For many, the idea of serving as the country leader of a Christian missions organisation seems like a daunting task, let alone for someone who has only worked with the organisation for a little over two years but Shelley Fortune, leader of OM’s work in Guyana, welcomes the challenges with a smile.
“I am really excited about helping people,” Shelley explains. “I am motivated by challenges. And knowing that I have something new to learn and something new to work on in itself for me is very exciting.”
Shelley, along with Nathaly Dania, leader of OM's work in the Dutch Caribbean, spearheads some of OM’s work in the Caribbean field to inspire, connect and equip people to go and share the gospel among the least reached.
But whereas OM in Guyana is relatively new, the Dutch Caribbean office is a different story. Before Nathaly took over in 2020, OM had a small working group in the area. Since 2014, this group has primarily focused on equipping people on the islands of Aruba and Curaçao. Still, other islands in the Dutch Caribbean, such as Bonaire, have presented some challenges for Nathaly as momentum is hard to maintain.
“Sadly, after a while, people forget,” she explains. Some missions workers and volunteers “go out, and then others go study, and then it stops.”
Leader for the Northern Caribbean, Keitra Vilma, explains that Christians in the Caribbean often see themselves as receptors of the gospel without the need to fulfill the Great Commission themselves.
“One of the main major challenges is for that need of a paradigm shift where we, as the Caribbean, see ourselves as a part of God's plan and the Great Commission where we too are actually going to make disciples,” she describes.
Elements of that paradigm shift are already happening among the youth.
Since Nathaly took over, OM in the Dutch Caribbean has organised several mobilisation events geared towards youth.
These events had been met with a lot of support from churches. Nathaly recalls that children and parents alike are eager to learn more about OM’s work, with several children expressing interest in eventually serving aboard Logos Hope.
“It's really great and encouraging,” Nathaly explains.
Likewise, Shelley is also excited about OM’s youth mobilisation efforts in Guyana.
“I know a lot of churches in Guyana are not presently doing discipleship with their teens,” Shelley explains. “With OM in Guyana doing it, it really creates that opportunity for teens to be discipled.”
“Teens are excited about it, and their churches are excited about it,” she adds. “And we're just happy to come alongside them and to work with the teens, especially as it relates to discipleship.”
“We are all about coming alongside local churches,” Keitra says. “That is our key way of mobilising for missions. We are encouraging them, and especially encouraging them in the mission of God.”
OM in the Dutch Caribbean also opened the OM Dutch Caribbean Foundation in 2022, which enables Nathaly and her team to create awareness and encourage missions around the local and international community.
“Glory to God,” Nathaly says “That was one of our dreams that made [OM’s presence] more formal” in the area.
Limited manpower and resources
Still, with limited resources, Nathaly and Shelley face difficulties in their respective countries.
Shelley explains that she is often required to wear many hats in her day-to-day activities leading OM in Guyana.
“Every day is different,” she laughs. “It's a lot of pioneering work [because] we don't have a local office just yet.”
Shelley primarily focuses on building connections with local churches.
“A lot of persons are familiar with Logos Hope, but they don't know about OM,” she explains.
While she enjoys challenges, Shelley admits OM’s limited presence in Guyana leaves her stretched thin.
“I can’t do everything,” she acknowledges. “Guyana has ten different administrative regions, and I'm only in one of the regions.”
OM in the Dutch Caribbean also has difficulty equipping people from every one of the six islands in the Dutch Caribbean. The “three S islands” of Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, as well as the country of Suriname, have presented hurdles for Nathaly, primarily due to limited manpower and the vast distance between the individual islands.
“If we want to do more, it would be great to have more people to help us out,” she explains.
Despite the challenges they face, Nathaly and Shelley are united with a passion to mobilise Caribbean churches and see them actively engage in what God is doing around the world.
“God knows how much you can handle wherever He sends you,” Nathaly explains.
Initially, Shelley was not sure if working with a non-profit missionary organisation would be viable for her. But she found comfort in knowing that God would provide her with the necessary resources.
“I was just like talking to the Lord, and I believe that He told me that ‘I'm employing you, and I'm gonna supply your needs,’” she explains. “It gave me such peace in that moment.”
Keitra is proud of the success Nathaly and Shelley have achieved leading OM’s teams in the Dutch Caribbean and Guyana.
“Thank God that [He] has raised two young women that [could] be doing anything else,” she shares. They are “gifted young people that are serving, and they are excited” about sharing the news of the gospel.
Join us in praying for wisdom and guidance for Nathaly and Shelley as they lead OM in the Dutch Caribbean and Guyana, respectively. Pray that they might rise to the challenges they face with knowledge and integrity. Pray for more volunteers and permanent staff. We know, “[t]he harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” – Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV). Pray for increased financial support for the Caribbean field, enabling Nathaly and Shelley and their team members to raise awareness and support ministries, including an outreach to Brazil.