At the conference room table

I travel, usually at least a couple times a year, to various conferences related to my ministry. This year I’ve been to meetings to coordinate with other technology leaders and a large meeting for everyone in our organization who works in an operations role. That’s all the finance, communications and technology people to give a few categories. I’ve been to a number of countries and I can tell you a little bit about each but what I have a stronger sense of is that conference rooms are pretty much the same the world over. I catch myself sitting in meetings and it strikes me, “Behind those curtains could be a window looking out on Thailand, Ethiopia, Turkey or the US and this room would be just the same.” Function drives design. I have a pretty good collection of name badges that I’ve built up over the years.

Of course the best thing about the meetings is the people and the opportunity to work together. Here’s a little sign on a table from my last conference. I had to blur one name out for security reasons but they represent people I’ve learned to appreciate on so many levels.
A group working together.

I’m not crazy about the logistics of getting from one point on the globe to another. Flying is amazing in what it can do, but it’s tough on the body and mind. And being away from the family is never fun or easy. But at the end of the day important work gets done and I get to do it alongside some amazing people. Sometimes it’s people from all over the world, sometimes it’s coworkers from the part where my efforts are focused. I don’t have a ton of exciting pictures when I do one of these trips. Who wants to see a bunch of people sitting around talking? And it’s usually impossible to get a photo of more than a couple people without catching someone who shouldn’t have their picture on the web. (God’s doing amazing things and the enemy is active trying to fight it. It’s a great time to be in missions, but great care is required.)

Thanks for being a part of putting me at the tables where all this work happens.

Eastern Europe Table

Mobile Matters

I feel a little silly at this point, talking about the importance of mobile technology and the role it plays and will play. A few years ago I felt a bit like it was still “out there” and not totally known. I often found myself telling people “soon…” Quicker than I could have imagined even myself, soon has arrived. But I guess it never hurts to remind oneself of the fundamental realities that shape the landscape. What got me thinking about it, specifically today was a report the CEO of Sony Ericsson gave on the status of the company. One simple statement I think says it all, “We will continue to invest in the smartphone market, shifting the entire portfolio to smartphones during 2012.”

I used to say, “Some day all phones will be smartphones.” If you are a Sony Ericsson customer, that some day is just months away. More people have accessed the web via the phone than other methods for years now. So even someone as dense as I am could put this together.

The practical ramification is that it is now possible to reach more people than ever before with the Gospel. But if we want to take full advantage of the internet we need to do it by making sure our content works well on mobile devices. If we do that, we can get Christ’s redemptive message in front of people world wide, 24-7.

When I was a kid Sunday School teachers used to ask, “Who was the fastest runner ever?” The right answer was Philip, based on the account of him meeting up with the Ethiopian eunuch. The world’s fastest runner bit was fun when I was a kid, but I don’t think that’s what the text actually says. But right now, we can be virtually alongside a person riding high speed rail in china, a young person with no hope or framework for hope on a ferry in Scandavia, or any number of other people the world over.

This is an unparalleled time because as quickly as the powers of the world move to close the doors of communication and control the message, new doors open. And right now, just like it was two thousand years ago the harvest is ready and we just need to step out into the fields. If you’re on our team, thanks for stepping out with us. If you aren’t – I’d encourage you to join in. It’s exciting what God is doing.

No Papers for You!

Does it date me that I relate a lot of life to Seinfeld memes? When the answer is not yes, I tend to think about the soup nazi. But moving back to reality – we do have a prayer request. When we arrived in Hungary the five of us were given 90 day tourist visas. (The stamp in our passport.) As soon as we had the proper documents together we applied for our residence permit that allows us to stay longer. That is supposed to take a maximum of 30 days.

Unfortunately due to heavy work loads the immigration department is running behind and we are outside the maximum window. This wouldn’t be the biggest deal but I need to go to some meetings in Bangkok at the end of the month. If my permit hasn’t come through before I’m scheduled to leave I may not be able to go. Leaving the country would be easy, but getting back in could be challenging.

So please pray that our residence permits come through soon. It would be a huge help in a few ways, my trip being the one that is the most urgent.

On Our Way

Things have been very busy for the last couple months. We frantically tried to get rid of all the stuff we could not take to Hungary with us. We were able to save much of it to make some money to help with the move. Then the movers came and took all the things going to Hungary. Shortly after that we all made our way to Phoenix.

After we got here things stayed very busy. We’ve been trying to see family and friends to say good-bye while at the same time we had to complete raising the support we needed to go and live in Hungary. With a couple days to spare, we hit the point where we have been officially cleared to go. We are in a very celebratory mood this morning.

Of course, I’ve still got a lot to do before we take off. I have to make sure all our luggage will fit in the airlines weight limits and we need to get a newsletter out. We’ve got new fridge magnets for all the folks on our mailing list. If you aren’t on that list and want one, let me know and we’ll see what we can do.

Wednesday we’ll all be in a new country for the very first time. God has been so good to get us this far and we look forward to seeing what He will do going forward.

mLearning Project

I was in on the mLearning project pretty early. I sat through a number of meetings and got very excited as I thought about the potential that was there. As it moved forward, I had to focus on other things and my friend and co-worker Jerry Hertzler took the ball and ran with it. The testing that’s been happening has been done in Kenya. In fact Jerry is there now. He let us all know that Business Daily there in Nairobi ran an article about the project.

A lot of other people and organizations are working in this area. I’m pretty excited though that we are out there on the front end of it and already seeing meaningful results. I keep the software on my phone, just to show people I meet how cool it is. It’s fun to be a part of something that I think is going to radically change the world for the better.

Oumar

I’ve been busy and should have had this up a while ago. This is the last video I’ll be posting here from our conference in Thailand. This is Oumar, our tech leader for Francophone Africa. Oumar lives with his family in Mali and is a joy to be around. I think you’ll pick up a bit of that just watching the video below.

Ways to keep in touch

We have a neat job, Ingrid and I. I was reminded of it this week-end as we shared Easter and our wedding anniversary with dear friends of ours that were in town. Due to the fact that we don’t operate alone but rather as part of a large team of ministry partners, we have so many of these great friends that are involved in our life and calling at a very deep level. These people pray for us, care for us and provide the financial support that allow us to put our full focus into our role in fulfilling the mission that God has called us to accomplish.

Our team of ministry partners are the best!

We are always trying to think of ways to improve the communication between the members of that team. For a tech guy, it’s been a pretty low tech endeavor up to this point. Hopefully that is going to be changing. Here are some of the avenues that will be available to keep up with what God is doing with us and to let us know what is going on in your life.

You can always call us, write us, or email us. All the necessary contact info. can be found here at the blog. Those have been in place all along and wont go away. I’ll be working hard to use email more this year to give quicker updates than our monthly newsletters.

We’ll be doing more videos like those in the last few posts and those will be showing up here. You can also see them over at our youtube channel.

You can follow us as well as @jringrid at twitter.

Finally, if you are on Facebook, we would encourage you to be a part of the group In Mission with JR & Ingrid. This will be an easy place for anyone who uses Facebook to keep up with our blog and twitter feed. Both will automatically show up in the group. It isn’t necessary to be our “Facebook Friend” to be in the group, and we’ll try to invite anyone we know might be interested, but if we miss you just ask to be a member and we’ll get you in ASAP.

As Red Green says, we are all in this together. It’s my hope and prayer that these tools will help us all to have a closer sense of team and mission.

Miheret

Well, if you get our newsletter, it should be landing in your mailbox today or tomorrow. Monday at the latest I would think. Either way, in it we talk about a friend and co-laborer Miharet. He is a young Ethiopian man with technical talent and a heart for reaching his country, his continent and the world.

Ingrid was able to grab a few moments and allow Miheret to share a bit about himself and the things he is trusting God to do in the next year. There is a lot of background noise so I’ll put a transcript ( made by me so it’s close but not perfect) to help if you can’t hear him all that well. We filmed all these on a rather old little point and click camera.

Ingrid: Ok, this is Miheret and Miheret why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

Miheret: Ok, thank you for this. My name is Miheret Tilahun and I work in Ethiopian Campus Crusade ministry. I grew up in Ethopia and I hold a degree in Computer Science. I have been doing Global Media Outreach internet in ministry concentrating on Ethiopia and Africa. Now I am planning to establish a communications center for the Southeast Africa Campus Crusade area office. Here in Thailand I am really happy meeting Ingrid.

Ingrid: Ok, why don’t you tell us what you are trusting God for this next year.

Miheret: Oh, this next year our communications center will be established, I hope. And I believe that we will train more on-line missionaries in Ethopia and in Southeast Africa. As well we will try to use technology in a more integrated way with our ongoing ministries.

Ingrid: Ok, thank you so much!

Miherete: You are welcome. Bye.

Connecting the Mobile Dots

Chris Sleath is a Brit, that lives in Texas and is the Director Of Virtual Movements for Africa and the Middle East. One of the things I love about working for CCCI is that this isn’t all that odd ball a mix around here. Virtual movements or virtually led in CCCI speak are movements that involve remote interaction. Chris has some information that is going to help me connect the dots with some of the stuff about the proliferation of mobile devices. I was in a meeting with Chris a bit back and he had a presentation he shared with us about Virtually Led Movements. You can download it from his blog and look at it yourself if you have software that can open pptx files. I’ll give you a few highlights.

His vision is

“Building spiritual movements so that everyone who has a TV, radio, internet access or cellphone in AFRICAME knows someone who truly follows Christ.”

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Chris has put together an impressive amount of information about the penetration of various types of media across Africa and the Middle East. He also compares the way each media can fit into our strategic goals and plans. It’s pretty fascinating reading if you are interested in that kind of information on a nation by nation basis. Then Christ gets down to brass tacks. There is a lot of budgetary information next, which would probably be quite an eye opener for many. But I want to leave you with something that drives home my excitement about what cell and internet coverage world wide means.

Chris summarizes our field experience as this: In our Paris communications center 85% of the messages coming in are from internet based evangelism. TV and radio together generate the other 15%. Setting up a web site costs less than 1/10th as much as the studio and equipment required for TV and radio. Almost 600% higher response rate for 10% the cost.

Do we ditch radio and tv? No, we want to use every tool available. But we are working hard to be in the front end of what is happening with phones for the very simple reason that it is going to provide unparalleled access and impact to the people of the world. The internet and mobile phone tools we are developing will help us get going quickly, in a cost effective way so that we can build up movements that can benefit even more from radio and tv. I’ve got more to share on this, but we have a good start here.

Coming, Going and Living

I’ve been a slacker on keeping this site up to date. Once the kids got back into school things got a lot busier. September slipped right on by and October is going too fast. God has been good and everyone is doing well. A lot of my time has been spent thinking about mobile phones, I’ll be writing more about that soon, maybe tomorrow.

Next month I’ll be in Singapore, talking about mobile phones among other things, with technology leaders from all over the world. There are some amazing things happening that are, I believe, truly game changing.

We are busy and blessed to have so much great work to do.