Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Technology and the Mission Field

Things have changed alot since we were first missionaries back in the 1980's. The first difference is how we raised our support. When we first started out in 1982, Doug relied on "lists" of pastors names and churches where other missionaries had been previously and that were welcoming to missionaries. These lists were coveted by missionaries and weren't easy to come by--as you can imagine. Now with the Internet, a missionary has access to many websites where like-minded churches are listed by state with phone numbers. I remember back in the 80's my husband would look in the yellow pages of different cities to find Baptist churches in the area, or visit local libraries and pour over their copies. It still takes long hours of phone calling (and much patience) to make meetings, but the Internet is a great reference tool.

Another big difference is in the way long distance calling has become much cheaper, through Internet telephone and calling plans that feature unlimited long distance. When we first started deputation back in 1982, our phone bill exceeded $400 per month!

Once on the field, staying connected to family and friends was more difficult too. Back then telephone lines were still hard to come by in Mexico, with long waiting lists and a cost of over $500 just for the installation. It was money that we didn't have, so we lived without a telephone in the house. Occasionally we would go to a neighbor's house to make a call back to the states, but the cost was over $1.00 per minute! I think I only spoke with my mom once the entire time we were in Mexico.

Because of that, our favorite thing to do was go to the post office to see if we had any mail. My dad would faithfully send me a letter every week, along with some Time magazines he had already read--that was my only source of American news.

Now with the Internet, I can talk to my kids several times a week, and occasionally seeing them on the web cam. I can look at news and video clips from the states, even purchase hard to find items (even though the postage is a little outrageous). We can handle more of our financial matters too, instead of waiting for checks to come in the mail!

I feel much more "connected" to my family and friends than I did when living in Mexico. Of course, missionaries have been living for generations without the benefits of modern technology, but in many ways it has been an effective tool in spreading the gospel.

Of course, with every good thing there is also the temptation to depend on it rather than reliance on God--technology can't replace the power of God. For example, some of our contemporaries would laugh at my husband for his "old fashioned" slide show--(he didn't want to be up in front of a church trying to fix a technical problem with a computer that was beyond his know how) but when they saw his heart for God and passion for people, it didn't seem to matter that he didn't have the latest power-point multi-media production. Don't get me wrong, I believe a missionary should have a professional and well prepared presentation, but no matter how fancy, how slick you make it--the Holy Spirit has to be in it--and that will never be replaced by the "old fashioned" methods of prayer, fasting and spending time in God's Word.


the reynolds said...

Wow, things definitely change! Thinking about you and praying for you all!!

arielle said...

I agree with you! Some DVD presentations are nice, don't get me wrong! but when the missionary is actually talking it just seems so much more personal!!