Jeff Haanen

Category

Vocation

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ScienceVocation

Callings in Conflict? Pursuing Scientific Excellence and a Life of Faith

 

Widespread sentiment suggests that science and faith are at odds, at war for leadership in modern culture. Yet many of history’s great minds were people of deep faith. They were driven to science by an insatiable hunger to learn about and celebrate God. Can Christians working in the sciences recover this passion without compromising professional excellence Can we seek truth in science and in Scripture?

Those will be a few of the questions DIFW will ask at a Forum on February 15 at the Colorado School of Mines on “Callings in Conflict? Pursuing Scientific Excellence and a Life of Faith.”

Our keynote speaker will be Praveen Sethupathy from Cornell University, a geneticist and a board member at Board of BioLogos, a nonprofit that promotes the harmony of science and biblical faith through an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. It’ll also feature a panel of local scientists who endeavor to life a life of faith and scientific integrity.

I hope you’ll join the conversation in less than two weeks. Here’s a taste of what’s to come:

 

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ArtVocationWork

“Wood and Nails” – Work Songs: The Porter’s Gate Worship Project

 

For the next several days, I will be featuring new songs from a beautiful new project I had the chance to witness in person recently in New York City: Work Songs: The Porter’s Gate Worship Project, Vol. 1 (Live)

Back in June 2017, a group of talented musicians, such as Josh Garrels, Audrey Assad, and Latifah Alattas, was convened by Isaac Wardell, the Director of Worship Arts at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Wardell noticed a surprisingly lack of mainstream worship songs focused on the theme of vocation. So he convened a community of leading worship artists and the result was a new album that, in my view, is the finest musical contribution to the church on the theme of vocation since the era of the Reformation.   

The first song I’ll post here is “Wood and Nails (featuring Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels).” Enjoy – especially on your way to work this week. 

 

 

“Wood and Nails” 

[Verse 1]
O humble carpenter, down on Your hands and knees
Look on Your handiwork and build a house
So You may dwell in me
So You may dwell in me
[Chorus 1]
The work was done with nothing but
Wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise
Trusting that I am Your instrument

[Verse 2]
O loving laborer with the sweat upon Your face
Oh, build a table that I may too may join You
In the Father’s place
Oh, in the Father’s place

[Chorus 1]
The work was done with nothing but
Wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise
Trusting that I am Your instrument

[Interlude]

[Chorus 2]

The kingdom’s come and built upon

Wood and nails gripped with joyfulness
So send me out, within Your ways
Knowing that the task is finished
The dead will rise and give You praise
Wood and nails will not hold them down
These wooden tombs, we’ll break them soon
And fashion them into flower beds
The curse is done, the battle won
Swords bent down into plowshares
Your scar-borne hands, we’ll join with them
Serving at the table You’ve prepared

[Interlude]

[Outro]
O humble carpenter

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BusinessCraftsmanship & Manual LaborVocationWork

How Does Your Work Impact Those Down the Line?

 

Have you thought about the people affected by your work who you may never meet? Learn more in this excerpt from the e-book “The Call to Commerce: 6 Ways to Love Your Neighbor Through Business.” Catch the first post here on the blog as well. 

3. Love Your Supply Chains

Months ago, I had a moving conversation with Tim Dearborn, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and former vice president at World Vision International1. He shared the story of visiting a church built on slave forts in Ghana. As he sat in the cathedral, he could almost hear the cries of 19th century slaves echoing below.

I asked him, “What do you think are the modern ‘churches built on slave forts’ today?” That is, what are the systemic injustices that Christians have knowingly – or unknowingly – supported in the modern world?

He replied with two simple words: “Supply chains.”

Rarely do we think about the labor conditions of those who sew our shirts or make components for our iPhones. But even more rarely do we think about the long-term profitability of underpaying laborers or oppressing those in faraway lands. Good business means thinking through where we source our materials, and the conditions for laborers of those we do business with.

William Haughey, 35, is leading the way in “loving your supply chain.” After having been an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for four years, he started Tegu, a toy company that makes simple, magnetic wooden blocks2. The name is derived from a part of their supply chain, located in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Their mission is to responsibly harvest wood from Honduran cooperatives, and to “pay our employees a living wage and prioritize long-term career growth and development rather than simple task-based jobs.” Their goal is to bring world-class employment standards to Central America.

Thinking this through as a consumer can be a stressful affair. Staring at clothes on a department store rack and wondering if sweatshop labor produced my new dress shirt can by paralyzing. Nonetheless, if we have the choice between two suppliers – and one has demonstrably better ratings on glassdoor.com, or, on the other side, has an obviously bad reputation in the industry – let’s choose the former. Even supply chains are made up of people that God so loves (John 3:16).

Though we won’t solve all global issues, we can, and should, follow the advice of American priest Ken Untener when considering who we do business with:

“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”3

Verse to post on your desk: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Listen! The Lord is calling to the city — and to fear your name is wisdom…‘Am I still to forget your ill gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah, which is accursed? Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?” –Micah 6:8-11

4. Love Your Communities

Karla Nugent has found that caring for the community gives her company an advantage4. As the Chief Business Development Officer of Weifield Group Electrical Contracting, Nugent has built an industry-leading electrical contracting firm in Denver. Her company has built edifices like the Net Zero, a LEED-Platinum research facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, and has been recognized by the Denver Business Journal for its community impact.5

Weifield Group has four main philanthropic areas: Head of Household, Women & Children, Health/The Less Fortunate, and the U.S. Military6. Not only do they give out of corporate profits to local nonprofits serving people in these categories, but the 350 plus employees also volunteer at these organizations on the clock.

Seems expensive – and unprofitable – right? That’s what I thought, too. But dig down, and the culture at Weifield of contributing to the good of communities has significantly impacted their employee retention numbers. Keeping their best employees – who want to be at a company that cares about more than profit – has made Weifield one of Denver’s Top Places to Work7. Which means in hot economy starving for middle and high skilled labor, Weifiled is coming out on top on the war for talent – and has been profitable every single year since their founding 15 years ago.

In fact, Harvard Business School research found that companies with more corporate social responsibility practices and programs significantly outperform their competitors, both in terms of their balance sheet and stock price.8

As it turns out, loving your community is also loving yourself.

Verse to post on your desk: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” -Galatians 6:9-10

 

This is the second of three excerpts that we’ve shared on our blog from the e-book “The Call to Commerce: 6 Ways to Love Your Neighbor Through Business.” Miss the first one? Grab your copy of the full e-book.

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Vocation

The New DenverInstitute.org

Dear friends,

There’s a small handful of you who read this blog who’ve also been instrumental in the formation and growth of Denver Institute for years. You’ve given time, prayers, money and wisdom to DIFW and to those we serve….for which I am deeply grateful.

Today we reach another milestone: our new website. (The first one I created in the evenings while working at a school – while knowing nothing about WordPress! It showed!) For me, it marks a step in our maturation as an organization and more evidence of God’s grace in our city.

On the new website, you’ll notice new pages the better articulate our mission and serve men and women across Colorado:

  • Homepage: “Find Renewed Purpose in your Work.” Our homepage illustrates our mission, our guiding principles, and our passion to see Christ’s reconciliation spread throughout our world.
  • Learn: Now you can easily find content based on your interests (see: Browse Topic), such as calling, culture, business, education, art or the church.
  • About Us: You’ll find new staff photos, new icons for our guiding principles, and information about our programs.
  • Why Faith & Work?: This is perhaps my favorite page. It illustrates what’s gone wrong with work (and our culture), redemptive stories from the DIFW network, and a few surprises.
  • Partnership: There are also now much clearer ways for people in our network to go from “consumers” to “owners” – as donors, church partners, corporate sponsors, and legacy givers. (You can even now give your car to DIFW instead of NPR!)

Gary, our Communications Director, has built in some fun for our launch day. He has planted an “Easter egg” on the site – and whoever finds it, get’s a prize. Watch the DIFW newsletter for more information!

Today, would you do a big favor and share our new website with your friends online? Here are a few sample posts for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Email:

Today one of my favorite nonprofits, Denver Institute for Faith & Work, launches their new website! Check it out: https://denverinstitute.org

What does faith matter for our work? Check out Denver Institute’s new website: https://denverinstitute.org/why/

Curious about finding your calling? Check out the newly relaunched Denver Institute website to learn more: https://denverinstitute.org/blog/

Thanks again, friends. (You may even find your picture on the site!) Thanks again for your support through the years – and your continued support into the future.

Your friend,
Jeff

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EconomyTheologyVocation

The Miracle of the Reformers: Why Teaching Your Kids Hymns is Good for the Economy

 

Perhaps the songs we teach our children is one the most important legacies we can leave for posterity.

This morning I sat down to breakfast with my wife and four daughters. After eggs and sausage, we listened to the classic hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.” My wife educates our kids (and really our whole family), and this year we’re memorizing classic hymns, with the hunch that our ancestors have new light to shed on our 21st century lives.

Amongst the sound of chattering kids and clanking forks and knives, my wife turned on the iPad at the breakfast table and flipped on the speaker.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Written in 1680 by Joachim Neader, a German Reformed Calvinist, I couldn’t help but notice that this song begins not only with worship, but by affirming that God is the King of all creation. He is provider for both our bodies (our health and material needs) and our souls (salvation).

It’s kinda funny to listen to my four-year-old Alice pronounce the Victorian English of the translation, so I kept listening while sipping my coffee.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Our desires have all been granted by “what He ordaineth?” Could anything be more different from the version of capitalism we see today, so well summed up by Andrew Carnegie: “The art of capitalism is turning luxuries into necessities.” Wouldn’t this Puritan view of God’s provision – even for our desires – lead to radical contentment? And even thrift, since we have all we really need and even desire in what God has given us?

Now Cora is rocking back and forth to the tune, Sierra has paused from eating her hard-boiled egg (she won’t touch those blasted scrambled eggs), and we sing the third verse:

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

“Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee.” And here’s the miracle of the Puritans: the doctrine of vocation. All of life is to be lived for God, even our “secular work.” And when our work leads to prosperity, and even wealth, it’s a gift from God. It’s evidence of his daily “goodness and mercy.”

This is truly an incredible view of creation, money, work and contentment.

Some have argued that Reformed theology led to a magical combination: hard work, wealth creation, thrift, honesty created the explosion of wealth from 1500 to today. It was Christian theology that led to excess wealth (who needs to spend more if you’re content with what you have?), which led to capital investments, and, eventually, capital markets that built the modern economy.  Not all agree with that view. But some do.

Listen to this perspective from a Chinese scholar.  Dr. Peter Zhao Xiao is a high ranking economist in the Chinese Communist party. In 2002, he was sent by his superiors to the United States to research why the American economy had been so prosperous. After visiting the USA for months, he concluded that the secret to the American economy was their churches.

He penned an essay entitled “Churches in the Market Economy”, which would subsequently be read by over 100 million people.

“Americans are not idiots,” he wrote to his Chinese countrymen.

“Their need for churches is overwhelming, and churches provide something in answer to their call — there is definitely some principle at work. During my time in America, the relationship of churches with America’s economy, society, and politics became the issue that most often occupied my mind…At its heart the problem could be stated as a comparison between market economies with churches and market economies without churches.”

So what was his conclusion? Christians who attend church drive the market economy because their faith encourages them to spurn idleness, be honest, and discourage “injury” (cheating, lying, stealing). Here’s the logic of his argument:

  • A market economy alone may encourage industriousness, but it also might encourage industrious lying, cheating, and stealing.
  • This is (as of 2002) the problem with the Chinese economy: Getting wealthy by any means necessary creates collusion between government and business rather than accountability. Personal profit rather than doing what’s right damages everything from upholding contracts to funding businesses that extract wealth rather than create it.

The problem? It’s one of faith, says Dr. Zhao Xiao.

“These days Chinese people do not believe in anything. They don’t believe in god, they don’t believe in the devil, they don’t believe in providence, they don’t believe in the last judgment, to say nothing about heaven. A person who believes in nothing ultimately can only believe in himself. And self-belief implies that anything is possible — what do lies, cheating, harm, and swindling matter?”

  • Market economies with churches, however, tend to uphold the rule of law and ethics like integrity and honesty.

“It is people who turn their eyes to church spires who generally respect financial norms and integrity… Puritans, though they may be called the most fervent people in the world in their drive to accumulate wealth, nevertheless do not pursue wealth for personal benefit but rather ‘to the glory of God.’”

Divine reward and punishment caused Reformed Christians not only to create wealth, but to also be honest, thrifty, and committed to the public good rather than merely private benefit.

  • Zhao Xiao’s conclusion: “From the perspective of human society, the most successful model is church + market economy. That is to say, the happy combination of a market economy that discourages idleness together with a strong faith (ethics) that discourages dishonesty and injury.” As you can imagine, coming from a high ranking Communist party economist, this perspective was wildly controversial.

Going back to “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation,” you can see how this kind of theology might create a society of both honesty and prosperity.

(1) God is King over all of creation, including the natural world, the social world, and our economic affairs.

(2) God provides for the needs of his people, which means they can be content with what they have. It also means we’re accountable to God for how we use what he’s given us, including our wealth.

(3) Work is a gift of God, and so are the fruits of our work, such as profit. As such, wealth is to be used for the public good, and not only personal benefit. And our work should be dedicated to living for “God’s glory” rather than personal success.

It’s unfashionable today to say that the market economy is fundamentally dependent on the ethical system derived from Christianity. But there’s strong evidence that this is the truth – and that economies are fundamentally dependent on ethics like trust for growth.  There’s also strong evidence that a secular economy, like we see emerging in Europe and America, is weaker and more stagnant. (See for Harvard President Larry Summer’s “The Age of Secular Stagnation.”)

On a personal level, there’s also strong evidence that teaching my kids reformation-era hymns is not only good for their souls but also for the world. A brief point of application: Let’s start sharing songs that affirm God’s activity in creation, his provision for our needs, and the gift of work. Here’s a good place to begin.

Discussion: Would you leave your favorite creation-affirming or work-affirming hymn or contemporary song in the comments section below?

BusinessCultureEconomyVocationWork

Theology for Business (Keynote Address)

This is the keynote address I gave for the recent event “For Whose Glory: Exploring Faithful Practice in Life, Leadership and Business.” Below I’ve included a brief outline of my talk. The video also includes all slides from my presentation. Like it? Visit my speaking page by clicking the menu above. 

I. Introduction: What is the purpose of business?

  1. The answer from business culture
  2. The answer from church culture
  3. The answer from conferences like this

Thesis: Christian theology is just as important for your business life as finance, operations or sales, customers or employees.

II. First, the doctrine of CREATION and FALL calls us to THINK THEOLOGICALLY about the purpose of business.

  1. The purpose of business is to provide for the needs of world by serving customers and creating meaningful work, while giving glory to God.
  2. It provides
    1. The goods and services we depend on every day
    2. Meaningful work
    3. The wealth we need to afford those goods and services
  3. Business is an extension of God’s own work of creation
  4. The Fall impacted both our work and our business, which we see most clearly in the Prophets
    1. Idolatry causes injustice
    2. The hinge between provision and oppression is the God we worship in business life.
  5. “For whose glory?” is a critical questions which will determine how we answer the question of the purpose of business.

III. Second, the doctrine of the TRINITY calls us to EMBRACE RELATIONSHIPS.

  1. The American workforce is stressed, disengaged, and unhappy (Gallup/BCG Research)
  2. God is relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and healthy businesses are bound together through healthy relationships based on a foundation of trust.

IV. Third, the doctrine of the RESURRECTION calls us to CREATE GOOD WORK.

  1. We tend to not talk about business at church because we don’t think it’s a part of the gospel, or “good news”
  2. The resurrection calls us to think more comprehensively about redemption, creation, and, thus, our work.
  3. Our daily work matters because God is redeeming not just individual souls but all of creation.

V. Fourth, the doctrine of VOCATION calls us to SEEK DEEP SPIRITUAL HEALTH.

  1. The exhilaration and speed of business life rarely affords us the opportunity to slow down and ask “Who are we becoming?”
  2. The word vocation comes form the latin root vox, or voice: it’s about responding to the voice of God in the day to day lives, including our business decisions.

VI. Finally, the CROSS calls us to SERVE OTHERS SACRIFICIALLY.

  1. Central to the gospel is that Christ gave his life for ours.
  2. It’s one thing to talk about customer service in our business, or even creating a company of “love.” But it’s another to talk about sacrificial love.
  3. Boaz was a model “Christian business leader,” as he calls us to hire and care for the “Ruth’s” of our day.

VII. Conclusion: Christian faith calls us to think theologically about the purpose of business, to embrace relationships, to create work in a spirit of hope, to admit our flaws as we seek deep spiritual health, and to serve others sacrificially in our city.  

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Faith and Work MovementVocation

Should We Create More Vocation-Specific Faith and Work Resources?

One topic that continually comes up among faith and work leaders is this: should we create more vocation-specific materials? That is, instead of creating resources broadly about, say, work, Sabbath, calling, or caring for the poor, should we create experiences, books or small group studies specifically for those in, say, law, business, architecture or nursing?

The topic came up at the Faith & Work Summit, where we asked the question about going from 101 “introduction to faith and work” activities to 201 or 301 activities –  hosting specific conversations on retail, manufacturing or education, and the cultural challenges believers face in those sectors. It also came up when talking with my friend Alistair Mackenzie at the Theology of Work Project, as they noodle on next steps after creating an incredible biblical commentary and set of resources for pastors, laypeople and scholars on work.

The question is tough for at least two reasons.

First, there are many of us inside the faith and work movement that are suspicious (or at least wary) of Kuyperian transformationalism and its attendant idea that each sphere of human social activity (i.e., field of work) is directly responsible to be lived out coram Deo, before the face of God. Clearly, Christ is Lord. But the grand project of “this is what all of law or finance ought to look like in God’s economy” is a slippery target.

Fields like law and finance are not static, and neither are the Christians within them who desire to honor God with their work. Writing a 10-volume set on a comprehensive theology of law may be (1) pressing the Scriptures for questions they weren’t meant to directly answer for our cultural moment, and (2) woefully out of date by the time of publication, since law – and all of culture – is constantly changing. Fields of work and arenas of cultural activity are less like light bulbs, clearly defined and illuminated, than they are like lava lamps, in constant motion.

On the other hand, the pastor in me says we absolutely must speak to specific circumstances in people’s lives. The reason, for example, Alistair got into the Theology of Work Project is because as a pastor, his younger congregants would ask tough, honest questions about what it meant to be a Christian when faced with the day-to-day challenges of living and working in a secular age. I fully agree: in the past three years I’ve heard stories from electricians, investors, artists, entrepreneurs, public school superintendents and general contractors. And I can honestly say that my work at Denver Institute for Faith & Work is the most pastoral work I’ve ever done. Abstractions don’t fly when doing this work on the ground. People are longing for answers to real questions, solutions to real problems, and resolutions to real tensions.

So can we speak to the specifics of people’s industries without either trying to give a dizzying, comprehensive theology for a specific sector norignoring the real-life experiences of the people we’re called to serve? Or coming at it from another angle: how can we continually engage a larger percentage of the population in the faith and work movement when “faith at work 101” is starting to lose its luster?

Here’s what I think is the solution to this quandary: start with individual stories. Here’s what I mean. For the past couple of years, my friend Chris Horst and I have been writing profiles of Christians serving God and their communities through their work for Christianity Today. Mica May, founder of May Designs, a notebook company; Cathy Mathews, owner of a pay-what-you-can restaurant; Bill Kurtz, the CEO of a high performing charter school network; Jim Howey, the business development officer at a small manufacturing company in Denver; Dave Collins, who emerged from addiction and homelessness to serve travelers as a housekeeper at a Marriott. In each case, their stories illustrate the complexity of human life, and how important it is think broadly about our work in vocational discipleship.

Take the story of Karla Nugent of Weifield Group Electrical Contracting. I profiled her originally intending to write about the work of her apprentice program, which is employing men coming out of addiction or incarceration as electricians. Simple enough, right? Wrong. The “faith and work” topics covered ranged widely when we pay attention to the specifics of her life. For example, they included:

  • Workplace evangelism. Two of her co-founders, and numerous employees, have come to faith through her gentle, humble witness over the past 15 years.
  • Social justice. Her apprentice program is a pioneer in Denver’s workforce development community, providing good jobs and a new narrative of hope that would make our friends at the Chalmers Center drool.
  • Generosity. Weifield Group is a leader in corporate philanthropy, and gives money and employee volunteer hours to serve the less fortunate, women & children, veterans, and heads of household in the Denver metro area.
  • Workplace culture. Weifield is continually ranked as a top place to work in Denver, due largely to the workplace culture that gives opportunities for advancement, engages employees in community service, and does the best electrical work in town, including the new Union Station that the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado.
  • The dignity and intrinsic value of work. Many of her electricians see their work not just as wires, but as art. They feel proud of what they do, and see its intrinsic value beyond even what they’re paid to do the job.
  • Sabbath. Being one of Denver’s most networked women, Karla has to stay aggressive with turning off all media on Sundays – but she does so to the great benefit of her family and co-workers.
  • Women and leadership. As a woman in an almost-all-male field, Karla embraces her role as a woman, and uses it as an opportunity to have honest conversations with peers and employees that would be hard to get to in a “tough guy” culture. She’s also honest about the challenges between raising children and caring for her “work” family, too.

I could go on. But here’s the point. Would a “theology of electrical engineering” help Karla? Maybe a little. But my guess is that it would end up on the bottom of a pile of papers on her desk. What would help is to provide the emotional and relational context to speak about the real issues she faces in the context of Christian faith, in all of its wonderful variety and life-giving diversity.

So, should we create more vocation specific resources? Well, it’s worth mentioning that hundreds of these vocation-specific resources already exist written by laity in their fields. It might be that pastors and biblical scholars are not the best socially-placed to write these resources.

Here’s what the church can do to encourage vocation-specific conversations:

  1. Convene men and women around the workplace challenges and contemporary issues we face in the complexities of modern culture. We learn first through imitation. Gathering people in similar lines of work (and thus cultural worlds) has born tremendous fruit for us at DIFW in the last three years.
  2. Do a lot more story-telling. In so doing we’ll be able to touch on the topics surrounding the faith and work conversation in a way that is relevant, honest, and beautiful. We are shaped by the stories we believe and cherish. If we can do more storytelling – and do it well – we may even be so lucky as to contribute to the formation of men and women into the image of Christ, Redeemer…and carpenter.

This post first appeared at the Green Room Blog. 

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