When someone mentions the word unreached, you might picture an isolated village high in the Himalayan Mountains or deep in an Amazon rainforest. Chances are Europe would not even cross your mind, least of all England. After all, England was the center for Christianity for hundreds of years, it was the birthplace of William Carey.
When I arrived in England, I expected it to be like the United States, but with better accents and more rain. Even though I had been told I repeatedly how little most Europeans know about the gospel, I assumed it was an overage. However, within a few days of arriving I discovered that the spiritual landscape was far more desolate than I had imagined.
"I don't believe in God."
"God hates people."
These are statements I frequently heard the young people say, 15- and 16-year-olds who had completely lost faith in God. And honestly, amidst all the death and destruction that fills the world, I understood where they were coming from. It's easier to believe in no God than to try and come up with answer as to why God would let all these terrible things happen.
It's heartbreaking to hear someone say "God doesn't care".
A week ago I was out walking, trying to process ministry and life in England. It was a Friday night in the city centre. The streets smelled of beer and cigarette smoke. People stumbled from pub to pub, narrowly avoiding collisions by oncoming cars. Despite all of this, there is no place I would rather have been than standing on that corner, surrounded by a group of very loud, middle-aged people singing very off key.
This is where Jesus would be, out amongst the people just as they are. He yearns for those outside the church. Love yearns to be with those outside the church. Love longs for the little boy who tells me to f$%@ off. Love longs for the girl who brags about being in detention. Love longs for everyone regardless of status, appearance, morality or sexuality. Love longs to abide in Sunderland, in the northeast of England, in the United Kingdom, in Europe.
Ministry looks different here in Europe than I expected. People are slower to trust, but they are hungry. I think part of them knows that life is something more than working all week and partying on weekends. They are looking for something real in a world of surface-level fulfillment. That’s what we have seen in the people of Sunderland as we reach out to the community through gospel-based assemblies, conversations in the primary and secondary schools and partnerships with local churches. We have seen a few come to know Christ and also some who reject the idea of the gospel completely. It is a slow moving process, but Love is patient and Love never fails.