Director's Update - Feb 2016

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Dear OM friends,

Last week, Susan and I had the privilege of celebrating OM Albania’s 25th anniversary with members and leaders of the churches planted by OM. As I stood speaking to the 200+ believers who gathered to mark this significant milestone in their modern history, my mind went back to 1978 when I first prayed for Albania. Their government at that time boasted being the only atheistic country in the world. Today, Albanian churches are sending out missionaries!

In Albania, as in the many OM fields I have visited, I see a ministry guided by deeply held convictions and biblical foundations. As our workers seek to bring about life transformation in the communities where they live and work, I also see in them a desire to live and love like Jesus did, and as our early founders did. My prayer and desire for OM is that these same principles will continue to foster a vibrant and versatile missional community with a global conscience, serving the world in the name of Jesus Christ with conviction and compassion. Thank you for your part.

His,

Lawrence Tong

 

EVANGELISM

Egypt: “When we stepped down from the bus, I felt that I was melting,” said George*, a short-term outreach participant. In the middle of the desert, daytime temperatures soared to 50°C. “I had the impression that I went back in time: mud houses, streets full of sand, the people’s clothes, donkeys—all looking like centuries before, with the exception of vehicles.” During the outreach, George and his team explored the city by day, talking with locals, looking for opportunities to carefully distribute literature, and praying atop ancient fortress ruins.

One night, George and his North African colleague returned to their hotel around 23:00, exhausted. “Tired, we went [to] the pool to relax,” he shared. One man from the hotel reception came to talk about himself, his problems, and his dream to travel abroad to work and marry (“the dream of most men at 30 years of age,” George added). “Then the Lord opened for us doors to tell him the Gospel,” George said. “It was the first time I preached in a pool.” The men were still talking, so they went to the hotel’s roof, where they continued until 04:30. Two days later, the event repeated itself: The pool, the conversation, the roof. “We told him everything that he must know [about the Gospel],” George said. Then, they gave him a Bible. “He was happy and he understood many things,” George continued, “That’s why we need to pray that God will reveal Himself to Muslims.”

Pray for the man with whom George spoke about the good news of Jesus and the truth of God’s Word. Pray that this man and others would read the Bibles they receive and that God would open their hearts to Jesus.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

Ukraine: “Never since my child was born could I rest and leave my child with someone for 30 minutes and not be worried.” These were the words of a mother at a weekend camp held for children with autism. With no programmes for parents or workers on how to develop children with disabilities, many do not receive education but are hidden away at home.

OM, along with local organisations, invited 12 children and their parents into a caring environment; for 48 hours, mothers were able to not be the sole caretaker of their child. The camp was a new thing for the families; it was the children’s first time ever at camp, where they could sit by a fire and sleep in a tent. It was new for volunteers who underwent training to host the camp and learn more ways to help children with special needs.

OM is planning future camps and dreaming of opening a children’s centre where children with disabilities will be part of a community at least weekly. They would like to find sponsors to pay a speech therapist, psychologist and medical workers at the centre. The team would like to see a change in the way people view children with disabilities—that they are also smart, talented, and have much to teach others. There are many opportunities in the Ukraine, but few workers. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to send workers into Ukraine.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

Logos Hope: Imagine traveling three full days on extremely bumpy roads in an old, rickety bus. However, for a group of 20 villagers coming from Androy, the most southerly region of Madagascar, the three-day trip to arrive at Logos Hope was well worth it. Despite the exhausting journey, the villagers performed enthusiastically at the event named Hope to Androy, meant to increase awareness of the needs in their region where they face serious difficulties as a result of drought and famine. Due to inadequate water and a large population, Androy is one of the poorest regions in the country and suffers from chronic food inadequacy.

The event was also aimed to mobilise people in Toamasina to see the south as an area to serve and spread God’s love. One of the villagers shared how he used to be addicted to alcohol. “My parents were completely broke and discouraged,” he said. “After I was severely injured in a fight, they were just waiting for me to die.” By God’s grace, he was invited to church and that changed his life entirely. He grew from a man who was weak and fragile in his body and mind to a strong disciple. As he danced passionately and with all his might during the performance, crewmembers felt his pure joy from God.
Pray for strength and resilience in the communities of Androy and for help to overcome difficulties and bring God’s love to more people in the region.

 

Kosovo: It’s common in the Balkans for blocks of flats to be built with a shop at the bottom. Sometimes these units sit empty; in one major town, the OM team have transformed an empty unit into a vocational training centre. For youth at risk of dropping out of school, this could be an educational lifeline.

OMer Peter* took me (Nicky) on a visit, driving through grey, dingy backstreets. At our destination, we picked our way across a rubbish-strewn car park towards a typical shop unit at ground-floor level. Peter motioned me to silence as, opening the door, we found ourselves at the back of a sewing class. Twelve or so teenage girls were huddled over their desks, learning the basics of making a skirt. Peter introduced me to Fatmira*, the local teacher of needlework who has invaluable skills to pass on both here and at OM’s associated House of Joy project for adult female survivors of abuse.

We then passed through into the back room, where I met another teacher, Lulzim*, who taught in local schools as a technical skills instructor. It’s a mark of the quality of this education scheme that top-grade local teaching professionals have come on board.

Peter stays busy recruiting potential students, like youth from the local Roma settlement (a large minority group). “If they commit to attending regularly, those young guys learn some really useful skills,” Peter observed. “Being able to weld and do light engineering could help them overcome the discrimination they face in a very narrow jobs market.”

Please pray that these teenagers, especially the Roma boys, will grasp this unique opportunity with both hands. Pray too for financial resources, which are urgently needed to continue the project next year, and that this will result in a community of faith among Roma youth.

 

JUSTICE

Iraq: Inside a tiny metal container, four women bake traditional Iraqi flatbread—5,400 loaves daily. A man transfers the loaves to a counter below the window where several children wave slips of paper. The bakery manager takes the voucher from one boy and hands him a piece of bread for each family member. In this camp, where around 23,000 internally displaced people (IDP) live, every family picks up bread once a week. Through a local pastor, OM funds production costs for this bakery and its twin, located half an hour away. Together, the bakeries produce around 10,800 loaves a day, six days a week, and provide jobs for eight women from the camps, along with a baker and manager.

Resident 20-year-old Amira* shares, “God gave us mercy to work here and help our family,” she says. “Before I started working here in the bakery, I just sat in the camp and did nothing. But inside my heart I wanted to help [my] people. I think God gave me this job so I can help my people.” Lucas*, who works with the church sponsoring the bakeries, explained that usually the women living in the IDP camps never leave their tents. “If the woman leaves the tent alone, people will ask her questions: Where did you go? What did you do? It’s very hard for them,” he says.

For Lucas and a local pastor, the bakeries provide a tangible way to help the refugees. When the first bakery opened, the pastor offered work to women in one of his discipleship groups, composed of several families new to faith in Jesus. Please pray that these women will deepen their faith in Jesus. Will you help spread Jesus’ love by sacrificially giving to meet the continuing needs in Northern Iraq? Visit www.om.org/en/give to donate to OM’s Syrian and Iraqi Relief fund.

 

Greece: Hein van der Merwe oversees OM’s relief work on the island of Lesbos, spending countless days unloading inflatable boats overfilled with people landing on the rocks below the lighthouse. Up to 7,000 refugees per day have arrived on Lesbos. The sheer number creates a crisis, but the thing to remember, according to Hein, is that “they are people. That’s it. These people don’t move because they want to. They are forced out of their homes,” Hein emphasized

A handful have connected with him personally and spiritually. Hein talked to several men from Damascus, Syria. “Oh, as Christians, we read a lot about Damascus in our Bible,” he said. Hein told them about Jesus, about Paul, about the church in Antioch and about Paul’s journey to Greece. “They’re fascinated by this, and I say, ‘Would you be interested in reading this if you had a Bible?’” “Yeah, really,” one responded. Overhearing, another asked for a Bible as well. “This is the entire New Testament, the entire Injil,” Hein said.

The team has heard stories of God’s Word changing refugees’ lives. Hein exchanged contact information with a refugee pastor and his wife; a few days later, the pastor had led another refugee to Christ. “He was ministering as he was walking as well and helping people, so we keep praying for them,” Hein said.

Is God calling you to reach the people forced to leave their homes and countries? An OM project, called Safe Passage, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information as well as water, food and essentials. To give to OM’s relief efforts, or for more information about how to get involved, please contact your local OM office.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

Pakistan: Many women face gender discrimination, forced marriages and less access to education than men. These daily realities are particularly hard for Christian women who make up a minority. A five-day retreat led by OM’s team created a safe haven for over 75 women from four major provinces, who united for Bible training, fellowship and community. The teaching began with an explanation of God’s plan for salvation and new birth. The participants were then invited to accept Christ as Saviour. Ten women made a decision to place their trust in Him.

“I am Catholic and never heard the Gospel message in such a clear way,” wrote one new believer, Samreen*. “I found Christ has given His life for my sins. I am changed and now have a passion to spread this news to others also.” Nimra* added, “Being a female, I felt helpless and unworthy but, through the teachings from the Book of Esther, I found that women can be powerful, impactful and change the world. I am encouraged and thankful to God that He cares for me.“

Small group activities, relaxing times in nature, and meditation on God’s Word allowed the women to experience Christian community. Housewife Sumera* shared, “To me this is a golden time of my life [as] my routine is very tough at home. This time has refreshed me spiritually and provided much needed energy for my life.” Pray that the teaching continues to bear fruit in the lives of the women and their families, so that they could become instruments of positive change in their own sphere of influence.

 

Nepal: Priscilla, 17, has been on a long journey with God. Her mother died when she was four years old, but her sisters raised her in a Christian home while her father worked to support the family.

“It was hard,” she recalled, “I did many bad things in my youth. If someone told me ‘don’t do this’, I usually would do it. Yet I was involved in my church.” She also attended youth camps run by OM; this past year, Priscilla participated in OM’s Discipled 2 Go, a 3-month training for young believers. “I never had personal time with God before,” she explained, “and I didn’t know how to speak about my faith. In the training I learnt how to share my testimony.”

On a three-week outreach in Kalikot, one of the least-reached districts of Nepal, she had opportunity to live out what she had learnt. “The outreach was hard; I cried a lot,” she admitted. The transition from city to village food, homesickness, the many people who were not open to what they shared were all challenges, but still she saw God’s work in her own life. “I am glad that I learnt how to share my testimony,” Priscilla said. Now she wants to share about her life and how, through D2G, she finally understood God’s forgiveness. “One teacher took a banknote, crumpled it and said, ‘This is not pretty anymore, right? But when you find it, it still has the same worth’. That’s how my life, my past, is to Jesus; I did many bad things, but it still has the same worth to Him.”

Having a renewed sense of being God’s beloved daughter, she wants others to know how much they mean to Jesus. What she learnt in training she wants to keep doing and give her everything to God.

 

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

* name changed for security reasons

Credit: OM International · © 2016 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

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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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