Cheryl lives in Georgia, but it’s not uncommon for her to chat online with people in places she’s never heard of.
At 16, Cheryl was a rebel and “into the wrong crowd.” She lacked direction — that is, until a youth pastor introduced her to Christ. Years later, she’s counseling others, some who are also rebellious at heart.
“People need to feel heard and cared about,” she said. “Not another Scripture. Not another lecture. Not another ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ that’s spouted out from our desire to ‘fix’ their problem. We are not meant to ‘fix’ them. Only God can do that.”
Cheryl is a chaplain with the BGEA Rapid Response Team. It was through that volunteer work that she heard of another volunteer opportunity with Search for Jesus, BGEA’s Internet evangelism ministry. She joined the Search for Jesus team last summer and serves as both an e-counselor and discipleship coach. Both positions allow her to counsel people who are searching for answers online.
Some are curious about God and stumble upon SFJ’s evangelistic website, PeaceWithGod.net. There, Cheryl can chat live with people around the world, comfort them, encourage them and answer their questions. People she talks to are searching for God, confused about something in their lives, down and out, or wondering if anyone out there cares about them.
“I’m humbled by the fact that I can talk to someone in Australia, the Philippines, Korea,” Cheryl said, along with a host of tiny countries she didn’t know about until volunteering. “They need Jesus and His love and His grace. And we can be Him to them through the power of the Holy Spirit and the technology of the Internet and our computers. We can be used of God to touch the world He died to save.”
Cheryl works in marketing but used to answer calls on a child abuse prevention helpline. She usually didn’t hear from callers a second time and it was hard not knowing if anything she said was helpful.
“God showed me that I was just to focus on my part and what He had given me to do,” she said. “Being on the front lines — available, loving, compassionate — and leave the results to Him.”
That’s something Cheryl has to keep in mind as she counsels people online, too. Take, for example, her recent exchange with Carlie, a young woman who found PeaceWithGod.net. Carlie talked to Cheryl online for more than an hour about how she felt lost and was in an abusive situation at home.
“She shared her battle with depression and thoughts of suicide in the past,” said Cheryl, who had recently finished suicide prevention training with the Rapid Response Team. “After confirming she was not a danger to herself, I was able to pray with her and offer Jesus as hope.”
But what does that mean — offering Jesus as hope?
“For a person who is helpless and hopeless and feels they have nothing to live for, He’s the only hope,” she said. Christ gives them something real and tangible to cling to – a loving, fulfilling relationship with their creator who understands how they feel and can help them through it.
With Carlie, Cheryl shared how she, too, once felt lost and hopeless, but how Christ changed all that. Carlie prayed a prayer of salvation during the chat.
Unlike the women in her Bible study, Cheryl will probably never meet Carlie. She encouraged the young woman to go through KnowJesus, a simple, online discipleship course.
Before Cheryl picks a time to chat with people online, she prays about it, seeing every chat as “a divine appointment.”
“They are a piece in God’s chain of recovery and hope. What they say matters, and it doesn’t have to be perfect words, and they don’t have to worry about a typo here or ‘I should have said this’ there,” she said.
In fact, Cheryl advises other volunteers to “get out of the way,” to surrender themselves to God and let Him do the talking. The thing she likes best about volunteering? Being “a part of what God’s up to.”
Interested in being a part of this exciting ministry? Find out more at SearchForJesus.net.