It’s like a weird party trick. What’s the world’s largest ethnic group, 18% of the global population, and contains the second-largest unreached people group in the world?
The Han Chinese.
They’re about 92% of the Chinese population, and 95% of the population of Taiwan.
Within the Han is that second-largest unreached people group: the Xiang, numbering over 38 million. But 44,000 of those live in the U.S., and 66,000 in Malaysia. They speak Xiang dialects of Mandarin, Cantonese, or Hokkien Chinese, but the dialects cannot typically understand one another. (Interestingly, Mao Zedong spoke Xiang, having been born in the Hunan region.)
Clearly, the Chinese government is one of the key obstacles to the Gospel being shared freely in China. Now, there are tremendous answers to prayer in this category; Operation World reports, for example, that the number of Christians has now surpassed the number of Communist party members!
But China has also quite recently begun a horrific crackdown on churches and Christianity. The situation is “becoming more dire by the day,” reports Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ). (Please pray for persecuted Christians there.)
The Joshua Project reports the following of the Xiang people:
The Xiang are traditionally acknowledged as the most stubborn and proud of all Chinese peoples. “The people themselves are the most clannish and conservative to be found in the whole empire, and have succeeded in keeping their province practically free from invasion by foreigners and even foreign ideas.”
….In 1911 the Xiang were described as “the best haters and best fighters in China. Long after the rest of the empire was open to missionary activity, Hunan kept its gates firmly closed against the foreigner.”
…In 1861 Welsh missionary Griffith John met a Hunan military mandarin, who “boasted of the glory and martial courage of the Hunan men, and said there was no danger of their ever believing in Jesus or of His religion taking root there.”
Many of the Xiang, like the Lupanshui, live in geographically isolated areas very difficult to reach.
Portions of Scripture have been translated into Xiang, as well as the JESUS film, but as of yet, there’s no full Bible, audio Bible, or training/discipleship materials. The linguistic barrier is real. Far more resources are available in Mandarin and Cantonese. (If Jesus were speaking to the Xiang what language would he use? Their own.)
The Good News
Where I (Janel) served in Uganda, a significant number of Chinese were taking up residence in my own neighborhood for construction of a local highway and other Chinese business in Africa. Missionaries in my neighborhood brilliantly began a Bible study for those who’ve hungered for spiritual truth–but have little to no access in China proper. (See this post for a key video on China’s unique economic relationship with Africa.)
The Han Chinese are spread liberally around the world, in many nations open to the Gospel–and presumably some Xiang among them (though research was difficult to locate at the time of this posting). Pray for loving, bold outreaches to businesspeople everywhere from small shops to international businesses.
But we can’t forget those in China who have never heard, have never tasted the Living Water for thirsty souls. Thankfully, God has a plan to reach them, and is stopped not by government, geography, language, or cultural pride.
How to Pray
- Pray that God will call Chinese believers to live among the Xiang to begin sharing Jesus and making disciples. Pray that healthy, indigenous churches will begin and grow in every village where they live.
- Pray that the young people who live in larger cities will hear the gospel, believe, and then have a burden to share their new faith with relatives and friends in their home villages.
- Pray that evangelistic and discipleship materials will be developed in Xiang.
- Pray a church in the city of Liupanshui will look beyond their walls and reach this people group for Christ.
- For the few believers among the Xiang, ask that God will mature them in their faith, strengthen their work and give them a burden for the lost.
Can You Help?
Tell us about what God’s doing among the Xiang, and more about how to reach them! Comment below.
Resources to check out
(not necessarily endorsed by Go. Serve. Love):
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