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Relentless Pursuit

S3E1: How to Reach Nomads in Central Asia

63 minutes

After serving among nomads in East Africa, Summer felt God leading her to another nomadic group, this time in Central Asia. Listen to her describe life and ministry among nomads and how she’s learned to rely on God to do what seems impossible.

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Show Notes

Summer has served in two countries in East Africa and now lives in Central Asia, where she is seeking to reach a nomadic people group. In this episode, she explains the unique challenges of building relationships with people on the move, as well as the lessons she’s learned about God and herself in the process.

**BONUS Content** Summer tells about how she was surrounded by an angry mob, taken away at gunpoint and then encountered a special woman on her way to jail, in Ethiopia. Get the bonus story!

Get a glimpse of what life and ministry in Central Asia is like, from slaughtering a lamb with a local family to jam sessions with local musicians: Watch the Middle Ground video series.

Also, check out an article that explains more about the characteristics of the world’s 200 million nomads.

Summer is part of a network called the Nomadic Peoples Network, which offers resources and training on reaching nomads.

Ready to take the next step, but not sure what it looks like? Schedule a call with our team or chat today.

Bonus Content

Summer tells about how she was surrounded by an angry mob, taken away at gunpoint and then encountered a special woman on her way to jail, in Ethiopia.

Was That Woman an Angel?

Episode Transcription

Summer (00:00:01):

When I first started out at a very internal core area of my heart, there was a lie that I believed that this work was mine and that because I'm giving up, unquote, giving up my life to invest in this work that it belonged to me and that I should have ownership over it. But that's a lie.

Matt (00:00:23):

This is the Relentless Pursuit podcast where we hear stories from cross-cultural workers on what it's really like to be a missionary. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Welcome everybody. Today we are going to talk about nomads.

Jess (00:00:36):

Whoa, nomads. Okay. Tell me about nomads. Are they people building yurts on Camelback? What's going on?

Matt (00:00:45):

Well, that's one version of a nomad, but there's actually quite a few different people, groups around the world that are nomadic and we're lucky enough to be talking to someone who works among them. Summer has been with pioneers for quite a few years now, and I had the privilege of meeting her and seeing her work on the ground in East Africa about nine years ago. She was working with a nomadic people group there, but now she's actually an entirely different part of the world in Central Asia doing the same thing, but with a different people group. And so she's going to tell us about the challenges and opportunities and what it looks like to serve God among nomads. Well, summer, it's great to have you here on the Relentless Pursuit Podcast. You've served in several countries in Eastern Africa and now in Central Asia. And I know we can't say specifically where you are, but can you tell us what countries would be typically included in Central Asia and what that part of the world is like?

Summer (00:01:44):

Yeah, sure. Central Asia is that area that has all the stands in it, Kazakhstan, Kastan, all those places around, so a very small little country within that area.

Jess (00:01:56):

Nice. So I know your ministry is with nomadic and semi nomadic peoples, but honestly, and maybe this is just me, but when I hear nomad, I think people on camels building like yurts

Matt (00:02:09):


Jess (00:02:10):

Desert or something like that. So tell us a little bit, what does that even mean when we say that someone is

Matt (00:02:14):


Summer (00:02:16):

That's a great question because I think that would be what I had thought of when I thought of nomads before. And so it's been a learning curve for me to go through and learn who nomads really are. So nomadic peoples are usually people who have to move in order to sustain their lives, and so there's kind of different ways in which they can move. And so one is as what we call service trade nomads. So people who have a trade or a service that they go from place to place to make that happen. So if you're thinking about Roma people or different people who have to change their locations in order to find a sustainable source of income, but they do that together as a group, as a clan, as a family unit. Another type of nomad is those who move because they have animals.


They're herdsmen, they're shepherds, and in order to meet the needs of their animals, they have to move on a regular basis to find the water sources, the food sources that are necessary for their animals to survive. And that's where a lot of your camel imagery comes from in these dry places, bringing their camels to places of greater water, or they could have cows. There's yak, herdsmen and goat sheep, all those different types of animals. And sometimes those are also mixed with some agricultural aspects as well. So you have your trade service nomads, you have your herdsman or pastoralist nomads, and then the last category would be hunters and gatherers. So people who have to move in accordance to the resources that are around them. So for example, in Indonesia, there's sea nomads who travel in a pattern with the, I want to say herds of fish.


That is wrong, the schools of fish, not it. But yeah, they have to move in accordance to the resources of the sea, and that's other places as well. So nomads are actually kind of more broad than what we think, but usually they have some commonalities and some of those commonalities are of course their movement, but also that they operate together as a clan. So it's very clan oriented. It's not a single person moving out to find their own way. Sometimes we think about digital nomads and they have their computers and they go to different places of the world and they work there. That's not really what a nomad is. So a nomad is like the family group moving for their resources and their survival, and they usually work well. So

Jess (00:05:14):

Are they all related? Usually?

Summer (00:05:16):

Yeah. So usually, for example, the people group that I used to live and work with in East Africa are called the Ong. And so in this example there are pastoralist nomads, and so the family units, the tribe, the subtribe of the kijang that I was with, the men would move with their cows and their sheep on a regular basis while the women would move between two different locations to do subsistence farming. So there's family units moving and working together. Other places, it might be the whole clan, like some of the tribes that you think about in desert places with the camels, sometimes they're constantly moving with the entire family moving altogether. So it kind of depends, but they have a real sense of relationship, real sense of clans, real sense of autonomy unto themselves in comparison to the world around them.

Matt (00:06:27):

Right. I would imagine that there's been some pretty significant impacts of the modern world on that lifestyle in terms of how it affects their culture and the way that children grow up and then enter into the world. What are some of the impacts that the modern world has on these nomadic cultures?

Summer (00:06:47):

Well, let's just be real. Most governments actually really dislike nomads because nomadic peoples create a threat to the settledness of a country. And a lot of times nomads like to cross over boundaries that would be recognized by the country because it's their land, it's their resources, it's their tradition and culture that they've always used these things. And so most governments are trying to actively subdue the nomadic nature agenda or those things that they would usually do, the traditions of the nomads. And so you find that where government is very big and heavy, nomadism is small because they make a lot of restrictions and they force people to settle into certain areas or different things. But where the government is less than the nomadism is usually stronger because they have the more freedom there. But the government usually wants to get kids into school. They want to see development happen in accordance to what they have.


And so that can often be a conflict between these groups that would see themselves as autonomous from the main society around them, and they would say, we are in this country, but we are who we are. This is who we really are. We're not really identifying with the country as much as we are with our tribe, but it does create stress in the younger generations as they try and maybe break out of some of that mold or are exposed to more things as government pushes in or other development projects push in. And so there is a constant change and a constant need to adapt to the things that are happening around them. Some places are doing that well, and some places are really doing very poorly in that or are being lost in that process. All these nomadic people groups, usually they're living in an area that most people wouldn't do well in their semi aired areas or their sea areas or their's. There are places that we as usually educated city folk, we would not survive in these environments. I know that if I was to live off of the same resources that some of these people do, I would die. There's no way I would survive. And yet because they know these lands, this is who they are and this is what they've known all their lives, and they can utilize places that other people cannot utilize in really good ways.

Jess (00:09:55):

The picture that you're painting is just such a tightly knit community. They're

Matt (00:10:00):

Really very

Jess (00:10:01):

Much dependent on each other. They're dependent on their traditions in

Matt (00:10:05):

Order to survive.

Jess (00:10:07):

Is that kind of something that you sort of see

Matt (00:10:09):

Across nomadic people groups

Jess (00:10:11):

Across? Because you named three different

Matt (00:10:13):

Continents when you were talking about some of the different types?

Summer (00:10:16):

Yeah. Yes, I have seen that as a universalism of nomadism is that they are a tight knit group usually. Of course, there's always exceptions and there's always these ones that are changing or are adapting into different ways. But I would say in general, that would be one of the markers of a truly nomadic clan is that they are knit together well.

Matt (00:10:44):

So if that's the case then how, if you're attempting to build relationships and share the gospel and find ways of serving people like nomads, then how do you get into that community? Do you need to be welcomed or do you just join them wherever they happen to be? What does that look like? Establishing relationships?

Summer (00:11:05):

This is actually one of the toughest things to be honest, and I'm going to back up the question a little bit to talk globally about nomads. If you are looking at the different people groups around the world who are unreached or unengaged, and we break those people groups into two categories, those who are nomadic and those who are sedentary, we see that most of the sedentary people groups, I should say, have some sort of influence of the gospel, at least trying to get into those places. But if you look at the nomads in those places, most of them are unreached or unengaged. And that is exactly for that reason that Matt just, it's tough to get into those places. It's tough to be received by the communities. It's tough for us who are used to a different lifestyle to adapt to the lifestyle of a nomad.


It's tough for us who are used to certain, I dunno, comforts and resources to not have those as readily available. It's tough for them to receive outsiders and to have enough trust to then build actual relationships. The Jiang that I used to work with, they had a saying that an outsider is either an enemy to be killed or a cow to be milked. Meaning either you're here to steal our resource, so we're going to kill you, or you're here and we're going to treat you as nicely as we can to get as much as we possibly can out of you. But it's very much in a deceitful way to try and get resources from you until you can bridge that gap into actual relationship. And it's very hard for us as sedentary people to recognize what the true needs of nomads are because we come in and we say, well, we want to develop them in ways that reflect our sedentary ways.


So we think that how we can help them looks like from what we've known from the past or what we've experienced that's been helpful to us. And so it's very difficult for us to shift into actually recognizing what they need, what they see as helpful and good into adjust our agendas into that. And that goes from broad things like water projects, which are good, and we think, okay, this is all, but how we do those can be very different for nomads to the way that we do church planting or view of what a church is in nomadic context. So to go back to Matt's question of how do you bridge that gap, I would say it is the grace of the Lord that gives you favor and he makes a way where there seemingly is no way. And as we come in with spirits of humility and spirits of willingness to die to ourselves and to love the people where they're at, and to be milked a little bit, to be used a little bit in that process, but then also coming to a point of proving yourself trustworthy, it just takes time. It takes an investment of time, investment of love and investment of humility, selflessness as you progress into those relationships. But at the same time, if you have somebody from within that group that can actually introduce you in, can invite you in, then those relationships will go much faster because if they trust this person, that person trusts you, then that's good. So they're all about networking their relationships. And so if you can get in on another relationship, it's going to go fast, faster.

Matt (00:15:22):

I mean, even the US, we definitely see that it helps to know someone whether you're looking for a job or trying to get an apartment. Do you have anyone like that in your current context? That's a little bit of your insider person.

Summer (00:15:34):

God has given me a person that has really helped me, and one of that persons is actually my teammate who has been working here for many years and she started a business here and then through her business utilizes a traditional craft that is here that these women know how to do. And so she's utilized this craft to bring employment to these women, and it's found a lot of favor with the government and with the people themselves because it honors their culture and it honors their traditions and it brings income. It blesses their community economically. And so she, through her business previously, she had not been up to the specific minority people group that God has placed on my heart. So I have a very specific nomadic people group that I would like to fully engage is currently unengaged. But then through her business, she has a legitimate reason to go out to these communities.


She has a way to connect with these women, and people trust her because they know that her business is real and the government has given favor towards it. And so that has been a really big door opener into this community. And so last year we started actually hiring local women to do this craft, and that was a huge door opener. And then from that, one of these ladies has really connected well with me, and I would call her somebody that I think is a person of peace who has then connected me into other women's homes. So from the outside to this next person, it's like stair stepping to then this person networks with this person. So yeah, we're making small inroads.

Matt (00:17:33):

Do you think a lot of the reason that it is so hard to get into a community like this and build these relationships is because if you're nomadic, you really do need to depend on one another within this close-knit group. And in some ways, anything from the outside could jeopardize that. So you can understand, I guess why it is this way, why it's not necessarily an open culture to try to get into. This is for survival. These groups and communities have been around for thousands of years, and so it helps you understand, I would imagine where they're coming from

Summer (00:18:11):

And there's value in the way that they're doing life. They are doing things that just like I said before, we can't do so. Yeah. And it makes sense that they're just kind of on their own doing these things.

Matt (00:18:25):

When I hear stories like this or descriptions of groups like this, it's hard to not imagine the correlation between what we see in scripture and the Old Testament and some of the patriarchs that were in these close-knit clans and would move nomadically to find either places to graze their cattle or to escape oppression or whatever the case might be. Have you found that too, that there's kind of an affinity and maybe people from these cultures understand something about scripture that's more difficult for us to understand?

Summer (00:19:00):

Yeah, absolutely. I have to say, being in Karamoja before and doing oral Bible storing in that context through the Old Testament was so eyeopening for me. I had never read the scripture in those ways before or understood things in that way. But as I started seeing it through a nomadic lens, I see God's heart in a whole different way and the way that he is the omnipresent God who goes with us into these places who caress for us like a shepherd, a good shepherd. I know these images of God, these stories of God's people, of what it really means to walk out in faith when you don't know anything or to take care of your sheep. These things as a Californian growing up, I never connected with in the same way as then when I moved overseas and worked among nomadic people groups. And I think God is just, well, God is infinitely more than what we can ever imagine, but then as we start to get these glimpses of who he is through the lens of others, it's beautiful. And I think I only catch this top layer still, but yeah,

Jess (00:20:17):

There are so many. I'm sure you have so many stories of the people that you've met in central Asia and as you're trying to find ways to build relationships with these people, is there anyone specific that you could tell us a story of an interaction that you've had that maybe just kind of

Matt (00:20:36):


Jess (00:20:36):

Us sort of a picture

Matt (00:20:37):

Of what one of

Jess (00:20:38):

These, because I don't even know what they look like. Do

Matt (00:20:41):

They look like,

Jess (00:20:43):

Yeah, I mean, are they tall? Are they short? Are they

Matt (00:20:45):

Super strong? Are

Jess (00:20:47):

They small?

Summer (00:20:50):

Okay. Well, they actually look a lot like me. They've got white skin and dark hair,


So they look very much like me, which is kind of fun after living in a context where people look very different than me. Yeah, I'm sure I can blend in a little bit more here until I open my mouth and then they're like, yeah, you don't belong here. The language thing is just still a barrier and there's a hundred other things I do very differently. But yeah, they're beautiful people, very kindhearted. And another thing that is a trait of nomadic peoples globally, I would say is the gift of hospitality is interesting because of what we said earlier that they either you as an enemy or a cow to be males, but there's also this spirit of hospitality that says, when you see a stranger, you must welcome them in. And so there's this spirit of hospitality that welcomes people in and provides beautifully for them.


If you come into a person's home, you may not know them, but they would spread their very best things out for you. And tea is very much a part of this culture, and so you would have wonderful tea with all this delicious food that they would put out for you. And if you didn't have a place to stay, they would be like, you can sleep in my bed. It is just like their hospitality is amazing. And so there's this false, I mean, this is very different. This people group is a little bit different than the people group. Well, not just a little, it's vastly different than the Ong that I used to go with. So there's some things that are not necessarily the same, but the spirit of hospitality is here and it is amazing. At first I thought, well, we're like best friends. I mean, I sat at their table, I drank their things, I slept in their bed, all these things.


I felt like, okay, we're really connected in. But the reality is that it still takes a long time to go from the top layer into the heart layer where they really trust you and they actually receive you. And so it's very much, it's an honor shame society. And so you bring honor by doing hospitality, and so you want to do that, but it's also there's a spirit of suspicion that is here that you wonder who this person really is and what they're really like. And so it takes time to go from that top layer into the very heart of the person. I arrived in this country about two years ago, so this is a new place for me. I feel like I'm still a learner, actually. I'm definitely a learner, not just feel like it. I am totally in this place of, I just did language class today. I was like, oh my goodness, Jesus, two years and I'm still struggling so much, but so my days look like language tutoring for most of the day and then working with, what

Matt (00:24:03):

Language are you learning, by the way?

Summer (00:24:08):

It's a good language.

Matt (00:24:13):

She's going to keep that to herself. Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. So in every day, just like when you're in the city and stuff like that, I guess you just have enough just kind of get by, buy groceries, you point at things and use Google Translate or that kind of thing.

Summer (00:24:30):

Exactly. Praise God for Google translate, I was like, God's greatest gift, but in the city, because living in the capital city right now, and so most of the educated university age people have some English maybe, and I know enough of this language to be able to function and to get by, but to have a deep conversation or to sound intelligent, it's not there yet. So yeah, it's just a long process and this is actually my third country to live in and my third language to learn. And I don't think it gets easier mean, which language has been completely different, grammar structures, different sounds, different ways of interaction as you communicate. And so it just takes time and it's hard, but it's doable.

Matt (00:25:28):

Yeah. One of the things you did make reference to the group that you want to connect with being unengaged. And just for our listeners, can you just in a nutshell just distinguish between an unreached people group and an unengaged people group from your perspective?

Summer (00:25:48):

So an unreached people group are people who don't have enough indigenous people to be able to reproduce the gospel, but maybe they have somebody who is sharing the gospel with them. There's a church planting effort amongst them. There's some work happening among them, but the percentage of true believers who are able to be self reproducing in their faith and in the church is minimum. So they still need outside people coming in sharing about that. And whereas unengaged don't have anybody from the outside even going there, they don't have any access to the gospel. They don't have any means to know about the name of Jesus because there's no one sharing that with them. And so it's not just that they don't have enough people to reproduce, but it's like they don't have even the beginning knowledge of who Jesus is or the word of God.

Matt (00:26:50):

So where you're at, what would be the primary religious affiliation of the people that you are building relationships with there?

Summer (00:27:00):

It's a Muslim country. So it's interesting though because when I think of Muslim, I did this little class on Islam before I came over here. And so I had this image of what I thought Islam was, and this does not fit that image at all, and I think that has several reasons to it. One is that because it's a former Soviet union country, and so during the Soviet times, religion was kind of stomped out and religion came to the state instead of to a specific faith. And so the people, when they gained freedom from that, they looked for an identity and they said, okay, well before this we were Islamic. But they also clung to some of that freedom from religion in that self-reliance or that reliance on the state. And so they kind of have melded these two. So they're Muslim in name, but not necessarily in practice.


And then they also have some of their own traditional belief systems. So it's kind of a folk Islam slash non-religious apathetic, actually faith that doesn't have as much daily impact on people as I expected. So you don't see women covered here usually. I mean there some more are practicing Muslims, but most of the women aren't covered. Most people don't actually go to prayers during the prayer times. Some people don't even fast during Ramadan. And so these things that I kind of expected are not necessarily here, but they're very proud of being Muslim. And if you try to change that, it is absolutely illegal and it brings great shame to the family.

Matt (00:29:06):

So what does a church look like in a nomadic people group?

Summer (00:29:14):

Well, there was once a quote from a nomad in, I think it was Ethiopia, but I can't remember exactly, but he said, until you can put a church on my camel, it's not for me. And so I just think that's a beautiful image of until we can put the church into the mobility of the people, into the core of who they are, then it's not their church. It's a western church being imposed upon them. And I think that we have to find the places of their hearts and of their mobility in order to engage in true church. And a church cannot be a structure like a firm structured building. It has to be planted in the hearts of the people that they can carry with them as they go. And the word of God has to be something that is living within them, not just in a written form or in a lecture type style of sharing that information with people.


So it needs to be in a way that they can grasp hold of so that they can learn to worship in spirit and in truth, but in a way that reflects their nomadism. And that means breaking away from our more structured ideas of building and of how to do a church service and the elements of the church service, but it keeps to the core of truth and the word of God, and to worship the one true God who is Jesus Christ and these things, it has to hold onto those very firmly. But I think there's a lot more flexibility to that than what we sometimes imagine in our western thinking.

Jess (00:31:02):

Yeah. So say a few years down the road, you've built a lot of connections with this community. Some people have come to know the Lord when they come to you and they're like, okay, what do we do next in order to be a community of believers? What do you tell them?

Summer (00:31:21):

Well, I think it goes back to them. I think that we as outsiders cannot be the one to fully define that for them. It has to be the work of the Holy Spirit within them and through the word of God working in them and through them as a community, working through what that means to them. And we as the outsiders who initially bring that word to them, get to be the ones to help facilitate that discussion, to help facilitate the wrestling of ideas and concepts before God, but it's they themselves that have to define that and to then put it into practice and to live it out.

Jess (00:32:00):

Right. And so are you kind of like an observer? Do you feel like you'll be able to speak into that process at all? I wonder what would your role look like?

Summer (00:32:12):

Well, in this context, I'm not quite sure, but I believe, well, I'll say one thing that I have learned in these different places that I've lived is that this work doesn't actually belong to me. And I think when I first started out at a very internal core area of my heart, there was a lie that I believed that this work was mine and that because I'm giving up my life to invest in this work that it belonged to me and that I should have ownership over it. But that's a lie. That is not true. The work belongs to our Lord and Savior and he's the one who gets to direct it, and he's the one who gets to lead it in the way that he wants to go. And so our job is to merely be a facilitator or a conduit through which God uses to do his work.


And that might be for a long season, it might be a for short season, and it might be sometimes I think that act of obedience is much more, there's a place for discipleship and that kind of getting in the space of dealing with cultural sin and dealing with things that are not good and being able to confront the truth of Jesus and to be able to open that up to people. And then there's also a place to say, well go back to the scripture, go back to seek the Lord, and putting the onus back onto the people themselves. And so it, it's a constant need to be connected to God, to show us how to do this work that he's entrusted to as well, to be that conduit in his work. And I found that as I am sensitive to that and as I walk in obedience to that, I don't have all the strategies and the methodologies all worked out perfectly, but I do have a confidence and a great joy in seeing that God is able to do abundantly above what we could ask, think, hope, or imagine. And he proves himself to be trustworthy and he proves himself to be faithful and he proves himself to be good. And he has promised that he will build his church in these places that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. And so there's great joy in this work because we know the victory is there. And then there's also great confidence in knowing that God who begins the work will be faithful to complete it. And so we can just enjoy that.

Matt (00:35:02):

And what's amazing is you've gotten to see that, I know that just recently you came back from a trip to East Africa where you served and it's been five years since you were there, and you got to visit some of the communities that you worked in there. And I'm really interested to hear what was that like going back and seeing and not even knowing what you were going to find necessarily, but then seeing the results of your labor and that of many people that you were partnering with there?

Summer (00:35:34):

Yeah, so it was just such a joy. I mean, it was just a couple weeks ago that I got back. So it's very fresh joy to my heart right now. So I left East Africa in 2018 and just went back there this summer. So it's been five years. And during that time I haven't had much connection with them because the people group I lived with was very remote. There's not really internet or electricity or anything that could connect them to the outside world. So when I left, it really felt like, okay, God, I'm trusting you to take care of my people. And I actually left because I felt like that's what God asked me to do. I had been there for several years and the first years were some of the toughest years of my life, really hard, very difficult years of remaining in the land, feeling completely, I don't know, overwhelmed by everything.


And yet standing firm on the promises of God enduring hardship, enduring suffering and planting the seeds of the word through oral storing. And then the last couple of years that I was there, we started to see fruit from that work. And it was really exciting and we were seeing the beginnings of fruit, and I was really excited to say, okay, now there's some believers and now there's some people gathering together regularly to worship and to pray and to be in the word of God together. And so now it's like the exciting time, and we were discipling a group of people who had come to faith to be the ones who were doing the oral Bible storing. So we were backing out more and allowing these people that we would pour into this small group of disciples and then they would go out and share the stories with these communities. And so we were at this point, and then I felt like the Lord say, and now it's time for you to go. And it was like, this is now the exciting time. This is now where I'm seeing fruit.


It was interesting because I feel like it was just as much faith for me to leave Uganda at that time than it was for me to go in that time. And because there was a lot of questions of, well, God, is God able to actually take care of them if there's nobody from the outside to help disciple them, will the church sustain itself? Will it be a healthy church? Will there be growth? All these questions in my mind, which actually come back to the lie that Satan gives me that says, it's up to you and it's your work and you're the one who has to sustain it. You're the one who has to do all these things, and that is a lie, God, its Gods. And so over these last five years where I wasn't, there would be times when I would just be assaulted by these fears for my people in Karamoja.


Are they still walking with Jesus? What is happening in their lives? Just these questions in my heart. And I'd have to just continuously give that over to God and deal with questions that then come up in my heart for my sense of identity. Is my sense of identity tied to the work that I've done in Caram moja or is my sense of identity based on my faith in God and his identity of me as his child and just being obedient in faith to him? And so there was definitely a wrestling process even before going back to Caram Moja, so sorry, that was a long backstory. But then going into Karamoja, I felt both excitement to go back and fear about what I would find. And God just really worked through that with my heart before I even got there. But it was beautiful when I got back to that land, being able to reconnect with the people that I had worked together with and lived together with for those years.


It was such a sweet joy to the very core of my heart. I can't describe how much love just welled up within me when I saw my people again, and I think it was mutual in this exchange between us and over the course of the years that we had lived there, God had given to us eight villages. We had prayed over the land, we had mapped out the villages. We had prayed over where God would you want us to go to. And God had given us eight villages, and we had gone on a weekly basis to those eight villages through this discipleship team that we had that was doing oral Bible storing. And so we had seen fruit in each one of these places. And so when I went back and visited, I went back to those eight villages to see how people were doing. And I tell you the truth, in every one of those villages, the church was not only there, but it had increased and it was being wrong. And it was like the people were still worshiping our God in the midst of incredibly difficult situations. They've experienced drought for the last three years. There's been insecurity around them really hard, but their faith has remained and it has grown, and the church has gotten stronger. And I just can't even describe how amazed I am by our God who is faithful to do his work in those places. Yeah.

Matt (00:41:05):

Does part of you wonder what would've happened if you would've resisted and stuck around, and would it have been that way or maybe there'd be another story to tell or maybe the fruit would not have been as significant, and that requires a huge amount of faith, it just to step away and allow the Holy Spirit to do something that you can't do?

Summer (00:41:27):

Yeah, I had all those thoughts, Matt and I just have to conclude that God knows best and the best course of action is to walk in obedience to him. And I have to say, as much as I was so filled with love and joy over being with these people and seeing what God's doing there, there was also this great release within my heart of saying, this wasn't the place that God has me anymore. There was a peace at a deeper level of my heart. I walked away in obedience and I stayed faithful to what God was asking me to do. I went to a new country, I started over again. There was all these steps of obedience that were good, that I had peace in each one of those steps over. But to go back and to be there and to see what God's doing there, it was a new level of peace in my spirit, a new level of contentment to say, God, you're doing what I cannot do, and great is your name, and great is your faithfulness, and you've called me into a new place and I'm excited about what you're going to do in that place because I've seen what you've done here, this new excitement for what you're going to do in this new place well up within me.


So it's been a journey and it's a good journey.

Jess (00:42:46):


Matt (00:42:47):

That's great. I

Jess (00:42:47):

Mean, what an awesome testimony of just exactly what you were saying about how these people, they're not your people, it's not your ministry, it's not your church, it's the Lord's Church. He has it in his hands, he's in control. He's doing crazy things with it. But what an awesome testimony that you got to be a part of that even just for a small time that you got to be there when it was a baby, and now you got to go back and see what the Lord has done through it. And I'm sure we'll continue to do it in years on. And so, man, that's such a, I think we're so lucky to have gotten little slices of that

Matt (00:43:26):

Story for sure. And maybe years in the future from now, you'll be able to look back where you're at right now in a place that you're not necessarily seeing that happen right now, but God is able, and so it's almost like what he did in East Africa is kind of fodder for your future faith for what he's going to do, where you're at right now, if you were, yeah,

Jess (00:43:51):

Season four, season four. Yeah,

Matt (00:43:53):

Season four, season four. If you were able to look into the future 25 years, what do you hope for the people that you're working with now in this people group?

Summer (00:44:04):

Well, of course, I hope they would be worshiping in spirit and truth and find the love and the joy of our Jesus to be theirs and to have their lives transformed for the glory of his name. I also would pray that this church on this side, so this people group is actually on two sides of a border. And it used to be that there was a fluid motion between these countries, or because they were a nomadic people group, they would flow between these two places. But then because of political things, that border has become more tight, and this people group has become separated. So part of the people group live on the country that I'm in and part of the people group live on the other country to the north and the side of the north. It's absolutely impossible for me as a foreigner to go up there right now. It's completely closed and there's no access axis. So my prayer is that in multiple years that there would be a movement of the gospel that would go from the people themselves who have relatives, cousins, aunts, uncles, all are on that side, that it would flow and that the church would then expand beyond the one border that we can get to into the border that we can't get into. And maybe even people groups around that too. I don't dream small. Let's dream big, right, exactly. Borders that God can't cross.


And it's interesting when I first got up to that region, so I arrived here two years ago, and I knew God had placed this specific people group on my heart. And I remember my friend and I, my colleague who owns the business that I work with, she and I did this big walk up into that area. So we decided that we're going to prayer, walk this area, and in that walk, explore new villages, see if we can make networks and inroads and see what the Lord might do through this. And we went to multiple regions of the country in this walk, and one of the regions was the area that my people group were in. And specifically I wanted to get up to these high mountain villages that this people group live in. And we tried, literally, we tried three different ways to get up there, and we were blocked each time from various reasons.


And I remember sitting at the base of that mountain and actually just crying, just actually literally crying because I felt like that mountain was physically impossible, but also represented a spiritual impossibility too. Like the centuries that these people have been held captive in their own religious apathy and in their own traditions, in their own culture just feels so unattainable. It feels like they can't actually be changed. And when I was sitting there crying, the Lord just said to me, it's good for you to see how impossible this is. You need to recognize that this is impossible, because when we recognize how difficult it is, how impossible it is, then we can then look in faith to the God who is able to do the impossible, and we can plant our small mustard seed of faith and say, okay, God, we can't do this, and there's no way that I can even physically reach the people right now. Then how could there be a way for us to spiritually reach them?


And it's been amazing to me. That was two years ago to see that in this amount of time of two years, how God has begun to make the way possible. And like I said, last year, so one year after that experience went up to that area again and made some small inroads. Well, there's so many stories I could tell you. My minds kind of like spin right now. Just give us one. Just one. So one of the things that made it impossible is my language ability at this moment. So we wanted to employ these ladies for our business, and we wanted to employ them to do this handcraft, but my language is not at the level that I can do that at. And my coworker, she has a lot of other areas that she's investing in, and this particular area is quite far from the capital. So it's not easy for people to just go up on a day trip and let's go and visit these people, do some business, come back, these things. So I was praying, it's like, God, who can go with me up to this place?


And God miraculously just brought my path into this woman's life who just happens to speak beautiful English, who had 15 years ago an encounter with a believer who shared the good news with her, and at that time had seeds of faith planted within her heart, but then has lived up in this remote village for the last 15 years without anybody sharing anything with her and without any other believers around her. And so God connected me with this woman, and she has now become my partner up there, and I get to disciple her and share with her. She's soft, she's so ready to receive these things, and then we get to go together into these other women's homes through that. And that's just, God, there's no way that I could have known this woman or made this connection. I mean, really, actually how we met was that I had parked on the street in front of her house and her neighbor backed into my car, and so they had to come out and fix it. All these things. I just has this way of just doing an amazing thing.

Matt (00:50:45):

She was going ahead of you.

Summer (00:50:46):

Yeah, he's going ahead and it's a beautiful thing. And I just know that this is just the beginning too.

Matt (00:50:52):

That's amazing. Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, summer. And since we're reaching the end, it is now time for quickfire questions. Dun? Yep. Dun dun. Questions. I don't want you to think too hard about these, but I'm going to run through 'em here and just give me your quick answers so our listeners will get a view of what you are like apart from the topics we've been talking about just now. So number one, coffee or tea?

Summer (00:51:20):

Coffee. But I live in a country that drinks tea a lot. I have been known to take 16 cups of tea in a day if needed. So you're learning,

Matt (00:51:28):

My gosh, you're learning to appreciate it.

Summer (00:51:30):

But don't take my coffee from me in the morning. Please go.

Matt (00:51:32):

Okay. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Summer (00:51:37):

Neither. I'm a middle girl.

Matt (00:51:38):

Middle, okay. Winter, spring, summer or fall?

Summer (00:51:42):

Fall. Even though my name is summer.

Matt (00:51:45):

Oh, that's true. Didn't think of that. That's true. Window or aisle Seat.

Summer (00:51:51):


Matt (00:51:52):

Okay. Dog or cat?

Summer (00:51:54):


Matt (00:51:55):

What's your favorite local dish where you're at?

Summer (00:52:02):

I love what they call clove here, which is a rice dish with meat and nuts and dried fruit on it. Delicious. Very good.

Matt (00:52:13):

What is the hardest challenge you have faced?

Summer (00:52:16):

You want that in a quick answer?

Matt (00:52:18):

Oh no. You can go Yeah. Quick, real

Summer (00:52:20):

Quick. Oh man. Oh dear.

Matt (00:52:26):

And remember, you can pass if you want, and we can save it for season four,

Summer (00:52:32):

I think. Yeah. I think one of the hardest things, and I mean this is again generalized, but being overseas, one of the hardest things for me has been watching my family back in America go through traumatic situations and not being there to physically love and support them in those times. And then seeing the repercussions of those things that have really changed family dynamics and things so that when I do come back to America, it feels very different. And I think that has been a very big challenge of living over here. Difficult thing.

Matt (00:53:19):

Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah. Any song on repeat on your iPod or iPhone lately?

Summer (00:53:26):

Not really.

Matt (00:53:27):

Okay. What is the strangest tradition you've witnessed?

Summer (00:53:31):

Strangest tradition here in this country

Matt (00:53:39):

Or in East Africa? Well,

Summer (00:53:45):

There's again, a lot of them. I think in East Africa there's definitely some stranger things. So I think the smearing of the intestinal juices on the bodies to ward off evil spirits, it's just really,

Matt (00:54:05):

Yeah. That's strange. That's strange. What's up there?

Summer (00:54:07):

Smelly. It's up

Matt (00:54:08):

There. Yeah.

Summer (00:54:10):


Matt (00:54:11):

What about a must pack item when you're going somewhere? What's got to be in your bag?

Summer (00:54:15):

Well, of course you buy, well, that's Bible. And you, I honestly say toilet paper, because a lot of these places you never know have actual toilet paper, and I just really appreciate that.

Matt (00:54:26):

Yes. It's a luxury that I think we all appreciate. Any quick language mishap that you've experienced?

Summer (00:54:34):

Too many. I dunno. That's

Matt (00:54:37):

Pretty much just what your life's all about, right? In

Summer (00:54:40):

This stage. Right. One good language moment I've had. I dunno. Yeah. Yeah.

Matt (00:54:46):

That's what we'll ask next time. Yeah. What's one comfort from home that you miss?

Summer (00:54:54):

Oh dear. I mean,

Matt (00:55:01):

You got wallpaper.

Summer (00:55:03):

I do have wallpaper in this side

Matt (00:55:03):

And chandeliers and the chandelier. Yeah.

Summer (00:55:07):

I have to say, it's kind of hard for me to say that because I feel like this country, in comparison to the countries that I've lived in before, is so luxurious. And so for me, I kind of feel like, yeah, it's comfortable here. I don't really have things I miss at this moment.

Matt (00:55:25):

Cool. Any

Summer (00:55:26):

Actually nicer than the ones I've lived in.

Matt (00:55:33):

Any talent you wish you had?

Summer (00:55:36):


Matt (00:55:37):

Languages? Yeah. What about a pet peeve?

Summer (00:55:43):

Okay, so I live with two local girls right now, and they constantly have sound on their phones being in the kitchen or going to the bathroom or being in the living. Everywhere they go, they carry their devices with them and they have sound going in it, and it's using a language that I don't fully understand. So it just sounds like sound to me. And then they both have it going on at the same time, sometimes in two different languages, and I'm just like, please just let us be quiet in the house. I

Matt (00:56:18):

Get that. What about a go-to late night snack?

Summer (00:56:23):

A chocolate.

Matt (00:56:24):

Chocolate? Yeah. And one more. One last one. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Summer (00:56:31):

Actually, I wanted to be a teacher and a missionary, and I've been both, so Woohoo.

Matt (00:56:36):

Wow. Your dreams have come true.

Summer (00:56:38):

It's true. Yeah.

Matt (00:56:40):

Well, thank you so much, summer. It's been great chatting with you and we've loved having you on this podcast. And hope we can do it again.

Summer (00:56:49):

Can I just put one little plugin before we Sure. Please do. So over the last few years, I've been part of a group called Nomadic People's Network, and it's just a network of people who work among nomads globally. And so our network has recognized a need for equipping and envisioning young people for nomadic work, and recognizing that the traditional classrooms of sedentary peoples don't usually meet the needs of learning how to work well among nomadic people groups. So we have developed a new program called Nomad Connect, and we hope to run it every other year and have young people who are interested in long-term work among nomadic people groups, come and participate in a learning journey that takes them into different nomadic communities and to learn alongside with mentors in that process about what it could look like to work. And also amongst nomadic people groups. So if people are interested in learning more about that, then they should contact pioneers because Pioneers, pioneers is one of the organizations that are part of the network.

Matt (00:58:02):

Yes, we will be sure to put that in the show notes for this episode. So thanks for the pitch on that. Yes.

Jess (00:58:07):

You just came back from a cohort, right? Yeah.

Summer (00:58:10):

Yeah. It was our first one and it was really successful. Nobody dies. Awesome. I think everybody

Jess (00:58:17):

Learn. Well, if that doesn't promote your program, I don't know what will. Exactly. Pretty much.

Matt (00:58:26):

Well, thank you so much, summer. Appreciate it.

Summer (00:58:28):

Thank you guys. Appreciate that.

Jess (00:58:30):

So I think we could listen to summer's stories all day long, but if you want to hear one more bonus story, specifically, one involving an arrest, an angry mob and a guardian angel, look at the show notes below and click on the link for that bonus content. Wow, what a conversation with summer. That was so interesting to hear about nomads, to learn that it's not just camels on yurts, and there really are, like you said, so many different kinds of nomadic people groups and so much work that the Lord is doing amongst them.

Matt (00:59:01):

Yeah, exactly. Obviously huge challenges that she faces there, but it's just amazing to see that the Holy Spirit's going ahead of her and preparing the way, preparing hearts of people, people of peace, as she talked about, who will give her inroads into communities that are in need of the gospel. So just really awesome conversation. Really enjoyed it.

Jess (00:59:23):

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, you would think that there's literally no way to reach this people group, but I mean, it's like she was saying, the ministry is not just hers, it's not just mine. It's not any one. It is the Lord's, right? These people are the Lord's, and he's creating ways for his workers to go out and share the gospel with them. And so yeah, I was just so encouraged by the ways that she's seen the Lord move in and around her life and amongst the people that she is working with now and the people that she got to see testimony of the continuing work of the Lord back in East Africa. So yeah, just really was so fun to be able to have summer with us today.

Matt (01:00:02):

Yeah, I think sometimes we maybe miss out on the fact that so many of these nomadic cultures and even other cultures in different parts of the world are actually more similar to the world of the Bible than the one we're living in. And so we don't recognize that some of the stories that we grew up seeing on flannel graphs and in Bible videos and things like that, they might seem foreign to us because we don't ride camels, we don't live in tents, we don't migrate with our families to places that have better pasture or where there are fish and things like that. And yet in scripture, that's often how the patriarchs live their lives. And so when these people hear those stories, I can imagine there's a certain resonance to them that maybe we don't have. And I think we take that for granted, that God has prepared the hearts of people to hear the gospel in many, many unexpected ways that we might not be aware of

Jess (01:00:57):

And that we could then learn from. So

Matt (01:00:59):


Jess (01:00:59):

Really cool.

Matt (01:01:00):

Now, obviously, as was talked about, it's a little foreign to us, this part of the world. I don't think a lot of us know what it even looks like in Central Asia, what the people are like, what the culture's like. But we do have some resources on our website. We have a video series called Middle Ground that documents someone's journey throughout Central Asia and introduces us to some people there and to what ministry looks like there. We also have photo essays. We've got articles on our website. And also I want to encourage you to check out nomadic and we'll have a link in the show notes. But this is a network of people working among nomadic peoples, and this is an organization that summer's a part of, and it's a great place to get started if you feel God is working in your heart to consider taking the gospel to nomadic people. So be sure to check out our show notes to find out more about those resources.

Jess (01:01:59):

And as always, at pioneers, we also want to hear more about how the Lord is leading you to serve overseas, whether that's amongst nomads or sedentary people. It's a new term that we learned today. So please reach out

Matt (01:02:12):

Exactly. And until next time, keep pioneering.

Jess (01:02:16):

Thanks for following us on this episode of the Relentless Pursuit Podcast. Our goal is to make missions accessible to show that it's not just reserved for elite super Christians. If you want to be involved, just go to and answer a few questions. We have a team who would love to help you discern your calling and what your next steps might be.

Matt (01:02:35):

At Pioneers, we love to partner with local churches and send teams to people groups with little or no access to the gospel. Keep up with what God is doing by following us on Instagram, Facebook, x, and YouTube, all at Pioneers usa, one word or visit Thanks for listening.