The series of terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris on 12 and 13 November, which collectively killed more than 170 innocent people, are heinous events that should drive us to prayer and a renewed determination to see the nations healed by God.
As a community of Christians who believe in the transformational power of the Gospel to change lives, OM should see tragedies like these as a reminder that we, the people of God from different nations, must commit ourselves to lead in bringing reconciliation between man and God…and between man and man. This is our duty, which must be evident in our lives. The tragic events in Beirut and Paris provide us opportunity to reach out and love in the midst of religious and racial struggles.
While we condemn the atrocious actions of ISIS against Christians and non-Christians alike, we must not lose sight that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12, NIV). Our best response to Beirut and Paris is not fear or hatred, but a deeper commitment to be faithful witnesses of the Prince of Peace.
In His grace,
Moldova: “Pray that I will stop thinking about killing myself.” “Pray that we would have a house to live in.” “Pray that my mother would come home. She has been gone for five years.” These requests were not typical of a teenage girl. Over 100 girls, aged 9-14, expressed similar pain at an OM camp. Several had been exploited, abused and even trafficked; most felt neglected and unwanted, and many had considered or attempted suicide. One hundred and two girls with heart-breaking stories—lives that God created with love and for a purpose.
The camp theme was ‘He makes all things new’. Moldovan leaders from similar backgrounds shared testimonies of how God radically changed their lives, encouraging the girls that anything is possible for God.
Every girl received a Bible, and every evening there was a Bible lesson, during which they practiced using them. There was prayer for alcoholic parents. “It was beautiful to watch girls open up to leaders, to one another, and to God,” said an OM team member. “Many declared Jesus as Lord for the first time. On the last evening, they confessed their sins by writing them on paper and then burning them at a bonfire, illustrating the forgiveness of God who can also make them new.”
The true challenge awaits at home, where everything around them tells them they have neither worth nor a future. OM plans a similar ministry amongst neglected boys at risk to be either exploited or become future traffickers. Pray for the girls as they struggle to live out a new identity in Christ, while still facing abuse and pressures to submit to a destructive lifestyle. Pray for the development of the OM ministry to vulnerable boys and girls in Moldova.
Nepal: “We want to see a New Testament in every household in Mugu,” Peter* the leader of OM’s Seed Sowing (evangelism) ministry stated. The 52 men participating in Discipled 2 Go (D2G) went there for three weeks to see this happen. Mugu is known for rugged terrain, sparse population and few believers. There are 9,670 households in the area, and only 113 known Christians. The 10 D2G men’s teams plan to walk to every house and distribute mini SD cards, which fit cell phones and contain audio New Testaments in the local language and a book called God’s Promises.
“We are trusting the Lord every time we hand someone a piece of paper, or an SD card, that talks about Jesus Christ—that the Holy Spirit will use that to speak to them,” Matt*, an OM leader shared. “As [the students] distribute mini SD cards, we pray for opportunities to share openly what God has done in their lives.”
OM has distributed Christian tracts, Gospel portions and Bibles in remote parts of Nepal since the late 1970s, and today the team still hears testimonies of people who came to faith through literature. This remains one of the first steps to making the name of Jesus known in Nepal. Pray that many people in Mugu will listen to the material on the SD cards and be transformed.
Paraguay: Ciudad del Este, a city in the tri-border area with Brazil and Argentina, is a hub of the sex-trafficking industry. Most victims (90 per cent women aged 10-20) are poor and believed promises of work in hotels or restaurants. Being in sex work increases HIV infections by 12 times.
Eighteen years ago, David and Judy Schmidt’s domestic worker, Alice, was diagnosed HIV positive and in the AIDS stage of the disease. The Schmidts’ experience from those days led them to begin a ministry to people living with HIV, in memory of Alice. In 2003, Alto Refugio opened in the capital, Asunción, as a well-respected drop-in centre for HIV patients that provided social, spiritual and physical care for patients. Counselling, hospital visits, discipleship, a nutritious meal, day care for children whose parents have hospital appointments, education and more made it a safe place for people who are marginalised.
Sensing it was time to move on, through events and open invitations from the medical fraternity, God laid Ciudad del Este on their hearts and brought them together with OM International and their partner in HIV ministry, AIDSLink. The Schmidts plan to move to the city in early 2016 to work with the local hospital’s HIV department to provide social and spiritual care. They hope to open a drop-in centre for people living with HIV and a care centre for those who need a safe place. They are praying for the right property to establish a drop-in centre, as well as for a team to partner with in ministry to those suffering from HIV in Ciudad del Este.
Logos Hope: In the middle of Sri Lanka is a campsite that Pastor Robert considered ideal for his intention: To reconcile the relationship between the Tamil north and the Sinhalese south, after a civil war that lasted for nearly three decades finally ended in 2009. Growing up, Pastor Robert was confused about his identity as part Sinhalese, part Tamil, part Buddhist and also influenced by a Christian grandmother. “People would call me names, and I would get angry with God,” recalled Pastor Robert. “I asked him why He made me like this.” He came to recognise the purpose God gave him—to be the bridge between the two racial groups. This led him to start the Connect for Life camp. Today, most of the campers come from the post-war region of Sri Lanka, travelling miles to reach the campsite.
When Pastor Robert said yes to the campsite, he had no money to develop the place. However, the timely visit of Logos Hope in 2013 allowed for crewmembers to help refurbish the campsite buildings. “We urgently needed more manpower to get ready for an upcoming family camp,” shared Pastor Robert. “The Logos Hope teams brought not only help, but hope to the place. It was unexpected support at the right time.” This time, Logos Hope came at the right time again, just when Pastor Robert was running the youth and children camp. Several teams visited the campsite and shared their faith. “It’s amazing what God can do when your willingness is there,” said Pastor Robert encouragingly.
Greece: Following a surge of 27,276 refugees arriving on Lesbos 17–21 October, Hein van der Merwe, OM’s project manager on the island, prepared to again splash into the waves and carry strangers’ children onto the beach. While volunteers welcomed the refugees ashore, a handful of men sliced the rubber dinghy into pieces and loaded the benches and engine into a small truck. The refugees headed toward Mytilini to register and catch a ferry to the mainland. Talking to people who wanted to become Christians, Hein said, “Opportunities poke out [their] head everywhere. We don’t even have to do the work. We feel God almost tangibly. The more open I am about my religion, the more questions people ask,” he noted. “It’s become easier and easier to share with Muslims: ‘We are Christians. We are here to help because that’s what Christ expects from us.’”
Offering that help in Jesus’ name is key to OM’s role in Greece and throughout Europe, according to Robert Strong*, who coordinates OM’s refugee response. “If we are not here, then some other group will maybe run that camp gladly, but not in Jesus’ name, and that’s the difference,” he stated. “Especially in the first couple of months when these people arrive, you have a window of opportunity to speak into their lives about Jesus. This is a wide open gate for God to use us as His hands and feet to proclaim the name of Jesus to these people.”
OM needs people who can offer a week or longer to help, particularly volunteers who speak Arabic, Farsi or Dari, have an international driver’s license, and are willing to share Christ’s love and compassion with others. An OM project, Safe Passage, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information, water, food and essentials. Please pray that God will give OM workers in Greece the words of hope for those who have left everything. Pray for more volunteers throughout Europe to show Christ’s love to the arriving refugees.
USA: The Freedom Climb, an OM initiative, has created an international movement of passionate women who have climbed mountains to raise awareness, prayer and funds to bring freedom from oppression and modern-day slavery to women and children around the world. To date, the movement has raised over US$3 million, and built a community of thousands of participants and partners. In an effort to include more women, The Freedom Climb is expanding to The Freedom Challenge in the USA. “Many who would like to get involved are unable, for various reasons, to climb mountains. We have heard their passion to help,” said The Freedom Climb USA Director Tina Yeager. “We have also heard the hearts of our climbers, who do not want to lose the life-changing experiences of what God is doing on the climbs; they will continue to be some of our signature events.” The Freedom Challenge goal is to engage hundreds of thousands of Americans in greater participation at local, national and international levels.
The vision of The Freedom Challenge is to see one million oppressed women and children set on a path to freedom over the next 10 years by supporting OM projects that bring transformation to women and children in at-risk communities: The prevention of trafficking, overcoming poverty to reduce vulnerability to exploitation, and the rescue and restoration of victims by providing physical healing, trauma counseling and life-skills training. www.TheFreedomChallenge.com
Zambia: “If you want to change Africa, start with young people’s way of thinking,” said Christopher Kasale, field leader of OM Lake Tanganyika. There once was a large youth group in Mpulungu, but its youth were not growing in faith. Rethinking the approach, Christopher started smaller; four years ago seven boys, now young men, were discipled as the Honest Boys. Christopher recalls, “We asked: Can we be honest? Can we speak the truth? Can we keep promises? If we are honest, we are going to have respect.” The boys learnt football skills, how to coach, farm, make handcrafts, handle finances, do a Discovery Bible Study and uphold Christian values of ownership, responsibility, creativity and stewardship. Creativity is developed through gardening and crafts; stewardship is developed by learning how to save and use a bank account.
One Honest Boy, Nelson, was living with his sister and brother-in-law, who are OM missionaries, when he was picked to be an Honest Boy. With money earned from farming and handcrafts, Nelson paid his own school fees, starting in grade nine to grade 12, becoming the first person in his family to finish school. “Being an Honest Boy has transformed my life,” said Nelson. “Now my role is to help other guys so their lives can be transformed.”
“The young ones have this desire to learn; whatever you give them they will do it,” Christopher said. He told them to prepare [gardening beds] at home to plant vegetables. There are conditions, like watering their gardens before coming to football practice. Within three months, each child has a vegetable garden at home. Profits are used for school fees, to buy food for the family, to put in the bank—and to purchase a new football, which produces another ball that starts the cycle again to train more boys.
“How many balls do I need? Just one,” said Christopher. “In three months, that one ball has been multiplied and has brought change to people.”
UK: Wet, tiring and team-building describe OM Lifehope’s Adventure Week (AW). AW invites missions students at Lifehope out of the dorms and into the unknown. Before they head out to work alongside different churches throughout England, they go on a week-long team-building adventure. Disliked by some and held in honour by others, the programme is a great team-building experience. “Be FAT,” says Greg Weaver, head of the training, “flexible, adaptable and teachable.”
Teamwork means dealing with differences. “You are put into situations with other team members who will handle those situations differently; if they have the tendency to explode, they will, because it’s AW and that’s what’s going to happen,” says Geert*. Opportunities to listen to insights about oneself, and others, stick out as a benefit of the week. “The short time you have is preparation for conflicts that can occur in a team,” says Geert.
Taking off masks and sharing openly about one’s past invites vulnerability and strengthens relationships. “You get practically equipped with tools you can use later as a team, when you start a programme in a church,” said Irmela. Pray that every participant will transmit these lessons and values from church to church, and peer to peer.
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,
* names changed for security reasons
Credit: OM International · © 2015 OM International