What an amazing week together at the International Leaders Meeting (ILM) in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia! Looking back at all that took place, I marvel at the people God gives us in OM. Organising multiple simultaneous events prior to the main conference, arranging accommodation, services and transportation for over 400 participants and more took phenomenal teamwork and direction. I am grateful for the logistics team who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure a smooth operation.
Despite our humble budget, God touched a hotel owner’s heart and made the entire resort available and affordable—a beautiful venue where our colleagues from all over the world could gather to refresh and reconnect with one another and with God. The scenery was a constant reminder of God’s beautiful creation and of His marvellous work. Most importantly, it was a place where individually and corporately we could go away full of praise to God, appreciative of and inspired by our colleagues and excited by new possibilities.
The program team organised and executed a fantastic program that balanced worship, story telling, Bible teaching and field presentations in a way which pointed to a God in heaven who makes all things possible. We were blessed with a fantastic week to remember. We give thanks to God and to you for praying. As you read the following reports of both great need and opportunity, I thank you for standing with us.
By his grace, Lawrence
Near East: Brielle* prays for opportunities to tell her friends about Jesus. Taline* told Brielle about a dream where Jesus had appeared to her. “She wanted to know more about the Bible,” Brielle said. “We got into the Word, and I prayed with her and answered her questions.”
Brielle wanted to introduce Taline to another friend from a Muslim background who is a follower of Jesus but, the night before, Taline cancelled. God had other plans, though, Brielle explained: “[That night], God [spoke to her] in a dream again and said, ‘If you want to know more about Me, you’ll go to this meeting tomorrow.’” Taline met Brielle and her friend at a restaurant where, “She heard about Adam and Eve all the way through the prophets, up to Jesus and understood [the message of salvation].” Today, Taline is a sister in Christ.
“Church planting is sharing Jesus with people, them coming to believe and then telling their friends, together reading the Word,” Brielle said. Pray for Taline and other Muslim-background believers to stay close to Christ despite familial opposition. Pray that Jesus will appear to more Muslims in dreams, and that they would seek answers to their questions about the Bible.
North Africa: Gavin* prayed as he walked along the beach and heard someone singing. It was Ali*, who, along with his wife, Soumiya*, runs a local surf club. After tea together, Gavin left with an invite for dinner.
A few months later, Gavin, along with his two new friends and a bus full of teenage surfers, arrived at a teenage surf camp where late night talks until 02:00 meant slow mornings and long afternoons surfing. Every morning Gavin spent time reading his Bible in the garden. Opportunities to talk about life and God’s plan came naturally.
Gavin had given Ali a video sharing the Christmas story; Ali was captured by the story. “I hope it’s true,” he said. “You have to give me part two,” since the film ended at the birth of Jesus. “Don’t forget!” Ali said. Pray Ali and Soumiya’s curiosity would lead to understanding of God’s truth. Pray for Gavin to be a godly influence in the lives of the teens and his fellow surfing instructors.
UK: Lifehope has been involved with the Flower of Justice Church in Southampton’s annual outreach for seven years. Brent Greiner, who led the outreach, said, “It is encouraging to see spiritual fruit as the result of this partnership. Lives have been changed.” This year, seven people were baptised in the local river on the last day.
Hinke, 16, was a part of the outreach team. She sold baked goods door-to-door to raise 4,000 euros to participate in TeenStreet and the outreach. She donated the rest to the church and also purchased children’s Bibles, all of which she gave away. She said, “When I gave Ella a Bible, she was almost crying. The next day Karl’s mum came to me, so happy, because he never had his own Bible. Another girl had the Bible for 10 minutes, and asked her mum to read it for her, so they lay in the grass and read the Bible.” Praise God for His work through these outreaches in Southampton, and pray for these connections to result in more fruit.
Philippines: From 17–25 January, the OM team conducted Critical Incident Stress Debriefing training with partner organisations and churches for 78 children, 14 teenagers and 74 adults who survived the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan. “Most are still traumatised and it affects their normal daily living,” said Penelope Arriola. “Mothers are afraid when their kids go to school. Some can’t work on their farms because of aftershocks every now and then.”
During the training, participants were helped to experience first-hand the value of sharing personal stories and being listened to. Added Field Leader Sally Ababa: “We count it a great honour to [have] listened to the experiences of pastors and their members and [to have been part of] their journey towards recovery.”
Ukraine: Late last year, the New Generation team in Odessa partnered with a local charity fund, Naslediye (Heritage), visited five orphanages, held a literature campaign, performed a flash mob in the city centre and hosted an interdenominational prayer meeting.
They praise God for visits to the orphanages and for over a thousand flyers distributed, informing people about how to help orphans. Professional clowns blessed the team with performances, a Christian-run children’s attraction business made cotton candy, and over 100 volunteers joined the activities.
“We were able to personally, in orphanages, pray for almost 400 orphans,” said one OMer, “and have seen how our ministry has impacted orphanage personnel and opened doors for ministry to God’s orphaned children.”
The last World Cup left smiles on the faces of many in Makwati, a small community near Kabwe, Zambia hampered by a high level of prostitution leading to HIV/AIDS, hopelessness, suicide, high unemployment and without a church or school. A church was planted in 2010 after gatherings to watch World Cup matches. The Makwati Transformation Centre includes a Community School with five locally-trained teachers. OM’s vision is to transform the community through church events that bring people together, create a family atmosphere and opportunities for sharing the love of Christ.
Land was given by the community after the World Cup and the church was planted, the school started. Lives are being touched, leaders from this community are emerging—for all this we marvel at the grace of God. Could your community see something similar happen during this year’s World Cup?
Kosovo: “As a kid, I had no interest in Jesus,” relates Turner Alia*. “At 14, I suffered from severe acne and a skin infection. On one of the worst days, I heard a voice saying, ‘How much better it would be if you didn’t exist. You know what would make life better? Suicide!’ But one day, some young people were offering invitations to a party that night and, out of curiosity, I went.
“My first impression was of the love they had for one another and for others. This drew me, and I started to go to meetings and to church. The Lord Jesus touched my heart, I trusted Him as Lord and Saviour, and followed Him.” Turner soon began to share his faith with others.
When OMers Chris and Lorraine Hilliard* left this year after establishing a youth ministry café called The Lighthouse, they prayed that local people would take it over. Turner is now holding a kids’ club where the gospel of Jesus is shared and lives are touched. He has expanded the café menu and needs to open the second floor to accommodate growth.
The Lighthouse building stands in the gardens of a 400-year-old mosque yet, as the Muslim call to prayer fills the surrounding streets, Turner faithfully tends the welcoming light of God’s good news for all, passing on Jesus’ life-changing power to other young people.
Cambodia: Mercy Teams International (MTI), a ministry of OM East Asia Pacific, runs a pre-school and church in Kampong Speu Province, two hours’ drive from Phnom Penh. No other early educational facilities exist in the area, and most families with children are poor farmers.
According to experts, 49% of children are involved in work activities, one of the highest rates in South East Asia. “Education offers the best opportunity to break this expectation and cycle of child labour in rural areas,” says Colin Wharton. “Preschool education increases the likelihood that a child will continue and succeed in education.” MTI’s preschool provides early childhood education, opportunities for social interaction and skills development, safety education and Christian values. Children aged 3–6 from poorer farming families attend, while upper primary school children and teenagers are the secondary focus of the church youth group. Those unable to complete further education due to family farm obligations are given the opportunity to learn English, social interaction and Christian values.
Logos Hope: “It was excellent. There are no words to describe it!” said Pastor Gnanapragasam of the Assembly of God Church in Trincomalee of the onboard pastors’ conference. Over 125 pastors and their wives from the eastern and southern provinces of Sri Lanka heard different leaders on board share messages of encouragement about the role of a pastor, prayer, and raising a godly family. “The experiences the men shared from their lives and the Word of God touched everybody,” he said. Pastor Gnanapragasam appreciated the humble servant attitude of crew members, which he observed in his visits to Logos Hope and other OM ships previously. Trincomalee as a region is healing from deep wounds of civil war which ended in 2009. “The situation is now normal, but lost lives they can never get back,” said Pastor Gnanapragasam, who works alongside other leaders to serve local areas. “Jesus is the only hope, so this is an opportunity for us to bring the gospel to them.”
Nepal: “If they know how to read, it is less likely that someone will take advantage of them”, an OM leader explains. “And if they know how to do math, it is less likely that they will be cheated. This is why it is so important that we offer them adult literacy classes!”
With adult literacy still only at about 60%, it remains a priority of OM to find creative ways to serve and minister to communities. This is why the Village Partnership Teams are sent into remote places for up to five months at a time. The teams of two live amongst the people, eating what is available and offering adult literacy classes, oral Bible story telling, and a Bible study called Gateway to Life.
In many villages, the people still work all day before gathering together after dark to learn, but their hunger is not dimmed: in one village when they learned about tithing for the first time, they agreed right away to give a tenth of the little they make. In another village, several family members and friends couldn’t attend the teaching, but those that could repeated the lessons to them at home or in the fields the next day.
Arabian Peninsula: A2A (Arab to Arab) trains Arab believers in the Gulf to reach their neighbours and colleagues. Amazingly, 1200 were trained last year; more than 730 have since done bold outreach. They are taught to understand their own faith and to answer the most common objections Muslims have about the gospel: the Trinity, the corruption of Scripture, that Jesus did not die on the cross, and how a human could become a god. When such objections are raised, one worker asks, “Do you speak from your own research and desire for truth, or because it is something you heard from childhood?” Ninety-nine per cent respond that it was merely from being told it was so.
Outreach also focuses on Arabs who spend summer vacations in London, Geneva or Interlaken. They are less fearful to engage in dialogue and generally more open. This began with two workers in 2000; in 2013 this grew to over 70, including two Saudi believers.
A worker relates, “Two of us were in a small village during a religious festival in Bahrain. One Shia appreciated that we as foreigners took an interest in their culture. Meant as a compliment, he said that Shias and Christians were more or less the same. I pointed out one big difference: 1400 years after the martyrdom of Hussein, they were still mourning, whereas Christians know that Jesus rose again and we celebrate His life in us today.”
A number of local believers are reluctant to have their faith known, especially among their extended families. Often there are serious consequences and persecution that far outstrips whatever governments may dictate. For example, it can put great strain on marriages, as the non-believing spouse has the support of the whole family and can initiate divorce. Pray for Arab believers to continue to be a light for Jesus throughout the Arabian Peninsula.
On behalf of all our workers representing over 100 nations in more than 110 countries, I thank you for your prayers and support.
By His grace,
* names changed for security reasons
Credit: OM International · © 2014 OM International
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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