I am spending my summer traveling around the United States, speaking at churches and raising support so that I can go to Central Africa as a Bible translator. I have already visited, and have identified the people group I want to reach. They have no Bible in their language. They have no written language. They have no alphabet. They have no functional schools, healthcare, government, commerce, or literacy. There is not a single Christian in the entire people group.
But what most surprises people is that there are only 50,000 who speak this language. I’m frequently asked if I think that it is worth while to leave my country, family, and friends to go and spend my life in a place for the sake of reaching 50,000 people. The goal seems impossible; first I need to learn French, then I need to learn Arabic. Then I need to learn the language of the people group I’ve targeted. Then I need to create an alphabet, teach them to read, all while trying to codify and understand the language.
After that comes the translation, and if all goes well, after seven or so years, those 50,000 people could have access to one book of the Bible in their language.
Yesterday I celebrated what I hope will be my last Memorial Day in the United States. I went to watch the Washington Nationals play (and lose—apparently that’s a DC Memorial Day tradition too). I sat in the upper deck, and had a pretty good view of the entire stadium.
In the 8th inning, two numbers flashed across the scoreboard: the first was the attendance: 41,260.
I had never taken the time to visualize that many people in one place before. Looking around the stadium I was struck by the realization that this is what the people group I’m going to looks like. As it is now, they are spread out over an area of 80 square miles. But together, in one place, they could fill a Major League Baseball stadium.
The second number was 1.2 million. That’s how many Americans have died defending our country. They set aside the privilege of choosing where and how to live in order to join the military, and at least 1.2 million of them gave their lives so that I can live a life free—free to work, free to worship, free to set the direction of my life as I see fit. I live under an umbrella of freedom purchased by their blood.
Those are all freedoms that I want to set aside as well. My plan is to leave my country and go to a place where the gospel is not known—where literacy is not even known. I plan on leaving behind all the freedoms and privileges I have here for the joy of taking on a difficult task—all for the purpose of giving 50,000 people the ability to read, so that they might read the news of Jesus Christ.
Is it worth it for the sake of 50,000? As I scanned the sea of faces around me, I couldn’t help but think of the end of the book of Jonah. Should God have mercy on so great a group as this?