The least of these - OM Malawi
Saini Vahando, an 87-year-old man living in a grass hut outside Chiukauka village, Malawi, where he’s lived his entire life, is lonely.
People think he’s a witch—though he’s not—and he was kicked out of the village three years ago. It’s not uncommon for elderly people to be branded as witches, though no one will ever publicly accuse them of this.
Saini is missing several teeth and wears a thin white beard across his wrinkled face. He carries a warm smile and is often pleased to meet new people. When he’s not tending to his field, or sleeping in his house, he can be found sitting on a reed mat making straw hats that he sells for 100 kwacha, or roughly 28 US cents.
Throughout his life Saini has fathered seven children, though three have passed away. His wife died 20 years ago and he never remarried. His children have moved away from the village, and he doesn’t receive help from them.
Lying on the floor of his hut are a few old plates, cups and buckets. Next to those a few sticks and bricks are arranged to make a small fire. Two metres away a few blankets on the ground and a hanging green mosquito net make up Saini’s bed. A few pairs of tattered trousers and t-shirts hang on two wires that cross the room.
Saini has a rough life. He finds it difficult to draw and carry water, and he lacks fertiliser for his crops. He complains that no one helps him when he gets sick. When asked about what makes him happy in life, he responds that he enjoys a good harvest, “because then I know I’m okay. I’m having peace because I have food.”
Recently OM Malawi decided to spend Wednesdays serving local villagers in need—people just like Saini. Local worker Stephano Franciso, who lives nearby, introduced the team to Saini.
After seeing the condition of his grass hut they decided to build Saini a new house out of mud bricks. Each Wednesday for a few weeks the team rode bicycles to the village, armed with saws, buckets and tape measures.
The work was tiresome in the hot Malawian sun, but brick by brick the walls went up. The team wasn’t alone in the work. The local chief, Dasiyano Mwamabi, showed up each week to help. Dasiyano welcomes the work OM does: “It is an encouragement that some people are coming into my village and helping some people. I feel proud they are coming to work with us.”
He explained that OM has shown other villagers practical ways they can help elderly members of their community. “We have a big part to play, like to take care of these elderly people,” he added.
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV). Saini is one of the “least of these”, and OM Malawi considers it an honour to serve him.
The team hopes that as they show love in a practical way, Saini and others like him will give their lives to Jesus Christ and one day find themselves in heaven where their troubles and hardships will cease.
Growing national Christian leaders - OM Thailand
When Woody Kim from South Korea became country leader of OM Thailand five years ago, he dreamt of seeing 10 Christian workers sent out from Thailand. With the thirteenth Thai national preparing to join the Ship Ministry in January 2014, his dream has already been realised.
“Of the 4,000 churches in Thailand, 2,000 have no pastor!” said Woody. “Instead of investing time and resources into the training of national leaders, many mission organisations focus purely on church planting. So when a missionary leaves, the position of pastor is left vacant until the next missionary arrives.”
To counter this trend, OM Thailand focuses on sending young professionals into global missions with the aim of better equipping them for local ministry. “Because OM Thailand is not duplicating the ministry of others, we are well accepted by churches in Bangkok,” said Woody. “We now have 800 people following us on Facebook—our influence is growing!”
Take Tina, for example, a lady from Chiang Mai. When she heard God calling her to leave her country to serve Him, she was not sure where to start. Sharing her dream with friends, they suggested she join the Ship Ministry. At the end of July, Tina was commissioned by her church in Chiang Mai and joined the OM ship when it visited Phuket a few weeks later.
“We are processing and training three more Thai workers to join the OM ship in January, in the hope that they will rise to the occasion to equip future Christian leaders in Thailand,” said Woody. “Nine young professionals also spent a week on board the OM ship while it was in Phuket, and some of them are seriously considering joining the ship in the near future.”
Praise God for the growing number of young professionals interested in global missions, and for the impact OM Thailand has in equipping them for local ministry. Pray that God would raise up a generation of Thai leaders who are willing to fill vacancies in the national church in the years to come.