No Longer Just a Number
Would you wake up at 3 a.m. for your job? Ester did for about two weeks. Part of her new role with the JAARS Scripture Website partner is to help facilitate workshops where students learn how to build websites that can host Scripture and other Scripture-based materials for their communities.
Her first opportunity to work on such a workshop arose in March, when our Scripture Website partner held its first online workshop. A challenge for the team hosting it was that each of the four members was in a different time zone: Germany, the east and west coasts of the U.S., and New Zealand, where Ester lives. She was 12 to 17 hours ahead of the others. “Since I am an early-morning person, I decided that waking up a few hours [before] 4 or 5 a.m. would not kill me.”
So Ester went to bed at 6 p.m. each day and woke before 3 a.m. for her team’s pre-course meeting. She stayed online for the course, which lasted from 4 to 7 a.m., and then a debrief that lasted over an hour. And by God’s grace, she made it through the workshop! She even enjoyed it: “It was a great learning experience—[there were so many] insights on the behind-the-scenes of the actual workshop, [as well as] during and after.”
Ester wasn’t the only person learning. The entire team grappled with how to transition from an in-person workshop to an online version. At a face-to-face workshop, as participants develop their websites, the staff can look over their shoulders and point out what they might need help with. That’s just not possible in an online workshop.
So the team used social media to communicate with the 16 participants before and after each class. Other staff members who were not formally part of the workshop team used social media to help answer participants’ questions after the daily formal lecture. Sometimes during the formal lectures, the team added ‘breakout rooms’ where class members could meet informally in small groups and ask questions and chat about what they were learning.
And, of course, the participants stretched their brains probably more than anyone! The 16 participants represented about 11 languages and joined from all over the world.
One participant, Charles, is a West African who works with a ministry to produce Bible stories for five language groups. He came to the workshop hoping to build a website to help him distribute the materials to reach these language groups. Each language has (or will have) 50 Bible stories, and each story will have various versions: PDF, audio, and video.
After discussing Charles’ goals for publishing the materials in these languages, the team advised him to create a website for each language. He has launched the site that will serve as a hub for the other sites, and he is working to complete the first language-specific site.
Two other participants, Matt and Greg, work in Southeast Asia, where many women suffer physical abuse in their marriages or experience divorce and must then fend for themselves. At the workshop, Greg and Matt launched a website to share God’s love with these women through stories and videos. One page contains a film about Mary Magdalene. The men are now developing a Facebook campaign to market the material on their website to the women in need in their country.
So were Ester’s small sacrifices of waking up early and the team’s challenges of changing the workshop content worth it? Definitely. “It was good to get to know some of the [participants],” Ester said, “to hear about the challenges some of them had to overcome to finish the workshop—malaria, power outages, poor network connections, and other work commitments. They are no longer just a number but, first and foremost, brethren in the Lord and co-workers in the Kingdom of God.” Praise God for what he’s doing through media around the world!