OM's Ship Ministry celebrates our 50th anniversary this month and, with more urgency than ever before as the numbers increase each year, we're focussing on our vision to connect with the least-reached people groups of the world — those with little chance of hearing the gospel — in order to see them become vibrant communities of Jesus-followers.
We've reached 49 million people since the beginning of OM Ships, with untold stories of wider and deeper impact. But what's more on our hearts is a deep dissatisfaction that we live in a world where three billion people have not heard about the love of Jesus. And this is at a time when communication and travel (barring current Covid-19 restrictions) has never been easier and when the Church, in its current form, has never been larger since its inception 2,000 years ago.
Going forward, we see OM Ships acting as a catalyst to help turn the tide of the increasing number of people who are not likely to come into contact with the gospel. They don't have anyone sharing the life and teachings of Jesus with them, have no access to a local community of Jesus-followers, or face cultural and language barriers that separate them from believers. If we don't change that trajectory the Church, in some ways, is actually going backwards. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, and that stands true for today.
At OM Ships, we hope to help reverse this trend through three pillars: mobilisation, prayer and partnership. In the next decade we want to see a million churches mobilised; helping to point Christians who know and love Jesus in the direction of entire unreached communities. We need a million intercessors; praying persistently for these communities and for the work of God, through His disciples, to become manifest in their midst. We recognise that the strategic vision and mission we have is far greater than any one ministry, organisation, church or denomination — only the global, Holy Spirit-empowered Body of Christ can do this. We're looking to partner with and see a million people go to the ends of the earth to be part of these communities.
So how do we accomplish this? Jesus had a clear mission and knew exactly what He came to do. The strategy He chose was to gather a few people around Him and walk with them for a few years. They then went out and changed the world. His strategy was one of discipleship and we're taking our crewmembers and partners a step further in understanding their role as disciple-makers.
We see a disciple-maker as someone who is present, loving God and their neighbour; someone doing the good works God created for them to do, so they become a visible expression of God's kingdom here on earth, giving glory to Him; and someone helping to reach and teach others to do likewise. We want to see whole communities transformed by helping to equip our crew to become disciple-makers, helping to mobilise churches, prayers and people going around the world.
We are intentionally removing the division between the sacred and the secular in this discipleship journey, because the gospel of the kingdom of God impacts all of my life; not just eternity — it impacts my reality today. That's been true for me, coming from a Hindu background, and true of my colleagues and friends around the world. We speak about integral mission and how we can positively impact a vulnerable or marginalised community on every level, whether it's socio-economic or spiritual. We ask the question, 'how does a church become the lifeblood of a community, rather than a place to spend an hour every Sunday?'
With this holistic understanding of the kingdom and facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ship Ministry joined a partner vessel working in the Bahamas in 2020 to help rebuild communities devastated by a hurricane the previous year. We worked alongside them in the reconstruction; engaging with communities and contributing our sight-testing expertise. Our crew is now serving Caribbean islanders through a prayer hotline and regular online meetings to encourage local believers, while highlighting the needs of the least reached. Livestreamed events, including global prayer gatherings, are also broadcast from Logos Hope around the world.
In this new season, we plan to stay longer in each port as we focus on mobilisation, prayer and partnership and our ship will be in the Caribbean region until September this year. We have twice-yearly crew changeovers with most committing to stay for a year or two. We want them to experience a fundamental shift in their role as disciple-makers and see the time they serve on board as just the beginning of their journey in following Christ: whether that's in future industry positions back home, their next mission, or starting a business near one of the least-reached communities in the world.
In the same way, we're looking to work with UK churches and Jesus-followers in their discipleship journey. We want them to be among the million churches we mobilise, the million intercessors we pray with and the million people we partner with to go to the ends of the earth, proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel of the kingdom of God. It's a vision born of a mission given to all believers in Jesus.
At stake are the lives of tens of millions of people this year — joining the three billion — who risk going into eternity having never heard of, or knowing, Jesus. And we know our heavenly Father's heart is that none should perish, but that all should come into a vital, everlasting relationship with Him. He's chosen to do this in partnership with us, His body — now is not the time to shrink back. We invite you to reach out to us and learn more about how you can partner with us at https://www.om.org/
Seelan Govender is the CEO of OM Ships. He is responsible for the overall leadership and management of the organisation; which includes its shore-based technical and literature operations from bases in Germany, the UK and the USA, as well as Logos Hope.