Reflecting diversity in leadership

22 May, 2017 | International
OM International
Tema, Ghana :: Children wait in line during a feeding program in their village.
Recognising and supporting national leadership has been an important part of OM’s international development around the world since 1958, when Baldemar Aguilar, a young Mexican working alongside George Verwer, became the first director of OM ministry in the country.

OM’s core value of reflecting the diversity of the Body of Christ can be seen across OM’s work, even in the diversity of ethnic backgrounds of leadership. Currently, 83 men and women lead OM’s country-specific work, and 42 of these hold the passport of the country in which they lead. The following are a few of many testimonies of those God has placed to lead OM’s work around the world.

Ecuador: Commissioned to the ends of the Earth

In 1987, Shura Façanha followed in her sister’s footsteps and boarded MV Logos as the second woman from Ecuador to join OM—her sister being the first. “Life on the ship turned my worldview upside down, expanded my vision and equipped me in many ways,” said Shura. “[During prayer nights], I remember crying out to God for other Ecuadorians to serve God beyond their borders. I felt so privileged to be enrolled in His service.”

Roberto and Shura Façanha, leaders of OM Ecuador, Andean Region and Latin America.Shura returned home in 1991 and challenged others to join missions. “I could not get over the fact that for decades Ecuadorians, and many in Latin America, thought missions was a unique privilege for the West. Western missionaries had given us the gospel but hadn’t commissioned us to go to the ends of the Earth.”

She began a weekly prayer meeting in her home and, in January 1992, 16 went on an outreach to Brazil. Later that year, Shura began the work of OM in Ecuador. “I had a great challenge, as missions was a foreign word for most churches, and I was a young woman. But I had a deep desire to mobilise Ecuadorians,” she said. “It was not easy—not every church was ready or willing to engage in the task—but God was faithful.”

A few years later, Shura married Roberto, a businessman who joined OM; they now lead the work of OM in Latin America. “Twenty-four years later, I can say it was worth it all,” said Shura. “God answered prayer for Ecuadorians to be mobilised. To this day, when an Ecuadorian—or any Latino—goes to missions, I feel the same thrill I had when I was on Logos. I count it a privilege to be part of what He is doing in Latin America.”

Singapore: Mobilising local churches

After serving on MV Logos for four years, Rodney Hui, at 24, became OM’s first director in Singapore in 1979 after visa problems prevented two foreigners from staying. “The lack of visa problems and fewer cultural, language and other barriers for nationals are great benefits,” Rodney said.

After serving on MV Logos for four years, Rodney Hui, at 24, became OM’s first director in Singapore in 1979.Local workers have started and expanded OM’s work in Asia since the early days. “It was mostly nationals who approached me about mobilising workers in their own countries,” Rodney said. “Many who had served on the ships wanted to be a part of mobilising the church in their own country.”

Earlier on, serving on an OM ship was the only possibility for Asians but, in 1976, Asians started serving with OM in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, and later in Europe and the Middle East. “God’s call to go into all the world was for the whole church,” Rodney explained. “Not just for the West, but for all of us.”

Rodney focused on transitioning Singapore from a receiving field to a sending field, mobilising local churches. Involving Asians in the Great Commission diversified OM’s approach to missions and raised up thousands of workers who have since started new works, gone into leadership and joined or started other mission organisations. “I’ve worked hard to give ownership of projects to nationals,” Rodney said, “empowering them for what they were passionate about in their own country.”

Czech Republic: Preparing mission workers for service

In 1987, Pavel Zoul and his family spent a summer at Lake Balaton in Hungary. A double-decker bus arrived at the campsite and, in the evenings, crowds gathered round the bus, which was a base for OM’s summer outreach. Young people used music and a sketchboard to present the gospel. After the programme, discussion groups in German, Hungarian and English formed. “Nobody was communicating in Czech, so we spontaneously joined in,” remembered Pavel.

“After prayer and family consultation, we saw God’s clear leading into full-time OM ministry,” said Pavel Zoul. In 2003, he became the leader of OM in Czech Republic.The leader of the team noticed the family and, after learning that they were believers, invited them to join the outreach. “It was a great challenge to be part of an adventure that we had never experienced before,” said Pavel. “My wife and I agreed that this was our best and most adventurous holiday.”

The Zouls became a contact for OM in Communist Czechoslovakia. In the ensuing years, they served with teams reaching out around Lake Balaton. After the fall of Communism, the family managed a rented building complex for OM’s Missionary Training School near České Budějovice, during which they helped prepare mission workers for service in Central and Eastern Europe. Pavel soon become an OM board member and joined OM full time in 2000. 

“After prayer and family consultation, we saw God’s clear leading into full-time OM ministry,” said Pavel. In 2003, he became the leader of OM in Czech Republic. “Looking back, I see that this was God's will for my life and, though it wasn’t always easy, it was and is God's great adventure and I am grateful to the Lord for it.”

South Sudan and Algeria: A local expression of ministry

From an early stage, OM in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) incorporated local leadership into ministry teams in Sudan, Algeria, Israel, Egypt and the Near East (Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq). Currently, OM teams in Algeria and South Sudan are comprised completely of national workers.

OM’s team in South Sudan is ministering through evangelism, training and literature, as well as skills training, education and care for women and children. In South Sudan, national leadership is necessary because “it’s a local ministry that comes from the community,” said Richard*, the 2015-2016 MENA leader. “If it’s seen as a largely international ministry, there are certain expectations; when it’s seen as a local ministry, there are certain expectations. OM South Sudan is local in character and expression.”

OM’s involvement in Algeria—led and championed for 28 years by Youssef, an Algerian Muslim-background believer—shifted in 2016 to a second generation of national interim leaders.

Rafik* first joined a short-term outreach in 1997, and Lina* caught the vision in 2003 after marrying Rafik. They joined the local ministry established by Youssef and his wife and were responsible for church planting and follow-up before accepting the interim leadership role.

Regarding local leadership, Lina noted, “If you’re a local, you know the language, you know the culture and you know how things work. When you come from that country, you have more of an idea [of how to relate] to people from that country.”

*Name changed

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