Just Google It by Jack and Karen

At first, I was hoping that Jack would tell this story, but after talking with him I realized that the story I really want to share is actually a story inside the story.  So, we agreed to work together.  The following account is my story embedded within Jack's story...

Historically, I was objectionable to the idea of our kids sitting on the couch for hours playing video games.  It's not that I view all video games as inherently bad, it's just that there are so many other better things that they could be doing with their time.  

About two years ago, right around the time that covid-19 was making its initial sweep across the globe, we were living in a walled compound in Kenya's capital city of Nairobi.  With each passing day, the covid related restrictions increased, as did the police officers' use of brutality to enforce the government mandates.  Armed officials patrolled the streets to ensure that everyone was staying inside their homes, as directed.  Chris and I took turns going to the market to buy food, but other than that we remained within the 10-foot high cement wall perimeter, which had another 6 feet of electrified fencing above that and a guard standing watch at the entrance. 

To occupy ourselves we played kickball, soccer, and volleyball, hide-n-go-seek as well as several variations of tag.  We read, did 1500 piece puzzles, played every different type of game, and even had minute-to-win-it family challenges.  As the weeks turned into months we struggled to come up with new and creative ways to pass time together.  

It's then that we gave in to the pressure of allowing our boys to play Minecraft, which is really the only video game that they've ever wanted to play.  Soon after learning the basics, they began connecting with kids all around the world who were also struggling to maintain their sanity during quarantine.  As they play Minecraft, they chat with the other players using Discord, which is an instant messaging platform.

We entered the world of gaming with full knowledge of its addictive nature, and have had many, many family discussions about the importance of setting healthy boundaries AND living within those boundaries so that we can enjoy the pleasures of life without getting swept away by them.  Helping our boys find a healthy routine has been an ongoing struggle, but we all agree that it's worth the trouble.  We believe that it's better that they have the opportunity to learn self-control now, while they have our support and guidance, than for them to try to learn it all by themselves after they've left the house, are living on their own, and will likely not have anyone to hold them accountable.  So what does all this have to do with our mission to preach the Good News? 

Jack and Michael play Minecraft with a 15-year-old Australian kid that we'll call Steven.  They've known him for over a year and connect with him on a somewhat regular basis.  As they play, they chat about the game but they also talk about things that are going on in each of their real lives.  Steven identifies himself as an atheist, along with almost 1/2 the population of Australia.  He's an only child, his parents are divorced, and he's never stepped foot in a church in his entire life.  From what our boys can surmise, Steven hasn't had much exposure to Christianity.  He knows that we've moved around and periodically asks questions about what life is like in various places, but prior to a month ago had never asked why we've moved so much.  Following is a snapshot of the conversation that I overheard:

Steven: So why do you move so much? 

Jack: Because we're missionaries.

Steven: What's a missionary?

Jack: Just Google it and you'll figure it out.  If you don't understand something you can ask. 

[Jack and Michael continued playing, but Steven took a break to figure out what a missionary is.  After 10 or 15 minutes he chimed back in...]

Steven: That's far out, but it makes no sense.  Why would you choose to do something that's so hard?  Is it hard?

Jack: Yeah, it's hard.  

Steven:  Why do you have to move around so much?  Why don't you just stay in one place?

Jack: Because we're preaching the Word of the Lord to the world.

Steven: Why don't you just make a Google ad?  That would be a lot easier.

Jack: You can't just make a Google ad for Jesus.  It wouldn't be effective.  You have to actually teach people about Him, but before you can teach people about Him you have to get to know them and develop friendships with them.  Plus, not everyone has Internet to just look on Google.

Steven: OK

At this, the boys returned to their game and continued where they left off as if nothing significant had happened.  There was no more discussion of faith that day or any day since then.  When I asked Jack if he has talked to Steven anymore about our life as missionaries he simply said, "No".  My impression is that our boys aren't ashamed of their faith nor do they try to hide anything about our life as missionaries.  When an opportunity arises to share, they do, but they don't go out of their way to make Jesus the topic of conversation.  

A couple weeks after the "Just Google it" exchange, Jack and Michael were playing Minecraft for a bit before bed.  I peeked in to tell them they had 5 more minutes before we would be saying prayers altogether.  I also reminded them that they needed to get a good night's sleep because we had a big day ahead of us.  If I remember correctly, the boys spent the following day helping a fellow missionary family clear a field so that the local Nicaraguan guys would have somewhere to play baseball.  As I walked away I heard Jack say to his virtual gaming friend, "Hey, we only have 5 more minutes.  We have to go say prayers and then go to bed because we're going to help out some other family tomorrow."  I heard a faint voice ask, "Your family prays together every night?"  Jack simply said, "yes" as he continued playing.  When I learned that Steven was the one inquiring about nighttime prayers my eyes welled with tears of joy because I realized that Jack and Michael do in fact consider themselves missionaries and they realize that what we're doing is important.  Just because they don't want to stand up in front of a group and do silly movements to children's praise and worship songs anymore doesn't mean that they don't want to be missionaries, and just because they get embarrassed when someone puts them on the spot doesn't mean that they don't love the Lord.  Through recent encounters, I'm starting to understand that evangelization looks different for a 14-year-old boy than it does for a 47-year-old mom, and I'm better able to support our kids in their efforts to share Jesus' love with others as they see fit.  I thank God for the grace that He's given me to help our kids learn healthy boundaries in the virtual world, and I'm really proud of them for doing their part to spread the faith... via Minecraft.  

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