Where do you start reviewing a book that encompasses the world? Previous editions of this amazing book have been tools that the Lord has used - a very useful tool for prayer. It is a book to enlarge our vision, which is very important, because so many Christian people are very narrow minded as far as the world is concerned. There is so much information in this book that can inspire prayer, but it could also lead to information overload and overwhelm you. Take it in small mouthfuls!
Of course a book like this is dangerous! It could lead to God calling you to answer your prayers and going to the uttermost parts of the earth. Or it could mean a significant move to love and witness to the world on our doorsteps through refugees and others in the UK.
Such a book is bound to be out of date before it is published, as world events can quickly change things. However checking out some details (we have a son who was in Nepal until just after the massacre of the Royal Family there) it is certainly as up-to-date as it can be!
There are helpful introductory pages on how to use the book - don't flip over these or you will miss making best use of this book. This section highlights the two key purposes of Operation world that are fundamental to Headway: 'The book is written to inform for prayer and to mobilize for witness'. Suggestions on how to use it include a very important one: 'Keep the book near your television, radio or newspaper' so you can 'turn secular news into spiritual dynamite'. Actually this comment highlights an issue raised by a friend who has spent years in Brazil who looked over the Latin American countries. A number of the entries I noted did not seem to reflect the holistic nature of the gospel. As my friend wrote of the concern in urban Brazil there is 'the immediate need for a practical presentation of the gospel through social assistance'.
A book of this nature is bound to over-simplify some areas, notably comments on favelas in Brazil that are not so lawless as is suggested. Having spent much of my ministry in inner-city areas in UK the same sort of inaccurate comments are made here as well.
I appreciated the honesty of comments on South Korea which has been held up as a great model for church growth. When you read the prayer suggestions you recognise the need for what John Wesley would call scriptural, practical holiness. Similarly some of the comments on Jamaica rang true although again there was an over-simplification of some aspects of life in down town Kingston - I was there in 2000.
A Romanian friend commented on her country's entry that it was 'honest and clear' although here and in other places it understandably did not represent the depth of difficulty to evangelise. The Children's version Window on the World costing £14.99 from the same publisher is very attractive with colour pictures etc. Obviously it is simplified which could be risky in giving too inaccurate understanding of the country, but a risk worth taking.
After years of producing this sort of prayer resource it is always encouraging to read how prayer has been answered, and this spurs one on to praise the Lord and to pray more.
At this price it is not a book for every member of the congregation but certainly for every church that takes the love of God for the world seriously. It can inspire and inform prayer meetings, family prayers and church intercessions as well as inform with helpful statistics as we pray about current news - for instance, on Afghanistan. Another friend with years of experience in Indonesia sent me the following note: 'As a co-worker with the Indonesian church and a worker in missions promotion for many years I have found Operation World to be the outstanding resource we need for informed praying, planning and functioning in world mission. Information quickly dates and the fact that it has now been updated again is a great encouragement and help'.
Page numbering could be a little more helpful. Note that there is also a CD version with even more information - look on website www.operationworld.org for more details. Dipping into this book reminded me of a saint I knew in the 1970's: whichever country was in the news he knew something of the work of the Lord there and prayed in prayer meetings in a way that amazed everyone. Truly a world prayer-warrior. Hopefully this book will enable more to be warriors for the 21st century.