I recently heard from a kingdom worker who is reaching a people who are hostile to outsiders because they wish to preserve their culture and way of life. Administrators at his mission agency told him: “if you go there, you must go with full knowledge that you may fail”. This was not received as negativity, rather he knew they understood how difficult this would be.
This people group is located atop a high mountain range only accessible by hiking for days. With a burden to reach these people this worker has slowly made great strides to gain their trust to visit and to remain among them. They had no written language and so they created one together and are translating a book of the bible.
How did he do this? By building relationships and learning. He interacted with them and observed them learning not just what they said, but what they were really committed to doing. He learned their way of life and values. He also was looking at ways they experience God.
Here’s an example: They have a regular festival where they use bow and arrows to shoot items that they have pulled around and through the village. The idea is the items pick up evil spirits and they celebrate shooting the items and killing the collected spirits. Missionaries in the past told them it was not the way to eliminate evil. Instead, he asked to join in the festivities to which they obliged and a bridge was created. He learned that they are aware of evil and want to eliminate it and sees it as a way they experience God. Something to work with in the future.
While developing relationships they asked him: “You ask a lot of questions, we wonder if you’ll be around long enough for us to ask you things”. Bingo!! That was the key. Would he stick around and drink endless cups of tea with them and go at the pace they dictate?
This is being an “alongsider”. The idea of entering into people’s lives to walk alongside them on the journey towards the gospel. To get to know them as people, not projects.
Sharing the gospel is not a hit and run event. But an investment in people to build a relationship and be Jesus with people demonstrating his love for them by getting to know them. This is sowing seeds, then reaping the Harvest.