The power of affirmation
Imagine how overwhelmed Joshua felt when appointed to take Moses’ place. But God said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NIV). God affirmed Jesus, who affirmed His disciples. Paul instructed the earliest churches to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess.5:11). He knew that affirming others released potential and faith to keep going. It’s a wonder we don’t give it higher regard.
Affirming others adds value in their own eyes as well as those around them. Given sincerely, it strengthens others and creates a mutual desire to affirm yet more people. Even if a person does not feel deserving, he or she can tell when it is sincere and will accept it, because affirmation is a basic emotional need.
Some of us have difficulty in receiving it, or are reluctant to affirm others. Usually, it is because we did not grow up in that environment. Typically in my own culture, I never once heard an affirming word from my father, so affirmation does not come naturally to me. Still, it can be learned and practiced. As an organisation or church, failing to create an affirming culture hinders our development and growth. Who wouldn’t prefer to be in a positive environment rather than a dour one? If we in OM can foster an environment of affirmation and encouragement across all cultures, it will make us far more effective and we will retain more of our workers for the long haul. It should also make us better recruiters for mission as word circulates.
It’s not that hard
When is it appropriate to express affirmation to someone? Easy: Catch them doing something well! Your example can encourage others to do likewise. When a team member seems down emotionally, that too is a good time to give sincere affirmation. Don’t wait until they have a meltdown. Be sensitive about what is appropriate. Private face-to-face appreciation might be the most powerful, but there are occasions where public recognition is apt. A hand-written note conveys lasting gratitude. Email works, particularly if one of you is long and far away, but in person is the best.
Moderation is key. Showing affirmation continuously soon loses its specialness, but too seldom is also wrong. With practice, you and your team can keep things spontaneous and natural. How we introduce our workers to pastors and others is enhanced by the affirmation we show. “Here is my trusted and competent colleague. I would like you to help him in reaching our objectives in ministry.” This adds value to the relationship.
The power of affirmation is effective when sharing the gospel: God affirms the value of every human, proven by the forgiveness of their sins resulting from the sacrifice of Jesus. Talk about affirmation! That’s half of the story, but one that is downplayed: You are loved by God. Surely that is more attractive an opening than fire and brimstone.
Finding the commendable in others affects how we perceive them. Rebuke, interestingly, is a form of affirmation: Because we care about you and value your contributions, we must point out where your actions or words fell short of our expectations of one another. If you sin and no one reacts, you might wonder if anyone cares.
I know that I am what I am today because of the encouragement that people along my path have shown. Let’s resolve to affirm one person every day so that it becomes part of our life.
SPECIAL HAJJ PRAYER
A few years ago, two OMers were walking the streets of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, weeks before the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. There were Muslim pilgrims from all over the world. God put it on these OMers’ hearts to call Christians to pray for Muslims as they go on the Hajj. August 19–21 is designated as a special prayer emphasis for this. The Hajj is a spiritual journey of a Muslim’s lifetime; pray for them to encounter the true Giver of Life.
MEXICO: FREEDOM SHARED
A group of Logos Hope crewmembers shared the gospel as they handed out food and drinks outside a hospital, in partnership with a local church. Johan Ligibel (France) shared his story with the crowd. He started by asking, “What is freedom?” Born into a Christian family, he turned his back on God, wanting to be free to do as he pleased. He started taking drugs and reached a point where he would hear voices, see things and have panic attacks. Admitted to a psychiatric hospital, he started to pray again. It was when he was allowed out for a weekend that he spent time with a pastor who told Johan that being free doesn’t mean doing whatever one wants and it isn’t being a slave to sin: it is being Christ’s servant. Johan decided to give his life to Jesus. Still under the influence of his past, he prayed, asking God to free him from the suffering and oppression. Johan said, “I felt an incredible peace, a fire, chains that were breaking inside of me, and I was then healed.” At the end of his talk, he challenged those listening: “What about you? Are you free?” After sharing their stories, crewmembers distributed food and prayed for the people outside the hospital who were waiting on loved ones. “Sometimes we think we have to do something crazy and amazing, but anything you do can be used by God,” said Steph Jemphrey (Northern Ireland). “It doesn’t have to be huge; it can be something simple like giving a sandwich.”
RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT
ZAMBIA: HOPE FOR STREET KIDS
Many street kids in Kasama are from broken homes. Orphans are common, shuffled between relatives, with little stability. Children end up on the streets sifting rubbish, begging, selling snacks or becoming thieves, drug and alcohol abusers or selling their bodies. Gangs train such children from a young age.
OM’s Project Hope team aspired to build a shelter for vulnerable children, “where they can be children; a place to call home that brings hope,” explained Gabriel Kabela. In early 2018, construction began on the first building. One married couple will live in the house to show the children the love of Christ and to give the care and attention needed. “We want to bring the children in early, before the devil pulls them deeper into life on the street,” Gabriel shared. Home schooling will also be provided.
Home of Hope will also bring restoration to whole families by identifying potential guardians among neighbours and relatives. Through Bible studies that focus on families, the team will train guardians to be good caregivers. OM’s goal is for children to eventually move in with loving families. Gabriel already has six families in weekly Bible studies, encouraging them to build a relationship with Jesus.
OM plans to build four houses to accommodate children and has started a farming project to provide sustainability. Already there are couples willing to go for further counselling training to become house parents. Pray for funds to finish the buildings, continue the farming projects and send parents for counselling training. Pray that God will give the OM team wisdom to identify the right children for Home of Hope and that they will find healing through Jesus Christ.
MOLDOVA: PATIENCE REWARDED
Dora’s* eyes filled with tears as this day finally came: For three years, the 77-year-old had been the first, and only, believer in Cobîlea. Now, after years of prayer and continual hope in the Lord, she experienced the first house church gathering in her village. What started with prayer years ago and continued through short-term outreaches and the moving of a Local Ministry Team (LMT) to the area in the autumn of 2017, now reached a milestone: the start of a church in the village.
When the team moved to Cobîlea, in one of the least reached areas, a house was rented for OM workers. Every Wednesday, the team met for prayer with Dora and a family that had moved there from OM’s partnering church in a nearby town. The house was purchased in the spring to house a future church. In late April, the first church meeting took place with about 30 people including guests from the partnering church. Ten people from the village joined in who had not been connected to any evangelical church.
Among them was Ion*, a young man whom the team had befriended over the past months. After the service, he asked: “How can I know God and get closer to Him?” The team was only too happy to talk with him; that night Ion dedicated his life to following Jesus. A few weeks later, his mother also invited Jesus into her life, asking the team to help her continue to understand God’s Word. Her home would be open to them—the first house that salvation had come to through their ministry.
OM wants to send more Local Ministry Teams to help plant churches in the least reached areas and would appreciate prayer for the right people to participate—and for open doors in the communities.
CENTRAL ASIA: STEMMING THE TIDE
In two years of working with girls in the sex trade, OM worker Amelia* has only heard of two leaving. For the majority of women in the trade, however, sex is about survival and supporting their children; however, once they enter the trade, they rarely escape. “They have to believe that they have other options and that they’re worth something,” Amelia stressed.
A handful of OMers, including Amelia and Katya*, a Central Asian believer who helps the small outreach team, seek relationships with women already involved and those considered vulnerable. A pair of OMers might walk down a street where the girls are, praying for and interacting with those they meet. Or, they visit a brothel, praying and waiting for women to approach them.
“There’s a lot of suspicion if you just start talking to someone,” Amelia explained. “Instead, we ask for help with directions and the like. If we humble ourselves, we can connect with more easily.”
Amelia has seen God work. At one point, a new pimp forbade OM workers from visiting girls there. “Stay away!” she hissed whenever they came. The team prayed, asking friends and co-workers to join them. Eventually, they returned to the brothel and discovered that the problematic pimp had been overpowered. During their absence, one girl had left the trade. She was at a partner organisation’s shelter, and a local church had taken responsibility for her rehabilitation, offering to help her find work and accommodation.
“The timing for that was crazy, and the fact that a local church wanted to get involved and help—that’s huge!” Amelia enthused. “If someone’s known to be a prostitute, it’s hard for them to find other work,” she explained. For their prospects to change, it’s imperative that believers start businesses that will employ these girls. “Our partners have a shelter, so if girls come out, they can receive rehabilitation, but we don’t have any business alternative for them.”
Meanwhile, the OM team advocates for the women in area churches, “so that believers will step in: that they won’t just walk past the girls, but they will see them as people God loves,” Amelia explained. “It’s so hard for me to see people who don’t realise they are important and special. I want women who don’t believe that God could possibly love them, to know that He does.”
MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP
PAKISTAN: EAGER TO GROW
OM restarted its work in a northern city after several years’ break. During the previous decade of ministry, the team faced numerous challenges in reaching the Pashtun people. Living among them and sharing about Jesus, the team faced threats to stop all gospel activities. Now, the OM team has formed small discipleship groups in local churches and is training believers to be disciples of Christ engaging in prayer for the least reached.
Around 70 young men and women are part of the groups. One of these is Adil*, a young mechanic. Because of his limited education, Adil was afraid to read the Bible in front of others. The OM team encouraged him to read the Bible at home and said that God would help him gain confidence. Encouraged, he is a regular member of the Bible study group. Adil said, “Now I am conscious about what I study. I started to read the Bible at home and very soon I will be able to read it in front of others.”
In another area, 75 men and women gather weekly to learn the word of God at a local church. Irum*, a nurse, requested prayer for her friend suffering from cancer. She had faith that, if Christians prayed for her, she could be healed. The team prayed with Irum regularly for her friend. Two weeks later, Irum excitedly entered the church, saying that after medical examination her friend is free from cancer. She said, “My friend is glad that God gave answer to our prayers and her faith has increased.” The team encouraged Irum to share God’s salvation with her friend. Pray for the Bible study class and for prayer movement participants to encounter God.
Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.
* name changed