Bible School

Two days ago, I woke up to find the FAST site completely crashed. In fact, I operate a number of sites--and all of them were crashed. And to make matters worse, I woke up with a pretty bad sore throat.

It's not the first time. Over the last year or two, we've had service outages whenever there was unusually high demand on our site (often on Monday mornings right after our memo's went out) and it was usually a simple matter of having my webhoster reboot the server.

I tried several things to avoid these outages. I purchased a more expensive hosting plan (probably far more than I needed), revamped our software to optimize performance, setup downtime monitoring, purchased server auto restart services, and more. It would go fine for awhile, and then crash unexpectedly.

But this time was different. When I contacted tech support, they said the server reboot didn't work. They were going to have to bump it up to their senior support staff and get back to me. Not good.

I tried contacting them every hour or two, for an update. Each time, they told me my ticket had the highest priority level, and would be processed as soon as possible--in the order it was received.

While I waited, I racked my brain to think of something I might have done to cause it. But I hadn't made any software changes the day before, and I had gone to bed with everything working fine. Even my normal debugging tricks, were completely nonfunctional. The server was dead.

Finally, after more than 7 hours I received a note from tech support saying there was some issue on the server, that required a software upgrade, but they needed my permission to fix it. I quickly replied back, and eagerly waited a response.


I continued to harass them (as kindly as I could), only to get the same message. They would take care of it as soon as possible. It had the highest priority. No timetable available.

I was getting increasingly frustrated. Providentially, I had just read about another webhosting company highly recommended by an expert I respect. So I began looking into it. Their support was fantastic. And by the end of the day I made the decision to do the switch.

Normally, it's a fairly simple process. The new webhoster can usually do the transfer automatically. And as soon as you update the nameservers (which tells computers all around the world where your site is located) it just takes a day or two for that information to get around and users start switching from the old location to the new one without them even noticing. That's how it is supposed to work!

No such luck.

First, because my current server was completely crashed, it was impossible to initiate the automatic web transfer. I had to manually download every single file (tens of thousands of files) and then manually upload them to the new server. And then test and tweak all the configuration settings. That took most of a day.

Second, because nameservers update at different times around the world, I couldn't just instantly point people to the new site. I had to wait another 24 to 48 hours, and people would only be able to get to the new site gradually as their local internet providers updated their information.

I only just now myself got full access back a few moments ago. Others have had access for some time. Others are probably waiting still! And there's no way to accelerate that.

Curiously, moments after my own access to FAST was finally restored, my former webhosting provider contacted me saying before they could upgrade my server, they needed to upgrade one of my scripting languages, and needed my permission for that. Well over 48 hours from my initial request for help!

A bit late, I'd say... :)

Some Important Lessons

Through it all, I learned a number of important lessons.

The Enemy is Real
We should never underestimate the enemy. I personally believe this was a spiritual attack. We have been making major progress on our website, with new features and improvements almost every day. And I know the enemy is not happy about that.

In my devotions that morning, I just happened to be studying Acts 13:6-126 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him. 10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. and the story where Paul encountered a sorcerer named Barjesus opposing his efforts to reach Sergius Paulus, the leader of Cyprus. The enemy hasn't changed a bit.

The Lord is in Control
While this was a major inconvenience for many members, and a big frustration to me personally, I believe the Lord will use it for good. Because I couldn't automatically transfer my site, and had to do it manually, I was able to make dozens of backend changes I would not have gotten around to for a long time.

Those fixes also inspired me to accelerate my timetable on several other big changes. I put together a long list of site goals during ROCKET and scheduled them out over most of 2018. And I've been steadily knocking them out one at a time. But this experience got me thinking that the best way to prevent another attack is to just accelerate my progress. If I do something big every time the enemy interferes, maybe he'll decide it's counterproductive! :)

So I'm doing that. I've completely revised my timetable and will be moving the biggest and most important changes to the front of the line.

Our Community is Awesome
A third thing that stood out to me, is how wonderful our community is. Despite the fact no one could get to our site for 1-3 days, I did not receive a single negative complaint. In fact, I received dozens of supportive messages via email, text, facebook, etc. They reminded me to breathe, they told me they were praying, and they affirmed their support. It was amazing!

One member pointed me to the story of the three Hebrew boys thrown in the fiery furnace, and that the only thing burned was their fetters. At that moment, I was deep in the process of deleting thousands of unnecessary files, so I could focus my attention on just the most important data. It completely changed my perspective: we would come through this stronger, losing nothing but the stuff holding us back.

In Conclusion

It was a harrowing experience indeed. The enemy's attacks are never pleasant, but God is in control, and our community is awesome! Thank you to everyone for your support, prayers, and encouragement these last two days. And in case you are wondering, I'm finally starting to get over my cold. :)

I offer my sincere apologies to everyone who regularly uses our tools and training resources, and will do everything within my power to prevent this from happening again. But I trust, we will come out of the whole thing stronger than ever. And I'm eager to get going on the changes just ahead!


Have you seen the enemy attack in your life? How important is it to redouble our efforts when we face obstacles? What would you like to see us do at FAST to send a strong message we're only going to accelerate...

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Posted by Dan Vis on 03/21/18 - Coach
Busi, I too am impressed with the shortness of time. In fact, when I open our Breakout Memory Challenge for April (hopefully today), I've pretty much decided we will do another Book Focus, and this time on the book of Revelation. That should be exciting!

I'm also planning to put more time into developing offline tools, including additional forms and docs, and perhaps provide more training on how to use those. I definitely think we should all have offline options.

Thanks Fiona. Praise God these things do come to pass... :)
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 03/21/18
Those are very encouraging verses, Busi - for all our troubles.

Linda - So sorry to hear about your very stressful time with hubby and cancer. My thoughts go out to you ... Hugs.

I'm so glad, Dan, that things are back to normal now, with the website. My mother would have said, "These things come to pass ...", and thankfully, they do.
Posted by Busi Maguga on 03/21/18
Hebrews 10:23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (KJV)

II Corinthians 4:18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (KJV)
Posted by Busi Maguga on 03/20/18
Pastor Dan; God is faithful and I would like to praise God for the learnings from fast in the past few years. I remember when the site went down when I had just joined Fast . I went into panic mode as I had not jotted down the verses I had learnt, and the ones I was still learning. This time , it was different, I had a copy of the batch I was reviewing and pulled that - offline , whilst reviewing it. It reminded me that as we are nearing the end of ages. We are to guard our hearts with due diligence and be ready at all times        
    Proverbs 4:23-2623 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.. Steadfastness came through again, may the good Lord bless us for being intentional with our lives.                                                                

Secondly, the enemy is real. The minute I said Yes to the Lord, which was 12 years ago. I have been tested at work , at home,, the country in not as rainbow as promised. But the Lord keeps providing verses; daily to see me through:

Isaiah 43:2When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
II Timothy 1:7For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Knowing that He only provides , the abundant Life (John 10:10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.) . So, in agreement with the Fast community, we are to double our efforts and keep walking in Faith. The good Lord lead us along.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/20/18 - Coach
Thanks everyone! So many encouraging comments, and so much raw faith here in our community! I won't tag everyone to thank you for your prayers and support, but please know I'm deeply grateful.

I've been tackling a couple projects hard already. I'm praying for and expecting some big breakthroughs in the next few weeks... Courage all!
Posted by Qing Ling on 03/20/18 - Coach
Dan when I first saw the error msg, my heart went out to you and to our dear community because I knew many of us would be missing the interaction we are so used to having. I use FAST more than facebook for sure! I immediately prayed, then got excited for what would come out of this trial... Because I knew God would bless you through this event. Like when Job was unnecessarily persecuted by Satan, and received multiple blessings after having endured. I can't wait to see what excellent major projects for FAST you have bumped up on your Rocket list.
Posted by Diane Castanon on 03/20/18 - Coach
Lynn, I will add her to my prayer list. I’ve never heard her complain, but she popped into my mind yesterday when I read your post.
Thank you and have a blessed day!
Posted by Lynn on 03/20/18
Diane Kathy L. is the one struggling with he pain and neck issues.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/19/18
When this was all happening, I was wondering what you would gain from it. Everything has a lesson. Greater in HE that is in you, than, he that is in the world.
I believe we are to pull together in tough times, and pray. GOD will see that all things work together for good for those who love HIM.
Glad you are feeling better. Great for the lessons learned. Praise God.

Posted by Floride Leonce on 03/19/18
Yes, the enemy is real and is working overnight to disturb God’s business.

Dan, I’m so grateful that God was with you through it all and made everything get back to normal. I’m also happy that your cold has gone away. I was in great joy last night when I was finally able to get full access to the site. May the name of Lord be glorified!
May He continue to bless your ministry!
Posted by Kelly McCarthy on 03/19/18
So sorry you had all that trouble, and so glad you have worked through it. The enemy is working hard everywhere. He knows he doesn't have much time left. But he will not win!
Posted by Diane Castanon on 03/19/18 - Coach
Lynn, Abner and I pray for Dinuba everyday. We are already praying for the head elder who was dx with kidney cancer because he wrote us, but who is the one with the neck/spine issues? We would like to pray for that family too. Please message me...thx. Satan definitely does not want God's message of hope to be shared with those who are ready to hear it.
Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 03/19/18
FAST is a great tool so satan is going to attack. BUT God is far more powerful than satan and his host! He is running scared and so he should. I actually believe that when I am not being harassed in some way that life is too easy because I am not much of a danger to satan so I had better "Step it up". Recently I've had two credit cards hacked and one of them has been hacked twice in 3 months. My identity was stolen also. I am learning that I still have not perfected Isaiah 26:3Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.. I want to get to the place of perfect calm no matter what happens. AND I want to figure out how this hacking is taking place.
Posted by Lynn on 03/19/18
I too am thankful that the site is back up. It did leave my worship time feeling unfinished, but God and I continued to have amazing conversations.
I believe that our church has been in a revival and satan and his minions have been after us. Our head elder was diagnosed with kidney cancer, so that has taken him away for a while. Another elder's wife neck and spine are in need of surgery so she hasn't been able to play the piano and it also keeps her husband at home to help her. Satan is working hard in our churches as I see from reading the other posts. We know we are on the right track when he goes so these lengths. I will continue to pray for this ministry and ask for prayers for Dinuba CA church and it's continued growth.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/19/18 - Coach
So sorry we weren't there for you a couple days Linda. But I'm with you in being super glad its all back now!!!

And thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful testimony of how God "gently leads us step-by-step through the challenges". So true, and so powerful. It was really helpful for me to go through the entire site and evaluate each section to optimize it. Lot's more still to do, but I made huge progress in the transition I wouldn't have otherwise.

By the way, my old webhoster just contacted me late last night saying they had finally upgraded my former server--a full 7 1/2 days after I first reported the problem! Amazing. Glad I didn't just wait for them...
Posted by Linda Elliott on 03/19/18
When I couldn’t access FAST last week I panicked. I’m a bit addicted to it! Also, I teach a class for an online school & thought I’d be unable to do so. But I found that I could access different websites, just not FAST. So, I prayed that God would help you & give you peace, because as time went on & the problem wasn’t resolved, I knew it was serious. I was so very happy to find the site coming back up, bit by bit - I was finally able to login, but my Reading Record wasn’t there, for example. But thank God for FAST & thank you for all the hard work you do for us & that all is restored.
A few months after signing up for the Journey last year, I was blindsided by my husband’s cancer diagnosis. I was overwhelmed by it all: medication schedules, chemo & radiation appointments, doctor office visits, scans & other tests, surgery, post-op care, etc. I wasn’t sleeping or eating well. Scripture memorization stopped & devotional time became sporadic.
But praise God, He is patient & loving & merciful. He knows I am weak & need time to adjust. He has continued to lead & guide, which has led me to make needed changes in my life & in my time with Him in prayer & Bible study - now much earlier in the morning.
Just like FAST coming back up bit by bit, when Satan attacks, God gently leads us step-by-step through the challenges, enabling us to make necessary & badly needed changes. I’d like everything to be “fixed” all at once - & easily, too - but there are changes to be made & I only really learn if I go through each step of the process. Praise God! When we are just beginning to face the challenge, He already has the solution! Luke 1:37For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Posted by Diane Castanon on 03/19/18 - Coach
Thank you for sharing your testimony AnnMarie!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/18/18 - Coach
Absolutely Shirl! Knowing our church family back in Illinois continues to pray for us means SOOOOO much!
Posted by Shirley Phillips on 03/18/18
Wow a hearty Amen from me as well! I am so happy God was with each one of us. And it is nice to know we are with you Pastor Dan and praying for you and you family:) Thank you each so much!!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/18/18 - Coach
Thanks AnnMarie and Diane for sharing your testimonies. I'm reminded of I Corinthians 10:13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. which says these temptations are common to us all. I'm amazed at how powerful the internalized Word can be--you both mention it in your testimonies. I was encouraged!

Thanks also John, Valerie, and Konni for your support. As well as everyone else who send me such supportive messages. So grateful to God for each of you.

This morning in my devotions I was reading about Paul finding Lydia by the river near Philippi. She was a woman "whose heart the Lord opened". God has definitely attracted a similar group (both men and women) here at FAST!
Posted by Diane Castanon on 03/18/18 - Coach
Hi Dan! Before I sent my email to you and received your response last week, I was praying. I knew it was an attack from the enemy because FAST is instrumental in drawing people closer to God. I rejoice that all were praying, because there is no other program like FAST. I am glad your health is improving, as well.

I believe you have already sent the message that FAST is only going to accelerate, and for this, I rejoice!

This past week, the enemy attacked in my life as well. I entered a mandatory meeting and felt the air was thick with hostility and I wanted to turn and leave what I viewed as a “war zone,” but instead asked if we had had prayer yet (I suspected we hadn’t), and the person creating the hostile environment turned to me and spewed hostility, negativity, and belittling…at me. Every person in the room received the same and were innocent of the harsh tongue lashing. Initially, I rejoiced that God considered me worthy to endure this because of Him, but later, because all were speaking about it, I began to dwell upon it, which affected my memorization and bible study, and then the FAST website crashed…but thanks be to God for my memorization partner, Carol, whose focus encouraged my focus, and a few verses she quoted touched my heart, so I wrote them down to memorize in the near future. I have been praying without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17Pray without ceasing.), and hearing the word behind me saying, This is the way, walk in it,” whenever I turn to the right hand or whenever I turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.), and besides my memory buddy, Carol, FAST has been instrumental in helping me to be able to do this. Thank you!
Posted by Konni Plue on 03/18/18
Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. is true. Thank you working and doing your part. And I rejoice you feel better.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 03/18/18 - Coach
Wow and Amen!
Posted by John Gilmore on 03/18/18
Amen! God is good to us!
Posted by AnnMarie Goyen on 03/18/18
Hi Dan,

We are indeed in a battle. I am so grateful to God that the website is back up and running - was starting to get withdrawal symptoms :)

In February I took a sermon that was follow on from one last year on 1844 and birth of SDA Church. I thought I would do part two on 1888 but it was so broad I was a bit overwhelmed on where to focus. On Thursday before I was to preach God pointed in the right direction - focus on the message that arose not the history - Christ our Righteousness. Little did I realise how true this quote would prove to be
“The thought that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, not because of any merit on our part, but as a free gift from God, is a precious thought. The enemy of God and man is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if the people receive it fully, his power will be broken” (Ellen White, GW, p. 161)

Thursday night I spent 3 and half hours putting together a power point presentation. Woke Friday morning and had 30 mins before leaving for work and thought I would run through the sermon quickly. Couldn't open it. Deep breath - tried a few things, figured out a way to open it and it had disappeared from the computer.   Now I am the first to acknowledge I am not the best with technology but I did not delete the presentation.

Normally this would be a major muppet moment (showing my age there) but I was calm because I knew God was in charge. I went to work and started the outline with pen and paper. But when I got home I knew it was OK to use the computer and spent a further 2-2 1/2 hours putting together the slides.   

God gave me strength to present the sermon and I knew to pray for protection for Sabbath afternoon and Sunday which are often vulnerable times after preaching. Our loving Father answered those prayers and I did not fall into my normal weaknesses.

The interesting PS was this Sabbath just gone - I was sharing these experiences with a friend from church who had not been there two weeks earlier and as we were walking outside to open up one of the rooms for SS, a bird flying overhead let lose and got me on the forehead. So I know how low the enemy will go. But Praise our God He is stronger and mightier than computers, timetable crunches, illness and our weakness (and birds letting loose).

So I praise God for the loss of service (though not happy you had a stressful time of it) because from it God has brought far more than the enemy tried to destroy.   Fight the fight of faith and keep singing while you do it my brother.

May God bless you and your family as you joyfully minister for Him.

This message - Christ our Righteousness - helped by the scripture memorisation through FAST over the last 12 months - God has used to get hold of me in a whole new way.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/17/18 - Coach
Thanks Jelena and Daniel! Appreciate your support. Now to get back to the mission, and working even harder. A couple new features coming out tomorrow...
Posted by Daniel Ekkens on 03/17/18
Thank you for all your hard work!
Blessings to you.
Posted by Jelena Shipton on 03/17/18
I agree..the enemy strengthens his attacks when he sees that we are gaining victories and moving forward. Onward to higher heights!

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