On Tuesday I ranted a bit at our regional staff meeting for ABCNJ. We had a missionary team in to talk about some of the challenges that are facing ABCUSA missionaries becuase they way the denomination is funding them has completely changed. This change entails that the missionaries raise a certain amount of their own support in order to stay in the field, which means they now have to be in contact with people back home directly more than in years past. I find this to be a good thing, because it’s forcing a paradigm-shift in way misisonaries communicate with home. Really, it should have been done years ago, but at least they’re doing it.
The challenge was also what led to my rant. We live in a world where the first reporter for a plan crash is a passenger who climbed out a hole in the fusalage and snapped an image for twitpic. Missionaries have communications tools within their grasp to not only update the folks they need support from, but also draw them into the ups and downs of the personal experience being a missionary. Missionaries who are in regions where cell-service is active can update people in near real-time as to the events going on in their life, and those who aren’t can use their home support team to spread the news when they get access to e-mail. Imagine following a missionary on Twitter (or facebook, for my never-tweeting friends – facebook is moving this direction) and having that person express their joys and griefs as they remain faithful to God as the events unfold. I can see several good things from this:
- Increased awareness of the people our denomination supposedly exists to support. Posters and newsletters are nice, they also get glanced at and forgotten, twitter is a pervasive presence.
- Better perspective at home. Imagine grumbling at being out of coffee and getting a tweet which reads, “Soldiers came through the hospital last night, we’re still in hiding.” Kinda makes the grumbling as stupid as it is, doesnt’ it?
- More authentic presentation of missionary life. I can’t stand missionary promotional materials. I’m sorry, I just can’t. Folks are always smiling brightly, are well-groomed, and look as though they don’t have a care in the world. We know this isn’t the case, and frankly those presentations don’t illicit a great response from me. Tweeting ups AND downs, with an eye focused on Christ, however, keeps me very interested.
- Opportunities for hospitality. Say a missionary is stuck somewhere and tweets their dilemma. Instead of being all alone for a night people who are nearby could get together with a missionary they’ve been following.
The good news is that the missionary who heard my rant (actually, no one else seemed to think it was a rant, but I thought I was ranting – so there) took my ideas as encouragement. He’s now on Twitter, and is already tweeting away his struggles as he tries to get to Vietnam.