Anxiety and fear are kindred spirits with similar symptoms yet with very different causes. Fear can be a useful reaction to immediate danger or threat. Anxiety is an emotional response to vague, potential threats. The physical, instinctive reactions to fear (adrenalin, blood pressure, indigestion, muscle tension etc.) become harmful when sustained over time through anxiety. The expression, ‘It’s not what you eat but what eats you’ describes this private, silent and unnecessary burden called anxiety.
Different things cause anxiety for different people but, ultimately, the root cause is failing to exercise faith in God who loves us. Ironically, we can become anxious over our lack of faith (!) but focusing on His promises instead will free us. Failing to accept when plans and prayers turn out differently can become an anxiety trap that predisposes us to worry. When I am presented with potentially bad news as OM’s International Director, I am initially anxious, feeling vulnerable and uninformed. After an hour of processing, I am in a better frame of mind to respond. I recommend that strategy for anyone facing an emotional situation: Commit it all to God and wait for His peace.
The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7 NIV). Paul certainly had reasons to be anxious that we will never experience. Thinking logically seems no match for chronic anxiety yet, at some point, a decision needs to be made: Do I trust God, or not? If I do, I can surrender myself to God as the people of Israel did in 2 Chr. 20:12 (NIV): “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” We can feel powerless to change things that we didn’t cause. Yet, in the eye of the storm, we can find submission to and peace in God sufficient to keep us in polarity with the harsh reality we face.
At some point, we have to trust another human with our vulnerability in order to release our anxieties to God. Here’s how:
a) Make a list of everything you are anxious about. Spell them out (on paper, so you can burn it later).
b) Identify those things that you can do nothing about; delete them.
c) Involve a trusted friend to help you reduce the remaining list by doing a reality check.
d) Shift the spotlight from yourself to helping others dealing with similar anxieties.
Never criticise or belittle someone who is struggling with anxieties. Earn their trust and confidentiality to journey together. Be available to work things through. Aim for little victories and celebrate and remember them. Help them regain perspective and encourage the expression of thankfulness daily. My longing, personally and for OM, is that we would create homes where no one is judged for being human; rather, we offer environments of trust and acceptance that dispel anxiety through experiencing God’s care.
Call upon the Lord every day, claiming His promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt.11: 28–30, NIV). I understand the first half of the verse, but that Jesus’ yoke and burden are light remains a mystery. I know He would never lie, so I can indeed rest in Him, free from anxiety.
ZAMBIA: DEEP IN, BUT DELIVERED
“Don’t give up on me,” said Wilson*, a former witch doctor in Kapembwa, located along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. “Please teach me the Word of God. I want to serve Him.” It’s common for the OM team to have people associated with witchcraft come for deliverance, but Wilson wanted more.
Growing up in a family of witch doctors, Wilson saw visions at the age of 11 and practised witchcraft for the next 25 years. To gain more power, he said he delved deeper and deeper into the spiritual world. In February, Wilson fell while descending the mountain. When he awoke, he couldn’t move his right leg, and had to be carried down. Deciding that was enough, Wilson no longer wanted to live under the control of spirits even if it meant losing power and wealth. He called an OMer, Clement, for help. “Please come to my house for prayer and burn all my charms tonight,” Wilson’s pleaded. Twice a day for one week the OM team rotated in worship and prayer in Wilson’s house, telling him the importance of Jesus who would destroy the bondage of the spirits.
“I’ve seen many come for prayer, but then go back to witchcraft,” OMer Abbie Corbie said. “However, Wilson wants to make it right with God from now on.”
With his leg healed, Wilson went around the village sharing about his new life, going door-to-door among previous customers to tell them that Jesus alone had power and that they should burn the charms he previously gave them. “Everyone knows him as the big witch doctor; now his story could have great impact on the people,” Clement said. “We have to invest in him so his family will stand firm. Then he will become the living testimony around the lakeshore.” Please pray for God’s provision and protection for Wilson and his family as they need to find a new way to provide an income.
PHILIPPINES: A SECOND HOPE
Nora from Germany volunteered for 10 weeks in Cebu. She shares about OM’s learning institute that prepares students for High School exams:
Alternative Learning System (ALS) is a learning institution for those who have dropped out of school or failed their exams. Initiated by OM, its workers strive to transform lives through God’s Spirit. Lyra, head of the team, says it also teaches students who they are in Christ, which will influence all other areas in their lives. “Their confidence will rise, they will be able to reflect on their experiences, learn to forgive and be forgiven,” she says, “They will find a new family in Christ.”
In ten years, ALS has gone through many different batches of students, staff and locations. Today, it is run by Lyra, her team of two teachers and some international volunteers.
Mark, having passed his exams, is studying for a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and volunteers with OM staff and students who have become family to him. May didn’t finish high school because her family moved. Still, she wanted to financially support her family. While she studied, God changed her life. Today, she is studying for her Bachelor of Science in Christian Education; her dream is to be a missionary.
Most students come from dysfunctional families with drug and substance abuse, products of abusive and broken homes. About 80% of the ALS students pass the final exam. OM’s passing rate is much higher than the national rate.
Please pray that each student will know and rely on God. Pray that the ALS program will address their physical, emotional and spiritual needs, and that they will become godly mentors for their generation.
TAIWAN: PRAYERS AS INCENSE
The Hakka—a culturally Buddhist group—comprise one-fifth of the population, yet less than .02 per cent are believers. They share similarities with Christians, including the desire to help others less fortunate, being among the first to respond to natural disasters. Their identity is closely connected to family traditions.
“For a Hakka to become a Christian is tantamount to disowning their family,” shares Solomon, an OMer. “Hakka believe that the world of the living and the dead are connected and influence each other, so Christians are perceived as seen as not fulfilling their filial duty by not worshipping their ancestors. This causes a lot of tension.” It is important to win over family leaders who “will then lead the rest of their family to follow them towards Christ,” he added. Solomon and Ken, work at OM’s Community Transformation Centre (CTM), a multi-purpose facility that hosts Bible studies for young adults, a library, and facilities for community outreach. The team partners with Hakka churches through children’s programmes and short-term teams.
“It takes time to explain the gospel in a culturally understandable way,” Pastor Richard Huang, an OM partner, explained. “We need to help people understand that Christians don’t just forget their ancestors, but we are able to teach that we have to trace our roots all the way back to our Creator. The Hakka use incense to worship their ancestors; we teach that our prayers to God are incense to Him and that we have to honour God as the source of our first ancestor.”
“Success [in ministry] for us means mobilising the Hakka into missions, discipling them to a place where they catch the vision for all nations to know God,” Solomon shared. He hopes to see his team grow so that CTM can host more outreach events in the community to support existing churches. “We need to create opportunities for the gospel to be brought to the Hakka, and for Hakka to take the gospel to the rest of the world.”
NEAR EAST: NOT FORGOTTEN
“I know a 30-year-old man who, when he held a Bible for the first time, cried,” OMer Margaret* said, recounting the emotional encounter of someone hungry to know more of God’s Word in Kurdistan. “A young Kurdish couple struggled because there was no mention of Kurds in the Qur’an, whereas this ethnic group appears in the [biblical] account of those in Jerusalem swept up by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost,” she said. “Although the Kurds feel they are a forgotten people, they aren’t forgotten by God.”
In the wake of Kurdistan’s recent failed bid for independence from Iraq, many in the region are feeling great tension and uncertainty. OM’s ministry partners reported that 100 people from the Kakai religious minority fled Kirkuk, heavily traumatized by atrocities witnessed. OM also desires to minister to Syrian refugees in Kurdistan by meeting the physical and spiritual needs among this refugee community.
“Families are interested in learning what’s in the Bible through DBS (Discipleship Bible Study),” Margaret said, “but we still lack government permission to carrying out our project. Pray for us to persevere in the midst of these challenges: the physical ones, like the lack of petrol, as well as spiritual obstacles.”
“A Syrian Kurd went to a large refugee camp and told everyone that he wants to become a Christian,” Margaret said, marveling at his boldness. “If we could get the message out [about Jesus], half of the camp would follow Jesus Christ,” the man told her.
Pray for the right door for OM to enter communities in Kurdistan and to meet those who hunger for God’s Word. Pray for communities in Iraq and Syria impacted by war, that their spiritual hunger would be met in Christ.
MEXICO: POWER OF EXAMPLE
The response to Logos Hope’s first visit to Veracruz has been overwhelming, with more than 100,000 people coming on board in the first two weeks, including the seven millionth visitor since the ship started ministry nine years ago.
As well as managing crowds and interacting with visitors, teams have been visiting local churches to encourage and motivate Christians towards greater involvement in mission. First Baptist Church of Veracruz, led by pastor Jaime Rojas Enríquez, gave crewmembers a warm welcome. Wan Li Haw (East Asia Pacific) spoke about a difficult period in her life: “From a very young age, I looked for God, but nobody spoke to me about Him.” At age 22, Wan Li was in a serious accident yet recovered miraculously. “I know God gave me a second chance,” she said, “And I promised to serve Him every day of my new life.”
One couple, Omar and Nancy, listened with tears of gratitude for the miraculous near death recovery from illness of their son, Omar David. “We believe God has a plan for our son,” Nancy said. “During the service, the Lord was telling me that this strong test should not be forgotten; it will renew our strength every day and encourage us to move forward.” Sharing his personal story, crewmember Shinya Funakoshi (Japan) told the congregation, “My father came to this same church 35 years ago!” Showing everyone a photograph, he said, “I am very moved to know that my father was in this same church and that, even if he does not return to Mexico, you will see him again in heaven.”
Pastor Enríquez thanked the crew for their participation and encouraged the church to consider sending missionaries where the gospel has not been heard. “The Lord asks us to leave our comfort zone to go into the world,” the pastor said. His message reached two brothers: 19-year-old Arturo and 18-year-old Andrés, members of the youth group, said they were ready to begin missionary service. “We are encouraged by the testimony of these wonderful people from Asia,” said Arturo. “If they go around the world, we can as well, by the grace of our Lord.”
Thank you for your prayers and support of all OM ministries worldwide.
* name changed