June 2009

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History of Missions in the Mekong

by Mekong Ministries

Protestant missions in the Mekong Region began with the arrival of Adoniram and Nancy Judson in Yangon, Burma in 1813. Fifteen years later Protestant work began in Bangkok, Thailand. It was not until the 1860s and 1870s that missionaries were able to begin work in upper Burma and northern Thailand. In 1876 the first member of the China Inland Mission crossed from Yunnan Province in southern China into upper Burma and showed that the region was truly open to the gospel. Presbyterian successes with the Tai Yuan, whom they called “Lao” in what is now north Thailand and Baptist successes with the Karen, and later the Kachin, in Burma, showed that there was reason to hope for greater harvests in the future. In the first decade of the 20th Century work among the various peoples of the Mekong Region began in earnest. Wa, Lahu, Hmong, and Lisu all responded in great numbers to the gospel and new believers became active evangelists and missionaries not only to their own tribes but to other people groups as well. Work in Laos and Vietnam was made difficult primarily due to the presence of French imperialists who prevented or hindered most Protestant ministry in Indochina during their tenure there.

World War II greatly disrupted Christian work in the Mekong Region. After the war, surveyors in Yunnan and Upper Burma found 100 tribes that needed to be reached with the gospel. At the same time they found many Christians eager to reach out to others with the gospel and concluded that, “The native church, aroused to the new sense of responsibility toward sister tribes, together with the hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart fellowship of the foreign missionary group, is the answer to the present startling need.”

However, the Communist takeover of China in 1949 followed by the military coup in Burma in 1962 and then the decades of wars in Indochina meant that many mission ventures were stifled or stopped outright for several decades. It was not until the 1990s that much of the Mekong Region became accessible to Christians from other lands once again. They found that the local believers had not been idle but had maintained their faith, and in many cases spread their faith to others during the years of testing.

From that time until the present, believers from many ethnic backgrounds have been working together to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the region to every people group and every place so that the words of the Psalmist regarding the Messiah might be fulfilled in the Mekong Region: “His Name shall endure forever; His Name shall be continued as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in Him. All nations shall call Him blessed.” Psalm 72:17, KJV.

Mekong Ministries is focused on reaching unreached people groups (UPGs) in the Mekong River Region. This area includes Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Our Vision:

To see churches among every Mekong people group that are spiritually healthy and glorifying God, reaching beyond themselves and planting churches in nearby unreached villages and unreached peoples.

Our Approach:

(100 percent dependent on God for people, resources and fruit.) At Mekong Ministries we value innovative strategies, and make it a point to ruthlessly evaluate our projects & methods.

We aim to facilitate an indigenous and biblical church planting movement through evangelism using oral means, such as chronological Bible storying, with emphasis on lay and local leadership, non-dependency forming methods, and training of those who are then able to train others (2 Timothy 2:2). We make prayer a priority, integrating it with our church planting ministry throughout every step. We have strategic prayer walking teams-focusing on unreached peoples in Laos, Myanmar, China, and Thailand.

The Plan: Adopt a Village

We are looking for groups of believers to adopt a village and be willing to commit to pray weekly for it. This Adopt a Village project-along with our many prayer walking teams-are the primary means of preparing a once spiritually resistant area for the gospel’s seeds which are planted by our church planting team. It is your prayers that change the hearts and lives of the unreached, and have opened the door for the Holy Spirit to move with freedom in the villages - seeing hundreds of people coming to faith in Christ.

The Work

Through evangelism using the chronological storying method, abundant gospel seed has been sown. Over 550 people in 24 villages have put their faith in Jesus and have been baptized. Additional leaders are being sent to new villages to evangelize the people and plant churches.

Short Term Prayer Teams

What if when the good news is shared with an unreached people, their hearts have already been prepared to receive the truth?

We need people with a heart to pray for the lost and turn the soil so the seed of the gospel can take root. Join us on a prayer journey where experienced staff will guide you and your team, starting with pre-arrival orientation and concluding with post-trip debriefing.

The demand of reaching these remote areas requires physical mobility and an adventurous spirit. Your team will come alongside pioneering missionaries to help meet their needs as they target specific unreached people groups in the Mekong region.

Our primary focus is prayer walking. However, we welcome divine appointments for evangelism, tract/tape/material distribution and courier work at times. We are currently accepting prayer teams to walk with us through parts of Laos, China, Myanmar, and northern Thailand.

Long Term Opportunities

Short Term Team Coordinator
Short Term Team Leaders
Strategy Coordinators for UPGs in the Mekong Region - Akha, Wa, Bulang, Tai Lue, Tai Yuan, Lao, Tai Dam, and many others.
Team Leaders are needed for work in Myanmar and China
Team Members for Unreached People Groups work in China
People with nursing/medical/HIV&AIDs treatment training
Agricultural workers
Business minded people in northern Thailand and China
IT, graphic arts, web design needed for northern Thailand
Teachers for MKs and Thai children needed in northern Thailand

Some of Our Projects:
Radio Fund

This fund is used to support the daily radio programs we produce and broadcast from the Philippines. We use it to pay FEBC for airtime, for purchase of radios and for developing the listener base and for follow up training.

Production of Bible Teaching Media

I have become convinced of the importance, effectiveness and urgency of using appropriate technology to advance the Kingdom of God. In this case it has to do with the use of audio materials and video for the spreading of the gospel of Christ.

In China we worked with people who cannot read their own script. Even if they had a Bible in their own language, they could not read it. But these pre-literate societies have incredible ability to remember stories, as all their communication is oral. I read a book and promptly forget the details, because I know I can go back and get the book off my shelf if I need the info, or just “google” it. These pre-literate minority/tribal people remember stories that take hours to tell (sometimes to sing). The Hmong/Miao people tell their history all the way back to when they lived where it snowed for six months of the year. We know that the Hmong/Miao have lived in snow-less regions for over 1000 years. My daughter and I were in a mountain village with a people who had received the gospel about 10 years before but they could not read the Bible. Also they had no radios to listen to gospel broadcasts, and they have no leaders who regularly feed and disciple them. So in fact they have hardly grown in the Lord at all. If we can provide a village with an appropriate audio player, we can then put into their hands recordings of the Bible, films or systematic teachings and preaching that have been dubbed into their language.

From the Editor

by Keith Carey

This month we will begin our fourth yearly cycle of prayer guides based on regions. You may have noticed these last three years that June is the month we pray for Southeast Asia, July is for Northeast Asia, August-October covers South Asia, November is Central Asia, December is the Middle East, January and February cover Africa, March is about Russia, April is Western Europe, and May covers the Americas.

You will notice that some of our upcoming issues will center around unreached people groups as they relate to a water system. We will pray for peoples along the Ganges River in August, and the Amazon River and its many tributaries in May. But this month, we will focus on the Mekong River that meanders through Southeast Asia and into some of China’s southern provinces. Mekong Ministries guided us as to which people groups to include in this issue. The background information will tell you more about their work.