4. Serving sacrificially
A lifestyle of sacrificial service and worship are inextricably linked. As a loyal subject, Araunah offered everything David required for sacrifice freely, but David told him, “I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing” (1 Chr. 21:24, NIV). If we are serious about pleasing God, there will be sacrifice in finance, time, comfort zone, social life and possibly reputation. The packing list from a century ago for missionaries to Africa included their own coffin—a sober reminder of sacrifice that became reality for many. That’s not on OM’s list today, but that attitude should be.
All that we do must is for God, not ourselves. We can make a show of seeming sacrifice, whereas our testimony should be one of receiving great privilege and honour to respond to the King of Kings. We set a price on our sacrifice, but serving God is priceless. That said, millions of believers have made great sacrifices for the gospel, and I pay them tribute.
While on Logos II in Africa, we were confronted with the physical needs of orphans in one port. Many ship people gave of their limited pocket money to bless them. This past Christmas, Susan and I made a small sacrifice by spending a late night with other believers in Singapore’s Geylang red-light district, singing carols and handing out small gifts to the women. We gave up little, yet something, and we should understand that, when done for the Lord, even small sacrifices are valid.
A readiness to sacrifice for the gospel has always been and still is characteristic of OMers. However, those who sacrifice more should not judge or compare with others. Rather, by putting the needs of others above our own, we please God and grow in our imitation of Him, who sacrificed all for us.
5. Loving and valuing people
It has been difficult for me to ‘love’ people in general. But as the pinnacle of the law, the heartbeat of following Christ is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37,38, NIV). If that seems demanding, it continues, “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Christians are called to create environments where we can be authentic and speak openly to others without judgement. If we truly love people, we will value them; if we value people, we will love them in ways that they understand and experience.
‘Love’ today has been devalued to a greeting, free of obligation and commitment. Thus, it inevitably disappoints. Love is more than an advertising ploy or romantic cinema; it is verified by our actions and attitudes. True love needs time and nurture. There are limitations on how many people I can express love to, but I can, in principle, esteem any number of others as a baseline. When people around us stumble in their walk of faith, we are to restore them in an act of faith and love, not condemnation. In such situations, the quality of our love is tested and hopefully purified.
How do we love the unlovable? Visiting that brothel area, talking with the men running it, I inwardly despised them as traffickers even though they considered themselves businessmen. There was little love in my heart for them. God brought to mind the prodigal son (Lk. 15) whose father kept a home free of condemnation in hope that the son would return. I pray that our churches would be havens of restoration and forgiveness and that lost people could trust us enough to come to us—as one sinner to another. Is your church a place where one must ‘become’ before they can belong? Or can we be a community where anyone can belong before they ‘become’? Can we become a family that fosters those seeking new lives in the hope that we can in time adopt them?
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: A WALL THAT SPEAKS
Teams of Logos Hope crewmembers spent two days painting an outdoor mural at a home for children who have suffered, or are at risk of, abandonment or abuse. Fifteen kids benefit from the services provided, with eight living on the premises. Staff members rely on the assistance of international groups and local churches.
“In thinking of ways of to help, I realised that a mural could bring people’s attention to the home and inspire people to get involved,” said Brandon Kemp (Bahamas), a member of the advance preparation team for the ship’s visit to Scarborough. “We thought if we paint something with a message, it will reach the right people.’”
A concrete wall stretching across the front of the property provided a surface. Nazareth Bonilla (Spain), a volunteer involved in the design and execution of the piece, explained that the colours were chosen to create a welcoming atmosphere. The scene features a child letting go of a paper boat, to represent releasing trauma and beginning a journey of healing. At the other end, a new, strong boat sails towards the sun, showing the freedom and liberation possible through finding hope and moving forward.
They hope the mural will inspire both the children and the community: the children to carry on in their journey of healing, and the community to become active participants in the work the home is doing.
MADAGASCAR: SURRENDERING TO FREEDOM
They didn’t know much, but OMers Fara and Herimanina moved to Ambovombe anyway, initially adjusting to the culture and learning the local Malagasy dialect. Their love for the Tandroy people grew. The ladies offered training and organised outreaches to surrounding communities. Herimanina started Perla, a Freedom Challenge project that equips vulnerable women with skills, while Fara worked with the church and youth. Through these ministries, people have come to faith.
In early 2016, a lady asked the team to visit her father’s village—an opportunity to spread the good news further. With a few local Christians, they made their way to Taviramongy, 14 km away, for what turned into a weekly visit.
The believers met with villagers under the largest tree to talk about life, Jesus and the difference He had made in their lives. By returning each week and continuing to proclaim the good news, the team saw people giving their lives to Christ.
For Fomesoa, it didn’t take weeks but only one day. At 15 years of age, Fomesoa became a witch doctor, making his living making idols and charms. His status as a witch doctor made him feel powerful and in control. The majority of the village was scared of Fomesoa’s power but, in early 2016, Fomesoa’s life changed. “No one told me about Jesus, but I started to not care about my idols. I think that is when Jesus first came into my life,” he said.
Weeks later, he met Fara, who told him about Jesus and urged him to get rid of his idols and charms. Fomesoa lit a fire outside his house and threw in the charms. “I felt something changing in my life: I felt happy [burning the idols],” Fomesoa said.
To provide for his wife and 10 children now, he collects and sells firewood. “I feel peace in my life now,” said Fomesoa with a smile.
GHANA: PASTOR TO PASTOR
“Planting a church in southern, ‘Christian,’ Ghana is easy,” says OM Director Chris Insaidoo. Cities like Kumasi—the location of OM’s base—are home to a church on every corner. But in the Muslim north—a region called The Overseas due to an extensive rainy season—churches are few, and pastors even fewer, leaving small groups of Christians without leadership. The spiritual disparity affirms a great need for continuous equipping of pastors there, especially in connection with OM’s church planting efforts.
A Muslim man from the north spent time in the south, where Christian acquaintances brought him to church. Having accepted Christ and being discipled, the man returned to the north months later, only to find no church. “He was so determined to worship God that he had no choice but to go to the mosque,” Chris says, but he found no satisfaction there. When he heard that OM was coming to his village to plant a church, he enthusiastically opened his home for the team. Now, with a team of nearly 70 volunteers, Chris has introduced a new, crucial component to the outreach: pastor’s training.
Many pastors—some from a Muslim background—lack fellowship and resources to grow in their faith. The churches themselves, in the developmental stage, “have a need for basic teaching, such as baptism and children’s ministry,” and the pastors—only six have received formal pastoral training, Chris says, and two are pastors of more than one church—are often unable to meet that need.
During his most recent visit, Chris met with 19 local pastors. Developing these relationships allows OM to maximise discipleship: As OM plants churches in The Overseas, Chris interacts with pastors of all denominations. The pastors’ training hearkens back to the reason he began mission work: “I realised how handicapped I was when I became a Christian, needing more information and materials,” he says. Chris prays for a spirit of unity among churches…and that Ghana soon will be a top sending country.
EUROPE: HOW FACTS CAN HELP
With the Russian edition of Save our Sisters—An Action Guide for Helping Girls and Women at Risk Worldwide already in circulation, the OM EurAsia Support Team (OM EAST) is preparing this book in a further six languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Georgian, Hungarian, Romanian and Serbian. Save our Sisters exposes injustices and human rights violations. In Ukraine, the Russian publication has captured the attention of doctors, pastors and church prayer groups. “This is a great resource!” exclaimed the head of a Ukrainian regional department dealing with human trafficking to an OM partner. “It gives statistics unavailable in our country and it’s very helpful to have contact details of other organisations addressing similar issues.”
As new translations go to print, OM EAST and their partners hope it opens people’s eyes to exploitation in their own countries and beyond, motivating them to be part of prevention or rescue. “It is my fervent hope that the disturbing facts will spur readers into action. For many, the most obvious and powerful first response will be intercession, but groups and individuals are also urged to take the suggested ‘Action Steps,’” Author D. Meroff writes. Please pray that as Save our Sisters is distributed throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans, God would lead each reader to respond. Please pray it will serve as a catalyst for intervention on behalf of those who have no voice.
CAUCASUS: SPEAK WITH A CHANGED LIFE
Workers in the Caucasus have seen three friends come to faith in Jesus over the past year. Following a different faith in a Muslim context is hard, especially without the support of family or friends. Peter* is in his mid-20s and has already been through a lot. His mom abandoned the family when he was born and his dad left shortly after that, so he was left with his grandparents. Having few close friends, he has had serious bouts of depression and nearly died in a car accident. Yet, despite these difficulties, there are good things in his life too: Last year he got married, and a couple of months ago he became a father. About that time, he came to faith in Jesus Christ, impacted through a dream!
Two foreign friends have regularly met with Peter to read scripture. Desiring to see lives changed by the truth of God’s word, the question is asked at the end of such discussions: How can we apply this to our lives? When Peter read the story of Cain and Abel, his takeaway was surprising: “We should not lie.” A few days later at work—when Peter made a significant mistake—instead of shifting the blame, he owned up to his wrong—and almost got fired because of it. Pray that this ‘new’ Peter would intrigue his co-workers, neighbours and acquaintances and draw them to that which is making him different. Pray that Peter would continue to be upright and honest at work, in contrast to his past and many influences surrounding him.
NEAR EAST: START SOMEWHERE
Um Ali* had wanted someone to teach English to teenage girls in her remote village. When Elena* and Lucy*, long-term OM workers, offered to facilitate a four-day English camp, Um Ali agreed to host them in her home.
In the morning, the women taught 12 teenage girls at a community centre in the village. After lunch, they did the same programme for 11 girls at Um Ali’s house, focusing on identity and a special theme each day: self-image, self-confidence, self-discipline and uniqueness. On day one, the women told the story of Esther, followed by a lesson that incorporated practical words such as clothing, face and body, building sentences and doing a craft.
The girls decorated a mirror, and Elena encouraged them to remember Esther, whose beauty was not only outward. “Every time we look in the mirror, we point out what is bad,” Elena told the girls. “When you finish this mirror, look at something positive about yourself, whether your appearance or who you are. We should not compare ourselves to each other, because we’re all different.”
Connecting through the English camp opened doors into homes. Um Ali hosted the workers for dinner on the first night; the following nights, they visited with other families. Elena described, “We connected well, because we went into their homes. One of the boys called me ‘Auntie.’”
The families invited the women back. Lucy and Elena hope to continue building relationships, dreaming of the day they could also start Bible studies with the women.
“I don’t want to just go and preach because they have clear needs and we have skills,” Lucy said. “We are going there with the Word of God and God’s love.”
Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.
* name changed
Credit: OM International · © 2017 OM International