Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
The rain was coming down like a waterfall on his head as he stumbled past the low-lying bushes lining the roadway. His body trembled beneath his drenched clothes, and his muscles ached from the strain of walking mountain roads since dawn. Mud caked his feet and legs, and clung to his sandals at each step. Each car, bus, or moto that passed launched a wave of water to further saturate him. Though the sun was about to set, he was still ten kilometers from his destination. Only one thing in his whole world was dry: a small book, wrapped in several layers of plastic and tape, tucked under his arm.
Two hours later, Lo-Shem was standing at a small doorway. He rapped on it a few times and was ushered into a safe refuge from the driving wind and rain. Seventeen people were gathered in the dimly-lit room, each of them having braved the same elements in order to come, each having the same wet clothes, the same mud-caked legs, and the same dry book carefully wrapped in plastic.
After some brief fellowship and a warm beverage to ward off the cold, each unwrapped his or her book, and thumbed through the pages to a section near the middle. Lo-Shem began to read: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good news.” His eyes were serious as they moved across the room, fixing successively upon each of the seventeen others. “Brothers,” he said, “we must do this. We have good news, and we must take it even to the mountains. Most of our people have never heard of Him.”
Lo-Shem lives in a UPG—an Unreached People Group. That means that, in his people group, there are no more than (and probably fewer than) two real Christians for every 100 people. In a village of 1,000, there might be 20 believers, but probably not.
The term people group is defined in different ways, but one helpful definition that is commonly used is this: “For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.” We know that, apart from the Holy Spirit’s work, the Gospel always encounters the obstacle of human blindness (2 Cor 4:3-4), but this definition focuses on the cultural barriers that often hinder expansion of a church movement from people of one ethnicity or cultural background to another.
When it comes to unreached people groups, JoshuaProject reports that there are 6,991 of them. That’s almost seven thousand groups with no more than 2% evangelical Christian presence. The total population in unreached people groups worldwide currently stands at 3,158,203,000. Over three billion people. And in many of those groups, the Christian presence is so low that people could live and die without ever meeting anyone who knows Jesus.
How many people are we really talking about here? Let me give you a visual: Legos. You had some as a kid, right? Of course you did. Now picture the little Lego figures—some of them just had a simple smile; others looked like pirates, knights, or ninjas. Okay, now imagine 3.1 billion of them…all unique. Each with a personality. Each interconnected with thousands of others through family connections and friendships. Honestly, it’s pretty hard to visualize 3.1 billion of anything in your head. How much space would those Lego figures occupy? Let’s take just their heads for instance—forget their bodies for right now. A cubic foot of space can hold about 28,300 Lego minifigure heads. That means it would take about 111,597 cubic feet to hold one Lego head for every person in the world. Picture 300 dump trucks overflowing with these Lego heads. The line of trucks would be over 1.5 miles long. That’s how many people we’re talking about.
And that’s why Lo-Shem plods, week after week, through the mud, rain, and cold. Because he knows his people have never heard—and unless he tells them, they never will. He knows that God accomplishes His sovereign will, and He uses means to do it. Lo-Shem longs to be the means of spreading God’s eternal, matchless glory to his own people.
Who Is Lo-Shem?
So, who is Lo-Shem? What continent does he live on? To what people group does he belong? Lo-Shem’s name means “No-name” in Hebrew: he is "the unnamed one." But in reality, he is not really “one” at all. He represents a multitude of courageous people who know Jesus, but live in a people group where He is almost unknown. Lo-Shem, the Unnamed One, is the missionary from an unreached people group who is striving to reach his own people with the Gospel.
The Unnamed One is unconcerned about the fame of his name. Instead, he is consumed with the fame of Jesus’ Name.
You don’t know his name. But God does.
 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting, as quoted on www.joshuaproject.net/help/definitions.
Mark Vowels, CGO Director
Today’s blog post begins with a quiz question:
True or False: Adoniram Judson was America’s first foreign missionary.
Do you guess true? Well, no points for you. George Leile was America’s first foreign missionary.
George Leile (sometimes also spelled Lisle, or Liele) was a missionary to Jamaica who left for the field in 1782 – thirty years before Adoniram Judson went to Burma, and even ten years before William Carey went to India.
So why don’t we generally know the name of George Leile? Probably the main reason is that he was not memorialized with a biography, as were other missionary heroes. Another reason is that he was black and was born a slave. George came to faith in Christ at age 23 and immediately began to minister to his fellow slaves. His master, Henry Sharp, encouraged George to preach the Gospel to all the slaves that he owned. Sharp was loyal to the British and fought on their side during the American Revolution. He chose to free George from slavery before the war began.
As a freed man, George first proclaimed Christ in Aiken County, South Carolina, and established a small church there, which was likely the first established black congregation in America. As the war progressed, the congregation moved to Savannah, Georgia, where the British held greater power. There, the church became the First African Baptist Church and was instrumental in starting several other Baptist churches for African Americans, both slave and free.
At the end of the Revolutionary War and the victory of the Colonists, attempts were made to re-enslave George Leile. But he was able to escape to the island of Jamaica as an indentured servant of a British Colonel (who loaned him money for his family to sail). After serving two years to pay his debt, Leile began preaching to the slaves in Kingston. People came to Christ in great numbers and soon the ministry had 350 regular attenders. Largely due to Leile’s influence, it was estimated that there were 8,000 Baptists in Jamaica by 1814.
Slavery was eventually abolished in Jamaica in 1838, but George Leile died in 1828. His life was filled with hardships and persecutions. The slave owners there wrought the same kinds of brutality and racial atrocities as were perpetrated by slave owners in America during the same period. George was once imprisoned and later was forbidden to preach to slaves. But he continued to faithfully communicate the hope of the Gospel throughout all of his days.
George Leile, the first Protestant, American missionary abroad was born as someone’s property. He received no formal education. He had no financial backing from a missionary organization. But he loved Jesus and he loved others. So, first as a slave and then as a free man, he preached the Gospel and made disciples wherever he went.
History has not remembered George Leile as a great missionary hero, but there can be no doubt that Heaven has.
Angelina Zimmer, CGO Office Administrator
Islands. Unique little worlds that never touch. Culturally exclusive in many ways and differing in dialects or complete languages in most cases. The Southern Pacific Ocean connects hundreds of thousands of islands. Some are inhabited and some are not. This story takes place in the island of Tahiti; the largest of the Îles du Vent (Windward Islands).
Henry Nott was a bricklayer by trade. Little did he know, he would lay the foundation of the Gospel on a very dark island. In 1797, the London Missionary Society sent him and several others as some of their first missionaries. Unprepared for the field they would wash up on, these missionaries would face unbelievable hardship. Captured by Napoleon’s fleet, the supply ship took five years to reach them. Meanwhile Henry Nott worked hard to learn the language and reach the people. One by one the other missionaries died, disserted, or went mad.
According to the book Giants of Missionary Trial, Nott and the other missionaries dealt with a specific group of people called the areois. “They blackened their bodies with charcoal and dyed their faces red. They had no occupation but dancing, boxing, wrestling and indulging in acts of buffoonery. They made it a practice to kill their children as soon as they were born. Pomare's chief wife, Iddeah, was a member of this society and had killed three of her children subsequent to the arrival of the missionaries.”
Nott estimated that about two out of three children were killed due to the parents or relatives that performed this tragic cultural practice. This was a terrifying group of people and contributed much to the withdrawal of many other missionaries that initially started with Henry Nott.
Unfortunately, being bereaved of other missionary help was not the only tragedy that Nott experienced. Henry Nott and a newly arrived missionary from Britain fell in love and were married in Tahiti. Unfortunately, this “honeymoon spot” was not paradise in the early 1800’s, and Nott’s new wife grew discontent and died two years later.
At the end of ten years, it was only Nott who remained. While walking and talking with the king Ponmare II, Nott would reason: "For the sake of your immortal soul and of your influence upon your subjects, I urge you, for the thousandth time, to turn to Christ. Do not longer reject His glorious salvation. Every human soul is of infinite value to Him."
The king would reply with "Doubtless you are right, but for one who has sinned so disgracefully and wallowed in the depths of heathen depravities, there is no hope.”
But there was hope for such a sinner and finally after 22 years of work, Nott saw his first fruits of his faithful labor. Ponmare II, the king of Tahiti, finally accepted Christ and “in the presence of 5000 people was baptized.” After his conversion, the King began to work with Henry Nott on translating the Bible into the Tahitian language.
An excerpt from the Giants of the Missionary Trial by Eugene Harrison, draws a unique parallel between Henry Nott and Martin Luther.
“Martin Luther called John 3:16 ‘the little gospel.’ When, during his last illness, someone recommended to him a certain remedy for his severe headache, he declined with these words: ‘The best prescription for head and heart is to be found in John 3:16.’ And in his dying moments he repeated the text three times.
"Said Henry Nott: ‘The only sure and efficacious remedy for the ignorance, the depravities, the sorrows and sins of mankind, is to be found in the Gospel of John 3:16.’
"In appreciation of the sublimities of John 3:16, Martin Luther and Henry Nott were of much the same mind.”
Ruth Tucker, a missionary historian, wrote of Nott’s work “But for the perseverance of Henry Nott, the work in Tahiti would no doubt have been abandoned.”
William Carey desired that there would be a mission in Tahiti as early as 1787. However, Carey was led to India, and we all know his story. The man who was chosen for Tahiti was Henry Nott. Fulfilling God’s will for his life and Carey’s dream, Nott continued to be faithful and is primarily responsible for the translation and production of the Tahitian Bible.
After 47 years of faithful work, Henry Nott died in 1844 leaving a Christian mission, a translated Bible, and a body of believers on the island of Tahiti.
Harrison, Eugene Myers. “Henry Nott: Herald of the Love of God in Tahiti.” Giants of the Missionary Trial , Wholsome Words, 1954, www.wholesomewords.org/missions/giants/bionott.html.
Tucker, Ruth (1983). From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya A Biographical History of Christian Missions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-23937-0
*If RSS feed is not working for you, please add it to your app or software manually by adding this url:
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.