It was sometime near midnight on a Friday. Karl Nyman was at the end of himself. Confined to a wheelchair, he wheeled himself over to his computer. He was trying to figure out the best way to commit suicide.
Years ago, on July 22, 1972, a drunk driver hit Karl in a head on collision. The intoxicated driver had just been arguing with his family, and decided to take his own life, and to take somebody else with him in the process.
Karl was that somebody.
But Karl didn’t die that day. Instead he suffered a variety of serious injuries including the loss of lung capacity, the loss of his hearing, the loss of most of his vision in one eye, and the amputation of his right lower leg.
He was in terrible pain. He lost his family in a divorce. His friends were gone.
A website called Jesus2020 caught his eye and he clicked on it. Once there he started typing in his intentions to kill himself.
In a Different Part of the Globe
In a different part of the globe, it was two minutes before 6 PM, and Martha Larson, an online missionary for Global Media Outreach, saw Karl’s message — she answered immediately.
Karl responded back and they engaged in a two hour dialogue. She shared her own history concerning suicide. She told him she’s been there. She told him he can’t do this himself, that he needs Jesus’ help.
They continued the conversation and Karl started asking questions about how to receive Christ. Before the encounter was over, he accepted Jesus.
“The pain is still there on the outside,” Karl says, “but inside I’m all brand new.”
This is a powerful example of what’s happening on the internet with increasing frequency. I first saw this story on Not Ashamed of the Gospel, a website dedicated to helping Christians reach people for Jesus online.
Global Media Outreach, the organization God used to save Karl Nyman, both physically from suicide, and eternally as well, has a team of nearly 10,000 online missionaries. Like Martha, their purpose is to connect with people online, and then to connect those people with Christ.
Global Media Outreach (GMO) missionaries are from a variety of backgrounds ranging from retired people to college students. They offer their team members control over the level of involvement. Some field two emails per day, others two emails per week. And they provide training for those who want to volunteer.
Discipleship,as well as evangelism, is a part of the GMO mission — a few months ago they checked in on Karl Nyman. The people over at GMO tell me Karl continues to do well in his Christian walk.
He’s active in his church and he still keeps in touch with Martha, the online missionary who led him to Christ. In fact, recently, Karl Nyman joined GMO to become one of their online missionaries himself.
LifeChurch.TV and YouVersion are additional examples of websites with related missions.
Of course there’s an obvious trend here. As more people spend more time online, those with a heart for evangelism are increasing their efforts to reach people through the web and various other types of technology.
Early on this kind of effort was met with some skepticism and opposition: “It’ll hurt regular church attendance,” people said. “You can’t reach somebody for Christ on a personal level, without personal contact,” others said.
When I talk with local Christian leaders about using the internet and other technologies as evangelism tools, I sometimes sense they’re still holding to these arguments.
But when it comes to discerning between good trees and bad ones, didn’t Jesus say, “…by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20)