Director's Update - June 2017

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OM's Core Values (series)

8. Global intercession

OM was berthed in prayer and has continued by prayer. If we let this slip, our mission is over. So many people look back on their time with OM, perhaps decades ago, and testify that the passion for prayer was the greatest legacy that changed their lives. We are all busy, motivated people and it is possible that we cease to intercede for needy nations and focus on prayer on our own ministries. This is understandable, but it comes at a price. Failing to earnestly intercede for others is failure and, in this world today, we dare not let go of this, because prayer changes things—and us.

Intercessory prayer requires effort and sometimes sacrifice. It is not to be treated with casualness or indifference. William Macdonald once told me of his first meeting with George Verwer. In William’s office was a world map. George knelt before it and began pouring out his heart for India. Afterward, William asked George how long he had been in India, to which George replied that he had never been there. Yet he prayed with knowledge and authority, having invested time and effort to learn because it mattered. Today we continue to use Operation World, even on our phones, for that critical information. There are countless stories of how God responded to prayer throughout our lives. We need to tell more of these stories more often.

As a movement, we have days of prayer and I hope we can bring back intercession for nations like Bhutan, which is a stronghold of the enemy. We have to start somewhere for the sake of people cut off from the gospel. Only prayer can accomplish this. Also, making this a regular practice will challenge and motivate our teams and churches in new ways. Personally, we find the time for what matters most to us. I use daily walks and a treadmill for praying, so that it becomes a habit and one that imitates the Lord Jesus.
 

9. Esteeming the Church

What does it mean to esteem God’s Church? It means recognising that the Church—such as it is, as we are—is God’s plan for the nations. It is the Church that will evangelise the world, will baptise and teach (Mt. 28:18–20). OMers thus, as peers, must serve churches wherever we go—not so they will help achieve our goals but that we may serve their own efforts in fulfilling the Great Commission. We need one another. Many churches (of all types and sizes) either lack mission vision or the ability or experience to carry it out. We can and do help churches to transform into teams that are passionate, informed and resourced to impact the world.

We begin to esteem the Church by recognising its unique, divine role in the world. We then seek to partner with churches in their calling to the world. OM (and other missions) is not in the business of creating our own denomination or competing with churches. Rather, we accept that Christ’s command to spread knowledge of Him across the globe is impossible unless we team up, laying aside non-essential differences and focusing on the values we share. As we contribute to vibrant communities of Jesus followers, we will release these communities to form their own alliances.

The ship is a good example of esteeming churches. A high priority in planning where it goes and what it does is based upon partnership with local churches, because they are the ones who will reap the harvest of seeds sown through a ship visit. Benjamin Disraeli said that the greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. Because we are convinced of the potential of the local church to transform communities, we seek to build them up and encourage them in their faith. We need to commit to walking the journey together with churches in transparency and trust.

 

EVANGELISM


ARUBA: EVERY SECOND COUNTS

A visit from Logos Hope crewmembers to a kids’ club sparked excitement among children eagerly anticipating their own visit to the vessel. Karsten Hassman (Spain) showed a dollar bill to the children, asking “If you were given 86,400 of these every day for the rest of your life, what would you do with them?” Some kids wanted to give to the church or to families in need; others wanted expensive toys like a car or an aeroplane. Karsten explained that God gives each person a gift: “Each day you have 86,400 seconds to use how you choose. How are you going to use your time?”

The team members explained why they have chosen to spend two years of their life serving on board Logos Hope. “There are people around the world who have never heard about God,” said one of the volunteers. “The most important thing we do on the ship is share hope with people.” The children and leaders reconnected with the crewmembers onboard the ship the following week. The volunteers hope that seeing them in action will further impact the young people to spend their lives for a meaningful purpose.

 

SWEDEN: LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Hanna Persliden leads a team of five to New Age health and spirituality fairs, where they encounter people with alternative beliefs and practices, including the occult. Many need the light of Jesus. The team takes a big tent to fairs, offering people an encounter with their Creator through praying and listening to God.The team also goes to pubs to meet with individuals seeking the reality of Christ. “They need to meet Christians who are confident and have deep enough roots in Christ not to be fearful of the supernatural,” she says. Many Swedes long for spiritual reality but have rejected Christianity.

“We need to ask: ‘What language would Jesus speak to them; what kind of parables? We want to disciple them, but we are just spiritual midwives. It is God who does this by His Spirit,” she adds. One woman returned to a festival the following year and said ‘yes’ to Jesus; another girl testified of healing in her relationship with her dad. They have also witnessed immediate and obvious changes in people and encountering those who keep coming back to them, year after year.

“God is much bigger than we’ve ever thought,” Hanna says, “and more powerful than darkness. We know who has the victory”.

Please pray for Hanna’s team: for guidance and protection, for growth in numbers and in their understanding of God’s ways. Pray that seekers would see Jesus clearly. 

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT


BANGLADESH: AN INVITING INTEGRITY

OM’s development activities are relationally oriented, creating natural contact for people who inquire about why Christians are different. This opens the way to share hope in Christ. OM supported one school for years, providing school benches, a blackboard, a toilet and even additional training. Palash*, the school headmaster asked, “Is there anything more you can do for our school?”

With this motive, he visited the OM office repeatedly, where OMer Tutul* enjoyed talking with him. Over time, Palash came to know Christ. Later, his wife Disha* became a believer as well. In her role as a primary school teacher, her actions and gentleness are a light for Christ among her students and their families.

Saiful*was a wood yard owner contracted by OM to provide benches for schools in the area. Through this relationship, he also became a believer. Because of his faith, Saiful had a reputation for being fair in business. Through his witness, others wanted to know more about Jesus.

Andrew*, a visiting European OMer, joined a fellowship of about 30 people who met at the wood yard. “I could see the gospel witness and how people have benefited from OM’s projects from a business side as well,” he said.

“How do we do church? Do we have to have a building?” the young believers asked. Andrew explored with them how to structure their Christian fellowship within their culture. “It was incredible to see the rawness of their faith and their genuine questions and desire to worship God,” he added.

It has been said that the number one reason more unreached people are not coming to faith is because they have never met a follower of Jesus. “How else do you come to know Christ unless you actually see His life in practice?” Andrew responded. “Believers have a key role of being there practically for people. Only those with a message of life-changing truth in Christ can make a difference in people’s lives.” Pray for unity in these small fellowships and their multiplication for God’s glory.

 

CHURCH PLANTING


LAOS: YOUTH NEED MODELS

In many Global South countries, churches lack resources and personnel to disciple their own believers. In Laos, an OM team holds a weekly Bible study to provide a firm foundation for their faith and draw them closer to God.

“They have many questions about God, as teaching in churches is often watered down or prosperity driven,” OM worker John* explains of five young Lao he is discipling. “I’ve seen them change in their thinking,” John said. “This is a safe place to ask questions and find answers from God’s Word,” John explained.

Sisters Ailani* and Kieli* became believers while living and training with another Christian programme. They grew up in a household where spirits were worshipped and fear was part of life, especially the fear of sickness.

While in training provided by an OM partner organisation, both girls were deeply impacted and made decisions to follow Christ.

“I used to ask my mother why, if the evil spirits make people sick, do we thank them for healing?” Ailani said. “She had no answer.” Now the two sisters have found work and continue in the weekly Bible studies with OM staff.

Pray that more Lao will hear God’s truth and be changed, and that local churches can be strengthened through a Jesus-modelled form of discipleship.

 

JUSTICE


KURDISTAN: NOT NEWS, BUT NEEDY

Millions of internally-displaced peoples (IDPs) in this Central Asian country have settled into monotonous camps, obscure villages and unfinished buildings. Food remains the greatest need. Initially, displaced families in large camps received two food packages a month, later only one, and then a single reduced portion, long-term worker Karina* explained. Now, even that aid has become irregular. “Our partners work in the unfinished buildings and [informal] camps, among people who are spread out…even in the mountains,” she stated.

Fifty-nine per cent of OM aid given to the Kurdistan region in the first three quarters of 2016 ($520,600) provided food assistance for 20,500 families. Other relief funds went to health, hygiene and medical costs as well as seasonal assistance, such as providing propane bottles for cooking and heating.

Many IDPs lived in well-off situations prior to Daesh (ISIS) invasions. “They are not [inherently] poor, but they are made poor because they lost everything,” Karina’s husband James* explained. One IDP believer, Rashid*, “was clever enough to realise the situation and leave before they had to flee,” James said. Rashid and his family moved to Kurdistan ahead of the crisis. Now, they regularly volunteer in a local church where, James noted, the joy of serving Jesus in a body of believers “keeps them going.”

Unlike Rashid, most IDPs were caught off guard and fled with no provisions. Initially, donations poured in from around the globe but, two and a half years later, financial support has waned. “You think they should become self-sufficient, but how?” James asked. “There is no work…There are camps all over; in one, there are 25,000 people.”

James and Karina, who oversee relief and development projects in Kurdistan, said donors want to see relief efforts transition into development. However, the majority of IDPs still struggle to meet basic needs, while fighting in Mosul has heightened worries of an incoming new wave of refugees.

Nonetheless, according to James, twenty per cent of OM aid dollars in Kurdistan are earmarked for development, with part of the fund reserved for the future and part sponsoring educational training for IDPs.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP


GHANA: GOING TO GOD’S SCHOOL

Evans Osei Asamoah joined OM to work alongside Godfred Otu Nartey in school ministry, reaching nearly 20 area schools in the OM base city of Kumasi. While Evans ministers to high school students and Godfred works with upper and lower primary school children, their methods of building relationships are the same: connecting with the teachers and administrators first, students second. “It’s not a one-day job,” he says, as establishing a relationship with the school can take weeks before he asks about ministering to its students, but it’s proving to be effective: He now works in five schools, while Godfred rotates between 14 different locations.

As he talks with younger children, Godfred focuses on sharing the gospel, highlighting a biblical story each week and connecting it to a lesson and memory verse. In a country where as many as seventy per cent of the population identifies as Christian, Godfred sees the importance of basic biblical topics, and that the best avenue to speak biblical truth into lives is through telling stories.

For Evans, school visits involve teaching and preaching to older students, with different messages depending on which school he’s visiting, but the message always comes back to the gospel, he says. His emphasis is on discipleship—teaching the young adults how to implement their faith in daily life. “It takes time for you to see the seeds that you’ve sown in these people to germinate,” he says.

Godfred’s and Evans’ plans for 2017 include expanding the scope of their ministry. While Godfred sees his work extending into churches through a training programme for Sunday school teachers, and Evans looks to target universities, both are seeking opportunities to amplify the meaning of ‘school ministry.’

Because OM hosts medical outreaches, Evans wants to extend the ministry to university medical students, building a relationship with the University of Cape Coast.

 

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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