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Online Skype service opens doors for international audio, video callscomment (0)

September 24, 2009

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

When Brian Harris thinks about missions, he thinks about a young friend serving as a Baptist representative in Asia. So when it came time to promote the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, he wanted everyone else to think of her, too.

“I thought, ‘What could be better than to actually see someone that people are familiar with out in the missions field?’” said Harris, communications director at Taylor Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, in Montgomery Baptist Association.

Since it was not possible for the Baptist representative to come home to speak, Harris did the next best thing. He used Skype (rhymes with ripe), an online service that allows users to make video and voice calls.

“When we brought her up on screen, people gasped and cheered. You could hear people throughout the congregation crying tears of happiness because they were getting to see and hear from her,” Harris said.

Skype has been around since 2003, and for many churches, it has become an economical way to help church members make a personal connection to global missions work.

Eric King, a former minister of missions now serving with the International Mission Board as a missional church strategist, has used Skype for several years to keep long-term partnerships with Baptist workers “relational and personal.” As a minister of missions, King used Skype during worship services, as well as during small group times.

King has heard of churches that schedule a time between Sunday School and worship for members to stop by and chat in an informal setting.

He also used Skype to allow short-term missions teams a chance to speak to the congregation from the field.

“This was great once again to reinforce prayer support but also to mobilize more involvement,” King said.

All a church needs to use Skype is Internet access and for large groups, a way to project an image onto a screen, and it can have a live two-way conversation with people anywhere in the world.

King believes that these conversations benefit not only church members at home but also the Baptist representatives in the field. 

“Many times, [Baptist representatives] feel isolated so the personal connection gives encouragement and allows for ‘real time’ prayer for the [representative],” he said.

Many Baptist representatives also use Skype as an inexpensive way to keep in touch with family and friends.

Max Youngblood, a member of Loveless Park Baptist Church, Bessemer, in Bessemer Baptist Association, began using Skype when friends Gene and Pat Ward went to Warsaw, Poland, last year to serve as missions volunteers. Gene Ward suggested Youngblood get Skype so they could communicate. Youngblood bought an inexpensive webcam and downloaded the software, and the two friends were ready to talk.

“It definitely made us feel more a part of what was happening in that country and made our praying more urgent,” Youngblood said.

When travel is dangerous or expensive, Skype offers an alternative way to communicate, as Anis Shorrosh, a Baptist evangelist from Alabama, recently learned.

In September, Shorrosh addressed an overflow crowd of more than 300 Christian pastors, evangelists and ministry leaders in Pakistan using Skype.

“Those who were gathered were accustomed to television presentations they could listen to, but being able to hear and see me was very exciting for them,” he said.

Though Shorrosh has been to Pakistan seven times, Skype allowed him to work quickly to put together a conference for the Pakistani Christians, who contacted him only the month before.

The event generated a lot of interest throughout Pakistan, he said. And Shorrosh is already working with Pakistani Christians to plan another event for December, which organizers expect could draw more than 1,000 people.

Though the use of Skype is not the norm in Alabama Baptist churches yet, King believes that as more people learn about it, churches will find new and creative ways to use the service in missions education and other ministry efforts.

“The greatest promise of this technology truly is putting a face with a name, which greatly increases awareness, support, involvement and giving,” he said.

For more information, visit skype.com.

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