Missionaries often get asked “why go so far away when there is so much need in your own backyard?”
Is there a need for the Gospel to be spread in my own backyard, in my own hometown or home state or home country? Absolutely. The people of Evansville, Indiana, The United States of America need Jesus, need to hear the good news that Jesus Christ loves them and can save them from their sins. But the Gospel is already readily available in those places. Evansville has at least three Mega-churches in the surrounding area, not to mention the hundreds of smaller churches. There are few places in Indiana or The United States that you can go to meet people who have no idea who Jesus Christ is. But there are areas of the world where people have still not heard this good news about Jesus and they have no one from their home culture to tell them unless some one goes to tell them.
In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus tells his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” we understand nations to mean ethno-linguistic people groups, not recognized political countries. There are over 10,000 people groups in the world, 40% of these people groups are considered unreached with less than 5% being followers of Jesus in these people groups. This 40% has no Christians to spread the gospel in their backyards so to speak. Roughly three billion people in the world live in areas of the world where no one has ever known about Jesus. In these areas it is not that people aren’t followers of Jesus because they have heard and have rejected the Gospel, it is that they have never had the opportunity to hear the truth about Jesus.
Right now, 99% of mission work, resources and people go to areas of the world that already have Gospel available to them. The last 1% of mission work is in the areas of the world that have never received the Gospel. Hillside Missions and World Horizons are working to balance these percentages in the mission field by focusing their missions on the least reached areas of the world. It is still important that there are people still spreading the Gospel in the areas of the world that have already been reached, we should continue to teach the Gospel in these areas. However, this should not stop us from going to harder areas that have yet to be reached.
I was privileged to have been born in a place where I could easily go to church. I was able to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was nine years old because my parents took me to church and I was able to be part of a Bible study called Purpose Driven Kids when I was in the third grade. I was privileged to be able to go to a Christian summer camp the summer before I started high school, where I was baptized. I was privileged to attend a Christian university (IWU) and able to earn a degree in Children’s Ministry and was trained primarily in how to best share the Gospel with children.
I have my degree in Children’s Ministry, when I first started working toward that degree I believed that I would end up using it in a typical American church setting, probably in Indiana or wherever I could find a job. However now, after I finish this internship program I will be able to use my skills in Children’s Ministry in a non-traditional setting in a area of the world where children do not yet have the opportunity to learn about Jesus. I hope to one day be able to write and teach a children’s ministry curriculum in a country where children would otherwise never get to hear the Gospel.
So, why go so far to do missions? Because while teaching the Gospel is important to do here, there are areas of the world that still do not have access to the Gospel at all. There are areas of the world where there are no neighborhood churches to have outreach ministries. There are areas of the world where people have never had the chance to know that Jesus exists, let alone that He loves them enough to die and rise again for their sins so that they may live a better life.
I am privileged to be able to be part of a internship where I am being trained to do long-term mission work in areas of the world where the Gospel has previously not be spread.