April 20, 2012
Tools for the Modern Missionary: Podcasts
One of the greatest challenges in the life of a missionary is keeping yourself fed spiritually. Of course this is true in any ministry context, but the challenge is heightened when you take into consideration language differences and lack of resources.
For this reason, podcasts have become a daily companion for me.
Wikipedia defines a podcast as "a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of files (either audio or video) subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device."
What this means, in plain English, is that you can go into iTunes, under podcasts, search for the name of a particular preacher that you enjoy, and chances are good his messages will be available for free download.
Of course it's not just messages. There are literally thousands of podcasts out there on every imaginable subject.
Because most of my "downtime" is while I am driving, I have a weekly ritual of downloading the latest files from my favorite podcasts, then transferring them to my portable drive and listening to them as I travel to and fro throughout São Luís.
I currently subscribe to four podcasts in three categories:
This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt
Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me NPR's news-related quiz show.
Do you listen to any podcasts? Share your favorites with us in the comments secition.
February 28, 2012
Tools for the Modern Missionary: Clipboard
Some of you may remember that in the past I have made extensive use of twin services called Clipmarks and Amplify. The purpose of these web apps was to save interesting things on the web, and enable the user to share them at will. I found this to be tremendously useful on many occasions.
Sadly, both Clipmarks and Amplify are now defunct. The handwriting has been on the wall for some time now. Fortunately, another service has stepped up to take their place.
I have been messing around with Clipboard today. It seems to have all the major features that Clipmarks and Amplify had. I miss being able to post directly to my blog, and I miss some of the sharing features (for the moment Clipboard only shares to Facebook and Twitter).
Still, for an information pack-rat like myself, Clipboard is a God-send to fill the vacuum left by Clipmarks and Amplify.
An "elephant joke" waiting to happen--brought to you via Clipboard.
September 2, 2011
Tools for the Modern Missionary: Evernote
At it's premise, the job of the missionary is simple: spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Piece of cake, right? Those who are involved in missionary work will be quick to point out, however, that obedience to this simple command results in a very busy life. There are a lot of people who need the Gospel, and a lot of venues for sharing it.
Because our own ministry involves many such venues (church, camp, writing, blogging, teaching, etc), I am always on the lookout for ways to synthesize the information coming my way in order to allow more time for actual ministry.
Evernote was first introduced to me through Michael Hyatt's outstanding blog. A sucker for new software (especially free new software) I downloaded Evernote and promptly forgot about it. Several months later I came across it again as I was going through the tedious process of organizing my files. I installed it and began to play around with its features. I quickly discovered that I was looking at one of the most powerful organizational tools I had ever seen. Today, I use Evernote in one way or another for most aspects of my life and ministry. Here is how:
All financial receipts, medial records, tax forms, contracts, and other important documents get scanned into Evernote. These are readily available to me through Evernotes powerful search function. For example, if I need to see how much I spent last month on groceries, a simple search will pull up the receipt from the supermarket. The Evernote search function will find words within images and bring them up. It can even find words from handwritten notes that I have scanned into the program.
Not only this, but all these documents are automatically synched online. So, if my laptop dies (which has happened to me on occasion), all the information is still accessible via my secure online account.
A big part of my ministry involves study for the proclamation of God's word. In the easy-to-use Evernote filing system (consisting of stacks made up of individual notebooks, which in turn are compilations of individual notes) I have a stack labeled "Theology", and notebooks under that stack consisting of all the major areas of theology. There are several blogs online that are "daily reads" for me in these areas. When a blogger posts something interesting via a certain subject, I use Evernote's handy web-clipping feature to save the blog under the appropriate category. It is then available for me whenever I need it. Thus, as I prepare for an upcoming devotional on "Sola Gratia", do a search for the word "grace" within my Theology stack, and every article having to do with that subject pops up.
I have also started scanning interesting sections of books I am reading so they will be available for future reference in messages and articles.
I have another notebook entitled "Messages". Here is where every sermon begins. I develop the basic outline, bring in notes and illustrations, and when I am done I develop my digital presentation (for this I use Mac's Keynote program, the pleasures of which I will talk about in a future post).
Also, in a stack I have labeled "Ministry" I have separate notebooks for every aspect of ministry we are involved in. Any documents or notes pertaining to any of these ministries go automatically into these files, where they are available immediately upon request.
Early in our first term I decided that I would make writing a major focus of my life. My primary writing venue at this point is my blog. Predictably, I have a stack in Evernote called "writing", and a notebook within that stack called "Blog Articles" Here I write the articles that will become blog posts, both for this blog and my Portuguese-language blog. Whenever I think of a subject I want to write about, I immediately create a note with that subject in the title line. Many times I leave it at that, and come back to it several times to work on it. (for example, as I was writing the section above, I created a new note called "Keynote", where the article about my favorite digital presentation program will appear). Once the article is written, I copy and past it into my blog editor and schedule it to be posted (my goal is to have a week's worth of articles posted in advance on both blogs...I'm not there yet).
Also, any time I use a graphic or clip art, I store it in Evernote, and tag it with it's potential subjects. Thus, when I am writing a blog post, I can quickly search for the appropriate accompanying artwork (like the one above).
As for the "Missionary Max" series, because these have to be sent to the publisher in .doc files, I still use a normal word-processor for them. But once they are written I copy them into Evernote for backup purposes.
With all of these uses, I still haven't exhausted the potential of this powerful little program. And there are many features I use now that will be enhanced once I get my iPad (oh blessed, future hope!).
I would recommend that you check out this post by Michael Hyatt (link), where he gives links to all the posts he has written about Evernote. I am not being paid in any way to promote this program. I have simply found it to be an incredibly useful tool in pointing people to Jesus, and I hope you will too.
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