Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Bane and Blessing of Technology

When I was little and we lived in the Philippines, I believe we had a telephone in our home for maybe a year. We shared it, if I remember right, with our next door neighbors. I think we could make international calls from it, but if so they cost a fortune. Kraig tells stories of his family flying from their remote village in Africa to the capital of Central African Republic in order for his parents to make a five-minute call overseas on one of the two trans-Atlantic lines available there. Even as late as our college years when we were dating long distance Kraig and I relied on posted letters and expensive phone calls. Email was just getting off the ground.

Times have changed, that's for sure. I realize there are parts of the world where communication is still difficult and costly, but it is amazing how easy it is in so many places. Of the frustrations we've faced in our move here to Guadalajara, technological communication has not been one of them. Our apartment had a strong internet connection in place when we came and within minutes of arriving we could Skype and FaceTime family and friends. Face-to-face, instantaneous communication. For free. We now have a web-based US phone number so if we do need to make a phone call we just pick up the phone and call. Crazy. Absolutely crazy.

Since arriving, my kids have been able to have "play dates" with friends back home. I can have regular conversations with family and friends. Kraig's folks can contact us easily if there are business details back in Michigan we need to take care of. My mom and sisters and I have held four-way text messaging conversations--one of us in Michigan, one in Mexico, one in Singapore, and one in North Carolina. Yesterday my sister Carrie called me on FaceTime and carried me around Hutchmoot so I could say hi to friends there. Can you imagine? I mean, it's positively sci fi!

And yet today I was griping. Something went wrong in the power cord for my computer and while Kraig fixed it I was limited (limited!) to my iPad. I'm writing on it now, because though the cord is fixed, the glue on the case needs to set. This means I can't upload pictures or check my email or access this, that and the other thing. Horrors. And it will be fine by tomorrow. Oh no, one day lost.

I find myself lamenting things I'm missing, too. Hutchmoot is definitely one of those things right now. It has been absolutely wonderful to see updates and photos and video clips as the conference progresses. In some ways I feel like I have almost been there. And I can honestly say I am thrilled with the joy and beauty my friends there are experiencing. It's just I'm really not there. Then there is Fall in Michigan--oh, the photos! Such beauty. I love it. I can almost smell it. I love seeing my friends and their kids carving pumpkins and eating donuts and drinking apple cider. But I miss it. I am missing it. I will never have experienced this particular October in that part of the world.

This back and forth of joy and sorrow has made me wonder if the easy accessibility to "home" makes it better or worse for adjusting to a new home. I certainly don't have an answer to this because I live in a time and place where I do have this access. I'd love to hear from family and friends who made this kind of move back when there weren't these options. I can imagine that that would have had its own set of pain and pleasure. Is one better? What was it like? I would love to hear your stories.

In the meantime I will continue to figure out how to make these worlds meet and see how God will make it beautiful.

And maybe sometime soon someone will invent teleportation.


  1. Anonymous5:04 PM

    You described the dichotomy perfectly. When I spent 2.5 years overseas it was the late 80's. I didn't have to travel by boat (woot!) and I did have a phone in my rented house that could make international calls (for about a dollar per minute), but that was it for technology. I went to Japan with the expectation that communication would be delayed (snail mail) and I wouldn't see my family for over two years. I think it did help me "set my face" toward Japan, and also forced me to accept ahead of time that I would be missing tons of birthdays, holidays, family milestones, and seasons, and that just had to be okay because of all that I would be GAINING as I ministered in Japan according to God's will. I threw myself wholeheartedly into my ministry, the language, making new friends, and learning the culture. I did not have a continual stream of visual reminders of all I was missing out on. I know that I had fewer distractions than I would have today. But I had fewer to begin with. I was single! :) What a blessing today that missionaries with families can easily share facetime with grandparents! Technology *is* a blessing, but it presents a different kind of challenge as you seek to set emotional boundaries and time boundaries. I am not sure one is better than the other, they both just ARE the reality of the age. They are vastly different! I am praying for you as you work to maximize the strengths of ministering with technology, while minimizing the challenges it presents. Love you! ~Pam

    1. I was hoping I could hear your take on things, Pam. Good stuff to hear. Yes, I think you're right on all counts. I love the access to "home" but boundaries have to be set in order to adjust and engage.... Thank the Lord He's sovereign over all eras of communication!

  2. You do a great job of describing the challenges of moving internationally in today's world. I must admit I am dismayed when new global partners start "liking" local, Lancaster County events and places on Facebook.

    When I went overseas in 1976, I accepted that I wouldn't see family for 4 years and that all correspondence would be written. For me, I never had a telephone the worked until 1988. Even then service was not reliable. The result was that when I was in that world, I had a hard time believing the American world existed. When I was in America, I could hardly conceive of living in the Philippine world. I cared about what was happening in my American family but a letter describing events that arrived two to three weeks after the fact allowed for no participation in the here and now.

    I think it is hard to live in two worlds simultaneously. It is hard to devote oneself to life in a new place when one can so easily hold on to the old, especially when it is most comfortable. I think connection with family . . . especially your internationally oriented family . . . is good. Significant connection with the rest of your MI life . . . maybe not so much. Only YOU can sort that out. I didn't have to . . . it wasn't even an option. -- Aunt Sally

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience, Aunt Sally. I really appreciate your insight. It does seem that we are now in a tricky place of having to create more of our own boundaries since the nature of life doesn't impose them on us. It's something I've really been thinking about.