Excitedly, the eight people seated around the dining room table—members of the support team in the Near East—chose their desserts, the special treat crowning an already exceptional three-course dinner.
For Oliver and Julia, support team leaders in the Near East, dinners like this happen almost weekly. Between looking up recipes, visiting different shops to pick up ingredients, stopping by the bakery for fresh bread, and setting the table, Julia said hospitality is fun, though time-consuming, and only a small part of their on-field ministry.
Fun but unexpected. “We were originally looking at hospitality options when we wanted to serve overseas,” Julia recalled. “We didn’t realize that every option in missions was hospitality. You always need to have a guest room; you always need to be able to prepare meals for groups of people. Hospitality’s just part of ministry.”
For guests, most often team members or other workers traveling through the area, visits to the apartment provide much-needed fellowship, rest, and refreshment.
“Every time I go to Oliver and Julia's place, it’s like going on holiday,” said Esther*, fellow OM-er and friend, whose ministry on another team takes place in a crowded, low-income area of the inner city.
Located up a mountain—above the smog line—their balcony offers stunning sunset views. Logistical details connected to their residency visas determined the apartment’s location. According to Julia, “It wasn’t so much a choice as God providing a place to live.”
And having space to share allows Julia and Oliver to use their creative gifts to bless others in their home, individually and as a team.
As a photographer, seamstress, sketch artist, and lover of art, Julia’s ability to create beauty in her home stems from a natural desire to locate loveliness: “I’m always looking for beauty in the world around me.”
First introduced to photography in middle school, when her parents gave her their SLR camera, Julia developed her skills behind the lens throughout college and during an internship overseas before starting a photography business in her home country. Now, she serves the field and a local NGO through photography and editing.
Julia also uses her creative expertise to develop the OM MENA Communications Internship Program based in the Near East, overseeing a stream of young journalists, photographers, videographers, and graphic designers.
“To create opportunities for people to serve in their giftings—whether it’s writing, photography, or video—to do that for God’s glory in missions, I love that,” she explained. “And I love when people get it, that God gave them this passion and interest and talent for His glory. It’s part of what He’s doing, and He wants to use those gifts to reach people with His message of salvation through Jesus.”
Oliver excels at cooking—a passion developed from the need to improvise meal preparation overseas. “Moving here, I didn’t have the convenience of buying a package of this or a package of that,” he said. “I had to start to make things that we enjoyed from scratch using basic raw ingredients.”
Some of the their friends and team members simply enjoy the result of Oliver’s work in the kitchen. Others learn from it.
Oliver leads the Personnel Department for the region. Intentional about sharing important information, Oliver prefers casual settings for conversations—he offers cultural insights over dinner, during errands driving around the city, and in unexpected moments in between.
He also teaches life skills to young men who arrive on the field, helping them figure out basics, like cooking and cleaning. “Oliver’s a good role model for guys. I’m glad they are getting this example from him. For us, housework and parenting are definitely shared responsibilities. I’m glad that these young guys are seeing that,” Julia said.
They have also learned that being good hosts means being good listeners. “If people are comfortable in your home and comfortable with you, they’re going to open up naturally,” Oliver said.
“We’re not formal communicators, but that quality time with individuals is really good, sitting down over dinner, talking, and sharing,” Julia added.
Even though the faces around the dinner table change often, as workers come and go, Oliver and Julia try to encourage all the people who walk through their front door. “We’ve come to the realization there are people that are going to be here for a short time or a long time, and we need to take advantage of that,” Oliver said. “Enjoy and celebrate the relationship for the amount of time you have it, whether it’s six weeks, six months, one year, two years or longer.” Everyone is important.
Nicole James is a journalist, ESL teacher and adventurer. A writer for OM Middle East North Africa, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.
Credit: Nicole James · © 2016 OM International