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"We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to be proud of us,
so that you may be able to answer those who pride themselves on a man's position and not on his heart."
The Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:8)
The purpose of this annual report is not to boast of the outstanding success that
God has given us in the past year but like Paul says, to show that it is the character
of a person, not his position that makes him a success in God's eyes. Having once
been a high profile Army officer, I once had position. As a member of the national
folkloric dance team, Aurelia was likewise. A decade ago, it would have been virtually
impossible for me to take a position such as I'm in now, not using any of the leadership
skills God has given me. But, as the Boy Scouts, the Army and the Son of God taught
me, it is character that matters. And God has honored that focus to give you many
reasons to be proud of us. After you read this report, we hope you will be moved
to praise Him for His grace and glory.
Our work in southcentral Europe
is determined to be the ministry of choice for people of integrity who desire to provide the youth of Romania with the grace of the Gospel and hope for a better tomorrow.
|Building a bridge of grace from Italy to Romania|
|Our focus is the education of Romanians and Italians. We impart hope for this life and that to come.|
|We are primarily concerned with long-term development.|
|We work through relationships and with integrity.|
|Our stance is clear and unmistakable. The reason for our work is the Glory of God.|
Parameters of Romanian ministry
"Romania probes child HIV infections
for first time." The Business Review.
The Year of Our Lord 2004
Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2004
Organization of ministry
The purpose of this annual report is to update you on our progress in 2004 and share with you some of our planned directions for 2005.
Organization of annual report
Forward: Bottoms-up ministry
Financial Report Rightsizing and reducing administrative costs returns ministry to financial solvency.
Parting Word: The hows and whys of this year's changes.
"What do these things have in common: the TV show American Idol, Howard Dean's presidential campaign, eBay, and the open-source Linux operating system?" ...and our ministry? "They're all manifestations of a key trend of our time: the shift in power away from centralized institutions and toward the individual--from the center to the edge."
David Kirkpatric wrote a fantastic article. He explains why Perspectives and similar ministries hit a glass ceiling in ministry organizations managed using old models of management. I've often wondered whether we are so far out on the cutting edge that we are over it. But this article makes it clear that this is the coming paradigm.
Like the business world, in the ministry world "Customers today have more options and less loyalty."(ibid.) People will jump into and out of supporting a ministry without any warning or reason. This insures that earning a regular salary is difficult and increases the "faith" part of the equation. As an Eagle Scout, I tried to live the Scout law where the second part is "A Scout is loyal." That motivated me to continue my support of my Compassion children for years, through employment and unemployment. I stuck with employment agreements long after it seemed unlikely that the other party would reciprocate. This is not the case for many today. Although we have a good number of people who are regulars, often someone who made a pledge will stop giving with no explanation. None of this is meant as a complaint, for God graciously meets all our needs according to his riches in glory. It is just the modern world. Customers "will migrate to to businesses that see them as participants in a process rather than as just consumers."
As Perspectives teaches, we believe in the decentralization model. This is where the field assesses the needs of the country and ministry team, matching this need with missionary gifts and calling, decides on the ministry. The Liv-n-LetLiv ministry makes our donors a vital part of ministry management. Some companies already apply these principles. Motorcycle maker Ducati posts specs on their website for customer feedback before even making a bike. The audience picks pop stars on TV instead of having them picked by music executives. Howard Dean was more successful because of his web-driven campaign. (I am not commenting on the man, just his method.) With Linux (for this one we will give a cheer), few employees and thousands of customers are on the Penguin team. "Linux inventor Linus Torvalds mostly decides which changes to accept from those proposed by the volunteer army." They are competing with the tens of thousands of Microsoft employees preparing items that are then forced on the market in a monopolistic way. (Sorry, did that sound a bit partial? (-; ) "This new style of business... is ignored at any company's peril."
In a new book 'CK Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy describe the consumer's new role: "from isolated to connected, from unaware to informed, from passive to active."'(ibid.) Many of you are friends with internationals or minister to them. Many on our support team have visited and read my (sometimes excessive) digests of life and ministry here. Thus, most of you are much more informed and connected with other cultures than the supporters of missionaries 50 years ago. Plus, in the support section below, you know me more than the church members of a denomination know their sponsored missionaries. Thus, from the start we called people to be as active as they can. Stacy provided materials; Mark, Kristi and my family came with teams. Jill sent handbooks for working with less developed children. Sue gave textbooks. Collin, Phil, Steve and Peg helped with communication with sending organizations. Dozens motivated and guided us in the change of our sending organization.
In many groups you have only the choice whether or not to support them. However, in this ministry, members of our team have mentored me and shaped the ministry into what it is today. "In the bottom-up economy, presuming you know what the customer wants is the ultimate error." (ibid) How many missionaries send out surveys or ask for input into important decisions? Of course, in the tolerant culture we are in today, we must give a caveat that "all ways are equal, there is no right or wrong way, just what is good for you or me." So, we are not trying to force our ways on others, any more than GlaxoSmithKline tries to force other companies to accept their secrets.
Hundreds of years ago, the common church thinking was that the priest was the performer and the crowd was the audience. In walks Kirkegard who brought "bottoms-up" into the Church (although surely by a more sacred title). He proclaims that we are the performers and God is the audience. We are doing our part to bring this into ministry. We are not the performers with you the audience, Aurelia, I and our support team are the performers and God is the audience. This way, praise and thanks go to God, not to us.
Not being the center of attention and losing control would make some missionaries nervous. Instead, Aurelia and I believe our purpose is to praise God and serve others. He is big and loving enough to direct our paths through His Body. In the enclosed report, you will see how we apply the feedback of visitors to our Internet sites. I have been trying to obtain relative parity with the big boys by constantly evaluating clicks and views. For the subjects that appeal to the Body, I follow up with more information while for pages that don't get a view I don't waste my time on sequels.
We hope to "love God with our minds" and apply them to make ministry even more effective. And our benchmarking shows it has been among the most cost-effective ministries to which you can give. This has only been possible thanks to our beloved support team. Plus, our move last year to Least of These reduced our overhead and taxes by 20%!
So, once again, Aurelia and I encourage your involvement. This is your ministry and we need your spiritual and professional giftings as much as your financial gifting. There are many ways to put your talents to work, including communication, rallying others to be involved, providing insight, coming to work short-term, helping with our websites, etc.
"we were to remember the poor, which very thing I was also eager to do." ~~~The Apostle Paul (Galatians 2)
Poor children get poorer education 3, 4 and less exposure to the computer. Common vectors of transmission are being near someone with the bacillium who coughs, sharing eating utencils, and poor sanitation techniques due to no hot water~~common conditions in poverty. Tuberculosis is strongly viewed as a disease of poverty, and rightly so. However, this means that the children are ashamed to have TB and don't even want people to know that they are at the TB hospital. Romania has the largest TB popullation than any other European country. A Romanian's purchasing power is a fraction what it was under Communism. Eighty-four percent responded to a recent Gallup Poll that they would prefer a harsh leader with absolute control of Romania. Since Jesus' ministry seemed to have more success among the poor, we feel that our ministry here is strategic and extremely well-placed.
This year, the hospital downsized the pediatric population by half. Most of the children who remain are in preschool, so there are slim pickings for my computer classes. Due to this and our moving most activities up to Germany in January, we greatly reduced our educational programs.
However, we brought two carloads of clothes and toys to the children, celebrated Children's Day with them on June 1, and had five months of educational programs with them
As with TB, Romania has the largest pediatric AIDS population in Europe, more than all the rest of Europe combined.
The Romanian portion of HIVAnonymous.com is how we are addressing the problem.
The site continued to grow and serve more people. We saw a distinct growth in unique visitors this year as you can see in the graph to the right. During FY 2004, we hosted 3600 visitors, a gain of 300% from the previous year. The number of pages that they read increased 40% from about 1.7/visitor to 2.4 as our content increased.
In Romania, according to the search engines, we estimate that we moved up to the top 0.2% of abstinence pages, the top 0.05% of pages about AIDS, and the top 0.04% of sexual pages or pages about healthy living. This means we are able to expose God's perspective of sexuality to many people who never would go into a church. This is exciting.
Many Romanians are leaving the country for the West,
including Germany and Italy. Since the wall fell, 10% of Romanians
left for the West. Among Romanian-speaking Moldovans, the number
is much higher. These are the imigrants to whom we have begun
The Christian church in Romania is predominantly Orthodox and Roman Catholic, with about 5% others including Repenters, Protestants and other religions. For details about the religious situation, click here or read a friend's research.
Now that we have moved from our old organization to Least
of These, we are permitted to work with all Christians and apply the
principles learned at Perspectives
. This has provided a lot of opportunities to partner with other
groups. We now have a team in Romania doing orphan work and church
planting. We have also been enabled to develop a team around us
here in Germany without being discouraged from doing so by a US
headquarters. We have partners in Italy that were previously
scared off by rumors of the questionable groups with which we were
aligned. They were impressed with the way in which we followed
Matthew 18 guidelines to address major divergences from basic Scriptural
Behavioral, not doctrinal, correctness is what Romania needs. We are trying to help the Romanians in Germany and Romania to see the larger body of Christ where disagreement on minor issues does not result in removal from the Body. Our new sending organization concurs with our church, our team, and ourselves in this regard.
We have been serving the spiritual needs of Romanian-speakers through community education programs for teens and adolescents. These included Bible study and prayer groups, English lessons, and the iBiblioteca Christian library. The goal of the iBiblioteca is to teach the basics of Christianity, to educate Christians about what other denominations believe, and to promote acceptance, love, and recognition of the entire Body of Christ.
The iBiblioteca grew to include over 1500 articles during the year. A few of these are written by myself, but virtually all of them are links to articles written by some of the most famous Romanian theologians. I often field questions from visitors. Usually, I refer to published works to provide answers for these seeking individuals.
As you can see from the graph on the right, for the time which data has been collected, there has been a clear rise in the number of people to whom we minister. The two months of June and July last year were when our server was down. Average page views increased 35% from 1.8/visitor last year to 2.4 this year.
We have the #1 page on the major search engines for people looking for articles on spiritual growth. We have reason to believe that we are in the top 0.2% of Romanian spiritual sites.
A Romanian youth, Justin Sarpe, has been more active in our work, finding content, programming and doing promotional work.
We have conducted an alpha test of the StudyMasters group. The response was great and the kids had a better time than I expected. The first week, I was Master of Spontaneity and chose Fruit of the Spirit, with each person having to speak on a fruit. I think it was a major step for Justin, at 17 the youngest one in the group. For about 5 minutes, he kept giggling and insisting that he couldn't do it. We encouraged him, saying, "When your boss asks you to give a report or discuss an idea, are you going to sit there and giggle?" He bit the bullet and did a great job. He was even eager to hear the results of the voting for the best speaker. It ended in a tie, so there was none, but he seemed to have enjoyed it in the end and we seemed to have been gracious and loving but firm. The second week, Justin was Master of Spontaneity. His job was to choose a subject for each person to spontaneously speak 1 minute about. After his extemporaneous talk about Jesus, Justin was unanimously chosen as the best extemp speaker. So, God did a miracle in this boy's life! Another caterpillar becomes a butterfly!
After the end of the FY, we began the beta test with adult Romanian immigrants.
The Italian evangelical church is mostly introverted with little orientation towards a vision to reach the world for Christ. They consider Italy in need of receiving missionaries, not of sending them. We respectfully disagree. We think after decades of missionary work with little success, they will only grow when they lovingly reach out to others. This is a church model that works in the US and we believe it will work in Italy. There are a number of examples of living, growing churches that are examples to support this thesis. For more about our vision, click here.
This year, we continued development of the Bridge of
Grace from Italy to Romania. We want to motivate Italians to reach
out to Romanians. This would serve two purposes. Italians
need to expand their idea of the international Church and Romanians need
evangelism and discipleship from people who are closer
to their own culture and who have walked in their historical shoes.
The Italians believers know
what it is like to escape the Roman Catholic saints orientation.
Weekly, they have to deal with people who consult witches, since
the average Italian spends an astounding amount of money to seers.
They emerged from Mussolini's dictatorship and poverty decades
before Romania dealt with Ceaucescu. They spent decades cleaning
up their acts to overcome a reputation for immorality almost as bad
as Romania's. Their social
and family-oriented cultures are similar as is their language and
and dictatorial histories.
We are mobilizing Italian
Christians through the
I have increased my participation by joining the Associazione Casa Biblica and beginning to review books to approve them for sale in the bookstore.
How do I participate in this work? Print a donation slip.
The Internet is receiving ever increasing levels of travellers. As the Internet provides Romanians and Italians with pornography, cults, the occult, and urban legends, we see the need to present ultimate Truth, Jesus Christ.
Here is an overview of our literature ministry (Internet and hardcopy):
In May, we had approximately 3500 unique visitors. About 50% speak English, 30% Romanian, and 20% Italian. Consider how we compare with one of the most successful sites and companies on the Internet, Yahoo!. Last year, they attracted 38 million unique visitors a month. No comparison, right? Well we didn't think so either until I found out that according to Reuters they had 3000 employees. Meanwhile, we have me working one day a week and Iustin giving two days a month. So, combined, this is less than 1/3 FTE (full-time equivalent) as they would say in the government. Thus, Yahoo! is attracting 12,000 unique visitors per FTE employee and our ministry, about 10,500! Consider also, that we are a religious site and only 50% in English, so we have a much smaller market! This successful growth is the dream of the dot-coms making millions of dollars. If we weren't a Christian non-profit, we would be ripe for an Initial Public Offer!
On the site, the most popular articles were:
With the caveat of James 4:13ff, we have the following expectations for our work in the three countries. May God grant us the grace to bless Him in whatever ministry into which He puts us.
Here are the prayer requests we have
for you. Please beseech the Lord on our behalf.
ItalyPlease pray for:
GermanyPlease pray for:
RomaniaPlease pray for:
2005 will have its challenges and opportunities. Through God we can make the best of both. Aurelia, Iustin, and I join all the children in thanking you for your participation in this ministry. Paul says in Philippians 1:7 "In the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me." Those who participate in our work, and even more those who mobilize others to participate share a vital part in fulfilling God's purpose around the world. It is an exciting era.
Q. We do know that Least of These ministry (LOTIM) receives and forwards support contributions designated for you. Do you work together with the people she employees?Aurelia and I love you all and we hope that you are doing well and finding new ways to glorify Him.
A. In 6 months with LOTIM, we have sent one short-term missionary and potential supporter, we have made a brochure in Italian and we have started updating their website, despite this being our sabbatical. We hope to continue and expand that assistance. Due to our being on sabbatical and our trying to pay off the debts amassed with our former organization, we haven't been able to get down to Italy as much as desired, but in the one trip through, we were able to give her a collection of $360. We also plan to colabor with the husband of her country representative who is planting churches in Romania. Having a team in Romania and around us were two desires of my "home" church and were not possible or opposed by our former organization. These were major reasons for us moving to LOTIM and out of Arges to Germany.
Q. How many people are working under you - in what capacity and how many hours?
A. Although our former organization was persistent in formally asserting that they were not our supervisors we felt obliged to submit to their policy of not having employees, so we ceased sponsoring any employees except for a teenager who works part-time doing website programming for us. Since our moving to LOTIM, we have increased him to 20 hours per month. Once our support increases, we hope to sponsor some of LOTIM's missionaries. With LOTIM we found a group that agrees with our belief that mentoring Romanians will help them begin to work to European standards, which is important for their individual and collective futures.
Q. When we started to send you financial support, your ministry was then primarily to the Romanian orphans. We had a better
handle on your ministry. Since that time, you have widened your focus - and center(s) of operation - to Italy and Germany. We do not have at this point as comfortable a handle on your present focus and future plans.
Focus and future plans.
Since I was promoted to European Director and sent to Romania by Northwest Medical Teams in 1997, the longterm goal was to motivate the Italian church to assist orphans and send missionaries to Romania. We didn't publicized that until last year when our organization formally approved it. That remains our focus. We don't foresee that changing. What makes working with LOTIM so exciting is we now have teammates to accept the assistance and missionaries. For more about our vision, click here.
Virtually all my bosses have commended us for how much we accomplished. Because I have an engineering background, instead of asking myself, "how do I make that engine go faster?" I'm always thinking, "How can we do this ministry work better and more productively?" As an undergrad I had more hours than most students and got the hardest major in the school and two minors, had a 7 hour Christian radio show and was involved in two Bible studies. My grades were not great, but I was known as "Late Night Lary" because I didn't sleep as much. In the Army, as a Lieutenant, I filled two positions, one of a Captain and one of a Major, 300 km apart. I also earned twice the awards. I inherited workaholism. Heck, it's 0:30 and I'm writing you. But the bed doesn't call until 2AM. I used to tell my subordinate managers, "If you are only achieving one thing by what you are doing, you should be earning technicians pay." I don't have any problems with people whom God leads to spend all evening watching Honeymooners reruns, however.
Q. Your letters also indicate that you have a shortfall in your financial support level.
A Yes, with our former agency, we accumulated a lot of debt and saw support stop rising. That was another reason why we left. There are people who drew twice our support, a lot more of the nice things in life, and no employees to support. I am not questioning God's leading them to raise this much money and spend it as they do, but they were pressing us to run in their league and travel to the US every year. For three years, we submitted and obeyed but then finally had to do the responsible thing and stop accumulating debt--not very American of me, huh? ;-) Now we get about 20% more of our donations. We now have enough money to finally get Aurelia health insurance. We think with our present support we have enough to slowly work of our $6000 in debts and be able to take one almost full-time salary, but instead of one, there are two of us plus one part-timer working. Getting married carried the added benefit of becoming a "normal" Protestant missionary that people could better understand. But, despite getting approval for our marriage, we have not seeen an increase in support. If we had not had that 20% reduction of taxes and administration charges, we would have had to leave the field.
Seeing that God hasn't provided more support for Aurelia, no less a family we hope to have, we are looking for tentmaking opportunities in order to remain in the field. Other missionaries I know sell items on eBay to balance the budget. As Aurelia just came in and told me, "Being a missionary gives you no sure income." Few missionaries are up to budget. It is a way of life for us. That is why we are called "faith" missionaries. But at least you don't find yourself downsized, which balances it all out. Although we are getting our first snow of the year today, we save money by only having turned on the heat once so far to bring us up to 70 degrees when we had Romanians for a Bible study. We can suffer, but it is impolite in Romanian culture to let your guests be cold. I wear sweaters and my "eschimoica" (little eskimo--as I call her) wears a scarf and ear muffs in the house. The Apostles had it worse, so we don't complain, but we let our needs be known.
1. Kirkpatrick D. "Why 'bottom up' is on its way up" Fortune. (January 2004)
2. Prahalad CK and Ramaswamy V. The future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers Harvard Business School Press, 2004.
3. Ballantine, J. The sociology of education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. (1989).
4. Macionis, J. Sociology (4th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. (1994).
5. Bates D and Bates B. correspondence 2004.
6. (I Timothy 6:10)
7. BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/3157570.stm
8. BBC News, Saturday, 30 October, 2004