by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
The unreached peoples movement has come a long way since the 1974 Lausanne Congress, which was instrumental in launching it.
The unreached peoples movement has come a long way since the 1974 Lausanne Congress, which was instrumental in launching it. So too has the free, online availability of people group information, articles, resources and networks used to train and mobilize workers. One of our first Missions on the Web columns (April 1998) focused on unreached peoples, but it’s a whole new world today and time for a second look. As always, we have provided a page on the MisLinks site that will guide your browsing (www.mislinks.org/practical/peoples.htm).1
Searching for “unreached peoples” in Google results in nearly 100,000 hits. There’s a reason why the US Center for World Mission’s Joshua Project site (www.joshuaproject.net) is the first one displayed. This site, which is one of several strategic outgrowths of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement, is by far the best place to start for information on the world’s people groups. The Joshua Project site has a comprehensive list of over sixteen thousand people groups, includes extensive information for each one and is as reliable, up-to-date and neutral as we can find anywhere. Each people profile has an abundance of links taking you to other related information. It also succinctly demonstrates the magnitude of change since the early days of people group-focused missions.
Begin by clicking on the “Start Here” arrow at the top of the Joshua Project home page. This lets you view peoples information by country, region or religion, as well as by People Cluster or Affinity Bloc.2 A typical country page includes summary statistics and a complete listing of all the peoples living in that country. Click on any people group name to view its profile. These “People-in-Country” profiles have an incredible amount of depth, a result of information sharing by other ministries serving the unreached peoples movement.
The Joshua Project site is intricately interlinked throughout. While viewing a People-in-Country profile, you will see, for instance, their Affinity Bloc; click on the name of the Bloc and get a list of all peoples in that Affinity Bloc. It works the same for the group’s People Cluster, language and religion. Click on the “Web Audio Links” to view availability and listen to recordings for this language from the Global Recordings Network site. Click on the “Ethnologue Listing” link to go directly to the place in the online Ethnologue that deals with that people group’s language. Click on “WorldMap Interactive Digital Atlas Map” and you go directly to a highly detailed map of that ethnolinguistic people on the WorldMap website.
The “Ministry Tools and Links” section of each profile takes you directly to numerous media tools for that people group, such as the Jesus film, the Four Spiritual Laws, God’s Story, Faith Comes By Hearing recordings, a schedule of radio broadcasts in their language, etc.
Rather than relying entirely upon “reached” vs. “unreached” categories, the site uses language such as “least-reached” and “unengaged.” To give further insight into a people group’s evangelized status, the website includes a Progress Scale and a Need-Ranking Score for all people groups, as well as Agency Progress and Church Progress indicators for the least-reached. You can view a list of peoples according to many of these criteria. In addition to downloadable PowerPoint presentations, the site includes an abundance of other graphics such as photographs, charts and maps. Joshua Project has placed a special emphasis on mapping the people groups of India and South Asia; the maps show population density by district for any desired ethnic, religious, linguistic, tribal or caste affiliation. They even offer to make custom maps of Indian people groups at no charge.
An innovative feature of the Joshua Project site is their unique Data Map (www.joshuaproject.net/datamap.php), which allows users to see any particular people group within its global context—ethnically, geographically, linguistically and religiously. When viewing any People-in-Country profile, this data map is conveniently displayed for the profile you are viewing. There is also a helpful FAQ section and essays on understanding and defining people groups. The Joshua Project site is continuously updated and they actively seek new material from viewers.
There is extensive flexibility and freedom in downloading high-quality data sets from the website in both Access3 and Excel formats. If you prefer, they offer to send you the entire Joshua Project website on a CD-ROM. It is hard to imagine a more complete or helpful Internet resource for unreached peoples.
A number of other websites offer additional valuable information. Different types of ministry and different strategies require various sets of lenses through which to view the world of people groups. Thankfully, there are a variety of approaches to peoples databases.
PeopleGroups.org (www.peoplegroups.org) supplies information on people groups provided by the Global Research Department of the International Mission Board (IMB). This information is gathered and analyzed by a wide network of research coordinators who obtain information from approximately 5,200 IMB field personnel, local evangelical partners and others. Much of the information reflects primary research among people groups. In some instances, secondary sources are used. Those who visit the website may browse peoples by country or search by people name, religion or language.
You can freely download a variety of lists in PDF and Excel formats, including their list of unengaged, unreached peoples with a population greater than 100,000. These are based on IMB field staff review. They have done tremendous work in identifying mission progress or engagement with the world’s people groups, and it is this unengaged list that is the focus of the collaborative Finishing the Task effort. Database lists are updated monthly and detail screens are updated nightly.
PeopleGroups.info (www.peoplegroups.info) covers minority ethnic populations within the United States, based on US census data. Select a state from the initial map display, and then browse peoples by nationality, language or ancestry. Population statistics are shown by city, county and zip code. This allows you to quickly see, for instance, how many Afghan nationals live in Boise, Idaho or how many Hindi speakers live in DeKalb County, Illinois. The site is a collaborative effort of the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
World Christian Database (worldchristiandatabase.org/wcd) includes extensive statistical information on thirteen thousand ethnolinguistic peoples. You can see the data fields for free (worldchristiandatabase.org/wcd/about/peopledetail.asp), but viewing the data requires a subscription. Operation World (www.operationworld.org) is primarily a textual work organized by country; however, it also includes a daily prayer focus. Each country profile includes a summary of its major people groups.
The comprehensive Ethnologue database, maintained by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), is freely available online (www.ethnologue.com/web.asp), giving information about all known living languages. SIL’s language naming and coding system comprises the ISO standard4 for languages, and their databases are available for download. The site includes language maps by continent and country. For a more detailed look at language maps, go to Missions Atlas Project (www.worldmap.org). Select a country, and then click on the “Interactive Maps” tab at the top of the window. Click the “World Languages” check box or one of the other views such as “Bible Translation Status” or “Radio Broadcast Status.”
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has taken a different approach. To help the global ministry focus on unreached peoples, their 4K project divides the world into 4,323 “omega zones,” natural geopolitical units of similar population size. YWAM’s article library has an introductory document describing 4K (www.ywam.org/articles/article.asp?AID=250&bhcp=1) and you can view a beta version of their 4K interactive mapping system (beta.ywam4k.org).
The Harvest Information System (HIS, www.harvestinformationsystem.info) is not a peoples database; rather, it is a set of standards and codes. A collaborative effort among international missions groups wishing to share data more efficiently, HIS is what enables leading research sites to intelligently link directly into specified pages within each others’ online databases. “HIS Stewards” maintain the coding and naming systems for particular types of entities; there are currently comprehensive registries for languages, peoples and countries, and more are in the works. You can freely download the registries from their website, as well as learn how to use them to ensure compatibility of your own databases.
On the Joshua Project People-in-Country Profile page (www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php) you are just two clicks away from viewing any of their sixteen thousand people profiles. This site includes updated versions of all the Bethany Prayer Profiles,5 along with photos, maps and location information, language and religion data, progress indicators and direct links into other relevant sites. The Last Frontier (archives.tconline.org/frontier.htm) contains profiles from the IMB’s The Commission magazine, focusing on high-priority unreached peoples. Another excellent IMB-related site is Orville Jenkins Profile Collection (orvillejenkins.com/profiles/profilemenu.html), which consists of sixty-five fairly in-depth profiles of African people groups, written with an ethnographic researcher’s insight.
COMIMEX researchers, in collaboration with others, are developing a new website to network and track Latin American missions activity among unreached peoples. Etnopedia (etnopedia.org/index.php) contains over 1,500 people profiles, with another 1,500 in process. You will have to register with the site before viewing the profiles (view a sample at etnopedia.org/index.php/Ahir_Yadava). The content is in Spanish; however, Google’s translation tools (www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en) make the site usable in other major languages.
The Brazilian missions group SEPAL’s site, Planetaterra (infobrasil.org/fotos/iniciar_i.html), provides “images of the world’s cultures, landscapes and people.” You can browse for photographs by country or by religious affiliation. The images can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes.
Several good sites feature Asian people groups. Asia Harvest (www.asiaharvest.org) presents beautifully-produced profiles, complete with text, map, photograph and a few summary statistics for each of the peoples of eleven countries. Mekong Connection (www.infomekong.com) focuses on the sixteen million people of the Mekong region. South East Asia Mission Teams (SEAMIST, www.seamist.org/targeted.htm) has 123 people profiles. OMF International (www.omf.org.uk/content.asp?id=8534) displays fifty-one people profiles, mostly in SE Asia. The ChinaSource site (www.chsource.org/Profiles.htm) has fifty-one profiles of peoples living in China. Yi Peoples of China (yi.peoples.org/learn/profiles) provides profiles, photographs and prayer requests for many of the over one hundred Yi people groups. The Muslim Ministries site of International Teams (mm.iteams.org) has valuable profiles of a dozen Central Asian peoples, with photographs and prayer requests.
Switching our focus to Africa, see the people profiles at West Africa Gateway (www.wagateway.org/peoplelist.htm). The SIM International site (www.sim.org/PG.asp?fun=0) has forty-three people profiles (mostly from Africa and some from South America) and many of them include stories and/or slide shows. Valuable people profile information can also be found on secular sites, especially for larger ethnic groups. Try searching for a people group on the National Geographic publications index (www.nationalgeographic.com/resources/ngs/publications/explore.html), Native Planet (www.nativeplanet.org/indigenous/ethnicdiversity/indigenous_
data.shtml) or the Handbook of Latin American Studies (lcweb2.loc.gov/hlas). Google searches (www.google.com) and Yahoo directories (www.yahoo.com) can also yield valuable results. In particular, do not overlook Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), with its focus on enabling people from around the world to continuously add to and update its content.
Looking to go beyond textual profiles? Create International (www.createinternational.com) is “a frontier mission communication ministry” that has produced over seventy-five videos for unreached people groups, and distributed in excess of eight thousand Video People Profiles to individuals and churches worldwide. They also publish photo CDs of unreached peoples, available via their online store at modest prices.
JOURNALS AND ARTICLES
Much has been written about unreached peoples during the past thirty years. The US Center for World Mission leads the way in writing and publishing information on reaching unreached peoples. The archives of their bi-monthly bulletin Mission Frontiers (www.missionfrontiers.org/archive.htm) give direct access to all articles from January 1987 to present. Use the search engine to find articles referring to a specific people group of interest. Likewise, you can search the archives of their Global Prayer Digest (www.global-prayer-digest.org) and read relevant prayer items. The archives include all material published since August 1999. The valuable International Journal of Frontier Missions archives (www.ijfm.org/archives.htm) are also available and searchable online.
The Lausanne site provides their conference proceedings and “Occasional Papers” (www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=12890); several of these have been influential in focusing evangelical missions on reaching the unreached. In particular see the collection of papers and responses from the Lausanne 1974 Congress (www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=14285) related to Ralph Winter’s address “The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Evangelism.” For a more recent presentation, see the 50-page report on “Hidden and Forgotten People Including Those Who Are Disabled” (community.gospelcom.net/lcwe/assets/LOP35A_IG6A.pdf) from Lausanne’s 2004 Forum.
The Network for Strategic Missions has extensive collections of documents and articles from leading missions journals, many of which deal with unreached peoples. Browse the “Peoples” topic in the KnowledgeBase (www.strategicnetwork.org/index.php?loc=kb&view=b&fto=1126&sf=Y). From there, click on any article to read the full text (to read “premium” articles you will need a $20/year membership subscription), or click on any of the sub-topics shown at the top of the page. Click on the “Search” button to find articles that reference a particular topic or people group of interest.
Momentum Magazine (www.momentum-mag.org) is a relatively new, online, bi-monthly missions journal focused on helping believers “passionately, quickly and effectively obey the Great Commission and reach the Unreached Peoples of our world.” The fact that it’s free makes it even more valuable.
So, what next? Having tasted what the Web has to offer in information on reaching the world’s people groups, we hope you are ready to engage with
real people. A wealth of organizations and networks provide resources for individuals, churches and mission agencies to help mobilize prayer and service for unreached peoples.
We encourage you to follow up by contacting the ministries highlighted on the MisLinks page (www.mislinks.org/practical/peoples.htm) under the sub-headings “Prayer & Mobilization,” “Networking” and “Language & Media Resources.” These excellent ministries offer everything from educational materials, to mobilization resources, to evangelism tools in hundreds of languages.
1. All links are assumed to start with http:// unless otherwise noted.
2. Following Patrick Johnstone’s organizational structure, Joshua Project arranges people groups into closely-related “People Clusters” and these, in turn, are grouped into “Affinity Blocs” of peoples living in the same region or with similar cultural roots. For instance, the Southern Kurd people of Afghanistan are part of the Kurd People Cluster which is part of the Iranian-Median Affinity Bloc.
3. Joshua Project also provides a complete Access software application to run their databases.
4. This 15th edition of the Ethnologue represents the draft international standard, ISO/DIS 639-3, the aim of which is to enable the uniform identification of all known human languages in information systems.
5. If you prefer the original 1997 version of the Bethany Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles, go to www.global12project.com/2004/profiles/a_code/index_p.html.
A. Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.).
His email address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.
Mike O’Rear is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds world. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the GMI web address is www.gmi.org.
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