2018 Grad Becomes Editor for Mission Agency
Lydia Gard, a 2018 graduate of Grace College, with an English major and journalism minor, has been appointed editor for One Mission Society, headquartered in Greenwood, Indiana.
Gard said, “As an editor, I assist OMS’ ministries and missionaries with clearly communicating stories of God’s work around the world.” In the photo, she is holding a copy of OMS Outreach, one of the publications for which she will be responsible.
Dr. Terry White, Lydia’s journalism professor at Grace, said, “We are so delighted when one of our graduates gets an influential position like this one. Lydia is well-prepared for this ministry and we are excited to see her develop professionally and personally in this new opportunity.”
One Mission Society, formerly known as Oriental Missionary Society (OMS), had a presence in Winona Lake for many years as one of its five regional offices.
OMS began ministry in Japan in 1901. Today, OMS ministers throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America.
When Charles and Lettie Cowman, Ernest and Julia Kilbourne, and Juji and Katsuko Nakada began the work of OMS, they believed the best way to reach a nation for Christ was through its own sons and daughters. So they opened a Bible training school and trained the Japanese to serve as church planters and pastors.
In David Hall’s (ed.) book Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice, it is noted, “The Oriental Missionary Society, founded by the Cowmans in 1901, originally worked primarily in Japan and China. Around the time missionaries were kicked out of China, the organization became the Overseas Missionary Society and it is now called OMS, International.”
The Cowmans served overseas from 1901 to 1917, when Charles Cowman’s ill health forced them to return to the United States. During the next six years, Mrs. Cowman nursed her husband until his death. Out of Mrs. Cowman’s experiences and heartbreak came her first book, Streams in the Desert, followed by its companion, Springs in the Valley.
During the next twenty-five years, Mrs. Cowman inspired several nationwide Scripture distribution campaigns and wrote seven more books. Finally, on Easter Sunday in 1960, at the age of ninety, Mrs. Cowman met face-to-face the God she had served so faithfully for nearly a century.
After her husband’s death, she became a frequent speaker at the Winona Lake Bible Conference, as well as during weeklong summer missionary meetings sponsored by the OMS. The organization owned a home on Kings Highway, where Mrs. Cowman lived during the summer.
In the 1970s, OMS changed its name to OMS International in order to better reflect its global ministry. Then, in January 2010, the name was changed again to One Mission Society.
The principle of “one ministry giving birth to another” is exemplified in the story of Dick and Margaret Hillis, missionaries to China, who were forced to flee China in 1950 because of the escalating war in that country.
Shortly thereafter, just ten days after their sixth child was born, Dick Hillis was invited to attend a conference in Winona Lake. During an evening service in the Billy Sunday Tabernacle, Bob Pierce challenged Dick Hillis for ministry in Formosa and invited him to come forward so they could pray for him. A group of young men gathered around Hillis, including Billy Graham, and within three months Dick Hillis was part of a team on their way to Formosa.
Several years later, Hillis and his team developed a whole-nation strategy and joined hands with the Oriental Missionary Society to preach the gospel in every village on the island before the communists could take over. The president of Taiwan, General Chiang Kai-Shek, invited Hillis to preach the gospel to the armed forces.
Dick and a colleague, Ellsworth Culver, also developed a new sports evangelism ministry called Venture for Victory (VV). Don Odle, basketball coach at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, was asked to direct the new sports ministry and bring the first Venture for Victory team to Taiwan.
One of the earliest Venture for Victory players was Bud Stanley Schaeffer, a Wheaton College alumnus who had been a standout high school player in Michigan City, Indiana (he was inducted into the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1970), and who played professionally for a short time with the Boston Whirlwinds.
Recently-retired Grace College head basketball coach Jim Kessler recalls, “Bud, while playing in Manila before a standing-room-only crowd, was struck with the idea of what a great opportunity it could be to share the gospel with thousands who regularly assembled to watch American boys play basketball in friendly games in an international venue.”
“This greatly influenced his decision,” Kessler said, “to join that first team in a ‘venture for victory.’”
For 12 years, Schaeffer and his growing family lived in the Philippines, where he directed and coordinated Venture for Victory basketball teams, camp work, and sports clinics. Those people who made religious commitments at games were encouraged to sign up for a Bible correspondence course available through Orient Crusades. Schaeffer also coached the 1956 National Olympic basketball squad from Taiwan, using the neutral Portuguese name of Formosa (“Beautiful Island”) because of the protest of the People’s Republic of China against Taiwan’s participation in the games.
Orient Crusades changed its name to Overseas Crusades and in 1967 they asked Schaeffer to return to the U.S. and head a new division of the organization known as Sports Ambassadors. Athletic teams of basketball and baseball players, both men and women, were recruited and sent to countries all over the world, including South America, Australia, Europe, and the Far East.
Kessler frequently partnered with Sports Ambassadors to take Grace College basketball teams on mission trips. including a trip to the Philippines in July and August of 2008. On that trip, the Grace athletes played 25 basketball games in 18 days, gave testimonies at halftimes, and worked with local pastors in outreach.