Director's Update - Mar 2015

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Dear friends of OM,

Earlier in the past month, I had the incredible privilege of speaking at Missions Fest in Vancouver, Canada. What an amazing experience! I’ve heard so much about this, one of the largest mission conferences in North America, and to be a part of it was something I had never imagined possible.

The same week, I met many former and present OMers and supporters and I made new friends at the exhibition hall where 240 mission agencies and schools had their booths. I was humbled by and grateful for them.

This year’s International Leaders Meeting (ILM)—a gathering of OM field directors, senior leaders and board members—takes place in Bangkok, Thailand, from 9–13 March. The theme is ‘Travelling Together’. Please remember to pray as we reflect on our journey together to proclaim God’s good news in a changing world. Stay tuned as we find out what God has in store for OM. Join with us as we pray and consider our roles in proclamation as followers of Christ.

OM is what it is today, in large part, becuase of people like you who stand behind us in prayer for the nations.

By His grace,

Lawrence Tong

 

evangelism

Moldova: Whenever OM’s Bus4Life approaches a new village, a crowd of onlookers quickly gathers. “People are curious,” shares one OM worker. “It is different from any bus they have seen, and has a foreign number plate.” During one outreach, 16-year-old Sergiu stopped by and ended up talking about peace and a relationship with God. He bought a Bible. While the bus’s bouncy castle is a huge attraction for children, it also provides access to their parents. One team member talked with a father who admitted that he had been going to church and reading the Bible, but had been drawn back into the ‘way of the world’. He was challenged to give his life to God and return to the church.

With the visit of the bus comes a spirit of celebration associated with the local church that hosts the team. “Because of the bus, people see the evangelical church with different eyes,” a worker said. By the end of the 12-day outreach, four villages and 500 people of all ages were reached. Over 120 books and Bibles were sold or given away. Those figures represent one child who understood his value in God’s eyes, or one adult who started to read the Bible, or one community that let go of its prejudice against the local church. Pray that the presence and message of Bus4Life would have a lasting impact in the lives and communities it visits.

 

Logos Hope: The Power Up Logos Hope project is well on the way to completion—the result of thousands of hours of planning, ordering, transporting new machinery to the ship, installation and commissioning. With the completion of the new generators, main switchboard and heat recovery system, crew are being familiarised with the new machinery and systems, while preparation for the surveys to renew the Passenger Ship Safety Certificate continues. After sea trials, the ship is scheduled to leave Singapore at the end of March. Thank you for your prayers and financial support, without which the project could not have taken place!

During the project, the Outbound initiative spread the ministry of the ship around the world, changing lives and stretching crewmembers by giving them opportunities to experience God at work in and through them. Around 250 crew have served in 70 teams, going to 40 countries across six continents over the past months. The Uruguay team visited a prison in Toledo which housed about 20 inmates in very poor conditions. Lawrence Kim (South Korea) shared about his struggle with his father’s death. He then explained what happens after death, and the existence of heaven and hell. One inmate, in jail for 16 years, exclaimed, “I am already in hell now!” After Lawrence shared the Gospel, 10 inmates—including this man—accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Praise God for this opportunity to bring freedom in Christ to these prisoners.

 

relief & development

Near East: For 25 Syrian women in one of the world’s largest refugee camps, embellishing scarves is a chance to gather each week and forget, for a few hours, the trauma they’ve experienced. Mary*, who facilitates the income-generating project, first visited the refugee camp two years ago. Initially, crafts included baskets, knitting and crocheting, since many of the women knew how to use yarn practically. “These women were so traumatised. It was therapeutic [for them] just doing something beautiful and creative,” Mary remembered. Many struggled to provide for their families. The fact that these crafts generate income for the women goes a long way in destroying the belief that they are useless and of no value to society.

Mary visits them in the afternoons in their temporary living areas. Several of the women have asked for Bibles. Whenever possible, Mary looks for opportunities to have conversations with them about biblical topics. Mary said, “I’m not just interested in making scarves and having a project. The point is to reach people.”

Over the past year, the scarf project has made over US$100,000, with roughly US$25,000 in profit, half of which goes directly back into the project, while other funds purchase necessities like diapers, milk, blankets and medicine. “Whatever profit there is, it goes back into helping Syrians,” Mary said.

 

Panama: “I don’t have enough food for my children,” shares Celinda, a 45-year-old mother of 10. “Sometimes life is hard. But I thank the Lord for Pan de Vida; my children can eat.” Roger Branda and his team operate the Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) programme to care for undernourished children in Volcán, where OM is based. Many families are poor, especially amongst the indigenous; many single mothers can’t work and take care of their children at the same time. Food is scarce.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, OM serves food to 60–80 children, but Pan de Vida goes beyond the children’s physical needs: They also participate in a programme called Living like Jesus. Theodolinda’s three children participate in Pan de Vida. “My children are learning how to do good to each other,” she shares. “We always talk about what they’ve learnt and what the Bible verse was. I bought a Bible for my oldest son, Elmer, 11. Pan de Vida helps us to talk about the Word of God in our daily lives.” Roderique, father of four, encourages the team that, in the future, they will see the fruits of their work. “All the parents are happy because we hope to have different kids. You give them the opportunity not to make the same mistakes we made,” he said.

Celinda’s eight-year-old daughter spreads the word in Volcán about the programme, looking for other children on the streets and inviting them to participate.

 

church planting

Central Asia: A couple of times annually, a church planting team plans a one- or two-week Season of Sowing (SoS), a time to be especially intentional and bold, preparing stories to share and rallying the prayers of supporters. During a SoS, it’s not uncommon to experience greater distractions and spiritual opposition. Recently, men shared their faith with others in tea houses, while women shared baked goods—and their faith—visiting neighbours and friends.

One team member connected with a university student; on a walk together, the subject of God arose. “We stopped briefly next to a cemetery, and the conversation came to a lull, both of us looking at what was before us,” she said. The friend asked the team member what she believed. “I then naturally shared about Jesus, whom she’s open to hearing more about,” the team member remembered. “She showed me how she’d downloaded the holy books on her phone, but hadn’t yet started reading them. It felt good talking about Jesus on our first meeting, having prepared as a team for such an encounter.”

Praise God for the opportunities team members had to share their faith with friends and neighbours in this Muslim region of the Central Caucasus. Please pray for the team and their community as they follow up seeking individuals.

 

Turkey: Şanlıurfa, also known as Urfa, is an ancient city near the Syrian border. Many Muslims believe it is the birthplace of Abraham. With 800,000 inhabitants, Urfa has no Christian church and only a handful of believers in Christ. Local church planters recently hosted an international team to sow the Word of God as broadly as possible during their short visit.

One mother approached members of the group and insisted they come to her home, where they had opportunity to share the Gospel. On another occasion, Wilbur* returned from a pre-breakfast prayer walk and went into a newly-opened shop to discover the Muslim owner reading a New Testament which he had received from his Muslim brother. Wilbur sat down and studied the Bible with the owner, reading from Genesis, Exodus and the Gospel of John.

Another woman in the group ministered to a Syrian refugee family and shared her testimony of how Jesus had forgiven her and given her a clean heart. The 17-year-old daughter expressed interest in knowing how she could also have a clean heart. The OM team praises God for doors He opened to share the Gospel during their time in Urfa. Pray for those who heard God’s Word.

 

justice

Madagascar: Sisters Orthense, 19, and Natasha, 17, hadn’t an easy life: Their dysfunctional home life was unstable and hard. Hearing of jobs in China, they desperately wanted to get away from their difficult lives. An agency was looking for girls aged 18–25, but assured 17-year-old Natasha that her ID card could be changed. The girls’ aunt was sceptical and worried. When she met two OMers visiting Antananarivo to talk about human trafficking, the aunt asked them to pray for her nieces, and later introduced them.

The OM team warned the sisters that they were in danger of being trafficked. Eventually grasping the truth, they severed contact with the agency and signed up for OM’s Perla programme. Perla (‘pearl’ in Malagasy) is a Freedom Climb project raising awareness of human trafficking and providing skills training and discipleship to at-risk women and girls. The sisters stayed at the base for the month-long programme, learning budgeting, cooking, sewing and making crafts, in addition to studying the Bible.

“In the beginning, they were very reserved,” Coordinator Hanitra said. “Now, they have become like daughters, running to me to share their joy and pain. Trust has been built, and they are growing in their relationships with God.” The Perla team is committed to following up with the girls, helping them to continue moving forward with their lives. Orthense wants to open a shop, and Natasha would like to making hats and baskets to sell. “I have learnt about God and His love,” said Orthense. “Now I read my Bible and trust Him for my future.”

Madagascar is a source country for women and children trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Sex tourism is also an increasing problem in cities along the country’s coast. Pray against this evil and for the vulnerable women and children.

 

mentoring & discipleship

LMC: When the team of trainers, representing nine nationalities, left Thailand in early November, after delivering the 75th Leadership Matters Course (LMC), they were thrilled. This had been the first invitation from OMF, founded by Hudson Taylor. The course finished with testimonies given by 36 participants.

One after the other shared how meaningful the training had been. One pastor was very discouraged when arriving two weeks earlier. At the end, he said, “It is difficult to describe the power of this moment. I have been through a lot of training, but nothing as enjoyable and comprehensive as this.” An OMF missionary added, “The package as a whole was great, containing an overall picture of Christian leadership. I feel more enabled to put this into practice than I ever felt before with any other course.” Another missionary commented how he was losing his vision, but now saw fresh light again. More than 2,300 mission leaders from many agencies have completed this powerful training. www.lmccourse.org

 

Near East: Christianity here can be a cultural tradition dictating dress and behaviour, but not necessarily belief. Even Arab Christians who attend church and read God’s Word often lack tools to share their faith with Muslims. Fahim*, a local worker, wants to see the national church equipped to share the Gospel with Muslim neighbours. Together with another long-term OM worker, Fahim began an annual conference, gathering local believers seeking ministry amongst Muslims. He also facilitated monthly meetings with 20 local believers. Someone suggested that Fahim should start a training school. After a year and a half of prayer and translating material into Arabic, Fahim advertised the school; God filled the class four times, with each class having 10–16 local believers.

Meeting monthly, students learn to share their faith and testimony with Muslims. Secondly, they discover how to pray with Muslims. Thirdly, they focus on discipling others. During the fourth meeting, the students go on a prayer walk around the city. “The final six times, we go with them to do outreach on the street or in a park, so they can use what they learn,” Fahim said. By the end of a year, the students will have prayed with five Muslims and shared their faith with five Muslims—at least five contacts to disciple after the course ends.

After one session, several students sat in a circle, discussing the class. “They talked about how eye-opening it was for them to actually go out and to do this…that they could actually share with Muslims,” Andrew said. “One of the great things about [the training school] is that it gives them the tools to share.”  Some students are invited back as mentors to teach and encourage the next round of students. After five or six years, Fahim hopes the school will be completely run by former students. Pray for the students attending the training school. Pray for more locals to commit to full-time ministry.

 

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.

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