OMF (Interview with Dick Andrews, United States Northwest Regional Director)
On April 29-30, 2005, Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) will hosting the 2005 Bay Area Conference focusing on several pertinent topics on missions in China. According to OMF, these conferences are held to equip the overseas Chinese with the necessary resources such as practical prayer guidelines that allows them to understand how to pray for each region in China, to provide networking opportunities, so they may in turns help the indigenous Chinese in mainland setup their own church.
Q. Can you give a brief description of the background of 2005 Bay Area Conference based upon conferences held in the past?
Our conference has been annually offered to serve the San Francisco Bay area communities. This conference has been in session for about 16 years. Each year now we are seeing more Asian Americans coming; many attending are Chinese-Americans. The average age of those who attend is around 30 years old and many are professionals who are seeking their next steps to serving Christ. We welcome all ages and always instruct so that older Christians can see opportunities for themselves to serve Christ.
Q. Who are the organizers and sponsors of 2005 Bay Area Conference? Who are the audience that this conference is directing towards?
The co-sponsors of this event are OMF International and Peninsula Covenant Church. We are inviting especially evangelical Christians to learn more about "Serving Christ in the Chinese Century" which is our conference theme. Our focus is not just limited to Mainland China, but includes workshops on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and serving Chinese in other parts of the world including Latin American countries.
**We will offer four workshops in Mandarin so that those who prefer will be able to hear the material presented in Mandarin: those workshops in Mandarin will be on Taiwan; Befriending Mainland Chinese neighbors; opportunities to serve in Mainland China professionally; and Hong Kong and Macau updates.
Q. What are some of the major events that led to the formation of this conference?
As you know OMF Int'l (formerly the China Inland Mission founded by Hudson Taylor in 1865) has wanted to serve the Chinese people with a clear understanding of Christ's gospel message. After 1949, God changed our name and dispersed Chinese speakers to many countries in East Asia.
Today OMF serves in 16 East Asian countries meeting physical needs, serving as professionals to help in community development; serve urban poor; help educate especially in learning English; & serve in urban and rural settings. We do not get involved or interfere with local politics and are respectful of the churches where we work.
Q. Who are the sponsors of this event?
Cosponsors are OMF International and Peninsula Covenant Church who has kindly loaned us their physical facilities for at least 12 years.
Q. What is its vision and goals?
We glorify God by mobilizing prayer, people, and provisions for the urgent evangelization of East Asia's millions.
Q. How will this conference provide the overseas Chinese Churches a better understanding of how to approach development of Christianity in East Asia?
The three plenary sessions are taught by experts who live in East Asia and understand East Asian countries. In serving Chinese people, we do not just focus on Mainland Chinese but aim to inform accurately those who come to our conference about other opportunities to serve in other countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, S. Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. There are Chinese people in each of these countries, and our conference will help people understand how to better understand, build friendships, and serve people in these countries.
Q. I also noticed that in other regions in the US where there are Chinese speaking population, OMF has established bases there. How is OMF setting up a network to further His kingdom?
We have regional centers on the East Coast; Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Seattle. We are often welcomed into many ethnic churches especially the Chinese evangelical churches to work together in serving Christ.
Q. For the Chinese Christians, what kind of programs does OMF provide?
We operate all year round and provide helpful services to evangelical churches, for examples, we have serve Asia program (Summer program, vision trips, work trips, service trips) for college age to young professionals, and finishers (retired). Those summer program go out to countries like China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan.
Other areas include that sometimes when our missionaries return from countries like Cambodia and Vietnam, they would be invited by Chinese churches to provide a live presentation and feedback to their church congregants. Some of them who speak Mandarin and Cantonese will be invited to speak. It is a pulpit supply at Sunday school presentation.
It is their wish and encouragement for Chinese brothers to be friendly to one another and offer each other better hospitality.
We also provide Pastoral vision tours directed towards church pastors, where Pastors will travel to countries and regions in which they don’t have much connections. These areas include Cambodia and Thailand.
Out of our world-wide workers, Asian consists of more than 25% of them. Our new general directory, Dr. Patrick Fung, who lives in Singapore, is the very first Chinese brother after 12th terms.
We are finding more opportunities to serve the Chinese churches, for they are the warmest mainly because it has rather long history. We also serve other Asian churches like churches from Japan and Korea.
We have around 1300 workers from 30 different countries. We are not an American organization, but we are international.
Q. What kind of relationship does OMF has with the Chinese government?
We just follow the rules and guidelines that they require of us. We know that they are aware of the existence of mission groups, and they also know that OMF is the oldest mission organization with the longest history. We do try our best not to embarrass them by handing out tracks or being insensitive to their rules. We encourage individuals to visit the three self churches. If the house churches are invited, OMF is very sensitive to not endanger them. The government knows who we are because we do good in working professionally like teaching English, supplying drinking water and medical support. They generally allow us to help.
Q. Since the population of Chinese consists of a quarter of the world’s population, are there any plans and goals that OMF have towards Chinese missions in China?
Among the eight challenges that we face in Asia, one of them is China. We would really like to be a service to Chinese believers, so that they will turn around to reach their own people and other groups of people. By having indigenous Chinese evangelizing and bringing the gospel to China, there won’t be a conflict of culture, and a Chinese church will be setup rather than a Western church. We are very careful not to plant any groups. If they need help, we try to help them, but we never stay there to help them run the church. We are looking forward to see the Chinese starting the church planting movement following the biblical truth, especially among the national minorities. We can’t really make that happen, because our status is like a guest. We pray for the churches in China to reach their own people.
Q. What should we pray for?
If you were to come to the conference, a number of those prayer requests have always been researched month to month on how to pray for different parts of China. We share information with other organizations such as FEBC and we also do our own research.
We generally do not do much in terms of praying for Taiwan. We realize that the situation between Taiwan and China is a very volatile one, and that the people working in Taiwan usually have their own ways and methods of doing things. We generally pray for mainland China.
We give overseas Chinese practical booklets that are evangelical in simplified literature to help them understand the gospel and know what to pray for.
Q. Are there more other things that you would like to add to better inform us of the 2005 Bay Area Conference?
I think people who come to the conference will meet workers not only from other countries, but it is an opportunity for networking. The process of networking is a natural outcome where people naturally discover one another during coffee breaks.
We also have a book display on mission way beyond missions just in China. People will find books on missions that often cannot be found in Christian bookstores. We invite local Chinese Christian mission ministries and evangelical groups to setup booths for display.
We have lunch together which attendants can order, we have a successful special children's program for ages 5-12 called 'WOW" (Win Our World)and welcome church youth groups as a group discount especially on Friday evening. Our ten speakers are experts in their workshop areas which include Training for Chinese service; Grasping God's Call; Reaching China's National Minorities; and lessons from the complex church in China.
For the 12 hours of conference instruction, the costs are reasonably priced:
Adults: $40; Student/Senior $30; Adult group (5 or more persons) $30 per person. Church youth group (any size) $35/group Asia lunch ticket $6.
Early registration due date is April 19th (deduct $5. from registration fee)
Registration: E Tai P.O. Box 390688 Mountain View, CA 94039 or e-mail: [email protected]