Operation World: Prayers with Global ImpactBy Lynn Waalkes
For more than forty years, Operation World has been the definitive prayer guide for Christians, encouraging readers to pray for the world as the first, essential step to fulfilling the Great Commission.
In 1995, WEC missionary Jason Mandryk joined Patrick Johnstone as co-author, and in 2004 Mandryk assumed leadership of the handbook. Earlier this year, Johnstone and Mandryk took time from their busy schedules to discuss the new edition.
Have you seen any shift over the years in readership of Operation World?
Mandryk: I don’t believe the primary readership has changed much in the English edition, because people’s theological perspective and general commitment to missions haven’t changed. But one significant change we’ve seen is growth of Operation World use with non-English speakers. We now have Operation World in nine languages, as well as an online edition.
Johnstone: In some ways that has been one of the more dramatic results of Operation World. The different editions stimulated growth in missions in many countries. In places like Brazil, Korea, and much of Africa, it’s been a vital part of their equipping for ministry.
It’s hard to evaluate the impact just by the number of copies sold. In the African context, one copy of Operation World may actually feed dozens of groups. But it’s exciting to see more growth in readership in the Majority World. There’s strength in prayer movements that began ten to twenty years ago and are continuing today. Operation World entries often give a frank view of national and church-related problems.
Some of this information could be perceived as sensitive. What kind of feedback do you get?
Mandryk: One of the blessings is that there’s been so little criticism of the information in Operation World. We stick our necks out in so many places. We take risks in reporting on countries in which there’s not adequate information available. When we do receive criticism, we try to take people aside and ask them to help us with the next edition.
Johnstone: The biggest problem is where missionaries are working. We don’t want to expose them or indigenous believers to persecution. Mandryk: We’ve had interesting feedback in preparing the 2010 edition, where a range of attitudes regarding confidentiality has been expressed. Within the same country, one agency wants to be mentioned, and another does not. The level of concern over security exists and has been increasing over the last ten years.
What changes in information gathering have occurred since the last Operation World was published?
Mandryk: The process by which we gather information has significantly changed since the 2001 edition. The availability of information on the Web is much greater, so the capacity to do online research is increasing exponentially.
However, the type of information on the Web is limited in scope and value. Twenty years ago the challenge was to uncover information; now it’s to sift through rubbish to get to information of value.
Lynn Waalkes is a communications specialist at Biblica (formerly International Bible Society) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She considers her primary mission field to be granddaughters Lily and Emma, ages 4 and 2 respectively.