Stories from the Field

Planting Oak Trees: A New Chapter in Perseverance

Dan* and Miriam’s ministry among the least-reached wasn’t finished when they moved back to the United States due to health issues. Their return from Asia marked the beginning of a new chapter of their service among the least-reached, one that was made possible in part by their time overseas.

When the couple returned to their sending country, they settled back into a land with almost 500 least-reached people groups. It’s estimated that nearly 5 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to a church that preaches the gospel in their language and worships in a way that’s relevant in their culture. Though these people live in a nation where the gospel can be freely shared, language and cultural barriers often stand in the way of them hearing the good news, and these same barriers can prevent believers in the U.S. from reaching out to them.

But, as is the case for many Christar workers serving in North America, Dan and Miriam’s experience overseas uniquely prepared them to share the message of Christ with least-reached people in the West as well. God began laying the foundation for this couple’s current chapter of ministry while they were still serving in Asia. During several visits back to the U.S., they lived in a guest house owned by their sending church, where they met some of the many least-reached people who call that area home. But, because Dan and Miriam were there only temporarily, they weren’t able to build very deep connections.

When God brought the couple back to the United States on a more permanent basis, He brought them back to the same area and to the relationships they’d already begun to form. Their understanding of the local least-reached people’s language and culture, gained through their time overseas, has enabled them to more readily meet people and build relationships—connections through which they seek to share the good news.

Dan shares that while he was familiar with this culture before ministering in Asia, thanks to his service overseas he can now interact with his least-reached friends in their heart language. “It makes them happy to know an American has bothered to learn their language,” he says.

In addition to preparing him with language and cultural understanding, God had a plan for Dan to have an integral role in the least-reached community: that of a coach. When Dan and Miriam’s church asked for volunteers for a new sports outreach, Dan signed up. Though he’d never coached before, he’d played several sports and knew he could learn the ropes from the training materials the church provided.

He could and he did. After a few years of coaching through the church’s outreach, one of Dan’s friends in the least-reached community asked if he’d serve as a coach in a local league as well. Now, he’s coaching nearly year round, giving him an ongoing opportunity to contribute to the community in a way that’s valued by the families in the area. “I feel more a part of the community now as a coach than when only passing through, and am treated as such,” Dan explains. “Being part of the community is really vital. … They’re very community-oriented people.”

Being part of the community in a more active way has paved the way for deeper relationships, a vital component of effectively sharing the gospel. “It’s not as likely that they’ll believe without relationship, as they will likely be cut off from those in their own community,” Dan explains. He and Miriam are praying that their least-reached friends will be willing to confide in them and share their struggles, opening opportunities to share truth from Scripture, and eventually to Bible studies that enable their friends to see Christ for themselves.

In addition to Dan’s role as a coach, both he and Miriam have been offering counseling in the community, another outreach they’re asking God to use to open doors to convey biblical truth. “Pray that we can minister to their life situations as caring friends and give council that’s based on Scripture.” Dan asks.

Dan and Miriam are praying that God will use them in the lives of least-reached people not only in the United States, but also back in the country where they once served, as family members of those among whom they’re ministering now share the hope of Christ with relatives overseas. This is a big ask as least-reached people who choose to follow Christ often face immense challenges for the sake of their faith. “They really have to count the cost of being a believer more than we do in the West,” Dan says, explaining that those from Asian cultures generally make decisions collectively and that those who believe in Christ are often ostracized simply for trusting in Him. “They have to be particularly bold or particularly burdened to even tell their family members about their faith.”

But God is able to answer these prayers. During their ministry in Asia, the couple saw God bless their perseverance. They served faithfully overseas for years before they saw a single person trust in Christ, and rejoice that this individual remains in full-time ministry there. Moreover, only after they left the country did they hear that some of their friends back overseas, with whom they had shared the gospel, had begun worshiping the Lord together! God had sent a national believer from another part of the country to plant a church in their former neighborhood.

Now, they’re trusting God to work among the least-reached people in their community in the U.S., just as He did overseas. And, they’re willing to persevere just as they did before. “We have heard and have learned in our work that we don’t always get to think in terms of five-year plans—but more like 30-year plans,” Dan says. “It’s the difference between planting corn and planting oak trees.”


How can I get involved?

Pray:

  • Praise God for giving Christar workers in the United States opportunities to build relationships and share truth with least-reached people.
  • Pray that many who’ve never heard the gospel will see Christ through Christar workers and be drawn to Him.
  • Ask God to call believers and churches in the U.S. to partner side by side with Christar workers serving in least-reached communities. Dan shares, “Churches need mentors; Christar workers need partners.”

Serve:

Consider how you can be involved in ministry to the least-reached today and get practical tips for reaching out to them in your neighborhood.