I was sorry to hear this week of the death of George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization.
What a colourful and quirky character he was, wearing his world map bomber jacket and carrying a huge inflatable globe.
The first time I met him he had travelled up to speak at an OM meeting in Birmingham. On the train up he had spoken to every person on the train and given each one a gospel tract. His desire to see the gospel spread globally was passionate and infectious.
I remember him telling the story of the old lady who lived opposite the High School in New Jersey that he attended. She prayed that God would take hold of the students there and cause them to have an impact on the world. Those prayers have been answered and some!
On that visit to Birmingham in 1974 I witnessed two of his great passions: literature and prayer.
I remember buying, on his recommendation, a copy of Jim Packer’s Knowing God. It cost £1, but its impact on my thinking was priceless.
The vision of Verwer’s OM was both wide and deep. He was keen to reach as many people for Christ as possible but was not content to notch up evangelistic statistics; he wanted to make disciples who were well-informed and spiritually mature.
This message was underlined in a booklet by Verwer called The Revolution of Love and Balance. It was a call for Christians to be genuine in their Christian lives and to exercise balance in the way they thought and acted. The call to be passionate but not extreme, and committed but considered, was timely in an age when the Christian world was deeply fractured and fractious!
His other passion was prayer. Send the Light Trust, the publishing arm of OM, had been involved in the publication of Operation World, a prayer guide to all the nations of the world. Verwer talked about the importance of praying intelligently for the nations. I still use the seventh edition of this invaluable resource each day via the Prayer Mate app.
Verwer was a dynamic motivational speaker who was instrumental in stimulating tens of thousands of people to go on short-term and full-time gospel missions.
The last time I saw him was when he was the guest preacher at Lancing Tabernacle in September 2001. It was the weekend after 9/11 and Verwer spoke with power and insight on Psalm 77. We were treated to an engaging message rooted in Scripture, informed by a grasp of history and contemporary geo-politics, and his own personal experience as a US citizen from New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
He described how he had written a letter to President Bush to urge him to be wise and restrained in his response to the felling of the Twin Towers and the attack on the Pentagon. He spoke with the fire of an Old Testament prophet. Sadly, his words went unheeded, much to the detriment of the peoples of the Middle East.
Heaven has gained another good and faithful servant; earth has lost another reminder of what it means to be authentic.