RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Seeing some of the faces and names of 6,426 people groups unreached by the Gospel — like the Warnang of Sudan — gave college student Kaci Dills a sense of urgency to do something.
While attending a collegiate ministry event at LifeWay’s Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico, Dills and other students stopped at the International Mission Board’s display booth bearing this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering theme, “Are we there yet?” There, students saw the “Getting There” challenge to reach the ends of the earth with the Gospel — a large wall covered with tan stickers bearing the names of people groups that are fewer than 2 percent evangelical Christian. Those who visited the IMB booth were challenged to pick a sticker and start a journal via imb.org/gettingthere to pray for the unreached people group.
“God has burdened my heart,” said Dill, a junior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, who plucked the Warnang people group sticker from the display wall.
“Now I see them more as brothers and sisters, rather than strangers across the world,” added Dill, a member of Western Meadows Baptist Church in Durant, Okla. “I hope to visit them someday.”
Many of the people groups represented by at the IMB booth do not have access to Bibles. They have no churches. There are no missionaries working among them.
The “Are we there yet?” display helps students put their hands on something tangible to help them relate to the prayer need, said Suzanne Lillard, associate director of collegiate ministries for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“This generation needs to feel like ‘I’m doing something that’s going to impact the world,'” Lillard said. “The more individually connected a student can get, the better it is for them.”
Many in this younger generation believe they can do anything, Lillard said, but there are limits. Students must be steered toward realistic, but significant, goals.
“Whenever we challenge students to do some things that are possible — but have worldwide potential — that grabs their heart,” Lillard said. “When students get passionate about something, they get active. It empowers them.”
For Heather Isbell, a junior at Charleston (S.C.) Southern University, that “something” is the Black Tai people.
“It breaks my heart that no one is there physically telling them [about Jesus],” Isbell said.
The Black Tai, originally from Vietnam, migrated to France and other cities in Europe. Few, if any of them, have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Isbell, who is majoring in religion and biology, admits she’s still deciding what she wants to do with her life.
“I know God is calling me to do missions,” said the 20-year-old member of Summit Church in Charleston. “I just don’t know at what capacity. I’d love to do medical missions, but I don’t know if that’s what I’m called to do yet.”
Isbell’s commitment to pray for the Black Tai has helped keep them in the forefront of her prayer life: “I can’t pray every day for every single people group, but I can pray for [the Black Tai].”
Clark Carter, campus minister at Charleston Southern, grabbed 700 people group stickers to distribute to students from the IMB display at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June in Orlando, Fla.
“We’re giving them real, practical ways to put their faith into action,” Carter said. “Every week I have students stopping by saying they want to go [visit their people group].”
THE CHALLENGE REMAINS
Since the IMB display made its debut at the SBC annual meeting, all 6,426 unreached people group stickers have been selected.
The challenge, however, has just begun, said Ed Cox, the IMB’s director of global prayer strategy.
“There are people where no one is working, and they’re on no one’s radar,” Cox said. “Their only hope is that people are praying for them.”
More people are needed to register that they have already selected a people group or to still commit to pray for one of the unreached people groups. More than one person or group can register to pray for a people group. To register a people group that has been selected or to learn about how to pray for an unreached people group, go to imb.org/gettingthere. To learn more about how to involve students in the prayer initiative, call toll-free 1-800-789-4693, option 9, or e-mail [email protected]
Alan James is a writer for the International Mission Board.