Gossip is toxic, poisonous, destructive, sinful, dishonouring to God and cancerous. Why do we latch onto, relish and pass on ‘information’ about others, usually in a negative or suspicious manner? We live in critical cultures that normalise judgmentalism and prejudice from an early age. It’s easier to smear someone than to affirm them, especially if they enjoy success and we do not.
One motive is the desire to inflict harm on someone’s reputation. However, more often than not, we go along with gossip because of a desire to be ‘in the know,’ a person who knows others’ secrets—a crude form of power and status. In my leadership role, I am privy to more secrets than possibly anyone else, but I must take that knowledge to the grave if I am to serve with integrity.
There has always been gossip but, in this day of social media, the consequences can be exponential: a generation ago, gossip was usually between two people; now it can be among millions, impossible to retract or control. Gossip is a serious character trait that the Bible often ranks with keeping bad company. Proverbs alone refers to it six times, always negatively (11:13, 16:28, 18:8, 20:19, 26:20, 26: 22 NIV). Christians are called to rise above that.
Every time we listen to or pass on gossip, we make a moral choice with its consequences. Whenever we hear gossip, we do the teller well by denouncing it. If we partake in gossip, we need to repent and take steps to change, even if it means changing friends. You might be passing on facts, yet who wins from this but our enemy, the father of lies? That’s why Jesus admonished us to settle matters privately as much as possible before involving others.
We should proactively respond when gossip is near by asking:
Rather than stain ourselves with gossip, we should intentionally speak well of others and pass on news with pure motives. As light dispels darkness, even small steps in this direction can have a wider impact in our communities. Paul exhorts us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil.4:8, NIV). And may I add, do it constructively and publicly.
Take stock of your life: What might you achieve with the free time and energy released from idle gossip? Jesus warned, “everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” (Matt. 12:36, NIV). From this day forward, let us band together to speak with pure motives, a community of affirmation in a culture of believing the best of others. In a world of aggression and malice, this will make us fragrant to the world.
NETHERLANDS: STREET CRED
When OM Riverboat community members went on a prayer walk in Dordrecht, God directed them to those with open hearts. Led by Rob Veenstra, from a local ministry named Bonfire, they went looking for people for whom He had a specific word. It was raining, so Rob’s team, with three others, sought shelter when a girl passed by.
“Do you speak English?” Rob approached her slowly. “Yes…?” answered the girl, unsure. “We are Christians on a prayer walk, reaching out to people,” Rob started. “Your bright red umbrella caught my eye, and I feel the need to talk to you.”
Rob described how God loved and cared for her, sending the team to her. The girl’s face turned from caution to a bright-eyed smile. “Yes... yes…yes…” was all she could muster, speechless with joy. She had been praying that week for God to make Himself known to her. She revealed the jealousy for a colleague at work who experienced the love and peace of God. “I asked how he could have that, and why it seemed impossible for me to have the same peace,” shared 19-year-old Femmie, “There was so much doubt in my heart; I didn’t know what to believe.”
Her colleague encouraged her to keep praying. Six days later, Femmie was stopped by Rob and the Riverboat community members. “I can’t believe this,” Femmie cried out. “This is the moment I have been waiting for all my life—for someone to tell me that God is there for me!” Femmie prayed to accept Jesus Christ into her life. Rob prayed a blessing of peace and comfort over her and her family.
Pray for many more life-changing conversations on the Riverboat, and that Femmie will grow in a local church.
UKRAINE: OUT OF THE ASHES
Over the last three years, the Ukraine has frequently been in the news. Many people have died; even more have fled, while internally displaced people (IDPs) wander all over Ukraine, many helped by churches. Others have left for Russia, Europe, the USA and Israel. Ukrainians have suffered tremendous losses: the violent death of loved ones, or having to flee their homes. Although the news media has moved on to other crises, in Ukraine things are still happening—and God is on the move.
“The churches are busier than ever,” says Oleg, OM team leader and pastor in Rivne. “Many people are seeking God. It is a new day, with a new sense of freedom. There is also the awareness that in our time of need, our help did not come from Europe or the USA, but from God Himself. We are excited to see what God will do. Please continue to pray for Ukraine, and for the new day dawning in our country.”
OM teams work with several churches in Odessa, Rivne, Vinnitsa and Kaharlyk. They often focus on children, through Sunday schools, clubs and camps. The teams also help IDPs from the war zone in the East, reach out to Jews, and create new business opportunities. OM welcomes short-term teams, especially during school holidays, when week-long camps for children can run back-to-back for several weeks.
“In the past, the churches had no vision for mission, nor could they travel anywhere. This is now changing; some students are ready to go on short-term mission outreaches to the war zone in the East or to a neighbouring country. When they return and share their experience with the church, it is changing the church!” Oleg rejoices.
The OM team praises God for what He is doing and asks for further prayer: for protection and an end to the war in the East, for the churches and OM teams to seize opportunities for outreach, and for even more people to turn to God for spiritual freedom.
PAKISTAN: GROWTH IN GOD’S TIME
Saif* and Asma* have worked in one province for over 10 years, desiring to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached. Their first year goal was to see six people come to know the Lord. That didn’t happen, nor in the second year. “But in the third, God gave us one man who was baptised,” Asma said. “Then, a family came to the Lord. Now, we have 10 home churches of people from the majority background.” After specific training, they changed their initial approach and soon saw three second-generation groups form, as well as four more seeker groups.
Now Saif and Asma provide training to others. “We understand now what home churches need to grow,” Saif said. “So besides the 10 groups, we have second-generation groups, and our other groups also have seekers’ groups,” Asma said.
Osman*, a young man, is a seeker and regularly reads the Bible hidden in his home. One day, he saw his mother reading his Bible; she said, “You can read this secretly, but don’t tell others.” She started studying the Bible; six months later, she recognised that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life. Later, Osman became a believer. One day, Osman’s uncle found the mother’s Bible and said to her, “This book is good for me, not for you.” So he took the Bible and left. “Now he is reading the Bible as well,” Saif said, smiling.
When Saif and Asma visited Osman, they were amazed to find his New Testament in clear sight of everyone. “Now, I read my New Testament in front of my kids and tell them it is a very precious book,” he said. His young son told him, “Papa, keep this book safe. When I become a big boy, I will also read it.” Osman’s wife is also reading the scriptures, though secretly. “We are praying that God will open her heart and she will come to the Lord, so that as a family they grow in faith,” Asma said.
ITALY: IF YOU KNOW, YOU ACT
They come to Italy being promised a good job and better life. Instead, they are forced to sell themselves daily for a few euros. This is the reality of girls trafficked into prostitution. For the past two years, members of OM, along with women from local churches, have supported these girls and raised awareness of their situation. Weekly, along with a male driver, the women go to the streets and talk with whomever is willing. Team member Emma* said that building relationships with the girls was initially difficult. “We had to gain trust step by step,” she said. “Over time, they saw that we wanted to help.”
Every outreach, they greet the women by name and offer food and drink. Sometimes they bring birthday gifts, clothes and Italian lessons to help the girls integrate into society. They also take the girls to dinner, the beach, or church. OM team member Katja Johnson* says one of the women’s most important needs is “to be shown they have value and a purpose in Christ. Their destiny need not be prostitution; there can be another option, a way out.” Experts estimate that the number of Nigerian sex workers alone smuggled into Italy by sea has tripled in three years. Traffickers exploit poverty, discrimination, and lack of opportunities by falsely promising a better life in Europe but the women soon learn they have to sell themselves in order to repay their debt. They are told that, if they try to escape, their family will be killed or they will be cursed.
Working with trafficking victims can be taxing for the OM team, knowing that they cannot help everyone. Katja* hopes to care for the women more holistically and “to create a network of people able to respond to the different needs and support individuals as they exit the street by providing spiritual and psychological help and facilitating social and economic integration for them.”
The OM team wants to see greater awareness about trafficking among men as well. “People say ‘Oh, they earn a lot of money; it’s their choice,’” Emma said. “But it’s not their choice.” “In Italy, every fourth or fifth man buys sex yearly, but the problem is not tackled. If there were no demand, there would be no trafficking,” Katja* added.
COLOMBIA: TIME TO WORK TOGETHER
Various Christian organisations operating in Colombia and around the world gathered together for a special event on Logos Hope. The missions fair drew in local believers eager to learn more about serving God full-time. Along with Colombian ministries to marginalised people and those promoting fairly-traded indigenous products, there were networks to connect young people with opportunities worldwide. A sports outreach, CRU Colombia (student ministry), and the international missionary agency WEC were also represented, the latter by Jazmin Abuabara, a Colombian woman wearing traditional African fabric and sharing her story.
At age 40, she left her job to go to Bible college, became a missionary and served in Equatorial Guinea for the next 15 years. Jazmin helped to plant churches and teach children. “We saw them move from crisis to Christ—and now those ministries are in local hands,” she said.
Back home in Barranquilla, Jazmin is an example to recruit other Colombians. “Twenty years ago, when I left, Colombians were just beginning in mission. Now we can say we did it, and it is possible. The Church is more aware and churches are larger, with resources to send missionaries.” Distance isn’t as daunting in the 21st century, thanks to better communications. Jazmin recalled, “I phoned my mum twice in my first four years—but then the internet arrived; so young people today can stay connected and they’re excited about finding their part to play.”
Jazmin throws her support behind OM’s ‘Ellos son como Tu!’ (They are like you!) initiative, to encourage Latinos to share the gospel in least-reached communities. “We learn that we are like them. We know the Latino can adapt so well, in terms of physical appearance, in Middle Eastern or Asian cultures,” she said. “Many have learnt to live with little, here in Colombia; so they can adjust well to circumstances in other places. We have so much in common as we come alongside others to share ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory!’”
Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.
* name changed
Published: Saturday, 17 February 2018
Credit: OM International