Week of Prayer: Project 3000 researches, pursues people on edge of lostness

Planes, trains, buses, motorcycles, cars and boats will get them as close as possible before setting off on foot to find hidden people groups. International Mission Board missionaries are going the extra mile, quite often literally. Why?

Missionary teams will traverse the roads less traveled to share the gospel to the hardest-to-reach people in the world. This road involves a 10-hour jeep ride across landslide-ridden terrain and steep cliffs sometimes exceeding 1,000-foot drops. (IMB photo)

“We’re going to the deepest part of lostness, the place where nobody is looking for these folks, to be able to make sure they have the opportunity to hear the life-giving good news that Jesus saves and can move us from perishing to life everlasting,” IMB Vice President John Brady said.

It will take a lot of research, something IMB already conducts at the highest possible level. The IMB is committed to finding and engaging people so far off the map that not much is known about them and their exposure to the gospel. Earlier this year, the IMB launched a new initiative, Project 3000, to engage 3,072 unengaged and unreached people groups. Of this number, 784 groups have no Scripture in their heart language.

New missionary explorers will be journeying into the unknown to find out where they live, learn about their culture, discern their literacy, develop ministry strategies and find people to partner with in the task.

Ray Henry Holiday is in the pioneering group of Project 3000 explorers.

The IMB wants to engage the remaining 3,000-plus unreached and unengaged people groups in the world. Many are on this list because they literally live in “hard-to-reach” places. (IMB photo)

The Tennessean travels with a national partner to remote areas in South Asia for six weeks at a time to live among one of his 10 people groups. Once they arrive in the general area, they find transportation and accommodation.

Ray compared his job to how Jesus sent out the 72. He’ll go with minimal supplies — “carrying my home on my back.”

He collects as much demographic information as he can and builds relationships. While he uses a translator, he also takes time to study the people’s language.

During his university years, Ray served in Central Asia with the IMB’s Hands On program. He thought he’d be headed back to the Central Asian country, but when he heard the Project 3000 job description, it was an echo of a burden and prayer the Lord placed on his heart three years ago.

As a high school student, Ray prayed from Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am, send me.” The verse was shared at an IMB job conference when the Project 3000 job was presented. It further confirmed his calling.

Blowing dust is one of the challenges faced in traversing from one village to another that Project 3000 explorers will face. These missionary explorers will research and take the good news of Jesus into some of the hardest-to-reach places on earth. (IMB photo)

“It’s a hard job, and that is part of the reason why I felt called to it. I feel like I have the gifting and ability,” Ray said. “There is a great need. There is no one going to these folks.”

• Pray for Ray as he and other Project 3000 missionaries scout out and research their people groups.

• Pray the Lord will open the hearts of these unreached and unengaged people groups.

• Pray God will call more people to serve through Project 3000.

(* Some names have been changed for security reasons.)

— Tessa Sanchez writes for the International Mission Board.