by James Kraakevik
John Dekker has pointed out some serious problems as evangelicals around the world seek to identify and evangelize unreached peoples.
John Dekker has pointed out some serious problems as evangelicals around the world seek to identify and evangelize unreached peoples. First is the problem of definitions: What is a people group? Which ones are unreached? There is not yet consistency among those engaged in this research, and perhaps uniform definitions are not possible. A working group under Ed Dayton meeting last March has attempted to clarify the definitions and these are to be used in the MARC data bank.
Users can obtain needed data from MARC, David Barrett in Nairobi, Patrick Johnstone of WEC, for example, and make their own judgments about the validity of the information. It does become incumbent upon users in both Western and Third World mission agencies to correct the data used for publication and stored in data banks.
Second, Dekker points out the need for improved information flow between the data banks in the West and users in other parts of the world. This information transfer cannot yet take place on computers, although that may soon be coming. However, it is important to establish cooperative missions research centers in each country to obtain, share, receive and evaluate data both internally and internationally.
Third, the facts about geographic distributions of the people groups should be obtained, refined, and maintained within the country or region of origin. This information can then be shared with the international centers, such as MARC, to upgrade their data banks. National evangelical fellowships, and mission agencies working within a country, need a vision and a new spirit of cooperation in this kind of research. There is a vast potential of researchers across the world who can gather data and refine it, if we enlist their help.
SIM has targeted eight people groups for priority outreach in the next few years. The information we have on the FraFra of Ghana, for example, a group of nearly 300,000 people, is rather limited. We have obtained some information, both for outreach in Ghana and for publicity at home-results of our original survey done about six years ago, material obtained from libraries here, and from the MARC data bank. Not much seems to be available in libraries in Ghana, so further original research will be necessary.
In Nigeria, the Evangelical Missionary Society, the missionary arm of the Evangelical Church of West Africa, does its own surveys, crude as they may be, and then sends Nigerian missionaries to the targeted groups. However, there is a great need for coordination and communication, even among evangelical churches and missions within the country.
It is hoped that Dekkers’s concerns will open up further areas of dialogue and cooperation between researchers and users in the developing world.
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