Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation: The Isaan Thai
In Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation, a new monthly series, we meet one unreached people group from somewhere around the world. Unreached people groups have no access to the gospel, people who live in a culture with less than 2% of the population confessing Christ as Lord and Savior. Yet Jesus will be worshipped by people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:9). This series is designed to help us regularly pray, as individuals, families, or churches during Sunday corporate prayer, for that great mission to advance.
One Strand of White Cotton Thread.
Lay it out on your table. Spin the thread with your fingers. Drape it across your wrist. Now imagine: what could that strand of thread protect you from?
If you are an Isaan Thai, born in the northeastern region of Thailand, that length of cotton thread symbolizes good luck and the return of the kwan, the 32 spirits who watch over the 32 divisions of the human soul and bring inner equilibrium. The string-tying ceremony, in which this length of cord is bound around the wrist, is a communal event, a chance to gather and invoke the blessings of the kwan upon a person at a significant life moment.
For a secular Westerner, observing that length of thread and that string-tying ceremony, the belief that spirits bring equilibrium to the human soul, or that a string can bring good luck, seems outdated, a quaint but probably valid way of expressing the human search for stability and meaning: “To each his own.”
For the risen Lord Jesus Christ, that length of string, that ceremony, and the approximately 22 million souls who look to the kwan for spiritual wholeness and protection represents a half-truth and a false hope. A half-truth: this is a spiritually dangerous world, and men and women need something, someone, beyond themselves for protection. But a false hope: belief in the kwan and a symbolic length of string will never bring true deliverance or salvation.
One strand of white cotton thread. One deep shadow of spiritual darkness cast over a whole people made in the image of God. To be precise, there are 21, 958, 371 Isaan Thai people who have never heard the name of Jesus, and only 39,745 Christians: 0.18% of the population (Harvest Database Thailand, February 2015). That means 99.82% of the people who live in this region have no idea that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on flesh, entered our world, died our death, and rose victorious over the grave. The vast majority of the Isaan Thai people do not know King Jesus—but he knows them each by name. And he is on the move to call his chosen saints from the Isaan people.
Will you join him in this good work, even now, through prayer? Here’s how you can pray for the Isaan people:
- Pray that God will stir men and women to go proclaim the gospel in Isaan, Thailand. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14).
- Pray that God will expose trust in Buddhism and animistic string-tying ceremonies as a false hope and a vain refuge, and that instead the Isaan people would experience what David describes in Psalm 36:7-8: “The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”
- Pray that God will strengthen the believers and build his church in Isaan.
Finally, a small team of two families from Sovereign Grace Churches will be departing for Thailand in the summer of 2016 to plant churches cross-culturally among the Isaan people. Please pray as they prepare.
Josh Blount is an associate pastor at Living Faith Church in Franklin, WV. He is a graduate of the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College and currently pursuing an M.Div through Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Anna have one son, Elliot.