If I’m in the car by myself, then I’m almost always listening to NPR. * I love NPR, mostly because it doesn’t have any commercials, but also because it’s a good place to hear a civil conversation about the news in America and around the world. ** I will generally listen to almost any show on NPR, but my favorite by far is the Diane Rehm show, which in our market comes on between the hours of 10-noon. Before we had kids, I would schedule my errands to make sure that I was in the car the maximum amount of time during this block as possible.
If you’ve never listened to Diane Rehm, then you probably don’t know that she suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, a fairly rare voice disorder that at one point weakened her voice so much she had to take a hiatus from the radio in the late 90’s. Even though she’s back on the radio now, her voice is still fairly weak, and although she is not a young woman, the disorder makes her sound like my grandmother’s grandmother. *** Her show has always made time for its viewers to call in with their opinions, but now, with the rise of social media, listeners are encouraged to call, send in an email, follow them on Facebook, or send in a Tweet.
Whenever I hear this last part, it always makes me laugh. Diane Rehm is old, and her voice makes her sound even older, and yet every day she asks her listeners to send in their Tweets, a phrase that probably would have struck her as ridiculous a mere decade ago. It’s funny, but it also speaks to the power of social media to shape the world in which we currently live.
This week we finally got our first newsletter (and the template for future newsletters) up and running, mostly thanks to my wife’s initiative. I’ve been doing this blog for several months now, but it’s been limited to reaching those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, and it hasn’t always been the best vehicle for communicating our specific prayer needs to those of you who care enough about us to pray for us. A blog like this also takes time to read, and while some of you have that sort of time, many others do not, and so it is our hope that the newsletter will allow us to stay connected with as many people as possible. It’s my goal to make the newsletter a more straightforward means for communicating our day-to-day (or week to week) needs, while continuing to use this blog to communicate a little more of our heart for the work we are being sent to do.
There are different schools of thought as to whether or not all this communication is necessary or not, and given that we are young missionaries we’ve been treated to arguments from both sides. I don’t have the time or desire to go into the full debate, but to summarize, on one side are those who are quite adept at using various forms of media to support raise and keep their donors informed of their work, and on the other side are those who do not see the importance or need for this level of communication, and would prefer to focus on the work they’ve been sent to do instead. Most of the time, those who fall into the latter category are older, more seasoned missionaries, who were and continue to be successful without the need to upload a picture on the web every time they make a chocolate cake. If I were to make a list of the missionaries I’ve known in my life who inspire and encourage me the most, they would probably fall into this category, and so I do want to be perfectly clear that it with no small amount of respect that I place myself into the former group.
Overall, I think that using social media like this is to the missionaries advantage, for both pragmatic and biblical reasons. For one, blogs and newsletters are pretty cheap. Even if you factor in the cost of buying a new computer every so often **** this is really a pretty inexpensive way to communicate with a whole lot of people. We don’t have to pay for ink, paper, envelopes, stamps ***** etc. Which is good, because ministry work is work on a budget, and social media helps keep us under budget. It’s quicker too, some of you will have read this mere minutes after I’ve posted it, meaning we can keep everyone far more up to date on what’s happening in our lives than we could otherwise.
But I think beyond the pragmatic, there are deeper reasons for using these as well. As supported missionaries, our ministry is a partnership with those individuals and churches that support us. In reading Philippians 4, you realize the relationship between missionary and sending church, and how deep and important that relationship is. In a very real and meaningful way, our ministry is your ministry, our work is your work, and our fruit is your fruit. What we do, whatever we do, we do it in partnership, in relationship with you, and so like any other relationship, the more we’re able to communicate, the better.
This is even more reinforced when you stop to think about how much of the New Testament has origin as a missionary letter. Even narrowly defined, the list would still include Romans, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, which is a pretty significant chunk of the canon. Of course, this isn’t to put my writing in the same category as scripture, but simply to say that this practice has a solid foundation.
All of that to say this, if you didn’t get our first newsletter and would like to be on the list for the next one, please let me know and I’ll add you to it. (Or, you could follow the link on my last Facebook post to make the sign up process even easier.) We want to keep you all as informed as we can about what we’re up to in the process, and how you can specifically be in prayer for us. We also don’t want this relationship to be one-sided, so if there’s any way we can be in prayer for you, send me an email and let me know. We count it our privilege to pray for you.
One last thing. Don’t actually send us a Tweet. We don’t use it. Not currently anyways…
*I say almost, because there are times when it’s too insufferable, even for me. Like the night they decided to discuss beat poetry. Is there anything more boring than discussing, discussing, poetry? I think not.
**If you’re inclined to disagree with me about the merit of NPR, that’s fine. But don’t share your opinions with me here, this is a safe place…
***Interestingly enough, this is what some people really don’t like about her. Personally, I admire her willingness to continue on with her show, even though it is clearly taxing at times. Each to their own, I suppose.
****And, unless I want to buy an old typewriter, even if I only wanted to send correspondence the old-fashioned way I’d need a computer, as my handwriting is virtually illegible. Even if I went the typewriter route, there would be certain costs associated with that, like ribbon, white-out, and whatever it costs to ship such a machine freight to Europe. I may be willing to hold a TV in my lap on a transatlantic flight, but the same does not go for a piece of 1920’s technology.
*****Especially stamps! When did stamps get so expensive?!!!