It was over two thousand years ago that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, leaving the Church with the commission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We live in a world today that is increasingly smaller with easily accessed information and transportation at our disposal, yet there are still people groups in our world that have yet to hear the message of Jesus Christ. I rationalized that the over six thousand people groups we classify as “unreached” must be from places that do not want to hear. I thought they must be places not open to Christianity like Iran or Turkey. These places must be places closed to us like China. I know they need to hear the gospel but I assumed those left to hear would be very difficult to reach. God dramatically changed my understanding on my recent mission trip to Malawi, Africa.
Malawi is a country that Southern Baptists have had an active presence in for over fifty years. I knew that there were still people who needed to hear the gospel, but I was not prepared to experience what we found. In an effort to give the high school and college students the experience of sharing the Gospel in an unreached part of Malawi, we made the long drive to an area called Kalulu. This network of thirty-two villages was a forty-five minute drive down an unmaintained dirt road on which we were the only motorized vehicle. We found a series of one-room huts made out of mud brick and covered with grass roofs. The people were modestly dressed and only a small handful of them had shoes. They were in the middle of harvest in which the women would tie their babies to their backs and carry in the corn a basket at a time, balancing it on their head. They carried water from a muddy well or walked a long distance to get water from a running creek. These people were living the same life as those who lived here thousands of years ago.
We were welcomed in this area of villages as kings. The chiefs had told the people of the villages to expect us and be ready to hear what we had to say. As we went hut to hut sharing the gospel, we found people eagerly waiting in their home instead of in the field harvesting. They were starving to hear the message we brought them. We had the privilege to witness to hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Kalulu. They quickly responded to the gospel. Many of the chiefs accepted Christ to be their Lord and Savior and even accompanied us to some of the huts encouraging them to listen to the message. Hundreds showed up for the Bible studies in the afternoons. They would bring with them family and friends who had not heard the gospel. The children flocked to us and loved singing new songs about Jesus.
After a few days of ministry, many who had accepted Christ began coming back to us saying they wanted to be baptized and asked for Bibles. We took the long journey down to the creek where forty-two were baptized. A woman, whom we witnessed to the day before, who was too sick to leave her hut, made the long journey to be baptized. Another woman who claimed to be a Muslim led her family to Christ and they were all baptized. That day the chiefs of the two villages we had ministered in, showed us land in their villages where they wanted us to start a church. The Sunday after we left Malawi one of these villages had their first worship service where 170 people attended. Many of us on our team had left our clothes and other items and they were distributed to those who attended. Bibles in their language were handed out as well.
I realize that many of the unreached people in our world are in areas where it is difficult and that it is going to take specially trained missionaries with specific skills in order to break through the darkness. However, I believe today that there are many places in the world like Kalulu, Malawi, that are open to hear the message of Jesus. I will be haunted for the rest of my life by the question we heard on several occasions, “Why have we never heard this before?” I will never read Romans 10 the same. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14, ESV) I also know that there are thirty villages in the Kalulu area of Malawi that are begging for someone to come and share with them the story of Jesus.