Global Mapping Pre-Users' Conference "A Milestone"
by John Holzmann
To Bob Waymire, director of Global Mapping Project (GMP), the GMP's first Pre-Users' Conference held September 1-4 was a bit like the birth of a baby. At the beginning of the week he was walking about in tense anticipation. By the end of the week, the smile wouldn't leave his face. "I've been waiting four years for this day!" he beamed.
"This conference was a milestone for us in several ways," he said. "It marked the first time end-users were able to sit down and draw their own maps on a personal computer using GLOBE, our computerized mapping system (see MF, August 1986, pp. 5-9). It was also the first time we were able to demonstrate our Global Research Database (GRDB) on-line--- where people were able to sit down at a computer, access the database, and get reports."
Waymire said the conference had been planned with two purposes in mind. "We wanted to help those who have been anxiously following us to understand what it is we're doing and what they can expect from us, and we also wanted them to help us get our systems ready for use by national churches and missionaries."
Both goals were achieved.
Ira Burns, an accounting manager soon to be information systems manager at Mission to the World (MTW) of the Presbyterian Church in America, said he came to the meeting "to get an overview of what mapping is all about. I got what I came for!" He has few doubts MTW will be using GLOBE for its needs.
Jane Huang, a programmer with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, said she came to the conference with fairly clear ideas of how the GMP technology would be utilized. "I had the idea it was just something to measure statistics," she said. "It would help us gauge how much we were accomplishing."
She said those views have been strengthened, "but since then, in interaction with other conference participants, I have seen new ways it can be helpful. It can help us map out more details of certain areas, help us to establish strategy . . . ."
The 17 invited participants came from a variety of organizations and from places as far away as Australia. They included organizational executives and nuts-and-bolts researchers.
"We chose this representation because we wanted to see how people at all levels--- including some with virtually no background knowledge of what we are doing--- would respond to what we've created."
To the joy and credit of those who put the mapping and database systems together, participants' responses were "almost overwhelmingly good," Waymire said."
Their response was a reward, a ministry, and an encouragement to our staff. Here are people who have put in two, three, four years into this project. Up to the present, since we've been totally engrossed in development, they have had a minimum of feedback on the real worth of the project. But now the customers have come in and said, 'Hallelujah! Amen!'
. . . It's been much more significant than when the boss says those things."
Waymire said that by the time the conference concluded, far more had been accomplished than he had originally anticipated."
We not only wanted to ensure that our technical systems were user-friendly, but we wanted to share our research/strategy philosophies for which these have been developed."
Waymire said that at the heart of GMP's philosophy is the belief that information important to the mission cause is dispersed all over the world.
"We believe it's only through networking that this information can be put together into a useful, unified whole," he said. "It's through networking that we can build an information environment in which we can function most effectively."
The conference participants were not only willing to listen to what GMP had to say, but were ready, able, and willing to put it into practice. They began sharing information on the spot. There's little doubt the practice will continue. "I've met at least six new people here with whom I'll be meeting in the next three months," said Marv Bowers of ILS/Harvester Project in Apple Valley, California.
"People went home with diskettes of data, coding conventions, common telecommunication software, and other tools," Waymire said. "It will all aid in the process of communication. By meeting and talking with each other here, too, they built trust."
Waymire said the response to the idea of sharing information was so overwhelming that participants actually "launched some new ideas"--- specifically, a computerized mission bulletin board, an open forum for asking questions and exchanging ideas. The bulletin board will be just one part of an international communications network, the Global Share Network.
"We'd been planning these things before the conference," Waymire said, "but there was such an overwhelming response, we decided to make them a higher priority."
Waymire cautioned that neither of the systems is operational yet, although he hopes the bulletin board will be on-line on a limited basis within a month. Pete Holzmann, chief programmer for the GLOBE mapping system, thinks the Share Network may be functioning by early next year.
Now that the GRDB and GLOBE have been unveiled and are receiving final pre-release testing, it's only a matter of months before they should be made available to the national church and mission communities worldwide. Bowers is thrilled. "I read recently that 'if a picture is worth a thousand words, a map is worth 10,000 or maybe 100,000 words.' There is no way you can show more information in less space than by a map.
"What's beautiful about maps is they're the closest thing we have to aerial photographs. They allow you to see things the way Jesus saw Jerusalem from the hill. The picture is clearer. It allows you to weep . . . and go to work."
More information about Global Mapping Project can be obtained by writing them at the U.S. Center for World Mission, 1605 Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104.