This is as good as we could manage for a family Christmas picture this year! Justin, Audrey’s boyfriend, and Sadie, Audrey’s black lab, were also here with us. This was the first year in a long time that Annie was not with us. Shortly after Christmas last year she went to dog heaven. She is survived by Mama Cat.
We stayed in Orlando for Hurricane Irma, and things went well for us. Our power never went out, and we had no damage to our house. Our trees took a beating, and we didn’t have Internet all day but that was the extent of our difficulties. Most everyone else in Florida was not as fortunate, as 2/3 of the state was without power at some point last night.
Thank you for your prayers for our safety and that we would have minimum damage. For us this was true, so we are very grateful. We also had no anxiety during the storm, despite the whole things being like… a hurricane. We got a good night’s sleep (and kept an eye on how things developed during the night).
Today was clean up day, checking on the neighbors, and getting ready to get back to our regular work tomorrow.
Thanks again for your concern for us and for your prayers!
The picture here is AFTER the hurricane. You’ll have to look hard to see the difference between the BEFORE pic; a few less leaves on the tree.
We are staying in Orlando for Hurricane Irma. Our option to leave probably expired two days ago when Miami had a mandatory evacuation and filled all the northbound highways and used all the gasoline. They certainly needed those things more than we did! The risk of running out of gas on the highway and then getting hit by a hurricane while on the side of the road seemed worse than staying home and getting one of our windows broken. And now the forecasts say the winds in Orlando should be 100 mph or less, so this is better news.
Earlier in the week making this decision was pretty stressful. Canceling all your life’s plans based on uncertain forecasts that always change at the last minute is difficult. And when Irma was Category 5 and might have traveled up the east coastline and kept its energy, that could be dangerous for us.
In the end, we asked God to give us wisdom, and we made a decision to stay. Now we depend on God’s protection, and we are at peace with this. But tomorrow when hurricane winds are blowing around our house we might not feel so peaceful!
We would appreciate your prayers for safety, of course. And that God would dissipate the storm, minimize damage, etc.
This is the team which did the initial planning for our new global financial software.
This will be a long project: planning and configuration should be complete by July 2018 when we will begin migrating our country ministries onto the new platform. By the end of 2018 we plan to have over 150 country ministries moved onto the new system.
Andrew’s AA is in Automotive Technology from Seminole State College, and Audrey’s BS is in Psychology from Florida State University.
Andrew has been working full time in Orlando rebuilding antique Japanese sports cars (Nissan Skylines), and Audrey plans to finish the summer in Tallahassee then move to Georgia for a year before pursuing a graduate degree.
We are so proud of our kids!
The Next Generation Financial Tool Project, on which I have worked for the last 18 months, is complete! The work of the project is complete even though the final selection has not been made. The end of this project looked very different than what we expected from when we began, but that is not surprising.
Originally we had expected to have a new accounting software package, appropriate for our small and medium sized ministries, selected, tested, and installed in three locations. Instead we decided to consider changing our entire global financial service structure and select an accounting software package which could handle all our global financial needs, including things which require systems typically outside the realm of accounting (payroll and donations processing).
The project got much larger in scope along the way, and the range of people involved in the project widened as well.
In the next couple weeks our regional leaders from Asia and the Europe/Africa corridor will meet to decide how we should proceed. Ultimately they will be the ones to select which financial package we use and what financial service structure we build.
Hopefully the process we ran with this project yielded the information they will need to make a good decision. I think so.
The next phase of the overall project will be deploying the systems needed to support the global financial structure we decide on. That phase will likely take a year – to install, configure, and write all the modified software to make a new global system work. And I don’t yet know exactly what my role in this part of the process will be.
This is the group of financial experts from around the CCCI world which met in Orlando recently to rank several financial products. The meeting was the culmination of a year of product research, requirements gathering, and user interviews. It was just a few minutes before this picture was taken that I experienced a significant sense of accomplishment – when the last person wrote their name and their product preference “vote” on the board!
Oh ya, MOFEM stands for March Orlando Financial Experts Meeting. I couldn’t come up with any better name.
This point really just marked the end of a phase of the overall project I have been leading to replace CCCI’s global financial software. There is still some additional research to complete, a contract to negotiate, an implementation consulting firm to hire, and a several-year project to migrate our 150+ country ministries to this new financial platform.
This was a really fun group, and the good thing is that I have the next few years to look forward to working with them as we get this project completed!
Life has become pretty full this last year, and the time to write interesting blog posts has been displaced by other things in our lives. That’s ok. In 2004 when we started Hertzlers.com, blogging had just become popular and Facebook was still two years away. Now anyone and everyone can write their own blog on Facebook, and most people do. So this site has reverted back to more of a brochure about our work with Cru.
Feel free to drop me a line using the Contact Us form or find us on Facebook.
This week we have been listening to challenging speakers and hearing where our U.S. Cru ministry leaders are taking the U.S. part of our organization. We are at our bi-ennial staff conference in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“The privileged need the marginalized more than the marginalized need the privileged.” – my favorite quote from Christena Cleveland, one of our speakers.
We have been talking and listening this week about why our U.S. organization does not reflect the racial proportions of the U.S. The dialogue has been frank and productive and has identified a lot of uncomfortable realities. As a member of the (currently) majority ethnic group in the U.S., we have privilege and power which we are uncomfortable admitting. The topic and discussion is not what we had expected, but it seems very healthy, especially at this point in our nation’s experience with racial issues.
Neither Cathy nor I have formed concrete action items yet from what we have heard, but we continue listening and asking God how he wants us to respond.
A lot of things happened in the last few months. These are some of the highlights.
Ernest, our mobile phone-based pastor training guru in Cameroon, recently launched another group of pastor-students in Central African Republic (CAR). Along with the French language 80-hour theology curriculum, he showed the group how they could use their mobile phones to load the JESUS Film Media App for their personal outreach. This makes their inexpensive smartphone that much more effective!
It made me happy to see technology helping equip pastors in places where technology is usually scarce. And it made me proud of Ernest who used his technical training on the system to troubleshoot a bunch of problems and get everything working on his own with just a little email help from me.
We made a quick trip to St. Louis for cousin Amanda’s wedding and brought along Justin, Audrey’s boyfriend. He had never been to the Arch, so we fixed that problem.
(I flew from Istanbul to St. Louis on Friday and went directly to the wedding reception Friday night. Starbucks, loud music, and being with family kept me awake!)
This week I returned to Istanbul, but this time it was to make plans and move forward with this Advisory Group. With a representative from every continent (Ok, not Antarctica), this group will be the backbone of those who review potential solutions for a new global financial system for CCCI. The job ahead of us is big, but I am confident this group can pull it off.
This photo is near the Hagia Sophia, an old cathedral turned mosque that amazes me every time I have been there. It’s enormous and was built around 700 A.D. Things that remain standing after that many years amaze me. If the financial systems this group helps develop last ten years I will be amazed.
Istanbul was fun, but this is what most of our time looked like; developing plans for this project and working together in a hotel conference room.
I am in the middle of an intermediate accounting course for CCCI financial managers here in Istanbul. Today was our day off, and we got to walk around the city and see some of the old stuff. The old stuff here is pretty amazing!
These were my touring friends for the day, David, Evie, and Ewa from Paris, Thessaloniki, and Warsaw, respectively. They are just a few of the new friends I’ve made while taking this class, and each of them is doing the work to keep our ministries functioning well in their countries.
Istanbul was fun, but this is what most of our time consists of; learning accounting. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and I was surprised by how much potential benefit I saw in what the outcome of my current project will bring to my compatriots doing accounting across the CCCI world!
Last month began CCCI’s bi-ennial gathering of our operations leaders from around the world. This time the location was Athens.
One of the more enjoyable parts for me was meeting many of the people with whom I will work on the new financial tools project I am leading. And since this conference included technology leaders as well, I saw many of my friends with whom I have worked over the years on technology projects. The ruins were interesting, but the living people were far more engaging.
And the weather was great and perfect for running and swimming when we weren’t in the hotel conference room.
Here are some of my new coworkers as we were praying together, standing on a map as a creative way to pray for our ministry outreaches in various parts of the world.
Since my new job involves leading a project to develop the “Next Generation Finance Tools”, it is necessary for me to get up to speed on Accounting.
Earlier this month I completed CCCI’s Accounting Basics course, so now I am qualified to do bookkeeping. It was interesting learning, but it confirmed that bookkeeping is not my calling. I really did enjoy the learning, though.
My next learning endeavor will be CCCI’s intermediate accounting course which I will take along with 19 others from around the world in Turkey. If I complete this successfully, I will be qualified to be a CCCI accountant.
But my overall purpose is to keep leading the project I am working on, the “Next Generation Finance Tools” project. This has been a rewarding project so far, and I look forward to sticking with it for a few years.
Last month I took a class, Biblical Interpretation and Communication, in which I developed a sermon. Last week I preached that sermon at Christ Kingdom Church in Orlando, our church. The sermon is based on the story of when Abram goes to Egypt and experiences near disaster and what God does about it.
Recently I took a new job in Cru. My six years in the Global Technology Office were wonderful, but God has moved me on to the next thing. I will be helping lead a project to select a new set of global financial tools. This will be a challenge for me, but I am excited about it.
August 4 is my official start date, but I have already started the work. The project team will consist of about ten people spread around the world. Only one other will be in Orlando, so our meetings will be on Skype and in various cities that we can all travel to. Like Istanbul.
There is a lot for me to learn, too. I am starting an “Accounting Basics” class now. This should be a fun adventure for the next few years!
So here is the rest of the story of the Ethiopian Customs Snafu.
On the day of my departure I arrived at the airport early. Really early. 9 hours before my 10:30 pm flight. One of the local staff members went with me to help negotiate the release of my memory chip duplicator machine.
Flights arrive in Addis Ababa in the early morning, and flights depart in the late evening. Almost nothing happens at this airport after 10:00 am and before 6:00 pm. So the airport was very quiet and all the employees were sitting around the baggage arrival area watching an old Clint Eastwood movie.
At the Customs desk we repeated the same process I had followed on the night of my arrival a week earlier, and it took just about as long. Only this time my friend was doing the talking, and I was doing the waiting. And watching, “Every Which Way But Loose.”
Surprisingly, we were assigned the same customs tariff amount as the night I arrived, about $100. Only this was to get the machine OUT of customs and take it directly home. The price to leave it in Ethiopia, on this particular day, was set at $3000. This was absolutely crazy.
After I paid the fee they directed me to go across the way to the storage area to get the duplicator. I found out at the storage desk that I needed to pay a fee since they had stored it for seven days. So I paid another $20 or so for storage fees. Then they said I needed to pay a VAT tax for the storage fee!! Totally nuts.
Finally I got everyone paid, confirmed the duplicator was still in the box, and started leaving to find a place to wait for the next seven hours until my flight left. But no, they would have none of that!
A Customs agent had to accompany me to the baggage check-in to make sure I didn’t walk out the front door with the duplicator. So this young guys walks across the airport with me to Lufthansa’s check-in counter. But, of course, no one is there because check-in on the evening flights didn’t begin until around 7:00 pm. He looked at me and said, “Why didn’t you tell me your flight didn’t leave until 10:30? Now we have to go back and put this back in storage until tonight.”
At this point I thought I would never get the duplicator back. I figured they finally got me.
We walked back across the airport and checked my box BACK into storage. The agent assured me I wouldn’t have to pay any more fees to get it back out, but at this point I wasn’t believing anything.
So I waited out the next six hours in the empty front terminal of the Addis Ababa Airport and had a Coke and a piece of pizza.
When the Lufthansa counter finally opened for my flight check-in (now 8:00 pm), I went back to the Customs area – and was very happy to see the same young guy who had checked my box back into storage. He got it back out with no charge, just like he said he would, and walked me back to the Lufthansa check-in counter. I finally got it checked in and sent home to Orlando.
In the big picture, adding $100 to my trip expense wasn’t the end of the world. And the guys who will be distributing the mobile phone pastor training will have to copy 100 memory chips one at a time. They will eventually get it done. But it will be a long time before I attempt to bring another memory chip duplicator to Ethiopia!
Training today went outstandingly well! A couple of these men had seen the English language mobile course previously, so it was really easy to teach them how to use the Amharic language course. They also all had their own smartphones, so they knew how to use them and didn’t need to be taught. We were done in about an hour.
This is the work group I led this week at Indigitous – Addis Ababa. We developed a guide for creating free church or ministry websites with podcasting. None in the group had experience doing this, so I brushed off my rusty skills in that area and we got a reasonable amount done in our time frame. The Internet connection was poor, so our effective work time was really reduced.
No, I can’t read it either.
Yesterday I met Bereket. He helped me try to retrieve my confiscated piece of equipment from Ethiopian Customs. As we were driving across town he told me that he had been a staff member with Great Commission Ministry (Campus Crusade for Christ in Ethiopia) for two years. Prior to that he had been a volunteer online missionary in our online ministry center here in town. Someone from his church encouraged him to consider being an online missionary full-time, so he left his government job and joined our ministry!
This is the box at Ethiopian Customs agency at the airport in which sits my memory chip duplicator. I paid $1500 for it, but they want $8000 duty tax from me to bring it into the country. And only to use it for 1 week and then take it back home. This really frustrating!
But in trying to get the right approvals and letters in order to get it out I got to see a few more parts of Addis Ababa then I would have otherwise. And I got to meet a few people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise either.
This is Sami. He is one of our online missionary volunteers. He’s about to graduate from University and he will be joining the staff of our organization here in Ethiopia called Great Commission ministries. Sharp guy.
Today we made 2 trips to the airport in an attempt to get our duplicator back. On our second trip coming back to the truck we found it had a flat tire. So we had another adventure changing it, but it finally worked out. As frustrated as I am about losing use of the duplicator this week, I had a really fun day driving around town trying to get it out of the docket.