From HCJB to Wycliffe Bible Translators

8 years ago I was an HCJB missionary appointee and then shortly later I withdrew from being an appointee.  This was for a few reasons: I wanted a family, I was not fully sold on living in Elkhart Indiana, I didn’t know if I would be effective at HCJB and the prospect of raising full-time support was overwhelming at that time.  What then happened was a long story you can ask me about sometime.  Ok, here is the summary:

I met Julia Wise and we got married about 6 months later.  We had two children Sophie and Gracie, moved to Grove City PA and then moved to Akron Ohio.  We did the things adults are supposed to do because we thought they were good; we worked on raising our children, being involved in our church, managing our finances and growing our marriage.  We crafted our vision together for our family which was focused on Julia’s vision for ministry as much as mine.  Julia’s vision is currently taking shape in getting her master’s degree in English as a Second Language (ESL).  My vision also changed from the time I was an appointee at HCJB.

Although I have my Electrical Engineering degree, I have found myself best suited for writing software.  I also have found that I can write software remotely for missions through Wycliffe Bible Translators, that is through SIL and JAARS, which is technical support for Bible translation and literacy all around the world.  What is a further blessing is that I can work part-time as a software engineer at a local company to meet most of our expenses and then volunteer substantial time for SIL.

So, for the past 4 months or so I have been doing just that, volunteering 20-30 hours every other week for SIL writing software for Android apps that support Bible translation and literacy.  This is in many ways a dream come true.  Thank you, God for this opportunity, even if it is a long time in coming.

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Python instead of Matlab

I have to face a software problem that I have been unable to fix through Python.  Well, that is an abject lie, but it is close to the truth (embedded programming and Python don’t mix well).  It was around 6 years ago that I first started working in Python.  Before that I was working with Matlab almost exclusively for 2 years and then after a job change, I no longer had access to a license.  For Python, I have been using the WinPython distribution since then and have loved the power and flexibility of doing data science work in that environment.

When comparing Python to Matlab, you need to really talk about the extra packages that Python has, including:

  • Ipython (console or through Jupyter): a visual, interactive environment to run Python scripts
  • Spyder: My editor of choice, with built-in help, iPython and variable inspection.  (I would like to use Visual Studio Code, but it’s not there yet for data science)
  • Numpy: all the array functionality that you love from Matlab
  • Scipy: Heavy engineering math including interpolation, optimization and filtering.
  • Matplotlib: the standard plotting library that works rock solid
  • Pandas: Astounding database-like functionality that is quick and easy to use

All of these and more are in WinPython, or if you want something more official, you can always use the Anaconda Python distribution. In all, they have done everything that I could want for a diverse multi-tool to do any of the following:

  • Parse C code, understand the syntax (through pycparser) and print all sorts of statistics (through regular expressions and Pandas)
  • Develop custom algorithms for work, prototyping them in a matter of hours or days and having real-time plotting feedback (Numpy, Scipy, Matplotlib, ipython console)
  • Create word documents programmatically and have nearly full control even over esoteric things like tab stops.

In all, I am very glad that I have been able to use Python over these past few years and if I didn’t have it (and didn’t have a Matlab license) I don’t know how much of the work that I have done would have been able to come to fruition.  So, thanks to the authors of Python and all the scientific sub-packages!

A window of opportunity

Many of you know the term, 10/40 window in reference to 10 to -40 latitude stretching from West Africa to the South Pacific as the place where most of the unreached people groups are.  These are people of similar language and culture that have no established, self sustaining, self propagating churches and often very little opportunity to here the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They live in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animistic and Communist countries that often actively prevent missions outreach.

They do this because they know that the Gospel is a strong message that changes hearts and challenges allegiances.  It proclaims that a person’s identity is not from their good works for the state, their obedience to a caste or even their family but rather Christ, who He is and what He has done.  In many of these regions it is illegal to convert to Christianity or evangelize, especially to minors.  Moreover, my white skin will not get me far where my message will be heard not as coming from the mouth of a friend, but from the mouth of America.

These people are precious to Jesus and sharing the message of Christ, the message of peace with God is vital; how can we do it?  How can we make Christ known across the world?  “With man this is impossible, but with Christ all things are possible.”  Many Christians have thought and prayed long and hard about this question, this concern.  Many have spent hours, days, years praying that God would reveal himself to these people that are on the other side of the world.  Are they being reached at all and if so, how?

A Muslim born believer was speaking and he said that the two most effective ways that Muslims are coming to Christ are through radio and through dreams and visions.  With radio and satellite TV, Muslims can listen to the message of Christ in the safety of their own homes and are coming to Christ by astounding numbers.  Dreams and visions also are causing people to turn to Christ.  An Egyptian man had a dream in which a man with holes in his hands and feet said, “I am the way the Truth and the Life.”  The man with the dream went to his Imam (Muslim Pastor) and he could not explain the dream.  Finally he went to the pastor, although it was very risky and asked about the dream.

“And how can they believe unless someone preaches to them?”  It is my goal to use and help others use this effective tool of radio to preach to those who would in no other way be able to hear.  “And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”  If I am to work in technology to help others preach the Gospel, I will need support financially and through prayer.  There is a window of opportunity in many of these countries, especially Russia and Indonesia where the Governments are allowing some radio efforts but may not allow them for long.  Oh, how I desire to see the harvest of people living at peace with God and with each other!  But there is still much work to be done!  “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest field.”  “And pray for me that I may boldly preach the Word of God, as I should.”

When I was 15 or 16…

I was reading through the new testament and came across Philippians.  As I started reading through chapter 3, I was awestruck by what I saw.  The apostle Paul was sharing the deep motivations of his heart, where he found his identity and his goals in life.

“If anyone has reason to put confidence in the flesh (in oneself) than I have more…” Paul talks about all the things that he could pride himself in and it is a pretty impressive list.  I realized I had a list as well: I went to good schools, grew up in a great Christian home and have been pretty good by even church standards.  “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”  That seems so counter-intuitive. Why does Paul and why should I consider everything that I can claim identity and pride in loss?  Is it actually loss or are we acting as if it were loss?  “… That I may know Christ.”  Not so that he could win souls or be perfect or anything but that he could know Christ “for whose sake I have lost all things.”  So Paul had this strong thought that to lose the world and gain Christ is the best equation out there. But what is it to know Christ and why is it better than … than … well, anything.

“…and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of the sharing of his sufferings.”  Power from death and the fellowship of difficulties are better than the world.  The next sentence Paul makes it sound that if he can understand the power and fellowship of sufferings that he would be perfect, something that he is not quite at yet… but not for lack of trying.

“But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  The grammar of that sentence confuses me but he seems to be saying: “Why Jesus died for me and called me unto himself, I do not know though I seek to know and if I can understand it and have that same motivation, same perspective with the people that I know I can truly love them and walk in Jesus footsteps.  Though all of this not to be perfect, but to grasp the love of Christ, to grasp Christ himself.”

If this is truly how I should view things, that everything I work for and even succeed at is s%!# when seen in the true light of the love, death and life of Christ, then let me be poured out for Him.  God, let me desire to know you, the only real treasure and let me live that love “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Father, let me “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which you have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Going to work for HCJB-

I have been wondering for a long time what I am going to do when I graduate college. I knew once, but that was a few years back. Even before that, I had had a passion for missions in high school. Reading the likes of Keith Green and many words of Jesus, I wanted to be as sold out as I could; which meant in my mind being a missionary. During this time, I was growing by leaps and bounds and looking for every opportunity for God to move. I would sometimes spend hours at a time reading the Bible and listening to worship music, letting the Holy Spirit teach me. It was a wonderful time.

About Christmas my senior year, I heard God speak to me very strongly to go to Elim Bible Institute for Bible/ Missions training; and with the help of my parents, I did. I immersed my self in scripture and was able to minister in different ways.

It was around October that I was having a crisis though. I knew God had gifted me strongly in engineering but I did not see an effective way to advance the kingdom of God by building circuits. Couldn’t this job be done just as well by a non-Christan than a christian? and how can I use it on the mission field? God asked me amongst this: “What if I asked you to stay in the U.S.?” => “Ok, God. Whatever you say, I will do. I just pray that I can be effective for your kingdom.”

It was at that time that God showed me radio engineering missions. Let me explain this: Imagine a city of a million people. Now imagine a team of 4 missionaries trying to reach these people. Unless they do outdoor meetings that thousands of people attend, they will not even reach a fraction of the population with the Gospel. Radio, on the other hand, changes that. Not only can they reach the city but also the countryside if hey have, say an FM station. Keep in mind that unlike the US, in other countries, people listen to the radio a lot. Another option with radio is what is called short wave, or HAM radio. This type of radio, instead of being line of sight, can bounce off of the atmosphere, kind of like in a prism, and cover huge areas of land. This is useful, for instance, when during the USSR, HCJB had a station in Ecuador (in South America) that could cover all of the USSR with the gospel. This technology, along with satellite, internet and others, are extremely effective, especially in creative access countries like China and North Africa. For instance, there are over 500,000 listeners to a satellite broadcast in Morocco. Radio Engineering missions enables missionaries to be able to install, service and even have new technology developed to reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ok, back to my story.

From that time on, I planned on going to Grove City College to get an electrical engineering degree to do this radio engineering thing. And I did! While I have been at Grove City (I am a senior now) I have had a number of events in my life that have made me weary and cautious of missions. I am not necessarily proud to say this, but the past year or so, I had no intention of working doing full time missions. A number of things have changed my understanding: I said earlier that missions was somehow a “higher calling” or something. I no longer believe that. God calls some people to missions. He does not call others. Deal with it. It is not as much a spiritual aspiration as God ordaining a path to follow. I knew that I had no peace about just working but I tried to convince myself that I would be happiest if I did that. About a week ago, that changed. I realized anew that I don’t want to be comfortable in life but at the end of it have wasted it. I also had to acknowledge that God had placed a call on me to do radio engineering missions and if I didn’t do it, I would not be walking in obedience (I Cor 9:17). So, I now know what I am called to do. And what peace do I have! I am finally at peace knowing that I (God willing) will work for HCJB Global Technology Center in Indiana where they do all the engineering work for missionaries all over the world.

Hopefully you will betting future updates, but this is where I am now. God bless you all-