Growing up in Church I began to realise there is a pattern to the way we received communication from Missionaries. This consisted of receiving a prayer letter once a month or every other month, unless a serious need had to be shared. As a child and teen this was just the normal way of doing things, every Missionary sent their letter at the end of the month. In the nineties and early 2000’s this was still perfectly understandable since they lived in another Country. But today as a Missionary in Melbourne Australia I feel the one letter a month philosophy of communication is no longer acceptable because of technology that literally puts the world at our fingertips.
People ask me sometimes if I am homesick in Australia while all other family members are in America. The truth is there are some lonely days which everyone experiences, but in my four years of ministry there have been three periods of serious homesickness. This isn’t because of my own strength or maturity instead it has to do with being able to talk to my father on skype, and my mother on my Ipod Touch at the same time while eating lunch. This new world of communication definitely helps those in Missions because it helps them remain connected to friends. But there is a responsibility to use these tools in communicating with supporters as well.
Because of the websites and tools available there is no longer any excuse for sending a prayer letter once a month (or every other month) to those who both financially support our ministry and pray for it faithfully. Its true that not everyone has the time, money, energy, or tools to make Twitter or Facebook an integrated part of their ministry communication but its very simple to put two or three posts on your Facebook page each week about what the Lord is doing on the mission field.
In some cases this social media part of communication can become the responsibility of your son and daughter who use this technology as part of their lives. And if you still need help with learning a website or sending updates don’t hesitate to approach a single young man (preferably college student) and bribe him with a home cooked meal…its amazing what they will be willing to do!
So what are some ways social media can change the Missionary/Church relationship? I would encourage you to check out Andrew Comings a Missionary in Brazil who uses his blog Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and some lesser known forms of media like Amplifyd to share ministry updates and pictures from the field. The beauty is everything he does brings people to the ministry website so the communication has a purpose.
The biggest achievement Andrew accomplished with technology is writing a story called Missionary Max about a man who came to Brazil on a short term missions trip to decided to stay as Missionary and had many adventures. In mid 2011 his book was published and the first part Missionary Max can now be purchased on Amazon as a kindle book.
Now I don’t believe every Missionary should get into the world of publishing. But the way that Andrew and others like him communicate with fellow Believers creates a deep relationship with communication and a shared burden. It also gives us a better idea about how this wealth of new technology can help us create that kind of relationship with friends, family, and supporters back home. One which still involves a prayer letter but is built upon true friendship found in constant communication.