Director's Update - July 2017

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Imitating Christ today

Imitation is how we learn to live and develop. The key to success in life is in choosing whom to imitate, because we are so easily influenced by others. Paul concurs: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us” (Eph.5: 1, 2, NASB). Trusting Christ, we become new creations through a transformative process, shedding our old skin to mature and grow as Christ becomes our priority. This process, if genuine, is lifelong, painful and designed for community: Our family structures, work and spiritual life transmit the way of Christ to the next generation. Yet Scripture promises us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

As a new Christian, I read the gospels fanatically, smitten by Jesus. I thought that achieving ten per cent of Jesus’ character would be a massive step. Today, I want much more of Jesus than ten per cent! I am learning how to recover from stumbles, deal with discouragement and so on. Humanly, I could despair but, in Christ, there is hope. God has all eternity to shape us to His liking and, as with any parent and child, He delights to see our efforts to imitate Him.

I have never met Jesus, yet I can imitate Him by associating with godly men and women ahead on the journey. If you want to pray better, seek out people who pray effectively. If you want a disciplined life, seek the instruction of the disciplined. If you want to be a fountain of grace to others, learn from the gracious. Scripture becomes active in us through a ‘before and after’ evaluation e.g. “Whereas in a given situation I have reacted wrongly, because of Christ now in me, I will specifically act differently.” Too often, we live dichotomistic lives: Christian behaviour on Sundays but the rest of our lives free to do as we please. And we wonder what’s wrong.

Choose, and choose now

Mentoring—‘someone in front of me; someone behind me’—can accelerate mutual growth, but it is a commitment demanding vulnerability. I long to see how we can transform this concept into a practice in any organisation or church. It is dangerous when that changes into putting on a good show: spirituality and piety, a long list of successes or a shrinking away from accountability starve our soul and keep us from the freedom of being authentic.

My desire for OM is that we take discipleship more seriously, particularly with younger people. Group teaching is essential, but we also need to select a few people into whom we can pour our own wisdom and experience. I do not imitate George Verwer but those facets of Jesus that are evident in him. In my early OM days, I was a rough character, but there were leaders who saw my potential, took me aside and helped me on a path to growth and maturity. I am what I am today because of them.

Christlikeness begins with self-awareness. Periodically, I write down areas in my life that irritate me—my impatience with my wife, my lack of discipline in time redemption, snapping at people—and seek to make changes. This leaves me little time to judge others.

In New Testament times, ‘Christians’ were referred to ‘little Christs’. If I adopted this intended slight with humility, how could I not be honoured to be a ‘little Jesus’?

 

EVANGELISM

JAMAICA: ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER

Balloons, bright colours and booming, bass-driven music set the stage for the sensory-stimulating onboard event for deaf youth, ‘Follow Me’. More than 100 hearing-impaired students and their teachers came to Logos Hope for the gathering intended to remind students of their value in Christ and to encourage them to find their identity in Him. When the percussion group went on stage to play, the event host asked the students each to pick up a balloon. Smiles broke out on the faces of the youth when the drummers began to play and they felt the vibrations of the drumbeats between their hands.

Crewmembers performed a silent drama and the onboard sign language club signed interpretations for two songs. Student Chantal Campbell was inspired when she saw a young girl who lives with her family on the ship signing on stage with the adult crewmembers. Chantal told crewmembers that she appreciated that every part of the morning was planned with the abilities of deaf people in mind. “I really liked how all of you thought about those who are deaf and how we were able to feel the music through the balloon,” signed Chantal. “The dance, the drumming, the singing and signing—it was beautiful. Everything that I saw touched my heart.”

Andy Svoboda has been working with deaf students across Jamaica for the last five years and was an interpreter during the event. “Do these students often come to events like this that are designed specifically for them?” asked Kayla Gibson (USA). “Oh, this was quite unique,” said Andy, explaining that a social stigma in Jamaica surrounding deafness means deaf people are often marginalised and have limited access to jobs and education. “The kids today loved it. They were very tuned in; this was an amazing experience for them.”

 

SOUTH ASIA: BIBLE AWAITING

While shepherding his animals, Dul, a local man living deep in the Himalayas found a discarded New Testament. The word ‘Holy’ caught his attention, and he took the Bible and began reading. As he understood that “whoever believes has eternal life,” he resolved to follow what he read.

Later that year, the OM team that had left the New Testament travelled through his area to follow up their earlier Bible distributions. When they came to Dul’s household, which had been missed in the earlier distributions because nobody was home, he immediately invited them into his house. 

Holding the Bible he had found, he shared his story and asked the team many questions about his reading. As a result, Dul and his wife chose to follow Jesus and continue to read and grow. The team was encouraged that God had made a way for Dul and his wife to hear the Good News! 

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

GHANA: BURDENS LIFTED

On the street, a girl balances an empty metal bowl on her head. She greets OM’s Kayeye Ministry Coordinator, Portia Owusu-Amoateng, with a smile. They chat briefly before parting ways. The girl, 18, lives on the streets of Kumasi, where the promise of a paying job drew her from the north. Her metal bowl will be filled with maize meal, wood, fruit and other heavy items, or she will carry bags of rice on her head, or car parts such as tires. But the loads get heavier, and money rarely comes. The Kayeye (girl head porters) are taken advantage of simply because they are northerners.

The purpose of OM’s ministry, says Portia, is “to spiritually feed them with the gospel, to disciple them for Christ, and meet their physical needs.” OM provides training in hairdressing and fabric-working for rescued Kayeye girls as an opportunity to disciple them and share the love of Christ. Ruthina Aryeetey, children’s ministry coordinator, says that convincing Kayeye girls to live at the base is difficult. They are willing to learn new skills, but a life on the street seems better than living in a Christian organisation. OM currently houses just 30 girls, but those lives have been transformed by the gospel.

Like Kayeye porters, Asana came from northern Ghana when her parents divorced. Asana lived with her grandmother and planned to study beauty therapy but, at 10 years old, she travelled south to make money for school expenses. Asana took a job as a dishwasher on the side of the road. Cheated of her wages, Asana found herself trapped in a web of verbal abuse and mistreatment for more than a year.

A Canadian missionary working with the OM team introduced herself to Asana, and talked with Field Leader Chris Insaidoo about helping. Only in November 2015 did OM secure Asana’s trust and her family’s approval. Now 12 years old and living at an OM home for girls, Asana is in school—funded by OM—and at the top of her class. She plans to become a nurse and return north to help the mentally ill where basic health care is inaccessible.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

UKRAINE: A WAY OUT, A WAY IN

Christiana*, a short-term participant from Great Britain, shares insights of her visit to Crossroads church plant in Odessa:

“Turning my back on the Black Sea, I cross the busy road, flanked by scruffy, Soviet-style apartment blocks. Overhead run raggedly insulated heating pipes and lines of washing strung out from windows. I turn into a doorway, up some stairs, through another door, and I am in a small, rectangular-shaped room. Crossroads Church is a community of believers planted by OMers Stefan and Hensie van der Merwe. The church is in an impoverished and crime-ridden neighbourhood. People come here to worship, discuss, share life together or simply ask questions about the God who can bring such light and joy into a dark and dreary place.

“A number of congregants have been set free from addictions and act as magnets to others. Can this God really set them free, bring new hope, provide comfort and support for their chaotic lives? The answer is given lovingly, but clearly: “yes!”

“I think of those like Kostya*, who come to God in repentance, ask for forgiveness, experience power which carries them through withdrawal and reconciles families. As well as Sunday meetings, twice-weekly Bible studies and prayer meetings open to all, there are weekend groups for children and teenagers. Here they, too, are introduced to God and invited to enjoy games and snacks.

“The enthusiasm and commitment by church members is great, whilst the need is huge. It’s so clear, however, that God is at work and steadily drawing people in. ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it’ (John 1:5, NLT). 

 

JUSTICE

CENTRAL ASIA: LAST CHANCE RESCUE

Walking into a women’s shelter, one of the first people that our worker sees is Anna*, coming over to give her a big hug. Her face is shining, her health is strong and she is growing in faith daily. But Anna’s life wasn’t always like this.

When the team first came across her on their weekly feeding day, a day set aside to take food to the homeless people of their city and offer shelter to those willing to accept it, Anna was a shivering wet heap in a pile of snow. The harsh conditions had taken a toll on her and she was close to death.

With the help of their local church fellowship, the team was able to get Anna warm, dry and into a women’s shelter. Her health was restored and she began her journey towards knowing Christ.

Nearly a year later, she spends her days knitting and sewing small toys to contribute to the income of the shelter. She hands one to our worker with a smile, “a gift for your daughter.” She remembers that if God hadn’t brought them together that winter’s day, she could have died. Praise the Lord for the changes in Anna’s life. Pray for the team to help more at-risk women to enter new lives with God in community.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

BRAZIL: FROM MISSION FIELD TO MISSION FORCE

As a church mobiliser for OM, Rafael Bertolino wants to see hundreds involved with the Great Commission. Still, people cannot be sent if their pastors are not on board. However, having met with over 100 pastors during the past two years, Rafael said most church leaders do not prioritise overseas missions.

One reason for reluctance is the generation gap, explained Pastor Humberto Maia Argão, former field leader of OM Brazil. “A few pastors are young, but most are my age (62) and they have never been outside [Brazil]. They don’t know much about missions,” he explained. To counter these perceptions, OM must form solid relationships with church leadership across the country, Pastor Humberto stressed. “We need to see more relationships between mission agencies and churches.”

According to OM in Brazil, in 2010 there were 97.5 million evangelicals in Latin America, with nearly 50 million of those in Brazil. They project that number rising to over 100 million for Brazilians by 2020.

In addition to increasing numbers of evangelicals, most Brazilians exhibit key characteristics that allow them to thrive in cross-cultural contexts. “Normally, the feedback we get is that the Brazilians are very adaptable, and they often receive leadership positions,” shared mission training director Nelia Leal. “We are really flexible, especially about challenges. If something doesn’t work, it’s ok; let’s try Plan B,” explained a Brazilian OM worker living in North Africa. “In our culture, people are more important than duties or your time. It’s OK to spend three hours on a visit or receive people to your house for a long time or even [have] unexpected visits.”

“The Brazilian church has received so much help throughout the years and now can make the difference,” stated Pastor Ademir. “Our people are relational, and this characteristic can be strategic to reach the world.”

Pray for OM to build strong relationships with Brazilian churches that will prioritise global missions and mobilise thousands to take the gospel to the least reached.

 

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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