Even in a Pandemic. . . Establishing a Church in a Village Without the Gospel
Tucked away in a valley between two mountain ranges in Asia live the Pougeum* people. This group of about eight thousand people makes a living by farming the land. As remote as they are, the Pougeum have little contact with people outside their valley and almost none of their people have ever been to a big city. For many years, no one in their group had heard about Jesus.
Who Are the Pougeum People?
Like many of the ethnic groups in their country, the Pougeum lived in fear of evil spirits. Spirit ceremonies were required for every significant life event, from weddings and funerals to sprained ankles and motorbike spills. In cases of lingering illness or bad luck, spirit doctors would often prescribe an animal sacrifice, cutting further into families’ meager resources.
How Did The Pougeum First Hear the Gospel?
In 2019, the first handful of Pougeum people put their faith in Jesus after two national missionaries came to the valley. Howard and Darren would traverse the winding roads to the villages where the Pougeum lived—crossing linguistic, cultural, and geographical barriers to share the good news of Christ with minority groups.
In one Pougeum village, Howard and Darren taught a new believer how to share the gospel. The man went immediately to share with his brother, who believed as well. Through many rejections, long days, and flooded roads; the first Pougeum people were seeing the light of Jesus.
Ministry During a Pandemic
When COVID cases ramped up in April of 2020, the national government issued a travel ban in the country where the Pougeum live. Everyone was to stay home—even travel within provinces was discouraged.
Forbidden from traveling, Howard and Darren found themselves stuck in Foul Water Village of the Pougeum people, where they would remain for several weeks.
During that time, Howard and Darren worked alongside the villagers and shared the gospel with anyone who would listen. As they did, gospel seeds began to take root and grow. The village headman and policeman were among the first believers. Soon, over twenty people were worshipping together at the house church services.
By May, over ninety people (almost the entire village) had professed faith, including one elder who had been persecuting Christians just a few months before.
Facing New Opposition
When news of the new church made its way to the city, the police paid a visit to the headman of Foul Water Village. Afterward, the headman relayed the officers’ message to Howard and Darren. “They told me not to let you share the gospel in my village,” he said. “But I’m not going to back down.”
“The police follow us around all these villages telling people not to listen,” Darren replied, “but the more they persecute us, the more people listen.”
How Are the Pougeum People Now?
Since the lockdown lifted, Howard and Darren have visited Foul Water Village often. They are teaching from the Bible and equipping the new believers to hold worship services by themselves—raising up Pougeum believers to lead the new church.
Since April, there have been two other Pougeum house churches planted in other villages. And despite increased police pressure that came in the fall, the young Pougeum believers are still holding firm to Jesus. In fact, the believers used a traditional celebration of spirit sacrifice, the Harvest Festival, to celebrate and to praise God for providing new rice. As a result, more Pougeum families came to faith. when they saw the Christians celebrate the harvest festival. God had always been the one providing the rice—this was just the first year they knew to thank him.
Howard and Darren would be the first to tell you that even in the midst of a pandemic, God is still on the move—bringing the light of Jesus to even the most remote mountain villages of Asia; bringing a harvest of worshippers from every nation, tribe, and language.
* The name of the people group in this article has been changed for safety reasons. The author of this article is intentionally left anonymous the safety of the author—an international missionary in the country where the “Pougeum” live.