Have you ever wondered how people end up serving overseas in such diverse ways?
We caught up with three OMF workers to hear about how they got into their current ministries:
Action sports in Japan
On a typical Sunday in Japan there are probably more surfers in the water than Christians in churches.
In Hokkaido, Japan’s most northerly island, you’ll find scores of fanatical rubber-clad surfers braving the freezing waters. After smearing Vaseline on their faces to prevent frostbite, they endure numb limbs and even put their lives on the line in pursuit of their sport. Hokkaido is also home to Kazuhiro Kokubo, one of the most famous snowboarders alive, and to Niseko, Japan’s number one snow resort.
I’ve worked with OMF in Hokkaido for 10 years with surfing and snowboarding part of my ministry since 2018. An estimated 12 million people are involved in the snow, surf, and skating industries in Japan so these activities present a great opportunity to reach whole communities with the gospel. These people are unlikely to ever set foot in a church building.
l pray God might start a discipleship movement within the action-sports tribe
So I realised that the best way for me to bring the good news of Jesus to them was by becoming part of these communities myself. I needed to be out with them in the waves or on the slopes living an authentic, Jesus-filled life among them. I’ve found it is important to be willing to adjust to the subculture of the people you’re trying to reach. As I’ve got stuck in I’ve had opportunities to make friends and share God’s love. In time, I hope to make disciples who can transform their communities for Jesus. I pray God might use this to help start a discipleship movement within the action-sports tribe. A movement that could boost the Church and impact Japan.
You can see JP in action in an excellent short film To the Ends Film Series, Episode 1: Japan.
John & Joanna
Running a business in Southeast Asia
Our journey began with just our family and a few suitcases in a new land among people with very few opportunities to hear about Jesus. We wanted to be a witness in that land and sought the Lord about how we could do that for many years.
God first directed us to live and serve in a different country but among a similar people. This was a valuable time to learn and grow in our understanding of their faith and culture, as well as team leadership and team life. After our time there we started to explore the country we are now in. Through a series of vision, research and prayer trips the initial seed for running a missional business there was refined and confirmed. We started by developing a business plan, then consulted our organisation’s business advisors. We also did a lot of research and had several discussions with people in the country. Only after all these steps did we start to raise the capital needed to establish a business that could work in this context. A business that would not only be viable but also give the best opportunities to build relationships and witness to Christ. We shared with others our desire and God’s desire to bring his word to those who don’t have an opportunity to hear, asking them to pray for us as we walked by faith into this business venture.
we employ local people and get to rub shoulders with other locals every day
Now, several years in we employ local people and get to rub shoulders with other locals every day. However, it’s been challenging to balance work and our ultimate vision of pointing to Jesus. It’s also been a new challenge to work in the retail sector, especially in a small market where you’re always vulnerable.
Annelies & Sijmen den Hartog
Church planting in Thailand
We live in Isaan, the rural north-east region of Thailand, working as church planters. It’s funny that we ended up in a rural setting, as we used to live in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. We love both environments – as both have communities where we can meet people and introduce them to Jesus.
In Rotterdam we grew a longing to use our time talking with people about the Lord Jesus. During a short-term mission trip with our church, we connected with an OMF worker in Thailand, and doors to serve there began to open. We initially went for two years to see whether we could live in another country. Our enjoyment of living and working in Thailand increased, even amidst difficulties, and we saw God keeping the door open to stay in Thailand.
We long to see more small churches, led by Isaan people, telling their neighbours and relatives about Jesus.
We have been working as church planters in Isaan since 2006. There are very few churches for the 21 million Isaners. It’s one of the reasons we are working here. Amazingly, the population of Isaan is larger than the whole of the Netherlands (17 million). Travel in this rural setting is difficult, so we long to see more smaller churches in the different villages. Day to day we share the good news, teaching people how to pray and follow Jesus. The young Christians will come along to visit people in the villages and learn on-the-job to tell about their meeting with Jesus, explaining the Bible and how to pray. We long to see more small churches, led by Isaan people, telling their neighbours and relatives about Jesus.