In September 2012 The Salvation Army Western Territory’s OnlineCorps opened its virtual doors at facebook.com/onlinecorps and onlinecorps.net, bringing together an online community of people exploring and wrestling with issues of faith in Jesus Christ. From countries all over the world, differing time zones, and from a wide sweep of age groups the appeal is simpler than one might think. People desire connection: to one another, and to one who made them in his image. In this safe environment there is an honesty and authenticity that many are looking for—a safe place to explore Christianity. Questions are asked openly, prayer requests made, and joys and burdens are shared.
Each Wednesday at 7 p.m., Online Corps hosts “GospelStories” an online live Bible study discussion. Helen joined the discussion one Wednesday, and shared her story. She had been on hiatus from church for 20 years and then on Sept. 14, 2012, two of her daughters, Annette, 18, and Amber, 12, were walking across the road when a drunk driver drove toward them. Annette pushed her sister to safety, but was critically injured; her rehabilitation continues today.
Helen stayed throughout the Bible study discussion that night, and has since become a regular. She rededicated her life to Christ and is now looking to regularly attend a local corps.
OnlineCorps interacted with Helen’s family, including sending her a Bible, requesting prayer through the OnlineCorps community, and visiting on Annette’s 19th birthday. Regular hosts of GospelStories—Grant, Brian and Jason—celebrated with the family, sang “Amazing Grace,” and prayed with them.
Helen is one of several people encountered through OnlineCorps that had slipped away from church, but are fitting in online.
We all love to hear different people’s journey through life. LifeStories is a weekly video series of one-on-one interviews exploring the guest’s upbringing, church experience, love life, career and ultimately how they came to faith in Jesus Christ, most often—but not always—through The Salvation Army.
Being a technology-based community, we harness the latest online social tools to meet together. Video chat sessions are used to deepen relationships between people across the globe. Google Hangouts via Google Plus allow for up to 10 simultaneous participants to video chat. People come from the OnlineCorps community but also find us through the “live now” public listings. The parallel to this, not having a church building, is having the doors open and inviting people in to talk.
From time to time OnlineCorps livestreams special events from around The Salvation Army USA Western Territory. These have included some visiting bands, Christmas events, and will include several conferences later this year.