God at work in lockdown
In the past, OMF has helped establish the Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines (ABCCOP). We now work alongside and support this network of churches, mainly by helping to train its pastors and workers.
In recent years, one of the training courses has been seeking to equip these pastors and workers to make disciples and plant churches. Over a hundred ABCCOP workers had taken the course. Dozens more have taken a short version of it. A handful applied much of what they learned and their ministries were bearing significant fruit.
Then COVID-19 happened. Large gatherings were prohibited, and most pastors and workers in the provinces lack the resources and skills needed to shift to online corporate activities. One concern was that their members would drift away from the faith during lockdown. However, several of these pastors and workers recalled their training and realised that the course provided ideas that they could apply. Through Facebook Messenger, they contacted each household in the church and asked them to hold regular activities as a family. They also sent outlines for household devotions, prayer meetings and worship services.
Many families began using the materials; they are both remaining faithful and growing in faith. Fathers are developing as spiritual leaders. In some places, neighbours overhear the singing and ask to be taught how they can hold similar activities.
Going deeper online
Just before COVID–19 interrupted our lives, I started up an online instant messaging group with my ‘Going Deeper’ advanced English class. After just a few months the group – the majority of whom aren’t Christians – are reading the Bible and talking about Jesus with one another.
Over the past few years, God had gathered this group of eleven from near and far, through a number of personal contacts. Aside from three Christians, most have a broadly pantheistic worldview, but I see evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts and lives. When the pandemic meant we were no longer able to meet in person, I started initiating short, written conversations to encourage the members to think critically about a variety of topics from a Christian perspective, from Japanese Shintoism to abortion, women’s rights to literature and movies, and of course COVID–19. Then after a few months, I started fortnightly online classes, continuing to look at society and current events. Sensing that some of the women were open to exploring Christianity more intentionally, I offered to start a reading group of the book of Acts every other week for those who were interested, resulting in all of them signing up to read. We look at questions like: ‘What do you like/dislike about this story?’, ‘What do you learn about God?’ and ‘What do you want to keep thinking about or do this week?’
The women have engaged enthusiastically and it’s exciting to hear the profound insights they come up with, and to see the non-Christians talk to each other about Jesus. This group with its growing culture of trust, transparency, and looking below the surface, is learning to see the world differently.
OMF New Zealand/OMF Japan
Progress at the Shopworkers Church
In the January 2020 issue, we featured the central Taipei Shopworkers Church. Here’s an update of how God has been at work since then:
OMF’s work goes beyond planting churches. We also support them to see them grow and reach out, both to those around them and to people around the world. The Shopworkers Church has planted small meetings in other cities in Taiwan and is now planning, when international travel is allowed, to send a team of young people overseas to the church in rural Myanmar they’ve been supporting with prayer and finance for the last couple of years.
A big step forward at a Sunday service in summer 2020 was sending their 13 young people to an aboriginal village in the mountains. They went for a week to run children’s activities through the church there and gain some cross-cultural experience in preparation for going overseas. This will fulfil a long-held dream of church members to share Jesus’ love beyond Taiwan. For many of the adults, it was unlikely they would be able to go themselves. Many, who are from difficult backgrounds, have met Jesus later in life. Nevertheless, they should soon have the joy of seeing the next generation take up the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus’ love beyond Taiwan.
Give thanks with us for all God has been doing through the Shopworkers Church over the last 15 years. Praise him for how this incredible dream of sending people overseas looks to be coming true.
Find out more
To find out more and watch a video about the Shopworkers Church visit go.omf.org/shopworkersupdate