Mission IT History

Mission IT History

From MissionTechWiki

Contents

The influence of Taylor University in the development of missions information technology

Computing Assistance Program

Taylor University was quite influential in the early development of information technology in the missions community through the Computing Assistance Program (CAP). Founded in 1980, CAP was a cooperative effort between Taylor staff, faculty, and students along with interested business professionals and donors. The purposes of CAP were (1) to assist missions and church organizations in the design, development, and operation of data processing systems (2) to expose computer science and systems analysis students to opportunities for Christian service and (3) to enable faculty and staff to become more involved in the worldwide mission of the church.

Early CAP projects included:

Project Doulos

Project Doulos involved the installation of a computerized inventory control system for the Christian and educational book exhibit on board Operation Mobilization’s ship Doulos. The project was born when Gus Vandermeulen, a Christian businessman and close friend of Taylor, approached the computer department with with a project vision. Gus offered to raise the money for the system if Taylor would provide the expertise and manpower to make it work. John Kastelein, the Director of Information Systems volunteered to head up the project. Taylor professors, staff, and students worked along side Operation Mobilization (OM) personnel to do much of the analysis, design, and even installation of the inventory system. In the following years, a number of Taylor students did six-month internships on the Doulos serving as systems operators.

Project Wycliffe

When Wycliffe Bible Translators began to use computers to aid their translators on the field, Taylor was there to help. Taylor students spent summer internships working under the guidance of personnel from the Wycliffe Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) to write some of the first text editors, concordance programs, and dictionaries designed specifically for translators. In the summer of 1981, twenty-three Wycliffe missionaries spent ten weeks on the Taylor campus learning how to use the new Direct Translator Support (DTS) software. These “Translator Training Seminars” continued at Taylor for several summers until JAARS acquired the facilities to conduct the necessary training on their own premises.

Missions Software Project

The purpose of the Missions Software Project was to develop generalized software for use in mission home offices. A number of missions including OM, SIM, and the World Gospel Mission (WGM) were consulted during the development of the project. The analysis and design carried out by Taylor faculty, staff, and students during the Missions Software Project became the heart of a prototype system that was installed at the headquarters of both OM and Gospel for Asia (GFA). The prototype became the basis of the OM Standard Software (OMSS) that was used for more than a decade in over seventy OM offices around the world. Taylor students helped design, install, and operate the systems at both OM and GFA. The first Taylor student who went to GFA to operate their system as a summer intern is still there. He has been the computer operations director at GFA for many years.

International Conference on Computing and Mission (ICCM)

The ICCM followed two earlier organizations that had been formed to address the issues of the use of computers within Christian organizations. The Christian Computer Users (CCU) met together several times in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. Their gatherings were quite technical but included lots of good fellowship and exchange of ideas.

In the early 1980’s, the Christian Ministries Management Association (CMMA) now the Christian Management Association (CMA) added a computer track to their existing management tracks and the CCU conference was merged into the larger CMMA annual conference. The CMMA conferences were large with 1000-1500 attendees and were often in fairly expensive venues. The small group of computer users did not feel well served by the CMMA conference with its size and expense.

A group of computer users with interests in mission computing met to discuss the situation at a CMMA meeting in Los Angeles. The group included Paul Sturgis (Association of Baptist for World Evangelization) Norm Ducharme (SIM International), Ron Tenny (Operation Mobilization), Dave Sironi (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship), Bob Hodge (Taylor University), and others. They discussed the situation and concluded, “We need more than what is being offered as it relates to computers in missions. What can we do to make it happen?”

In the late 1980s, Jay Kessler, the president of Taylor University, encouraged Taylor to find ways to get students more involved in missions. As part of that effort, Norm Ducharme and Bill Jack (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) were invited to Taylor in the spring of 1988. There they met with Bob Hodge and Dale Sloat. In that meeting, Norm and Bill challenged Bob and Dale to host a mission’s technology conference at Taylor. The event would be called the International Conference on Computing and Mission and would be led by missionaries and designed for missionaries. The ICCM would be a combination of technical lectures, hands on workshops, intermission networking, prayer, and worship.

Bob and Dale agreed to host the conference at Taylor. It was a logical extension to the Computer Assistance Program (CAP) that had been connecting Taylor resources with missions needs since 1980. Thus the event was born. The ICCM continues to encourage the spiritual and technical lives of those who attend. Although founded at Taylor and usually hosted there, the ICCM has occasionally been hosted elsewhere. It was held at Wycliffe’s Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) headquarters in 2001. ICCM was also once hosted by Abilene Christian University in Texas.

Since early days, ICCM has also been influenced by the participation of Christian businessmen like Hayne Baucom and Pete Holzmann as well as Christian vendors like Global Resources for Computing, and Compass Technology, and business/mission organizations like the International Christian Technologists' Association (ICTA). The Christian businessmen have often encouraged the missionaries with new ideas, innovative methods, and offers of help.

ICCM has a worldwide impact. Over the years, representatives from over 110 missions, colleges and businesses have attended the conference. The meetings are often web-cast with people attending from around the world.

ICCM continues to be a high-energy low-mass event. Guided by missionary volunteers, previous program chairs, and Taylor volunteers, ICCM has no paid staff or organizational hierarchy. It is the participants who make ICCM the edifying event that it is each year as they contribute talents in technology, music, management, creativity, and worship.

JAARS

Wycliffe’s Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), which also does IT support for Wycliffe, has its own history page.

Original page: http://www.missiontech.info/wiki/Mission_IT_History
from the MissionTech Wiki created by the International Conference on Computers and Missions

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