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GMI Info
A Global Mapping International Newsletter Fall/Winter 1997

Wells or Windows?

Bill Dickson, Vice President, Research & Development

Bill Dickson

Vice President, Research and Development, GMI

There are times I wonder whether I am in the right place in God's kingdom. After all, I am an engineer with a practical bent; wouldn't it be better to be putting feet on the gospel drilling wells for Central Asian refugees rather than squeezing data into Windows in Colorado?

But then I think about some of the ways a relatively small number of technologists, working in a number of agencies, have helped put feet on the gospel in other ways.

For example, when GMI started out fifteen years ago, mission strategy based on unreached peoples was in its infancy. Relatively little information was available about what specific groups might be considered unreached, let alone where they were located or what strategies might be effective in reaching them.

Today, a church wishing to adopt a people, or an agency wishing to reach a new group can find a wealth of data, maps, images, and resources on specific peoples as close as their Internet connection or CD-ROM drive. Through electronic mail discussion groups, they meet others interested in working with the same people in order to form field teams and sending partnerships. Once on the field, teams use various communication technologies to rapidly mobilize prayer and assistance in urgent situations.

So maybe it has made sense for a few technologists to stay back from the front lines for the last few years in order to significantly improve the effectiveness of the rest of the Body.

Does it still make sense today? I believe it does, because the Body needs different kinds of information, delivered in different ways.

As God raises up large numbers of new agencies (often based closer to their areas of ministry, but further from traditional training resources) and calls existing agencies to new ministry strategies and partnerships, ministry information needs to speak not only to the traditional questions of where (Where shall we send our people?) and what (What part of the global task is most strategic?), but also to questions of how (How can we plant contextualized churches? How do we equip leaders without removing them from productive ministry?) and who (Who can we partner with to get the job done more effectively?).

As more groups cooperate in complex, localized ministry settings (particularly in cities), local ministry leaders must be equipped to gather and exchange information locally.

As information exchange in the West becomes increasingly based on the Internet, it becomes vital to continue to provide information in appropriate media (print, CD-ROM, etc.) for those in areas where communications networks are still costly and unreliable.

As ministry leaders become well-connected to information, they must be provided with tools and techniques to find relevant information in a potentially overwhelming flood of data.

I guess this means the wells will have to wait a bit longer. On the other hand, my seven-year-old is getting awfully good on the computer; maybe he'll relieve me soon so I can go get my hands dirty. . .

from the president

Mike O'Rear

Michael G. O'Rear

GMI is largely, but not completely, a research and development organization - we also do production, training and consulting.

Most of the things we do, we've never done before; often no one has. So we "make it up as we go along."

I like to talk about GMI being an ends-centric organization. That is, our central concern is benefitting the people God has called us to serve, not the methods, activities or technologies.

We want to see ministry leaders around the world get access to and have the ability to effectively use the information they need, regardless of what that might mean for us as an organization.

As such, GMI has been working itself out of a job in various arenas, and into new jobs in other arenas.

In contrast to a few years ago, we no longer invest substantial time developing protocols and standards, writing our own software, building networks for information sharing or providing electronic communications technology. Incredible progress has already been made in resourcing these needs.

Consequently, GMI's current emphases focus even more directly on giving people access to useable information. We produce lots of new missions maps, integrate the best information collections from various disciplines for missions, bundle the best commercial software with that data, publish information on CD-ROM and the Web, and train others in mission research and in the effective application of information technology.

Being an ends-centric R&D team means we're always scrambling to face new challenges. And we love it!

the impact of Information Technology

We recently asked a number of Christian leaders how, in their view, information technology has impacted the mission of the church. Here are a few of the responses.

"Here at Mission Aviation Fellowship, information technology has shaped both what we do and how we do it. First, we realized that offering meaningful technology to multiply the effectiveness of the Church must mean going beyond our aviation ministry to include such areas as electronic communication services. Today we actually touch more people through what we do with IT than with our planes. Secondly, IT has allowed us to completly reengineer how we function by increasing our effeciency with less paperwork, less beuracracy and greater worldwide communication contact." Jon Lewis, Director of Research, MAF-US

"Information which had previously been in the hands of specialists is now readily available to anyone with a computer and a modem. This "decentralization" of access to information revolutionizes dialogue, discussion, and debate over missions issues, taking them beyond the confines of academia (or the agency administrative offices) into the homes and churches." A. Scott Moreau, Associate Professor of Missions, Wheaton Graduate School

"As a missions mobilizer in Latin America, I'm always amazed at the incredible impact that maps and graphics have in communicating strategic information. That impact is now being felt from Mexico to Argentina." Ted Limpic, SEPAL, (Brazil); Director of Research, COMIBAM

"The Website for World Evangelical Fellowship allows us to be providing service 24 hours-a-day worldwide. In the same way E-mail gives me an office that is worldwide for gathering or distributing knowledge. It has maximized our resources and network in the last years in ways that before were impossible." Dwight Gibson, North American Director, World Evangelical Fellowship

"Information technology has made the impossible possible for me. Without it there is no way I could reasonably serve as editor of the Evangelical Missions Quarterly from 700 miles away. And as for the future of writing ministries, it has enhanced or opened a world of wonderful possibilities." Gary Corwin, Editor, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"It has dynamically increased the speed and ease of worldwide communication with our staff, partners, and outside agencies. It has given us access to critical information for the ministry regarding people groups, language profiles, geography, etc. It has given us the ability to process, compile and make sense of large amounts of data. And it has made all of the above financially feasible for us." Dave Johnson, Executive Director, HCJB World Radio

"Information technology gives us the tools to communicate vision, mission, strategy and ministry information through the use of maps, electronic communications, databases and the Internet. Through these tools we are able to keep this large ship of Campus Crusade for Christ focused on reaching the world for Christ." Doug Leppard, Director, International Technology Development, Campus Crusade for Christ

"'Merging technology and missions research into strategic planning tools' is the passion of the Global Research office at the International Mission Board, SBC. Due to the advances in technology we can not only do analysis in ways that could not be done just a few years ago, but we are also able to provide decision makers with key information in a useable form that greatly impacts strategy." John Gilbert, Director of Global Research, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention

"Incredibly! Now we can find and share resources, create and enjoy networks with international partners, and even form friendships oceans apart -- all via connections formed on the Internet! Add to that the mapping, researching, and global searching tools, and you've got one powerful, united church working side by side!" Doug Lucas, President, Team Expansion; Founder, Brigada

"Information technology has revolutionized the capacity of Overseas Council to serve our Two-Thirds World partners. E-mail has overcome the difficulties in timely, reliable communication with seminaries and Christian training programs that were more or less isolated by unreliable postal services and hit-or-miss fax capabilities. Since what we do is resource a network of organizational relationships, e-mail has made a critical and positive impact on our work." John C. Bennett, President, Overseas Council-USA

"The past has given birth to the future. In the embryonic collaborative networking environment of our time, the worldwide Church can only act like the true body of Christ as its leaders are linked in heart, mind and spirit through the media of electronic technology." Paul McKaughan, Executive Director, EFMA

"As a pioneer mission, with most of our workers in places with serious communication problems, we are finding that e-mail has revolutionized our ability to make quick decisions and to pass on urgent prayer requests. Our whole pattern of working has changed with a high proportion of our communications by means of e-mail." Patrick Johnstone, WEC International; author of Operation World


Patsy Martin

Patsy Martin,

Administrative Assistant 

This past October we were delighted to welcome Patsy Martin to our staff. With an extensive background of administrative and graphic design experience, Patsy's creative flair and computer abilities enabled her to immediately take on projects such as producing the GMI Info newsletter, updating GMI's Resource Catalog and further developing our Web site.

Before coming to GMI, Patsy was executive secretary for Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, located here in Colorado Springs. Her heartfelt interest in missions and unreached people groups led her to GMI.

She loves the great outdoors and spends a lot of her time hiking with friends and her dog Moses. She enjoys cross-country skiing, photography, making pottery and custom jewelry. She is actively involved in her singles group at New Life Church and participates in a mural cell group that is involved in a two year painting project.

Patsy moved to Colorado in 1977 from Columbia, South Carolina. She has three children, Sean, Shannon and Cassie and a grandson Caleb.


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