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How George Verwer impacted my life and ministry

Four Christian leaders in Europe look back at experiences with the founder of OM. Lindsay Brown, Frank Hinkelmann, Evi Rodemann and Peter Mead.  

NEWS DESK 25 DE ABRIL DE 2023 15:39 h
4 Christian leaders in Europe write about what they learned from George Verwer. / Photo: [link]Website George Verwer [/link].

Lindsay Brown (Wales)



An ‘ex OMer’, former IFES World Secretary General (1991-2007) and former International Director of the Lausanne Movement (2008-2017).



George was a lifelong friend. I first met him when he came to speak at the Christian Union (CU) in Oxford University where I was the President of the stuendent group in January 1976. It was George and Drena’s wedding Anniversary. They later came to my own wedding to my wife Ann in 1981.



After spending one year travelling around Africa with OM on the Logos I ship I subsequently served in leadership for 45 years with IFES and the Lausanne Movement, through which I met many great leaders all over the World. In my view, George was the most influential Western missionary leader in the world over the last 60 years. For several reasons.



Through OM, he put a special focus on reaching unfashionable’ hard’ places- especially India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Europe. Leaving behind significant numbers of indigenous and mission leaders in all those places, such as the Good Shepherd Movement among the Dalits in India. For over 30 years, more than half the missionaries in Turkey were OM alumni.



OM alumni spawned at least 300 new mission agencies, some of them very large eg. Frontiers Mission led by Greg Livingstone, which has a missionary force of 1,300 missionaries today. Many other mission leaders like myself were shaped by time spent with OM and George. Thousands of OM alumni have served the cause of Christ with distinction and great zeal in local churches and mission agencies in virtually every country in the world.



Under George, though OM had thousands of long term workers, OM initiated the whole short-term in missions movement which has influenced virtually every mission agency today, including YWAM, IFES and very many others.



He put a strong emphasis on literature. One fruit was the creation of STL publishing which for a while was easily the biggest evangelical literature distribution agency in Europe, and spawned many other indigenous publishing ministries both in and beyond Europe, especially in India.



OM also developed under George many creative missionary strategies to reach the unreached, most notably the ships. Though OM today works in 120 countries, through these creative means, impulses for the Gospel have been felt in virtually every country in the world.



But there was also much to learn from his personal example:



- His great generosity of spirit- often sending unsolicited gifts to encourage leaders in many unknown and unfashionable ministries.



- He taught and modelled the practice of eschewing gossip and focussed on ‘believing the best’ about others until shown otherwise.



- He allowed many to leave OM with his blessing rather than trying to hold on to them in OM.



- He kept up a phenomenal letter-writing ministry with many leaders and others around the world, including with many who had previously spoken ill of him or OM!



- He taught and practised ‘messiology’, his belief that God could use anybody surrendered to Jesus, and that God could bring blessing even out of many messy situations.



And best of all… he gave all the glory to God and when praised, would often speak of his amazement that God could use such a ‘ragamuffin’ as himself… Perhaps that is why God used him so much. He was very humble, and would never have written this eulogy himself!



I thank God for a remarkable life and for all that God accomplished through this one life wholeheartedly dedicated to him. It was a privilege and joy to know him and work with him. He leaves many disciples of Jesus (not George) to carry on Gospel ministry around the world.





[photo_footer] Lindsay Brown, Evi Rodemann, Frank Hinkelmann, and Peter Mead.  [/photo_footer] 


Evi Rodemann (Germany)



Founder of LeadNow, Lausanne Movement Younger Leaders catalyst in Europe, and former Mission-Net congress director.



I met George Verwer when I was directing Mission-Net for nine years. As we organized four European conferences for young people, George was always there supporting with time, books and even finances. 



Sometimes I was not sure I could approach him again and ask for his support and then out of the blue he would contact me and offer help and ideas. He was extremely generous and though he knew thousands of people, he also knew my name.



Once in a while, sometimes it seemed very random, he would write a prayer or encouragement on my Facebook wall just to cheer me on. This always meant the world to me.



When I founded my own organisation LeadNow in February 2021, he contributed online as the special contributor and even promised to send a gift as he wanted to be the first person to contribute to my little organisation dedicated to young people.



When I thanked him, he responded that he wanted to add one other thought: ‘I very much regret that I have not encouraged more women in leadership’. This made some people on this call tear up.



George had this radicalness about him towards loving God and people and always put them above himself.



I will greatly miss him and appreciate him being such a role model to me running the race well and until the end.



 



Frank Hinkelmann (Austria)



President of the European Evangelical Alliance, former European director of OM, and international associate for board governance training.



It was in March of last year (2022) that I had the privilege to interpret for George on his last tour through Austria. While he was speaking slower than in the past, he still had the same passion to challenge folks to commit their lives wholeheartedly to the Lord.



I’ve always appreciated the honesty of George, even sharing about his personal struggles and I hope to have learned from him.



In many way he “invented” short term missions. While in the past he was heavily criticised for this, most agencies nowadays have introduced short term missions into their programs.



In recent months I’ve so much appreciated the way he prepared for his last months and weeks. He encouraged us in OM not to pray for his healing, but to end well. I’m convinced we need more folks like George ending well!



 



Peter Mead (England)



Mentor at Cor Deo in the UK, author and speaker.



George had a way of building people up, and building up their contribution to world missions – even though most would have felt massively intimidated by George’s global impact!



What was George’s impact?  George was a pioneer. In an age where missionary boards wanted seminary graduates, George pioneered a missionary force of willing volunteers.  In a time when missionaries made a career commitment, George saw the value in short-term teams. 



Then there was the idea of getting a ship – totally crazy, but God was in that craziness.  Mexico, Europe, behind the Iron Curtain, India, the Middle East and North Africa, etc . . . all across the world George’s pragmatic pioneering spirit has spread with OM.  And then there are the hundreds or thousands of ministries that have launched out of OM. 



People who came to OM for a couple of months or a couple of years, but went on to have lifelong ministries under a different banner.  George’s impact and legacy as a missions pioneer is vast.



George was a prolific speaker.  If you were looking for careful expository preaching, that wasn’t George.  But if you were ready to hear the overflow of a life set on fire by Jesus, then George was pure gold. 



Whether it was in front of thousands of students at Urbana, or a handful of saints in a little church, George spoke (often while holding a giant inflatable globe) and lives were marked. 



The last time I heard him preach he had three sets of seven points.  It was classic George.  But it was still so good.  He might have been known as a “pied piper missionary speaker,” but his greater passion was always “reality in Jesus” – he knew that if people experienced that revolution of love that comes from really knowing Jesus, then missions involvement would follow naturally.



George believed and preached the radical grace of God for undeserving sinners. He would say, “Where two are three are gathered in my name, sooner or later there will be a mess.”



It was not just a humourous line to get a laugh. It was the reality he lived time and again. People mess up, and God’s grace is critical. George would preach about that grace, and then he would live it as a leader drawing alongside strugglers as a fellow struggler and recipient of God’s great grace.



Read Peter Mead’s full article ‘Remembering George Vewer’.



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