“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10 WEB)
During deputation we were thrilled to use some high tech tools. A carousel projector for slides, a cassette player for audio, and foam boards for pictures about the ministry were regular parts of sharing the ministry. We were at the cutting edge of missionary presentations . . . at least for the 1980s.
Arriving on the mission field I used our portable typewriter to maintain communications with family, friends, and supporters in the USA. Postal mail was slow but it worked great. Evenings were regularly set aside and I would take over the dining room table. I’d place the typewriter on the table surrounded by paper, envelopes and a list of addresses. Photos were reduced to verbal descriptions as we shared our ministry. Purchasing multiple prints was too expensive.
There is a great feeling of achievement writing a letter by hand and sharing our thoughts and God’s work with others. The handwriting portion didn’t work well for me. My handwriting is awful. Occasionally I write a note to myself which I puzzle over for days to remember what it says. I kept a journal at times and find it difficult to read as I go back through the pages. The typewriter was my salvation, on the human writing a letter level, not the spiritual level.
Typewriters, unfortunately, soon became yesterday’s technology in the USA and even on the mission field. In the early 1980s the personal computer began its invasion of the office and eventually the home. Our first computer was sent as a gift from a supporter in the USA. The Heathkit H- 89 was a monster by today’s standards and a marvel in its day. With 16 Megabytes of memory, 90 kilobyte hard sectored single-sided floppies and a built in monitor it was a self-contained miracle. If there was a hardware problem I could find the individual chip and replace it.
After receiving this modern device I wrote a letter to our friend in thanks. Several months later he sent a letter asking if it was received. I replied again the computer was received and living well on my desk at home. A year later my original letter was received in their home. This was a clear sign from God something was changing our method of communication. On the other hand, it might be a clear sign from the post office that letters do occasionally get lost.
Curiosity about computers took over and I delved into the inner workings of the hardware, software and anywhere I could work on the computer. I wrote inventory software, worked with electronically generated operational manuals (previously a laborious job to keep up to date) and developed an excellent word processor for the Atari computer, written in machine language, which eventually entered our home. In short I soon became the most knowledgeable computer user on Guam. At least, in our staff.
Knowledge can be a dangerous thing. With limited personnel when you become an expert in one area you become the expert for the field. Within a couple of years I was suddenly the person to call for computer problems in the mission and the missionary homes. This time saving device began to eat up the extra time I thought I had.
Learning to use the computer was a great benefit to our family. Prayer letters were more colorful with better spelling. Photos eventually made their way into regular letters. We developed a family website. Email replaced many letters and brought the world, family and friends to my keyboard in seconds instead of weeks.
In the years that followed I became immersed in computer technology. Becoming a System Administrator and software programmer my computer skills expanded beyond our field on Guam to include other Asian offices and the home office in the USA. Special training at IBM headquarters put me in a position to help the mission deploy a new set of computing tools worldwide. (AIX Unix for those interested.)
This time saving device now consumed all my time and ministry within the mission and often at our local church and the homes of friends and acquaintances. One day I received a call from the US Customs office on Guam. They had a computer problem and were looking for an answer. When I asked whether I could see the computer to determine the problem I was informed it was classified. They wanted an answer by some miracle of intuition. I declined their call and have been declining other intuitive requests for assistance ever since.
Computers are a way of life now and I recommend every missionary have a computer with email access. There are aspects of the device which are beneficial to the ministry and aspects which are detrimental. At times its demands control us and other times we control it.
The many trees killed thanks to cheap printers can’t be good for the world. Our own nerves are often put on edge as we try to keep pace with the faster and faster computing power of the machine God allowed us to create. Once we took our time to write a letter, consider our words, and communicate with each other. Now we type quickly, hit the spell check button, and whisk our immediate thoughts around the world.
So many areas of life are like a computer. Given carefully attention they can be helpful and beneficial to our walk with God. Time in reading, music, fellowship and church are great for building our understanding of God’s work as it applies to our lives. Too much time reading, in music, in fellowship and even at church can have the inverse effect. There are extremes and excesses which can move a good activity into a harmful arena of life.
We must be careful, listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and approach the tools and ministries of life with wisdom and careful moderation. As I sit in front of the computer, writing these memories, I too need to “be still” and know that He is God!