World Outreach International was established in 1932 by *Dr Len Jones. Dr Jones constantly emphasised two priorities: a tenacious faith in a God who can do great things, and an expanded vision among people who dare to believe. Len left a great heritage – today on five continents World Outreach International missionaries and coworkers walk by faith seeking to REACH the least-reached peoples across the world with a vision to fulfil all that God has for their lives and daring to believe in a God who can do more. Today, World Outreach International is directed by Bruce Hills, who is based in Australia.
Len Jone’s father was a coal miner in the Rhondda Valley of South Wales, in Britain, who emigrated to the goldfields of Australia in the belief that gold was more valuable than coal, and therefore it must be more remunerative to mine it!
He was born and raised in the mining area of western Australia, served in the Australian Army (where he was in full charge of the Australian YMCA during World War II) and was discharged at the end of hostilities with the equivalent rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Soon after his conversion in a Methodist Church in South Melbourne in the early 1920s, where he was working as an accountant, he attended the Melbourne Bible Institute.
Dr. Jones preached in most Methodist Churches in Melbourne, and was sent to Tasmania to preach for the Presbyterian Church. Then followed ministry overseas for some years in New Zealand (where he met his wife), USA, Canada and Great Britain.
There is a church today because of the sacrificial death of Jesus. World Outreach International (WOI) was also born because of death: the death of Dr and Mrs Jones son, Bedford John, brought Len back to Australia and New Zealand where the mission was founded.
‘Despise not the days of small beginnings’ is an apt phrase for the early days of WOI. As a new political force rose, spreading its communistic tentacles in Eastern Europe, God raised up a man, and a mission, to help address a great need among tens of thousands of displaced people.
WOI was raised up to minister to refugees in Eastern Europe during the Great Depression in 1932. While the major focus was a humanitarian one, Dr Jones and his willing coworkers would take every opportunity offered them to tell ‘refugees’ about Jesus. At the same time, they endeavoured to stir up Christians everywhere to get involved, whether in practical ways like distributing food, clothing, and blankets, or in prayer and in giving. Dr Jones travelled continuously, sharing the challenges and needs by speaking in church services and house meetings, over cups of tea, wherever opportunities allowed, and by writing and posting news reports around the world.
The political situation in Eastern Europe (including Russia) was difficult, to say the least, and because of this and other factors, there were thousands upon thousands of displaced people in Eastern Europe. The Russian and Eastern European Mission, as WOI was first known, was therefore born. The prevailing political situation however, made it impossible to continue ministering to the Russian people, so the name was changed to the Eastern European Mission.
At the conclusion of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur issued a call to the western church to help with the rebuilding of Asia. Dr Jones responded to that call. After some time, the name was changed to the Slavic and Oriental Mission to better reflect the scope of the ministry.
Eventually opportunities came to minister in Africa, so the name changed to World Outreach and later World Outreach International.
Has WOI changed in the past 80+ years? While scores of cross-cultural workers have since come and gone, today WOI has regular ministry programmes and projects in more than 60 nations, with over 350 people involved full-time with us. Now in the 21st century, the world has dramatically changed since WOI was birthed in 1932, but some things have not changed.
- A faith-based ministry totally dependent on God
- Committed to making disciples, and growing and developing leaders.
We diligently abide by our agreed upon core-values, which are easily identifiable by our distinctives, strive to be responsible in our management and are cost effective in our stewardship of resources.
What’s new then? The 21st century sees WOI involved on five continents of the world. Cross-cultural workers are no longer (just) coming from the developed nations but also from developing nations. More than ever before WOI is regularly participating in post-earthquake, flood and famine relief as natural disasters increase worldwide.
A steady stream of a younger generation of cross-cultural workers is embarking on different pathways for service, and a number of modern and effective training programmes have been developed in recent years to better prepare people for cross-cultural service.
One thing that fervently remains the same is the focus to take the Gospel to ‘Least Reached People’ (LRP) groups, ethnic communities who have never heard of Jesus. Many hundreds of such people groups are still waiting! This remains our great passion.
*As well as being an outstanding statesman, Dr Len Jones was also an inspiring author. His most popular book, Confess It, gives a more detailed account of his life story. He also wrote Sleuth Hound of Heaven, Ignorance is Not Bliss and Blooded but Unbowed.