Giang Mi Lenh’s three-day-old daughter suffered from a high fever. Giang called the shaman, whom he believed possessed powers to interact with the spirit world, and burned spirit paper money to obtain health from his ancestors. A sacrificial pig lay gutted under a bench in the living room as a soul exchange. As smoke filled the air, the shaman instructed Giang to hold his infant and sit on the bench. Chanting and ear-splitting gong sounds followed as the holy woman made negotiations with the otherworld. Similar rituals take place throughout the lives of the Hmong (Miao) people of Vietnam.
History, Folklore, and Promise
The Hmong originally lived on the north side of the Yangtze River in China, but Chinese conquerors drove them into the mountainous regions of North Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. History books talk about marginalized, illiterate people, but the Hmong oral folklore tells a different story.
Legend says they were a literate people that possessed books, but they ate them when they fled persecution from the Chinese. Another tradition declares that the swift river yanked the books off their shoulders, and fish ate them when they escaped. Whatever the reason for the disappearance of the books, the tale ended with a promise: one day, a unique book that told of the one creator of the universe would come back to them.
In the late 1980s, the Hmong in Vietnam encountered Christianity on a Far East Broadcasting Company radio program. A Hmong pastor in California read from the Bible and explained the gospel in their language. As a result, whole villages accepted Christ when they found Jesus more powerful than the ancestral spirits.
In 1955, the British and Foreign Bible Society distributed the first written Gospels in their language, followed by the New Testament in 1975 and the complete Bible in 1997. In his book, Stone Gateway and the Flowery Miao, William Hudspeth wrote, “The once-upon-a-time lost books had been found in a white man’s country, and they told the incomparable story that Jesus loved the Miao [Hmong].” Literacy classes began, and Bibles became treasured possessions. If it became known that someone had one, neighboring villagers would walk hours to look at it.
When Giang’s daughter showed no improvement, he cried out to any possible existing power to heal her. Miraculously her fever left, and she nursed voraciously. Days later, Giang attended a Christian meeting in his parents’ village and heard missionary Sung Mi Phu tell about Jesus. Joy flooded Giang’s heart. Giang asked for a further explanation of the gospel during the break and invited Sung to his home. It was then that Giang, his parents, and his wife happily received Jesus. Since then, three other families have accepted Christ, and a house church was planted.
This small congregation is only one of 1,253 churches in northern Vietnam, begun by the Evangelical Church of Vietnam North. Because of this ministry, the rocky, cold mountainside crevices are home to over 200,000 believers. Their prayer for 2021 is to plant 100 other churches and add another 7,000 souls to the kingdom. Again, Bibles are treasured possessions.
When you gave to the Advancing Native Missions Bible campaign, you helped fulfill a long-ago promise and put 4,000 copies of this cherished book into the hands of the formerly unreached Hmong. Rejoice in the impact you made!
To give to the current Bible campaign, click here.
Photo: ANM President of International Operations, PR Misra (2nd from right), and Co-Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Anju Misra (3rd from right), join with Hmong believers to learn about the need for Bibles.