Josiah Ritchie josiah.ritchie at gmail.com
Mon Jan 4 21:01:10 CST 2010

Speaking from a home office perspective, there is very little software
that meets the needs of the administration of a mission agency (fund
accounting, donation management, missionary personnel records, etc.)
that would be considered open source and certainly even less that is
friendly to a Linux/BSD environment.

The guys at LightSys have rolled out a project that is the only one
that I'm aware of that really meets this objective. LightSys members
Tim and Greg are heavily involved in making ICCM happen. Both also
have broad experience in various agencies. LightSys' Kardia and
Centrallix projects have great potential and I wish that they could
get improved support and funding so that these could become a
significant tool instead of every small agencies spending 30k+ on
software that meets these needs, or shoe horning something else that's
1/2 the price that does 1/2 the job. I actually wrote  blog entry on
this back in April of 2008.
(http://missions.ritchietribe.net/node/346) Large organizations will
spend millions of dollars on software to fill these needs.

ICCM is held at Taylor University. Taylor's IT staff is also very
supportive of ICCM and do a great job. They have experience with Linux
in an educational environment occupationally, but have also lent their
expertise to sessions at ICCM on areas of interest to missions. If I
understand correctly, at least some of these guys also free-lance or
volunteer their time in missions and I know some were formerly doing
IT in a mission agency.

>From my view point, I'd have to say that Open Source tech is most used
by mission agencies in security (firewalls, vpn) and websites (LAMP,
Moodle, Drupal) perhaps the Samba file server would also be heavily
used. You'll find mission agencies using open source in the same areas
that business has found it to be mature and successful. Unfortunately,
the more specific needs that are unique to not only the non-profit
sector, but also the missions community are almost exclusively MS
based solutions.

The best tools like Orange Leap's MPX is now open-source, but still
heavily MS Server and SQL Server dependent (rumblings suggest this may
change, but they aren't being quick about it) and the cathedral style
Blackbaud is not open source or cheap. Sage software provides a
financial tool called MIP Fund Accounting that Orange Leap encourages
their users to combine with MPX and that is also far from open source.
Orange Leap does have some compatibility with things like QuickBooks,
etc., but not the open source tools in financial areas and as far as
I've been able find, none of these tools support the differences that
fund accounting brings anyway. So what it comes down to is the tools
you can't live without are on MS and the clients must also work on MS
so you're not going to get Linux in the Servers or Workstations of
those desks.

One of the great challenges in solving this problem is that each
mission agency runs differently. They are extremely diverse in the
inner-workings and so software to solve these problems must be
extremely flexible and building it requires a strong understanding of
the various approaches and where the flexibility is needed.

Now to individual missionaries, the best tool to help missionaries
track their support raising is a free tool called TNTmpd. It is very
good, but depends on a Jet Direct database and is heavily integrated
into Microsoft Office. Mac and Linux users are left out. This has been
a point of increased interest as I can attest missionaries are looking
towards Mac particularly much more frequently and no tools that are
even comparable exist for either. I have hobbled together my own and
am considering running my own version of SugarCRM for the purpose, but
neither can be expected of the typical computer user. They are mostly
left with using spreadsheets. That's fine, but lacks many helpful

OpenOffice has been a great tool for many missionaries. I've received
a lot of very positive feedback from happy OpenOffice users,
especially after they price out the latest version of Office. I've
tried to encourage the use of Gimp, Scribus and so forth, but they are
more complicated than most missionaries care to take the time to
understand. If you don't know what a layer is and you'll only use it
once a month, it really isn't worth it. Another challenge is simply
the fear of change. Missionaries deal with a huge amount of change.
Imagine if you were to be tossed out of the US for 3 years. What
technologies that you use daily today weren't around 3 years ago? How
has the culture changed as a result of this? Now, ask someone dealing
with that to try out a new operating system and you'll have a very
resistant audience. You'll also lose some of their trust because it
becomes clear to them that you can't relate to their needs and they
won't come back to you for any further solutions.

An application of Open Source that I'd love to do is a cyber cafe in a
remote area based on LTSP. Also, I would expect that some older
missionaries or tribal folks that I don't have much exposure to have
some great opportunity to use ham skills with open source tools. The
latest Linux Journal devoted some time to Linux and ham integration
and I understand this has some rich potential. Maybe I could get my
LTSP lab to gain Internet access through ham radio. (Sounds painful!)

Well, I'm really getting into theory now and I know you want more
practical, in use, types of stories so I'll stop. I've not been able
to find the opportunity to do anything really innovative, though I do
dream. :-) Others in larger agencies have surely had different
experiences, but I hope this serves as a part of a foundation for your
research. I'm also hoping you can encourage others to consider the


On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 7:46 PM, Ed Hurst <ehurst at soulkiln.org> wrote:
> On Mon, 04 Jan 2010 18:32:44 -0600, Josiah Ritchie <josiah at ritchietribe.net>
> wrote:
>> I'd be glad to share on ICCM. My summary of the event would be much like
> Tell me about their Linux/BSD usage. How extensive is it? How did they get
> involved in that? I assume it was a matter of costs, but what else? Was it
> something the members themselves were already inclined toward? When the
> computers are prepped for the field, what sort of uses do they see? What
> sort of Open Source stuff is relevant to missions? Naturally, we have some
> idea how it might be used here in the US, but I want to know more about how
> it works on the mission field.
> --
> Ed Hurst
> ------------
> Associate Editor, Open for Business: http://ofb.biz/
> Applied Bible - http://soulkiln.org/
> Kiln of the Soul - http://soulkiln.blogspot.com/
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