Social Media in Haiti: Seeing Beyond the Messengers to the Message
When I was called and asked to be a part of the Adventures in Missions YMATH Team, I was told that one of the reasons I was being asked to go was to communicate through my blog, Twitter and Facebook during my time there. In an earlier post Why Haiti? And What You Can Do I talked more at length of the purposes for us being there.
This topic was something I wrestled with greatly as I was making my decision, and during my whole time in Haiti. And I know our team wrestled with this issue as well. Every place we visited we talked about whether or not to take photos, shoot video, tweet, etc. It filled a lot of our discussion time.
I think if I had gone to Haiti and had blogged, tweeted and Facebooked (is that a word) about the trip…and didn’t see any fruit from the social media push…then I may have come back feeling less sure about that decision.
We didn’t want to exploit anyone.
We didn’t want to stroke our own egos, or pat ourselves on the back.
We wanted to tell the stories of the Haitian people.
We wanted to encourage people back at home through the Haitian stories.
We wanted to encourage others to come to Haiti and serve or give.
We wanted to use social media to help resource the Haitian people and all the future teams.
And whatever the impression was of our team back at home I can say this confidently. The Haitian people were so glad that we had come to listen to their stories. They were thankful that they could look into a camera and share their plight with others around the world. Aid and relief often can provide for one’s basic needs which are foremost, but it doesn’t often allow you to speak, to share of yourself, your stories and what you have been through. People were ready to share.
The rest of the team has stories similar to mine, but personally I can say that I have been greatly encouraged by the connections that the use of social media in Haiti has brought forth here at home and around the world. I have had meetings with other pastors who are wanting to take teams to serve in Haiti. I have received messages from individuals who feel God is calling them to quit their jobs so that they can move to Haiti full-time and serve. I have had people donate money to Haiti because of some story I shared. I have had people express that they felt like they were actually there on the trip…that social media helped connect their head to their heart and have compassion in a way that they couldn’t have previously experienced unless they had gone in person. The whole outpouring of others is quite remarkable and beyond anything we could have done on our own.
Using social media helped connect various parts of the body of Christ, and though God was clearly in command, I believed he used technology to bring various organizations, ministries and people together.
One of the really amazing things about using social media in Haiti, is that Jeremy Zach and I were able to shoot a thank you video of all the water that our team was able to buy for one village because of the money given to Jeremy and I from some friends as we headed out to Haiti. They gave us cash. We bought water. And we showed them in real time (sending out tweets and FB messages of the video) how their money was being used. Wow! The people who donated were moved. A connection was made and Haiti was no longer a country on the news that had faced destruction. Instead it was a country, filled with real people, who were now drinking water that our friends had played a part in helping provide. Real flesh and bones.
And maybe one of the best examples of the good social media did was this tweet by Anne Jackson:
You all retweeted that message thousands of times. So maybe Anderson Cooper didn’t show up. But many of you did. Not in person, but through your generous financial contributions. Through your connections. People gave money. People made calls. And because of you…because of a story and a people you connected with through the use of social media…these people dwelling in tents were able to receive food and water. When all the NGO’s were unable to provide for these people because of red tape and politics, you were able to step in and help. And that was only the beginning of the story. People are continuing to give to these people dwelling in tents. People are continuing to advocate for them in Haiti from 1000′s of miles away.
The story continues to be told over and over again through the use of social media.
As messengers we may get in the way of the message. But the beautiful thing about God is that he can take our messages in whatever shape we deliver them…and he can redeem them and bring good out of it.
So is it possible that we as the storytellers can cloud the story?
Is it possible that our egos and agendas may get in the way?
I hope that we can tell better stories one day where people can see beyond the messenger or the distorted means by which we deliver them. That as messengers of God we act more in humility than we often do or come across. But until then, continue to tell stories. And use whatever means you have available. And in this process I know that God is continuing to transform our lives and the lives of those we come into contact with. I know that he uses us even though we are broken and cracked vessels.