Ministry

Next Gen Project Complete!

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.

MOFEM

MOFEM Group

MOFEM Group

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!

Cru15 Conference

Moby Gym - where it all happens

Moby Gym – where it all happens

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.

walking to the next conference session at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado

Walking to the next conference session at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado

mLearning in CAR

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Some of the CAR pastors in the
mobile learning course
(Ernest is in the middle in tan suit)

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.

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The class of CAR pastors taking the
mobile phone-based theology course

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The smartphones!


Advisory Group in Istanbul

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Advisory Group in Istanbul

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.

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the real work

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.

Accounting Course #2 in Istanbul

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David, Jerry, Evie, Ewa in Istanbul

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.

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the real work

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!

Athens Conference

Jerry at Athens Acropolis

Jerry at Athens Acropolis

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.

Athens Prayer Group

Athens Prayer Group

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.

 

Accounting Basics

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.

Changes Coming

Jerry in GTO

Just when I was leaving GTO,
we all got great portraits
for our team page.
I’m taking this one with me.

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!

Ethiopian Customs Snafu

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The Duplicator

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.

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Customs Desk

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.

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Baggage Arrival Area
(with Storage in
the background)

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!

First Amharic Training

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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.

Bereket

Bereket Bekele 2014-05-11_205200

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!

Stuck in customs. Grrr.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ukraine Crisis Perspective

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.”

CCCI Technology Leaders

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CCCI Technology Leaders in Manila

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).

Indigitous and Ekko

Indigitous Panama using Ekko 2013-11

Indigitous using Ekko

Last month I participated in a Cru conference called, “Indigitous” in Canada. Shortly following this one, another Indigitous conference happened in Panama City, Panama. It was at this second conference that our new mobile learning platform, Ekko Mobile, proved to be a useful tool for many of the digital outreach missionaries there. The simplicity of creating a discipleship course was exciting to them, as they need a way to lead students through some structured materials while they work with them toward spiritual growth.

One of the workshops led participants through the process of creating courses and developing plans to use them in either an evangelistic setting or in one of the Bible studies they lead. They were excited to use the system and created the start of a series of short courses in just a couple hours. We plan to continue developing this system and should have the Ekko app in the Google Play store and Apple App Store soon.

PTL in Cameroon

2013-05-11 Yaounde Cameroon Launch

First Mobile Pastor Training in Cameroon

Saturday morning marked the launch of the first mobile phone pastor training in Cameroon. About 20 people came for an orientation session and, if ready, to purchase their “PTL smartphone.” (PTL = Pastors Training in Leadership). Ernest, the technical coordinator for this program in Francophone Africa, set up this launch in his home city, Yaoundé, Cameroon. Zarc, my coworker from Nairobi who is the overall tech coordinator for this project, and I traveled there to help Ernest get things going and to see how things are working on-site.

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Ernest, the PTL Tech Coordinator
in Francophone Africa

Getting phones and memory chips here was a non-trivial task that took many months. The phones are almost too expensive already without import tariffs, so our African leadership has chosen to avoid adding on any other costs and hand-carry batches of phones to the various countries. Keeping these two critical ingredients (phones and memory chips) in sufficient supply will be a challenge here.

Cameroon is a bilingual country (French and English), but I think Zarc and I were the only two other English speakers in the country besides our “Campus Pour Christ” coworkers. My bad high school French confused just as many people as it worked on. And half the time my fading Hungarian would come out, and I couldn’t remember if the word I just said was actually Hungarian or French. This didn’t earn me any smiles.

It is good to be heading home!

Cathy begins chemo treatments soon, and I am traveling on Mother’s Day today. So this trip was expensive in more ways than one. Cathy assured me the trip would be OK, and her sister came down for a visit while I was gone. But I will be happy to be home.

Why Your Social Media Plan Isn’t Working

Several years ago one of the evangelistic websites I was working with, EveryStudent.com, developed a great way to interact with its visitors on Facebook. And then two months later Facebook changed things and rendered this great new social media strategy useless.

Social media sites are bad places to give exclusive control of your content, a point emphasized by Steve Raquel of IOV Media in a seminar today at Cru on how to maximize the impact of your online communication. One of the principles he emphasized was the need to control your content. That is, don’t give exclusive control of your content to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or any other social media site. Instead, post your content on your own website (like hertzlers.com) and use social media outlets to attract attention and draw your audience to your website where you retain control of the content.

In an effort to heed this advice I installed a plugin on my blog that allows me to push blog posts to both Facebook and Twitter.

Now I just need to start writing more ……

It’s official now: Cru

Cru logo

Campus Crusade for Christ announced its intentions to change its official US name last summer, and the plan was to make this official sometime in 2012. That change happened last week, and our US organization is now named, Cru.

Cathy and I are part of a group that reports to a global vice president, so we are part of the organization that will retain the name, Campus Crusade for Christ.

Confused? Don’t worry, either name will work in the US.

mLearning in a new era

On Wednesday two events marked a new era for our mLearning project.

First, we had the launch event of a major new version of the software we have been using, Allogy Digital Press. This new software will make it possible for non-technical people to publish their own mobile learning course for smartphones or tablets.

The second event was a planning meeting where the 8, or so, member mLearning team identified ten projects that are either under way or in the developing stages.

We are now out of the initial development stage of this project and into a growth stage. I’m excited about what this new phase will bring!

Training Team On The Way

Orlando Training Team

Training Team

Today three of our team left for Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya to train the technical coordinators who will be teaching the orientation sessions for our mobile phone pastor training course. These are most of the people who developed the training. It took a lot of work, but we expect it will pay off when we see the first wave of 2400 pastors-in-training start this course!


600 memory chips coming right up….

Last minute software bugs are now fixed, so today we begin copying the first 600 memory chips that will go into each student phone. We will ship another 1800 blank memory chips, along with two mass duplicators, to the program coordinators in Ghana and Kenya. It is these memory chips which hold the content that each pastor-in-training will go through during their training. Without an Android smartphone, though, these memory chips are useless. Each one must be installed into a phone and activated before the training course will be available on the student-pastor’s phone.

For those interested in the geeky details; each memory chip is a 16 Gb Class 10 microSD flash memory card, similar to the ones that come in nearly every new Android smartphone these days.

Three trainers going now….

Today our team decided to send three people to do the training in Ghana and Kenya instead of two. This will increase the number of people on our team who can lead other mobile phone training projects in the future.

At the same time we are working on some minor last-minute bugs in the mobile phone training system. It seems that when you submit a quiz from one country to the “system” in another country the quiz answers get dropped. D’oh.

(I thought I’d start the new year by writing more about the smaller details that go into making a larger mobile phone pastor training course work.)