Just because a country is in “the 10/40 Window” or is “unreached” doesn’t mean it’s uniformly hard to enter or minister there. I observe at least three categories or kinds of challenges to the various countries:
Small populations, difficult to enter: like Afghanistan, Libya, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the -Stans, and Yemen.
These nations have relatively small populations and small geographic sizes. While this makes the remaining task smaller in quantity, smaller borders are easier to control and smaller populations are easier to monitor. This makes accomplishing the task of closure in these countries much more difficult and dangerous. These places seem more prone to the flare-ups of violent wars, pandemic disease, etc. (for a variety of reasons). “Reaching closure” in these places will require perseverance, prayer, and creativity–and if we’re honest, most of the people in these places may be “unreachable” at the moment insofar as human eyes can see. Smaller populations may in fact require more resources and a longer-term
Moderate populations, easier to enter: like Chad, Turkey, Egypt.
While it’s not simple to get into countries like these, their population tends to make them “larger markets” that are slightly more open to the world. Better still, many of these have fairly direct ties with the ‘small populations’ mentioned above—so reaching these countries is a bridge into the less open areas.
Very large populations—moderately easy to enter, hard to stay: places like Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, China.
The bulk of the unevangelized individuals in the world are in these countries (simply by virtue of their large populations). While it’s fairly easy to enter as a tourist or on business, it can be harder to get beyond the main airport cities or to remain in place. Consider India as an example: it’s fairly easy to get to Delhi, or some of the major tourist locations (let’s take a tour of the Taj Mahal)—but outsiders ‘stick out’ if you’re in a fairly remote place where most are less-evangelized. More, these larger governments often have the resources to monitor individuals at scale—China’s surveillance systems, for example, are making work there very challenging. The large populations require strategies that can scale to millions, and hundreds of movements to Christ will be required—yet while some ‘startup efforts’ not yet bearing significant fruit may be ignored by the government, burgeoning mass movements are exactly what governments tend to try to quash.
To make matters more challenging, such large populations also have many internal sociopolitical and ethnolinguistic barriers the Gospel will have to jump across. Because of the large populations in these places, and the complexities, I tend to resist thinking of these countries as individual countries, and rather focus on the individual provinces within them. Uttar Pradesh in India has nearly as many people in the United States, and deserves a similar complex strategy.
These three categories may help determine where an agency should put its focus, and what strategies it will require. In addition, when we are considering what we can learn from one place and apply in another, it may be more applicable to compare a small country in one location to a similarly sized province in another, larger place. For example, what works in Afghanistan may not work in India (as a whole), but there may be some provinces (or even sub-province districts) which are similar in makeup to Afghanistan, and where lessons might cross-pollinate.