The concept of ethno linguistic people groups or “nations” was introduced by Ralph Winter in 1974. HIs insights brought a focus on reaching individual people groups, not just countries, with the Gospel. Despite many initiatives to “finish” the Great Commission task, about 2,000 distinct people groups and millions of villages still have little or no Christian witness!
At the same time, there is growing pressure and “competition” from Muslim “missionaries” seeking to garner new converts to Islam. Radical Islam is establishing cells of jihadists whose mission is to disrupt and create fear. Jihadist Training Camps, such as one in Sudan, train up to 2,000 young Muslim men who will be sent back to their countries to recruit and radicalize other youth. We are in a race to reach people. There are windows of opportunity to penetrate the spiritual darkness, but they require strong and coordinated collaborative action.
Research helps. Efforts to research the spiritual condition of people groups have raised awareness among mission agencies and evangelism groups.
It is difficult for us in the west to truly comprehend the global need for the Gospel. As I share basic information about unreached peoples, surprise is expressed that everyone hasn’t already been reached, let alone even had access to the Good News. Creating awareness is critical. Awaken to the World, a program developed by Bethany missionary, Jeff Korum, has stirred the church in Ghana, West Africa concerning the global mission challenge. Awareness leads to a call to respond. Effective training of workers must accompany focused sending of missionaries.
In 1995, a collaborative mission initiative, GlobeServe, brought together the collective resources and efforts of mission and church leaders from several countries. We recognized that the hidden and unreached peoples challenge cannot be solved alone.
Bethany International, along with Bethany International University (BIU), founded by a Bethany missionary in Singapore in 1989, spearheaded a global effort to train workers for cross cultural ministry by multiplying mission training schools placed in proximity to targeted people groups. IN the past 22 years, 202 of these schools have been launched. BIU has discipled and prepared leaders from many African and Asian countries that have gone back to their country of origin and launched pioneer mission training schools focused on reaching into the unreached regions and peoples. We have come along side of national mission initiatives to encourage their vision and efforts.
During the past 25 years, tremendous progress has been made in preparing and sending workers. But, we are not done, and Jesus has not yet returned! So we keep praying, planning and working.
- Population: 28.21 million
- Official Language: English (though there are 8 other languages sponsored by the government)
- Life Expectancy Average: 61.45 years
- Capital City: Accra
Unreached tribes in the Northern part of Ghana have not yet been radicalized even though those in neighboring Nigeria have become militantly anti-Christian. Bethany Gateways’ missionary, Sam Dunya, began to dig wells and serve the needs in villages throughout Northern Ghana. Today, Sam has found an open door of ministry among a number of these tribes and has planted more than 200 churches in these and other Muslim villages in the past several years.
Each time Sam receives permission from village chiefs to start a church in an unreached area (an amazing God thing), he asks the chief to give him two men who are healthy and intelligent so he can train them for two years and send them back as a blessing to their village. In this way, Sam has embarked on a training program for hundreds of young Muslim men who then come to Christ and are prepared to help extend the Kingdom of God in these formerly resistant areas.
Sam has a goal to train upwards of 2,000 men in a multiplication-oriented training program that will provide leaders for many more churches in this region of Northern Ghana.
- Population: 102.4 million
- Official Language: Amharic
- Life Expectancy Average: 64.58 years
- Capital City: Addis Ababa
Early Ethiopian missionaries working among Muslim tribes were often heavily persecuted and some suffered martyrdom. Much of the problem was that even though these missionaries had great zeal, they did not have the training they needed to minister across cultural and religious boundaries. It’s been more than 10 years since Bethany helped the Kale Heywet Church of Ethiopia to develop an effective missionary training program. The incredible results of this program have been a large number of Muslim people coming to Christ. However, it became obvious that even training many missionaries would never get the job done.
A program was started to train these Muslim background believers in Jesus to be able to reach their own tribes, and then to extend the Gospel to other unreached Muslim tribes a well. So far, about 200 of these missionaries have been trained and deployed, resulting in 27,000 Muslim people coming to Christ in just the last 6 years alone!
This year, a new program will train and equip 3,000 more workers in a highly multiplicative program designed to strengthen existing churches that have already been planted in majority Muslim areas as well as to plant hundreds of new churches.
- Population: 28.98 million
- Official Language: Nepali
- Life Expectancy Average: 69.97 years
- Capital City: Kathmandu
Nepal has more than 400 unreached people groups. Many of these are in remote mountainous areas requiring extensive trekking to even be able to find and identify them! Other unreached people groups are amalgamated right into majority Nepalese villages and are easier to find and engage.
The recent anti-conversion laws passed in Nepal harken back to a much darker day when Christians were placed into prison for sharing the Gospel. A number of Christians have now been charged under this new law. However, all is not lost, as many believers continue to take the risk of sharing the Gospel in this challenging environment.
Bethany partners are working with local Nepali leaders to conduct training for pioneer ministry among these many unreached people groups. This is happening, not only in the principal city of Kathmandu, but in far-flung areas, such as Western Nepal, where the unreached are much more remote and difficult to engage.
Some of these enterprising training programs have thousands of Nepali believers enrolled in them. They are learning how to live an share their faith, even in the difficult political environment that exists in Nepal today.
This article is from the Fall 2017 Issue of coMission Magazine.