News - No Scripture, No Believers, No Idea: GU Alum Engages Unreached People in Southeast Asia

No Scripture, No Believers, No Idea: GU Alum Engages Unreached People in Southeast Asia

By Carla Morris

“Shocked.” That’s how Jonathan, recalls his response to the book Radical by David Platt. 

Platt’s declaration of radical purpose, radical urgency, and radical call to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth left the GU graduate’s head spinning and his heart humbled.

“Lord, what can I do to reach the unreached?” he prayed.

At the time, Jon served as a typical youth pastor in a typical Midwestern church. He couldn’t imagine the places that simple prayer would take him; he couldn't imagine God’s quick response.

Just 14 Days Later . . .

“No joke,” he recalls, “two weeks later, I was invited by another local youth director to travel with him and to teach house-church leaders in a Southeast Asian country.”


Now, six years later, Jon lives in Southeast Asia, studies language and teaches business English at a local school. With the help of a translator, he also shares weekly Bible lessons with eager learners gathered in house-churches. For now, this is what "radical" looks like.

In time, Jon hopes to acquire skills that help him contribute even more fully to developing the church among unreached cultural and ethnic groups. He works as part of a well-established organization that partners with local churches to plant other churches among “unreached peoples.”

To ensure their continued progress and security, this article omits that organization’s name and the host country in which Jon serves. Jon is not his real name.

Humility and Learning

Without a doubt, language studies have proven the biggest hurdle for Jon, specificallySE-Asia_2.jpg listening and comprehension. He dedicates many hours each week to learning a language that bears no semblance to the rules, syntax, and grammar of English. 

In East Asian languages like Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Hmong, slight nuances in tone distinguish one meaning of a word from multiple other meanings.  

“I can speak all of the tones clearly,” says Jon, “but the locals speak so fast that at a normal conversation pace, it’s quite difficult for me to decipher which tone they spoke, therefore, which word they spoke.” SE-Asia_3.jpg

Regional dialects and accents within each dialect complicate the challenge.

“On top of that, people understand me when I speak, so they assume I can understand them when they speak. So, they speak at a normal conversation pace but it’s just too fast for me to pick up what’s said.” 

Strong International Presence, Small Church Footprint

Jon’s determination to learn a new language mirrors the determination he sometimes sees in others who occupy the city of nearly nine million inhabitants, home also to dozens of universities and colleges. These include more than two dozen international schools, putting Jon in close proximity to eager learners. He makes it part of his weekly routine to visit a park “where university students and young professionals go to meet foreigners and practice English.”


Within that bustling metropolis, the Christian community is “small in number, but large in faith,” says Jon. The passion and boldness that local believers demonstrate surprise him. Building friendships and partnering with them to share the Gospel has come relatively easily.    

“They don’t live in fear of repercussions of following Jesus,” he says. 

Room For Others

For decades, believers have engaged in innovative and creative means to bring the Gospel to all peoples worldwide. Businesseducationhealthcareagriculture, and the arts have all served as vehicles to this end. Jon studied accounting and business management at GU.

He welcomes questions from others in the U.S. about using their gifts on his team and taking the Gospel to “the least-reached" peoples in Southeast Asia. If you are interested in learning more about partnering with Jon to radically extend the Gospel to “unreached persons,” contact [email protected].

Learn More

What God Did With “Too Afraid, But Willing”
Once Upon a Road Trip When God Took the Steering Wheel
Students Travel to Thailand
Go North!

When you help fund a scholarship at GU, you empower students for lives of character and service. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on March 19, 2020

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