Fruitless Wycliffe Headquarters

I'm here in Orlando, Florida at the WycliffeUSA headquarters. I took my daughter out for a stroll through the parking lot. The heat, humidity and the landscape got me thinking. In anthropology and documentary linguistics we often think about the relationship between people, their culture and social practices, and the land they live on or transverse through. For instance, there is the taxation of land in the Ottoman Empire according to how many trees are on a piece of property (which led to the deforestation of lots of land in the Middle East). In biblical accounts of the depopulation of the Palestinian region there are mentions of "barrenness" or deforestation as a result of the change in population activities.

Sidewalk at the WycliffeUSA headquarters.

Sidewalk at the WycliffeUSA headquarters.

More recently we can look at issues of urbanization around the world, be they accounts of roads in Australia or Mexico affecting traditional activities and the use of land by indigenous peoples, or of refugees neading wood fires for cooking in Africa. 
So if we take as truth this relationship between us and the land we steward, what then should  be our response? It is also equally striking that if we look back though history, that major architectural features are built and new designs are established based on the priorities of institutional management. For instance, consider The Roman emperors and the colosseum, Egypt and the pyramids, Noah and the ark, the Vatican and St. Peter's basilica, or the USA Vietnam war memorial with the names of the fallen soldiers written on it. Our architectural legacy (which is part of our land use) leaves a testament to our management priorities. 

When I was in Africa doing some linguistic field work, I was approached by a local fellow who does a bit of mentoring of local young men; teaching them life skills and stewardship practices. He asked me how many fruit trees I have on my property.  I told him "none" (as I had forgotten about the fig tree on my rental property in Texas and the house I was living in at the time in Oregon had no fruit trees at all). This Nigerian continued to tell me that fruit trees are really important because they not only affect the quality of the ground but they also provide income.  For him a fruit tree on his property means that he has shade in an air conditioner-less society, and fruit in season -- meaning: He does not have to pay for food and can send one of his kids to market to sell his excess fruit (income instead of expense). He also said, that one must plant fruit trees early in life (and it is therefore important for young men to know) because it takes time (years) for fruit trees to be productive. 

My response in the two and a half years since being asked if I have fruit trees on my property has been that I have planted four fruit trees, eleven fruiting shrubs, and two fruiting bramble patches. While I have chosen fruits that I like and grow in my region, my attention to planing fruit trees at all can be directly traced to my conversation with this Nigerian. And now that I am in my 30's it is my hope that my daughter will have fruit from my trees. 

I planted a plum tree and a row of blueberries.

I planted a plum tree and a row of blueberries.

I planted three  fig trees on the lower course.

I planted three fig trees on the lower course.

So as I walk with my daughter though the walking paths at the Wycliffe headquarters in the 9 AM morning sun and humidity of a Florida August in full swing, I appreciate the few shade trees in the landscaping around the buildings. But I wonder: "why no fruit trees?"  
A view over the east side of the Wycliffe headquartes.

A view over the east side of the Wycliffe headquartes.

In contrast to the trees on the east side of the buildings, the west side contains a rain/drainage pond (an important feature in Florida) and grassy fields. 

A view over the west side of the Wycliffe headquartes.

A view over the west side of the Wycliffe headquartes.

So as I walk the grounds of the Wycliffe headquarters I wonder what the architecture can tell us about the priorities of the organizational management. I wonder why there are (beautiful albeit fruitless) trees on the east side and plains on the west side.The author of the book Rich dad, poor dad talks about buying assets which make us money rather than buying assets which cost us money. Money is one easy way that American culture can quantify the propensity to be sustainable. That is, profitability and sustainability are not the same, but profitability metics can be used as an indicator for some sorts of sustainability. The principle can be expounded upon even for non-profit organizations. Assets which pay for themselves contribute to the organization's sustainability. I wonder how many NGOs (not just WycliffeUSA) treat their land as an asset which should pay for itself. I think it is particularly interesting to consider in WycliffeUSA's case because sustained use of it's products is one of its businesses goals. That is, how integrated into the corporation's activities is the ideas of stewardship and sustainability?

I am no expert on Floridian horticulture but I wonder what sort of analogies can be drawn between the state of the grounds and the organizational priorities as pursued by management.

I do know that oranges grow in Florida, I wonder if Wycliffe had a grove of oranges and had a you-pick (pay version) if that would add social value to the property in the eyes of local Floridians. Communities form around food and the food gathering process. Or if the orange grove was a free you-pick could Wycliffe organize an open house to coincide with orange season to meet both practical and spiritual needs of local Americans interested in holistic ministry to native and minority language speaking peoples?

In terms of architecture I'm no expert on facility maintenance or on Florida weather but it seems that solar power would also be a financially benefiting venture for an organization depending on fluctuating income streams.

Risks 

I read a news article today that talked about a couple from Australia raffleing off their Micronesian resort. They must have sold more than 50,000 tickets for 49 aus. dollars.  I think to myself “that is awesome.  I’d love to buy a profitable business for $49. How cool is that!” In reality if I had seen the raffle before it ended I would likely not have bought a ticket because there was too much risk of getting nothing out of it. I wonder: am I not risky enough?

Sled and Tobbogan Research

I research all sorts of things... but one area I do not do enough research in is fun - especially winter fun.

With the resent 5" (or theres about) of snow in Eugene I thought I would pull a memory or two out of my past and take a look online to see if I could find any pictures. I am particularly interested in sledding. This is sorta new. Let me explain. Growing up I learned to ski. It was an individualistic sport and did not require cooperation. In contrast to the atmosphere around skiing (at least my exposure to it), sledding is much more of a social enterprise. In database terms, in stead of a one-to-one relationship (skier to skies) it is a many-to-one relationship (people to sled). Give this past I think it might be time to revisit the sled in context of the social element and re-evaluate "sledding".

Last night some students in Becky's program and I got out to a local hill and went sledding. It was a blast. Even though I am the guy in the red jacket.

It reminded me of a sled my dad had when I was in the third grade. The only picture I could find on the internet for the make/model is below.

Long Toboggan

Long Toboggan

Continue reading

The Box

Success – God Set’s it in front of me and I respond ‘God here I go’.

The Box

My dad always spoke of thinking “out of the box”. In fact as a gag-gift one of the people that he worked with once gave him a box. As a young man I remember walking into my dad’s office and seeing that box hanging on the wall, a constant reminder to think “out of the box”. There is some wisdom that can be gleaned from that box.

  • Morpheus might give you a choice between the red box and the blue box but try to remember the truth that neither box is really there.
  • Most boxes hinder us but some boxes are there for our protection.
  • Don’t worry about thinking out of the box unless you are willing to get rid of the stovepipes and cut the red tape.
  • Don’t be so focused on thinking outside the box that you forget what was in the box.
  • In order to get out of the box you must first find the box.
  • If you don’t know why you left the box you will surly find yourself back in the same box.
  • If you lose your reason for leaving the box you will surly find it when you get back in the box.
  • When you leave a box be careful what box you get into next, some of them are taped closed.
  • Don’t limit yourself to thinking only outside the box… this too is a box. That is limiting how you can’t think.
  • Be careful what box you try to open or get into. Some boxes were never meant to be opened and are hard if not near impossible to close or get out of.
  • Some people are in a box but they use so little of the room in that box that if they were to start exploring now, they could continue exploring for the rest of their lives with out finding the walls of that box.
  • There are others though, that have forgotten what the inside is like because they never stop bumping into the walls.

As sheep in the kingdom of God we are sheep of his pasture and this pasture not to cross the boarders and become the sheep of another pasture there are boundaries and limits. This is the parameters of “the Box”.