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At that time George Verwer and his family lived in Spain, and he had a burning passion to win people for Jesus. Christa had already decided to follow Jesus at the age of 16, but then “a lot fell apart, when I ran away from former communist East Germany,” she recalled. She explained to George that she was going to a Methodist church, to which he asked her if she knew Jesus personally. “Yes,” she stuttered. George gave her the book ‘Peace with God’ and talked about Jesus with her.
That made Christa think. A young, believing, Spanish family let her stay with them and took her along to a Christian gathering. There Christa heard Matthew 16:26: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (ESV). “That struck me,” she remembered. “I was planning to go from one country to another, but my relationship with God wasn’t in order.”
Back at her accommodation, Christa read ‘Peace with God.’ Right at the beginning, she stumbled onto the verse from Matthew 16. “Then I thought about how I was only living for myself and wanting to show off with all the countries I’d travelled to. But for what?” She read the gospel of John and suddenly everything made sense—Christa gave her life to Jesus.
When George Verwer heard about her decision, he was so excited that he took Christa everywhere, and she always had to tell others how she became a Christian. “I mean, I’d told it three times already, and he could tell it now,” she explained laughing. “But he said that I should do it. So I joined the OM team.”
The team lived a “Spartan lifestyle, very poor. But we were all together, travelled by car through Spain and visited different churches. There we challenged the congregations to have vibrant faith and shared our testimonies.”
Furthermore, the team opened a bookshop. “We sold Catholic New Testaments, which was exactly the right thing,” Christa shared. The team was also active in the subway stations, hanging up big posters with the verse, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’” – John 14:6 (ESV). “And we wrote down addresses from the telephone books for hours and sent tracts to them,” Christa added. “This was actually the beginning of OM, and George had big dreams.”
After a year in Spain, Christa moved to England to work with George Verwer’s team. Then came the big summer campaign: “George said we needed to gather 300 young people who had summer vacation,” Christa remembered. “We said, ‘George, no one does that; they’ll all go on holiday.’ But George was convinced.” And he was right! Three hundred and fifty young people came in the summer of 1962 to OM’s first summer campaign.
The campaign had barely ended when George announced his newest idea: “We want to believe that 1,000 people will come to the next summer campaign!”
“We thought that was crazy and thought that it would never happen,” Christa said. “Where would these 1,000 people come from?” But George spent the whole year visiting congregations, challenging them and talking about the summer campaign. “Often none of us had faith, only George,” Christa shared. “But little by little more people joined us. One thousand people came to the summer campaign in July, and another 1,000 to the one in August! Then so many things happened there that were simply unbelievable!”
During these summer campaigns George appointed Christa to lead a team of 26 people in Italy. “I just said I was still new in my faith and didn’t know how that worked. But he said, ‘Just pray; the Lord will show you.’” Christa gave her responsibility to God in prayer. She still remembers this campaign well: “The vehicles we had... ,” she started, throwing her hands over her head, “we got stuck so often. In the Dolomites, we could only reach a certain point by car, and then we had to walk. And we didn’t have any proper accommodation. There was only one believing family, and they hosted us. Another time we slept in a tomato factory, which stank terribly!” But in spite of everything, she said the campaigns were full of experiences and very blessed.
After that, Christa planned on going to Bible school in England. But then Dale Rhoton, co-founder of OM, came to her and said that she could learn the same thing on the mission field as she could in Bible school, and that she should come with him to Turkey. Even though she initially bristled against the idea, Christa served with OM in Turkey from 1962 to 1964. “We were a small team: Dale and his wife, an American man and me,” she recalled, laughing as she thought back on that time. “Oh, what we experienced! We just went out on the street, gave out tracts and always ended up at the police station!”
Meanwhile, George Verwer was in India und suggested Christa visit a Bible school there. “I had always wanted to go to India,” she shared, “and when George suggested this, I immediately agreed.” So she travelled overland to India with an OM team and attended a Bible school there for two years. After that, she planned to go back to Turkey.
But God had other plans! On the way to India she met Ray Eicher, an OM worker with an Indian passport. The two got married, had two kids and adopted a third one. To date, Christa has lived in India for 52 years—“more than a life,” she described.
After 34 years with OM, Christa left the organisation, but it remains close to her heart. “OM shaped me very much, especially in my faith,” she said. “In the beginning, we had to believe for everything. So, through OM, I developed very deep faith, not only financially but also in regard to all sorts of problems with people. Ray and I prayed a lot and believed, and that shaped us. And we experienced a lot of incredible things in how God answered prayers.”
Until today, Christa has stayed very closely connected with OM, especially with workers from the early years: “I get a lot, a lot of visitors from India and also foreign OM workers. In the OM family, you immediately feel at home and comfortable.” She continues to pray for OM and OM India, “that we become humble and follow God.” Just like she has for many years.
Want to experience your own adventures with Jesus through OM? Today, OM actively mobilises believers all around the world for missions. For more information about serving with OM, please check out www.om.org.
Published: Wednesday, 31 January 2018
Credit: Corinna Scharrenberg