Old Town moves forward in commitment to unengaged, unreached
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
January 18, 2012

Old Town moves forward in commitment to unengaged, unreached

Old Town moves forward in commitment to unengaged, unreached
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
January 18, 2012
During an International Mission Board (IMB) regional training conference Mark Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, met Mike,* a missionary whose work in a Southeast Asian country got Harrison’s attention. So much so, that not long after the conference Harrison visited that same country to learn more about ministry needs in that part of the world.
Now, three years later, Old Town is working with Mike and his wife, Beth,* to engage a group of people in Southeast Asia that the church identifies as the “T people.” This particular group has had no known church-planting strategy among them, and they have an evangelical presence less than 2 percent. About one year ago Old Town began their journey to engage the T people, and the church has affirmed God’s leading in that direction.
The couple, who are stateside for several months, recently participated in a Sunday morning worship service at Old Town that focused on international missions and celebrated God calling them to Southeast Asia to share the gospel with the T people.
We’re just people
“There’s a lot you can do. More than you can imagine,” Mike said. He expressed his appreciation for Old Town’s commitment to “embrace” – as the IMB describes it – an unengaged, unreached people group.


Contributed photo

An Old Town Baptist Church flag ceremony is one technique the Winston-Salem church is bringing unengaged, unreached people groups before its congregation. About a year ago, the church began exploring opportunities to reach the T people in Southeast Asia.

“We (the IMB) can’t get to all the people groups,” he said. “We don’t have the time or the resources,” he said.
Volunteer teams are crucial because many missionaries serve in places where they can’t risk too much public exposure for fear that the government will force them out of the country.
“You can do things we can’t do,” Mike said. “You can help give our national workers an audience. Everyone wants to hear what the foreigner has come to say.”
“Volunteers are an essential part,” he added. “We need you to come alongside us.”
Beth shared how God has allowed her to reach out and serve the women on their missionary team. Some of them spend many hours home alone, caring for children, and the days can get lonely. She has helped them connect with one another and find ways to minister to those around them.
Forward movement
As Old Town engages the T people they will be participating in what Mike called the “forward movement of the church,” that goes back to the book of Acts when the church began spreading out from Jerusalem. Despite persecution and being scattered throughout various areas, Jesus’ followers took the message of salvation with them. They were convicted that the gospel must be shared with all people.

“The church was growing, but they were not satisfied,” Mike said. “Hearts began to burn for nations around them. Are you satisfied with a world around you that is lost and going to hell?”
Mike told the story of a Buddhist man (98 percent of the T people are Buddhist) who heard the gospel for the first time at the age of 90. After hearing the message, the man asked a haunting question: why have I never heard this story before?
Ready to engage
With their people group identified, Old Town is ready to move forward. This month Mike is training the congregation to better understand the culture, worldview and religion of the T people, as well as appropriate evangelism and discipleship methods.
Until recently, the T people were thought to already be part of a larger Southeast Asian people group. Now, as more research is being done about the T people, Mike explained that the T people are their own group of about a half a million.
Very little is known about the T people. Mike said one of the biggest obstacles to T people coming to faith will be Buddhism.
“Buddhism is the whole culture,” he said. “You’re asking them to forsake everything they’ve ever known.”

With such a high percentage of the population being Buddhist, the T people’s government does not yet view Christianity as a threat. However, Mike said, as T people come to faith in Christ, this may change.

Many people in Southeast Asia who convert to Christianity face persecution from both the government and family.
In February, Harrison and Old Town senior pastor Rick Speas will spend about two weeks cultivating relationships among the T people in Southeast Asia.
In March, a group will participate in the IMB Embrace Southeast Asian People’s USA Training event in Dallas, Texas.
Old Town also plans to hold a church-wide celebration/commitment dinner in March to officially launch their work among the T people.
“It’s exciting to see all this unfold,” Harrison said. “Everything is moving along well, and only by God’s design. The things that have come together are not things I – nor anyone I know – could produce by any human means. It’s awesome to be part of everything that God is choosing to do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the fourth article in a series following Old Town Baptist Church’s journey to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group.)

*Names changed for security reasons

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