After getting married, Simon and his wife asked themselves: “What should we invest our lives in?” They knew they wanted to serve God. But that could be through their graphic design and teaching jobs in Switzerland or elsewhere in the world with a missions organisation—a thought that was also on their minds. A tentative enquiry into missions’ opportunities led them to quit their jobs, move to Austria with their first child and join OM’s media ministry, now called MediaWorks. They were excited to help tell many nations about Jesus through media.
The young couple was ready to serve and give Jesus everything. However, the eagerness turned to boredom as Simon found himself formatting and laying out books in Cyrillic day after day. He couldn’t read the letters and it was the type of task he had learnt to do early in his studies. Neither his graphic design qualification nor his experience in an advertising company were needed for this work.
Over time, frustration increased, and he began to argue with God. “Is this what I came here to do?” the young professional questioned. In response, he sensed Jesus saying: “Is this about you and your own achievement, or is it about My Kingdom?”
Simon learnt that God wanted to do something in his life and is more interested in our relationship with Him than what we do for Him. “I realised, it’s not about me and what I can achieve, but about Jesus and making His greatness known,” he said. It was an important life lesson, causing the graphic designer to recommit himself and his gifts to God to use in the way He wanted. Following this change of heart over 20 years ago, Simon received more challenging design assignments for least-reached people groups.
As Simon designed publications, and later as production coordinator, he got to know local partners and visited those MediaWorks created print and digital media for. Almost two decades ago, western pioneers started sharing the gospel with Bayash-speaking Roma in Eastern Europe, who had no Scripture in their language and no churches in their communities. Simon remembers joining an outreach to distribute the first Bayash children’s Bible storybook, which his team helped publish. “When one woman realised it was written in her heart language, she couldn’t believe someone would make this for her,” he said. “Usually, Roma only got what others didn’t want.”
Since then, Roma have come to faith, small churches have been established and local believers are communicating Christ’s love in their communities. “It’s amazing to see,” expressed Simon. “At the start it was foreigners going on outreaches to the Roma. Now Roma are taking on leadership and the foreigners are taking a step back.” Believers are collaborating with linguists to translate the Bible into the Arli, Bayash, Chergash, Gurbet and Ludari Roma languages. While MediaWorks continues to assist with publishing, Simon anticipates the day when media production will move completely to locals. “As the work is taken on more by national believers, we will be needed less and less,” he stated. “Then we can keep providing support to places where there are no or only a few followers of Jesus.”
“Our focus is on investing our expertise [in creating Christian media] where there is none,” continued Simon. A few years ago, pioneers were at the very beginning of translating the Bible into the languages of minority people groups in the Caucasus. They contacted Simon regarding publishing resources and arranged to meet during a visit to their region.
On the day before discussing projects with the translators, Simon was walking along a street when suddenly a stray dog ran out from a backyard, leapt up and bit him in the thigh. “It had an aggressive, dark look that I’ve never seen in a dog before,” he described. “Then it was gone.” The wound was deep. However, to the relief of all who had prayed and to the amazement of his doctor back home, the wound didn’t become infected. “To me, it was more than a dog bite,” shared Simon with emotion. Seeing no reason why the dog would go after him, Simon viewed the bite as part of a spiritual attack meant to "hinder the upcoming meeting and delay collaboration with the Bible translation team for unreached people."
After the initial meeting in the Caucasus, a volunteer, Murad*, who agreed to help translate scripture into his language, came to faith. He understood it was God’s Word and accepted Jesus as his Saviour. One of the pioneers phoned soon after saying: “Simon, Simon, do you know what has happened…?” Murad became the first known Jesus follower among his people.
“God is building His Kingdom and it’s an unbelievable privilege to be part of it,” expressed Simon. The translators went to the unreached people group only to discover God was already at work; Murad had had dreams that he should translate the Bible. “When I see what came out of that first meeting and what happened in Murad’s life,” said Simon with feeling, “God opened a door that no one can shut.”
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” – Rev 7:9a (NIV)
Heaven’s door stands open to those from every nation, tribe, people and language who put their faith in Jesus. “The picture in Revelation of a great multitude before God’s throne giving Him glory is a powerful picture that motivates me again and again,” said Simon. “It’s the ultimate goal of mission.” He keeps the verse displayed on his computer screen, now working remotely from Switzerland after 14 years based in Austria.
Simon, who is on MediaWorks’ leadership team, highlights the importance of partnerships where each ministry contributes their skills. “The task is too big. We need to work together,” he emphasised. He keeps coming back to the example where God asked Moses: “What is that in your hand?” Moses had a staff, which God wanted to use for His purposes. “God didn’t ask Moses for what he didn’t have,” explained Simon. “The staff represents what we already have. All that matters is: how much will we let God use our ‘staff’?” Simon encourages others to allow God to use whatever gifts they have to seek first His Kingdom and be part of building His Kingdom on earth and, ultimately, in heaven.
“If we place our gifts and talents at His disposal, He will use them for His glory,” said Simon. “What do you have in your hand that you can give to God?”
Praise God for bringing more individuals into relationship with Him! As His Word goes out to hard-to-reach areas, please pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:9b-10 (NIV)
Photo: The first translations of Bible stories in the language of a minority people group in the Caucasus.