Serengeti Wilderness Camp

I don’t know how to describe where we are staying in Serengeti National Park-kind of like a lodge that serves 3 meals and kind of like camping. This is a temporary camp, currently at S02 25.02 E034 53.59, that moves around every few months (think M*A*S*H) in order to minimize environmental impact and to stay out of the way of migrating animals.  Our tent is large, with a queen sized bed and other furnishings.  It has a bathroom complete with wash basin, toilet, and shower, despite the fact that there is no running water here.  It’s the closest thing to a normal bathroom you can have in a tent that moves every few months.There is no electricity, per se, but we do have solar and battery-powered LED lights-essentially flashlights. We also have a charging station in the bar. Yes, there is a bar here, with couches and coffee tables, serving chilled drinks.  We were served dinner with normal plates and flatware, and yet there was a campfire tonight.

One of the staff came by our tent this evening and said there was a buffalo nearby behind the tent, so we shouldn’t walk around back there.  Meanwhile, a staff person put warm water in a bag hanging behind the tent that fed my evening’s shower.  Apparently concern about the buffalo didn’t extend to concern for staff safety.

The weather continues to be overcast with temps in the mid-to-upper 60s, warming to mid 80s during the day.  The clouds did break up a bit tonight, providing partial visibility of the stars. Then later there was a light rain shower, the first precipitation more than mist we have experienced in Tanzania since we arrived almost 2 weeks ago.

Laura, Clif, Beth, and Rob’s Excellent Adventure – Part 2

In Part 1, I explained how Erasto’s persistence and confidence in God’s providence led to the sabbatical trip we’re taking.  But, of course, there is more to the story.

Laura started Living Water Christian Church in April 2004.  Two years ago she began to discuss the idea of her taking sabbatical somewhere around the seven-year mark.  She didn’t know then exactly when the sabbatical would be or what she would do; she mainly wanted the church to establish the practice of providing a sabbatical approximately every seven years.

Last year Laura decided to apply for a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment.  This is an awesome program that provides up to $50,000 for pastors to take a once-in-a-lifetime sabbatical.  The program encourages pastors to not only travel and study, but also rest and play, using their funding for all sabbatical-related costs including the cost of providing a substitute pastor for the church.

Laura thought that the only financially practical way she would ever be able to accept Erasto’s invitation would be to use grant funding for the travel.  So the main idea was to plan a trip to Tanzania to meet Erasto and spend some time ministering with the people of Beroya Revival Temple.

I began to study up on Tanzania’s geography, air travel routes to get there, and costs.  I discovered that the most common ways to get to Tanzania from the US are through Europe.  In fact, if you draw a great circle route from Kansas City to Dodoma, it passes just south of Spain.  So naturally, that led to the idea of going first to Germany to meet Niko’s extended family and see his town (Braunfels) and at least some of his country.  Our son, Rob, was already dreaming about a trip to Germany.  So we decided to include him and our world-traveller daughter, Beth, in that part of the trip.

Finally, Laura knew from the grant application that the Lilly people want to see recreation in the pastor’s sabbatical plan, so she decided to go for it.  If you’ve gone to the cost and trouble of traveling to Tanzania, wouldn’t it make sense to go on a safari while you’re there?

Knowing how competitive the grant is, and knowing the odds were against receiving it, we planned, budgeted, and submitted a proposal for a trip we hoped they might fund.  Not that I’m complaining, but if someone said to Laura and me, “I’ll give you money to take a trip anywhere in the world,” Germany might have been part of it but certainly Tanzania would not have been.  Yet God steered our plans in this direction.

And so the basic outline of the trip was in place: spend a week in Dodoma with Beroya church; spend a week in Germany on the way there; and spend a week on safari before returning home.  When you add in the air travel days, the whole trip is just two days short of 4 weeks.

We’re now more than halfway through our Germany week.  I’ll fill in more details on my next post.

Caption contest

At the worship planning retreat this evening we were asked to take a walk and collect metaphors – something that could be used as a sermon illustration.  My method of collection was to take pictures.  Do you have any suggestions for captions for these photos that would point out a sermonic metaphor?

Metaphor hunt at worship planning retreat

Metaphor hunt at worship planning retreat

Metaphor hunt at worship planning retreat

Metaphor hunt at worship planning retreat

Metaphor hunt at worship planning retreat

Metaphor hunt at worship planning retreat

Internet Campus Project Team homework #1

This post is homework for the Internet Campus Strategic Project Team at Resurrection.  Those of you not on our project team, feel free to learn along with us.

1. Read/view the following blog posts and videos and be prepared to share your reactions at our next meeting.

Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton’s eNote of August 24, 2007 in which he first mentioned the idea of Internet Campus

Church Online: Resurrection Internet Campus? – post by Andrew, read the comments too

A Vision of Students Today – video from K-State’s Digital Ethnography program

A Screen that Ships without a Mouse Ships Broken – presentation by Clay Shirky

2. Attend one service of one of the following churches with Internet Campuses:

Take notes about your experience.  What did you like?  What would you do differently?  What can we learn?  Be prepared to share your thoughts at our next meeting.

Congress on Evangelism 2009 presentation

I’ve been at the Methodist Congress on Evangelism this week with Chuck Russell. This is the annual national evangelism conference for the United Methodist denomination.  Chuck and I were asked to present on the role of a congregation’s website in evangelism.  Chuck covered the basics and I talked about sermon content delivery, social networking and social media, and Internet Campus.

For fun, I used EVDO on my cell phone and a web cam to live stream our presentation via the Clif Guy Cam on uStream.  When I verified that my EVDO signal was strong enough to support the live stream, I tweeted and within minutes we had 10 people watching. The third time we gave the presentation, I recorded it.  You can watch it here.  Sure, the video production values are so non-existent it’s comical.  Despite that, the video gives a pretty good sense of the presentation.

Web sites/products mentioned in the presentation:

Worst? Buy

I know I’m not the first person to have a bad customer experience at Best Buy.  Neither will I be the last, no doubt.  This is what happened last week.

I went with my daughter, who is a college junior, to Best Buy to look for a laptop.  (Why didn’t we purchase it online?  Because she didn’t want to wait.)  After spending an hour looking at all the models, prices, features, screens, keyboards, etc., she decided on a Dell Studio 15.  It was well equipped and less expensive at $780 than we could get it through any other channel such as the Employee Purchase Program.

So I asked the salesperson if they had one in stock.  He looked around a bit and then checked his inventory system.  The only thing he had was the display model, which he said he would sell for 10% off, but at the same time he wouldn’t recommend that to us.  The inventory system told him that another store 5 miles away did have one and it was listed at $733.  Excellent, we thought, so he called the second store and asked them to hold it for us at the customer service desk.  We immediately took the short drive and found the box waiting for us at customer service as promised.  We paid and went home happy.  So far so good, right?

The next day I unboxed the system to set it up for my daughter.  I expected to see the standard Vista “mini-setup” or sysprep – the final steps in installing the operating system and preparing the new computer for first-time use.  Imagine my surprise when I was greeted instead by a screen showing two user accounts.  As I investigated further, this is what I found:

  • neither of the accounts were protected by a password
  • the system had been in use for 3-4 weeks
  • multiple applications were installed that I didn’t purchase, including Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise
  • 100 GB of the hard drive was in use, including 23 GB of music, multiple bit torrents of DVDs, etc., none of which I had purchased
  • a document titled “Resume” with a number of revealing details about the user:
    • full name, address, phone number, and e-mail address
    • he graduated from high school in 2005, making him approx. 21
    • he was looking for an IT job
    • he was an employee of that Best Buy store in the Geek Squad

Let that last part sink in a bit.  How in the world had Best Buy sold me a laptop as new that not only wasn’t new but contained a huge amount of copyrighted material that I didn’t purchase?  At the very least this was a serious security breach involving a person who others are entrusting with their computers and data.  How could any Geek Squad employee not have a password on his own computer account?  No matter the circumstances of his use of the computer, how could the computer possibly have ended up being sold to me without him removing his data?  Did he use the computer without the store’s knowledge and somehow sneak it back onto the shelf?  Did the store not know they had sold me an open-box computer as new?  My mind was racing without a lot of information but all kinds of speculation.

Needless to say, I took it back to the store.  Ironically, the person who greeted me at the customer service counter was none other than the previous user of the laptop.  I asked to see the manager.  When he came I asked if there was a place we could speak privately.  When I explained, the manager was shocked and immediately seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.  To make a long story short, it turned out that the employee had purchased the laptop and then returned it.  Best Buy’s errors were twofold: 1) they failed to restore the hard drive to the factory load; 2) they sold me the machine as new.  It’s quite possible they knew it was an open box item, accounting for the lower price at the second store compared to the first, but no one at the second store ever told me that.

The manager’s resolution?  He offered his apologies and provided me with another Studio 15 with a slightly better configuration that sells for $865.  (According to the manager, this second unit had been serviced by the Geek Squad to apply latest service packs, updates, etc.  So it wasn’t exactly in the factory shipped configuration.  I took his word for that in spite of the obvious fact that Best Buy had already given me ample reason to question their trustworthiness and procedures.)  He then asked if I was interested in the extended warranty.  I said I would take it if he gave it to me for free, which he declined.  So how’s that for a mediocre response to what was at best major-league mistake?

I’m now attempting to reach the person at Dell who is reponsible for the Best Buy account in the midwest.  Managers far removed from the sales floor occasionally need to hear from real end customers so they can better visualize the kinds of situations that arise at retail and the systems that need to be in place to serve customers well.

CITRT Fall 2008 Day 3

Once again, the Church IT RoundTable managed to be the coolest thing ever.  Here are my quick, contemporaneous notes from the roundtable sessions.  I moderated in Studio B, so my ability to take good notes was limited.

Conference WiFi

  • 24 laptops in the room.  Most if not all connected to the demo Xirrus array in the room.  Worked perfectly.  Kudos.

Mac OS issues

  • magic triangle – term used by Apple to describe AD-OD integration
  • Why do AD-OD integration?
  • Daryl Hunter at LifeChurch not sure why it’s needed.  Mac people have tons of files all over the place, completely unmanaged, not searchable, etc.  Hezekiah Barnes – Mac admin from Southeast very strong
  • Brian O’Neal – faith based support from Apple
  • Biggest issue is setting up ACLs so they sync between the two directories
  • Exchange 2007 even worse problems with Entourage than before.  Entourage database corrupts occasionally.  Problems with people using Entourage on one computer and Outlook on another.  Entourage 2008 is more stable with better features.
  • Don’t need AD integration for file and printer sharing.  Ideally it will work for single sign-on, but this is tough.
  • People love their Macs partly because they’re not managed.  Everyone lets their Mac users be local admin.  Some are doing the same for PC users.
  • Too much Mac data isn’t getting backed up.
  • Can become a certified Apple shop and then do your own repair.  Don’t have to pay for Apple Care.
  • Backup Exec has an agent for Mac.


  • Compellent has cool interface
  • EMC is awesome performance, difficult to manage
  • EqualLogic is fast
  • SAN Melody is a software-based SAN – does storage virtualization.  Cheap.
  • KVM virtualization for Linux – feature equivalent with ESX.  KVM easier to manage than Xen.  Performance is very good.
  • Windows people love Hyper-V
  • Mark Rock says ESX people are always looking for a place to hold a user group.  Love churches with an open area and WiFi.
  • Compelling reasons for virtualization:  Better hardware utilization.  Quicker disaster recovery.  Lower space requirements, lower heat.


  • Joomla has a CRM plug-in
  • Tony says all ChMS are too hard to use.
  • Most discussion around check-in and attendance.  Various theories about hospitality and whether self check-in or assisted check-in is better.
  • David Drinnon built a system using RFID for check-in
  • Text to a short code number (like we did our survey this morning) used by Southeast to do student ministry attendance

Desktop management/Help desk

  • Altiris.  Dell is a reseller.
  • Spiceworks
  • AuditISX – open source
  • Easy Audit
  • Everrest Corporate Edition
  • Dave Waters works in the IT Dept. for Numara, makers of Track It
  • Ruckus does authentication integrated with AD
  • Dameware – remote support NT Utilities includes Mini Remote Control.  (Numara resells as Track It Remote)
  • Vista image utility boots from a USB drive.  One image for any kind of machine so long as all drivers are present.
  • Help Desk –

Network monitoring

  • Cacti
  • Ground Work
  • Open NMS


  • David Drinnon: “I don’t like Sharepoint.  We’re playing with it.”
  • Daryl Hunter: “LifeChurch built an internal portal.  No adoption.  Abandoned.  What does an intranet give us a search server doesn’t?  We live in e-mail.  Use corporate IM, Yammer.”
  • ACS has a home-built intranet.  Couldn’t work without it.
  • Al Fresco – Sharepoint competitor


  • ACS – music not on the network except certain users and certain specific network folders

Remote access

  • Don’t use port 3389 for terminal services.  Consider 2-factor authentication.  Security concerns.

New facility construction

  • 20% “forward thinking”
  • Two 4″ conduits between buildings
  • Two 4″ conduits into the building for the telecom providers

IT Management

  • Surveys of users about help desk experience
  • How to measure IT health?  Key indicators?  My answer: ticket load, project time lines, annual goals
  • Identify felt need -> evaluate how a particular solution fits with mission/values
  • IT Staffing – importance of team affinity is Jason Powell’s #1 lesson of the last year

David Kinnaman at Resurrection

David Kinnaman, President of The Barna Group and author of unChristian, gave a talk at Resurrection tonight and took questions from Adam and the audience.  Here are my notes.

David has been with Barna for 14 years, since he was a junior in college (which makes him approx. 35).

The public thinks present-day Christianity is no longer like Jesus intended

Favorable view of evangelicals:

  • 16-29 year old outsiders: 3% favorable
  • Boomer outsiders: 25% favorable
  • Elder outsiders: 27% favorable

75% of Americans over 40 say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important in their lives. 70% of Americans believe the resurrection is literally, historically true.

60% of Americans under 40 would say the same.

“Biblical World View” defined by Barna – 3% under 40 and 9% over 40.


  • Post-Christian context invites effectiveness in living as true missionaries, in tension
  • Political backlash invites opportunity to change “culture ware” rhetoric
  • Limited number of Christians with BWV invites expression coming from serious discipleship
  • Global awareness invites leadership for social and environmental justice
  • Hyper-individualism invites counter-cultural movement of community and non-materialism
  • Pluralistic culture invites opportunity to work alongside non-Christians to renew our cities
  • Desire for transparency invites authentic opportunities for spiritual conversations and project-focused churches
  • Search for purpose invites empowering students to pursue lives of service and clear vocations, energizing and equipping spiritual entrepreneurs

We suffer from a failure of kingdom imagination

What does it mean to be Christ-like?  Luke 7:36-50. What would the woman in John 7 say about Simon? He was judgmental, hypocritical, anti-sinner, too political, insincere, out of touch. This is what young people say about Christians today.

Births to unwed mothers: 1960 – 5%, now – 38%

Next generation is very relational. Music piracy – loyalty to peers is much greater than loyalty to authority, etc. Loyalty to peers is their primary moral compass.

How to post-moderns perceive truth? The majority of young people don’t respond to an apologetics approach (some do, but not majority). Being a Christian should make people have a clearer picture of what God has called them to do in their life. If a lawyer, a lawyer who is called to restore justice, etc.

Young people want deep answers, not simplicity, canned, or phony answers. For example, student ministry might be better with fewer students (lower student/teacher ratios) and deeper investment in their lives. We might think a great curriculum or a great program will communicate the gospel effectively. Since they’re relationally-motivated, that may be less true for young people.

It’s very easy for us to slip into patterns of judgmentalism, superficiality, and religiosity. For example, students often say that rather than being accepted at church, they’re socially shunned at church just like they have been at school. Church leaders favor the popular, beautiful, smart, rich, etc.  Students conclude the church is no different, or even worse that secular social groups.

It’s very possible for Christians to use terminology that non-Christians don’t understand.

43% of Americans say they’ve gone to church in the last 7 days. That’s probably over-reported (“halo effect”). Frequency of worship attendance among committed Christians is declining. People have many more options and fragmented attention. People can listen to podcasts, etc. (Adam says it has gone from 2.7 times per month to 1.4 times per month.)

Situational awareness is important, but relational awareness is even more important.

The media doesn’t get spirituality at all. Barna has recently gotten lots of questions from the media about Sarah Palin such as, “Why would she speak about spiritual things in her leadership?So it’s no surprise that the media doesn’t project positive portrayals of committed followers of any religion.

Young people today: it’s cool to care; they’re eager to take on big things and solve them.

12 years ago 80+% of people had a positive view of Christians. Now it’s something like 40% who have a negative view.

Young people don’t want to feel that they’re the object of someone’s attempt to win them to Christ. How do we feel when a Mormon comes to the door? We notice that if we’re not a great target for conversion, they move on. We don’t want friends who are friendly with us because of an agenda: insurance salesman, etc.

Critiquing Christians has become popular. There is very possibly a “bandwagon effect” going on.

Table talk: We incorrectly believe that non-Christians are faithless. Imago Dei tells us all people have a spirit that believes in something and is potentially open.