Publication date: 11/07/21

Bumpy PATH toward great opportunity

We shared 0ur founder’s call to prayer for Christians in Afghanistan in our last letter. A recent message shared from one of our volunteer leaders is an important reminder of why we need to get up to speed on our new PATH system as soon as possible.

“Just received today from an underground leader in Afghanistan,” she wrote: “There is pain and joy right now. God hasn’t left. There is no need to fear what the Taliban are doing. Yes, bad things may happen to us, but God will do something and glorify His name. If something bad happens to me, I will remember God and how He works miracles. In the Bible, He miraculously hid people in danger, and other times He allowed them to be beaten and killed. I trust God and I am meeting many believers that have been very afraid. It is a very special time, I still cry every day and struggle to sleep, but I have so much joy. The light of God is so visible, and it is piercing Islam.

What a reminder that the bumpy “PATH” we’ve walked for the past two months since our new system’s release is nothing compared to what many of our Contacts deal with on a day-to-day basis! We have a strategic outreach to the world at a critical time. Please pray with us that the things that slow us down will be minimized. We don’t want to lose volunteers. Instead, we want to be even more effective in these days when so many are questioning their long-held assumptions.

PATH has numerous improvements over our old system:

PATH InterfaceThe format of the conversation window allows us to scroll through the entire history, (just as in Facebook Messenger or a smartphone’s texting app). The previous system treated messages as individual, email-style. So Online Missionaries had to find "History" and open each message up individually.

PATH also delivers improvements in messaging channels, adding access to WhatsApp and Telegram platforms. Facebook may be the dominant Social Media platform worldwide, but when it comes to direct messaging over data (called OTT for “over-the-top”), the #1 solution is WhatsApp, with a Thumbnailpotential reach of 2 billion. Further down on the list is Telegram, an especially strategic app for Iran, Uzbekistan and Ethiopia, boasting 550 million users worldwide. PATH enables us to reach all three of these, as well as simple text-messaging (SMS), which still has an enormous (4.2 billion users) potential. This bridges smart devices and even the so-called “dumb” phones like the ones we used in the 1990’s.

PATH's colorful user interface capitalizes on some modern mobile app conventions, (such as text message history, gestures to “Swipe,” menus that hide and reappear), which we hope our volunteers have experienced outside our response system. Some of these volunteers have been with us from the beginning: sixteen years in a familiar environment makes shifting to an all-new system that much more daunting. This move has brought additional challenges to almost everyone.swipe demo

Our smaller team of programmers picked up the project from another organization we contracted to lay the foundation for us. Some of what we believed was complete was not finished. Our lead programmer was supposed to have access to the code base at an earlier date, but ended up not being allowed in until their work was complete. The database wasn’t designed as he had specified. As a result of these issues and more, OMs are being hindered in their ability to work with Contacts and the team has been working hard to make up the difference.

Some potentially good outcomes from this:

Some OMs may have fallen into a bit of a rut with respect to their communication to Contacts. Having to re-think things may bring about some creative and more personalized solutions. Because we receive so many contacts, a few may take more contacts per day than they can serve well. Having to slow down may give more opportunity to others. Priorities are very important.

timelineGetting out of my comfort zone sometimes helps me remember top priorities. Sometimes I even find the area in which I feel the most confident is exactly where I'm least likely to lean on God, and the reverse may also be true: “when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10, 3:5)

My main role is discipleship and Cindy’s is serving the Volunteers, but right now, both of us are working between a team of experienced volunteers I recruited to support the transition and GMO’s team of staff programmers who have been working through these challenges since August 23. It has been a long two months with many frustrations for both sides.

Keeping all of this in mind, would you make it a point to pray regularly for our ministry? We want the programmers and the volunteers to feel less stress. Most of all, we want to “excel still more” in the ministry into which God has called us.

Our world is changing rapidly, and we need to be prepared to be a lifeline for new believers and seekers worldwide. No matter how well-equipped we are, we depend upon the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ and work through His Word shared with the world. It is a time of great opportunity for online ministry, and we are so grateful for your partnership with us to make our work possible!

Love, in Christ,

Mike Skinner Cindy Skinner

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