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Skype & FB’s negative impact on missions

A missionary friend who works in Asia wrote a post highlighting a phenomenon concerning Skype and Facebook I’ve observed with a lot of our short-termers. Granted, they’re great tools and missionaries use them all the time. But, they also pose a problem.   To understand why, you have to a…
By Seth Barnes

3701015403 348030b998 1A missionary friend who works in Asia wrote a post highlighting a phenomenon concerning Skype and Facebook I’ve observed with a lot of our short-termers. Granted, they’re great tools and missionaries use them all the time. But, they also pose a problem.

 
To understand why, you have to ask: Why do we do mission trips?  And most of us would point to two primary reasons:
  • to serve and connect relationally with partners on the field.
  • to change the lives of those going.
Short-termers’ lives change in part because participants are taken out of their comfort zones and their lives back home. They abandon the noise and the ego-props there, the friends and family that helped define them, and they are forced to rely on God and his power. It’s not a trade-off most of us want to make. Yet when we do, God shows up – he often can help us see our false selves and help us to make spiritual breakthroughs.
 
Abandoning comfort zones is not easy or natural, however. Given the choice, most of us will grab at what scraps of comfort we can find. And that brings us to my point: While reporting back to supporters periodically is important, too often short-termers use Skype and Facebook to create a place of comfort on the field. The process of abandoning their old life and the challenge of the mission may cause them to retreat to their on-line world of old friends and media values. Rather than diving into the local culture, they find escape in their Facebook account and Lady Gaga videos. They hide behind the computer screen and the familiarity of relationships back home.
 
It’s a problem. In doing so, they miss much of what God has got for them in their mission trip.
 
If you’re going on a mission trip, the best thing is to self-regulate. Set boundaries for yourself. And as a leader, recognize, you have options. On one extreme, you can ban online social networking and draw a clear line in the sand forbidding team members to get on the computer. But that may interrupt the important ministry of reporting back to supporters and friends. And at the other extreme, you can ignore the issue and chalk it up to their need to escape – but in my book, that’s abdicating your leadership responsibility.
 
So, what do you think is the best way to deal with the issue?

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