Hidden Peoples in North America
The missiological focus of unreached people groups was born out of the 1974 Lausanne Conference along with many of the writings of missiologist Ralph Winter. Winter referred to these unreached people groups as “hidden peoples”. When asked in 1980 to define hidden peoples, Winters said:
“... there is no church in their society that can evangelize on the wavelength of their own culture. The distinctive feature of the society could be linguistic, ethnic, social, economic, geographic, vocational you name it.”
From a quick observation, one would assume that North America has been reached with the gospel. That argument could potentially be made from a geographic perspective, but not from a people group perspective. According to the Joshua Project God has brought 138 different people groups to North America that would be classified as unreached.
An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance. Missiologists most frequently use the term UPG but recapture the idea of hidden peoples for North America.
Have you ever heard the phrase “hidden in plain sight”? Depending on where you live, you likely have UPGs in your city, in your universities, and in your neighborhood. You may recognize that there are immigrants where you live, work, and play, but it’s possible that they may be an unreached people group from a place that has little to no access to the gospel.
Here is some more information about five unreached people groups in North America that are hidden in plain sight.*
Global population: 2.8 million
Population in North America: 145,000
Christian adherent: 2%
North American population pockets: St. Louis, Chicago
Country of origin: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Beliefs: Sunni Muslim
Today many of the Bosniaks are war refugees. They still speak Bosnian and maintain a cultural and religious community and visit their mother country regularly. The Bosnians are one of Europe's least evangelized peoples.
Population: 56.5 million
Population in North America: 1.5 million
Christian adherent: 2%
North American population pockets: Toronto, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York
Country of origin: India
Hindi are often well educated. They work in medical professions and IT market. They reside in suburbs of large metro areas, often blending in with other people yet at the same time still speaking Hindi at home.
Note: 171 similar people groups are clustered together as the Hindi People Cluster.
Population: 63.3 million
Population in North America: 225,000
Christian adherent: 3%
North American population pockets: Northeast U.S. (urban/industrial areas)
Country of origin: Turkey
Beliefs: Sunni Muslim
Although the Turks have Christian resources available to them in their language and missions agencies have worked among them, they remain strongly Muslim. Prayer alone has the power to break through the strongholds of Islam. Intercessors are needed to daily stand in the gap and pray for the salvation of these precious people.
Population: 23 million
Population in North America: 124,000
Christian adherent: 0%
North American population pockets: Minneapolis; Toronto; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle
Country of origin: Somalia
Beliefs: Sufi Islam
The Somali of the United States are a diaspora people who fled their native Somalia when their country collapsed in 1991. Most Somali immigrants do not speak English, finding it difficult to understand available governmental services but also causing some service providers to ignore them because of the language barrier.
Population: 123 million
Population in North America: 909,700
Christian adherent: 1.5%
North American population pockets: Los Angeles, New York, Hawaii
Country of origin: Japan
Beliefs: Buddhism, blend of Shinto and Buddhism, and non-religious
The United States is home to the third highest population of Japanese people of any country outside of Japan.
God has brought these people groups to North America, and Scripture seems to say it’s for the purpose of them finding God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.’” - Acts 17:26-27, emphasis added
God has given the church in North America a great opportunity to engage peoples who have likely never heard the gospel. It’s an opportunity to mobilize cross-culturally to multiply disciples of Jesus within our country’s boundaries. It’s an opportunity to equip new believers to take the gospel back to their homeland.
How will the church respond to God bringing the nations to North America?
- Recognize the divine opportunity and embrace the responsibility?
- Ask God to open your eyes to the hidden peoples in your city?
- Seek opportunities to be equipped with gospel-expanding strategies?
- Join an ever-growing network of practitioners in North America locking arms to see every people and place with a multiplying church movement?
If you are interested in learning how you can reach the unreached in your community, fill out this interest form for being equipped with disciple-making and church-planting tools.
To learn more, check out East-West's guide to unreached people groups.
*Estimated statistics are according to joshuaproject.net, peoplegroups.info, and peoplegroups.org.