Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 19, 2015

The Unoccupied Fields

The challenge of unoccupied fields remains before us. Even today, with all of our advances in technology and transportation, there are people in the world who have yet to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow, Coca-Cola products have managed to find their way into places where there are no Christian laborers and where Christ has not been preached. The Church should certainly strive to do no less than this beverage behemoth.

KG in Bangladesh
Samuel Zwemer, known as the Apostle to Islam, expected that his generation would complete the challenge of sending laborers to every unoccupied field on the planet. In a paper Zwemer wrote in 1911, he said, “In this twentieth century of Christian history, there should be no unoccupied fields. The Church is bound to remedy the lamentable condition with the least possible delay.” Sadly, there remain fields unoccupied by Christ’s laborers.

The gospels record an occasion when Jesus saw the multitudes, “distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). The language in this verse is strong. It describes people who were weary, troubled, despondent, bewildered, and downcast or thrown to the ground — language that describes people’s helplessness without God. And, He was moved with compassion for them.

Jesus told His disciples “the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37). Even with the vast number of Christian laborers working in fields around the globe today, there is still an urgent need for more laborers. God still seeks those who are willing to leave the comforts and conveniences of the familiar in order to venture into unfamiliar places — into unoccupied fields.

Those who venture to unoccupied mission fields around the world ultimately encounter what Zwemer called “baffling difficulties and their glorious impossibilities.” He understood that personal sacrifices on the part of God’s laborers always preceded great victories. “The unoccupied fields of the world,” Zwemer believed, “must have their Calvary before they can have their Pentecost.”

David Livingstone in Chitapangwa
David Livingstone understood the challenges of going to unoccupied fields. He ventured to Africa when the entire continent was then almost entirely an unoccupied field. Livingstone’s example was compelling. However, he personally refused to accept the talk of the day that said he had made a great sacrifice. On December 4, 1857, Livingstone visited Cambridge University to appeal for more laborers to go to Africa. In his address, the respected missionary said this:

“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? … It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.”

I love Livingstone’s attitude. It is indeed a privilege to take part in the task of taking the good news to those “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9). The task of  global evangelization is still far from finished. We must, therefore, continue to move in the direction of the world’s unoccupied fields. And we must heed the words of Jesus to “beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38).

Mongolia 1998
In the words of John R. Mott, may ours be the “generation which shall have the requisite faith and courage, and audacity and the purpose of heart to do their duty to the whole world.” May we take ownership of the world’s remaining unoccupied fields.

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