Our new vision—“We want to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached”—is a practical action statement, a gift from God that can transform our movement and impact the world. However, that transformation, that impact, must begin first with us, on every team. We must first ‘walk the talk’ to rescue this call from remaining theoretical and, frankly, useless. What was crafted in our minds needs to be powered by our hearts long before any churches are planted. A mere statement of intent will not change the world.
‘Vibrant’ is hard to define, even in English. We know that it doesn’t translate literally in many languages and isn’t found in Scripture. For one thing, vibrancy gives off (good or bad) vibrations that transfer energy elsewhere in the system. How do we keep a 60+-year-old organisation vibrant as it was from OM’s founding: a radical, passionate call to expecting more with God together? How do we draw upon our communal ‘DNA’ to ensure that we do not settle for less over time?
Back to basics…or else
A community is a group of people who are voluntarily yoked together to realize a common destiny. It’s not a social club or mere companionship. Most OM teams (and many churches) began as such communities but, over time, some have decayed into shadows of once-vibrant reality. As churches or missions grow in size, intimacy and passion for the Kingdom wane because other factors in larger communities drain energy such as control and regulation. Don’t mistake busyness for vibrancy. Genuine growth happens in environments that relinquish control and set people free. Ten communities of ten people will by definition be more successful than one group of 100. This raises a question for OM: For the Kingdom’s sake, should we be aiming at relentless growth or would it be more strategic to form many smaller entities? Bigger need not mean better. The kind of community we need to be is enthusiastic, inclusive, spiritually attractive. People encounter such groups and want to be part of them.
All institutions over time cede spontaneity and risk for the sake of stability. Missions should never succumb to this, because God has promised resources to keep us full of faith and vision. However, those new resources often come packaged as change, and we can be averse to change thereby missing great potential for renewal. I believe that this overhaul of our organisation came about at the right time, saving us from rigidity and irrelevancy.
Practical steps to foster greater vibrancy
ROMANIA: NOT JUST ANY BUS
OM’s Bus4Life visited Romania twice during the summer of 2018. In one town, 120 children took part in Bus4Life activities. Bus4Life was warmly welcomed to the county of Buzau, participating in school outreaches organised together with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). Several workshops for children included arts and crafts, sports and watching Christian cartoons. The Bus4Life team then travelled south, and organised an outreach with a small church of about 20 people—the first time the church had organised a public event. The local newspaper wrote articles about the bus every day the team was there.
Feedback from the church was also encouraging: “Bus4Life is such a great tool! People are curious, and it is so easy to start conversations. We could see how they started to respect the church more, because they saw the quality programme we offered. It was nice to offer a wide range of activities from medical tests to kids’ programmes and lots of books—even conversation with international people!”
Some months later, Bus4Life returned to Romania for twelve days in the Constanta area near the Black Sea. The team invited people to have their blood pressure and blood sugar tested. OMer Delia said, “It is quite common here for people to live all their life without ever visiting a doctor’s office, fearing they will be diagnosed with some awful disease.”
Upon finding out that Bus4Life is a Christian ministry, one Orthodox man exclaimed, “This is why you know so much about God!” Formal confession and praying to Holy Mary play significant parts in Orthodox faith. “I encouraged one man to pray directly to God”, Delia remarked. “I said, ‘You don’t have to wait until Sunday to confess your sins; you can ask for God’s forgiveness any day.’”
Known as OM’s ‘ship on wheels’, Bus4Life is a multi-functional missions centre that serves the communities of Central and Eastern Europe. Bus4Life is currently looking for a driver for 2019.
ZAMBIA: LIFE LEARNERS
Esther started attending Makwati Community School in Kabwe when she was in grade three. At that time, it was a small building of split-plank logs covered in black plastic to keep dust out and offer protection from wind and sun. Students held books in their laps and sat on bricks that would one day build their school. The teachers quickly noticed an improvement in students’ academic performances after moving into the new classrooms; they were more focused on learning and less on pushing each other for the best seat or balancing their books.
Though much of the construction is finished, there is still a need for finances to furnish classrooms with furniture and to purchase resources and materials. “People are really changing because of this school,” said Phoebe, who has been a teacher at Makwati School since its beginning.
“After we teach [the students] , they go home and tell their parents what we have taught them,” said Phoebe.
The Manna Project provides a lunch every school day—for some, the only full meal they receive. In 2013, teachers noticed students were having difficulties staying engaged and lacked energy to play during break times. “A lot of [the students] were suffering from malnutrition. They were unable to count because they were sleeping, caused by not having enough food. Starting from when they introduced the Manna project, students were happy and playing,” said Phoebe.
Makwati School is the only school in the area and provides Christ-centred education to 289 students from pre-kindergarten to grade seven. Each year they have added one class to accommodate the growing students.
SERBIA: NO WORD FOR HOPE
OM EAST partner Goran belongs to the Gurbet Roma, a predominantly Muslim minority group. Goran heard God’s Word when he started going to church and believed in Jesus Christ after an answer to prayer. “In 1996, my mother was in a coma for three months,” Goran shared. Their pastor prayed and declared she would recover. “I said [to myself]: If my mother really gets up, I will give my heart to God,” Goran remembered. “Two days later, she got up.”
Goran’s decision to follow Jesus challenged cultural values and traditions he grew up with, causing him to live differently in his community. In 2002, Goran completed a theology diploma and co-pastored a predominantly Roma church for 15 years. Two years ago, he started a Christian non-profit organisation involved in Bible translation and producing literature and media for the Roma. In 2017, OM EAST provided the design and layout for a Gurbet Roma-Serbian-English picture dictionary now used in a school, and as a tool to help Serbian or foreign believers learn Gurbet Roma to communicate the gospel in their heart language. “There is no word for ‘hope’ in our language,” stated Goran. “The words ‘blessing’ or ‘thankfulness’ don’t exist either. What does it say about the condition of a people group who need to borrow the word ‘hope’ from the local language?” an OM EAST worker wondered. “When I translate, there is revival for me in my heart,” Goran said, smiling. Goran leads a youth group and desires to invest more time speaking to individuals about God’s Word.
Goran lives in the Roma area of Leskovac, where most are from a Muslim background. Last year, three OM EAST team members visited him, where they met a young man who interpreted into English. One OM guest asked their host to tell them about someone whose life he has seen God at work in. “The young man turned said with a smile, ‘I am the first’,” the OM worker recalled. “Our interpreter had come to faith through Goran passing on the hope he has received.”
Please pray for wisdom as Goran translates. Pray the Gurbet Roma would respond to Jesus.
KOSOVO: RE-UNITING MOTHER AND SON
OMer Anita tells how Besjana reunited with her son after a night of prayer with the local church. In May, they spent six hours worshipping God, and praying for their country. Slips of paper were distributed, each bearing the names of mothers and children living at the House of Joy, an NGO supported by OM, which reintegrates survivors of abuse into society.
Besjana and her children came to the House of Joy in 2013, but Andri was taken from her to live with her husband’s family. In May, she attended a court case to show that she was a fit mother. Anita, graduating from Law School, went with her for support. The opposing lawyer asked Besjana if she had been able to see Andri. No one had allowed her to see him in five years. Anita said, “I asked for the documents from Besjana’s last court case; when I read them, I realised that the decision to keep Andri away from Besjana was made without speaking to the family, including Andri—this is illegal.”
Anita pursued this with the judge, who immediately asked Andri if he wanted to meet his mother. Andri had been told by his father’s family that Besjana had abandoned him, so he did not trust her. However, Anita asked if she could hug Andri on behalf of his younger sister and brother. “He gave me a very sweet hug, and it touched my heart,” Anita remembered. On the way home, Anita asked Besjana how she felt about the day. “She looked at me with a smile of pure joy, and told me she did not have the words to describe how happy she was,” Anita smiled.
Three days later, the lawyer brought Andri to the House of Joy to meet his siblings for the first time in five years. They laughed, played together and now stay in contact through social media. Anita ended saying, “I had been praying for him since the prayer night. God showed up and has allowed for healing to begin.” Please pray for Besjana and her son Andri to be fully reconciled and for the original unlawful judgment to be overturned, so that Besjana can receive her son back. Please pray for wisdom for Anita as she helps Besjana with the court case.
PANAMA: MOBILISING TOGETHER
COMIBAM (Congreso Misionero Ibero Americano in Spanish, meaning ‘Ibero-American Missionary Congress’) is an umbrella organisation mobilising Hispanic-background believers from Latin America and other nations to share the gospel around the world. The organisation was created by Decio De Carvalho (Brazil) thirty years ago, after his experience serving on board Logos and Doulos. Decio had the vision of bringing together many smaller mission agencies in Latin countries.
COMIBAM’s 2018 three-day convention took place on board Logos Hope in Panama, a unique multinational platform for the organisations’ leaders to discuss the future of mission agencies in Latin America, the state of missions globally and what coming years may bring. Their goal was to explore how teams might improve, individually and collectively.
The event was possible thanks to cooperation between COMIBAM, Logos Hope and OM both in Panama and across Latin America. “We received phenomenal support from OM and the ship in hosting us, for which we are very grateful,” said Decio. “The event was organised for leaders of missionary agencies, churches and organisations that send missionaries. It was beautiful for these brothers to observe what collaborating in God’s mission looks like,” he added.
Ninety-seven leaders from over 30 nationalities participated, representing 40 different organisations. Some had previously served with OM and even on board forerunner ships to Logos Hope.
Cristian Castro (Costa Rica), sending director for COMIBAM International, said, “We need to understand how this world changes, the new roadmaps for mission, and the new migration situations. We need to adapt and be relevant to the Church, to new generations, and to people who haven’t been reached.”
Allan Matamoros (Costa Rica) found a spirit of collaboration between OM’s vision—of seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached—and COMIBAM’s aims to reach indigenous and isolated people groups with the gospel. Several leaders commented on the unity found in the joint effort and were encouraged to continue in shared vision and purpose for God’s kingdom.
Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.
* name changed
Published: Thursday, 27 September 2018
Credit: OM International