Director's Update - Sept 2017

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The danger of self-promotion

In a crowded, noisy world, it’s hard to be seen and heard. The marketing industry capitalises on that, using proven techniques to generate public interest. But there can be hazy line between honest, consistent messaging and manipulation that promotes ourselves rather than the kingdom of God. It can be found in ministry reports: people were in great need; we showed up and everything was amazing. God has a supporting role in this sort of drama. How much better to be witnesses of God at work!

We owe it to the Lord and others to tell our story with integrity yet distinct difference from the world’s ways. The ‘limited pie’ theory—where resources are limited and thus competed for—can lead to exaggerating our successes and minimising our failures. God bows to no limitations and is more honoured when we trust in His provision than when we compete with others. Do we believe that real success is a relentless push for explosive growth in finance and workers—that OM should balloon from 3,400 workers to 34,000? Or does God want us to grow in holiness and effectiveness as we are now? Actually, I would prefer a smaller workforce, expertly trained and focused. Doubling our size but not the number of people reached would not be success.

Celebrate human reality

One marker of self-promotion is when we only report successes and downplay failures. However, most people also experience letdown and failure—even when acting in faith. As a result, there could be more respect in being honest about our human weaknesses—something anyone can relate to! The Bible is full of the good and bad with God’s people, lending it credibility. Paul said he would boast about Christ, especially in his own weakness (2 Cor. 12: 9). Since there are so many instances of our weaknesses, let us salvage them by telling of God’s intervention.

We may need more resources to accomplish what God wants us to do, but once we let that (and not Him) influence our steps of faith or obedience and drive our decisions, we can easily oversell ourselves in ways that diminish God’s acting in our midst. We can give an impression that we are agents of God’s blessing. This is bad theology, because God will share His glory with no one. Thinking of how many TV preachers have sullied the reputation of Christians should make us extremely careful. Don’t think that it can’t happen to us. It starts in small ways.

1 Jn. 2: 15–17 warns of boasting in what we have or do, which are behaviours of those who love the ways of the world more than they love the Father. Modelling detachment from what we have or do in ways that keep God pre-eminent (Col. 1:18) means that, in all our reports, there should be a sense of awe for God’s intervention. An OM leader in the Middle East remarked that, “Our task is to know when to get out of God’s way”—we do what God leads us to do, but He causes the harvest.

Personally, I would recommend that those of us who speak or write give colleagues the task of keeping us in line, so we can improve and avoid compromise. This takes maturity and humility.

In OM, ensuring that glory points to God alone in our reporting, fund raising and recruiting must be a priority. From our boards through area structures to our team members, we should monitor our communications so that our message is on track. Let God be true in the good and the bad.

 

EVANGELISM

TURKEY: SPIRITUAL SEARCH

When Eileen* shares the gospel with taxi drivers, their response is often, “That’s nice,” and they change the subject. But this driver was different: “Tell me more about Jesus!’,” she shared.

Arriving at her house, she gave him a New Testament, a copy of the Jesus film, the name of a website where he could live chat with Turkish believers, and a YouTube channel where Turks share their testimonies.

“Twenty minutes later, I still heard a motor running on the street,” said Eileen. “It was the taxi driver, watching the videos, checking the website!” Three days later, Eileen was in another city having dinner and overheard two men. One took his ID card out and exclaimed, “Who wrote ‘Muslim’ on here? I never asked anybody to write this. I don’t want to follow this; there has to be other ways. Who will show us a better way?”

Stunned, she wrote out website addresses where he could learn about Jesus. Then she walked up and said, “I’m sorry for eavesdropping, but let me tell you: there is a better way. I discovered it when I was 23. Here’s where you can learn more.” The man clutched it and said, “Thank you, thank you!”

“Sure enough, he whipped out his phone and started looking. These are the kind of things that we have not seen happening in this country,” she shared.

Phillip* met a teacher and they began talking about religion. Seventeen years ago, a foreigner had told him about Jesus and invited him to church. Something prevented him from going, and for 17 years it had been haunting him. Then he asked Phillip, “You wouldn’t happen to have a Bible with you?” Phillip gave him one. Weeks later, the teacher called to ask if they could go to church together. At the end, the teacher noticed there was a table of free books. He happily filled his bag on his way out.

 

BAHAMAS: LET ALL CHILDREN HEAR

“What do we do now?” Logos Hope crewmembers wondered when they arrived at The Bahamas Down’s Syndrome and Friends Centre ready to work with children with Down’s syndrome. They were surprised to find that half in the summer programme have the condition, while the other half have been diagnosed with autism.

Erin Wochner (USA), visiting the ship on a short-term team to learn more about the ship’s work, has a twelve-year-old brother with autism and is employed as a certified caregiver for children with autism and Down’s syndrome. “Autism is like a rainbow, with each child having a different spectrum of abilities,” Erin observed. With this insight, the volunteers determined appropriate activities to meet the needs and interests of all the children.
“I kept telling the kids God loves them, and they would nod and say, ‘I know’,” smiled Ruthanne Teo (USA).

As the team later evaluated their experience, they talked about new things they had learned about working with children with autism and Down’s syndrome. With the support of the Short-Term Teams Co-ordinator Janice Low (Singapore), Erin ran a training session about interacting with children who have additional challenges so that ship teams can be better prepared for future connections and opportunities.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

MOLDOVA: WARM HOUSE & HEART

When Petru and Maria Bunduchi, leaders of a small church in Visineovca, answered their phone, the caller cried and cried…and then hung up. A return call connected them to a poor woman, living alone without family or friends, having hardly any income and staying in a home without water or gas and a leaky roof. Their church had partnered with OM to provide people in need with basic necessities for winter, and this woman had received firewood. Concerned by her crying, the pastor and his wife visited her; when she saw them, she broke into tears again—this time tears of joy.

As she struggled to express her gratitude to the church, Maria directed her to God: thank Him. She could hardly believe the luxuries now allowed: “Tonight I will get undressed to sleep and be able to wash myself,” she said. For many winters, she dressed in as many layers of clothes as she had, day and night, to keep warm. Now, for the first time in 16 years, she was beside a warm fire. For 16 freezing winters she could not afford firewood!

Every year, OM coordinates help for the most vulnerable people, reaching communities through local churches. They find that this desperately needed help brings true relief physically and spiritually. Words of hope that accompany a food parcel nourish souls; firewood not only warms houses but also thaws hearts. It’s not always a bad thing to make people cry. Pray that OM teams can connect these forgotten poor with nearby churches.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

BOSNIA & HERCEGOVINA: YOU ARE WELCOME HERE

The small church and OM office in Sarajevo share premises away from the pedestrian street. During the civil war (1992–1995), Bosnians spread all over Europe. Today, huge improvements are taking place despite high unemployment (50 percent), particularly among youth. There is no money to rebuild factories to provide jobs.

Building relationships is key, whether bringing young people to snowboarding camps during winter breaks and floorball during the week, or inviting church members and neighbours to spaghetti nights or a simple coffee and chat. “We are probably the only OM team providing ashtrays!” laughed Field Leader Stefan Eisenring (Switzerland). “We used to be upset about teens smoking outside our office until we realised the opportunity to build relationships with them. By setting out chairs and cold drinks—even ashtrays—we enjoy their company and have opportunity to share Christ.”

Sarajevo is predominantly Muslim, while other parts of the country are Catholic or Orthodox. The majority of the population is relatively secular, but a new influx of people from the Middle East may change the balance. More people are needed for children’s ministry and to strengthen sports initiatives. OM also has a small church planting team in Bihac. Please pray that more workers would bring the message of Christ to the Bosnian people.

 

JUSTICE

CENTRAL ASIA: A FRESH START

Many young girls in Kyrgyzstan face sexual abuse and end up pregnant or kicked out of the house. They remain uneducated and in menial work. After years of mistreatment and the burden of supporting their families, they are vulnerable and have low self-esteem. Three Dorcas Ministries are designed to make a difference in the lives of silently suffering women.

Dorcas Kitchen provides training in a marketable skill and self-respect. Women learn cooking, food handling and budgeting. Dorcas Sewing gathers women twice a week to learn embroidery, fabric painting, and Kyrgyz felt-carpet technique. Bags, dresses, slippers and rugs are made for income. Dorcas Repeat Boutique distributes clothes and household items for children and women collected from the expat community.

Prior to joining Dorcas Kitchen, a doctor told Sabina,* an Uzbek from Kyrgyzstan, that she had six years to live. Sabina took her two daughters to Russia to earn money, learning later that she was HIV positive. Many urged Sabina to seek medical care but, because of shame, stigma and discrimination, she refused to see a doctor, even as her health deteriorated.

When Dorcas Kitchen staff heard her story, they connected Sabina with Hope Channel, a group that trains and assists people who are HIV positive. Sabina returned from her training with a new perspective and hope for the future. Her first words were, “I am not going to die with this infection. If I take good care of myself and get the medical care I need, I can live a long life.” She saw a doctor for the first time in two years and now awaits her results. Pray that other women in the community will also find hope in Christ through this ministry.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

GERMANY: VIBRANT INDEED

3,800 people from 43 nations gathered in Offenburg from 27 July–3 August for OM’s annual TeenStreet youth congress. Although a ministry of Operation Mobilisation (OM) for 25 years, “TS always has been a little bit different,” explained Director Ger van Veen. Over 1,000 new teenagers attend the event every summer because their friends invite them. Based on numbers and excitement, there’s no question TS is a viable ministry. However, in 2016, OM released a new global mission statement: ‘We want to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.’ In light of this, many asked: “How does TS fit into OM?” 

“We’re in the middle of OM’s core business: a big, international, inter-generational community,” Ger reasoned. The vocabulary of the [OM] vision statement fits this generation. “In secularised Europe, those most-removed from the gospel are the generation not being taught any Christian principles,” Ger stated. “The younger you are, the more unreached you are.” TS core values are relationship, impact and empowerment. “We’re helping people to see [following Jesus] is normal life,” OM Italy leader Christian Pilz said. “You can be contagious by having Jesus visible in your life.”

In 2007, Christian brought seven Spanish teenagers to TS. They looked around, their mouths hanging open in amazement: “We didn’t know so many Christians of our age exist, who believe in the same God,” they told Christian. 

Of those seven teens, four were involved in missions afterwards for at least three months, two with OM. “When you talk with the younger generation in OM, especially Europeans, basically all of them got to know OM through TeenStreet,” Christian remarked. “They maybe didn’t make the decision at TeenStreet to go into missions, but somewhere during their growing up [years], TeenStreet was a link.”

Ger concluded, “If you’re asking me how TeenStreet fits into OM’s vision statement, we focus on Jesus followers, we focus on being a vibrant community and we have people [participating] who live among 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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