History of the Freeware Watchwords Programs

(zur deutschen Version)
[note by Helmut Steeb: this text is a copy of the text originally published under losung.de until 2007 by Reinhold Willnat, the originator of the Freeware Watchwords Programs]

The Beginning

How did the Watchwords texts come to be displayed on so many computer screens, featuring so many platforms?

1988 I (Reinhold Willnat) had the desire to be greeted by the Watchwords for the day before I would begin with my work. Since I do not possess any programming skills, I discussed this matter with my son-in-law, who, at that time was taking a “computer course”. He very much welcomed this task as a helpful exercise for his course. Thus, the first DOS- program was completed in 1988. I have personally copied the actual Watchwords texts from the booklet issued by the Moravian Church.

Late during the summer of 1988, I already began to copy the texts for the following year, once again. During that exercise I came upon a note in the booklet regarding copyright matters. I addressed the Directors of the Moravian Church, requesting permission to copy the Watchwords texts. In January 1989 I received permission to copy the Scripture texts of the Watchwords for each day onto diskette for personal use only. The word “Losung” is protected by copyright, as well as the combination of the scriptural texts for each day, and the devotional commentary for each day (as far as 70 years back).

1989 Many of the daily Scripture texts became a great source of blessing to me because of the effect of repeated reading during the course of the day. I also distributed the program to my brothers (members of my family) and to some friends. In autumn 1989 I renamed the DOS program “LOSUNG” to “LESUNG” (Note: in German this is a clever deviation from the protected word “Losung” and yet, in the end, it means, to some degree, the same: “Losung” – “Watchwords”; “Lesung” – “Reading”). I did not copy the (protected) devotional commentary for each text, and passed the disk only to people that had bought the booklet, too.

It was to be expected: after some time I received kind letters from people I did not even know. An increasing number of individuals (even a number from abroad) asked me to continue and to prepare the Watchwords texts for the following year! The letters were often heart-warming.

Until end of 1992 a solid structure developed with regard to distribution of the Watchwords diskette. I shipped the completed program diskettes to the listed “main distributors”, who, in turn, made copies of the diskettes for further distribution. During that time, LifeNet came to play an important role. A considerable portion of the distributed Watchwords programs found their way to many churches, and further to many computer users via connected mailboxes (bulletin boards). The attached file “INFO.TXT” informed users about the program. I regularly informed the Moravian Church of all my activities.

Clarification of license matters

In autumn 1992, I submitted my request once again in a two-page letter to the Moravian Church. I was informed that, because of considerable in-house reorganization, my request had not yet been considered. With a change in leadership, changes were also made with reference to responsibilities for (formerly) East and West Germany.

After various contacts in 1993 and 1994 with the joint publishers Friedrich Reinhardt Verlag (Publisher) and Haenssler Verlag (Publisher), Mr. Ruedi Reinhardt granted permission to distribute the Watchwords texts for 1995 in the format used thus far. One condition: the program name “Lesung” had to be changed back to “Losung”. No permission could be granted at that time for 1996, since the publishers were planning on issuing their own Watchwords diskette for that year.

What joy and what gratitude toward the Lord gripped my heart at that time! After approximately 7 years, 1995 would, for the first time, feature a licensed Watchwords diskette. For years now I had, time and again, declared the Watchwords on diskette to be the “business of the Chief Executive”, and now the great God had made it clear, that He stands behind His Word, and that He wants this diskette distribution!

I published this good news via the mailboxes (bulletin boards) on that same day, and, on the following day, I received many encouraging e-mails, which again and again expressed deep gratitude to the Lord. That was a great day of joy!

After a short time, Mr. Markus Hänssler granted a license for 1995 and 1996 with conditions still in force today. This license was renewed several times for two years. In May 1999, the Moravian Church extended the license under the same conditions until the end of 2003, and gave me permission to offer watchwords texts of past years for free download. – As always, the future is in the hands of God! After all, this is the “business of the Chief Executive”!

Since July 2002, Friedrich Reinhardt-Verlag is the sole publisher of the German watchwords, since Hänssler-Verlag is no longer partner of the joint publishers. In agreement with the Moravian Church, Friedrich Reinhardt-Verlag extends the license until the watchwords of 2004.

2004-11-22: the Moravian Church extends the license for 2005.

A Variety of Watchwords Programs

Besides the coming up of the distribution structure and the clarification of the license matters, there was, however, a completely different development:

As I already mentioned, I do not possess any programming skills. I depend on what others are willing to do for me. I was being asked by a number of individuals about the Watchwords program for other platforms. “Unfortunately, not yet…” was my answer.

Then, in short succession, I received offers from individuals, willing to create the following programs:

  • Mr. Andreas Pollack offered a high quality DOS-program, which, at the same time, could play melodies of familiar German church hymns.
  • immediately following, Mr. André Wendlandt offered to write a Windows program
  • These were followed by offers to create programs for OS/2, Atari, Psion, PalmPilot, for individual homepages, and for Linux.

All I could do, was looking up in utter amazement to our great God. Seeing, that this was God’s work, to which people were willing to commit themselves, filled me with deep gratitude!

Translations into foreign languages

1995 In 1995 a total stranger called me from the United States. All he wanted to do was to say “Thank You” for the Watchwords program he had received from one of his friends in Germany. After a brief exchange of ideas, followed by e-mail correspondence, he eventually offered to translate the attached files into English, and to incorporate English Scripture texts into the Watchwords program (the text is the same for all platforms: ASCII). Thus, in 1996, the Watchwords diskette appeared for the first time in German and English. How my heart rejoiced, when I packaged and shipped the first diskettes! My prayers went with them on their way. Ever since, Roland Freischlad has been a faithful and committed fellow laborer.

The Lord has greatly blessed the selfless work of all those involved. Many letters from Germany and abroad bear this out!

1998 is the year in which I received offers for translation into Dutch, Spanish, and French. I gratefully accepted!

Since 2000, there is a version for Chinese, as well as versions for several European languages and Vietnamese. Versions for Russian, Arabic and Afrikaans followed.

Watchwords in the Internet

This “stormy” development has by far exceeded the means of distribution on diskette. It was, therefore, only logical, to transfer the distribution of the Watchwords to a broader basis. I was especially glad to see that this need had been known to the Lord long before I was aware of it. HE had already made preparations to remedy the situation, by moving Mr. Helmut Steeb (a specialist in Information Technology) to offer his help and support to me!

When I looked at the very structured suggestions for improvement in the distribution of the Watchwords programs, I was very glad about the new ideas to which I was introduced. I noticed that the distribution structure I had followed thus far, would have led very soon to a dead-end, making handling of the work ultimately an impossibility! Ever since, Helmut Steeb is largely responsible for organizational matters.

Several individuals, meanwhile, have offered the Watchwords programs on their homepages, as well as the “christliche internet dienst” (cid; “Christian Information Service”, a German web provider), and the “Christliche Internet Agentur” (CINA; “Christian Internet Agency”, another German web provider). In 1999, the Haenssler Verlag established the domain “Losungen.de”, with a selection of the freeware Watchwords programs.

By the end of 1998 it became clear to me, that the Internet, too, ought to be used more intensely for the Lord. A brief exchange within my inner circle of friends resulted in support of this idea, and our own domain losung.de was established. This domain, in a way, is the “mother” of the freeware Watchwords programs. It furthers ministry to the public. Many like to pay a visit to this web page. All new features and additions of the Watchwords programs are published there and can be downloaded by those interested. Additional information and a guest book complete the content.

Each main distributor is informed via e-mail concerning new features, after which download of the appropriate files from the internet pages is suggested. With that, the speed of the flow of information significantly increases, and the cost of postage and diskettes is reduced considerably.

What’s going on

In the meantime, the offer of the freeware Watchwords programs has become very large, and it steadily increases. I myself can look at these ideas only in astonishment, rejoice greatly in them, and give thanks to the Lord for making so many gifted people willing to commit themselves to this task, in spite of their own heavy work load.

It is unavoidable, that in this greatly increased activity of distributing the Word of God, costs are mounting. But, this too, is the Lord’s concern. Time and again, He makes individuals willing, to contribute to offset the costs of this ministry.

With extra funds from the Watchwords charitable contribution account, I was able to support the Computermission (“Computer Missions Organization”, http://www.computermission.org) in Sinsheim-Reihen, Germany, as well as LifeNet (a Christian web page in Germany). Both organizations have as their main goal to reach people with the living Word of God by means of these new media. Thus far, all of us who have responded to the call of God to distribute His Word, notwithstanding our toilsome efforts, have experienced many blessings from God. Time and again, we enjoy reading the many letters that come to us, telling us how God blesses.

With your contribution you enable, for example, the “Computermission” (“Computer Missions Organization”), to reach many individuals at a number of trade shows with the vitally important Word of God, in that diskettes and CDs are being distributed free of charge. Those in charge at LifeNet allow their infrastructure to be used for this ministry and take part without pay in various trade show campaigns

The time of harvest is here. Who will help through prayer and through giving?

Reinhold Willnat