How do you go about making disciples among a people who are regularly on the move and do not show up for meetings at regular times. What does a church look like and act like when a people are never in one place for very long. Nomadic peoples present the worldwide missionary enterprise with one of its greatest challenge as we seek to foster movements of discipleship and church planting among them.
It’s clear to many nomadic workers that something needs to change. Nomads are not lost because they are nomads. They are lost because we don’t send many workers to reach nomads with the good news, and when we do, they often get caught up trying to ‘help’ nomads settle through development schemes as if that was required to be saved.
Fundamentally, ‘What is a nomad?’ and why is that significant. It is important to understand that nomadism is not simply defined by mobility - though mobility is a factor as we shall see – but rather by worldview. This means that not all who are on the move (migrant laborers and refugees for example) are nomads. It also means that some settled peoples are actually, really nomads.
Looking around the room, we realized that 8 or 9 other guests were already there, sharing traditional mint tea and conversation. Some of them were people we knew, men we had met in the neighborhood or as students in our English classes. We greeted one another, and our host made this memorable comment: “Until now you have been meeting the children. Today you have met the father.” Without being aware of it, we had been building relationships with members of the same clan, and had now met their leader.
Throughout Africa, the Americas, and much of Asia the relationship between mobile people groups and sedentary ones is at best tense, often antagonistic and sometimes even violent. Differences between how the groups utilize resources produce humanly irreconcilable conflicts between them.
In many ways nomads have been overlooked and forgotten by the church and missionaries alike. They live in remote, difficult places and are hard to access, let alone live among. Nomads can’t be reached in a typical fashion, and especially not from missionary compounds. Nomads won’t come to us. We must go to them. In order to reach them, it will require intentional sacrifices of time, space and comfort. The missionary who wants to reach nomads must to some degree become a nomad himself.
“We have heard some stories about Jesus on the radio,” they said, referring to a daily broadcast on a local station. “Lots of people in our village—maybe 40 people—want to know more. We want to understand. But there is also opposition, so we don’t want you to come to us. That would cause problems. So, can you teach us about Jesus so that we can go home and teach our people?”
I grew up as a nomadic pastoralist in The Horn of Africa. Today I work among my people, catalyzing the formation of the church while addressing the various challenges of change among the people. These challenges are macro in scale, usually causing disturbances to nomadic lifestyle and systemic poverty. There are natural and intentional challenges.
Not too far from the city where we live, semi-nomadic pastoralists populate the high altitude mountain valleys of Central Asia. These dear people survive through the harshest winters one could imagine by managing large herds of goats and yak. Until now the gospel has not taken root among these Muslims. The primary challenge for high-altitude village ministry has always been how to establish an accepted and valued entry point for an ongoing presence...
At Pentecost, after Peter preached, how many of his listeners became Christian? When I first heard this question, I thought, “Hmm, Was it 2000 people or was it 3000 people who became Christian?” Bishop helped me to realize that actually the correct answer is zero! This is a trick question! Most of those people woke up that day and called themselves Jews and they went to sleep that night calling themselves Jews.
Jack grasped the bars of his cell door and peered down the hallway. His heart raced as sweat beaded down his forehead. Should he speak or not? As a former soldier, he recalled the cruel horrors inflicted in...