Judy sits alone in her apartment contemplating a life and death decision. She fears judgment and rejection from those who might discover her crisis pregnancy. Despair has settled upon her soul. She hears a voice in her head telling her that abortion is her only "unselfish" option. Yet there is another voice urging her to search for alternatives. The word "search" reminds her of the Internet. She runs to her computer and logs on.
Using a search engine Judy types in the word "abortion," and a plethora of listings appear. The first listing is for a directory of abortion clinics, but that's not what she's looking for. What she is searching for is someone to speak to personally about abortion. Scrolling down, she finds a listing that seems friendly.
One double-click takes her to a site that features photos of faces of women and lists their stories. One face appeals to her. As she reads the woman's testimony, she discovers the friendly face has had an abortion and wants to help those who are considering this choice. She clicks on the face, and an e-mail box pops open. Judy types a brief message that outlines her crisis and pleads for help. She hits the send button and feels a small amount of relief. For the rest of the evening she awaits a response.
The face doesn't disappoint her and instantly becomes a friend. Judy whispers a silent prayer thanking God for this lifeline. The opening words of the reply fill Judy with love. Her correspondent then tells her own story and relates a horrifying personal perspective on abortion. Then Judy's new friend tells her about pregnancy care centers and offers to help her find a confidential center in her area that can support her. For the first time in weeks, Judy no longer feels alone.
She contacts her local pregnancy care center for support because her new friend told her that she won't be judged. When Judy's baby is born, the e-mail advocate receives an incredible message and baby picture from Judy thanking her for being there in her time of need. Judy may never meet her e-mail friend, but God has used this woman to reach out to Judy when no one else could.
Beware of the
amateur web site
offers to create
your site free
The question you must consider is: Will "Judy" be able to find you? This story is played out countless times each day throughout the world. Each time I receive pleas like Judy's, I search the various directories for pregnancy care centers with web site information. I have discovered that pregnancy care centers are under-represented on the Web. The "Judys" in your area might be desperately seeking for help on the Web, but will they find a web site and e-mail contacts for your center?
Satellite Offices in Cyberspace
For better or worse, today's youth spend much of their time on the Internet using instant messaging systems that allow them to converse with many people at once. They write things that they would never dare say out loud. The perceived confidentiality of this medium can make individuals bolder and more open in sharing about their fears, hopes, and dreams.
The Internet is their "Yellow Pages" directory for any and all information. If you are not in their "directory," they won't know to turn to you for help. Instead they will find the abortion clinic directory and that industry's message that abortion is the best option. By promoting your web site during public presentations, you communicate that you are available to teens in their own "community."
Some women aren't looking for person-to-person, physical support. Educated women are often too embarrassed to visit a center but will scour a web site to obtain more information on abortion. They may not need your tangible services, but your electronic lifeline will give them sufficient information to make a decision for life. You may never know until you get to Heaven how many lives your site has touched.
Imagine your web site as a satellite office for your center. Beware of the amateur web site developer who offers to create your site free of charge. Would you let a novice engineer build your center's building structure? A web site is much like a center, only it exists in a different space. The professional appearance and useful information available on your site will leave a lasting impression on those who visit. Use a web site developer who understands search engine technology and graphic design to ensure that you reach hearts in the best manner possible. Ramah provides low-cost web site design services that can have your site up and running in a few days with great information. To see our sample sites, visit our web site at: www.ramahinternational.org.
Staffing the Satellite Site
While you may not realize this, an e-mail ministry is easy to begin. Most volunteers have home computers and would enjoy corresponding with e-mail clients because they can do it in their homes at their own pace. Some may not be able to physically volunteer at your center, so the Internet provides them another way to serve. This is volunteer service with the greatest flexibility. And it doesn't matter if they wear pajamas or pro-life t-shirts because no one sees them as they do their work!
Centers can exercise control over the information being related through the volunteers. Return messages don't need to be unique. Standard messages can be personalized with a few sentences to address various situations. For example, I have prepared replies for both the abortion-minded and post-abortion clients. By cutting and pasting the applicable text, I know that my message is complete. I address the writer's particular circumstance in the opening and closing paragraphs. Should the person write again, I keep my response personal with the ultimate goal of transitioning them to a pregnancy care center. Some may never be able to face their fears and walk into your center. These e-mail messages may become their only lifeline.
Some might voice concerns about liability issues pertaining to Internet ministries. Legal guidelines have not yet been established. You may not be able to guarantee client confidentiality. However, you can address some of the concerns that will arise by publishing appropriate statements, such as: "Your letter will be kept confidential once it reaches my computer," or "I'm not a medical doctor or a counselor—just a woman who wants to help people." Your center's normal procedures can be followed using this medium.
The element of Internet anonymity might raise some concerns, but it shouldn't cause us to ignore the Web as an outreach medium. To help offset these concerns, Tom Glessner, founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, has prepared a "Legal Tips" sheet entitled: "Web Sites and the Law." This publication is available to NIFLA members and will provide your board of directors with an understanding of how to address any legal concerns related to web site development.
While you may not be able to institute a web site right away, most volunteers have e-mail addresses. In all your communications, provide an e-mail address for those who may only reach out to you in this manner. This is particularly important in church and abstinence presentations. Include a spot on intake forms for clients to list e-mail addresses. Individuals may be more willing to share this information than their telephone numbers. While they may visit your center only once, you can keep in touch through this means.
Don't underestimate the Internet as a ministry tool. Matthew 24:14 says: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." The World Wide Web is the first medium in history to reach the entire world. God is using the Internet to bring people to His wonderful saving grace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sydna A. Massé is the founder and president of Ramah International. Ramah provides inexpensive web site design for pregnancy care centers and a detailed booklet on Internet ministry entitled: Go Ye into the World: Ministering on the World Wide Web. For more information visit www.ramahinternational.org or contact Sydna at 941-473-2188 or write to Sydna@aol.com. Ramah International, 1776 Hudson St., Englewood, FL 34223.