SOUTHEAST ASIA – Headlights pierce the darkness of this Southeast Asian village as a Toyota truck bounces along the dirt path. American pastors have hiked for hours down the side of a mountain in extreme heat and humidity to reach the village. One of the pastors is suffering from dehydration, and the truck has arrived to transport him to the nearest hospital.
But this area also is enveloped in darkness that can’t be seen. The pastors sense a spiritual battle being waged on this journey to be Christ’s heart, hands and voice to this unreached people group.
The previous day, Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, led a young man named Hook, the group’s guide, to the Lord. As far as the team knows, Hook is the first believer among his people.
For a group of American pastors in Southeast Asia, transportation via four-wheel-drive vehicles was required for reaching some of the remote villages they visited.
“Today [an International Mission Board missionary] and I told him about the one true God that we can know through the person of Jesus Christ,” Wright said. “… Hook prayed with us to trust Christ as his Savior and Lord.”
Early the next morning, Hook arrives at the mountain lodge where the team is staying. He is eager to learn more about the faith he has embraced. The pastors promise Hook a Bible in his own language.
“When do I get the Book?” he asks, barely able to contain his excitement.
“Hook was so moved with the gospel that he was going to go and share with his family that evening,” said Marshal Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. “That is just the power of God. It’s like lighting a candle. It brings light into darkness. Hook is on fire for the Lord, and he is going to be a light in his village.”
George Wright, pastor of Cedarcrest Church in Acworth, Ga., and son of Bryant Wright, disciples Hook starting in the Book of John. Hook’s eyes brighten as he hears of the promise of Christ and eternal life with Him.
There are thousands like Hook in this remote, mountainous region – people who have yet to hear the Gospel and remain in bondage to an animistic belief that leads them to make meaningless sacrifices. Desperate to appease evil spirits, they offer up their meager resources of cattle and food.
They do not know that Christ already made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Yesterday, we had the privilege of sharing the gospel with a group of people,” said Micah Fries, pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo. The pastors asked those attending if they had ever heard of Jesus. One by one, the response was the same: No, I do not know Him.
It is a response that weighs heavily on the pastors’ hearts.
“When I look at the people here … when I think about their need for the gospel and I think about the resources that we have in the United States, [it’s a shame],” Fries said, his voice trailing off.
Despite the distance to reach Southeast Asia’s unreached people groups, Fries believes Southern Baptists can change their hopeless future. “We can do it; we have the resources,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, I’m not so sure that we’ve believed enough the truth of Jesus’ words to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.”
George Wright solemnly reminds the team of why they are here – and the message they need to take home.
“The time is now…. We have the opportunity to be part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission,” Wright said. “And, yes, we are standing on the shoulders of so many faithful men and women who have gone before us. But, we can do this. Let’s take the gospel to those who have yet to hear.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rolan Way is a communication director for the International Mission Board.)