Director's Update - May 2015

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing from the balcony of my old apartment in China, overlooking a vast business complex. Across from me, a red-coloured cross stands atop a shopping center; a house church started by an OM colleague meets there. For the few years I led the work here, I never failed to be amazed by the changing spiritual climate. What was once the closed, bamboo-curtained nation is now sending missionaries not just to the interior of China, but to the world.

What made my experience remarkable was the change in attitude of a new generation of Christian leaders, willing to let go of a past that separated them to come together as one in Christ and dream of new partnerships for the Gospel. The days of isolation and going it alone are drawing to a close. Serving and engaging churches in mission work is still OM’s heartbeat, and thus my heart was warmed by what I saw in China…and the very small part we play.

OM has embarked on a journey to change our structure and governance to make us better stewards in serving mission fields, churches and our members. We can learn from Chinese church leaders in their readiness to let go of old ways to embrace the new. We want to be in partnership with like-minded Christian communities who are globally committed to bringing the Word of God and the love of Christ to the nations. What we can do together is far more than what we can do alone.

Warmly in Him,

Lawrence Tong

 

NEPAL EARTHQUAKE

OM is responding to the aftereffects of the earthquake and will be involved in relief work through team members and partner ministries. As soon as specific plans are in place, we will communicate how you can be involved. Pray for wisdom for leadership decisions about how best to use our resources and manpower in doing what God would have us do.


evangelism

Logos Hope: Praise God for the completion of the Power Up Logos Hope project: After five months of intense work, the ship sailed from Singapore on 29 March, bound for Kuching, East Malaysia. We are thankful for the hard work of teams on board and on shore, as well as for your prayer and support. The time in Kuching has been filled with opportunities for interaction and sharing God’s love, with teams going out to help in practical ways and various conferences and events on board.

One team visited the Kuching Autistic Association to play and sing with the children. Another team went into rainforest-covered hills to help establish a farm to provide jobs for the underprivileged. The ship has been busy with many visitors to the book fair, a ladies brunch to encourage Christian women in their walk with God, school visits, a Latin Café, the International Music Night to reflect the unity in Christ of the ship’s international crew, and an event to encourage pastors and church leaders. Thank you for your prayers for the coming months, with Logos Hope scheduled to visit three ports in the Philippines.

Near East: Two years into Esther’s* ministry, the political situation changed in Syria and her team dissolved. She moved to a neighbouring country to lead a new team. “You feel like you’re abandoning people. You’re starting again with everything. It’s difficult,” she said. Then streams of people began pouring over borders into nearby countries and she was surrounded by the very people group she had left.

Previously in Syria, “You could have conversations with people about Jesus, you could give literature, but you only ever got so far,” she said. Now, Syrians are asking her to read the Bible with them. “It’s a completely different atmosphere,” she said. “I’m very open. People know that’s what I do. I don’t need to look for opportunities.” Esther visited Nadia*, who had experienced a medical emergency. Before leaving, she prayed, and the women read the Bible together. “That really put me at peace,” Nadia said. Esther started a regular Discovery Bible Study in their home, talking with different members of the family each week. After almost 10 months of studying the Bible, the family told Esther of their commitment to follow Jesus. “We’ve decided,” they announced.
 

relief & development

Egypt: Tony* arrived just after the 2011 revolution. “Local artists’ messages were about revolution and war,” he recalled. “I wanted to bring a message of love and peace.” For one group of street kids, that message is revolutionary. To explain the concept of personal value to them, Tony volunteered with an organisation that teaches them to transform scraps of wood found on the street into products they can sell. Doing this helps them realise they can transform their own lives. Once the kids have completed the process, Linda and Tony tell them: “With you, it’s the same. You were on the street. We are working with you. You are learning new things. You can be changed by God.”

Because the kids understand how transformation works with the wood, they can believe it for themselves, Linda* said. Working closely with kids over time gives the couple opportunity to build relationships and share God’s Word with them.

When Farid*, 17, came to the centre—homeless, aggressive, addicted to drugs—Tony and Linda struggled to relate to him, yet worked with him day by day, listening, loving and teaching. For Linda’s birthday, Farid used money he’d earned from the recycled wood project to buy her a gift. “I will never give up on him. Everybody tells us, ‘Oh, he’s really different,’” Tony said. Pray that the wood restoration project will help Farid and many more street kids to understand and become children of God.

China: In March, OM conducted its first training on community development for 29 participants from local churches and various missions organisations. Participants learnt how to enter and exit communities in their development work, how to help communities establish vision, prioritise needs, problem-solve, implement plans and integrate internal and external resources in a sustainable manner. They also learned from Nehemiah’s example on how to work effectively in a community.

The trainer then took an OM team and course participants on a practicum trip to a remote minority Miao village to facilitate village leaders and the community in identifying key areas for development. Miao Christians have existing outreach programmes to the Han and HongYi (another minority tribe) people. However, the Miaos’ perceived relative poverty and animistic practices have been barriers for sharing their faith with the Han people.

The team realised that it was important to first develop a viable economic model before they can be effective in outreach. Raising chickens as a business evolved from small group discussions with church leaders and others in the community. In addition, people were taught to cultivate indigenous micro-organisms (IMO) and enzyme production to make organic compost for animal feed and crop fertilizer.

These basic steps will help develop systematic natural farming methods and set an example for the rest of the villagers. The team hopes that the Miao Christians can ultimately take full ownership of the livelihood project and share the skills learnt with their neighbours even while sharing the Gospel. Pray for the Miao Christians who are taking the Gospel to other people groups. Also pray for the OM team as they train and mentor others.
 

church planting

Ghana: In Kikaayili, a predominantly Muslim village situated on Lake Volta, there once was a Christian church that disintegrated through lack of leadership and its members converting to Islam under pervasive social persecution. OM Country Leader Chris Insaidoo and his team went to Kikaayili on a ‘Hope Visit’ to share Jesus. Chris looked for any remaining Christians, but found none. As people in the region speak only Mampruli, the team needed interpreters. Only Harun* was willing to help. As the team shared, 35 adults surrendered their lives to Jesus.

The next day, Harun told Chris that he had been touched by the message during the previous night. He reflected that he was helping them preach God’s message for his people, who had embraced it, and he wondered why he hadn’t been doing the same. Harun then gave his life back to Jesus, and Chris began to walk a road of discipleship with him. When the team was preparing to leave, they asked Harun if he would be willing to lead this congregation; he eagerly accepted.

Please pray for Harun and the new congregation. Pray also for Chris and the OM team as they carry the Gospel to the lost—and that that other interpreters will find Jesus ‘in translation’ as well.

Bangladesh: Establishing fellowships takes time. Initially, the OM team meets people through development programmes or in their normal daily lives. Friendships are made, and opportunities arise to talk about faith and salvation. Sometimes, small groups are formed to look into God’s Word; after some time, some participants are ready to take a public step of faith. Most of these contacts are men, so the next important step is for them to reach their families with the Good News.

Over the last few years in Rowgram, it has been a joy for the team to see a number of men come to faith from one village, Sunkapur. These men have reached out to their wives, and whilst not all have embraced the Truth, some have, and other wives are not opposed. Until recently, these believers had travelled regularly by bus to meet for fellowship in a central, neutral location. In December, believers in the wider area were talking about Christmas and how it ought to be celebrated. The men and women from Sunkapur decided that it was time to meet in their local area, even just for this one occasion. One of the believers opened up his very simple home for the event. What a joy to see 20 people gather to hear what it means to follow Jesus! Since it went well, the group now plans to meet regularly in their own homes.
 

justice

AIDSLink: The AIDSLink** web site has information in six different languages and a response mechanism connected with this information. People can email in one of those languages and get a response. A recent email came from a non-English speaker just diagnosed with HIV. Desperate and planning to take his life that evening, this was a last desperate act of reaching out. Fortunately, he gave a phone number; we called and talked him through his pain and shock. He agreed not to kill himself and will soon meet with the team member that counselled him. Thanks be to God for technology!

“This has changed everything for me,” Abu Bakr*, the prison guard said to the AIDSLink team who regularly visits prisons to bring education on drug use and HIV to inmates and prison guards. Prisoners with HIV are housed in a separate block where Abu Bakr is assigned. Fearing they could contract HIV by being in contact with him, other guards refused to shake his hand or get close to him. After the training, which gave basic information on how HIV is transmitted, they realised that Abu Bakr is not a risk; he, in turn, realised that those he is guarding are not a threat to him. This simple information has changed his whole working life! (**OM works in partnership with AIDSLink.)
 

mentoring & discipleship

Nepal: As part of OM’s one-year Joshua Training Course (JTC) programme, four young men set out to the southern Siraha district, after one month of training. This team, ranging from ages 15–21, devoted three weeks to serving in villages along the Indian border. The team walked for hours every day, distributing tracts and Gospel books and leading conversations about Christ as opportunity arose.

The team utilised their ministry skills by performing compelling dramas at local schools and visiting many surrounding villages where they spoke the Gospel message boldly. This small group is one of nine teams that OM sent across eight of the least-reached districts of Nepal. Serving in rugged village settings is less than glamorous; the teams walk for hours by day and sleep on concrete or clay floors by night. However, their joy is obvious as they take this opportunity to live out elements of the ministry training they have received. This is OM’s core value lived out: To raise up national believers to reach their own people. Pray for the teams that are taking the truth of the Gospel to some of the least-reached parts of the world.

Zimbabwe: OM had the privilege of hosting four crew members from Logos Hope in January. The team immediately hit the road, bringing knowledge of OM’s work to churches. The highlight for the pastors was the realisation that two of the four were Zimbabweans sent out and supported by their churches to advance the Gospel. The pastors expressed interest to begin teaching missions in their churches, yet there were concerns about the churches being small and unable to finance missionaries. One pastor stood up and challenged others to put aside denominational barriers and contribute to send jointly at least one missionary.

In one small town, the team visited a school where they could take the whole day sharing the Gospel. A number of people that the ship staff encountered were fascinated to hear their stories. Living in a landlocked country, many of them have never seen a ship. They were astonished at the commitment of Logos Hope crew to live away from their families and to travel the high seas as part of this unique community of around 400 people from over 50 different nations. Please pray for the seeds planted by the Outbound Team, that God would call many Zimbabweans into missions, whether onboard a ship or elsewhere.

 

On behalf of all our workers representing over 110 nations in more than 115 countries, I thank you for your prayers and support.

By His grace.

Lawrence Tong

* names changed for security reasons

Credit: OM International · © 2015 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

lawrence

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.

e-mail subscription: imelda.tadena@om.org

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