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Relentless Pursuit

S3E10: The World Next Door

55 minutes

We’re living in a time at which the nations are coming to our doorstep as immigrants, refugees and international students—an unprecedented opportunity for people from unreached parts of the world to be exposed to the gospel. It also means we can partner with Christians from other cultures who have come to make the United States their new home. In this episode, we talk to Paul, a leader in Pioneers’ “diaspora” ministry who served for many years in East Asia and is now working in Austin, Texas. Paul opens our eyes to the amazing new ways anyone can get involved in engaging the unreached, whether you live in a big city or in small-town America.

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Show Notes

We’re living in a time at which the nations are coming to our doorstep as immigrants, refugees and international students—an unprecedented opportunity for people from unreached parts of the world to be exposed to the gospel. It also means we can partner with Christians from other cultures who have come to make the United States their new home. In this episode, we talk to Paul, a leader in Pioneers’ “diaspora” ministry who served for many years in East Asia and is now working in Austin, Texas. Paul opens our eyes to the amazing new ways anyone can get involved in engaging the unreached, whether you live in a big city or in small-town America.

**BONUS Content** When Paul was looking for mission agencies to join, he had a simple criterion: How quickly can they get me to the field? Find out what happened when Paul asked Pioneers that question.

Download a free ebook (epub and PDF) of Unreached Peoples, Least-Reached Places, by J.D. Payne, which is chock-full of statistics and practical insight on reaching diaspora peoples.

What happens with Muslims and Christians go on a 50-mile hike through a desert canyon? Watch our video, A Canyon, a Cathedral, to find out.Also, diaspora people can be found in other countries.

In From Albania to Greece, a team in Athens is planting a church among Albanian immigrants.Want to get some real-world, on-site experience and training making disciples among unreached peoples?

Check out Pioneers’ partner International Project and their residential program, Equip Missionary Training in New York City.

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

Bonus Content

When Paul was looking for mission agencies to join, he had a simple criterion: How quickly can they get me to the field? Find out what happened when Paul asked Pioneers that question.

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Episode Transcription

Paul (00:01):

These are people groups that are at that point of being unreached where they may have never even heard of the possibility that a person from their group is a believer or that there are scriptures in their language. So it's like not only have they not heard the gospel, they've never heard the concept of someone being a follower of Jesus from their community. And so that's there, that's here around us.

Matt (00:31):

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.

Jess (00:41):

Obviously, most of the people that we interview on our podcast are missionaries, which means that they work with unreached people groups all over the world. But today's guest, Paul, is actually very interesting in that he works with unreached people groups that are right here in the US sometimes at our very back door.

Matt (00:57):

And as we begin this conversation with him, we're going to unpack some of the ways in which God was working with diaspora people, immigrants, refugees, all the way back in scripture. So this is a common theme that stretches from the biblical times all the way to now as God moves people into places where they have an encounter with him. So let's jump into the conversation right now.

Paul (01:18):

I think I was involved in diaspora ministries long before I knew that there was such a thing as diaspora ministries. That's a word that sort of emerged more recently. Now it's an ancient word. I mean it's actually in the Greek text of the New Testament. If you look at James, I think it's James or one Peter or both. Many of the letters are written to specific towns, but one, Peter and James have these more dispersed communities that are, and it uses the word or the word diaspora comes from Greek, those that have been dispersed. And there's mention of those and you can see that dispersion is theologically part of how God works. I mean, I just got done working through the book of Genesis. In Genesis 46 where Jacob is in the promised land. What? No way, I'm going to go to Egypt. And God says, it's okay to go to Egypt, go to Egypt, I'm going to build you up there. I'm going to bring you back. There's that tension of space throughout the scriptures and how God works. Even in Acts chapter two, when the Holy Spirit comes, you see this just sort of explosion of answered prophecy to the nations that happens in the sort of intersection, the tossed salad of ethnicities that are present. So there in Acts. It's a beautiful thing.

Matt (02:40):

Yeah, I think another thing that I've been always fascinated with in Acts 17 is this idea that God is dispersing people to different parts of the world, different people groups so that they might reach for him and find him. And so there's almost an implication that in that leaving of their home native culture, that there might be an openness towards spiritual things that might not have been there in their native culture.

Paul (03:07):

Absolutely. I mean, you could start going to the Book of Esther. Think of the book of Daniel in the cultural tensions. They're renamed, and yet he's trying to live out the Jewish faith in a context where he's brought into ... the book of Genesis and Joseph's story, Exodus itself, the nations ... amazing that you think of. I mean to me as a student of the New Testament, just the amazing trans-human idea, the ethno centricity that's so embedded in all of us, that this Jewish faith would be constantly pushing up against the nations. The Book of Jonah is a shaming mechanism on the Jewish people for trying to contain the faith into an ethnic limitation. So though God starts his work among his people, Israel and he embeds it in culture, it pushes out. I was amazed reading Exodus 18 just the other day, that Joseph's father in law, what's his name? Jethro. He's a Midianite he's not Jewish,

Matt (04:23):

Moses' father-in-law? Right?

Paul (04:25):

Was when Moses was dispersed, he was diasporic out into the median people and married into that family. Then as God's just starting to form his tabernacle worship, and it says in Exodus 17, Jesus that Moses built altar for God, and then the next chapter, a Midianite Jethro comes in. He's the one that's highlighted who comes and it says that Aaron came with all the leaders and they sat in the presence of God and ate and drank that there was this intimacy cross-culturally from the beginning in the story of the Bible. And it's just beautiful to me as you've tracked that, of course, all the way to Revelation. It's amazing. So I'm a bit of a Bible nerd, so hold on there. We'll try to get to some stories that are more like current day. But for me, my diaspora ministries experience goes back even to childhood when my parents had the right inclination to bring people from the nations into our home.


My dad just worked for the state of Texas. He lived in the same house my whole life. He had the same job, he drove the same car and he was not a globe trotter. He would never have left the country other than to come and visit me. And yet they brought in people from Hong Kong and Pakistan and Mexico and other places into our home. And so that was my first early experiences. And then later as I started to step foot into global ministry, the guy who I was going to go work with at that time in Southeast Asia insisted that I study Islam first in New York City. And so I went to Flushing. This was back in 1999, and I spent the summer there, and I was a minority as a white guy there and as a Christian there. And I went to a church that had 90 different languages spoken at it for the summer, and we spent our days just interacting with the diaspora there in Flushing in Queens. And I have mean just unbelievable stories from that time of really learning how to share my faith with Muslims and to see that God had moved people around the world. I wasn't calling it diaspora ministries at that time.

Matt (06:36):


Paul (06:37):


Matt (06:38):

So what would you say some of the big categories are of diaspora communities that we have here in the US?

Paul (06:47):

Yeah. Well, so in the United States, there are people from all over the world. I'm here in Austin, Texas, so we have a large number of people who are coming here from South America, but here in Texas, I just saw that how many Nigerians are here. West Africans. I have a little house church in my home here in Austin, and we had people from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, people who were raised in Asia and people who had lived their life in South America all present here. When we think about the work that Pioneers does, where we have a core value of thinking about unreached people, groups, people, groups that have a very, very small to no presence of the church or evangelical witness inside of them, we see large blocks of people coming from South Asia and from the Muslim world and from the Buddhist world.


So massive groups of Hindu peoples from India, the largest amount of Afghans living outside of Afghanistan. The last I heard, this may have changed as they're moving around, was outside in the Bay Area in California, in Fremont, a hundred thousand Afghans living in that area. So Arab Syrians, these people are all over, Somali people. There are mass groups of Somalis, I believe 50 to 60,000 living in Minneapolis. There's many living in Seattle, Columbus, Ohio. These are people groups that are at that point of being unreached where they may have never even heard of the possibility that a person from their group is a believer or that there are scriptures in their language. So it's like not only have they not heard the gospel, they've never heard the concept of someone being a follower of Jesus from their community. And so that's there, that's here around us.


I mean, the house that I grew up here in Austin, Texas, right across the street from it now is the largest mosque in central Texas. I mean literally three doors away from where I grew up. And that was not the case growing up there 20, 25 years ago. So there's a changing demographics in urban places, and honestly, even in rural areas, one of the most interesting things to me is some of the small little bitty towns in the Midwest where there's meat packing plants, oftentimes a Somali or Sudanese community will move there because they're willing to take these jobs. They pay a little bit better, cost of living's a little bit lower. So you may have a town in Nebraska that has 5,000 people in it, and a thousand of them are black Somali Muslims in that town. That's unbelievable access to a people group that you just can't fly to Somalia and live there.

Jess (09:47):

I was just going to say that was literally my question. I was like, wait, you mentioned Somalis in Columbus, Ohio. How did they even get there? And so I'm kind of like, how does a group of people from the other side of the world hear about meat packing jobs in a small town in the Midwest or I mean even having people from Central America and Austin, that seems to make sense, but people from India or a giant Muslim mosque, how did these things kind of get started?

Paul (10:15):

Yeah, I mean there's a lot of different stories there. I think a lot of times I doubt that very many people are getting on a plane and making their way straight to a small town in Nebraska. But within the diaspora world, we often talk about secondary migration. So you may have large cities that are welcoming refugees that are coming in through the refugee program, they've won the lottery. A lot of these people have been in refugee camps for years, sometimes their entire life. We had a Rwandan couple over to our home and we were sharing stories and catching up. And it was interesting because the husband had made a little TV show, and that was part of his story. He had helped with racial reconciliation between the Hutus and the Tutsis and is kind of like internet famous in the world of Rwanda. And I asked his wife if she had grown up watching him on TV and she said, what TV?


I never saw a TV. And so she had lived her whole life in a refugee camp. So a lot of times there's these complex stories with multiple levels of migration. They do sometimes try to land people in cities where they already have family connections and there's more likely to be sticky, I guess, for them to be able to stay. But oftentimes people realize when they land somewhere, hey, we have family over on the other side of the country, or there's job opportunities, and then they move again. And that's one of the reasons with Pioneers, we have a network of workers who are serving among these diasporic communities. We're often saying, hey, one of my really close friends is moving from San Diego to Chicago, and there's introductions that happen. And so networking is really a big part of serving these people well.

Matt (11:54):

So it's a combination of both refugees, immigrants that come here for opportunity, and then also international students as well, I'm assuming, some of whom stick around others that leave. Are there any other kind of big block categories of people that we're seeing coming in?

Paul (12:13):

I think that that's to follow up on that second category, I forget how you phrased it, but just migrant peoples. When you think about South Asian people coming in from India, it's normally not a sort of a hard luck refugee story or East Asian immigrants are often coming in through doors of education or employment. They either already are highly educated or they're coming in getting that education here. And what we often see, let's say with Indian communities, that when they first come, maybe they don't haven't gotten that good job yet, and they may live in an apartment complex. I mean, there's apartment complexes in Plano, Texas just up the road for me, a couple of hours that are 75 or 80% Indian. And people can live in those areas and basically live in a little Indian community. But as those people get those engineering jobs, they tend to study STEM fields and medicine, as they move into medical, then they oftentimes move to suburbs where they have access to better education in those nicer homes.


What becomes a challenge then for gospel ministry is that these become very busy people living suburban lives. And as all of us know who have lived in the suburbs, the suburbs are sort of a place of loneliness and isolation, and a lot of us don't feel a lot of community with our neighbors. And so how do you break through that and actually have deep relationships cross-culturally in a context where somebody is working? And so for those people that are listening to this and they have engineering jobs or they're in the medical field or whatever, hey, look to your left, look to your right, you're probably embedded with the diaspora peoples who may likely come from Hindu backgrounds or Muslim backgrounds or Buddhist backgrounds and may not know someone from their culture and their language who believes in Jesus Christ. So that question of access kind of flips backwards on you actually as you get to those people who are economically more developed.

Matt (14:27):

So the stereotype of the impoverished immigrant is not universal. Obviously there are some that are coming destitute as refugees, but then there's a lot of mobility it sounds like as people move into the economy or they are educated and perhaps even more upwardly mobile than people that were born in this country.

Paul (14:50):

It couldn't be more diverse. I mean, you have people who you would feel impoverished and poor around. And then there was an Afghan family who showed up here to Austin and they had gotten a refugee or the visa lottery. And then as she was pregnant, they had two kids already and her husband was killed by the Taliban while she was in Afghanistan. And so then she gets on a plane and comes to Austin with two children, and I think she maybe had the baby in Afghanistan, but with these three children then and was illiterate in her own language, had no English, and literally didn't know what a sidewalk was. And so she was not sure how to even walk around her apartment complex that she was just dropped into. And so this person had zero ability to function in this culture and place and was dealing with trauma. That's one of the things that's really a real place of felt need typically, that the church and we're seeing people in missions work step into, is that place of trauma because most of those people who've come through the refugee gateway have experienced things that we can only imagine. So that's that one end of the extreme. And then all the way to incredible privilege, that's what brought people here. And so every time I walk out my door into these communities, I don't know what I'm going to encounter.

Jess (16:25):

Yeah, it's such a wide range of people. I can only imagine what it takes to build focus and vision and strategy for a team to decide how are we going to reach out to this people group versus that people group, fill these needs versus those needs. I mean, it must just vary so much based on your neighborhood and who you're reaching out to. Just backing up a teeny bit and kind of looking at this word diaspora again, when we started off talking, you're kind of talking about how diaspora is used in the Bible just to describe followers of Jesus, followers of the one God, the Jewish people being spread out to different places. But now you're talking about all of these people that maybe do or don't know Jesus that are all coming here to the US from all these different places around the world. And so I'm kind of curious, why do you choose the word diaspora for describing your ministries and what makes it distinctive that this is a good description for the kinds of people that you're reaching out to?

Paul (17:36):

Yeah, language is funny because to be honest, that's the word that's being used these days in the church world, but even beyond, into the secular space. And I'm sure as language goes, there'll be language that will evolve on us or someone will think, hey, this is a better word down the road because it does capture that idea that these are dispersed peoples, because that's embedded in literally the word diaspora is there to describe the dispersed peoples. I think it's fine. And I have noticed, I mean, I think we're more and more self-conscious of how we speak about other peoples and in mission. We want to be conscious that we're speaking of people always with dignity. And I was just the other day at a Burmese church and they were speaking of themselves as the diaspora. And so it's something that for the listeners who are wondering, hey, is that sort of a demeaning way of talking about something?


There may be somebody out there that doesn't like it, but from what I'm seeing, that seems to be a word that's being embraced even within communities of dispersed peoples. And I think for me, one of the things that is interesting, I'd love to turn the conversation this way actually, is to the Christian diaspora, but how do you start talking about people when they're in the second and third generation of an immigrant community? That second generation almost couldn't be more different in some ways than from the first generation. And so I think that's one of the things to just be conscious of as we approach people who we don't think that are, oh, you don't seem like you're from the United States or for some reason, but be careful that that person may have been born here and we want to be conscious of that. Still, the word diaspora seems to be embraced even to some degree by the second generation.


In my experience, I don't consider myself an expert. In some ways, diaspora ministries demands that we be generalists because, talk about humbling. I could never be somebody who masters all these different cultures, much less languages. And so I think we have to be sensitive to different communities wanting to identify themselves in different ways. But back to that idea of the Christian diaspora, I think that's one of the things that's the most exciting. And as I lived overseas for more than a decade and then came back to the US and back to the city that I was raised in here in Austin, but to see and to become aware of the immigrant Christians who have come into the United States, think about if you were to be simplistic about what are the ingredients of making someone into a mature believer in Jesus, and I would think of things like depth in the word of God, but also somebody who's experienced suffering and obeyed at a cost and then knows the Holy Spirit and is sensitive to the Holy Spirit who shares their faith boldly.


I would say that is, in my experience, it's almost the rule, not the exception in some of the diaspora communities that have come into the United States. So the irony is that some people have been resistant to immigration because of concerns about whatever economics and politics and those things, but maybe are not aware of a deep enriching of the church and the country that has come with that. And for our purposes in the missions world, I think it's imperative that we partner, and I don't even know if I can even say partner, because I am the servant of these Christians. My Nigerian brother who's planting this church with me and my Ghanaian brother who's part of this church plant with me. These guys have a depth in God that I learn from every day, even though they're actually both younger than me, just in this Burmese church that I just was able to visit a couple of weeks ago.


This brother Ethan shared his story of the deep insecurities that he had as a southeast Asian immigrant person with limited English and just sort of was just, he just, every time he stepped out his door or went to work, he works at one of the big Amazon facilities nearby, he just felt a sense of insecurity just invaded him. And it got to a place of crisis which brought him to the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer. And he just laid himself out as a living sacrifice. And he felt the Lord saying, not only are you to step up, go apply to be in the management program. And he did those things and then did the same thing with being bold and sharing the gospel. And he's seen Americans coming to faith or renewing their faith, and a lady's coming over to dinner tonight for our house church who was baptized just a couple months ago through Ethan's ministry to her.


And so you got to keep your eyes open. Things are changing fast, and yes, the harvest is white for harvest among the unreached around us, but also the laborers are also among these peoples. And so I'm really looking to create structures and teams where these people are welcome to be supported as their ministers. And so that's one of the most exciting things for me. I think too, I just want to say I learned, took a brother who came in from Chicago and was really more mature in his understanding of the diaspora world and ministries and service to them, to come into Austin and start showing me all the different communities. A lot of these believing communities, they don't have buildings. Most of them don't. Most of them don't. They're not on maybe Google Maps, they maybe have a WhatsApp group or a Facebook group or something, and they're meeting in somebody else's spaces in off hours and these types of things.


And what a blessing to know these people. But you have to have eyes to see them and enter into the network and find out about them. And what a blessing. I think sometimes, especially if you're listening and you're in a city that you have a lot of familiarity with, beware of over familiarity. Because with our cars, we move around our cities and we shop at our places and we eat at our places, and we go to church and we think we know our cities because of that, but really what you know is one little tunnel system that's probably very trapped in economic and cultural paths? And so we have to come up with ways to break out of that. And it's been one of the biggest blessings of my role in Pioneers, overseeing some of this work, is to lead in that, to experience that. And I've just been deeply blessed.

Matt (24:41):

So what are some of the ways that you would recommend for someone who wants to find, build relationships with people cross-culturally in their communities, whether it's with these Christian communities that have come from other parts of the world or that are congregating in perhaps unlikely places or even unbelieving, unreached people groups, what are some of the ways that you've observed that teams or even individuals have been able to find people and then get inroads to actually get to know them?

Paul (25:18):

Yeah. Well, I probably won't do this justice, but so maybe the deeper end of the pool that may not be for everybody who is, those apartment complexes like the one that is 80% Indian immigrants, you can actually live there. And one of the real exciting parts of what I'm seeing in Pioneers right now is that we're getting applications from people in their twenties or early thirties to join us. And the truth is, they've actually been living among unreached for 3, 4, 5 years, and they're realizing they probably could use a little bit more support. They'd like to have a leader like me, or maybe they actually do want to raise some support so they can free up some time and do something. That's, to me, the most exciting thing that I'm seeing is that the silo is sort of broken down. There's not an either or. You can take the job you have now and live among unreached peoples.


And whether you do that through a structure of a mission organization or not, definitely don't do it by yourself, do it at least with support from your local church and you can experience team, but that's just right there. You can live among these peoples. We've also seen people use creative business platforms. Probably can't go into a ton of detail about those without giving away some things. But there are opportunities to sell halal Muslim products in basically any city in the United States. And so if any listener's interested in that, I'm sure we have ways for people to reach out through the website or whatever through the podcast, and I can put people in touch with opportunities. And so there's a lot of that that's happening where there's employment opportunities, obviously teaching English and those things, but at the the shallower end of the pool, I think just realize that, especially with first generation immigrants, people who were not born here, they're way more accessible really than anybody else in the United States, meaning I don't just walk up to a guy, let's say he's even wearing the same college football jersey.


That would be the team I follow. I'm probably not going to just walk up to him and just start talking to him. You know what I mean? That's just weird. But when you, cross-cultural ministry on one hand is much more complex because it's like, oh, well, there's another culture. I need to learn that culture. I don't know that culture. On the other hand, especially when people are guests in your culture, sort of culture almost goes out the window. And just because they're aware that they're constantly being pressurized outside of their own experiences, they don't know what to expect from you. And so if you just walk up to them and are nice and say, where is your family from? Or how long have you been here? That people typically receive that really well, like I said, especially from the first generation, you need to be sensitive again, just because somebody doesn't look like you doesn't mean that they're not an American.


And so the mistakes happen. I think one of the things that I've noticed with urban Americans, especially Gen Z and Millennials, is that we're very, very aware of our privilege. And that can almost have a paralyzing effect because the internet and the cancellation that happens on Twitter, if you make a mistake, you go to Twitter hell or whatever, oh, you asked the wrong question or you said the wrong thing. And I think that sort of fragility of mistake making, I mean, I just would just say the New Testament doesn't recognize that sin, there's a sin of not loving well, and so we need to grow in sensitivity, but don't be paralyzed by your privilege. If you look at, do a study on privilege in the New Testament, and you'll see that it's something, it does demand sensitivity and giving of dignity to others, but it doesn't hold us back.


It actually is something, don't bury that. Don't hold that privilege. This is not a game of, don't ever make a cultural mistake, and so be freed. And if you just start to be warm with people and chat with them, I mean, go into the gas station instead of pay at the pump. And probably behind the counter is somebody from Nepal or some other part of the world, could be Muslim, could be Hindu, and they're probably bored and they'd probably be happy to sit there and chat with you, and they'd probably love to get invited over to your house.

Jess (30:00):

Yeah, that's so cool.

Paul (30:01):

The other thing you just have to learn in cross-cultural, I mean these are just really basics, but it's just pull out your phone and say, what's your number? And get them, and they're probably on WhatsApp. WhatsApp is sort of the way that everyone in the world interacts besides Americans, and leave messages and say hi, and be aware of holidays, be they Muslim or national holidays, and send a meme and a greeting. And that just really blesses people. And so the ice can be broken actually quite quickly with most people. And of course, you do have situations where there's major language barriers. I mean, one of the ministries here in Austin, the ladies just have, they make that their access point and they go into homes teaching English to Muslim women. A lot of the Afghans that have come over, the men maybe have English a lot of times and the women will have none. And so they just go, you know what? We're going to go slow and we're going to help these people talk and we're going to love them before we can talk to them. So there's just countless entry points.

Jess (31:11):

I thought it was such insightful thing that you had mentioned about how first generations versus second generations, the immigrants versus the children. I'm a child of immigrants. And so just how you're saying that's even something that you kind of have to think about for how you're ministering to people, how you're understanding people, their culture is different from their parents' culture is probably different even from their home culture. And so I'd love just to hear you expand on that a little bit and how that affects your guys' ministry.

Paul (31:44):

Wow. Well, so one of the things that I would notice as a big difference between first generation and second generation is it almost that whole script of like, Hey, just go in and be oblivious and just pull out your phone and just make a friend. That is almost, it couldn't be more the other end of the spectrum where I think if you're raised in, of course I raised a couple of kids at least part of their life and kind of flipped that narrative in Asia when they were younger at least. But that first generation may be, I don't want to be rude, but sort of oblivious to what's going on just like we are when we show up to places and we're just making cultural mistakes. Whereas that second generation is hyper aware, hyper aware. They've grown up watching their parents make mistakes, and everybody feels that cringiness around parents when you're in junior high and your parents are just so out of it and they haven't kept up. But it's like, I can only imagine what that would be like if you were a second generation, say Asian, you know what I mean? Of it's like, oh my gosh, dad.

Jess (32:46):

Oh, true. So true. Totally. Yes, yes, yes.

Paul (32:51):

And so I know some of my second generation Asian friends, they're the coolest people I know. I mean, they're like way cooler than me. They're just super tuned in and they just had developed superpower cultural skills, but in some ways it may be also inhibiting for them. There is sometimes, let's not make a mistake. And so I think just being aware of that, and then I know within, this isn't really the topic of this conversation, but the second generation Christian community too is also struggling with like, hey, how do we find identity as American Christians. As Lisa and I do a lot of visiting the immigrant churches in Austin, my wife Lisa and I, and our kids, be it Chinese church or Korean churches, Indian churches, all kinds of different churches. There's just an awareness that second generation is trying to figure out how to do the faith part of that new identity. Really, they're formed, even though we call 'em second generation, they're really the first ones to form that identity that's American identity for the most part. So it's just an awareness of that. And again, I think just like we need to have grace for each other and grace for ourselves, we're going to make mistakes. And I've been on the other end of that too, by living overseas. People didn't know what to do with me.

Matt (34:18):

That's cool. So one difference between working overseas among the unreached and then here in the US is that there are churches here in the US. I know that some parts of the world do have indigenous churches that might be different cultures from the people group that a missionary is trying to reach, but here we've got churches and we've got even possibly churches that are culturally similar to some of these communities. So what is the relationship of a missionary here in the US that's working cross-culturally in a diaspora setting with the churches that might be in their community? Is this an ongoing challenge that you see people having to make sure that they are aligned in some way with a local church?

Paul (35:07):

If you mean the cross-cultural worker or the missionary and their relationship to those local churches?

Matt (35:12):

To local churches that could be primarily Caucasian or other churches as well. I'm just wondering whether when people come from overseas to work here and they have experience working among the unreached overseas, but now they're working here in the US and there's that sense of, well, there is a church here, so how do we relate to them?

Paul (35:34):

Oh, yeah. Well, no, that's a question that we're asking right now within our teams. And because there's a tension for those who see themselves as cross-cultural workers, it's almost like, hey, I've always said this of myself. I found my way actually into the Anglican church, and I'm actually clergy in the Anglican church, but I've always said, I'm not an indoor cat. I'm an outdoor cat, meaning I am an apostle. I'm the one who is sent out. And so I take those holy orders of that ministry within that denominational context, but I'm like, want to be on the edge outside, not just inside doing domestic church work. And so I think as we come back, our home churches may have had categories for sending us out. That's how we got out. But then how do we have that relationship when we come back?


Now one is I think that we're all the diaspora is just, it's like the air we're in now. So all those people in church are also working alongside, and neighbors. And so we have to live and build up the saints for the work of the ministry, Ephesians four. And so that could be at your local church, there may be a situation where you need to go, you know what I need to have, I need to start a new community, or I need to be spending time at these immigrant churches where the average person is living in these apartment complexes, shopping, I need to, even though I need to create a new tunnel system within the city that I have all this familiarity with so that I'm moving and working more. And you may find that that church that's like 98% white, let's say, maybe just isn't where you need to be sort of released from your church to be more engaged in the diasporic church world or in house church.


So almost like an over domestication. I hope that makes sense, this pressure to, hey, serve in the Sunday School. Hey, it's so great. And I asked some of our Pioneers workers recently, how many hours a week are you spending serving inside of your church? And then how many hours a week or sort of being generated from your church into unreached people ministry? And it was interesting to sort of see some different responses. In some cases, that becomes a real opportunity to leverage and help people like, hey, the needs are just flowing, but a lot of people living, they would be happy to serve. They just don't know how. And so if you can kind of help connect, and that's one of the things, I mean, Pioneers has a core value of team sometimes that word team that would traditionally be like teams of other people who are members of Pioneers and maybe they've raised support and they've gotten on airplanes.


In this case, it may be more like a teaming thing, teaming with those who are activated in cross-cultural ministry. And that might be a retired person. I mean, there's a guy here in Austin who's a retired airline pilot, who I don't think he's ever taken a penny as a professional minister at all, but he has deep relationships networked throughout the city, in fact, with every imam in town. And that's just a beautiful thing. That guy could be a part of my team. And he too is bringing people from his church out into ministry. So there's a tension there. It can become, you can tip in favor of ministry or tip towards domesticating someone who, hey, I thought I had a call for ministry and now I am doing all of these things and just really a busy American Christian. But what about that apostolic thing? What about living for sharing Christ with the unreached?

Jess (39:19):

So just practically speaking, say someone is like, yeah, I kind of want to get involved. I kind of want to go out and find people. I don't live in an apartment complex that's like 90% Indian or Sudanese or whatever. So there's no obvious entryway. Would you recommend someone like that try and focus on a single people group or just any people group or where's a good place to start?

Paul (39:45):

Man, I kind of want to reach for all of the above sort of, there's not a wrong answer. I would say this. If there's people that they just have it, whatever it is, they just love cross-cultural ministry. And so you're probably already networked and you're probably already going. If you're somebody who's like, what's interesting is I'm not sure who I am, but I'm seeing the call to mission in scripture and before me, and I'm wrestling with that. But I wouldn't say I'm somebody who is texting back and forth and visiting and having lunch with people from other cultures. I would just say one idea would be this whole idea of the Christian diaspora community would be sure, would be a safe place to get started, show up to. Just maybe take one Sunday a month and go to a immigrant diaspora, church, anything. Go to the Chinese church.


Go to an African church. I have loved taking my kids to those places. And you'll probably get some hugs and you may find that you get invited to an amazing meal afterwards. And I would just say starting with the Christians may sound counterintuitive on a podcast that's being put out by Pioneers because that doesn't sound like pioneering, but I think that really would be a way to start that engagement. And then as you find those other intersections where Christian diaspora is meeting the unreached diaspora, you could honestly just, meeting people, Hey, you should meet my friend from, he's also from Egypt. He happens to be an Egyptian Christian, not an Egyptian Muslim. Hey, great, let's get together. You could be kind of on the basketball court throwing the alley oopses and bringing people into these communities. So that would just be a really simple way. I just almost like a challenge, like a dare. Go to an immigrant church and just see what starts to happen in your life. And don't just duck out as soon as the final song. Just hang out and you will be a changed person and you'll be blessed.

Jess (42:12):

Yeah, I love that, especially since we did talk about how it's not just big cities with million plus populations that have these kinds of communities. You could be in the Midwest out in the middle of nowhere and hey, there's a whole group of refugees here, and they do have a church there. They do have a believing body. There are opportunities almost anywhere that you go in America to do that. Very, I love how practical and sort of doable that step is. Just visit another church that operates in a different culture, a different language, or has a majority different ethnic population and just kind of check it out and see where it goes. I just love how anyone can kind of do that on any given Sunday.

Paul (42:55):

Well, and just thinking, let's say that God then leads down the road for you to actually get on that airplane and go to whatever country, guess who's going to be there, who's going to be there is the immigrant church. And not all of them will be there. Almost none of them will be there because they raise support to go there. They may be there as economic refugees, but they also will share that often share that depth in scripture depth in costly obedience and the spirit. I was in a meeting a while back, and there was a mobilization base leader from pioneers from a small country that does not have a lot of money to send people, and he was struggling to send people with our model, but I was looking on the internet. I was like, oh my goodness, a quarter million evangelicals a year are leaving that country to go around the world because of economic pressures and new opportunities.


And I did a little Facebook search and said, I wonder if there's a group of Kenyans that are living in Saudi Arabia, and I found a group of 6,000. And I was like, what in the world? I bet 70% of those are evangelicals. And it's one of I think the most beautiful things happening within our organization is that we are tilting away from being a majority American experience. And I mean, I love my brothers and sisters, my colleagues that are coming out of Ghana and Mongolia and these places. And so it gives you a headstart in teaming with those people. And honestly, the second challenge that comes up is like, oh, man, you better get into the word of God because you're going to feel really silly when, I mean, this is a little bit of almost ridiculous, but I had friends from Asia who had, in order to go deeper in the word, they would just make handwritten copies of the Bible because of the kinesthetic experience. And then this one guy had done that a couple of times and he's like, I'm going to do it. Left-handed it. And so he made a left-handed version of the Bible.


I mean, that's somebody, and you're just listening to a podcast for your main nutritional spiritual life. Well, let's wake up. You know what I mean? Let's get, and so I know I've been challenged by my, really, it's largely even my pioneers colleague in Ghana who I've just gone back to the word of God, and he's memorized scripture. He's an older uncle. We call Uncle JFK, and he's memorized a verse of the Bible every day for 50 years. And the Ghanaians call him the walking Bible. And so I just said, well, gosh, that's Psalm 1 right there. And so that's what I want for me. So I came back, it was almost exactly a year ago I was over there, and that's pretty much all I do now, is just sit work through the scriptures and find verses to memorize. That is the blessing of the diaspora Christian community. The question for the West is, can you even keep up with that? Should we even put you on an airplane to go overseas? Now, don't get freaked out by that and pause. Just start to get to know these people and be blessed and be challenged and come along.

Matt (46:35):

That's great. Well, thank you. That's encouraging because I feel like anyone who's listening to this can find an opportunity to respond. It doesn't require joining pioneers as much as we would love to have someone join pioneers, but there are opportunities in your neighborhood, in your community to build these relationships, to learn from people, and ultimately to spread the gospel. So thanks for sharing, and I hope inspiring people's minds to the possibilities of what could happen. One thing we'd like to do in closing is ask a few quickfire questions that might give our listeners a little bit more of a glimpse into you and your personality. So no need to think very seriously about these. These are just quick questions that we run through. So first of all, coffee or tea?

Paul (47:28):


Matt (47:29):

All right. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Paul (47:33):

Sadly, I'm becoming an early bird. I'm getting older.

Matt (47:36):

Yeah, I've noticed the same thing. It's like your body just automatically wakes you up.

Paul (47:41):

I know.

Matt (47:42):

How about if you're traveling window or aisle?

Paul (47:45):

Aisle? I'm six foot two and I need to get that leg out and not get a blood clot.

Jess (47:51):

That's tough in Asia. Six foot two in Asia is tough.

Matt (47:54):

And of course now you're engaging with so many different cultures and things, but what would be your favorite international dish or local dish?

Paul (48:04):

Oh wow. Okay. Let's see. That's just not fair. This will give away some things, but there's a thing called big plate of chicken that is, I won't say it in its original language, that'll give away too much, but big plate of chicken is this massive dish that fills up a table and it has a hacked up chicken that's been stewed in potatoes and peppers, and you throw some noodles on there, and if it's good, it's amazing. Not everybody pulls it off, but I love big plate of chicken. They also have big plate of dog and other things, but I go with the big plate of chicken.

Matt (48:47):

Yeah. How about a must-pack item if you're traveling?

Paul (48:53):

Oh, I pack about four minutes before I leave, and if I get my charger and in my toothbrush, I'm successful,

Matt (49:05):

Yeah. How about a talent you wish you had?

Paul (49:09):

Oh, man. Keeping my mouth shut probably would work well as I'm raising teenagers.

Matt (49:17):

Yeah, I can imagine. Is there a go-to late night snack that you grab?

Paul (49:24):

See, this is again an age related question because last night watching the baseball game, I really wanted some ice cream, but there's a Walgreens right down the street, but I resisted because I will go. It will not leave me. I will.

Matt (49:36):


Paul (49:37):


Matt (49:38):

Was there something you wanted to be when you grew up when you were a kid?

Paul (49:43):

Yeah. So I latched onto the idea of being a missionary as a kid.

Jess (49:49):

How old were you when you first latched onto that idea?

Paul (49:52):

I was either 11 or 12. The Perspectives course was brand new, and my dad took me to it, and I sat there on the front row and the first speaker said, I've been to these villages in South America. This was in the eighties, late eighties. And he said, go to the village and say, have you guys, do you guys know Jesus Christ? And these villagers would say no, but he might live in the village on the other side of the mountain. And everybody laughed, and I was scandalized. And I was like, at that age looking, you kind have a childlike clarity that I look around and go, wait. And I remember there was a break sitting out on, I was looking out over the parking lot, had some snacks, and I was just thinking, and I saw all these expensive cars that all these people had, and I said, wait, those cars are worth more than the airline tickets to go and solve this problem. So why? I don't understand, it just doesn't make any sense why we're not all going. And I actually heard from the Lord, I'm not from a charismatic tradition, but I heard him at that moment. So yeah. So I kind of latched onto that. Yeah,

Matt (51:17):

It's awesome. Thank you. Well, thanks for joining us, Paul. Really appreciate your passion and just the broad vision that I think you bring to our listeners.

Paul (51:28):

It's been a blessing. Thanks guys.

Matt (51:31):

Everybody's got a story about how they joined Pioneers, and we're going to let Paul tell his, but we do want to give a disclaimer. Everybody's story is different, and we can't promise that your story's going to sound or look like Paul's, but I do think that his story does reveal a lot about the values and the mission of Pioneers and how we do everything in our power to clear the way for people that God is calling to go where he's calling them. So be sure to check out our show notes and click on the bonus materials to hear Paul's story

Jess (52:04):

Going along with that. Our desire for this podcast is obviously to see people develop a heart to go overseas, to develop a heart, to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we know that that's honestly not possible for everybody. And not everybody is called to be an overseas cross-cultural missionary in Africa or in Asia or whatnot. And so what I really just loved about Paul's story today and what he was sharing is just how practical he was in the ways that we can get involved with the unreached that are literally our next door neighbors. Regardless of whether you live in some really, really big city out on the East Coast, or if you're in a smaller town out in the Midwest, there are opportunities to find churches, to find communities of people from completely different countries and completely different backgrounds that you can reach out to, you can serve, you can love on, and that you can hopefully also be able to share the love and message of Jesus Christ. And so I just loved how practical he was with so much of what he shared today.

Matt (53:06):

And if you have some questions or an interest in doing this or even want to get ahold of some resources, be sure to check out our show notes. We have a link to a book that we published a few years back that has some research and information and practical insight into reaching people here in the US that are from people groups. It's called Unreached People's Least Reach Places. Also, be sure to check out a video called From Albania to Greece. And that is not really about what's happening here in the US in terms of immigration or migration or diaspora, but it's a story and example of what one of our pioneers workers and families and teams is doing in Greece, reaching people that are migrating from Albania. And then also we have a link there to one of our core partners here at Pioneers, and that's the International Project in New York City, which allows many of our workers to spend a year in intensive study and in practical ministry in New York City, among the most diverse population in the world, arguably, before they head out overseas to be involved in on the ground cross-cultural church planting. So be sure to check out those resources.

Jess (54:21):

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 (54:40):

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.