I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
John 10:16, NIV
Many people know of the famous missionary to China, James Hudson Taylor. What was his motivation behind starting a multi-national missions organisation that celebrates its 150th anniversary this year?
Thanksgiving for the past
In 1853, 21-year-old Hudson Taylor, still a medical student, sailed from England to Shanghai where he served as a missionary with the China Evangelisation Society (CES). It was a disappointing experience and CES eventually collapsed due to its little interest in inland China and funding problems. Hudson met and married his wife Maria Dyer in 1858. Due largely to health issues, the Taylors returned to England in 1860.
One summer day in 1865, when Hudson Taylor was visiting Brighton on the south coast of England, he took a walk along the beach. He was deeply burdened with the needs of inland China, and yet the Christians in England seemed so complacent and indifferent to these needs. He prayed earnestly for God to provide “24 willing, skilful labourers” – two for each of China’s inland provinces, and two for Mongolia. The new mission was formed “with £10 in the bank and all the promises of God”. It was called the China Inland Mission (CIM).
The CIM served the people of China for almost 90 years: evangelising, teaching and planting churches; setting up schools and hospitals; and engaging with the many social needs in 19th and 20th century China. They served through times of famine and plague, and were caught up in wars and revolutions. Many missionaries served “unto death” – losing their lives to illness and accidents, as casualties of war while others were persecuted. Many lost their children in infancy and childhood.
Events and circumstances following the communists’ victory in China in 1949 led to the reluctant withdrawal of CIM missionaries from China. At meetings in Bournemouth, England, after much heart-searching, discussion and prayer, the CIM leadership decided that they must look beyond China – first at the needs of those fleeing the Communist regime, but also at the spiritual needs of countries neighbouring China.
Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were among the first “new fields” to be entered. In due course, the name China Inland Mission was dropped and was changed to Overseas Missionary Fellowship, now OMF International.
From receiving-fields to sending-homesides1
OMF inaugurated her first Asian Council2 on 15 Nov 1965, namely, the Council for Singapore and Malaysia, meeting in Singapore. This joint council sent out their first missionary, a Malaysian nurse named Ms Stella Hooi, to Thailand in 1969. In 1975, Melville and Salome Szto became the first Singaporeans to be sent to the field – to Japan. The Lord later led OMF to form separate councils for Malaysia and Singapore in 1977.
Today, there are nine Asian home councils. Indeed the receiving fields have become sending-homesides. Currently, almost 50 per cent of OMF members are ethnically Asian. The current General Director, the Rev Dr Patrick Fung, is the first Asian and the 10th general director to lead OMF International. We have more than 1,400 members from over 40 nations serving in 16 countries in East Asia.
God continues to call His servants around the world to serve in OMF International with the mission to “share the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fullness with East Asia’s people globally, to the glory of God”.
A call to remember our responsibility
This year, 2015, we celebrate CIM and OMF’s sesquicentennial – 150 years of God’s faithfulness to his servants in CIM and OMF. We remember our unique heritage and thank God for our spiritual forebears, but we are also mindful of our responsibility for a task yet unfinished – the making of disciples for our Lord, especially amongst peoples and places where His Church is not yet established, and to be a humble resource to Asian churches to fulfil the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
To this end, we wish to encourage you that as a disciple of Jesus, you would respond first by praying for yourself to have a heart that yearns for God, personal values that reflect the holiness of God and a passion to fulfil the mission of God – and if the Holy Spirit prompts you, come and serve alongside us.
Christopher J.H. Wright in his iconic book, The Mission of God (IVP, 2006), argues for a more missional understanding of the Bible, helping us to see that the Bible is basically about God’s mission. Wright challenges us to ask: “Where does my little life fit into this great story of God’s mission?” instead of the self-centred question: “Where does God fit into the story of my life?”
Our Lord Jesus came with a mission: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16, NIV)
OMF Singapore is committed to partnering the Christians and churches of Singapore to mobilise, train and send out called-out, willing and skilful servants of the Lord to fit into the great story of God’s mission. OMF aims to help the people of East Asia listen to His voice and become His one flock for His glory alone.
2 Cluny Road, Singapore 259570
Visit our Book Corner in 2 Cluny
Road, or call 6510-3030
OMF Prayer Meetings (OPM):
Come and join us at our OPM, happening on
the second Tuesday of each month (except
Jan, Nov and Dec) at 7.30 p.m. at 2 Cluny
Road. There are also monthly prayer meetings
for various people groups happening around
OMF SERVE ASIA programme:
Sign up for short-term missions and
discipleship stints in the fields lasting
between two weeks and 11 months – you
will be amazed, humbled, and challenged
to follow Jesus.
OMF Take S.T.E.P.S Missions Weekend:
A residential weekend missions
experience, held twice a year, that uses
teaching, reflection and mentoring to
help participants assess their personal
call to missions.
OMF TAKE FLIGHT Missions
Customised conference for local churches
to help their congregation grow in the
understanding of cross-cultural missions
– especially helpful for students and
1 Homesides are OMF national centres responsible for the mobilisation, selection, sending and member care of the nation’s Christians for missions. 2 Councils in different OMF centres are appointed individuals with a mandate to ensure that the vision, mission and values of OMF are adhered to in the centre. These are people who are passionate for the Lord and committed to the fulfilling of the Great Commission with suitable experience, gifts and talents.
Photos courtesy of OMF Singapore
Daniel Wong is National Director of OMF Singapore. He co-wrote this article with Ms Glenys Goulstone, Project 2015 Coordinator of OMF International.