SOUTHEAST ASIA – When Mark Harrison began praying about embracing an unreached, unengaged people group with the Gospel, he had no idea where to start.
“I was desperate,” he said. “What do you do? Throw a dart at the map?”
Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, prayed for a year that God would show the church the people group He wanted them to engage.
“One day I was on a plane and had been praying for God to show us. When I finished, I saw the map on the back of the seat charting our route and my eyes went to a body of water in Southeast Asia. God said, ‘The people group is right here.’”
Harrison had already asked a number of International Mission Board workers if they could suggest a people group for his church to work with—but he hadn’t asked Martin Cranford*, whom he met on a previous trip to Southeast Asia. Cranford is an IMB worker in Southeast Asia.
Harrison called Cranford when he arrived home and he pointed him to a people group who lived near the same body of water Harrison saw on the map.
“At the time, I was the only personnel for 30 million people and I personally couldn’t put the time and energy into reaching the T people,” Cranford said. “It wasn’t soon after that conversation that Mark knew more about the people than I did.”
Old Town began the journey to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group about four years ago. Harrison travels to Southeast Asia several times a year to meet “T people” (as the church identifies the people group), share the Gospel and disciple local believers.
“We are more facilitators than we are strategists,” he said. “God has ordered our steps. We want to see where He is working and follow Him.”
Harrison learned from IMB workers and local believers all he could about the T people. He wrote prayer guides for the Old Town congregation and challenged them to pray daily for the people group.
“A lady stopped me one day at church and asked how ‘our people’ were doing. I was confused at first, I didn’t know what she was taking about,” Harrison said. “She told me that because of her health she could never travel overseas, but she prays every day for the T people—our people.”
God is answering the prayers of His people as Old Town sees T people come to faith in Jesus Christ. On one trip, Harrison and a mission team shared the Gospel with a Buddhist woman and her husband who is a Muslim, and both prayed to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
On another trip, Harrison prayed with a family who left their country to find work but returned to the country because they wanted to share the Gospel among their people.
One couple from Old Town is even praying about moving overseas to serve full time among the T people.
“There’s a direct correlation between prayer and the amount of work and engagement we’re seeing among the T people,” Cranford said. “God has allowed prayer to be part of His missional plan. No one was really praying for the T people just a few years ago.”
For Harrison, embracing the people group is all about following God.
“You have to have a sense of passion and calling, but you don’t need a bunch of experience,” he said. “You just have to be willing to let Him lead and connect the dots.”