UNREACHED

Global Crisis: Resourcing Healthy Churches In The Hardest Places with John Peays

January 24, 2024 UNREACHED Season 2 Episode 2
UNREACHED
Global Crisis: Resourcing Healthy Churches In The Hardest Places with John Peays
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When the world is shaken by disaster, where can hope be found? John Peays, Regional Director for Western Africa Partnerships at Samaritan's Purse, joins us to share his profound journey from the corridors of finance to the very heart of humanitarian aid. With remarkable stories from central Sudan to the scars of Rwanda, John and his wife have embraced the call to serve with Samaritan's Purse, illuminating the darkest corners of human suffering with compassionate action and steadfast faith. Their unwavering dedication not only addresses physical needs but also fosters the growth of healthy churches, serving as the tangible hands and feet of Christ across the globe.

The intricacies of responding to disasters come to light as John unravels the complexities behind Samaritan's Purse's life-saving missions. From the immediate deployment of a 52-bed hospital near the Syrian border to the sophisticated coordination required for the Beirut explosion relief, discover how rapid assessment, strategic resource allocation, and the indispensable partnership with local churches combine to form a resilient front against calamity. The podcast peels back the layers of these logistical feats, revealing the heartbeat of an organization committed to bringing relief and rebuilding hope amidst the chaos.

In the spirit of spreading joy, we explore the far-reaching influence of Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan's Purse initiative that intertwines gift-giving with the message of the gospel. We unpack how this project not only touches the lives of children worldwide but also strengthens the global church through its 12-week discipleship program. John recounts the transformative impact of this initiative in remote Madagascar, illustrating how simple shoebox gifts can break through barriers of darkness. As our conversation draws to a close, we ground ourselves in prayer, uniting in a shared desire to see a world illuminated by the love and glory of Christ.

Follow @unreachedpodcast on Instagram for more!

Speaker 1:

In Revelation 7, john shares his vision of heaven, with members from every tribe, tongue, people and language standing in the throne room before the Lamb. Yet today there are still over 7,000 unreached people groups around the world. For the last six years my family and friends have been on a journey to find, vet and fund the task remaining. Come journey with us to the ends of the earth as we share the supernatural stories of God at work through the men and women he has called to reach the unreached. Hello friends, welcome back to the Unreach podcast, dustin Elliott. Here I have one of my really good friends who I've spent a lot of time with here in Austin, texas, who no longer lives here because he was called back to Boone, north Carolina, the headquarters of Samaritan's Purse is there, my friend John Pays, who will be with us today. He is the regional director for Western Africa partnerships with SP.

Speaker 1:

The thing I like to tell you about John, to set this up First, john is all about healthy churches in the hardest places. He's about going to Plarts on Earth that are hardest to get to and helping build and plant and develop and equip and empower and disciple healthy churches in those places. That's the call on his life and his wife's life. It's what they're about. Samaritan's Purse is a key partner in that for him, and that you're talking about probably the largest and most significant faith-based Christian humanitarian aid organization on the planet.

Speaker 1:

When you hear about a natural disaster, when you hear about a bomb going off, when you hear a story on the news and you're like, oh my gosh, what would it be like to be there, john is already in the air. He may already be on the ground. He and his team and people like him with SP are the first responders. They're the first to get there. They're the hands and feet of Christ. They're on the ground and they're delivering aid. I'm excited to bring John in today and tell us more about Samaritan's Purse and the projects that he's working on with them. John, welcome to the show. Thank you, dustin.

Speaker 2:

I appreciate you. I love your art for the end race and I admire what you're doing through this podcast. It's a big honor for me to be part.

Speaker 1:

We're happy to have you. A little background on you. You haven't always been with SP. You've had a vocation in the marketplace coming out of college, but now for the last several years you've been in full-time kind of a ministry role, right, yeah, that's right.

Speaker 2:

I grew up in Austin and then I went to Wheaton College outside Chicago and that's where I really started getting a global view, beyond the state of Texas, but just understanding the needs of the world, the opportunities to be out there. I had a roommate in college who worked, who had an internship at Samaritan's Purse. When I got out of school I actually was working at Goldman Sachs in Chicago, I'm pursuing career finance, and my old roommate reached out to me. I had a desire to both go to the ends of the earth and pursue the Great Commission, but also was coming out of school and trying to get my momentum professionally. And this guy said hey, man, we're trying to open a whole new project in central Sudan. You and your wife Gunn will go out there and be part of it. And what I didn't understand at the time, there's a whole industry called humanitarian aid. So I kind of, in God's providence, stumbled into that and after being married for four months my wife and I moved to Sudan and we lived in a mud hut and we were introduced to basically like frontier programming and able to help a community with just basic needs and just with farming and water and education. And then I opened the door to the Jesus film and things like that. So I got exposed to this 20 years ago. I've been with Samaritan's Purse about 10 of those 20 years. So here I am. I love what I do.

Speaker 2:

Samaritan's Purse is, its mission, is based on the parable of the good Samaritan and Luke 10. When Jesus is asked well, what might I do to inherit the kingdom of heaven? He says love the Lord, your God, with our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. And then they try to trick him. They say well, who is my neighbor? And then he tells the parable of the good Samaritan, of this man who goes across the road into the ditch and he goes to somebody who's in need and in that place he picks him up, he feeds him, he bandages his wound, he takes care of him and then he takes him to an inn and he cares for him. And then Jesus ends that story by saying go and do likewise. So that's really the calling on my life and I feel like I get to live that out through Samaritan's Purse and I'll add a little bit more to just build up towards my sort of passion for unreached, I think after a few years living in several countries in Africa and seeing a lot of suffering I hadn't ever been exposed to.

Speaker 2:

Growing up in Austin, texas, I started having just questions about God, like where are you in these situations, people dying of hunger? We lived in Rwanda where they'd had that genocide just 10 years prior and Christians fled to the churches for shelter. And you can go visit these basically museums now where Christians were granated and killed and massed in churches and I was just. I was like Jesus. What about these verses where he says think about the sparrows and the lilies, I'll take care of these. I'm like, well, what's the deal? I see Christians dying, and so I really had to work through an understanding of where's God and suffering. We had our own tragedy our family. My second son was born in Rwanda just a few weeks early and the hospital there couldn't couldn't take care of his needs and lost power and the medicine, things like that, and he didn't live for five days and so that was a big part of us coming back to the States.

Speaker 2:

But again, I had to work through some theological issues in addition to emotional and just say God, where are you? So, but early part of my career was really getting exposed to how intense the needs are in some places around the world and then understanding like, what is God's heart for that? And it took. I was about 30 years old. I came back and I took a perspectives course on world missions and I really got introduced to this idea of the unreached. And even though I had grown up in a Christian home and a Bible church and went to Wheaton College, it hadn't really clicked to me.

Speaker 2:

Clarity, starting in Genesis, chapter 12 on now, to say, okay, like I live between this first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ, I live in this age, this the church age. God's given us the church, he's given us the Great Commission, he's given us the Holy Spirit, and I live in this era with a mission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and bring Him back. And it's so simple for me. Right After you know that, you say, okay, this is the play I'm in, I'm a character in this play and, like it's clear, no-transcript. That was just a massive turning point in my life and I know that's what you guys talk about in your podcast and I'm so glad you hit on that.

Speaker 1:

Oh man, you're just a natural fit. You know, you and I do share several things, one of which is second sons that got taken home early, as we lost one as well, and that's an incredibly challenging thing to go through. It's very challenging to go through, even in Texas with the best doctors and the best aid at your side. Man, the strength that that valley, going through that valley, brought to my wife and I's marriage and our relationship, you can't even quantify. When you go through things like that, I think that's where the call in your life gets more clarity right.

Speaker 1:

And so for you to go through it in Rwanda, in a part of the world without access to the healthcare that we take for granted often here, that was part of, I think, god dislocating your heart to getting aid where it's not right and why there's really not another place for you to work than Samaritan's Purse, because you are part of, integral part of the key solution to bringing that aid. And look, everybody for the most part that's heard this has seen Samaritan's Purse on the news. We've seen first responders. We've seen what y'all do when there's a crisis and a need setting up the mobile hospitals and bringing in, you know, airplanes and helicopter, loads of water and food and all this stuff. Take us through in your eyes the process Like how does this incredibly massive billion plus dollar budget organization, how do you go about that?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's important to understand the mission, the mission statement, even because because, as opportunities spring up around the world, you have to keep going back to Samaritan. What are we committed to? And our mission statement says that we provide spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world Victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine and get this with the purpose of sharing God's love through His Son, jesus Christ. The final sentence says the organization serves the church worldwide to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Right, so a couple of things I wanna point out. It is an end in itself to go across the road to the ditches of life and help people, as Jesus said, but that's not enough. We do it. That platform then provides us, or that gives us, the platform that then tell people about being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. And the second part that's so important is just ignoring, just declaring as an organization we exist to serve the church worldwide, so the church can promote the gospel. It like we're gonna be in and we're gonna be out, right, but everywhere we go we're saying how do we strengthen the local church? And other groups do this too. We're not the only one, but I just wanna emphasize. That's why I can really believe in this place is because in all the programs we're doing, we're saying, okay, we've got a, what's the local church doing? Let's get connected, let's do our programming through them, whenever we can elevate them within the community. You know, a lot of times in the community people will say, oh, there's a church, I don't have need for spiritual things in my life, but suddenly that community is hosting trainings on agricultural activities or sanitation and how to do simple things like that to bring people into a church context, or that church is able to do distributions and programming and that all day long is showing people the church becomes a lighthouse and say, hey, we're bringing value to your life and through that and they can talk about Jesus. So back to your question how does this happen? The organization is just continually monitoring global events and when disasters occur, we very quickly just assess potential for us to respond.

Speaker 2:

Oftentimes the key is access. Can we get access to that country? You're also looking at the type of needs. Will there be funding available and things like that. But because we have so many God has provided so many generous donors we typically have resources to say, okay, we can go on faith, we can start loading up planes and we have resources, we have some airplanes, we have emergency field hospitals things that let us just activate quickly.

Speaker 2:

Let me give you one example is that big earthquake in Turkey. That's a country we had a hard time getting into. We were in there in 2017, we applied for registration, never really came through. But suddenly leadership people the ambassador in DC we get ahold of him and say, can we bring? They basically invite us to bring one of our planes. So we sent a 52-bed hospital with two surgical wards. We land the plane, the military helps us transport all our over 100 staff and we set up a 52-bed hospital and we operate there for six weeks while the local Turkish people can catch their breath and we're in a place called Antakya, turkey, which is the biblical Antioch.

Speaker 2:

That's the place in Acts where followers of Jesus were first called Christians. So we're there. It's 30 miles from the Syrian border. Like we couldn't get there on our own, but through a disaster and through having capacity that God's helped us develop, suddenly we have access to go there in Jesus' name, landing a plane. We have a DC-8 plane and the whole tail is painted with a giant cross and then just under the cockpit is painted the words helping in Jesus' name. When God's given us the capacity to respond, you know, with some muscle that gets you access to places you couldn't get. So we like to say here the quality of our work is a platform of our witness. Hmm, what a beautiful quote.

Speaker 1:

The quality of our work is the platform of our witness. Man, shouldn't that be true about every one of us individually that walk with the Lord, that claim to be Christ followers, and how we get up and live our life every day? You said you have a team that's just monitoring. What's that team look like? Is that like a new studio? You all have a news feed going all the time. Like I feel I'm kind of picturing like NASA operations mentally here. Like what does that look like?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So there's a room it's like the nerve center, it's our operations room and there's stand up what we call an incident management team. That room comes to life and it's filled with people playing every single role, from logistics to staffing, to finance, to programming, to security. All that activates. The whole world's divided up into six regions, so we have staff that are always covering these regions.

Speaker 2:

In addition to disaster response, we have about 15 offices around the world where we're just doing normal community development programming, when we've set up bases around the world. We're doing just all the sectors of health, education, nutrition, medical ministry, Like we're always doing programming in these places. So wherever disaster occurs, we've got a team in a country nearby and usually that's oftentimes where we're sending people from that country. In addition, we have a roster of 3,000 people on call, which we call that a disaster assistance response team or a dart team. So Smerzverse has this dart roster and we would encourage any listeners who want to be part of that to get online and apply it, get trained to get on the roster. So when a disaster occurs, we call and say, hey, can you deploy for three weeks to this place?

Speaker 1:

How do you not want to be on a dart team? I mean, come on, let's go. I love that, Come on man, it's the coolest thing.

Speaker 2:

So let me just explain. I think that it's sort of the process when an event occurs, we respond. That first phase is like the response phase that's really focused on saving lives. That can be a couple of weeks long, a few weeks. It's usually the shortest phase. Then you get into a recovery phase where you're focused on OK, how do we get people more sustainable solutions for shelter, focused on food, focused on water, things like that, just basic items. They need to live more comfortably. And then you get into a rebuilding phase and that can come six months after the event or a year.

Speaker 2:

That's where we're starting to work with the local church as soon as the second phase, the recovery phase, and say, all right, we're going to start distributing these things. The nice thing about a church is it's a natural social structure within a community to get things out. So it's great to work alongside a network of churches. Turkey, for example, we just did a food program and we did it through local churches and we said, ok, let's work through these 13 churches across five major cities, the chance for the churches to identify the most vulnerable people in their communities. Then they held these distributions and that people came and they got food voucher gift cards. They can go to a local grocery store and there's enough money to buy food for a month. So it's that kind of thing where we don't just want to do it ourselves, we're saying we really want to do this through the local church because we're not going to be here forever. We want to elevate their ability to achieve their mission, which is reaching people in their communities.

Speaker 2:

All right, I'll give you a story from a couple years ago in Beirut, lebanon. There was a massive explosion there in the port where a lot of grain was stored and it just basically smashed through a huge part of the city. And saw the news headline. They started assembling the first wave response team, that Dart team. So I was living in the Bahamas at the time doing a hurricane recovery program and I got a call to respond. So they booked planes at Gitz. I got on a little two-seater plane the next day with the teammate and we flew and we landed in Beirut and it's just chaos, right. You've got first responders there from the government trying to find bodies and just work through all the debris and rubble. You've got people in shock. You've got buildings where the whole side had fallen down or everybody lost their windows doors. So effectively everyone's living in open air and so, at the same time, samaritan's Purse had set a plane loaded with just thousands of rolls of plastic tarp and these solar lights. Basically, it's like a pocket and you charge your phone. It's like everybody wants that. Everybody needs that to get power. We had hygiene kits, things like that.

Speaker 2:

So what we do is you land, there's program people who start assessing where can we work? What are the needs? There's logistics people who start saying where can I? Where's a warehouse? I need to unload all this stuff from the plane. I got to get it cleared through customs work with the local military. I got to start. And then there's people who are finding volunteers. So immediately we call our. We have partners through Operation Christmas Child in Beirut, so they start giving us a hundred people from their church, a lot of youth. So we basically get a warehouse. We design the program. We say, okay, we're going to go door to door and give people like one. Everybody gets one set of plastic and they get these pucks and they get hygiene. So people start unrolling tarps, start cutting them. They're packaging them up. They're basically just preparing the materials for distributions.

Speaker 2:

So then what happens is you start organizing distributions. You might take a van and you're going to load up like a hundred of these kits. So you're going to go to a neighborhood. You have iPads. You say, all right, we're going to copy this whole block. Right now, everybody gets out. You go house to house. You knock on the door. You've got an iPad and you say can I ask you a few questions? You've got a local person there translating and so you start asking them questions to understand their needs. That's where you're collecting. You're completing an assessment, basically. So you collect their data and then you hand them like a voucher, and you say, okay, go down into that van and we'll give you the things. So they take the coupon, they go down the stairs in the street, they give it to the van and then they're handed all these items, and so you're just doing that thousands of times. So you're basically completing. You're getting information on what these people are going to need next, but then you're giving them something on day one. I think that's the value where we thank God that he's provided resources because we can actually show up with an assessment, but there's a truck behind us with stuff. A lot of groups can just do assessments and they're going to write grants and hope that, like, a government will fund them three months later. So what we learned from that is okay, everybody needs windows and doors. So then we start designing a program to say, all right, guys, how are we going to get windows and doors? Well, it turns out they root support, right, they're importing all that. So we're just going to design work with local manufacturers to basically give people vouchers that they can go to that manufacturer and turn it in and get windows and doors. You know, have contractors that go. So that's the kind of example of how you give immediate needs but then you just have to design programs on the spot depending on what people need.

Speaker 2:

I'll give you another example of Turkey. Right now there's three million people living in tents. Okay, it's so hot, it's 100 degrees. It's not Austin hot, but it's 100 degrees there and what we determined is people were having a hard time with food preparation because it would spoil, they had no refrigeration and they were just cooking. So we just completed a program where we, for 7,000 families, we actually gave them refrigerators and freezers for their tents and we gave them the sunshades that they could put as like basically a porch across. It keeps the sun off the tent but also provides a porch for them, and they got fans. So they all have electric fans, refrigerators, freezers, I mean it's not. It's not a ton, right, but it's. It makes a big difference, just to improve life.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so two weeks ago I went back to Antakya, turkey, and I was able to take my 15 year old son with me and we were we were just visiting some of the distributions. So we actually went to a Syrian refugee camp. So these are people who had fled Syria as refugees. They'd been living in Turkey and then they got, they lost everything. So it's kind of the lowest of the low out there. And we had visited this new, this tent community and we provided the refrigerator, fans and shelter kits.

Speaker 2:

So I'm visiting with this man and his son and we're he's basically just he's trying to thank me and I'm trying to just receive it and just tell him we love him and we're here to show the love of God and we love him.

Speaker 2:

You know, we're both exchanging this with kind of broken, broken language and he's saying the name of God and he's saying Allah and I'm saying you know, we're here to show God's love and what I wanted to say.

Speaker 2:

I wanted to use the name of Jesus and I want to tell him about Jesus, but we would not have been allowed to stay there, as an organization Like that would have gotten us kicked out.

Speaker 2:

So we have to be wise and true and so we both just lay it on the name of God, right? And I was frustrated by that later on and I was talking to a friend of mine there and he just he just reminded me he's like man, they know we're not there in the name of Allah. You know we're not most of something. They know that. And we're here giving them stuff and we, you know, we have our cross branding on it and we're here in Jesus' name. And so sometimes you don't get to speak the name of Jesus, but you're there in a place with restricted access and you're, you've been given access because you're bringing valuable aid and you just trust God to take care of the rest. And that's where. That's where you see God show up in dreams and other things like that, and it just brings. It was comforting to remember. Hey, it's not totally up to me in my little program strategy.

Speaker 1:

Oh no, no doubt, no doubt. But again, you're bridging the gospel you're bringing, you're bringing the hands and feet of Christ. You're addressing the physical need and yeah, there's language barriers in a lot of these situations. Right, I mean, even trying to speak through a translator is a very imperfect art form. So you have to trust that God's bigger, that he's going to do that work. You've got to leave His business to Him. That's, that's a beautiful story.

Speaker 2:

I'll share one more just thing we're working on today in Chad. You guys know there's Civil War and Cartoon in Sudan, and so what that means is in the far west part of Sudan, an area called Darfur. Darfur it's very unstable. There's no government the last several years, so a lot of insecurity and that's caused people to go west across the border into Chad. So you've got 250,000 new refugees in the Chad as of two months ago.

Speaker 1:

Like what if you just described a refugee camp and what it's like to be there when the aid just organized the aid to see the copper choppers come in, Like I don't think people know, like I, people don't know what it's like for a million people to be in a refugee camp.

Speaker 2:

So so picture this there's a town there, the place where people go to is called the host community. Right, those people already live there. They're Chadian people who live in Andrei. Suddenly, you've got 250,000 people who are new in your community. Right, those are the refugees. When you cross the border, you're called a refugee. And so you've always got these sensitive dynamics between the host community who lives there and now the new neighbors who've showed up. And suddenly there's massive scarcity of resources, even land, right.

Speaker 2:

So one news program I watched last night they had this great drone shot. They're showing everything, but like, think about it, nobody's organizing all of this. I mean, the UN will go and try to bring some, some organization and and bureaucratic structure, but it they don't show up with planes and trucks. Like it's all about organized aid organizations that show up. And so when you get there, you're saying, hey, how can we help? Do you guys need a hospital? No, this group's covering that. Okay, do you need shelter? Yeah, we don't have any tarp. Send us tarp. You know there's there's conversations like that. That happened.

Speaker 2:

Well, how are people getting water Over? The local military is is bringing water, things like that. So you've got it. It's a formula for saying how do we go through and check, care for all the needs? Every day 3000 more people are arriving right. So now you've got to keep adding that in. So what people are doing is just, I mean, they're stringing together, they don't have proper shelters, proper shelters. So there's, you know, sewing together bags and they have ripped up tarps and you're just worried about what are you going to eat, what are you going to drink? You know they said the truck. You know people will line up for an hour a day to bring get a portion of water that the military is bringing in. But there's people, you know, working really hard to say we've got to get supplies out there. So that's just one example to help listeners understand.

Speaker 2:

Like what happens in an, in a disaster, there's not this overarching big brother who comes and solves all your needs. It's a collection of all these aid groups responding and having to patch it together and divide and conquer and say who can do this, who can do that. So there's there's a lot of coordination that has to happen. There's also a lot of bureaucracy and sometimes you can't wait for this big plan to get coordinated. You show up with stuff and you just find a need to start meeting it. That's often what happens with what we do find immediate need to start meeting it. And then, okay, let's also attend these, these meetings happening. They're called cluster meetings, so every sector will have a cluster meeting. And those coordinate on food, water shouldn't say all right, let's map it out, who's there? Who's there, like, this group, you take this neighborhood, this group, you take this, you know. So it's a pretty, actually a pretty professional process, but it's always chaotic and changing every day and fluid.

Speaker 1:

What are your options if you're a refugee in one of these camps Right, I mean it's. You are like you said, you're trying to get some shade, you're you're kind of hanging out, you're waiting for aid to arrive. I mean what? What are your options?

Speaker 2:

You know, what's mind blowing is that the statistic is that, on average, when you go to a refugee camp, that camp will be there 17 years. Right, like camps aren't just opening and closing all the time, like people don't have options. And so these people lived in Darfur, where there was really no government, which means it's just chaotic. Right, suddenly, there's a war in the capital city, so the soldiers who are kind of monitoring your area leave. Then it's just, it's open for my own. So that's when the security went down. So these people say I'm better off going across to Chad and being a refugee, just because it's peaceful. I don't care what it's like, as long as it's peaceful, I'm going to go there and risk it with my family. Right, so they get there, they're happy to have some stability, but then there's no solutions because typically the host government doesn't really want them. Right, they become a burden. They start looking around Well, is the EU going to give us money or is like, who's going to pay for all these people? Right, it's a burden on that government and they're going to provide some care, but it's a challenge, man, it's really. I mean, this is, let me just. I'll just mention something else about this because I really care about this.

Speaker 2:

When you talk about healthy church in the hardest place I talked earlier about my own experience hey, you know, when I lost my son, I had questions about God, theological questions. Well, picture this if you're a refugee at this moment in your life, it's probably your lowest point in terms of physical ass. You know physical needs, emotional needs, right? Like a lot of these people have their husbands killed or taken, right? Extreme trauma. They just experienced massive trauma. And even if you're a person of faith, you probably have theological crisis as well, right? So, physical, emotional, theological. So picture you're in a camp really struggling, right? No one's worried about your emotional or spiritual, don't only focus on your physical, trying to keep you alive. Okay, so you're living there a year, two years, three years, like, maybe there's a church in that camp.

Speaker 2:

Well, what about that pastor? Has he had any training? Does he understand a theology of suffering? You know most pastors around the world especially, like you know, the two thirds world have had no like 80% of had no formal training, right? So how is a pastor going to care for people who've lost everything? So I just care so much about how do you have a healthy church. How do you train pastors in a place like a refugee camp to really help people process through the emotional trauma, through the spiritual trauma that I went through as an American dude back in, you know, living in Wheaton Illinois. Right, it's just so crucial and I want to find a way to do more of that in my work. I mean, to me that's like I just feel like that's one of the most strategic places. You know, luke 10, in the ditch, like that's one of the lowest places is how do you help care for people doesn't always tie up with the red bow, but you just hey, let's keep doing, let's keep living out our mission of Luke 10 and being the good.

Speaker 1:

Samaritan and you brought up OCC earlier. You just said the red bow, so maybe a good time to segue into Operation Christmas Child. I'm not sure is it. Is it maybe your largest program, or it's definitely one of your largest programs?

Speaker 2:

Within Samaritan's Purse. You've got the disaster and international part. But then Operation Christmas Child is massive and I think it's a little misunderstood, so I'd like to explain it a little bit. You know, when you see the branding for an individual to pack a kid for a box, you kind of see that one person. But what you got to remember is understand like the strategy.

Speaker 2:

It's very intentional and sophisticated strategy and it's basically like how do we strengthen the church around the world through child evangelism? And what they do is they go in you basically are working with local churches to say let me give you a resource so that you can hold an event in your community and you can share the gospel. When you share the gospel to a child, you have to make it so simple that a child can understand it, which means the mom is understanding it, which means the dad, who may not have education, is understanding, which means the grandfather who, getting older, can understand it. I mean what the church does is you train that church to hold an event so they invite all these kids and their families. And then over the years we've learned that not all churches even can articulate the gospel sometimes right, and so we've put together resources that actually helps that church present the gospel clearly through images and pictures.

Speaker 2:

And so you know that thousands and thousands of times around the world the gospel is getting shared in these communities and it's not about us bringing a box, it's about that local church in that community having a resource in their hands to reach their community. It's a powerful thing, man. And then they've also developed like a follow up to self-sufficiency program, because people are like what happens after the box? Well, this year 4 million kids, or million kids, will go through a 12 week discipleship program. So here's some of the big numbers, big picture 110 countries, 10.5 million shoebox gifts will go out this year and 40% of those kids will come back for 12 week follow up discipleship program. So when you think of OCC, think of it really as a program to equip local churches to reach people in their communities. That's beautiful.

Speaker 1:

How many unreached people groups does SP hope to reach through OCC?

Speaker 2:

Well, OCC has a has a goal to engage with 1000 over the next five years A thousand, a thousand.

Speaker 1:

There's 7,000 total left and a thousand we're going to sit and engage with through the eyes of the children, both with a gift and materials and a discipleship program. Man, hallelujah, that's amazing.

Speaker 2:

Well, maybe this is ways that your listeners can partner. I mean, let me explain what OCC does and we could think about ways that they should maybe be talking to some of your partners and listeners. So OCC basically got all the data from Joshua Project and IMB laid it out over their maps, right? And they've captured their history in those areas and just look for overlap. The way OCC works is you form these national leadership teams and then that breaks down into regional. So in a country you might have a national leadership team and then like five regions, sub regions okay. So globally they have 1,800 of these teams. These teams have all been encouraged to pick one unreached people group in their region and focus on that for the next three years. So it's a three year strategy to reach one people group. And think a cool thing about OCC is these aren't all. None of these people are employees. They're all volunteers, they're all local. So these are people who've been carefully recruited, selected based on calling. They're there because they love the mission, right. So OCC has 1,800 teams each identifying one people group and they have like a plan. So what they do is they meet with these people, they do some basic missiology, right. They do some training, they do strategy, they talk about how do we get access. There's a guy at OCC and his whole title is basically unreached people groups. I mean he leads that whole initiative and just to revisit those numbers, because 1,000 people groups over five years sounds big. But if you have 1,800 teams, each picking one and for a three year focus, and you assume even just half those guys are successful, or maybe 700, 800, then we feel like, okay, we can engage 700 or 800 groups in the next three years. Now let's do it again, okay.

Speaker 2:

So let me give you a story from Madagascar. There's a people group called the Bara People Group and BARA about a million people. There is a group of 15 villages in one area that's really isolated themselves. They're bandits, they're raiders, they're violent, they really they pushed out even national police, like nobody goes in there because it's too dangerous. They don't have schools, like it's a rough place. The cultures are rough. I've seen some videos with these kids. I mean they lined up crossing each other in the game they're playing is like throwing rocks at each. It's just a spirit of the darkness. And the toys they have are, like you know, replica guns. You know that they see on these raids, whatever. So it's a dark place.

Speaker 2:

There is a man in his mid sixties name Pastor Sojo, and three years ago, I mean, the guy could be retired easily. But three years ago God spoke to him and he said I want you to go to these villages. It's like your final mission. And you know he was scared to do that. But he went and he sat with the elders and he was like what do you guys need and how can I help you? And he's like we actually need education. If you could come and give us education. We don't want government education, but if you can come educate our kids, we really need education.

Speaker 2:

So this guy went there and over time he built eight mud brick schools. He recruited 10 teachers, like people who were from there, who had left, who were willing to come back and teach, and so he ran these schools for three years. He didn't mention Jesus once, right, but he was just caring for them. There were two words they said that they despised. One was the word prayer and the other the name Jesus, and they weren't allowed to say because they had burned down a church. Like eight years prior, this guy basically heard about OCC. It was like can we do Operation Christmas Child here, and everyone in the country, like the local team in Madagascar, was like no, it's too far, it's too hard to reach. But eventually that request made it up to headquarters and they're like let's do it. But he said, hey, you gotta reach every kid, you can just come in with like 500. So they sent 2,500 shoebox gifts in with this guy. He made a plan. So I saw this picture of this guy smiling ear to ear. He's got all the boxes right.

Speaker 2:

They planned a massive event and he went to the first village and the people there, like working with him, were like man, don't say Jesus yet, it's too soon. Let's just, you know, slow, roll this a little bit more and let them warm up. And he's like, no, I've been here three years, like it's time. And he just, he shared the gospel, he presented it all to them and they said at that first village, 75% of the people raised their hands to receive Christ. And he was nervous to say the word prayer, right. So he's like, hey, talk to you. Know, we can talk to God. And he's kind of trying to explain communication with God without saying prayer. But after the event these women came up saying can we bring prayer back to our village Like we used to. We want prayer, we want prayer in our village and they were using that word and they did that in like 10 other villages, so 10 of the 15.

Speaker 2:

The guy went and he recruited then a man of faith, a guy, a younger guy who could be the pastor, and this guy was scared to death but he brought this guy in and he's basically establishing him as a pastor to care for these 10 churches. It's an encouragement to see God as alive and working. You know, he spoke to this man, he gave him this calling. This guy's faith was incredible, right, he just faithfully living out his calling. He was grinding for three years and just waiting for the right time and what OCC did in this situation was just give him a resource, right, some training, a resource, an evangelism tool, a booklet, and that cracked the village wide open.

Speaker 2:

And another fun part of this is like those simple shoe boxes, the item there's a soccer ball and school supplies, and these kids didn't have any soccer balls.

Speaker 2:

So, like the kid, the boys started playing soccer, the girls started playing, the dad started playing, like they play soccer in that in those villages now and also the school supplies. The kids like didn't even know what they were. They didn't know how to hold them. They're like what are these? Like we wanna learn how to use these. We wanna learn how to what to do with these. Like we wanna get educated. So now they're doing the 12 week follow up to subscription program in the schools he built with. You know, see, it's all working together. So I think my whole point of this is just those two things One, to show how children's evangelism can be effective and a shoebox is actually just a tool to help get access to unreached places, and also just the beauty of God's calling on this man's life and his faithfulness and the beauty of God's calling on the people in that tribe and that village, because without God softening their hearts to receive this guy, without the preparation and without God's perfect timing, that story may not go the same way.

Speaker 1:

We think of God, I think, a lot of times at work among, maybe, the varsity Christians, the pastors and the missionaries and the goers and all that, and we realize that God's calling them. But God's gotta do the work on the other side too, and he will. He's faithful to do that. Jp, thank you for being with us today. Man, thank you for sharing these stories. Dude, I've enjoyed being your friend for a number of years. We've pushed each other in the gym, we've pushed each other around the state of Texas and around the globe and prayers up. That will continue. One last ask, my man would you just pray for us and the listeners before we call it a day?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'd be honored and, dustin, thank you for letting me be here at share. I'm just inspired by you and the way you choose to use the platform you have to elevate the name of Jesus and help people continue to refresh their perspective of what God is trying to do. So I just admire it and appreciate the podcast. So let's close in prayer. Lord Jesus, we just exalt your name. Our prayer is that your worship would increase around the world, more voices would be lifted to exalt your glory, god, and to thank you for what you've done to reconcile us through your son, jesus.

Speaker 2:

Pray for your church. Pray that you would strengthen her. Pray for the people who have not heard and that you would continue to raise up people and strategies and efforts. Help us work across organizations and denominations to be united and find joy in a difficult mission, to go to some of the hardest places over the long term and not be discouraged by challenges that will be endless, but be excited and encouraged. What a cause, what a way to build our lives to these things. Pray for this podcast so we continue to reach new ears, new hearts, that you would use it to raise up people, raise up resources, everything we need to achieve this, and thank you for your dust and the clint. We commit all this to you for your glory and Christ's name amen.

Speaker 1:

Amen. Thank you for listening to Unreached. Our sincere desire is that what you've heard today will cause you to see the mission of God differently and you're rolling it more clearly. If this adds value for you and we hope it does would you please rate and review the podcast wherever you listen. Also, share with your family, your friends, your church, your life group, small group, d group, wherever you do life, and if you wanna connect with us, find us on Instagram at unreachedpodcast, or email us at unreachedpodcastgmailcom.

Samaritan's Purse
Disaster Response and Church Engagement
Aid and Assistance in Refugee Camps
Impact of Operation Christmas Child
Prayer for Global Worship and Missions