The Akha people were originally an autonomous nation, now located in many nations.
The Akha people were originally an autonomous nation located in Mongolia. Over the centuries, various political and economic distresses have driven them southward into five different countries: China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Though no formal census has been taken, there are an estimated two million Akha in these five nations. Approximately 70,000 Akha call Thailand home, and most live in the mountainous northern province of Chiang Rai. The Akha have a beautiful and complex culture with scores of legends, customs, and rituals traditionally passed down from father to son. Genealogy is very important to the Akha, and most men can recite it back for seventy generations.
Like most tribal peoples around the world, the Akha are farmers and grow a variety of crops including subsistence crops such as rice, corn and pumpkin as well as cash crops like coffee and tea. They toil long and hard in their fields almost every day of the week. Most Akha families also raise chickens, pigs, water buffalo and sometimes dogs for meat. Though not as proficient as their neighboring tribe, the Lahu, Akha people also like fishing. They often do this by damming a creek with boulders, causing the water level to drop, after which they simply go in with nets and buckets to gather the fish. However, for a quick catch some of them will simply knock a fish out with a well-aimed stone from their slingshot, and then scoop it out of the river for dinner.
Their culture is a rich and colorful one, with many festivals in a year. One of these is the New Rice Festival, a time of thanksgiving for the harvest. During this time, friends and family gather round a traditional feast of spicy minced pork, steamed pumpkin, bitter greens with peanut salsa, pickled vegetables, pork and potato soup and, of course, fresh new rice.
The tall, bamboo swing, an identifying mark of an Akha village, is open during this time for anyone who dares to brave its heights. Sometimes, it is constructed so that the swinger soars over the edge of the mountain and then back again. Another traditional game is the greased bamboo pole with money at the top. Lithe Akha boys will shimmy up barefooted to capture their prize with a crowd cheering below.
Another distinguishing factor of the Akha people is their beautiful dress. Akha women are known throughout the world for their colorful and elaborate headdresses. In Thailand, there are three styles of these which depend on the woman’s clan. The first is called the Ulo (pronounced Oo-low), which is a conical shape and adorned with tiny beads in all the primary colors and small, flat pieces of pounded silver. The second, the Lomi (pronounced Low-mee), sports a flat, silver-covered piece in the back of the headdress, with many silver balls and coins adorning the front. This is generally the most expensive headdress to craft because of the abundance of silver. The third style is the Pami (pronounced Pa-mee) and is distinctive for its wide triangular shape which folds over the ears.
There are innumerable Akha lullabies, poems and legends which deal with everything from creation to modern-day romance. One well-known Akha legend is called the Holy Buffalo Skin. As the story goes, the Creator God called together a representative from each people group to give them the sacred words. The words were written on many different materials: wood, stone, bark and animal skin. The representative from the Akha tribe chose the words written on water buffalo skin. But as he was returning home, it started to rain and the skin got wet. He made a fire to dry it off, and as it was drying it gave off a delicious aroma. He thought of his long journey home and grew so hungry he could no longer stand it and ate the holy buffalo skin. When he returned to his people, they were furious that he had eaten the precious book. Now, they had no way of knowing the Creator God’s way of life. They simply had to wait until He sent them a messenger or one of their own tribe went to another people to learn the sacred words.
The Akha people have several traditional dances that they perform at various special events such as New Rice Festivals. Some dances portray typical scenes from Akha life such as spinning thread or pounding rice, while other, simpler forms consist of forming a circle and taking side steps to the rhythm, usually around a large bonfire and sometimes accompanied by cymbals, gongs, and drums as well as large bamboo poles sounding out the beat.
For more beautiful photographs and descriptions of Akha life, please visit: http://akha.tumblr.com/
Akha is a tribal language in which every word ends in a vowel sound. It is completely different from Thai, Chinese and other mainstream Asian languages. Akha is in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family and is very closely related with the Lisu and Lahu tribal languages. In the 1950s, missionary anthropologist Paul Lewis developed a writing system for Akha based on the Roman alphabet. Many Christian Akha in Burma and Thailand can read this, and both the Old and New Testament has been printed using this script.
In addition, a few Akha leaders including Dr. Aje Yehbyahgu have written books in the Akha language. Campus Crusade for Christ recorded both adult and children’s versions of the Jesus Film (watch online: http://www.jesusfilm.org/film-and-media/watch-the-film) and Faith Comes by Hearing produced an audio Bible in the Akha language.
Please visit this page for more information and links regarding the Akha language: http://globalrecordings.net/en/language/529
For those wishing to learn a bit of Akha, Lonely Planet sells a Hill Tribe Phrasebook which contains a handy section of Akha phrases: http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/asia/hill-tribes-phrasebook-3
History of the Akha Church
The Akha’s traditional belief system is called the Akha Way. It is a combination of animism and ancestral worship, and the village shaman (witch doctor) and ni-pa (spirit medium) are well respected figures in the community. The Akha Way has a very specific list taboos. An extreme example is the taboo against twins, who were traditionally killed at birth since one was believed to have an evil spirit. Whenever a taboo is broken, the shaman must prescribe a solution which often includes killing a chicken, pig or water buffalo to appease the angry spirits. If it is a severe offense, such as having twins, the family is traditionally banished outside the village gate, away from the fellowship and protection of the community. Such practices perpetuate the cycle of poverty. As recently at the 1980s, the Akha were the most despised among all the hill tribes of Thailand, with the lowest rates of education and the highest rates of poverty, opium use and prostitution.
Good News Reaches the Akha
During the decade of 1930-1940, a godly Karen pastor in Burma, Sa La Lo Tu Jaw, trudged around the Kengtung countryside, making endless preaching visits to Lahu, Shan and Akha villages. On one such visit, he noticed three young children being treated as slaves. Upon questioning the villagers he learned that the children’s parents had birthed twins and, after going into debt to pay for the expensive funeral rites for the twins (both of whom had to be killed since one was believed to be a devil), both parents passed away. Consequently, their other three children were left to work off the debt. Seeing the children in such poor condition filled the heart of the Karen missionary with compassion, and he paid the children’s debt and took them home with him to receive an education and begin to walk the Jesus Road. These three were the first Akha believers. They went on to marry Lahu Christians and their children began the first Akha church in Burma.
First Akha Christians in Thailand
In 1953, Peter and Jean Nightingale of Overseas Missionary Fellowship arrived in Thailand as missionaries with the express purpose of bringing the Good News to the Akha. It was not until 1955, however, that the Nightingales were allowed to live among the Akha and their first home in the village was a tiny rice granary. Slowly they built trust with their Akha neighbors, and after two years there were two men seriously interested in following the Jesus Way. The year 1960 saw the arrival of two more missionaries to the Akha, Ruth and Peter Wyss, also with OMF. Finally, in January of 1962, two Akha families in Thailand decided to become Christians. This was no small thing, as it meant being forced to leave their homes and fields, being ostracized from their friends and family and starting over again in a new place. These brave new believers were A Shah and his wife A Jui and A Tsa and his wife A Peh, and their small children. Providentially they had, in addition to the Western evangelists, two Christian Akha from Burma to help them in their walk of faith: Ya Ju and his wife Mi Chu. These ten adults, along with their families, became the founding members of the Akha church in Thailand, and they built their tiny village with the traditional Akha spirit gate significantly absent. This place was known simply as “The Jesus Village.”
The Jesus Village
Learning to walk the Jesus Road was not easy, but these faithful few were determined to blaze a trail for other Akha to follow. Upon announcing their conversion, the Akha families had to leave their home villages almost immediately, and they set about constructing a temporary home in the Jesus Village. The longhouse they built solved the urgent need for shelter, but communal living was not something anyone was used to or comfortable with. Those first few months in the new village were trying for all three Akha families; yet they handled the situation with the grace of Jesus and learned, in a very real way, the lesson of selflessness. Like the early church, they grew in the Lord in close proximity and met daily for praise, prayer and fellowship. The seeds of the gospel flourished under such conditions, and the families began to understand how a Christian goes about living life.
For example, A Peh became severely ill during their first month together, and it seemed that no medicine could alleviate her suffering. Days passed, during which her Christian brothers and sisters were moved with compassion for her and never left her side. Several family members from her old village came to see her and remind her that this pain was a result of her decision to leave the way of the spirits. They did their best to discourage the new believers because they truly felt that health and blessing could only come through appeasing the demons. Though the small church did not know what to tell their family, they firmly stuck to their decision to live for Christ. Finally, on the fifth day, A Peh rose from her mat and announced that she was well. Everyone in the village rejoiced at her miraculous healing, and A Peh never forgot the loving Christian care that was shown to her in her time of need.
Another instance of this compassion was demonstrated when one day a dejected, dirty Akha family showed up in the Jesus Village. The father was addicted to opium, the mother had one blind eye and the other was severely infected, and all four of their children were filthy and malnourished. It was a major decision to allow the helpless family to live there, as it would mean providing food and shelter for them for several weeks until they could plant their own rice fields. Additionally, there was some doubt as to how much value the people would add to their community, but with characteristic faith and kindness the Christians graciously invited them to stay. In the end, the sad little family grew into strong, healthy believers and a wonderful addition to the small fellowship.
A Contextualized Church
Upon examination, it is obvious that this infant Akha church was truly guided and taught by the Holy Spirit, just like the early church in the Book of Acts. They were not bound by human inventions and doctrines; they simply took God’s Word and applied it to their daily lives within the context of their culture. Rather than fretting about the fact that they had no bread or wine for communion, they pragmatically decided to use rice and Akha tea. Instead of feeling obligated to always use Western hymns to praise God (although they did enjoy learning the four-part harmonies), they felt free to sing Christian words to the tunes of their Akha chants. They even made gramophone records of testimonies sung as if they were traditional Akha ballads. It is truly awe-inspiring to observe the hand of God in the growth of this young fellowship, for they were so full of wisdom that they were able to increase their knowledge of the outside world while retaining the essence and beauty of their culture.
In 1962, the year the church was founded, the only Akha in Thailand who could read his own language was Ya Ju. At this point in time the New Testament was not even completely translated into Akha; however, the OMF missionaries anticipated the arrival of the Akha scriptures and began to teach everyone in the Jesus Village to read and write Akha. For the work-weary adults this was a slow and painful process, but their children drank up the lessons like little bamboo shoots. In addition to the daily meetings, the church studied the Bible together on Sundays and everyone was so hungry to learn more that the missionaries planned a special four-day Bible school. During that time no one went to work in the field, instead, they spent the days deepening their understanding of Scripture. This short study period was not enough for the enthusiastic believers, it merely whet their appetite for more. However, the Christian educational resources available to them were extremely limited, and before long were completely used up.
Finally – An Akha Bible!
Finally, in 1966 a book of Old Testament stories printed in the Akha language became available to them and they received word that the New Testament was on the way, but the four-year-old church longed to have their own Akha leaders study the Bible in-depth. Part of this dream came true in February of 1967, when the first Inter-Tribal Bible Conference was held at Phayao, a Thai Bible school. Then, in September, “Peter Nightingale met Pastor Ya Ju and deacon A Tsa in Maechan and, for the first time, a bank account was opened in their names on behalf of the Akha church in Thailand. They wished to save up some money, so that one day an Akha student could be sent to Phayao for the long term Bible training in Thai” (Nightingale, 2001, p. 123).
Hungry for Training
Three years later the congregation, which now counted eleven families, had saved enough money to send a young married couple, A Ju and Bu Do, to Phayao as full time Bible students. They planned to live there during the school term – about five months – and then come back to the village to harvest their rice. This went well for the first year, but afterwards the two confessed that their illiteracy in the Thai language made it almost impossible to keep up and they did not feel able to return to study for another year. Hoping that it would be easier for unmarried men to grasp the language, the church sent A Jo and A Byeh the next year. Although A Jo went on to study for a second year, he strongly doubted his ability to finish the third year at Phayao. These problems caused the leadership to consider developing a month-long Bible school in the Akha language.
Plans turned into action, and “In 1974, the first Akha Bible School was planned for four weeks in June, at Phayao. It met the need of the growing church, where no young people had learned to speak, or to read and write the Thai language. For the four OMF missionaries, it was like a dream come true! Fifteen Akha assembled at Phayao, almost all of them emerging church leaders” (Nightingale, 2001, p. 150). The twelve-year old church was thrilled to finally have training and teachings in their own language and the school was specially designed so they would not have to leave their fields for long periods of time. Indeed, the Akha church leaders were becoming clearer and clearer in their desire to lead their own church, and a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of forming an Akha church association in Thailand. Everything was moving forward at an exciting pace and “by February of 1976, between 75 and 100 families, in five different areas, claimed to be Christian disciples, learning to walk the Jesus road” (Nightingale, 2001, p. 159). However, soon after that tragedy dealt a debilitating blow which slowed the church’s progress almost to a halt.
Tragedy and Setbacks
That year, 1976, the Akha’s beloved missionary Peter Nightingale was diagnosed with advanced cancer and had to return home to London for treatment. Then, on March 16, 1977, Peter Wyss was shot to death by two Thai robbers as he was hiking out of an Akha village. God called Peter Nightingale home to heaven on the Sunday before Christmas, 1979. The Akha church mourned the death of both Peters for many years and since Peter Nightingale and Peter Wyss were the main teachers and motivators of the Akha Bible School, the entire project ceased in their absence. Five years later, “Freddie Gasser, OMF missionary, listed in his annual report a total of twenty-two churches, including emerging groups of new believers who worshiped together but had no resident teacher” (Nightingale, 2001, p. 174). As the Gospel began to spread to more and more Akha villages, the need for Akha leaders who could teach the Word grew even greater. It was during this time that Akha parents began sending their children to the city for an education. Many were placed in Christian hostels that presented the Gospel to them as part of the curriculum. In some cases they remained Christians, but most of them did not continue to seek God once they left the hostel.
Akha Christians in Thai Bible School
The late 1980’s and early 1990’s saw a huge increase in Akha who had completed either a ninth or twelfth grade education in the Thai language, and some were able to attend Thai Bible School. Though Akha was their first (heart) language, Thai was their academic language and they were fluent in Thai. Most of the Bible school graduates had a good understanding of the Word, but were unable to pray, preach, read or write in their own Akha language. Often their sermons did not fit the needs of the Akha church. In many cases, the Akha graduates would end up serving in Thai churches because they felt unprepared to minister to the Akha church. Sadly, most of them had been removed from the Akha language and culture for too long and were, culturally, more Thai than Akha.
The Need for Akha Leaders
In 1999, a long-term missionary to the Akha noted that since 1993, the Akha church as a whole has seen a great response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That response has been primarily the result of the Gospel being presented to the Akha in a culturally relevant way. Prior to the 1990s, the Akha were considered the least evangelized and most resistant to the Gospel of all five tribal groups residing in Northern Thailand. This missionary also observed that the greatest strength of the Akha church is the people’s simple, child-like faith. The greatest weakness, however, is the lack of mature Christian leaders to go before and lead them. Indeed, the church was long overdue for a Biblical educational system targeting Akha who were called to minister within their culture.
By the Akha, for the Akha
Akha Bible Seminary was birthed in May, 2002 with fifteen students eager to fill the need for Akha leaders for the Akha church. Many of the students arrived unable to read and write the Akha language; in fact, some had never been to school before and those who had been studied solely in the Thai language. To Akha Bible Seminary fell the huge task of helping these budding leaders become fluent in reading and writing their native tongue and recapturing their heritage. Therefore, ABS purposed not only to teach the Bible in the Akha language, but also to use the rich redemptive analogies, legends and proverbs already found within the Akha culture to reach people for Jesus. This concept of contextualization started out as a single class and grew into one of the core values for the school. Another unique quality of ABI is that it operates simultaneously on the same property as an Akha orphanage (House of Joy) for children ranging in age from four to eighteen years. The Bible students are extremely helpful in caring for and loving the orphans, and the orphans return the love which helps to heal to the students’ emotional wounds. Everyone has a sense of nurturing and belonging in a warm, loving family. The educational program combines theory with practice by including weekend internships as part of the three years of classroom study. The fourth and final year is a full-time internship during which the interns work alongside a minister at a church or organization, returning to the school each month for three days of teaching and evaluation. In addition, ABS has a monthly, three-year training program for pastors currently in the ministry. By 2010, Akha Bible Seminary had graduated fifty-five students and fifty-eight pastors.
Nightingale, Jean. Akha Christians of the Golden Triangle. Eastwood, Australia: Snap Printing, 2001.
History of Akha Outreach Foundation
Akha Outreach was birthed out of a conviction in the hearts of the directors, Dr. Aje and Nancy Kukaewkasem, to raise up leaders for the Akha people. While studying the Bible in America, Dr. Aje set aside a day for prayer and fasting. The Lord gave him a vision of dry, arid land with cracked earth – a picture of the state of the Akha people. Suddenly, rain began to fall and plants, trees, and flowers sprung up all around. This was God demonstrating His great love for the Akha and His desire to soak them with His blessings.
The Early Years
The dream was to build a Bible school and children’s home on the same compound, everyone working together as one family. In November 2000, two American businessmen visited Thailand to learn more about this dream. During this visit, the men committed to purchasing five acres of land located six miles southwest of Chiang Rai in order to fulfill the dream. In January 2001, the land was purchased and several months later the Kukaewkasem’s traveled to the States to form their board of directors and file the paperwork establishing Akha Outreach Services (AOS) as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
Our first ministry was House of Joy which began with two little boys and a girl. A Singaporean friend, Chan Foo Wah, who had helped mentor Dr. Aje in university, organized funding for the children’s care. Then Greg Ressler, a friend from Colorado, donated for the first building: a dining hall and kitchen. By the 2002 school year, House of Joy had sixteen orphans living in a bamboo hut while awaiting the completion of the dorm. The Johnson family stepped up to the plate and paid for the dorm and the director’s home.
Akha Bible School
By this time, over fifteen people had signed up for the very first term of Akha Bible Seminary which commenced in May 2002. Since its inception, the Bible school has been generously funded by New Covenant Church in Georgia. Pastor Steve Bradshaw and Charles Reneau took and ran with the vision and Pastor Mike Caulley has faithfully kept it before the congregation. During the summer of 2002, Faith Bible Chapel sent a youth group to pour a basketball court. To keep up with the growth, we hired maintenance worker Uncle Saocum.
The church planting branch of the ministry, Akha Outreach Services, began in 2003 as a practicum for the Akha Bible Seminary students who had completed their first year of training. Through this branch, students began to spend weekends in Akha villages, witnessing to non-Christians, helping Christians and just building relationships. Eventually, we began to invite village pastors to come to the compound once a month for Bible training and fellowship. The response was overwhelmingly positive as the pastors exchanged advice and grew strong roots in the Word.
The ministry continued to grow and our need for a full-time administrator became clear. In 2003, God sent Buzi, a graduate of Bangkok Bible College whom Dr. Aje and Nancy had mentored in high school, to oversee governmental paperwork and the accounts. Through her hard work, Akha Outreach was recognized by the Thai Department of Social Welfare for the Tribal People. In 2004, we became an official Thai foundation. On the compound, we were very proud of our first harvest (rice field courtesy of Faith Bible Chapel) which yielded enough rice to feed everyone for two months. In 2005, we hosted our first Akha Women’s Conference, sent out our first Akha Bible Institute interns, and began our annual Akha Outreach youth camp. In addition, Dr. Paul Lewis, another of Dr. Aje’s mentors who had, decades ago, reduced Akha to writing and translated the New Testament, graciously began visiting to help proofread the Chinese-Akha translation of the Bible. Under the church planting branch, Don Hoffman donated funds to relocate Akha villagers in Doi Mae Salong who were working under a Chinese landlord in terrible conditions for unfair wages. They became Christians and soon after we placed missionaries Paul and Lori Vernon in this village to work with the Akha long-term. We also purchased land in villages to relocate several families and build churches.
Leadership Training with Haggai Institute
During this time, Dr. Aje began training with Haggai Institute, an international leadership training group. He was invited to return as faculty and now teaches in Singapore and America several times a year. Also, Dr. Luce and assistants from Colorado began annual dental clinics for the children, students, and villagers. We completed the enormous Uncle Greg Meeting Hall (another gift from Greg Ressler), which doubles as a gymnasium during rainy season, just in time for our first official Akha Bible Institute graduation in March of 2006. One of the interns, Atu, joined the staff long-term to teach Akha and guitar, and do maintenance.
Building the Family
That same spring, YWAM friends Dan and Cathleen Thom from Twin Falls Reformed Church (TFRC) in Idaho began regular visits to help with construction projects. Along with Nancy’s brother-in-law Russ Bohl, they built a playground for the children. This was the beginning of a strong relationship between two parts of the Body of Christ, and in just five years they had brought seven hardworking teams to help with various projects. In the spirit of development, board members Charles and Martha Reneau from Georgia purchased a rice mill for the ministry and we broke ground on the Satterfield Dream Wing educational building, a gift from Jan Satterfield.
Jesus Film – Children’s Version
Later, our children, students and staff helped record the children’s version of the Jesus Film in Akha. In addition, we attended a seminar on deliverance and received a new level of freedom along with helpful ministry tools. Mike Hutchings came to conduct a staff retreat during which we clarified our mission statement and core values.
In 2006, our Akha Outreach Services church ministry was recognized by the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand, making all three aspects of our ministry official with the Thai government.
In 2007, God sent Ajaan Palagorn, a Thai from Bangkok, as the answer to our children’s homework problems and his wife Micu became our faithful cook. Juliana also came as Nancy’s assistant and brought our administrative output to a more professional level.
We started off 2008 with a flurry of busyness in the church planting ministry as we broke ground on a two-story church building in Ban Doi, Dr. Aje printed a 200-page book, “Akha Sermon Outlines,” and we held our first annual Akha Men’s Conference.
Growing in Prayer
Later, Marianne Riztman, a dear friend from Overseas Missionary Fellowship who mentored Dr. Aje in middle and high school, spent time teaching us more about the depths of intercessory prayer and spiritual warfare. A drought that summer exposed our need for another deep water well, which was purchased for us by Flatirons Church in Colorado. In August, photographer/videographer Kevin LJ produced a full-length documentary DVD for the ministry. During this time, we began an annual day of prayer and fasting for the entire compound and our churches. Later, we celebrated the selfless life of Elaine Lewis (Dr. Paul’s wife) in an Akha/Lahu memorial service.
Best Foundation Award
Then, on Christmas Day 2008, Akha Outreach received prestigious awards for Best Foundation in the Northern Provinces, on both local and regional levels. But the crowning glory of these years was the graduation of the first class of pastors – thirty-five in all – from our monthly training program. Dressed in formal black gowns, they marched into the auditorium with their heads held high, living testimonies to the redemptive power of the Gospel.
Several New Staff
In 2009, we were thrilled with the addition of several new staff members. Sala Ageu and his wife Sara came to help with Akha Bible Institute and kitchen duties. Mibeu and Ana, both Akha Bible Institute graduates, came back to work with us after stints at other organizations. Mibeu joined the House of Joy children’s team and also worked wonders for our book sales, while Ana took charge of the Akha Outreach Services church ministry and designed and built a beautiful outdoor baptismal, complete with a waterfall, for the compound.
Akha Outreach Media
Toward the end of 2009, the Singaporeans donated a new computer, mixer and video camera for our budding media center. Then Project Video joined the fundraising effort and Todd and Lisa Gerlings from Colorado paid for a sound room. Thus, Akha Outreach Media became the fourth branch of ministry. Amae, another Akha Bible Institute graduate, came on board to help with media and to work with our teenage boys. A few months later, two students and two staff members took part in a MediaLight week-long media seminar with an emphasis on Christian leadership. We also published a revised Akha hymnal and Dr. Aje and other staff helped record the revised audio Bible in Akha with the Faith Comes by Hearing ministry.
Outreach with the Church Ministry
To strengthen the village church ministry, which had grown to eighteen churches, we did village outreach and dental training with Dr. Luce and Dr. Newman and they taught seven members of AOF how to pull teeth. That year, we also held our first village church Christmas on the compound and invited all eighteen churches to participate, as well as several Singaporeans. A team from Idaho sponsored and helped begin construction on new staff housing. And the organizational structure of House of Joy was adjusted for the influx of teenagers as our children grew up. In March of 2010, our first group of House of Joy children graduated high school.
Attack and Rebound
The season of excitement and outreach was followed by a period of persecution both at home and on the field. Locally, we experienced a church split in Doi Mae Salong. Our entire staff was affected by the betrayal, but it knit our hearts closer together as a team as we learned to be examples of forgiveness and grace. The Doi Mae Salong villagers followed suit and were ultimately strengthened as a result. Another result of the conflict was a return to the staples of Christian life – prayer and worship. Throughout the school year, we had several days of prayer, meetings and times of worship together. Almost immediately, we saw results in the improved behavior of our teenagers who were growing unmanageable but now opened their hearts to the Lord’s work.
The dean of Dr. Aje’s Bible school in the USA and one of our favorite visitors, Dr. Russ of Joshua Nations ministry, came to do Bible training with our pastors and preach at a revival with our children and students. His prophetic words for our students were right on target and strengthened their resolve to finish well. We also held a baptism of twenty-two children and Bible students at this time. To develop the counseling end of the ministry, Nancy attended training in central Thailand.
Looking Toward the Future
On March 5, 2011 we celebrated our ten-year anniversary along with over 1,200 Akha guests and more than 30 international visitors. It was certainly a celebration of God’s faithfulness, and we eagerly look forward to the fulfillment of the vision God gave us so many years ago, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Akha is a tribal language in which every word ends in a vowel sound. It is completely different from Thai, Chinese, and other mainstream Asian languages. Akha is in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family and is very closely related to the Lisu and Lahu tribal languages. In the 1950s, missionary anthropologist Paul Lewis developed a writing system for Akha based on the Roman alphabet. Many Christian Akha in Burma and Thailand can read this, and both the Old and New Testaments have been printed using this script.