Surprised by God: How God Used Us to Impact a People Group for Him

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” – Ephesians 3:20

A Calling
When we reflect back to the days when we first became Christians, we remember the excitement we felt in our newfound relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything seemed fresh and new. We were so excited about our faith and all that God has saved us from that we would talk to everyone who would listen.

For many Christians, this early zeal wears off with time as we fit into a routine in the Christian life. As time passes, we sometimes expect less rather than more from God. We don’t necessarily expect God to do anything miraculous in our lives or accomplish something great through us, but God is true to his word and desires to do something great to advance his kingdom through us.

Do average Christians see themselves making a
difference in God’s global plan?

We are reminded in 1 Peter 2:9 of being chosen and having a purpose in this world: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” The priesthood of all believers is God’s strategy to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a spiritually dying world. But do average Christians see themselves making a difference in God’s global plan?

A Mission
In 2006, our local church was invited to become part of Finishing the Task and adopt a people group in a closed Asian country. Adoption meant that our church was making a commitment to develop and implement a strategy to bring the gospel to this group of 137,000 people who had never heard the gospel. This was a huge commitment, and we wondered if God could really use a small group of lay people to change the spiritual trajectory of an entire people group.

This walk of faith began by hosting a dessert time when about twenty people were invited to attend. The people we invited were known leaders within our church and community. We prayed before the meeting that God would lay a burden on someone’s heart—someone who had the time and leadership ability to develop a team of peers to accomplish the new mission God had given us.

The vision was laid out to the entire group and God answered our prayer. Over the next few days we followed up with people we had invited through individual meetings, and a man named Greg raised his hand and said, “I will do it.” With God’s help, he would be the one to put a strategy together to reach these people with the gospel.

A Plan
Greg spent the next month gathering a small team who was willing to commit to the project. The effort began with researching all that could be found out about the country, the people, what evangelistic resources might be available in their native tongue, and finally potential indigenous ministry partners. 

As this team of lay people began to work together, they learned that a translation of the JESUS film had recently been completed in the heart language of this group. They also found several Christian ministries operating in the capital city only a few hours flight away. The team was able to make contact by email with ministry leaders in the capital city and a plan was made to visit “our” people group in a few short months.

There was much to do before the trip: flights to arrange, visas to obtain, money to raise, and a plan to develop on how to get the film equipment and prints into the country. As the departure date drew near, things seemed to fall into place, and soon we would see the land and the people that had been on our hearts and in our prayers for months.

Six people comprised the Survey Team. Our first stop was Thailand for a quick change of planes; then we were off into the spiritual darkness of this oppressive Buddhist nation. From the moment we stepped off the plane into the sweltering heat and humidity with the many-armed militia leading us through customs, we felt the tension of our circumstances. Our team was carrying a film projector, screen, frame, and 16mm prints of the newly-translated films in our luggage.

We knew we needed a miracle if we were to get these items through customs. All of the items were spread throughout our luggage and each of us attempted to pass through separate customs lines. I carried the 16mm prints.

I was the last one to go through—all the others had made it. I was on the third round of questions from progressively higher ranked customs officials. I explained for the third time that I wanted to pay the duty required to take the films I had brought to my friend. Finally, the official told me it would be expensive. I was prepared to pay whatever was necessary. He walked me over to a cash register and after a moment on a calculator, he told me the duty would be US$23. I breathed a sigh of relief and gladly paid the money. God’s word was going forth—he had performed a miracle.

After spending several days meeting with ministries in the capital city, we signed an agreement with one of the ministries to recruit, train, and supervise workers to show the JESUS film among our people group for the next three years. We then returned to the airport to begin a long journey by plane and car to meet our people group.

An arrangement had been made to show the JESUS film for the first time to a gathering of tribal leaders from our people group. We had the privilege of being present and seeing the first of this people group make commitments to follow Jesus Christ. It was a surreal experience.

An Ongoing Blessing 
We are now completing our third year working with our partner in this distant land. In a recent report from in-country, we celebrated that there are now more than two hundred believers in some stage of discipleship and gathering in groups. We are now working on how to effectively train leaders and gather these people into church communities.

As we reflect upon all that has happened, we have been surprised by God—that he has chosen to do so much with such average people. If God can do such a great work through our efforts, then he can work through anyone to change the eternal destiny of all people—even people half a world way who don’t share a common language or culture. All it takes is a willing heart to say yes to God.

Rick Dunn is president of Global Frontiers Project. He also serves on the Lausanne Strategy Committee and is a board member for Emerging Leadership Initiative.