Wycliffe Intermission - March 20, 2019

My name is Daniel Bidulock. I was born in Calgary and raised in what I call the nostril of Nose Hill. You can see the road that takes me to my childhood home through the second floor Wycliffe window. I grew up in a non-Christian home with my mom, dad, and younger brother. We didn’t go to church, even on Christmas and Easter.

As a child, I had every advantage. I lived in a loving, stable home. We went to school, played hockey, travelled… my mom built a long-standing career in seismic processing for oil and gas exploration. My dad taught Computer Science at the University of Calgary. Growing up I spent a lot of time on campus. It’s changed a lot, but the UofC still feels like home.

Though I know the exact date when I gave my life to Jesus, the origins of my Christian journey are hazy. The details will be revealed in eternity I’m sure. Looking back, the most obvious starting point was during my later years of my first tour through university. In the year 2000, my brother and I bought a house in Capitol Hill, which is a post-war neighbourhood near SAIT. In traveling back and forth to school, work, and the various places I went with my friends, I started picking up comic book Bible tracts I found at the bus stops in my neighbourhood.

The story of a non-believer counting on a merciful God to recognize that he’s basically a good person is a common theme in these comics. Sometimes they’re about shameless unrepentant sinners scoffing at the very notion of God. The stories usually end with that person only discovering the truth upon dying and waking up in hell. As a non-Christian, the tracts were hilariously offensive. I collected every one I saw and have many duplicates. I read them all from front to back, always finding a verse of Scripture at the end. The core message, as offensive as it was, carried over into my life. I began to see the basic true and false in everything. This was especially true of movies, music, and television. God’s basic truth is self-evident in creation and everything we create, whether intended or not.

There is more to my story than what can be shared here. A decade into my Christian life, God began revealing the people who had been praying for me. This included a good high school friend. I sobbed like a baby when he shared how he had prayed for me. First through prayer, and then having received the truth through God’s Word, I gave my life to Jesus on July 28, 2003 parked outside the Tim Hortons on 16th Avenue near SAIT.

In a moment I came up from a foggy valley and found myself perched on top of a high mountain, seeing clearly in all directions for the first time. I’m certainly not alone in describing the experience this way.

Two years later I was attending Faith Lutheran Church here in Calgary. This was my first home church. One February Sunday my pastor issued a liturgical call to the congregation for parish ministers. I was sitting in the back when I felt a hard finger flick on my ear. I turned around. No one was there. I remember the moment. From there, God’s call grew louder day by day.

That same September I found myself enrolled in the Canadian Theological Seminary, now known as Ambrose. In the three years of my studies I was employed as the Youth Director at Faith Lutheran, interned at Southside Victory, served two terms on Seminary Student Council, completed advanced courses in ancient Hebrew and Greek, appeared on a reality dating show, and most importantly met the woman who would become my wife. Lyndsay holds a Masters of Leadership and Ministry degree from Ambrose.

We married the summer after graduation with the goal of planting an Alliance church in downtown Calgary. My good friend from seminary and I were given the greenlight on the project. We were very good friends. I was Best Man at his wedding. That project fell apart spectacularly in the space of weeks. We didn’t speak for nine years. All is forgiven, but I doubt we will be friends again.

Though accredited for ministry with the Alliance, I was called back to the UofC to conduct graduate research in Artificial Intelligence. This is not the fun self-driving car AI. My research laid the groundwork for making people and software interchangable. It was motivated by the need for organizational automation. During this second round of grad school I was allowed the opportunity to present on Evolution vs Intelligent Design in a Biological Computation course. I got my first taste of Natural Language Processing in a Computational Linguistics course. It was there that I independently created a predictive text program, much like the ones you enjoy on your cell phones. I remember seeing this appear commercially six months after my instructor awarded me my only A+ ever. I also served as Vice President Academic and then Acting President of the Graduate Students Association. Most importantly, my first child, Eva, was born.

After graduating and kicking around oil and gas for year, I landed a job with a human resources software company. I was awarded a provincial grant to carry out industrial research into what was called Semantic Search. My most substantial contribution to the company was a process by which candidate resumes were automatically sorted in order of most qualified to least. The process was basically the same as how a human HR manager does it, but it takes milliseconds instead of hours potentially. It may not be my software, but this kind of applicant intake is commonplace in large organizations today. Like predictive text, I suspect many people worked out the technique all at the same time. Things like ranking and predictive text are low-hanging fruit when it comes to Natural Language Processing. When I left that HR job, I asked God that it would be my last. He answered that prayer and I have been self-employed ever since. Most importantly, I had three more children in that time… Malachi, Stella, and Lydia. That was about five years ago.

I asked God, what do I do now? He said, do whatever you like. So I did. I love making stuff. Whether software, experimental backyard rocket stoves, or consumer products… salvaged wooden trays, stickers, t-shirts, some of the jewelry you see on my wife is handmade by me. The income generated by these entrepreneurial endeavours coupled with a contract consultant position with a company called Lighthouse Labs has sustained my family in the years since. Lighthouse trains junior Web Developers. We have a 96% job placement rate. Though I’m only a contractor, they call me the Lead Mentor in Calgary. They also have permanent classes in Vancouver and Toronto. I have been a teacher longer than I’ve been anything else. Teaching and mentoring at Lighthouse Labs has made me a better Web Developer.

In addition to building new products, I also love serving my church and community. I teach Sunday School, initiated our Syrian Refugee fundraiser, assisted worship at the Bethany Care Centre in Cochrane, organize our men’s group, I preside and preach when called, and am currently organizing the first ever Lutheran Missions Fest at which I’ll be exhibiting. If you’d like to do some PD, just ask and we’ll allot you some space. In terms of the wider community, I’ve maintained a site called TaxReformYYC.com for five years, ever since they overassessed my house when I first bought it. This is a frustrating and lonely cause.

In all this, I got pretty efficient at spinning up small businesses. For many years, God would give me an idea, I would build it, and then see if I could find customers. This all changed two years ago when a guest speaker at Lighthouse said, Dan, don’t write another line of code until you have customer and money in the bank. This was the best business advice I ever received. Much like my conversion experience, I could see clearly for the first time… I’d been doing it backwards my whole life. Find a customer, build the relationship, and humbly ask, how can I help?

The first time I put this into practice was when I created TheMiningKing.com. The mining, in this case, pertains to crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. I was contracted by a local dentist to build an Ethereum mining rig as an investment. It was here where I turned my attention to the crypto-version of eCommerce. Buying and selling on the Web and Darkweb with crypto currency. Primitive, though it may be, I believe my software is the world’s first open source crypto storefront application. You can learn how to setup your own store at TheMiningKing.com.

Then, a little over one year ago, Derrell Friesen spoke at my church, Saint Peter’s Lutheran in Cochrane. We got to talking, one thing led to another, and here I am. My focus has shifted from money and machines to people… and money. I have not yet found a word that captures the privilege, hard work, frustration, and joy involved in identifying a potential partner, developing a relationship, and humbly asking if they will support my work. Best of all, though I’m called, I’m still doing what I want to do. Thank you, God. Better yet, I still don’t really have a job. God answered my prayer beyond anything I could expect. Becoming a member of Wycliffe is easily the coolest thing I’ve ever done, and I am grateful to be here.

I was accepted as a member in May last year. I immediately set myself to reading the canon of Wycliffe fundraising literature, doing Bible studies, and preparing and honing my message. Several large donations arrived in the later part of last year. This allowed me to help prepare my replacement at Lighthouse Labs, so that I would be free to do PD full time. As it turns out, I’m hard to replace… so I’ve been allowed some occassional consulting, which fits nicely with my ongoing PD efforts. If I do my job right, my students quickly become self sufficient. I can go days without a student interaction. Though I don’t like being confined to a single location, my arrangement with Lighthouse provides ample time to build my support base, with the support of the company.

My first assignment with SIL-Wycliffe will likely be ScriptureForge. This is a sensible fit, as ScriptureForge is a Web application and I am a Web Developer. I write software for delivery over the World Wide Web. Looking to the future, if God allows me to contribute any sort of legacy, it would be in finding a way to automatically and dynamically update aging, but complete Bible translations into modern language using a contemporary body of literature. The way we express God’s truth could potentially pace the natural evolution of a language. As a Computer Scientist, I believe this is a computable problem, but one that remains to be proven. God has decided my assignments with Wycliffe, but if He allows me to do this one day, He’s already given me an idea on how to do it.

In many ways, the opportunity/necessity of Partnership Development has changed my life. In other ways, life is the same. And though I don’t know this first hand, I suspect the interesting challenges I’ve faced in Partnership Development are the same as those faced by missionaries throughout history. For me, it they boil down to issues of communication and commitment. In terms of communication, email and phone calls are easy to dodge. Texts are surprisingly effective, but this presumes a certain level of personal connectedness that takes time to build. So far, I have found no better substitute for face-to-face communication when it comes to asking for an appointment and eventually asking for support. The next challenge is commitment. I always have a handful of people who have pledged support or are simply open to hearing my testimony. Keeping an appointment is difficult when things keep coming up. This happens a lot.

In all this, Wycliffe members are generous in sharing their own PD experience with me. One common theme I hear is how their support came from unexpected places. I’m still early in my PD, but I can already echo this experience. Only three relatives have committed to monthly support. Close friends are equally scarce. Most of my supporters are people who were virtual strangers before I joined Wycliffe. These people are no longer strangers. Some are becoming friends. PD has opened doors and built relationships that may not have otherwise existed. It’s also given my church and my adopted denomination cause to reflect… the Wycliffe mode of fundraising, firmly established upon Biblical foundations, is not the Lutheran way of doing things. I love my church, and I’m happy to be the one to cause this difficulty. Even apart from Spiritual matters, it took me my whole life to learn to find your customer first. In gathering partners, I’ve only faced light resistance because even objectors can’t convince me or themselves that there is a better way finance God’s work. Only one couple expressed any serious objection to how we do PD. They are now monthly partners. Even my parents, who express no faith in God, have misplaced faith in me. They believe _I_ can do it. My inlaws, by contrast, who come from a long tradition of faith and missionary service, aren’t shy about expressing their doubts.

Though my PD is progressing at a slow pace, doubt has never crept into my heart or mind. Long before I came to Wycliffe, I could testify to God’s generosity. Tithing has been the most longstanding act of worship in my Christian life. I’ve given one-tenth of my gross income to God since my second year of seminary. We have never been without and have always been able to give. Fundraising solves problems that money by itself cannot solve. Fundraising is community development. And most important of all, fundraising is testimony. In testifying to this, I claim no special skill or ability. Though in my parents’ minds, I may be able, we all know I cannot do anything apart from God. I simply ask for direction and carry out orders. I testify to my mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law, relatives, friends, church, and people who were once strangers. I testify to God’s sovereign power and limitless abundance. I know I’m in good company, preaching to the choir, but with God behind me, I cannot fail. All to his glory.

May your own testimony and work with Wycliffe reflect God’s glory. May God’s abundance allow you to be generous in every situation. May people see your work, hear your testimony, and worship God for his sacrifice on the cross. God’s peace to you and yours. Thank you for allowing me to testify.