Tributes are being paid to George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, following his death.
The 84-year-old missionary died last night, surrounded by his family, at his home near London, following significant illness.
Described as “the most outstanding North American missionary statesman of the last 60 years,” George directed one of the world’s leading mission charities for more than four decades.
Globally renowned for his commitment to evangelism, George handed out more than one million free books during his lifetime.
In the twenty years since he stepped down from leading Operation Mobilisation (OM), George managed special projects, spoke at church events with characteristic vigour and wrote more than a dozen books.
He never shied away from admitting his own imperfections and honouring God, who graciously forgives and works through people, despite their mistakes. He called it "messiology."
Writing in his 2008 book Drops from a Leaking Tap, he said: “Strong in God, a spiritual giant — some people have actually called me that. They don’t know me.
“I am a sinner, who’s growing stronger through the years, who crawls back to the cross when he sins and finds God still loves him and will still use him to bring others to Christ.
“That’s grace, isn’t it?”
George first made a commitment to Christ at a Billy Graham rally in New York City aged 17.
From there, he embarked on a lifelong commitment to mission work. In 2016, George said: “As I found out about more nations and how so many were unreached, the vision for reaching them began to grow in my heart and mind.
“When I started to realise that finance was urgently needed, I started selling everything I could and gave the money to world missions.
“I got a job waiting on tables in the college restaurant in order to be able to give more.”
That passion would continue for the length of his lifetime, long past retirement age.
“I’m still mega-motivated to see everyone in the world being given the gospel at least once… [to] have the opportunity to hear about saving grace through our Lord Jesus Christ, and I hope I can, right to my last breath, continue to share that message,” he said in 2015.
Across the world, church leaders have paid tribute.
Matthew Skirton, CEO of OM in the UK, said: “George truly practised what he preached. His authenticity and passion for reaching the lost, but also his humility and transparency when sharing about his struggles, have profoundly impacted me in my life and I know have touched, encouraged and challenged so many others as well.
“George was God’s servant. A man of prayer, with an incredible memory, staying connected with thousands and always demonstrating compassion, forgiveness and generosity — especially for those who had messed up or fallen from grace.
“He was incredibly big-hearted and generous; he leaves behind an extraordinary legacy within OM, but also in the hundreds of organisations that have been formed or are led by former OMers.
“He was a leader who pioneered a large, influential mission organisation, yet his heart was never primarily for OM’s mission but rather for God’s mission, God’s kingdom.”
Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission, said: “I want to thank God for George, for his life, for OM and all it’s meant.
“I thank God that I ever got to meet George, that I ever got to know him, and that I got to see the work of his ministry and his heart, and the people following him, that has touched millions of lives around the world.”
George is survived by his wife, Drena, their three children, plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They have asked for privacy at this time.