I’m married to a teacher, a man who has spent many years refining his skills teaching teenagers. God is using him to help missionary families stay on the field by teaching their children in an international school in Japan.
I’m not a teacher but I write and edit. I’m the managing editor of Japan Harvest, a magazine that supports and encourages missionaries in Japan. I’m also an Occupational Therapist and use this skill set in volunteer work with missionary children.
My husband and I are two OMF missionaries. We’re one family unit, yet with diverse gifts and ministries.
How do you describe a typical OMF missionary? Can you do it in less than 10 words? I can’t. OMF missionaries come from more than 40 different countries; we are a diverse group. Not only do we come to OMF with different passports, we come with diverse gifts, personalities and skills.
How do you describe a typical East Asian? Can you do it in less than 10 words? I can’t. East Asians are as diverse as the missionaries who seek to reach them. East Asians live in remote settings and in megacities. They are educated and illiterate, rich and poor. They are international and parochial. They have specific interests, personalities and skills, just like missionaries do.
How do you describe a typical OMF ministry? Can you do it in less than 10 words? Our OMF leadership couldn’t. They’ve written this mission statement for OMF International: ‘We share the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fullness with East Asia’s peoples to the glory of God.’ We serve in diverse contexts that require varied approaches.
No single way
There is no single way to do cross-cultural ministry. At the time Hudson Taylor began his ministry everyone was doing it ‘the British way’. He decided to do something different and reach Chinese from a new angle. So he began the CIM with the emphasis on learning language and culture and living the Chinese way.
Paul also said that ministry could be done in diverse ways, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some’ (1 Cor. 9:22b, NIV). In other words, to reach Asian businessmen, sometimes we need to send a businessman.
In 1 Cor. 12 Paul compared the body of believers to a human body. He affirmed that we aren’t all alike, that we have different gifts and are all enabled to serve in varying capacities in the Church. That doesn’t change when we hop on a plane. We take those gifts with us. It is true that missionaries are frequently called upon to do things we didn’t anticipate, or that we aren’t skilled in. But there is good sense in having the latitude in our ministry, as a mission that allows missionaries to use their specific abilities and gifts to further the kingdom of God.
OMF is deeply committed to church planting, telling God’s truth and building his Church in East Asia. There are no substitutes for evangelism, discipleship and church planting. However, OMF is also committed to creative ways of doing these. There is more than one way to spread the good news, and this is reflected in the vast array of ministries you see OMF missionaries involved in.
In OMF we have teachers, street dancers, mums, cooks, students, chaplains, musicians, business managers, IT experts, leaders, hosts, doctors, accountants and many others. We’re all using the abilities God has given us to reach East Asia’s peoples with the good news.
OMF is not about letting missionaries just do their own thing, but neither do we force missionaries to fit into a rigid blueprint of how to do ministry. Each field has historical experience of a variety of ministries, and a strategic plan that encapsulates how we visualise ministry continuing in the future, but leadership is also open to new ideas.
There is no typical OMF missionary. Nor is there a typical East Asian nor typical OMF ministry.
Let’s embrace the richness of our diversity.