Jungles or Japan – If It’s News, It’s ‘Now’

Post a Comment » Written on December 2nd, 2004     
Filed under: News
By Don Meyer

CHICAGO, IL (December 2, 2004)  – He’s hiding in the jungle in fear of his  life. With his laptop computer and a satellite telephone at his side, he  dashes off an email. He thanks people in the United States and elsewhere  for their prayers that he believes are responsible for the safety of  villagers who fled their homes as four bombs struck Gemena in the  Democratic Republic of Congo.

Within the hour, the report is verified and a news story is published in  this online news report of the Evangelical Covenant Church so that  Covenanters know of the urgent need of prayer on behalf of the people of  Congo.

This is a true account from the online Covenant news report of January  1999. There was great unrest in Congo at that time as rebel forces  looted and destroyed everything in their path. The Covenant church at  large needed to know what was happening – and needed to respond quickly.  The marvel of modern communications made that possible.

I have often stated my belief that the Internet is perhaps the most  powerful innovation since the Gutenberg press. It has revolutionized the  way in which we communicate and interact with one another. I was  reminded of that fact in writing the stories over the past two weeks of  the visit by an 11-member Covenant delegation to Congo in commemoration  of the death of medical missionary Dr. Paul Carlson in November 1964.  Within a very brief span of time, Covenanters worldwide were reading  accounts of the delegation’s daily travels and viewing photographs of  the many events, thanks to the marvel of modern Internet/satellite  technology.

It was not always so. In the days when Paul Carlson and his family  served the medical station at Wasolo, it was not uncommon for mail  bearing the news of the day to require anywhere from three to six weeks  to reach individuals working in the dense jungles of Congo. The  challenges of communication were more than an inconvenience, as  reflected in the story of one Covenant missionary, Eileen Thorpe, who  with her husband Dr. Roger Thorpe served as Covenant missionaries at  Karawa in 1984 – Roger as a medical missionary and Eileen as a music  teacher at the Ubangi Academy (UBAC).

“It was in May (1984) that I received a cable urging me to please come  home immediately,” Eileen recalls. “My mother (Vivian Adell) was very  ill and was on life support. The family was telling me that we had to  make important decisions. That very same morning I got a flight to  Bangui, and upon arrival at Bangui, I immediately went to a telephone  and called home. I was told that the funeral had already taken place the  day before.”

Such were the consequences of communications that took so long to  accomplish. It is difficult to appreciate the frustration of those times  in an age of instant messaging, where people can chat via Internet – and  satellite signals can reach even the most remote parts of the world – in  real time.

Covenant Communications has come a long way since the first online news  reports were posted in April 1998. Not only do Covenanters read about  important events quickly, but at times they can join events like the  Annual Meeting worship services through the wonder of live broadcasting  via Internet. How does all this happen?

The accompanying (top) photo is a wonderful illustration of how various  Covenant entities partner to bring the news of the day online to  Covenant homes while it is still news. While the delegation was visiting  various ministries of the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM), Pete Ekstrand  and Keith Gustafson were busy taking photographs and jotting notes to  email to me in Chicago, where I wrote the stories and assembled the  photo pages and captions. Pete is Africa regional coordinator and Keith  is Congo country coordinator for the Department of World Mission and  serve as correspondents for our Covenant News Service.

Keith is seated in a lawn chair in one of the Congo villages, with  laptop computer and satellite telephone, transmitting photos and notes  to Chicago. I have a question or two and fire them back via email, with  the needed information returned just as quickly. They are in the middle  of the dense jungle, but it doesn’t matter. We’re communicating in real  time.

That is the same way in which much of our news report is generated. At  Annual Meetings, different Communications staff members are reporting on  meeting activities, taking photographs and writing and editing stories,  all connected with one another via Internet. Some stories are posted and  being read by Covenanters worldwide minutes after the gavel has recessed  a business session. Computers, satellites. Instant. (In the lower photo,  I am interviewing one of our Covenant development specialists while  traveling in the back of a vehicle on a dirt road in Laos. Stories can  be posted from wherever an Internet signal can be acquired.)

I remember participating in the 50th anniversary celebration of the  Japan Covenant Church in Tokyo with Donn Engebretson, executive vice  president, who preached during the worship service. I had prearranged  use of a small upstairs office in that church and had pretested the  telephone service to make certain I could obtain an Internet connection.  During the service, I wrote much of the news story and took a few  digital photographs. Immediately following the benediction, I retreated  to the small office where I processed the photos, finished the story and  posted the information to the Covenant website. Before Donn had finished  shaking hands in the reception line downstairs, Covenanters worldwide  had access to the story and photos from that service that was just  minutes old.

What does all of this prove? It’s not technology for technology’s sake.  It sends a message to the church at large that it is a new day – we are  powerfully connected in ways never before possible. Day in and day out  pastors and lay people around the Covenant send information and photos  to our Covenant newsdesk so that we can write stories and share what God  is doing through the ministries of our churches, conferences,  institutions, departments and offices in every area. We’re not only  informed, but our ministries are connected, providing opportunity for  people to share the “how to” of ministry with a wider audience.

The online Covenant news report is interested in all kinds of news from  every corner of the Covenant. Contributors need not be polished writers – we will do that work. What we need is information, to know an event is  taking place or a ministry is happening. Together we can develop stories  and photographs that share God’s work with everyone else.

To contribute to the online report, email information to  newsdesk@covchurch.org, attaching photos in JPEG format if possible. Or,  the old-fashioned “snail mail” system works, too, by sending material to  Covenant Communications, Evangelical Covenant Church, 5101 N. Francisco  Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60625. Make certain to include some contact  information in the event we have questions.

To keep current with Covenant happenings in a busy world, we created a  free headline news service called Covenant Newswire that delivers one  email daily to a given email address that contains the headlines and a  few lines of copy for each story published to the online Covenant news  report during the previous 24-hour period. The service is free. To  subscribe, go to the Covenant home page at www.covchurch.org and select  the Newswire link from the “News Services” box at the upper right of the  page.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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