Going to the Poorest of the Poor

Here’s what simple community development looks like to us: 

After pioneering a community development project in Central America, our family returned to the US to equip more YWAM teams to do the same. Our “two-handed” strategy combined mercy ministry and evangelism—meeting physical and spiritual needs among the poor. In 1982 we held our first training course for the purpose of multiplying workers. It was part of a ministry we called, “Operation LO.R.D.” (Long Range Development). 

Over time, we all learned more and more about how to serve the poor. Soon a startling reality became clear. The poorest people in the world live in places where there is no gospel witness and no churches! God stirred the hearts of our staff and the entire YWAM Center in Tacoma, Washington. These unreached poor are “without hope and without God.” (Ephesians 2:12)  

Our plan was to find the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and go to the least reached people group in that country. It took many weeks of research. Finally we decided upon Bolivia and had a list of several unreached tribes. The base director, Denny Gunderson and I took a scouting trip to Bolivia to learn more. YWAM Bolivia helped wonderfully by taking us to key people and places.  

We learned much. A few of the “unreached” tribes on our list actually had been reached! We visited one church in the high Andes, led by the local believers, spiritually healthy and strong. Missionaries working among another tribe in the upper-Amazon told us their work was completed and they were moving on. There was no need for us to go where God was already using the local believers.  

Finally we found a tribe that was unreached and needed outside help. Later that year we sent a pioneering team.  

The process of finding the unreached poor was slow and difficult back then. This is why we are so grateful for 4k resource.* It has such potential! Today, if we want to prioritize our efforts to reach those who know nothing about Jesus and are suffering with lack of clean water, food, hygiene and other necessities of life, the 4k framework is a tool to point us in the right direction.  

We have a growing vision in YWAM “to pioneer where we are not.” In many omega zones, it isn’t just that “we”, YWAM, are not there, but “we” the body of Christare not even there. These unreached peoples are our top priority…and 4k will help us find them, pray for them, go to them, and see God bless them! 

God’s kingdom has been spreading among that Bolivian tribe over these many years. The churches and community projects that were begun are now all led by the local people. The leaders of the team are beginning to train Bolivians and other South Americans for work in Central Asia. 

“Lord thank You for the work You have been doing in the midst of this tribal group in Bolivia. Continue to draw more of their people into a relationship with You and, continue with Your community transforming work throughout their region. 

Thank You also for the resources available to us today, particularly the access that the 4k framework brings to the Body of Christ. Help us to use these resources wisely as we follow You to the places where Your Name is still not known!”   

That’s what simple community development looks like to us! 

4k is a global mapping project aimed at responding to the world’s spiritual and physical needs more strategically.   Check out 4kworldmap.com 

Photo by Elvis Bekmanis on Unsplash

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