Reaching the Hard Places


By Alan Ch'ng

After more than 80 years of cutting-edge missions work, Navigators around the world continue to carry the Gospel into hard places and cultures. During our International Forum, we saw God again calling us to pursue the “high-hanging fruit,” the people who are most difficult to reach.
 
God deeply loves broken and lost people. Many are trapped in the darkness of major religions and philosophies such as Buddhism, Islam, Western materialism, and Hinduism. Others are living in faraway rural areas that are difficult to access. The population of refugees in the world continues to grow exponentially as nations are destroyed by wars and genocide. Millions live in urban slums under the threat of drug violence and human trafficking.
 
These people desperately need the Gospel, but to reach them is not comfortable. It requires tremendous courage, calling, and training to bring God’s love to these populations.
 
Because the barriers are so great, most Christian missions efforts focus on going to the “low-hanging fruit”—people who are generally receptive to the Gospel. As our regional director for Asia-Pacific demonstrated during the International Forum, about 90 percent of all Christian missionary resources goes to reaching this “low-hanging fruit.” 
 
Although it is good to invest our energy in those who are easiest to reach, the Gospels show us that Jesus frequently served the high-hanging fruit. In Matthew 8, we see him helping a leper—a man who would have been considered grotesque in that time. He helped a Samaritan woman even though both Samaritans and women were demeaned within the Roman culture. He healed the blind and infirm, gave dignity to the poor and prostitutes, and embraced the marginalized.
 
During the forum, we heard from many Navigators who are seeking to reach the high-hanging fruit. In the Philippines, Navigators are serving the poor and rescuing prostitutes in the slums of Manila. In many parts of Europe and the Middle East, Navigator teams are bringing the love of Jesus to refugee communities. In Malawi, God is using Navigators to advance the Gospel among the rural poor. An American group called I-58 (based on Isaiah 58) is addressing the needs of the under-served urban communities in the United States. And many Navigators are penetrating the major religions in places like India, China, the Middle East and Africa.
 
Despite the barriers, we continue to see the effectiveness of our Navigator DNA. This DNA includes whole-life personal discipleship, investing in relational and family networks, promoting deep engagement with the Scriptures, fueling our efforts through prayer and focusing on spiritual generations.
 
But we also recognize that we must find new ways of ministering in each context. God is giving us wisdom, freedom, and creative ideas to overcome the challenges that make it hard to reach the high-hanging fruit. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit continue to lead us forward.
 
As Isaiah 42:16 says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.