Director's Update - Aug 2014

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Dear brothers and sisters, 

The news these days is covered with stories of pain and suffering: the Moscow metro accident; the senseless act on a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane; a typhoon barrelling through the Philippines and China, killing many people in its wake; the war between Israel and Hamas. Then, though scarcely reported, there are the ongoing activities of human trafficking, persecution of Christians, exploitation of child labour and so on.

As we look at all that is taking place, let us not live in fear or hopelessness. Our God has not lost control of the world. Instead, let us recognise that the world needs to be healed by God. He alone can turn ashes to beauty, restore hope and bring eternal peace through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

This month, we especially want to pray for our team working in Israel, whose Field Leader reports:

“Working in Israel during a time of conflict is an interesting experience. We deal with the safety issues directly related to war: Is the bomb shelter ready for use? What is the current situation of rocket fire? How is the welfare of team members’ families in the military? Then there is the matter of ministry: Do we need to change plans of where our teams do ministry? Will air travel be impacted, cancelling flights for teams arriving or leaving? How do we deal with the cancellation of ministry teams we’ve spent months making preparations for? There is also the matter of biblical interpretation: Is this conflict a fulfilment of prophecy of the last days? Is Armageddon on our doorsteps? Is this going to be the time when all Israel is saved? 

In the midst of all this, we do not relent in worshiping the Lord and in taking the Gospel to the lost, whether Jew or Arab. We are nearing the end of a one-month outreach and have seen that people are open to talk about Jesus and salvation. This isn’t the same as agreement, but we have been able to engage in conversations about Jesus’ claim to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. As matters of life and death occupy everyone’s thoughts, we are privileged to bring hope to this nation.”

By His Grace,

Lawrence Tong
 

evangelism

Turkey: Huri* visited a local church alone—a huge step for anyone from this culture, let alone a religious woman coming alone without with her husband or friends. Her family thought she was crazy, but Huri loved reading about Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Qur’an and felt that she should go to church to learn more about her. Later, Huri said disappointedly, “All people talk about here is Jesus! I love Jesus, but he was just a prophet, someone created by God like Mary.”

During worship, Huri started to shake and sweat. “You are singing such wonderful songs, but when you say the word, ‘Lord’, you really mean Jesus! And God forbid that I should ever call Jesus, Lord.” Believing the Bible to be corrupted, Huri couldn’t believe salvation existed.

Several weeks later, Huri invited Mary* and Joy* to her home. After several hours of intense conversation, Mary and Joy asked Huri and her friends how God could be both just and merciful. Huri thought for a moment and then exclaimed, “Through Jesus Christ! God punished Him for us!” Huri shared that she genuinely hoped Mary and Joy would come to faith in what she called the last religion (Islam) and follow the last prophet. “Because I love you,” said Huri, “I want you to come to faith and believe. At judgment day, we will know for sure who is right, but then it will be too late.”

Finally Huri said, “This is what I will do. I will completely read your New Testament. I will also send you passages to read from the Qur’an, and we will pray for each other: Not, ‘May Huri follow Jesus’ or, ‘May Mary and Joy become Muslim’, but let’s pray for God to show us His truth. If He shows you the Qur’an is true, follow it. If He shows me Jesus’ book is true, I will follow it.” Please pray that God would show Huri and the other ladies His truth.

UK: Christ Church in Lye is typical of many UK churches: a large, impressive building wherein attendance has dwindled to just a few. Yet the congregation is very intentional in reaching their community through door-to-door evangelism. Each week, members of the congregation, along with OM’s ministry team, visit different neighbourhoods to invite residents to church, hand out tracts or take prayer requests. Reactions vary from house to house. An elderly lady was happy to share her prayer requests and talk with the team. Another young mother claimed her family “doesn’t really need anything”. One man would not even open the door.

“It’s more my message they’re rejecting than me,” said Elizabeth Bailey, a member of the OM team. Despite negative responses, she believes door-to-door evangelism is effective. “It’s really personable,” Elizabeth stated. “At the door we say, ‘We are praying for your street. How can we pray for you?’ Some [people] are very willing to share.” Pray for the outreaches of Christ Church Lye.
 

relief & development

Logos Hope: Camille Papon (USA), a teacher on board Logos Hope, took ship students to visit Jang Dae Hyun School in Busan, the first school dedicated to the needs of North Korean refugee teenagers in South Korea. Soyoung Park, Director of External Affairs for the school, has a heart for North Koreans and is thrilled to help young people eager to learn and move on with their lives after harrowing escapes from their homeland. Currently, there are 14 students; nine girls and five boys. “They did not get proper education in North Korea,” Park explained. After visiting their school, the group from Logos Hope invited the refugee students to visit the ship. Once they arrived, the crew from the ship welcomed them, involved them in different activities and provided dinner. On their departure from the ship, crewmembers gave each teenager a school pack, which included a Bible along with other basic school supplies.

Montenegro: When surrounded by a sea of poverty, how do you determine the greatest need? OM first faced this challenge in 2009 after receiving a donation from the UK to help people in need. The team turned to the local social services department in Bar for advice—a cooperation that’s lasted ever since.

During the first year, OM visited seven families, whom they initially helped with food packages. The team now maintains contact with 23 families. Through social workers, OMers meet groups of people they normally wouldn’t, such as families with autistic children who lack educational opportunity and face prejudice and exclusion from society.

A Scottish special needs teacher, Isabel Black, sensed a call to missions; she has volunteered three times since 2012, giving support and training to several families. One parent told Isabel, “I believe God brought you to us. You have given us hope.” 

The OM team has observed an increase in job satisfaction for social workers, who had been frustrated by limited state resources. The varied and different input available through OM has enabled social services to help more people than before. Best of all, building lasting friendships with both social workers and those in need has given team members natural opportunities to share their faith in Jesus. 
 

church planting

Near East: “This training radically challenged our perspectives on making disciples and seeing churches planted. Real-life stories got me excited about being more intentional to see ministry develop,” reported a participant of OM’s Discipleship and Group Formation Training. Twenty-seven ministry workers serving with OM gathered to learn, fellowship and gain encouragement. The participants from ten countries work alongside local Arab believers united with the common goal of planting new churches. Teaching focused on ways Muslim-background believers can form a church not dependent on foreign help, protected against heresy and easily reproducible. Participants, who had mostly focused on evangelism and discipleship in their ministry, found it valuable to consider the larger picture.

A discussion of group formation—turning individual believers into a functioning church—was essential. John*, a veteran on the field, was challenged to work on a short story to share when first meeting someone to gauge their spiritual interest. Jane*, a young mother on the field for two years, wanted to apply what she had learnt to develop deeper relationships with the Arab women she has befriended. Workers are excited to see what God has planned for the Near East.

Pakistan: OM regularly helps local congregations share God’s love with the wider nominal Christian community. Recently, 69 young people attended a one-day seminar to learn about the second coming of Jesus. Over 200 people gathered at an open-air event to hear the local church express its love for God.

Touched by the Word of God, a young woman said “I want to know more about Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him. Thank you for inviting me and making me so welcome.” The team preached in the local church, after which the pastor admitted, “Not only the congregation, but I, too, as a pastor, need this teaching.” Later, the team held another open-air programme in a nearby village. “We heard the voices from the speakers and came to listen,” an older couple said. “The message was beautiful; our whole family needs to hear again to understand. Please visit our house tomorrow.” 

Over the following days, the team held various events in local churches and in the open, encouraging people to discover truth in the Word of God and visiting people afterwards in their homes to pray and talk. Many expressed gratitude. At the local school, the principal asked the team to teach the children about the Bible. “This is a real revival,” said the local pastor. “I believe many things will change in our community as a result of your visit. It is a message we need to step out in.” 

Yemen: Anas*, a local believer, was following up a contact by phone. He said, “I am calling because you wanted to talk about Jesus.” The young man responded, “Jesus is not here; he will be back next week.” Anas wondered whether the fellow was confused or crazy.

Anas made a risky decision to visit the contact, who then explained, “Before you called, I had a dream in which a bright figure told me that someone named Anas would call me and tell me more about Jesus. When you called, 
I acted crazy because it made me afraid.”
The young man brought together nine other friends to study the Scriptures together with Anas. 
 

justice

France: Marcel* has walked alongside victims of human trafficking for five years, witnessing disheartening situations: girls who have papers but can’t find other work; others who want to leave prostitution but don’t have legal papers; and others bound by fear of those who hold them hostage.

He relates, “I met Clara* and was surprised by the fear on her face. She had been to the police to file an official complaint. After nine years on the streets, she thought that no one could help her change. A partnering church welcomed her that same evening to stay the night. When we left her there, we felt God’s presence. She had thought God had abandoned her; now she was sure that He hadn’t. The following Sunday, Clara gave a spontaneous testimony during the church service. ‘A chapter of my life is over. I am now a new creature in Christ,’ she had said.” 

Clara has now obtained official papers which allow her to work and have residence. She still must process the emotional and psychological cost of her slavery. Her childhood was stolen. Her views of love and men have been affected. Changing her routine from night to day takes time. There are sins to confess, things to renounce, chains to break, thoughts to reconstruct and wounds to heal. She feels guilty and afraid for her family. It’s a long path that can only be walked with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and prayer.

Says Marcel, “We are so grateful to God for all He has done for her. Meeting Christians who accepted and loved her started it all.” Pray that believers everywhere would rise up to offer hope to other Claras.
 

mentoring & discipleship

Namibia: Eight young men from Angola and Nigeria hiked from 6–15 June as part of the Wilderness Therapy Programme. OM worker Japie Van Vuuren led the group in this physical and spiritual challenge, which helps participants find their true identity and destiny while breaking cycles of lies in their lives and provides opportunity to receive healing. The programme starts with an eight-day hike, during which trainees receive daily teaching. While hiking, they reflect on what they’ve heard and, around the fire in the evenings, they share how they will implement what they have learnt.

The hike is followed by a year-long mentoring programme, during which participants meet weekly. The boys—identified as potential leaders and thus selected for the programme—come from difficult backgrounds and nations in which men share problems of promiscuity, mistreatment of women and irresponsibility. After facing lies that had created many stumbling blocks in his life, participant Nkiami* said, “I want to break the cycle of a fatherless nation!”

“We believe this programme gives them an opportunity to change their lifestyle,” said an OM team member. “It’s not only good for themselves but also makes an impact in the community.” Pray for these young men and the Wilderness Therapy Programme. Pray that these teenagers will become godly men who realise their full identity in Christ and reflect Him in their communities.

Pakistan: OM has served local communities of believers by helping them grow in faith and understanding. In one town, a fellowship has grown through weekly OM-led Bible studies. Recently five people came to know God personally and have joined the weekly study.

Hamu* came to faith in Jesus two years ago and has been a committed participant of the local fellowship, so the team was not surprised when he asked, “Can I be baptised, as it says in the Bible?” He and a number of others wanted to take this step of faith. He said, “I have waited a long time for this. I do not know whether I will ever get the opportunity again—so here I am!” Pray for more fruit from the team’s efforts.

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 · © 2014 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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