Sunday morning, about a half-hour before worship begins, I turn on the music. We have some speaker in our steeple and I turn on the CD Player connected to them, so that music is playing outside when people arrive. I also turn on some music inside the sanctuary, so that the people who arrive early have something in the background that is conducive to worshiping God. Right now there are three different files on my computer that I use for this purpose inside the sanctuary. Two are soft, solo piano medleys of older hymns and the other is an acoustic collection of songs by a modern Christian artist.
Last Sunday I had one of the piano medleys on and I was walking from the entrance of the church up towards the front. The specific song being played was "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." As I walked up the aisle I heard a woman singing along, softly and in Jicarilla Apache. While I know very little of the Jicarilla Apache language I knew what she was singing because we have sung that song in Jicarilla in worship three or four times over the past three years.
In Revelation 7:9-10 John says of his vision in heaven,
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!""
God's plan is to draw people from all parts of the world, from every people group, speaking every language, to Himself. Speakers of English, Spanish, Gaelic, Russian, Farsi, Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, and Navajo, to name but a few. According to the Joshua Project there are over 16,000 people in groups in the world, and in 2016, nearly 2,000 years after Jesus walked this earth, 40% of those groups are still unreached with the good news found only in Jesus.
It is my privilege to be able to serve a community made up of one of those groups that has received the Gospel. The first missionaries to the Jicarilla Apache arrived in 1914.
The church here has never been large but it's presence has been continual. And while the Gospel has been proclaimed it is fair to say that there are many people living here who have still not heard it.
The passage in Revelation does not claim that all people from all groups will be gathered by God, but that all groups will be represented. The Jicarilla Apache are a people group that is found in only one place, in Dulce New Mexico. How many of those thousands of unreached groups are ones that are like the Jicarilla Apache, that only exist in one isolated place?
When I heard that woman singing last Sunday I knew that we had to sing that song, in her language, the next time we gathered for worship. So this Sunday we will use it to close our worship, along with a prayer that God's servants would continue to carry the Gospel of Jesus throughout the world, gathering in the people of every tribe and every tongue, people who will one day join in the mighty chorus, exclaiming,
"Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.