Why would an elderly woman walk several miles to bring her computer to an evangelistic site in Peru? Because a group of 15 computer science students traveled to Peru in May 2014 to participate in a two-week mission project.
Computer Crusaders for Christ
Sharing the message in Peru
By Michael Dant
Why would an elderly woman walk several miles to bring her computer to an evangelistic site in Peru? Because a group of 15 computer science students traveled to Peru in May 2014 to participate in a two-week mission project. Accompanying the computer students were two nursing students and three faculty and staff from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States, as well as a volunteer doctor from Texas.
Besides conducting evangelistic meetings and operating a medical clinic, our vision was to add an unusual element to the project. Computer science students would carry donated laptops to Peru and set them up as learning laboratories for two of our sister Adventist schools: Colegio Adventista José Pardo in Cuzco and Escuela Adventista de Sicuani. But we also wanted to do more for the people there, so we contacted church leaders at Southeast Peru Mission in Cuzco for ideas.
And ideas they had. By the time we returned from the trip, our students and faculty had taught English; conducted Week of Prayer meetings; held four evangelistic campaigns, including one at the local prison; staffed medical and computer repair clinics at each of the campaign sites; preached at area churches; and presented multiple English and computer science technical workshops at three local public and private colleges. The people—especially the children—responded well to our student leaders.
Two Unique Ministries
Two new ministries in particular were well received: the computer clinics and the college lecture series. In this way God could utilize the team’s particular talents in the area of computer technology. That’s the reason the elderly woman—along with many other local residents—brought her computer to our evangelistic campaign site: so the students could “revitalize” it. Using state-of-the-art software, they removed viruses and malware, performed a variety of optimizations based on the specific needs of the client, and installed anti-virus software for future protection. In most cases computers running painfully slow or not at all were returned to their owners rejuvenated and working speedily.
Faces beamed when they saw new life come back into their old, outdated computers. For many of these people their computer represented a major investment, and it was distressing to them to see that investment break down or become unusable because of its age or malware. They so much appreciated the students’ work that some stayed for the evening meetings.
Shortly after arriving in Sicuani, local church leaders asked the team if we would be willing to present one or two lectures on computer science topics at a local college. Our team quickly narrowed down potential topics, identified willing presenters, and readily assented to the request. Within a short time, however, these “one or two presentations” blossomed into a full-fledged lecture series with a formal certificate awarded to those who attended faithfully.
Three lectures were given daily at each college. Two of them covered such topics as personal and corporate security, user interface design, process management, test-driven development, and business ethics. The local pastor, however, presented the third lecture, which focused on physical, social, and spiritual values, such as family, health, friends, dating, and marriage.
Three Southern students and two faculty members prepared and presented the daily computer science lectures. Even though it was short notice and the challenge pushed the group to their limit, they managed to develop meaningful, professional-looking, and Spanish-translated PowerPoint presentations that were well received. Our faculty and students gave daily 40-minute lectures to 50 to 100 college-level listeners.
“After this experience, I have much less fear of public speaking,” one student told me later.
Not only did the team produce high-quality lectures using a limited Internet connection and a frustrating lack of available laptops, but judging by the enthusiastic response from the listeners, the Lord blessed the presentations and made them understandable, meaningful, and useful. Much of the presented materials was also made available online for students to download.
An Entering Wedge
The computer science lectures, though, were merely a wedge by which God could reach the students at a deeper level through the ministry of the local pastor. Our lectures opened the door to these public institutions so that the pastor and the Holy Spirit could work there. This realization made our experience even more rewarding. God directly used our technical skills and knowledge to proclaim His good news to these precious souls. As a direct result of the lecture series, more than 120 public school students expressed to the pastor a desire to study the Bible with him.
The computer repair clinics and college lectures were new areas of ministry for us, and we initially had many questions about how they would work. Would people bring their computers to the evangelistic sites? Would we be able to fix their problems? Would our work do any good in the grand scheme of things? The answer was yes. People brought not only laptops but desktop PCs and large monitors as well. God blessed our efforts, and we were able to fix and optimize most of the computers that came to us. Almost all those we helped expressed a sincere thankfulness for our assistance, and those who also stayed for the evening meetings were doubly blessed.
The Left Arm of the Gospel
Medical ministry is described as the “right arm” of the gospel, but I wonder if computer ministry today might not be an important part of the “left arm.”
Increasingly, even in developing countries, people who own computers need and value our help. We are told that “the Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’?”* Could computer ministry be a modern-day outreach opportunity to show people that we care, to help them in need, to win their confidence, and to lead them to Christ?
Perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, computer science students and their skill-specific ministries will become a standard and integral part of our short- and long-term mission projects all around the world—Computer Crusaders for Christ. I sincerely hope so.
*Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143.
Michael Dant is a professor in the School of Computing at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States.