Director's Update - Mar 2017

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OM’s Core Values (series)

2. Living in submission to God’s Word

Few followers of Christ would be satisfied or confident in how they live in submission to God’s Word. Why is something so obviously pleasing to God and beneficial to us often difficult? Frankly, the reason many of us find it hard to develop the spiritual reflex to bring everything under the scrutiny of God’s Word is because we have been raised to expect instant gratification. One hour per week in a church pew isn’t going to achieve a life change!

In my Christian life, I have been hurt by others many times. Rather than seek revenge, I have learnt to forgive based on what God’s Word teaches. I could not keep going unless I learnt to do this. Living in submission to God’s Word has blessed me with a realistic view of sin, without which I could be easily tempted and led astray with bitter consequences. The Bible shows how to avoid all that pain and waste by meditating on God’s precepts and finding our fulfillment in Him.

It starts with a commitment to head in God’s direction every day. Do we take the time to examine events, decisions, reactions or consequences in light of God’s Word? Is there a principle to apply? Will my response best reflect Christ-likeness? We need to slow down, think and then act.

Being free and sincere in affirming one another has great power to shape us together. God affirmed Joshua who was succeeding Moses as leader thus: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh.1:9, NIV). Imagine what could happen in OM or a local church if we covenanted to affirm one person every day—shall we not begin?
 

3. Being people of grace & integrity

As a gift from God, grace can be eternal, but integrity can be destroyed in a moment. Grace can happen in an instant, but integrity grows slowly. They are complimentary but distinct. Grace in our lives is shown by how we conduct ourselves with others, while integrity is the summation of our character and testimony.

Through the cross, grace and integrity flow down to us from God and through us to others. Grace makes the second chance possible—not based on our own abilities but on God’s willingness to forgive and work with us again. He gives grace to rescue and re-align us, and we should do likewise.

2 Pet 1:2 (NKJV) says, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” I once thought that grace was a one-time gift, but Peter says that it can be multiplied without end—both into every corner of our own lives and into those we interact with. That should cause us great excitement and hope as we look for ways to see it flourish in us. Particularly today, where morals are seen as relative or situational, it is critical that, as Jesus followers, we ascribe to the highest standards in thinking and acting. Openly living a biblically-mandated lifestyle and value system is going to be increasingly challenged. We may become a minority, but this is where our integrity will be tested. Are we able to accept, as made in God’s image, others who oppose us without compromising our beliefs?

We should aim to create communities—whether in OM or your church—where people are not measured by their likeness to us but by how they can experience grace and grow in integrity. Start where you are.

 

EVANGELISM

TURKEY: WAIT & SEE

Maurice*, an OMer in a western city, was frustrated trying to open a Turkish bank account. During the process, he met a friendly security guard named Göker*, who offered to help. Maurice and Göker ended up talking about spiritual issues for almost an hour. Maurice explained why Islam cannot deal with the human sin problem and how, because of His death on the cross, only Jesus can take away shame. Since their first meeting, Göker was very keen to meet again and they have met together on numerous occasions.

Göker, who has downloaded the Bible onto his phone, has been reading it and asking questions. After Maurice explained the gospel from Genesis 22, Göker admitted he had never heard anything like it before and that it really made sense. Maurice experienced a wonderful reminder that God can even use frustrating days for his glory! Pray for Maurice and Göker’s friendship and that Göker would come to know Jesus.

 

AUSTRIA: TIME TO READ

OM teams plan to offer Light in the Darkness, an illustrated comic now available in Arabic and Farsi, to refugees in Europe. Based on Patricia St. John’s novel Star of Light, it tells the story of Hamid who runs away with his blind little sister to prevent his stepfather from selling her. Fleeing their mountain village in Morocco, Hamid reaches a city where a believer helps them and points them to their true Saviour and refuge. Previously produced by OM EurAsia Support Team’s (OM EAST) publishing ministry in the Crimean Tatar, Georgian, Russian and Serbo-Croatian languages, Light in the Darkness is an accessible way to communicate the gospel.

Please pray this publication would open up conversations about faith. Please pray that whole refugee families discover hope in Christ as they, too, seek a better future.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

GHANA: HEALED AND MORE

A northern region is nicknamed The Overseas due to rising water in the rainy season that floods nearly all roads. Locals have limited or no access to basic health care, leaving thousands to suffer untreated.

Efforts to reach the locals with the gospel have been just as limited. Opening eyes requires what OM training coordinator Stephen Mensah calls a ‘catalyst’—a way to bridge the gap and build relationships with locals.

OM in Ghana and the Czech Republic has found that catalyst in medical relief. In September, a Czech team of ten, including five medical students, a doctor, and a dentistry student conducted a two-week medical outreach in The Overseas, working with Ghanaian doctors and nurses. 2016 marks the third year of this partnership.

Midwife and missionary Josephine Opoku met with OM to discuss opportunities to minister to local communities, with the help of Go Ye Missions (GYM), which provides doctors and medicine to missions organisations for medical outreaches. “If you go and say, ‘Come and let us preach about Jesus to you,’ few people will come,” she says. “But if you do a medical outreach, you find every opportunity to tell them about Christ. Because of what you’ve done for them, they will listen.”

And so in October 2014, OM and GYM collaborated to produce the first medical outreach trip to the north, Josephine says.

After seeing the effects of the ministry and the need for annual outreach, GYM created a team to work exclusively with OM, which has since added two additional annual medical outreaches.

Each year, the Overseas outreach has looked different, with varying emphases on medical relief and evangelism. On the last outreach, the medical team preached to the gathered crowds every morning before opening up the medical stations; opportunities to evangelise, however, were limited by the number of patients treated daily. The team provided free service and medicine for more than 2,300 locals, around 1,600 of which professed to be followers of Islam.

Team member Pavel emphasises that the medical care goes hand in hand with sharing the gospel. “Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, and preached the gospel. We see it as a workable concept: healing and preaching. The primary focus is sharing the gospel, and the services are a bridge into people’s lives.”

 

CHURCH PLANTING

MALAWI: NOW YOU’RE TALKING

Two years ago, the Bible was unavailable in the tribal language of chiYao, in written or audio format. Today, the whole Bible is ready to be heard through AudiBibles. In the first seven months of 2016, the OM team handed out 297 solar-powered Audi Bibles. Each recipient is expected to start a weekly listening group. “The Audi Bible is a true preacher,” said Fredson Phiri, one of the AudiBible trainers. “It gives the whole truth to the person. It preaches itself.”

Shadrick was working at the OM base when a visiting team shared the Word of God with him. “I was a [nominal] Christian before, but it was just a religion. I wanted to be a real Christian and be baptised,” he remembered. After completing training, Shadrick started an AudiBible listening group in March 2016 with 14 people in a nearby village. One attendee, Mary*, was a Muslim. After two months, she trusted Christ. “She’s making changes little by little,” said Shadrick, which is advisable in her area where culture and religion are closely intertwined.

Suwedi is a village 11 km from the OM base in Ntaja where Foundations for Farming (FFF) training is held. The course is taught using the Bible, so one participant remarked that the village didn’t understand the Bible. Was it possible to have training? 

Twenty AudiBibles were distributed in the village and the team will soon follow up on the listening groups. “One participant’s son had a dream where someone called him, saying ‘you need to come’ and showed him a church. I asked ‘what do you think of your son going to church?’ He said, ‘It’s his choice, I can’t make the choice for him.’ Some day I think this man will become a Christian.” 

Carson and Petunia had already established Bible studies in different communities before distributing AudiBibles within the groups. They have seen how people value the devices and how important the Word of God is to them.  Praise God that the Yaos are able to hear the Word of God in their own language! Pray for the continued growth of the listening groups and that more people will believe.

 

JUSTICE

AUSTRIA: NO WALLS HERE

“Although some call it the refugee crisis, I call it the refugee blessing,” expressed Robert*. “The refugees are a blessing to our church.” Since his local church opened its doors for a weekly drop-in a year ago, up to thirty people come each Tuesday. “Once we began reaching out, we saw our church changing,” Robert said. “Suddenly Dutch believers were interacting with foreigners, loving and helping them.” One man spoke about his faith with a Muslim for the first time; previously doubting that anyone could turn from Islam to Christ.

“We put a welcome poster in their languages outside our building and people started coming in,” Robert explained. Now refugees come to church services, youth group and Sunday school, while sixteen adults attend an Alpha course.

“When you take time to listen, you are blown away by what they have gone through,” shared Robert, a fluent Arabic speaker. Yet God is meeting individuals at their point of need, as Hamid* recently recounted to Robert.

“In my home country, my brother tortured me when he found out I had been reading the New Testament,” Hamid told Robert, showing him the marks on his body. A few years later, he boarded a boat headed for Greece.

“The weather was rough and when our boat’s engine broke, I thought we were going to die,” Hamid stated. “But then I remembered Jesus stilling a storm, so I prayed: ‘Jesus, if you can calm these waters, please do this.’” Ten minutes later, the water was calm. Shortly afterwards, a boat from Greece rescued them. On arrival in the Netherlands, somebody explained the gospel to him; subsequently, Hamid gave his life to Christ and was baptised.

Robert facilitates OM’s Safe Passage project, an initiative responding to refugees’ needs in the Balkans and Central Europe. To support relief efforts, OM EAST’s publishing ministry has produced evangelistic resources, including a new comic in Arabic and Farsi (see p.2).

The Church has a vital role in turning a crisis into a blessing, with the potential to discover, as the Dutch congregation is experiencing, that they too are changed in the process. “The window of opportunity is short; we need to take action,” Robert urged. “Let’s share hospitality and Jesus with them.”

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

TRINIDAD: A SECOND CHANCE

Logos Hope volunteers called on their football and basketball abilities to connect with young inmates at a male detention centre just outside Port of Spain. The team found a considerable amount of freedom on the prison grounds. The centre is unique in that convicted and non-convicted 16 to 18-year-old youth are brought to the facility for a three to four-year rehabilitation programme that re-trains them to re-enter society as mature, law-abiding adults. Part of this training includes freedom to participate in sports, and even travel outside the compound to compete against other football teams.

Raphael Arndt (Germany) used his story with the inmates to explain that every person makes bad choices in life; what matters is how they respond and move on. He encouraged the youth that it is never too late to start making good choices. While some team members competed on the field and on the court, other volunteers continued to talk with the remaining young men. The team met for lunch with the prison’s chaplain and commissioner who was surprised to learn that all crewmembers are volunteers. “You are all volunteers. I’m stuck on that, that you all spend six months volunteering,” he remarked. “No,” laughed the team members, “Two years!” The commissioner was incredulous. “What you are doing is commendable,” agreed the chaplain. “So many people say, ‘I can’t do this,’ or ‘I can’t do that,’ but, when I see you stepping out and doing this, I think, ‘This is what we were created to do.’”

 

Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.

Lawrence Tong
 

* name changed

Credit: OM International · © 2017 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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