The recent series of violent attacks against Christian churches by groups like the Taliban, ISIS and Boko Haram is a sober reminder that terrorism threatens our values and our freedom to worship God. That the Church would be persecuted was foretold by Jesus Himself. However, the lack of outcry in response is a concern. According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world are directed at Christians. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the US estimates that 100,000 Christians now die because of their faith every year—that’s 11 Christians every hour. The PEW Research Centre says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012 and Christians face some form of discrimination in 139 countries—almost 3/4 of the world’s nations.
This is more than a concern for prayer; it’s also a threat to our religious freedom. We must speak against this crime against humanity. OM will support networks and initiatives by like-minded groups who advocate for justice and help the victims of such hideous and cowardly crimes. Silence is not an option. Will you ask God how you can make a difference on behalf of those who suffer?
By His grace,
Arabian Peninsula: James* ducked into a coffee shop for a cold drink and respite from the heat. He greeted a local sitting at a table, and the two men struck up a conversation. The local told James a long story about how he had met (boxer) Mike Tyson, but thought it was sad that Tyson would never go to heaven because he had tattoos. “What do you believe?” he asked James, who remembered the concept of wasta, an Arabic word meaning important connections with someone in power. “Jesus had wasta with God,” James began. “Jesus lived a perfect life. When He died on the cross, His sacrifice covered my sin. Jesus has wasta with God, and I have wasta with Jesus. Because I know Jesus, I will go to heaven when I die.” The local leaned back in his chair and stared at James. “Wow,” he said. Pray that James will meet more locals who are spiritually thirsty.
Israel: Ronald* met a couple whose grandson, Benjamin, was suffering from a large tumour in his head that had caused paralysis and a coma for several months. Ronald prayed that Jesus would heal the boy and bless the family, telling them that Jesus healed many when he walked throughout Israel 2,000 years ago, and that He is still alive today and healing people. The couple expressed gratitude for his compassion, but Ronald heard nothing from the couple for two weeks.
Then, unexpectedly, the grandmother called, explaining that, on the same day they had prayed, Benjamin had awoken from the coma. When OM workers visited the next day, the grandmother said that she had waited to share the news because she didn’t know what to make of what happened; hospital staff had never seen anything like it in 30 years.
The grandparents praised God as the OM visitors shared that Jesus had healed Benjamin, and wanted a relationship with them. The grandmother, open to hearing about Jesus, was still trying to make sense of the events. The grandfather was not religious, but this had impacted him greatly. Pray that God will bring full healing to Benjamin and continue to work in this family’s life, leading them to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Spain: Elisabeth writes, “Every time you hike El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James, a world-famous hike leading to the burial site of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela), your journey is different. It challenges you and teaches you about others and their cultures and gives opportunities to teach others about Jesus. Various routes converge at the city’s cathedral where James’ tomb is located. This past year, I backpacked part of the Northern Way with OM’s Transform team. For six days, our group of 20 worked together to push through the hike’s physical and spiritual challenges. We also made lasting relationships with other pilgrims hiking the Camino. OMers hike the Camino to befriend the people that God puts beside us on the path to share His love. Many hike the Camino seeking a life-changing experience; what better than hearing the good news of Jesus Christ?
Karina*, from Eastern Europe, spent her last week on the Camino with the OM team. In her home country, she had never found a church whose doors were open. Her time with us was her first interaction with Christians. A Dutch woman on our team gave Karina her first Bible; she was overjoyed!
We are all on our own Camino in life. Some parts of our journey are steep, requiring concentration and strength. Other parts are flat, requiring stamina and encouragement to keep going in the midst of mono-tony. Regardless, our mission remains the same: Tell those walking alongside us the good news of Christ.
Bangladesh: Shohan* is like many young men living in long-term refugee camps. After independence in 1971, thousands of families were put into refugee camps with the intention of being repatriated to Pakistan, which never happened. Now these sprawling, cramped and unsanitary camps are home for thousands of families. Shohan shares a small room with his mother and four brothers and sisters. His older brother runs a mobile phone repair shop, but earns too little to keep Shohan in school. Shohan had to drop out and join his brother in the repair shop. With scarce employment opportunities, he had few options.
At one of these camps, OM has set up an electrical training centre to give young men employable skills or small business acumen. Zed*, the training instructor, pours his life into his students, taking a personal interest in their lives. Most evenings he visits and helps former trainees. When Shohan completed the four-month course, he wanted to set up his own electrical shop in the camp. Zed spent many evenings helping him to buy what he needed and giving advice on setting up.
Shohan is proud of his achievements, saying, “I am a skilled worker now, and no longer a burden on my community.” Shohan earns enough money to help his family and keep his younger sisters in school. He and his brothers have also been able to build their own room in the camp. Through this project and through the faithful witness of Zed, more and more are hearing the good news.
Moldova: Can you imagine being a believer but having no access to the Bible? Just 25 years ago in Moldova (then part of the Soviet Union), Bibles were forbidden, and people risked their freedom and lives smuggling or secretly printing them in the country. Today, there is freedom but, for many, the Bible remains unknown—often through lack of availability more than lack of interest. OM’s literature department has made it a priority to make Bibles available at affordable prices, amazed at the huge demand.
When OM’s relief workers visit the elderly and the poor with material help, they often find that a Bible is a much-appreciated gift. However, what about the illiterate or those with failing eyesight? Audio recordings of Scripture are not widely available and would mainly profit the young generation who have computers and smartphones, rather than the old, bedridden and blind. OM tries to meet this need by providing audio Bibles on easy-to-use portable players. Oneof the recipients is Ion, a 43-year-old man blind and lame since age seven. In 2014, his brother, who had taken care of him, died, leaving Ion without anyone to care after him. The local church that runs one of OM’s elderly care centres has offered food, care and fellowship. Ion has trusted Christ, attends church in his wheelchair and wants to be baptised. His audio Bible allows him to engage with the Word of God and grow in his new faith.
Mihail has no personal faith but loves to discuss with local believers who visit. He is an intelligent man who studied all his life and claims to have read every book in the library. Now, at age 85, he has become helpless. It is difficult for Mihail to stay in bed all day, unable to read and without anybody to talk to. He considers the audio Bible a blessing, as it gives him something to do and think about. Please pray that this blessing grows into a true encounter with God, as He reveals Himself to Mihail and others through His Word.
South Africa: The fight against HIV and AIDS, and its stigma, remains a massive challenge. The majority of people affected by HIV and AIDS are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS Hope, in collaboration with Stanza Bopape Clinic, arranged an event on World AIDS Day in December to bring light to the situation. Candles were lit in memory of those who have died from AIDS and those currently living with it. AIDS Hope Director Nico Leonard spoke about zero discrimination, while those gathered pledged to be part of the solution of helping those affected. People received booklets on positive health and HIV and AIDS.
One lady was shocked when she received an encouraging word on a card with a chocolate; she was tired and hopeless but, when she read Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (NIV), she knew it was especially for her. The team prayed with the woman and invited her to join weekly counselling. She left the clinic with tears of hope and light in her eyes. Plans are underway for a similar event in the coming year.
UK: It’s dark when we pull up, the bitter cold slipping through our minibus. Blurred figures huddle in doorways. A few come forward, some clutching worn backpacks, others with pockets full of numb fingers. A team member reads out names: For only 12 men can we give a warm bed. Many are coarse and unkempt. One man gives a toothless grin and kisses my hand; another stares out the window. Most are Polish or Lithuanian; few speak English. At the church, beds have been set up and a hot meal served. Beds are claimed—a fortress for them, a place of safety, even if just for the night. We share a meal together—they eat quickly and quietly, only talking after their plates are clean.
We talk with a Lithuanian man using hand gestures and Google translate. He tells about his daughter and the circumstances that brought him here. “If there is one thing we could pray for you,” Chris asks, “what would it be?” It takes a moment to explain the word ‘pray’. He looks at me. “Pray? No; I am not a good man,” he laughs quietly. There is a deep sadness in him, a brokenness that we can’t grasp.
After dinner, the men disperse. Far from their homes and families, these men live on the streets, lacking more than food and shelter; they are starved of affection and regard. They live on the outskirts, in the darkness—discarded humanity. They need to know that their worth is not defined by their homelessness. They need to know Who died to set them free. This is why we do homeless ministry.
Russia: “There’s an awful lot I don’t understand; my head is spinning!” So wrote Siberian Sveta Solevevo during pre-ship training before joining the crew of Logos Hope. Sveta is one of several Russians who trained at OM’s Discipleship Centre before joining the ship.
Novosibirsk, Siberia, is one of the places on Earth furthest away from the sea. Sveta had never seen the ocean before. What has drawn Sveta and other Russians to leave one of the remotest parts of the world for missions? OM has emphasised discipling young believers, praying for the nations and sending workers into cross-cultural missions through its Discipleship Centre, where a six-month intensive residential course designed for the Russian context has, in the past eight years, seen 95 students complete the course and 41 go into full-time Christian work. In addition to the contribution Russian workers make to ministry in other countries, they invest critically in the Russian church when they return. After one or two years abroad, they bring with them a wealth of experience and a different worldview that greatly benefits the local church. Pray for OM as we seek to send more Russians into missions.
Angola: Statistically, Angola offers little hope. Widespread (40%) poverty, land mines from the civil war, malaria, AIDS, illiteracy, unemployment and lack of education are pervasive. Most women are married by age 15 and with child by age 17. About 50 per cent of Angola’s population is younger than 14—a young country, soon to be passed into the hands of an abandoned generation.
In 2012, Marta Seco, 23, met Wessel and Joan van der Merwe, leaders of the OM work. Not long after, she began a year-long programme of intense studies with the leaders. Delving into Scriptures, discovering ways to serve the community, and learning how to operate new technologies, such as a computer, Marta wanted further discipling. Wessel and Joan felt an urgency to implement the programme with more young adults in the surrounding community. At the beginning of 2014, nine new students joined her to live, eat, learn and grow together.
Many young Angolans lead lives without wisdom, guidance and counsel from older generations or parental figures. “Daily, the children wake up and decide, ‘Will I go to school today?’ Many fall prey to alcohol, premarital sex and marijuana. These youngsters were introduced to marijuana during the war to feel strong, not tired or hungry,” says Joan. “They also ate bullet powder to be strong.” Some of the graduating students have since relocated to minister in areas where the Gospel is desperately needed. One student accepted the call to live amongst the ‘outcast’ Bushmen—a people group the students spent a week ministering to. This year, the van der Merwes accepted 15 new students to grow together for a year that could change not only their lives, but one day, their country.
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