Nathaniel Jennings is a year into his role as OMF (UK)’s first Intercultural Ministries Director. We asked him to tell us more about what excites him about this new job.
Over 150 years after Hudson Taylor founded OMF as the China Inland Mission, our vision to share the good news of Jesus in all its fullness with East Asia’s people remains the same. Yet unprecedented global migration means our world today is radically different and changing fast.
We know God is the one who appoints the times and places people live ‘so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him’ (Acts 17:27). There are increasing opportunities to reach East Asians in our own towns and cities.
So how can we help UK and Irish churches not only continue sending cross-cultural workers to East Asia, but also share the good news of Jesus with their East Asian neighbours across the street? The Lord is also increasingly bringing gifted brothers and sisters in Christ to us from the global Church. How can we welcome them and partner to see God use them in building his Church in the UK and Ireland?
How do we respond?
My role and OMF (UK) Intercultural Ministries was born out of our desire to engage in the opportunities in all these areas. At the heart of intercultural ministry are relationships that go both ways, of giving and receiving from one another. A quarter of the UK evangelical church is from ethnic minority backgrounds. So, a key part of my job is helping OMF (UK) better engage with and reflect this reality and move beyond one-directional cross-cultural ministry.
Intercultural ministry is underpinned by an understanding that Jesus died and rose again to destroy the barriers between the Creator and his creation, but also all barriers between his followers. The apostle Paul tells us Jesus’ purpose was ‘was to create in himself one new humanity’ (Ephesians 2:15). Essential to our mission to share the good news of Jesus in all its fullness is to see his Church today reflect his coming kingdom where people of all tribes, tongues and nations (Revelation 7:9) will worship him in their beautiful diversity and wonderful unity. Intercultural church and mission are integral to the witness of the Church and credibility of the gospel we seek to show and share.
Over the last two years, we have partnered with Welcome Churches and Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM) to help churches share friendship and faith with the 150,000 Hong Kongers who have made the UK their home. It’s been a privilege to be part of this and extended us beyond the East Asian communities OMF has previously worked with in the UK, but there is much more we can do.
How can we build deeper links with East Asian diaspora churches here? COCM do great work supporting Chinese Churches in the UK in discipling Chinese believers and witnessing to other groups too. They have told us they would love for OMF to second cross-cultural workers to serve with them and we are excited to be moving in this direction.
Benji & Danni’s story
A highlight of my new role has been hearing the stories of the Christians God is bringing to these isles to build his Church here.
Benji & Danni moved to Belfast from the Philippines about 15 years ago. Benji to work as a mechanic and Danni as a nurse. They suffered greatly from racism and felt isolated when they arrived, but felt strongly that the Lord wanted to use them as his witnesses right where he had led them. Danni started a Bible study group in the hospital, which quickly grew to about 30 members. The group soon suggested they might also meet on Sundays under Danni & Benji’s leadership.
With the help and support of a couple of local Northern Irish churches, they were able to purchase a building formerly used by a Brethren Church whose own congregation had aged and stopped meeting, but who still long for their building to be used for Christian worship. Today the church has grown to about 70. The majority are Filipino, but they also have Northern Irish, Eastern European, African, and South American families as part of their congregation. On Sundays they worship, share lunch and spend the whole afternoon together. Benji says the children cry when their parents tell them they have to go home in the evening.
I’m looking forward to hearing many more stories like Benji & Danni’s as I continue to explore how we can connect people sharing Jesus Christ across the street and across the world.
OMF (UK) Intercultural Ministries Director