The world has changed so much since I was diagnosed with ALS way back in 1996. Sitting here in my bedroom paralyzed for the last twenty years, I’ve mostly been an observer of these changes. In the opinion of this observer, some changes have been good, others have been bad.
I’m fascinated by the evolution of the Internet and Smartphone technology. In 1996, my cellphone was big, bulky, and only able to make calls. There was no such thing as Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and Amazon was a little start-up selling books. Only one percent of the world’s population had Internet access. Today, the overwhelming majority of the world has Internet access, and there are more than 3.5 billion Smartphones in use.
I don’t think we can classify the Internet and smartphones as good or bad. They are merely tools. It’s what we do with them that becomes good or bad.
This COVID-19 pandemic introduced us to Social Distancing. As someone who’s been grounded to my room for the last two decades, I’m an old pro when it comes to social distancing. I am very thankful for this tool known as the World Wide Web. Even before starting this blog eight years ago, I was communicating with people all over the world.
I began connecting with people overseas ten years ago when I became an Online Missionary with Global Media Outreach. GMO was founded by a former Apple executive named Walt Wilson. With Steve Jobs, Walt was on the team that developed the Macintosh computers. The ministry shares the Good News through ads on social media in over 200 countries. To do this, they’re using over a hundred different domains in 50+ languages. They also use SEO (Search Engine Optimization), so one of their sites comes up first when people search using words like “God,” “Jesus,” “Bible,” or “Christianity.”
When someone clicks one of the ads or opens one of the sites, they are presented with the Good News. Afterward, they’re asked if they’d like to want to commit to follow Christ or learn more. If they click yes, they are connected to one of the thousands of Online Missionaries speaking their language. They might be connected to a paralyzed guy in Texas who can’t speak at all and is typing them with an eye-tracking computer. (If you want to see where GMO is making connections in real-time, click here).
Today, most of the GMO contacts are via cell phones, but when I started ten years ago, it was primarily computers. One of my first contacts was a woman in Sudan who walked three hours twice a week to use a computer at an Internet cafe. She was so eager to learn more and grateful for GMO and the easy to understand discipleship resources they provide.
Another contact was a young man in a Muslim country who committed to follow Christ after reading the Gospel message on a GMO site. His father and uncle were highly respected leaders in their town, and they were furious when he told them he was a Christian. His father threatened to stop paying for his college, thinking this would make him recant. When he refused, his father and uncle threatened to kill him. The last time I communicated with him, he was hiding out at the home of a moderate Muslim friend. He was already sharing the Gospel with his friend and with others.
Many of the people who haven’t heard the Gospel live in Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, and other countries that missionaries don’t have access to. GMO can provide them with discipleship materials and digital Bibles.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19).
People have asked me why some Christians feel the need to evangelize. The short answer is – because Jesus told us to. That should be enough, but it’s also because those who have believed the Good News want to tell others. Last week, a friend emailed us and told us that Kroger has toilet paper. We were happy to hear that news. Regardless of what we believe, most of us want to pass along good news. Forgiveness of sins and the offer of eternal life with Christ is the best news in the history of the world! How could we not tell others?
(Jesus said) “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).
In Matthew 24, Jesus was telling His disciples the signs of the end times. It’s such an amazing prophecy when you put in the context of that time. He said “this gospel” thirty-five or forty years before Matthew wrote his Gospel. Jesus told this small group of disciples that the Good News would be proclaimed to the “whole world,” and to “all nations.” At the time he spoke those words, it’s estimated that the world’s population was around 300 million. Today there are 7 billion people on earth. With automobiles, planes, and especially the Internet, our generation is the first with the ability to fulfill this prophecy. And we will!
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, GMO was sharing the Gospel with an average of 350,000 a day. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been averaging 500,000. But they can handle two million per day. The only thing keeping GMO from reaching more people with the Good News is support to purchase more ads. If you can help with even a small gift to GMO, click here.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19).
I have learned to be careful about not comparing my life to those that are healthier and wealthier than me because I believe doing so can lead to hopelessness and depression.
I suppose it’s unrealistic, at least for me, not to compare our life to the lives of others, but I’ve discovered that I can choose who I compare myself with. Instead of comparing myself to people who are wealthy, healthy; people doing things like taking exotic vacations to places I’ve always wanted to visit etc, I compare my lot in life with the unhealthy, the persecuted and the poor.
Like all aspects of maintaining hope, this kind of selective comparison doesn’t come naturally for most of us not living in Third-world nations. For many years, even before I had ALS, I practiced this selective comparison by reading articles and watching documentaries about the poor and persecuted of the world and by following and supporting ministries and missionaries that worked to relieve their suffering.
Then, about 2 & ½ years ago, I became a missionary myself; an “Online Missionary” with an organization called Global Media Outreach. This is a great non-denominational Internet ministry that is able to reach people with the Gospel in areas that traditional missionaries cannot go; remote regions and nations like China and Iran where mission work is restricted or banned altogether. GMO has roughly 100 different Internet sites that can be accessed via computer and/or a cell phone. One or more of these sites will always be among the first listed when people Google words like Jesus, Christianity, religion or God etc. GMO has thousands of volunteers that communicate with millions of people every year. I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories from people that have emailed or texted me through GMO, many of which have become close friends of mine. The following are some of stories I’ve heard.
- Men and women in Africa dying from AIDS or other diseases.
- New Christians in the Middle-east living in fear of their Muslim family discovering they’ve converted (one 20 year-old man was living in hiding from his father).
- Abandoned or widowed mothers contemplating giving up their children because they cannot afford to feed them.
- People who are bound by long-term drug, alcohol or sexual addictions.
These are just a few examples of stories I hear regularly from people I communicate with through GMO. These are also the people I choose to compare my life to and by doing so I feel extremely blessed.
My oldest daughter and her husband recently took a mission trip to Uganda and they both told me it was a reality check for them. They saw what life was like for the vast majority of people on this earth; not knowing where their next meal would come from and living in fear that a drink of water or a bite from a mosquito might make them violently ill or even end their life. Lauren and James don’t have much, but, like Mary and I, they feel blessed because they’ve chosen to measure their life by the reality of Uganda instead of by the “American dream.”
I believe everyone, especially followers of Christ and Christians going through trials, should do volunteer work to help the less fortunate and to give us a realistic gauge to measure our life and current circumstances by and most of all to be obedient to Christ.
“I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Mathew 25:35-40)
“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.”