When many followers of Christ think about ministering to unreached people groups, they think of those in foreign countries but often don’t consider people within the United States who also need to hear the gospel.
UPG North America is a ministry started last year with the specific intent of alerting Christians to unreached people groups in their own backyard and equipping them to reach out.
Jesse Hoyer is the Priority Matrix Manager with Global Gates/UPG North America and explained that the group specifically works to identify, highlight and prioritize the most significant unreached communities in North America.
“UPG North America was developed by Global Gates personnel in 2021,” Hoyer said. “Global Gates was founded in 2012 after two families serving in New York City realized the need for an organization to make disciples among and through the unreached people groups of Metro New York. The vision quickly expanded to include other gateway cities.”
Hoyer said UPG North America grew out of the desire to mobilize prayer warriors and laborers among the most significant unreached groups in North America.
Alabama native and Global Gates missionary Haley McCoy works among an unreached people group in Queens, the largest borough of New York City.
“There are approximately 80,000 [of this unreached group] in the New York City metro area, with around 40,000 living in our neighborhood in Queens,” McCoy said. The team’s vision is to share the gospel, make disciples and plant a reproducing church.
“We desire for this movement to not only stay here in Queens, but to spread across the United States and back to their networks [overseas].”
From a young age, McCoy’s parents instilled in her the desire to love and care for their neighbors in Alabama, but also people across the globe.
‘Hands and feet’ missions trips
“I spent many summers abroad with my mom doing various ‘hands and feet’ missions trips,” McCoy recalled. “During my senior year of high school, my mom began to do outreach among unreached people groups in our community after her worldview was opened through [a] class.”
McCoy said she began to spend every Friday after school with friends as they intentionally loved their neighbors in Huntsville.
“At that time, God really began to burden my heart for the nations,” she said. “During college, I quickly plugged in with and became a member of my sending church, Iron City, in Birmingham. The Lord put others in my life who also had hearts for seeing the nations reached with the hope of the gospel, and I began to ask God what was next for me. I was willing to go anywhere and wanted to be sent to a different country.”
McCoy began feeling a great love for South Asians and enjoyed spending time among them.
“I was growing to love the culture, food, dance and music,” she recalled. “As I began to look for different organizations working among South Asians, the Lord made it very clear that I was supposed to move to New York. I heard of Global Gates through friends who recently moved there and they were praying for laborers to join them. After much time praying, preparation, finishing my degree and support-raising, the Lord provided all that I needed to move and join [the team] in Queens this past September.
Hoyer noted one thing Global Gates is working to accomplish is alerting the Church in America to the needs in their home country.
“For the longest time, work among unreached people groups was equated with foreign missionaries in foreign lands,” she said.
“The world has changed in the last few decades,” she added. “Now, members of some of the least-reached people groups, from some of the least-reached areas of the world, are paying their own expenses and immigrating to gateway cities in North America. While these unreached people group communities are geographically near existing churches, they remain culturally distant.”
Working with multiple ministry partners, including the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, “Global Gates has helped the North American Church see these people groups and recognize the incredible opportunity for reaching them here, and through them, back to their homelands,” Hoyer said.
Sharing the need already is making a positive impact.
“We’ve trained tens of thousands of Christians in sharing the gospel with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews or Sikhs,” Hoyer said. “By God’s grace, He is raising up His church to welcome unreached people groups in Christ’s love, and calling out missionaries to share Jesus and start new churches among these unreached communities.”
Sparking a movement
Hoyer noted that as a result of UPG North America’s work, the first Muslim-background Christian church has been started in New York City. The first churches in an unreached people group in Africa were birthed through connections made in the United States, she added, and many have come to faith in Bangladesh as a result of a Rohingya man who came to faith in Texas.
“Through these unreached people group communities in North America, we can help spark a movement of the gospel across the ocean to some of the least-reached areas of the world,” she said.
The ministry’s website includes resources to help individuals and churches get involved, including an extensive map of unreached people groups.
“This dynamic map is automatically updated from the UPG Priority Matrix,” Hoyer said, which “identifies the most significant unreached people group communities in North America for whom prayer and laborers are needed.”
The website also offers profiles of each group, allowing believers to explore their history and beliefs, along with virtual prayer-walks through major places of worship and gathering spots.
For more information, visit upgnorthamerica.com.