For 15 years, Paul and Soonok* lived as a family in South Asian countries closed to the gospel. It was important for them to work together in their teams: They depended on each other, set aside theological differences, and God's love united them. The people in the crisis-ridden countries felt this.
“An example of this was my driver, who moved to the United Nations because he earned three times as much there,” says Paul. “Later, when I met him again, he asked me: ‘Paul, can I come back to you? How you relate to each other is very different to how they do at my new job. The money is all well and good, but I want to go back to the team spirit that you lived.’ There we noticed how we are observed as a team and how the love for these people, which we cannot produce ourselves, bears fruit.”
Growing love for Muslims
Paul grew up in northern Germany in a traditional Christian family. Through his confirmation, he became part of a dedicated church community. He trained as a machine fitter and mechanical engineer and simultaneously became more involved in the church congregation. Paul wanted to understand the connections of the Bible better, so he attended the Beatenberg Bible School in Switzerland for three and a half years in 1985. “There I got to know and love Muslims through weekly assignments in the asylum home. I realised that this was God's place where I should invest my life,” he shares. To gain practical experience, Paul joined OM in January 1989 and went to Pakistan. The simple life there, dealing with culture and Persian language, working in a multicultural team and regularly spending time with God were formative experiences for him.
Empowering people with disabilities
During this time Paul got to know Soonok from South Korea. After he returned to Germany and his job in November 1990, he soon visited this young woman, who was attending a Bible school in England. They started a relationship, got married in 1991, and the following year, their son was born. Paul started working in a workshop for the disabled, where he was in charge of the metal workshop. In 1995, OM asked them to return to South Asia to work among people with disabilities.
“When I started, the traditional understanding in this country was that a person with disabilities should be locked up at home because it is a shame to be disabled,” Paul reports. They worked as a team to enable blind and visually impaired people to go to school, to establish an institute for deaf people from nursery to the end of high school and to create income opportunities for up to 1,500 people with physical disabilities every year. “Shortly before we left South Asia, the minister of disabled affairs came to us to honour 18 visually impaired children. This came into the media and changed the view that visually impaired children can also learn and achieve something,” rejoices Paul, now 56 years old. “In the meantime, the first ones have graduated from university and are now active in politics, rehabilitation for the disabled or other organisations. The work itself is continued by a blind local worker.”
No possibility to get to know Jesus
The family returned to Germany in 2010, and Paul completed his master’s degree in intercultural studies. He served in southern Germany on the leadership of OM’s Xenos team, which focuses on migrant work, and on the OM leadership team in Germany.
Since 2014, Paul has been leading the OM teams along the Silk Road—an ancient trade route that runs across Western and Central Asia—on an international level. “About 890 million people live there, 95 per cent of whom do not know Jesus as the Son of God,” explains Paul. “75 percent of these people live very remotely in village communities and have no opportunity to get to know Jesus, because no one tells them about Him or lives their faith by example.” These teams are looking for pioneers who can move there in small groups and learn the language. Furthermore, they need workers who serve and support the local leaders with their gifts, so that they become independent and the work becomes sustainable.
“We are also looking for innovative media workers to reach people in the virtual world with the gospel, such as through radio service or the Bible Correspondence Course that has over 50,000 fans on Facebook,” reports Paul. The advantage of media work is that it can be done from anywhere. For example, a young IT specialist in southern Germany is now working with them and has reduced his normal job to 80 percent.
For Paul, the dream is a church planting movement along the Silk Road, “which grows without end and which shows the whole world: This is not made by people but by God, and He gets the glory for it!”
Paul asks for prayer
‘Please pray that I will stay close to God and for His wisdom and strength for the leadership and challenges in the work along the Silk Road. Pray for more workers as we have many open doors in West and Central Asia.”