Several years ago, during a  monitoring visit to South Asia, our local partner took me to a Hindu village where they started outreach work. As I scanned across the rundown kutcha houses (homes often made up of wood, mud, straw and dry leaves) in that community, a shiny solar panel stood out on one roof. Impoverished villagers had no electricity service, so the solar panel was used for charging their cell phones at night.

With the establishment and growth of communication infrastructures in developing countries, cell phones have replaced landlines. They’ve become important technological tools that have been woven into people’s daily activities. The cost of a smartphone and a monthly plan in countries like Africa and Asia are much less than what we pay in Canada. International development organizations have found that mobile technology’s advancement has directly contributed to the economic growth and development in developing countries. 

Like the rest of the world, cellphones have made communications much easier in our mission field. We meet real-time with international Christian workers, some from remote areas on the other side of the world. Our missionaries send us photos, updates and files easily with their phones. But basic communication and connection aren’t the only ways these devices are revolutionizing the international development world and missions.   

Over a year ago, we partnered with a church in Toronto to come alongside one of our partners in India to develop mature leaders and healthy churches in a community. One of the project leaders from that church is an IT specialist who created a mobile app that tracks the growth cycle of church plants and leadership development. He ingeniously developed the app to collect data and monitor the project’s progress from beginning to end. This tool not only cuts down on the hours it usually takes to collect and measure data, it also helps to  evaluate more accurately the outcomes of the project. 

At the start of this joint project, local team members are trained to use their cellphone and the app, and given a monthly phone plan. Then they used the mobile app to enter data required for the project measurement indicators over time. This data helped the project team compile, track, and measure leaders and church plants’ progress in seconds.

Tools like this app help make informed decisions on applying resources. Cellphones have become an indispensable tool to reach unreached peoples and transform their communities via our development projects. 

There are many more ways Christian workers and missionaries in the mission field are using their cellphones today: whether it’s accessing Christian resources on social media and the web, connecting and caring for people with a call, and participating in online training. My hope is that we can continue to develop this technology to advance discipleship making movements and church planting progress with our international partners. 

We thank God for the technology and innovations that help the church complete the Great Commission in the 21st century, especially in our current reality where all of our travel to the field has come to a halt.