By Laura Foushee
I’m somewhat a traditionalist when it comes to meeting new people, meaning I am not naturally inclined to meet new people on the Internet. While it has become the norm for many to make their first connections with another person online, I have rarely adopted this method. So as I read a post while feeding my baby at 6 a.m. one morning, it took me a while to decide whether to respond. On a group page that I follow on Facebook, a woman had written that she had just moved to our city and was looking for other women to hang out with – especially if they also had children and wanted to have a playdate with hers. Her children were the exact ages of mine. I checked and she did not seem to be a bot. After about 30 minutes of consideration, I decided to privately message her. We chatted on and off that morning and decided to get together later that week. We’ve met several times since, getting to know each other and talking about navigating life with young children in a culture different from our own. We were touched when our daughters met for the first time. With no common language between them, the two little blonde girls immediately took hands and explored a festival together.
That group page – dedicated to English speakers in our city – continues to surprise us in the ways we have been able to connect to internationals living in our area. We respectfully asked the page administrators to post about our Advent and Christmas services and were told it was ok to do so. From that point, the group began following our church’s page and has shared our posts on our behalf during the Christmas season. That one click by another to repost expanded our reach from 30 people to 1300 people. During December, several people walked into our church doors for the first time because of the reposts. When a refugee woman and her sons entered our church for our Christmas Eve service, I had to assume it was because she saw the post about it on Facebook. She came back the next day for our Christmas Day service and we hope to get together later this month. Just this past Sunday when I asked a first-time attender how she heard of our church, she said, “oh just a Google search.”
We could share similar stories of meeting people in the “traditional” ways – face-to-face at an event or local park, and I often see this as the preferable way. But this fall, I have been challenged to see my presence go beyond the places I can physically be and to be grateful for the newer ways we can connect with others. Rethinking the idea of presence – the ways in which we make connections, how we use the tools at hand and how we embody Christ to others as we deepen relationships – this is often on the forefront of my mind as field personnel. Whether it starts by saying “hello” to the person in front of us or by typing that first text message to introduce myself, each new connection is a movement of the Holy Spirit as we seek to meet and support our neighbors.
Laura and her husband Carson are field personnel in Kanazawa, Japan. They serve in a partnership with the Japan Baptist Convention. To learn more about their work, click here.