Next month, the United Kingdom-chapter of the Overseas Mission Fellowship will host the Swanwick Conference at The Hayes Center in Swanwick, Derbyshire, Britain. The conference will cover biblical readings from the First Book of Peter on overcoming persecution while serving with missions abroad.
As reported on the organization’s website, so far 35 OMF missionaries have given their lives to the Lord in the past 10 years. One, for example, was shot to death while another was kidnapped. The OMF posted a quote from Hudson Taylor stating, “Unless there is an element of risk, there is no need for faith.”
This year’s conference main speakers will include Dick Dowsett and HWA Jung. Dowsett first joined OMF at the age of 25 in order to serve on missions in the Philippines. He is currently the OMF International Conference and Training Minister, and has been a speaker in Europe, East Asia, and China.
HWA Jung, an internationally-renown theologian, is the former Principal of the Malaysia Theological Seminary. Being an ordained Methodist pastor, Jung was recently appointed Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. He is also the Vice-Chairman of the Asian Lausanne Committee and Director of the Center for the Study of Christianity in Asia.
In addition, the conference will also feature seminars and displays on current OMF activities all over the world. The seminars and displays will be manned by OMF representatives from the respective regions. This year the conference will focus on prayers for Laos and Myanmar – both of which are already on the Open Door list of top-25 worst perpetrators of Christian persecution.
In an OMF report, the Laotian government-sponsored persecutions started in 1993. Initially, OMF said, there were many reported cases of Laotian Christians who “denied Christ under pressure.” The report stated that believers, however, are nowadays apparently stronger in faith, and that cases of believers renouncing their faith have decreased significantly. In fact, the report stated, there has been many cases involving Laotian Christians evangelizing nonbelievers while spending time in jail.
Addressing this focus, the conference will also make prayer rooms available for participants to maintain a daily vigil for persecuted believers in both nations.
The OMF traces its origins to the China Inland Mission established by famed-missionary Hudson Taylor in 1865. The first China Inland Mission party departed for China in 1886. During this time, missionaries were not guaranteed salaries, but instead were required to live and work with the locals. The China Inland Mission maintained a presence in China even during World War II. The organization stayed even after the exile of the Chinese-nationalist government in 1949. In 1951, the last of the CIM missionaries were forced to leave China.
That same year, the China Inland Mission leadership decided that the organization would increase its scope of mission in places such as Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan (and later to Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong). The organization was subsequently renamed the Overseas Mission Fellowship in light of the new mission focus.
Since then, the organization has maintained a strong emphasis on evangelism while offering literature programs, medical services, linguistic work, student work, and outreach.