​Contemplative Questions from a Hungarian Bath

June 22 2016

Fall break in Budapest: My journey to OMS headquarters

“Have you thought about what you want to do?”

I stared at my friend Lauren Pupillo (an OMS missionary serving in Hungary) as we sat in the gigantic Gellért thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary. People lounged in the warm, jacuzzi-like pools, but I stiffened up when Lauren asked me that question.

What I want to do … with my life? I wasn’t sure.

I had studied abroad for the fall semester during my junior year in Florence, Italy. During my fall break, with encouragement from Lauren, I traveled to Budapest for the week. Lauren graciously opened her home to me and showed me around the city. I saw museums, government buildings, historical landmarks and memorials, tried amazing food, learned more about Hungarian culture, and saw Lauren and her fellow missionaries at One Mission Society (OMS) work together to create programs and witness to the Hungarians about Jesus Christ.

Amidst the fun and chaos of that week, there were moments, like the moment in the baths, where we both could be still and quiet and just talk together. It was refreshing. But the question of what I wanted to do in the future always made me squirm.

I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do that upcoming summer, let alone after graduation.

I told Lauren that I wanted to apply for internships but wasn’t sure where to look, and she mentioned that One Mission Society offered internships in the summer.

That was the last time we talked about that topic for the rest of the week. After that, we continued to explore, and I continued to see Lauren and the others in action on the mission field. They lived together and served God together. I quickly fell in love with the city that they loved, and I was fascinated with the work they were doing to reach out to people. I was awestruck at their selflessness and spur-of-the-moment service to organize projects or help people in need, as well as the struggles that came with it.

When I returned to Italy, I started my internship search. I hadn’t forgotten Lauren’s plug about OMS, so I went to their site and came across a summer communications/journalism internship at the OMS headquarters in Indiana. Having a major in journalism (the second in theatre), I was instantly drawn to the opportunity to work at an organization I was familiar with, having the privilege of telling stories about the work that was going on in the world for God’s glory.

I didn’t wait and connected with OMS immediately to start the application process. That was in November. Months later, after I returned from Italy and started my spring semester at my university, I got a call from Greenwood, Indiana. I had gotten the position.

Fast forward to May of 2016. After a long day of travel, I finally made it to Indiana to start my OMS summer internship. Looking back on the whole process, I have to praise God for the opportunity. Who knew a simple invitation to spend a week in Budapest would bring about a two-month writing internship?

I am excited and full of energy as I begin this summer at One Mission Society. But I know there will be some big challenges. Apart from the multiple projects the Communications Department has to work on, I also have to circle back to the question Lauren asked me months ago in Budapest: what do I want to do? But the question has lost some urgency in my mind as I look around at where I am and who I’m surrounded by. The people at One Mission Society, here at headquarters and abroad in places like Budapest, have something contagious in them. There’s no mistaking the presence of God here. There’s no mistaking the passion they have for that “One Mission” of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So now, instead of constantly thinking about myself and my future career, the bigger question that arises is this:

How can I do what I am called to do right now with that same passion?

Ever since arriving, I am constantly thanking God for bringing me here. I can see His hand guiding me since my time abroad. I pray that I can feel His guiding hand again as I seek to do His work and answer this new question on my mind while working at OMS.

From Budapest to Greenwood and beyond, I look forward to this journey ahead of me.

Jess Mitchell serves as a summer Communications intern at the OMS World HQ in Greenwood, Indiana.

Tags: hungary, italy, intern, internship, communications, journey,

​Shining Light into Bellavista Prison

June 21 2016

In what was once Colombia’s most violent city, God is at work in the hearts of the prisoners and staff at Bellavista men’s prison. Ministries like Bridge to Reading (B2R), One Mission Society’s literacy ministry, step into the famous penitentiary in Medellin, Colombia, to bring not just education but the Good News of salvation.

Here are a few powerful stories overflowing from Bellavista:

Bridge to Reading was invited in 2013 by the government of Colombia to help expand efforts to teach prisoners how to read. B2R founder Connie Schwein, Nathan Davis, and I trained a group of prison administration staff, as well as several volunteers from Prison Fellowship Colombia (PFC) in Medellin to serve as literacy tutors.

Our team had been inside the huge, overcrowded Bellavista prison for a couple of afternoons in 2013 to give our tutors the opportunity to practice their new skills with actual students who had little or no ability to read. We had seen the excitement on their faces as they reported how these practice sessions went.

A year later, in July 2014, Nathan and I returned to offer a tutor training workshop inside Bellavista men’s prison, and then, they held a training of trainers.

When we planned to return to the prison in 2014, we were already aware that it would be a challenging environment in which to teach the entire workshop. There are reminders every day that the prison is not there to accommodate us. We must adjust to whatever changes and restrictions are placed on us: when we can enter, when we must leave, where we will meet, when our students can come to class, when there will be an unannounced roll-call, and so forth. The acoustics in the classrooms are atrocious, and classes can come to a complete halt thanks to a band playing during a graduation party on the patio next door.

The solution in every case is to adapt quickly and never take your eyes off the goal: to be an expression of the love of Jesus. We remember that many missionaries and national believers lost their lives trying to pry the door open so that we could walk through it.

We recall the story of how Bellavista has been changed from the inside out by the power of the Gospel carried inside by people like OMSer Jeannine Brabon, the Colombia-born daughter of OMS missionaries, and Lácides Hernández, president of Prison Fellowship of Colombia.

As a young woman, Jeannine was one of the first to minister in the extremely violent prison. At that time, Bellavista was experiencing several murders every week. As the Gospel took hold, despite fierce opposition, the murder rate dropped. The gates of hell were not able to withstand the assault by the church of Jesus Christ. Lácides has expanded the outreach pioneered at Bellavista to prisons across Colombia.

Reflecting on the past efforts of missionaries and the impact they had through God’s power, we remind ourselves that the chance to shine the light in this dark place is worth whatever inconvenience we may encounter.

By Wendy McDermott, Bridge to Reading editor and coordinator for Latin America

Please join us in praying for Colombia:

  • That volunteers from Prison Fellowship, local churches, and other ministries will continue to have an open door at every prison, and that God will reveal himself through undeniable evidence of his power and love through them.
  • That the prisoners and prison staff would have opportunities to encounter God through the volunteers and the believers inside the prison.
  • That the believers in the prison will grow in their relationship with God, experience inner freedom in the Lord, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses through everything that they say and do.
  • That our trainers would have opportunities to teach the Colombian church how to use Bridge to Reading as a tool of evangelism in their communities.

Bellavista’s story of transformation continues in next week’s final blog post.

Visit the Bridge to Reading website to learn more at http://bridge2reading.org/. To give to the ministry, click here.

Tags: bridege to reading, literacy ministry, tutoring, colombia prisons,

​Literacy Bridges Distance

June 15 2016

Imagine having to walk more than 18 miles just to get to school. At an average rate of 15 minutes per mile, it would take four and a half hours to get there and another four and a half hours to return.

For Patrick Pankolet, from the Central African Republic (CAR), this was his reality. Because of the 30-kilometer distance (over 18 miles) between his village and the nearest school, Patrick was never able to attend, thus he was never able to attain literacy. At 30 years old, this is a problem that many people in his generation have, he said.

But later, another church, one closer to Patrick’s village, presented One Mission Society’s Bridge to Reading (B2R) program. After Patrick heard about the program, he and some of his friends decided to register.

From the beginning, Patrick said that the B2R sessions taught him new literacy skills.

“From the first session, I began to put in writing the words that were coming out in my mouth,” he said.

Gradually, Patrick was able to identify the alphabet and their meanings in a word. Now, he can read what is written in the classrooms, as well as read his new Bible daily. He thanks God for the Bridge to Reading ministry and those who initiated it.

One Mission Society’s international Bridge to Reading literacy ministry provides tutoring in reading, writing, and basic mathematics to teens and adults in several countries in Africa and South America. Through this program, B2R staff also have an opportunity to present the Gospel to people.

One of the powerful aspects of B2R is that it is being used in areas where the need for literacy is strong yet inaccessible, whether by distance or circumstance.

The Bridge to Reading ministry also impacted 62-year-old Veronique Sango, also from CAR. Veronique never had the opportunity to attend school. As the eldest child in her family, she stayed home to help her mother take care of her younger siblings. When she grew up, Veronique had eight children of her own.

“I’ve never been in a school,” she said. “I didn’t write, read, or count, and I didn’t know what to do to get out of this situation.”

When B2R came to Veronique’s church, she started the program and never missed a single course. In less than three months, she learned how to read, write, and count.

Because of these new skills, Veronique said she can now take her own notes, write letters to her parents in the village, count her money and goods, and most importantly read her Bible every day.

“I bless the Lord for this ministry, which has been very beneficial for me,” Veronique said.

God is doing great things in places like CAR, but that isn’t the only place he is working. Next week, we will travel to a prison in Colombia to see how God is transforming lives through his Word and Bridge to Reading.

Please pray for the Central African Republic, especially for peace after the recent war and presidential election.

Also, please pray for Bridge to Reading:

  • Please pray for volunteers from many countries who train tutors and teach adults and adolescents to read in Africa and Colombia.
  • Pray for the Lord’s provision of time and energy for tutors as they stretch themselves to be literacy volunteers in their local churches.
  • Pray for the evidence of fruit of the Spirit in each tutor and trainer’s life to be joyfully patient, kind, and longsuffering.
  • Pray for physical safety for people in war-ravaged areas who need God’s protection to travel from their home to the local church for tutoring.

Visit the Bridge to Reading website to learn more at http://bridge2reading.org/. To give to the ministry, click here.

Tags: literacy, reading, africa ministry, bridge to reading, central african republic, tutors,

Literacy Brings Life

June 7 2016

Have you ever considered being able to read and write as a gift instead of just a skill?

Through the gift of literacy, we have an opportunity to read personal testimonies from people around the world who were touched by God through the Gospel and the Bridge to Reading literacy program.

B2R’s ministry uses trained tutors to teach literacy skills to adults and teens. They also give students the opportunity to read the Bible, hear the Gospel, and understand it. God works through B2R to transform people, and they, in turn, show God’s love to their community.

John Ndagano is one of those people. He was an evangelist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) but couldn’t read his Bible. There was a military camp next to John’s village that didn’t have a chaplain. When John went to the camp to minister, he was chased away, suspected of being a spy after he failed to read Scripture.

“The first time I came to the camp, the commander asked me to read Matthew 10:17, but I could not,” John said. “I used to walk around with my Bible, but I didn’t know how to read.”

When John heard about the B2R literacy program in another neighborhood, he attended and eventually could read and write Swahili. After three years of literacy training, John returned to that same military camp, where the same commander he had met years before was still stationed.

“I told him that I have now come to pay the full price, to be beaten, before I preach to him. He told me that he wanted first to hear the Good News and after that he will beat me,” John said.

John preached to the officer. Four months later, the commander got baptized. Now, every Monday John is invited to the military camp to preach to the troops.

Yvonne Nsimire Rutikanga, also from the DRC, is another person who has gained literary skills and spiritual maturity from God by working through B2R.

B2R’s literacy program started in Yvonne’s church, and she decided she wanted to be a tutor. Yvonne returned to school so she could help contribute more to the growth of her church and attain her goal. After her successful literacy training, Yvonne began tutoring others in her church.

One year ago, Yvonne said that she received the gift of a goat from the husband of a woman she tutored. The husband was happy to see that his wife could read and write because of Yvonne’s efforts to teach her.

“Literacy brought courage, happiness, and fortune in my life,” Yvonne said.

The personal testimonies will continue next week in B2R’s next spotlight post. Check back next week to read more stories of people’s lives being changed by the power of God.

Please pray that Bridge to Reading can continue to glorify God through its literacy ministry and for the Lord to show those involved how he wants to sustain this ministry in each country and each church.

Please also join us in praying with the B2R team for Colombia:

That volunteers from Prison Fellowship, local churches, and other ministries will continue to have an open door at every prison, and that God will reveal himself through undeniable evidence of his power and love through them.

That the prisoners and prison staff would have opportunities to encounter God through the volunteers and the believers inside the prison.

That the believers in the prison will grow in their relationship with God, experience inner freedom in the Lord, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses through everything that they say and do.

That our trainers would have opportunities to teach the Colombian church how to use Bridge to Reading as a tool of evangelism in their communities.

Visit the Bridge to Reading website to learn more at http://bridge2reading.org/. To give to the ministry, click here.

By Jess Mitchell, OMS Summer Communications Intern

Tags: bridge to reading, literacy ministry, africa, colombia, tutoring, reading, learning to read,

​Can You Read This?

June 2 2016

If you’ve reached this blog post, chances are you can read the words on this page.

Imagine if you couldn’t.

That means you couldn’t navigate web pages, read books, understand certain street signs, and most likely you also wouldn’t be able to write.

Most of the world’s population can function in society with at least a basic literacy level. But statistics from UNESCO show that 17 percent of adults still cannot. In a world that relies heavily on the written word, illiteracy poses a serious problem for people who still need these skills.

That’s where ministries like Bridge to Reading step in.

Bridge to Reading (B2R) is One Mission Society’s international literacy project. Its main objective is to provide adults and teens with literacy services, while also giving them the opportunity hear the Gospel. By partnering with local churches in countries with a high illiteracy population, B2R works to tutor students in reading, writing, and basic mathematics.

B2R is different from traditional ways of teaching reading in a couple of significant ways. The first is in terms of the way students learn to read, which centers on the “Bridge to Reading Story.” The student tells a story, and the tutor writes it down word for word. The students learn to read their own stories rather than stories that someone else has chosen for them. Then, the students choose several words from their own story that they want to learn as sight words. Those words become the basis for the letters and syllables (phonics) that the students study.

The second difference is in terms of the relationship between the student and the teacher. B2R is a highly student-centered approach based on proven principles of effective adult education. B2R revolves around a teacher-student relationship that is a collaboration between peers. The students identify their own literacy goals, and the tutor helps them achieve those goals.

Both of these emphases stand in contrast to what many of B2R’s tutors and students have experienced in past academic environments.

Currently, B2R estimates that around 3,000 adults and teens are learning to read through its program in churches in Colombia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi. In 2015, field supervisors have also reported that 378 people made decisions to follow Jesus Christ through the B2R literacy program.

But statistics can only give us a fraction of the picture of God’s impact through B2R. Through the power of words, we can read and connect with the personal stories from students and tutors who have been involved in this ministry and how God has worked in their lives. Check out the OMS blog next week to have the privilege of reading testimonies from B2R staff and students.

We invite you to join the B2R team by praying with us for Colombia:

  • That volunteers from Prison Fellowship, local churches, and other ministries will continue to have an open door at every prison, and that God will reveal himself through undeniable evidence of his power and love through them.
  • That the prisoners and prison staff would have opportunities to encounter God through the volunteers and the believers inside the prison.
  • That the believers in the prison will grow in their relationship with God, experience inner freedom in the Lord, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses through everything that they say and do.
  • That our trainers would have opportunities to teach the Colombian church how to use Bridge to Reading as a tool of evangelism in their communities.

Visit the Bridge to Reading website to learn more at http://bridge2reading.org/. To give to the ministry, click here.

By Jess Mitchell, One Mission Society Summer Intern, Communications

Tags: literacy, reading, colombia, prisons, tutoring,