God’s mission to unreached peoples is unfolding all around us every day in thousands of different ways we will never see or fully comprehend. Occasionally, He gives us a little glimpse into how He is orchestrating His mission to unreached peoples. This was one of those moments.
Stone Table board member and pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, David Wigington, had a jaw-dropping moment in Mbeya, Tanzania a few years back. If you don’t believe God is at work in the world, and that He accomplishes His purposes through people just like you and me, this will change your mind. The full account can be found in Pastor David’s new book, God of the Long View, available now at Amazon and wherever online books are sold.
It’s difficult to describe just how far Mbeya, Tanzania actually far is from Indianapolis, Indiana; the mission to unreached peoples really has no good way to get there: eight hours to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, ten more hours south to Dar Es Salaam, and then fourteen hours further on the very underdeveloped highway system in Tanzania.
Because of my heart for the mission to unreached people, I traveled to Mbeya at the invitation of my friend Rev. Dr. Barnabas Mtokambali. I was asked to speak at a very special dedication, a church planting school that is situated a couple of hours away in an even more remote, out-of-the-way town (if that’s even possible) called Makambako. Tanzania has a culture that values honor, so while I was there I was assigned a “driver” to get me to the various meetings, meals, and church services. His name was Pastor George James.
Pastor George is a quiet man with a very sweet spirit. He first gave his heart to Christ in 1988. Eight years later he felt called by God to become a pastor, so he went to Bible College and completed his education. After leading a local church for a few years, he became the principal of the Bible College in Mbeya.
You don’t have to spend a long time with Pastor George to see that he has the heart of a teacher, a mentor, as well as the mission to unreached peoples in his own backyard. He lives on campus with his wife and two children and has coached, educated, and trained hundreds of men and women for ministry over the last 10 years.
I spent three days climbing in and out of Pastor George’s late-1990’s Toyota Cressida. There, on the armrest between the driver and passenger seats, sat a burgundy leather Bible. But more than just the color or the binding, something very unique caught my attention.
There was a name clearly stamped in gold leaf on the lower right corner. No, that can’t be right.
I was still a little jet-lagged (the missions to unreached peoples can wear you down). I was physically and spiritually drained from three days of preaching. Were my eyes playing tricks on me?
YES! That’s what it says.
Karen is the mother of my life-long friend and brother-in-law, Erik Cooper. She’s been a spiritual mom to so many over the course of her life. Could it actually be possible that in the operation of missions to unreached peoples, this Bible once belonged to her? I was already starting to get that sense something special was happening when I asked Pastor George how this had found its way into his possession.
“A few years ago, a friend of mine was traveling to Dar Es Salaam, so I gave him some money and asked him to try and find an NIV Bible. Many of the classes I teach are in English, and up to that point, my only English Bible was a King James. He found this tabbed, thin-line NIV at a used bookstore in the city for 1,500 shillings (about one US dollar) and I’ve been using it ever since.”
For nearly a decade, Pastor George says that Bible has been his constant companion at every Bible college class he taught, every chapel service he has preached, and every Sunday morning service he has attended or led. So how does a Bible with my life-long, friend, and brother-in-law’s mother’s name on it end up in Pastor George’s hands in Mbeya, Tanzania? So in the missions to unreached peoples, is this a needle in a haystack? Happenstance?
Karen remembers donating several Bibles to a “Bible Drive” at our local church in Indianapolis nearly 25 years ago. Initially, she wasn’t going to give away the ones that had her name on them or held any kind of “keepsake” value, but she distinctly remembers her father-in-law, Rev. Ed Cooper, saying, “Karen, Bibles weren’t meant to be kept on a shelf gathering dust. They were meant to be used for the missions to unreached peoples”
So right about the time Pastor, George was leaving a life of East African tribal religion, animism, and witchcraft for a new life in Jesus Christ, Karen Cooper gave away a few of her Bibles for the mission to unreached peoples. And somehow, it seems, one of those Bibles ended up in a used bookstore in Dar Es Salaam, East Africa.
On a dusty road in Mbeya a few weeks ago, I got a little glimpse of heaven. Can you imagine what it will be like when the curtains that separate us from eternity’s perspective roll back and we see all of the investments we have made in the Kingdom of God and the mission to unreached peoples?
A Life-Changing, Mission to Unreached People Encounter with a Woman Who’d Never Heard the Name of Jesus
Our SUV bounced mercilessly over the rugged ground. To call these dirt paths “roads” would’ve been a generous misnomer, as stretches of definable terrain quickly gave way to an obstacle course of potholes and extreme turns that pushed our vehicle’s suspension system to its limits. We had already been driving for close to two hours, and we had at least another two to go. These missions to unreached people groups were getting us to the middle of nowhere.
This was old-school Africa. Grass huts, stone spears, National Geographic Africa.
We were on our way to visit the Datooga, a nomadic tribe that lives in the Mara Region of central Tanzania. Some amazing things have been happening in missions to unreached peoples amongst these people.
About halfway to our destination, we stopped the cars at the top of a hill overlooking the Mara valley. As we paused to take in the view and a few stories from our missionary friends, a woman suddenly appeared walking on the road. She was carrying a baby on her back in some kind of homemade cloth wrap. The baby was obviously sick, as the skin underneath his eyes and nose was caked with crusted mucus.
She was taking him to the witch doctor in the next village for some type of mystical potion or incantation to cure him. Since we have this heart for missions to unreached peoples, we asked if we could pray for them, and after we finished, the Datooga pastor traveling with us, began to share the Gospel message with her.
“We would like to introduce you to Jesus,” I heard him say through the translator.
“He sounds like an amazing man,” she responded. “I will be back later today. I will make some tea. Can you bring him to my house? I would love to meet him.”
98% of the Datooga have never heard the name, Jesus. I’ve read about people like this, about places like this – we call them “unreached people groups,” or UPGs for short.
I’m lucky enough to be part of a business that wants to help engage with stories like these. Not to export our Christian culture. Not to try and make them like us.
To introduce them to the only One who can fulfill our mission to unreached peoples and that can resurrect who God originally created them to be.
To “bring Jesus by for tea.”