Seeing OMF through fresh eyes
My first impressions of this thing that is called Overseas Missionary Fellowship
By Alana Bruce, OMF NZ Communications Coordinator
Honestly, it’s disorientating, coming into a 150 year old organisation. Everybody else seems to know all the lingo, the many, MANY acronyms, and the cultural intricacies and decade long traditions.
I have so much to learn.
I also don’t have any preconceived ideas. About what works, and what doesn’t. About how it has been, and how it will probably continue to be. And in that I am blessed, because I am in a position where I can have a childlike hope about what could be, and what could change. I know that sense of hope is very hard to maintain if you have experienced years of things seeming to stay the same.
Shireen Chua, one of the acting National Directors of the OMF NZ office, asked me what my perception of OMF was after one week. Frankly, I think my perception might be a little distorted after only working in the office for one day before Auckland went into lockdown, and then trying to learn my role while working from home.
However, I am beginning to get a taste for OMF, and I’m inclined to think it’s a bit like a bowl of ramen noodles. There are so many different moving parts, like slippery noodles, some of which seem to have very little connection to all or any of the other parts. There’s a crunchy bit of seaweed floating off there, and a tasty piece of mushroom perched on the edge of the bowl.
There are families that are devoting decades to learning the language and culture of little-reached or unreached people groups in Asia so that they can build relationship with them, maybe even translate the Bible into their dialect, and eventually show them God’s love. There are young people serving for a few months on outdoor adventure camps in South Thailand. There are opportunities to bless and disciple Japanese people in Ireland, and there are openings to live amongst and teach people in the Philippines how to take care of our earth and get the best from it agriculturally.
The diversity is endless, and it’s a strength, but it feels beautifully messy sometimes. I feel as if I’m swimming in it and trying to hold on to something. I know that a huge part of that feeling is just that I’m learning the ropes (or noodles) right now, and that the bowl is many layered with many facets.
After all, it’s a family recipe that has been developed over many generations, and has been tweaked and changed so that it looks very different now to how it must have looked to Hudson Taylor in 1865. But the thing that remains most consistent, bringing it all together, is the devotion to sharing the gospel. Something like a miso-based broth runs through it all in the form of the surrendering of comfortable lives in order to reach people who haven’t been reached. In the form of the willingness to go, the perseverance to pray, and the steadfastness to stay and support financially. A salty broth brings the flavours together just as the people in and involved with OMF seek to be salt bringers in their spheres.
OMF has the flavour of a vast wealth of experiences, and a depth of maturity that can only come about with age and the pressing in to growth and change. I can’t count the number of times I have heard the words innovation, creativity and reimagine since I became part of this OMF family only a few weeks ago. I’m blown away by how open minded and flexible most of the attitudes have been. People have reminded me that it will take time before there is significant change in OMF’s way of operating, and it may be an uphill journey initiating something new, and I’m sure there will be elements of that. But I’m really hopeful. Because from what I can see, OMF is open to God’s leading, and God is working in our hearts and minds. And from what I know about God, He is a creative and relevant God, aligning us with His heart as we remain soft and open to His invitations.