My dear friend George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization (OM) and advocate for worldwide missions, is with Jesus. I have never known anyone like George; he is—I speak in the present tense because he is fully alive—one of a kind. His love for lost souls, his devotion to Jesus, and his passion for the Gospel marked me and countless others. Today over 3,300 workers in OM's family of ministries, representing over 100 nationalities, are bringing God’s unchanging truth to millions of people every year.
Here’s a wonderful 4-minute tribute to George, produced by OM, also including his co-founder Dale Rhoton, another brother greatly used of God:
I was touched by this final video update from George, days before he died, sharing what he hopes his legacy will be:
George was to me the embodiment of the verse he shared at the end: “…steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
In his life story on the OM website, they say, “Rarely seen without his world map jacket or inflatable globe, George always prayed for the nations and current issues. He was energized by encouraging others and keeping in contact with thousands of friends and ministry partners through letters, emails and phone calls.”
I’m wearing his jacket in this picture—yes, George literally gave me the coat off his back. Also in the photo is our dear friend Karen Stout Coleman, who I worked with in the early years of Good Shepherd Community church, who eventually became a missionary and beloved EPM staff member. Karen is now with the Lord, and along with my wife Nanci is no doubt among those warmly greeting George. There are literally thousands who will want to thank George for bringing them the Gospel—everyone reached by Operation Mobilisation, including their ship ministry. (To clarify, Mobilisation is the British spelling of what is in America Mobilization, and either spelling is correct.)
Almost exactly ten years ago, George and I did an event together in Portland, related to missions, giving, and my book The Treasure Principle. (You can watch the full interview: part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Here’s a clip from that evening, of George speaking passionately about the needs around the world, and how God’s people need a vision for giving:
And below is a video of George speaking at the convocation at Liberty University. This is classic George with his holding up the globe and praying over the top 10 persecuted and spiritually needy countries on the planet. I had already decided to include the video in this blog before I saw him lift up several books he was giving away to students, and then I realized the first of them was my book Why Pro-Life?
Some years ago, George contacted me, saying God had laid on his heart the plight of unborn children. I was grateful to hear this but wasn’t sure whether this vision would last given the fact that many people, Christians included, object to hearing about it. Well, George is a man who listens to God rather than voices that don’t tolerate speakers who address abortion. He gave away tens of thousands of copies of my book Why Pro-Life? in English and spearheaded its translations into other languages all over the world.
He is an example of a man whose life was focused on one central kingdom cause—world missions—but who was touched by God to frequently speak in defense of unborn children. In the context of missions, the unborn are seldom spoken of, and prolife efforts are sometimes considered a distraction from the main thing. I know George became unpopular in some circles for including the unborn on his otherwise fully acceptable list of people in need. And to speak about the unborn at missions conferences? It was utterly unheard of. (I believe missions should be spoken of at more prolife conferences too.) But George, arguably the greatest missions proponent on the planet, who spoke at hundreds of missions conferences all over the world, saw no dichotomy between them.
Over the years, EPM has been honored to partner with OM by giving away my books to their ministry (our records indicate that was over 206,000 books). George would take them with him all over the world and give them away. He would often call me from various countries where he was speaking, usually dozens of times in a single week. I always smiled and wondered where he was calling from. India? A church parking lot in Scotland? It was always a joy to speak with George. He would end our conversations by saying, “God bless you, brother...now don’t do anything stupid!” It’s a great line, true to Scripture (Proverbs in particular). I have missed those phone calls as his health declined, and I already can’t wait to see him again.
Last year, George Verwer and his son Ben visited Pat and Rakel Thurman, dear friends of Nanci’s and mine, who worked for decades with Operation Mobilization. Our family visited the Thurmans when they served in both Egypt and Cypress.
Nothing was closer to George’s heart than OM’s ship ministry, his brainchild, which God gave him a vision for in the 1960’s. In 2017 George was thrilled when I told him about the wonderful time Nanci and I enjoyed with the OM family when I spoke at a donor conference in Jamaica, and particularly about the five days we stayed aboard the Logos Hope. The first ship, the Logos, was purchased in 1970, then was joined by the Doulos in 1977. Then there was the Logos II, the Logos Hope and soon to set sail (more funding and crew members are needed) the Doulos Hope.
Over 50 million people, most of them unbelievers, have come aboard the OM ships, where they have been given or purchased gospel literature and Bibles, watched dramas and heard speakers with Christ-centered messages, and often engaged in Gospel conversations with the crew (which also goes out and does vital work projects in the countries visited). As I talk about in the article, Nanci and I witnessed on the Logos Hope 400 young people, most of them ages 18 to 25, along with some retired folks, from sixty different countries serving Jesus together, most of them for two-year terms. We came home wanting to tell any young person with a heart to serve God and a desire to see the world to consider becoming a crew member!
Of our many travels around the world, witnessing great works of God, those five days on the Logos Hope were among the most unforgettable. That’s why when we set up Nanci’s memorial fund, one of the three main recipients was the Logos Hope, and we have expanded it now to include the Doulos Hope.
There’s nothing better I can say of anyone than “He drew me closer to Jesus.” George touched my heart deeply, and I believe he has now received a “rich welcome” (NIV) and a “grand entrance” (NLT) “into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). I imagine people are lined up for miles just to thank him for bringing them the Gospel. (There’s no way to know exactly, but I believe it is safe to say that at least tens of millions of people—likely over a hundred million—have come to faith in Jesus through the many ministries of Operation Mobilization.)
When I see my brother George Verwer again, I’ll say thank you, too. Well done, good and faithful friend! As is said of Abel, so it can be said of George: “By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith” (Hebrews 11:4, CSB).
If you’d like to give to Operation Mobilization in honor of George, you can donate to EPM’s Missions Fund and through the end of May, 100% of contributions will be given directly to their ministry, including to the Logos Hope ship and the Doulos Hope, which is scheduled to launch in May.