Let the Olympics Remind You of the World’s Greatest Needs

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Over the last two weeks, athletes from all over the world have competed in the 2020–21 Tokyo Olympics. As usual, the games have featured a number of compelling athletes and storylines. And, as usual, we have heard a lot about the “Olympic spirit” and of how these games break down the walls that divide us. Even the commercial breaks are filled with themes such as unity and worldwide harmony. 

While it’s certainly good to see athletes from these different countries showing each other mutual respect, we can easily forget what it’s like for our brothers and sisters in Christ to live in many of these countries. For example, Afghanistan, which has five athletes competing in these games, is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. Afghan Christians face severe persecution, and along with their non-Christian neighbors, they live amid ongoing domestic and international conflict. About 99% of the Afghan population is considered unreached with the gospel. Due to a combination of these spiritual and physical factors, Afghanistan is currently ranked #1 on the Stratus index and is included as one of Radical’s Urgent countries. 

Or, consider the host country, Japan. In a population of over 126 million, there is a relatively small Christian presence. Of Japan’s 36 people groups, 23 remain unreached with the gospel. By some measures, the country is wealthy in comparison to much of the world. However, when it comes to spiritual indicators, Japan is an extremely needy country.

Consider five other countries that you might have seen in this year’s Olympics, and let the statistics below[1] be a reminder to pray for the believers who live there and for the spread of the gospel. 

   1. Iran

  • Athletes in Olympics: 66
  • Unreached: 84 of 94 people groups
  • Stratus ranking: #13

   2. China

  • Athletes in 2020 Olympics: 406
  • Unreached: 443 of 544 people groups
  • Stratus ranking: #54

3. Morocco

  • Athletes in 2020 Olympics: 50
  • Unreached: 27 of 30 people groups
  • Stratus ranking: #27

4. Yemen

  • Athletes in 2020 Olympics: 5
  • Unreached: 21 of 30 people groups 
  • Stratus ranking: #3

5. Saudi Arabia

  • Athletes in 2020 Olympics: 29
  • Unreached: 28 of 44 people groups
  • Stratus ranking: #34

To view similar statistics on other countries, go to


Less than 1% of all money given to missions goes to unreached people and places. That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Let’s change that!

Join the More Than One summer challenge by committing to give monthly to Urgent.

David Burnette serves as the Chief Editor for Radical. He lives with his wife and three kids in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves as an elder at Philadelphia Baptist Church. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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