Tag Archives: Internet Technology

The Pirates who do I.T.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

I once played a pirate in a couple children’s musicals. I was a friendly Christian pirate whose goal was to help people, not rob them. My patch would mysteriously move from eye to eye between scenes during the performance. Even a pirate needs a little fun.

Patch considers lifeRecently I was sitting at my desk, in my cubical, in my corner of the office working on a project. At some point I experienced binary bifurcation of purpose (aka the computer didn’t do what I thought it should) and so I let out an “argh.” I wasn’t wearing a patch but my colleague in the next cubical asked, “Is this talk like a pirate day?”

In truth, it was close! There is an official talk like a pirate day in September. I was a few days early. Then I started listening to others expressing their reactions to computer disobedience and discovered pirate talk from different corners of the I.T. department all day. I think every computer geek has uttered some form of pirate talk, intentionally or unintentionally, more than once in their career.

Even the casual computer user understands when there’s a wayward program, unexpected patch, or other signs of a computer’s resistant to the operator’s insistence that a particular function should be performed. I don’t want to list all the possible permutations of pirate speak here for fear of offending some sensitive analog lover who’s never ventured into the exciting waters of computer technology.

The idea came to me to make a sign for our department. Every department these days has a sign which proudly displays the name of the department and their statement of purpose to help rescue the world through their diligent and heart felt work. I think a sign like “Computer Department” or “I.T. Department” would be just too plain. It wouldn’t be expressive enough for the deep running emotions of electronic ministry. So, I figured it should read something like this:

I.T. Department
We are the pirates who do I.T.
Bring us your recalcitrant, wayward, computer and we’ll teach it what for.

We could all get eye patches and expand our pirate vocabulary to include some technical derivations beyond the demonstrative argh. Instead of “blast it all” we could say, “binary it all.” We couldn’t threaten users with “walking the plank” but with “disk disconnection.” It wouldn’t be “waterway congestion” but “Ethernet excess.” I’m sure there are plenty of particularly pointed platitudes which could be included in this theoretical thesaurus of pirate speak.

But, ours is not to develop an alternate alliterative language but to keep the forecastles and gunwales of the computer ships running properly so that the sweet message of the Gospel of Christ can smoothly sail the electronic oceans of the world. We have a goal on the horizon and no copious pirate platitudes will dissuade us from the destination. Unfurl the mizzenmast, pull up the anchors, shout out orders to one-eyed Jack, and shipshape Sam and turn her into the wind. We’ve got to get this ship in shape for the rough waters ahead. The enemy has many schemes and frustrating our intentions, even electronic ones, is one of the tools in his arsenal.

If another language helps, go for it!

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I’d Like to Exchange That

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Exchange: to give and receive reciprocally, to replace one item with something better.  When I was growing up I remember my mother exchanging ill-fitting garments for the proper fit at the local department store. This adventure, led by my fearless mother, usually occurred after Christmas or a birthday. I always wanted to trade in those extra skivvies, and scarfs, for some toy or game. But, I was taught to exchange it for the same item with a better fit.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on exchanging an Exchange for an Exchange. That’s not a typo. Exchange, with a capital “E,” is a mail and information exchange system which we use in our ministry. Without getting into a debate over which software is best, I’d like to say I like Exchange. It does what we need done quite well. For the user, it’s rather straightforward and effective. From the administrator’s point of view, it’s great when it works, and a nightmare when it doesn’t.

Most of the time things go well. But, after several years it was time for an upgrade to the latest and greatest version. The new features and stability would improve our operation. The trick is to migrate from 2003 to 2010, a seven-year change of software, with little or no impact on the users.  We’re not an enormous ministry with thousands of mailboxes but we have a good number of folks to keep happy.

The project also needed to be coordinated between continents so both servers were at the same level. With the assistance of my counterpart in the US we went to work. Step by step we exchanged one version for another and cautiously moved services from one computer to another. I exchanged my Exchange in Europe while my US colleague exchanged his Exchange in the USA. It takes time to set things up, test them out, and then move the data.

20161005_171232916_iosIt’s when we move the data that things get touchy. During the transition process a user has no access to their data. After the transition, most users are automatically directed to the new server while a few need a helping hand to change their settings. Most of the transition was done in the middle of the night, when I should’ve been sleeping, but some moves required daytime activation.

I had a touch of trepidation as we proceeded. The last thing I wanted was 100 plus people ringing my phone or Skyping me that something was wrong. With careful planning, step by step procedures, and tests along the way, things went quite well. There were a few quirks with the Public Folder migration. Occasionally a recalcitrant account or program setting reared its ugly head. But overall things went well. In the aftermath, it took time to iron out the last wrinkles which were sure to crop up as the system assumed regular service.

It appeared the newly exchanged Exchange was a better fit for our ministry and proved a good exchange. Now we can exchange email with the world seamlessly as well as several other nice features. I’ve exchanged my work on one Exchange server for a new set of tools on a new Exchange server.  Overall, it’s an excellent exchange.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words about exchanging one life for another, one law for another. We’ve been given a spirit of life which frees us from the spirit of sin and death. Just as the exchanged skivvies from Christmas fit better, the newly exchanged Exchange server fits our ministry better.

Now that I’ve exchanged Exchange for Exchange I need to learn the new tools and make use of them to be more effective in my ministry. In the same way, I need to concentrate on living in the spirit of life to be more faithful in my walk with God. I need to exchange my old habits for new.

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The Reality of the Routine

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

I was a missionary living outside my homeland for many years. I was there because I knew God called me to use the skills He provided to bring His word of salvation to the world. It was that simple. What wasn’t simple was filtering through the mental pictures and ideas people have about missionary life.

While missionary work began with the Apostles, who left their homes to share the Gospel in foreign lands, the modern Protestant missionary movement is relatively young. In the last hundred years, the publications of the lives of modern missionaries have fascinated, encourage, called and otherwise thrilled the church. From this many have built up the idea that “true” missionaries are pounding through sweaty jungles, Bibles in hand, pith helmet donning their furrowed brow, wagging their fingers at the heathen while pleading for them to accept the grace of God. I love these books and have read many. However, these only described the lives of a handful of faithful servants. What about the rest?

I’m one of the rest. I’ve had some interesting adventures for sure, but for the most part, my life was and is routine. I should clarify that by saying my ministry life is, for the most part, very routine. What makes it routine you ask? Let me describe most of what I’ve done and currently do.

Visiting transmitting site in FranceFor years, I’ve work in the technical side of things. I was a radio engineer when I joined this ministry and have worked with transmitters, antennas, studios, and a host of other electronic stuff throughout the years. At one point I was given a computer. I figured out how it worked. I learned how to program it. Now I administer computers systems, networks and all that modern high-tech stuff.  Most of my days are spent tweaking, upgrading, installing and keeping our network secure, up and running.

Don’t get me wrong, this is very important for the ministry. Without a stable and efficient computer network our ministry would grind to a halt. All our ministry programs go through the computer network to reach someone’s home with the Gospel message. What was once a nice tool for tracking spare parts inventory has become the corner stone of our ministry. If it is laid out and working correct God’s message reaches people. If it is askew, things go wrong. I try to keep things from going askew.

This is the routine. No pith helmet, although I once saw one with a solar fan on the front which looked great while living in the tropics. No slogging through mosquito infested jungles to find half-naked heathens in need of redemption. Most days I do my work from a desk using a keyboard, mouse and lots of thinking. Even work for offices in other countries is routinely done from my little office.

Am I reaching the world with the Gospel message? For sure! But the tools and methods have changed over the years. The underlying work to keep things going constantly changes. Even the missionary trudging through the jungle needed time spent on the basic needs of life. In the same way, I’m providing the tools and roadway (technological of course) for the same message to reach places closed to the missionary in a pith helmet.

Am I a missionary? Without doubt I’ve departed my homeland, been separated from family, friends, grandchildren and my mother tongue. I’ve lived solely on the grace and provision of God through His people. I have been “sent” by God to live elsewhere to accomplish His purposes.  But, the day to day work I do is . . . to put it bluntly . . . routine.

The father of our mission’s founder wrote a great pamphlet entitled, “The Glory of the Grey.” I love that thought. That’s right where I work and live. Unfortunately, many people, including churches, don’t understand this concept. Unless a “missionary” is establishing churches, or running evangelistic crusades, or hacking back the palm trees with their machete, they are not real missionaries. Sorry folks, perhaps a little change of perspective is necessary.

Is the church secretary not doing ministry because she isn’t preaching, just typing sermon notes and keeping the church updated? Is the janitor not doing ministry because he isn’t leading the youth group, just keeping the building fit for meetings and worship? Is the business man who attends your church faithfully not doing ministry because he doesn’t head the elder board, just supporting the church and demonstrating Christ in his business? Is the missionary not a missionary because he isn’t standing in a pulpit or preaching on a street corner, just keeping the message flowing and the ministry connected? These are all rhetorical questions in case you didn’t catch that. The answer to these should be no.

The reality of life is that most of life is routine, including the work done by missionaries. Once we accept this, and stop thinking everyone needs some new adventure, like the latest and greatest TV show or movie, then life becomes easier. Once Christians discover God wants us to minister by reflecting his Grace in our day to day activities, walking faithfully becomes easier. We can breathe a sigh of relief. If Christians would live their lives rejoicing in this truth it would be a great witness to the world.  Once we discover this for ourselves we can recognize it in others, the secretary, the businessman, the janitor or the missionary.

 

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