In The Wake of Kon Tiki

Many pioneers in different fields exist in the pages of history, like Thor Heyerdahl. He believed South America populated Polynesia and that the seas were an avenue of communication, not barriers as historians believed. Thor noticed similar plants such as the sweet potato, the movement of the trade winds and breakers in the Pacific Ocean, and learned about a demigod named Tiki. Tiki “… brought his ancestors to the island from the big country beyond the eastern horizon. (from here)Thor’s story encouraged me. As a pioneer in a new field, I related to so many aspects of his story.

I first heard about Kon Tiki on Netflix in the movie directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (2012). Thor had to raise the support to build the raft and fund the project to prove a theory his colleagues said was impossible.

“‘Your mother and father will be very grieved when they hear of your death,’ one skeptical diplomat told Heyerdahl when hearing of his plan. Promising ‘nothing but a free trip to Peru and the South Sea islands and back… ‘”

https://www.history.com/news/thor-heyerdahls-kon-tiki-voyage

The movie portrays the journey to support as an emotional roller-coaster filled with rejection and hope. No one believed him. Thor didn’t even know how to swim or have any sailing experience. With the raft finished and ready to go, Thor stood on it, waving at the crowd with his five-man crew. The camera focused on his face. His eyes warily fell away from the cheering crowds on shore to the gap between his raft and the cement pier where the ocean lapped against the sides. It was as if to say, “Do I have confidence in my theory?”

It reminded me of a quote I found on Facebook by Dwight L. Moody,

“Moses spent forty years thinking he was a somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.”

Thor got his raft funded. I am still trying to build this raft. I am approaching people, churches, and businesses, and asking them to join me in changing our approach to missions by connecting the churches with the missionary organization to reach the unreached, the unloved, and the unchurched through social media and face-to-face. I am a nobody, but God can do much with a nobody like me. The concern most church communicators have is in marketing their church online.

We need to change our thinking from marketing to making disciples. If a congregation is trained on social media by the church and the missionary organization, marketing will happen on its own. While we need to focus on algorithms and best practices on social media, our people can focus on making meaningful connections. Thor made it to his destination. His journey inspired others to new pioneering fields. The journey to his destination included much joy and discovery as well as danger and doubt. In the wake of Kon Tiki, I, too, struggle.

From the beginning, support raising hasn’t been traditional — everyone in technology shares in this struggle. Even an online friend mentioned how little of us digital workers there are in the world using this communication tool. Often, we create new apps or try to intentionally or unintentionally compete with other like products.

I am not after creating a new app or a discipleship product. People are accustomed to hanging out in different places on social media. Churches already have websites and a presence, but we’ve become passive on Sunday. As a church congregation, we expect the community and the world to walk into our building, instead of making an effort to meet them where they are online and in the face-to-face. That adds an extra wrinkle to my support raising.

The church is part of my vision; not the leadership. Leaders in our churches have enough to do and are often overwhelmed, but we need them to equip and guide us. Unreached people groups in North America are within a stone’s throw of a church member.

In the wake of Kon Tiki, I dream of uniting the church with the missionary organization to reach different people groups in their community and all over the world through social media, apps, and their preferred discipleship programs. Thor made it to Polynesia. I won’t see this dream finished. I am starting it so other generations behind me can take up the reins when I am gone.

5 Reminders on Social Media

Seth Godin wrote in The never-ending ratchet of conspicuous consumption, “The only way to do well is to refuse to play.” He said this towards the end of the blog about consumerism and social media. He also said, “Earning trust outperforms earning envy.” As a social media person, creating content and doing organic engagement on WorldVenture’s social media is about creating trust and posting meaningfully. But, what about you–the person who isn’t a marketer who wants to use their personal social media for outreach and meaningful engagement?

You don’t have to play the game.

Trends are wonderful things for pages and groups, but personal social media should remain personal, original, and meaningful. Here are five ways to engage and create without exhausting yourself. You are not me. Be you.

  • Rest and read. Creativity needs rest. It needs new inspiration. Go to an art museum and learn about artists. Take up photography. Do some gardening. Quilt. Take a walk. Nap. Buy a book on Amazon that is different and challenges your thinking.
  • Budget your time on social media. Do a short social media fast (no more than a day or two). Watch a movie without picking up your phone. Read a chapter without checking Facebook. Nap with your notifications turned off.
  • Post Bible Verses. When using Adobe Spark or Canva, create Bible verses from images you have created or from copyright-free image sites, like Pixabay.com. This is a healthy break when you’ve run out of things to talk about online.
  • Interact more than post. If we get too caught up in the monster of creating original content, we can miss the important conversations. Don’t worry if you have nothing to post. Instead, find someone to interact with online. Maybe you can invite them to meet you for coffee? Post only when you feel led, not because you have to post something. Idea: Share another person’s post with a meaningful response on your personal social media.
  • Use Facebook Live to take a walk and invite others to walk with you virtually. Have a conversation with them.

When churches have digital teams who use their personal social media to reach out to their community and the world, a person on the team can feel overwhelmed, especially when they are not a marketer. As a social media person, I feel the pressure, but I tap into the mass amount of information that is within WorldVenture for inspiration and take regular breaks to keep what I post fresh and new. As Seth Godin says, “The only way to do well is to refuse to play.”

Happy posting, friends!

how to get somewhere

How to Create More Meaning

“Some activities are pleasurable and doing them is inherently rewarding. Others are difficult to do, but pay off with happiness or pleasure in the future. Some other things are important to do, even if you never get much from it. I worry that the news has none of the characteristics that make something worthwhile. It’s not fun, it causes anxiety, it gives you a warped sense of reality, and people who watch it are rarely going to DO anything with the information they get … So why do people engage in it? Its sensational nature makes it feel important when it’s not.”From Here

Recently, our small town landed in the news. Our kids are dying in DUI incidents on the roads, more than one shooting again due to drugs or alcohol, and each day I see whiskey bottles and needles on the sides of streets. “Instead of feeling awful for people in unfortunate circumstances, you can volunteer.” The above article says at the end. The whole article is about creating more meaning.

What the author is not suggesting in Step Away From the 24-Hour News Cycle is ditching the news cycle altogether. Instead, the author challenges the reader to do something. But, what?

The information superhighway can overwhelm us with the needs in the world if we don’t learn to sift through what information we choose to let inside our heart. Instead of focusing on the whole problem, the numbers of nameless people in and out of recovery, the tragedies, wars, and natural disasters, follow this advice—focus on what YOU can do; not what you CAN’T do.

What can you do?

  • Pray for guidance where God would send you and act on it.
  • Use your social media to create genuine friendships. Post updates that not only reflect the kind of Christian you are but allow people to latch on to what you have in common with them (Matthew 5:13; Psalm 14:3; Romans 8:8). Got Questions goes deeper here in being Salt and Light.
  • Because Social Media is a visual storyboard, a person must think visually and literally when conveying meaning. Look at your favorite fictional books, photographers, and painters. Why do certain shows or specific blogs attract you more than others? The common denominator is emotion. If I were to approach someone in the face-to-face and say, “I’m going to do a prayer fast today,” it would come off as ego talking. When you post this online, you are inviting someone into that dialogue and painting a story using graphics and words. Every status and photo is a chapter in your life that you choose to include others in and live as an example through discipling each other.
  • As you build your friendships online, consider meeting that stranger in a public place for coffee during the day. News stories occasionally share the horrors of doing such a thing. We can either be afraid and immobile or be discerning in where and who we meet.
  • Pick a culture and learn about it. Find groups of that culture online and get involved in conversations.

Transforming a community isn’t done by hoping someone else will do it. It takes a deliberate joint effort from a congregation, leadership, and missionaries using all the communication tools in front of us, including face-to-face. The next time you see a news story you are tempted to share, wait.

  • Read the whole article,
  • Google volunteer opportunities in and out of church areas that reach out to that demographic,
  • and share a solution with the story.

Get involved in someone else’s story and be part of the change you’d like to see in your community.

Thoughts? Can I pray with you?

Your Leaders Grow, Too

You know that moment when you lose a tweet from a Christian leader you wished you had saved? Beth Moore posted a tweet saying something to the effect that her tweets from the past do not reflect who she is now. It’s not an exact quote (and don’t ask me to vouch for accuracy as I can’t find her tweet).

I recalled that tweet today when I did a Facebook search. Older posts painfully reminded me of my less than cautious postings. I’m not a Beth Moore, but I am growing. Our leaders are growing, too. Social media is a written and visual record of our lives. It makes sense that online as in face-to-face we say and do things that will be different when we are younger than what we do when we are older. The written and visual record of social media will reflect this. It can be a wonderful record of where we’ve come from to who we are today.

When I Grow Up…

From the WorldVenture Blog Post

In 2015, Megan Murphy started “The Kindness Rock Project.” She left a rock on the beach of Cape Cod with the words “You’ve Got This” painted on it. Facebook rock painting groups began where communities did a grown-up Easter egg-like hunt for hand-painted rocks, leaving pictures with hints on Facebook groups so a family or person could find it and report it to the group. Over the past year or two, I’ve participated in this trend as a form of community outreach for online connections. Last week, my prayers yielded phenomenal results.

Kairi and her mom were hiking in the Dells in Prescott, Arizona when Kairi discovered my painted rock sitting near the Highline Trail. She turned the stone over and saw the contact information Modge-Podged and taped to the back.

The back of the rock contained a QR code, my email, and the instructions, “Please post to the Chino Valley Rock Facebook Group.” The QR code included a link to BibleGateway. Kairi sent me a message through her mom’s email account, saying, “Found your rock. I am 11-years old, and I want to do what you are doing. I want to be a missionary when I grow up.”

Read more by clicking here

Overcoming Pushback

A new blog on WorldVenture’s Website…

“Come back when you have a 4-year degree from a Bible school or seminary,” Four to five mission agencies said in the 1990s to Rob and Lisa Atkins (currently in Bolivia). While students are the focus of most mission’s mobilization, making up a robust 1% of the world’s demographic (Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization; pg. 14), older missionaries (Over-Forty) encounter pushback from friends and relatives in a culture where people are expected to save for a comfortable retirement.

“Occasionally, we hear subtle comments from people that our age concerns them. I also have issues with my left ankle. Most were excited and stated they could so see us doing this type of ministry. Age and health are always underlying concerns.” Neal Sperling was 72-years old and his wife, Sherri was 64 when God called them to the mission field.

A colleague currently serving in Africa mentioned a few obstacles. Some said to him,

  • “You’re brave. And what I mean by that is foolish. I don’t know that I would recommend anyone going at your stage of life. But God be with you.”
  • “I don’t understand why you would sacrifice everything you’ve worked for the past 20-years to give it all away to move to Africa.”
  • We think you are not being very wise. But we love you anyways.”

Read more by clicking here

Still a Mail Chimp Fan

A post popped up in Jenn’s Trends Facebook Group, signaling a change to Mail Chimp. This caused some anxiety, and I’ve observed other changes already. It’s the industry adjusting to the different ways we communicate.

With only a 20% open rate commercially depending upon the business and my observance of a 50% open rate in my lists, postcards make sense. Mail Chimp is offering postcards for less than a dollar each, including the stamp and mailing. They will even find people’s addresses. Spam laws make adding people to Mail Chimp taboo who have not requested it. Instead of opting for Mail Chimp’s postcards, I’ve gone to Vista Print and use a label template to keep my contact lists updated.

Postcards are a great addition though to a missionary’s toolbox. No one opens an envelope. They see what is inside right away. Granted, this also means you cannot print anything confidential on a postcard. My “story postcards” are like Daily Breads meet the missionary update. They both inform and inspire. It is my way of giving my list of people something that is art; something tangible for them to look at to encourage them in their Christian walk and to remind them to pray. So, yea, for Mail Chimp innovation.

Mail Chimp also does,
• Landing pages (for those without a webpage)
• Facebook Ads
• Social Posts
• CRM Marketing

Before my new calling with WorldVenture, a missionary agency, I stopped using Constant Contact because I could only make one list and no free plan existed. Mail Chimp allowed numerous records with many names (up to 2,000). The one change that happened means I cannot make different lists. Instead, I need to utilize more tags and segmenting.

Tags allow me to send an email from the audience landing page to a specific group of tags only. Segmenting will enable me to set up a list that grows according to how I add people to the list or how people sign up. I utilize segmenting to send emails to different people rather than all at once. Currently, I am redoing my Mail Chimp list to put churches on a once per month update and individuals, too, who do not want weekly updates. One list is for people who frequently open my updates. As others open or not open, this list is continuously updated by Mail Chimp through segmenting.

I’ve considered an upgrade in Mail Chimp for a long time to get better templates. The free plan only offers basic templates. The first price tier gives access to all templates, A/B testing, custom branding, and also support. The next step up in the pricing tier adds automation, retargeting ads, custom templates, and advanced audience insights. Their pricing tiers simplify and generously expand on how many contacts you can have per pricing tier. For instance, I am on the free plan which allows 2,000 names (including, thanks to the GDPR laws, those who have unsubscribed).

The pricing tier I considered allows up to 100,000 names. I’ll never get that many names, but at $14.99 a month, it’s affordable. Their competitor, Constant Contact, includes an image library, marketing calendar, etc. At $20.00 a month, Constant Contact only allows up to 500 names. Mail Chimp is still friendly to non-profits in this way, giving a generous audience count. Are the changes coming to Mail Chimp concerning?

My anxiety has diminished somewhat. For my colleagues, I still think Mail Chimp (paid or free) is the best, user-friendly product for what we do.

Pipeline: A Review

At times, Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization felt like a morning devotional rich in Scripture. Other moments, the book became a how-to manual on how to engage your church in the Great Commission, ending in pages of written essays from representatives of different missionary agencies. If you are indecisive where to sign up, this book is quite helpful.

Of course, I knew where I wanted to sign up.

It wasn’t because a church mentored me into missions. God called me to WorldVenture to serve in an area very few recognized as a mission field—social media. It’s important to invite me to a committee to answer questions as most people get it wrong when they try to present what I do. Some think I mentor other missionaries. Others think I play online. Why should I support someone to play on social media, right?

Marketers understand. They’ve used social media for years to manipulate us to buy cereals we shouldn’t eat, cars we can’t afford, and books we end up not reading again. An unknown number of books exist online on how to use story, algorithms, and bots to get our product or services in front of people using social media. Churches also use these tools to market their church. Even your favorite speakers have a social media communicator on staff which is how you find their publications online.  

In Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization, they suggested the church mentor a future generation of missionaries through training, prayer, and coaching. What they left out was social media. We can use all the same tools as a marketer to get God’s story of missions into our church, through meaningful and authentic interaction, videos that come alive (like Movingworks.org), and help foster emotional involvement. Social Media allows missionaries to talk to their partners, to the people they serve in their areas, and to church congregations. For the first time, we don’t have to wait for a missionary to mail a letter. Social media can be used to coach others and build relationships through online connections.

Some notable quotes from the book include,

  • “The call to minister cross-culturally is a call to suffer for the sake of a message and the glory of Jesus’ name.” (Pg. 11)
  • “Was I going to allow God to interrupt my life with his purpose and push mine aside? Or was I going to cling to the life I had always wanted?” (Pg. 13)
  • “The warning here is that the institutional church, just like the humans who inhabit it, will always take the path of least resistance unless its leaders fully surrender to the hard work of obedience to the call of God and the Great Commission.” (Pg. 62)

After spending almost 11-years as a church secretary, I knew we needed to tell a better story of what God is doing in the world so the congregation not only gets emotionally involved, but is on fire in their own communities to share the Gospel (on and offline) with the unchurched, the unloved, and the unreached even at great sacrifice and much discomfort. Pipeline gives a thorough understanding of missionary mobilization from the perspectives of missionaries, churches, and mission organizations.

And even better, the work God has called me into involves mobilization. Social media touches nearly every ministry in WorldVenture. My work will be multi-faceted because we use social media to make disciples.

The Frankenstein Chronicles: Who Wrote This!?

*Warning: Spoilers.Image by Etienne Marais from Pixabay *

Deep themes in The Frankenstein Chronicles surprised me. We arrived home from a weekend getaway and I flipped on Netflix. Nothing appealed to me, and though I am not a Frankenstein or Dracula fan, this show attracted me. By episode six, I knew I could binge watch all two seasons. Even my husband said, “Do not continue watching without me.” Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he added, “And no cheating.”

I will never live down Blacklist.

Such an intense show caused me angst. What if they disappoint me again and create a soap opera rather than a well-written show with characters that grow and story lines that keep me returning? What I discovered on a Google search caused me to lose interest in the show. A favorite character was leaving Blacklist to start his own series. Why should I invest my emotions in the Blacklist? But I digress.

The Frankenstein Chronicles is about John Marlott, an inspector, who is tasked by Sir Robert Peel to find out why children are going missing down at the river and why a body of several different children was stitched together, listing in the marshy shores of the River Thames. Historical characters such as Frankenstein’s original author, Mary Shelley and William Blake appear, with Mary Shelley being a key figure; apparently, Charles Dickens, too, as the reporter tucked away in the crowd, busy writing shorthand and chronicling the intertwining storylines of power, greed, and insanity. Why aren’t more Christian movies carrying themes like this?

Most times, Christian movies leave me empty, and I wish more Christian movies carried the questions and agony The Frankenstein Chronicles causes you to ponder. But this series makes me wonder…who are the writers? A brief Google search brought none of the satisfaction I sought. This is probably good though. The story remains undistracted by any agenda and follows John Marlott’s sense of justice. Even though the Christian theology is off, Marlott’s justice, love, and edgy behavior are countered by his partner’s idealistic, blundering and Christian heart. Both are Christian, but one is more emotional.

The scene between Flora, a girl rescued from a human trafficking situation, and Joseph Nightingale, Marlott’s partner, really embraces the agony of the pro-life and pro-choice struggle. Flora is pregnant and never revealed this to her captors or Marlott. Flora wants an abortion. Nightingale not only encourages her to view it as life but also offers a solution (much like many of our pro-life people with our pregnancy crisis centers). He would take her in and claim the child as his to protect her from shame. We discovered as we sunk deeper into each episode that the babies being aborted were used for their parts. Other children that were homeless on the river disappeared to become part of the Frankenstein experiment. Flora does get an abortion by the evil Hervey under the reasoning it would be a miserable life for both with Hervey’s underlying evil motivation, negating Nightingale’s offer of shelter.

By episode 7, I am wrapped up in Marlott’s struggle because in episode 7, Marlott has become Frankenstein. He no longer suffers Syphilis. He is alive with parts of his body belonging to others who were murdered, including aborted babies. The anguish he feels as a Christian fills the room. You understand his desire for suicide. He is not John Marlott anymore. He believed that cutting into his body meant he was separated from God forever (also due to not seeing his deceased wife and child in his dreams or afterlife after his “resurrection”). His priest friend urges him to turn back to God.

All I could think about was: Where is revenge justified in this? Does it all boil down to motive? Hervey appears to be killing priests. Hervey has powerful friends. People believe that Marlott is dead. People in power refuse to give value to the people in prison, living in poverty, and allow for abhorrent experiments to continue. John Marlott has the potential to be a hero.

Que episode 8. That’s where I am right now. Marlott said God has abandoned him. I felt his agony. I felt the darkness that threatened to make who he was disappear forever. He shouldn’t be alive, but he is alive because others unwillingly gave their lives for science and intellectualism to bloom. The episodes ask so many ethical and spiritual questions.

If only Marlott knew the power of the printing press and how reading Jesus’ Words might have given him the hope, forgiveness, and new life he wanted. Even as I think of this tonight, words from tonight’s online Bible Study float to my mind. Gaye Austin quoted Dr. Harris from Dallas Theological Seminary, “To bear fruit, you must stay attached to the vine.”

When was the last time you read the Bible?

8 Ways to Live Better Online

From Gloom to Gratitude: 8 Skills to Cultivate Joy by Allison Aubrey inspired this post. Read it and see how you can use what she wrote. Meanwhile, their eight skills inspired me. Here are my online versions of them.

Facebook’s memories remind us of the good (and bad) of past postings. During the day, Facebook may pop up on my newsfeed to show me an old post and ask if I want to re-post it. It forces us to focus on ourselves, what we’ve posted, our thoughts and emotions. Like seeing a commercial over and over again, it drills the thoughts we’ve posted into our heart, sometimes staining it. The more we focus on it the more we become like it, act like it, feel like it, and even relive bad memories.

In Georgia, I focused a small portion of my workshop on self-focusing on the Kingdom–using social media to keep you accountable to your personal goals, spiritual growth, and at the same time, living out the Great Commission. Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University created an eight-technique approach as discussed in this article, but I was inspired to change it towards a self-focus on Kingdom so we don’t become what we post:

  1. Use your smartphone to snap a picture of one positive thing that happened during the day. Post it on Facebook or Instagram with a lead in that uses Scripture and words from the heart. Why was that event so positive to you? Event is loosely used. My friend posted a picture of the eggs she plopped into a bowl. They formed a smiling face. It helped her give thanks to God.
  2. Be grateful. Chris Copeland (WorldVenture) did a 20-minute Facebook live devotional on the new official WorldVenture Facebook Group. In this post, he mentioned a gratitude journal. A friend of mine uses her photography skills to post pictures online of things that make her feel grateful. Start a jar and write down on sticky notes all the little things you are grateful for and drop them in the jar. Review them at the end of the year.
  3. How did you use your spiritual gifts today? How did you help someone else focus on their strengths? In a non-bragging way, share your story online with a selfie or a picture that makes you happy. Inspire generosity. Help another human discover God-given gifts and abilities.
  4. Use social media to remain accountable to your goals. Have a trusted friend be on the watch for it to encourage you to stick to your goals.
  5. On Social Media, we like to complain. How can we reframe our complaint? While the article uses being stuck in traffic as an example, I would add to use being stuck in traffic to pray (with eyes open, of course!). Share on social media how you reframed a complaint that darkened your heart.
  6. Intentionally go to your friend’s profiles. Find a status and comment on it meaningfully. Start a conversation. Give a compliment. (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If a friend checks into a restaurant, text her to see if she wants to meet.
  7. Focus your mind on Scripture when tensions rise. Take a walk, go for a run, or hike and take the time to notice what God is doing in the world. Taking a break from Social Media is good.
  8. Think of others online first. Delete posts if need be should it cause others to look bad or comments hijack your purpose for posting. Comments can take things on a different thread than what you intended. Always honor others online with your words. Your words are actions.

The online life is a visual story and less literal. As you practice a more positive experience online, perhaps the memories from Facebook will brighten your day, encourage you to keep going or show you where you need to improve. It will improve your mood.

Would you suggest any others?