Reaching the Unreached is Like Playing Hockey

Getting the good news to the darkest places on earth is like playing hockey.

Talking to people in a foreign language and culture is a bit like learning to skate on ice. At first, it feels extremely weird and difficult. People wave their arms, flop around and fall.

Just like skating, getting comfortable in these environments takes a lot of time and practice. It takes a lot of falling, bruises, and frustrations. But it’s also a lot of fun.

The missionary, like the hockey player, has to get on the ice, day after day, and put in the time it takes to be able to move around freely. He has to do drills and exercises (ie. language study). He has and spend time skating and playing with other people (ie. talking with locals).

While most people are happy keeping busy with normal life on dry ground, the hockey player has to sacrifice massive amounts of time and other pursuits to really get comfortable on the ice. As one athlete said, “You have to constantly say no to other things, and yes to your sport.”

The missionary, like the hockey player, is also learning to work with other people, to face constantly changing circumstances and get creative and improvise plays to get to get a shot at the net.

The hearts of unreached people, like the nets in hockey, are fiercely guarded. Before you even get close to them there are lines of defenders. They’re doing their best to block or knock down any opponent with a puck. There’s an entire team of well-coordinated opposition working to stop any kind of advance.

When skating towards the unreached with the puck of the gospel there can be all kinds of opposition. There’s religious fanaticism, suspicion of foreigners, and the everyday troubles that can arise when living abroad. There’s also distraction, doubt, and discouragement that seeks to dissuade down the gospel worker’s own heart from the game. Day after day the task can seem impossible. “Man they’ve got some good defense! How are we possibly gonna get the puck near the net today… it’s hopeless.”

But the missionary, like the hockey player, is spurred on by some indescribable hunger for the game. He feeds off the morale of his teammates, and lunges forward toward the impossible. He weaves through defenders, looks for open lines, and stays on his feet even in the face of big disappointments and crushing hits. He darts in and out of different openings and is always listening to the voice of his coach, the Holy Spirit.

Of course, the missionary can’t continually stay on the ice in the heat of the game. Every now and then he pops out to sit on the bench, catch his breath and rest. But he’s constantly getting back out there, throwing himself in the thick of it, helping his team and hoping for a shot on net.

Then, every now and then, something magical happens. Circumstances line up, and the missionary finds himself sitting in a room full of people with a with 1 or 2 open and curious hearts. Conversation turns into a testimony about Jesus, and there’s an open line past all the usual religious and cultural defenses.

Like a shot in the top corner of a hockey net, the missionary is able to deliver a few words about the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and people really get it. The gospel puck whizzes past the defenders and hits the heartstrings of a people who’ve never heard it before. The goal light goes off. The worker, the team, and the fans watching and praying all feel something like this:

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