In the seventies, with members increasingly being drawn from so many different nationalities, OMF leadership recognised the need for a simple, memorable logo that could convey the ethos and values of the Fellowship without the constraints of culture or language. Read on to find out how the Praying Hands logo was designed.
By David Ellis
David and his wife Adèle served with OMF in Asia for about two decades before they returned to the UK in 1982. There they served in Glasgow where David was Associate Minister at St. George’s Tron until 1989 when he became the national director of OMF UK. David now lives in Dundee where he serves as an elder in the Free Church.
Mission Round Table Vol. 16 No. 2 (May-Aug 2021): 43
Back in the seventies, with members increasingly being drawn from so many different nationalities—each with their own language and script—OMF leadership recognised the need for a simple, memorable logo that could convey the ethos and values of the Fellowship without the constraints of culture or language. What they looked for was a symbol so simple and obvious that it didn’t need to have anything added or taken away to be instantly identifiable, a distinctive mark to be put on its publications.
Ideas for a suitable design poured in to IHQ. Most were too complicated. One impressive sample—drawn with flaming torches—was designed to convey the impression that OMF was a progressively dynamic mission. It earned the nickname “The Flaming Socks” and found a degree of acceptance until it was discovered to be too similar to the logo of a rather unsavoury militant organisation. It had to be binned.
The idea that stuck visualized the reality that CIM/OMF was born in prayer. Hudson Taylor had discovered progressively what it meant to really “Have faith in God” and hold onto his faithfulness, no matter what the odds. From prayer and practical experience grew the conviction that God’s work, done God’s way, would not lack God’s supply. And that way meant OMF would only progress when its members were on their knees. Could the significance of prayer and dependence on God for dynamic mission be encapsulated somehow into a simple logo that would project a message that was instantly recognisable?
Inspiration for the graphic design of hands in prayer came as I sat behind a truck in a Jakarta traffic jam, staring at a stencil on the side of a large crate illustrating two open hands under a box. No words were used, but its message was instantly recognisable—“This way up”!
So the hands together in prayer came to be sketched out with one unbroken line to highlight dependence on God and the bond of fellowship in prayer—the vital link forged between missionaries and prayer partners. This logo was immediately simple, memorable, and understandable in any language or culture.
While originally a simple line drawing, the design was fine-tuned with graphic precision by Shirley Benn so it could be legally registered in Singapore as an official logo of OMF International. It was only after the drawing attained its final form that we became aware of three distinct shapes within the logo. A central arrow rising between the hands at prayer and two arrows coming down, one through each hand. More symbolism appeared. As the cry of prayer went up from the heart of his people, the needed supply came down from the hand of God. This up and down dynamic for effective mission is essential for anyone who seeks to do God’s work, God’s way.