Director's Update - Oct 2017

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An awareness of life’s mysteries

Life—the everyday variety—is a mystery that has captured the greatest imaginations through the ages. We honour God most when contemplation of His mysteries becomes a personal spiritual discipline. God is shrouded in mystery and yet, through our relationship with His Son, reveals Himself. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV) expresses this well: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” We can have confidence that He will show us more of Himself (and therefore ourselves) as we mature in faith.

Few of us are theologians, yet should we deny ourselves of the fullness of God, who made all things for us to enjoy? I think of Psalm 8: 3,4 (NIV): “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” I have sat in an African desert at night, lost in wonder, captivated not merely by the what of the sky (and desert) but also the why and how. God makes an impression at every turn and witnessing His power in creation gives new energy and passion to serving Him. How many of us seek that kind of meditation in the midst of our busyness and cares?

The Bible is a book with power to change lives and shape history. Explain that. Itself a profound mystery, it preserves, for our benefit, scores of mysteries. How can we encourage stillness and contemplation among younger generations? Who cares to ponder life when it can be Googled? There is no app that will substitute for a persistent quest to discover more of God and marvel at His works.

OMers are generally doers, not contemplatives—we’re in a battle and all that. What’s the point of studying creation, the interdependency of life, or celebrating diversity? What does this attitude say about loving all that God has made? Has it disengaged us from dialogue with seekers of science or spirituality as a result?
 

Take those first steps

I have learned to retreat regularly for several days to simply be alone with God. This is not an effort to be spiritual or look spiritual; it is a means to survive with sanity. In my leadership role, I can become overwhelmed by demands of other people. When it takes an hour to reply to one email, I know that my tank is nearing empty and I need recharging with the Lord. That cause and effect example cannot be rationalised away by human thinking. It’s a mystery that I have come to depend on.

God wants us to slow down and smell the roses. We honour Him when we invest time in thinking about Him and His works. Never mind if it is difficult at first. Here’s how:

  1. First things first: If we have nothing to do, we check our phones rather than use the moment to quiet ourselves within. God did not design us for a lifelong rat race.
  2. Silence: Such a rare commodity ought to be treasured rather than eliminated. We must build into our day times of pause and reflection (device free).
  3. Distraction doesn’t come from surrounding noise but from the clutter we insulate ourselves with in life, be it physical, emotional or even spiritual behaviours. Downsize!

Take time for silence, to hear better. Stare at the night sky, to see better. The more we consider God’s works, the more we will love Him and speak of Him.

 

EVANGELISM

ISRAEL: FAITH BLOOMS

An OM Hope of Israel outreach team went to a Muslim town to have conversations. Entering a flower shop, they engaged in small talk that led to a hospitable welcome and invitation to sit down. The shopkeeper asked why they were in his town. The team shared that they love Jesus and that’s why they were in Israel. The team bought four flowers and the store owner gave them a fifth. In return, the team gave him a New Testament and a tract.

The team proceeded to give away the flowers in the community. One young woman, in astonishment, said no one had ever done that for her. The team explained that Jesus’ love brought them to this town to give this flower to her.

Each of the five flowers found a grateful hand, a large grin and an opportunity to share about Jesus. Each person gladly received a tract or New Testament, the flowers serving as effective icebreakers. Pray these recipients will receive the Rose of Sharon, Jesus, as Lord and Saviour.

 

AFRICA: STRAIGHT DEAL

Every Saturday and Sunday, OMer Adoum* invites friends to his house for a game of Fourteen, a popular card game. Groups play Fourteen under the shade of trees or in shops—but in Adoum’s house there’s more going on: “My passion is to see every Muslim come to faith in Christ,” Adoum says. Formerly devoted to Islam, he became a Christian shortly before university, and now uses any occasion to approach the subject with friends.

Adoum’s journey to Christ began in 1998, when an Islamic sect, the Sunna, built a mosque nearby and proclaimed that theirs was the way to paradise. Confused, Adoum learned that the prophet divided what would become Islam into 73 groups—only one of which would attain paradise. He says, “Every day I read the Qur’an and got more confused; it could not be the word of God.”

His research took him to the only library in town, run by a Christian. Adoum began spending time in a Bible study involving a game of bocce ball every week. He aimed to convince the Christian to become a Muslim, but he took a Bible, began reading it and was baptised in 2005; his wife followed shortly afterward.

Now, his experience serves as a backdrop for his own evangelistic efforts with ten card-playing friends. Adoum has discipled three into the faith so far. Fourteen offers a perfect opportunity for evangelism; a single game can last more than six hours, pausing once to take lunch.

As an English teacher for 500 high school students, Adoum has opportunities to share his faith. He also works with child protection and widows/orphans programmes. Using questions that led him to doubt his own Islamic faith, he can ask those same questions to his friends. “A Muslim cannot move easily, and decide one day: Today I will not be a Muslim anymore. It takes a long time. We show our love through actions,” Adoum says.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

HAITI: WHEN PLANS CHANGE

When Isaac Gibson (USA), a welder on Logos Hope, made an advance visit three months ago to establish how the ship could help local projects, he learned about a school started by Marie Claire Jean Lorthé and her late husband. After a devastating earthquake in 2010, the building’s stability was compromised. Isaac planned to replace the metal roof and install water tanks, solar panels and a playground.

But when the ship arrived and Isaac brought a team of crewmembers to begin work, the school had been knocked down for rebuilding! After their initial surprise, they set to work on the other projects, installing shelving, two 1900-litre water tanks, four solar panels and an electric water pump to replace the well’s hand pump. Staff members had been cooking under a tree, so the crew built a covered, outdoor kitchen with a sink, small counter and two stoves.

As the school only had an hour of electricity once or twice a week, the solar system will store power, so the school will have it on demand. “Now they have electricity to power several computers and the electric water pump,” said Isaac. Crewmembers also built a playground. “The kids were all over it and it was barely built!” he said. “There was a youth music camp in session next door, and those children came to play, too. Marie Claire made the kids wash the play equipment with brushes after they had used it, to keep it in good condition!”

While ship volunteers are told to expect surprises in their unconventional life of service, it is not easy to prepare for the unexpected. Isaac was thankful that crewmembers could still bless the school in so many ways. The roofing material was left for later installation; employing local labour for the rebuild will help the community’s economy.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

MALAWI: GO DEEPER OR DIE

OMer Macdonald Mushiya has a burden for the Yao Muslims. He has planted five churches in villages surrounding Chisopi, each enjoying growing numbers of Yao believers through evangelistic efforts. However, a new passion has sent Macdonald on a journey into God’s Word.

“Churches are making Christians, not disciples,” he says. “They don’t equip them to help others. They’re ‘Sunday Christians’ that don’t testify to other people.” To help his congregations grow in faith, Macdonald offers theological training through Veritas, a programme designed to enrich students’ understanding of Scripture. Through his teaching, pastors and church members are gaining a level of discipleship beyond what most Africans experience. “I teach people to read the Bible in context, to know the whole book. This course gives me a greater understanding of Scripture, to better teach others,” he says.

Veritas training comes in four modules, each taking one year. Macdonald currently has 29 students in three modules and is finishing his own training of module four at a college in Lilongwe.

Macdonald now sees pastors from all denominations coming together to share truth—and more communities are begging for the Veritas teaching. “Everyone now has a group to lead—and some are leading churches,” he says of his students. “I’m delegating and shaping them, training them to train others. The more you teach, the more you learn as well,” he says.

 

JUSTICE

NEAR EAST: NOT FORGOTTEN

“Sudanese refugees have the best attitude,” exclaimed Elaine* who, with her husband, developed a ministry focused on helping refugees facing discrimination. “Many refugees are downcast, but the Sudanese are so upbeat,” she said. “They’re the sweetest, most optimistic people,” despite experiencing severe racism from Arabs, long-term OMer Marie* stated.

Bringing food and encouragement, Elaine spent her time visiting Sudanese refugees who lived “in [small] apartments…typically [occupied by] five to 10 people. There was mould everywhere.” Even in summer, their accommodations were “pretty damp and dark,” she said. “Most places didn’t have windows, and were only concrete.”

Sudanese refugees in the Near East are not allowed to work or receive financial help from relief organisations, Elaine stressed. “The children are starving [because] they don’t have enough money to buy bread.”

For over a year, Marie has visited a particular Sudanese family every week. Often a local Arabic speaker joins them. “Normally, we do the [Bible] study together. We’ll read a story and discuss it,” Marie shared. One day, Marie decided she would pray with the family. “Arabic is not my heart language, so my praying is not eloquent,” she explained. “I prayed a simple prayer, and I think the Sudanese family from that day on [understood] you don’t have to pray eloquently to God. God used my weakness to help someone in their journey.”

Several weeks later, the wife prayed for the first time. “It was beautiful,” Marie enthused. Although the Sudanese family are Muslim, “They welcome us into their home and ask to read [Bible] stories. I hope they’ll share what they’ve been learning with their community.” Marie believes God is using the refugee situation for good. “Amongst all the refugees coming to [the Near East], and the increased pressure economically and politically, God’s at work.” Pray that OM workers will find opportunities to build relationships with refugees from least-reached nations. Pray that these people would come to know Jesus and spread their knowledge of God’s Word throughout their communities.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

BRAZIL: OPEN THE TAP

Cynthia Hansen first experienced missions on a short-term trip to Guatemala with OM. “I was certain [missions] was what God had for me,” Cynthia related. Her parents, however, did not want Cynthia to pursue full-time missions, so she continued taking short-term mission trips, twice to Guatemala and once to Bolivia.

Eventually, she underwent missions training with OM, hoping to serve overseas. Instead, she applied her finance skills in the OM office. Short-term trips “change how you feel about and understand missions. You feel motivated to mobilise the church,” she said.

For churches, short-term missions trip participants bring missions closer to home. Lukas, a youth pastor, travelled to Serbia on a short-term trip in 2016. One month later, he emailed OM. “I need a trip for teenagers in my church,” he announced. “When I told what I did, my church went crazy. My teenagers want to have this experience, too!”

In 2016, OM sent about 40 Brazilians on short-term trips. In 2017, they launched the Balkans project, designed to send youth from Latin America on an eight-month trip to one of seven strategic countries.

Gisele Pereira, who spent nine years in Bosnia, affirmed Brazilians’ suitability to serve in the Balkans. “It’s a warm culture. They love talking and being together all the time. It’s very similar,” she described. The short-term team hopes to mobilise Brazilians and other youth from Latin America. “They are very similar to us, and we would like to have more people from our area go there,” Gisele stated. Pray for the short-term team at OM to connect with youth interested in missions. Pray that short-term participants would return to fields in long-term capacities and motivate their churches towards greater involvement in global missions.

 

Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.

Lawrence Tong

 

* name changed

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

OM’s role in the Church is to mobilise people to share the knowledge of Jesus and His love with every generation in every nation. OM pioneers and leads initiatives to redeem lives, rebuild communities and restore hope in over 110 countries.

About Director’s Update

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OM's International Director, Lawrence Tong,  highlights important issues, developments in ministry and concerns for prayer and response worldwide. This monthly report is issued digitally.

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