Yemen (MNN) — If you’re looking for unreached people groups – or, “UPGs” as they’re called in the missions community – start your search in Yemen. “Generally, the indicating factor of when a people group is considered ‘reached’ or ‘unreached’ is whether they are at least two-percent Christian,” says Nathaniel*, a Christian worker focused on Yemen.
“In the case of Yemen’s people groups, they’re all less than two-percent, so they would all be considered unreached.”
While the exact number of UPGs differs by source, Nathaniel says Yemen holds at least seven unreached people groups. Although all Yemenis desperately need your prayers, Christian workers are currently encouraging a strategic prayer focus for five of Yemen’s seven UPGs: northern Yemeni Arabs, southern Yemeni Arabs, the Tihama, Akhdam, and Hadhrami.
Yemen: an Islamic stronghold
Yemeni believers face some of the highest persecution rates in the world, Open Doors USA reports. The vast majority of Yemenis are considered Muslim and leaving Islam can be punishable by death. If secret believers are found out and don’t return to Islam, they face threats on all sides: family members, authorities, radical groups, and their tribal community.
As described here, decades of instability in Yemen have led to one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. Assisted by the chaos of Yemen’s ongoing war, Islamic militant groups have become more influential– leading to cases where Christians have been abducted and killed. COVID-19 adds yet another layer of calamity; many believe the current infection rates to be much higher than what’s recorded.
Reaching Yemenis for Christ is challenging, to say the least. “It’s always been difficult,” Nathaniel says. “Yemen’s always been a very restricted country; very, very conservative Islam. However, I would say the state of the country today is such that [it] makes it even more difficult.”
Nonetheless, “difficult” is not impossible. God’s Spirit is moving, and the tiny Yemeni Church is growing.
“Things really begin to change in the last two decades… there were some Christian workers that were martyred in the country, and it really seems that the Church has taken off since that time,” Nathaniel explains.
“I think the Lord used that to embolden the faith of the few Yemeni believers that [existed at that time]. They began to grow at a greater rate, and they began to share more boldly.”
For security purposes, Nathaniel cannot describe specific ministry and outreach methods used today. However, “it was in the midst of the persecution that the Church began to grow, and today it is continuing to grow,” he says.
Prayer: a critical catalyst
In a place like Yemen, prayer is the catalyst for Gospel growth. “It’s been proven throughout history that God responds to the faithful and fervent prayers of His people,” Nathaniel notes.
“We can have the best strategies, the best ideas of how to reach people, but unless there are people crying out to God for [Yemenis] to respond in faith, all of our efforts will prove fruitless.”
Use this new resource from our sister ministry, Prayercast, to intercede for southern Yemeni Arabs. With new resources in Yemeni dialects, Yemenis exploring issues of faith are starting to see that there are others in their society who have made decisions to follow Jesus. Realizing there are other Yemenis following Jesus can be a powerful encouragement to them in their own journey towards Christ.
Pray also for the Hadhrami people. “If I had to choose one [UPG], I would probably say the Hadhrami people are the hardest to reach,” Nathaniel says. “They’re difficult to access, probably now more than ever. There are fewer tools developed in their specific dialect of Arabic.”
Header image courtesy of Prayercast.