Does your church do mission work in Africa?
How easy is it for you to communicate with your partners across the pond when planning a trip or sustaining relationships while not abroad?
Is simple communication via email even feasible for you?
If not, it may be about to!
Google has announced a new way to email people in Africa. The new innovation in technology? None other than sms text messages. That’s right – the tech giant is looking back to 1993 to solve the world’s problems. As it turns out, though, this might be the answer to a lot of problems.
For most of us, email is an outdated technology reaching back to the 1990’s. Yet, it continues to be a dominant form of communication in today’s connected world. Despite rapidly changing technologies, email has proved its endurance. And it’s no wonder why – it’s cheap, fast, and widely available.
That is, of course, until you look at its adoption in parts of Africa. Email’s proliferation is only as good as the hardware to view it on. Email itself may be cheap – but computers and electricity often aren’t. But cheap cell phones are a different story. For $20, you can still get your hands on a so-called “dumb phone” – the kind that can make calls and send text messages … and little else. They don’t take much electricity to keep a charge, which makes them ideal for parts of Africa where Google is investing its dollars for this project.
Google, of course, is looking to bring email to Africa for the purpose of capturing advertising dollars through Gmail and (eventually) making a profit. But the benefit comes to people everywhere that have a hand in partnering with our long-distance neighbors.
You & Your Church
There’s a couple ways your church can get started. If you have an active mission partnership in Kenya, Ghana or Nigeria where the service is starting, then you probably have a way of contacting at least one person there. First check with your partners to see if broader email access is something that would be helpful to them. There’s no sense in pushing technology and culture on a people that aren’t interested or wouldn’t benefit from it (there’s been too much of that already!). But if they are interested, work together to get cheap phones into the hands of the people. Setup instructions are fairly simple (see the official article from Google’s team on how to get started).
Perhaps your next trip over there could involve a training session on how to use email and what it could do for them. Then be sure to keep in touch more than you’ve done in the past – send monthly or even weekly emails to your partners. Explore ways to be in solidarity. And above all, remember that with better communication we can learn from each other.Ministry is not about pushing ideals or wisdom onto another – it’s about learning, growing and building fellowship in Christ’s name.