From the Desk of Mrs. Whelpley

carrie Misc 5 Comments

If there’s anything I’ve learned in homeschooling, it’s to acknowledge when you’re out of your league with a question you can’t answer. You know, those impossibly formidable and menacing quandaries like, “How are you today?” 

Shall I end my family update there or take my stab at a response: “Compared to what?” 

Let me try again: We have toilet paper (and now, thanks to the scare, a bidet). We have food on our table and healthy little critters defiling it. And we do enjoy many a sweet moment when we can maintain the humor to see them.

Speaking of seeing, I will admit to not embracing the irony of my good vision waving farewell in 2020, along with my 30s and the relative stability of our world. Everything used to be so clear…

In a school year oriented heavily around classic literature, the kids and I got a kick out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which provided some comic relief after Hamlet. Snorting babies turning into pigs and a Mock Turtle schooled in Reeling and Writhing, Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision? It’s amusing! But in the end, who was there but that pesky question of what in the world is certain… Had we not seen the last of Hamlet after all? 

Now granted, I’m only a 5th grader, but (homeschooling or not) the pressure can feel immense to send kids into adulthood with all the proper certainties: a life that is employable, enjoyable, and free of any cultural, political, and spiritual ambivalence. 

As Moderns, we’ve been taught to cling to the Certainty of New Things which will surely solve our outdated human struggles. As Christians, we read this as untrue, so we tend toward those clinging to the Certainty of Old Things. Meanwhile, the two camps berate each other with authoritative staunchness while I scramble just to plan tonight’s dinner. Must I pick sides and answer the questions to remain faithful? Which ones? 

The book of Hosea has long been a meaningful place for me to ruminate during upended seasons; chapter 6 verse 3 is my shorthand for the reward of pursuing the LORD:

3Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.

But this time around, it’s verse 4 that’s gotten me:  

4What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?
our love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.

What is certain in my interaction with the Lord? Is it my faithful pursuit? Surely not. I am the dew. Have I been placing my faith in the certainty of the LORD? Or in some quality of my own faith? 

Unlike Alice and Hamlet, the folks of Wonderland seem endowed with excessive certainty, as do the Pharisees in John chapter 9. Yet the account ends with Jesus’ indictment, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you maintain, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” As believers, we of all people can be free to wrestle with life’s uncertainties, since Jesus our Anchor holds within the veil. Yet, it’s easy to default to fear of what might come untethered from our “control.”

All this to say, how is our family? We’re fine. We’re weary. We’re learning. We’re quiet. Like everyone, we’re plugging away, trying to stay next to people. We’re not sure how most things are going to play out, but we’re sure goodness and mercy will follow us all the days, and we certainly love hearing from you! 

Grace & Peace,

New Job, Needs & Training [August 2021]

jayson Misc 5 Comments

The New JD

I have a new job, and a specific, written-out-and-clear job description. Which is so refreshing. I will be a 🎺trumpetsounds🎺 Project Coordinator for JFP’s Digital Department (same department, different team). 

The role is an attention-to-details, high-touch, lots of follow-up conversations and meetings kind of job. It is not a job that I predict will be simple for me to slide into easily, and I’m not excited to get away from the user-centered design workspace. But! It’s an essential role that needs to be filled in our quickly expanding department that is engaging with a huge number of projects with global impact. And, again, a clear job description & role – and I’m excited about the challenge. Or at least I’m looking forward to learning better how to be content, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

When I looked at our project load on Tuesday, we’re at 80 currently in process in addition to the ones still being evaluated. It’s everything from translating our Jesus Film app into Thai, and new films being produced, to licensing agreements, and new processes for gleaning insights from YouTube viewing analytics.

Before I Get Started

This January, Carrie and I took our first pay raise in 5 years (and 3 kids). We knew that this would require us to find increased financial support, and we were confident we’d be able to take the time to do so. Then in a few short months, we had quite a few financial supporters contact us to communicate that they were redirecting or ending their financial partnership with us – sometimes due to their own financial situations changing, which we were sad to hear. But also because they were going to support people who were starting into ministry for the first time, something we cheered on. 

Those losses added up (subtracted down?) to just over $1200 of monthly financial support. Long story short, it has left us needing to increase our financial support by about $2100/month. I’m going to be working on that with about 80% of my time until we meet that goal.

Jesus Film Leadership Initiative

Starting this month, I joined 13 colleagues to take part in the second cohort of the Jesus Film Leadership Initiative, a program to train emerging leaders to grow in 4 key areas: character, community, competency, and capacity. It’s a 10-month program where we’ll be learning through biweekly classroom sessions, homework assignments, process groups, one-on-one coaching, assessments, and a three-month action-learning challenge designed to research and propose solutions for practical strategic needs within JFP. 

A time to stay, a time to leave. [June 2021]

jayson Misc 18 Comments

The Last 10 Years

Fia, 10 years ago.

Ten years ago this month, we welcomed Fia into the world, celebrated my first Father’s Day as a dad, we wrapped up our working-sabbatical in Orlando by moving back to PA for 9 months, and I joined the Jesus Film Project joining a newly formed digital department.

This year, we’re finally (hopefully!) emerging from a pandemic, with a complete handful of kids. I’ve lived in this zip code longer than any in my life. My job has transformed into a UX (User Experience) Design Lead in the Digital Solutions team within what is now a 10 team department with more than 60 members that is provide tools, films, and experiences that allow millions of people around the world to respond to the Gospel each year.

And this week, almost 10 years to the day that I joined this team officially, I announced that I’m stepping away from my role and the Solutions team. (Though, not Jesus Film Project.)

The Jesus Film Digital Team in 2015

The Last 21 Months

In October of 2019, I was asked to lead a 3-person UX Design team. I had never lead a team before, and I’d never really even been a part of a design team to see how to do the job. One of the contractors on my new team was assigned to train me up in the role for six months. Three months later, our department director left his position unexpectedly, and my then-boss was placed into his position and another coworker into my previous boss’ role. Less than two months later, COVID changed everything again. 

As we got into April, and I took the design team’s reigns with both hands, we were headed in a pretty good direction. Then that same contractor was rear-ended and experienced “light” traumatic brain injury, preventing him from looking at a screen for more than a few minutes without getting a migraine that would put him down for hours. This was just before the peak of a budget crunch due to decreased giving rooted in COVID’s economic impacts. Some deep cuts had to be made, and a couple of months later, it was decided that Cru would have to terminate the large percentage of its contractors to stay afloat until the end of the year – including this specific contractor. I didn’t know until after the decision was made. It pulled the rug out from under my design team.

Working on our real-world tour project from home during lockdown.

I have to admit, I have struggled a lot since then, trying to lead this small team and producing designs and experiences that tell people about Jesus. We’ve done some overhauls of the Jesus Film Project app, designed two interactive experiences for a renovated Jesus Film tour (when our headquarters opens up again), improved our self-guided web-based user journeys that move people from watching YouTube videos to engaging with the Gospel directly and connecting them to local bodies of believers. We’ve also participated in numerous projects that haven’t gone live yet or were just parts of bigger initiatives.

This whole time, I was struggling under the weight of leading a team while feeling like I had to set my direction on my own because I wasn’t getting any clarity from my direct leadership. I didn’t even have a specific job description to know if I was doing the right things.

Realistically, my boss got placed into his position without enough preparation – he’s admitted as much. The swiftness with which our department restructured and then COVID hit led to a lot of confusion and unclear direction. My boss was also dealing with one thing after another with family, health, housing, work, car accidents, etc. – none of which were his fault – and he has walked through these challenges in ways that prove out his faith and perseverance. Yet, it affected his ability to lead effectively – which has gutted my confidence in this position over the last ten months.

After a tough meeting one Tuesday two weeks ago, where I felt like my boss hadn’t been entirely honest and truthful with me, I hit what felt like a tipping point of “it’s time.” I spent the next few days and then an entire day that Friday asking the Lord what I could do, and it has seemed like the Lord has prepared me to move on from this team and this role. This past Friday, I told my boss and then the rest of the Solutions team my decision. Yesterday, he and I sat down with some people from HR, and I was able to lay out all of my reasons for doing so. I prayed at the beginning of the meeting and made sure to tell him that – despite the hard things I had to say about his leadership – I have been encouraged and inspired by seeing his walk with the Lord over the past year. It was important to me to say what I’ve experienced out loud to his face. The meeting was constructive, and I think it was encouraging to both of us – even if it was VERY difficult. 

The Next [Number] of [Time Period]

My most likely plan in the short-to-medium term is to stay in the same Digital Department within Jesus Film and work within another design team as a Project Coordinator. I would create a project process for them, a piece of my previous role that I needed desperately, but didn’t have the capacity in my schedule to create it. 

God calls us to faithfulness over fruitfulness

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll work to prepare all of the projects that I’ve worked on to hand off to whoever will fill my role – there’s already a process in motion to find that person. I’m making sure that the vacuum that my departure will create is as minimal as possible by trying to create a well-organized cache of my working files and plans. I’m also trying to finish my projects for the app, web journeys, and an updated website and blog. 

In the coming months, my soon-to-be-former team is launching into the next phase of Jesus Film Project’s digital product suite, and I honestly think that they’re headed in a fantastic direction. I know it seems odd that I would be leaving at this moment. Sometimes it seems like I’m stepping away just as the return on my work might be the most fruitful. I remember something that a friend once told me about the Christian life that can be hard for us, especially those in ministry to remember – God calls us to faithfulness over fruitfulness.

Some potential

I delivered a proposal a few weeks ago to create a team to specifically focus on coordinating the user experience design of our whole suite of tools and products. That is still being considered as a possibility; this decision does not directly affect that.

We’ll keep you updated on all of this, pray that the Lord would lead clearly, and that we’d see His purpose for all of this!

Lots of Love!

This was a long, kinda dense one, so as a reward, here are some family photos!

Pursue What Makes for Peace

jayson Misc 11 Comments

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Tyler Merbler.

A week ago – during the breach of the US Capitol building – I had to tell one of my best friends that we absolutely could not have a text conversation that day about it. We tend to approach politics from different angles, and when we can talk face-to-face things are contentious but we can hammer through our differences in a bond of deep brotherly love for each other. But when we have those conversations through texting it’s pretty much guaranteed to end up in a fight. My friend and his wife moved to another state about two years ago, so our face-to-face conversations have to happen virtually (as so many do these days). We’ve talked since then – we’re still friends 🙂

Last week we also got a message from a former financial supporter disapproving of some personal choices we’ve made, and it got me thinking about you, and how diverse and different you y’all are.

Attain to the Unity

I’ve taken some time to look at all of the people who have been God’s hand of provision to us over the years. Here’s a little picture of who you are. 

Simon the Zealot
  • You are families, couples, and individuals. 
  • You are churches of over 5,000 and churches who struggle to have enough people to keep the lights on. 
  • You are in your 20s, your, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. (Hi, grandma!)
  • You are Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Brethren (at least 3 kinds), Catholics, “Merely Christians”, Pentecostals, Calvinists, Evangelicals, Open Theists, Ex-Vangelicals, doubters, and no-longer-Christians. 
  • You are Republican candidates, convicted non-voters, Democratic Socialist community organizers, progressive advocates, staunch Constitutionalists, and jaded “political agnostics.” 
  • You are committed teetotalers, professional brewers, recovering alcoholics, and bartenders.
  • You are professional tattoo artists and you scowl when you see body art. 
  • You are vegetarians and hunters.
  • You are insurance agents, teachers, counselors, nurses, programmers, designers, librarians, pastors, cashiers, architects, accountants, artists, realtors, home-makers, filmmakers, farmers, soldiers, landscapers, missionaries, professors, COOs, CEOs, screenwriters, HVAC techs, youth pastors, campaign managers, tour managers, and more. 
  • You’re in Kansas, Florida, Germany, Australia, South Dakota, Colorado, California, Mississippi, Virginia, DC, Washington, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, Alaska, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, REDACTED, and more.
  • We’ve never met you, and we’ve known you our whole lives. (Hi again, grandma!)

The Bond of Peace

the Tax Collector

Some of your differences are significant, others are commonplace. Carrie and I fight to not hide who we are, but we’re circumspect (Eph 5:15) about how we carry ourselves. To whatever degree we are silent on the contentious topics, it’s not because we don’t have opinions. (Feel free to ask us.) Nor are we saying that everyone’s opinion or conviction is equally right or valid. We can’t possibly agree with all of you.

But, as you read the list, did you cringe or scowl at someone or something there?

I did as I wrote some. It’s sin.

Nothing in that list is allowed to be the thing of ultimate value in our lives. None of them are grounds for division among followers of Jesus. With a single possible exception, every person represented on that list is a brother or sister in Christ as far as I know. It does not mean that we need to forfeit our opinions, or that we should shut down dialogue about these things. But we are called to unity and mutual love with no exceptions given.

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 

Ephesians 4:1-6

Each of you is a part of a team, working together, praying, giving, and supporting our work to get the powerful message of the Gospel of Jesus which welcomes all who will confess and believe, regardless of their ethnic, political, or whatever baggage they bring with them. 

More importantly, each of you is part of a family, part of a body, part of The Church of the one God and Father of all. Let’s all remember that, and value that above all the lesser things that our enemy so easily uses to divide us.

Thank you for being part of our team, and part of our Family! (Even if we may have to shut down a text message conversation sometimes.)

LOTS of love,