I recently came across this excellent infographic on one of China’s major present issues, and it confirmed many of my thoughts in relation to how we approach missions strategies within the context of China’s complex social development.

I used to travel countless hours on long, hard roads to reach unreached people groups in rural China. In fact, I still take teams to visit our outreach centers among the Wa, Dai, Lahu, Bouyei, Bai, Miao, Yi, Yao, Ge, Dong, Kongge, Hani, Aini, and many other ethnic people groups.

But our strategy has shifted.

We are now focused on reaching unreached people groups in urban settings.

Why spend 3 days round trip traveling to a rural village to share the gospel to a few families for 3 hours when you can spend 3 hours to impact multiple ethnic people groups who reside in the city?

There is most certainly a place for long, arduous travels to unreached people groups. I have done it for years, and many of my missionary colleagues are still focused on rural regions. But I find it more strategic for Within Reach Global to reach these same unreached people groups in the urban setting.

It’s a lot less work, a lot less strenuous on a missionary’s body, and—let’s face it—a lot less diarrhea! (I’ve eaten some weird things up in them hills!)

As we continue to reach people who have never heard of Jesus before, please pray that God would give us his strategies to bring the greatest impact to these precious souls.


This graphic was originally published by Sohu Business. It has been translated by Austin Woerner and adapted by China File.

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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  • Bo Lee

    Your ideas are interesting. Do you find that you are hitting barriers in trying to reach multiple ethnic groups at once because you can’t learn all of their heart languages/worldviews? Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Bo. China is in a particularly unique situation right now. If you were to ask Wycliffe folks, then obviously they’d say learning/communicating in the “heart language” is the key to reaching the unreached of Yunnan and greater China. But I have to stress that nearly all ethnic people groups 40 years old and below speak and communicate fluently in Mandarin. It is the trade language. It is heard and spoken and written everywhere, even in the rural villages. So as far as barriers by speaking Mandarin: I see little to none. Heart language is a key to reaching rural ethnic communities for Christ, but this can and should be done second hand from the locals themselves. Life transformation through the gospel in Mandarin can empower individuals of unreached people groups to share the gospel message with their loved ones back home. Worldviews differ dramatically, especially as we work among extremely animistic groups, but discipleship in Mandarin can usurp these issues, bringing clarity for young people to take the gospel to relatives whose Mandarin is not as strong. I am very pro Mandarin across the board in China. Heart language is a powerful tool in the hands of the bilingual ethnic people groups communities nationwide. Thanks for your comment!

      • Bo Lee

        Got follow-up questions. I’ll look for an email to share more securely. Thanks!

    • On another note, we communicate with all 14 of our Within Reach Global local missionaries (Yi, Yao, Dai, Hani, Miao) in Mandarin, and they are reaching their own tribal communities with a more clear presentation of the gospel in their own heart languages. Pretty exciting to see the rapid spread of the gospel via China’s trade language! http://www.withinreachglobal.org

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