Tuesday, November 24, 2020

who and where are the "unreached"

for the last year or so i have asked a question to several people in missions and church leadership that's been tough to find a simple answer for.  it's with regard to the word "unreached."  generally, the term refers to people and areas that have not yet been reached with the gospel.  there are ministries that do a deep dig into this, and i am grateful for them. for example, i love the joshua project and find it to be a tremendous resource.

but there are many areas in the world today that are considered "unreached" that were actually "reached" at one point.  modern day turkey, syria, iran, libya, north africa, even parts of asia and india, were places the early church started and grew the fastest.  yet today they are considered "unreached."  even italy and greece, where some of the original new testament churches were planted, are now considered 1% or less evangelical. 

so my question is:  does "unreached" simply mean "currently not reached with the gospel"?  ...or does it mean "never been reached with the gospel"?  ...or what about "reached at one point, but now under a twisted or false gospel"?

matthew 24:14 says once the gospel has been preached to all the nations (tribes/nationalities), the end will come.  and joshua project says 42% of the world is still "unreached."  but a lot of that 42% would have been considered "reached" at one point.  does my dilemma sense?

maybe i am overthinking it.  but the truth is- this topic can sometimes be a discouragement for missionaries who are working in places that have been labeled "already reached."  and when paul says in romans 15 that his ambition is to preach the gospel "not where Christ has already been named, lest i build on someone else's foundation..." it can make a missionary's work to an area tagged "reached" feel wasted.

perhaps in some cases that's exactly what God wants them to feel.  perhaps He's calling them to a move on because the gospel is alive and well where they are.  praise God!  but what if they are exactly where God has called them to be?  what if He wants them to stay where they are and continue working, not distracted by human definitions of "reached" and "unreached"?

here's my reason for bringing all this upi was in guatemala a couple weeks ago and we were studying romans 15 together with our local guatemalan staff.  (guatemala is a country that has for the most part been reached with the gospel in most areas.)  towards the end of the study, one of our workers, nicho, asked to speak.  nicho is normally a pretty quiet guy.   

here's what he said: 

"when we read romans 15:20-21 it made me think of how you guys left your home in the united states 12 years ago and came to our village.  over that time you've been teaching us what the bible really says and to read it for ourselves.  before you came, the people here thought that only a leader in a church can understand and teach the bible.  and we have always believed what they said, even though its been wrong.  i don't know if anyone in our village would have ever read the bible for themselves if you hadn't come to our village.  that's what i think of when i read romans 15:20-21, so i just want to say thank you."

nicho's comments, under any circumstances, would have brought me to tears.  but in light of the recent thoughts and conversations i've been having about the "unreached", it was even more special.  i received his words as if directly from the Holy Spirit.

while i do think the definitions and distinctions made by ministries like the joshua project are very helpful, the only One who can truly define "unreached" is Jesus.  and as we abide in Him, hear his voice, and obey what he says, he will lead us to reach them - wherever they might be. 

  

Romans 15:20-21

...and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,

    and those who have never heard will understand.”

 

Friday, November 20, 2020

grateful for the last couple months

we are so grateful for what God has allowed over the last couple months. despite the frustration and "unknowns" that were involved with coming back from africa, borders closing, and unrest everywhere in the world... we have rested in God's sovereignty and seen his purposes in all of our steps. 
 
not only did we want to get to Guatemala for the birth of our first grandchild... we also just wanted to be there for our daughter and son-in-law. brooke and matt literally found out they were expecting only 1 day after moving to Guatemala!  it had been a crazy first 8 months in the mission field between unexpected transition on our team, the covid-19 shut downs, and of course the surprise pregnancy!  combine that lots of new dynamics within the ministry team, and we had been fervently praying that God would open a way for us to get there. 
 
a path 
after some flight cancellations due to Guatemala's border not being open to flights from the US, we booked our flights into Honduras.  being legal Guatemalan residents, we figured we'd try crossing the land border. plus, this way we'd get to visit our Academy in Honduras...

With Jason & Axel in Hondo
honduras 
we were able to get to Hondo and spend some quality time with our academy missionaries and staff. they were going through a tough season, and the timing of our arrival was God ordained. not only had they recently been broken into and robbed, but a shoot-out next door involving a "hired killing" left bullet holes in our academy classroom. thankfully it didn't happen during academy hours, so the only damage was to property.  still, digging bullets out of the marker board in the classroom had left our team a bit unnerved.

some tough conversations were necessary with the Rhinos and staff, and it was a blessing to be able to be there to handle that and take it off their shoulders.  it was a blessing to be able to pray with and encourage our team on the ground, and we're now looking forward to returning soon in order to help them work through some transition with new team members.

guatemala 
our time in Guate has been more meaningful than we could have possible imagined. not only were we able to be here for the birth of our grandson, but also for the transition of our leadership team on the ground, mynor's return, and re-opening of the Academy.  there has been so much going on here, unique challenges, spiritual warfare, etc, and we could not be more grateful to God to have been here to walk it together as a family.
 
baby James
The pic we receieved after a long 90 min
it wasn't without a scare, but so thankful for the healthy birth of our grandson, James (Santiago) Matthew Rolfe on Sep 24, 2020.  my daughter brooke called me from the hospital after a full day of trying to induce... crying and with desperation in her voice, she said "daddy, i'm bleeding really bad and they're taking me to emergency surgery right now, i'm scared..."  
 
she hung up abruptly and my heart absolutely sank. we immediately gathered together in prayer with the wilson family and God's promises began filling us with peace and joy. specifically, we claimed the promise of Isaiah 26:3 that says "you will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"  brooke and matt told us later that when she hung up the phone, they began praying together as well, were filled with supernatural peace and all their fears were gone! 
 
after 90 minutes of radio silence (felt like forever!) a picture came through our family text chat of a healthy boy with his happy parents. 🙏🙏🙏
 
time to go
it was sep 9th when landed in san pedro sula, honduras.  we never could have imagined what the last 2+ months had in store! thankful for every minute of it... 
  • Chamusca!
    the time in honduras with our ministry team there
  • the tough meeting with all the rhinos in honduras after many things had been stolen from the property 😐
  • sweet times with jason and axel
  • our entire time in guatemala with our ministry team
  • serving brooke and matt after having baby James via unexpected c-section
  • sweet time with our grandson!
  • Allan teaching the bible
    witnessing my son-in-law become fluent in spanish in a matter of months
  • sweet time with the leivas, wilsons, rolfes, marroquin's, nicho, mash, johanna, and ruth
  • visiting Quiche on a scouting trip, and getting to know the precious walton family
  • being able to help with the re-opening of the Guate academy and the transition of new ministry roles for everyone
  • With Cesar and fam
    watching luci and the wilson kids form deep friendships
  • many 4v4 battles with mynor, oso, nicho, mash, hulises, ivan, kike, jake... they still owe us a pizza
  • weekly worship with wilsons, rolfes and marroquins
  • watching my own baby girl (brooke) become a loving mommy - incredible! 
  • witnessing what God is doing with allan and glendy, creating pillars for years to come
  • Happy grandparents!
    sharing in some challenges, surgeries, tears, etc with the wilson family and rejoicing in God's faithfulness!
  • seeing allan come alive through God's word, watching him passionately teach the rhinos 🔥
  • the joy of welcoming coach mynor back after a 6 month sabbatical! sweet reunion with the team
  • watching ryan lead and teach God's word with all his heart
  • getting to know the wilson kids and stacy better - and giving some new nicknames :)
  • sweet reunions with several rhino graduates and local families, cesar's family, the schmidts, and many more...

in other words...  witnessing God's faithfulness!!!

it's always hard to say goodbye but such an adventure following God into whatever adventure he has next!

 

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:9