by George + Pamela Pendergrass, Associate Directors
Associate Directors George and Pamela Pendergrass recently returned from a journey to Egypt and other nearby countries. Their experiences there encouraged them personally and bolstered their commitment to mobilize churches of color in the US.
While traveling throughout the Middle East, we were honored to visit a refugee camp serving displaced women and young girls. Upon meeting them, it was hard to believe they had experienced so much trauma in their young lives. Over time, many of these young girls were able to find refuge at this center specifically designed to provide spiritual, social, psychological and educational relief.
When we arrived, we found the women dressed in beautiful garments; there was a spirit of celebration in the air. They were dancing and singing together. I (Pamela) jumped into the dancing, joining these women in their version of the Salsa. I then demonstrated our different version of the Salsa, and was immediately joined by the women amid shouts of laughter and amazement. The joy was palpable as the afternoon wore on.
While we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the women and girls at the refugee camp, we didn’t think too deeply about our experience. However, when we shared the story with a local indigenous leader, our eyes were opened to the deep cultural connections made in such a simple, joyful dance. He said:
“It is essential to understand how closely aligned our two cultures are, in many ways. Sometimes, we will intuitively understand some things, simply because we have similar cultural backgrounds. The way we eat, the way we dance, the way we laugh and even our emotional approach to life helps people connect to us.”
When people notice some of these cultural similarities, natural bridges are formed—bridges that otherwise could take years to establish. These bridges are crucial keys to opening doors of Gospel access among least-reached peoples.
As mission mobilizers with Frontier Fellowship, one of our focuses is to engage other people of color in frontier mission ministry. This is a complex task—it is estimated that less than 1% of American missionaries are Black. However, most of the world’s least-reached people groups and places are predominantly populated by people of color! We feel that God is calling us to this unique challenge and opportunity.
Scripture tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matthew 9:35-38). What is the missing piece of the puzzle in frontier mission? Might it be the laborers who are uniquely equipped to reach unreached people of color?
We need a paradigm shift in understanding the Lord’s call to be witnesses in Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
For the apostles who received this call, Jerusalem and Judea represented local ministry, which is vital! However, the call was not only local and regional, but also national and global. Witnesses are needed among all peoples—to the ends of the earth! Every follower of Jesus has a role to play in making the Good News of Jesus known among every nation, tribe, people and language.
Marginalized cultures—including people of color—often feel ill-equipped to engage in frontier mission. Many factors play into this, but we have seen that this resistance often results from lack of means and education about the frontier. We are beginning to sense that God is calling us to help others recognize their opportunities and personal calling, rather than focusing on the perceived obstacles. Because of natural commonalities within our cultures, we have some of the bridges already built. As we find our cultural connections with people, we pray that God will provide opportunities for us to share the Good News of Jesus. As the global Church grows, we also pray that faithful witnesses from every tribe and culture will carry the Gospel to their least-reached neighbors.
We were deeply encouraged throughout our visit to Egypt. We know that God always intends for us to be a blessing wherever we go, whether it be a refugee camp in another part of the world or a church down the street. May God lead and guide both us and you as we all listen to God’s voice and follow the path He gives us.