request with a revision of our teacher guide that could speak to teachers of any subject. But we want to offer them more. We'd love to offer them training not just in teaching methods and goals but also how to develop lessons based on the transformational education principles we give them, and we'd love to train them on a tool like Moodle to do it. If they could do that, then we'd have African teachers whom we've trained, developing lessons based on sound educational and Christian principles, for their own context, that we could then help distribute across African countries. Our dream coming true. But to have Moodle, you need a network. And to have a network, you need a network administrator. And a network administrator needs to have taken networking and programming courses.

The funny thing is that, as you could pick up from the story, we didn't plan this. In fact, this does not sound like the plan we had at all. God just used requests from those we serve, and our own tight spaces, to lead us right to where we need to be.

We've still got a long way to go, though. Please continue to pray for us as we strive to develop the needed curriculum, as we meet the needs of our Nigerian, Cameroonian, Zambian, and Kenyan partners. There are so many obstacles that can stop us dead in this long-term plan, so we must depend on God's grace every step of the way.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Where are we going from here? Part I

Yes, I finally got Programming and Databases 1 published! Though it feels like a trip to a mirage (See Publishing is like a trip across the desert), I am really happy with what I think is a good solid course that will get students loving programming and challenge them in their walk with the Lord.

But why programming? And what are you working on now?

I'm glad you asked.

The story starts in Cameroon, with a principal and a teacher.

The tall one on the left is Henry, the principal of the Baptist Comprehensive High School. The one on the right is Emmanuel, the computer teacher. (In the middle is my colleague Ray, from California.) These guys made a journey that makes my whining about long trips seem, well, even more pathetic than it is. They rode six hours in a taxi to get to a port. Then spent nine hours seasick on a ship to land on the coast of Nigeria, only to spend another sixteen hours in another stomach-turning taxi ride over incredibly bumpy roads where there are no speed limits. When they got to Jos, they stopped at a hospital long enough to get some nausea medicine before hurrying to the event they had come all that way for: TEN3's Computer Training Outreach teacher/administrator workshop. When we asked why they had made the long, difficult trip, Henry told us, "The Internet is destroying our students. We even have some who became demon-possessed when they looked up how on occult websites. You have been using computers to teach the Gospel for a long time. We've got to learn how to do that."

A few months later, Anthony went to Cameroon to work with Henry's school and many other Christian principals in that area. While he was there, he presented them a spreadsheet he had concocted to help them plan how to manage a lab--the power supply, equipment costs, and scheduling--so they could offer the CTO to all their students. They loved that spreadsheet so much they asked if it could be expanded to run more of their schools. Anthony saw the potential for this tool helping more administrators in Africa make their schools viable, but what he had was clunky and desperately needed improvement. What the principals had asked for would require something more sophisticated than a spreadsheet.

About that time, he had a conversation with George, and George mentioned he'd like to learn programming. Anthony got an idea that maybe if George learned to program, maybe they could work together on this project. He then mentioned it to me, and I said the words that tend to thrust my life into most of its adventures:
That sounds like fun!

So George and I started learning programming, and since when we learn something useful we want to share it with the brothers and sisters we serve, we also started writing a course on it as we were learning it. It's going to be three courses to cover everything we learn to build the Term Planner (which is what we're calling the run-your-school-sustainably tool). We wrote the first course together, and now George is progressing steadily on learning to build the next parts of the tool. Then we'll write a course on that too.

It only gets more interesting, so tune in next week for the rest of the story!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Our newest (and possibly most vital) member

We are a network. That is, our ministry works by bringing people together who have the same vision and enabling them to share resources, experiences, etc. Communication is the lifeblood of a network. Without communication, you're just a bunch of parts not helping each other. That's why it's been so great to have a communications guy serve with us full-time this year. Matt Sabo has pumped wonderful stories and videos across Twitter,, the TEN3 Moment, and Facebook. These stories and info connect people, whether inquiring about how they can use our services or praying for us and the Africans we serve. He's also writing grant applications and working on a fundraising campaign, which is amazing because of course everything takes money, and raising money is something none of the rest of us at TEN3 have ever been good at. Like me, Matt attended SIM's candidate orientation around 2010 and then began raising his funding to make TEN3 his full-time job. Like me, after several years he had raised enough to be supported for one year, and so quit his previous job to go active last year, in hopes that being able to devote his full time to the ministry would enable him to raise the rest of his regular support. Unlike me, he has a spouse and 13 kids (yes, thirteen!), so I have to give him major kudos for all the work it takes to take care of them and raise enough money to provide for them while working!

Please pray for Matt and Julie as he continues "pumping the lifeblood" of our network with stories and info across media, and for their full support to be pledged.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Looking over 2014

I tend to measure my life in lessons. That's why, near the beginning of the new year, I like to write things I've learned over the year. So, things I've learned in 2014:

  • Object-oriented programming. I think I've finally got my brain around it. I've been working in Python for a couple of years, but it took writing a book on it with Anthony and George to actually feel somewhat competent in it.
  • A little practice goes a long way. I didn't feel as if I had spent all that much time in Python; I certainly hadn't programmed anything fancier than tic-tac-toe from the ground up. But I was quite surprised when I would Skype with someone reviewing the course, almost every time he was puzzled by an error, I could quickly guess the problem, or see it when he sent the file to me.
  • I do best when I've got things competing for my time. The three years I was substitute teaching while serving as curriculum department head, I had my routine for work, but it would be interrupted at a moment's notice by a call to sub, which would require me shift my whole work plan, and I actually thrived on that. Once I got to be supported full-time for TEN3, I found that it was too easy to take time for granted unless I brought in things to compete for it. Fortunately, I can always bring in things that make me a better missionary, like new Scripture studies, language studies, and relationships I learn from.
  • I can lift 80 lbs! I learned that one when shipping two bins full of laptops to Chicago so they could be subsequently shipped to Nigeria. I ended up having to drive to Levelland because they were over the USPS allowance.
  • I'm still afraid of mistakes. That has long been my biggest fear, one I thought was over. And I'm not so afraid of mistakes that cause embarrassment or little setbacks, but I do still fear mistakes if I think they'll cost me the things I'm really hoping for in life.
You see,I'd struggled since a year ago when I first started dating Kenneth, wondering if I was pursuing mutually exclusive things – a career in Evangelical missions and a marriage to an Eastern Orthodox. What I love is part of me, and to lose either would be devastating. Yet I also need to remember the tagline of this blog, that I drink in life from Christ that I may pour it out in love, not hoard His gifts. Still, I have so much reason to thank the Lord, especially since time after time the Lord has shown me that He knows what He's doing.
  • My brother is so cute when he's in love.
  • So are Kenneth and I. And as many people who claim PDA is gross, even more tell us it's incredibly refreshing to see two people pursuing a godly, loving relationship.
  • Some very silly '20s dances, including "The Bear," "The Squirrel," and "The Duck."
  • Be very careful about picking a grammar fight with someone who knows old and middle English!
  • Superfight is one of the most fun social games ever invented. Thank you Jaclyn!
  • One good character can keep a book worth reading even when he doesn't show up through the entire middle portion. I read Light in August by William Faulkner, but would never have finished it if it weren't for Byron. He was the only character I enjoyed, and while Faulkner does some brilliant commentary on human thought and behavior with that book, it just wouldn't have felt worth reading without one really enjoyable character.