Business Analysis: Lessons from Fables

In another article, I talked a little bit about my career path leading to the role of “missionary”. One of my more recent categories of professional work has been in project management and business analysis. An aspect of both of these roles is to produce something that is new or unique within a certain time frame. Key to doing this well is to know what “customer” wants. So a very important first step in creating something new is to figure that out.

Gathering and documenting requirements is a crucial aspect of any project. Unfortunately, in business analysis and project management, we can fall victim to the trap of assumptions. This is not only for someone lacking experience. Even the most seasoned of professionals can fall prey to this error in omission and can be one of the weakest links in developing a project.

The difficulty can be attributed to a number of reasons. It is an aspect of planning. The time that it takes to effectively gather requirements can feel like unproductive time. Business analysts are not alway trained in art and science of requirements.

But I must say that the blame does not solely rest on the business analyst. Frequently it is the customer who has a challenging time articulating precisely and clearly what their needs are.

And finally, there seems to be a persistent problem with users and business analysts jumping to a solution rather than keenly describing and analyzing what the needs are. It is our human nature to want to jump right to the solution. This may lead to something that I call “Ready, Fire, Aim”. Understanding the problem to its fullest extent reveals a greater part of the ultimate solution.

By skipping this part of the problem solving, our solutions are not what typically solves to root cause of our problems. The graphic below is a classic representation of what a poor description, or (and more frequently) poor understanding of that the requirements are. 


On a trip home from the emergency room in another city where one of our granddaughters was having undigested coins removed, there was a bright, full moon off to our left. Thinking of our princess and seeing the bright orb in the sky, I was reminded of a story that my second grade teacher read to the class one day. It terms that even a child can understand, the story reflects the additional costs, features and compounded problems that we add to our ‘solution’ when we fail to find out what the end user truly wants. The following is a paraphrased version of the classic tale by James Thurber called ManyMoons.

The king called for the Lord High Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard, and the Royal Mathematician who all quickly came into the throneroom. The king explained the dilemma, then asked, “Tell me about the moon and how can we get it for Princess Lenore.”
“The moon, sire,” replied the Lord High Chamberlain, “is three miles above the earth, is as large as the princess’s room, and made of green cheese.”
Unhappy with the reply, the king turned to the Royal Wizard for counsel. “My daughter wants the moon. Please get it down for her.” This proved to be more disheartening since by the wizard’s estimation the moon was 25,000 miles above the earth, was as large as the entire castle, and made of purest silver.
Finally, the king turned to the Royal Mathematician to hopefully get a more realistic description and more promising results. “Sire,”said the Royal Mathematician, “the moon is 50,000 miles above the earth, is as large as the entire kingdom, and is painted to the sky.
The King, exasperated, sent the three on their way and called for the court jester. He asked the jester to play a dirge on his lute since he was so terribly sad that he could not get the moon for his daughter and she was, therefore, seemingly incurable. The court jester begged, “Let me talk with her, Sire.”

He told the Princess her bedtime story and looking out of the window together he asked, “Tell me about the moon?” The princess explained that the moon was about the size of her thumb nail since she could hold out her thumb and just cover the whole moon with her thumbnail. It wasn’t any higher than the tree outside her window since it often got caught there just before she fell asleep. And then she further explained that the beauty of the moon was because it was made from pure gold.

The jester went to the court jeweler and asked him to fashion a piece of gold into an orb, slightly smaller than Princess Lenore’s thumb nail and to fasten it to a golden chain. The next morning when the princess awoke,her father, the king, presented her with the pendant. Lenore’s heart leapt for joy. By the time she finished her breakfast, she wanted to get dressed and play outside. She was once again well.

James Thurber Many Moons


On Sunday, January 27, 2019, Shalom Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota commissioned us for our ministry in God’s Kingdom. 

Wycliffe and Resonate Global Mission both see it vital that missionaries be commissioned by their home church. This action clearly says that the missionaries are not on their own — they are called by God and sent as agents of the Church. Missionaries are an extension of the congregation’s ministry (Acts 13:3).

By commissioning, inspiration is provided for how God is working in the church and in the world: young adults who are wondering if this is also their calling, older folks who may not feel the call to go but can send and engage in ministry right where they are, and pastors who remember their own ordinations through this ceremony and are inspired again toward the work of ministry. This connects the work of God in the congregation to God’s calling in our hearts and God’s work in the world.

It was so incredibly humbling to have friends, family and the Shalom congregation there to support and send us into our ministry. Their personal affirmation was a blessing and for which we are so grateful.

As a part of the process, we were asked a series of questions. Those questions as well as our answers are listed below.

How have you experienced His call into missions?

  • We have felt God’s calling for some time and Shalom has played a significant part of that call. Through a blending of His Word and the Holy Spirit we have heard His call. Through prayer we have been strengthened. We have been encouraged from family and friends with deeply rooted faith. Through a sermon right here, we heard strong affirmation of our call. And finally, through the overwhelming conviction from the Holy Spirit to be obedient to the call.

What is the task you are being called to?

  • We will be working for Wycliffe Bible Translators and in partnership with Resonate Global Mission. Our functions will be in Strategic Workforce Planning, project management and donor relations.

Where will you be serving?

  • Primarily out of our home office in Woodbury, with several international and domestic trips each year to establish and maintain relationships with partner organizations. Most international travel will be to various parts of the African continent.

How will our partnership give glory to God and extend His Kingdom?

  • Glory goes to God when we are obedient to the Great Commission. Some he calls to go. Some he calls to send. With our focus on the continent of Africa where there are 706 languages waiting for Bible translation, your partnership will help deliver Bibles to them and lives will be transformed.

Back From Africa!

From November 4 to 19, I had the privilege of being called to Africa to help out with conferences for women in Tanzania and Zambia with Lydia Circle Ministries.  The conferences were to train women in spiritual discipleship and evangelism. The experience was one that I will never forget.

The first conference was in Tabora, Tanzania. Several women were patiently waiting for our arrival which was delayed by a few days while we waited for connecting flights. When we finally got to our destination, we were greeted with shouts of joy, singing, dancing and many hugs. A wrap was affectionately put on my head and we were presented with flowers as a welcome gift.

The women were all hungry for the training in Spiritual Discipleship and Evangelism that we were there to provide as part of the Lydia Circle Ministries. The praise and worship were genuine, real. Despite their lack of material things, they were grateful for their salvation and their relationship with their redeemer.

Even though I was a stranger, they took me in. Despite having little in terms of material things, they showered me in love. When they presented us with jars of honey, tears streaked my face as I thought about the value to them.

I loved to see how the women both in Tanzania and Zambia worshipped. Weather in joyful singing and dance or on all fours weeping and crying out to the Lord, they were real and sincere.

Teaching Me a Lesson in “Liturgical Dance” 

They loved taking pictures together, holding their babies and teaching me how to dance. They loved saying hallelujah, amen! They loved reading the Bible. I realized because of Christ their hearts were full of love despite the poverty and their living conditions. It has been a privilege to go to Africa. I was truly blessed.

Singing a Praise Song During Worship

Ellie Goes to Africa!

by Ellie Sikma

Sometimes God seems to have a sense of humor. When I would go on walks with my friend in Sioux Falls, we would often talk about how we wanted God to use us. We wanted so very much to serve the Lord. But there was one thing that we figured we did NOT want to do. That was going to Africa in order to serve him.

So as we fast forward a number of years, we see yet another significant revelation of God’s plan for my life. This one came by way of a friend of mine, Melinda Dykstra, who is the founder of Lydia Circle Ministries. She asked me to accompany her to Tanzania and Zambia for a conference from November 4 to 19 to train women in spiritual discipleship and evangelism.


While we were members of the same church many years ago, we have had very little contact over the years. So it was quite a surprise to hear from her now after all of these years. In my mind, my first response was “NOOOO!”. But when I found out that it was in her prayers that my name came to her, I knew that it was something that I needed to do.


So as part of my preparation for our mission to Tanzania and Zambia, I put a portion of Ephesians 3 into a prayer. Please pray this prayer with me while I prepare and while we are gone.

Dear Lord. As I prepare for this mission trip, I pray that you empower me with your wisdom, love, and grace. Use my hands and feet to touch the hearts and lives of women in Zambia and Tanzania in such a way that they may experience your presence. May they hear you whisper their name, calling them to repentance. And may they grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. In our Savior’s precious name. Amen


For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.

(Ephesians 1:15-19 ESV)

The Song

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, [10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

I love music. As long as I can recall, music has moved me. A song of a soloist passionately singing their heart out in praise of the Lord can move me to sing along. Hearing a praise team with harmonizing parts, just adds a beautiful dimension to the lyrics of adoration.

And then there are choirs. The voices of men and women vocalizing the different parts is another form of song that moves me. The hymns that we sing in church are another way that four parts of music can be brought together to reflect a deeper, richer aspect of a song. 

Of course, one of my favorite pieces for choirs is Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Just to listen, or to participate, and even, on a few occasions, to direct a choir singing this arrangement can move me to tears.

But when I try to wrap my head around the thought of all of the redeemed, from all of the ages, from every tribe and language and people and nation, encircling the throne of God and singing praise and adoration to our Heavenly Father, it runs shivers up and down my spine. To borrow the words of Mercy Me, I can only imagine. 

I’ll close with a portion of a song with a beautiful message. 

He Reigns
It’s the song of the redeemed
Rising from the African plain
It’s the song of the forgiven
Drowning out the Amazon rain

The song of Asian believers
Filled with God’s holy fire
It’s every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

Songwriters: Peter Furler / Steve Taylor
He Reigns lyrics © BMG Rights Management,
Capitol Christian Music Group

Host Families

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 ESV)

This month marks one year since we became Wycliffe members. In the past year we have experienced quite a bit and gone through a significant learning curve. We have been trained at Wycliffe to gain a better understanding of the organization and the importance of partners.

We had the opportunity to train with other missionaries at Resonate Global Mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan where we learned a number of things that helped to prepare us for our assignment. In particular, we were both impacted by the training in spiritual warfare.

Then there was ICC at JAARS. ICC is an Intercultural Communications Course. And JAARS is a partner organization to Wycliffe that originally focused on Jungle Aviation And Radio Service. This course covered a wide range of topics that we covered in a previous (Click here) blog.

We have been knocked about by spiritual warfare (more about that another time). But then we have been wonderfully surprised by how the Holy Spirit gifts God’s people in ways that  has amazed us. We have seen the gifts of administration, teaching, and preaching. We have been blessed by intercession of faithful prayer warriors. We have even seen prophecy in action.

But one of the greatest lessons we have learned was what it looks like to be blessed with the spiritual gift of hospitality. Since our original assignment changed, we found ourselves without a home for a season. Deb, a member of our Advisory Prayer Team (APT) stepped up without any hesitation and offered to let us stay with her until we were ready to move into our new home.

We did not immediately jump at the offer. Having a place to stay that was close to the house we just sold and also to the place that we were going to move into, was almost too good to be true. There were other possibilities with family members. We could have even spent time going from one home to the other “spreading the gift of our company”.

In the end, we accepted her gracious gift. It has been such a tremendous blessing to us. We have been showered in God’s grace through this wonderful host. She has been the cool glass of refreshing water. She has been the bread to nourish. She has been the roof to protect us from the Minnesota elements.

Through this experience, she has been a teacher; an example for us to follow. Prayerfully, we, too, can practice what she modeled for us and we will have the freedom to be more gracious and to exercise our own gift of hospitality.

I have heard from a number of our friends who have needed to stay by others for a time. Maybe they were between selling their home and having 100% of their budget reached or maybe they were between assignments, but they have needed a place to stay. They, too, have reflected on the tremendous selflessness of their hosts.

So I end this short blog with a prayer:

Dear Jesus. Thank you for Deb. Thank you for the Holy Spirit abundantly blessing her with the spiritual gift of hospitality. Thank you also for all of the host families who take in your people who need to have a place to stay or a meal to eat or maybe just a glass of cool refreshing water. Thank you for teaching us to be better hosts ourselves, not for our own glory, but only to your glory. In your holy name, amen.

Hebrews 13:2 ESV
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Fear Not! Part 1

Isaiah 41:10 ESV
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

In this article, I am just opening up the initial discussion on fear. A really basic “What is Fear” synopsis followed by a partial list of fears and phobias.


Fear is an interesting emotion. While it starts in the brain with some type of trigger or stimulus, there is a sudden release of chemicals which  cause other physical reactions. The heart races and blood pressure rises. Even glucose levels can rise.


The pupils get larger, allowing more light to come through. The palms get sweaty. Breathing is likely affected. Fear can cause the fight or flight response to kick in. Fear can interfere with the ability to focus on small tasks or it can be completely debilitating.

But those are just a few of the physical reactions to fear. So why are we so incredibly enamoured with fear? There seems to be a significant part of our society that craves to have their socks scared off. Countless movies with a focus on the macabre have been produced with a wide array of scary topics. Vampires, werewolves, giant gorillas, and other monsters have been used in a number of movies and subsequent remakes. Of course, one cannot forget about sharks. The Jaws franchise kept several people out of the water for a time.

There are some themes that, just as the villain in the script, just don’t die. This year the studios are doing the 10th installment of Michael Meyers coming back. And to mark the occasion, Jamie Lee Curtis will help bookend the 40 year old series. The list of scary movies is exhaustive and I have already spent more time on the subject than I intended. But we are seemingly fascinated with the topic. Enough so, that movie producers will continue to shock us out of our seats.

But far beyond the entertainment value, there is an incredible variety of fears that plague our society. Psychologists tend to lump these into categories called phobias. A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.

The rest of this article is a list of just some of the fears or phobias that I have come across. Some seem to me to be legitimate. But some of them I find a bit humorous. This isn’t a complete list. It’s just a few that you may find interesting.

  • Acrophobia – heights
  • Agoraphobia – open spaces
  • Amartophobia – sinning
  • Androphobia – men
  • Arachnophobia – spiders
  • Astraphobia – thunder and lightning
  • Atychiphobia – failure or defeat
  • Claustrophobia – small spaces
  • Coimetrophobia – cemeteries
  • Cyberphobia – computers or working on a computer
  • Cynophobia – dogs
  • Decidophobia – making decisions
  • Dextrophobia – right side
  • Entomophobia – insects
  • Ephebiphobia – young people or teenagers
  • Euphobia – good news
  • Gephyrophobia – bridges
  • Glossophobia – public speaking
  • Graphophobia – writing or handwriting
  • Heliophobia – sun, sunlight, or any bright light
  • Herpetophobia – reptiles, commonly lizards and snakes
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – long words
  • Hodophobia – traveling
  • Hylophobia – forests
  • Katsaradaphobia – roaches
  • Logizomechanophobia – computers (so scary that two words were needed)
  • Monophobia – alone or a single person
  • Mysophobia – germs
  • Nyctophobia – the dark
  • Ophidiophobia – snakes
  • Peladophobia – hair loss
  • Phobophobia – phobia(s) and anxieties
  • Placophobia – tombstones
  • Pteromerhanophobia – flying
  • Pyrophobia – fire
  • Ranidaphobia – frogs
  • Sciophobia – shadows
  • Sinistrophobia – left side
  • Taphophobia (or Taphephobia) – being buried alive
  • Technophobia – technology
  • Thanatophobia – death
  • Tokophobia – pregnancy
  • Trypophobia – irregular clusters of holes or bumps
  • Wiccaphobia – witches