As we sat on the floor, eating with 12 Tai Dam people, Oliver got everyone’s attention and told them, “I’ve been hearing these stories from these guys. I don’t understand everything yet, but I think you should all hear them. They are about God.” Then he looked to me and gestured for me to take over.
Worldwide, there are more than 900,000 Tai Dam people. Most of them (825,000) live in Vietnam. Less than 0.1 per cent know Christ.
But that is changing, slowly. For over a year, a small community of Tai Dam believers has been meeting in a village in western Vietnam. The group’s beginnings were based on prayer walks by Christians in the area. Those walks led to meetings with a Tai Dam named Oliver and his wife Zoe, a couple who welcomed the visiting Christians and has hosted them many times since.
Visiting Oliver and Zoe included late night conversations about God and opportunities to share Bible stories with them. On one visit, they took the visitors to Zoe’s village for a meal with her family, which led to Oliver encouraging them to listen to the stories about God that the Christians had to share. One night during the visit, the Christians asked Oliver and Zoe if they were afraid of the spirits. The wife didn’t need to think long. She quickly told him that she was very afraid of evil spirits.
One of the Christians offered to tell them where the spirits came from, and why he was not afraid of them. He began at creation and shared about the spirits’ origin and how people ended up worshipping them. Eventually, the wife shared that she wanted to follow Jesus and be protected from evil spirits, but was afraid of how her ancestors would respond. Would they ever forgive her? Could she do both? The Christian answered by telling her that there are more stories in God’s Book and she should keep listening to them to find out.
Weeks later, some of the Christians returned and continued sharing stories with the family. They were moved by the stories and seemed close to believing, but still needed something more. The next day, the visitors heard a commotion outside. A relative was being tormented by demons and the family was preparing to take her to the shaman. The Christians offered to pray and ask for Jesus to cast them out. With an entire group of Tai Dam watching, they saw God’s power on display as she was delivered and set free. Witnessing such an act, the husband was ready to turn to God, and was eager for family members to join him. He gathered others who hadn’t seen what happened and the team watched him plead with them to turn to God. Nine people, all family members, turned to the Lord that night and were baptized.
Throughout their first year as believers, there were many visits back to their village. The new group of Tai Dam Christians began to learn chronological Bible stories. They were eager to share with others, but, as with any group of new Christians, there have been challenges as well. For example, in regards to sharing the Bible stories, the Tai Dam believers often didn’t know what to share, so they would emphasize the fact that accepting Christ is free and doesn’t require paying a shaman or sacrificing one’s animals. Furthermore, though they came to recognize that they should not make offerings to ancestors, they’ve found it very difficult to overcome societal expectations. They’ve wrestled with the fear that if they stop making offerings to ancestors, evil spirits will kill them. Also, whenever believers from outside the village came for a visit, the new Tai Dam Christians were eager to gather the group together to learn more stories or talk and pray together, but they would not gather on their own.
Gradually, though, the believers have grown significantly in there faith. A picture-based evangelism tool using a bandana has been created to help the Tai Dam believers share the gospel message clearly in a way that fits the Tai Dam context. Zoe, Oliver’s wife who was one of the first people to welcome the Christians to the village, has shared the gospel with her family members and has seen her parents, as well as their neighbors, believe and be baptized.
Recently, a 77-year-old Tai Dam man from Thailand visited the village. He has publicly turned away from all spirit practices and ancestor offerings. The village rumor was that the spirits would break his neck within three months. It has now been three years and his testimony is making an impact. Slowly, the Tai Dam Christians are ceasing from traditional ancestor offering; other believers are encouraging them to be creative with developing replacement practices that honor God, but also show their community that they have not rejected their culture or their ancestors.
Finally, the group has also started meeting together regularly as a community of believers, to pray, worship the Lord, and share a story together from God’s Word.
Many more Tai Dam villages remain unreached by the gospel, but the answers to many prayers are unfolding in this village in western Vietnam. God is being glorified as he builds his church there.
Will you pray for Mekong Minorities?
- Pray for people of peace to emerge and for the news about Jesus and his saving power to spread rapidly among the Tai Dam, where the majority of the villages remain unreached.
- Pray for the growth and the development of this young Tai Dam church and for them to be active and faithful in forming new groups in nearby villages.
- Pray for Tai Dam believers to share the Good News in ways that are appropriate to Tai Dam culture and for grace and courage to adjust cultural practices in order to honor God and maintain solidarity with their culture.