How Christians Are Hacking Their Way to Coronavirus Help

When Michelle Brock’s grandmother passed away in early April, it wasn’t due to COVID-19 complications. But the global pandemic kept her family from filling her hospital room with loving presence the way they longed to.

“I wasn’t able to travel back to Florida to where my grandparents live, and it was a really hard time knowing that even my grandpa couldn’t be there,” Brock said.

This desire to prevent anyone else from feeling alone in their final moments prompted Brock to join a COVID-19 hackathon hosted by FaithTech, a platform focused on bridging the gap between faith and technology.

Though Brock is a graphic designer and documentary filmmaker who doesn’t consider herself tech-savvy, the hackathon connected her with a team whose skills complemented hers. Together, they dreamed up a solution to the predicament Brock and so many others had encountered during the pandemic.

The result of their teamwork was Sound of Your Love, a service that collects voice recordings from friends and family that can be played with a single tap, which is easier than accessing voicemail or arranging FaceTime calls.

“Even if you get to the point in your illness where you’re too weak to hold a screen up or have a conversation, we still wanted there to be a really easy way for people to leave a message,” Brock explained.

With Sound of Your Love, friends and family can dial in and leave a voice message that will be looped into a “soundtrack of love.” Its interface makes it simple for caretakers or medical professionals to hit play one time rather than navigate individual recordings or calls from loved ones.

While it’s a simple solution, it represents just one way that Christians are combining compassion and technological know-how to address the unique challenges brought on by the coronavirus. Rather than using business acumen to fatten their own wallets in the midst of the crisis—as currently some titans of industry are doing—a few Christians are instead thinking like entrepreneurs to provide services to others at little or no cost.

Beyond the hackathon, which generated a dozen winners and 55 projects to connect neighbors, the elderly, health care workers, pastors, and volunteers, Christians are starting grassroots projects to meet needs from a distance.

Christian author and speaker Jefferson Bethke, who has half a million followers on Facebook, created a public spreadsheet at the beginning of the pandemic to connect followers in need with financial gifts from strangers.

The project ended up helping over 700 people and drew in fellow leaders to get involved with creating a new platform. Now Bethke—in partnership with activist Christine Caine, author Ann Voskamp, photographer Esther Havens, and entrepreneur Jessica Kim—has evolved the initiative into Show Up Now, a website, app, and social campaign that encourages peer-to-peer generosity just like the original spreadsheet did, but with an added layer of prayer and outreach. Since launching, the Show Up Now website has fielded 1,157 requests for financial help and a few hundred requests for prayer.

“A lot of times in pandemic or crisis moments, the world operates out of scarcity,” Bethke said. “But Christians are meant to operate out of abundance.”

The movement taps into a wider trend of people using peer-to-peer fundraising to get their needs met in this moment of economic distress. Popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe is in more demand now than it’s ever been in its 10-year history, with coronavirus-related campaigns on the site raising over $60 million at the end of March. Though it offers an imperfect answer to complex problems, crowdfunding remains a popular option for people who need help immediately and can’t wait for more systemic solutions to emerge.

In addition to a financial component, Show Up Now encourages other forms of practical action by partnering with Ianacare (which stands for “I Am Not Alone Care,” but is pronounced like “eye on a care”), an app developed by Kim and her business partner Steven Lee. Originally launched last summer as a way to support family caregivers, Ianacare is designed to rally a social network to help check in emotionally, send gift cards or meals, volunteer to get groceries, provide pet care, and more.

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Source: Christianity Today