This is Sam Varghese. Sam is the IT leader for South Asia and lives in Bangalore India with his wife and sons. Sam shares a bit about himself, his family and his ministry. Sam uses a word that I think would be worth explaining and that is “capacity”. Sam is heavily involved in every aspect of ministry including the operations side of things. Building capacity means putting in place resources, systems or processes that help us to do more ministry. This is a very important aspect of the work that we do.

At the end Sam mentions that he is involved in discipling students, and is trusting God that some of them would become “multipliers”. It is the goal of Campus Crusade for Christ that we not just build ministries but rather that we build movements. That new believers are discipled and become actively engaged in sharing the gospel and discipling others. This is what he means by multipliers.

I’ve worked with and for Sam remotely quite a bit, it was a joy to get to meet Sam face to face and spend some good time together working towards ways to fulfill the Great Commission.

I forgot to mention – that’s Steve Pierce in the background. He is undoubtedly doing something incredibly important during this break in the conference.

GTL-GMA Chiang Mai Thailand

Well, this is a bit over due. We’ve been back for a couple weeks now and have a ton to report. Our newsletter about the trip to Thailand should go out in the mail today. (I really need to get out of this habit of sending them out on the last day of the month.) But we have much more to share than would fit into one of our letters.

So we’ll have lot of material here to supplement what went out. We have lots to report, pictures to show and some videos as well. I think I’ll kick it off with a few words about Thailand itself and some photos. In the coming days I’ll put up more about the conference itself and the people that were there.

Thailand is a beautiful country. There are very good reasons that it is a top tourist destination for people from all over the world. Chiang Mai is a great example of this. When we were in the hotel or out in the city, most of the Thai people we would see were working. Most everyone else was a tourist. Every ride in the elevator up to our room was an opportunity to hear a different language and meet someone from a different place. Ingrid got to use her German on more than one occasion.

Matched up with the natural beauty is that things are much more inexpensive than in the states. At night we usually ate at a food court near the hotel for roughly three dollars a person. That’s dinner, a drink and some sticky rice with mango for desert. Along with the visa situation I mentioned in the previous post, these all add up to make Thailand a great place for us to hold a conference.

You can read up on Thailand in quite a few places. I recommend wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. They both have tons of good information, maps and pictures.

Getting there and back, from Orlando, takes almost exactly 30 hours. That includes the time in airports. Actual flight times vary as coming back is somewhat faster due to the jet stream.

While were there on this visit it was very warm and humid. This wasn’t too much of a problem as the vast bulk of our time was spent in a conference room anyway. When we were out, even at night it was pretty hot. And right now is the time of year around Chiang Mai that they use fires to burn clear land for farming. So there was a constant haze in the air. I’d guess visibility wasn’t more than 2 or 3 miles at most.

The people of Thailand are exceptionally friendly and polite. They are soft spoken and show great deference and hospitality to guests. It really is a wonderful place to visit. Getting their from the U.S. is a little bit expensive but I’d wager that the savings once their make it very worthwhile even if one was on a purely recreational visit.

So there’s a very brief summary of where we were. Next post I’ll share more about some of the people at the conference and what kind of work we were doing. Below are some photos. Click on them to see more about it, and clicking again will get you the full sized image.

Ingrid and JR in Thailand

Ingrid and I have been in Thailand for a few days now. I would liked to have blogged about this earlier on but things were just too busy getting ready for the trip and then we were underway. I’d like to explain why we are here and what we are doing.

Why we are here is a two fold question. The primary reason is to have meetings. We are involved in 6 days of meetings that cover 3 different things. The first two days were focused on our Global Technology Leaders (GTL). This is a group of men that provide leadership all over the world in how CCCI can use technology to reach the world for Christ. We have participants from all over. We discussed wide ranging topics on what is happening in our areas and what we would like to see happen. Ingrid led a session where she presented data she had analyzed on some of our on-line communities and tools. After that we did a day off.

The next 2 days of meetings, the first of which was today, are for our Global Measurements Application (GMA) partnership. It is mostly the same people that make up the GTL. GMA allows us to track what God is doing through our various ministries and then plan and lead from that information. It’s an important part of ministry and a high priority of our global leadership. We meet regularly with the people who manage and implement GMA for each area of the world. Supporting GMA is a very large part of my work and I’m very much enjoying this time with my counterparts that I work alongside virtually every day. A key part of these meetings is just reinforcing those relationships that take place via email, skype and such tools.

Our last 2 days are software training. A couple of my co-workers (one from Singapore and one from a closed country) and I will be teaching the other attendees to use software called Drupal. Drupal is a powerful tool for building many different types of web sites. GMA is built on top of Drupal and we are leveraging that platform for many other uses.

That is the big part of why we are here. The smaller point of why we are in Thailand specifically is due to the fact that many of those in the meetings come from places where getting a travel visa can be difficult. Many parts of the world are closed to them. For example our co-workers from Africa can have some difficulty traveling to a number of places. Thailand though, is easy for them. On top of that we already have staff here who can set up the conference and things here are not as expensive as many other places. All that adds up to make Thailand an ideal place for this kind of meeting.

Next Sunday, after everything is done, Ingrid and I will fly back to Bangkok. We will take a couple days to visit the city and then we head home. Later I’ll put up a post just on the travel aspect and what it is like getting from Orlando to here and back.

Busy!, Busy!, Busy!

Remember the bad magician guy from the Frosty the Snowman cartoon? He liked to repeat things three times and one is “Busy!, Busy!, Busy!”. Stuff like that sticks in my head. I have trouble remembering my own phone number but I have Frosty the Snowman dialog I’ll never forget. But that’s not the point, the point is we are busy.

Who isn’t you ask? Yeah, I know, it seems to be a condition impacting us all. But as much of our business is ministry related, I thought I’d share.

In a couple of weeks Ingrid and I head to Thailand. We’ll be taking part in a set of meetings that involve our Global Technology Leaders. These are guys from all over the world that take leadership in planning and implementing technology use for their area. We meet in Thailand because some are coming from countries where it is difficult to get a visa into other places. Thailand is very liberal in this respect and so everyone can come. As a bonus one of our members lives in Thailand and can easily make all the required arrangements to host the meetings. We will be in the city of Chiang Mai.

The last two days, I’ll be working with a couple other men (I’d say who but they are coming from a closed country and I can’t.) to train another 20 in using some software that we’ve found to be very useful, called Drupal. It is free software that makes building powerful web sites relatively easy. (Not easy, but relatively so.) Getting ready for that has kept me pretty occupied. I’ve been collecting training materials, donated by three different U.S. companies. I’ve also been putting together a collection of our own resources to distribute to those that attend.

During all the meetings we’ll be using some chat software to help facilitate interaction. We’ve found this is helpful, especially for the folks that don’t speak English as their first language. We also run an on-site web server for the training in case internet access gets too slow. I have the computers we’ll use as the servers in our cube and I’m making sure they are working well as well as the networking equipment that connects them. It has to be set up so that everyone can properly connect to the servers as well as the outside world.

Ingrid will be doing a presentation that involves some number crunching and statistical work. Thank goodness she’s so gifted in that area and has such a strong math background. She’ll be helping leaders understand some trends going on within our organization as relates to some current tools we’ve had in place for a while now.

At the same time, on the home front, we are getting things ready for my mom and dad to come visit. They will be watching the kids while we are gone for 13 days. Any of you with kids know how crazy it can be, the driving to and from different events, homework, getting to and from school, etc. So we are trying to make sure we’ve got everything organized and ready so they can know where and when to do what they need to do. And we’ve been moving around some furniture and doing stuff to make sure they have room.

And of course all that stuff they will be doing continues for us as well. And our regular work. Ingrid and I will both be in a meeting today for what I think is a rather exciting young ministry that works to reach lawyers all over the world. They want a web site built and we’ll be helping them navigate how to make it happen. It’s great to be busy because all of it is valuable work that we are excited to see happen.