Young people are ministered to through school assemblies, clubs, literature, concerts, prayer ministries and a state-of-the-art Internet web ministry called “Walei.” The goal of the Walei ministry is to reach young people on the internet.
THE WALEI INTERNET INITIATIVE
CHALLENGES OF THE ELECTRONIC AGE
Twenty-first century Taiwan is entering the electronic age at a very rapid pace. According to statistics for the first half of 2002, more than 7,500,000 people on the island use the Internet: about 35% of the population is online and 42.3% of all families have Web access. Even the most remote villages are fully wired and Internet ready. From grade four in elementary school, children start technology-infused classes, so by the time students reach junior high school, about 80% of them have become habitual users of the Internet.
In terms of per capita broadband usage, Taiwan and Hong Kong both rank second in the world, behind South Korea only; moreover, in terms of “E-Readiness,” both Taiwan and South Korea are considered to be among the top three nations worldwide.
But the advances of the information age have also taken their toll on the youth of today. The problems that parents and teachers are most concerned about include: addiction to the Web, sexual content on the Internet, and socialising on the Internet. Teenagers are attracted by the freedom of the Internet space and use the Internet to find friends and play computer games, so the number of students who participate in extra-curricular activities at school is decreasing and general teen entertainment choices and patterns of making friends have changed: the Internet Cafe has become the teenagers’ favourite place of entertainment.
Youth for Christ in Taiwan has seen the need for youth evangelism on the World Wide Web. Attempting to spread the gospel as widely as possible, Youth for Christ began work on the Internet in the year 2001, setting up a website for youth called “Walei” and training volunteers to enter the virtual world of the Internet to reach the souls of the youth of today. Within just one year, the site signed up more than 17,000 members, 72% of whom are non-Christians.
Through Walei, we have been able to reach many youths that we would otherwise not have been able to reach. We hope that more Christians will join our ranks in accepting the challenges of the Electronic Age and participate in the Internet evangelical work that Walei has started.
The target audience for Walei is Chinese youths between the ages of thirteen and eighteen who frequent the Internet, including junior high school, senior high school, and junior college students, as well as university and technical college students.
Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
So the purpose of Walei is to establish a presence in the virtual world of the Internet to witness the new life that God has given us, and through Web interaction:
- to bring to youths a value system that is based on Christian beliefs
- to encourage the development of God-like qualities in all of us
- to provide a perspective that is different from that of the secular world
- to help youths resist the temptations of the world
- to care for the various needs of the minds, bodies, and souls of youths.
On the Walei Web Site, we hope to
- create a Christ-centred environment, which will give every member the opportunity to learn about the Christian faith
- move from virtual relationships to real relationships, in order to bring youth members to the heart of the Christian faith
- work with churches and school-based youth fellowships to promote Internet evangelical work among local churches.
STRATEGIES FOR EVANGELISM
The goal of Walei is to attract youths to our website by offering what commercial websites cannot offer and to promote the value system and beliefs of the Christian faith. We have outlined four strategies:
Emphasise the Artistic and Interactive Aspects of the Web Site. To give the site a sense of the imaginative and the artistic, we based its structure on the concept of planets in space. We put the members on various planets and gave cute, humorous, and fanciful names to the houses that they occupied on those planets; we also designed the interiors of those houses to look like spaceships. In addition, we also included special planets whose mission is to provide entertainment, counselling, and advice to the residents of the various planets. And finally, every member’s house was equipped with a complete interactive system, which includes a bulletin board, a diary, a mailbox, a pen pal system, instant messaging, a virtual cafe chat room, and a special topics discussion area, to encourage members to communicate with each other and develop friendships.
Create the Best Environment for Evangelical Work. On the site, we have tried to create an environment that will make non-Christians feel at ease so that they will not feel put off by its religious background. The site will also provide plenty of opportunities for non-Christian members to get to know some Christian friends and learn about the Christian value system, which hopefully will make them recognise the uniqueness of the site and encourage them to open their hearts to share their problems and seek help.
Cultivate Teams of Volunteers who will Enter the Web to Become Fishers of Men’s Souls. Aside from a group of Christian teachers and university and seminary students who serve as the Christian friends of the youth members, a complete volunteer system has also been set up on Walei:
- Basic volunteers: Members who are more mature are selected to be area leaders who take on the responsibilities of caring for other members, developing site content, and encouraging member participation in site activities. They also engage in cultural and religious discussions with the members. Presently, there are about 250 student members who have been designated as basic volunteers.
- Core Counsellors: Aside from training a group of mature and net savvy Christians called the “Guardian Angel Team” who reach out to non-Christian student members through friendship and sow the seeds of the gospel, Walei has also trained a group of about forty core counsellors whose mission is to spread the gospel on the Web. We hope that the number of core counsellors will reach a hundred by year’s end.
- Secret Counsellor: A “Secret Counsellor Mailbox” has been set up and six Christian ministers and teachers respond daily to the messages that are sent in. The mail sent in usually deals with problems about religious beliefs, romantic relationships, friendships, family, academics, as well as questions about homosexuality.
CREATE BRIDGES BETWEEN CHURCHES AND VARIOUS ORGANISATIONS TO PROMOTE MUTUAL COOPERATION
- Gospel Meetings: Apart from regular meetings for Web members, Walei also works with school organizations and churches during the winter and summer breaks, to encourage students to participate in mission teams as well as to train retreat counsellors to use Walei in their work, thereby eliminating the limitations of traditional boundaries.
- Church Fellowships: Currently, there are thirty-three churches that have established youth fellowship discussion boards on Walei, which enable church counsellors to communicate more easily with youth members during the week and help facilitate the work of the fellowships in general.
- Seminaries: Walei is often invited to seminary classes on youth counselling to give two-hour training sessions on counselling in the electronic age.
- Gospel Teachers: Walei works with students at different levels and creates a planet for every school. Currently, we work with 28 junior high schools, about 40 senior high schools, and about 50 colleges and universities. We also work with Christian teachers so they can use Walei to interact with students and establish friendly teacher-student relationships beyond classroom boundaries.