by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
They are called “gateway” sites because they make available literally hundreds of other sites to which you can transfer by simply putting your mouse pointer on a word, logo, or symbol and clicking on your selection.
Are mission organizations posting themselves on the World Wide Web for people to see? Absolutely! Hundreds of the larger organizations have their own Web sites up and running, and even smaller organizations are coming online as costs shrink and as word processors and graphics programs become more adept at converting what you write or draw into what will show up on a Web page. How do you find such sites? Here we will explain one of the ways by leading you to three Web sites, each of which allows you connect to numerous mission organizations.
They are called “gateway” sites because they make available literally hundreds of other sites to which you can transfer by simply putting your mouse pointer on a word, logo, or symbol and clicking on your selection. For your convenience, you can access the sites discussed in this article (plus a few others) by going to Scott Moreau’s home page (http://www.wheaton.edu/Missions/Moreau) and clicking on “Other Mission Sites.” We encourage you to take your own test run!
First is Brigada (http://www.brigada.org), self-described as “a system of conferences and forums that allow you to network with others who share common interests in sharing God’s love with previously unreached cities and peoples around the world.” As such, it is a network of linked service sites rather than a traditional mission organization. The table of contents offers direct connections to the indices on two Brigada publications (Brigada Today and Advance), an unreached peoples listing and database, a listing of the 46 conferences (electronic “sharing” groups) that connect people with common interests (more on “conferences” in a later article), a listing of links to other mission agencies, and instructions on subscribing to Brigada’s services. The links to mission organizations are offered in two formats: graphics and text. The graphics listing includes logos for each organization (64 in all when we visited the site; this number will continue to grow). While the text format is not as visually stimulating, it is just as functional, you should probably go with that unless you have a high-speed connection (the logos look great, but take much longer to load into your browser and add no functionality to the list).
The second site is called Fingertip (http://www.netaccess.on.ca/~sma). Fingertip offers a variety of services, ranging from mission news to listings of mission agencies (81 sites) to a searchable database of job listings with mission agencies. We searched the database for educational/teaching opportunities in all countries listed and with all agencies in the database. We found 272 listings. Each was listed by country, and simply by clicking on the country we could read the details of the organization, the qualifications necessary, the type of financial support necessary, and a contact name and address (regular and e-mail). The site also includes, among other things, a helpful list of e-mail addresses of organizations, access to Web research resources, links to Web-available newsletters of several organizations, and an electronic bookstore run by Youth With A Mission.
The third site is SIM’s (http://www.sim.org) and includes the most comprehensive list of mission organization links we have found. When we checked it there were 191 such listings organized under four major categories: traditional (88 entries, from Action International Ministries to YUGO Ministries), relief (19 entries, from The ACE Trust to World Vision), research and support (61 entries, from The AD2000 and Beyond Movement to Worldwide Christian Schools), and denominational missions (23 entries, from Assemblies of God World Missions [Australia] to Wesleyan World Missions). In addition to the Web sites, SIM also allows you to send e-mail from within the SIM Web site to each of the organizations.
Surfing through these sites will confirm at least one lesson: A Web page is an entirely new way to organize information. It almost takes on living qualities because of the ability to link to other spots. It allows you to followyour“curiosity chain” as you surf.
For example, in looking at the Lausanne Movement Web page (http://www.lausanne.org), you find a list of Lausanne resources, where you see that a paper is available on the Web about radio in mission. Curious, you click on that link and the paper jumps up on screen. In it you see a reference and a link to the Far East Broadcasting Company. You click on the link and are transported to the FEBC home page, where you notice “Hmong Letters” on the menu. As you browse several of them you can read fascinating stories of demonic expulsion, people coming to Christ, family struggles, and cries for fellowship. The “Articles” link at the top of the letters page brings you to a list of further resources. One of them is titled “300,000 Christians with no evangelist?” Clicking on it, you see that 330,000 Hmong have come to Christ from 1992 to 1996.
In just five to 10 minutes of Web surfing, you have gone from Lausanne to radio missions to FEBC to letters of testimony from a few of the 330,000 Hmong who have come to Christ. You can see why is it easy to spend hours of discovery and why the Web is very different from a typical library!
But is all of this useful? For those looking for a mission organization, Web browsing is a relatively fast and inexpensive way to find basic information (doctrinal statements, finance policy, opportunities for service, countries being served, application process, etc.) from a large number of missions.
More than just the organizations, however, the Web can bring to life the stories of what people in the organization are seeing God do in and through them. The next generation of missionaries, attuned to stories, takes for granted the ability to use the Web for job searches. Mission organizations hoping to recruit from this generation will find an increasing need to be on the Web. Moreover, in Web advertising, the browser allows a type of electronic “window shopping.” In the example above, we were not trying to find information about the Hmong, but our curiosity eventually led us there, step by step. In Web advertising and development, interested people find you; you don’t have to find them!
Simply having a Web site, however, offers no guarantee of contact by prospects or even interest if they do contact you. Browsing through the sites listed by SIM, you’ll quickly discover that more graphics and greater sophistication are the current trend. Though a site may look great once it is loaded, some sites are so graphics-oriented that people will not wait the time it takes to load them.
Like channel surfing with a television, Web surfers tend to change channels quickly if they are not caught quickly by the pages they see. A word of advice: Keep your first page relatively simple and let people use it to access the heavier graphics pages if they choose. You might check out the AD2000 Movement Web page (http://www.ad2000.org) for an example of an entry page that lets you choose to go for the graphics or stick to the text on the first page you encounter.
Another word of advice: Web surfers do not read sequentially (as in reading a book or an article). Rather, they jump from spot to spot like a butterfly going from one flower to another. Rarely will they stop to read a long page of text if that is the first thing they encounter at your site. In a later article we will follow up these suggestions with tips and ideas for developing (or improving) your organization’s Web site.
If your mission organization already has a Web page but is not listed in the three gateway sites discussed above, we suggest you register your address with them (each provides an e-mail address for such registration). A word to the wise, however: Once your site is accessible on the Internet, it is accessible globally—think of it as a billboard on a public highway. You will want to be careful how you present yourself. You never know who will be looking at your site and how they might interpret or use the information (and image) you have presented. This is especially importantfororganizations working in limited-access countries.
You may know of other gateway sites for mission organizations. We would like to know about them, too, especially if they are as extensive as the ones in this article. Please send us the electronic address (jargon: URL) by e-mailing us through our Web pages. We will be happy to update reference links and provide new resources for EMQ readers in future “Missions on the Web” articles.
EMQ, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 84-87. Copyright © 1998 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.