Love Europe: Revamping summer outreaches

09 May, 2017 | International
Anne Marit Viljoen
The first Love Europe congress gathered 7000 people in Offenburg, Germany, in July 1989
It was massive: The worship, the teaching, the sense of being part of prophetic history in the making, the sense of God doing something new—OM, Love Europe and hundreds of churches and organisations across Europe were ready.

“Thousands of people discussed the gospel eagerly and openly with Love Europe teams; many began a relationship with Christ. Teams experienced God’s power and blessing as they served Him gladly,” wrote Love Europe Director Stuart McAllister in October 1989, summing up the Love Europe conference and campaign.

For Katherine Porter (UK), arriving at Love Europe was utterly bewildering. It was her first OM campaign, and she had never been in a room with more than 200 Christians before. “There were people, languages, vans, red cups* and backpacks everywhere,” she recalls. “We slept in a hall with 500 others. The excitement was unbelievable. As the temperatures climbed, so did the numbers.”

Something bigger

OM Europe Area Leader Dennis Wright had prayed for God to give OM a task bigger than any field could do on their own. Traditional summer campaigns seemed tired. Even with 2,000 participants split between entry conferences in June, July and August, there was a sense of loss of momentum and passion in attracting new recruits and a great desire to improve training and quality of outreaches.

There was energy, vision, momentum and zeal. A promotional video proved a major influence in the new approach. All OM fields in Europe had a high-quality brochure in multiple languages and printed in 85,000 copies. It caused a sensation. Around the world fields worked hard to recruit.

A lot of work went into changing structures, tooling up for new campaigns, ways of processing and target areas. “There were points of real tension and disagreement,” recalls Stuart. “Using outside speakers and well-known worship bands was controversial, but the momentum carried and the line-up of speakers—Floyd McClung, Luis Palau, Tony Campolo, Melody Green, Brother Andrew, Bob Hitching and more—proved to be a big attraction.”

Several other European missions partnered with OM and shared in the conference and outreach. Stuart continues, “OM prayed for 5,000 participants. The response was more than imagined and, by February, almost 5,000 had registered. By the time of the congress in Offenburg, it was 7,000. It went very well…but behind the scenes there were huge challenges.”

With 7,000 people from 76 nationalities converging on a small German town in a heat wave, the atmosphere was electric—a sense that God was on the move. “Seeing the vast sea of faces and touched lives was truly uplifting. But,” adds Stuart, “every team member and leader had to lean on extra resources, sleepless nights and much creativity and forgiveness to make it all work.”

The largest delegation came from Great Britain with 1,348, the US and Canada with 948, West Germany with 588, and the Netherlands with 362. A surprising 94 East Europeans came from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Hungary. Twenty young men and women were single ambassadors of love from developing nations in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.

Moving out

On 28 July, the mass exodus of 96 coaches and double-decker buses and a fleet of 204 minibuses leaving for all over Europe was a sight to behold—437 Love Europe teams targeting three main areas: Muslim, Eastern and Urban Europe. The campaigns were a mix of smaller teams in some locations to hundreds in Berlin, Barcelona, Krakow and many more. In Bristol, UK, 435 young people from 24 countries teamed up with 37 local churches; at least 300 people there professed newfound faith in Christ.

About a third of participants headed to Eastern Europe, praying and sharing the gospel where they could. Katherine Porter’s team was heading to Lake Balaton in still-Communist Hungary. “Stories from the OM Bible smugglers thrilled and scared us in equal measure,” she wrote years later. “What would happen at the border?” They were 18 on the team and didn't share a common language. She continues, “But the moment I remember most clearly was when Bob Hitching, still at the congress, stood on a chair and shouted an astounding truth: ‘Satan may be the prince of Eastern Europe.’ He paused—and then boomed out across the stadium, ‘But Jesus is King’. The huge crowd responded with an almighty roar that still stirs my heart today.”

The future, the ’90s: Europe changing

How prophetic those words were as, just months later, the Berlin Wall was dismantled and the face of Europe changed forever. Soon after, the world witnessed the unravelling of Communism and the opening of borders.

Love Europe 1989 was possibly the most broadly organised evangelistic outreach to Europe ever attempted. “The feedback from the other organisations was very good, and we sensed that we could do more together. From 1989–1995 we kept a unified focus. Later, smaller and more diversified campaigns took over,” recalls Stuart McAllister. “Love Europe was significant in shifting boundaries within OM and opening up new ways of doing things. Mistakes were made but, overall, the outcomes were positive. God is good.”

*Each participant received a red cup upon arrival.

Anne Marit Viljoen, from Norway, joined OM in the early ’80s for three summer campaigns in France and long-term work in administration, hospitality, leadership and communications in Europe and East Asia Pacific. She and her husband reside in Norway, and she currently serves as a member of the OM Europe communications team.

Credit: Anne Marit Viljoen · © 2017 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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