March 2019 – “It’s not the missionary that is the focus but the mission,” Robert Craft told AFA Journal. “I think we’re the ones who complicated the gospel, not Jesus.” Craft is president of Reach A Village, an Illinois based ministry committed to training indigenous leaders in small unreached villages.
“There are villages since 2,000 years ago who have never heard the gospel,” Craft added. “They are unreached, but not unreachable.”
Before founding RAV, Craft spent seasons as a foreign missionary, U.S. pastor, and leader in denominational missions. That varied background allowed him to spot a trend in other countries: Big cities might have a presence of the gospel, but most small villages have never heard it.
“I saw massive areas where I might drive 10 hours to reach one remote tribal village while passing dozens of villages which didn’t have a Bible and hadn’t heard the gospel,” said Craft.
For instance, in Thailand where the gospel has been preached for 180 years, he said there are 5,500 churches, most in larger cities such as Bangkok. Yet of the nations’ 77,000 villages, only about 3,500 have received the gospel. This means that about 97% of Thais have never heard the gospel. And it’s not just Thailand.
Millions of missionaries?
Craft said low estimates of unreached villages in Southeast Asia are 200,000, in India about 350,000, and in China about 300,000. “If there’s a million villages, then we need to send a million missionaries, right? Well, maybe not,” said Craft. The RAV model focuses on preparing indigenous leaders for reaching villages and growing believers.
“We are not a missionary sending agency, primarily,” Craft explained. “There is a role for that, … [but] the best people to reach a village are villagers.”
In his own experience, Craft could learn a language, but was still often misunderstood in any given village.
“It’s one thing to learn a language to call a taxi,” he said. “But when you are talking to people on a heart level and spiritual language, that is a whole other thing. Our goal is to establish thriving, Bible-believing churches that will continue their impact in these villages years into the future.”
Mobilizing indigenous leaders
From the word “Go” in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), RAV developed an “M-word” process to determine whether an area has truly been reached with the gospel or not.
First, an indigenous pastor recommends Christian leaders from his church (Moved by the Spirit) and they go through a 12-24 month training process (Mobilized). Then trainees visit or move to villages with Bible studies and training (Modular Training, Mentoring). In the next step, newly trained leaders move on to other villages (Multiplying). Thus the gospel takes root one village at a time.
RAV’s model prepares Bible-trained believers to reach more villages to begin tilling the soil, removing rocks, and nurturing with Bible training. Every villager who completes a RAV Bible study receives a Bible to keep.
“We look to the Word of God as our model and encourage our partners on the ground to move as God urges,” said Craft. In every aspect of its ministry, RAV depends on God’s promise: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
From RAV 2017 Annual Report
▶ Attended training: 101,026
▶ Heard the gospel: 918,664
▶ Attended Bible studies: 315,241
▶ New believers: 138,537
▶ Scriptures provided: 3,550,545
▶ Churches started: 1,528
Learn more at reachavillage.org or 708-679-0237.