Originally from China, but led to Christ by a Burmese refugee upon moving to Thailand as a young girl, pastor Dao is a member of the Akha tribe. The Akha number about 2.5 million people spread out across China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. In Thailand, Akha are considered the lowest of the low. Yet among them, giants of the faith have arisen, helping lead to Jesus other Akha, as well as members of other tribes and the larger Thai society. Despite poverty, opposition, and logistical challenges, pastor Dao and others like her are plowing ahead, blazing trails into regions where the name of Jesus has never been heard.
Mark Durene, director of AGWM’s Peninsular Asia area, says, “Prior to pastor Dao’s work, I had never heard of a small tribal church like hers planting a church for a different tribal group. It is a completely cross-cultural mission. This is amazing!”
Thailand is considered one of the most thoroughly Buddhist nations on earth, despite nearly 200 years of unhindered Christian missionary service. More than 99 percent of Thais still do not know Jesus on a personal level. The missionary movement arising within the Akha tribe is truly remarkable. These poverty-stricken believers are supporting their own missionaries, even taking turns fasting their daily bowl of noodles to contribute the funds to support missionaries.
Following is a testimony message from pastor Dao.
My name is pastor Duangdao. Pastor Dao for short. I serve in Padang village among Thailand’s Akha tribe. Mine was one of the first families in this village when it was founded, so everyone considers that I’m native of this village. I’m just part of this village, ever since the beginning.
I am also an Akha, and our tribe does not honor women. They consider women to be weaker and inferior. And so, for a woman to be a leader is not expected. There have been a lot of trials, struggles, and challenges in pastoring here. But I don’t get discouraged. The Lord keeps me strong, and my husband supports our family through farming and business, earning money for our family to live and serve, allowing me to put my full energy into teaching and preaching, as is my calling. And he assists with everything else in the church — he does it all. God gives us strength.
I also am very thankful for eight families — relatives of mine and very encouraging supporters of the ministry. They stood behind and beside me and said: God has called and anointed you to be our pastor. Don’t be discouraged. We are standing right behind you because we recognize God’s calling on your life.
Today we have a large church. But 17 years ago, when I first finished Bible school and began here, the church had just had a split. We lost our pastor, and 12 families left. My older sister said to me, “If God has called you and you have had this Bible education, you should be our pastor.” She gave me special encouragement, and because of that, I am still here serving God.
We do a little bit of everything. I began first with teaching children, and then I talked to parents and other adults. We evangelize. We teach youth, and I go out to visit new people who have come to Christ, and also church members.
The older men in my church are like my fathers and grandfathers, and the older women are like my grandmothers and mothers. I just love serving and leading them. I love the youth and just having fun with them, and God has given me a supernatural love of children. My husband and I have five children of our own.
My dream is to see all the Akha coming to know and love God so much that they don’t just keep it to themselves, but they will share it with people who don’t know Him. I especially want to see young people giving their lives to serving God, even my own son and daughter. Lord, call my son to be a missionary. My daughter is studying Chinese now, so she can learn how to be a missionary, as we pray for God to call her too.
I would encourage the young that now is the time to start serving God. While you’re young, you have strength and energy. Now is the time to give the best years serving God. Yes, do get education as you have opportunity to, but start now with serving God, and God will call and confirm His call on your life.
I want to see the Akha people not just reaching our own tribe, but also going cross-culturally to the Yao and to the other Lua tribes around them, sharing the love of God with other tribal groups.
In 2009, God put a passion and vision in my heart for four neighboring villages. One of them is a Lua tribe. There is not a single Christian family in that whole village or tribe.
I see Jesus with His hands outstretched and saying, “I want these people. I want thousands of people to come to Me.”
We want to reach out and lead people of different tribal groups to Christ, seeing churches established. I believe we serve an awesome God who does the impossible, including fulfilling this vision. But He calls us together to help Him. We are praying for more partners and resources to empower us to move forward the vision. We can’t do it alone.
This story originally appeared in the August 2020 Worldview magazine. Used with permission.