CLUSTER PROFILE: The Khmer

The Khmer people group of Cambodia number over 14 million people and are ranked 36th on Joshua Project’s list of the 100 largest unreached people groups. They comprise nearly 90% of Cambodia’s population, mostly filling the central and western parts of the nation.

Most Khmer people are rural rice farmers or fishermen (49%) though more are working in the growing tourism, garment, and construction industries. Khmer people wear a garment known as a krama made of red or blue gingham fabric which can be used as a scarf, bandana, hammock for children and even as a weapon. Khmer households are based on the nuclear family though they may include other close relatives.

The Khmer people speak Khmer which is the official language of Cambodia. Among the Southeast Asian languages, they have the oldest written records which date back to the seventh century and show a link to Indian writing systems.

The link with India is not just apparent in their writing system but also their religious practices. The former Khmer empire (9th-13th centuries) adopted both Hinduism and Buddhism from India though today the Khmer people have dropped Hinduism and are approximately 90% Buddhists. Their Buddhist practices intermingle with various animistic practices which differ from region to region.

Between the years of 1969-1979 the US/Vietnam war, a Cambodian civil war followed by the iron rule of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge decimated the country and people of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge, in an attempt to eradicate all outside influence, murdered Buddhists and Christians alike as well as those with western educations and all who opposed them. Ultimately, it is estimated that 20-40% of the Cambodian population was eradicated during that time. Thousands more fled as refugees into refugee camps and surrounding countries. Finally, in 1979, Vietnam ousted the Khmer Rouge.

Since that time, religious practices have been reinstated, and Christian converts have returned to Cambodia from foreign countries and the refugee camps creating an avenue for the gospel to flow through. The task is very great, however, to reach the 13.75 million Khmer in Cambodia who are not believers. This war-torn people needs the Prince of Peace.

WAYS TO PRAY FOR THE KHMER

  • Pray that the Lord would raise up people who are willing to settle among this group and share the Gospel with them
  • Pray that an army of intercessors would intercede in prayer for the Khmer
  • Pray for the Khmer who do know the Lord, that the Holy Spirit would encourage them to boldly share the Gospel with their family and friends
  • Pray for the protection of the believers in this people group

Trusting the Holy Spirit to Speak to my Family

If you’ve ever wondered how to simply, yet effectively disciple people, then our next Nugget training on how to use the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) method is for you. The following is a testimony from a previous attendee of the DBS Nugget training.

I really enjoyed that Nugget training about DBS! After attending that Nugget, I prayed and asked the Lord to send me two or more people to start a group with. On January first, I called my dad, and as he told me about his New Year’s resolutions, he said he would like to put God first this year. (My family are not born-again believers or churchgoers, but my dad is seeking, and the rest of my family is open/ interested in listening.)  When he said that, I offered to start a Bible study at their house. He was all for it! And we actually had our a first DBS gathering about two weeks ago. It went so great! At least I think it did. Everyone was participated, and there were great insights shared, and everyone actively acknowledged (without my help) that they were created to walk in love and obedience to God, who is their Maker. I mean . . . coming from my family, this was crazy cool to be a part of!!

One of my prayers for this gathering was to trust the Holy Spirit to speak to my family, teach and convict them. And this certain Martin Luther quote had just been on my mind, “I did nothing. The Word did everything.” And I prayed about that, for the Word to do everything, and I really felt that’s the best way I could describe that first study. It was awesome seeing the Holy Spirit teach through the Word.  Everyone said they were excited about the next study!

I really enjoyed this method of study SO MUCH! I’ll definitely keep these Stories of Hope handy- thanks for sharing those and for that DBS nugget!

*Whitney

*pseudonym

CLUSTER PROFILE: The Uzbek People

There are nearly 33 million people in the Uzbek cluster spread across 22 different countries.

Roughly 75% of Uzbeks live in Uzbekistan which was once a thoroughfare for the Silk Road, and, as such, it was a strategic point of conquest for many invaders. The result is a culture with a rich mix of various ethnic groups: Russian, Tajik, Kazak, Karakalpak, Tatar, and Korean to name a few. There are large communities of Uzbeks in other central Asian countries (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc.) as well as smaller communities in many other nations, including the United States.

Traditionally they are shepherds, but today most either farm (cotton being their principal crop) or live and work in towns and cities.  Those living in rural villages have no access to the Gospel; however, those living in cities and larger towns are more likely to have access to the gospel message. Despite increasing scrutiny and harassment, the Church continues to grow, mainly in urban areas, where about one-third of Uzbeks reside.

The Uzbek mountain men love to play buzkashi, a wild polo-like game with two teams on horseback. The game, which uses the headless carcass of a goat or calf as the “ball,” can be very violent and go on for several days. The object of the game is to pick up the “ball” and carry it to a goal that may be as far as two miles away.

The Uzbeks are a creative people, they love poetry, music and playing unique instruments, such as the Sato, a two-stringed fretted lute. Uzbek culture is preserved through folk dances and traditional handcrafts like metal working, wood carving, leather craft and wall or textile painting. The women are expert weavers and are known to weave brightly colored rugs.  

Most Uzbeks would call themselves Sunni Muslims. Most, however, are not orthodox Muslims and intermingle traditional beliefs with Islamic practices. Many are practicing Sufis, a mystical branch of Islam. Less than 1% of Uzbeks are Christian, and Uzbekistan is one of the top twenty most persecuted nations in the world. Islamic fundamentalists have called for stricter adherence to Islam; fear of the instability created by Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism has led to the government’s attempt to limit religious practices in support of a more moderate form of Islam. In spite of these uncertainties, Christians have been praying for, investing in, and working for disciple-making among the Uzbek people, many of whom have been very responsive in recent years.

WAYS TO PRAY:

Pray for safety, growth, and spiritual maturity for those in underground house churches.

Pray that religious freedom will soon become a reality for the Uzbek people

Pray for the Eastern Orthodox Christians in Uzbekistan, that they would be bold in their faith and courageously share the Gospel with their neighbors

Pray for the protection of the Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Information for this post was sourced from Joshua Project and Prayercast.

The Power of the Gospel in Rural Africa

One of our Beyond team members, Neill, was invited to study a movement taking place in Africa. He and a team met with over 100 of the leaders in the movement over a period of a week. These men and women live in very rural areas. In fact, some were late to their appointments because they had defended their crops from wild elephants the night before!

In one particular appointment, Neill and an interpreter were interviewing four young ladies, all of whom had started Bible study groups within “streams” of the movement.  This movement has one stream that has 15 generations of new groups started. For the interview, a plate of snacks had been provided, and Neill had intentionally eaten just two of the cashews. He knew that, while he gets three meals a day, these young ladies, two of whom had nursing babies, usually didn’t get enough to eat.

Halfway into the interview, the interpreter and the ladies began laughing. When Neill asked why they were laughing the translator explained by naming off several observations the young women found interesting about the day.

“We’ve never been in a building where we climbed up stairs.”

“We have never been in such a nice “house” before.” (It was a 5-story hotel.)

“We have never been in a bathroom where you just sit down to “go.”

“We’ve never seen a toilet where it just went “whoosh” and took everything away!”

“We’ve never seen a foreigner before. And he ate from the same plate as us!”

Neill felt very humbled to be with these young ladies. They lead such a basic life but are seeing generation upon generation of new believers coming to Christ. They have front row seats, witnessing and participating in the Kingdom coming to earth.

Are we, who have so much, doing all that we can to reach the unreached with the Good News of the Gospel?

The Festival of Colors

Holi, the Indian festival marking the beginning of spring, falls on March 21 this year. Holi is also known as the “Festival of Colors” due to the bright, powdered pigments that are a trademark of the celebrations.

We invite you to join us in praying these colorful Bible passages over the Hindu world as Holi approaches.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” -Isaiah 1:18

Father, we pray for you to prepare the hearts of Hindus everywhere for your freeing gospel. We pray for a holy discontent with Hinduism and their own sin to fall on them so that they would be ready to accept the Good News. May their sins turn from scarlet to white as snow through acceptance of the Lordship of Christ Jesus.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  – Acts 16:14

Lord, we ask you to open the hearts of Hindus to pay attention to the good news of the gospel when your followers speak to them. May many thousands of Hindus come to be called worshipers of the one true God.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. -Jeremiah 17:8

Having received Jesus as Lord and having become your True Followers, we pray, Father, that you would cause them to thrive in you. May Hindu background believers, old and new, not be bothered by “drought times,” but may they stay ever green in you, continually producing the fruit of disciples who make disciples.

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. -Revelation 7:9

Thank you, Almighty God! Thank you for your promise that members from every Hindu believing people group would be counted among those standing before your throne at the end of days.

God Stories Changing Families in India

AMEETH’ STORY

God’s word has the power to change people’s lives, even without the input of an “expert” or an invitation to “church.” As Paul told Timothy all those years ago, the Bible really is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right (2 Tim 3:16).

In India lives a man named *Ameeth. He has two sons and two daughters. He recently told his story:

Life was not peaceful. I was a cruel person. Even my children did not want a relationship with me. Then, on May 22, 2017, I was changed. I was walking along the road when I heard a loud story (like a radio) coming from a nearby house. I stopped to listen to the story. It was about miracles. When the story finished, I walked into the house [in Indian villages, front doors are usually open for ventilation] and asked, “What are you listening to?”

The people looked at me, then asked, “Who are you?!”

I told them that I simply wanted to know about the story I’d just heard. It had caught my attention. Could they give it to me?

They said, “Yes, you may have a copy,” and they gave me a microSD card with stories on it, and a speaker through which I could play the card. I took the speaker home and listened to the stories. I used to drink every night, and do other bad things. However, that night, I did not go out to drink. I stayed home and listened to the stories. My family was happy that I did not drink that night. They liked this better version of me. The next day, again, I did not go out drinking, but stayed home and listened to the stories. The third day, the same.

After three days of this new behavior, my wife said, “I am seeing a change in you. You are not bad like before.” I told her that I didn’t understand it myself, but that when I listened to the stories, I had no desire to do those other (bad) things.

My wife asked, “Can we all listen to the stories?” And so, we did.

My whole household changed. The neighbors also noticed. One of them, *RK, asked my children, “What’s going on in your home? Your father doesn’t do bad like before.”

The children replied, “Uncle, my father has changed. We all listen to stories, and he does not do bad things.”

RK asked, “Is there truly something that can change your father?”

They said, “Uncle, you can also come and see, and listen.”

RK went home and got his whole family. Later, when they entered my home, they found us listening to the Proverbs on the speaker. When I turned off the speaker, RK said, “These are great! I’d like a copy of the stories, also.”

I replied, “I only have one copy, but I can play the stories together for both of our families.”

Thus it is that every evening, 30-35 people meet to listen to Bible stories in this village in North India. A mentor is helping them take their first steps of faith and a baptism service is planned.

*pseudonyms

If You Can Find a Christian

Only twenty-six years old, *Tashi suddenly found herself dying of renal failure. Getting medical help was problematic because Tashi lived a three day journey into the Himalayas. Her family was able to bring her to a city, however, and Tashi began dialysis for her failing kidneys. Unfortunately, the underlying condition remained.

Tashi visited Hindu priests to seek healing, paying them large sums of money to make blood sacrifices on her behalf. There was no improvement in her health. In desperation, Tashi’s family again paid handsomely, this time for Buddhist lama priests to pray for her healing. She continued getting sicker.

Finally, a friend who knew of her situation offered a suggestion, “If you can find a Christian, they will pray for you. They don’t charge you money for prayers. They worship a God, Jesus. Jesus has powers to heal.” The Christian Tashi found was *Jampa, a long time partner of *Dr. Peters and his family, who serve with Beyond.

In response to Tashi’s request, this humble man of prayer said, “Yes, I am a Christian, and yes, I worship a God, Jesus. I am happy to pray for you, and you don’t need to pay me,” Then he continued, “But if Jesus heals you, you will owe your allegiance and worship to Jesus.”

Two weeks later Dr. Peters was able to meet and examine Tashi for the first time during a medical camp he was holding. She was without ankle edema, had normal blood pressure, and her most recent labs were good. She was no longer on dialysis. In Dr. Peters’ words, “If there were someone healed from renal failure, it would look exactly like this.”

A few days later, Tashi, her brother, and his wife became baptized believers amidst great excitement. Yes, the healing was tremendous, and the way she and several family members responded in faith was beautiful, but there was a third reason for excitement.

You see, Tashi’s family is from “Sky’s End” village. For years, Jampa had wanted to spread the gospel in that village but never found an opening into people’s hearts there. God, however, in His great goodness, used Tashi’s illness and healing to open the village to His life-giving words. Tashi began holding Discovery Bible Studies in her home, and four weeks later, Dr. Peters received a picture of a dozen believers gathered in a bare concrete room preparing to dive into God’s Word together.

WAYS TO PRAY

  • Please pray for these new believers as there are many daily hardships – physically, spiritually, psychologically, and socially. Pray for them to grow in maturity, in power, and in the knowledge of God’s love.  Pray that they will not fall away under persecution.
  • Pray for these new disciples to be trained, supported, and mentored well. Pray that their faith would grow deep, for their witness to be bold and loving, and that they would go on to make other disciples of Jesus resulting in a Disciple Making Movement among Himalayan peoples.
  • The words “If you can find a Christian . . .” reflect the reality here: Christians are hard to find. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more laborers to come to this field.

*pseudonym

CLUSTER PROFILE: The Hausa

Though spread over 16 countries, the Hausa cluster, numbering over 48 million people, mainly reside in Nigeria and Niger (44 million). They are a Muslim people with only 2.6% adhering to Christianity. One of the main reasons the Hausa remain resistant to the Gospel is that they have difficulty giving up Islam.

Hausa are the largest group in West Africa. Known to be very hospitable. They have one word that means both “guest” and “stranger”. Though secluded, married Hausa women are allowed to visit one another in the evenings. It is said they actually prefer seclusion as it prevents them doing hard labor in the fields. There is a high divorce rate (50%) and, consequently, there are many single women living in cities. It is not uncommon for them to remarry.

Markets and trading are important factors in Hausa society. For centuries, long distance trade has been crucial to their economy. Many Hausa are also farmers and/or shepherds. The Hausa culture is strongly linked to Islam, which makes it difficult to reach this people group with the Gospel. There is a lot of prejudice against the Christians of southern Nigeria, and there has been intense persecution of the Christian Hausa. Praise God that there is a Bible in the Hausa language, and, historically, scripture has had a powerful impact on Muslims.

A fourth of Hausa words come from Arabic and the Hausa language is written in Arabic characters. Although, many also speak either French or English. The Hausa have a rich culinary heritage. They eat mostly grains such as rice, millet, maize and sorghum which are ground into flour. There is also an abundance of meat, mostly beef in the Hausa culture. Kilishi which is like a jerky made from de-boned beef.

Known for their elaborate dressing, they tend to be elaborate but conservative in the way they dress mostly due to the strong religious beliefs. They are also known for prominent tribal marks which are drawn mostly on the face. It is a way of identification passed down from family to family, members of the same village, identification of royal lineage and people from the same lineage. Since tribal marks are used mainly to differentiate ethnic groups, they vary.

WAYS TO PRAY:

  • Pray that the Lord will raise up loving Christians who are willing to share Christ with the Hausa.
  • Pray that the Lord would encourage and protect the small number of Hausa believers.
  • Pray that a vigorous church will be raised up among the Hausa

Information for this post was sourced from Joshua Project and Wikipedia