Purchasing technology for your missions work is an investment that has a high probability of paying dividends. Electronic gadgets are not the answer to every problem, but technology can advance your ministry and help a missionary more easily glorify God. Certainly, quality global discipleship work has been done and will continue to be done without out the aide of contraptions. But, used properly, technology can be a huge boon for missions.
Many missionaries find out the hard way that purchasing technology around the globe can be challenging. Certainly, many countries have at least as good a selection as the stores in the U.S. However, in the developing world missionaries frequently find higher prices, lesser quality, and fewer options for technological gadgets. Making an investment in technology can save time and money for your ministry in the long run.
Several schools of thought differ from this perspective. Some people simply feel creating a dependency on technology sets one up for failure. A missionary must never become so reliant on technology that its absence harms the ministry. There is also the Luddite crowd who rebel against technological advances. This group believes paper and pen and hardcopy books will never let us down. For whatever reason, many missionaries make conscious decisions to avoid technology in their ministry, and that is just fine. But, technology, if used correctly and with wisdom can be a blessing to foreign missions.
The smartphone is the Swiss army knife of technology. It has your camera, Bible, library, editing functions, calendar, and more all in one place. Some countries block some popular applications for varying reasons. The affordability of data and telephone plans varies widely around the globe. Much of the rest of the world uses chips that will work on your phone, but it must first be unlocked. Even without a phone or internet signal a smartphone can be very useful. Some phone brands work better in some countries than others. This valuable piece of technology requires lots of research before investing.
Internet telephony (Vonage, etc.), video conferencing (Zoom, etc.), or hybrid platforms (Skype, etc.) are only as good as the internet connection which carries them. Poor internet can make them useless. Most voice and video services can be used via smartphones or computers. Some countries block some of these services. These tools can be incredible and inexpensive ways to keep in touch with family, friends, and supporters. Raising support, videoing into a missions conference, medical consultations, and so much more can be accomplished with these services.
The popular brands (Kindle, Nook, etc.) are getting more book titles every day. Few new books are released these days without an electronic version. Books for theology, school, pleasure, and more are all available. Many foreign language books are available to help you learn language or do your ministry. Most e-books are less expensive than their hardcopy counterparts, and the delivery is quick and free. E-books have made reading around the world much less expensive than it used to be.
There are dozens of biblical research options that range from free to expensive. Most of the popular Bible software packages (Logos, Bibleworks, e-Sword, etc.) have online and offline options if you have limited internet. The concept of having tens of thousands of electronic theology books at your disposal was unheard of just a generation ago on the mission field. New releases are coming in Bible software format quicker each month. These useful tools can be used for Bible studies, sermons, research, or reading. Any ministry which has a biblical component is made easier with these gems.
There are many kinds of data storage devices (jump drives, external hard drives, cloud storage, etc.). For dependability, you may find low-tech is the best option here. With all the pictures, videos, documents, flyers, etc. missionaries produce a safe place to store them all is a good idea. It is surprising how invaluable these device become on the mission field.
Mini projectors, solar lights, rechargeable batteries, voltage regulators, internet TV, plug adapters, laptops, upgraded virus protection, and more, are all items which missionaries may find useful in in a foreign setting. E-gift cards (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) become great birthday and Christmas gifts when you are far away.
No gadget should be considered compulsory. If a missionary is going to invest in any technology for ministry it should be a well-prayed over decision. Before you spend your or your supporter’s money do substantive research. How hard is it to repair or replace broken parts? What is the internet and electricity infrastructure like where you are going? How does the device do outside of climate controlled settings? When you invest in technology ask others who live in your host city what devices they find useful.
Technology, if used properly, can increase a missionary’s efficiency, quality, and communication. If the right capital investment is made a missionary’s time and sanity, two precious commodities on the mission field, can be saved. Don’t become a slave to your technology or make idols of the items you purchase. But, frequently a smart investment in useful technology can be a great way to increase God’s glory on the mission field.