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.
For almost five years I enjoyed this motorcycle, but the day came today to say goodbye. Cathy was the one who talked me into buying it (no lie!), and I loved having it. But I no longer ride it for recreation; my bicycle gets all my fun time. Our van will need to be replaced soon, so the motorcycle money will return to the auto savings account from which it came in the first place. I am so happy I had the chance to own a motorcycle!
20 March 2014
The crisis in Ukraine has signaled that our world is once again changing in big ways. While we in North America take our own national views on this, looking at the events from a spiritual point of view creates a whole new perspective.
The following report is from an article on Cru’s site.
“On the frontlines of ministry in Ukraine are Cru staff and volunteers.
Cru staff members and local Christians have together distributed over 100,000 Bibles and New Testaments to Ukrainians.
God is using the upheaval to open the hearts of the Ukrainian people. Our national staff report that they haven’t seen this level of spiritual hunger since the wall came down in the early 90’s.
Please take a moment to watch this video update.
“Seeing that people are very open, we realize that we have a very good opportunity for active evangelism. We also understand that this won’t last for a long time and so we want to seize this moment as a time of action.”
– Sasha Zibarov, Ukraine Operations Director
“There is great openness right now and the ministry and church need to be ready to move forward with God’s Word as many people are hurting and open right now.”
– John Musgrove, Campus Ministry Leader, Kiev
Please pray for this country as well as for our staff members’ safety and strength as they minister in the midst of the turmoil.”
Last week this group of technology pros met to coordinate our work together with CCCI. One part of the group focused on writing new software, another part of the group focused on developing plans to implement our ministry measurement tools, and a third group focused on developing leadership skills among these and other technologists who apply all this stuff to CCCI’s mission.
It was a good week. One highlight was a lunch discussion I and a couple others had with the Director of Operations for our North Africa and Middle East area. We helped her identify how one of the technology systems this area had already installed for managing donor relationships could also work as a sufficient Human Resources database for staff members. This solution is a little unconventional, but that is what made it so good! Nothing else needed to be done to solve her problem except to start using the tools available to her (until a regular HR database is available for CCCI use in these locations).
The fraudulent William Milo is at the business of stealing my identity again, this time on Facebook. This morning I found four fake profiles, thanks to one of his previous victims who notified me. (THanks!).
For the record, here are the fake Facebook profiles I found. And there are about 50 associated friends with these!
Back in December we found ourselves waiting for a decision from Cathy’s oncologist regarding further chemo treatments. We never got a final decision until last week, even though we had already come to our own conclusion (no chemo).
But last week Cathy had a perfectly clear 3-month scan and an encouraging report from her oncologist. This was very good news, and it means we are officially on a 3 month schedule for getting scans and checkups.
And as far as we are concerned, done. Happy to have the last two and a half years receding into the distance of our rear view mirror.
This week two separate women have emailed me saying someone used my photo on a dating site to contact them and try to scam them out of money. These women did research using Google’s image search and discovered my image is the one being used in association with the names, William Milo, Charles Clemons, Michael Corlo, and Mark Klose Vilo. Worse yet, my image is posted on a “dating site scam” forum. D’oh!
This guy (or guys, or woman – who knows?) used several picture of MY life to pose for his life. And they used Audrey’s pics, too, and claimed her as their daughter. Where’s my shotgun?
It’s hard to describe how angry this makes me! Feels worse than having my things stolen or even my house invaded. At least it’s not my name. I always thought my credit cards would get stolen, not my face!
And if you are one of the women contacted by this poser, beware!
Annie turns 14 this year, and along with her age came a surprise as we traveled in the van to St. Louis for Christmas. About mid-day, after 7 hours of traveling Annie was fast asleep on Cathy’s lap in the passenger seat. Suddenly she had that warm, wet feeling running down her leg. I was driving and had a good laugh, as Annie had just peed on her in her doggie sleep. Not too much, but it meant she got to spend the rest of the day traveling in clothes with dog pee.
Later that night as Andrew was driving, I found myself in the front passenger seat with Annie sleeping on my lap. After a while I fell asleep, too, but woke up when Annie started stirring around. It was then I realized I now had that warm, wet feeling on my jeans. Cathy had more of a laugh on me than I had on her.
We were almost there, so I didn’t bother changing clothes, but as I walked in the door another surprise awaited me. I was laughing and showing my sister-in-law the spot where Annie had wet my jeans, but everyone else was pointing to my other leg and laughing at me even more. Annie had peed on me twice, once on each leg.
And then, of course, the jokes about, “Sure, blame that on Annie,” started.
For a couple weeks we have postponed writing anything because we wanted to be able to let you know if Cathy was going to have any more chemo. But we are still waiting to hear. The group of doctors who will review her case have not yet reviewed it. It seems that each time it is in queue something derails it. In the meantime, Cathy has been feeling good, gaining energy and quite happy she hasn’t heard anything yet!