Celebrating 60 years: Knowing Him and making Him known

Greg Kernaghan | International

OM is celebrating 60 years in 2017. Weekly over the course of the coming anniversary year, we will present 60 defining moments that have shaped OM into what we are today.

Operation Mobilisation’s (OM) six decades of mission reveals a story with a high improbability of ever being told at all, considering the characters and events involved.

From its beginnings, with a handful of college students to today’s fellowship of 3,400 workers from over 100 nations in over 115 countries and a ship, OM remains a movement at heart, an ideal, a challenge, an invitation, a celebration, a family more impressed with the greatness of God than the size of the task.

Over 60 years, large numbers are involved: hundreds of thousands of workers, hundreds of millions of people personally presented with the gospel, hundreds of other missions birthed as a result, and vast sums released to transform lives and communities.

But the real story is not about numbers; it’s about very ordinary people with a small faith in a big God. A core OM message is that God will use anybody seeking to put Him first, and we are living proof.

Weekly over the course of the coming anniversary year, we will present 60 such defining moments that have shaped OM into what we are today. Most were not planned mission strategy; rather, God allowed circumstances to refine us and prepare us for things impossible to imagine. Still being human, mistakes have been made, opportunities lost, relationships strained. And yet, overwhelmingly, the grace of God has been experienced and become central to our testimony.

OMers, particularly in the early decades, were often pioneers. Consider the breadth of initiatives launched:

  • Calling thousands of young people not to merely see the world abroad but to change it for Christ
  • Actual nights spent in intercession for the world, particularly lands untouched by the gospel. After praying over a world map, then launching a ship (eventually four) to reach the nations
  • Boundless zeal in general, but particularly in adopting a simple, radical lifestyle that freed money for evangelism and helped build shared team life
  • Smuggling Bibles and Christian literature in local languages (and eventually the means of production) into Eastern Europe and the Muslim world
  • ‘Blitzing’ entire countries with short-term teams to put gospels into every mailbox, creating follow-up opportunities for resident missionaries
  • Embracing emerging technologies to further spread the gospel in closed lands

Underpinning explosive growth and increasingly indigenous leadership worldwide lay a number of principles (our ethos) that still direct our discipleship and tie us together globally:

  • A sense of urgency in furthering God’s kingdom on Earth by any means, and a willingness to serve where and as needed
  • A willingness to act in faith and risk failure
  • A commitment to work with local churches both in resourcing and mission fields
  • A commitment to networking with other organisations to advance the gospel by all means. For example, others may produce media which OM more effectively distributes
  • A ‘flat’ organisation with approachable, accountable and transparent leadership
  • A culture of esteeming one another and striving for balance in life
  • A healthy sense of humour to restore us in the midst of our serious task. At one international leaders meeting, where worship included singing Indian praise choruses, our Indian brothers led the assembly every day, teaching a new song in Hindi, which westerners learnt to sing heartily. On the final day, they revealed that the lyrics read, “We love OM India! We promise to give them half our income!”

At a similar event, an agenda item was introduced from the front regarding the need for an earring policy for men. Heated discussion ensued for several minutes, until it was revealed that it was a hoax! Such humour is encouraged.

The re-telling of moments that will follow varies widely because OM has had a complicated history. You might say that, were OM a vehicle—and we have had thousands—it would have a very large accelerator pedal and very tiny rearview mirrors. We are forward-looking people keenly aware of the promises of God.

Part of our story reads, “Since our beginnings, we have been driven by a deep conviction that everyone should have the opportunity to hear the gospel at least once. So we went. No place was too hard, no people too far, no idea too crazy, no dream too big and our failures did not hold us back. Tens of thousands have joined us and hundreds of millions have heard the gospel. But we are not done yet.”

Where will this ‘yet’ lead us? Journey with us in the coming year and find out… 

Greg Kernaghan joined OM in 1978, a time when most of OM’s pioneers were still in leadership and when tales of early exploits could be heard of first hand. He and his wife, Anni, have served on the ships, in Finland, in Canada and as part of the OMNI (communications) team internationally.

Published: Friday, 21 October 2016
Credit: Greg Kernaghan
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