No one could write fiction like this

Gander, Newfoundland | September 11, 2001

Gander, Newfoundland airport | Population: 10,000


One of the most dramatic stories to come out of the incidents surrounding September 11th was related to the need to land hundreds of planes as quickly as possible–but not in the United States. This is not an easy task, given how many planes are flying around the world at any given moment. In the picture below from this morning, notice all the westbound planes, but specifically the heavier line going diagonally along the U.S. east coast:




When the incidents began to unfold that memorable morning, one of the very first actions—and I have no idea how they did this—was to ground all air traffic in the United States. For planes approaching North America, this meant landing at airports in Canada, including the first one, Gander, Newfoundland.

In the early days of trans-Atlantic air travel, all planes stopped here to refuel. But since the jet age it is used primarily for military staging. And unlike other Canadian cities that took in planes (Halifax, Toronto, Montréal, Calgary, etc.), Gander is remote (more than 200 miles away from the nearest city) and small place: only 10,000 people. The next day it was 17,000 people. The story is one of legend as this town absorbed these people for four days–people whose luggage was stuck on the planes for security reasons.

Besides the actual events of that day, what we saw globally was a major change in how we do air travel. It took months for air travel—and the travel industry in general—to recover.

What we are seeing today is unprecedented in the history of the world: The entire world shutting down to stop a potentially deadly virus from spreading out of control. Wow! No fiction author has ever attempted a story like this—who would believe it?!

I teach a World History class to my son’s 10th grade homeschool group, and when we were discussing the bubonic plague in the 15th century a few months ago, I walked them through a discussion about how we were one virus away from a global crisis. “Imagine,” I asked them, “what would happen to our economy if 25-50% of people could no longer work? How would all of our key industries keep running?”

I have three thoughts related to the unfolding and uncertain situation we’re in:

  1. God is still in charge. The bubonic plague and the coronavirus did not happen without His knowledge. And our personal peace and hope should never be on the world or governments around us. Psalm 94:19 says, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
  2. As missionaries, I think our top priority is to care for our partners. My wife just celebrated her 30th anniversary with our ministry, and amazingly, our very first partner recently gave their 30th annual gift. During these uncertain times, many of our partners have their own uncertainties and issues… and for many of them, they could be far more serious than ours (more on that below).
  3. I am honestly a bit concerned about the financial state of many of our missionaries’ funding. Giving to missionaries tends to hold up far better than other giving in past times of financial turmoil, but even so, if many of our staff saw a sudden 10-20-50% drop in monthly support, that could put them in a challenging financial position.

Point #2 is most related to the core of this blog. I write about TntConnect first and foremost because I love my partners. TntConnect helps me connect with my partners on a regular basis.

  • Last week when our organization began cancelling all travel, cancelling events, and closing offices, I sent out a quick email to all of our partners to let them know I was praying for them and asking for prayer requests. I got responses from some people who have never responded to an email before. A couple in particular were very concerned about their financial situation because they were already experiencing an immediate financial impact.
  • This week I sent out a paper newsletter to our regular newsletter list with similarly worded content.
  • Next week I am planning to devote some focused time to calling my partners–something I have not done in a while. I have some extra time on my hands because I’m not commuting and all of my son’s sports activities have been cancelled. 🙂

I received an email this week from one of our European partnership development leaders:

[Our] staff generally like to be busy in their assigned ministries. Now that many of those ministries are seriously disrupted it will be good to take more time feeding back into the lives of our supporters. They are living surrounded by fear and we have the opportunity to speak faith into their lives. And to have the focus on us serving them rather than have them serving us. They can become a primary ministry for us for a while.

God bless.

Happy “New” Year

2020-01-24 Cape Schanck (12) Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock, Cape Schanck, near Melbourne, Australia (January 2020)

About a year ago I needed to take a sabbatical from writing because of a major project I am working on in my organization. I can say, looking backwards, that it was a wise decision as 2019 turned out to be the most taxing year of my career in ministry. It reminds me of the day I learned to water ski as a college student, hanging on to a long rope while being pummeled by the wake of the boat.

Thankfully, 2020 has started out at a more reasonable pace… more like a normal year should. With the one exception being that it is February 21 and it feels like January 5! This is due to the lingering holdover from 2019 being wrapped up. (The picture above was from a recent trip to Melbourne where we’re beginning the 2020 project.)

With a window of opportunity, I want to start posting in http://www.TNT.Tips again, using the classic wedding adage…

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

From the “something old” department: In 2015 I created a “video of the week” series for TntMPD. I posted it on a partner site called SmartStory, which hosted our video series pro bono as I was helping them explore this new video training tool.

Unfortunately, within weeks of completing those 52 videos, TntMPD’s name changed to TntConnect. And within about two years, SmartStory discontinued the hosted video product as it was not viable for them or their paid customers; they instead decided only to invest in their main platform.

Even though those videos all say TntMPD on them, the content is the same and the software is (for the most part) unchanged on the described features. Each video is approximately 2 minutes, and are designed to explore a lot of the basics of TNT. I’m confident they still have a lot of value, and will use this blog to post one of them [almost] every week for the next year.

To that end, after I send the introductory video next week, I would encourage you to link others to it who may benefit from learning more about the basics of TNT. And who knows, you may learn something too!

From the “something new” department, you have probably heard that there is a new release of TntConnect coming out very soon, TntConnect 4.0. This is a “major change” for the database, so if you upgrade, your database will be adapted to the new version and no longer work in 3.5.

There are not a lot of new features from a user’s perspective, but the underlying technology is driving this change. Specifically, this change adapts better to the recent improvements in DonorHub, and it also solves a major incompatibility with Mac OS Catalina.

Note: If you import donations into TntConnect using the Tools > Update Donor/Gift Info from File, this feature will not be in 4.0. In my experience keeping an eye on the forums, this feature creates among the highest frequency of help requests and is among the most problematic. Not because of TNT itself, but because of issues with the files that people or ministries create. This feature is a legacy feature from 10-20 years ago when very few organizations could send data via the web. That has changed now, so it’s time to close the loop on this feature.

While this feature is going away, if it is critical to you, then you can keep using 3.5 forever–as long as your system supports it. (Yes, there are still people using TNT 1.6 and 2.0!).

Looking forward a great new year with you!


Blast that Task List

One word: OUCH.


“How many of those 2,000 tasks do you intend to complete?” I asked the staff member I had just stopped by to help with a TNT question. This was a few years back, TntConnect had just had a major upgrade, and this person was trying to figure out a new feature.

Although I was not there about tasks, their overwhelming task list caught my attention as something they might want to look at.

“Well, I only do the thank yous and I just ignore everything else.”

The overwhelming task list complicates life too because the most urgent tasks (like thank yous she was following up on) appear at the bottom of the list, while the oldest, still unfinished tasks, were the only ones that appeared on her screen.

In our perfect world, we always do all of the tasks we need to do, at just the right time, and our task list is always in the zen-spot of “Task List Zero”. That’s not my real life, of course. Some of my tasks I just put off because I don’t want to do them, such as the “Call to check on status of financial commitment” is a tough one for me.

But as this person indicated, their task list was long because they were not relying on TNT to manage their tasks. So the list was growing, but it wasn’t really a “task list” for them.

So two things:

  1. If you find TNT is creating tasks you simply will not check off or use, then turn off those notifications in Tools > Options > Automatic Actions. For example, you may want to keep the “Send thank you for extra gift” or “…special gift”, but turn off some of the other, more passive items.
  2. Do something about the task list. Blast it, I say.

You can easily delete ALL of the items in your task list by following these steps:

  1. Click once to “select” any task in the list (but not the checkbox).
  2. Press Ctrl+A to Select All
  3. Press the Delete key.

You could also delete only one kind of task instead of the whole list. For example, let’s say you wanted to delete only the “Call to check on status of financial commitment” but leave the rest.

To do this:

  1. Click on the Description header to sort by description.
  2. Click once on the first one you want to delete.
  3. Scroll down to the last one.
  4. Press the Shift key, then click on the last one. Now you have one block of tasks selected, but not all of them.
  5. Press the Delete key.