Stories & Commentaries

Divine Appointments: Hiding in Plain Sight?

Muslim woman in a scarf smiling at another woman with curly hair whose face isn't shown.

Whom do you feel called to reach with the love of God? Your cousin? Your neighbor? Your friend at school or work?

According to Ellen G. White, “it is acquaintance that awakens sympathy, and sympathy is the spring of effective ministry.”1

This quote reminds us that the better we know someone, the more motivated we are to care about their needs, and the more effective we can be in reaching them with the love of God.

But it also holds a less-obvious insight: It points to the possibility that there are people, or even people groups, God wants us to reach, but we do not yet feel His call to reach them just because we don’t happen to be acquainted with them, their language, their culture, and their needs.

Sidewalk Conversation 

According to the Joshua Project, a research initiative seeking to highlight the people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ, 42 percent of the world’s people groups are unreached by the gospel.2 And many of the refugees and asylum seekers in North America are from these unreached or least-reached people groups.

After sharing this in a small church, I made an appeal for everyone to pray that God would lead them to someone God had brought here from another country to learn more about Him. Everyone stood, including the pastor’s wife.

She stood for the appeal, but in her heart she was having a conversation with God that went something like this: “Lord, You know this is not my thing. You know I’m not good at talking to people I don’t know, much less people from different backgrounds. That’s just not my gift. So if You want me to reach out to someone from another country, You’re going to have to bring them to me.”

To her surprise, not long after that, on her morning walk, she noticed for the first time a woman out in her yard. Remembering her prayer, she greeted the woman. That led to a neighborly conversation. She learned that the woman was from one of the largest, least-reached countries in the world. Almost without thinking, the pastor’s wife invited her to church.

That Sabbath, when she brought her new friend to church, a member from the same country arrived at church at the same time. They met on the sidewalk and
became instant friends! The neighbor is now learning more about God.

Faith Links and Leaders

We now have a network of nearly 180 refugee church plants among 17 language groups in the North American Division, with church planting consultants who can help you reach refugees and grow faith communities among these refugee language groups in the North American Division.

And if God leads you to a refugee or immigrant from a completely unreached language group, for which we do not have a church planting consultant, and you introduce them to the Savior, perhaps that person will become the faith leader in their community, and churches will be planted and the work will grow, and you will have had the historic privilege of being the otherwise missing link in the chain of events God used to reach that people group.

Would you be willing to pray that prayer? If so, please find a quiet time and place to ask God to lead you to the person, or the group, He wants you to reach with His love. Or pray it now in your heart. Nothing can drown the soul’s desire.

For more information or help reaching a specific language group, or to contact a church planting consultant, visit the website

1 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 269. The meaning of the word “sympathy,” at the time this quote was written, would probably be better expressed now by the term “empathy.”
2 See

Terri Saelee is coordinator of the Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries in North America.