The email urged me to emergency prayer. The armies of ISIS were closing in on Queragosh. A missionary begged for prayer protection as children, he said, were being systematically beheaded. The United Nations had pulled out leaving a Samaritan’s Purse and International Crisis missionary alone.

Compelling stuff, if it weren’t already many months old and only partly true.This came via email the other day. The information was already as old as August, 2014. It reminded me that we need to know how to verify information and learn when information should be forwarded or shared on the internet, or we discredit ourselves and/or endanger a missionary.

Email forwards tell strong stories. Someone has cancer and someone is willing to donate a specific amount of money if the email is sent to thousands of people; a missionary is in trouble; political emails come with questionable information; or you sent one of those sweet, recycled messages that have been sent to the person you sent it to already a hundred times.

Countless people have approached me over the years with their number one complaint being the recipient of email forwards, and many more talk about how over-sensitive people are if you ask them nicely to stop sending you forwards. On the other hand, the recipients need to understand the sender means well and the hurt feelings are genuine. If you insist on using email forwards or even posting stories on Facebook, here are ways you can verify if the information is true or recycled:

  • Snopes.com: No matter it’s political affiliations, it’s been a reliable source of information for years.
  • Google.com: Google key words of the email or story and you are sure to find other sources on it.
  • Check with the source: If you can’t find information on the sources website about, for instance, ISIS closing in on a missionary, it is either: (A) meant to be confidential or (B) it’s false. Sending an email to the organization who supposedly sent the email could also help you discern the age or truth of the email. No story needs to be sent out or posted right now. Making sure it is correct is worth the wait.
  • Always verify an email or story yourself. Don’t assume someone else has done it for you.

If you are going to do email forwards or post stories, verify the information first. We all make mistakes, and we will send or post that story which will turn out to be untrue. Grace and accountability on both ends will make us better people.

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About Nikole Hahn

A new appointee with WorldVenture, a missionary organization, who works at FBC Prescott as a church secretary and has joined the world of cybermissions. You can partner with her in ministry, by giving at worldventure.com/nhahn.

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