Stephen Nichols (SN): While we focus on the church in history, we must also be reminded that the church is in the present, and some day, there will be a church history written about the moment in which we live. So, church history is, as it were, being written right now. Today, I’d like to welcome Dr. Tim Keesee. He is the executive director of Frontline Missions International. In fact, this year is the 25th anniversary of that mission. He’s also the writer and producer of the Dispatches from the Front video series, which is also available as a book.
So, you are right there on the frontlines. You take the gospel to hard-to-reach places, and you have seen the gospel advance in restricted areas. Of the many stories you’ve shared, I think you use the expression “of sovereign surprises.” So, of the many “sovereign surprises,” can you share with us a story or two about the advance of the gospel?
Tim Keesee (TK) Not long ago, I was on the northern border of Cambodia, where Laos and Vietnam come together, an area called Ratanakiri. The gospel came to this tribal area only twenty years ago, among tribes such as the Jorai, the Kreung, the Tampuan, the Brao. Twenty years ago, most of these groups did not even have a written language. And now, linguists have come in, missionaries have come in, and have given them an alphabet. They have given them the Bible, and this has driven literacy among these Christian groups and has driven evangelism and the growth of the church in these areas. It is beautiful to see how they are now also taking the gospel across the borders of that particular region, especially in terms of outreach into Laos. And now, there are schools entirely taught by the Kreung people or by the Jorai people. They each have their own mother-tongue schools now. It is neat to see how literacy has grown in these areas, in a place that twenty years ago that didn’t even have a written language.
SN: They couldn’t even read and write.
TK: I love this passage in 1 Corinthians 1:27–29, where “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not to bring to nothing, things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
SN: Thank you for sharing that story and that text, especially, as well. You feature these people groups in one of your videos in the Dispatches from the Front series. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Some day, when church histories are written about the twenty-first century, we’re going to read about these people, and we’re going to read about the gospel advance happening right now in that area.
TK: One thing that struck me in this context, and this is more of a church history application that my missionary friend was pointing out after we’d just been in a beautiful service among the Kreung people. We had gone as far as the road would take us. We had went to the end of the road.
SN: Literally, to the end of the road.
TK: Yes. There was a hut there, with a cross on it, where we had gathered, worshiped, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and opened the Word together. As we were leaving, my friend pointed out that these people are a despised people. They’re called “the monkeys of the jungle.” They’re the most marginalized people in this society, but God chose what is weak and despised to shame the mighty. So, the gospel has come to them, and God is using them mightily among their own people, and in cross-border work. My missionary friend, “Imagine centuries to come, perhaps God will use the Kreung, this group of marginalized tribes, to advance His name to the ends of the earth.”
SN: Wow, that’s exciting. It’s an exciting way to think about history, and it’s an exciting way to think about what God is doing now—right now. Thank you, Dr. Keesee, we appreciate you being with us, your work, and for reminding us of the advance of the gospel around the world in our own day.