MAF is well known for flying because that is the bread and butter of the organisation. However behind the scenes is a long list of skilled people who have made sacrifices to see the vision of MAF fulfilled. These people are pilots, engineers, managers, HR personnel, office staff, builders, IT support personnel and much more. Each person in these roles has a very important place in the bigger picture and vision of MAF.
Without IT (Information Technology) support staff, MAF’s operations would come to a standstill because so much these days is build on a fully functioning and reliable IT system.
“It’s the infrastructure behind the scenes, that many are unaware off. These are the tools of the digital world that make things work and it’s a privilege to be part of a larger team that makes sure the goals of the Arnhem Land program can be achieved through Technological tools”. Nevin Urey Arnhem Land IT Support
Within the MAF the focus on Technology fits into two different categories internal IT Support and Technology Services. The Arnhem Land program is a good example of how the two of these focus areas go hand in hand. The role of the IT Support person is to help manage the phone, email, network, and hardware systems that the entire team use to complete everyday activities. This means keeping a close eye on making sure systems are updated, running, backed up and when things are broken, replacements are put in place or work around solutions are setup. In Arnhem Land it is not unknown for things to go wrong such as the Internet going offline or a power cut occurs or rodents eating through cabling. Also with the addition of the Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) to the pilot’s set of standard operating gear, this has meant an EFB administrator is required to be in place. This person works alongside the IT Support person to make sure all the iPads are up to date and reliable for use in flight. The IT Support team in both Cairns (Australia) and Ashford (UK) back up the small team in Arnhem Land by offering advanced support in all areas.
To understand the focus of Technology Services, one needs to take a step back in time to the year 2000. Within MAF worldwide a ministry called Learning Technologies (MAFLT) had started to be birthed. The first project was establishing a set of Bible Study resources for Russian pastors. Amazingly, by 2009 MAF LT operated in 18 countries, serving 46 ministries.
Early in 2010 with the introduction of Campbell Smythe (MAF Cairns – IT Support), MAFI Asia Pacific started to take on board the MAF Learning Technologies focus. Campbell was passionate about growing the ministry throughout MAF in Asia Pacific. At the same time Brett and Michelle serving in Arnhem Land saw the need for resourcing people with God’s Word in media format but didn’t have the time or man power to do so. Across in Papua New Guinea the CRMF team were also connecting with the MAFLT US model and looking into how they could use technology to expand God’s Kingdom in Papua New Guinea. (Today in 2017, Technology Services known as CRMF in PNG is flourishing)
In 2011 Peter and Tiina arrived into Arnhem Land with the encouragement by Campbell Smythe and Brett to work on a 3-month project before transitioning to PNG. This project was called Manymak Dhäwu (Good News). After three months, God had other ideas and so the Peter and Tiina stayed on and since 2011 Technology Services* has had a prominent place in Arnhem Land. (* MAFI changed the name from Learning Technologies to Technology Services in 2013)
Technology Services are those activities where MAF supports the use of technology for spreading the Gospel in the areas where MAF serves.
Stepping back into 2017, it is clear that MAF Arnhem Land program values the ministry enabled by aviation and technology services because as a team there is a strong belief that both can be used to transform communities. By applying technical understanding and skills, barriers that hinder advancement in isolated areas in the spheres of education, communication, community development and the Gospel can be removed.
To give a better idea and picture on what Technology Services has meant for a program like Arnhem Land, listed are some tools and projects that have been tried and tested in an Aboriginal Ministry context. Some have worked very well, others have not but that is what it takes these days in ministry to find the niche.
- Mänymäk Dhäwu DVD: This original ministry resource was a picture book with 40 pictures and an audiotape to accompany it. The story was put into digital and the end result of this revised resource was a DVD with 650+ moving pictures and audio. The story was from Genesis to Revelation in Gumatj, one of the local languages. The DVD was used on outreach trips and Kids Clubs.
- Mänymäk Dhäwu For Mobile: Not long after the DVD was produced mobile smartphones began to appear in numbers. The need was seen for the DVD to be split into 40 different media stories. The files were prepared for use on mobile and were made small enough to be bluetoothed from one mobile to another.
- Gospel Media Stories: From initial requests from local Aboriginal believers to have more stories in local language, time was spent recording local Bible translators retelling Bible Stories. These recordings were then matched with images that depicted the story. These media files were loaded onto mobile phones and MicroSD cards.
- Training for leaders: Requests from local Aboriginal individuals for training on how to use email, Internet and computers was time well spent.
- MicroSD Cards: This project was birthed from a desire to do more about spreading the news at Christmas and Easter time. Appropriate resources were located and permissions obtained to use them, then multiple MicroSD cards were purchased, loaded and distributed. Today MicroSD cards remain a digital resource that many people are hungry for because it has God’s Word in a form they can listen to and understand.
- Tablets: In 2014 with the cost of Android Tablets dramatically reducing and becoming readily available, this meant MAF was able to purchase tablets and load them with Gospel media such as Bibles, Audio, Videos and Image files. These Tablets were then distributed to leaders wanting to grow in their relationship with God. As a result tablets became a springboard for MAF staff to have closer contact with people.
- Networking: It has been important for MAF over the years to stay connected with other mission groups working in the area of technology in missions, so MAF staff from Arnhem Land attended various gathering of likeminded techy people working in various mission groups in Australia and beyond. This was a great way to connect, learn, share, pray and be inspired.
- Gospel Resources: DVDs, CDs, Bibles were sold out of vehicles in the back of communities which was always popular as people were hungry for resources. This demand meant that MAF needed to do something more to provide options for Gospel Resources, so the old hangar space at Gove Airport was converted into a resource shop and terminal area. Stands with DVDs, CDs, Bibles, and Technology Media are for sale and on display.
- Resources in a Box: To make these resources more mobile for pilots travelling to the homelands, small containers were purchased and loaded with DVDs, CDs, Bibles, and Technology Media. These boxes were used on homeland outreach trips to sell resources.
- Solar Power Players: Solar Power MP3 players are a great way to make God’s Word in audio format available. In 2017 180+ units were purchased and distributed to individuals. Each unit had a mixture of Audio Bibles, Music, Teaching and Gospel Stories in local languages. They were hugely popular and many people continue to ask for them.
- Bible Mobile Apps: SIL brought out a tool called “Scripture App Builder” and various Bible Apps have since been created and made available on the Google Play store (Search for “AuSIL”). MAF have used this same tool to create a mobile android App for the Manymak Dhäwu series. Now people have access to the media stories more easily on their mobile phones.
- SMS Scripture Ministry: For a few years MAF ran a Scripture SMS system. People would sign up to the SMS number and a website tools was used to distribute verses to people on a weekly basis. This was a popular service and Yolŋu people were often requesting for a service.
- Satellite TV: Working with Life TV, a set box was donated to MAF and a dish was set up to provide Free Christian TV in the Terminal waiting room. The idea behind this project was to see if satellite TV would be off interest to other Aboriginal communities.
- Technology Media in the Homeland: The majority of the mentioned forms of technology and media have been taken into remote homelands where they have been displayed, distributed and used. Today the challenge continues to be getting resources where they are most wanted and needed and that is in the homelands. Hence the need for planes and pilots!
It is clear from these few examples that the Technology has been able to be used as a tool to spread the Word of God in Arnhem Land. God’s Word has the potential to bring explosive transformation in the lives of individuals and communities. And so the program can say with confidence that:
IT Support & Technology Services
- IT FITS
- IT WORKS
- IT’S IT IN MISSIONS