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The Global Prayer Digest is a daily devotional encouraging prayer for Unreached Peoples.  A ministry of Frontier Ventures (formerly the US Center for World Mission), this devotional is available as a daily subscription from the GPD website (see link above). 

Keith Carey, the editor-in-chief of the Global Prayer Digest, has graciously given me permission to post their daily devotions here in order to encourage more prayer for the Unreached Peoples.  Please join in the prayer for the gospel to go to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14).  If you find these devotions helpful, you can subscribe to their daily e-mail or to the printed publication - or just check them out here on Pray.Network!  Past monthly issues of the GPD are also available on their site.

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July 25: Mjuniang (Jooh-nee-ah)

Are these people really Chinese? wondered the visitor from Australia. He was visiting a Mjuniang village in China. A few of the villagers had red or brown hair, unlike any neighboring people groups. At meal times, they ate with spoons, not chopsticks.

This people group lives in three-level houses built on hillsides. They store grain on the top floor, live in the middle one, and give shelter to their livestock on the bottom floor.

Experts don't know where the Mjuniang originally came from. They speak a language of the Miao language family like their neighbors. But some look a little like Europeans. Some believe this people group migrated to China from Europe.

Lutheran missionaries tried to reach out to this people group with the message of salvation. They were driven out by the Chinese Civil War during the 1930s, and have not returned. Most Mjuniang people alive today have never met a Christian. 

Ask God to open the door for Christian missionaries to resume reaching out to the Mjuniang of China. Pray for them to soon have Christian materials in their own language. May this people group come to see Jesus Christ as the loving God who wants to save them from their sins. May they be discipled in the ways of Jesus Christ, and be used of Him to spread His name to others.

 

Eph 2:18, NLV

Now all of us can go to the Father through Christ by way of the one Holy Spirit.

Pray that the Mjuniang people will understand this verse, and eagerly seek God the Father.

July 26: Lupanshui Miao (Loo-pahn-shway-Meow)

Can a people group change their religion? Like many other peoples of China, many of the 66,000 Lupanshui Miao people were traditionally animists who worshiped spirits, but the younger generation is mostly atheistic and are focused on building careers in the city. These people value hard work over religion.

Although the Lupanshui are one of the Miao groups, they speak the major dialect of Hunan, their home province. They are viewed as an anomaly within the Miao people group, preventing them from intermarrying with any of them.

Today, most of the Lupanshui Miao reside in their namesake city, Lupanshui. At one time government authorities forcibly enlisted the Lupanshui Miao as soldiers and guards, turning them against other Miao peoples by making them into spies.

Difference in language isolates the Lupanshui Miao not only in terms of identity but also in regards to the spread of the gospel. Although Miao churches exist in their region, the congregations speak other languages and are therefore unable to communicate the gospel directly to this people group. There is a small number of believers in the Lupanshui Miao community; however, lack of interest in spirituality and access to the gospel message in their own dialect impedes the spread of the gospel.

Pray for boldness among believers to share the gospel with their neighbors and for hardened, worldly hearts to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

 

Ps 20:7-8, NLV

Some trust in wagons and some in horses. But we will trust in the name of the Lord, our God. They have fallen on their knees. But we rise up and stand straight.

May the Lupanshui Miao people soon put all their trust in the God who created them!

July 27: Eastern Ghao-Xong (Gaow-Shong)

“Badly oppressed by the Chinese over a long period of time … independent in spirit….” These are two descriptions made by missionary Ralph Covell regarding the Eastern Ghao-Xong people of Hunan Province. He went on to say that these two factors contributed to their reluctance to adopt a new faith.

The same resilience that guarded the Ghao-Xong in the face of worldly persecution insulates them from external influences, particularly regarding spirituality. The Eastern Ghao-Xong people believe that they were created by a dragon dog god called Pan Hu and actively worship a variety of spirits. They believe in gods that inhabit the doors to their home, earning their favor by covering doorposts with the blood of sacrificed pigs once a year. The Ghao-Xong also worship their ancestors and rely on shamans to explain misfortunes. The shaman prescribes sacrifices in order to appease the gods and restore order and balance.

The Ghao-Xong cultivate mulberries and silkworms and weave their clothing; they are set in ancient ways of life, and as a consequence, their education and health care systems remain undeveloped. Their tradition of painting pig’s blood above the doorway alludes to the Passover, and represents a redemptive analogy for faith in sacrificial blood.

Pray that the Ghao-Xong people would put their trust in the blood of Jesus, rather than the blood of pigs. Pray that they would turn away from idols and worship the one true God.

 

Gen 50:19-20, NLV

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned to do a bad thing to me. But God planned it for good, to make it happen that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Pray that the suffering of the Eastern Ghao-Xong people will strengthen them when they are introduced to the God of all nations.

July 27: Eastern Ghao-Xong (Gaow-Shong)

“Badly oppressed by the Chinese over a long period of time … independent in spirit….” These are two descriptions made by missionary Ralph Covell regarding the Eastern Ghao-Xong people of Hunan Province. He went on to say that these two factors contributed to their reluctance to adopt a new faith.

The same resilience that guarded the Ghao-Xong in the face of worldly persecution insulates them from external influences, particularly regarding spirituality. The Eastern Ghao-Xong people believe that they were created by a dragon dog god called Pan Hu and actively worship a variety of spirits. They believe in gods that inhabit the doors to their home, earning their favor by covering doorposts with the blood of sacrificed pigs once a year. The Ghao-Xong also worship their ancestors and rely on shamans to explain misfortunes. The shaman prescribes sacrifices in order to appease the gods and restore order and balance.

The Ghao-Xong cultivate mulberries and silkworms and weave their clothing; they are set in ancient ways of life, and as a consequence, their education and health care systems remain undeveloped. Their tradition of painting pig’s blood above the doorway alludes to the Passover, and represents a redemptive analogy for faith in sacrificial blood.

Pray that the Ghao-Xong people would put their trust in the blood of Jesus, rather than the blood of pigs. Pray that they would turn away from idols and worship the one true God.

 

Gen 50:19-20, NLV

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned to do a bad thing to me. But God planned it for good, to make it happen that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Pray that the suffering of the Eastern Ghao-Xong people will strengthen them when they are introduced to the God of all nations.

July 28: Chinese Mission Efforts

History attests that national mission movements occur during periods of economic growth, and China’s economy is either the largest or second largest in the world, depending on what source you read. Through trials and sufferings God has blessed the church in China so that it is now in a position to bless the world. Unregistered house churches have taken the lead in a global mission effort to reach the entire world. To accomplish this vision, they want to raise up a younger generation to plant thousands of churches in cities, reach China’s nearly 500 unreached minority people groups, and send out 20,000 overseas missionaries by 2030.

China has learned to count the cost and carry the cross. Openly declaring oneself a Christian can lead to death among certain people groups in China. New believers are often asked if they are willing to be persecuted and possibly killed if they do not renounce Jesus as their savior. They are walking into a life of hardship. The underground church has learned from the earlier mistakes of the Back to Jerusalem movement with its vision to send 100,000 missionaries to the Middle East. They are taking into account the lessons learned. Twenty thousand missionaries went to China in the last 200 years. Now Chinese believers want to repay that debt.

Pray for God’s vision for China to bless the world to materialize into a great sending base that disciples the nations by 2030.

 

Prov 22:4, NIV

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.

Pray that the Chinese church will be humble before the Lord, always listening to His heart, and obeying Him.

July 29: Western Xibe (Shee-ba)

Sometimes people groups move to find a better place to live or care for their livestock, but other times people are forced to move for political reasons. This was the case with the Western Xibe people of northwestern China next to the Kazakhstan border. The Eastern Xibe people live in northeastern China. Three thousand Xibe were forcibly marched across China in 1763 to man a garrison for the powerful Manchus. A two-year march was turned into a one-year grueling journey that caused many deaths and most infants to be abandoned along the way. Today’s Xibe number about 55,000 and are descendants of that death march. Although the Western Xibe live in a region that is predominantly Muslim, they have resisted conversion and remain mostly shamanistic, worshipping many spirits and gods.

The Western Xibe are mostly bilingual speaking their own form of Xibe, but also other languages depending on their location. They are known for their excellent horsemanship, probably due to the Mongolian influence. Their iron-tipped arrowheads have been known to pierce iron helmets. They are undoubtedly one of the 500 ethnic groups that China’s Mission 2030 (see day 28) hopes to reach with the gospel. A recent visitor to their region noted, “Many Xibe have adopted the religion of their Han neighbors which means that some have even become Christians!”

Pray for this little nucleus of Xibe believers to grow into a strong church planting movement.

 

1 Cor 4:12-13, NET

We do hard work, toiling with our own hands. When we are verbally abused, we respond with a blessing, when persecuted, we endure, when people lie about us, we answer in a friendly manner. We are the world’s dirt and scum, even now.

Pray that the abused Xibe peoples will soon joyfully turn their hearts to Christ just as the first century believers did in the time of Paul the Apostle.

July 30: High Places Prayer Efforts

Camels have been called the ships of the desert. The remarkable animal has been equipped by God to survive in this harsh environment. The Alxa Mongols of China’s northwest area close to Mongolia depend on the camel for their very existence. There are an estimated 200,000 camels in the region. Camel milk is a food source. It can be turned into cheese, butter and yogurt, and is also fermented into an alcoholic drink. Life is hard for the Alxa Mongols and there is a high infant mortality rate. Therefore, a child’s birthday is not celebrated until he reaches his third birthday.

The Alxa Mongols live much as many other Mongol groups, but there is one important difference that sets them apart. They are fervent followers of Islam and are ostracized by other Mongol groups who presumably resisted conversion. One mission agency has noted, “They do indeed qualify as a people group, because, like caste, the difference is great enough to prevent intermarriage or even inter-friendship.” Because of their social and religious isolation, they will be one of the most difficult people groups to reach with the message of Jesus.

Pray for God to call the Alxa Mongols to Himself and transform their communities so that Christ is glorified. Pray that soon there will be a disciple-making movement among them that will affect not only their communities, but others as well.

 

Matt. 19:26

Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

Pray that God will do the impossible, and break through to the Alxa Mongols of China.

July 31: Sichuan Mongols

A prince without a kingdom! Sounds like a fairytale, but there is a deposed prince in a tiny remote village in Sichuan Province of China. La Ping Chu is the descendant of Mongol warlords that ruled this tiny region from 1253 AD until communist rule began. The communists took over and deposed him, but were afraid to kill him and make him a martyr, so they sent him to a re-education camp for several years. He is quite old, but still alive today and still respected by many older Mongols of the area. There are no known followers of Christ in this region, but we are told that foreign visitors a few years ago visited La Ping Chu and offered to pray for the prince who was so bent over from a stomach ulcer that he could not stand upright. He was completely healed!

The Sichuan Mongols are completely surrounded by unreached people groups on every side. Gospel radio broadcast in Chinese will have little effect because they do not speak Chinese, only a Mongolian peripheral language. Most Sichuan Mongols are farmers or fishermen and follow Buddhism. They are still hoping someday their kingdom will be restored to them.

Pray that the Sichuan Mongols will hear of the heavenly kingdom that they can inherit when they hear of Jesus, the savior who died for them.

 

1 Sam 2:8, NET

He lifts the weak from the dust; He raises the poor from the ash heap to seat them with princes and to bestow on them an honored position. The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord, and He has placed the world on them.

Pray that the Sichuan Mongols will hear and understand that it is the Lord who is sovereign, and the only one to be obeyed.

August, 2018 - Introduction

The Many Challenges Facing Bible Translators

Bible translation has been undertaken in South Asia for hundreds of years. There are translation challenges that arise from the different cultures. There are also issues with translating the original Greek and Hebrew text into another language family. In addition, there may also be factors which arise from the translation process. Understanding these challenges will bring up many topics for prayer as you read the daily entries in this Global Prayer Digest (GPD).

 

The Cultural Challenge

In South Asian cultures the family and family relationships are central for anything having to do with spiritual matters. Hindus and Buddhists, like the people groups we will pray for this month, practice their ritual of faith in their homes. There is often a family altar, and each person in the home will offer food or incense before the altar on a daily basis. This may be combined with a prayer or song.

Their cultures place high value on respect for elders and they perform rituals that incorporate children into the household of faith. There are various ceremonies for a new child in a family from the time the mother knows that she is pregnant. There are also ceremonies at birth and for the naming of the child, and the infant may be incorporated into the family by a ceremony which involves breathing or blowing on the child. This is seen as determining his fate or destiny. Further ceremonies are held at other “first” events, such as eating the first solid food, first attending school, first shave or menstruation, etc.

The frequency of rituals and their emphasis on the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth continually connect family members. These connections make it difficult for a person to turn to Christ, as it takes them away from the family at key times when these rituals are implemented. Those who become involved in Christian work, such as Bible translators, are further estranged from their non-Christian families. Family members view coming to faith in Christ as a rejection of them as a family. Sometimes the isolation from friends and family will cause a believer to return to their traditional beliefs.

 

The Worldview Challenge

How an Asian translator views the world may affect how he or she translates scripture. Since all life is sometimes seen to be of equal value in these cultures, Christian teaching may begin with the differences between humans and animals. Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation where there is an unending cycle of birth and death. Translating accurately from this context requires wisdom to bring clear understanding.

In addition to a translator’s culture, background, and worldview, the translator must also consider the community’s religious characteristics when they translate. One particular area is in the complexities of the supernatural gods that these Asian cultures worship. No single god is seen as entirely good or entirely bad. The concept of a man living a perfect life is unbelievable to most South Asian people, even if he has supernatural help.

These cultural factors affect Bible translation projects. Often the initial translation is undertaken by a speaker who lives far from their family and language community. A believer in this situation may have fewer problems being involved in translation, as they will not have family or community pressures on them to return to traditional beliefs. But this estrangement may make it difficult to check Scripture passages for comprehension in the home community. It may also present challenges to having a team of several members doing translation together, as there may be just one or two followers of Christ in a given location. So a non-Christian may adopt words from their spiritual upbringing and apply them into the translation. If these translators are not accepted by the home community, the community may reject the translated books. Even when the Scriptures are accepted, the distance from the home community may mean that they are not able to encourage use of the translation because the translator is not present to explain the Scriptures.

One last issue facing translators is the use of key terms or phrases for spiritual thoughts. Because of the complex hierarchies and relationships in their various religions, each term for a spiritual being has implications when used in a translation. Terms for “creator” and “God” may bring along unwanted additional meanings when used in the biblical context. Concepts such as “guilt” and “sin” also may be hard to translate in a way that communicates well to a Hindu or Buddhist. When a new term is coined or a phrase borrowed from another language to use for a difficult term, the Bible seems like a foreign book and not really in their own language.

 

Language and Understanding Challenges

Many Asian languages have precise forms for addressing a superior or inferior person. There may also be special forms for royalty or religious leaders. This can lead to difficulties for translators who are not native speakers of the local language as they may not know all the implications of a particular form of address. In the gospels Jesus speaks to various people from inside and outside his own language area and from various social levels. Each time the translator must be sure to use the appropriate form of address which may also affect nouns or verbs in the sentence. In particular, the way one speaks to slaves have different implications, so things can become complicated and murky. For example, in Paul’s letters he calls himself a “bond-slave” to Jesus Christ. The translator may also need to use different forms when Paul writes to Onesimus or to his owner, Philemon, about his runaway slave.

 

Conclusion

One final area that may be affected by cultural and other factors is where to begin translation. For example, one translation project in South Asia found that translating an Old Testament book of the Law alongside the New Testament book of Hebrews gave the Hindus in their area a way to understand the background of Jesus coming as fulfillment of the Law. The religious requirements of the Law were something the group could relate to, and they understood freedom in Christ more fully because these two parts of Scripture were presented together.

Many factors important to a good Bible translation are faithfulness to the original text and accuracy in communicating it in another language. Translators must consider the cultural, religious, and language issues in order to produce a translation which communicates accurately. In addition, other cultural factors make it difficult to find skilled translators or to keep them in a long-term project.

 

The Situation Needs Prayer!

  • Pray for language helpers to have the stamina to stay with a Bible translation project until it is finished.
  • Pray for God’s wisdom for each translator in South Asia as they face these issues in translation work.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide Bible translators to find the best way to translate each language.

 

Aug. 01: Testimony of Krishna

The Apostle Paul told the church in ancient Rome that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” This verse can be found in Romans 10:17 and was the reason why a Hindu man named Krishna (not his real name) put his faith in Christ by simply reading the Bible!

Life wasn’t easy for the young believer. He was repeatedly humiliated by his neighbors, accused of being a “cow eater” even though he still abstained from beef. His pastor had prepared him and the other five members of his church to endure this kind of criticism. 

From the time of his conversion, Krishna lived with his parents and younger brother as he continued to teach in his village. Within two years of his conversion, Krishna’s younger brother came to Christ. Six years later, his parents also professed faith in Jesus. They had noticed behavior changes in Krishna’s life that helped them grow in their newfound faith. By this time Krishna was hosting weekly Bible classes in his parent’s home that have resulted in encouraging local pastors to teach through the Word of God.

Give thanks to the Father for the growing faith of the believers in Krishna’s church. Pray that many people in the Himalayan nations would read the New Testament, and that the message from that book would spread throughout the region.

 

Rom 10:17, NLV

So then, faith comes to us by hearing the good news. And the good news comes by someone preaching it.

Pray this verse will penetrate the hearts of hundreds of Hindus in the same way that it did Krishna.

Aug. 02: Testimony of Krishna, Continued

After coming to Christ, Krishna’s parents removed the Hindu shrine (including their idol) from their home. When the family refused to contribute the annual offering of homemade alcohol to the village deity, the family was excluded from local projects like road construction, well digging, and crop irrigation. After a while, though, they were invited back into these activities.

In the 23 years since Krishna was saved a small church has been established in the village. While the work has been difficult, a congregation of 30 to 50 believers has been built on land that is jointly owned by Krishna’s father and two pastors.

Krishna also has been working on a New Testament translation that is in the local language and is spoken by an ethnic minority within his country. One of the problems associated with this new translation concerns the healing ministry of Jesus. In Hindu cultures shamans are often hired to perform healings using blood sacrifices of chickens and alcohol offerings.

Concerned that many would view Jesus as just another shaman, the translators have included footnotes with the biblical text emphasizing His deity. Also, many pastors are being taught about how Jesus healed many people and what distinguishes Him from the local shamans.

Pray for the protection of Christian families as they face persecution from unbelievers. Pray that the work of the translators will bring the ministry of Jesus to more people groups in this unreached region.

 

Col 1:4, NLV

We give thanks to God for you because we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus. We thank God for your love for all those who belong to Christ.

Pray that these new churches in Hindu strongholds will be known for their faith in Jesus, and for their love for others.

Aug. 03: Testimony of Krishna, Continued

The translation team continues to meet with local pastors to determine which words are the most useful. Krishna relates that nearly 150 pastors speak the local language. The first pastor began his ministry in 1978.

As the final stages of the New Testament are being readied, excitement among the churches is spreading. Oftentimes pastors will choose words that are the same as in the national language. They are accustomed to reading the Bible in their own language.

There were dedications of the translation at various locations last April. The new translation will clarify key biblical concepts. This will strengthen understanding among the believers and improve evangelistic efforts.

Praise God for the good fruit that is coming from this ministry; one that began when the Holy Spirit revealed to Krishna that faith comes by hearing. Pray for the Lord to use the dedication of the new translation of the New Testament. Pray that greater knowledge and understanding of the Word of God will result. Pray that this minority people will soon invite members of unreached people groups to join them in studying God’s word. Pray for these Bible studies to result in disciple-making groups emerging all over the Himalayan Mountain region.

 

Col 1:6-7, NLV

The good news came to you the same as it is now going out to all the world. Lives are being changed, just as your life was changed the day you heard the good news. You understood the truth about God’s loving-kindness.

Pray that as this church planting movement flows throughout the Himalayan region, that it will transform lives and communities for the glory of God.

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