George Verwer 1938-2023: ‘A loving friend with a big heart for Jesus’

Tributes have been paid to Operation Mobilisation founder George Verwer who has been remembered as a generous man who loved Jesus and honoured lasting friendships.

Revd Dr Kevin Bidwell, Minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church, said Verwer had been with him “through thick and thin” for over 20 years and thanked God for allowing his family to experience Verwer’s “friendship and generosity”.

Born in New Jersey, USA, Verwer came to Christ in 1955 and just two years later began the work of OM with his friends Dale Rhoton and Walter Borchard on their mission trip to Mexico. Today, OM has over 3,000 workers in nearly 150 countries across the world.


After stepping down as OM’s director after 45 years, Verwer continued to speak at churches, write several books, and manage special projects.

In 2015, he explained that despite his age he was 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.”

When he first proposed the idea of buying a ship to give the organisation a global reach, people thought he had “lost his marbles”.

But since ‘Logos’ set sail in 1971, almost 50 million people have visited book fairs across OM’s five vessels, with over 70 million portions of Scripture distributed in 151 countries.

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Bidwell reflected that “people remember George for the missions he was involved in and ships and literature, evangelism, but I want to speak personally about George as a friend.

“The Bible says a friend loves at all times, and if George Verwer bonded with you that was it, that was for life. And he bonded with my wife and I over 20 years ago and he’s just been there through thick and thin.

“And I think we need to learn that lesson that the church has got many things to do, but let us never forget to keep inside the importance of godly, loving, permanent friendships.”

‘God’s kingdom’

OM’s International Director, Lawrence Tong, commented, “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 mission.”

Matthew Skirton, Field Leader of OM UK, added: “He was incredibly big-hearted and generous; he leaves behind an extraordinary legacy within OM, but also in hundreds of other organisations founded or led by OM alumni.

“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.”

‘Big heart’

The Institute’s Ciarán Kelly reflected that when he met Verwer, he was struck by his energy and passion for sharing the Gospel.

“George had a big heart for Jesus, which drove him to give as many people the opportunity to hear the Gospel as he could. Our prayers are with George’s wife Drena and their three children during this difficult time.”