This Website Ten Years Old on January 19, 2006
On January 19, 2006 my first website will be ten years old. I’ve kept up www.kubik.org on a regular basis, updating it several times a week, sometimes on a daily basis. It’s been an fascinating experience, to say the least. I’ve met some intriguing people all over the world and have been swept along experiencing the dramatic development of the Internet first-hand.
How did I start do this? It all began on a flight to Indiana in early January 1996 to look for housing when I was being transferred from Arcadia, California to Indianapolis. I picked up a Wall Street Journal that had an article about how CompuServe was offering its subscribers a free one megabyte website. They offered their own proprietary software and one could produce a primitive webpage with links and with a little work, insert some pictures. It sounded easy.
I could not believe how easy it was to create a page of text and post it “out there” for anyone to read if they just typed in your URL in the address line. I got my web page up in minutes and was able to write something and make it public to the entire world. At first it was just a technical interest. What could I write that would be interesting out there for others to read?
My first posted pieces were about my work with Ukrainian Sabbatarians. I had gone to Western Ukraine a number of times to meet with people of like faith. We had previously established a working project with Ambassador University students. We published some literature in Ukrainian and Russian for them. With the breakup of the Church in 1995, the momentum and even probability of maintaining a relationship had become questionable as there were other priorities in our lives. Not with the Web, because you could tell your story right away to the world. If you had something of interest, word got around and an audience developed. One of my first articles is still up now at http://lifenets.org/ukraine/ukr1.htm which is about how we got involved with the Sabbath-keeprs in Ukraine. I talked about who they were and what they believed. I was immediately getting lots of good feedback from people who were following our developments since 1991 and my first trip over to the Sabbatarians in 1992. This was just after the USSR collapsed and we were finding a mirror of people with like beliefs in the former USSR. One of my first interested supporters was Dick Scholz along with his wife Marty who to this day are good friends and just recently spent the Feast of Tabernacles with us in Estonia.
At first, my site was getting about 25 to 35 visitors a day. But, in 1996 most people did not have access to the Internet. The first browsers were Netscape and an awkward version of Mozilla.
I became pastor of the Lafayette United Church of God. There I met Les Booth, a pioneer of web development. He gave me some useful instruction in how to author html code. The first authoring program I used was called “Hot Dog” that came from Australia.
I quickly outgrew the constraints of CompuServe and migrated to a server in Indianapolis. Then in about a year I got my own domain name kubik.org.
As a member of UCG’s Council of Elders, people would ask about our discussions and deliberations. We had a report written up by a Council reporter, but it would take a while before people could learn what was going on. There was lots of interest in the development of the United Church of God in its early days. What I did was post these public documents on my website making the information instant. I learned that people want information NOW. If you disseminate GOOD and CREDIBLE information you overcome the panderers of spin and attitude-loaded content. I found that those types had a short life anyway. Truth and optimism wins out over negativism and it lasts.
In April 1996, just a few months after I put up my first website, I took a trip with elder and surgeon Maurice Frohn to Chernobyl. He was a masterful writer who wrote diaries of our three visits within a year and a half to Ukraine to establish our work with a rehabilitation center for children. His diary and essays became popular and were all published on my website. The first one is at http://www.lifenets.org/chernobyl/ch-mf.htm which then links to others. The very first attempt to describe anything is at http://www.lifenets.org/chernobyl/ch-sp.htm.
We were able to get a lot of information out about Chernobyl ten years after the infamous event. We were instrumental in helping victims by being a part of the establishment of the Revival Centre of Medical/Social Rehabilitation of Disabled Children in Chernihev, Ukraine.
Later Teddi Treybig, wife of pastor Dave Treybig saw the story of our work and wrote a paper for one of her University courses about Chernobyl from our first-hand work. All her perceptive work is still open to all to see at http://www.lifenets.org/treybig/ We invited the chief pediatrician and founder of the Revival Centre to visit in the United States and Teddi Treybig arranged for visits at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and at the noted Howard Rusk Rehabilitation Center in Columbia, Missouri. You can see the chronology of all of this at www.lifenets.org/chernobyl.
At the same time I was continuing to maintain our contacts with the Ukrainian Sabbatarians and on two of the visits with Maurice Frohn to Ukraine we stopped in to see them. Both of us would speak in their churches and Maurice Frohn who was immediately embraced by the Ukrainians as the “English Doctor” who was also a minister.
I was beginning to do humanitarian work in helping provide in-kind help to Chernobyl and the Western Sabbatarian area of Ukraine.
One of the notable great helpers was Suzan Johns who saw what we were doing on the Internet and offered to help with dental chairs and other dental equipment for Ukraine. They collected a considerable equipment in Central Pennsylvania and drove it to Minnesota where one of containers left from.. The story is at http://www.lifenets.org/ukraine/dental.htm. This led to a visit by Suzan Johns and Nancy Stephens to Ukraine in the summer of 1997. Their fascinating diary is found at http://www.lifenets.org/ukraine/dm0.htm. This also led to a 1999 Dental/Optometric and medial mission to western Ukraine in the February 1999. http://www.lifenets.org/ukraine99/
You can find out more about our working in western Ukraine at http://www.lifenets.org/ukraine
All this led to the establishment of LifeNets in 1999. Before this our work was through the local congregations and through two other non-profits in Minnesota called Compassion Humanitarian Relief and Family Umbrella Network.
Other notable stories were about our continuing work in Estonia and Lithuania that I would write about as I took trip after trip to those areas. All this is reported at www.kubik.org/estonia.
In early 1997 I started an experimental online publication called Virtual Christian Magazine. The “virtual” part referred to the fact that the magazine existed only on the Internet. Through the magazine I was able to renew an acquaintance with Mike Bennett who helped edit and write some of the articles. Also, Lorelei Nettles, friend long-ago from Minnesota days offered help and artwork. She is now the Managing Editor of VCM.
Then there was a young family, Christopher and Katherine Rowland with their newborn son Steven. Chris Rowland offered to write, edit and format the articles. I had no idea who this family was. They lived in Indianapolis and we corresponded only via e-mail. We invited them over for dinner to our home and met them in person for the first time. We have worked continuously since that time become friends and co-workers. From the very beginning I have respected Chris’s wisdom and sensibility. The Rowland’s started attending the Lafayette, Indiana congregation and Chris was ordained a deacon last year on Pentecost. I credit the Internet to the way we met and how we worked and in a way continue to work today.
One most notable personage who found us on the Internet is George August. He is a retired Long Beach, CA city attorney whose father came from western Ukraine. By doing a search on the Internet he noticed that village where his father came from was a short distance from where we worked in Khust, Ukraine. He contacted me and on my Council trips to California at that time I would meet him in Arcadia. George August set up a scholarship fund in his father’s name and helped many graduating high school students in Uglya, Ukraine go on to college. He did this through what became LifeNets. He also generously contributed to what we were doing, namely setting up computer schools in Khust and other villages. He gave us a very important early bump to get going. His brother-in-law is a retired Circuit Judge in the San Diego area who travels to Ukraine to give lectures on jurisprudence.
I found that I now needed two web sites. One site www.kubik.org is more like what is now called a blog. It is a chronicle of “what’s happening” and what’s on my mind. I’ve started blogs, too, but find that my web’s style is such where it duplicates a blog. In any event there were lots of visitors. I decided to create a new web site at www.lifenets.org. It now has almost as much traffic as this my personal website at www.kubik.org. Today, the average throughput on my sites is 750 meg per day, often going to one gig. Whenever we put on any new video it spikes higher than that.
My website kubik.org really increased in traffic during a church crisis in the spring of 1998. My site was cited negatively by those leaving UCG who eventually started a new church. This really made my site known and traffic quadrupled and has maintained those levels since which is usually 210 or so visitors to the home page every day. There are also features such as the Prayer Page where many people go to and bypass the home page and don’t get counted as visitors.
After getting my first digital camera which was a clunky Sony Mavica that recorded pictures to floppy disks, I found that I could enhance my stories with photos that told far more than words could.
On our Feast of Tabernacles in Zimbabwe, Africa we met Gladstone and Alice Chonde who were the only UCG members in Malawi. During out meeting there we tried to figure out how we could help them in Malawi. Malawi is the poorest third poorest country in the world. The Chonde’s operated a very basic private clinic which had virtually no medicines, supplies or equipment. When I returned to the United States I told their story on my website. My first response was from Bill Jahns, pastor of Salt Lake City, who offered to help with sending medicine to our brethren which he did on a regular basis. Interestingly, Bill Jahns now finds himself living in South Africa and he makes quarterly visits to Malawi in his pastoring that area.
The Chonde’s needed a decent building for their clinic. They told us that $15,000 would pay for the construction of a new building. At that time those amounts were out of range to me. Where was I going to get that kind of money? Who wants to build a clinic in Africa? I wrote my story on the Web and immediately heard from another person whom I’ve never met but who has become an integral part of LifeNets. Her name is Sonali Fiske from Huntington Beach, California. I had $3000 to put down towards the clinic. From a pledge of $5000 towards the goal amount of $15,000 from a UCG Young Adults Group from Southern California churches I decided to go ahead with the building of the new Malakia Clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi. We were halfway along toward reaching our goal. I visited Malawi in July 2000 with Andre van Belkum. We had a ground breaking on July 5, 2000. The rest of the money came in quickly as people became excited about a project in the works. We received a $5000 donation from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis towards the construction along with other vital contributions. The clinic opened officially in October 2001. Beverly and I were in Malawi as we traveled for the Feast and were able to see the finished clinic. This led to our building a larger second clinic in Balaka that was officially opened in October 2003.
I consider Sonali Fiske a person who brought a special energy into the humanitarian efforts of LifeNets and brought us up to a credible level. She and her husband directed the LifeNets Tsunami Reconstruction Project in Sri Lanka in 2005 that has rebuilt eight homes and provided livelihoods for many families. Also, because of our running story at www.lifenets.org/tsunami, the Church of God 7th Day contributed nearly $13,000 towards Tsunami project.
In 2001 as chairman of the media committee I really pressed to move aggressively with the Internet because there is tremendous power and capacity in reaching people. The Internet and our UCG website were still a secondary tool and I wanted to see become a primary voice of the Church. In December 2001 an Internet resolution was passed at our meetings in Tampa, Florida and our Internet presence has become premier site of Sabbath groups. We spun off other sites such as www.gnmagazine.org and www.VerticalThought.org. More are coming as we are connecting to new audiences “out there.”
An interesting development has been our Wheelchair Project. In 2000 Judy O’Bannon, wife of Governor Frank O’Bannon asked LifeNets to help a boy scout with his Eagle Scout Project to collect and distribute wheelchairs. Through my friend Michael Snyder who was vice-president of an Indianapolis public relations firm, a special event wheelchair race was organized in downtown Indianapolis to draw attention to this project and to raise some money for LifeNets. You can see the story at http://www.lifenets.org/wheelchair/history.htm.
We kept the story about the Wheelchair project up on the Web and after a couple years we started getting an increasing number of donations of wheelchairs. Many of the wheelchairs were power chairs. We found that when one went to GOOGLE and typed in “donate wheelchair” (try it) that LifeNets was the first or second response to come back. In 2005 we had about 100 wheelchairs donated with most of them finding needy recipients mostly in the United States, but some overseas. We had earlier shipped many of them to Ukraine and to Africa. Wayne Stephens of Florida and my wife Beverly handle The Wheelchair Project and we get a lot of satisfaction of helping poor people get access to mobility.
Another notable person is a Japanese ophthalmologist, Dr. Yumi Yamamoto who found us on the web. She has shipped eyeglasses for us to the Philippines on two occasions and has made other contributions to LifeNets. Her husband is a cardiologist in Kochi, Japan on the island of Shikoku. One day in 2002 she said that she was taking a vacation and would like to our home. What a surprise! A few weeks later she flew in from Osaka, Japan and spent a week with us. We have been good friends since and stay in touch through MSN Messenger several times a month.
One of the most satisfying stories about the Internet adventure is about our working with Street Children in western Ukraine. In 2001 when visiting the Sabbatarian part of Ukraine I was led to see a motley group of street children in Vinogradov. I had never seen street children before. But, when I did I wanted to do something about what I saw. A pastor had a plan for caring for them. He was given a building to put in a soup kitchen. He and his wife were well-organized and caring. I had no idea how I could provide $10,000 a year to do what needed to be done to properly care for these children. I took a few pictures and told my story on WEB at http://www.lifenets.org/vinogradov/072601.htm
I had no idea what the story would do. I received an offer from a group of very concerned people in California who offered to make this their outreach project and offered to finance the street children. Some of these people are very modest and do not want their names known, however David Liesenfeldt and Scott Sharpen are part of that group and have been the lifesavers of this group and have helped tremendously produce outstanding outcomes in the lives of these children. You can read the latest report at www.lifenets.org/vinogradov.
I could tell more stories about the second clinic that we built in Balaka, Malawi, our work in Chernobyl, the LifeNets Orphan Care Centre in Balaka, Malawi, about Katrina relief and on and on – all the stories are on our web site at www.lifenets.org. I marvel as I look back over the last ten years at all that can be done using the Internet.
I want to thank all the regular visitors who come and see what working together can accomplish. It’s been a great ten years to see an evolving technology and communication medium bring about good and favorable outcomes in people’s lives. It’s been a wonderful ten years!