I was 18 months into the job when the concept of “unreached” became a person. I’d spent the better part of my work days at East-West hypothetically describing what it means to not have access to a believer, Bible, or local church before I met someone who lived in that very reality.
And my heart broke in our encounter. It still does as I recall that day’s journey.
Encountering the Unreached
It was our short-term team’s last full day of hiking and ministry. By that point in the week, body adjusted to the feel of stair stepping up and down the Himalayan mountainside with my 30-pound pack. My spirit had settled into the rhythm of praying between a day’s worth of gospel visits.
Somehow, the extraordinary of traveling halfway around the world and into a culture completely contrasting my own started to feel ordinary.
That’s when my translator and I climbed a few steep steps and found ourselves in Gau Maya’s yard. She quickly invited us to sit and talk, even giving me the seat of honor.
We quickly began sharing more about our lives, which led into my testimony and the gospel. To my complete surprise, it was Gau Maya’s first time hearing about Jesus. Others in her area I was privileged to meet had encountered the gospel before, but He had never been introduced to her.
She seemed engaged and interested in hearing more, until it was time to respond to the gospel message. The enemy attacked and distractions ensued as neighbors cut through her yard, chickens clucked, and my teammates sang as they hiked to other homes. I tried to get our discussion back to Christ. She launched into tangent topics.
After a few minutes, we returned to discussions about the differences between the Christian and Hindu faiths, and I had high hopes that God was softening her heart to His life-giving message. But I was wrong.
I asked if she wanted to follow Jesus. Her response broke my heart.
“I’m too old to let God into my heart. Had I heard this story sooner in life, maybe I would consider following Jesus.”
In her old age, she wasn’t willing to leave her Hindu roots. I left saddened and wondering how many others have bought the same lie.
Responding to the Unreached
Over three years later, I can still picture Gau Maya’s deep wrinkle lines indicating a hard life in the Himalayas, a geographic barrier known for keeping her and others out of the gospel’s reach. Pair that treacherous terrain with Hinduism’s religious and cultural stronghold, and it now makes sense to me how someone could live their entire life without encountering the message of Christ or one of His messengers.
It’s this devastating reality that fuels me and others tied to East-West to reach the unreached. And this week, we have a unique way to respond to the great need for the gospel in the world’s spiritually darkest areas of the world.
We are dedicating this Thursday, September 19, to a global movement of generosity on behalf of the unreached. Generous friends of our ministry have set the stage for this giving day to truly make a great gospel impact by creating a $375,000 matching fund.
What does that mean for us?
Any gift we give of $25 or more between 6:00 a.m. and midnight on Thursday will be doubled dollar for dollar up to $375,000, allowing us to multiply our impact so that the gospel reaches people, like Gau Maya, before it’s too late.
As Carl F.H. Henry says, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”
I’ve learned that “unreached” isn’t a concept to wrestle with hypothetically. The unreached are people, like Gau Maya, with spiritual needs that call us to action.
They have names. They work hard to provide for their families. They consider the afterlife. They have curiosities about God. And they’re often open to at least have conversations about Jesus and the hope of salvation that He freely offers to all.
We simply have to get the message to them and let God do the rest, and that’s why I’ve marked my calendar to give toward this end on September 19.
Will you join the movement with me?