“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
A pronouncement, command, invitation and promise: This passage in scripture, paired with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19, directly challenges the faith and action of Seventh-day Adventist Christians. As Adventists are we passively waiting for Jesus to come, or is He waiting for us?
This is a story about one way to do something intentional, focused and directly aimed at sharing the amazing story of God’s great love and hastening the return of Jesus. It’s the story of Gospel Outreach, a volunteer lay organization headquartered in College Place, Wash., with sister organizations in Canada and Brazil. Most important, it’s the story of a region in the world called the 10/40 Window and how you can be part of winning it for God.
The term 10/40 Window was coined by Christian missionary strategist Luis Bush in 1990 because the geographical area lies between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude. It includes North Africa, the Middle East, India, China and the Philippines. Virtually all of the world’s unreached live in this area.
There are 7.2 billion people in the world. Nearly 3 billion have never had a chance to hear about Jesus, and 97 percent of these live in the 10/40 Window. Given this information you might think that Christians everywhere would enthusiastically make the 10/40 Window their top priority, but this isn’t the case. Evangelistic spending in the 10/40 Window barely qualifies as a blip—one-tenth of 1 percent (0.001) of church-related budgets.
“In all candor and to our continuing shame, let us admit that the world’s perishing unreached people are very seldom mentioned or thought about in almost all churches,” says Phil Bogosian, international director for the Adopt-A-People Campaign, a Christian organization that focuses on reaching the unreached.
May this stinging rebuke not be said of Adventist churches.
SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known,” the apostle Paul wrote nearly 2,000 years ago. Twenty years ago, that philosophy led to the founding of Gospel Outreach. Its mission: to make a difference by introducing people to Jesus in the 10/40 Window.
“An important key to spreading the gospel in this area is to use indigenous workers. They already know the language, the religion, the culture of their people,” says Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Throughout its history, the volunteer staff of Gospel Outreach has worked closely with the Seventh-day Adventist Church organization, raising funds to support local Bible workers, who are hired and trained by the Adventist mission offices.
“The results are astonishing,” says Dan Preas, former president of Gospel Outreach. “Overall, approximately 75 percent of baptisms in many areas of the 10/40 Window are due to the dedicated efforts of Bible workers sponsored through Gospel Outreach.”
“Gospel Outreach is the heartbeat of the Southern Asia Division,” says Elder P. Wilbert, president of the South Andhra Section in India.
Ron Watts, former president of the Southern Asia Division, sees the 10/40 Window as an area full of opportunity. “Once you make a few disciples within a particular people group, they can be trained and empowered to spread the message like wildfire among others within their people group,” he says.
As encouraging as it is to hear reports like this, an enormous task remains. Millions upon millions more are waiting to hear of Jesus for the first time.
To help accomplish this mission, Gospel Outreach has launched an Adopt-a-Worker program. Through this program, individuals, families, Sabbath School classes, churches and schools sponsor Bible workers in the 10/40 Window. Sponsors receive periodic updates about their worker. These stories testify of God’s life-changing power and challenge each of us to be partners with Him in preparing the world for a better day.
The following story provides just one example of what’s happening.
15 MINUTES FROM DEATH
Despite the glow of a nearby lamp, darkness closes in around Rahel. Her thoughts mirror the murky blackness and pelting rain of the winter storm outside her home in northern India.
Life has no joy. I feel so alone—so empty. I’m tired, but I can’t sleep. I’m afraid…
Months before, she might have cried, but tonight there’s no release.
Loud rapping at the front door intrudes on Rahel’s thoughts. Hesitating briefly, she opens the door. Her husband, Vijay, staggers in, soaking wet, drunk and out of control.
“Can’t you open the door any faster? What good are you, Wife?” he shouts angrily. She cringes, bracing for the all-too-familiar beating. Vijay raises his hand to slap her. “I hate you. Get out from my house right now!”
The sound of fighting and yelling awakens the children. Vijay turns to vent his fury on them. In that moment, Rahel makes up her mind.
I can’t do it any more. I can’t even protect my children. I will kill myself and escape.
The passing moments seem like an eternity, but the horror ends when Vijay falls asleep. Rahel puts the children back to bed, hugging and kissing them. It’s after midnight, but she’s wide awake, struggling between thoughts of her children and the continual abuse she suffers.
Just a few more hours. I must do this. I will take poison and end my miserable existence at 8, right after the children go to school.
At 7:45, minutes before Rahel’s planned suicide, someone knocks at the door. It’s Mahesh Kumar, an Adventist Bible worker sponsored through Gospel Outreach. Unaware of the drama unfolding in the family, Mahesh hands a pamphlet titled “Destruction Through Liquor” to Rahel’s 8-year-old son Sachin, who’s nearly ready for school.
“God, Almighty Father—whom I did not know or have a relationship with—He pitied me, poured His grace upon me.”
Noticing the content of the tract, Sachin runs to find his mother.
“Mom, Mom, look! This is good news for Daddy!”
“Sachin gave the small tract to Vijay,” Rahel recalls. “My husband glanced at it but didn’t say a word. Instead, to my surprise, he ran outside to find the man who was distributing the literature.”
Minutes later, Rahel’s husband returned with the Gospel Outreach Bible worker. Mahesh sat with Rahel and Vijay, reading the tract to them. Vijay listened carefully. The Holy Spirit softened his hardened heart. He broke down and cried, begging for forgiveness.
“I regained hope,” Rahel says. “The love that Vijay expressed by hugging and kissing me, and the promise to stop drinking made me realize: A change has knocked on our door.”
Mahesh invited Rahel, her husband and their children to meetings. There, for the first time, the family heard the story of Jesus and His love for all of them—even for Vijay.
“Vijay means victory,” Rahel says. “We have seen Jesus’ victory in my husband’s life. At the close of the meetings there was a call for baptism. Happily we accepted, and now we are baptized Adventist Christians.”
“God, Almighty Father—whom I did not know or have a relationship with—He pitied me, poured His grace upon me. By His divine providence He sent His chosen person to tell me the message of Christ’s love, and opened the eyes of my heart so that I and my family could receive new life, joy and happiness,” Vijay says.
But that’s not the end of the story. As a result of seeing the dramatic change in Vijay’s life, 160 people in the village decided to follow Jesus too.
“Only in heaven will we become aware of all of these stories,” Rahela Vrbeta says. Rahela and her husband, Boris, own Seven Springs Lifestyle Center near Priest River, Idaho. The Vrbetas recently began sponsoring Mahesh Kumar, the Bible worker who helped save Rahel’s life. Perhaps we see a glimpse of God’s leading even in the names of two people in this story—Rahel, the woman in India, and Rahela, Mahesh’s sponsor.
“We’re so undeserving and so unworthy of all that God has done for us,” Rahela says. Being able to directly sponsor a Bible worker in the 10/40 Window is a way of giving back—sharing with others the love so freely given.
“Earlier in my life, I really wanted to be a missionary, but God had other plans for me, including my husband, Boris!” Rahela says. “But now we can partner with Bible workers, and I can be a missionary in that way. We believe this is the best value for our dollar.”
Mahesh, thankful for the opportunity to serve the Lord, sees a ripe harvest waiting to be gathered everywhere he looks.
“My prayer is: ‘Dear Lord, send in the reapers so that crops can be harvested and stored in the house,’” he says. “Let this work be finished before our Lord comes again. And let those who have assisted in this great work see the fruits and rejoice in the heavenly kingdom, knowing their support and sacrifice has not gone in vain.”
There are 25 villages with a population of approximately 130,000 people in the area where Mahesh lives.
“My goal is to take the message of Christ’s love to all these people,” he says. “I strongly believe there are many more families like Vijay and Rahel’s that will be a great witness.”
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
As the story from India shows, we can make a difference in people’s lives now and for eternity. Our calling is not to be people of the pew, who simply socialize and do church. Instead Jesus has asked each of us to be part of a God-ordained search-and-rescue mission with a global—not just local—focus.
“With such a huge population and very few followers of Christ, the task of spreading Jesus’ love and plan of salvation is overwhelming in the 10/40 Window,” says Larry Dodds, chairman of the board for Gospel Outreach. “Gospel Outreach currently sponsors more than 2,000 Bible workers in the 10/40 Window, but the need for more is critical.”
Here’s what you can do today to help fulfill the Great Commission:
- Pray. Be a daily prayer missionary on behalf of the 10/40 Window. Pray for the people who live there. Pray for the church members, whose lives witness to those around them. Pray for church leadership. Pray for the Bible workers. And ask the Lord of the harvest for more workers.
- Tell. Be an ambassador and let others know of the needs in the 10/40 Window.
- Adopt. You can be a missionary to other countries without leaving home by adopting a Bible worker or giving smaller amounts to help support their work. For more information, visit adoptaworker.org, or call (509) 525-2951.
“The question we must ask ourselves is whether we truly want Jesus to come,” Preas says. “If we do, our hearts will be changed. We will once again love the way He does, and this love will compel us to take the gospel to the whole world—to set captives free from the prison of sin.”
1. Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69. [back]
2. http://www.joshuaproject.net/great-commission-statistics.php [back]
3. World Christian Trends (William Carey Library Pub: 2003), p. 661 [back]
4. Romans 15:20 [back]
5. Matthew 9:38 [back]