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Why the focus on tribal people?

Missionary Brad Bruser, missionary-translator-church-planter to the Itari people in New Guinea, told of a lesson his father taught him from his career as a Marine. The rule in the military is “When in doubt as to what to do, always default to the last order given.” The last order given by our Savior was to carry the news of what Jesus did on the cross to every last ethnos, people group on earth. After 2,000 years His Church still has not completed this task.

Remember: the Great Commission has a dual focus that must be kept in balance – preaching the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15) and making disciples of every ethnic group on earth (Matt 20:19). 96% of all Christian outreach and resources are targeted to nominal Christians! Less than 4% are targeting the totally Unreached People Groups (UPGs)– that, admittedly, are the most difficult people to reach on earth. It must be clearly understood that we don’t get involved in this immense task because we feel like it, its going to be fun, or naturally want to do it or have some mystical impression that we are the ones to do it. We commit ourselves to accomplish the task simply because our Lord asked us to do it.

Somehow we think we have to reach every person in our people group first, like North Americans, before we can get interested in a neighboring or remote people group. Yet Jesus wants EVERY people group to know of His sacrifice for them. Don’t we owe it to the Lord to make sure every tribe and UPG has at least one functioning reproducing community of believers?

This is what Paul meant when he said, “I am obligated both to the Greeks [my people group] and to the non-Greeks [non-Greek speaking UPGs]” (Rom 1:14). It wasn’t that he liked doing it, wanted to do it, or felt good about doing it that motivated him. Paul owed so much to Christ for his forgiveness and he was so grateful for it, he was willing to take on the mission of getting the message out to where no one had ever been before.

When my wife and I were in our last year of High School we both read “Through Gates of Splendor,” the story of five men who gave their lives to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador.  She was in Texas and I was in Florida. We, like thousands of other young people after reading this story,  decided in their hearts to reach a lost tribe like the Aucas (Waodonis today) is worth giving your life for.  We were both led to the same college and met our first semester. Following our training we headed to the Colombian jungle looking for tribes that had never heard the gospel.  We found a number of them and God planted His church among two of these tribes. It was worth it all. We wish we could do it again.

Today there are approximately 2,100 UPGs that are totally unreached with the gospel today. This group amounts to about 1,870,000 people (almost 1/3 of the world’s population). Of this group almost 1,200 are tribal groups isolated in remote corners of the world. All of these have not been reached to this date, because they are often the most difficult to get to, tough to live among, and the most challenging to understand  in order to relate the gospel.

At Liberty University’s Center for Global Engagement we have organized a Jungle Camp training in alliance with New Tribes Mission, the largest and most experienced church-planting ministry among tribal people in the world.

Our students are being put through a week of training that exposes them to the challenges and difficulties they will face in going to a UPG where no one has ever been. Sleeping in hammocks in the woods, cooking on an open fire, listening to seven experienced missionaries tell and show how they lived with tribal Indians.

Jungle Camp takes place in a mock-up of a Yanomamo village that has been built in a gym (but you would never know it). When the missionaries enter the “village” they no longer are American missionaries, rather are Yanomano Indians. Everything is there: authentic hammocks, campfires, blow-guns, cooking utensils, thatched roof, smoke, dirt floor, actual sounds and weapons for hunting and warfare. Our students are treated just as the Indians would treat them in their village and are given an assignment to solicit key vocabulary and phrases from the Indian dialect (missionary actors in Indian dress).

This entails getting used to cultural differences like food, expressions of affection, dress, how to express yourself, behavioral norms, patterns of thought, values in culture, and economic [poverty] norms. Every culture is different. One’s level of discomfort is the level of one’s mono-cultural bias. How to not be weird in another culture is a challenging experience.

Admittedly, tribal people are not the only Unreached People Groups (UPG) in the world, but they are the most Unengaged, Unreached People Groups (UUPG) left in the world>

We must pay the price to “become all things to all people, that by all means some may be saved” (1 Cor 9:22). Are you ready to get the training to reach the world for Christ? Is your life worth more to you than the desire [command] of our Lord Jesus to tell every tribe His “good news”  before He comes again? (Matt 24:14).

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