By Mark Ellis
The unreached people groups of the world are often in restrictive countries and geographically remote locations. Eric Ramsey and his team at Tom Cox World Ministries often try to make first contact with these groups, but this sometimes leads them into dangerous situations.
On one trip in Asia, they were in a remote area closed to tourists looking for a certain unreached people group. As they hiked through the jungle, a former Army Ranger trainer on Ramsey’s team happened to notice a strange sight.
“Did you see 10,000 kw of electricity going into the mountain back there?” he asked Ramsey.
“Yeah, I took a picture of it. It’s kind of weird.”
“We were on camera too. That’s a military establishment and I expect in about 20 minutes we’re going to get picked up.”
Sure enough, 22 minutes later two government military vehicles pulled up. The men were detained, placed in one vehicle, while their backpacks and other gear were placed in the other van. Apparently, they had stumbled upon a munitions facility.
Ramsey hid his cell phone in his boot and managed to get a text off to his wife. “We’re getting a ride we don’t need right now,” he texted. “Can you ask the Big Boss for some help?”
His wife, Gaye, immediately got the word out to their prayer network.
In the back of the enclosed paddy wagon traveling down a windy dirt road, one of the men on Ramsey’s team began to experience motion sickness.
A light bulb went on in Ramsey’s mind when he noticed the man’s condition. He thought he could possibly use the man’s sickness to win their freedom. Through a translator, he began to paint a vivid picture of what the inside of the van might look like if they didn’t stop soon.
As they approached an outdoor market they had visited previously, Ramsey asked the driver, “Can we get out here and shop?”
Surprisingly, the military driver pulled over and let them out. Even more astonishing, the driver let them retrieve their backpacks from the other vehicle. This could be nothing other than an answer to his wife’s prayers.
Ramsey recognized the market immediately. Speaking in Pig Latin, he said to his team, “Remember where we bought water bottles? Let’s meet there in 11 minutes.”
The men scattered through the market while their driver waited at the van. Precisely on the appointed time, they met at the water bottle stand, which backed up to the woods. “We cut behind the stand and started high-tailing up the steep mountain through the trees.”
They moved as fast as they could, knowing the military would track them. Ramsey got a GPS bearing on a road at the top of the mountain, so they headed in that direction, hoping someone might pick them up.
“Ask God to bring us a van to get us out of here,” said Matt, one of the team.
“We’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Ramsey replied. “All I’ve seen is bicycles and small cars.” He asked the other man to pray, because his faith was lacking. Matt prayed a bold prayer, knowing only God could do something seemingly so impossible in human terms.
Ramsey was exhausted when he reached the top of the incline and found the road. The second man to arrive was just starting to pull of his backpack when a white van suddenly appeared out of nowhere and pulled up next to them.
“Hey mates, need a ride?” a man called out to them. It was an Australian driving a 12-passenger van.
Ramsey’s eyes widened and a big grin came across his face. God answered Matt’s prayer at exactly the moment they needed help. They clambered into the van and eventually made their way to safety.
“I have story after story of God’s protection,” Ramsey says. “I was frustrated at the moment when Matt wanted to pray for a van. I thought he was stupid.”
“It is truly God’s grace that gives us what we need at the right time,” he says.
With a relatively small staff, Ramsey coordinates mission projects in 124 countries that resulted in 15,000 professions of faith in Jesus Christ last year and 163 new churches planted.
His network of volunteers includes former Green Berets, a retired Army Ranger trainer, survivalists, doctors, outdoor enthusiasts, GPS/GIS mapping experts, and anthropologists.
Some of the tribes they reach have never seen a Caucasian or a foreigner. In their forays, they have been beaten by angry Muslim mobs, interrogated by police, and had other close calls.
They do ethnographic research to better understand each tribe, before a missionary arrives to plant a church. “We want to understand their worldview, moral and spiritual code, belief and value systems, how they do family, how they govern themselves, their beliefs about leadership, their purpose and connectivity to nature,” he says.
When they finish their work, his team supplies a lengthy research paper, along with an interactive DVD with map points, which puts a pioneering missionary “way down the road in accomplishing their task.”