Director's Update - Apr 2018

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When accountability gets personal

While at Prairie Bible College in Western Canada recently, I met with Lorentz and Mary Lou, longtime prayer partners to whom we are as accountable as to any authority. Being held accountable is fact of life. External, often legal/professional, accountability is good and necessary, even if at times inconvenient. In a team environment, personal accountability is only fair when all submit to it. An accountability relationship should be a safe place, free from judgment. Establishing and respecting boundaries with checks and balances leads to clarity, motivation and assurance.

We understand the benefits of making sure that everyone is doing as expected. But we hesitate when moving from the procedural to the personal: Our guard goes up and we are hesitant to entrust our dreams and weaknesses to others. We feel vulnerable. Culturally, Asians are uncomfortable discussing private matters like spirituality. Chemistry is another factor: If I don’t sense a connection, it will be hard to open up with someone. Auditing your character is not like evaluating your work; it takes time to probe deeper. Personal accountability does not seek to expose failure but to spur one another on to Christlikeness, the purest example of excellence in life.

What areas of our personal lives develop better when others we trust can ‘audit’ us, prompting us to push that little bit harder? Life as a whole: family, spiritual walk, struggles, sexual temptations, emotional and other health, how you deal with people and money are obvious. Knowing that I will meet with someone in a few days is a healthy deterrent to fall or compromise. When we are low, we are weak; having trusted people at hand to remind us of God’s goodness and blessings restores hope. Having someone a phone call away when I need courage or comfort can make the difference.

A good accountability partner can help us appraise our personal life dreams and goals—and shortcomings—for the purpose of aiming higher and not losing the power of those dreams. I am scheduled to take a leadership course at a prestigious university in the near future; our board suggested it, but I dragged my feet to register. In stepped my accountability person to make sure that I did enroll. I am grateful for his persistence in helping me to grow personally.

Too many of us have adopted a ‘lone wolf’ mindset regarding accountability: We’ll submit to work-related evaluations, but are determined to go it alone in our personal lives. The Bible challenges such behaviour: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13, NIV). Keeping my life too private may mean that temptation and opportunity could meet; without the knowledge of a friend watching out for you, your ability to overcome may suffer enough for a tragic outcome. Jesus set out the twelve two-by-two, not one-by-one, for a reason.

Elements in personal accountability:

  • Look for someone who will actually help you to stretch and grow, not just pat you on the back.
  • Establish boundaries and confidentiality, respect, and frequency of meeting.
  • Enjoy this relationship and focus on serving one another for a fixed period. True personal accountability is not constraining but liberating, knowing that someone is watching out for you

What would happen if more of us—in OM, in our churches or organisations—craved the humility and courage to increase our accountability by faith? For one thing, there would be less space for critical spirits (knowing that we all need ‘work’ done) and a greater testimony to unity and gracae in Jesus. I’m up for that—are you?

 

EVANGELISM

NETHERLANDS: WE CAME FOR YOU

“He was shaking as he came aboard, overwhelmed by the presence of God,” recounted Ray Trainor (UK). Once a Christian, Max became jaded after several difficult experiences and failed suicide attempts. Invited to lunch, he was overwhelmed by the community. “He was looking around in surprise the whole time,” shared Ray.

Max visited multiple times while OM’s riverboat was in Dordrecht. He attended Sunday Service, helped on a practical ministry day, and even participated in a prayer and evangelism walk. Ray put him in contact with a local friend. “This was the right time for the Riverboat to come, and for you to talk to me,” Max told Ray. Max has since contacted his former fellowship group to restore his relationship with God. 

When the Riverboat arrived in Arnhem, Marjolein Doornebal (NL) befriended a local Turkish lady. A believer from Istanbul, Volga had moved to the Netherlands alone without her husband in search of work. “She was feeling very alone, and needed support from other Christians,” said Marjolein, who is contacting an appropriate local Christian organization to follow up with her.

The Riverboat community serves as a source of new energy for former OMers when they visit. Witnessing its ministry in their own country rekindles their passion for missions. “Talking to people onshore was my favourite [thing],” said Jelle, an ex-Logos Hope crewmember. “It reminded me of what I love to do. I have missed this so much.”

“The Riverboat is a breath of fresh air for former OMers to remind them why they are here,” said Riverboat Director, Peter Nicoll (South Africa). “I pray that this rekindling will turn into action and fruitfulness in their lives.”

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

ALBANIA: A BETTER WAY

When OM launched a kingdom-oriented micro- and small business initiative, Business as Mission (BAM), they focused on Christians who needed assistance to grow their businesses to positively impact their community spiritually, socially and economically. BAM committed to operate in a way that first honoured God. As Enio, BAM’s leader, commented, “One of the keys is to have a legal business by registering, and paying taxes and bills.”

In 2016, one of the first businesses was a small metal fabrication shop in west-central Albania, run by a Christian man, Turi*. BAM seeks to create sustainability in churches, communities and Christian families through job creation, and Turi needed his own business to manage his time for work, his young family and involvement in church activities. Turi’s church sent him and his wife to help a church plant in a traditional Muslim village.

Turi used his skills in welding and metal work on windows and gates. Located in an industrial area with other businesses, it was hard to find legally-established enterprises, Enio recalled. Tax inspectors checked businesses and the only business that remained open was Turi’s shop—a great testimony to the other businessmen; in fact, the inspectors actually thanked Turi for his organisation. “It was an amazing encouragement for those running BAM, seeking to honour God through our business and how we can be a testimony to the others,” Enio said.

Please pray for other current BAM-supported businesses that OM follows up with, as well as future BAM-trained kingdom enterprises, that they would maintain these strong values, shining Christ’s light in the workplace in communities across Albania.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

SOUTH ASIA: GRASSROOTS CHURCH

OMer Kelly* shares how a miracle brought people to Christ in a remote village: “We were the first to believe in Jesus and the community did not take it lightly. They did not give us work nor speak with us, and they destroyed our livestock,” lamented a number of Christians from a small church.

“Maya* and I first went to a neighbouring village where people were very open to hearing about Jesus. A man next to me was so delighted to talk with us that he invited us to his house. He and his uncle were influential leaders in the area and would discuss the possibility of a village meeting. Waiting for a reply, we agreed it was a good time to visit the small church, thirty minutes away, which we had planned to visit. 

“Approaching the village, we saw a sign with a blue painted cross on a house. Hannah,* who we had previously met, welcomed us into the church. We listened to stories of seven years following Jesus and difficulties in the first three years. Only when Hannah’s grandfather became a Christian did their struggles turn into joy.

“For years, he had worshipped idols and had three in his house. When her aunt had a vision that there would be a cross in place of those idols, the grandfather turned to Jesus, immediately removing the idols and replacing them with the cross, creating the area for Christian fellowship. After believing in Jesus, the grandfather prayed for a son. At the age of 80—and his wife at 50—God gave them a son whom they named Isaac. When villagers saw this miracle, they stopped persecuting them because they saw the power of God. This also impacted the neighbouring village.

“Maya, myself, and three others from the church then met with 17 people waiting to listen to us. As we shared about Jesus, the local Christians discussed Christianity with the leaders of the village. Before Maya and I left, we prayed over the house of the Christians to be completely dedicated to God and that He would bless these families. Pray that the Christians would continue to be a light transforming many villages. “

 

JUSTICE

ALGERIA: REFINING GOLD

“There’s no fear, no turning back and a very strong commitment to continue whatever the cost,” stated Youssef, OM field leader and native of Algeria, two months after the government closed the House of Hope, a thriving church and primary ministry centre. Four police cars came and sealed the door; the activities, church service and Timothy School at the House of Hope have all been ordered to stop for the time being.

At least seven churches and a bookshop were also affected. The authorities have started systematically closing church buildings and forbidding any activities. Closing buildings, however, cannot stamp out the Christian presence in Algeria. A pastor observed, “The Church of Jesus is not the walls or the roof, but it is Jesus’ people, His living body!”

Indeed, the church in Algeria “is united at this time more than ever before,” Youssef said, adding that believers have reconciled and come together in prayer and fasting. All OM ministries—the Timothy School training programme, media outreach and follow-up—“carry on as usual in different locations,” Youssef’s wife, Hie Tee, affirmed.

“I believe we have to thank God for what He has done in the house [over 20 years],” Youssef emphasised. Over 360 people went through training, which sparked at least 25 house churches across the country. Over 8,000 Muslim background believers participated in summer camps through the church during the last 26 years.

“We are asking God to speak to us: How are we going to operate as a church in spite of what is happening?” Youssef explained. “We have to raise awareness around the world, among churches and believers. They have to know what happens, the persecution.”

 After the closure, Youssef visited a local police chief. “Actually, they were very sorry. He said, ‘This is beyond our ability,’” Youssef related. One church leader gave the police chief a Bible. Youssef explained to the police chief how God is alive and listening to the prayers of His people. “We always talk about our faith—that’s a positive outcome,” he said.

Praise God that the church in Algeria is united in prayer, fasting and seeking His strategy for their trials. Pray that God would give believers wisdom and the ability to continually glorify Him and reach out in Algeria. Pray for the government harassment to stop, for the churches to reopen and to resume their ministries for His glory.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

COLOMBIA: NOT FORSAKEN

A ministry to a remote community still feeling the injustice inflicted on their ancestors has received a boost from Logos Hope crewmembers. Youth With A Mission (YWAM) reaches out to the village of Palenque, two hours’ drive from Cartagena. Organiser Yeison Valencia explained: “This community’s history dates from when Spaniards brought black slaves from Africa to Colombia. Their ancestors fought against that and set up home in the countryside. To gain acceptance, we first apologised for the sins of the past. The Lord told us to start a community project, specifically with kids, because through them, we can bless their families.”

For 12 years, Yeison and his team have run games activities and taught the Bible in Palenque. YWAM shows God’s love to children for whom abuse is common and whose families are suffering the effects of drug use and mixed worship practices taken from their African heritage.

By helping with a sports club and sharing their personal stories of God, a team from Logos Hope was something of an attraction, coming from various ethnic backgrounds, which Yeison said was helpful. “Through this exposure to white people (formerly their oppressors—the kids see normal relationships across cultures and feel free to relate as equals,” he explained. “It is also wonderful to see people from different parts of the world and realise there is no distinction between black, white, indigenous: we are the same before God and He is bringing healing.”

The ship team were shown micro-business ideas being developed in the community, which is otherwise reliant on handouts from local authorities. Traditional sweets made from locally-grown fruits and hand-made jewellery are products the Palenque outreach is working to sell more widely, to lift the village out of poverty and give its people self-respect and a more driven attitude of hope and freedom. “But above all, our hope is that they will know Jesus,” said Yeison. “Please pray for these children’s future.”

 

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

Lawrence Tong

 

* name changed

Credit: OM International · © 2018 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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