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Teaching IT skills touches people with the Gospel
Teaching English has long been a major point of contact and 'way in' for missionaries in many countries. In Japan, for instance, a majority of Christians first came into contact with the Gospel via English lessons. (It is now possible to teach English online as a form of sensitive outreach.)
Around the world, there is now a big hunger by people who want to learn how to use computers and gain IT and Web skills – a genuine practical felt need. They see it as a major part of their education and a means of employment advancement. There is thus a big doorway open for local churches and mission agencies to teach these skills. It can have dramatic results, as these reports show:
- To reach young people with the good news, a ministry in Thailand set up a
computer center in a large city on the border with Laos that had no
evangelical church. The local people, mostly ethnic Lao Buddhists, would
have been highly resistant to traditional evangelism but were proud that
their city had Internet access through the computer center. Staff developed
a good relationship with the local school attended by 2,000 young people,
and many began putting their faith in Christ. Soon they formed a weekly
fellowship in an upper room above the computer center. Attendance soared,
and the group began looking for new premises.
Source: OM Newsbytes
- Teaching computer skills to the disadvantaged is liberating.
This item about a secular project shows how: “When Rodrigo Baggio first began talking
about starting computer schools in the favelas (shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro, people
told him computers weren’t for the poor but for the middle classes. Fortunately he didn't
take their advice. Young people growing up in the favelas of Rio have two choices – join
the drug traffickers, or face a lifetime of unemployment or poorly-paid manual work.
Baggio, with considerable skills in computing, wanted to give poor youngsters more
opportunities in their lives. With old computers from companies upgrading equipment, he
began to offer three-month courses, enough to make youngsters employable. While learning
the skills, trainees work on subjects such as teenage pregnancy, violence and racism,
designing posters and cards on these subjects. The idea is not just to teach
skills but to encourage community awareness. Trainees have to be literate and pay a
symbolic cost of US$5. Five years late,
the Committee to Democratise Information Technology
CDI has set up 107 schools in 13 Brazilian
states. UNESCO has described Baggio as 'a future leader of humanity'. The CDI estimates it
has taught basic computing skills to 25,000 young Brazilians. Now they receive many requests
from other countries wanting to launch similar projects. Max
Freitas is 15 and a year ago had never used a computer. Now he has a job and goes to school at
night. He comments, ‘The CDI didn't just show me a path, it opened my horizons.’“
Source: slightly-edited version of article from TEARFund (UK’s Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund) development magazine Footsteps Magazine – it was originally published in the Guardian daily newspaper and is copyright to them. Used by permission.
- Harry and Jackie from Australia share a similar story: “We had a similar fabulous
experience with Estonian gypsies. 15 young people did a live-in Course at our Bible College
in Tallinn and our computer teacher gave his life testimony. By the end of the course,
14 had given their hearts to Jesus. When the graduation ceremony took place, some parents
were so moved at the change in their teenagers, they wanted to find out how they could find
the same joy and faith to make it in a hostile society. Another three were saved there. After
some months, the community leaders invited us down to their area – they now have the first-ever
Estonian gypsy church! Isn't God amazing!”
- The same strategy can be used in the West. Willow Creek Church has used computing as an outreach very successfully.
Rich Scott writes:
“What our group does is primarily evangelism. We seek to connect with those who are interested in
computers, both professionals and hobbyists.
We offer quarterly breakfast events where a keynote speaker is brought in on a computer-related topic; we charge $10 prepaid or $15 walk-in registration. A big breakfast is served. The keynote speaker is next. Table discussion follows (depending on the topic), and then four breakout sessions are offered. One session is always with the speaker, the other three tie into the general topic or provide training in computer skills. We use these breakouts to allow us to offer something special for those with advanced, intermediate or basic skills. One thing we do is give out prizes. Often, technology speakers will bring some of their products to give away, like a Palm Pilot, Microsoft software or subscriptions to Christian Computing Magazines. Sometimes we purchase items to give away.
Our objective is to give church members the opportunity to invite friends from work or wherever inside the doors of our church – where they can learn about the fellowship, meet some of our members and realize that they are just ordinary normal people, knowledgeable about technology, that they can feel comfortable associating with. We invite them to church and encourage the church members in our core group meetings to try to get them to take a next step.
Every part of the morning is carefully thought out. Events are scheduled 8:30-11:30 on Saturdays.
The strategy is touching people. A member of our leadership team was first invited to a Computer Connection event, got involved in a small group, decided to follow Jesus, became a participating member of our church and now serves faithfully with us.
The Computer Connections section of our church site makes these offers to the wider community.”
- Middlewich Christian Centre in UK saw the need for youth facilities in the town. Although a small church of only 60 peple, they bought and
refurbished a derelict building costing over the equivalent of $400,000 calling it the
Microchips Centre. It includes a cafe, twelve-PC computer suite with free internet access,
youth lounge with pool table and big screen satellite TV. This community project was set up
in partnership with three local-government councils who contributed towards the cost.
Funding also came froom local businessmen. As a result, there is a significant overflow of
young people into the church’s Friday-night youth meeting ‘Ignite’.
- This remarkable experiment gave
Indian slum kids a computer and watched what happened.
- TechMission encourages
the teaching of IT skills in community and mission situations. Check out their site for details of regular conferences.
- There are many sources of recycled computers
for charities and Christian groups, especially if they are to be used in a
community role. If you cannot find such an organization in your country, establish
polite contacts with local big businesses and institutions, who will often
distribute surplus equipment directly to community groups.
- Related issues: Kidsgames – a very significant community-based international ministry to children which works in many countries including those outside the West.
Tasty Faith – resources for reaching inner city teens
In some countries, public funding is available for groups to purchase computer equipment which is to be used to benefit the community.
related pages within the Mission opportunities menu links
recommended books on reaching outsiders, including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry