I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of online ministry, the impact of online friends who we never meet in person. I recently had an experience with this I feel compelled to share at this point.
A few years back, while cruising through MySpace, I discovered that it was used for a lot more than merely meeting people and as a path for musicians to increase their fan base. I saw there were Christians there who were blogging, participating in forums, and generally trying to discuss faith with others. Pretty early on after finding this out, I met someone named Amy. Initially we just exchanged faith posts and small talk; I discovered pretty quickly she was much more Reformed than I:) A few things about her stand out to me. I am a former Catholic, so that was perhaps part of it.
She was staunchly pro-life; I recall seeing her affiliated with the people who put red tape across their mouths, writing LIFE in large letters along the tape. She was always involved in prayerful demonstrations at abortion clinics. As I got to know her better and started to realize the difficulties presented to her, this was even more impressive.
I recall at least one year where during Lent she would abstain from all social networking. Once again, as an ex Catholic, this was really food for contemplation for me. Do we need to perform a Lenten fast from something that is important to us? I would argue no. However, if that allows you to become closer to God as a result, by all means, go right ahead.
I recall also a time where she posted online, looking for a large print King James Bible with a soft cover for someone she knew in a jail or prison. I happened to have just such a Bible that wasn't getting much use, so I offered to send it to an address she gave me.
This girl was radically obedient to God; she really was an example in that way. I believe there are many others out there like myself that she inspired. Almost 2 months ago, I happened to see on Facebook the day that it happened that she had passed. I was bummed; I did not know that she was THAT ill. The thought I have regarding this whole thing is this. When you meet people online, although this is usually not as good as an in person relationship, do not underestimate the impact you may have. It may be an inconsequential exchange of pleasantries, or it may also be something leading to an inmate coming closer to God. We do not know His plans, only He does.