Month: April 2007

Annie’s Cone

Annie's Cone

Annie’s Cone

Just when we thought life with Annie couldn’t get any nuttier, she takes it one step further.

Last week Annie had a tumor on her leg removed. She chewed out the stitches, so this morning the vet fitted her with a cone so she can’t chew on her leg anymore! It’s funny watching her bump into corners. She’s not quite sure what to make of it yet.

Fluffy The Alligator

Fluffy The Alligator

Fluffy at Lake Hart

Occasionally alligators visit us in the ponds around Campus Crusade for Christ’s Lake Hart campus. Most of them are less than 6′ long, but all of them get named Fluffy. This one showed up today and floated quietly for all the photos I wanted to take of him.

I walked out along the shore to get closer to him, and all the while he kept his eyes on me. As I was walking back, he followed, too. I was amused, so I took more pictures. Then he swam all the way up to the edge of the pond where I was standing and kept staring at me. That’s when I left.

Andrew Drives!

Andrew gets his permit

Andrew’s Driving Permit

As the garage door opened this evening it was Andrew driving the car into it. He had just returned from taking his driver’s test which allowed him to get a learner’s permit. It will be 12 months from now before he is able to get a regular driver’s license, but in the mean time this lets him drive with parents.

I’m still a bit shocked that I have a child old enough to drive.

Virginia Tech and Campus Crusade for Christ

If you read this blog regularly you might be wondering what Campus Crusade for Christ did in response to the recent shootings at Virginia Tech.

First, we grieved. Three of the students killed were involved in Campus Crusade (“Cru”) at Virginia Tech. Several of the witnesses were students in our group, too.

Here is a Time magazine article describing how Molly, one of the students in Cru at VA Tech, discovered the bodies of her slain dormates that early morning.

It would be impossible to catalogue everything other Campus Crusade groups did in response to the shootings, but one of the things we did was run ads pointing to our website gobbletalk.com. (This is a localized version of EveryStudent.com).

In the days following the shootings (until the time of this post), over 10,000 people visited this site and 59 indicated a decision to trust Jesus as a result.

In The Swamp

Tree Fort in the Cypress Swamp

Tree Fort in the Swamp

Behind our house is a cypress swamp, and in the swamp is this tree fort the kids showed me today. Within 500 feet of our house you can be completely surrounded by trees, hardly aware that you are in the middle of suburbia.

Back From Bangkok

MinistryNet Bangkok

MinistryNet Bangkok

My body has returned from Asia. My mind should be following shortly.

I spent a week at MinistryNet Bangkok, a Campus Crusade for Christ conference about using the Internet to communicate the gospel. Having helped plan the first MinistryNet conference in Budapest two years ago, it was gratifying to see a second instance of this type of gathering in a different area of the world. I did a seminar and helped emcee one of the days.

There were about 100 CCC staff members from all over the world, but mostly from Asia. It was humbling to spend time with my colleagues from that part of world, many of whom face significant danger in their work. I had lunch with a man who spent time in jail because of his work telling others about Jesus. It was also a pleasure to spend time with Beni and Andrey, the two guys who lead our Romanian and Russian language EveryStudent.com sites.

Along the way it was an interesting experience. We saw the tallest man in the world as we transferred flights in Tokyo. My traveling partners recognized his face, although it wasn’t his face that was most noticeable! At the hotel where we stayed, the coffee was good enough to write home to mom about. And the street vendors in Bangkok were downright entertaining.

Jerry getting sold

__ Jerry getting sold __

This is a photo of me buying an umbrella from a vendor on the street. She saw me and didn’t quit until I bought something. She let others pass, but once she saw me she followed me all the way down the sidewalk. I wish I knew what it was that marked me as an easy target. The umbrella cost $3, so it really wasn’t such a hard decision to buy anyway. Another vendor dispensed a book of postcards on me using this method, too.

Mangosteen and Rambutan

Mangosteen and Rambutan
[25 sec. video of this market]

And in the category of eating new, unusual food, I had mangosteen and hairy strawberries (rambutan) for the first time. They were both really good.

While we were there they were celebrating Songkran, or Thai New Year. We arrived a day early and went to the Weekend Market where everyone had a squirt gun and white powder and ran around in an all day water fight and flour-paste smearing contest. It was fun being squirted by the kids and included, as a foreigner, in their celebration.

Songkran-Water-Fight-Bangkok-Weekend-Market

Water Fight

Thailand was a wonderful place. The Thai people were very friendly. They readily initiated eye contact and a smile, something that makes anyone feel welcome.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Buddhist monks

Buddhist monks


Cousin Oleg

Today I learned that my colleague, Oleg Vrzheshch, who lives in Kiev is distantly related to me! How could this be?

His wife, Audra, has a sister who married a Hartzler from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Any Hartzler from Pennsylvania is related to me, a Hertzler, making me distantly related to Oleg. Sort of.

My Taxes: Evidence of My Insanity

I just e-filed my 2006 taxes. Whew, what an ordeal. Rental property, foreign earned income, being considered “self employed” for Social Security tax but “employee” for Federal Tax – and other complications – made this year a doozy. It was a roller coaster ride along the way, as my partial understanding of U.S. Tax Code threatened to cost me thousands of dollars. A little research bailed me out, no thanks to H&R Block’s TaxCut.

Several people have asked me why I do them myself and not just pay someone. After asking myself that many times this year, I concluded it’s because I would have to blindly trust someone else. I would have no way, other than doing the same full tax return myself, to know whether a tax professional did anything differently than I would do or whether they would take a conservative or liberal approach, etc. Doing them myself means I know why I made the decisions that are reflected on my return.

I started with H&R Block’s TaxCut. It frustrated me the entire time I used it, and at the end it wouldn’t e-file because they couldn’t resolve one of my forms – due to a BUG in their program. I got a refund, but only after spending hours using their program.

Next I bought TurboTax and spent another 8 hours working that program. I liked TurboTax.

So am I done? Not yet.

Now that I have a basis for comparison I think I’ll hire someone to prepare a 2006 tax return for me and see what they come up with.

I know, I’m insane.

[Update 6 hours later]

As I was walking Annie tonight I tried to review in my mind how it could be possible that I ended up with such a large refund. It was then that I realized what went wrong; TurboTax misplaced some of my income. After dinner I sat down and figured out which questions I had answered that made TurboTax under tax me. Now I am confident it is correct, but I can’t re-e-file because my first incorrect return is still pending. So my tax saga continues.

Easter Celebration

Having Fun at CKC's Easter Celebration

Having Fun at CKC’s Easter Celebration

Tonight our church, Christ Kingdom Church, produced a neighborhood Easter celebration, complete with jump houses and cotton candy. I offered to help setup, and before I knew it I was towing the church trailer behind my van with a load of sound equipment. Backing that trailer into place three different times was quite a challenge.

This little girl is the daughter of our friends and never fails to give me a good picture.

Interesting Developments for EveryStudent.ro

During its first full month of publication, March, our Romanian EveryStudent.com site (EveryStudent.ro) saw 791 visitors indicate a decision to put their faith in Jesus while reading the site. That is eight times the rate most of our other EveryStudent.com sites experience! God is doing something amazing right now in Romania.

One source of visitors to our site was a Romanian Satanic site which has linked to us. We always like more traffic, and we wrote the articles on EveryStudent.ro to answer questions for those who are on a spiritual journey, but this situation has a unique twist.

Many of the visitors from this site are sending our volunteers obscene emails filled with Satanic curses. It feels quite like a concerted attack against what we are doing.

So we are trusting (and praying) the power of God will prevail in this conflict!

Audrey Travels to Tallahassee

On Tuesday Audrey traveled to Tallahassee with Trace Academy, touring our state capitol. They plan to see where the legislature meets (although it won’t be in session), and they’ll see the governor’s mansion. Things have been quieter around here the last couple days in her absence. We’ll be glad to see her again tomorrow.