The power of music

“One, two, three, three days after Jesus died, He rose again,” Syrian refugee children sing as they play around their homes.

“I go to the homes of the ladies, and I hear the kids singing those powerful songs. …That’s just so powerful that children are proclaiming truth,” says Amineh*, OM Near East field worker and leader of the children’s music programme.

The children learn this song and others every week at a music programme centred around Arabic gospel songs, designed to reach young Syrian refugee children and their mothers. The programme provides time and space for the children to play and an opportunity for Amineh and her team to connect with their mothers.

Home visits

“Our goal is to have the children interact and have fun and for the mom and the baby to get closer to each other. But our biggest goal is to tell about Jesus, who was also a refugee [to Egypt],” Amineh explains.

Many of the women hear this message for the first time at the music group, she states; understanding how Jesus relates to them so personally touches them and keeps them coming back every week. After a woman visits the music programme twice, members from the ministry team try to visit her home and ask if she is interested in studying the Bible.

“We love hanging out with ladies in the morning, but sometimes we just talk about marriage, and we talk about our kids. We want to go deeper than that,” Amineh says. “We can get so much deeper with each other if we study the Bible together.”

“They never heard [truth from the Bible] before, so now they have. So that’s success, praise God; these women have heard.”

The DNA of a Believer

When the women do show interest in pursuing a life of Christ, the team invites them to help run different parts of the ministry, from preparing coffee to leading the puppet show. This opens many opportunities to share the gospel by helping women find their talents and giving them a sense of ownership in the programme.

Participating in the operations of the programme and leading the Bible studies also help the women understand what it looks like to follow Christ every day, whether or not they decide to take that step.

“It becomes [their] DNA,” Amineh says. When the women become believers, they know, “Ok, this is what we do, I know exactly,” she notes. “But of course, then the Holy Spirit will lead them so much more than before.”

Even though not everyone on the team has made steps to becoming a believer, “God can use anyone,” she says. One team member, who has long debated whether or not to get baptised, explained to one of the mothers how much Jesus had done for her. Upon hearing this, the mother was appalled.

“It’s one thing to hear it from a foreigner,” Amineh says. “[But] for her hear that from another lady—like, here’s a lady who’s Muslim who dares to go to church—that’s big for somebody who’s never entered a church [service].”

Some women read and study the Bible, only to decide not to follow Jesus. However, many of the women continue to come every week, even as their children grow older and they no longer have young children to bring with them. Amineh and her team faithfully pray over these ladies, that the gospel would transform their lives and communities.

“The prayer is maybe God is working, but you don’t see [it]. So when we get discouraged we always get back to [the fact that] God has called us to be faithful [and] glorify him.”

*Name changed for security

OM Communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things.


House of prayer

Sabirah* has always liked to define herself as an intercessor, someone who loves to sit at the feet of God and hear His heart. After moving to OM’s Near East field (field consisting of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq) almost six years ago, she has stepped up to lead the prayer house in her city and has encouraged others to start prayer houses across the region. She remains part of a growing prayer network composed of locals and foreigners who pray regularly together and seek to mobilise others to join in prayer around the region. Communications intern Jana Eller recently interviewed Sabirah about her prayer ministry.   

Jana: How did God call you into this ministry?

Sabirah: I have always loved to be in a place of prayer, and I get really excited about praying non-stop for ridiculous amounts of hours a day. But I realised not everybody is like that. It kind of made me realise, OK, maybe this is what God made me to do. I think people understand prayer and that it’s only through prayer that we can really change the world. But not everyone was made to actually spend the hours in the prayer room. The core of who I am has always been this. I only started defining it when I moved to the Middle East, and I was very fortunate that there was already a prayer house in my city from the day that I arrived. I could just come alongside the praying and be part of it. And slowly as our community has changed and as people have left and people have come, my responsibility has increased.

Jana: How has your ministry grown or changed since you moved to the Middle East?

Sabirah: I think I can answer that question from multiple perspectives. I think for the city, it has changed based on the people in the city. The prayer ministry in this city has kind of grown and changed as the workers have. But if we look at this country, the importance of prayer has changed and evolved. More prayer rooms have been birthed in the last couple of years, more people have been excited about prayer. Also regionally, we have a youth worker’s conference once a year, where all these workers from the region come for a training, and I have been hosting a prayer room there for the last two years. During the last one, I was really excited because I would hear about the youth workers that actually walked into the prayer room in the middle of the night and continued praying. And I was like, “Oh, that’s exciting,” because that hasn’t happened before. These youth workers have gone back and started prayer rooms in churches because of how they were encouraged by what was modelled. So, it’s kind of fun to see how more people are not just understanding prayer cognitively, they are starting to live it out.

Jana: What have been some of the challenges you face as a prayer ministry?

Sabirah: I think for somebody that loves to pray, sometimes it’s challenging to get other people as excited as I am and not be discouraged when they are not. Not everybody is called into the focus of intentional prayer ministry, so having wisdom on how to encourage and motivate people. Another challenge, I think it is the most rewarding and the most disappointing ministry at the same time. On the one hand, there’s an amazing thing about being in God’s presence, hearing His heart and just being with Him. But at the same time, it’s really frustrating because 99 per cent of the time, you never see things come to pass that you have been praying.

Jana: What keeps you encouraged?

Sabirah: I make my case of actually being allowed to get to do this. I love to be in God’s presence. I love to just sit at His feet and hear His heart. Every time I pray, I’m surprised because God gives me a really cool picture He wants me to pray or He reminds me of an amazing scripture to pray or we physically pray through a Psalm and the words become alive. I realise I am in the amazing privileged position that I get to pray these words over my people and over my city, knowing God will bless my city, even though I can’t see it.

Jana: How does your ministry fit into OM’s new focus on church planting among the unreached?

Sabirah: I think any ministry that is not birthed in prayer doesn’t necessarily last in the long run. Prayer is the key activity that prepares a people group, prepares a nation and prepares a city for the will of God. I mean we can’t physically prepare people’s hearts on our own; it’s the Holy Spirit that prepares hearts, and I don’t know why and I don’t understand how it works, but somehow God wants us to partner with Him, and He wants us to pray into the softening and preparing of the hearts and of the ground. So you know we often have a story of the sower, but I think we don’t always think of the preparation of the ground before. You know there is a season of rain, a season of ploughing the ground, a season of preparing the field. And in the same way, once the seeds are sown, you need the rain that continues to fall down on the ground and feed the seeds. And that’s prayer that prepares the ground and continues to ask God for the release of His Spirit.

Pray for God to call more people into this ministry and continue to grow the multiple prayer houses in the region. Also pray for strength for the pray-ers, so they may endure with perseverance, even when they cannot see the results of their prayers.

*Name changed for security

OM Communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things.

Stumbling along the way

“For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people.” – Isaiah 28:11 (ESV)

As OM recently shifted its focus to starting new fellowships of believers, some of the OM ministry fields have found themselves searching for ways to realign their work with this new goal of seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.

One such field is OM Israel, which despite ministering in Israel for over 50 years, has never before focused on church planting, explains OM Israel field worker Gershom*. Most of the field’s ministry thus far has included evangelistic literature distribution and conversations with strangers during public outreaches.

“The whole concept [of church planting] is foreign to us, and I don’t think anyone on our field has had experience in this area, so even though we are all willing and dedicated to realignment, we really don’t have a lot of knowledge on how to do this.”

As the field seeks to realign with OM’s new focus, its workers continue to learn how to better utilise their current ministries to reach the unreached. Two steps in the right direction, according to Gershom, include more strategic outreaches with short-term teams and an increased commitment to follow-up.

Short-term outreaches

One of the focus areas for short-term outreaches is the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. The OM field hopes to see thriving fellowships of believers inside the valley.

Short-term teams can easily saturate many communities in and near the Jezreel Valley with the Gospel literature Gershom and his field provide.

“As far as literature distribution, that also is a step along the process. As an initial step, quite a few villages in the Jezreel Valley in the last two months [received literature],” Gershom notes.

He tells of one short-term team composed of over 20 teenagers who provided literature to every home in nine different communities throughout the valley during their one-month program. Another team from Korea also reached over 40 communities within 10 days in northern Israel.

“It’s a big deal,” Gershom says, adding that other teams had also distributed literature to at least half a dozen more communities.


One problem the team has identified in recent months is the lack of staff to follow up with the communities who receive the literature. In recent months, however, people from the short-term outreach teams have felt called specifically to that task, and the field now has several applications for people wanting to join OM Israel “in the pipeline,” according to Gershom.

“I think the biggest recent excitement to us is just immediate follow-up. We have realised in the last month or two, we know we need to do it, we had people that needed to be followed up, [and] we had people we could call upon to do that. And it’s happening.” In fact, “one was a Jewish guy in northern Nazareth who was very open and asked for somebody to contact him who spoke good Hebrew, and we jumped on that,” Gershom recalls. “I think contact was made within two or three days by one of our field members. For us, it’s very encouraging because we’ve never really had that kind of response time.”

Partnering with local churches

Another method of improving follow up efforts involves working with local churches, many of whom already have a hope and a vision for planting daughter churches in the Jezreel Valley and other areas. While OM field workers have historically been actively engaged in local churches, according to Gershom, there has previously been little collaboration on how to combine efforts between OM and those churches to plant new fellowships among the least reached.

We want to be “talking with the leadership of the local congregations on a more strategic level about how specifically we can assist them,” Gershom explains. “Rather than reinvent the wheel, I think we need to work with them to ask how we can support the efforts that they already have underway.”


While these methods have provided results in recent months, the field desires more training in church planting strategies. Gershom plans for more formal training within the next few years, desiring to maximise the team’s efficiency.

“We’re new at this, so we’re kind of stumbling as we go along, but we are very eager to learn, and we really want to see the end goal materialise, that is, new communities of Jesus followers established.”

*Name changed for security

OM Communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things.

Crossing oceans and social protocols

Amin* and Nawar* have lived in OM’s Near East Field (field consisting of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq) for nearly two years and have learned how to navigate many of the cultural differences. As OM members sent from Latin American countries, they hope to help recruit more Latino missionaries to go to the Arab world.

Amin and Nawar have found many key similarities between Latin and Arab culture, which has helped them to connect and adjust on the field. For example, one of the most important values in both cultures includes a strong focus on family and relationships.

“Everything is about relationships. The Latinos are very quick doing that. So that’s not an issue,” Amin explains. “We like to be together, we like to party to music, and food is a priority. If you have good food, that is important.”

“We connect with people very similarly. So for us, it’s not hard to connect with people and to have friends,” Nawar continues.

Learning social protocols

According to Amin, one of the biggest challenges in navigating these relationships, however, includes learning the social protocols, which vary from Latin culture. While some Arab cultures tend to appear more direct and open, this can shock those who are unfamiliar with that behaviour, he explains. Learning these protocols is key to successfully forming significant relationships with locals, he insists.

Regarding neighbourly visits, “maybe you need to learn a few things: what’s first, what’s after, what’s at the very end,” Amin explains.

One example he uses is offering coffee to guests. Whereas in Latin countries, this gesture may be seen as simply polite, many Arabs interpret this as a signal from the host that it is time to leave. In addition, in the Near East when the host offers anything, the guest is welcome to make a request for a different item, which also contrasts Amin and Nawar’s home cultures.

Another significant difference can be seen especially at formal functions. Arab culture largely centres on prioritising one another’s honour, the couple explains. Because of this, when attending social gatherings, people should always know who the guest of honour is.

“Whoever is the guest of honour, they know. I don’t know how they know,” Amin laughs. “So they find out you are the guest of honour today, so they make sure you have everything perfect. For us, it is everybody should have everything.”

Another example of prioritizing honour includes making introductions between genders on first meeting. “For us Latins, we are all touchy and all very friendly, no matter if you are a boy or a [girl]. Here, no,” he says. When first meeting it can seem like “the men basically ignore the ladies, then primarily the guy greets the guy and the girl greets the girl.”

After introductions have been made, often times the guests will request a tour of Amin and Nawar’s apartment home. Although this took adjustment, Amin and Nawar stress the importance for them of finding balance between respecting the host culture and maintaining privacy. “Now I need to have my house very clean all the time, because [if] I have visits, …they want to check everything. Also, because they are looking if you are clean or not,” Nawar explains.

While Amin and Nawar continue adjusting to the culture, they also get to look back every once in awhile at where they started and praise God for how much they have learned. Nawar tells a story of one of these moments.

“I will never forget, I was coming back from an international trip back to the field. So, in the [airport], the attendant was trying to make a line. So suddenly he shouted, ‘Please, people, you need to learn how to make a line, one by one by one, not in a bunch.’ But it was funny, [because] he was shocked and frustrated. I was laughing to myself because you need to know the Arab culture.”

Part of Ministry

Adjusting one’s lifestyle simply remains a part of living and serving in cross-cultural ministry. Amin and Nawar continue to find the process fulfilling as God enables them to see how He transforms lives and communities.

“We need to see why the Lord is using this country,” Amin continues, “why the Lord is bringing refugees from Iraq, Syria and from Africa. And we are also here as foreigners, free to share from God.”

“God gave me this passion and this love for the people here. So this is something I have seen every day that I have been here,” Nawar says with a smile. “This is how I have been developing some connections and relationships with people here that makes me feel at home.”

*Name changed for security

OM Communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things.

BLOG: Reflections of beauty

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth… then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Genesis 1:1, 26 (ESV)

As my foot fell on the sandy pavement, the silence physically shook me. For a split second, I thought the blasting music in my car had finally made me deaf. After the two-hour car ride from the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, the surrounding scene overwhelmed me.

I watched as the light from the full moon danced across the desert around the rock piles and between the Joshua trees, decorating the landscape with silhouettes and shadows. I looked up to see the sky dotted with thousands of little dots, in addition to the one large enough to reflect the light of the hidden sun. Goodness, it had been too long since I left the city.

It had been one of those days I needed an escape. After coming face to face with many of my own weaknesses and receiving news of an unexpected death, my heart was heavy. But as my two friends and I made our way to the top of the closest rock pile, I realized I had escaped right into the presence of my Creator. In those moments, the heartache melted away and all I could do was worship.

Can you imagine if there was no one to praise for such pure beauty?

The thought circled around my head as I continued to watch the desert and take comfort in the stillness. How powerful His creation must be, to provide such profound relief for a broken heart. How much more powerful God himself must be, to create such beings.

God’s creativity is the first attribute we read in the Bible. He created the earth and the universe as a reflection of His beauty. Afterwards, however, He looked down and decided He was not yet finished. On the sixth day, he breathed life into His newest creation, not only to reflect His own beauty, but to give us the ability to create beauty as well.

A few weeks following the trip to Joshua Tree, I traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, during a communications internship with OM.  Beirut is a city known as an artist’s haven. There are dozens of galleries and summer festivals in every part of the city celebrating their ability to express their joys and their pain with anyone who sees it. Even the famous painted staircases and the street graffiti tell stories of hope and redemption.

As I wandered through the streets and galleries, I was reportedly struck with the same thought I had that night in the desert:

Can you imagine if there was no one to praise for such pure beauty?

As beings created in God’s image, we have been invited into His act of creation for the same purpose He has for creating: to bring glory to Himself. The church has historically tried to define art to the “Christian adjective”—Christian art, Christian movies, Christian music, etc.—as if He can only fit into one little box. And while we cannot design the earth itself, God has provided a means for us to contribute to what He has already created.

Yet, when we see his beauty escaping through the heart and hands of another image bearer, how often do we simply fall into worship?

North Africans prepare to go to Iraq

The father rejoiced! The hospital released his baby after the child spending several weeks hovering between life and death in an intensive care unit. His baby would join him and his wife at home alive and well. The hospital release came a day after a small group of Christian students prayed over the child. The father was so amazed, he immediately began telling everyone he knew about the miraculous power of Jesus and his followers.

In response to this event, the father “started a Bible study. He changed his WhatsApp picture and Facebook profile picture to something related to Jesus Christ, telling all his family members [about Jesus].” His wife, within a week, said, “Oh yeah, we’ve started to call him the follower of Jesus,” explained Azzam*, administrator of OM Near East Field’s church planting school.

The small group of Christian students from North Africa had overcome the cultural and religious divide between Christians and Muslims. This divide can make ministry in the region difficult, and ministry leaders often need extensive training to overcome the differences in a constructive way.

“When you jump from a Christian culture to a Muslim culture, there’s a lot that you can learn,” Azzam* said.

As OM focuses on church planting among the least-reached people groups around the world, they continue to prepare Arab missionaries to go into the mission field through the church planting school in OM’s Near East Field.

“We have a region that has the vision to serve Christ, to give their lives to Christ [more] than ever before. At the same time, we have needy places that are needy like never before,” Azzam explained, referencing least-reached provinces of Iraq.

Why Iraq?

Out of its 18 provinces, only six provinces are believed to have any churches. One of these provinces has a population of approximately two million people, but it only has one church with approximately 40 believers, according to Azzam.

The church planting training school “comes at a time of great need. More people [are] willing to go, and one of the needs is training,” Azzam said.


OM’s church planting school prepares Arabs who have a specific call to go into the least-reached areas of Iraq for the purpose of developing new vibrant communities of Jesus followers. The programme centers on three objectives: bridging cultural differences, opening conversations about religion and learning to work in ministry teams.

To meet these objectives, the students undergo a year-long training. The first three months are classroom-based, with lectures each morning taught by experienced ministry leaders. In the afternoons, students go into the local area to make relationships with people and talk to them about Jesus.

“Many of [the people we visit] have the wrong ideas about Christianity. So, through this school, we learn how to make relationships with them, and through this relationship [share] the gospel,” said Eisa*, a current student in the school.

The students also take trips to visit Syrian refugee camps. This helps them gain a deeper understanding of how to face culture shock on a practical level. Iraq is 95 per cent Muslim and less than 1 per cent evangelical Christian, according to Operation World, so understanding how to operate in a similar environment remains essential for the student’s training, say the leaders.

“We do visits to Syrian refugee camps with them and help them to discover culture, a different language,” said Hayda*, a leader in the school.

“We know how to make relationships with people who have many problems and they are hurting. So first we have a relationship with them and… then you tell them about the work of God, and it will start to touch them,” said Mahir*, a current student of the school.


In addition to learning culture and religion, the students also learn how to work on church planting ministry teams. Azzam explains that many of these students have served within their home church. Learning to work with others in a new environment can present its own challenges. By going on visits and ministering together, the students are challenged to work together to develop vibrant and reproducing fellowships in a foreign context.

“We need teams, especially if people are going to go to places where there are no churches, which is really where we want to send them,” Azzam said. “So [they learn] these issues of how to resolve conflict, how we care for ourselves, and how we work on a team.”

Once students have completed the first three months, they will take a short exposure trip to Iraq before joining a local team for nine months. This will help them learn how to implement their knowledge into their daily operations before heading to Iraq for four years.

Challenges and encouragement

In order to go to Iraq, the students need funds, and finding support to send a missionary to the field long term has repeatedly proven to be one of the greatest challenges. As a result, OM has partnerships with global organisations and churches to help fund living expenses for these students. The local Iraqi churches have also stepped up to help as well.

“We see the Iraqi church wanting to do what they can to make the way for other Arab [ministry workers] to come,” Azzam* said. “It’s also been a real joy to see how, in a way, we have this global world praying, [and] some people [contribute] financially, and [it] sort of funnels through our little team and then it gets released out to Iraq again.”

“There are people that come from this school, and they are working in the [mission] field,” said Nadir*, a leader in the church planting school. “There has been loads of people in this area who have never heard the gospel, and through the school, there has been much more outreach happening on a much wider scale.”

Pray for the students, some of whom have given up good jobs and left their families for the sake of the gospel. Ask for God to provide visas for long-term residency for church planters in Iraq.

*Name changed

OM communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things. 

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Ministry in the home

Amala* visits the prisons every week to minister to the foreigners and the poor, who often end up there on trumped-up charges. This has proved to be a taxing yet fruitful ministry, where the prisoners can pray and worship together. While she pursues these ministries, she keeps her prayer journal in hand to write down specific prayer requests to spend any free moment in prayer.

Home as a Ministry

In recent months, however, she and her husband have begun a new ministry, taking three teenagers into their home. These include a Syrian boy and girl, both in the host country to attend school and a Palestinian orphan, coming into Amala’s home after several years on the streets.

“Having these three additional people who are [from] difficult backgrounds, that took sometimes quite a bit of energy, to be honest,” Amala said.

Each child brings with them a story of hardship. Moreover, their diverse backgrounds bring into sharp contrast the cultural differences on a daily basis, according to Amala. This caused quite an adjustment period for Amala and her family, as well as for the teenagers. Coming from their difficult pasts, “to them… what’s mine is yours, and of course you can lie to defend yourself. This is a lifestyle, and so to take somebody in, it’s 24/7,” Amala said. “This can sometimes be a bit challenging.”

However, despite the difficulties, Amala and her husband continue to trust and rely on God in order to love these teens, and God’s word never returns empty. The Palestinian teenager has turned to Christ during his time in Amala’s home. The others continue to learn more about Jesus Christ and what it looks like to follow him. These victories, along with the support of their local church, continue to encourage and strengthen her to pursue God’s calling on her life and her home.

“It’s a process you know but God is working in his life and he has come, in these months, I think we’ve seen him come a long way, and this is beautiful,” Amala said. “And there are answers to prayer, God does answer prayers. And then when you see an answer to prayer it’s just really beautiful.”

She continues to see the Lord’s faithfulness in her home and in her current ministries and asks for prayer that God would continue to provide salvation, healing and justice among the teenagers in her own home, as well as, the women in prisons and the Syrian refugee communities.

*Name changed

OM communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things.