At OMF, we’re passionate about helping every Christian and every local church find their place in God’s global plan. Around the UK and Ireland, our full-time Area Representatives seek to do just that. They’re supported by Bridge Asia: teams of volunteers aiming to connect local churches with East Asia. We caught up with the team in Ireland to hear about what they’ve been up to.
Nathaniel Jennings, OMF Area Representative for Ireland, shares: ‘For me it has been tremendously encouraging to feel part of a team seeking to see folk in Ireland engaging in God’s work’.
Before, he ‘was trying to do everything’ himself – from planning events and mentoring people interested in short-term mission to equipping supporters and encouraging prayer. So having the Bridge Asia team working alongside him for the last few years has ‘multiplied’ and ‘enriched what we do here on behalf of OMF’. He adds, ‘We’re doing more things, and more creative things than I ever thought possible because each person brings their own gifts and their own ideas … I really see the volunteers as my co-workers … all working towards the same goal.’
‘For example, one of our Bridge Asia volunteers, Ruth, is very passionate about books and children hearing about people spreading the good news of Jesus from an early age. She got a load of Hudson Taylor biographies and challenged the team to each find someone to give the book and a bar of chocolate to. Seeing people using their own creativity and ideas, it’s been really neat.’
In 2016 Beth retired from long-term service with OMF, but ‘still felt very much part of the OMF wider family’ and wanted to stay involved. Through Bridge Asia, Beth now uses her years of experience to encourage and support prayer groups, and writes the OMF Ireland monthly prayer newsletter. Beth says: ‘I have [also] enjoyed the connections made in our team meetings, as we have planned programmes and developed themes for various events, including NextGen weekends, day conferences and Saturday breakfast events.’
Organising these events is a real team effort, both in planning and on the day. The volunteer team also helps OMF to connect with a wider network of Christians and churches in Ireland because they themselves represent a diversity of backgrounds. ‘The different ages, stages and experience really enrich each one of us as we seek to serve,’ Nathaniel adds.
James & Heather, a young couple in their 30s, went on a Serve Asia trip to Japan in 2013. James says they have been inspired to promote short-term opportunities in particular with ‘young-ish’ people since then. They help plan OMF events for young people in Ireland, including an online NextGen event this February, where OMF General Director Patrick Fung was the main speaker, live from Singapore!
Nathaniel comments that Bridge Asia can be a great option for people like James & Heather, who aren’t in a position to go, or don’t feel called to go long-term. ‘They’re very active in their local church and local ministry, but they’re still passionate for East Asia. By being part of the Bridge Asia team, they’re still able to be involved in sharing the good news of Jesus in East Asia while being based here.’ Being part of Bridge Asia has local benefits too. As team members’ vision and faith grow seeing God at work around the world, it’s been a joy to see them become ‘more vibrant Christians’ in their own neighbourhoods and churches, Nathaniel shares.
More recently the Bridge Asia team has studied MomentumYes, a free online course. The biblical, video-based series ‘starts wherever people are and takes them on a journey to explore how they can be fully engaged in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ’, Nathaniel explains. The team is now looking to run it with their churches and other interested groups.
James said: ‘I found the course engaging and challenging. I’ve learnt that I don’t need to put telling the good news about Jesus into a bubble or into just one area of my life; it is so much more than that.’
Beth agreed: ‘This has made me more aware of the variety of practical ways in which we can encourage others to get involved.’
‘Our hope and prayer’, Nathaniel concludes, ‘is that, as church groups engage with this course, they will understand afresh that every believer is to be engaged in God’s work, and that this will in turn lead to more people showing and sharing the goodness and grace of God locally and across cultures and geography.’