[notice]ANDRE VILJOEN interviewed OM Ships International Chief Executive Officer Peter Nicoll during his recent visit to South Africa. In Part 1 of a two-part report, Nicoll shares on a daunting faith challenge that threatened to run-aground the ministry that has been bringing knowledge, help and hope to the people of the world for more than four decades. (See Part 2)[/notice]
“Sometimes it is easier to trust God with stuff that is definitely too big for us than to trust Him in those things when the answer is in our own hands.”
I was drinking coffee in Port Elizabeth with Peter Nicoll, veteran South African-born pastor and CEO of OM Ships International, and listening to him talk about an intimidating mountain he faced at the beginning of last year.
“Knowing that there is no way on this planet that we can climb a mountain without God’s help sometimes makes it easier to have faith. But it still doesn’t make is easy,” said Nicoll.
At the beginning of 2012 when Nicoll told his Chief Financial Officer, Dale Garman, that they needed 10 million euros (R135 million) to replace the generators on their mission ship, Logos Hope, as well as an additional 1,5m dollars (R15m) for other work on the vessel – funds which they did not have — the CFO’s response was simple:
“There is only one option. We will have to declare bankruptcy, “ he said.
Wrestling with God
“So we [the OM Ships leadership team] all smiled at him and for three days we wrestled with this and we really asked the Lord to guide us and he brought us to 2 Kings Chapter 3 where the kings went to war against Moab and ended up in the desert of Edom without any water. They asked for the man of God, Elisha, and he came along and the word of God to them was to make this valley full of ditches. ‘You dig the ditches and I will fill them. You won’t see the rain come’.
“And the guys dug the ditches and the next day the water came for the cattle and the army. It was a word from God for us [OM Ships] where He said: ‘Dig the ditches: you do what you can do, you get the systems in place, you visit the people and tell your story, you put out brochures or whatever it is, and I will fill the ditches. So on the basis of that, we set out and signed the contract for the generators.”
That signature at the beginning of the year committed OM Ships International to more than R135 million rand which they did not have. Nicoll said that generators were not something that could just be ordered when the money came in. They had to be made to specification and then a whole switchboard had to be designed around them. So it was imperative that they should be ordered in 2012. Describing the team’s time of prayer and wrestling over the issue, he said they were mindful that on a graph in which the one axis went from ‘Responsible’ to ‘Reckless’ and the other went from ‘Faithful’ to ‘Faithless’, the responsible thing to do would probably be faithless, and the reckless thing to do would be faithful.
“So legally we were obliged to be in the faithless quadrant but how could we be there before God? He helped us to make that step of faith.”
95% of money in by end of the year
To the amazement of the CFO, 95% of the frighteningly huge funding requirement was in by the end of the year, said Nicoll.
“Your team must be really in touch with God to have prayed and then heard from God and been willing to take such a big faith decision,” I remarked.
“It’s God’s grace. He’s more in touch with us than we are in touch with Him,” responded Nicoll with a hearty chuckle.
He shared more examples of God’s grace at work during the year of testing, mountain-sized faith.
“I remember in August I was skypeing him [his CFO] – he’s in Phoenix, Arizona — and he said we are a million dollars in the hole and he really did not know what to do about it. And while we were talking his phone rings, and I said: ‘Take it Dale’. It gave me a chance to try and breathe again. And as I was watching him talking to our financial development guy, he says to him, ‘Dale we’ve just been given a million dollars’. I watched him change from panic to crisis-over. It was an amazingly emotional moment for both of us and we had to go offline to deal with our emotions.”
“How often does someone give you a million dollars — for operations?” Nicoll remarked, emphasising the miraculous element of God’s faithful provision for the ship ministry.
On another occasion, in Johannesburg in September last year, he was looking for a place to have lunch in a small food court in a shopping mall.
“There was only one seat left, and opposite was a Chinese guy and so I asked him if it was alright if I sat down. He said ‘no problem’. He was a Buddhist from Singapore and he started talking and asked what I was doing. He obviously had some good Christian friends because he was asking some significant questions.
“And then he sat back and said: “It is no coincidence that you are here today.
“ I said: What do you mean?
“He said: ‘Well, a couple of nights ago I was woken by a dream. A man of God was shouting at me: ‘Go to the Valley of the Kings. And I’ve been looking — I cant find anything in the maps; I can’t find anything.’
“So, I said to him, maybe that’s more for me than for you. And I told him the story about how God had been providing and he sat back and said: ‘That is also for me’. He explained it was his first year out of university and he had been entrusted with finding enough Chrome in South Africa for a stainless steel plant in India to make 100 grand profit by end of year, and he was saying, it was beyond him. But now he said: ‘Maybe I need to start doing what I can and learning to trust God.”
During our chat about the challenge of exercising faith, Nicoll, who will celebrate 40 years in fulltime ministry next year, quoted some verses from Psalm 18, in which David reflects on his life, saying:
30As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.
“I think that’s true for anybody in ministry. Learning to trust in God is progressive; it’s a school, and the next mountain will always be steeper and harder than the last. Just look at Abraham, in Genesis 22 the climax of being called to take your son, your only son and sacrifice him. I mean that’s bigger than trusting God to give your barren wife a child. I think that’s how God works. There’s a school we need to go through before getting into leadership and responsibility!”
- Next week, in Part 2 — “God demonstrates his love for individuals through ships ministry’.