A key focus for OMF’s Mekong Minorities teams is sharing the good news of Jesus with the people groups in the region that no one else is reaching. One team’s creativity and determination is now paying off in exciting ways:
A conversation can unexpectedly lead to a defining moment. A new direction becomes clear and a new path emerges. In the Bible, Nehemiah asked about the situation in Jerusalem, responding in prayer and daring action. They are moments in which a sense of urgency calls out ‘something has got to change,’ and is met with the faith and possibility that asks ‘what if…?’
One OMF worker, John*, had already been serving in East Asia for several years when he was challenged to consider that there were still people groups scattered around his country of service which no one was sharing the good news of Jesus with. Worse than that, nobody was attempting to. It had been over 100 years since mission work began in the country. How much longer would it be before someone went to share the gospel with these remaining groups?
The size of the task was not the only obstacle. Christians also face strong opposition to sharing the good news. The people groups in question were largely located in extremely remote villages where they had for centuries followed traditional religions and had deeply rooted rituals of spirit worship. They were group-oriented societies that often disapproved of someone choosing to follow a new path. Though the challenge was immense, John and his team had a strange but unshakeable confidence that the Lord had brought them this far and had proven that he was able.
The solution was not in working harder or frantically trying to go to every last part of the country. Instead, the answer was all around the team, within the Church. Though still small and relatively young, there was a growing population of followers of Christ within the country. Why not work to see them raised up, trained and sent out into cross-cultural ministry? Jesus taught us to ‘ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers…’ (Matthew 9:38). They don’t have to be sent out from somewhere on the other side of the world or even from another country nearby. Workers could be national believers willing to engage in cross-cultural ministry.
The answer was all around the team, within the Church.
As a small team carried out detailed and systematic surveys, they found that the challenge was larger than initially thought. Their original list included the names of fifty-eight different people groups. With more of the study completed they discovered the exact locations of these groups, but also found that the number of groups in desperate need of someone to share the good news with them had nearly tripled.
New workers are recruited through personal referrals. People hear about the opportunities to share Christ with those who have never heard of him before and have their own moment of decision, like Nehemiah, as they pray and consider whether the Lord is calling them to rise up and act.
The next step is a four-month training programme, where people are discipled more deeply while taking intensive classes on subjects such as the Bible, worldview and cross-cultural ministry. Afterwards they move to a sending base, from which they are sent out in pairs to the locations where the need is the greatest.
Going from village to village, they introduce people to Jesus until they find someone who is open to the gospel. When a family is eager to learn about him, the national workers will stay to continue establishing them in the faith. Local Christians live with the family for anywhere from six to twelve months. By day they work the soil with their hosts, tending their crops and cultivating their land. By night they gather around the Scriptures, telling stories and teaching, forming them into disciples, gathering them as a church and leading them in worship. Eventually the church is launched to continue as a part of a wider network of Protestant churches.
Today this work includes two full-time training centres where nearly 200 national workers have been trained. Fifty village churches have been formed and of the 158 groups they identified, only three are still awaiting their first encounter with the gospel. The national workers continue to help the churches multiply into surrounding villages.
The faithful body of national workers endures much difficulty in seeing this work carried out. They experience physical hardship and personal threats. Some have been arrested and spent
time in jail. Many have walked with fellow Christians undergoing severe persecution. Yet they continue in the confidence that the good hand of our God is upon them and he will see it through (Nehemiah 2:18).
- The remaining three people groups to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus
- Lasting fruit from the 155 people groups who now have some gospel witness among them
- Local Christians to persevere in ministry – ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ (Galatians 6:9).
*Name changed to protect identity