In a list of directions to new missionaries, a missions organization lays out a detailed plan for dealing with Facebook that starts with the line “set the expectation with your loved ones that you will only use Facebook for missionary work…” and “let them know you will only read and respond to emails, texts, and other messages on Monday during your personal day.” It goes on to having you unfollow all friends, only follow official church published pages, and among other things, “unfollow all groups that are not in keeping with your missionary purpose.” Later on in the directions, new missionaries are instructed about required equipment like locks and helmets that they must have for their bicycles. At this point it is easy to conclude that this group is clearly out of touch with modern life and may elicit thoughts like “why are they treating me like a child…” This organization states that “one of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary efforts and experiences.”
At this point you are probably wondering where I am going with all this. Over the next couple of weeks we will be looking at some of the struggles of being in “two places” at the same time. Cindy Austin did a great job of describing her current experience of loss and family and not being able to be home during difficult times. While we are called to “count the cost” when serving Christ as missionaries, we are also in a world where global connectedness and access are at an all time high. We are starting off with technology and the role it can play in our struggles. When Nancy and I were missionaries, we didn’t face the issue of seeing and knowing all that we were missing. We had a monthly 15-minute call with my folks, the kids grandma and grandpa, and that was it. At some point we had email, but it wasn’t very widely used by family for communication and cellphones were not a thing. As we speak, my 1-year-old grandson is playing with Nana’s smartphone… Things have changed!
When we started with Global Partners, some fields asked new missionaries to stay off Facebook for 6 months or a year. This has quickly changed, and many missionaries use Facebook as an effective communication tool on a daily basis.
Is it possible though, that we can be too connected and that it can affect our work overseas? And if so, how do we manage this tool for our benefit?
Does social media help us to lower our anxiety by knowing what is going on with our families back home, or does it add to our homesickness and feelings of missing out?
Are we personally accountable for the amount of time we are on social media, and is it affecting our work and/or genuine time with family? How often do we get together with friends to sit in a circle, everyone on their phones rather than engaging in meaningful conversation?
Is technology working for us or against us?
These are all questions that need to be answered personally, but they need to be answered if we are to be effective in ministry and to be “more involved in our missionary efforts and experiences.” I encourage you to think about and answer the questions above.
Next time we will look at the topic of loss…
Oh, and one more thing… don’t forget to wear your bike helmet!