“Her life was a mess. She had run for her life. She found no help along the way. But God had a plan. He always has a plan.”
I walked over a flooded ditch and stooped down into a bamboo hut on the outskirts of a coastal city in Southeast Asia. We were greeted by a young pastor, Aqi, and his wife, Ani.* After some brief interaction, we joined a small gathering of believers to worship.
After quietly slipping into an upper room, the place began to fill to capacity. We sang and prayed, then shared testimonies of how God had moved this week among the people. Mothers shared stories of their children coming to faith, and believers gave updates on those with whom they’d shared the story of Jesus. All of them walked from various villages on the outskirts of the city, but they all share a common ancestry.
In January 1814, Nancy and Adoniram Judson moved within the walls of this city. Judson, inspired by the power of the gospel and the necessity of making the word of God accessible to the unreached in their mother tongue, gave his life for these oral culture people. Today, believers there trace their spiritual heritage to the locals who first heard the name of Jesus from the young American missionary couple.
Humbled and honored to worship with these young followers, I couldn’t help but wonder how more would hear without access to the word of God. After worship, Aqi asked, “Who will come and train our pastors with the tools they need to share and grow in the word? How will the 116 language groups across this country hear and understand the gospel?” My heart was burdened for Aqi, and for the millions like him around the world who long for appropriate training and preparation for ministry.
Billions live among oral cultures, people who live without access or preference for literacy, who learn by listening. Who will serve their leaders and develop tools for evangelism and discipleship? Who will partner with their leaders to train oral culture pastors?
In a few weeks, I’ll return to the golden shores of this distant land, and we’ll begin a leadership development program with a team of indigenous leaders. We will serve and partner with locals together to facilitate an oral ministry program to spread the word of God and humanitarian aid into the unreached villages of the dense tropical interior—and all without a single printed page.
Billions live among oral cultures, people who learn by listening.
Over 200 years ago, it was the sobering reality of tens of millions of unreached souls crying in their misery, suffering day and night, that drove Judson to give his life so they could hear and see the Savior. Today, believers there await tools for those who live among unreached oral preference cultures.
Would you pause and pray and ask God to raise up a generation willing to go and serve the unreached among them?
Would you ask God to give you a burden for an oral culture who has not heard his name?
Could God be calling you to go and follow him (like Judson) into the unreached?
Let us pray that Jesus’ name would be made great among this nation, and let us go and carry the gospel to their rescue.
*Names changed and location withheld for security reasons.
Here’s a story I shared about a recent trip to Africa.
I was recently in Nigeria, both in the highly “Christian” south, and also in the highly “Muslim” north. Let me share a few thoughts on the recent global news of Boko Haram activities.
Boko Haram, which literally means “western education is sinful,” launched by an Islamist sect claiming responsibility for numerous kidnappings and bombings in Northern Nigeria, has become increasingly sophisticated since its first attacks in Nigeria in early 2010.
Since the West decided to designate several leaders of the movement as international terrorists, the Nigerian government has renewed interest in suppressing Boko Haram and its violent activities.
The media claim to have the solution. Source responses range from “sectarian religious violence,” lack of government control,”Christian Presidential leadership vacuum,” “lack of leadership,” “level of poverty in the north,” “security forces working as double agents,” and the list goes on.
But I would contend the media have it wrong.
Like many countries in Africa, who have enjoyed significant funding and influence from Islam and Christianity, Nigeria lives in the throws of a national identity torn by some who argue Christianity should be the national religion, while others argue for Islam.
But religious allegiance at the national level will not a nation deliver. Rather, personal and societal transformation in these cultures comes through internal course correction expressed in a transformation of attitude and behavior. In order for this change to take place, the change will come through new information that is spoken (e.g., song, story, epic, poem), which is heard, understood, and transmitted by those who are trusted with the truth–and usually in small groups that allow ample dialog.
No amount of media coverage, propaganda, threats, or government intervention will suppress this movement or streams like it. Change happens through the communication of new truth into a community that is clearly broken. In order for violent communities to change their actions, some more valuable result must be seen as real and permanent good.
For oral cultures, that information will come through a medium they understand–one that is auditory, not printed or forced upon a people who prefer to share through spoken word.
Once that’s solved, one must then direct attention to the content of the message being delivered. From where does peace come? Never from the sword or IED, but rather peace comes from another man. Only One of us can bring Peace.
For anyone who has ever owned a computer or sent an email, this article is worth a read.
Fascinating pictorial coverage of a pilgrimage to the shrine of Amamath cave, at 12,756 ft, in the snow covered Himalayan mountains. A beautiful display of the need a creation has for worship and devotion. A chilling reminder of the need for those with Truth to go until they’ve heard and understand the Word.
I watched this video and was humbled by the vision and message of what it means to suffer through the providence of God. I am grateful for words from brothers like Steve. (HT: @t4g_whitby).
Live daringly. I was in a conversation today that spurred me to live more daringly. It seems I’m in those kinds of conversations often these days. Because of what I do around the world, it is humbling to work with men and women who risk life and limb to carry Truth into dangerous contexts.
Some years ago, I read a number of books and listened to sermons from pastors who plead with every listener to give everything for the gospel. Today, I stumbled across a message that boldly challenged me to consider what life in ministry should look like. I hope they do the same for you.
“Corresponding to these two kinds of life, religious history shows two phases, the dynamic and the static. The dynamic periods were those heroic times when God’s people stirred themselves to do the Lord’s bidding and went out fearlessly to carry His witness to the world. They exchanged the safety of inaction for the hazards of God-inspired progress. Invariably the power of God followed such action. The miracle of God went when and where His people went. It stayed when His people stopped.
“The static periods were those times when the people of God tired of the struggle and sought a life of peace and security. They busied themselves trying to conserve the gains made in those more daring times when the power of God moved among them….
“This is a brief but fair outline of the history of Israel and of the Church as well. As long as they “went forth and preached every where,” the Lord worked “with them… confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). But when they retreated to monasteries or played at building pretty cathedrals, the help of God was withdrawn till a Luther or a Wesley arose to challenge hell again. Then invariably God poured out His power as before.
“In every denomination, missionary society, local church or individual Christian, this law operates. God works as long as His people live daringly: He ceases when they no longer need His aid. As soon as we seek protection out of God, we find it to our own undoing. Let us build a safety-wall of endowments, by-laws, prestige, multiplied agencies for the delegation of our duties, and creeping paralysis sets in at once, a paralysis which can only end in death.”
–from a sermon delivered from Hosea 10:12, by A. W. Tozer
I have always been captivated by the fact that Jesus’ first instruction to his audience when preaching the gospel was “Repent!” (Mark 1:15). ”Repent” is not a word often used in common contemporary English. Worse still, I’m afraid it’s not a word we use enough in the contemporary church either. From the beginning, turn from our failures and missteps has characterized the life of those who have seen God as deliverer and savior. Repentance is the work of God that prepares us for His gospel in and through us.
How could this apply to churches and missions organizations?