What is it like to return to OM after twenty years? What differences do you experience, compared with OM Belgium in the 1990’s?
“It is reassuring to find that OM is still OM; the commitment to God and to spread the Gospel is still there,” reflects Meryem, “and I love the new statement about seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached. We arrived when this was introduced, and this is why we wanted to come back: to see people turn to Christ and form vibrant communities.”
“OM is certainly much glossier than before,” states Martin, “and I wonder if we are putting too many obstacles in the way, for instance the high support level. Maybe we should start the ‘OM Classic experience’ with low cost and lower support, otherwise people would go to the Ship or South Africa even when it is not the best place for them, purely due to lack of support (and possibly later build support to work in Europe).”
Martin explains how OM Belgium has designed a three month volunteer program for those coming for a shorter time. The program, called fACTOR, includes practical work, spiritual input and personal mentoring, and may encourage those to join who might otherwise find the increased support level too much of a challenge. Even after its recent launch, several fACTOR volunteers are now returning - to visit, help out at the GO-conference or needing a mentor talk.
The Turners agree that one major positive change is the many long termers in OM, something they were longing for twenty years ago, when most team members would come to Belgium for a year, and some stayed longer but only after specific prayers had gone out that God would call people to long term ministry in Belgium.
“Another thing that has changed is that people in leadership positions no longer keep those positions 'for life', but hand over after a number of years,” says Meryem, and reflects: “And there is more people care. God’s church worldwide has changed, too—in the 80’s when we first joined OM, we prayed for South America and India, and for countries where Christ was not known, and now we see these same nations sending out missionaries.”
“We meet people from countries ‘closed’ to missionaries now active in specialist ministries, for instance translating the Bible into their language or help refugees from their countries. This is something we never saw in the 80’s and we hope to see this grow even more. It will make OM and our churches more diverse and help us keep changing and growing,” concludes Meryem.
However, some vital parts are missed, such as the LAMP* language learning method that helped them learn Dutch and French while building relationships in the community. Meryem is now preparing to teach LAMP 2* to the team, especially the newcomers, hoping this will lead to deeper relationships with the people they are aiming to reach. While many Belgians speak English, reaching them in their heart language is important.
In the past, there was also a study program which was recognised by Bible Colleges. With a diverse team of long-termers as well as short termers, the Turners have introduced Continuous Professional Development (CPD), where team members plan their own development based on their spiritual and ministry needs, and can share new insights with the rest of the team.
“We work less in teams than we used to, which is also less attractive to me,” explains Martin. “Men like to work in a team, and working alone gives less openings for people strong in one area and weak in another. As a team we make up for each other, together we are stronger than alone.”
*LAMP and LAMP2 (Language Acquisition Made Practical, version 2)
Source: AnneMarit Viljoen in conversation with Martin & Meryem Turner, OM Belgium