The next great Internet adventure: Will you be ready?
Being in and around the Internet opened a wonderful international opportunity for me. Here’s some background: When I started working with OurChurch.Com in April 2003, my main role was assisting with the Help Desk fielding questions from webmasters, many of whom were using our BEACON Web Builder. It was a wonderful job because it meant working with Christians from all over the world. There were challenges, too, especially when a customer was feeling frustrated over an issue that I was trying my best to solve. Sounds typical of most jobs, right?
I found the most fulfillment at work not only when I could help someone with a problem, but also when I could establish a dialog with them and get to know them as people. For example, one of our customers from Ireland would report a technical difficulty, I’d write back, and in the course of our brief discussions we wound up talking about all the exciting things the Lord was doing in our lives. The joy of being a Christian would just spill over into my workday in marvelous and unexpected ways, leaving my spirit uplifted no matter how the rest of my day had gone.
Internet connects two countries.
One day our Irish customer and brother in Christ, Harry Toye of Five Fold Ministry Ireland, told me about an outreach he and his team would be hosting in America. “That’s great,” I told him almost absently. When I learned they were coming to New Hampshire, I immediately dismissed the idea of meeting the team. Airfare from my home in Florida to New England was beyond my budget. I wished him well and put the thought out of my mind.
Up to this point I hadn’t spent more than a few moments on Harry’s website, not because I didn’t care, but because with more than 7,000 OurChurch.Com sites there isn’t time to fully visit each one while responding efficiently to support issues. I didn’t know much about his team.
But God had other plans for me. Probably about a month after my talk with Harry, this strange thought came into my head: “You need to go to New Hampshire to meet the Five Fold Ministry Ireland team.” What? That’s crazy. I set the thought aside. Next day, the thought came again: “You need to go to New Hampshire to meet the Five Fold Ministry Ireland team.” But this is a customer! I don’t need to go to New Hampshire to meet a customer! Yet the thought persisted every day for two weeks until finally I couldn’t stand it any more. I had to tell my husband about it. His response was direct: “Then go!”
With that, I took the time to read the beautiful testimonies on Harry’s website and was absolutely amazed. I read this entire page and was filled with tears by the end of it, now fully convinced that I wanted to meet this team! I took my 22-year-old son Jason with me and we flew to New Hampshire the following Saturday.
Now you’d expect that a ministry from Ireland wouldn’t go to the trouble of traveling all the way across the Atlantic unless there were huge, expectant crowds waiting for them. But this was not the case at all. So sensitive to the Holy Spirit is this dedicated group that when I saw their trademark sign announcing “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” posted on the front of a tiny clapboard church in the Middle-Of-Nowhere, New Hampshire, my heart swelled with love at their simple humility. No evangelist’s name was up in lights, no gigantic photo of a smiling man in an expensive suit, no limousines or fanfare, just Jesus’ name above all. The outreach was beautiful and the decision to travel to New Hampshire changed my life (and my son’s life) forever. Why? Because we experienced Jesus in a fresh new way.
Finding new ways to connect.
I have lots of Christian friends, but there is something extra special about friends who not only share your faith, but who “get it” when you talk about your own unique relationship with God. They are on your wavelength. You click. Plus they keep you accountable and strengthen your faith. That’s how it was with my new Irish friends. I wanted to do more than just send email, but who can afford international calling rates?
The Internet once more became a bridge. Harry told me about Skype, a fantastic Internet phone service that allows you to talk to anyone, practically anywhere in the world, absolutely free. The only requirements are that both parties have an Internet connection, a free Skype account, and earphones. Soon the miles melted away. You can learn more about Skype and stay connected with your friends, too!
OurChurch.Com goes to Ireland.
Since New Hampshire, my friendship with the Five Fold team has flourished. Now I wanted to actually visit them in Ireland and get to know each of them better, and to experience the Wednesday night meetings of which Harry speaks in reverent tones. Two years passed and finally, on May 2 of this year, I boarded a plane bound for Dublin.
I met Harry’s beautiful wife Maureen and reconnected with the team I had met in New Hampshire: Paul the evangelist and his amazing wife Mary, Nick with the gift of music, Mariead with her spirit of quiet helpfulness, and Maire (pronounced “Maura”) who at 83 is one of the wisest women I have ever met. I was also able to meet Nick’s talented sisters Martina and Joan. I was completely welcomed into this circle of dedicated Christians. And although she wasn’t present, I had previously met their faithful prayer warrior, Melissa, who lives in New York.
I witnessed physical healings, deliverance, and commitments to Christ in an Irish town with a name too long to pronounce. I felt radiant heat course through my own body as Jesus healed me of multiple sclerosis and began gradually clearing away my symptoms. As I grow stronger every day I am believing that God’s complete and total healing, which I know to be true in my heart, will soon become outwardly evident to all. I can’t thank Him enough! Even more important, God dealt with the most intimate details of my past along with issues at the core of my heart. I am still processing this amazing experience. Not only that, but this team that is head-over-heals in love with Jesus also knows how to have fun, and we often exploded with laughter.
How to go online when you’re reaaaaaaaaally in the sticks.
I guess you won’t think too highly of my supposed “expertise” any more because I admit that I was unable to get my own laptop connected to the Internet while in Ireland. I suppose I could have gone to an Internet café since my computer didn’t seem to want to accept the Internet connection at Harry and Maureen’s house.
However, I was fascinated by what I saw in Kerry on the west coast of Ireland. Our new friend Dominick, who with his wife Lillian runs a Christian bed and breakfast in Ballinskelligs where we stayed during the outreach, showed us how he connects to the Internet via satellite. The town is very close to the ocean, and to say that it’s a rural location is an understatement. When I walked outside at night and saw the millions of stars that only come into view when the city lights are far, far away, I marveled at how small our world has become through the power of the Internet.
This particular blog post has been less about Christian Web Trends than about the amazing things God can do with the tools we choose to use for His glory. Still, I hope you are encouraged! Your website can be the catalyst by which someone from a distant land discovers a fresh look at the Savior, renewed hope, and lasting friendships.