I chatted with my long-time colleague Rick this morning about how communication has changed since we started international development work. We both remembered when letters took weeks to travel home, before e-mail and Skype were options.
My mind went back even further to a mission trip I took in 1990, to Kenya, where deadly protests broke out. We were hours and hours from the violence and only knew of the problems because radio broadcasts informed people to keep calm and stay home. The details reached us several days later when someone from the remote village where we were staying walked for hours to the main highway from Nairobi, where he obtained a newspaper from a passing matatu (bus).
Back then, we expected to be in the dark about some things. Now, we’re confident that everything we need to know is at our fingertips.
Rick reminded us in a presentation today that many of our FH colleagues struggle to communicate with us. There are FH offices that can’t be reached by car. Some of our outlying posts run communications via the cell phone networks, using USB sticks that look like overgrown thumb drives.
Several of our Africa fields must use costly satellite dishes that require special security measures, to prevent theft of the dish. For all the trouble and expense to mount and operate them, they provide speeds analogous to what we remember from dial-up days. In our South Sudan office, where the temperatures can reach 125° F (51° Celsius), the extreme heat can shut down a satellite dish.
All of this reminds me to pray for our field staff in a disciplined way. I pray each morning after opening my email, while still in my jammies and drinking my first cup of coffee. But I’m letting technology – be it the Internet, or TV, or a text message – dictate my prayers. There are so many people, so many needs, that only God knows. The most vulnerable don’t have access to electronic communication, after all. So I must remember to ask God to show me which of my friends, family and colleagues need intercession.
I also need to pray more often for the tech people intensely working behind the scenes every day to keep our systems running. Without them, there would be no stories or photos or videos to post on the Internet. Keep these quiet warriors in your prayers.