Do you have an email address? If you are reading this probably so. Ok, so having an email address is no bigger now, right? Since I started blogging three years ago I have started to receive unexpected and unusual E-mail requests. At first, I was flattered with requests to come preach in Africa, India and other exotic like locations. As I later found out, all these wonderful sincere e-mail requests were ministries asking me to come on my own dime and expense. You know the perception. If you are an American then you are rich. One such minister and I still write back and forth and he has even called me a few times. It’s a genuine friendship now, but I just have not made it to Kenya yet as other pressing expenses and priorities have taken place, plus I have not saved up that many dimes yet!
Well this past spring I received yet another email. This time it was from a land far far away, but it was from people that were only asking for a little local help. They just needed a place to sleep for a few nights when they made their way to Orlando for an International convention that was held this past June. The request seemed simple enough.
It seemed harmless and easy enough at first to reply, “Sure what can I do to help you 53 folks with? Give me a few more details and I will see what I can do.” Well as time progressed, I found myself caring, transporting and arranging more than I ever dreamed of by the end of a full 15 days of hosting people from Papua New Guinea. Of those 15 days 7 of them were days entirely spent in Deland with 29 of the 53 travelers on our grounds. I was spent as they say when it was all over. It was a good spent and I have no regrets, but it was some deal for sure.
Matter of fact since I’ve done it once, I feel I could do it again if needed, but I am certainly not searching the internet looking for people to host again by any means. I could never had done it without the gracious help of my staff, people and those precious ones in the community of Deland, and of course the wonderful grace of God. So many helped in big and small ways. After a couple of days my lovely wife said, “I think ill leave early on that trip to Ohio with the kids as planned, so you can open the house up to the others who are still sleeping on the floor.”. Within hours I had 10 people sleeping in my home. What a time we had! I truly lived life to the fullest with our congregation that week. Our local church will never forgot those people and those special days. Just check out one of those service here! We went to the coast, watched the Deland Suns play ball and so much more. I even took a group of 12 downtown for a cup of coffee on the BLVD one afternoon and of course wal-mart was the destination of preference many times over. Heaven came down when they sang at church and the power of God fell when they prayed.
Ten years ago I could never had imagined so much life and excitement could flow out of simply answering an email over the Internet. On the day they left to the airport I wept as I saw my new friends fly 24 plus hours back around the world to their homes in Papua New Guinea.
In the 47th year of our local churches history we went from yellow pages to web pages for the first time. We now have had visitors from a foreign county as well as from the local area because of web pages. We even have friends and relatives in our congregation who have viewed worship services live over the internet from Key West to Maine. Now that is something this local church probably could never had imagined just a few short months ago. Truly the addition from yellow pages to web pages has expanded our world influence.
Our ministry model of outreach and influence has changed over the last 47 years, but probably not as drastically as what the web pages has brought to this local Nazarene church in 2009. Even to this day there still remain approximately 45% of all churches in North America that do not have web page. Given the choice today I would choice a web page over a yellow page for sure.
We are seeing the results first hand. The emails come in, the phone rings and I get comments from time to time how they found our church online. Who would have ever imagined people from down the street to people around the world finding a local church in the new global phone book called the internet.
I sure am enjoying the transition of how God is using the new phone book to build His kingdom among us in Deland.