Assistant Director of Internet Evangelism at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
SCARED, DEPRESSED, PANICKED. These words were expressed in Chinese by people from varied walks of life and many different countries. Some came because they fear the pandemic, others were moved by national disasters, and still others felt a deep emptiness that prompted them to begin a conversation. Their words came through personal online messages in March and April of 2020.
“I am a student who just came to the USA by the last flight before the airline cancelled all flights. I am so scared and do not know what to do. Mom pushed me to get out of China for safety and catch school on time. But even in [San Francisco], there are confirmed cases and there are so many Chinese that traveled back from China recently. I really get nervous and anxious every day.”
—Woman from San Francisco
“Thank you for the page. I am depressed by Hong Kong since last June. People are angry and helpless. We have not finished yet the efforts for democratic rights, and now are deprived of the good health under the virus threat which is still out of control. We do not know what is going on and can only rely on God for His help and guidance.”
—Man from Hong Kong
“We are living in Finland which is far away from China and now it is still very cold. We are so panicked that even in Finland there are confirmed cases. Me and my Chinese fellows are so scared and panicked. We are concerned of our family and friends in China. Even the local people seem not to worry as much as we do. I really need God in this critical time.”
—Woman from Finland
“The Chinese nation is in a most critical time now.”
—Man possibly in mainland China
“Please pray for Australia and Chinese people here. We are still suffering the fire and cannot believe what is going on now with the virus. Is God coming? Where is He?”
—Woman from Australia
YuShenHeHao (與神和好) is the Chinese online evangelistic ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that received these messages. It was established and is being built to multiply personal Chinese conversations like these that lead to gospel proclamation opportunities.
YuShenHeHao is part of the broader ministry of called Search for Jesus. Search for Jesus engages people with the Gospel, creating online opportunities in seven languages for them to access, understand and apply the Gospel to their lives. The ministry began in 2011 and in 10 years has seen over 90 million visitors to online Gospel presentations. In 2020 alone, over 80,000 people connected with committed, volunteer believers to engage in conversations. By using a tool that rests in the hands of most Chinese people, their mobile device, we can bring the light and truth of the Gospel to their lives.
It is really quite simple. People are spending more and more time online, so we must be there. The internet is no longer just a tool people use. It is a life-space and as such it has taken a powerful place in the lives of its users. Because of this, we train and pray for and deploy missionaries into that space like we would Afghanistan, Malaysia or any other mission field. It is about proclaiming the gospel right where people are.
Consider this, 88% of Taiwanese people are online and 76% are on Facebook. 87% of people in Hong Kong use the internet. 84% of the population of Singapore is online. Just these 3 groups compose 27.5 million people who we could potentially reach with the gospel through their phones, tablets and computers.
Times have certainly changed. In 1996 the evangelist Rev. Billy Graham had his first online experience and he described it as something awkward and unfamiliar. But he saw the potential of that medium and today that tool is being effectively used for Christ. While radio, TV and other modes of communication are still relevant today, we as believers in Christ must be open to seeing ears that listen and eyes that watch where they may have not previously existed. We must go to where the audience is gathering.
But YuShenHeHao is not primarily about technology. It is about people and the gospel. Technology is merely a tool to connect people. A critical piece of the ministry is the volunteers who are carefully trained and mentored to engage in the online gospel conversations. Many of them feel uncertain and apprehensive when they begin. But they feel a calling and desire to share the Good News and God gives strength and confidence. Using secure platforms they dialog with visitors, coach new believers through discipleship courses, and help connect them to local churches. Volunteers do not expose their personal accounts in the course of their ministry because of the specialized platforms that are provided to them. The online component allows them to serve according to their own schedule and from any place where they have internet access.
Imagine connecting with people who initiate a conversation about life and spiritual matters. This is a significant and rewarding opportunity. However, it isn’t without its challenges. The discouragement of visitors who may not respond after an initial message. The challenge of hearing heavy life stories and situations. The constant flow of messages from far away places. These challenges are real. However, the ministry support receive and the breakthroughs they see make it worthwhile for over 1,400 current volunteers. They are not on their own and the work they do has eternal consequences.
The internet is a tool for both good and bad—and we thank God that He is using it to take His Gospel faster and farther than ever before. The Bible tells us of a time when people in every nation will hear about Jesus Christ. We see how this can happen with people using the internet in virtually every place on earth. If God is touching your heart to be a part of this ministry as a volunteer or through giving, we encourage you to learn more at https://www.billygraham.ca/ or https://yushenhehao.net/yigong/.