Computers, Teamwork, and Missionaries

When I was very young, I had an idea of what a missionary was: a person who went off to extremely remote areas of the world, far away from anything resembling the civilization we were used to. He or she had to learn new languages, convince people that it was better to listen than to eat the messenger, and somehow get lots of people saved or die trying. The missionary image in my young mental image worked pretty much alone. The cliché cartoon image of the missionaries tied up in a large cauldron, boiling over a large fire almost always came to mind. Somehow, teamwork, computers, rocket science, and aviation didn’t usually cross my mind, although I had heard stories of some of the early uses of small airplanes by missionaries. Now that I have had some experience, I have a different view. For example, I’ve never seen a large cauldron out in the jungle. (Other dangers, sure, but no cauldrons.) I see and experience lots of teamwork. I see lots of applications of appropriate transportation, communication, and computation technology in getting the Word of God to people, even in very remote areas. I have also noticed a lot of variety in the vocations represented on the mission field. I also see a wide variety of mission fields, with a wide diversity of cultures, languages, economies, and stages of development.

The Body of Christ really does have many diverse members, with many diverse missions and organizations, but we all work together in the same mission of fulfilling The Great Commission and The Great Commandment. My little niche is mostly in computer support, although I do teach and preach and do some other things from time to time. Finding and eliminating computer bugs may not sound very glamorous, but it is one of many very different jobs in the Body of Christ. All of this works together for good, according to God’s good plan.

Can you imagine what it would be like to go back to living without computers? I can, and it isn’t a pretty thought. It would take a whole lot more manual labor to do pretty much anything you can think of. This is definitely true of Christian mission work in general, and Bible translation in particular. The most useful software for missionaries and missions is software that can be freely shared. I’m a very big fan of Free/Libre Open Source Software on the mission field. (And yes, I’m writing this article using open source software on Linux.) The work of the software developer gets used far more, and by more people in missions, that way. The only down side, of course, is that the software developer has to raise support, just like most of the other missionaries, and live on donations instead of royalties. That is OK. A million years from now, what will matter is the souls brought into the Kingdom of God, not who paid the bills for the work of the Great Commission.

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