Originally from Brisbane, John Edmiston, 52, these days lives with his wife, Minda, in Los Angeles where he is chief executive of mission organisation, Cybermissions. He speaks about how he came to found the organisation and his new book aimed at missionaries, Biblical EQ... 

What's Cybermissions all about?
"Cybermissions uses computers and the internet to facilitate the Great Commission. We do online evangelism, and supply the body of Christ with online teaching. In particular we have a two-year Harvestime 'Bible college in a box' that people can download and run in their churches. About 20,000 students are in church-based Bible colleges using those modules at the moment. We have many online articles and ebooks at our main teaching website www.globalchristians.org and hope to include a lot more material about holistic ministry - for church leaders in the developing world.  Newtestamentprayer.org is our prayer website and Cybermissions.Org deals with internet evangelism and the use of internet cafes as missions bases in unreached people groups."

Edmistons

ON A CYBERMISSION: John Edmiston and his wife Minda, a botanist, are based in Los Angeles but minister across the globe.

 

"People in 'unreached people groups' (who may have no physical missionary) will be able to find information about salvation online and then text or email a response back to a follow-up team. The internet can go places that normal missionaries cannot and it is very cheap to  use as an evangelistic tool."

- John Edmiston on the use of the internet as an evangelistic tool.

You became a Christian in 1978 - was it a dramatic conversion?
"Yes, it was quite dramatic!  I was a confirmed atheist who was becoming deeply annoyed with of  group of Christian chemistry students at the University of Queensland (where I was studying) - and especially with claims to the 'miraculous'. Also at that time there was a documented Catholic miracle on TV of a man healed from stage four stomach cancer. So on Saturday, 1st May, 1978, I sat down to mathematically disprove the existence of God and especially of miracles by allowing random variations in the law of nature - and found I could not do so. Frustrated, I went down to the local Anglican Franciscan Friary which was having an open day and fair. 

     "A very attractive Christian girl had invited me and as a gullible young man I went along.  Romance was not to be - but something better occurred in  that God appeared to me as a strong diffused light and spoke to me on and off for about 20 minutes, and especially so during communion.  I distinctly remember one part where God said 'This is your last chance, if you say "No" now I will leave you alone forever'.  Amazingly I still tossed things over in my mind and worked out that the risk of believing in God if you were wrong was low but the risk of not believing in God if you were wrong (and ended up in Hell) was very high. I later found out that this line of reasoning is known as Pascal's Wager. So I chose to believe in God and went home rejoicing that I had 'discovered God' and promptly tore up my calculations of the afternoon."

When did you feel called to the area of missions?
"I...felt called to mission around the middle of 1979 while reading my great-grandfather's autobiography (he was a medical missionary to China).  I went on a mission trip to Papua New Guinea at the end of 1979 and that confirmed my call so I enrolled in the Baptist Theological College of Queensland (now the Queensland Baptist College of Ministries) halfway through 1980."

What was it about your experience in Papua New Guinea that confirmed your call?
"A lot of things.  I was a flat broke post-grad student at the time but God provided the funds through anonymous donations that came in at just the right time.  It was hard work for me (building an orphanage) as I am not good with my hands - but I loved it nonetheless.  And I just felt totally at home in the culture, just like I belonged.  Above all, I just felt thrilled to bits by the presence of God as I worked there.  It all just came together for me."

How did that lead to you founding Cybermissions?
"Hmm... this is a long story.  I got interested in the missionary use of computers when I was in Papua New Guinea in 1986-87 and bought my first computer in 1988 (it did not have a hard drive, instead (it had) two five-and-a-half inch floppy drives). I later upgraded this to a 386 and went online back in the era of bulletin boards and newsgroups. Back then it was mainly ministry about cults. I soon realised that a Bible teacher like myself could reach many more people online than in a conventional classroom and so I started really getting into it about 1991 and went fulltime in 1994.  This was as Eternity Online Magazine which was one of the first Bible teaching magazines on the internet.  In 1997, we had over one million readers a month!  Many of the articles now on globalchristians.org were written back in those days. Eternity Online Magazine went through quite a few changes after 1998 as I tried to target it to new audiences. In February 2001, I went to the Philippines as a missionary and soon realised the need for national pastors to have some form of training that they could access from an internet cafe.  By putting together the old articles I had written plus new material and some stuff from friends and colleagues and the Harvestime material, we soon had a great resource and the Asian Internet Bible Institute was founded. But it refused to stay Asian!  In fact it soon went global, and with the internet cafe angle as well, we renamed the organisation Cybermissions. We also moved from Manila to Los Angeles - mainly for technical and financial reasons."

Do you see the internet playing an increasingly important role in missionary organisations in the future than what they are now and, if so, how?
"Absolutely yes!  Especially as the internet becomes more available on cellphones, which are very common in the developing world. People in 'unreached people groups' (who may have no physical missionary) will be able to find information about salvation online and then text or email a response back to a follow-up team. The internet can go places that normal missionaries cannot and it is very cheap to  use as an evangelistic tool. Most organisations doing internet evangelism reports costs in the order of 50 cents for each indicated decision for Christ.  As cellphones and internet cafes blanket even the most remote parts of the world, everyone will soon have access to the Gospel - and to solid follow-up material as well. The big challenge is having good material translated into the one hundred major languages of the world that cover 99 per cent of people."

You've recently written a book, Biblical EQ, which you describe as a "Christ-centered look at how Christians can undergo emotional transformation". What is the book all about?
"Biblical EQ is a Christian handbook for emotional transformation and it discusses how our emotions are formed from our experiences, perceptions and beliefs. It then looks at issues of body, mind and spirit and finally at how we can be calm, strong and masterful people who can recognise our own emotions and have love and empathy for others. It has Christ at the centre as our model for emotions and is solidly Biblical. It also includes a lot of practical techniques that believers may find helpful in various situations."

What inspired you to write the book - I understand it came out of an incident in your own life?
"I had just been through a very stressful time where I  fled General Santos City in Mindanao (Southern Philippines) because of security concerns - such as a kidnap attempt by a terrorist group. I had gone up to Manila and was wondering what to do when the idea came to put together everything I had learned about stress and emotions to help my fellow missionaries on the field. I had a professional background in counselling so this was not too hard and God seemed to give me insights all the time. It just flowed." 

Do you feel missionaries are generally well supported enough emotionally when they are in the field?
"No, they are not well supported emotionally. In fact, they are often encouraged to ignore their emotions and just 'get on with the job' - and as a result it comes out in anger and in poor relationships among the staff.  Missionary work is very pressured. The donors are often putting huge pressure on the mission agencies to deliver numerical results and this is then transferred to the field. As a result many missionaries burn out and leave the field early.  There needs to be a lot more understanding of missionaries as human beings - not just as convert producers or as spiritual heroes." 

How can churches and individuals support missionaries better?
"Pray, pray, pray - it is always a spiritual battle. I have an email list and I send out weekly prayer points to about 70 intercessors and this has been a  huge help to my ministry. Also just get on the phone, or on an instant messenger such as Skype and talk to the missionary and give them a bit of God's love from home. Facebook is great and enables missionaries to really keep in touch with supporters and every missionary should have a Facebook account (with the possible exception of those in creative access countries - 'closed countries'  where preaching the Gospel is illegal and where having a Facebook account could endanger lives.). Other than that - visit with them and advocate for them. If you learn that the missionary is having a tough time because of a unfortunate decision by the mission agency ring up and object - especially if you are a pastor.  By the way, the money thing is huge. If a missionary does not have full support everything  becomes really tough. So make sure you keep up your financial commitments even in this economy."

~www.globalchristians.org
www.newtestamentprayer.org
www.cybermissions.org