Can You Really Hack for Jesus?

This week more than 100 students took over the second floor of the Magnolia Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, bringing coding tools and storyboards, ready to put their technological skills to work.

Every afternoon for three hours, these up-and-coming software developers, digital designers, project managers and other tech-savvy participants came together for #Hack4Missions, Urbana’s second hackathon.

According to James Kelly, Founder of FaithTech in Toronto and one of the #Hack4Missions mentors, students entered into the week with some uncertainty.

“They said, ‘I do tech, but I don’t really know why,’” James said. “They want to use their skills for something greater, but they don’t know how.”


And that’s what #Hack4Missions is all about—seeking how technological talents intersect with God’s mission around the world.


“We want to inspire these students,” said James, “and show them that they have enormous opportunities to leverage their skills for Jesus. There’s an insane amount of need out there.”

Sherman Siu, a third-year Computer Science major from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, is one of those students.

“I joined #Hack4Missions because I wanted to get in touch with other Christians who are interested in missions,” he said. “I wanted to see how I could use my skills in tech for God.”


“The projects here will have real impact on real ministries,” Sherman said. “We’re not just coming up with ideas, but organizations are coming here with the issues they’re having. We’re working on actual solutions for them.”


What challenges were they tasked with at this Urbana?  Here is just one example: one team worked on a Drone Airstrip Survey project for Mission Aviation Fellowship. Airstrips, especially those in remote locations, require regular inspection to ensure that pilots are aware of changing conditions. Rain can cause significant erosion and may create large ditches near the runway. Over time, trees or new buildings can also create hazards for landing on the runway. Looking over and assessing the airstrips can be time-consuming, and pictures and records of the airstrips aren’t kept up-to-date. If a runway is unsafe for landing, valuable resources do not reach the most remote of areas.

The creation of a drone navigation system to survey airstrips, including custom programming to allow the vehicle to autonomously take off, fly an appropriate grid pattern while taking photos, and land at the starting location, will help remove barriers in delivering the good news to locations with some of the most significant needs.

These tech savvy students are poised to make significant impact in missions as God harnesses these talents for his good purposes in the world. To read about some of the other contributions they made at this Urbana, click here.


By Megan Maclaine, InterVarsity Canada

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