Director's Update – Sept 2018

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Being people of grace

Justice is when you get what you deserve; Mercy is not getting what you deserve; Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. How others perceive our personal character is heavily dependent on the quality of grace we exhibit. Grace is an acquired attitude, a gift from God that reflects His Son’s example. No one from birth is naturally gracious, but anyone learn to live in the grace of our God and Father. Sin is corrosive to grace and, since we face that daily, we need to draw more grace from God through daily surrender and receiving inspiration from God’s Word.

We sing of God’s amazing grace, but does it permeate our soul so that we are known for reflecting His graciousness? To make grace a spiritual reflex in our lives will be costly, but imagine: Our very thoughts, words, actions and desires can be permeated with Holy Spirit-given grace. Imagine more: Each of us can in this moment covenant to submit to the Spirit and be molded as vessels of grace. This should stir our imagination, precisely because it is not imaginary.

You get what you pay for

Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of ‘cheap grace’ and ‘costly grace’. The former is a platitude that costs us nothing…and accomplishes nothing. Costly grace is the grace of Jesus who paid the ultimate price, a grace that is transformative and eternal. Costly, real grace is when you forgive someone for an offense: You may not feel warm to that person afterward, but you recognise that he/she is also your sibling in God’s family. Therefore, when they need support and help, determine to be the first to come to their aid. Cheap grace makes a show of forgiveness but shows no mercy to the ‘forgiven’ one: ‘Let him suffer as I suffered.’ Taking the grace of God and others for granted cheapens our experience of it. We should be in awe of grace, whether the saving grace of God or the long-suffering of our neighbour.

As OM’s International Director, I observe many individuals under pressure. Some shine in trials, while others surprise themselves at how poorly they react. We would do well to learn that when “iron sharpens iron” (Prov.27:17), regardless of the test or conflict, “He gives more grace” (James 4:6). To imitate the world’s ways, I could fire people ‘when needed’ and be applauded as a CEO. God’s grace pulls in another direction: Here is someone wanting to serve God. What should I as leader be doing to help him achieve that? In what other capacity can he find fulfillment? He may choose to move on, but will know that we care for him.

Five ways to exhibit God’s grace daily:

  • Cultivate an inner, vulnerable humility rather than pride. Focus on quality and depth of grace, not mere appearances.
  • Recognising your own need for God’s grace, strive toward unconditionally forgiving others. We are all broken people—tainted souls apart from God’s grace.
  • As Paul affirmed Mark after he had failed (2 Tim.4:11), restore people after they stumble.
  • Accept criticism, even if you are proven right. Criticism can be our friend and teacher as leaders.
  • Seek the benefit of those around you. My prayer is that I will always use my position to enrich others.

Paul speaks of “the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Eph. 1:7,8 NIV)—the word ‘lavished’ meaning to pour out to the point of wastefulness. There’s plenty of God’s grace to share with others; don’t try to hoard it.

 

EVANGELISM

KOSOVO: USING DAILY LIFE

In a very relational culture where people love to talk. Peter* found a group of men ready to discuss life issues when he went for a haircut. God used this everyday event as an opportunity for gospel conversation. Several men, friends of the owner, were talking politics over coffee. Peter asked if they believed there is hope for Kosovo. They doubted it, unless the country could get younger, educated politicians who are not corrupt.

Peter explained how he prays for Kosovo: as Jesus instructs in Luke 10, pronouncing blessings of God’s peace in all its forms (within people, between communities, etc.). The idea of Kosovo receiving a blessing of peace was exciting to Fatmir*, an older gentleman, who brought up the Islamic blessing of Salaam Alaikum (‘Peace be unto you’) which was familiar to them.

A lively conversation ensued about religion and the purpose of life, giving Peter opportunity to share from the Bible about God’s call to look after the world and each other. Peter explained how these are fulfilled in Jesus, and how He calls people to find forgiveness and join His commission in the world. The group invited Peter to come back to share more.

Often, the opportunities God gives in daily life to build new relationships and reveal His glory to those who don’t know Him is overlooked. Peter turned a necessary haircut into a gospel opportunity. Pray for this group of Kosovar men as they ponder what Peter shared from the Bible about peace and the purpose of life. As this new friendship develops, pray they may be open to learn more about how Jesus is the one true hope for their future.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

ALBANIA: LET THEM COME UNTO ME

Over 18,000 children are disabled in Albania, but over 80 per cent receive no education at all (Unicef, 2014). When scarce health and education resources are allocated, children with disabilities are a low priority. Most families with a disabled child receive a modest allowance from social services but no therapies or other aid.

In one city, OM partners with an evangelical church to express God’s love in this difficult situation. A weekly outreach event, Sweet Mess, hosts ten such families. Paired with home visits, holistic activities, educational care, parents are given a listening ear and practical help. Whole families come to Sweet Mess for fun, crafts, Bible stories, prayer, songs and drama, and a meal—a rare oasis in a culture that defines and limits their daily lives. Here they can feel loved by God and His people, valued, equal.

Sixteen-year-old Arben*, a regular attendee, has special needs and is also paralysed in a wheelchair. His entire life has been in a small, cold, run-down house, along with his recently widowed mother and three siblings. He has never been to school. The OM team helps Arben out of his house, along with his family, for the ride to church. “He adores coming; it’s the highlight of his week!” shares OM team member, Lisi*, from Austria. 

More therapeutic input will be provided by two colleagues with professional skills and experience who joined the OM team in early 2018. Anna* is a special needs educationalist from Germany, and Deasy* is a music therapist from Indonesia. Pray for them in language learning, for patience and persistence to build trusting relationships. Pray for sufficient staffing and funding to keep running Sweet Mess every week and for much-needed therapy equipment and resources for youth with disabilities. Pray for family members to respond to the love of Jesus as they see it lived out in the actions and attitudes of OMers and members of the church.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

PANAMA: FROM EVERY TRIBE…

Tribal people, called Wounaan, living on an island near the Colombian border, were visited by a team from Logos Hope who shared their various cultures and unifying faith. More than four decades ago, a pregnant young woman named Rosaura came to the mainland, knocking on doors in a neighbourhood occupied by North Americans, and asking for help and food. A Christian couple showed compassion and welcomed her into their home, found her a job and shared the gospel with her.

The American woman who welcomed Rosaura spent hours daily praying aloud in a language that she did not understand. When the two ladies started praying together, they both realised this language was the dialect spoken in the Wounaan tribe, from which Rosaura had come. Thus began the indigenous young woman’s grasp of the greatness of God.

Rosaura told the ship’s crewmembers that she was uncertain how she had come to be among the tribe in the first place; nor did she know her own age. Once her child was born, she went back to the island and shared the gospel with the entire tribe. Most have now become believers in Christ. A church nearby has ministered to the Wounaan community for 40 years and facilitated Logos Hope’s interaction with the tribes people.

Using a canoe to reach the island, the team discovered a community virtually untouched by modern society. Any Salazar (Mexico)  remarked, “Though isolated, they are very open. They are so intelligent, making use of everything in nature,” she exclaimed. While crewmembers were sharing the gospel with the tribe and praying together, a group of visitors arrived and sat with them. A young girl approached and said that she had been on Logos Hope in the Bahamas last year and had never expected to see the ship again. “God blessed this tribe so much,” said Any. “And the tourists heard our message as well.”

 

JUSTICE

SOUTH ASIA: GOOD NEWS SPREADS FAST

A few years ago, a group of people living with HIV began to gather monthly. Though not all followed Jesus, they were drawn to Him and to those who demonstrated Jesus’ love for them. A care centre was opened where people living with HIV could stay while at the hospital. News of God’s love spread, demonstrated by this small team, most of whom were living with HIV themselves.

As part of their work, they counsel new clients at the hospital, guiding them where to go, how to understand test results and how to live with hope, understanding that an HIV diagnosis is not the end. Two new support groups have started in distant regions. The team drove seven hours over beautiful mountain passes to a distant town, where about 15 people travelled up to three hours to meet them. The group ate, sang, prayed and shared together. They listened with rapt attention to the story of the woman at the well—so contextually appropriate in a place where they use wells. So many women have had bad marriages thrust on them, yet are still blamed for negative outcomes, much like the Samaritan woman. 

There were Hindus, a Muslim, Buddhists and a few freshly-minted Christians­—all were either Jesus followers or on the road to being one in a vibrant, relevant community. All of them had a couple of things in common: They were living with HIV and had seen Christ embodied in the people who helped them. 

A sixteen-year-old girl translated the message for an OM team member. Going through the passage together beforehand, she was shocked how Jesus broke all the rules for this Samaritan lady–rules of gender, religion and mixing with outcasts.

Surely if Jesus were walking the streets of this town, this is the house He would choose to visit. In reality, He is, in the form of His servants who bring His vibrant love to those in need and help them to flourish and grow into the people that Christ intends them to be.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

RUSSIA: NO PLACE TOO FAR

The Chukchi people, a minority group of 15,000, are indigenous reindeer herders and fishermen living in Siberia. Partners of OM EAST seek to bring the truth about Jesus Christ to the animist Chukchi. “The biggest challenges in reaching the Chukchi are isolation and fear,”  explained Natalie*, a field worker. “It is very expensive to travel to their remote villages, and official permissions are required. Furthermore, they fear the consequences of not following rituals such as wearing amulets (charms).”

OM EAST’s partners on the field want the Chukchi to know that through faith in Jesus, it is possible to have peace with God and assurance of salvation. To communicate this hope, in 2017 they published a book of 25 Bible stories in the Chukchi and Russian languages. An Android app enables individuals to both read and listen to the content. The Bible storybook declares Jesus’ authority over nature, sickness, death, demons and to forgive sin. OM EAST provided the design and layout, also creating an eBook version.

“My local colleague Katarina* is distributing the storybook and she says some people even want her to write a little note to them personally inside it,” shared Natalie. The storybooks are being given out in the Republic of Yakutia, where Katarina visited a village with 300–400 inhabitants, home to a handful of believers. To get there, it is a four-hour flight from Yakutia’s capital, followed by a six-hour journey by snowmobile or a 45-minute flight by helicopter. “It’s worth the labour of translation, the cost of travel and the risks of the climate to deliver the message of greatest worth to the Chukchi people,” reflected an OM EAST worker, while considering what their partners on the field are prepared to invest to fulfill what God has put on their hearts.

Praise God that the Chukchi are hearing the gospel. Please pray that individuals will use the print and digital Bible storybooks and that they would have courage to leave their rituals and trust Jesus as Saviour. Pray for local followers of Christ hold firmly to the faith they profess.

 

Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.

Lawrence Tong

 

* name changed

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