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There’s no app for that

In my short lifetime, I have never seen anything that has invaded, by our invitation, and altered our lives more than the internet. Our world can no longer function without this connectivity, but few dare to question the cost to our society and our souls. Who dares to bite the hand that feeds us? 
 

A sign of the times

Technology is neutral, it is said, but networking, data mining and manipulation challenge that platitude. Regardless, while there are so many amazing, helpful and educational resources a click away, this digital deluge devours our most precious, irreplaceable resource: our time on Earth as mortals who will give account to God. We have a binary choice how we invest that limited asset: We can continue to spend more time on our devices than we do in sleep, or we can invest into study and reflection, into face-to-face connections with people craving real fellowship. We have created a culture where people prefer interaction with strangers on screens than with people around them. Is this what we want to pass onto the next generation? Power now rests not with those of authority or role but with those who can be heard globally in social media where truth is optional. My concern is a lack of balance in our lives; my lamentation is that most people are unaware and unconcerned where we are being taken. 

Why is it that, generally, we are unwilling to admit that we are digitally addicted and not ready to reclaim time and space for reflection, individually and corporately? Facing social pressure, we turn off the ringer but, to be physically separated from our devices, even briefly, causes anxiety. Too many of us are living with an addiction more powerful than hard drugs—and harder to govern.

The Bible says that there is time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1), introducing a balance between ‘on’ and ‘off’. A modern paraphrase might add, “a time to surf Facebook or WhatsApp and a time to be offline” …although few would care to heed it. Paul said of believers’ freedoms that they are legal but not always beneficial or constructive (1 Cor. 10: 23). Today we have relationships ‘a mile wide and an inch deep,’ a reflection of the times. You can have 1500 friends on Facebook but shrivel in loneliness. And I can ‘unfriend’ anyone with a single click.
 

You can do it

Here are some ‘baby steps’ we can take to bring more balance into our lives:

  • Personal prayer and reflection: Consciously separate yourself from your device as an act of worship. Turn it off and keep it elsewhere.
  • Group prayer: Use a dish/box to collect all devices, deliberately proclaiming Christ’s preeminence.
  • Ten-minute ‘time out’ of utter silence when retiring and when rising.
  • No-phone zones: bedrooms, meal tables, church, meeting friends.
  • Nature outing: Leave your device at home or in the car. You will survive!
  • Weekends: no emails sent or read.

OM has entered on a year of weekly prayer and fasting. Adding to this, I would like to call everyone in our movement to also make this one day entirely free of digital devices and distraction. You do not need to have your phone so you can pray better for Yemen. Use your imagination! In the sovereignty of God, life will go on. It’s one way that we can put God above all else.

 

EVANGELISM

GUATEMALA: A MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE

Logos Hope leaders and crewmembers were honoured to receive the First Lady of Guatemala on board. Marroquin Argueta de Morales, wife of President Jimmy Morales, visited the ship’s book fair in Puerto Quetzal. She was greeted by a crowd waving national flags, as well as crewmembers waving their own national flags from the top of ship.


Logos Hope Director, Pil-Hun Park (South Korea), gave the First Lady a tour and explained three main goals: to share knowledge, help and hope. Crewmembers share knowledge through literature and events, help through humanitarian projects, and hope through personal stories. The First Lady was sensitive in particular to ‘hope’. “She said that, in the world, many people are losing hope, and the ship aims to bring hope worldwide. That is why she appreciated our visit. Every country needs hope,” Pil-Hun shared.


As the First Lady was browsing the book fair, she picked a few books to purchase, and greeted other visitors. “She was hugging people, and a lot of them wanted a picture with her,” said Nathan Schmutz (Switzerland). 


In a private meeting, the First Lady and the ship’s leadership conversed about the experience the people of Guatemala have had on board—for many of them, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.


“We were able to give a great experience to the First Lady of Guatemala,” Nathan commented. Logos Hope’s leadership was encouraged by a united heart for sharing hope to the nations, and greatly appreciated the First Lady’s visit.

 

RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT

MYANMAR: MORE THAN MEALS

In situations of incredible suffering, spending time with people helps convey a message of love. Recently, an OM team visited a flooded village to distribute basic food items, but they also spent time with people affected by the disaster, listening to their heart-wrenching accounts.

Alice*, an OMer, sat across from a woman who held her two-month-old baby. His name meant ‘floating in the water’ because he was born in the floodwaters. The OM team named him Moses, who similarly was a child who floated in waters. Due to lack of food, the young mother was unable to breastfeed but Alice gave helpful instructions and food. The community had been pooling food and money, but did not have enough. The food that the OM team gave was the first they received in a week. The local pastor partnering with OM asked if they could pray for the mother and child.

The village’s high monk has never allowed Christians to enter. However, he now invited them to come as a church, do a medical trip and host a concert at Christmas—even offering to arrange things. He has been so touched by the work of the local pastor and the OM teams that he has been listening to the pastor’s weekly sermons. For most families, the financial strain of the flood has been crushing. Despite having so little themselves, they are quick to share with each other but they also extended generosity to the OM teams.

One OMer shared, “We went to give rice, but I think that [the woman] felt love. She invited us many, many times to come to her home and eat with her in another year, and that we could sleep in her house then. The generosity of people who don’t even have enough daily food is so touching.”

 

CHURCH PLANTING

NEAR EAST: SEEDING FIRST

“We started this team to focus on planting churches and finding groups that will reproduce,” long-term OM worker Diane* emphasised. Her team (three women) wanted to implement important principles inherent to church planting and disciple-making movements (DMM). Since Diane and her team were starting ‘from scratch’, they decided to build prayer into their schedules: thirty minutes of shared prayer daily plus one day a week of team fasting and prayer. Nancy*, another team member, added, “Prayer number one is to see disciple making happening.”

“We would love to see things happen quickly and have lots of people hear the gospel, but our goal is to make people into disciples with depth,” Diane stated. “A disciple is always someone who makes other disciples.”

Nancy talked of one woman who “was asking questions and wanted to read together. She believes that her help is from God, and is asking me about the book,” Nancy said. “I’m finding out what she really wants: to follow Jesus or is it a polite way to connect with me?”

In another family, Diane met a husband and wife who initially showed interest in the Bible. The husband told Diane he had once dreamed that he opened the gospel and read that God is one. “That’s a fantastic dream,” she replied. “Let me show you where it’s written.” When Diane got ready to leave, the woman asked her where she could get a gospel. “I could give you a book, but it’s much more fun to read it together. Would you like to study the Bible?” Diane asked. The next time Diane visited, that same lady invited an aunt and uncle, who had stayed an extra night in order to read the Bible.

Pray for the ministry team to develop perseverance. “Many relationships take three steps forward and five steps back,” Diane shared. “People get teary-eyed when they see a Bible, and they really want to read it, and then suddenly they no longer answer your phone calls.”

Pray for more people to join the field. “We all have a long-term commitment, but for a stable team we need more people who are passionate about making disciples and planting churches,” Diane said.

 

JUSTICE

SERBIA: REACHING THEIR OWN

OM has played a significant humanitarian role in a government-run camp since the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe escalated in 2015. Today, many refugees from Iran are turning to Jesus during a worldwide move of God amongst Iranians.

“It’s a privilege to witness the Lord touching so many Iranians,” Balkan Field Leader Volker Sachse shares. He tells of an Iranian, Ali*, living in Bulgaria, who plays a strategic role in God’s work. Previously a major drug dealer and convicted of murder, he was sent to prison where he came to Christ through a visiting pastor and immediately began preaching to his fellow inmates, many of whom trusted in Jesus.

Released in 2015, just as a new wave of refugees from the Middle East entered Bulgaria from Turkey, he preached the gospel to every Iranian refugee he met. Many responded, even being baptised right away.

One of Ali’s contacts who came to faith in 2016 was Farzad*. Over the past two years, God has used Farzad to share God’s love with other Iranians in Serbia.

In autumn 2016, when Farzad entered the camp in Sid, he witnessed to a handful of Iranians in the camp, but the presence of many strict Muslims in the camp inhibited Iranian believers.

In the last year, though, many stricter Muslims moved to other camps. Despite coming from a Muslim theocracy, many newcomers were surprisingly liberal in style and outlook, learned Farzad. Then, one night, Farzad had a powerful dream. “He saw a highway filled with people walking to somewhere beautiful,” says Volker. “But his own feet just wouldn’t move. He sensed God was telling him to stay where he was.” Farzad become bolder in preaching and discipling, both in Farsi and English. He encouraged believers of every nationality to meet together for fellowship and built up many Christian contacts in the Iranian diaspora worldwide through social media.

There is now an ongoing need to nurture young believers towards greater maturity. “I’m excited by the possibility of an intensive discipleship training course for up to eight Iranian believers over five days, which would then be repeated for others,” says Volker. The course will equip Christians to launch a church in the camp. Praise God for the increasing number of Iranian believers in refugee camps. Pray that God raises up more long-term workers to join OM’s work in Serbia.

 

MENTORING & DISCIPLESHIP

MOZAMBIQUE: I’M AVAILABLE

“If a person I am discipling says, ‘I am going to look for honey,’ I say, ‘Let’s go together.’ I don’t like to be far from those I disciple,” said OMer John. Currently, John is discipling a young Muslim man in a northern village. Both men were planning on building houses, so John decided to make mud bricks together. Every day as they work—carrying water, mixing mud, shaping bricks and burning them—they do it together, providing an opportunity to share the gospel. “Everyday I share. He has many questions,” said John.

“The foundation of the gospel here is relationships, friendship that yields trust. This takes time. If you merely talk to [many people] about Jesus it is easy—but one day, they will all disappear. One listener is a fisherman; another a hunter or farmer. If the fisherman goes to the river, you need to escort him and concentrate on him. This is discipleship with quality: You release him, and he is going to make disciples.”

Zito was another disciple of John. After one of Zito’s close friends became a Christian, he was angry, thinking his friend was following nonsense. One day John asked Zito to go for a walk. Zito agreed, all the while thinking, “He is my enemy, a Christian.” John asked Zito: If God asked you if you wanted everlasting life, what would your answer be? “[John] said, ‘Zito, God loves you,’” Zito remembered. “I asked, ‘How can you say God loves me?’ He said, ‘God loves you, and He wants your life. The only way to enter the presence of God is through Jesus Christ.’”

Zito continued on as he was, but John kept coming alongside him. “Whenever I said I was going to fish, he said, ‘Let’s go.’ So I decided I wanted to go to [church]; from there I started growing slowly.” After one year of searching, Zito trusted in Christ and joined the OM team. “I am so happy that if I die today, I will be with God,” he said. 

 

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

Lawrence Tong

 

* name changed

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