If you hang around at Mercy Hill Church for a while, you’ll start to hear the phrase “unreached people group” mentioned fairly often. Most times, this is in reference to the Yanesha people living in the mountains of Peru, whom our church has chosen to come alongside in the last year. And although the idea of an entire population with no access to the gospel was vaguely conceivable to me in the past, the significance and weight of that phrase was never apparent. I never truly understood the reality of that label until I had the opportunity to witness it firsthand, in the heart of India, just a few weeks ago through our summer student mission program called The City Project.
Our CP team jumped into a city in Central India, comprised of about 3 million people, most of whom were Hindu or Muslim. The religious culture in India is much different than the USA. They approach religion with serious devotion and their prayers, rituals, and traditions are wound into every part of their daily lives. No matter where you turn on a street in India you can see people marked by their faith. We saw temples filled with men and women bowing before ornate statues. We saw incense being lit and money being placed in gold boxes to find favor with gods. We saw toddlers with thick black eyeliner ringing their lids in an attempt to ward off evil spirits. We saw men washing their skin and mouths in order to be “clean” in the presence of Allah. We saw women in full, black cloth, body coverings enduring the 110 degree heat in order to follow strict religious law.
As a follower of Christ, walking down those streets I could feel the weight of that enslavement, the burden that these people carry as they spend their entire lives following tradition and ritual, striving to do enough good to earn approval. The hardest part was realizing that many of them will not hear the truth of Jesus Christ and will not experience the freedom that comes in His unconditional love for those who believe. They will not hear because there is no one telling them. In their city of 3 million, there are 7 missionaries and 4 known Indian believers who are actively sharing their faith. Looking around, it was heartbreaking to see such a need for the healing power of the gospel and Christ’s work on the cross to be known. But halfway through our trip I was reminded of something incredible: God has a plan for India.
In Revelation 7:9, it is written that there will be “a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne.” God is promising that when Jesus returns to redeem this world that there will be representatives from every people group in His kingdom, including the people of India, Peru, and so many others groups around the globe. Regardless of the obstacles that I may see, God has a plan to spread the Good News to the oppressed and hurting, to bring joy into the lives of so many who are living in darkness. Throughout our time in India, our team was able to share the gospel with multiple people and to hear incredible testimonies of salvation among the native believers. I met people who have heard the voice of God call to them, have been sent dreams and visions, and people who are living under extreme persecution because of their faith, but refuse to quiet their praise to the Living God! A brilliant light in the midst of a country filled with darkness.
Returning home, I have rediscovered the true power of God as He has shown me that the God of the Old Testament who led His people out of slavery is the same today as He was back then. I also realized that the God who is working in India is the same God working on my campus and in our city. Just because I don’t have a statue of God Shiva in my living room does not mean that I am not idolatrous like my brothers and sisters in India. I worship my own idols: my friends, my family, my ministry, and most often, myself. I have friends on my campus that have spent the last few years worshipping relationships, parties, and alcohol, finding themselves enslaved to these gods just as our friends in India are enslaved to theirs. God is working in hearts here as well, and will continue to do so in ways that I cannot even imagine.
When we lose sight of The Lord’s work among every tribe, tongue and nation, remember Habakkuk 1:5. “Look at the nations and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” I so look forward to being utterly amazed.