You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe

05 Sep, 2017 | International
Andrew Fendrich
Fisherman on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. OM reaches out to some of the most inaccessible villages in the area.
Five thousand missionaries in 350 communities by the year 2025: A lofty ambition for OM in Africa, saturated in prayer and God’s grace.

But that goal presented today wouldn’t have been possible before 2009—a year that saw the culmination of years of partnership between OM Africa and Pro Christo. What most people don’t know, former OM Africa Area Leader Francois Vosloo says, is that the relationship between the two organisations runs deeper, with former Pro Christo leadership working closely with OM from Pro Christo’s conception in 1991.

Though the two organisations worked closely together, OM Africa Area Leader Melvin Chiombe, at the time in leadership with Pro Christo, says that the idea of a merger was not in the picture. “Pro Christo from its inception had connections with OM South Africa, through Francois,” he says. “In 1997, when we had a mission conference, Francois was a speaker. At that time, we didn’t [foresee] a merger; we were just in partnership.”

When Coen Schultz began Pro Christo in Zambia in 1999, he fell into step with the partnership; in 2004, OM Books and Pro Christo joined to distribute Christian literature throughout central Africa.

Early in 2008, the idea of a merger surfaced not only as a natural fit, but as a key component in the expansion of missions in Africa. Coen, who had moved to South Africa to disciple and mobilise university students for missions, contacted Melvin to make sure it was beneficial for everyone.

“I told him that it’s about the kingdom, not the name of an organisation,” Melvin says. “But…I had some reservations. The values and vision were the same, but I was concerned about policies and governance. Since Pro Christo was a small organisation, it was easier to make decisions than for a bigger organisation like OM.”

In an effort to promote the advantages for both groups, Melvin suggested the partnership be looked at as a marriage union, where two unique individuals find a way to join together despite differences.

“It was crucial that Pro Christo maintained its DNA,” Melvin says. “A passion for the lost, the least reached, an emphasis on practical discipleship, and a pioneer spirit of risk-taking.”

Seeking a win-win

OM willingly accommodated Pro Christo, Francois says, given their passion for equipping indigenous Africans for missions and looking for unreached people groups. “Pro Christo had a clear vision: Minus 30,” Francois says. “They wanted to take 30 people groups off the ‘unreached people’ list.” OM shared the vision and the two groups merged.

Since, the Minus 30 goal has been exceeded. According to Coen, the merger has directly brought “holistic impact” to some 30-50 least-reached people groups and more than 150 communities, including such as the Yao, a Muslim people group living primarily in Malawi.

In turn, Malawi has produced its own missionaries, like Samson, from the Yao people group, who now works with OM after being led to Christ by a Malawian OM church planter.

In addition to Pro Christo’s added value for OM, Melvin says that the merger has proved a great positive for what was a small mission effort. “OM opened Pro Christo to the wider body of Christ, and to good systems that were in place,” he says. “Also, Pro Christo has added value to the work of OM in Africa. Today we have 13 fields in Africa, the majority coming from Pro Christo, which has contributed many of the leaders in those fields.”

No longer is OM’s ministry in Africa a funnel for international missionaries to come to the continent. OM Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe facilitate missions discipleship training for rising local missionaries. More than that, Melvin’s passion for training up and sending out African missionaries, which fueled the dream Francois and OM already had, has resulted in hundreds of indigenous missionaries currently serving on the field.

For Melvin, the merger is a picture of how the Body of Christ worked in the early church. “God and His kingdom is not about individuals or a specific organisation; it’s about unity,” he says. “When you look at the early church, one of their strengths which made them more effective was when they came together. There is power in unity.

“This is what I’ve seen: Today, the work in Africa and beyond is growing because of the unity. It may have challenges, but we have demonstrated to the world that two organisations can come together and extend God’s kingdom.”

Andrew Fendrich is part of the OM Africa Area communications team, for which he travels the continent working with OM ministries. In addition to his work for OM, Andrew’s passions include traveling, reading and writing, photography and cooking.

Credit: Andrew Fendrich · © 2017 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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