Although originally from different states, God brought R and L together through their decision to attend Samford University. R moved to Birmingham from Florida, L from Georgia, and they met their sophomore year of college. Their first date was attending a worship night with the College Ministry at Brook Hills, and the rest, as they say, is history.
R and L each felt God drawing them to bring the gospel to all nations. R first felt God leading him to serve long-term while working among Muslims in Africa. And when L traveled to work with an unreached people group in Spain, she also felt the Lord calling her to serve in a different context.
In 2012, Brook Hills began an initiative called “Pray for the Horn.”
“During this time of prayer and fasting, God set our hearts upon the Arundo* people,” says R. “We took a vision trip to Africa shortly after and came back excited to commit our lives to engage this people in the Horn. At that time, we believed that true long-term missions only existed in an overseas context.”
This led R and L to serve in East Lake during the Radical Experiment at Brook Hills, and after preparing through Institute for Disciple-Making classes, they moved to join the church planting initiative in East Lake in 2012.
“Moving to East Lake was a training ground.” R explains, “Working in an inner city was as close as we could get to working among an unreached people like the Arundo. It was a really great experience that allowed us to participate in the multiplication of a house church, and it ultimately better prepared us for ministry long-term among an unreached people group.”
Then something shifted where they thought God was leading them.
“It wasn’t until we read “The Strangers Next Door,” by J.D. Payne, that we realized God has divinely moved unreached peoples into our own country,” R says. “After connecting with believers in various cities, we were shocked to find that hundreds of thousands of Arundo were in the U.S., and most of them had still had never met a follower of Christ. In 2013, God humbled us and realigned our vision to consider serving among the Arundo here in the U.S.”
Even when they knew where they would serve long-term, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. R faced a challenge early on.
“When we first arrived in our new city, L was able to immediately engage with Arundo women. She was invited to weddings, asked to be a doula for an Arundo birth, attended birthdays and baby showers, and weekly met Arundo women at the park and library. Meanwhile, I had a challenging time engaging with Arundo men, many of whom worked at the airport or drove taxis. I would visit local Arundo businesses and not be welcomed. I recognized that after work, Arundo men wanted to enter back into Arundo culture. This made it quite difficult for me to find my identity among the Arundo. Fortunately, God blessed us with a business that broke down many of these barriers and gave me acceptance and respect throughout the Arundo community.”
Though they were quickly faced with the challenge of engaging with the Arundo, R shares how God gave them a love for this people group, “More than anything, our love for them grew as our love for Jesus grew. We had to come to a place where we knew we could do nothing to save our Arundo neighbors and friends. They could only come to know Him through the saving work of the Holy Spirit. As we devoted ourselves more to abiding in Christ, we began to see doors open.”
R describes one of their most memorable experiences in the field.
“Our Arundo language tutor, Ali*, is the only Arundo believer in our city. His wife and family are Muslims. Before we start each language class, we normally read a passage from the Bible, sing an Arundo hymn, and pray. Ali shared with us that his wife calls the local mosque leaders if he tries to go to church on Sunday. So we intentionally seek to give him Christian fellowship whenever we are able. During one class, after reading scripture and singing, Ali began to share with us stories of some of his best friends in his country who were martyred for their faith in Christ. With each name and story we could feel the gravity of the cost to follow Christ setting in. Tears were shed as we mourned with our brother the loss of his friends and brothers in Christ. Ali continues to feel daily pressure from the Arundo community as he continues to grow in faith in Christ.”
“I would say the most vital lesson that we have learned through our work is that Jesus has not called us to save the Arundo. He has called us first and foremost to love Him. Our goal, primarily, is to love Jesus more when we leave the field than when we arrived. Our prayer is that through our love for Jesus, Arundo people would experience the grace and glory of the One True God and be transformed through the power of His Spirit.”
*Names changed for security purposes.
R and L attended Brook Hills before God called them to serve long-term among the unreached. They have been married for over six years and have two children who are 3 years old and 5 months old.