Monthly Archives: January 2014

Brigada Today– 2014/01/05

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In this edition:
1) Online Intensive Introduction to Missions Course
2) What are Cool Tools for Travelers?
3) The Right Bible
4) The Right “Grass-catcher” app
5) The Right Camera for Travel
6) The Right Photographer’s Vest
7) Carry an 8′ Brown Extension Cord
8) Back up Your Work
9) Make that phone a world phone
10) Secure Your Email
11) Satphones: Love ’em or Leave ’em?
12) Sat-enabled Beacons Rule
13) We’re Grateful!!
14) The BackPage: “Why Do you Raise Funds?”
15) Closing Stuff

1) Online Intensive Introduction to Missions Course

Kingdom ExpansionKingdom Expansion 101 is a convenient and inexpensive six-session user-friendly online course about world evangelization. This fresh and comprehensive class provides an overview of global outreach and how churches and individuals are involved in the Great Commission. Missions team members, short-termers and church leaders have commented on the quality of the variety of articles, videos, PowerPoint presentations, and interaction among the participants. The next class is a one-week intensive course which runs from January 20-26. For more information see

and feel free to write to
with specific questions. Several agencies offer the course to their constituents. To learn how your mission organization can do this, write to the email address noted above.

2) What are Cool Tools for Travelers?

TravelOver the years, certain Brigada “travel-related” items seemed to generate a lot of feedback. Sometimes, the feedback even bordered on excitement. So, over time, we have watched feedback on those items and collected them into a kind of “all-star” cast of items. Today’s edition features an update on some of those all-star “Cool Tools for Christian Travelers and Those who Serve Them.”


3) The Right Bible

Bible AppIf we line up a dozen smartphone and tablet users, asking them for their favorite Bible app, my guess is we’d get a dozen different answers. By now, maybe every smartphone user has downloaded at least one Bible app, even if he or she still carries a printed Bible for backup. Truth is, when I travel, I still carry one myself — the thinnest Bible I can find that has print that is easily readable for my own eyes, while teaching in a dark environment. Still, my slightly-stepped-up-font Old and New Testament is no more than 1 inch thick. What if the power goes out for an entire day and I exhaust the batteries on both my laptop and phone? But beyond that, I’m convinced that in some contexts, it still just looks too… WEIRD to teach using a phone or laptop Bible.

But what about the other times, when you CAN read the Bible on your phone or tablet? Which Bible program do you like most as your iPhone, iPad or Android device? I’m biased toward Bibles that act as “apps” rather than just portals to a web page (to make sure I can see them when my phone is offline). Therefore, I’m not as big a fan of “YouVersion” or whatever it’s called. I’ve tried Zondervan’s “Bible Gateway.” For some reason, that hasn’t become my favorite. I’ve been a long-time big fan of Olive Tree Bible. Lately, I’ve also tried the Faithlife study Bible, the Logos Bible, and e-Sword LT. What’s your own favorite?

If you’re looking for an app for your PC, many point directly to Logos Bible at…

What’s your own favorite?

4) Cool Tool: The Right “Grass-catcher” app

Evernote-screenThis one continues to be easy. I have yet to meet anyone who, upon having given Evernote a fair try, isn’t impressed. It’s fast, it’s synchronized (with every device you own), the notes are always available off-line, and it’s full-featured. Basically, think of it as a funnel into which you can throw all your ideas, goals, things to remember, notes, and everything else. On the other side, you can retrieve everything. It has been said that the spreadsheet application virtually CREATED the market single-handedly for the personal computer. Why? Because paper spreadsheets were made SO obsolete by computerized versions.

To me, Evernote is another one of those apps.

Having said that, when you’re on an international trip, I still suggest we carry a thin notebook & a pen, and write everything down. We all need to get in the habit of making diligent and accurate notes. The notebook has to be thin enough to stick in your shirt pocket or hip pocket, so you always have it with you. Do a section for finances. Write down every expense, make note of every currency exchange, including the commission and the exchange rate. Do another section for language learning. Jot down words you want to learn to say, words you can’t quite understand, whole text phrases you want to memorize, etc. Depending on the stage of your work, you might want other sections for interviews & cultural lessons, another for prayer requests & praises & devotional thoughts, another section for contacts & addresses & people with whom you’d like to follow up. Most of all, write down the ideas you want to share with folks back home. I know we can take notes on our digital devices, but sometimes, paper still wins.

5) Cool Tools: the Right Camera for Travel









I was hauled into the back of a swat truck once in Uruguay because, unbeknownst to me, policemen were making a drug bust in the market I was photographing. I think they concluded I was working for some magazine or something because the camera I was using had one of those long telephoto lenses on the front. It was too high profile. My suggestion is – carry a camera that’s comfortable and practical for you, but beware of equipment that raises your profile unnecessarily. Last year, after carrying the Canon “G-series” for a decade, I switched to Nikon. The Nikon P-7700 was the sweet spot for me. High-def 1080 video WITH a mic jack into which we can plug a wired or a remote lavaliere mic (essential to bump up the audio quality for videos). It’s one of those unique cameras that has essentially all the settings of a digital SLR, without the look of one. In fact, it carries reasonably well in my jacket or vest pocket, completely out of sight. But the secret is to find something that works well for YOU. Pick up a little tripod to stick in your backpack or vest pocket. I still carry an external flash too (with the Nikon, I’ve gone to one of the Speedlite series) when I need to light up the entire room. I suggest you get one with a head that you can pivot upwards to “bounce” the flash off the ceiling so it illuminates generally, instead of only from a flat front view. The Nikon Speedlite series meters through the lense of the camera with a small test flash first, allowing for a perfect exposure every time. Outstanding units.

6) Cool Tools: The Right Photographer’s Vest

travel vestI admit: I was always just a tad embarrassed to wear a photographer’s vest, even though it was extremely handy, just because it made me look like a gadget freak. With the development of the new slender profile “ScotteVest,” however, most of that image problem has gone away.

The ScotteVest’s pockets are all but invisible — and tech-enabled. It was recommended to me by a great friend and, I’ll have to admit, he was spot-on. They become a walking, incognito extra carry-on. My camera fits in one pocket, my flash or water bottle in another, and I still have PLENTY of space for a lightweight mini-tripod, a small flashlight, hand sanitizer, passport (in a protected, waterproof pocket), hand sanitizer, and virtually everything else you wish you had on the trail or village visit. I suggest you stick to khaki. The black vests seem a bit too paramilitary-looking.

7) Cool Tools: Carry an 8′ Brown Extension Cord

cordFile the widened ‘polarization tip’ off the one prong of the plug so it’ll plug into the 220 V. British (round prong) tip adaptor. Use the brown extension cord not only to bring the electric closer to you (in rooms that only have 1 plug for the whole room), but also to multiply the plug so you can charge your a) laptop, b) smartphone or iPad, c) digital camera battery all from the same cord. Many rooms will have only one plug. You won’t want to have to decide which unit to charge. If you’re lucky enough to be able to charge all your devices through USB ports (reducing the number of AC outlets you need), you’ll still be glad you have it for the times there are multiple group members who need power. USB-type charging is a great feature, whenever you can use it. Just get all this stuff sorted out BEFORE you depart so you can utilize your trip-time for people instead of devices.


8) Cool Tools: Back up Your Work

external harddrive Sooner or later, you’ll unintentionally overwrite your work, or worse yet, your equipment will fail or be stolen. Online back-up software came on strong last year, asking you to rent their space for a price. As a result, we examined vendors like SpiderOak, Carbonite, and others. But after months of experimenting, I concluded that online backups are just too slow. And with large hard drives dropping so low in price, I now recommend carrying a 1-, a 2-, or a 3- terabyte hard drive. It’s about the size of a small smart-phone. (We live in an amazing age, eh? USB sticks are another option, if you have a USB port on your device (all of them should!).

9) Cool Tools: World Phones

Get a phone with a SIM card (GSM chip). [Note that “GSM” does not translate into GPS. We’re not talking about Global Positioning System here. GSM stands for “Global System for Mobile” Communications — or “SIM” card (“SIM” stands for “Subscriber Identity Module.”)] When you land, you’ll instantly have access to emergency service (the local equivalent to “911”), even with your USA-based chip. But prior to your departure, find a carrier in your destination land that sells “pay as you go” or “top up” or “non-subscriber service” or “PrePaid” GSM chips or SIM cards. These are tons better than the “roaming chips” that we previously recommended. Pay ridiculously low prices for these (for example, $4), buy a ton of cheap minutes, and call to the USA 10 cents/minute. This contrasts radically with USA-based-cell-carrier plans, which typically make you pay at least three times that much. (On one recent trip, between calls and emails, one group member managed to rack up $2000 on his smartphone in just one week. So if you’re going to try to use your existing homeland-based plan, please call customer service before you leave your homeland so you know exactly what you’re going to spend. In my experience, buying a local sim card will always be the best route. What’s more, it gives you a local number so local contacts can easily call you about schedule changes.

10) Cool Tools: Secure Your Email —

If you’re using Gmail or the equivalent (seems like almost everyone has switched), you’re probably good to go. Many vendors (like Gmail) are fairly secure now, if you’re logging on to their server (and you trust their staff). Look for the “padlock” or “https” address in your browser’s URL web address box. We previously recommended Hushmail — and while it’s still a great option, in spite of a few recent interface polishes, Hushmail is looking a bit old-fashioned compared to Gmail. And Gmail seems always to stay ahead on the secure online storage offered for free — remind me again why we’re paying for Hushmail? :-)

For my own purposes, I refuse to switch to a web-based email solution like Gmail as my primary email client because I want to be able to even when I can’t find a source for Internet. I realize I’m probably in the minority these days, but for my life, it still makes sense. If yours is similar, make sure you’re logging on to a secure email server. Check yours and take the necessary action. Or surround your entire computer with a secure “wall” by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). StrongVPN


are both great solutions. StrongVPN seems to have better customer service. Not only will a VPN keep prying eyes from seeing your internet (as it leaves your computer all the way to your VPN-provider’s server), but it will also likewise secure your web-browsing as well. Find out where your VPN is based (for example, Sweden or Vancouver). If a secure route out of your sensitive field is all you need to “get into the clear,” then you’re golden. If you need end-to-end encryption with your home or office, look for a tech that can hook you up with a home-brewed VPN. Be prepared to manage the extra technical needs. As with everything else, sort all this out before you board the plane.

11) Cool Tools: SatPhones – Love ’em or Leave ’em?

If you’re working in a sensitive location and/or you’re unsure about relying on cell coverage for any reason, talk to vendors like…

The cost will likely be prohibitive for many of us… unless you’re about to be kidnapped and you need to get a call out. Then the cost will be minimal. :-)
Why? With a satphone, you have the ultimate “high ground.” If the bottom drops out of the government and cellphones become useless, satphones still deliver.

Why might you not want to rent a satphone?
*** Some have ventured a guess that it raises one’s profile with immigration and customs officials (to my knowledge, this is totally undocumented, by the way). They might think of you as “C.I.A.” or, just as bad, a drug runner.
*** Satphones are expensive. Phone rental might be $8-15/day. Airtime will likely run another $1/minute, even with the newest plans (such as those from “Spot”). Incoming calls are free, along with text messages. But it’s usually the outgoing text or call that means the most (e.g., “We landed and we’re fine.”) (Note: there are now other, less expensive solutions for this purpose. See SpotMessenger, for example.)
*** Satphones have to “see sky” to function well. This can be unhandy in winter climates or in sensitive situations.

Remember, “Half a sky” won’t do. (You can’t call from indoors or in a car unless you install an external antenna.) Costs will run somewhere in the $6-12/day, depending on the unit you choose… and throughput charges are extra. Plan on $6/megbyte. For perspective, your 10 mega-pixel camera probably captures a 5-megabyte image. Ouch. Expensive. Use a SpotMessenger-type beacon if it will get you by.

13) We’re Grateful!!

*** $100 The Mission Network
*** $50 from Hartford City, IN
*** $100 from Minneapolis, MN, with note, “Thank you for your dedication to Brigada. I’ve been on the receiving end since 1996 but have never helped pay your expenses. Sorry to read of your mother’s death. But what a rich heritage to build on! May the grace and comfort of our Savior envelope you in a special way. God’s best to you in Jesus today and through the new year.” God bless you brother!
*** $50 from Colorado Springs, CO
*** $200 from World Outreach Missions
*** $100 from Spokane, WA — God bless you brother!… and keep playing snow soccer!
*** $600 from great friend of Brigada and worker in South Asia
*** $50 from a friend in Ventura, CA, who is also a booster of Catalyst, Int’l, which seeks to come alongside those who are working in really difficult environments (for Christ’s sake) to provide encouragement, training, and resources. Learn more at…

*** $25 from a friend who would like to “remind folks that we have cross-cultural ministry right in our own backyards with our increasing refugee population.”
*** $100 from a booster asking for prayers as he prepares to launch a 4th campus this March. He wrote, “This one will be in Blue Island (south suburban Chicago), a heavily Hispanic area, and we plan to offer services in both English & Spanish, so it’s a unique challenge for us.

*** $25 from a Brigada Participant eager to boost

which is one of the organizations whose web site she manages. They work in Ethiopia. The founder of Mossy Foot Project was featured in Francis Chan’s, Crazy Love book, a great man who poured out his life for the people of Ethiopia.

$30 from Life Impact Ministries, serving missionaries with Care Services in and through hosted Oases.

$100 from a fan of ServantCARE, a ministry to missionaries and those who serve.

$1000 from an anonymous donor who wished to thank Brigada for its hard work. (God bless you!) He is also a strong believer in the work of the coaching and training ministry…

$25 from a long-time partner, Lingua House, a publisher of materials that help cross-cultural travelers learn a new language.

$25, $25, $50, $100, $100 from anonymous donors… God bless you!

$300 from our great friends at Good Neighbor Insurance. Learn more at…

$25 from the Missionary Training Service. Learn more at…

These gifts total $600 and raise our 2013 gift total to $12,664.11, just $4455.89 short of our 2013 budget needs of $17,120. We have one more week to receive goals for 2013. If you or your church would like to pitch in, we’d be extremely grateful. But either way, after next edition, we keep quiet about money until November 2013. We give praise to God for the way people have pitched in. We’ve now taken the plunge and have engaged an assistant to help us part-time. And what a difference she has made in posting to the web (she’s doing virtually all of it now)! If you’d like to donate during this final week for 2013, just navigate to …

then click “Donate” in the upper right and follow the instructions. By the way, you don’t need a PayPal account to give. If you reach a screen asking for your PayPal I.D., look on the left side of the screen, about halfway down, and find the prompt which says, “Continue without a PayPal Account.” If you’d rather send an old-fashioned check, just make it payable to Team Expansion and send it to:

Team Expansion (Brigada),
13711 Willow Reed Dr.
Louisville, KY 40299

(And by the way, Team Expansion is a 501(c)3 incorporation so for USA citizens, your checks made out to Team Expansion are tax-deductible.)

14) The BackPage: “Why Do you Raise Funds?”

Occasionally, we’re asked the question, “Why do you Raise Funds for Brigada?” This was the answer we sent:
“We send (via email) and post (on the web) Brigada Today each week, January through mid-Nov. without any financial appeals whatsoever. (We only say thank you to those who give gifts.) For the 6 weeks between mid-Nov. and the end of December, we ask people to pitch in $17,120 to offset the costs of a part-time assistant, pay for web-hosting, and some light marketing costs. We feel this is fair, since we invest between 10-20 hours per week (never less than 10, sometimes more than 20), on average, preparing Brigada, communicating with the Brigada audience, and serving the Brigada community. Brigada, then becomes a means of promoting evangelism and missions on both a national as well as an international level. It also helps provide for the base of support that enables us to do a ministry among unreached people groups personally. As president of Team Expansion, I lead 350 missionaries in 46 different countries. In reality, the organization doesn’t pay me. I have to raise funds just like all the rest of our missionaries. Brigada helps provide for our annual program and salary needs.

But please rest assured — come the first edition of January, there are no more appeals for another 10 1/2 months.

Does that help?”

Inquirers often wrote back with phrases like, ” Wonderful! Thanks for explaining and for a quick response!! Keep up the good work”

Thank you for the help you’ve already sent in 2013. Though we have just one more week to make up the remaining $4456, we’re grateful for all those who WERE able to give and we trust that God has provided according to the needs that He, in his providential wisdom, wanted to supply. We praise Him for that and thank you for the part you played!

And, in addition, we thank you for your prayers. This week, we’ve been writing, sending, and posting Brigada Today every week for literally 19 years. We’re told that for internet websites and e-zines, that’s like an eternity. We couldn’t do this ministry without your prayers, partnership and encouragement. You’re a great bunch of friends and we appreciate you!!!!!


15) Closing Stuff —

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Expansion (Brigada), 13711 Willow Reed Dr., Louisville, KY 40299, USA. (And by the way, Team Expansion is a 501(c)3 incorporation so for USA citizens, your checks made out to Team Expansion are tax-deductible.) Thanks to those who have suggested this cause to their local church missions committees, mission teams, and/or missions ministers/pastors. We appreciate you!

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