We have our fingers on the pulse of modern missions. Mission work is changing rapidly as the world's cultures and global conditions are changing. Ease of travel and communication impact how the Gospel is spread. But at the heart of missions, there is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the obedience of the Church to carry out Jesus' command to go into all the earth.
We want to present challenging biblical truths, insights into today's missions environment, and progress reports on reaching the entire world with the Gospel. Please keep checking our blog regularly for updates, stories and challenging thoughts from Scripture!
COVID-19 has already taught us the importance of “first responders” and frontline workers. This pandemic has also taught us to appreciate the unseen, unidentified essential workers and the willing volunteers who meet critical needs in times of crisis. My first experience with serving as a “first responder” came unexpectedly when I was a teenager.
One of my most vivid teenage memories is riding in a recently purchased fire truck to a fire in our small hometown. Like many rural communities, the fire department in our town is made up entirely of volunteers. My dad, the first mayor of our town, and I had just picked up the first fire truck purchased by our municipality in anticipation of forming our first fire department.
To our surprise, as we drove into town that day, we received word that the Fairview Superette grocery store was on fire. That store, across from the high school, was the place where kids hung out after school, and where farmers fueled their trucks and equipment. Just a few hours before, we had experienced a thunderstorm, and lightning must have triggered a fire in the attic.
By the time we arrived at the store, smoke was billowing and flames were shooting from the roof. One of our small town’s essential businesses was engulfed in flames. Thankfully, firefighters from two neighboring towns were already there battling the fire and got it under control.
As those experienced firefighters drove away, they left us with our red fire engine and “green” volunteers to stay behind and put out hot spots overnight.
No, our hometown volunteers were not the first on the scene that day; in fact, we barely made it there. Our inexperience and lack of preparation interfered. Dad and I had trouble getting the truck started and didn’t know how to use the siren or lights. We had not yet begun our official training. All we had was a refurbished truck and a few willing volunteers. We were certainly not ready to be “first responders.”
One of the men in the community, who had just retired from the U.S. Navy and had been a firefighter on a warship, stepped up to lead us. We were thankful for his experience and training, as well as his willingness to help us prepare to be “first responders” for our own Fairview Fire and Rescue unit.
We weren’t expecting a fire in our town that day. If only we had been trained. If only we had formed a fire department sooner. If only we had owned better equipment. If only the emergency phone system had been ready. Then we might have saved the Fairview Superette. You see, the first fire department called came from the city more than 10 miles away. By the time they arrived, it was too late to save any merchandise or the building structure.
In the next few months after that fire, my call to follow Jesus led me to serve small rural churches as a student lay-pastor. From my pastoral ministry experience, I felt called to leave the United States and share the Gospel among people in a nation where there were very few Christians. My “first responder” instinct led me into the unknown to “rescue the perishing.”
What I encountered was similar to what I had experienced as a volunteer fireman many years before. I was neither prepared enough nor equipped enough to provide help at the scene. I needed years of language and culture experience to get “close enough” to rescue anyone. People in more than 80,000 Asian villages were waiting to be rescued from sin and darkness. They had been waiting for more than 2,000 years. They had never heard about Jesus, had no Bible and had no believers living in their villages.
God led me to some local Christians who were willing to help reach their own people. Believers — from communities and villages that had been reached with the Gospel — were volunteering to go to other places. These volunteers became the “first responders,” serving God in unreached areas and villages of their own nation. That was when I first realized that as a foreigner and an outsider, I am very limited to do much on my own.
Following God’s direction, I became a listener and learner, and I began to let the local believers teach me. Many of these local Christians had known Christ even longer than I had. They had Bibles in their heart language and studied God’s Word carefully through the power of the Holy Spirit as He guided them into all truth. He was calling them to follow and to go! And they were responding.
God showed me that these local volunteers are the answer to reaching their country for Jesus Christ. In a single day, they were capable of reaching more people than I had reached in a year. I needed to find a way of encouraging them, equipping them and working with them in what the Lord was leading them to do.
Out of this experience, and many similar ones, came the ministry of Reach A Village. Finding and working with capable local Christian leaders has resulted in thousands of villages being reached by an army of volunteer “first responders.” Reach A Village continues to equip them with mobility, training and scriptures so they are able to go farther and faster in taking the Gospel to the unreached. These rescue workers bring healing and hope into the darkest situations.
Will you join us in this ministry? Will you join us as a co-missionary with these frontline workers?
By Bob Craft
Founder and President
Reach A Village continues to receive affirmation of our diligence in the area of accountability. Recently, Christianity Today featured our ministry in Thailand as part of a follow-up article about the Thai church growth movement from 2019. Bob Craft, Reach A Village’s Founder and President, and his son, Ellis, International Ministry Director for Southeast Asia, share about the risks of ministry and the increased interest in supporting our ministry leaders there.
“Our hope is that the CT article will bring attention here in the United States and in Thailand to the good practices and the quality things that are happening in their midst. The article is bringing glory to God and credit to the local people who are involved,” Bob shares.
Click here to view the new article, and click here to view the April 2019 article.
How many of us would ever have believed that an unknown virus would change life for everyone on earth? Right now, I am in the midst of a 14-day self-quarantine at home after being in Cambodia for most of March. I got back to the U.S. on one of the last commercial flights recommended by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Suddenly, COVID-19 is impacting every aspect of our lives. Reach A Village’s local ministry partners around the world are experiencing stresses in their lives, too. Governments are restricting their movements. They have less income. They feel the threat of this virus in their own homes. But regardless of these pressures, they continue to be the light of the Gospel in midst of the darkness.
These faithful servants are the local heroes of faith in the midst of fear. Reach A Village is helping to mobilize them by continuing to provide scriptures and encouragement.
Thank you for being part of this ministry to the world’s least reached people, especially in this unprecedented situation. Please remember to pray for our ministry partners. Your gifts to Reach A Village at this time will help us respond to their usual and also their urgent needs. They are God’s chosen ones to help take Jesus to nearby villages, and you are God’s chosen ones to help make that happen even in these difficult times.
By Bob Craft
P.S. Due to the extraordinary circumstances of this pandemic, we will also accept special gifts to aid in humanitarian outreach. Though we remain committed to our mission of evangelism, discipleship and starting new churches, we want to help our ministry partners be the light of Christ to those in great need.
If you would like to make a gift to support humanitarian outreach, please click the button below. To help provide Scriptures and support church planting efforts, please click here.
In light of what is happening around the world, and here in the United States, I want to reassure you that the ministry continues. This is an uncertain season, but we have no doubt that the will of God is for people to hear the Gospel and the message of hope and salvation that is found in Him alone.
Our team here in the United States is currently working remotely, and we are in regular contact with our international ministry partners. Our work is not carried out with large gatherings or mass evangelism. Rather, it is in small group Bible studies, personal evangelism or open-air meetings. Since our ministry partners are local people, they can and will continue to share the Gospel. The ministry methods may change, such as implementing more follow-up with people via phone or internet while physical contact is limited, but we all remain committed to this mission of reaching villages with the Gospel and making disciples.
As new information comes from the field and I hear from our partners, I am so encouraged by their incredible faith, maturity, dedication and resolve. They are true heroes and are determined to serve the Lord in all circumstances. We believe that now, more than ever, we need to continue this ministry.
Though this pandemic is serious and is impacting all of our international ministry partners, I take comfort in knowing that our risen Savior is speaking to His people and guiding all of us by His Spirit while seated on heaven's throne. The ministry will continue on. We will continue on. This is a difficult season, but may we be inspired by the all-powerful love of Jesus when He gave up His life for us. He has overcome the world, and we will continue to reach the world with the Gospel message.
In His Almighty Love,
Founder and President
I am sad to report that our dear friend and Cambodia Ministry Director Pastor Uong Vibol died from lung cancer on Feb. 28. Yet, while we mourn this great loss, we know that he is now rejoicing in heaven with his precious Lord, and has no doubt heard Him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant!”
For over 20 years, Pastor Vibol made it his mission to spread the Gospel to as many of his fellow Cambodians as possible. He knew how the terror, suffering and genocide inflicted by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had left a sense of despair among his people. He said, “People are living without hope. I want to bring the Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of hope, to our nation.”
And he did. Under Pastor Vibol’s leadership, the Cambodia ministry team shared the Good News with over 1 million people during the past five years alone. Nearly 245,000 of them chose to give up their idols and serve the one true God. In addition to the Savior’s greeting, I can’t help but think that Pastor Vibol received greetings in heaven from person after person who told him, “I am here because you obeyed God’s call.”
A couple years ago, God laid another calling on Pastor Vibol’s heart – to reach all of the 9,000 remaining unreached villages in Cambodia for Christ. This was his passion. He and his leadership team devised a national plan that, with full funding, could see the goal accomplished within the next five years. Already, they have reached over 1,000 of those unreached villages in the past two years.
This amazing man of God will be greatly missed, but I take comfort in the fact that part of the legacy he left behind is a strong leadership team that will continue to carry on the mission until all have had an opportunity to hear the Gospel message.
Pastor Vibol also leaves behind his wife, Panha, and their two children, Mark and Matthew. With his first wife, Soknim, who passed away in 2011, he was the father of Joshua, John, Philip, and Sarah.
Memorial gifts may be made by clicking the button below to help fulfill Pastor Vibol's vision of reaching every unreached village in Cambodia for Christ.
We appreciate your prayers for the family, the Cambodia ministry team, the Reach A Village staff, and all who are grieving this loss.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Serving Christ Together,
Founder and President
For over a decade I had heard my father, Robert Craft, talk about the church-planting teams he would visit while in Myanmar. He showed me pictures and videos of them and the villages they were entering for the first time to start Christian churches where there had never been any before.
What remained in my memory were the stories of shocking persecution – in the form of property damage, verbal threats and physical attacks – which was met with equally matched responses of perseverance by these national workers. These champions of the faith seemed superhuman and unreal. I never anticipated or expected to meet them and simply prayed for them and for faith like them.
After hearing a strong call from God to help my father in the ministry, I left my job, started seminary, and began learning more about the Reach A Village ministry model. Getting to meet many of these church-planting leaders during trips to Myanmar and to hear firsthand new stories of their adventures in faith in areas where there are no believers in Jesus has been an incredible experience that gives me great hope for the nation. During the past year alone, 331 new churches were started!
Recently, I was overjoyed when Michael, the national leader, invited both my father and me to attend a meeting with 72 of the most fruitful church planters over the past decade. Michael wanted to honor my father and give him a chance to see and hear one last time firsthand the things God is doing in Myanmar, while also encouraging some new church-planting teams by hearing stories of more experienced church planters.
Michael gave us a couple hours in the morning to encourage them with Scripture. This was the first time that I co-taught with my father through Scripture, drawing out leadership and church-planting principles. It was a special time for me, and one that will not happen often since I am now the Southeast Asia director and Dad is focusing his efforts on responsibilities as president of Reach A Village. Looking out on those national church-planting leaders and praising, praying and learning from them was an absolute honor.
Everyone left the three days of training feeling encouraged and united in Christ. I left hearing their great desire for more Bibles, so that every new believer can have one. Please pray and support the incredible work in Myanmar because the doors are wide open now!
By Ellis Craft
Ellis Craft grew up in Thailand and the Philippines, where his parents were missionaries. He now serves Reach A Village as International Ministry Director for Southeast Asia, interacting with our ministry partners overseas. Ellis did master's degree work in Community Development at North Park University and in Ministry Leadership at Moody Theological Seminary.
Reach A Village Founder and President Robert Craft recently wrote an article for Christianity Today sharing how God is answering the prayers of Cambodian Christians with a modern-day miracle. While Christians in other countries in the region face government restrictions, this Buddhist nation’s prime minister, Hun Sen, hosted a banquet for 3,000 church leaders and thanked them for their contributions to Cambodian society through education, ethics, social projects and promoting peace and unity.
Hun Sen also pledged continued religious freedom. This paves the way for our ministry partners, the National Christian Churches Network, Cambodia Council (NCCN-CC), to continue their efforts to reach every village in Cambodia with the Gospel. Under the direction of Pastor Uong Vibol, the NCCN-CC reported 58,313 new believers through the outreach of more than 3,000 churches during the past fiscal year! “Who would have imagined this kind of growth in a single year, considering the history of Cambodia?” Craft says.
He explains, “By the end of 1979, 80 percent of Cambodian believers had been martyred during the horrors of Marxist leader Pol Pot’s Killing Fields. Most Christians were among more than 1.3 million Cambodians whose bodies were scattered in more than 20,000 mass burial sites called ‘killing fields’ throughout the country, in what many consider the worst genocide of the 20th century. There may have been as few as 200 remnant believers who were meeting in secret among the ruins of Phnom Penh city.”
To learn more about Cambodia’s past, the historic events taking place recently, and the Gospel movement that is gaining momentum across the country, click here and read the entire article.
How do most of us define the word “darkness”? We often say that darkness is the absence of light. That is true as far as the human eye can discern it. For many years scientists thought that the dark parts of the universe, the “black holes,” were empty spaces devoid of matter, especially matter like stars, which emit light. However, it turns out that “darkness” is actually “dark energy” or “dark matter.”
At Christmas, we celebrate because Jesus came into the world to rescue people from darkness. He knew that “darkness” is a real spiritual force that can be felt. The darkness that people in unreached villages experience is tangible and frightening. Darkness comes in the form of addictions, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and being enslaved to local gods, spirits and customs that keep them in paralyzing fear.
Jesus is the Light! When the Light of Jesus comes into the village, everything changes. His Presence dispels darkness and drives out fear. The light of the Gospel transforms people and sets them free from sin and darkness. The Light of Jesus continues to shine blessing and restoration into hearts and families in the village.
How does the Light of Jesus come to villages that still remain in darkness today because they have never heard? The answer is simple but sobering. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14 (NIV) The followers of Jesus are now the ones who must take His Light to villages that have not heard.
Each of us has a part to play in delivering people from darkness by being a light to those around us. Each of us has a responsibility to send someone into unreached villages to take the light and be the light of Jesus. Thank you for partnering with Reach A Village to shine the Light of Christ and dispel darkness from lives in villages around the world!
Spreading the Light Together,
Founder and President
In October, I had the honor of joining our Cambodia Ministry Director, Uong Vibol and members of his team in Phnom Penh for a momentous gathering hosted by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for 3,000 leaders from Christian groups and denominations across the country. What makes this event even more extraordinary is that Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia, and around 95 percent of the population claim it as their religion.
While he is not a Christian himself, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked the Christians for their role in strengthening Cambodian society in the areas of education, ethics and social projects that contribute to peace, stability and unity in the nation. He also stated that the government will continue to grant freedom of religion.
This was encouraging news to all of us! Reach A Village partners with the National Christian Churches Network (NCCN), one of the largest groups of evangelical churches in Cambodia, which is headed by Pastor Vibol. Vibol and other leaders were responsible for organizing the event. Through this partnership, more than 1,500 new churches have been started over the past two years, with the primary focus on unreached villages.
Our Cambodia ministry team has a strategic national plan to take the Gospel to every unreached village across the country within five years. They recently determined that over 8,600 villages and communities still do not have a church. The prime minister’s pledge of continued religious freedom means that the door will remain open for their ministry!
Now, there is an even greater sense of urgency to accomplish this mission that is so close to Pastor Vibol’s heart. We recently learned that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. We are all saddened by this news and ask you to join with us in fervent prayer for God’s hand upon Pastor Vibol, his family and co-workers, and the ministry in Cambodia. Thank you for your prayers.
Serving Christ together,
Founder and President
Note: This photo is courtesy of the prime minister's Facebook page.
I love to travel, and I love to read travel magazines. One thing I constantly read about is the importance of finding a local person to show you a new area. Why? Because local people know what is really happening in a community. They can guide a visitor to the best restaurants and events. They can give tips about parking and places to avoid. Locals have deeper insight into life in their area.
Recently, I visited our Reach A Village ministry partners in Bulgaria. We traveled outside the capital city with Sergo, a ministry partner who helps to organize, train and mentor local believers to establish churches there. He drove us three hours to witness a group baptism.
During the drive, Sergo pointed out numerous towns and villages. He faithfully shared which areas our partners are reaching. He also shared a lot of demographic and religious background information about each specific area. His knowledge was impressive.
At Reach A Village, we treasure our ministry partners — and for good reason. They are the lifeblood of this ministry. They are believers from numerous locations internationally, yet they are similar to you and me with their passion to share the Gospel, commitment to living a Christ-centered life and great heart to see people come to faith in Jesus.
As Sergo talked with us, aptly pointing out ministry needs and opportunities, I thanked God. The Lord has called thousands of people like him to reach their own nations with the Gospel, and He is helping them to have great success.
Sergo and our other partners in Bulgaria are local people who understand how to share the Gospel in their country. To God’s glory, all of us are working together to see the Great Commission fulfilled. As part of the body of Christ, those of us in America provide financial and prayer support to help people like Sergo do the work God has called them to do.
Thank you for helping to make this ministry possible. Because of us — in the United States and around the globe — God’s work is a reality in our world. Every day, more people are committing their lives to Jesus. Alleluia!
By Erin Menke-Assam
As Director of Partner Development for Reach A Village, Erin Menke-Assam enjoys engaging people in the ministry and helping them to become part of fulfilling the Great Commission. Erin earned her Master’s degree in International Public Service from DePaul University. Her experience in international non-profit Christian organizations includes research, development, serving as a literacy trainer and helping to implement literacy programs internationally.