Editorial

Are They Really Lost?

By

At a speaking engagement in Dallas, famed oceanographer Robert Ballard described his negotiations with the U.S. Navy to loan him experimental—and very expensive—equipment in his search for the doomed ocean liner Titanic. The piece in question was Alvin, a remote-controlled camera with robotic “hands.” If it became entangled in wreckage or was somehow cut loose from the submersible, the only thing that could reach it was another Alvin—which did not yet exist.

“Don’t lose it,” navy officials admonished.

“Is it really lost if you know where it is?” Ballard playfully countered, already knowing the answer full well. Anything unreached—or unreachable—is lost, of course, even if its location can be mapped to minutes and seconds of latitude and longitude.

Ballard’s words have gnawed at me ever since. The drive behind the missions movement is the knowledge that without Christ, millions of people, representing every nation and race, are lost—even though we know exactly where to find them.

The good news is that God knows where they are as well. In the early days of world evangelization, God called men and women to travel to areas that were unknown to North Americans and Europeans. Some of these travelers succeeded in spreading the good news, and others did not. Yet even in the most difficult situations, the Lord preceded His sent ones. Although Christians are needed to preach and teach among people groups who have not been exposed to the gospel, when they arrive, many times our international workers discover that the Holy Spirit has been preparing the way.

Sometimes, He sends a national follower of Jesus to assist in a remarkable way. Sometimes, He works through traditional stories that have been ingrained in a people group’s lore for generations before trained missionaries arrive. In other circumstances, He may use the inspiration of dreams to lead a national toward the truth.

In the twenty-first century, the focus of world evangelists is turning to the 10/40 Window, the area between 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator. Stretching from North Africa on the Atlantic Ocean to China on the Pacific, the region includes some of our least-reached people groups as well as some religions that are opposed to allowing people the freedom to worship as they choose.

Ironically, the 10/40 Window includes the cradle of Christianity: Turkey, the Middle East, Egypt and Tunisia. Hundreds of years before the birth of Islam, the writings of the bishops of Alexandria, Carthage and Constantinople helped to form and clarify Christian theology, especially in regard to the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Today, the cities in which these men ministered are shuttered against the light of the gospel—but they cannot bar their doors to the power of prayer. Jesus told His disciples that the gates of hell will not prove stronger than the Church, and it is because of the faithful prayers of His followers that many in unreached towns and villages longed for God’s love before they even knew what to call it.

In the July 2008 issue of alife, an Alliance worker in this region tells about traveling to a village where the chief had been given a dream—missionaries, formerly stationed in his village, had returned to teach the people about Jesus. In preparation, the leader had started rebuilding the huts another organization’s workers had lived in half a decade earlier. Unfortunately, the Alliance missionary and his friends could not stay—they were assigned to a region many miles away, and the mission, short on workers, could not spare the personnel.

Are they really lost if we know where they are? We know the answer full well.

Melinda Smith Lane
Managing Editor

Past Alliance Life Issues

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