Leo O’Connor

Putting one’s beliefs into action was the topic as the Henderson Rotary Club heard from Christian missionary Leo O’Connor during their weekly luncheon meeting.

“Gospel work is not only about going out and telling people about Jesus,” O’Connor said. “But rather showing them what Jesus taught in how you live your life and the difference you make in the lives of others.”

O’Connor is a native of South Africa and serves as executive director of Gateway Services and Moya Discoveries.

Gateway Services is a nondenominational Christian ministry whose purpose is to fulfill the holistic gospel challenge of Jesus Christ by proclaiming the Word of God while also attending to the practical needs of the poor.

“If the gospel message is love, in its basic essence, then what is love practically?” O’Connor asked. “For those that thirst, the gospel is a drink of water, and for the hungry it is nourishing food.”

Moya Discoveries is so named for an African tribal word that means both “air” as well as “soul” and is a men’s ministry that focuses on outdoor studies combined with frequent service projects to benefit people in the community.

“It is primarily a men’s ministry,” O’Connor said. “We combine a time of Bible study with a time where we take what we study and put it into the real world.”

O’Connor added that the groups will study a portion of scripture and then find a way to directly apply it to a “real world” situation.

“We will study a verse, like in Isaiah where it says we should share our food with the hungry and give clothes to the poor, then we go out and do it,” O’Connor said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Gateway Services has three primary focuses in all of its endeavors. The first is immediate relief aid to those suffering from afflictions of disease, combined with community development of immediate and external resources, undergirded by a philosophy centered on the practical application of the Christian faith.

O’Connor also talked about his own frustration with those who profess a faith in Jesus Christ, without taking His teachings to heart.

“This world is full of cheap talk, whether it’s by politicians or ministers of the gospel, and there are not enough people of action,” O’Connor said. “If you take on the name ‘Christian’ and call yourself a follower of Jesus, you’ve got to understand that it is a great responsibility.”

Citing the great material abundance of the West, and the U.S. in particular, O’Connor said that those who have received much must also understand that it for a larger purpose than one’s own comfort and affluence.

“I believe, like many of you, that the United States has been greatly blessed by our Lord,” O’Connor said. “With that, I also believe that there is a responsibility to help continue the work of Jesus Christ in everything that He lived and taught to us.”

I spent some time with Mr. O’Connor after the event, speaking to him more in-depth and “off the record” about his organization as well as his experiences.

One of the things he said that resonated with me the moment he said and remains with me even now is how he described the zeal of the Brethren in the war-torn areas of the dark continent. I had asked about how the people there endured the adversity and challenges of living in the midst of a near perpetual state of conflict.

“We stand on the promises of God,” O’Connor said. “Not that we will never suffer hardship but that we will always endure it because, in whatever darkness we will find in this world, His light remains with us always.”

I asked him to describe his time stateside and how our Western evangelical churches seem in comparison.

“Very sedate, like the churches in England,” O’Connor said.

I responded that I imagine the worship was rather restrained in comparison to that of African nations, but he shook his head.

“I do not mean the cultural differences, because that is to be expected, I mean the preaching,” O’Connor said. “Preachers in South Africa do not have to remind the people that death is imminent, they know that well, so it is not death that they fight against but Sin.”

O’Connor said that many of the American evangelicals he spoke with expressed grief at the deaths of men and women in South Africa but seemed almost blinded to the Sin that was rampant in their own congregation.

“I tell them to not shed a tear for the saint that lost his life for the Gospel in Cape Town but rather to mourn for the churches that do not fight Sin and become crypts for the spiritually dead,” O’Connor added.

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