I’ve heard Facebook described as both an evil and a blessing, and for the modern day missionary this couldn’t be more true. I’m not here to argue the social ills of Facebook, or talk about the why’s and why nots of using it, or suggest how to use it “safely”.
I’m thankful for Facebook, and here’s how it’s been a blessing:
Family and Friend Connections are Easier
Facebook is an easy way to share tidbits from our day and family photos with the grandparents and extended family. Made even better by having all the members in a closed “group”, so that we don’t have to make it public to share it with family.
On the mission field, missionaries often feel like they are out of the loop or “out of sight, out of mind”. Facebook gives us a way to keep in touch with friends and supporters in an informal way, stay up to date on their news and share prayer requests and ministry news.
Possibilities for Communication and Support are great
There have been times (even in the past year) when we desperately needed to get in touch with someone in an emergency, and could not, but a friend on Facebook was willing to pass along the message, make a phone call on our behalf, etc. This was an amazing blessing!
Just like the private family group, there are other groups, kind of like forums, that one can join on Facebook. These can be extremely beneficial to missionaries. One of the groups that I am a part of is for Baptist missionary women only, a safe place to share experiences and learn from others who completely understand missionary life. Another is for women bloggers, and another for international home educators. (Let me know if you're interested in any of these!) I have found all to be great fountains of information and encouragement.
However, there are also days when Facebook is not a blessing:
Homesickness and Criticisms are Real
When I am so homesick that I spend more time reading family and friends’ status updates than I should, just multiplying the sickness.
When I post about a mission field experience, or a prayer request (trying to be real) and get criticized for it.
When I see pictures of birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and family get togethers (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to see these! the thing is – it just magnifies the fact that my children’s faces are absent from the picture, and makes me feel like they’re missing out on so much.)
Comparisons and Jealousy Have to be Dealt With
When I compare myself to the Facebook appearances of others, their homes, their meals, their accomplishments, etc. and find myself lacking in comparison.
When I see posts complaining or bragging about restaurants, conveniences and luxury items that we dream of, but will never afford, or may not have access to on our field. Knowing that others get them so easily and take them for granted, just leaves me feeling deprived. (Remind to share sometime about how we do laundry for six during the rainy season.)
So, what am I learning from the blessings and un-blessings (is that a word?) of Facebook?
- Facebook is not a being, it is a tool. And like any tool, can be used for good or evil based on the mind and mood of the master.
- I always need to test my words before speaking, writing them. Do they meet God’s standard? Let your speech be always with grace (grace-filled words), seasoned with salt (enhancing, or enriching the situation), that you may know how to answer everyone (appropriate to the situation). Colossians 4:6
- Complaints about God’s sovereignty in my life and in my day are not wise to share regardless of whether I live “on” or “off” the mission field.
- It is not wise to spend time paging through posts when I homesick, blue or depressed.
- God does not require me to be like anyone else but his Son. Comparison and Jealousy are sinful joy stealers.
- My children may not share all of the experiences and conveniences of those in my home country, but will be privileged to experience so many other things in life. All God does is good.
- And finally, I need to respond lovingly to those who share openly. I know from my own experience that one who appears to be complaining is vulnerable and may just be exposing their need for understanding, love and prayer support. I can minister grace to others through Facebook if I will recognize the need and be willing to be used by God.
When all else fails, this rule still works:
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
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