Please Note: In the fast moving world of technology, some of the information in this article is already outdated.
Abilene Christian University
Computer assisted communication and information sharing is going to change the way we do missions. Our cherished Biblical beliefs will not be altered. Our godly principles will stand the test. However, quick and easy messaging and collaboration will bring about an era of cooperation in missions.
Church of Christ Missionaries and supporting congregations are using this new technlogy. I receive at least five inquiries every week concerning the way to connect computers to the networks. The Missions On-Line Newsletter was begun in January of 1994. That first issue was sent to the eighteen missionaries and missions committee people for whom I had electronic mail addresses. By the second issue in March, there were more than one hundred on the list.
Two groups of missionaries have used this networking to assist their regional efforts. Workers in the former Soviet Union keep in touch with each other, plan projects and share information. They do this with more frequency than ever before and they pay a fraction of the cost. Clay Widden in Rostov-On-Don, documents a phone bill of $260 prior to the use of e-mail and now a combined e-mail and phone bill of under $90. Clay says he sends far more messages now than he did when he was only using a phone. His experience is not unique.
Missionaries in Buenos Aires, Argentina, pool their messages together and send them to the States by one computer.
The most broadly attended forum for missions computing is the International Conference for Computing in Missions (ICCM). This conference which takes place each June, is a gathering frequented by researchers and technicians from such organizations as Global Mapping, Southern Baptist Foreign Missions Board, Assemblies of God, World Vision, Wycliff Bible Translators, Dawn Ministries and many other agencies. Richard Chowning and Tom Dolan of Abilene Christian University take a leading role in this meeting. Such participation brings the cutting edge of information and research into our missions efforts.
Internet is the most powerful network on the information superhighway. It is a universe of networks which are connected to each other. AD 2000 Global Monitor, in an issue of its regular Computer News column, states that "The Internet seems likely to grow with between 29 million and 45 million computers on local area networks (LANs) in the U.S. by 1995.
The system is not just a storehouse of our own missions information. It is an orderly control panel to connections to missions information around the world.
The Missions Information Service is so useful to missions that the major Christian information centers in Colorado and California access it regularly. Even the Library of Congress and the World Wide Web lists it as the main Christian missions resource.
The first step to connecting to this growing world of information is to gain access to e-mail. Check the side bar (below) for more details. Additional information on how to connect the information superhighway can be obtained by contacting:
Cost: Fax-like for a Fraction The number of missionaries with fax machines has increased greatly over the past five years. These machines have in turn boosted the phone charges to missions accounts to often intolerable heights. The typical saving of e-mail over fax is fifty to eighty percent for identical messages.
Anywhere there is a phone line electronic mail if possible.
Computer Hardware A computer, modem, communications software, and a telephone line are all that missions decision makers need to connect to the information and communication highway.
Service The broadest spectrum of information and highest inter-connectability is available through the Internet. Until recently it was difficult for most people to have access to the Internet. Delphi, persently, and America On-Line, very soon, service anywhere there is a phone line.
For e-mail access only Compuserve is probably the best service to join. A large number of our missionaries have phones, but are in locations where commercial e-mail services are not available. There are unique solutions to each that cannot all be discussed in this article. Contact Richard Chowning or Tom Dolan.
Mirrored by permission of ACU Missions Personnel
Direct questions and comments to Ed Mathews,