By Ashley Scarbrough
Unreached people groups comprise over four billion of the world’s population. I learned this only a few years ago. Outside of homework, Sunday school, youth group and Christian leadership classes consumed my schedule. I learned how to pray, practiced quiet time methods, and sang on choir tours. But why did I never hear about this reality? Only in college did I discover the unfamiliar and intriguing term, “the unreached.”
I overheard people tossing around statistics and facts like a game of catch. “Joshua Project,” “over 40% of people,” “poverty,” and “Bible translations,” stretched throughout the conversation. Half of the entire world remained untouched by the Gospel. I struggled to take hold of this reality. While I sipped tea and annotated Bible after Bible, they grasped for redemption. While I scribbled away through prayer journals, they lived without knowing their Savior. With my brain rattled, I collapsed in my dorm room.
I googled the term “the unreached” and discovered the reality outside of the Bible belt. My palms turned sticky when I read the numbers on my computer screen. As I clicked through a dozen names of people groups, calloused statistics transformed into faces. Months passed by. What could I do?
One conversation after another unfolded. Sorrow punched my conscience. Friends committed their lives to moving overseas. Did I have to go, too? Would moving across the world release guilt’s grip on my sanity? And then I discovered I could make an impact right where I lived.
Thousands of miles of oceans, dirt roads, and jungles separate America from most of these people groups. But today many of them live in arms reach. Now we can intentionally establish friendships with those from unreached people groups in the United States. The following are five ways we can engage the unreached at home.
Many young adults hug their parents, wave goodbye, and leave their homes to study in the United States. International students fill the classrooms of both major universities and junior colleges. While the students spend years away from home, they reach out and adapt to this new way of life. They find themselves thrown into a new culture, new language, and new mannerisms. To make friends, many seek out international student programs. One organization in Texas, International Students Inc. Tejas, provides a retreat for international students in East Texas. Kayaking, line dancing, horseback riding, and Bible discussion groups fill the weekend. In the mix of the packed schedule, students bond. To connect with these students on your local college campus, check out organizations such as The Baptist Student Ministry, CRU, or tutoring programs.
While you may have to be a student or professor to meet students, you can still build relationships with internationals through refugee communities. Many families flee their countries to escape destruction of their homes. The United States and several other countries provide homes for refugee resettlements in cities all across the country. The cities with the largest refugee communities include Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, and more.
Many organizations provide resources for families and individuals to build relationships with these refugees. SEEK in Dallas, currently works with refugee communities throughout the metro area. SEEK volunteers serve as mentors for families and in literacy programs for the children. Resettlement programs and nonprofits invite us to invest in the lives of refugees. Wherever you are, the best way to be involved is by staying informed. You can sign up for updates from Refugees International. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, also give refugees a voice, as they allow them to share their personal stories through film.
While many of the unreached live in refugee communities, they also wander into various congregations of their national religions. Many families and individuals frequent mosques throughout the week. Mosques open their doors for people to observe and learn. Hindu Temples also welcome visitors. Our teams at e3 Partners provide many outreach opportunities in these communities. One of our team members, Brooke, takes volunteers to visit mosques around the Dallas area. After each visit, she builds relationships with the people she meets through scheduled lunches and dinners. Each week, the women from the mosque fill her home with Mediterranean snacks and hyper children as they gather to discuss the Bible. Research your local mosques or Hindu temples to find a time and visit one of their upcoming events.
Maybe refugee communities and foreign religious institutions seem intimidating. But we all relax over a good plate of food. Hold a cup of hot green tea and swirl some Pad Thai noodles around your fork. We all bond, laugh, and listen over a good bite to eat. I remember dabbing the Kimchee sauce on my tongue to make sure I could handle the spice. I sat around a table full of Vietnamese students as we snacked on seaweed chips. They convinced me I could handle the Kimchee. Minutes passed by as the food began conversations about their home. Everyone shared intimate stories about families and friends. By becoming a regular at a local restaurant, you can build relationships with the owners and their staff.
The smell of fresh coffee swirls consumes the office as your fingers type away. Large corporations employ thousands of workers from regions where many unreached people groups reside. Many actually provide ethnic-related clubs like the Indian Association in American Airlines. Talk with the human resources department in your corporation to see what your business offers international employees.
I tried to focus on my studies in college, but the reality of the unreached kept tapping my shoulder. The guilt poked and prodded at my heart. I thought I had to move overseas to meet them. But I learned I didn’t have to pack up my bags, sell my car, and go.
Whether we serve as a missionaries, students, volunteers, restaurant-fanatics, businesspersons, or just lovers of people; we have an opportunity to extend a hand wherever we live. People from all types of backgrounds pass us by everyday. We just have to take your eyes off our iPhones, slow down, and have a conversation.
Want to join an expedition reaching the nations here at home? Click here to learn more.