OMers around the world began 2015 with 21 days of prayer, listening and meditating on God’s Word. Prayer is a foundation stone on which OM was built, and prayer will continue to define us.
My first week was spent with OMers in Bangladesh, sharing at their retreat and visiting their work in out-lying villages. As I listened and got to know their ministries, I was encouraged by the spiritual impact they have. OM has, among other works, 45 single-class primary schools, five tailoring schools, 15 adult literacy classes and five computer centres. These ministries are worthy of our support.
I also made a quick visit to thank the pastors and friends in Taiwan who were very instrumental in the recent Logos Hope visit. Many of these friendships began in 1988, when I lined up the first Doulos visit to Kaohsiung. God has deemed that ordinary people, whether from Bangladesh or Taiwan or from anywhere in the world, should stand with OM in giving and praying alongside us. Together, we rejoice in His faithfulness.
For this, I thank God for every prayer partner.
Arabian Peninsula: Joy* spent 16 years in ministry as a single woman. Now, married for a year and a half, she finds that her local friends approach her differently and open up more about their struggles. “It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t married; I didn’t want to marry the wrong man,” she explains. Her friends understand and agree; many are unhappily married or share their husband with another wife. Joy and her husband, Ernest*, have shared about God’s sovereignty with many Muslim friends. Hassan*, a Muslim from North Africa, wanted to know their story. “How did you work it all out?” Joy said, “We talked about God’s purposes in our lives…How God brought us to the AP to meet each other.” Hassan replied, “This is God’s divine appointment for you.” The couple has also explained the biblical meaning of the marriage covenant with many friends thusly: “We got married before the eyes of God.”
Ernest has opportunities to share truth at work. Many colleagues frequent women in prostitution. Every time they invited him, he refused. “Why would you go home to be with your wife? Don’t you have a girlfriend?” they asked. “No, it’s shameful to have a girlfriend,” he replied. “I love my wife. We are faithful to one another. Would you allow your sisters to go?” he asked. “No, of course not!” they responded. He asked: “Do you want a virgin wife?” “Yes, we do,” they replied. “Don’t you think your fiancées want virgin husbands?” he returned. None had thought that way before. One of the men spoke up, saying, “You know, what we do is not right.” At that point, Ernest realised that perhaps he was there for that one man. Joy said, “We can never generate the opportunities; God does that. We have to be available to share.”
Pray that God will raise up more expatriate believers to move here and share with Arabs in their workplaces. Pray for locals to accept the Lord and to join together for fellowship. Pray against the human trafficking and modern-day slavery present in the Arabian Peninsula.
China: Matt* and Sara* made a life-changing decision in 2010 and moved to China. Despite holding a full-time job, Matt has many opportunities to build relationships with people he meets. Young people are naturally drawn to Matt and Sara, seeing the love they have for them and for each other. At appropriate times, Matt opens the door for his friends to study the Word of God. When they express interest, Matt and Sara study with small groups or one-on-one. Through such interaction, some have found faith in Christ.
One young man, John, came to faith after attending the meetings. In subsequent months, he brought four other friends: Ben, Jimmy, Greg and Dan. Ben came to faith and brought along Joan, Judy, Anna and Edward. Jimmy also became a believer and brought along Mia, Mike and Wu to the meetings. The young people have a passion to introduce their friends to the Saviour, multiplying the good news among those who seek truth. Pray that those who attend the Bible studies would grow in faith and knowledge of God’s love.
Near East: Winter’s wet conditions are steadily worsening in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. Over two million people, displaced following violent advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have crowded into camps, tents and other temporary shelters lacking adequate protection from seasonal cold. OM seeks to raise at least US$600,000 over a four-month period to cover critical needs, including tents, tarps, blankets, heaters and fuel. Partnering with locals, OM is distributing aid and developing a sustainable relief strategy for the area.
In addition to humanitarian work, workers have emphasised discipleship, evangelism and church planting. When Tim* and Lena* arrived eight years ago, another couple had already been discipling local believers, thus enabling Tim and Lena to network and develop their own ministries and business.
Following the fall of Mosul to ISIL in July 2014, being on the ground and having long-term relationships were crucial to the couple’s ability to work during the crisis. “Knowing people means knowing the situation better than what the media tries to make the world believe,” Lena explained. “Being with them was highly appreciated by the church leadership,” Tim said.
As worldwide financial assistance came in, Lena coordinated efforts with a local congregation that had been helping Syrian families from its own funds. OM sent additional workers to assess the situation and set up a system for distributing aid. Esther*, a long-term worker in a neighbouring country, was the first additional OM staff to assist: “I helped the church write reports, and put systems in place to report back to donors.” She was amazed by how the local church stepped up: “They were really God’s hands and feet in the situation.” Long-termer Dillon* noted, “You come and fill a need, but another 1,000 needs pop up. You realise how small you are, and how many needs there are.”
Many of the refugees’ experiences were horrendous, making trauma counselling an essential service once basic needs have been met. “It’s a crucial time,” said Lena, “an opportunity to be confronted, to question Islam and ask why this is happening. We need the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.”
OM’s relief efforts are carried out in partnership with local believers from all minority groups. While physical aid is offered unconditionally, workers do not ignore the opportunity to share Christ’s love. Explained Esther, “There’s an opportunity to reach in where there hasn’t been before…particularly with the Yazidi.” Tim recognised, “Kurdish people have been forgotten for many centuries; little work has been done…prayer will be key to make a difference among the Kurds.”
North Africa: In church planting, “We [can] miss [the movement] with believers and non-believers,” said Alex*, co-field leader. “You have a conversation with someone and [recognise] there’s something happening. Then, there’s nothing for another two months. You can easily miss it and give up, or you can slowly continue on, and wait for God to bring the fruit.” Some workers have been in the country for over 10 years without seeing a single person come to faith. Church planting efforts are still in the pioneering stage, revealing the difference between microwaving and marinating: “We from the West are so quick in everything. The Arab world is different: Things seem to take forever; there are no short cuts, no quick results,” observes Alex.
Little changes in people’s lives are important. “We see small movements among believers and non-believers,” Alex said. “It’s the start of something, but [we] have to be patient,” Tim*, the other co-leader, added. He and his wife Awna’s* favourite date is brunch at a café near their house, where they have gotten to know the waiters. Jean* stood out, Awna said: “He’s really friendly and always smiling. We began to wonder…” Tim and Awna introduced themselves, and Jean told them about his wife and his four children.
“Usually, the firstborn male in Muslim families would be named Muhammad and subsequent siblings’ names have religious significance,” Awna said. “Yet all four of Jean’s children’s names have nothing to do with Islam.” As their relationship strengthened over time, Jean invited the couple to his home to meet his family. The entire event was an extreme display of Arab hospitality. Tim and Awna were enjoying their meal when Jean suddenly whispered to them, “I’m a Christian.” Jean had been a believer for several years, though he had never told his wife, a Muslim, for fear that she would take the children away. He had, however, insisted on giving his children Christian names—a subtle yet significant witness in a culture where one’s name reflects one’s spirit. “In that sense, he has exerted Christian fatherhood over his children,” Awna said. “Our prayer is that he will share his faith with [his wife] and that she will accept it.”
Pray for church growth in North Africa. Pray against fear present amongst the population, especially amongst local believers. “Nobody trusts anybody. That’s a tool Satan uses to keep people from coming to Christ,” Tim said. Pray for the workers in this country to persevere, despite seeing few tangible results.
Myanmar: “Before people came to our village to teach us, we thought that we shouldn’t touch people who are HIV+. Now I know that that isn’t true. I know how I should love and care for them.” For AIDSLink Myanmar Co-ordinator Jane*, feedback like this makes travelling for over 24 hours by bus on bumpy, twisty roads worth it. Recently she trained almost 400 people about HIV and AIDS in the northwest. “In village settings, there is much stigma and wrong information about HIV,” said Jane. “Many people believe there’s nothing they can do, and that HIV equals death.”
In another village of mainly Christians, over 100 people gathered to hear Jane speak about HIV and AIDS. “It was an incredible opportunity to share the truth about the disease and how we, as Christians, can love and care for people living with HIV,” she said. “Through our Channels of Hope workshops, we challenge attitudes and stigmas.” OM partners with AIDSLink International to make a difference in the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
Burundi: Dusty sunbeams shower Wilson Niyibitanga’s family patio as they pass through the tin roof, showing the trajectories of bullets shot during a previous conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Families are celebrating the return of Wilson and Lenus Manirambona from OM discipleship training in Zambia; the official work of OM Burundi is about to begin with these two young Burundian men. OMers Paul Guinness and Holly Steward travelled almost 40 hours on a cargo ship and motorbike to reach Lake Tanganyika’s shores and join the celebration, as well as to provide training in admin and sports ministries. Between laughter and tears, the families sent the two men into missions, entrusting them to God for vision and provision. The men have given up studies and work to be the local pioneers of OM. To support Wilson and Lenus, a Burundian board of men of integrity and commitment has been formed.
Wilson and Lenus will begin their work in the village of Rutunga, focusing on discipleship, missions, leadership development, sports ministry, children’s ministry, and ministry to the disabled and widows. Lenus will focus on the administrative aspects of the work while Wilson focuses on hands-on ministries. To sustain themselves financially, Lenus will work as an English teacher, and Wilson will run a course called Farming God’s Way.
Burundi is a strategic location to share the good news of Jesus Christ, as it creates a bridge between culturally diverse Anglophone and Francophone Africa. Many orphans and widows need care after so many men have died in the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. OM hopes to share Jesus’ love and life in this traumatised region, and be a strategic starting point to reaching the nations surrounding Lake Tanganyika with His message of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Laos: Our leader sends this report:
We had just finished the outfitting of our shop and wanted to invite people we knew personally as believers to its dedication: a pastor, those who helped in the renovations, and many local partners who operate ministries amongst drug addicts, women coming out of human trafficking, people afflicted with HIV and AIDS and children who need an education.
However, in a country opposed to the Gospel, hosting an open prayer meeting could shut down our presence. Looking into the large front windows from a busy road, you could see everything that was going on inside, including song lyrics projected on the wall. I laid the evening into Jesus’ hands; if we got into trouble, so be it. But Romans 8:15 (ESV) says, ‘you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons’. Our goal was to draw people together who otherwise seldom meet. The OM prayer meeting could unite believers, broaden their understanding of the global task the Lord has given to us and motivate them to get involved.
We started with a small group of people worshipping Jesus. We prayed for the building’s ministry, for each other, for our ministries and personal requests. We sang in English and Lao. We prayed for the government and those in spiritual darkness and poverty. As the evening progressed, more and more people came—over 35! Everyone could see us worshipping Jesus, united in prayer: locals, Europeans, Americans and Asians. God honoured our step of faith, and we eagerly anticipate the next prayer meeting.
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