Finding Jesus in Ukraine

December 3 2019

Mary’s spiritual story begins during childhood visits to her grandmother. She was curious about God and the Bible, but her grandmother told her the Bible was a special book—only accessible to a select few chosen by God. So Mary didn’t even try to read it, believing she wasn’t chosen.

That is … until three years ago when she heard about an English camp offered by the OMS Ukraine team.

She was just finishing her first year at Grinchenko University with dreams of a successful business career and financial independence. She decided the camp would be a great way to improve her English skills.

But Mary got way more than English practice.

She experienced an atmosphere of love and acceptance that she had never seen before. She saw and heard people talk about Jesus like he was easily accessible—and when camp participants discussed the Bible, it came alive and was quite understandable. On one of the last nights of camp, Mary prayed to follow Jesus and experienced a joy she had never felt before. She left camp excited and ready to follow Jesus wherever he led.

But when she returned home, her parents were skeptical, and her friends were closed. She felt a coldness from them and began to question her new belief. She dealt with her questions in the way she always did—by burying herself in work, achievement, and success. And slowly … Mary’s passion for Jesus burned down to almost nothing.

But last Christmas, she responded to an invitation to attend a Christmas worship celebration hosted by the Kyiv Life Group Network, a network of home-based churches started by the OMS Ukraine team. She had rejected many of those invitations before but this time couldn’t find a reason not to come.

Jesus touched her heart again during the worship time. Feelings of joy and love for him flooded her soul again. She made a decision to return to Jesus with a passion and boldness that hasn’t passed away.

Now, one year later, Mary is a key member of the Life Group Network, was baptized this summer, and is boldly sharing with others what it means to follow Jesus. She also joined the summer English camps—but this time as a student assistant, sharing her testimony and building relationships with pre-Christian Ukrainians looking for opportunities to share the Good News.

This fall, she’s been meeting with multiple young women from the camps to discuss the Bible and to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus or to come to know him. She’s even feeling a call to ministry and missions and has started to study at an online Bible school.

Her parents have been concerned, worried that she might be involved in a cult. But after attending a network retreat recently, they realized she’s connected with good people—and they, too, have become more open to God.

Thanks for praying for Mary … that God would use her powerfully as she seeks to share the Good News with those around her.

You can help others, like Mary, have a wonderful camp experience and be introduced to Jesus for the first time. Or give to one of our other seven Christmas projects.

Tags: summer english camp, ukraine, finding jesus, ukrainian youth,

​Belated Tears

November 22 2019

I found out that my friend had died when an email bounced back. Knowing her age, I had the immediate sense of "knowing" the reason why. It takes time for those email inboxes to either fill up or come to an end. So, I googled obituaries for my friend's name and state, and there it was, her obituary with her photo. She had passed away over a year ago, but the news didn't reach me overseas until nearly one year later. The news was old, but the grief is fresh for me.

This is not the first time I have had belated tears. Finding out after the fact, finding out in unexpected ways, not having an opportunity to share in the celebration of life and the telling of stories, that is part of missionary life. Belated tears shed in the presence of Jesus, a bittersweet celebration of the gift of a friend, coworker, supporter, and sister or brother in Christ.

When missionaries go back home, we have to catch up not only on the happy events but the sad ones too. For us, it might be the first time to see that empty chair at the table. So, if you see a tear well up in a missionary's eye, and there seems to be no reason for tears, perhaps it's a belated tear.

By OMS Ukraine missionary, Colleen Weaver

Tags: missionary life, missing out, grief,

​What Really Matters

November 20 2019

There have been some contrasting stories over recent days. The impeachment hearings are moving along with efforts by many in Washington to grab the attention of the cameras and those determining the content for news feeds. A highly politicized and rancorous conversation with carnal elements on all sides, I'm wondering what God must think as he sees and knows all, even the hidden motives of people's hearts?

In Cleveland, with only seconds left in a football game already clearly decided, there was a huge conflict on the football field played out in front of a stadium full of people and national TV, and later seen on screens by millions around the world. Disdain and destructive deeds were on display. What are God's thoughts about so many worshiping sports instead of him, and then seeing this sad demonstration of brokenness by professional athletes?

In an old farmhouse in Noblesville, Indiana, another story was playing out. A man took his last struggling breath and then slipped quietly away. Compared to President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, Garrett, Pouncey, and Rudolph, whose names are now known by so many, this man's name is known by only a few. Some in Pakistan where he poured out his life for Christ and others, some in Indiana, a few prayer and financial supporters here and there, but relatively speaking, this man was little known on this earth. Compared to all the persons known through the impeachment and NFL conflicts, Russ Irwin stands out as truly worthy of emulation.

So is his dear wife of over 60 years, Phyllis, who as a missionary physician used her medical skills to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus to thousands upon thousands of Pakistanis. Russ and Phyllis have given their lives for what really matters, making disciples, bringing healing and hope, and training leaders for Christ in a difficult place where the resistance was often intimidating and overwhelming. Russ was a missionary, a theologian, a Bible teacher, and a trainer to many. With Phyllis at his side, he died a few days ago with praise to God on his lips and in his heart.

What a privilege for Esther and me to be with Russ and Phyllis just days before Russ left this world. What does God think of people like Russ and Phyllis Irwin? From Scripture, we know: "Blessed is the man (or woman) who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He (or she) will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit" (Jeremiah 17:7-8). May we all be challenged by Russ and Phyllis’ example of loving and serving Christ and others.

By OMS Global President, Bob Fetherlin

Tags: a life well lived, faithful servants, serving god

From Hit Man to Pastor, Meet Edier

October 30 2019

Edier Osvaldo Ruiz began his life of crime 40 years ago. While only a child, 11 or 12 years old, he became a part of the Medellín criminal cartel, made famous by its leader, Pablo Escobar. From a young age, Edier served as a contract killer, murdering people in Medellín and beyond.

Edier lived with his mother and six siblings, earning just enough to scrape by in those early years. By age 13, he quit school to dedicate his life to crime. He soon began to climb the ranks in the crime world. At 14, he met Pablo Escobar and his family and was given a home as a reward. From 1990-92, Edier was one of Colombia’s most wanted criminals. In 1993, police killed Pablo Escobar in his hometown of Medellin. Within a couple months of killing him, they captured Edier in a huge sting operation.

Edier was indicted on 14 offenses, including homicide, possession of illegal arms, drug trafficking, and kidnapping to name a few. He was sentenced to 60-70 years but eventually received a 48-year sentence.

In February 1994, Edier arrived at Bellavista Prison, where he had to constantly watch his back because he had so many enemies within the walls. When he arrived on the 8th cell block of Bellavista, he soon heard about the price on his head of $150 million pesos or $175,000 US. Edier’s life was in danger daily.

After serving a few years, some Christians within the prison introduced Jesus to Edier, offering him the chance to change his life. Several of the new converts included men who had once worked for him. He thought they were crazy because he never liked Christians.

After several attempts on his life (a couple times he was severely wounded) and transferring prisons multiple times to protect him, he began to receive encouraging notes from those old friends who had converted. They shared that they had changed, that the Bible had transformed their lives. But Edier just laughed and made fun of their decisions.

The new believers continued to send him letters, telling him that Jesus loved him despite his past, but Edier thought, “How could God forgive a man as evil as I? How could a person who murdered so many, who had left mothers without their sons, wives without their husbands, children without their parents be loved and forgiven?

Near the end of 1996, Edier got transferred again to the high security wing of Bellavista after another attempt on his life, where he reunited in person with those friends who had found Christ. They faithfully shared Jesus with him. Then, in the middle of the night, he heard a voice that said His power was greater than all the power Edier had ever had in the world. The voice said he should call to Him, and He would teach Edier mighty hidden things that he did not know. Edier thought he was going crazy. For two nights, the voice was constant, calling him, telling him that He was Edier’s Savior, that he created him with a purpose to be a man who was more than a conqueror in Jesus Christ.

Here is the rest of the story in Edier’s own words, “On the morning of November 27, 1996, I heard singing, and God told me to leave my cell and go to the singing. I arrived, and there were the “hallelujah people.” There were about 50 inmates praising, exalting, and glorifying the name of God. I stood at the entrance and started to shake. I just wanted to get out of there, but when I ran out, they had closed the gate so I couldn’t leave. The Christians came to me and prayed over me. While they prayed, I was stretched out on the floor. Then, they opened the gate, and I fled to my cell and began to cry … One brother brought me a Bible and said, ‘Look, boss, from now on this is your weapon. It has 66 shots. Take it! You will be alright, don’t worry. We are your brothers. We will help you. We will care for you in Jesus’s name. Press on!’ As I wept, I began to read the Bible. I spent the next 3 to 4 days reading it and praying about my shameful state before God, asking forgiveness, repenting of my sins, and all I had done.

“Then I heard God say, ‘If today you wish to believe in my beloved son Jesus Christ, you shall be a new creature. All the old things shall pass away from your life, and all shall be made new.’

“On that day, I surrendered all.”

In 2005, Edier was released from prison … after serving just 11 years. He reunited and reconciled with his family, got married, was baptized, and began to regularly share his faith. After a year of faithfully volunteering, Prison Fellowship offered him a role on the evangelism team to work in the prison. OMS Colombia missionaries discipled him, and he served with ECC for four years.

Today, Edier and his wife lead a church. He returned to school and studied at the Colombia Biblical Seminary. God also gave him the courage to face his victims’ families to ask for forgiveness. Total reconciliation is so powerful, and so is our God.

If you'd like to help advance the Gospel to see others like Edier receive Christ, you can give here.

Tags: prison, crime, transformation prison ministry, colombia, pablo escobar,

Stories of Global Impact: Meet Mangali

October 1 2019

Meet Mangali Subba.

Mangali resides in northeastern India in a state that borders Tibet. She is from a staunch Hindu background, but recently accepted Jesus and was baptized after hearing the Gospel faithfully shared for 10 years. Mangali is 87 years old!

For many years, our ECC India worker Pastor Abedan steadfastly shared the Good News with Mangali and her family. Her husband, Pona, was the first to accept Christ in 2009 before passing away from throat cancer in 2011.

Pastor Abedan continued to visit Mangali and pray for the family, lovingly sharing the love of Christ through the years on each visit. We praise the Lord that last year Mangali accepted the gift of Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and was baptized.

She then shared the love of Jesus with her eldest son, Sonchaman, and he, too, made the decision to follow Jesus. He was later baptized and today is an ECC trainer, taking the Gospel to the surrounding villages.

If you'd like to help advance the Gospel to see others like Mangali receive Christ, you can give here.

Tags: gospel share, india, ecc, evangelism,

Philippines Ministry to the Mangyan - New Zealand Team

September 25 2019

“Join me, everyone! Let’s praise the Lord together. Let’s make him famous! Let’s make his name glorious to all!” Psalm 34:3 (TPT).

In the Philippines, on the Island of Mindoro, the Mangyan people lived out their days as squatters on the land. They had no toilets, no electricity, their water came from a well on top of the hill, and many of the children helped their parents work instead of getting an education.

In 2009, Ps Rely and Lalaine Samonte (Pastors of JCM in Malolos, Philippines) had a divine encounter with the Chief of the Mangyan tribe. They had a great desire to plant a church in this village and give the community hope. That same year, OMS New Zealand partnered with Rely and Lalaine and embarked on a life-changing journey.

Ten years later, the Mangyan community are living with hope. Their church continues to grow each year, bringing the good problem of needing to extend the church building. They now have running water in their homes, electricity through the village, toilet blocks, and a daycare building in their community. Children are now being sponsored and are able to attend school. Last year, we celebrated Donna, the first of the Mangyan community to graduate high school and begin a University degree!

This community is a real testament to the goodness of God! They now have faith in God, and many have been reborn and baptized! Ps Rely and his team travel often to the village to support and train the Mangyan people. Many in the community have risen into leadership positions and are now beginning to take the Gospel into neighbouring villages.

OMS NZ has taken teams to the Philippines on short term missions for the past 10 years and will continue to do so, as God is far from finished with the Mangyan people. We encourage you to join us on our next team. We’d love to have you utilize your unique giftings in partnership with our Filipino friends! Click over to our contact page to get in touch!

Tags: philippines, outreach to unreached, mangyan, evangelism,

Saci Seeks Jesus at English Camp in Hungary

August 23 2019

All week, it had been difficult to get the group to talk. They weren’t connecting well with each other or with the topics at camp. One girl, Saci,* had especially closed herself off from the group, sitting guarded with her arms crossed and seemingly disinterested in sharing, even though she spoke great English. I wondered if she even wanted to be there.

As the week progressed, she remained uninterested, though she showed a little more warmth by Thursday evening. On Friday night, we had a local pastor come in and share his testimony. In the conversation group following, we give the kids an opportunity to respond. We decided to split our group into boys and girls, in hopes that this would make them more comfortable in opening up.

We sat with our chairs in a circle. Saci sat a bit away with her arms crossed. I shared my testimony and why I had come to camp and then asked the girls what they thought of God. After a few minutes of sharing opinions on faith and life struggles, Saci began to cry—a reaction that spread to the other girls. She asked us, “Am I the only one that doesn’t want camp to end?”

I was so surprised. She shared with us that last year was her first camp and that both then and now she had noticed how everyone was so happy, joyful, and nice and that maybe she needed some of this Jesus in her life. She wasn’t ready to make a decision, but she began to understand why she needed Jesus.

By the end of the group session, Saci had pulled her chair into our circle, and I was able to pray with the group and later with her one-on-one. The camp is done, but our communication is not. As we continue our conversation as pen pals, I look forward to helping her along her faith journey, and I am thankful for the journey that God took me on that week as well.

~OMS Hungary Missionary

When you give to the OMS Global Impact Fund you are helping individuals like Saci to know Jesus and the transforming message of the Gospel.

Will you consider giving to the Global Impact Fund today?

*Name withheld for privacy.

Tags: english camp, hungary, ministry in hungary, youth ministry,

Deaf Estonian Earns Theology Degree

August 23 2019

Meet Riho, the first deaf Estonian to earn a degree in theology! For three years we had sign language translators for our classes, working with Riho to complete his studies. In the 1990s Riho planted a deaf church in Tallinn that has sent missionaries to work with deaf people in China, Jordan, across Russia, and beyond.

His courage and commitment are incredible, but Riho recognized the need for in-depth teaching to help him take his congregation deeper in their understanding of God. Teaching Riho was a real honor. Pray that God will reward his hard work with much fruit among the deaf community!

By Mark Nelson, OMS Missionary in Estonia

Tags: estonia, theology, seminary, deaf ministry, deaf student

Blessing a Colombian Widow After Tragedy

August 5 2019

After an armed paramilitary group martyred her husband, a man who had served as the pastor of a One Mission Society-founded church in Colombia, Angi* began praying daily and fasting weekly. She prayed constantly that God would provide for her family and reveal his faithfulness to her and her children, who had lost faith after their father was killed for the sake of the Gospel. She prayed and fasted faithfully for seven years before I met her and heard her story. Her situation, while impossibly difficult, did not deter her from persistently seeking the presence of her heavenly Father and trusting him to provide for her needs and restore her family.

A little over a year ago, I met Angi and visited her in Córdoba, Colombia. I found her to be a quiet, humble woman. She said little and busied herself serving lunch to those of us who had come to meet her. She cooked a full, traditional Colombian lunch of soup, chicken, rice, and plantains over a fire behind her tiny house. We talked a little about her husband, their church-planting ministry, and the tragic reality of his death at the hands of violent men. Believing that God orchestrated this meeting, we prayerfully decided to give the global church the opportunity to provide a dignified home for this precious widow. Many of you responded and gave generously toward the construction of a new home.

During the construction, we noticed how the community paid close attention to what was happening and that her family was also present. Her grown children witnessed God´s faithfulness to his beloved servant, and I have seen a transformation in their hearts. They have returned to faith because the Lord heard and answered their mother’s persistent prayers of faith.

We are now completing the project by helping her open a small community store in the front bedroom of the house. Customers will approach the front window to purchase items from the full-service, general store. Remaining funds for the project will be used to add an awning, signage, shelving, refrigeration, and product inventory to begin the store, which Angi and her son will run. The beauty of this project is that God has provided a dignified home, a restored family, a strong testimony to the community, and a store that will produce an income source for Angi and will bless the neighborhood.

I am truly grateful for each person who gave toward this project and for those who prayed that God would provide for Angi and show his faithfulness. We have seen the answer to prayer on both accounts. Thank you for your faithfulness and generosity!

By Chris Williams, OMS Colombia Field Director

Tags: colombia, widow, martyr, pastor, new house

Stories of Global Impact: Meet Sarah

July 18 2019

One of the things we usually do when we visit Village Church Planting (VCP) training centers is to hear brief testimonies from all the students. This helps us understand local issues, victories experienced, and challenges as well.

During my recent visit to one of the VCP training centers in Kenya with Peter, our VCP supervisor, and Selestine, the Kenyan coordinator, we heard from Sarah.

Sarah shared with us that she was born as the result of her mother being raped, and that because of that, she had regularly experienced feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem most of her life.

Yet, since coming to Christ, and also through the teachings of OMS' VCP training, she now realizes that she was created for a purpose. Both she and her mother attend the VCP training, and they are nearing completion.

Out of her love for Christ, and inspired by what she is learning in VCP, she shared how each day from 4:00 to 5:00 AM she intentionally rides public transportation to preach the Gospel to other passengers.

We are so grateful to God for the work happening all over Africa. We are also thankful to our national workers, investing in lives like Sarah's to be a change-maker in Kenya.

If you would like to donate to our Global Impact Fund to see others like Sarah have transformed lives, click the icon below.

By Chuck Rapp, OMS Church Multiplication Facilitator for Africa

Tags: testimony, kenya, africa, village church planting, training,