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21 December 2017

Growing Through Challenges

The beginnings of a Bouyei church show how God can overcome barriers of various kinds to grow his people.

Mr. Farmer is a 70-year-old Bouyei man who lives in a village high on the mountain. Several years ago, Mr. Farmer’s daughter came to faith in Jesus while doing migrant work in a large city. When she returned home, she shared her faith with Mr. Farmer, and he, too, believed. Mr. Farmer received a Bible from someone, and even though he didn’t have much education, Mr. Farmer began to read it every day. Still, there was no one to disciple Mr. Farmer or to talk about God’s word with him in his heart language.

In May this year, a group of Christians from a house church network came and showed the Jesus film and shared the gospel with Bouyei people in Mr. Farmer’s area. Mr. Farmer was baptized along with his daughter and two others; about 15 other Bouyei people prayed to express faith in Jesus at the same time.

With no other way to hear about God, Jesus, or the Bible in their heart language, many of these new believers just watched the Jesus film in Bouyei on repeat. Some local believers from another people group visited the new Bouyei Christians and agreed to help them start meeting together weekly and help them grow in their faith.

Challenges abound for the fledgling group. Some members found it difficult to memorize the Bible stories. Others were reluctant to share their faith with nonbelievers. The church has a major gender (and generational) imbalance, as it was composed almost entirely older Bouyei women. Finally, church members are scattered over several villages, some up to a two-hour walk from the meeting location. Given these obstacles, it was unclear how many people would keep coming to meet together.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, God has been overcoming these barriers. Church members have become better at remembering and practicing the stories that they hear each week. They have been especially impacted by stories of healing, particularly the lame beggar from Acts 3. More members have responded in faith to stories about baptism, and five more have been baptized. When a new person shows up at the group or someone comes back after missing a few meetings, the believers are eager to share the stories they have memorized and bring them up to speed. Learning about God from stories in their heart language has been transformational for these people, many of whom are illiterate.

The Bouyei believers are still growing in their ability and confidence in sharing their faith. In the past four months, about 10 more people have believed. The church regularly has 15-20 people in attendance, and if everyone came, the total would be close to 30.

Mr. Farmer and his daughter have emerged as potential leaders of the church. They regularly participate in sharing some leadership responsibilities, such as calling the believers together, hosting church in their homes, translating for some of the other local Christians when necessary, and praying during the meeting. Mr. Farmer is very eager in his faith and is learning much more about God’s word in his heart language.

Since many of the members, including Mr. Farmer, walk up to two hours in order to attend the meeting, the believers have decided to eat lunch together before they begin the long walk home. Out of love for one another and for the Lord, these poor farmers have begun contributing rice and food to their weekly meal together.

Mr. Farmer and the group continue to face many challenges. A clear vision for planting daughter and granddaughter churches is still a way from being embraced. Additionally, leaders need to emerge and be chosen by the local believers, not outsiders.

The believers in this area have also encountered opposition. Some members of the church have been forbidden by unbelieving relatives from participating in church activities, although several have decided to keep on coming despite these warnings. There have been rumors that the believers are gathering to practice some kind of black magic in order to harm others. People associate the spiritual realm with power and tend to be afraid of things they don’t understand.

Yet, the witness of transformed lives have been a powerful testimony. Recently, some of the believers expressed a desire to visit church members who have not been able to come lately due to health issues. A couple of them went to a sick believer’s house, encouraged her, prayed for her and gave her some small practical gifts. After they left, the woman’s neighbors came to see what the visit had been about. They were astonished to see the gifts and hear that the believers had come to care for her. “Can such a good thing as this really exist under heaven?” they asked.

Will you pray for Mekong Minorities?

  • Give thanks for the growth of the Bouyei church over the last few years.
  • Pray for continued growth in numbers and maturity.
  • Pray for God to raise up leaders for the Boyei church.

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