Sustainable solutions for missions

For years, the Global North has provided the majority of resources—funding and people—and the Global South* has been the recipient. But now, as the church in the Global South rises up, places once mission destinations are becoming starting points. 

Having a missional mindset doesn’t send out missionaries instantaneously. Because a lack of funding prevents many Global South churches from sending out missionaries, a new way of funding missions is needed. OM’s Global South Initiative (GSI) is a five-year project started in 2013 that seeks to reach the least reached through resourcing the Global South Church to achieve financial sustainability through ‘turn-key’ business models at both field and individual missionary levels. A turn-key business has already been tested for success and pre-assembled—essentially needing only to ‘turn the key’ to start. 

Since 2014, GSI has been involved in 38 projects with a direct impact on 60 OM fields and ministries. Projects currently running include organic farming in Asia, selling electricity in the Near East, leasing harvesters in Moldova, building townhouses in Zambia and developing a Global Food Garden in Germany. By 2025, GSI aims to see 7,000 new missionaries from the Global South impacting 500 communities among the least reached.

Planting without soil

The Global Food Garden (GFG), also referred to as ‘the bubble’, was designed in Germany to produce vegetables with a minimum of water and no soil, made possible by suspending the plants’ roots in the air and delivering nutrients through mist. As many places around the world lack water, rich soil, or both, the GFG provides a unique solution, allowing more plants to grow in a smaller space. 

The first bubble was created in China as a response to the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. The system soon proved too technical and expensive to be easily replicated, so OM teams developed and tested smaller systems. Cindy Shinabarger leads the Hydroponics Sustainability project for the team in the USA that works with off-the-grid, low-tech, hydroponic technology to aid areas where consistent electricity is a concern.

“The system allows produce to be grown in places where soil will not support traditional farming and where there is a lack of suitable water,” explained Cindy. “The simplicity of the system has universal appeal: The same technology can be used in a small-scale system to help feed an individual family all the way to a commercial greenhouse, which could provide revenue for a field.”

Currently, the project is partnering with OM in Ghana and the Aguri School of Horticulture to pilot the system there. The school will build a test bed where the hydroponic technology can be given a trial run, and adjustments can be made accordingly. Once the school has successfully grown plants, they will train people selected by OM to replicate the system. 

Language: the problem and the solution

OM in Chile noticed that not only a lack of funds prevents Latinos from joining missions; there’s also a language barrier. Therefore, OM began offering English classes during its annual intensive Missions Training School.

“As the team gathered pricing quotes from outside providers it became clear that there was a high level of demand for basic and intermediate courses, and that offering classes could be financially lucrative,” said Roshani Morton, financial developer for OM in Latin America. 

By starting a language school, OM addressed both the financial and language barriers. The language and culture school officially opened in March 2016 at the OM base in close proximity to universities and bus routes. Offering both Spanish and English programmes taught by qualified instructors, the school is open to students, churches and the general public. The courses teach every aspect of language learning: speaking, reading, writing and comprehension, with a particular emphasis on oral communication. 

Still in its first year as a start-up business, the school is not self-sustaining. As it starts generating profit, the school will contribute towards OM’s ministries, overhead costs, financial reserves and missionary sponsorships. 

The school seeks to glorify God through quality service and the practical demonstration of Christ’s love to students. “Reaching non-believers with the message of Jesus through the language school is [done] indirectly,” said Anny Vierling, project manager of the school. “Missionary teachers, whilst having the goal to teach a language, create student-teacher friendships. Through these genuine friendships, it is possible to speak of their convictions and beliefs.” 

Currently, three English classes are running: one in the morning and two in the evening. More teachers are needed to join the team, particularly two more English teachers and someone to teach a language such as Mandarin or Arabic, which would support OM’s overall vision to train missionaries to go to the least reached.

*The Global South includes Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Near East, all of Africa, Central Asia, and all of Asia, except Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Rebecca Rempel is a photojournalist from Canada. Serving on the Africa Area communications team, she travels Africa capturing the work God is doing around the continent with her camera and pen.