4 Ways We Are Keeping In Touch

No matter how you slice it, 9,000 miles is a long way. That’s how far it is from where I live (Alabama) in the USA to Bacolod City, Philippines where we started our most recent ministry.

 

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We spent five months laying the groundwork and doing what it takes to launch a ministry to the homeless and other very needy children and their families. Now, my family is back home for a while in order to raise the much needed funds to support our ongoing ministry.

It is vital to have good communication all the time, but even more so when we are away. Keeping in touch is not always easy but it is certainly possible.

With that in mind, I want to tell you about the ways I am keeping in touch with our ministry team in the Philippines each week.

1. Weekly email summary

Each week, on Wednesday, I receive a detailed email. This email comes from Genevieve Sinadjan, our staff member who is in charge of overseeing all of meal centers.

Genevieve will write a simple summary of their weekly activities. She gives me the highlights from the meal centers and any additional information that I need to know.

She always includes how many children attended the meal centers, how many people they met while out visiting and any special needs that they run into. Last week she gave me all the details of the 9 children who we have helped enroll in school.

These weekly emails keep me in the loop and up-to-date on their activities and their progress. It’s not a form or a fill in the blank kind of thing, she just writes me an email once a week and tells me what’s going on.

2. Pictures

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we take a lot of them. I don’t know of a better way to document and “prove” what’s going on than with regular pictures that capture the moment.

Knowing that communication would be one of the primary concerns when I was in the USA, I took a few steps before I left the Philippines to get us headed in the right direction.

I bought a computer and a nice digital camera. I put both of those devices in the hands of Genevieve and her husband Kinly. Next, I set them up with a Dropbox account and made a couple of shared folders between their account and mine.

We then started taking pictures and uploading them to the shared folder in their Dropbox account. We worked out all of the bugs well before I left and it has proved to be a real blessing.

They carry the camera with them everywhere they go and document as much as they can with photos. When they upload the pictures each week, they automatically appear in my Dropbox account in the shared folder. There’s no need to email them or use a picture service. In one easy step we both have access to them right away.

Last week I cried when I saw the pictures of the kids who used to live on the streets now all dressed up in their school uniform headed off to school.

With this, I can see the ministry as it happens.

3. Ministry reports

I’m not a big fan of paperwork. As a matter of fact, I can think of a million things I’d rather do than create mounds of files.

But there are a few necessary things. We keep good financial records and we have all our important “stuff” neatly filed away. I told our new staff that I wouldn’t ask them to do any reports or paperwork that wasn’t necessary and I think they love me for that.

However, there is one report that we use on a weekly basis. We call it a ministry report. This is a one page form that does have fill in the blanks. Among a few other categories, it has a spot for a name, date of birth, summary and further action needed.

The purpose of the ministry report is to create a record of the people we are helping. This helps us to keep the many different people straight (in our minds), and it is one of our main ways of tracking progress.

We don’t do a report on every single person we encounter, but if there is any significant interaction, a ministry report is filled out.

We do have a spot in the filing cabinet for these to be filed away, but there is one more step before it goes in the little manila hanging folder. Each report is scanned and uploaded to a folder in our Dropbox account that is simply named “files”.

Each week, along with the pictures, if there are any new ministry reports, they are right there at my fingertips. If Genevieve mentions something about a new person they helped in the email summary, I can go to the ministry report to see all the specifics about that person.

4. Facebook messenger

Texting is a little complicated from one country to another but Facebook messages are a breeze.

Through the messenger app we can chat back and forth in real time. All of the official stuff is done via email but we use messenger for quick conversations and to just “visit”. It’s great to be able to pick up your phone and send a simple message and be able to talk back and forth with your colleagues who are a world away.

Sometimes we will send pictures through the messenger app. It’s straight forward and very simple. We’ve found that this is a great way to keep in touch and not feel so far away.

In conclusion

I’m sure there is other technology out there that might be a little more technical and even better in the long run but these four methods are working great so far.

I am kept in the loop and therefore I can pray with greater knowledge and I can also share what’s going on with our supporters. Keeping in touch takes a little effort but the payoff  is well worth it!

Speaking of keeping in touch, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment here or on facebook.