The Shape of OMF Today

Our Assistant General Director, Steve & Anna, shed some light on the people that make up OMF International today.

How many members are there in OMF currently? 1

We currently have more than 1400 members – those serving with us long-term, mainly working cross-culturally.

If we include staff, high-impact volunteers, retirees, children and partners for whom we have a responsibility, then that number rises to over 3,000 people. In addition, more than 500 short-term workers participate in our Serve Asia programme each year.

We must also give thanks to God for the many who are faithfully giving to and praying for the work of OMF International.

 How many nations do workers come from?

Over the last 20 years, the range of nationalities within OMF has increased significantly. OMF now has workers from more than 40 nations, representing the continents of North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australasia.

What is the ethnic make-up of OMF today? 2

A person’s ethnicity can be very hard to pin down. Several ethnicities can be represented in one person who may also claim a different nationality from their ethnic background. We now have several centres that are majority ethnically Asian.

Dozens of ‘mother-tongues’ are spoken in OMF which often relate to ethnicity. Some centres have more than a dozen different nationalities and fifteen or more mother tongues!

How about marriage and singleness in OMF?

Around 80 per cent of the long-term workers are married. There is approximately a 40/60 male female split in OMF. The vast majority of our single workers are women with 10 single women for every single man.

Where are we seeing growth in sending contexts?

In the six years from 2008 to 2014, Australia and New Zealand have shown the fastest growth, and a high proportion of their new joiners are from ethnic Asian churches.

Asian homesides have also grown rapidly by nearly 15 per cent overall in this time period. There are now hundreds of long-term workers being sent from the countries we have traditionally sent workers to.

The number sent from Western Europe and North America remains stable, with a rise in interest in and commitment to cross-cultural mission from ethnic Asian churches in these countries.

Have there been changes in where OMF places cross-cultural workers?

Over the last 25 years we have seen a 200 per cent increase in those working in creative access contexts while still maintaining a commitment to open access work.

In open access contexts, we have stopped sending workers to South Korea and Hong Kong in view of the strength and maturity of the church in those locations. In Japan field size remained steady over a 20 year period, but more recently there has been growth with a large number of young people heading there. Our work in Cambodia has seen rapid growth that was an impossible dream thirty years ago. Working with the Asian Diaspora in Africa has been another interesting development with OMF placing workers in East Africa for the first time.

For creative access contexts, since 1990, work in China and related regions has changed beyond recognition and vastly expanded. With China re-establishing political and trade links with the world during this period, we have seen hundreds of cross-cultural professional workers pouring into China. We have teams in a diverse range of roles from working among influencers in busting cosmopolitan cities; centering on the peoples of the high plateaus of North Western China and Mongolia to embracing the challenge of China’s 50+ minority peoples.

Most recently we have seen fresh opportunities in Myanmar and Vietnam. Myanmar is poised for growth with major changes in the political landscape creating new possibilities. The Vietnam team is longing to see a commitment sparked in sending contexts providing people to take up the range of opportunities currently available. 

How long do OMF workers serve?

Although there may be some errors, over the decades CIM/OMF have been careful in keeping records. The total number of those on our 150 year old registers as long-term workers is just over 7, 500 individuals.

It may seem a relatively small number of people but they gave many years of service. The average length of service for all those joining CIM in 1919 was about 33 years per person. The average length of service today is about two decades, with workers often giving the most productive years of their lives.

Offering Christ to the people

John Wesley, the influential preacher and theologian who saw an indigenous Biblical church movement ignited across Britain, kept a journal of his itinerant ministry. Day after day, he would write at some point, ‘Today I offered Christ to the people’. Like Wesley, we see our primary calling as offering Christ to the people. Whatever the changes we may see in the years to come, may we be found faithful and obedient, with our focus on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fullness with the peoples of East Asia to the glory of God.

  1. Data source for responses is the International Personnel System
  2. In several countries we are not allowed by law to collect data on ethnicity so we can’t report on this quickly and easily

Watch Passengers (2016)