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Reaching the 1900 - Shining The Light of Jesus Among the Least Reached

January 7, 2019

Reaching the 1900 - Shining The Light of Jesus Among the Least Reached

January 7, 2019
Hassania Man
Hasania - Country: Sudan, Population: 709,000, Religion: Islam, Evangelical: 0.10%

His story took an hour to be told. The ugly scars on his arm and leg confirmed his story of being harshly tortured for his faith. Abu* had once been a devout and accomplished Koranic scholar. One afternoon, while praying, he was stunned by a powerful vision. The instructions from the brilliant figure standing before him were clear and unequivocal: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. Go and tell everyone.”

That evening he told his friends that he had been visited by Jesus. They were horrified and accused him of being crazy. He told his extended family. They offered him the handsome reward of a house and a motorbike if he would stop talking nonsense. “All I want is Jesus,” was his reply.

When the bribery didn’t work, his former friends and colleagues began to threaten, “If you don’t stop talking about Jesus, we will have to do to you what Jesus’ enemies did to him.”
For 48 days, Abu was tied up with ropes and provided with little to eat or drink. He was beaten with metal rods and thrashed with live electrical wires. Still, Abu would not relent. Late one afternoon, four of his friends planted drugs in his room and called the police. By the time the authorities had arrived to arrest him, the white powder had miraculously turned into black charcoal. In a final act of desperation, Abu was forced by his former friends to drink poisoned mango juice. Miraculously, the poison did him no harm.

Because of all of the miraculous interventions of protection on Abu’s life, much attention has been focused on his faith. All four of the guys that planted drugs in his room have now come to believe in Christ. Over the last two years since his visit with Jesus, Abu has led 45 friends and family members to faith in Jesus.

Abu’s life is still under constant threat. There’s a price on his head. But his story, and others like his, offer further evidence that we serve a God who is alive and active throughout the world. We don’t need to bring Jesus to dark places. We simply need to find Him there, and help others see Him, too.

Turmen Turkhmeny women
Turkmen - Country: Turkmenistan, Population: 4,800,000, Religion: Islam, Evangelical: 0.0%
Why Focus on Unreached People Groups?

Reach Beyond’s vision is to see Jesus known and loved among all people groups. When Jesus commanded His followers to “make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:19, He was not referring to political nations. The word Jesus used for nations in Greek is “ethne,” from which we get the English word “ethnic.” Jesus commanded us to make disciples from every ethnic people group. Until we accomplish this, the task is unfinished.

A people group is considered unreached if two percent or less of the population identifies as evangelical. They are without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement, unable to support growth without outside intervention. Of course, sometimes the intervention comes from Jesus Himself, appearing in dreams and visions, like He did for Abu. But Jesus also asked us to go and tell.

According to Joshua Project, there are still 7,000 people groups considered unreached, making up over 40 percent of the world’s population. “With the mass-media tools in our toolkit, we believe God has uniquely called and equipped us to bring the message of Jesus to the 1,900 largest of these unreached people groups, each with a population of 100,000 or more,” says Steve Harling, president of Reach Beyond. “Of course, we can’t do it by ourselves.”

Pashtun children
Pashtun (Southern) - Country: Afghanistan, Population: 2,600,000, Religion: Islam, Evangelical: 0.01%
Why Are There Still Unreached Peoples?

In 2019, more than 2,000 years into the Great Commission, how are there still unreached peoples? After years and years of missions, with radio broadcasts and internet, how can there still be entire groups that are unreached with the gospel, let alone more than 7,000?

There are many reasons. Some people groups are still physically hard to reach, either because of geography or government barriers. While it is hard to imagine our life without the internet, a little less than half of the world’s population does not have online access, meaning people groups can’t even be reached virtually. And many of the unreached people groups are hostile to the gospel, as was the case in Abu’s community. The local laws or culture make evangelism illegal and dangerous.

“I am very much aware, that there is significant opposition to the gospel in many of the places where Reach Beyond seeks to make disciples. Those who become followers of Jesus are subjected to severe suffering and rejection,” says Steve. “In a remote village in West Africa, I recently asked a gathering of pastors and evangelists, ‘Have any of you been beaten for your faith?’ The response was unanimous: Hands went up. Voices cried out: ‘Oui!’ One pastor then explained, ‘We can handle the beatings. That’s not a problem. It’s the abandonment of our families that hurts the most.’”

Another obstacle is Bible access. In order to make a disciple of Jesus, the Scriptures need to be available in the heart language of the people. Wycliffe Bible Translators estimate that about 1,600 languages still have translation needs. Even if the Scriptures are available, an estimated one billion adults are considered illiterate with the highest concentrations of illiteracy in the Arab states, South and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. And despite literacy, an estimated 70% of the unreached peoples of the world are considered oral learners, not written. That is why Reach Beyond’s broadcast ministry to these areas is so vital. If they cannot read the gospel, they can at least hear it.

Finally, there is the obstacle of having enough resources to share the gospel. Joshua Project estimates that 81% of all Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists do not know a single Christian. For every dollar of Christian resources spent on ministry, less than one penny is directed at reaching unreached peoples. These groups do not have access to Christians, and we aren’t spending enough money to send them a witness.

Japanese food stall
Japanese - Country: Japan, Population: 122,000,000, Religion: Buddhism, Evangelical: 0.3%
A New Old Way of Reaching UPGs

When Jesus sent out the 72, He instructed them to go out in teams of two to every town and place ahead of Him, saying, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” – Luke 10:5-9

In Central Asia, Reach Beyond workers are living out these instructions, going in small teams to live among an unreached people group (UPG) and looking for “people of peace.” They use the tools of medical, media and community development to make Jesus known among the people.

“This team has gained a foothold for the gospel by demonstrating the love of Jesus through clean water projects, medical caravans, and the training of medical practitioners,” says Steve. “We are praying for 300 more workers just like them!”

Reach Beyond has an opportunity to make real impact among the 1,900. Currently, we have a potential engagement among 32% of the 1,900 UPGs through media, medical and community development outreach. Our shortwave programming in Asia Pacific alone is being broadcast in 17 languages, potentially reaching 442 UPGs and 939 million people!

Reach Beyond’s international leadership team has identified 30 UPGs that are high on our priority list for 2019. With these people groups, we’re asking God to raise up teams of disciple-makers who will go and (wherever possible) live among these unreached peoples.