In the Jan. – April 2020 issue of OMS Outreach, we shared this story about Fatima from OMS missionaries Roger and Glenda Kruse. Fatima lives in the Nilgiri Hills of South India, famous for its tea. However, something more than tea was brewing. Every Community for Christ church planters Joshua* and his mother Naomi* were led to visit Fatima, a bedridden widow living alone and without hope. They lovingly prayed for and shared the Good News of Jesus with her. Fatima’s face beamed with tears of joy as her life was changed forever.
But here is the rest of the story …
Not long before this happened, Joshua and Naomi were themselves on the verge of ending their lives by taking poison. Instead, they became instruments of blessing to Fatima and so many others. In fact, they have a big vision to reach multiple villages in India where members of their people group call home.
God is at work, and he can use anyone to do his ministry!
Recent events in Africa break our hearts. But you can give hope this Christmas!
Terrorists recently attacked an OMS village church plant in Sirgagui, Burkina Faso, killing eight individuals for their Christian faith. Two were pastors. These are the widows of those pastors.
Terrorism in this nation has led to the displacement of thousands of believers who are unable to return home.
Relief assistance for these families is needed now.
With your help, we can provide basic aid kits to these displaced families, including rice, corn, and cooking oil, as well as help cover funeral costs, purchase chickens and sheep for future income, and provide scholarships for the children of those slain to attend school.
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.
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
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
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.
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.