Online ministry has many advantages. As I mentioned last month, in today’s world, the excuse that “seekers are too far away to reach” does not apply. On the other hand, there are disadvantages. One that is hard to quantify is that we almost never actually meet one of our disciples in person. For me, that changed two weeks ago when I picked up Emmy Nyangasi at the DFW airport.
Cindy, Luke and I excitedly discussed what God has done in the nine years since we first encountered one another online over dinner with her. She was in the US for the first time to speak at our Founder’s Forum conference in Phoenix, AZ. Other speakers included Lt. Col. Oliver North and MOPS International President Emerita and Discover the Word co-host Elisa Morgan.
Here’s a little of Emmy’s background, in case you haven’t seen it in other letters. Feeling rejected and betrayed by members of her family, Emmy had left her home country of Tanzania to pursue work abroad. At first she used the opportunity to drop all pretense of cultural Christianity. But when she found herself isolated in a foreign culture, she started longing for a relationship with God. She found one of Global Media Outreach's gospel sites while looking for a local church, and after giving us contact information with her “I have not prayed to receive Christ” selection, she was also signed up for GMO’s weekly prayer letter. A regular part of that letter was an invitation to an online chat group I hosted. In this group, Emmy found Christ. She found loving fellowship with other believers. Her personal questions were answered. She began to open up with the roadblocks behind the roadblocks to her relationship with God. After about six months, she was ready. Emmy stepped out in faith without ever looking back and joyfully received Jesus as her personal Savior.
We helped her find a local church, but she continued to participate in the online group as well, because she had found real community there. We shared prayer requests and over the years, we saw God perform the miracle of building a community for Emmy and others who really needed it, even though we were separated from one another by thousands of miles. In 2012, I invited Emmy to become an Online Missionary herself.
The next year, after watching a GMO video of a former Tanzanian Muslim Online Missionary Diana Stewart brought to Christ as he was about to take his life, I wrote her about him. The language barrier was one of the main challenges for both of them. Despite that, Joss was insatiable for God’s Word. After working with him for a year, Diana agreed to give Joss as a contact to Emmy for his benefit, since they both spoke Swahili. Emmy returned to Tanzania herself shortly afterward, making discipling him locally, and working together to reach others possible.
GMO created some videos of Emmy and Joss as they did evangelistic outreach together in villages off the beaten path. In Emmy’s words, the people are “desperate for the Word of God” and many have never heard of Jesus. Her testimony at the conference concluded the final “pillar” of the presentation of our 3-part strategy:
- We share the gospel online, with advertising and search-engine ranking driving seekers to experience the Good News.
- We grow contacts in their faith, with our Online Missionaries verifying their decisions & training them to follow Jesus.
- We connect them to local Christian movements so that they are a visible, contributing part of the Body of Christ
Emmy’s story exemplifies what God has called us to do and is, as 2 Timothy 4:5 puts it, “full proof,” or “fulfillment” of our ministry. When she received a standing ovation, the emcee called for a special recognition of Danny and Kathie Skaggs, saying that among the guests were two people who have faithfully supported the GMO staff member who brought Emmy to Christ and discipled her, and that Emmy wouldn’t be there without them. If I might be so bold, I will extend that recognition to you. Thank you so much for your part in helping us reach Emmy and Joss! Because of your faithfulness and theirs, there are local Christian movements in Tanzania! It takes faith to believe in things you don’t see for a long time. But “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)
Love, in Christ,
One Day Closer!