A missionary project leader who works on the front-lines in Africa credits rapid advances in technology and communication for changing the way the Gospel is shared with unreached people, but fears terrorism is becoming a rising obstacle for Christian missions.
"The biggest changes have come in the area of technology and communication. The world has become so much smaller and far more interconnected because of cell phone technology, computers, and social media," said Lee Sonius, director of sub-Saharan Africa at Reach Beyond, a Colorado Springs-based ministry to the unreached, in an interview with The Christian Post.
"When we first started out as missionaries almost 30 years ago, we were still writing letters back and forth to the U.S. which would have a turn around time of two to three weeks minimum," Sonius added, noting that phone calls from the U.S. to Africa would cost a minimum of $5 per minute, while now there are a number of ways to speak for free on Skype and plenty of other social media platforms.
"These technological changes have also given us far more ways to proclaim the Gospel. You can now live-stream a 'radio station' almost for free and without a license over the Internet. Pod casting is also another way to get short messages across," he continued.
"Hand held chip recorders and playing devices are also a VERY good way to get the Gospel to people. People in Africa who can't read and write and come from a oral culture, can also have access to God's Word as they can listen to the Bible in their own language."
Sonius has been with Reach Beyond for 18 years, living and serving in Ghana, but has also spent a number of years in the Ivory Coast and a host of other countries in the West African region. He has specialized in planting radio stations, working through global initiatives and global partners in efforts to spread the Gospel, but in the last six years the organization has also branched out into more holistic efforts, including healthcare.
Sonius told CP that part of these efforts include sending medical teams to go into rural villages in West Africa where they carry out healthcare outreach, while on the development side, they build water projects, such as helping put wells in villages where people did not have access to clean water.
"I'm really excited about the water projects we are involved in, because we would put in a well in a village that previously did not have access to clean water, and they were getting water from wherever they could get it, such as rain water or just going through a swamp," he said.
"When you put a well in, and actually provide clean drinking water, it completely transforms the life of a village. It cuts down sickness, it cuts down things like cholera, and water-born diseases, and also in some villages it has lowered the death rate."
Sonius also reflected on the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak that spread primarily throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, leading to over 11,000 deaths in total, and affecting many ministries along the way.
The Reach Beyond regional director said that ministry efforts were greatly affected by the outbreak. A medical team was scheduled to go into Sierra Leone in March 2014, the month that the Ebola crisis really began hitting the news, but those plans were forced to change.
He said that after much thinking and praying, they decided to cancel the medical outreach team, but instead got involved in a program called Bucket Brigade.
"We raised money to have a local partner provide buckets to people in neighborhoods that were filled with all kinds of things to help combat Ebola. In the bucket there were things like hand sanitizer, bleach solution, food items, protective gear like gloves, so the bucket was filled with all kinds of small items," he explained.
Sonius noted that thousands of these buckets were handed out, which he said had a huge impact, especially in Sierra Leone, in helping people battle the deadly virus.