First Masalit believers surface; efforts underway to reach wider community

By April 22, 2020

Sudan (MNN) — Unreached people groups know nothing about Jesus and have no way to access the Gospel. Formal definitions vary, but most missions leaders consider people groups “unreached” if less than two-percent of the population follows Christ and there is no indigenous church presence.

Sudan has approximately 130 unreached people groups, one of which is the Masalit. According to the Joshua Project, the Masalit live in extremely remote areas and Islam dominates their lives.  There were no known Masalit believers… until now.

(Map courtesy of Joshua Project)

“The first six believers are good, solid leaders. Now, they’ve come to Christ, and we’ll work alongside those leaders as they develop these resources and take it back into their Masalit communities,” unfoldingWord’s David Reeves says.

Ministry friends reached out to unfoldingWord and connected them with these Masalit believers after seeing the organization’s work in Chad. More about that here.

From Chad to Sudan

Typically, unfoldingWord comes alongside indigenous believers to translate God’s Word into their heart language using open-source material and a church-centric model. Details here. As noted yesterday, believers in Chad felt compelled to reach the unreached among them but lacked training and resources.

Chadian believers also experienced a challenge common to “frontier” mission work – how do you translate God’s Word into a language that has no believers?

Bible translation work often involves believers who grew up speaking (or signing) the language in use. This ensures that the final product is Clear, Accurate, Natural, and Acceptable, a system commonly described as “CANA” in Bible translation circles. More about CANA here.

Chadian believers wanted to create biblical, evangelistic materials in the languages of 50 unreached people groups. However, as described here, people who grew up speaking these languages weren’t Christian – that’s why their community remains unreached. Instead of giving up, unfoldingWord and its partners tried a different approach.

Bible translation

(Photo courtesy of Marc Ewell)

“Each of those projects in Chad had a church planter-evangelist overseeing 10 Muslims from that group,” Reeves explains. The mature Christian leader helped team members as they learned the technology and the translation process. As Muslim team members read Scripture and discovered Gospel truth, they came to know the one true God.

“Then, they took that content and they went back to their communities, and many more came to Christ because now they hear the Gospel in a language they can understand,” Reeves says. Referring to translation work, he adds, “the tool becomes part of a proclamation process that helps them understand the Gospel.”

Masalit believers hope they’ll see the same thing happen in their community.

Help reach the Masalit for Christ

unfoldingWord’s Masalit partners desperately want their people to know Christ, but this calling comes with a high cost. “There’s a spiritual element that’s not obvious: the spiritual warfare context,” Reeves says, describing the spiritual opposition that arises whenever unfoldingWord begins work among a new language group.

“[Pray] for God’s covering and protection around this group of six believers who now love Jesus and want to follow Christ. They are now targets for persecution or even to be taken out.”

Additionally, travel restrictions triggered by the coronavirus pandemic are problematic. Read our pandemic coverage here. “It may mean we wait until May or June to have the first meetings, but they (Masalit believers) are eager to begin this journey because they have nothing in their language; they have nothing to work with,” Reeves says.

Support unfoldingWord’s Open Bible Stories project to help unreached people groups encounter the Gospel for the first time.



Header image depicts Masalit tribal dancers at a 2014 event in Darfur. (Photo courtesy of UNAMID via Flickr/CC)

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