Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reaching Out and Touching Lives

Far be if from me to be one of those people who chat 'n tell, but there's a brother I chat with on a fairly regular basis that came to mind today. If you're a regular listener of James White's webcast The Dividing Line, you've likely heard him mention "Algo in channel". If you've never been "in channel", that's the chat room where us "channel rats" like to hang out and fellowship, goof off, and just enjoy one another's company. I've participated in and managed quite a few chats online over the years, and #prosapologian is by far, the best managed, and the coolest group of folks to hang out with. Brother Algo, is a certifiable channel rat, and he has such an incredible memory, I jokingly call him Algoogle. I've said that I'd like to hire him for when my memory begins to fade. It's a great thing to have a sharp memory, and Algo outdoes ALL of us put together, on our best days.

What made me think of him today was that I was digging through my gmail archives trying to find an email conversation I'd had with a friend about a particular subject. I thought to myself "if Algo had known about the conversation, he could tell me exactly what month, and probably even the day!" It's too bad we're not all Algo! :-) Thankfully, gmail (which is technically google) is almost Algo. One of the things I really like about gmail is that the storage space is MASSIVE, and unless you manually delete (or set it up to delete) it will keep all your emails in a nice, organized fashion.

So with a potential time frame in mind, I start digging back through the archives of conversations with this particular friend. Due to the fact that I don't always match the subject of an email with the actual subject OF the email, that made it a little more difficult to find. So I go back 6 months, then a year, then 18 months, then 2 years, then 3 years... and I just kept going. I actually found the conversation I was looking for long before that, but the stroll down Email Conversation Lane was so funny and so enjoyable, I just kept clicking on random conversations. Some were dead serious, others just downright silly, some were personal family things, others were blog/web related things and still others there were pics attached or links shared. One of the more interesting things about that was seeing how the friendship sort of evolved over time from the initial correspondence several years ago.

As I thought about how enjoyable that was today, I thought about another friend I met online many many years ago. Her name was Karen, and she actually came to mind initially last week while I was looking through an old photo album. Karen lived in Australia, and when I was running a chat room on the old msn chat site, she was at first, a regular chatter there. She loved the chat room so much she inquired about becoming a host (chat room operator or manager) and I immediately approved. She was a real joy and blessing to me personally to have as a part of our host team, and we were all glad to have her on board. What made me think of her last week in the photo album, was the Vegemite she sent up from Australia. I sent down some authentic Canadian maple goodies, and she sent up some vegemite & aussie cookies for us to all try. She made me promise to take pics of all of us trying the vegemite, so I obliged. Trust me, NO ONE wants to see the pic of me tasting vegemite, but I did send them to Karen, and her and her family had a huge laugh. As one of the world's pickiest eaters, I am almost positive vegemite was one of the plagues in Egypt. The cookies however, were fantastic.

Karen wasn't with us in the chat room for very long before she was diagnosed with cancer. More accurately I should say that she was diagnosed again, as she'd already battled and won several bouts with various cancers in her young life. As the new rounds of treatments began, she was in the chat room less and less, and when she was able to come in she always received an extremely warm welcome. She always asked us to pray for her husband and her little girls, and assured us that the Lord was taking care of her just fine. A week or two passed and Karen didn't come in or email anyone, so several of us emailed her. It was about a month later that her husband finally logged into her email account and responded to all of us to give us the news that Karen's last battle with cancer was finally over and while cancer claimed her body, she was home with the Lord. He told us all she wanted to make sure we knew how much she loved us and appreciated our prayers, our fellowship online, and our welcoming her into our little community. Needless to say, we all did a lot of crying that day, and spent a lot of time in the chat room that night remembering Karen's faith, and how she touched our lives and how we evidently touched hers. Her husband was not saved, but it was clear to all of us that the emails he read from us to her, were enough to genuinely cause him to ask some questions and ask us himself, to pray for him.

In the past few weeks I've seen quite a few blog/web posts about online conduct & how it affects people. Most of the stuff I read about it is usually bad, and I have even written about it in a critical way myself. This is one of those topics that never goes away, because it's one of those topics that is just inherent to all people online, at all times. What struck me today however is that there is A LOT of good things about connecting with people online. Lives can be touched in tremendously powerful ways (as Karen's husband testified) and friendships can be forged that turn into the most treasured friendships ever. Folks meeting folks online often paves the way for finding new churches for those without, growing in faith for those who might be stammering along, new opportunities to minister and serve, and simply creating all sorts of new fellowships, and new bonds. It certainly can be a real blessing, and I know that probably every person reading this right now, can think of at least 1 person that fits this description their life, to a T. We've all been touched in some way by someone (or a group of folks) that we've met online, and it's just a shame there isn't more encouragement in that area to be that kind of a blessing to those that we meet in this strange new world of communication.

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