Roundup #218

New Essay

There are 3,980 provinces in the world in my database.

Of these, I estimate 179 are less than 0.1% Christian (Stage 0), and 505 are less than 2% Christian (Stage 1). We can call these the “unreached” provinces in the world–they don’t precisely fit some definitions, but this is pretty close. These 684 provinces will be home to ~2.5 billion people in 2025. With so few Christians among them, this is the heart of the remaining “frontier mission” task.

A different situation is found in the middle tier of provinces. Stage 2 provinces are those between 2% and 8% Christian, and Stage 3 are those between 8% and 32% Christian. These contain 624 provinces, with about 2.8 billion people. This is roughly comparable to the World Christian Database’s “World B”–heavily evangelized, minority Christian. This is something of a grey zone – lots of Christians, and a fair amount of access, but many pockets of people who will never meet a Christian or hear the Gospel.

Finally, Stage 4 and Stage 5 are all the provinces over 32% Christian. These include 2,672 provinces, with about 2.8 billion people. These are the heavily engaged areas with significant Christian presence.

Most of my attention is focused on the Stage 0 and 1 provinces. Among these 684, there are 40 provinces each with populations in excess of 8 million people. Together they total 1.6 billion people–two-thirds of the least-reached 2.5 billion or 20% of the world’s 7.8 billion. Living in places that are less than 2% Christian, they have minimal access to the Gospel.

Changing this situation for any single one of these provinces would have dramatic global, political, economic and religious implications. But doing so is not easy.

One notable example: the per-province population is far larger in the less-reached areas. 2.5 billion people over 684 provinces is an average of about 3.6 million per province, whereas 2.8 billion people over 2,672 provinces is an average of about 1.1 million per. Each Stage 0/1 province would therefore likely need as many as 4x as many workers as the more heavily Christian ones do.

A further complication: many of the Stage 0 & 1 provinces are relatively poor in terms of economy, infrastructure, and resources. Tools which amplify the work of Christian workers in Stage 4 and 5 provinces are not available in these places. Worse, they are often deeply impacted by wars, diseases, poverty, and religious oppression. Fr example, the number two province on the Top 40 list, Maharashtra, is the most Covid-infected province in India.

Is the problem really workers and resources, however? These kinds of problems are solvable–if. There is a bigger problem to be grappled with.

All of the people in each of these provinces are equally in need of the Gospel. God loves all of them equally. However, they are not all equal in access. Reaching people in Stage 4 and 5 is largely a matter of marshaling Gospel resources already present in the province. While it is possible (and sometimes preferable) to send resources from other provinces (e.g. cross-cultural missionaries), it’s not essential.

Reaching people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces who have not yet heard the Gospel nearly always requires some sort of worker to come from a distance–either from a neighboring district within the province, or from a neighboring province, or from around the world. These provinces are often “the ends of the earth” moreso than “Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria.”

Doing this requires effort, intentionality and resources–and most of all focus on the part of people who already have ready Gospel access.

It seems to me the biggest barrier in achieving this focus is this: those of us in Stage 4 and 5 provinces often take for granted the blessing of Gospel access around us. We think people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces aren’t Christians because they choose not to be. This is not the case. Massive movements are happening in many of these places: people are open to the Gospel. The problem is, they haven’t heard. And how can they, when so few go? And so few go, because so few send. This is a problem that needs to be tackled.

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Possible peace deal between Sudan, 5 rebel groups – Link 
… “hopefully the signing means an end to one of the bloodiest and longest wars in recent African history”

Chad: complex security, environmental crises worsen conditions for over 360,000 – UN 
… Departments of Fouli, Kaya on Lake Chad declared ‘war zones’ 
… Security challenges, increased food insecurity, flash floods, etc

A look at the impact of Coronavirus in Algeria – BBC

Waves of Russian, Emirati flights fuel Libyan war – NYT 
… “egregious violations by leaders who flout the embargo have reached new levels” 
… Last week, rebels called for peace talks, but this is why I am cynical

East Africa/Horn (520M)

A virtual tour of Malawi – NYT 
… beautiful photos. Located in East Africa, ~80% Christian.

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Senegal port removed 3,050 tons of ammonium nitrate from its port – NYT 
… and trucked it to Mali, “for use by Malian mining companies.” AP

Mali: where the state is weak, militants broker talks between rival clans – Reuters 
… “turned to mediation in a bid to further entrench their local control” 
… “in the sparsely populated semi-arid lands northeast of Bamako…”

Nigeria’s internal conflict is “a Molotov cocktail of anger, frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rut,” according to a leading bishop in the country. Crux

Report: 6 million Nigerians have fled Boko Haram in 10 years – Guardian 
… and, factors behind conflict between farmers, herders in Nasarawa state – ReliefWeb

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

New research in Iran says 1.5% of Iranians profess to be Christians. Christianity Today … research by GAMAAN, secular Netherlands-based research group …

Over half could face food shortages – UN 
… Lebanon was already in economic collapse even before the Aug 4 blast 
Water shortages compound desperate situation in Beirut – UN 
Half of Beirut’s health care centers out of commission – WPost 
The church steps up in Beirut – MNN 
… “could not be prouder of the church… almost instantly hit the ground”

Horrific story: African migrants locked up in Saudi coronavirus centres – Al Jazeera 
… more, with photos – Telegraph 
… Ethiopia tried to silence people writing about it – Telegraph 
… “two centers, one in Al Shumaisi, the other in Jazan. Housing thousands of Ethiopians for months. 200,000 migrants slated for deportation, rounded up and left in squalid conditions in detention facilities.”

A country-by-country survey of Covid-19 situations in the Middle East – Link

Turkey’s economy contracted 9.9% during Q2 due to lockdown – Link

South-central Asia (2.1B)

#India: 3.8m Covid cases, +83k/day 
Daily record high of 83k new cases as restrictions eased – Straits Times 
Worst impact: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi – Link 
Metro services to reopen nationwide – Jakarta Post 
New job portals, apps trying to help 10s of millions left jobless by Covid – Straits Times 
Others want laws to preserve jobs for locals (not migrants) – Straits Times 
… the Indian economy contracted 23.9% in April-June, unemployment to 8% 
… 19 million salaried, formal economy jobs lost during lockdown

Not just Covid: Afghanistan hit by new wave of polio cases amid pandemic – RFE

Cleaning up toxic uranium legacy: waste seeping into rivers, farmland. Link

Nepal: police used tear gas, water cannons to break up a Hindu religious rally of 2,000 residents who had defied government bans on public gatherings to stop Covid-19 spread. Link

East Asia (1.6B)


Scenes from China’s Guizhou province (Stage 3, 5% Christian) – Atlantic … Stage 3 province, about 5% Christian …

In China, the censorship of the Great Firewall is fostering young nationalists. Politico

Curbs on Mongolian language teaching prompt large protests – NYT 
… The Uighurs are the most notorious story, but seeing a lot of other “less notorious” stories about curbs on non-Han cultures in China. 
… Mongolian schools stay empty as a civil disobedience protest – RFA 
… The everyday ethnic politics of Han-Hui relations – Link

It’s not just China-USA: Cracks in China-Europe relations run deep – Diplomat 
… “tension driven by deeper structural factors… likely to stick…”

Wuhan reopens all schools – CNA 
International flights to Beijing resume as restrictions eased – Straits Times

Facial recognition and bathtime bookings: how universities are re-opening. CNA … “the world’s largest population of university students is heading back to campus in a migration defined by lockdowns, patriotic education and cutting-edge surveillance equipment.”

Scrambles to add hospital beds as resurgence strains system – Straits Times

Southeast Asia (700M)

Nikes for Chicken: online bartering soars in Covid-hit Philippines – Al Jazeeera

Indonesia has new daily high in new cases – Straits Times 
Malaysia to ban entry of people from countries with 150k+ cases – Straits Times 
… bars entry for long-term pass holders from India, Indonesia, Philippines CNA

Vietnam: resume some Asian flights as curbs on business travel ease – Link 
Cambodia: tourism establishments gradually reopen as situation eases – Straits Times 
… tourism down 64% over last year = loss of ~US$3 billion …

Government wants to reopen tourism – Link 
Interesting look at the patronage culture in Thailand – Link 
Continued growth in protests, arrests of protesters – Link

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Covid reappears in Italy, migrants become a target of politicians – NYT

Another data point in travel bubbles and barriers impacting national economies: Despite reopening of borders in the world’s second most popular tourist destination, Spain’s foreign tourist arrivals plummeted by 75%. Tourism is responsible for 12% of Spain’s GDP. It had hoped for more tourists, but after an explosion of new Covid-19 cases, many countries began issuing travel warnings re travel to Spain, and quarantine restrictions on people coming back. Jakarta Post

Russia cases surge past 1 million, now in 4th place – Moscow Times

New Data


… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

Worldwide, 7,000 health workers have died of Covid-19 since beginning – Al Jazeera 
… “health worker infections put recovery at risk” – Sydney Morning Herald 
… will especially impact poorer places where workers not easily replaced …

The looming hunger pandemic. Foreign Affairs 
… In last 30 years, rates of extreme poverty halved, hunger dropped by 25% 
… In last 4 years, number going to sleep hungry every night rose from 796 to 821 million 
… Acute hunger up 70%, from 80m to 135m people 
… War is the big factor. Climate change plays a role. Covid-19 compounding these

Nearly half of the world’s students cannot return to classrooms due to Covid-19. UN 
… almost 1 billion students face either school closures or class uncertainty

New Longreads

Netflix’s “Indian matchmaking” offers wisdom for churches. CT 
… introducing singles can help build the church 
… Justin: globally, 2/3 of new Christians are babies born to Christian families 
… Helping believers marry believers & raise believing children = key part of growth

The WEA MC has a long survey/analysis of Covid-19 impacts that is worth reading. WEA

Your ‘surge capacity’ is depleted–it’s why you feel awful. Link 
… “Our culture is very solution-oriented… it’s a destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution, at least for a while…”

Covid and culture shock feel the same to your brain–and here’s why. Link 
… “When someone moves to a completely new culture, many of the ‘autopilots’ your brain uses for thousands of small decisions every day become ineffective. In a similar way, your current environment has likely changed sufficiently enough that many of your own ‘autopilots’ are no longer working.”

Your unbelieving friends need more stories than syllogisms. CT 
… interesting link to the DMM principle of using Bible stories and personal testimonies that link to individual real life situations 
… “apologetics can become a monologue rather than a dialogue”

Fascinating longread on “The culture of dying” – Al Jazeera 
… looks at how the culture we’re raised in & the religion we choose help us navigate death 
… “the mourners gathered in her aunt’s home… wondering who some of these people were…” 
… “none of us were equipped on how to grieve” 
… “Islamic guidelines provided a practical framework” 
… “don’t talk about grief, sadness… seen as a lack of faith in God’s will” 
… “with medical advancements, our experience of death has become diluted” 
… “those who believed in God showed greater acceptance of death, greater growth in response to loss” 
… “made me wish we had more rituals,… lack can leave people feeling lost” 
… Covid & adapted funerals … 
… “in Islam, this last journey is most sacred…” 
… “absence of rituals meant unable to feel a sense of closure”

Related economic impacts of Covid-19:

… Child labor increasing – “instead of starting 7th grade, this 12-year-old is working in Mexico’s fields.” This is certainly happening elsewhere as well. Link

… “Coronavirus despair forces girls across Asia into child marriage” – Al Jazeera 
… “desperate families plunged into poverty because of the pandemic”

And new market opportunities: “Huge empty ‘ghost’ cruise ship tours” – “using his ferries to offer tours of these hulking vessels would get passengers as close as possible.” – Link

Unoccupied and uncleaned buildings are developing mold infections. Wired

Futuristics & Technology

Desperate for people to fly, Delta, United and American all announce permanently ditching change/cancel fees – Verge

Analysis of a lack of broadband internet around Covid-19 solutions demonstrates that while most have some access to the Internet, the quality of Internet access is not easily distributed. Phone calls, SMS messaging, limited browsing is available very broadly around the world–but high bandwidth inexpensive/nearly-free broadband (necessary for things from telemedicine to video church, etc) is not evenly distributed, and often unavailable in poorer areas. Link

Cambodia plans China-style Internet firewall. Asian Review 
… “national internet gateway” includes “censorship angle”

China complains about app bans in India – Straits Times

How WeChat censored the Coronavirus pandemic – Wired

Apple, Google launching Covid-19 “Exposure Notification” with new OS revisions. TechCrunch

The hot new amenity for churches: a professional video studio. Fast Company

Drug cartels loading bombs on drones to assassinate enemies. Link 
… “widespread on battlefields, now proliferating to organized crime…”

So maybe we’ll get flying jetpacks after all… ABC News

Self-surveillance? Amazon’s new health tracker will use AI to monitor your tone of voice – QZ 
… “Hey Alexa, how did I do in that conversation? Alexa: you need to relax more.”

AI/GPT-2 being used to update Stephen Hawking’s communicator – Forbes 
… one positive example of the usefulness of AI autocomplete of communications

See all past Roundups here.