THE WORD MISSION’s outreach to unreached areas – Akha people
In recent months Pastor J, leader of The Word Mission and President of the Advent Christian Conference of Myanmar, has led teams of students from their college to areas of their country unreached with the Gospel.
Following are his report and comments about one of those trips – to the Akha people – together with some of the pictures which accompanied his report:
“Praise the Lord with us.
We reached one Akha village in April 2015. All villagers are eating opium. All villagers take drugs.
Urgent prayer request:
- Pray for new believers to grow and delight in the Lord Jesus.
- Pray for Akha Chief People, that they may have the knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ.
- Pray for the children in the Akha region. Most of the Akha children are not in school, are using drugs, and are facing trouble because of gangs.
- Pray for the orphanages. Many of the Akha children are orphans.
- Pray for the Akha villages. In many of the villages there is no transportation, no church, no school, no medical care, so on. A village without Jesus is a village with demons.
- Pray for The Word Mission, that they will reach more unreached people groups in Akha Land. Akha without Jesus is really Akha.
- Pray for freedom for peace.
Ready for Christ
Pastor J provided the following information about the Akha people…
“The people of Akha were known as those that were originally descended from one of tribes of China. That tribe was located Yunan state in China. Still today, most numbers of Akhas are occupying in Yunan State. Out of that state, this tribe slowly moves to spread to south-east Asia; such as Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and so on.
The people of Akha are called “kaw” or “Ekaw” by Shan and Burmese. The origin meaning of the name is “far distance” or “departure”. These people are called “Hari” in China as well as “Kha” in Laos.
The Akha land is located in the eastern part of Myanmar. On the east, the Akha land is bordered by Thailand and Laos, on the west by ThaunGyi Township, on the south by Kayin State, and on the North by China. The people of Akha do not live in any particular and permanent location for many reasons. They usually transfer their village from one place to another. They prefer the place of hills and valleys. The location distance between one village and another, can be three or four days of marching (on foot.)
Akha people speak in the language of Tibeto-Burman that is closely spoken by Lahus and Lisus tribes. There are three major common languages: Jeu-Goe, Jeu-Jaw and Akheu.
They meet their daily needs through hunting and shifting cultivation systems. The Akha subsist on rice, maize, millet, tobacco, potato, onion, tomato and other crops. Opium poppies are grown and its product is sold to itinerant traders. The majority of opium planters in the Golden triangle are Akha. For many years, the Akha have grown crops of poppies.
The undeveloped tribe of Akhas mostly get married around 12 or 14 years old. According to the latest record of their history, they get married at 12 years old. In the ceremony of marriage, buffalo, ox and swine are killed and according to their custom, traditionally khaung ye (beer) is provided especially for elders and old women. Households are composed of a man, his wife or wives and married sons with their families. This extended-family living pattern means the average household numbers ten persons. It is sad to know that if one girl from a village wants to get married, first she must have sex with the Chief of the village. Then she could get married. But when we ask: if the Chief’s daughter wants to get married how it will it be for her? They could not answer our question. Family and ancestors are important in Akha religious life.
While I was in the Golden triangle, we went to an Akha village for the Gospel. We preached the word of God from house to house at night. We asked permission from the Chief of the village for preaching. Some other villages were controlled by the Chief of the village.
An Akha man can take more than three wives. They are polygamists. For the Akha, boys are especially preferred than a girl to be born. It is rejected for twins to be born. If twins are born, the dust is put in the mouth of the child for the purpose of killing. The house of twin birth is also destroyed. The parents of these twins are recognized as having committed unaccepted sin and must be expelled from the village.
There is very little development in literacy there. Most tribal people are uneducated because in many of the villages there is no government primary school. Therefore, many of them cannot read nor write. For the people of the Akhas, there is much need of education. We did not find any schools in Akha villages, yet the people who live in urban areas are educated and students. But because of lack of communication and transportation, there were so few educated people in rural population. To reach to them is not so easy because of undeveloped living standards and transportation. The lack of education is the reason that it is sometimes not easy to share about Christ to them. They seem to delight in opium. It is sad to say that opium seems to have been the best teacher for Akha people over the years.
The Akha people are spirit worshippers and animists, and also worship their ancient parents. There are four categories of spirits:
- The great spirits – these spirits are the gods of human being. Among these spirits are the sun spirit and moon spirit.
- Owner spirits – are for the purpose of protecting the people.
- Afflicting spirits – are worshipped to be the protector of many diseases. If this spirit is against, the spirits cause many diseases. They include swamp spirit, termite-hill spirit, wind spirit, lightning-bolt spirit, hot springs spirit, water fall spirit and other spirits.
- Spirits who enter people – these spirits influence people and cause many troubles upon men. Inside and outside spirit – when Akhas people have many affliction and troubles from spirits, the people approach their priestess and Shaman for counsel. If the inside spirit makes trouble to family, they must be treated in the home. If outside spirit does, they should take the man (violent by spirit) to the gate of village to be treated there.
There are many annual offerings of ancestry in Akha people. There are New Year offering, offering for preparing to enter the village, offering for sowing occasions, or vegetables, for villages, for hens and chickens, for the harvest, for the village high priest and so on. The Akha offer sacrifices for a variety of reasons, for the coming of rain in seed-time, for the protection of the vegetables, for recovery from illness, for relief from famine, for good harvests.
The Akhas practice ancestral worship and animism. In the year 1870, Dr JN Cushing and his wife arrived in Keng Tong. In 1947, Paul W Lewis and his wife arrived, and preached the gospel of Christ to the Akha. Dr Telford and saya TunGyaw successfully formulated an alphabet for Akha languages. Thus, he gave them their literary system. After many years, the first convert of Akha was Kay Bye and baptized on 11th January 1907. Akha Baptist church was founded on 19th April 1936. But to date, this church has not yet grown. The leaders themselves are not yet born again. Akha people are heavily involved in ancestor worship and show a remarkable knowledge of their genealogy back 60 generations. Veneration of the ancestors is important because it is believed that the ancestors can bestow blessings on those still living.
In Myanmar and Thailand the Akha have responded in large numbers to the gospel. In China however, there are only few believers as most people have never heard the gospel. There are 30% Baptist, 20% not yet baptized and 50% Animists. There are many Akha people to reach in the Golden triangle. There are many reasons that Akha churches could not grow – the Akha people admire ancestral worship; most believers love worldly pleasure more than spiritual things; there are few workers among Akha Christians; transportation Problems; most workers are not interested in doing mission work.
The people of Akha still need the pure gospel that gives life and exalt the nation today. Though they came to normal Christianity over a hundred years ago, unbelievably there are ten hundred villages of Akhas that are as yet unreached today. You are warmly invited to reach those people to take them to Christ. It really is a great challenge of our faith by knowing about the needs of the uncivilized.
It’s not enough to hear the voice of their crying and watching of their pitiable pictures. Now is the time for us to save and bring them to the Lord from their unending pains and bondage of the hand of world’s prince. The Word Mission has experienced to identify with them and realized those who were in darkness, died without Christ. As Paul heard the voice of Macedonian, The Word Mission heard the voice of Akhas. Do you hear them? If so, the Lord really needs you to go for Him there. Making disciples is the heart of The Word Mission. The Akhas need the gospel. The need and calling there are great.”