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Reflections on Mike GMI Connection - Issue 4 : Article 1

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nl4-1.jpgReflections on Mike

Following the death of Mike O'Rear in January, some GMI staff members offered their reflections of the man who led GMI's ministry for 20 years. Servanthood is one of the things that surfaced more than once in the staff's remembrances of Mike.

I greatly appreciated Mike's commitment to us as staff at GMI. He cared for us and was very willing to go out of his way for us. I could bring work issues to him, and he would seek to work through them. He didn't seek recognition for himself. He sought to work out issues between people rather than run away from them. I will miss him.


As GMI recently launched the electronic and DVD editions of The Future of the Global Church, our social media consultant suggested that we invite a social-media response – encouraging people to "share a word" reflecting their vision of the global church in the year 2050, then incorporate those words into a special world map. New friends of GMI would be identified and they would receive a gift that they had a hand in creating.


Mike didn't like the idea at first. He felt like the exercise seemed a bit contrived. The book reflected years of work by Patrick Johnstone, a true subject-matter expert in mission. Why try to combine world-class, in-depth analysis with off-the-cuff crowdsourcing? The concepts were as different as could be.


Before rejecting the idea, Mike asked my opinion. It was typical of him to get input from everyone on staff. He valued others' opinions – which made us feel open to speak our minds freely.


I told him I thought we should do it. We had agreed that GMI should be intentional about finding ways to help constituents participate with us, and the book was a high-visibility project deserving of extra promotion. The risks were minimal. Why not give it a try and learn from the experience?


That was enough for Mike. We did the Share-a-Word campaign and received a response from nearly 100 new contacts. While the impact of the map may be small in comparison with many other GMI projects, it will remind me of the trust Mike placed in his staff and of his willingness to listen, to try new things, and to change his mind in response to reasonable arguments. Those are key ideas that Mike spent two decades championing in his ministry with GMI.


Mike was a good listener and encourager. I remember years ago I was having trouble learning a new programming language. Mike helped me make the transition. He was also a humble servant. I remember him more recently coming to my office about something and seeing my shoe was untied and he bent down and tied it before I was able to do it myself. Being around people like Mike has been an example to me of Christ's servanthood.


I am thankful for Mike's leadership at GMI and for the way he welcomed me onto the staff in 2007. As a recent graduate, I joined GMI to manage our custom mapping service. Mike was confident in my ability to serve those in missions through cartography, and I am appreciative for the wisdom and advice he shared with me. It was also an honor for him to nominate me to attend the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town 2010). Mike set an example of integrity, professionalism, and servanthood.


One of my most intense working times with Mike in recent years was on the drafting committee for the "Lausanne Standards" along with Rob Martin and Alex Araujo. The four of us had a couple of working days together in California and several months of regular e-mail contact, hammering out that document in preparation for the Lausanne III meeting in 2010. Mike's perceptiveness and his ability to analyze things from many angles at once were so helpful to that group and that process.


His name was never on that document but his stamp sure was. I think he was very happy operating that way and leading GMI to operate that way--working hard and effectively behind the scenes to encourage anybody and everybody involved with world evangelization. There was never any doubt where his heart was.


Mike gave selflessly to create an environment where we could do research, mapping, and publishing work without worrying about a vast array of funding and administrative details. He came to GMI as a researcher, hoping to do the work himself, but ultimately found he could have more effect for the Kingdom by enabling others all around the world to do the work he so deeply believed in. He managed to continue to believe that I, our staff, and our partners around the world could do GMI's work in spite of the fact that none of us were ever as precise in our thinking and writing or as disciplined and punctual in doing our work as Mike was. He saw other gifts in all of us, and let those flourish.



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