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NEWS DIGEST: Heath Lambert to have fifth brain surgery; George Verwer dies at 84

FBC Jacksonville pastor to undergo fifth brain surgery

By BP Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) – Heath Lambert, pastor of First Baptist Church Jacksonville, announced to his congregation Sunday (April 16) that he will have to endure another brain surgery to remove scar tissue from four previous surgeries.

In a letter posted on the church’s website, Lambert recounts the journey he’s been on so far, beginning in 2018 with pain and uncontrollable movements caused by vascular compression of nerves in his brain.

His first surgery was in 2020, but an error required a second surgery in 2021, during which another error was made.

“At that point, we made the decision to find another surgeon who performed a third operation in August of 2022,” Lambert writes in the letter. “In the kindness of God, that surgery worked, but the repeated opening and closing of the enclosure around my brain called the Dura created a leak. Another brain surgery was required to fix that leak.

“That was the fourth surgery, and until very recently, I believed the last.”

Lambert has begun experiencing similar symptoms to those he’s had earlier, only this time they are caused by scar tissue.

“Disappointment seems too small a word to describe my response to this development,” Lambert writes. “The last few years have been the hardest of my life. I ache to know that some of that trouble is not yet behind me.

“As disappointing as it is, I know God is good. I know he loves me. I know he is doing good things.”

He goes on to ask for prayer for his healing, his church and his family.

“Suffering is the surgery a loving God does on our souls,” the letter says. “My neurosurgeon is going to create significant pain with scalpels and drills to solve a problem that cannot be addressed any other way. In the same way, God sends painful circumstances into our life as the exclusive remedy for spiritual challenges we might not even know we face.

“God is doing wonderful things in this trial. As the God of great love, he doesn’t know how to do anything other than good things. Though it can be hard to see the good things he’s doing, his ability to do them is not in doubt. God never intervenes in our life to harm us—only to help us.”

Missions mobilizer George Verwer dies

Compiled from OM press information

ATLANTA (BP) – George Verwer, founder of the Christian mission agency Operation Mobilization (OM), died April 14 at his home near London, England. He was 84.

Born in New Jersey, Verwer committed his life to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in New York City in 1955. After that, lifelong passion was global evangelization.

George changed the face of missions in his generation,” said Andrew Scott, president of OM USA. “When the mission agencies of the late ‘50s were looking for highly trained individuals with seminary degrees who would commit to going for a lifetime, George invited young people who simply loved Jesus to come for a summer. This was new. This was different. Thousands came.” 

Operation Mobilization began with three students in a worn-out van distributing Christian literature in Mexico, then branching into Europe and across the globe. Today, more than 5,000 OM workers are active in almost 150 countries, in a huge range of ministries. 

Verwer’s vision in the 1960s led to ships being used to transport and train international volunteers while carrying cargo of literature and aid supplies. Fifty million people have climbed the gangways of OM’s four ships, and at least double that number have come into contact with the Gospel through outreaches and projects in port cities worldwide.

OM International Director Lawrence Tong, said, “George was passionate about Jesus, passionate for God’s word, and passionate for the lost. I believe he was God’s man for the 20th century, who changed the course of modern missions.”

Greg Livingstone, founder of missions group Frontiers, said, “We should have thought he was a ‘nutcase,’ but because of the Holy Spirit, we just knew this was a man you could follow to the ends of the earth, and we had real confidence he was getting the mind of the Lord.”

Known for his world map jackets and for handing out more than 1 million free books, in the 20 years since he stepped down from leading OM, Verwer managed special projects, spoke at church events and wrote more than a dozen books. A key theme was admitting his own imperfections and honoring God who graciously forgives and works through people, despite their mistakes. He called it “messiology.”

George is survived by his wife, Drena, their three children, plus grandchildren and great grandchildren. Memorial service details were not available at publication time.

Speaking in 2015, George summed up what drove him, 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.”

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  • BP Staff