My Puzzling Newsletter

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Sliding Tile Puzzles like the above always drive me crazy. I don’t have the logic skills to manage them well. But I find myself using a lot of logic when I play with TntConnect’s astoundingly powerful Lookup tools. Sometimes I have made super-complex lookups by using a combination of adding and taking away until I get just the right result.

Last week I was preparing our annual family update, which is different from our monthly newsletter, and I had to do a bit of this Lookup puzzelry to make it work.

The monthly newsletter is easy because I can use the Newsletter Tools Helper to find my list of newsletters, then I merge and go.

But the annual family letter is more problematic because of some nuances. I have multiple groups I send it to:

  • Everyone who gets my paper newsletter
  • Relatives and friends who get only this letter but not the monthly letter
  • Neighbors and co-workers who get this letter but not mailed
  • People who get a PDF via email

I manage this complexity using a special set of Saved Groups specifically for the newsletter.

I start by looking up my regular newsletter list:

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…returning this Current Lookup:

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Then I Lookup | By Group to add the non-newsletter recipients (called “Christmas Letter” in this example):

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I have two other exclusive saved groups related to this newsletter:

  1. “Local Delivery” because I am going to print but not mail them (I don’t want their envelopes mixed in with the mailed ones)
  2. “Email Christmas Letter” because they will not receive a printed copy.

In my own database I have six “newsletters” saved groups reflecting different ways people get the family update (Canada, email, paper, local delivery, expanded family version, and co-workers in the office).

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“Are you all okay?”

Two weeks ago I called a ministry partner in Houston. She’s an elderly woman who lives alone, and her daughter, I know, lives in Chicago. “I’m concerned about you,” I said. “Are you okay?”

She thanked me for calling and assured me she was fine. Her street was a river, but her front steps were dry. She felt very fortunate.

That was two weeks ago. Monday this week I texted my wife and asked her, “Are you all okay?”

I’m a pretty lousy husband. While my family was sleeping in the closet as Hurricane Irma blew over our house, I was on an international trip in Africa. Except for being without power for about 48 hours, and having a lot tree debris to cleanup, they were fine. She told me our neighborhood turned out like an anthill that was just kicked over–people we almost never out of doors emerged to see who lost a tree (or didn’t). Neighbors helping neighbors clean up. Won’t last long, but it’s great to see.

I appreciate that TntConnect helps me reach out to my partners and show compassion during a weather crisis like these–events that often affect a widespread area, and because of that I cannot know how my partners have fared unless I ask them. (Tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes; sad we need a reason, but showing we care… shows we care.)

The best way to connect, of course, is just to call. Email or text is okay, I suppose. But a real phone call says a lot.

I use TNT to help me do this by using the Lookups to help me identify the contacts I could call. For example, last month I looked up all partners in Texas using Lookup | By State. Sometimes Lookup | By City works if that’s what I need.

One of my partners just moved to Texas a couple of months ago; I wasn’t sure where the town was, so I used the Google Maps button in TNT to discern that they lived outside Dallas, not Houston. But I contacted them anyway because a new address & new home were a good reason to call. And I started the call simply by asking, “Has Hurricane Harvey affected you at all?”

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I don’t have ulterior motives with these calls. Every opportunity to reach out to a partner is a good one. Our partners love to hear from us, and most missionaries (like me) use the microphone portion of their smart”phone” far less than we should.

Speaking of that, How are you? If you were in an area impacted by Harvey or Irma–or wildfires in the West–I hope you have seen an outpouring of bonhomie from relatives, friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers.

Don’t send it twice!

 

** Secret feature alert! **

Faced an interesting dilemma this evening: I needed to print and send our current newsletter. But unlike normal months, there was a group of partners I did NOT want to send the letter to, because I had just sent them a special update just a week ago.

How did I solve this dilemma? By using one of TntConnect’s “secret features”: I looked up my newsletter list, then went to my History and selected the history entry for last week’s special update, then “removed” those people from the list.

Here’s how (screen shots below):

  1. Use the Newsletter Tools Helper to find my newsletter recipients
  2. Go to the History View and right-click on the update recipients
  3. Select “Remove from Current Lookup

The Newsletter Tools Helper filters the 22 paper newsletter recipients:

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I then go to the History View and right-click on last week’s special update to 30 people (only some of whom are regular newsletter recipients):

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After removing the Special Update recipients, there are 10 people left who still need a newsletter this month:

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