Did you know a huge change is happening in missions? For the last several years, many long-time international mission organizations, including Reach Beyond, have been shifting their missionaries and resources from Latin America to other areas of the world where the gospel is largely unknown.
Missiologists speak of unreached people groups (UPGs) ― where less than two per cent of the population is Christian and the indigenous church, if it exists, is unable to spread the gospel. Over 1900 large (more than 100,000 members) UPGs have been identified, mostly in Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Reaching these large UPGs with the gospel requires cooperation between organizations, with each organization bringing their strengths to the task.
Reach Beyond’s strengths are media and health care. We’ve identified 20 large UPGs to target in the coming years. Partnering with local organizations, we are establishing community-based radio stations, providing medical care through mobile clinics or in refugee camps, and helping with clean water and improved sanitation. We’re establishing a regional hub in Europe for training and mobilizing.
This change in vision and ministries has brought about major changes in Ecuador since we first visited in 2012:
- Hospital Vozandes Oriente (Shell, Ecuador) closed and we are in the process of selling the property to another ministry that will carry on the tradition of medical care on the border of the jungle
- Another property in Shell (including our guesthouse and a school for missionary kids) was sold to an Ecuadorian ministry that provides job training for indigenous groups as they struggle to adapt to the 21st century
- Radio station HCJB is now HCJB-Ecuador and is operated by an Ecuadorian foundation (with the assistance of Reach Beyond missionaries)
- Hospital Vozandes Quito is being sold to a group of Ecuadorian Christian doctors; Reach Beyond is still a 76% owner and it may take several years for a full transition
- Of our two remaining community medical clinics, one transitioned to an Ecuadorian foundation at the end of 2017 and the other is in the process of a similar transition
- Our Quito guesthouse closed and the property is being donated to HCJB-Ecuador for their new headquarters
- Part of our Community Development department will move to the new training center in Europe in 2019
What’s left in Latin America?
We’re seeking God’s vision for how Latin America can contribute to God’s plan to reach all the nations. We plan to focus on strengthening the Latin American church and mobilizing Latin American missionaries. Our two remaining ministries are Apoyo, which trains and encourages pastors throughout Latin America, and Corrientes, which mentors and prepares Latin American missionaries for cross-cultural ministry, often in countries closed to North American missionaries.
We also have Reach Beyond missionaries serving with partner ministries: five at radio HCJB-EC, six at English Fellowship Church, two at Alliance Academy (where our missionary kids attend), one in Shell with the job training ministry mentioned above, and two in Guatemala working with Christian TV production.
As we describe in our September 2018 newsletter (read it here), we’ve known since our initial training that these changes were coming and we agree with them in theory. We underestimated, though, their personal impact, especially on missionaries who have served here for decades. Translating the vision to reality is painful and challenging.
At some point Reach Beyond may ask us to transfer from Latin America to a different location. Thankfully, that won’t be right away as we love living and serving here. And there’s still lots to do, both in accounting and missionary personnel. But we’re learning that change is a constant in missionary life, and missionaries need to be flexible. In fact, change might even be a constant in following Jesus and, thus, all of us need to be flexible.