The Unreached Among Us

16 04 2012

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Chris Read on the phone late last week. He and his wife, Cheryl, are working with a large group of refugees from the country of Bhutan. Since 1989, the heavily Buddhist government has cracked down on anything that is not Buddhist, including Nepali Hindus and Bhutanese Christians. According to the book, Operation World by Jason Mandryk, “…Proselytism and incitement to convert are illegal. Church buildings are not allowed, and Christians are not privy to many of the state benefits available to Buddhists, such as free education.” Because of this persecution by the government, led by King Wangchuk, many people have been displaced out of the country with a large population of them finding themselves in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

In many cases, the first friend that a Bhutanese refugee will meet once they enter the United States is Chris or Cheryl Read. Chris and Cheryl are both very normal people who have an exceptional, Godly love for the refugees from Bhutan. Both of them are volunteers and are striving their best to put food on the table and support their own children through college. Cheryl is a school teacher, and Chris works for a telephone company. Yet in their “spare” time they reach out to a people that are hurting and helpless. In my book, they are heroes, and I am excited about the possibility of our church working with them and the newly planted First Bhutanese Baptist Church.

It is hard to imagine that just 5 hours away from us, God has provided us with an unreached people group. We certainly live in a day of blessing – a day when God has said that if His people will not go, He will bring the nations to them. God could have just decided to forget about us, because of our disobedience. We would have deserved just that, but instead, right here in Fort Smith, Arkansas, we have people from Vietnam, Laos, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea, etc. As believers, we must open our eyes! The unreached people groups of the world are living among us, and we cannot afford to waste this opportunity! God is giving us another chance. The question is whether or not we will take that chance.

In Tanzania, one day, I received a call from a local pastor/friend who told me that a village elder called to ask us to come, because his village was ready to receive the Lord. That is fruit that is ripe and ready to be picked! I believe that God has planted an amazing diversity of fruit trees in America with a lot of fruit that is ripe for the harvest. The job for us now is to, first, recognize those trees, and, second, to pick the fruit. That seems to be the simplest job in the world, yet how many will rise up to it?

Here is one simple thing that you can do this week to get started… Instead of going to eat another meal at a fast food chain restaurant, find a hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop ethnic restaurant, and commit to go there at least once per week. Get to know the wait staff and the cooks. Complement their food. Ask them to teach you how to greet someone in their language and use it the next time. This can be a fun way to meet a person from another culture and open your eyes to all those that are ripe for the harvest.

Please be in prayer for Chris and Cheryl Read as they continue this important work among the Bhutanese refugees in Texas.

The Future of the Global Church

15 03 2012

I just received a book in the mail that I would HIGHLY recommend. It is called The Future of the Global Church by Patrick Johnstone. You might know the author as the one who worked many long years on the first three versions of the fantastic book, Operation World. This new book, published last year, is large with a lot of maps, graphs, and pictures. It contains information that I believe every Christian should know and understand. The first part of the book highlights Nine Global Challenges…

  • Population – The population is literally exploding in some of the most unreached areas of the world. As Christians, how are we going to respond: going or staying?
  • Migration – God is literally bringing the world to our doorstep. Refugees are pouring into the US, but the rest of the world is experiencing this as well. The amazing part is that some people groups that were in completely closed countries are now our next door neighbors.
  • Urbanization – The trend of people moving into cities is accelerating. As Christians, we must be prepared to reach cities and to find the unreached people groups living among them.
  • Health & Disease – As populations in the poorest of countries explode, disease increases. AIDS in Africa, where it is as high as 1/4 the population, is decimating entire villages. Johnstone says, “The Church is the only network with the human resources, moral imperative and spiritual motivation to deal with the root causes of the spread of HIV and help its victims by providing local, self-sustaining mechanisms for survival, a loving community for the present and real hope for the future.”
  • Climate Change – Whether you are on the side that thinks climate change is due to human abuses or it is simply a cyclical effect, most will agree that something is going on. The weather seems to be strange. There has been a dramatic increase in catastrophic earthquakes. For Christians, this could signal the end times. The Bible talks about an increase in these types of things during the last days.
  • Economy – As we have already experienced, the economy is a fragile thing. There is a growing disparity between the rich and the poor. ¬†Corruption is on the rise globally.
  • Energy Resources – The price of oil and gasoline at the pumps continue to rise, not to mention that oil is a limited resource and not renewable. At the same time, renewable alternative energy resources are too expensive.
  • Politics & Freedom – We live in a day and age of increased hostility. At any given time, the US seems to be on the brink of war with any number of countries. The problem of slavery and human trafficking is not a past problem but a present reality.
  • Water Resources – Fresh water resources are dwindling. The US is, by statistics, considered under stress in this area. Countries in North Africa and the Middle East are at critical deficiencies.

As believers, we must be prepared to face these realities and not just look at them through our stained-glass windows. This cannot be about us just building our own little church. It must be much bigger than that.  It is imperative that we start thinking in terms of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is like yeast. It does not work right if it is just clumped up together. It must be spread through the entire dough (Luke 13:20-21). I take this to mean that we need believers in every people group actively sharing their faith in order to see an indigenous church-planting movement started, but also to see believers in every area of life making real Godly change within healthcare systems, government structures, corporations, etc.

%d bloggers like this: