Pastor: Small church can make big impact
The young pastor clapped his hands together and proclaimed, "That's what we're looking for!"
The confidence was a façade, though. Deep down Owen Shephard* had butterflies fluttering in his stomach. He was pastor of a small church; what could they really do?
The 150-member church had posed similar questions when they started this journey back in October. They wrestled with figuring out why churches should adopt a people group when the IMB is an organization made up of professionals who already do this. The answer was easy -- because they asked.
The request became all the more real when the four-member mission team set foot in South Asia. They had prayed for these people for two months. Their first encounter ended with 12 choosing to follow Christ. None of them had ever heard Jesus' name until they met the Missourians.
"I'm sitting there with these people who have never heard of Jesus. I choked back tears. I've known about Jesus from the day I was born," Shephard said, trying to wrap his brain around the reality of what unengaged and unreached really mean.
"I don't have the vocabulary to explain how overwhelming that was to see these people open up and respond to the Gospel," the pastor said. "For our church to know that we are the first to explain the Gospel to them is just overwhelming."
In one day, this Christian population appeared to go from zero to 0.0004 percent.
As the team celebrated and thanked God, Shephard couldn't shake from his mind that these new brothers and sisters needed to be discipled. But how? He and his team were only there four days.
Shephard smiled. The IMB was right. His church was not alone in this. They could do this. The realization helped him relax a little on the last day and that's when it happened:
The pastor sat in the dirt courtyard of a mud home, chickens clucking at his feet. Several men from their unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG) relaxed with him on wobbly chairs and exchanged stories about work. His wife sat on a mat a few feet away with women and children playing a game.
His team just met this family 15 minutes before, yet this home of complete strangers felt peaceful. The prayers of the church were answered.
This was the moment their UUPG stopped being a name on a sheet of paper. This was the moment they became real people with names, faces and personalities. This was the moment the Missouri church truly became burdened for sharing Christ and discipling a community of people who live halfway around the world.
Watch Shephard and his team as they encounter their people group for the first time.