God’s Heart for the Unreached

In May of 2014, a friend an I took a trip to Alabama for a world missions conference put on by a well-known pastor and author. In years past, I and others in our church have spent weeks praying and fasting about the lukewarm missions climate in our fellowship, so the purpose of our journey was to glean wisdom on how to move forward. We longed to have direction for how to lead people away from a Christian spin on the American dream and a solely localized method of discipleship. In short, we desired to have our gaze lifted to see God’s heart for the nations.

The church which hosted the conference would be considered a mega-church by today’s standards, but the large buildings and incredible resources faded away when the love, humility and laser focus on Gospel proclamation to every people group was manifested. The encouraging thing about what God is doing in this place is that global missions is not assigned to a group of a few spiritually-mature individuals.

Of this church’s approximately 6,000 members, nearly every one of them is part of the global mission team. They may not all get on a plane and head to a faraway land, but they each have at least one role in the very Biblical mission vision of the fellowship. They have a function of giving, praying or going to take the Gospel to all nations.

While this fellowship would never have claimed to have arrived or have the market on world missions, they are serving all around the world among many unreached and un-engaged people groups. Some of the disciples they are making have even been martyred for Christ’s name, and everything they do as a church comes under the umbrella of making disciples of all nations for the glory of God.

I was one of 100 other pastors in attendance who had the Holy Spirit use the Scriptures to open my eyes toward a more robust understanding of the plan of God to be glorified among all people groups. The re-occurring thread throughout the Bible is that God would be glorified by sending His son to save sinners, and those sinners from every tribe, tongue, people group and nation would one day bow before His throne, worshipping with grateful hearts.

Sadly, up until this point the blessings we have received as the American church have stopped with us. These vast resources have been given to do the one thing Jesus told us to do before His ascension: “Go, make disciples of all nations. . .” Instead, we have taken the status of being the most evangelical, supremely wealthy people group who have ever walked the face of the earth and built up our own individual and ecclesiastical empires. While God can be praised at the significant spread of the Gospel during the last two millennia, there is still a sobering number of people who have never heard of salvation found in Jesus Christ.

 

 

Of the seven billion people in the world, there are approximately 11,000 people groups. A “people group”The-Task-Remaining-04-04-1024x1009 is the largest group by which the Gospel can spread without significant barriers to understanding. These people groups are ethno-linguistic groups with a shared identity based on language or ethnicity. Of the 11,000 groups, over 6,000 are considered “unreached people groups,” meaning there are less than two percent evangelical Christians accounted for. Of this number nearly 3,000 people groups are considered “unengaged unreached people groups,” which means that not only are they unreached but there is no
active church planting work among the people. Think of that: 208 million people who have no hope of ever hearing about Jesus! As followers of Jesus who are commissioned to make disciples of all nations, we cannot be okay with this!

 

The Apostle Paul tells us that God has a plan to reach these people groups: Christ sends followers. Followers preach. People hear. Hearers believe. Believers call. Those who call are saved! The breakdown in God’s plan is when the followers with a given task to preach fail to do the proclaiming.

Millions of people are in desperate need of the Gospel coming within earshot so that they might believe, enjoy the salvation found in Christ Jesus and escape the certain expectation of judgment for sin, yet they have no hope of ever hearing. Even more resounding is that these high numbers of people have been created to extol the name of their Creator and give Him glory that He is due, yet they sit in a rebellious state of idolatry, robbing God of His glory.

I am thrilled to say that it was also at this conference that God answered our heart’s cry to be used by Him. He has already begun to change the culture of our church towards missions through corporate prayer for the nations and through following prayer guides such as Operation World (operationworld.org), Open Doors USA (opendoorsusa.org), and Prayercast (prayercast.com). God has also opened up doors for our little fellowship to preach His name alongside a modern day “Paul” who is hazarding his life among the unreached Hindu and Buddhist people groups of the Himalayas in Nepal.

Jesus said that the Gospel would be preached in every nation and then the end would come. In the final book of the Bible we see a scene of the throne room of heaven where a group of people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation are singing a song of Christ’s wonderful redemption through His blood (Rev 5.9-14).

One day the Commission of Jesus will be fulfilled. While there is different opinion on what “nations” need to yet be reached, the late George Ladd wrote, “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. My responsibility is not to insist on defining the term; my responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”

Brothers and sisters, there is work to be done. May our primary task as followers of Jesus be making and mobilizing disciples who make disciples of all nations, tribes, tongues and people groups for the fame of our powerful, merciful and gracious God.

 

 

How a WWII Balloon Bomb Tradgedy led to Gospel Advancement in Indo China

Rory and Rad on ponies

Myself (left) and my cousin Radley on our ponies, not far from Bly, Or.

I grew up on a cattle ranch on the other side of the hill from a town called Bly, Oregon. Through the years I would get vague accounts of a tragic incident that happened many years ago
on a hill rich with hunting and fishing called, “Gearhart Mountain.” A recent NPR podcast had sparked my interest in the
historical event and set me to begin researching even deeper what had occurred seventy years ago in my backyard.

Archie Mitchel Edited

Pastor Archie Mitchel

On May 5, 1945 Bly Oregon was the site of the only fatalities of World War II on the mainland United States due to enemy attack. Archie Mitchell, pastor of the Missionary Alliance church in Bly had done what many small town pastors had done in my youth on a Saturday morning.  He rounded up the kids from the church and took them on an outdoor picnic and fishing adventure. Squeezing 5 kids into his sedan along with his twenty-six Missionary Alliance CHurch Byyear old pregnant wife Elsie they set off to the hills for an afternoon of fun. As they arrived, the children piled out of the car and began to run and explore, Elsie not far behind keeping watch, Archie left at the car to pack the fishing poles and picnic basket by himself.  As the kids went into the tall pine trees they discovered an object partially hanging from low branches, partially resting on the ground and they beckoned Pastor Archie and Elsie to come see. Just as Archie Mitchell kidsshouted, “Don’t touch it, let me have a look first” the object exploded, shooting shrapnel in all directions including into the group of curious children, the mother and her unborn child, and the neighboring pine trees. Archie was knocked down, but quickly ran to
the injured. The fire consuming Elise’s dress was quickly extinguished by Archie at his arrival. Elsie used her final breaths to whisper something into Archie’s ear Herald and News Balloon bombbefore she was gone. All five children ranging from ages 11-14 were killed in the explosion.
History would later make clear that the explosion came from a technically elaborate balloon bomb that had made its way Balloon Bombacross the Pacific Ocean along with thousands of others in an effort to strike terror into US citizens, and distract them from the war effort with domestic emergency work as they tried to combat flames consuming natural resources. The balloon had found its resting place in the Forest of Gearhart Mountain while others made it to farther distances such as Montana and Wyoming.

I was visiting home this past spring break when I decided to take a trip through Bly stopping aRodgers Blyt the Missionary Alliance church, visiting with local folks and then on to the site of the explosion. The site of the blast has a monument with the names of the victims inscribed, and pine trees that were present at the tragedy still have fragments of shrapnel pock marking the bark. Citizens of Japan have even visited the monument and have left flowers and expressions of sorrow for the ravages of war and the innocent ones who are affected.

Rodgers Mitchell Monument Tree

A tree just next to the blast zone, peppered with shrapnel marks.

Mitchel Monument

The Mitchell Monument

I read a few more articles regarding the incident, hearing the last names of children that were well known in our small community, when I came across a special page on the Missionary Alliance website dedicated to Pastor Archie Mitchell. It was in this article that Archi rose in my book from the place of “unfortunate man involved in horrible tragedy” to “an Epic Hero of Christian Missionary work.”

I have written articles in the past explaining the current state of world missions. How that out of some 7 billion people in the world, nearly half of that number is what is considered “unreached
people groups” having less than 2% of their culture “born again Christian.” It is estimated that nearly half of that number, some 1.75 billion people are considered “unengaged un-reached” meaning that in the two thousand years since Jesus said, “go unto all the world and preach the gospel” there has been no active gospel spreading work taking place among that indigenous people group. This is where the story of a small town preacher who would invest in the lives of the children of his community gets even more interesting!

jpprogressscalemap

ALeperfter two years of recovering from the explosion that rocked his world, taking his young wife and unborn child, as well as a
substantial part of the young ones in his church, Archie Mitchell would marry a woman named Bette Patzke, a woman whoDr indo china lost a sister and brother by the same bomb. Two days before Christmas, Archie and Betty sailed to what was then called Indo-China where they served for two terms at the school for Dalat, Vietnam. During their third term in 1962, while serving in a leaper hospital and finishing up a midweek prayer meeting, the doors were broken through by Viet Kong soldiers pointing weapons at the missionary workers. They demanded the workers and doctor Ardel Vietti come with them. Archie was able to reason with the soldiers that the doctors and workers would leave peaceably if the mothers and children could stay in safety. The Betty Mitchellsoldiers obliged Archie’s request. Betty and the children remained working among the leprous. The Mitchell children would be raised among the lepers and eventually come back to the states to continue their education.  Archie and the other doctors who were taken by the soldiers were never seen again.

In April 1975, Betty and six other missionaries were taken captive by the Viet Cong.  They were held captive for nearly 10 months where they battled illness and rough treatment but were eventually released. Betty Mitchell has continued in various forms of missionary work, including in North Carolina with the Dega people who are a Vietnamese tribal group that had resettled in the States.

Rev Jaffray

Rev. R.A. Jaffray

The Alliance weekly from April 10, 1920 writes of an earlier pastor, “Rev. R.A. Jaffray accompanied by his wife [Minnie], [who] recently made a trip into Indo-China (Annam [now Vietnam]) covering about six weeks. They hoped to be able to open the first chapel in Saigon [now Ho Chi Minh City] and to make a tour into the utterly untouched country of Cambodia, where there is no work at all. Mr. Jaffray writes: “Here are 1 million souls for whom Christ died, and, after 1,920 years, not one of His messengers has gone to them with the story of free salvation. May He help the Alliance to give them a chance ’ere the Lord return.” Jaffray would be arrested by the Japanese during the invasion of Indonesia, placed in an internment camp where he would die from illness and malnutrition on July 24, 1945, less than a month before the Japanese surrender.

Upon hearing of the Mitchell’s life of sacrificial gospel service, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like to lose a wife to an Asian enemy, remarry a relative of victims from that same tragedy, and soon after tell their family and a hurting and bitter community that I will be taking my new family to Asia where I will lovingly serve the lost and hurting, the people who would eventually go to war with the United States in a separate conflict. I can only imagine the encouragement and pleading of friends, family and community members to stay in the United States and continue ministry work here locally and safely, as it was needed as well.

Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot

CT Studd

C.T. Studd

It’s the same pleading Oregon wrestler Jim Elliot received when He was told to forsake global missionary ambitions, that America needed good preachers too! His reply was, “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” He was soon after martyred along with five of his friends by the Alca natives in Ecuador. The extremely wealthy and well educated C.T. Studd, member of the Cambridge seven cricket team, was reprimanded for his choice to leave a comfortable life for gospel service in China would say, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

John Stott

John Patton

John Patton who would go to the New Hebrides Islands and lose wife and child while ministering among the cannibals would be told by and elder in his church, “John, you’ll be eaten by cannibals!” to which he replied, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”

I am stirred to radical global and missional action by this local hero Archie Mitchell, his family and his legacy. A legacy that goes back to the true and better hero, Jesus Christ who left the comforts of His throne in heaven and the rich fellowship of the Father and Spirit to dwell among men who hated Him and spitefully abused Him to the point of death that the world might be saved. May we too lay down our comfort, status and lives for the salvation of Christ Jesus to be known among all the nations.