I had met the young man months before, and we talked often, though I was a grandmother and he in his 20s. He went by the nickname “Gladiator,” and it seemed intrusive to ask his real name. I was careful not to push but to be there in case he wanted to talk more. Now and then something would slip into the mostly light conversation that hinted at his real suffering. He might mention “some difficulties” or tell me suddenly that he had to be gone for a few days. I waited, praying for him and wondering when God would open his heart to the help I so wanted to give and he so needed.
The day finally came when Gladiator told me of the painful depression eating at his life. And then I knew why God had wanted me to wait and earn his trust before we talked together. It was not just his story that needed to be told but my own too. And so when he asked for my faith testimony, I gave it to him with tears in my eyes. He heard the truth of it, recognized our common experiences, and let trust and friendship open doors that would have stayed shut under other circumstances.
Perhaps you are wondering where a young man and a baby boomer would meet every day, learn to trust each other, and finally cry together as healing began. No, it was not in a coffee shop or a therapy session or part of an organized group or program. While playing an online game, we found ourselves talking of faith and God’s love as earnestly as if we had been sitting across the table with cups of coffee between us. Perhaps more so, as our age difference mattered little, our geographical and cultural differences were of no importance, and our common interest gave us an easy arena for conversation.
I want to suggest the gaming world as a mission field like any other in your life. If gaming is something you already love, it could also be a way to reach people you would be unlikely to encounter otherwise, and sometimes it results in a surprising depth of conversation.
There was the day that I received an in-game message that one of our team players had died suddenly. Having no idea of his age or the circumstances, I decided anyway to attempt a small note of condolence in a chat window to a player I knew had been his friend. I could not have guessed that, after an hour of talking with him about prayer, sorrow, our common love of music, and his love for his young friend, I would log off thanking God for opening this avenue of ministry. I still play with this saddened young gamer, and he knows I continue to pray for him.
Gaming as ministry may seem an odd thing to consider. Then again, maybe not. There are real people, often hurting ones, on the other side of those screen names. And as in any ministry, the opportunity to make a difference through your words will be uncovered through gentle listening and caring.