Trading the football field for the mission field

24 Mar, 2016 | Moldova
Esther Hippel
Several years ago Ion came to faith through OM Moldova?s sports ministry. Today he is himself part of the OM team, passionate about equipping and motivating other young believers and about sharing his faith wherever God sends him. Having a vision to go into world missions, he is currently (January to April 2016) taking part in a training programme on OM?s ship ?Logos Hope?.
Ion Manoli (21) is a Moldovan who joined OM in September 2014. Working in OM Moldova’s training department, he helps to lead outreach teams and is responsible for the Bus4Life during its visits to Moldova. This interview was taken at the end of January 2016, just before Ion joined OM's ship ‘Logos Hope’ for a ten-week training programme.


Esther: Please share about your journey to faith.

Ion: I grew up in an orthodox family, but in practice there was no talk of God. When I was about 13 years old, I heard from a friend at school that a football team would be started in the village. It was a team of OM Moldova's Next Generation ministry, but I didn't know anything about it then - I was simply enthusiastic about playing football. I was impressed by the trainer, seeing he was a good and dedicated man. After the first few training sessions we were asked to learn John 3:16. I wasn't interested in learning Bible verses and only wanted to play football, but I chose to submit - and this verse has played an important role in my life. Our trainer also invited us to church and because he was a man I admired, I followed his invitation. When I first attended Sunday school, I didn't feel comfortable because the smaller children knew a lot more than I did. But when I started going to youth meetings, I enjoyed it very much and soon got actively involved. God was working in me, and my friends told me my behaviour had changed - but I was afraid to openly commit to God; I feared that my friends would laugh at me. One day together with my church I went to see a drama about heaven and hell. Watching it, I was appalled to realise how Satan is mocking and using people, but was touched by Jesus’ warm welcome of his ‘faithful servants’. My heart cried out to God, truly understanding which of the two I wanted to be, and when after a concluding message the speaker urged us not to put off our decision, I followed the call.

Esther: What kind of ministry is strongest on your heart?

Ion: Even before joining OM I started to do football trainings, so when I joined the OM team, I really wanted to be part of their sports ministry. I was able to participate in several of their sports events, but because of the needs in the team, I was assigned to the training department as my main responsibility.  I was really impressed by the way the 'Challenge into Missions' course was run: not seeing the participants as receivers but preparing them to go themselves. Helping lead this programme I learned a lot and now I am more excited about this kind of ministry - motivating and equipping other young believers. Through our prayer evenings at OM I also developed a vision for the needs of the world, and now I am working towards equipping myself for global missions.

Esther: How has your view of missions changed?

Ion: I used to think that mission was something for people who don't have anything to do and who have a lot of money, which they don't know how to spend. Basically I thought only rich people can do missions. Joining OM I started to see things differently; with time I understood that these people have a vision and calling, a deep passion and love for people who are lost. It is this desire that then leads to accepting challenges like raising finances - taking the initiative myself to find the money I need.

Esther: Having led many outreach teams, what do you think is the benefit for local churches - what does OM contribute that the Moldovan Church couldn't or wouldn't do alone?

Ion: An outreach team can remind the church of their need to be involved in the community: the need to do evangelism, to work with children or bring relief. A team revives the church’s sense of calling and helps to keep their fire burning. The local church gets involved with the team and this often leads them to ask “What are we doing? This team comes to do what we should be doing ourselves.” They are encouraged to continue the work when the team leaves.

In addition to outreach teams, OM Moldova is a huge blessing through their different projects that bring material help, because these enable the church to get access to the hearts of those who are hungry. And through all this, people find God: Travelling with outreach teams I have seen many people come to faith - young people just as much as elderly.
What I especially appreciate about OM Moldova is that they are putting themselves under the churches; in their entire ministry it is always the local church that is emphasised, not OM itself.

Ester: What are the encouragements and challenges in your work?

Ion: One of the biggest encouragements for me is seeing the smiles on children's faces; also knowing that the work is not in vain - seeing growth, development, and people coming to faith. I also appreciate our prayer evenings, which God uses a lot to speak to me, and mature relationships with friends in OM.

The biggest challenge is my financial support, especially knowing how to communicate this need to others.

Esther: What do you expect for your time on the Logos Hope?

Ion: I want God to speak to me regarding His plan for me for the next years and for my life, and maybe to show me a specific country. I expect to be better equipped for world missions and want to learn more how to communicate with others about God. But I am flexible: I‘ll joyfully do whatever I can - even if I have to clean toilets for two months.

Esther: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Ion: Listen to what is in your heart and then take action towards your vision! If you have a vision, you can reach it, but you need to take initiative. After coming to faith I really wanted to get involved in my church, but couldn't, so I prayed a lot for it and actively sought possibilities where I could learn. This is how I came to take part in 'Challenge into Missions' - and all that followed from it.

Credit: Esther Hippel · © 2016 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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