Preparing for Overseas Ministry

The previous section revealed ways in which the Internet could serve to connect potential missionaries with the appropriate organization. This section discusses ways in which this technology can be of use in preparing missionaries to go overseas--in areas of deputation, on-line training, and developing relationships with other missionaries who are already on the field.

Connecting with Supporters

Typically, missionaries will prepare a prayer card and/or prayer letter as they begin to raise funds for their overseas ministry. They speak at various churches and group meetings in order to gain both financial and prayer support. The resources of the Internet could greatly enrich this process.

E-mail, for example, makes it considerably less expensive and time-consuming to send support updates to many groups of people. Obtaining e-mail addresses from supporters for the purpose of sending these updates would become an important task in deputation.

As a missionary prepares for overseas ministry, the tools of the Web may be increasingly useful providing the same kind of updated material in the form of charts and graphs, and in providing country information in the form of a table, a map, or links to related Web sites. Audio and video tools could be used, providing the missionary an opportunity to say a few words to those he or she may not be able to speak with in person. Any Web page of this sort would be incomplete without an e-mail link through which to send messages of encouragement to the missionaries. This kind of interactive environment can serve to personalize the process of deputation and draw a missionary closer to distant friends who may support him or her during overseas ministry.

Training and Orientation

A missionary who is preparing to go overseas has a lot to look forward to in ministry, yet a long road to follow in actually getting there. Before actually taking part in foreign ministry, the missionary usually must undergo intensive orientation to the country--its language, primary religion, and other aspects of culture. In addition, a missionary will spend a significant amount of time becoming acquainted with the missionaries who may already be in that location. The tools and resources of the Internet can serve to initiate this process before the missionary leaves home.

As mentioned in a previous section, some missions organization already provide information relevant to prospective missionaries. Thai Harvest, for example, includes information on the religion, customs, and other cultural aspects of Thailand.[8] Other resources are also present on the Internet. A missionary who is preparing to go overseas can choose from the plethora of resources which exist for many countries in the world. From this information, he or she may learn more than would be possible to learn from a encyclopedia or even a book about the culture.

Language instruction could begin before the missionary goes overseas through use of audio software such as the Internet phone or even the audio component of a Web page. The missions organization along with missionaries already overseas could place links within a Web page which will play key phrases to the missionary so that he or she will be able to at least find a way through the airport and maybe even be able to ask for and understand directions upon arrival in the foreign country.

Aside from placing these resources within a Web Page, it would be advantageous for the missionary to be able to transfer a program of this kind to his or her computer using the FTP capabilities of the Internet. Any program can be transferred in this way, and the mission would be using its time and resources wisely in creating such a software package and making it available to new missionaries. In any case, the use of Internet tools and resources may help ease the transition and minimize culture shock by educating the missionary about such cultural issues beforehand.

Relationships with other Missionaries

New missionaries need to be in contact with the other missionaries with whom they will be working. Through the tools of the Internet, they can develop such relationships in greater depth than has been possible in the past.

E-mail allows this kind of contact to take place in written form, and is most useful for one to one communication with another missionary. Mailing lists could prove to be useful if a whole community of missionaries is in the specific location or country. In addition to allowing the missionaries already overseas to share happenings with one another though they may be separated by tens to thousands of miles, mailing lists also would allow new missionaries to be primed in what is actually happening overseas--what issues the missionaries are facing individually and as a team. New missionaries would be added to mailing lists which already exist as a service for those already on the field.

Two other effective tools, discussed in a previous section, are chatting software and the Internet phone, which could draw a new missionary preparing to go to the field even closer to a missionary who is already there, through immediate interaction and feedback. Any such communication could help ease the missionary's transition to the field by assisting him or her in developing relationships with fellow missionaries.