Alums Work Diligently in ‘Virtual Ministry’
October 26, 2011
After 32 years of mission work in Brazil, Berdie Hope, a 1956 OBU alum, and her husband, Rev. Ben Hope, a 1958 OBU alum, retired from the Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board in February of 2001. But the Hopes’ desire to connect with others on a personal level and through various mission projects has not changed.
Two years ago, one of Berdie Hope’s missionary friends in Brazil shared information about a Campus Crusade project. Approximately 100 websites on various subjects were designed to reach non-Christian people based on specific Internet searches. Operated by Global Media Outreach, the short websites address such subjects as “marriage and the Bible,” “divorce and God” and “who is Jesus, really.” At the end of each site, the viewer is given the opportunity to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and leave his or her email address for follow-up. The sites reportedly receive nearly half a million hits per day. Of those hits, about 14,000 people a day indicate they are trusting Jesus as their personal Savior, and about 7,000 a day provide an email address. The last group includes the viewers Ben and Berdie Hope contact.
The workers in the Hopes’ group receive assignments once a day of the names, cities and countries of the website viewers requesting a follow-up email. Sometimes the ministry workers also know the gender, age bracket and comments or questions of viewers. Each worker prays over the names he or she receives. The workers also send each person an email, identifying himself or herself with the site the viewer visited, praying for them in the email, answering any questions or comments he or she left on the page, and encouraging the person to respond to the email so the worker can continue correspondence with them.
Initially, Hope was concerned she might be committing to more than she could handle.
“When I saw that the form asked how many I would agree to answering per day, I answered, ‘One!’ I was afraid I was getting in over my head,” Hope said of the work she completes from her home in Gadsden, Ala. “But now, after 18 months of participating in God’s kingdom work in this way, I try to do whatever they send me. That’s usually five or six, occasionally 10 or 15, and who knows how many there will be tomorrow.”
Hope adamantly attested that her education at OBU inspired her to ministry, especially her speech classes with Opal Cole Craig, who taught at OBU from 1947-74. Hope said her speech classes were much more than simply how to stand up and speak, and that Craig taught Hope that whoever speaks in Jesus’ name must be “the good man speaking.” Hope also served as secretary to Dr. Warren M. Angell, dean of the College of Fine Arts, for four years. She said the dean consistently inspired her to do her best in every activity, even the smallest task, such as copying his musical arrangements in India ink.
Involvement in campus organizations -– such as The Life Service Band for volunteers in mission service -– prepared Hope for her work in both the physical and “virtual” mission fields. Between her sophomore and junior years at OBU, Hope worked as a summer missionary with the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now the North American Mission Board). She participated in 10 weeks of Vacation Bible School for Spanish-speaking children, and when she returned to OBU, she was eager to begin a mission congregation for Hispanics in Shawnee. Two missionary-kid sisters from Mexico, Janie and Susie Engelmann, helped Hope make the vision a reality. Her husband, Ben, came into the picture as a freshman from North Little Rock, Ark., and helped Hope and the Engelmann sisters at the mission.
“It wasn’t an easy job for any of us,” Hope said. “But it was a great learning experience.”
After the Hopes’ 1956 wedding, they attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, began a church in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and then traveled to Brazil, where they remained for 32 years. Since their retirement, Berdie Hope has been given an invaluable opportunity to continue ministry through projects such as email newsletters for IMB missionaries in Brazil, a prayer newsletter for the Hope’s local church, ongoing newsletters for her OBU class of ’56 and her high school class, and serving as the librarian for the Hopes’ church, White Springs Baptist Church.
The Internet ministry, however, will always be special to her.
“I love doing it and have made friends with some people in various countries around the world,” Hope shared. “Each one is a story. Each one is a person created in God’s own image who needs to know about salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.”
For more information about becoming a “missionary from home,” click here.