Thank you! I am humbled and honoured to receive this award. Having known Gabe Reynaud and admired his creativity and what he has done in his life — a life that was tragically cut short — I am inspired to receive this award.
Growing up in a large family being born in the middle, left-handed (while the rest of the family is right-handed) and deaf, I thought, What could God do with me?
I felt a bit lost in the middle, but when it comes to discipleship, mothers are the best disciples-makers that I know.
My mum, who was rearing six children, would find the time and spend at least 20 minutes per day with each of us. We would read to her and she would read to us. She inspired in me a love of reading and I have not stopped reading ever since. From a young age, I have been an avid reader of anything paper or digital. In fact, as part of my devotion in the morning in my office, I read a chapter of something to inspire me to think on and to mull on as the day goes on.
To Moses God said, “What is in your hand?” In his hand was a shepherd’s rod and He turned it into snake. This gave Moses the strength to know that God was in control. Growing up, this was one of my favourite stories and, as a seven-year-old, I said to God, "Here I am, use me!" I did not know that He was going to turn me into a pastor, but He did; I did not know He was going to turn me into a children’s pastor, but He did; a balloon-twisting children’s pastor, but He did; a passionate digital disciple through Facebooking Children’s Ministries pastor, but He did.
In 1995, Dr Steve Case from “A Piece of the Pie Ministries” put the first balloon in my hand and showed me how to twist a dog. I undid it and re-made it seven times. I took it home and it became an obsession. I did not know that, through the first balloon placed in my hand, I would become the Balloon Man on Arnie’s Shack
(now seen in 200 countries around the world). Recently I saw myself speaking Norwegian and twisting a balloon and I said, "That it is the gift of the tongues!" Twisting balloons in Norwegian through people using social media to edit and digital media to make the difference in the life of children all over the world who I have never met.
In 2008, I discovered Facebook and another obsession was born. Here was a way to get the message out. When it comes to Children’s Ministries, it sometimes is pushed to the side or overlooked. In the large scheme of things, church evangelism, church growth, planting, some of the greater ministries get more of the time, space and resources.
Through Children’s Ministries and Facebook, I found a way that I could have a pulpit and advocate for those who don’t have a voice — not just for children, but for Family Ministries or for those who are oppressed for those that can’t speak because they are hurting, because they are abused. I can become a voice for them too and advocate for them all. And so Pastor Daron’s Soapbox was born on Facebook, where I can say what I am inspired to say through my reading, through my mulling, my praying and my devotion. I can speak in the sphere that goes worldwide every week on Pastor Daron’s Soapbox.
What inspires me?
Micah 6:8 “He has shown you O man what is good and what God require of you but to do justly to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That is what makes me get up in the morning, that’s what make me a digital disciple — a Facebooking, balloon-twisting digital disciple.
I would like to thank Manifest. I like to thank the organisers of this conference for this award. I would like to thank the family of Gabe Reynaud for their confidence in me. I have now joined a group of elite people who received this award and I feel humbled to be part of that group.
I like to thank my family, my wife Lisa — who is annoyed at times with me for my Facebooking habits... not really... not much! 🙂
I would like to thank my children, who are my first ministry and who make sure I am not too awkward in my digital discipleship endeavours. Thank you to my son Andrew and my daughter Maddison, and my father-in-law who is my mentor. When you are online and advocating, you can get shot down sometimes and find yourself up against it for something you have said or done. My father-in-law is someone I can go to with anything. Thanks Dad for what you have done for me.
Being an advocate is not easy — at times you cop the flack. But through my words, I can be a voice for the voiceless and I can stand up for those that need a voice. Often I have been told by people, "I can’t like what you have said on Facebook; I can’t comment what you have said on Facebook, but you spoke into my sphere of influence you spoke to me and my church." My Soapbox have been quoted at church board meetings to make a point and I feel privileged to be able to do that — to make a difference for the voiceless.
Wes Stafford, worldwide leader for Compassion International, said that, “I have spent half the time comforting the afflicted and the other half afflicting the comfortable” as you can do on the social media.
He also said, “I have become convinced that God places a child before you even just a minute is a divine appointment.”
A minute with someone online or offline can make change in their life trajectory. That is why I do what I do. That is why I am what I am — to be honest, to be authentic, to be real and to be able to lay down straight in bed at night, knowing that I have done all that I can to make a difference.
John Wesley a creative from way back said to, “Do all the good you can and by all the means you can by all the ways you can in the all the places you can at all the times you can to all the people you can as long as ever you can.”
Here I am that is what I am called to do.
Daron gets off his soapbox and gets on with it. Watch the speech here: https://www.facebook.com/lisa.n.pratt/posts/10211476853215777
Above: Pastor Daron Pratt with his wife Lisa and daughter Maddison.