In the remote hill tribes of Northern Vietnam, we were researching people groups for a mission agency. That particular day, we were traveling down a jeep track that attempted to follow a river as it wound through dense jungle mountains. Finally, we spotted a small village on the far bank of the river. We went down to the edge of the river and began to yell until someone on the other side heard us and came to take us across by canoe.
As we approached the village, naked children came running down to meet us. To them we were strangely dressed outsiders with funny gadgets that took pictures. We took a Polaroid snapshot of some of the people and gave it to them as a gift.
We began to try to talk with them through our interpreter, but most of them didn’t speak Vietnamese or any other language our translator spoke. A few young men came out to see what all the commotion was about, and some of them spoke Vietnamese. They invited us into their bamboo-thatch home that sat up on stilts. All of the other villagers and children piled into the house with us. They served us a cup of green tea and we began to talk through our translator.
They asked us about where we were from, and we asked them about life in their village. They told us they were Mang* people and spoke a language very different from the other people in that region. After talking with them awhile, we asked them to share with us a story from their oral tradition. When they finished their story, they asked us to share a story from our tradition.
We told them a very simple story-version of the life of Jesus. We talked for a bit longer, and then got up to leave because we still had a full day ahead of us. As we were leaving, we realized that none of us had been able to pinpoint anything about their belief system. So, as we walked back to the river, we began to ask them some more pointed questions.
Through our interpreter, we asked if they were Buddhist. They said they weren’t Buddhist.
We then asked if they believed in spirits in the forest.
They said, “No.”
We asked them if they worshipped their ancestors.
They answered, “No, we just bury them.”
At this point we were getting a little frustrated. We asked, “Well what makes the crops grow?”
“The rain makes them grow.”
We asked them, “What makes the rains come?”
They answered, “We just hope.”
Thoroughly frustrated, we asked our interpreter to ask them one more time if they believed in any kind of God or higher power.
One of the villagers paused for a minute and answered, “No, no one has come and told us about that yet!”
Romans 10:9-15 says:
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
These are powerful verses that outline the core of the gospel message. How is it that we live in a world where there is more access to Coca-Cola than there is to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
As believers, this should force us to evaluate our priorities and the priorities of the Church. We tend to waste our lives seeking after the “good life.” Advertising agencies spend billions of dollars convincing us of what we need to have in order to live the good life. We arrange our whole lives around the pursuit of this mirage. We try to get a good education so that we can get a good job. Once we have a good job, we want to have longer weekends and relaxing vacations. The ultimate goal is to retire early so that our lives can be one long vacation.
Finally, we seek to remain comfortable and die painlessly. When we stand before the Father in Heaven, and He asks us if we were faithful to proclaim His gospel, what will we say?
This story is an excerpt from a sermon entitled, “Make Your Life Count,” written and delivered by Pastor Jonathan Bean. Pastor Jonathan served as the Pastor of Global Disciple-Making at Brook Hills until he went to be with the Lord in September of this year. Today begins our month-long celebration of God’s gift to us through His son, Jesus Christ. And today, we give to the Global Offering in honor of Pastor Jonathan’s legacy so that those who would say, “no one has come and told us about that yet,” will have the opportunity to hear.
*Name changed for security reasons.