The times they are a changing…
Posted: on July 17, 2012
CRMF’s Michael Wakefield, based in PNG, discusses the role of CRMF in a post-missionary era.
In the early 1950’s as missionaries cut trails into remote jungles in PNG and MAF were beginning flying operations across the vast remote countryside, it became obvious that a form of communication was desperately needed. CRMF entered PNG to answer this need, putting the first radio on our network in 1957. Since then HF radio has been the sole communications lifeline for many remotely located Missionaries, Churches, schools and health centres.
Later CRMF became involved in electrical work, short recordings for Christian radio broadcasting, and various other ‘technically related’ support activities that would help spread the gospel in PNG. The 1990’s and beyond saw a global rise in technology, and with that CRMF also introduced a computer department, started selling satellite phones, and developed internet email via HF radio. In more recent years our services to the Church and community have grown to include Satellite internet support and computer networking.
So these have been our services to the Christian community in PNG so far. But what is happening now? Well over the last seven years that I have lived in PNG I have observed the following:
- Technology worldwide continues to change at an increasing rate. But this change is not just restricted to the western world, it is bounding into PNG too. Therefore there is definitely a continuing need for CRMF to interact with technology and help the Church of PNG come to terms with this rapid change.
- Missionary numbers in country and particularly in the remote areas continue to decline. This is not just restricted to other missions but also CRMF’s own ability to keep providing the services we always have. It also means that now the Churches of PNG are mainly run by local people. For us this means two things: often they require help in the area of technology, and also the sources of funding that the churches can access is reduced.
- The introduction of a new mobile phone company in 2006 has had a massive effect on communications, even reaching many remote locations that once relied only on HF radio. Although many still rely on HF radio, I cannot say it is as crucial for all remote people as it previously was.
- Missionary needs have also changed. Whereas before the HF radio was their only contact with the outside world, now most require internet and access it through mobile phone signals or satellite technologies. Whereas before CRMF was their only source of technical supplies and advice, now many source their technical items from overseas.
- With rising western trends and a young population, the old ways of doing mission aren’t as effective as previously. This is especially true in the cities, where new forms of social media (such as facebook) and communication (SMS) influence them heavily.
So what does this mean for CRMF and its future? Firstly without a doubt there is still a need for our traditional ministry of HF radio communications and technical advice, however this service is now more valued by the national Church rather than missionaries. These changes also mean we have to adapt as we continue to evaluate new technologies that may be of benefit to the Church.
With these thoughts in mind, hopefully you can see why we started the Learning Technologies ministry at the end of 2010. This ministry is very much involved in researching current and new technologies and finding what is useful to the church, such as small cheap solar charged audio devices, mobile phone ministry applications, and possible new ways of delivering bible training digitally.
Most of these technologies are not developed by CRMF, they just require someone to re-discover them, understand them, and then tell the Churches how they can use them. We believe this is staying true to CRMF’s calling of “serving the Church and community through radio communication and technical services”, by staying relevant to the needs of the Church today.
Please pray with us as we do our best to help the Church of PNG grow in a time of rapid technological and social change, and pray that the Lord will bring those people we need to continue to give the Church the best tools available.