Teresa Boshart Yoder, East Coast representative for the MW USA board, reflects on our spring theme, Faith Formation in the Digital Age.
I have to begin my sharing with a very honest confession, I am not technologically savvy. I’m actually surprised my two daughters and son-in-law haven’t requested payment for services rendered for iPhone help, TV remote control training and general “I don’t understand this and what I am supposed to do?” Just last evening when my daughter Nicole brought over a DVD for us to watch, she was frustrated that our DVD player wasn’t Blu-ray. Apparently you can’t play a Blu-ray DVD in a regular old DVD player. Who knew? Certainly not me! I received another lesson on what technology my husband Lonnie and I need to update to “keep up with the times”.
As I have pondered why I need to keep up with the times, what that means and will it benefit me in any way, I have come to some interesting conclusions. I have heard all the warnings about technology, how it is stunting the communication growth of young people and how it will harm families and their fellowship. I also understand that technology can be dangerous for people who struggle with addictive personalities and they may need some help with appropriate use and control. I also know that when the telephone began to be widely used in the last century, warnings about how it would destroy Christian families followed closely behind. To my best knowledge, I don’t believe that happened (maybe I should google it).
Though I may not be great with technology, I do recognize it has some spiritual benefits. First, social media sites allow me to keep up with people I haven’t seen in years. It allows me to rejoice when they are celebrating events and it also lets me know when they are asking for prayers for an especially difficult time. When I was being treated for cancer, Lonnie kept friends and families members informed with e-mail, so I wouldn’t be disturbed by the constantly ringing phone as people cared about how I was doing with my journey. I remember saying how amazing it was that I could feel people’s prayers for me; I knew when I was struggling family and friends thousands of miles away were aware and holding me up in prayer. What a wonderful spiritual moment and blessing.
In our congregation we had a well-loved member who was struggling with health issues and onset dementia. His wife was able to use Caring Bridge (an online personal health journal) to communicate his progress or setbacks very real time and up to the minute. I was able to be in prayer for this member in a meaningful and real way with the journey they were walking. I think about how often I see people reaching out on social media in prayer requests or celebrations. It warms my heart and strengthens my faith to see so many of my friends walking their spiritual journeys.
When our family was serving a year of mission work in another country, we were able to keep up with family and friends through instant messaging (this was over 10 years ago). These messages gave me a connection to strengthen the work of the church our family was walking. Today mission workers can probably live video chat with family and their church families back home. How wonderful to have technology that can strengthen our outreach and support those who are serving in a distant place.
I believe there can be a spiritual aspect to digital use. There are always dangers to something new but it can also be used to further our faith and values. If my daughters Shannon or Nicole are having a bad day, I can text that I am thinking and praying for them. If I am traveling for work, I can video chat with my grandchildren to let them know how much they are cared for, even when Grandma can’t be with them. I regularly include in my prayer time people I know who are asking for special prayers through social media. I am able to serve on the MW USA Board because we hold many of our meetings online so we can be responsible with our funds and not use them for unnecessary travel. I believe God can work in many ways, including multiple media options. May we embrace those technologies that further our faith practices, strengthen support of our brothers and sisters in Christ and help us to reach out in love and care. Blessings come in many ways, sometimes they just happen to be digital.