I remember a journalist from Nepal whose life was in danger because ?of what
she'd reported. This woman escaped and took refuge in Montreal, where Kandace
and I lived. I'll call her Laura.
We met Laura through a friend who'd given her a copy of the JESUS
film in her native tongue. Laura watched it 20 times in two months-that's how
hungry she was to reconnect with her familiar heart language. After that many
viewings, God's truth took root in Laura's heart, and, finally, at the end of
the film, she accepted Jesus as her Savior.
It was a huge step for Laura, who had a Hindu background with its pantheon
of gods and goddesses. Since coming to Canada, she'd found her idols to be
powerless, yet when she trusted Jesus she discovered that He gave her "favor in
her new land." That's how Laura explained it to our study group which she
joined to become discipled in her new faith.
As time passed, she learned how to walk with the Lord. And we learned more
about how life in North America looks through the eyes of an immigrant.
Like most newcomers, Laura was at square one in a complicated society. Even
for this bright, savvy journalist, navigating our culture was a challenge. In
circumstances like that, it's typical to look to "the divine" for comfort and
But what if, like Laura, what you perceive to be divine turns out to be
false, phony, useless? Laura was open to a new answer and when she heard about
Jesus in a film in her language, she wanted to know more. What she discovered,
of course, is that Jesus is real, that following Him actually works, that the
Christian walk can increase her comfort level and sense of security-huge needs
for a woman on the run from life-threatening dangers in her native land.
This mutual learning was a process. But Kandace and I, in Montreal as
Nehemiah Project church planters and Mission Service Corps missionaries, hung
in there for Laura. So while Laura learned about Jesus, we soaked up info about
Laura's story illustrates what Kandace and I love about North America today.
It's diverse-great for people like us with a missional lifestyle-but with lots
of effective resources to help us navigate the many cultures we encounter. And
now we're in a position to take our call to a new level.
With the click of a
After four years in Montreal, we moved to Georgia, where I worked as research
missiologist for the North American Mission Board's Center for Missional
Research. NAMB partners with the International Mission Board to help on
mission Christians discover more about the people who live in their
communities and how to reach them with the gospel.
NAMB and IMB have developed a database at www.peoplegroups.info. Web
users are able to research census information and use an interactive feature to
collect data unavailable elsewhere.
Here's the plan. Because census data is only collected every 10 years and
limited to what the government asks, www.peoplegroups.info includes additional details important
to on mission Christians and churches who want to be a witness for Christ in
the global mosaic that God brings to their doorstep. With a few clicks you'll
learn specifics on the culture of people groups in your zip code-their
language, religion and the status of local evangelization efforts. And that's
not all. Interactivity will enable you to request resources from international
missionaries. Plus, you'll be able to compare notes with North Americans (and
others) by chatting online with people interested in sharing Christ with these
same people groups in their areas.
Users will be the best sources for gathering this valuable data. You are
able to type in what you're learning in your zip code, at the same time
requesting info from counterparts in other areas. For example, Kandace and I
can add information we're learning about effective ways to reach out to the
international students who live in Princeton where we currently
Make it an adventure
Who are the people in your neighborhood? Even with www.peoplegroups.info,
Kandace and I will continue our practice of hoofing it to gather
In Montreal, we and church-planting colleagues turned one day a week into a
people-group adventure. Mondays we'd board the Metro, Montreal's subway, and go
to a different stop to explore another immigrant-rich neighborhood. Our
adventures combined prayerwalking, uncovering ethnic clues and establishing
relationships. I'll break this down.
Prayerwalking. Whether sunny or a sub-zero Canadian day, we'd follow the
sidewalks, praying for whomever lived in the brick apartments, worked in the
tiny storefront establishments-selling, let's say, a delicious plate of masala
dosa from India-or worshipped in a temple tucked among offices and
As we formed relationships, we'd say, "We're a praying people. How can we
pray for you?" Prayer is universal. People generally respond to that question,
which also says volumes about you. Then we'd watch God work.
Uncovering ethnic clues. We became smarter about recognizing languages and
other clues. What are those blue-and-white flags hanging from balconies on this
block? Oh, yeah, Greece. Why do men in this neighborhood wear brightly colored
turbans? We might inquire or save that for nightly Internet searches. (By the
way, they're called Sikhs.)
The JESUS film was an effective bridging resource. On a follow-up,
we might bring one and say, "I enjoyed this film in English, found one in your
language and thought you might enjoy it, too."
Establishing relationships. Besides offering to pray, we'd discover needs
during multiple visits. Are they looking for day care? Help with language
Eventually, we'd offer specific help, such as searching for work, saying:
"Resumé content in this country might be different from job-hunting in Ghana.
Would it help if I looked at your resumé and made suggestions?"
Info, insights and ideas
How can Kandace and I use these steps in Georgia? We've been in the trenches,
so we understand why www.peoplegroups.info is necessary. I'm using knowledge from the
mission field to help make the database as relevant for laypeople as for
missiologists and others with specialized skills.
Remember the Bosnian population we discovered in the Atlanta 'burbs? We'll
add the fact that this people group is mostly Muslim-but nominal Muslims, vital
info in determining their readiness for evangelism.
We noticed something else recently. Many Mexican families in our area don't
have yards where kids can play. What an outreach it would provide for churches
to invite these families onto their property, offering open areas for
recreation. We'll type that suggestion into the database.
As www.peoplegroups.info develops, we hope others around North
America will login with information, insights and ideas. If we're to succeed in
reaching the people God has brought to our continent, we must identify them,
learn about them and help each other with tools like www.peoplegroups.info. Who
are the people in your neighborhood?
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