Director's Update - Jan 2019

OM International | International

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Ownership vs. stewardship

It’s easy in our circles to extol stewardship over the idea of ownership without understanding the differences, which can be subtle yet many. While we all should take responsibility for our tasks and outcomes, a selfish ownership mentality can easily creep in, particularly in situations where a leader has kept the ministry afloat for years with little other help. In a team environment, a sense of entitlement evolves: “Since I’m in charge, it’s my right to have the best vehicle, the best office, or to withhold accounting for my time. I should have a say in everything and no one should question let alone challenge anything I do or say.” This is toxic power, not servant leadership, and there is no place for this in OM or God’s kingdom. Teams led by a personality attract a certain type of follower; when that leader leaves the picture, what he has built disappears. Many ministries have collapsed and all have suffered when built around a personality.

Our vocabulary reveals our inner heart when we talk about “my ministry, my position, my possessions”. Each of us should regularly come before the Lord in this regard: Lord…Is it I? Am I heading in a negative direction, betrayed by my vocabulary and attitude of self-centeredness? Is my lifestyle markedly different from my team members’? Do I place myself above policies submitted to by others? Am I quick to rationalise this?

Stewardship, in contrast, has a relatively brief term. Sooner or later, God will move us onto different responsibilities and tasks. Stewardship acknowledges that the Lord owns everything; we are His servants taking care of matters assigned to us. The ministry is centered around God and the people He chooses. This is liberating and empowering to all. Christ’s servants are freed from selfish ownership or entitlement because we have a different measurement of success: being faithful, putting others ahead of us, and expecting a very different reward. We have been given only temporary care over whatever we attain in this life. Everything belongs to God: our lives, material possessions, jobs, bodies, time, resources, talents and even our children. If we truly believe this, it will drastically change our attitude, reminding ourselves daily that all of us will give account of our stewardship—a sobering thought (2 Cor. 5:10).

Whether much or little

When I was Director of Logos II, I saw the potential of a sharing mentality. OM ‘owned’ the ship but we made our public spaces available to local churches and other groups. Once, doing line-up in Bermuda, I had only nine days to create a programme! I contacted the churches and said, “Our home is yours to use, to meet in every afternoon and evening.” Soon the rooms were fully booked. The ship was packed with visitors even without preparation. This was very liberating and showed how stewardship empowers in ways mere ownership cannot.

The Bible says that to whom much has been given, much will be expected (Lk. 12:48). As we are entrusted with God’s resources, we are to leverage them for His gain—every one of us. Realising that everything is God’s frees us to share God’s blessings, open our homes and so on. Beyond our words, God is looking for us to be examples of stewardship that mark us as hilarious givers (2 Cor. 8:9). Changes in roles or how we operate—as we in OM are experiencing—does not threaten good stewards.

Take an inventory of your life: Are there areas of fear, pride or shame that you want kept ‘off limits’ even to your heavenly Father? Such an impossibility encourages us to transfer ownership of each situation back to God. Take baby steps; share something you have with someone.

 

EVANGELISM

SOUTH ASIA: ONE WILL DO

A family of six living in the Himalayans recently came to Christ after hearing the story of Zacchaeus from an OM team that came to their village. “The focus of the story was that we are sinners and God can forgive our sins,” said an OM worker. When the entire family heard the story, they believed in Jesus as Lord and Saviour and repented of their sins. Maya*, seven years old, decided to share the story of Zacchaeus with others. Determined to share her newfound faith, she memorised the exact way the OM workers shared the story. She also fasted (as taught by the OM worker) for one day for God to strengthen her faith.

Maya shared the gospel with around sixty of her friends at school, shocking her teachers with her ability to learn all of this and speak so effectively. Thus impressed, they allowed her to share with teachers as well who wanted to know more. Out of Maya’s bold evangelistic efforts, one friend came to Christ. How encouraging it is to see Maya, a child, declaring God’s love and forgiveness to those around her. Pray that more new believers like Maya will be bold in sharing the gospel.

 

MOLDOVA: DREAMS COME TRUE

Going to unreached areas and seeking out marginalised people, many short-term outreach teams shared about God in word and action throughout the summer.

As they visited people in need, bringing food parcels as well as words of encouragement and hope, one team arrived at the home of Sonia* (26) and her daughter, Sara* (8). Recently, both her parents and a sister with a child had died in a road accident. Sonia lives with a man who is not Sara’s father, but his family rejects them because they are of Roma (gypsy) background. Sara usually doesn’t go to school, so she can hardly read and doesn’t have many friends. But when the team visited and shared the gospel, Sara told them about a dream she had had a few days earlier wherein she had seen Jesus, who had asked to come to her house. When she invited him in, He had made everything clean and beautiful. She told the dream to her mother, who had laughed about it but, in light of the team’s message, started to consider its significance.

While the team was at her house, Sara was eager to hear more about Jesus. The visitors shared Bible stories with her, using the illustrations in a children’s Bible they had brought. As a result, Sara prayed with them, inviting Jesus into her house and her life.

Pray for Sara to grow in her faith and for her mother, Sonia, to also trust Jesus as Saviour. Pray for families who receive food and other physical aid will also receive the hope of the gospel. Pray for God to reveal Himself to many more people, like Sara, who are ready to hear the Good News.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

SOUTH SUDAN: PLENTY TO DO

The OM team in the world’s youngest country has faced multiple challenges since its inception: the deaths of two influential OM country leaders, armed conflict in their area and, in 2017, widespread famine. Wanting to reach out to those affected by food shortages, five OMers began a relief project in parallel to church planting.

The outreaches take place in makeshift communities of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) between 10–15 kilometres outside Juba, the capital. Together with volunteers from local churches, OM team members spend the day listening to people, hearing their stories and understanding the group’s particular situation. The team distributes practical aid, as well as supplying medical treatment and personal counselling. The team also spends two days telling the gospel story from creation to Christ. “It takes a lot of prep before and work after,” shared Tobias, OM MENA Area Leader, who joined one outreach. But it’s an opportunity to make a tangible difference. “This famine relief turned out to be a major encouragement for the team,” he said. “They see fruit, and they pull in many people from churches who are excited to join them.”

This year, the team plans to re-visit many communities and focus on spiritual development, discipling new believers to feed themselves from God’s Word using tools such as Discovery Bible Study (DBS). The area leader hopes for lasting fruit and sustainable change to come out of these visits, and that team members would find ways to continue with new believers.

Besides relief projects, the OM team operates a bookshop in Juba and looks to organise two training conferences this year: a three-day gathering for ladies and a youth camp. “OM has an excellent reputation, which opens doors right and left,” the area leader said. “If OM invites people, hundreds come.”

Pray for new team members to join the OM team, and for lasting change in communities the team visits. Pray that the upcoming conferences will be successful in equipping and mobilising believers to reach the least reached.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

CENTRAL ASIA: INFECTIOUS

For a number of years, the OM leadership team in one country has been praying for a specific region—“a difficult place, spiritually, with a proud and aggressive tribe,” described OM country leader Kevin*. “Very few churches exist in the three major cities, and these face significant persecution from authorities and the community.” OM seeks to mobilise existing churches to recognise their role in reaching people in their region. One strategic tool for introducing Central Asians to missions is OM’s annual (regional) outreach, where participants gather for training before being sent out in small teams for short-term trips.

When one local pastor was asked about participating, he said that God was leading his church to engage the same area of the country. In fact, the church already had some contacts in one of the cities and wanted to send a team there. “Their vision was to plant a church there without even having visited the place,” Kevin said. “The team went, shared the gospel and experienced God opening spiritual conversations and eyes to see Jesus.”

Upon returning, the short-term team shared about their experiences, and “their enthusiasm was infectious,” Kevin explained. “As their pastor of 20 years listened, touched by their experience, he said, ‘We should send more people, maybe everyone, to everywhere… to share the gospel!’”

OM’s outreach aims to see the gospel going to every village and city in Central Asia and to see the lives of those participating in the outreaches transformed. This church team’s eager participation—and their pastor’s subsequent response—encouraged OM leadership to continue pressing forward. Pray that God would continue to open doors in this region for OM and local believers to share the gospel of Jesus with those who have never heard.

 

JUSTICE

CENTRAL EUROPE: GOD’S GIFTS

Small outreach teams brought Christmas gifts to over 1,000 women in brothels and on the streets in Central Europe. In one city, they also gave ladies a Christmas card, printed by OM EAST, which was an invitation to a Christmas party hosted by OM EAST partners for ladies trapped in prostitution and for those who have left. “We wanted to offer a change of environment, a safe place where they feel loved and can rest,” expressed outreach worker Sara*. “We wanted to share the Christmas story and tell them the Lord Jesus Christ came to save them too. We sang songs, which I hope they remember during dark nights.”

Women received little wall calendars with Bible verses in their own language. On the back is an explanation of the way to salvation through faith in Jesus. “May God’s Word give direction, hope and comfort in times of need,” declared Sara. “May women dare to call on His name, be saved and experience miracles.” Pray for God’s protection over outreach teams and their families. Pray that individuals would have courage to come to the celebration and accept the ultimate invitation to receive Jesus as their Saviour. 

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

ECUADOR: BRINGING HOPE

Logos Hope crewmembers visited children at a Guayaquil hospital living with HIV/AIDS, to tell them about their value in God’s eyes and the power of prayer. The team was accompanied by OMer Candy Arteaga, who visits the children weekly.

The crewmembers wanted to express God’s love and care to the children and parents at the unit. Dressed as clowns, they performed a drama that got the kids laughing. The message conveyed was that their value is not defined by how they look or their circumstances but that, in the eyes of God, their value is such that Jesus, the Son of God, would die for them.

One volunteer, Bogdan Pavlovic (Montenegro), who is understood to be the first Christian to have come from his country to share the Good News abroad said, “It was nice to see their smiles. We brought them joy, and I think we helped them.”

Bogdan told the children about his own life. As a child with special needs, he had been told that he would never be able to walk, nor live beyond the age of 15. Through prayer for a miracle, Bogdan started walking and getting involved in sports—even becoming a professional table tennis player.

Bogdan, now 21, said he wanted to show the children and parents that miracles do happen through prayer and faith. Having grown up with health issues, he could relate the hope he found in Christ. “Whatever they need and whatever their struggle in life, if they pray and seek God, He will answer at the right time,” Bogdan said.

The volunteers played games with the children and spent time with them individually, giving them cardboard models of Logos Hope, which they built together. One mother said, “I would like to thank you for your presence and your message.” As they were leaving, a 10-year-old boy handed a note to a crewmember, which read, “I love you very much.”

 

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

Lawrence Tong
 

* name changed

Published: Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Credit: OM International
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About the Director

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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