Celebrating George Verwer’s 80th birthday
by John Hall, Executive Director, Mission Central and Missions Fest Vancouver
Our local Operation Mobilisation rep forwarded me an email from George Verwer, saying that he was going to be doing a round-the-world tour to celebrate his 80th birthday. His only Canadian stop will be in Vancouver. He then wrote a very kind shout-out to Missions Fest Vancouver in his email.
For those of you not familiar with George, he is the founder of Operation Mobilisation, a global mission organization with over 6,800 workers worldwide. Many will associate their ministry with the ships Doulos and Logos, and their efforts to bring Christian literature and Bibles to unreached people groups. Over the years, the ministry has given birth to hundreds of other ministries through OM alumni. Their core value is “to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached”.
This global ministry has a humble origin story that co-mingles with George’s call to be a follower of Jesus. In the 1950s, an American housewife, Audrey Clapp, began to pray that God would touch the lives of the young people in her local high school. Mrs Clapp gave a Gospel of John to George, who later gave his life to the Lord at a Billy Graham event.
George’s passion for evangelism was evident early on. At college, he and a few friends met regularly to pray for Mexico; this led to his first mission trip just two years after meeting Jesus. A few years later, after graduating from Moody Bible College, he found himself ministering in Spain and then with a growing team that eventually became OM.
George has been a guest speaker at Missions Fest Vancouver from the early days. His first visit was in 1987 and his most recent in 2008. If you’ve ever heard George speak, it becomes apparent very quickly that he is a man filled with passion for following Jesus, who desires to see others follow Jesus to the ends of the earth.
In his article for the 2008 Missions Fest magazine, George shared this:
“Christians must take ownership of world missions. I have noticed a tendency for people to think that some other person or group is going to do it. I notice, in meetings right around the world, that it seems to be only a small number of people who are really taking ownership of the task. To be concerned with missions mobilisation involves a sense of personal responsibility. As we inform ourselves about missions, we need also to sense the weight of responsibility to take action. It’s possible to even be a missionary and yet not really take ownership of the bigger vision and task.
Taking ownership means prayerfully developing goals and aims…. What we need are tasks in which we can see a combination of the “possible” and the “impossible”.”
These words still ring true, particularly as the Canadian church struggles to understanding their role in global mission. Are we just a source of money for our brothers and sisters in the Global South? Can a Canadian be an authentic witness in another culture? When we ‘Go’, can we escape the trappings of Colonialism?
The position Missions Fest takes is that – regardless of our nationality – we, as followers of Christ, have a missional call. We’ll never know where that call will take us unless we give Jesus complete control of our lives. As George notes, there is a tendency to think that “some other person or group is going to do it.” That’s just not the case. If God has stirred your heart for a place or people, then it is your responsibility to bear that in prayer and ask God for “goals and aims”.
We need a new level of boldness in the Church. Jesus is our confidence. This has certainly proved true for George and OM’s audacious vision to buy ships for ministry. The original Logos ship sank in 1988, but from the time it set sail in 1970, over six million visitors were welcomed on board. The OM ship Doulos was retired in 2010 after having welcomed over 22 million people on board at 601 ports of call. Today, OM serves in over 110 countries through evangelism, church planting, relief and development, justice, mentoring and discipleship.
Thank God for Mrs Clapp who prayed for her local high-school students and thank God that George heard Jesus’ call and followed him passionately! May God richly bless him and his family in his 80th year, and may your heart be stirred with a desire to see Jesus glorified throughout the earth.
Mission Central and Missions Fest Vancouver exist to foster the collaboration and networking of people who are passionate about serving Christ in his mission. For more information visit www.missioncentral.ca