Having already been to Uganda this summer, Jacob Martin wasn’t expecting to go on another international mission trip this year. So, when he was asked to join a team to East Asia, his heart said “yes,” but his mind had some questions.
“I had just asked and raised money for Uganda; and, I’m immediately turning around and doing it again. I wasn’t sure that I could come up with it all. And, the week before the trip when I was hundreds of dollars short, I was told that someone had covered my balance.”
“I was willing to go; and, when it came to the money, God provided the difference.”
Having also served on two mission trips to Spain, Jacob is no stranger to international trips. But visiting East Asia – a region where Jesus isn’t just unknown, but completely unheard of – proved to be something new altogether.
“You look and see all these beautiful mountains; and, things are there, but then you really pay attention and you realize it’s really a desert mountain. There’s nothing but dirt. There are not trees or anything. And, it’s just little houses as far as you can see. It’s really what I think of, when I think of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
More striking was the absence of Jesus.
“That was a new experience for me. In Uganda and Spain, when it comes to people who don’t know the Gospel, Jesus is plastered everywhere. He written on bumper stick
This would be Jacob’s first encounter with an unreached people group. To get an idea of an Unreached People Group (UPG), think about a group of people of which an individual could wake up in the morning, and if they wanted to learn about Jesus, they could search all day and not find someone who could tell them about Him.
Jacob had been on two continents where people hadn’t heard the Gospel, but not to a place where people couldn’t hear the Gospel.
“When it comes to Jesus, many of them literally have no clue. If you said the name ‘Jesus,’ they’d think, ‘Who is that?’ They’ve never heard it before. It’s not that they just don’t know the story of Jesus…they don’t even the know the name of Jesus. It’s still very hard for me to wrap my head around that. I know it’s out there, but I’ve never been to a place that was just so empty.”
While the workers there reside in a city where much of their target group lives, the people are predominately nomadic, sometimes requiring days of travel to reach.
“They literally drive two days, camp out, and then drive some more just to meet one family that had never heard the name of Jesus and is now professing Him as Christ. This group is finding those people and teaching them. And, those people are receiving it and take it out.”
One of the moments Jacob loved most was watching workers sit down and show believers how to truly read and study the Word.
“It was very encouraging to see that. They’re accepting what’s being offered, and their lives are being changed.”
Although there is a presence of believers amongst the people, consistent worship together is not always a reality; and, when they are able to worship together, it takes an average of 45 minutes to travel to church. What impressed Jacob was how, in contrast to many cultures where women more readily respond to the Gospel, entire families here were involved.
“Every single man was there (in worship) holding a baby, and singing. During our home visits, we saw that many of the adults can’t read, but their children can. They were reading the Bible to the parents.”
It was a blessing to experience these events, but they are few and far between. As you can imagine, there is only so much a short-term team can do in one week. The team prayed over every place they went and prayed for the people they saw, especially those in a Buddhist temple they visited. However, most of what they did (and perhaps most important for long-term perseverance) was encourage those serving God and making Him known there.
However, they expected this. Work amongst a UPG is long and tenuous, and can easily wear on those seeking to bring light into areas that have been covered in darkness for decades, even centuries. So, while they were ever-ready to share the good news of Christ, the team understood going in that the primary task was about envisioning what future teams will be able to do and where they can make an impact in the heartfelt needs of the people.
“You can go to websites and learn about unreached people groups. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of what an unreached people group is. If anybody ever wanted to have a lasting impact on someone who has literally never heard the name of Jesus, this is where they need to go.
If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I would consider an international trip, I would have laughed. Why would I waste my vacation time to go on a mission trip? But now, I’d go every month if I could. There’s nothing like sharing the Gospel in a place that hasn’t heard it. I’ll never stop.”
To the person interested, Jacob urges, “This trip needs to be intentional. You need to be ready to encourage. And, you need to be open to the fact that these people are going to want what you have. GO, and be as fully involved as you can, because they literally have no idea who Jesus is.”