Tuesday, December 27, 2016

One of the young teachers I got to disciple in Nigeria

This is Gideon. He's a soft-spoken young man who grew up in the village of Billiri. He's the oldest of his family, and was named for the Gideon of the Bible who trusted the Lord to overcome the enemy when it seemed impossible. Eric Black, a missionary in Billiri, mentored Gideon as he grew up, including teaching him our CTO.

Gideon so appreciated the thorough instruction of computer skills, the studying through the Bible that helped him to see the whole picture of God's redemptive work, the strong teacher-student dynamic the program encourages, and how he was taught not just to do a few things, but to try new things, thinking through problems rather than abandoning them.

Gideon talking with the Blacks, the day we went to visit the school where Eric teaches.

Gideon is now our CTO teacher in Gombe, about 90 minutes' drive from Billiri. He strives to make the CTO as beneficial to his students as it was to him when Eric taught him. He told me how sometimes his students ask him how to do something, and rather than giving a quick answer, he makes them think it through, applying what they've already learned so they can really understand the concept.

He has a heart to make a big impact in his country. He shared with me plans he has to start a fellowship with like-minded young people for accountability, discipleship, personal and community development, and business ventures. I gave him some encouragement but also some cautions about the presumptions he was making. He's loved working through our teacher material in which we discuss how important it is to strive for Christlikeness in our lives as we teach and how transformation starts with an obedient faith, and how hard the enemy works to divert us.

Please pray for Gideon as he continues to teach people in Gombe, including some pastors who were blessed by our Pastors & Technology seminar and want to learn more. I also pray he may be able to partner with churches in Gombe to offer the "Learning with Computers for Primary Students" at our center. Finally, please also pray for the Lord's guidance for his future, with all his aspirations, that he may attain all that God has for him.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

We're not giving up, because we know the Transformer

Nigeria is a place where it's tempting to give up. Frequent electric outages, unstable ecomomic situation, terrorism, and armed robbery all are devastating to any school we try to partner with there. Sometimes, it just seems impossible to get something working long-term there.

But then there's Joseph. He was a difficult and wayward son who did not complete any school his parents sent him to. He was one whom it would be tempting to give up on. But then his parents sent him to our CTO school in Kaduna, because they heard the claim that the CTO is life-changing. Joseph's father even enrolled along with him to encourage him. Joseph completed the program and indeed has been exhibiting life change. His father also testified that the program helped him. He went to heaven just last month, but Joseph is still with that school taking more courses.

There's no magic formula that makes our schools work in an unstable climate. We make it as robust as we can, and then the rest is prayer and faith. Likewise, there's no magic in our program that makes it life-changing; rather, we simply use it to show the One who is life-changing, explain how He has been working throughout history to redeem mankind, and how that redemption re-shapes the way we work with computers and live our lives. So we don't give up, but press on in faith and prayer.

Yes, I had to worry about raindrops through a leaky roof while teaching editing.

But neither rain nor melted wires to overloaded generators nor dark of night shall keep us from our mission!

Getting slammed

If ever I absolutely would not have time to blog, it would be now. But I'm doing so because at this point, taking the time to fill you in that you may pray for us is more important than struggling more to get out of this hole.

Back when TEN3 was doing team trips to Africa, we noticed that every time we were preparing for a major trip, just as we were needing to revise, upload, download, and print (or burn) our materials for the workshops we would be hosting, something major would go wrong with our server. Well, now it's just me going to Nigeria, and when I ought to be going over the material I'll be presenting, praying for the trip and the attendees, familiarizing myself with the consulting manual so I can discuss the steps with partners, doing research on a new requested primary school initiative that we dearly hope to recruit developers for while I'm there, I have hardly touched any of that the last few days, because, well:

  • The car: It started with just a few things months ago. The door came apart. The auto parts guy suggested gluing it back together. I did, coming up with a funky clamping system to set it. After the curing time, I tried it; it didn't hold. Tried whole process again. Still didn't hold. Realized it needed fasteners through the handle part. Bought some. They didn't work. Bought a different set. They didn't hold. Door handle got worse. Bought two other sets, and stuff to rig up the other part that got messed up. Still didn't hold. Asked my dad for help; he tried screws. It held for about a day. Finally called my pastor who also works at a tractor repair place to ask if he could rivet it. He was able to borrow a rivet gun and fix it. In the meantime, the door opener on the other side broke, and a windshield wiper broke off, and I have three chips in the windshield. All those still waiting to be fixed. Then last week, a fuse blew that left us in Lubbock at night without headlights. We imposed on a student of Kenneth's to take us to Walmart to get more fuses (because even though I used to carry spares in the glove compartment, they weren't there). Almost gave up because all the ones the manual said were for headlights were intact, but finally checked the fuse for the glove compartment light, because that was out, and we had headlights again.
  • The pickup: We got it without a working heater core. We had bought a replacement, but hadn't yet bothered to get it put in. Finally last Friday I think, I was frustrated with computers and so decided to do something with my hands: I would get that heater core in! Found a youtube series on how to do it for a similar model, spent about 6 hours finding hard-to-reach nuts and screws, some of which wouldn't cooperate, finally loosened everything I thought I needed, and still couldn't get the HVAC box out. Kept looking for 2 days, and finally decided I'll need help. Left the pickup kind of in pieces until someone from my church would be able to help me on Saturday (tomorrow).
  • Both vehicles: Since the pickup was in disorder, Kenneth took the car to work. It started making noise and overheating on his way home in the morning (he works 9pm-7am, though this particular morning he was over an hour late getting out of work). Turned out to be a belt that snapped and wrapped around the fan. I would have to go buy the belts and bring the tools so we could fix it. So I spent an hour or so with those hard-to-reach bolts getting the pickup driveable again while Kenneth attempted take a cold, cramped nap in the car. Finally got the pieces back together, started backing it out of the driveway, and smelled gasoline powerfully. It was streaming out of some part the name of which I don't know, but at least it looked easy to reach. I called my grandma, who agreed to give me a ride to Lubbock, while my mom, who was running errands in Lubbock, picked up Kenneth to get the belts. I then realized I needed to go to the auto store myself because we were lacking the size sockets we actually need for the job. We loosened the smog pump and alternator, but the power steering pump, even though we loosened the two obvious sliding bolts and the pivot point, wouldn't budge. After over half an hour trying, we gave up and called Daddy, who took off early from work, though after he'd gone home to get changed and get more tools we might need, it was after 5 when he arrived. Oh, and did I mention all this was in the cold rain, and involved me having to lie down in the nasty wet parking lot? Then together he and a kind random stranger who stopped to help STILL could not get it to move. We decided to call the minister at Kenneth's church in Lubbock and ask if he could get a couple hours' sleep in the church before work. My parents decided to take me home with them (because our muddy caliche road would be quite dangerous to my dad's mustang) and we'd come back to figure it out in the morning. Well, we got Kenneth to the church and there was hubbub because the toilet had flooded the sanctuary badly, and he ended up staying awake to help with that rather than going to sleep. He then worked all night, having only gotten two short uncomfortable naps all day.
  • The next day: Daddy drove me to get Kenneth from work, nauseated from exhaustion and caffene. His priest kindly offered to take him to the church again, and this time he actually did get sleep. After probably two hours looking and trying things, Daddy found another sliding bolt you can't see; it has to be felt for. We could then get all the parts to move, but learned that the one belt that Kenneth bought yesterday that he couldn't take with him to compare, was the wrong size. We went back to the auto place to get the right belt, and also the part to the pickup that was leaking fuel. We finally got all the belts fixed about noon, then got something to eat, and so I picked up Kenneth and take him home so I could tend to the dogs (who had been left alone inside for 28 hours) and the chickens (who hadn't been fed for about 44 hours). Glad to have that behind us, I started preparing a nice meal and decided I'd better change the oil in the car before something else goes wrong.
  • And then...I wake Kenneth up, still exhausted from having no sleep the day before. I offer to drive him to work, even though I have a ton of things to do, because he seems too tired to drive. We get out there, and the headlights in the car don't work, and there is no fuse blown. We fiddle and fiddle and finally Kenneth calls his boss and says he'll pay for the gas if he'll come all the way from Crosbyton, on his night off, to take him to work, and I'll get him in the morning when it's light.
  • But wait, there's more!We discover the floor is wet, where the refrigerator leaked (already to the point of damaging the floor to some extent; not visible, but you can feel it stepping on it) and Kenneth had fixed a few days ago (including taking a special trip to Lubbock to buy a new cutoff valve). The only way to stop it for now is to cut off the sink, so no washing dishes tonight. We'll probably need more plumbing pieces, and crawling underneath the house, to fix it for good this time.
  • Meanwhile... The pipe under the bathroom sink, which the bacterial cleaner just seemed to make worse, and which I'd tried to clean with vinegar and baking soda but instead stopped completely, and so which Kenneth took apart to clean out, leaked when he put it back together. We still have a pan under it catching water, which I still have to bail out until that's fixed. I still have pieces of the wallpaper project I started months ago lying around, needing to get done on a day warm enough to open the doors (which are becoming fewer). The chicken coop is still largely exposed, which needs to be remedied before freezing weather hits. Our bedroom is still bubblegum and hershey colors, which we'd promised our landlord when we moved in a year ago we'd paint over. We still need to figure out how to oil our heater before winter. I crashed (pretty much permanently) two laptops I was using to develop our material on Puppy. And our kitchen sinks still back up whenever I run the washing machine, despite dozens of treatments with bacterial cleaner.

Now don't get me wrong. I realize we still have much to be grateful for. We're not grieving the loss of a loved one like my brother-in-law, I'm fully recovered from last month's illness, our dog whose leg was amputated is doing well now and even doing great about staying home rather than running off. I got to share about my upcoming trip with my church and they took a love offering for me. And of course we have wonderful people (especially Daddy!) who are going out of their way to help us out. But whatever the devil is trying to do to us, he's at least got us exhausted and frustrated. So please pray, not just for the resolution to all these little crises that cannot seem to stay fixed, but also that God's purposes for them to sanctify us will prevail rather than the evil one's purposes to distract, discourage, demoralize, or derail us.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Reaching the '3'

The '3' in our name TEN3 stands for "Discipling to the third generation." It's a reference to 2 Timothy 2:22, "The things that you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." We don't just want to teach a new generation, but to teach in such a way that they pass on wisdom to the generation after them, and so on. We're getting the opportunity to live that out now in our two newest partner countries.

Pastor Tukiko learned about us through a tweet, and called us, "chomping at the bit," as Ray put it, to start a computer school to disciple the young people in his community. Ray spent about 11 weeks consulting him over distance, and then Anthony went over to Tanzania to work with Tukiko, Jackson, who was to be the school administrator, and Jacob, Abigail, and Mary, the teachers-to-be. Their school is running, and we thank God that things are going well. Now, in another city in Tanzania, a lady named Miriam, who started an NGO to serve the needs of women and children, wants to start a computer school as part of her outreach. So we are doing the same consulting, but this time, we are having Tukiko participate. The goal is that the next time someone in Tanzania wants a computer school, Tukiko will do the bulk of the consulting with Ray and Anthony observing to chip in when needed, and from then out, he will be the official TEN3 consultant in Tanzania. He will carry on the ministry in his country: though he'll be able to call on us as necessary, he will be the one in charge.

We're getting to do the same thing in Zambia. Collins Sakalunda contacted us about starting a computer school, and again Ray consulted him, Anthony traveled there and did further instruction, and now he is running it as a ministry of his church. Another Zambian, Mr. Chiti, wants to start a computer school, so we are consulting him with Collins' participation, with the view that next time, he will be in charge and we will watch and help, and from then on, we hope he'll be ready to do it on his own.

That's what we also want to see in my department, curriculum. For a couple of reasons, I have not yet been able to get teachers available and dedicated to long-term participation yet, but my job is not just to write curriculum. It's to train African educators in the transformational principles and effective tactics so that they can start writing the kinds of materials their students need--material that is practical, affordable, culturally relevant, and Christ-centered. As they spread this teaching, students and fellow teachers will build their reasoning on a Christian worldview and sound educational principles, and be able to in turn make more and even better education.

That's been our hope and prayer since the beginning of TEN3. It's exciting to see the first steps from the second generation to the third, making the '3' a reality. May the Lord grant us the grace to finish what we've started.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Needing an off-the-grid enthusiast to appear out of the blue

Oh for an expert in living off the grid who is good at teaching and called to be a missionary!

We've been spinning wheels evaluating how to help partner schools in Nigeria. The power grid in Nigeria is extremely unreliable, probably off more than on. So computer schools have to rely on generators to make up the difference. Well, an economic crisis in Nigeria this year cause fuel to become widely unavailable, and very expensive when it is available.

My colleague Nathan has researched and experimented with ways to help with this, including solar panels and wind turbines made out of drills. We've also thought about waterwheels for rainy season and collecting the cooking oil from street vendors to use in generators. The trouble with the first three options is that to really work well in a computer school, they require a massive battery bank, which can be either a) easy to maintain but thousands of dollars, or b) not so expensive (using things like old car batteries), but requiring somebody who really knows what they're doing to maintain. The cooking oil option also requires an expert to keep it from ruining the generator.

We could try raising money for the high-end battery banks, but our team has never been good at fundraising. Also, that's not really what our organization is called to do. We're about local sustainability and reproducibility. What good would it do students to get a computer education at a school that has a great power solution, if they then go to a workplace that needs power and doesn't have it? The solution we want to see is a way we can make "how to make and maintain your own battery bank and power sources" a course in these schools, so the schools can not only supply their own power needs, but also be teaching students how to do it, and then they can take that knowledge wherever they go, helping with this problem throughout their country. None of us, unfortunately, has expertise in this. George might have been able to pull it off, but he and Kathy been called away from TEN3 to missionary care in Burkina Faso for this phase of their life. So, my prayer now is that the Lord may send someone who can go over and share Jesus' love by teaching power solutions that will work in Nigeria.

Lord, You know the suffering of Your people in Nigeria. Persecution and terrorism, economic crises, educational needs, greed squashing good ideas, and so much more. Won't You show the world that You are sufficient to overcome all these distresses by giving Your people the wisdom and ability to bless their communities in lasting ways?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Praying for new, strong beginnings in our oldest partner country

A rather unfortunate principle that I've heard fellow missionaries express, and have found very true for me, is that whenever we have the most exciting things going on to write about, is the time we write the least, because we're too busy! So, what tied me up last month? Deciding I'm going back to Africa, and getting things ready for that! Those of you who get my newsletter know that already (and by the way, you can subscribe by clicking this link), but it's time to update here, too.

I've shared here and here about the curriculum I've been developing for primary school kids in Africa. The official name is "Learning with Computers for Primary Students" because it's not just learning about computers or in general how to use them, but using them to improve their learning in multiple areas. I saw an article recently on how adding computers and now tablets to schools has been a $60 billion hoax, and I agree with its thesis--screens in a classroom where there is already a poor educational approach only makes things worse. But with the right teaching principles, they can be used as successfully as the first computer school Anthony started years ago, because they provide fresh opportunity to use the principles that make for great education. It's the teaching, not the tech, but our ministry has over and over been able to use tech as the opportunity to get to the teaching. I've now been requested to come to Nigeria to present this educational program at two symposiums, helping school staff understand how to use it to disciple their kids and improve their education overall.

My travel dates are October 27-November 17. I sent in my paperwork for the visa a few weeks ago, but it can take up to two months for it to be issued, so please pray that the visa comes in time. In the meantime, we also need discernment about what I should take with me (more about that and our equipment quandaries later), and for how I should spend my time. I had a lady helping me develop the next phase of "Learning with Computers," (I have it ready for grades 3-4; this would be for grade 5), but she is no longer available. I also had been working on a desktop publishing course as an elective for the CTO. And I have a couple of more recently developed programming courses to edit and update. So, figuring out which should be my priority right now is my challenge. I'm leaning toward the grade 5 one, but hesitate a little because I'd like to see what I've already developed in action and get feedback from teachers first.

There's a lot to wonder about. Christie told me that the success of the program will likely depend on whether the schools send to the symposium head teachers who have the pull to implement it, or lower-status teachers who may love the program but not be able to get it going. Also, there's still the concern about the economic crisis in Nigeria. The computer centers are struggling to get a consistent supply of electricity. And so often when we go over, things seem to go well, but then misunderstandings or the communication barriers kill what we started. We have learned a lot from these experiences that has helped us strengthen and refine our training (which is a major reason we are seeing such good progress in Tanzania and Zambia), but dead-ends from the past are still enough to make me wonder, will it work this time? Still, I think the only way it can work is for us to keep our connection alive, which includes time on the ground, to talk and pray in person, to see their work and their struggles and actually stand in the classrooms where they teach to understand what we're dealing with. We're praying this may also be a time of real discipleship, especially with Emmanuel, who is teaching the CTO in Kwoi, with Ruth, who teaches programming and who Christie thinks will be valuable in developing TEN3 education, and with Gideon, who has begun to teach the CTO in Gombe. I really want to connect with these people and let them know that we're here for them, want to help them succeed in what God has laid on their hearts.

One other note: I'd like prayer for my health. I got sick about a week ago, and even though I only felt really bad one day, and all the other symptoms are gone, fatigue has lingered. I can sleep for 8 hours and feel like I only got 4, take a nap in the day to try to perk me up, and then still be worn out by 6pm. So I'm falling behind in a lot of things, and it's likely to get worse as my husband is being asked to work extra days, so house work that he would normally take care of might have to fall to me.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Thorny as a thistle and ravenous as a rabbit

How country living makes me want God more

I used to dismiss the ideas I'd heard about how a rural life would bring us closer to God. It sounded like either a stuck-in-the-good-old-days bias, or hippie nonsense. After all, God assigns many people (currently, for the first time, the world's majority) to live in cities, and so it must be possible to live just as godly in an urban lifestyle as a rural one. And that is true, but I'm learning very profoundly about my need for godliness that I never felt before thanks to my husband's and my rural endeavors.

Our bushes are half-dead, and I'm less than half done pruning them. I just finished trimming the vines back from tearing up the eaves of the house. We spent I don't want to think about how many hours tilling, planting, watering, weeding, and putting a fence around our garden, and yet we still have more thistles, cocaburrs, devils claws, goatheads, and other assorted weeds than we do wanted plants, and the food-bearing plants are being eaten up by rabbits, birds, and bugs, while drying out in the heat. I've spent probably at least 10 hours training the dogs to watch over rather than kill the chickens, and then this morning I found them tormenting one that I had missed when I last gathered them into the pen. Plus of course they chew things they shouldn't, spread trash around when they think they haven't gotten enough attention, tear down the screen door, run off ...

Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:18-19

All this trouble is the curse of sin. Christ reverses the curse, but how far the reversal goes for us today is up to us. There are stories of saints who were so close to God they could tell lions or bears what to do and they would docilely obey. There are theologians who theorize that without the fall men could not only do that, but even control the weather and such. Not so today; sin has broken our communion with God our Father, and with nature our charge. It doesn't obey us usually without force, and it would be a terrible thing if it did, because we would use that power destructively. We can do things about the thorns and thistles and problematic animals, but it is so much work. Exhausting work, that was meant to be pleasant. So having to do all this work makes me really wish I was a saint who could just tell my dogs once what to do, who could either make the weeds go somewhere else or make them become harmless, useful plants (maybe something the critters want more than our food!), and who could make it rain .2 inches every night.

While that doesn't sound like very pious reasoning (I want to be a godlier so life would be easier), it actually is the lesson I'm supposed to learn. The troubles of these living things reflect the troubles of me. My heart is thorny as a thistle and ravenous as a rabbit. I won't have the power to cultivate critters without force until my heart is cultivated, made a beautiful and vibrant sanctuary that praises God without dissonance. Agriculture makes me desire God desperately because it gives me a vision of what life is like if God reigns and fills it all. I hope my life, and the curriculum I develop, impart some of that desire to many others.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When where we are is not good enough

What!? Traveling 6,000 miles just to pray!?

Yep. That's what Anthony, the founder of TEN3, is doing right now. He had once told his daughter he would travel across the world just to speak for ten minutes about the Lord. Soon after, he got an invitation to go to Ethiopia to speak for ten minutes! "What could I do but accept?" he reflects with a chuckle. It turns out, though, the invitation had a mistake; it was actually for ten days.

Even after that happened, though, he thought taking a big mission trip just to pray was ridiculous. After all, you can pray for anyone from wherever you are! Save the money and traveling exhaustion for what can't be done from a distance!

Oh how little we really know. If you've been following my blog posts, you know that this year is really stretching TEN3. It will make or break the vision we've been striving for all these years. And as we've been struggling to help our four locations get to a point of demonstrable viability, Anthony was impressed with the need to be physically with our partners in Africa ... to pray. But why? Why pray over there when we can just pray from home?

"Why" is usually not a good question to ask when it comes to prayer. Do we really understand why we need to pray at all? Prayer doesn't make God any more good or loving or just. We can't impose our will onto God. The wiser theologians I've read have all said that prayer is really about changing our hearts, making them line up with God's heart and thus able to receive and participate in God's grace active throughout the world. God lines up our hearts with His in prayer, and also in being together with our brothers and sisters, where we can see the hope in their eyes, feel the fears they face, hold them if they cry.

Jesus didn't save us from His throne in heaven. He saved us by coming to where we are, living and dying as one of us, and then rising from the dead that we may be with Him. So how can we think that we can save people from a distance? No, we must choose, as Paul did,

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
(1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

It's somewhat a mystery, but God works through interaction, us being with Him and with each other. Please pray for Anthony and Rob, TEN3's worship leader, as they travel to Zambia and stay about ten days. They are taking computer equipment to help start a center as well while they are there, but their primary purpose is to pray with Pastor Collins Sakalunda and his colleagues who share his desire to reach their people through transformational education. I pray that in that time the Lord break down barriers that may be in people's hearts, that He grow brotherhood and resolve to serve, that He implant our vision of African churches overcoming the severe challenges they currently face and emerging as world leaders in education and the spread of the Gospel into everyone's heart whom He desires to be part of it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Excerpt from Pastors & Technology

As I mentioned a couple of entries ago, I have been working on material for a technology seminar for pastors. The first seminar was last week, and I'm eager to hear how it went. The seminar teaches pastors about the power that modern communication and media has ovr young people's minds, and warns them that they cannot simply condemn it because it can harm: once technology is here, it is here to stay. So, we teach them to use the tool with (as Tony Evans likes to call it) a Kingdom agenda. We teach them to use Bible software, do responsible Internet research, compose and share documents and slide presentations. We give them the Families & Media seminar, which looks at the different technologies that affect families, especially children and youth, and discusses ways to implement godly use of technology in the home. Finally, we give them ways they can use texting and social media to connect their members outside of the church's walls. Here's an excerpt:

We've shown you some tools that you can use to do what you do already in church with some extra resources and conveniences, and advised you how to use it to engage your congregants' attention rather than lose it. But one of the main reasons this seminar was developed was to discuss technology as a way of reaching out to young people. They may be mildly gratified if your church can use a computer to put lyrics or sermon notes on a screen, and it may reach them better because they are better able to follow along. But that makes little difference in keeping their interest in the church overall compared to social media.
The technology that has changed society the most since 20001 is the communication technology. We relate to each other and the world in different ways now than ever before. That is probably the most important reason for you to take this seminar. The minds of the young people in your congregation now are driven by texts and social posts, and so if you want to stay connected with them, you need to know how to communicate with them with their media.

We discussed in the story in the beginning of this seminar how powerful texting has become. Even older people who at first are averse to the idea, once they try it, find it a surprisingly desirable communication venue. It is fast and convenient, easy to store messages that might be forgotten over voice, easier to send out without interrupting other activities. ...
Emphasize that certain kinds of communication should only be done in person: apologies, condolences to a close friend who is going through tragedy, confrontations. A quick text is not sufficient for such complex matters. I (JennyBeth) recently offended a trusted teacher because I decided to express a delicate concern in a text rather than by voice. Without the extra sentences to explain myself, and the tone of voice and facial expressions to make it clear how I meant it, I did not realize until it was too late that it sounded disrespectful. Praise God, with some further communication later it was cleared up and forgiven, but learn from my mistake.
On the other hand, your church can make great use of texting. It is more useful than anything else for announcements that cannot wait until Sunday, for reminders, and for emergency prayer requests. People also make great use of texting all the time for just staying in touch when it's hard to catch other for a phone call. ...

Social media
Social media offers a great opportunity for discussing weighty issues that may not come up in regular conversation. For instance, in open discussion forums or pages, people invited into the discussion groups can post questions to which others can respond. This can lead to some very enjoyable and enlightening dialog, which is accessible to everyone in the group because they can read it one day, think about it overnight, and respond the next day; they don't have to be all in the same room at the same time, so the conversation can go on for days.
A constructive platform for social media would be a page or forum in which people could ask questions that the teachers of the church can answer. If people have questions about the Bible or theology or social issues or how to live, they could offer them there with the teachers then able to take time to compose a good answer from the Scriptures. This could be used to carry on conversations that members can ponder for days, rather than the shorter conversations in Sunday School that may be sooner forgotten. There would need to be good rules enforced, however, about who can contribute what, because while it's good to discuss opinions, there must be a clear line between who has authority to give answers and who can only give supplemental thoughts. Kay Arthur, a renowned Bible teacher, has said that the most destructive phrase in a church is, "What do you think?" when we should be asking, "What does God say?" If everyone is allowed to answer, then it could become a platform for ignorance rather than good instruction.

There's much more to it, obviously. We discuss much more opportunities to explore, and pitfalls to avoid. But I hope this served as a good peek into what we do. Don't forget, if you have a church, Christian school, or any other group in which you'd like to offer one of our seminars, we'd love to connect with you to make that happen!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Correspondence of the team hard-pressed but not crushed

From: Christie Dasaro
Subject: Pray for us
Dear Team, Pray for us, arm robbers vandalized EICT yesterday and took all our valuables. We need God's peace, because the trials are too heavy for us bear. We are grateful to God they did not harm anybody. Whatever God is doing, pray for us to stay focus and not to waver. Thank you very much for being there for us always.

From: JennyBeth
Subject: Re: Pray for us
Dear Lord, how many and evil are the afflictions which befall Your servants. We cry out to You night and day and yet they still come. Yet You are almighty, and Your word is good and sure. We pray that the evil these men have done may result in good, that EICT's ministry to Nigeria may recover better than it was, that the students may still get the education they are attempting, and that the perpetrators may be convicted and brought to repentance and faith in Your Son. For You daily turn the enemy's devices against him for Your glory. Use this incident too to draw our hearts to trust more in You; forgive me for all the things that I have worried about until this email reminded me that our only hope has to be in You, Lord.

From: Christie
Subject: Re:
Thank you very much JennyBeth for these encouraging words. Please continue to pray for our staff, because the incident has really devastated their morales, it is only God' s grace can help us to be strong again. I tried by God's grace to be strong in the morning, leading prayer sessions and many people visited to condole us, but I came home this evening with fever, my body aches. Pray for strength to be focused and productive this week as we have CTO graduation on July 3, 2016 which I have to travel to Kwoi and Pastors seminar July 4, 2016. God is Great and it pays to serve Jesus...no matter what satan brings our way. Thank you very much my dear sister for your prayers and encouragement.
Christie Dasaro, Head of TEN3 Nigeria

Friday, June 24, 2016

Training pastors

We were recently asked for material to offer a technology seminar for pastors. We're excited by this opportunity, because what better way to help God's people resist the schemes of the devil and instead use technology to advance Christ's Kingdom than by making pastors aware of these dangers and opportunities? The seminar introduces pastors to ways technology can be used to help their church, including Bible study software, slide presentations, online libraries (with principles of a good search), and how to use social media to advertise and make discussion forums for classes. It also discusses many of the drawbacks and dangers of technology, including scams, attention reduction, bad information, relying on the fanciness rather than the actual content, privacy concerns, and more.

But what about when they leave and later have questions? What about when the buttons change and the new apps show up? That's the best part about it--we already have the follow-up work ready in the CTO and its follow-up courses. They can grow their own technical experts by having members trained, perhaps in schools they start in their own church!

Please pray for wisdom as I add the final touches, and for the kick-off seminar, which is to be July 4-8. Pray that some of these pastors may be able to start CTO centers, and for the provision of equipment and electricity for that to work.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A mind is a terrible thing to waste with botched learning

"Two students told us that they had taken computer courses before but could not actually operate a computer. But now that they have taken the CTO they can do things with the computer ... Education in our country is dead. I don't see any life in it. All our effort in school is just to prepare kids to pass exams."

It both saddens and excites me to hear that report from Christie in Nigeria. Saddens, of course, because it's awful to think how many students waste their young, potent years sitting through drills to regurgitate words that they'll soon forget. Thus they'll grow up just doing whatever they see everyone else doing, thinking whatever is popular on the Internet this week. On the other hand, it excites me to be able to develop and offer something much better. The CTO she refers to, the Computer Training Outreach, teaches students not information about the computer, but how to evaluate what can be done with it and how to apply its logic, and how to research and find answers when they want to learn something new on their own. Furthermore, we teach them to approach use of the computer, and their whole lives, from the perspective of God's redemptive work.

There are so many ways I wish I could improve education for everybody. One big way is learning by doing--our students see the difference in our courses because they learn to use the computer by practice--first guided, "Do this and explain what you see as a result"; then prompted, "Now how do you think you would change this attribute? Test it and see if you're right"; and finally self-driven, "Do your own experimenting and reading to figure out how to do something new." That is the way people learn best, but so often education is done by telling students about the subject rather than giving them real practice. Tests are of penciled-in answers rather than of handiwork. People complain of this problem often in the US, and it's far worse in Africa. I can only imagine how the world would change if people would heed Louis Benezet's "The Teaching of Arithmetic: The Story of an Experiment," George MacDonald's "Gutta-Percha Willie," and Dorothy Sayers' "The Lost Tools of Learning."

Principles of good education should be common sense, and yet why do we find them so difficult to follow?

Part of it I've been reminded of in my own life lately. My husband and I have been quite busy as, in addition to our full-time jobs and serving our churches, we also take care of two dogs, have planted a large garden, and have 30 young chickens. And our house still needs a lot of work. I've had to fight many times in the past few months a discouraged or grumbling spirit that there's just too much work, and too many things go wrong. The chickens are so messy and keep messing up their water dispenser. The garden takes over an hour to water, and when it rains so we don't have to water, the weeds go crazy. The dog keeps running off to other peoples' property 2 miles away, and I have to go get him. And yet, I proudly tout this principle that we learn best from hands-on practical work. It seems I need to learn from all this our own principle that learning takes time and effort, while we like shortcuts.

Oh God, You are the greatest Teacher. And what You desire us to learn more than skills and facts and logic is humility, perseverance, and love. Thank You for these things You have given to teach me. Turn my focus to learn well of You, that I may in turn teach others according to Your statutes.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

God saves all of me ... sometimes even my tail feathers.

Thank You Lord for being so gracious with my hard-headedness.

I first started TEN3 a few months after I graduated college. I was using the laptop I'd acquired, thanks to a gift from my thoughtful great-uncle, before college, so it had some age on it already. Pretty soon after SIM helped me set it all up with encryption, missionary support software, and a password safe, my 5-year-old hard drive died. So I bought a new laptop, and well, that was six years ago now. But it was running pretty well ... except, the network would drop once in a while, and it would freeze up when screen sharing or mounting a huge filesystem.

"You need a new laptop. It's not going to last much longer," my husband told me.

"It's fine, I can live with it," I protested.

That as we're admonishing schools to be replacing one laptop per month because they will break down.

I was provided a refurbished laptop, specified for my work use rather than to be sent to Africa, a few weeks ago. I was grateful for it ... but I just let it sit there. My old laptop was working okay, at least, dealing with its glitches would still be less effort than getting the right programs and settings done on the new one. I'll get to it, once things settle down.

Well, things didn't settle down, and yesterday in the middle of work, it lost its network capability again. Resetting the network didn't help, redoing the ipconfig didn't help, restarting didn't help. Okay, maybe it is time to break out that new laptop. So I began a backup to make sure all my files were up-to-date so I could transfer them over. It froze the computer overnight. In the morning, fortunately, the backup was successfully completed, but any command I would give the computer would freeze it for at least five minutes. So it looks like if I had delayed any longer, I may have lost a few projects I'd put a lot of time into since my last backup.

I'm not quite sure why I have that tendency to push some common-sense limits, but until I figure it out, I thank God for taking care of my needs on this one ahead of time so the only unnecessary stress I've had is going a day dealing with an unconfigured system. How DO you people manage with only one desktop, anyway?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In search of synchronity

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. 
--2 Corinthians 11:23-33, ESV

That's your model. Now get to it! Yeah! Work, work, press on!

I'm a terribly ambitious person. Whatever I undertake, I want to be the best at it. B was always an unacceptable grade. If I wasn't the kid picked to show all the other kids how something was done, I was disappointed. If there was an award to be had, I wanted to win it. So naturally, that applies to my Christian life, and as a missionary, I tend to take the cues from Paul, from Hudson Taylor, Lottie Moon, from all the stories of saints and missionaries who worked themselves well-nigh to death. That's what I need to be. Now work harder! Get more done! I don't like sleep anyway. While, of course, also trying to be the Proverbs 31 woman at home.


And then the still, small voice comes:

Martha, Martha.

Loving my Lord drives me to serving with all my might. And yet then trying to serve with all my might drives me to one crisis after another until I remember to stop and sit at His feet and, well, love Him. That I suppose, is what this whole blog "Drinking in Life, pouring out service" is all about, learning to do that. I know that still, humble love and fervent deeds are supposed to fuel one another, but so often I alternate between them like spinning a boat because I focus on one oar and then another rather than turn both at the same time.

I used to keep these verses in my purse to read frequently and memorize. I think I should start it up again:

I am the true vine, an My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean [pruned] because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vie, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
--John 15:1-5, NASB

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Since we lost Joe, our CEO/CFO/Personnel manager, TEN3 has decided to recruit for an Administrative Manager to take care of our treasury, personnel, and event coordination functions. Soon after Ken finished writing up a Personnel Request Form with the job description, I got a promotional ad from LinkedIn explaining that nonprofits could apply for free job postings. Why not? I thought. I applied, and was granted the free job postings. Sweet, we can get our name out way beyond the normal circles with this!

Then came the actual writing the job description, and suddenly I was dismayed. Here I'll have people looking for a job, and I'm supposed to tell them, "Come apply to TEN3! If accepted, you can start work anytime, but if you want to get paid, you'll need to go through SIM's candidacy process. It's just an application requiring your whole life story, doctrinal assessment, medical exam, psychological exam, about six references, and then a weekend in Charlotte going over your application, and then if everything checks out, you start months worth of training, and go to a 2-week candidate orientation (all of which you have to come up with the funds for), and then if you're accepted, you can start fundraising to build up your financial support."


Uh ... me.

Was all that candidacy, training, and fundraising exhausting? Of course it was. And I was glad to do it. If I had to go back in time, I'd do it all the same. Why? Why do any of us go through all that?


Love for people with melodious accents and bright patterned clothing who dream of rising above the poverty, disease, and violence that oppresses their land. Love for the vision of God's glorious Kingdom filling the whole earth. Love for bright brown eyes eager to learn. And most of all, love for a Savior who went through so much more than we ever will in service.

Why do I find it so hard to believe that God would give others the same consuming love for Him and His people that He has given me and my team? Maybe because there remains competition in my heart; that love still contends with pride and personal ambition. And maybe that's what this trial of TEN3 shrinking rather than growing is about. Maybe the Lord is saying, "I can bring all the success you dream of. I can enable centers to run the CTO giving thousands of students a solid foundation of computer, Bible, and comprehension education; get educators together to develop a 4TD that develops students' worldviews to serve Me with every aspect of their lives, get those 350 schools started that you've prayed for so long, and transform primary and secondary education in a way that will rock the world and circumvent the Enemy's attacks that would brainwash kids into fragmented thinking. And I will indeed bring My Kingdom to all the ends of the earth, how and when I please. But I'm not going to use you to do it while it will feed your pride monster. I don't want your accomplishments if I don't have your heart."

Which has my mind spinning in circles a bit ... isn't it in itself pride to think that God would hold up all this on account of me? I really don't know that; it meshes with that mystery of sovereignty and responsibility that is veiled to me. But what I do know is that my heart needs to change. It needs to be made pure, free from the lust for success and approval. Love that will do all this work is not enough. I need a love that can invite others without apology to join in the same sacrifices, because I know this joy of sacrifice is so much better than any form of success.

So Lord, do what it takes to refine my heart, and I pray I cooperate so it can be done in time to fulfill the vision You have given us.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reminded of a favorite quote

While writing a card to supporters today, thinking of the dreams we're clinging to, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes:
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
I keep coming back to this quote because it fits the all-in determination to to seek Christ that I've always wanted. And it's this love that also keeps us serving, even when the "ship" turns back.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Certainty---on the brink of disaster

Anthony will soon be traveling to Charlotte to meet with SIM leaders about TEN3. The news in many ways is not good; we set up to grow, but are shrinking. We have only three places we are working currently--Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia--and those each have their struggles. But we're hopeful that this meeting will help get us some more needed personnel and opportunities to move forward. In preparation, I am republishing TEN3's Orientation Guide, and came across this section, written years ago, that has turned out to be rather prophetic for this time:

Counting the cost, or the certainty of uncertainty

I [Dr. Petrillo] wonder if you ever get the impression I get when working with church mission committees or people taking an MBA? That impression is that if we work hard enough on our planning, we can figure everything out and have a business plan that will guarantee our success.

Oh, no, they would never say that. There is no guarantee to success unless you are lucky enough to publish a book that guarantees success. People will buy that by the millions. I am not questioning the fact that we should plan. The Lord makes that clear when he talks about the cost of discipleship.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, "This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish."

Luke 14:28-30

What I am questioning is something deeper down in our souls. Something that shows itself over and over in different ways in our lives.

We work in Africa where uncertainty is a part of life. But in America and much of the West, "uncertainty" is a foul word. We strive hard to take all uncertainty out of our lives. We have precision statistics in our factories so we can make parts for, say a jet, so we know the steel will be able to handle all the pressure and the jet will fly properly. We have car insurance, health insurance, house insurance, you name it and we insure against the uncertainties of life. Is this bad? No way. I'm so glad for the engineers that work extremely hard to give me the best chance that the jet I'm flying will remain in the air.

But, alas, that last sentence let the cat out of the bag. They are working on the chance I'll stay in the air, not the certainty that I will. Like some say, "The only certain things of life are death and taxes," and they are wrong about death, at least death eternal.

Yes, certainty is a real struggle and uncertainty is a reality. In general, Westerners do not really understand this, while Africans live it. Westerners education has been inadequate and purposely short-sighted, resulting in this inability to deal with uncertainty.

As I said, in general, Westerners do not understand uncertainty, and this prevents them from functioning well with African projects. Interestingly, it also hinders them from being good leaders. However, there are Westerners that understand this very well. Dan Allender explains it well when discussing crisis as one of the costs of being a leader:

Leading … is all about moving toward a goal while confronting significant obstacles with limited resources in the midst of uncertainty and with people who may or may not come through in a pinch. Leadership is about whether or not we will grow in maturity in the extremity of crisis.

Crisis is the eruption of chaos, the cloudburst that ruins the beautiful day. We want fair winds and a safe run from our port to the destination ahead. We may have secured a favorable weather report and prepared the boat for every possible problem, but as sure as the sun will rise, tides will change, and entropy happens, few of our plans will go as we design. There is no way to plan for all the contingencies or have all the knowledge we need to navigate the strange waters of life.

Crisis is not a bump in the pavement that causes us to hold the steering wheel more tightly; it is the wall that we hit while we're steering with everything we've got – and it leaves us wondering how we will survive. Crisis is a context for opportunity and growth, but it also takes us to the edge where some don't survive. . . Crises serve to remind us that we are fundamentally not in control. In reality, we are dependent on grace, on a host of people and circumstances that operate well beyond our control, and on the perspiration we have expended in trying to anticipate the unknown (an impossible feat in and of itself).

… We have adversaries who want not merely to replace us but to destroy us. We have enemies in high places who operate with powers and principalities that wish us hellish harm. We live in a disturbed universe that groans daily like a woman in childbirth, and we share the planet with people who at their best are still a mixture of glory and darkness. We all deal with a finite, fallen, unpredictable world that is bent on decay and moves inexorably toward a final, cataclysmic crisis. As leaders, we live on the edge of disaster each day. (Allender, Dan. Leading with a Limp. Waterbook Press, Colorado Springs)

I've added the emphasis. I almost left the last sentence out because it seems like Dan is a bit extreme, but is he? Do you really know what your next day or even your next hour will be like? No, we do not live in a world of certainty. We pretend we do, but it is just pretending so we do not become overwhelmed; we fear it will make us huge pessimists that do nothing.

That's just not good enough! That's a cop-out. It's a lie that our enemy has carefully sown into our media and educational system to destroy us. Jesus didn't come to leave us prisoners to the uncertainties of life. He came to free us ... Jesus is the certainty of life. If you are reading this, I'm telling you nothing new. And yet, it is new every morning. Each day we arise we must remind ourselves of this awesome Lord whom we know and serve, and come hell or high water we will not be separated from him, never! ...

So if you venture with us on this journey of seeing transformational education systems, be forewarned it will not go all as planned. Rather, join with us in being a Deo Volente (God Willing) organization, in which we plan the best we can, but ultimately trust the Lord for the final outcome, which will be growth in grace, wisdom and love and honour to the King of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Urgency or patience?

What's the place of urgency for the saint?

Urgency for Christians is often preached as a positive. For instance, the following story I've heard from the pulpit:

Satan was discussing with his demons how to dissuade Christians in their service advancing the Kingdom of Christ. They began offering suggestions:
"Tell them there's no God."
"No," replied Satan. "They won't buy that. They've seen too much evidence of his presence in their lives."
"Tell them Jesus never rose from the dead," another said.
"Just as bad. Besides the evidence from history and the martyrs, they see the evidence of it in the salvation God has already given them."
"Tell them there's no hurry."
"THAT'S what we need."

I think there is truth to that; we certainly lose our passion and opportunities through our tendency to procrastinate. And yet, I find also that I fall most readily into sin when I operate with a sense of urgency. I get tunnel vision, prioritizing the whatever must be done and thus ignoring the needs of those around me. Like just today when I lost my temper with my dog as I was trying to take the trash out to the dump. We've been working on teaching them not to run out in front of vehicles, but so far it's only associated with my Grand Prix, and I was using our new (to us) pickup. So both dogs were running to where I couldn't see them as I was backing out, and so after unsuccessfully trying to distract them with food and then inviting them to come with me, I decided to just shut them in the house. Well, since Diogenes knew I didn't want to let him out but I neglected to command him to "Stay," he bolted as I left. When I finally cornered him, I was harsh with him, even though the things I was upset with him about were the things I haven't put enough time in to teach him completely yet. He's very good about staying when I tell him to stay, so I should have remembered to tell him instead of assuming he would. And he hasn't had enough time to learn yet that NO car should be crossed paths with. But I was caught up too much in the task at hand to be patient enough to take a teaching opportunity. Terribly ironic for someone whose ministry is supposed to be teaching.

That made me very thankful that the Lord is "compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." He knows where we're at, when we know better and when we're still learning, and knows He will get His purposes done in spite of our weaknesses, and so is always patient enough to teach us.

Maybe that's part of why, even as we've seen the real urgency for our ministry increase in the last few years, seen Satan build up ways to trap people's minds, God has concurrently given me this sense of--hard to describe--helplessness? A realization that this task of growing transformational education in Africa is far too big for me or our small team to accomplish, that it will have to be His mighty work through our simple obedience. If I fell for the "have-to-get-it-done" drive I tend towards, I would probably lose patience with people and miss the real point of ministry, which is to grow us all into Christlikeness.

Lord, forgive me and change me. And thank You for my colleagues who exemplified that patient teaching for me.