Month: March 2006

GodLovesRussia.com hits the Google accelerator

Here’s an excerpt from my email thread yesterday.

From: Jerry Hertzler
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 5:44 PM
To: Brian Alex Dorsey Larry
Cc: Tom Mark
Subject: 300 responses from GodLovesRussia.com this month!

Earlier this month (March) Mark and Mike began using Google’s program to display ads for www.GodLovesRussia.com on other popular Russian language websites. This resulted in an increase in visits to our site and a 10x increase in responses! During the last five months our site saw about 20 people each month indicate they had trusted Jesus by clicking “Da” [Yes] at the end of the 4 Spiritual Laws page. This month there were 300.

Below is Ella’s description of what the new flood of responses was like.

Yours for the remaining 250 million (or so) Russian speakers,
Jerry

——————————————————————————–
From: Ella
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 1:21 PM
To: Jerry Hertzler
Subject: Re: I have a question

yes, it is working now. volunteers receive letters. We were indeed overwhelmed with many letters, some of them weren’t easy to answer and we neede time to think and prepare an appropriate answere to someone’s problem. some of these people still keep in touch with us. One girl from Russia even asked Andrey if we can come and visit them (they are in “deep Russia” far from major cities as far as I remember. Some asked us about our work and our testimony. It was about 10 letters per day at time for the two of us. Andrey usually takes care of all “relatively easy” letters and I take care of “heavy stuff” addressed for us.
It may be close to truth that we’ve had around 300 letters.
Ella
—– Original Message —–
From: Jerry Hertzler
To: Tom ; Andrey
Cc: Tom (Eastern Europe)
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 5:04 PM
Subject: RE: I have a question

Andrey,

Last week you said to Tom that responses from GodLovesRussia.com were not going to your two new volunteers. Is this working now?

The Google ad campaign indicates that over 300 people have clicked “Yes” on GodLovesRussia.com this month.

Have you been seeing an increase in responses this month?

Jerry

The Final Throes of Culture Adjustment

Much of our experience in Hungary has defied conventional wisdom regarding cultural transition. It’s been a wonderful time for us, and in hindsight it is hard to remember if, or when, we had any significant “culture shock.” Today’s experience marked both an accomplishment and a first. It was the first time we have been totally without understanding on an issue and simply had to fork out the money. (We didn’t understand why we needed to spend another $100 to renew a customs bank guarantee which does not expire until one month AFTER we leave.) On the other hand, upon nearly getting stymied at our local bank for our request to extend this customs bank guarantee, I pulled out my Hungarian and saved the day. Here’s how the conversation went:

[English]
Clerk: This letter will be ready tomorrow.
Jerry: I will not be in town tomorrow, and my renewal deadline expires before I return. Is there any way I can have this today?
Clerk: No.
Jerry: Can my wife sign for me?
Clerk: Yes
Jerry: When can she come by and sign for this?
Clerk: As soon as we open in the morning. We will probably do this at 5:00 today.
Jerry: Can I come back at 5:00 today and pick this up?
Clerk: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. (meaning, she didn’t understand my English.)
Jerry: “Lehet vissza jövök ötkor? (Can I come back around 5:00?)
Clerk: You speak Hungarian? Pillanat. (One moment.)
[Clerk talks to coworker then turns back to me.]
Clerk: My coworker is checking to see if we can do it now.

Five minutes later I walked out with the paper I needed.

In the mean time we had a nice conversation in broken Hungarian and broken English.

Looks good from here

With my fund raising trip just around the corner, it looks like I have enough appointments lined up to make the trip productive for my friend, Bartek. As I have answered his questions over the last couple weeks I began to realize how much I have learned in the last 17 years about presenting our ministry situation. Besides the inertia to getting this trip started, it has been one of my smoothest and easiest. I got through the molasses and am ready for two weeks of fun get-togethers with friends.

Vác, Hungary

Cathy in Vac, Hungary

Cathy in Vác, Hungary

Our friends, Scott and Jane, came to Budapest for some meetings, and since they wanted to go to Vác, Hungary to pick up some antiques we took a vacation day and went with them. Hunting through an antiques warehouse gives one the opportunity to imagine all sorts of potential – and all sorts of work. We weren’t the only ones looking for value, though. While we were there we met Larry, an antique distributor from the U.S. He said he can sell just about any piece in the U.S. for double what he buys it for in Hungary. This, of course, is very motivating.

Our find for the day: one wood bread bowl and two old windows.

Dinner Fight

Andrew and Audrey goofing off at dinner

Andrew and Audrey goofing off at dinner

Cathy and I were tired; Andrew and Audrey were wound up. I had my camera, so I thought I’d make note of their happy fighting.

(Right about the time I was thinking, “It’s nice that they can play fight and stay in control,” one of their elbows hit the dish behind them and broke it. They had full approval for the play fight, so the dish was just an unfortunate cost to it.)

Room for Annie

One month ago I made airline ticket reservations for our move to Orlando, but I could only purchase two tickets. Annie will travel with us, so we needed to get a confirmed reservation for her as well. Delta Airlines wasn’t responding with a confirmation right away, so we decided not to purchase all four tickets in case we had to find another airline on which to take Annie. For the last month only Cathy and Andrew had tickets to fly. Finally yesterday we got confirmation that Annie can travel with us, so now Audrey and I can go, too. Whew.

It recently occured to me how much different this move will be from our last one. Whereas three years ago we were moving into a relatively unknown situation, this time we are moving to our old stomping grounds. While this may have been fairly obvious to an outside observer, I’m a little more dense than most outside observers and hadn’t really grasped that. Even hiring a moving company seems easy now.

Memorable Quote

Our new truck

Our new truck

The little toy truck the moving company estimator left yesterday made for a memorable quote. Actually it was the same company that moved us here from Orlando three years ago, and they remembered us well, down to the volume we used back then and the family with whom we shared a container, the Seelys.

Thinking through all the issues involved with packing and moving makes me weary, so I’m not thinking about them now; just getting quotes.

Two down, three to go.

Tom and Jerry film their last episode

While it would be nice for me to imagine that our departure from Budapest would leave hardly a disturbance, in reality the change created new opportunites for Tom. A couple weeks ago he accepted the job of “Chief of Staff” for our area director, Larry Thompson. It’s a great fit for Tom and a great match for Larry. The change leaves the future of Campus Crusade’s Internet ministry in Eastern Europe a bit more uncertain, but I’m confident things will move forward in this area and God will continue to use what we started to reach people with the message of Jesus.

You can read Tom’s post about it here.

Girls’ Club Photo Class

Girls Club

Audrey’s Girls Club

Yesterday Audrey’s Girls’ Club invited me to teach a short photography class. Two of the other moms were also photographers, so between the three of us we may have increased the quality of some of the world’s future pictures. Watching them all take pictures and laugh was my reward for the day, and they ended up with some pretty good ones.

Watch for me on Times Square

Only 3 more inches until he catches me!

Only 3 more inches
until he catches me!
– the photo I submitted

Have you seen the Nationwide Insurance Company’s recent ad campaign? “Life Comes At You Fast” is a nifty way to involve customers and potential customers. You send them a photo and a headline from your life, and they display it at Times Square (presumably on the jumbotron monitors). In the process you give them your name, address, and possibly your phone number. Not a bad exchange. I almost gave them my phone number, as they promised to give me a reminder call for when my picture would display at Times Square, but I caught myself just in time. Even so, it all seems like a fair rate for the exchange of my personal information. Flatter me, and I’ll let you sales-call me. Everyone has their price.

If you are in Times Square, or watch a Times Square webcam, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of Andrew and me at this time:
March 20-24, 2006 at 4:54:30 PM EST.

I’m not sure if this means the ad will run on five consecutive days or whether it may happen to run at that time on any one of those five days. I’m sure Nationwide would like me to watch and find out.

Oh, look, Cathy, they’re moshing!

Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands

One of the events Campus Crusade’s Hungarian high school ministry, FÉK (pronounced “fake”), does is the Battle of the Bands. Andrew and Audrey and their friends wanted to go, so we went and enjoyed the fun, too. We sat in the back and watched the kids jump around in front.

Making this a different experience was the fact that our kids wanted us to stay and enjoy it, too. This would have been an event at which I would not have enjoyed parental accompaniment when I was their age, but they didn’t mind. The other weird thing was that as Cathy and I were watching the crowd in front, we spotted both our kids having fun in the melee and found ourselves saying like pleased parents, “Oh look, they’re moshing!”

Things Not To Do Anymore

Recently I began enjoying the leaving part of our upcoming move; losing a to do list. Here is what never got done in the three years we lived here and what won’t get done before we leave.

clock – Mount the clock on the wall.


ceiling fan wires – Install ceiling fans. (Wires poked through our ceilings for 3 years).


wires behind chair – Cover up the mess of wires coming out of the transformer.


Not-To-Do-List-Shower – Install a shower curtain in the upstairs bathroom.


door with paper – Put up material on the translucent bedroom door glass to replace the packing paper we pinned up on the first day here.


If this appears like freedom from a list, it isn’t. I kept my list from our house in Orlando. Yes, this is a sickness.

Starting Again

Last week I began another phase of setting up appointments for my upcoming trip on which I will attempt not only to find new people to join our ministry team but on which I will also bring my friend, Bartek, and help him do the same. (-3; run-on sentence).

Whereas last October I faced my usual swamp of molasses, this March I face that same swamp, only with less energy. That means I have a new opportunity to see God get me through it, under more challenging circumstances, and come out the other end with a deeper trust in him.

All right, let’s go!

God’s Provision

Today Yesterday marks the three month point before our move to Orlando, June 12 11 (I better get this straight by then!) Three months is enough time to get everything done if everything goes smoothly, but it’s not enough time if everything goes as it normally does. Foremost on our minds is the amount of money we need for this move, but foremost in our memory is also how God provided what we needed for our last move. In one month’s time God dramatically met our need. The lead-up to that month was faith-building and traumatic, and the time immediately following it was extraordinarily sweet.

We have yet to experience the same level of lead-up trauma this time around, but there is still plenty of time.

Ronnie Stevens, our pastor, preached from John 11 the last four weeks
. The story of Lazarus, where Jesus resolved the situation four days after the deadline, makes me wonder if our window of faith-building trauma might extend beyond June 12!

Nevertheless, tonight we saw part of God’s provision for our needs; a family minivan. Our friends, from whom we purchased our all-time best minivan value eight years ago, have another one to sell us. It’s in our price range, i.e., nearly free, and should last long enough to allow us to get back on our feet in the US.

Dog on Cat Violence at the Hertzler House

Annie finally hit her limit with Cat. In the last 24 hours she has attacked the cat three times, each time coming out the winner. Surprisingly the cat doesn’t seem too bothered. She just finds a place to lie above Annie’s reach.

This surprised all of us. We thought the cat had Annie under complete control, but when the brawls begin the cat turns and runs. Like any dog, a cat in full retreat transforms Annie into a crazed cat-killing lunatic until we jump in and calm her down.

It would be really cool to get this on video, but the skirmishes happen suddenly and end as quickly as they begin.

On my way to Zagreb last week…

Last week on the train to Zagreb, Croatia I found that my reserved seat was occupied by an American. I walked past that cabin to discover it wasn’t just the three Americans in “my” cabin, but there was a big group of Americans, apparently all together in this train car. My hopes of some incognito down-time vanished, and I resigned myself to riding in my 6-seat cabin with these touring Americans, albeit not in my window seat.

When Americans travel they become louder. I don’t know why this is, but I’ve observed myself doing it as well. When Americans travel in groups everyone within 50 yards is aware of their presence. Avoiding or ignoring this American group was not going to be possible on this train ride, so I sat down and listened to the conversation while I did some work.

It didn’t take long to learn that this group of Americans was a bunch of high ranking US military officers touring Europe as part of a military academy. In “my” seat was a colonel, and in the seat opposite him was a major. Both were pilots and had been to (or over) Croatia before; just not on a train nor under friendly conditions. After a half hour or so I figured I should let them know I was an American, so I joined their conversation for a while. Really nice guys. Being in a group, they all moved around between cabins, and I met a few more of them as they stopped by.

After an hour or so on the train a few of them starting exploring. They checked out the first class coaches, the dining car and walked the train from end to end. All was well until the first stop just inside Croatia.

The first thing I noticed was the team of four Hungarian border guards walking down the hall of our car. Normally they get off the train at the last stop in Hungary, so something was amiss. A minute later the leader of the American military group was coming down the hall asking if anyone had seen three of their group. (One of the missing was named Vapor, and as soon as I heard the name I knew exactly who it was; tall, blond, flat-top haircut, chiseled upper body, Air Force jet pilot; one of the explorers.) Apparantly three of them got off the train back in Hungary and didn’t get back on. D’oh!

These weren’t just tourists, they were high ranking US military officers traveling in an official government attaché. Losing a few of them without their passports was not an option. The group leader had to call the US Embassy and let them know what was going on, but his phone wouldn’t work. Being just inside the Croatian border, his phone had not yet locked onto a roaming service provider, and he was having trouble knowing which sequence of numbers to dial.

So I saved the day and dialed the embassy for him with my phone.

[Now I don’t want to exaggerate my role in this, but I have to point out that my swift, clear-thinking action averted a certain political disaster. My country could have found itself in an international dilemna of enormous proportions had it not been for my quick phone dialing abilities.]

They finally decided on a course of action, and our train was once again on its way, a mere ten minutes behind schedule. Just before reaching my destination they received word of what happened to these unfortunate military travelers.

Whether they needed to visit a non-moving toilet (the prevailing reason offerred by those who remained on the train) or whether they were attempting to photograph Flat Stanley in an exotic location for their kids (the explanation that found the most amusement) is unclear. What seems clear is that they got off the train and got back on it – only a few cars back from where they got off. As they walked toward their car (inside the train) they discovered that the rest of the train had separated from the car they were in and was pulling away from the station!

“We are never going to hear the end of this,” was the somber conclusion of the major.


Shortly after hearing about the train separation explanation I found myself in a bit of a dilemna, too. For a number of reasons I began to think I should have been on that other section of train that broke away. In the course of the next few minutes I learned that the car I was in was not the car with my reserved seat and that my smug “I’m not an American tourist” attitude might have been dead wrong. (Not to mention how glad I was that I didn’t try to kick the colonel out of a seat that was not really mine either.) Just as I was thinking about how I would navigate my way back to Zagreb we passed a sign that said we had entered the Zagreb area. Whew!

Can You Manage a Mob?

This morning I read two articles which make profound observations about today’s world. Internet forces are shaping it into something new.

Relative to my work and life passion, helping people to know Jesus, these articles bring helpful perspective. Rather than attempting to guide someone’s web experience where you want it to go, these articles would imply it is wiser to publish who you are (in my case for this purpose, that would be anything about who God is or what it would be like to know him) and be there when the “mob” is looking for things related to this topic.

The first article describes one aspect of group behavior related to the ideas in The Wisdom of Crowds.

Get used to living in a world of ochlocracy. In fact, an attempt to manage a mob can easily anger it. And a mob angry with you can’t be a good thing. So when the mob is at your door, which it is every day for those of us with virtual Internet doors, no good will comes from attempts at control or management.

Article: Can You Manage a Mob?

The other article describes the “bottom up” force created by the student generation for shaping their own media consumption habits – which is making the “top down” expert media publishers lose relevance.

The era when studios, networks and record companies were tastemakers is long gone. Ask kids today where good music comes from and they’ll say iTunes or MySpace, not Warner Bros. Records. The best brands are being built from the bottom up.

Article: Oscars Show Foundering in Era of Niches

Annual Basketball Tournament Weekend


ICSB Basketball Tournament 2006

ICSB Basketball Tournament 2006

This weekend was the third ICSB Basketball Tournament for us. It’s one of the community events where Andrew and Audrey run free all day, the parents hang out with each other all day, and basketball games happen on the court all day. There is lots of action on the court and lots of socializing in the stands.

This year ICSB (The International Christian School of Budapest) fielded a team composed mostly of American kids. The American International School of Budapest, on the other hand, fielded teams on which there were only two Americans!

The other two teams are Vienna Christian School, and Bucharest Christian Academy

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino

San Marino Flag

The Republic of San Marino

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino was unknown to me prior to yesterday in Zagreb, but a random parking violation prompted me to discover a fascinating bit of European history and trivia.

On my walk to the train station I came across something my friend, Hrvoje, had described; one of the Zagreb parking tow trucks. These blue things simply lift illegally parked cars off the ground and carry them away. I almost had the opportunity to see one in action as it prepared to remove a diplomat-tagged car.

In the end, the driver showed up in time to rescue his car, but not before my curiosity was aroused about his country, The Republic of San Marino.

After a little research tonight I learned that San Marino is the oldest independent country in the world, founded back in A.D. 301. It exists entirely within Italy and has less than 30,000 residents, making it one of the smallest countries in the world as well. The country enjoys diplomatic relations with over 70 other nations and belongs to the UN.

This amazes me. People must not realize this is possible. When I get back to Orlando my first job will be to organize my community, Waterford Lakes (population ~40,000), into an autonomous region within Florida. A few trips to the UN in New York to meet with Kofi, and we should be well on our way to international recognition. I think I’ll name my country New Chad – in honor of the political confusion that dominates Central Florida voting machinery.

Zagreb

Zagreb

Zagreb, Croatia

I just got back from Zagreb, Croatia; my first time there. It was great meeting with Hrvoje, Bjan, and Brooke and finding out how they use an evangelistic website to bring students to Jesus and get them involved in their campus group. Of the ~40 or so people each month who indicate a decision to trust Jesus on the site, they are able to personally meet with about 10 of these and do follow up Bible studies. Amazingly, Croatian culture lends itself well to switching easily from emailing an Internet website visitor to “Hey, can we meet for coffee?” Often someone will meet with them after a single email exchange! If only it could be so easy everywhere else.