USA (MNN) — A research ministry has tragically lost its leader. According to GMI, on January 11, the ministry's president and CEO Michael G. O'Rear suffered a sudden heart attack. After several days in intensive care, surrounded by family and friends, Mike died of complications Saturday morning, January 14. He was 57.
"Mike's death is a tragic loss for all of us who considered him a close friend–as well as a loss for GMI, the mission community in Colorado Springs, the U.S. and the entire world," said GMI board chair Jane Overstreet.
O'Rear was married to Laura, his partner in life and in ministry for 28 years. She served alongside him at GMI. They have four adult children, one grandson, and a daughter-in-law expecting triplets later this year.
O'Rear was born in Andalusia, Alabama, in 1954. He attended Montana Institute of the Bible and Wheaton College, where he earned an MA in Communications in 1981. He joined the staff of the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California, in 1983 and was introduced to the work of GMI (Global Mapping International) on that campus. Mike led GMI since 1991, when he took the reins from GMI's founder, Bob Waymire.
O'Rear set the tone and direction for GMI's contributions to the evangelical mission community, including mapping, publishing, research services and information technology. He was largely responsible for defining and implementing GMI's key values of excellence in research and partnership with all evangelical mission leaders, especially those in the Global South.
"The GMI board with Mike's help had agreed on contingency plans in case of an event such as this, and I am so grateful to announce Bill Dickson has stepped graciously into the role of Acting CEO with the full support of the board," said Overstreet. "Even this week, he has made many wise decisions on behalf of the ministry that reflect his 28 years of history with GMI and close involvement in its leadership."
"Mike gave selflessly to create an environment where we could do research, mapping, and publishing work without worrying about a vast array of funding and administrative details," said longtime friend Bill Dickson, Acting CEO of GMI. "He came to GMI as a researcher, hoping to do the work himself, but ultimately found he could have more effect for the Kingdom by enabling others all around the world to do the work he so deeply believed in."
There are many key milestones in GMI's work during Mike's tenure, including:
• Authoring the popular MisLinks feature in Evangelical Missions Quarterly and at mislinks.org, which Mike wrote with Scott Moreau, Wheaton College professor and Editor of EMQ.
• Publishing The World of Islam and Operation China portable libraries on CD-ROM, along with many other significant collections of mission resources.
• Developing the Web, e-Book, CD and DVD-ROM versions of "Operation World," the definitive mission prayer guide.
• Developing the Global Ministry Mapping System, the premier mapping software for international mission.
• Earning the inaugural Henry Parsons Crowell Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Extension of Evangelical Christianity.
• Conducting major mission research projects in partnership with mission agencies worldwide, such as the FlightPlan initiative to explore the future of mission aviation.
• Developing and implementing research training to benefit field missionaries, especially in the Global South.
• Overseeing the ministry's relocation to Colorado Springs from the U.S. Center for World Mission.
O'Rear served in global roles such as Senior Associate for Information Technology for the Lausanne Movement. He also held key roles in the local community. At Covenant Presbyterian Church he taught Sunday School and led a community within the church. He also served a four-year term on the board of his public school district.
A memorial service to honor Mike's life will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church Wednesday, January 18, at 11 a.m. Memorial gifts will benefit the global ministry of GMI and can be sent to GMI, PO Box 63719, Colorado Springs, CO 80962.
GMI is an international team of evangelical research, mapping and technical professionals passionate about informing, equipping and connecting the Church with information that will equip them to serve. Founded in 1983 at the U.S. Center for World Mission, GMI has a rich history of facilitating strategic mission research and mapping for international Christian ministries.