Tag Archives: GMI

Building Your Own Infographics - A Review of Two Web Services

Guest Post: Nathaniel McComb, GMI Intern - Summer 2014

For many ministries and organizations, infographics are a growing resource for sharing data and information with the world. Some organizations, though, may not have the budget to hire graphic designers or other specialists to make what they need. Luckily, there are websites available that can help with this problem, two of which I will focus on and review here. The two websites, Piktochart (http://piktochart.com/) and Infogr.am (http://infogr.am/), are both free-to-use sources for creating infographics.

Piktochart, as mentioned, is an easy to use website for producing infographics. The website offers four templates for different styles of presentation, depending on the desired use. These include a standard infographic template, a report template (helpful for condensing necessary information within a specific page limit), a banner template (more akin to a poster, useful for making announcements or advertisements) and a presentation template, which fits the information in a frame style similar to other presentation software (Microsoft Powerpoint, for example).

Once a template is selected, you are brought to the main workspace for creating the infographic. This area is very user-friendly, with multiple sidebar tabs containing many different styles of text, graphics, and other components. There are a full range of tools to use, including editable charts and maps, as well as the ability to add video. The template itself is quite user-friendly as well. The template area is broken up into “blocks” (which are themselves smaller work areas), allowing for easy navigation between multiple areas on the infographic.

This website seems to have a strong focus on creative freedom. The various graphics and icons, as well as multiple options for customizing backgrounds, colors, and fonts, allow a user to be as creative with their infographic as they would like. Piktochart also has various options in regard to downloading your infographics (including JPEG and PNG file types). Downloading your infographic is not the only way of making it available, as there is an option for sharing it through Piktochart’s website.

Piktochart has a subscription payment option for those who would like to get more out of the website. At $29/month (or $290/year), the website allows a third file type for download (PDF), as well as the removal of the Piktochart watermark from user-made infographics.

Now looking at Infogr.am, there are a few key distinctions. For Infogr.am, the overall focus seems to be less on graphics and other visual aspects, primarily allowing these factors to support the data and information.

Regarding templates, this website has 6 main color schemes to create new infographics. The layout of the workspace is one continuous work area (in contrast to Piktochart’s “block”-style), which can be helpful (or cumbersome) depending on the length of the infographic. Infogr.am also allows the use of charts, maps, and videos to be used in creating infographics.

As mentioned, this website does not focus as much attention on creative expression. There are no options for adding or placing shapes or other icons, and the color and font styles are usually limited to the choice of design template. This may not be a disadvantage, though, depending on the type of infographic needed (i.e. if you would like a streamlined, data-focused infographic, Infogr.am may be a good choice).

One very important aspect of Infogr.am that must be mentioned (and, as I saw it, highly inconvenient) is the download option. Without signing up for either of the two payment options, you cannot download your infographic in any format. This does not mean you cannot do anything at all with the infographic, though. You can share your infographic by posting it through the Infogr.am website. Along with the ability to download, the first tier subscription (which costs $18/ month) allows for using real-time data, private sharing, and opens up four more design templates. The second tier subscription (called “White Label”, $50/month) allows all the aspects of the first tier subscription, plus the ability to remove the Infogr.am watermark, remove the default share buttons, and add a custom logo to the infographic.

As I see it, both websites are helpful for creating infographics on your own. Depending on your desired style, length, or level of creative expression, one website may trump the other. Likewise, one or the other may be preferred regarding the method of sharing your infographic (where through sharing it through either website, or downloading it and sharing it through specific channels in that way). Overall, Piktochart and Infogr.am can both be useful tools for many organizations and ministries in sharing data or other information.

Enabled to Attempt

“What God expects us to attempt he also enables us to achieve, and committed Christians have proved it throughout the centuries. So let us take heart in knowing that the grace of giving is also the grace for giving.” Stephen F. Olford

One of the biggest decisions we must make as followers of Christ is what God desires us to attempt. There are so many things we might do with our career and our time, but what is God asking us to do?

This takes a level of Kingdom focus and spiritual discernment that is not common in today’s Christian discipline. We have been so programmed by the world’s definitions of success, that what we attempt usually has more to do with worldly success than Kingdom impact.

But this is the challenge. How do we set aside the world’s criteria for success and attempt great things for God? They may look foolish or insignificant in light of what the world values, but those are the things that God will bless.

As GMI continues to go through our transition as an organization, this is one of our great challenges. We must ask God to help us see what He is empowering us to attempt and then have faith that He will give us the strength to achieve it.

What is God asking you to attempt? Do you believe He will empower you to achieve it?

A Tribute to a Lifelong Learner

People are complex. You can stand up and talk about someone for an hour and the minute you sit down you remember 20 more things about them. That is why I love people. God makes each one of us in this insanely unique way that cannot be replicated but always amazes.

Today (January 14) is the second anniversary of Mike O’Rear’s sudden passing. It is a time to remember Mike and be inspired by the way God made him and prepared him for service. And if each of you reading this post who knew him would stand up and share, you would each teach those in the room about the unique person you experienced and spent time with.

Since taking the role of CEO at GMI, I have gotten to know Mike in a very unique way. I spent time with him before his death, but for the past year and a half I have lived in the footsteps he would have walked. I have talked with the donors he would have visited. I have been on the airplanes he would have boarded. I have prayed through the decisions he would have made. I did not respond as he would have . . . I’m a unique creation as well. But that fact allows me to appreciate him all the more.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about Mike’s life was his commitment to be a lifelong learner. He was always asking questions, researching and probing the issues of the day.

An example of this lifelong learning discipline was in his regular column with Dr. Scott Moreau in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) called “Mission Resources on the Web.” In these articles Mike and Scott scoured the Internet and brought some of the best resources on different subjects to the table for EMQ readers to feast . . . and what a feast they served up!

As I was remembering Mike this week, I decided to pull out a bunch of these EMQ articles and look through them. I was amazed at the detail, breath and depth of engagement that they both brought to the issues. Mike brought that same level of engagement to his work at GMI; which is evidenced by the fact that I still use his notes, contacts and files as important references in my work today.

So to highlight and celebrate Mike’s passion for learning, I decided I would pull out the April issues of EMQ for the years of 2002-2007 and list below the diverse topics that he and Scott tackled. If you get a chance to dig into the digital archives or look back over your old copies of EMQ, don’t miss spending some time with Mike through these articles:

  • April 2002: Missions Fundraising
  • April 2003: Theology of Mission on the Web
  • April 2004: And So the Story Goes . . . Web Resources on Storytelling, Myths and Proverbs
  • April 2005: Oceania On the Web
  • April 2006: Browsing Virtual Libraries and Book Collections
  • April 2007: Missions-related News on the Web

I’m grateful to Mike for his inquisitive mind and willingness to ask the hard questions. I’m also grateful that he made this investment to share what he was learning. So now we must ask what we will learn from this faithful Christian who gave his life to mission.

How are you planning to invest in lifelong learning as you begin this New Year?

Is God’s Agenda BIG for You?

Note: I will be starting to do blogs on each of the infographics we release as part of our Missiographic Service. You can see our currently library at www.missiographics.com and sign up for the free newsletter to be alerted twice a month to the new infographics.

What do you consider big? Your answer to that question says a lot about what you value. Our world says, “Bigger is Better,” so the things we think are big are usually also on the “better” list.

We think China is big . . . it’s impact on our economy and on geopolitical realities is indeed significant. Many of us think that a Hummer or other SUV is big . . . they overpower everything else on the road. Still others think that the skyscrapers in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or New York are big . . . the height and engineering achievement astound us.

So here is my next question: “What does God consider BIG?” Put another way, “What is truly BIG in the Kingdom of God?” With that lens the list looks very different. It would include movements of house churches in persecuted countries, acts of love done without fanfare, a Bible translation that takes 20 years to complete . . . you get the idea.

This issue is what is behind our latest infographic on Indonesia. Most people think of Indonesia as insignificant . . . a bunch of islands in Asia. But when you actually look at the information about God’s work on this grouping of 17,000 islands it is HUGE! These islands make up the largest population of Muslims and also a place where God’s Church is growing quickly. This place is BIG on God’s agenda and we need to be seeing this country through God’s eyes.

Take a minute to look over the infographic and ask yourself how you can better see God’s BIG agenda and leave the world’s agenda behind. Then share this infographic with others. Let’s celebrate God’s BIG work in Indonesia.

Celebrating His Righteousness and Faithfulness

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
Psalm 145:17

Throughout the Christmas Season, I have been referencing this verse from Psalm 145. It jumped out at me in early December because of its simplicity and significance. In my final blog for the year on this Christmas Eve, I thought I would share why I feel this verse is so significant at the celebration of Christ’s birth.

First, the act of God sending his Son to earth to redeem what had been lost is an amazing act of righteousness. On Christmas God is seeking to make the world right - to bring justice. He is bringing His Kingdom forward for the good of all Creation.

Second, God’s continued pursing of his Creation is an incredible act of faithfulness. In all the messiness, darkness and betrayal that God has seen from His Creation, He has not given up on us. Instead He devised a perfect plan to redeem us that brings all honor and glory to God as our Savior and at the same time honors and equips His Creation to be a part of the new Kingdom. What faithfulness!

These two words - righteousness and faithfulness - are powerful lenses from which to view Christmas. What verse has God given you this Christmas to bring the Gift He gave to life?

Reflections on Adoniram Judson’s 200th Anniversary

“I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet, when Christ calls me home, I shall go with gladness.” – Adoniram Judson

This past Saturday passed with many of us spending time with family or doing household errands. Most of us missed the fact that Saturday June 13 was the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s arrival in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

This man was one of the founders of North America’s missions movement and has inspired millions to look beyond their own circumstance and seek ways to share the love of Christ across cultures and great of distances. His optimism in face of great challenges has always been an encouragement to me. Especially the quote,

“The prospects are bright as the promises of God.”

I attended Judson University and so there was a fair bit of prominence given to Judson’s missionary work. I remember watching the film of his life and being struck by the huge challenges he faced.

Now that 200 years have passed since Judson began his missionary service on the field, I think it is worth a question: “How has this great missionary endeavor faired over the past 200 years?”

What is incredible to me as I look at the data and maps showing the growth of Christianity is how many across the whole globe have heard the Good News and responded. See these maps based on Operation World data showing the difference between the status of Christianity in 1900 and in 2025.

Operation World Data showing the status of Christianity in 1900

Operation World data showing projected status of Christianity in 2025

It is appropriate to look at these two maps and be amazed at how God has moved among the peoples of the world. We should stop every time we are faced with this information and praise our Lord for what He is doing as He reclaims His world and brings in His Kingdom.

But what about the challenges that Judson faced? Have they really changed that much? Well, some have decreased significantly. It took him a significant amount of time to get from the US to Burma. Today that is no more than 48 hours at most. Judson suffered significantly from death in his family as a result of the difficult conditions on the mission field. Today that is much less of an issue, even though sickness still can be a great challenge for many in missionary service. Judson had few language learning tools and no Bible resources translated into the languages of the Burmese people. Today there are many ways to learn languages and the number of resources available in a variety of languages is growing all the time.

On the other side, the challenges of reaching Burma are just as real today as they were at that time. This country is just now coming out of years of isolation and Operation World puts its Christian population at only 8.9%. In the larger missions movement, the same challenges of being culturally relevant, incarnationally engaged and partnering with local believers exist today. In Judson’s day the global might of the British empire defined much of how Christianity was viewed. Over the past 50 years it has been North America’s influence that has defined many people’s perceptions.

Today, many of the challenges that Judson faced would be much easier for a Filipino, Chinese or Kenyan missionary to relate to. They are the Judson’s of today. With every wave of people that God sends out into His world, there are initial challenges and then challenges that always stay the same. Just because the logistics get easier doesn’t mean that the task is really any easier from God’s perspective.

Let’s keep Judson’s pioneering spirit and sacrifice in our minds. Even as we thank God that we do not have some of the challenges he faced, let’s remember that our professional missionary enterprise doesn’t solve the greatest challenges of cross-cultural missions!

 

 

Retreating to “activity in unimportant things”

Bonhoeffer was sitting in New York during the summer of 1939 while Germany burned . . . and it was killing him.

There were things of great significance that he knew God wanted him to say and do but because of the situation in Germany he had retreated to Union Seminary in New York. The retreat was well intentioned and in a spirit of protecting those around him, but it was a retreat all the same.

But as Bonhoeffer began his time in New York, he knew he had to return. In his diary he said, “This inactivity, or rather activity in unimportant things, is quite intolerable when one thinks of the brethren and of how precious time is. The whole burden of self-reproach because of a wrong decision comes back again and almost overwhelms one. I was in utter despair.” (Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, pg. 330)

Many of us routinely suffer the “activity in unimportant things” that Bonhoeffer describes. We have retreated from the things God cares about and are fully engaged with small things that we can control and that God has no interest in being a part of.

Sometimes we retreat because we lack the courage for the Kingdom work. Other times it is a retreat after years of work with little fruit. Still other times we retreat for good reasons but not Godly ones. Whatever the reason, retreat always leads to the unimportant.

As you begin this week, ask yourself whether your decisions are leading you forward into God’s Kingdom or whether they are beating a path of retreat for you into a world of your own making. If you are walking towards the Kingdom, your time may be hard but it will be meaningful.

If you have retreated into your world, don’t despair. Recognize the unimportant around you and ask yourself where you turned around. Just like Bonhoeffer got back on that ship and returned to Germany in the face of war, persecution and ultimate death, God will give you the courage to get back on the path towards Kingdom significance.

A Kingdom Life - Remembering Mike O’Rear

“And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!”

Untitled Hymn sung by Chris Rice

Where is real life found? Does it come from positional influence, personal accomplishments or inherent skill? We as Christians know that these things do not bring life. Instead life comes from Jesus. As John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (NIV)

Mike O’Rear knew where to find real life. And on this, the first anniversary of his passing (January 14), I want to highlight this key feature of his legacy. Mike is a Kingdom soul. One of the things that drew me to him was the fact that he strived not to look to the world for affirmation of what he should do in his personal or professional life. Although I know he was far from perfect, I am certain that he was focused on the Kingdom.

That came out in several key things:

  1. His Kingdom orientation was obvious by how he treated others. He did not give preference to the important and in many ways he worked to elevate those who were important in the Kingdom but ignored in this world.
  2. He strived to view the world as God sees it. I saw this in the way he pursued projects that would bring light to things that God cared about around the world.
  3. He was not afraid of the future. He embraced innovation and the ambiguity that it brought with it. While he was an engineer who liked to organize his life, I was always amazed by his ability to approach the next thing with faith and courage.

As I now strive to continue Mike’s legacy and serve the Global Church through the ministry of GMI, his Kingdom focus is a great encouragement to me. My prayer is that I personally and GMI as a community will continue to advance the Kingdom through humble service.

I would love to hear your stories from Mike’s life and any thoughts you have as we remember him on this Monday. Please take a moment to share them here or go to GMI’s facebook page and leave a note of rememberance there.

I took a moment to pull out some quotes from others about Mike. Take a moment to read through these as you remember him today:

  • Mike had a passion to support decision-makers in world missions with appropriate technology.” Dr. Jay Gary
  • “He was one of the early ones who encouraged me to pursue the intersection between technology and missions.” Justing Long
  • “He was a gentlemen and had a servant’s heart.” James Stephens
  • “The global mission enterprise has lost a champion. But Heaven gained a great citizen — and one day we’ll see Mike again… and he’ll have maps drawn of the entire place… and he’ll distribute them on the latest medium when we arrive, whatever that medium is — he’ll be ready.” Doug Lucas
  • Reflections on Mike O’Rear from the GMI Staff.

Decision-making is Fundamental

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” - Genesis 2:16-17

As I have been researching the process of decision-making and the role it has in our Spiritual life, I have come to a simple but profound conclusion. Decision-making is fundamental to our humanity.

That sounds like a very grand statement to make, but think about this with me. What makes us different from the animals and the angels? God gave us a free will and asked us to turn around and surrender that will to Him of our own accord. That means that our ability to make a decision is at the core of what makes us human and is the very thing that God wants us to give back to Him in an act of obedience.

This means that as we strive to understand Spirit-led decision-making, we need to see it as a cornerstone of our offering to our Savior. Every decision in front of us gives us the opportunity to surrender more to Christ as we die to self or to elevate our selves as we push Jesus further away.

On that day in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they made a decision focused on themselves and pushed God away in the process. It seemed like such a small thing, but when it comes to this most fundamental of activities there is no such thing. Each decision we make either leads us closer to Christ or further from Him.

How will you approach the decisions you have to make tomorrow with this in mind?

Celebrating Christmas with Each of You

Last night after our Christmas Eve Service, our family sat around our table and lit the advent candles as we have done most every night in December. As we reflected on Christ’s birth amid the sugar buzz from the cookies, we talked about how millions and millions of people in every corner of the world were celebrating with us this very evening!

It’s an amazing thought. As I celebrate Christmas with my family today, I will actually be remembering our Savior with each of you and millions of others on every continent and in every country. The Good News of Jesus’ birth has spread that far!

That takes our Christmas celebrations to a whole new level. As we more clearly understand that God’s words throughout the Bible are being realized in front of us, the only response is stop all the activity of the holidays and worship Him.

In Isaiah 25:8 God’s Word says, “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” Each Christmas is a step closer to this promise. As we celebrate with those we love today, let us ask God to allow us to be part of bringing in His Kingdom as we get ready to begin a new year.

I pray that each of you will have a Spirit-led, intentional role in God’s Kingdom this year.