Adventist Frontier Missions

Strangers In The Land

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript



Series Code: AFM

Program Code: AFM000003

01:43 Above the mountain jungles of northern Thailand,
01:47 the clouds swirl and dance in impossible patterns
01:51 and drift down between bamboo houses and along mud streets.
01:56 Up on these ridges, it is easy to feel as if you are
02:00 on an island a thousand years from anywhere else.
02:06 Here a small minority tribe, called the Mien, clear their
02:11 land and build their houses.
02:14 Their tidy little villages seem as if they might have stood
02:18 on these mountaintops since the beginning of time.
02:22 but, in truth, the Mien people of northern Thailand
02:26 are far from home.
02:31 The Mien people carry with them copies of an ancient scroll
02:35 lettered in Chinese characters.
02:37 The scroll tells the legend of Pan Hu, the Dragon Dog.
02:42 The legend begins in the 13th century on the southeastern
02:47 coast of imperial China at a time of fighting and
02:51 unrest in the empire.
02:54 In the emperor's court, a mysterious foreigner
02:57 by the name of Pan Hu stepped out of obscurity
03:00 and volunteered for an impossible mission: to travel
03:04 in disguise into the lands of a powerful opposing warlord
03:08 and singlehandedly assassinate him.
03:12 The details of Pan Hu's great act of bravery and daring
03:16 are lost to time, but we do know he eventually returned to
03:21 the emperor, having carried out his mission against all odds.
03:26 The emperor was so grateful to Pan Hu that he gave him the
03:30 title of "Dragon Dog" and presented a princess to him
03:34 to be his wife.
03:37 Pan Hu and the princess settled in the southern
03:40 mountains of China.
03:42 Their twelve children became twelve clans.
03:47 When Pan Hu died, the emperor honored him by issuing an
03:51 imperial edict, granting his descendants freedom from taxes,
03:56 exemption from military service, and possession of the southern
03:59 mountains of China forever.
04:03 The Mien have copied and preserved this edict down
04:07 through the centuries and still carry it with them as a reminder
04:11 of their high past.
04:15 The old days of honor and glory in the courts
04:18 of imperial China are long past for the
04:20 descendants of the great Pan Hu.
04:24 Over the ensuing centuries, they have become wanderers
04:27 on the earth, spreading out from southern China through the
04:31 northern parts of Vietnam, Laos and, most recently, Thailand.
04:37 In all their migrations, the Mien people have stubbornly
04:41 maintained their own culture and way of life.
04:45 Mien villages are very distinct from their Thai counterparts.
04:49 Harking back to their origins in the mountains of China,
04:53 the Mien prefer to build their villages in the rugged ranges
04:56 of northern Thailand.
05:00 On these mountainsides, the Mien cultivate a special variety of
05:04 rice that grows well on the steep slopes.
05:09 Thai villages, on the other hand, are usually situated in
05:13 the lowlands. Thais grow rice in flooded rice paddies which they
05:19 cultivate with modern machinery.
05:25 Though most of them speak Thai, Mien people prefer to speak
05:29 their traditional Mien language among themselves.
05:34 Mien people have also preserved the reading and writing of
05:38 Chinese characters.
05:41 In fact, the Mien people are much more Chinese than Thai
05:45 in their customs and way of life.
05:50 The mien also preserve their unique heritage
05:53 through their crafts.
05:54 Needlepoint is a cultural pastime for Mien women.
06:00 The delicate, precise stitches preserve ancient
06:03 memories of the mountains of southern China.
06:08 To these old forms, the women add new designs
06:12 limited only by imagination.
06:16 In fact, a Mien bride's value is determined in part by the
06:20 quality of her needlepoint, the creativity of her designs,
06:24 and her artistry in choosing colors.
06:29 Another Mien heritage is silversmithing.
06:33 On any given day, you can find small groups of Mien artisans
06:37 gathered in front of their houses.
06:41 As they chat with their friends, each individual performs
06:45 his or her step of the process with practiced skill and speed.
06:52 Gradually, spools of silver wire become long intricate chains.
07:01 Raw silver sheets become intricately figured purses
07:05 And business card holders.
07:11 The Mien use only simple hand tools and gasoline powered
07:15 torches in their work.
07:18 Though their silver work sells for good money, the skill and
07:23 time the Mien invest into each piece keeps their
07:26 profits quite modest.
07:32 Perhaps the most fundamental thing that sets the Mien apart
07:35 is their spirituality.
07:38 The Mien practice a complex system of auspicious days,
07:41 taboos, and appeasements based on thirteenth century
07:45 Chinese Taoism.
07:49 They worship a hierarchy of deities, all ruled
07:52 by the Jade Emperor.
07:56 For high level spirit ceremonies, the Mien display
07:59 sacred paintings of the deities.
08:02 They dance before these paintings and
08:06 chant their petitions.
08:12 In addition to the Taoist deities, the Mien also worship
08:16 the spirits of their ancestors.
08:19 They believe that they must feed their ancestors with
08:23 frequent sacrifices of chicken and whiskey to keep them from
08:26 going hungry in the spirit world.
08:30 They build tiny spirit houses and lavish gifts on them
08:34 for their departed ancestors.
08:37 The Mien look to the spirits for material blessings and
08:42 for healing.
08:45 This woman suffers from diabetes and has lost feeling
08:48 in her hand.
08:51 While her granddaughter massages her hand,
08:54 a local spirit doctor conducts a ceremony to appease the
08:58 spirits and drive away the numbness from her hand.
09:04 It is Mien custom to pay off the spirits with spirit money
09:08 which they cut from special paper and emboss for
09:11 the purpose.
09:16 The spirit doctor counts out piles of this money for the
09:19 spirits and casts lots to see if it is enough.
09:25 When he has finished negotiating, he burns
09:29 the money to send it to the spirit world.
09:36 In all their hundreds of years of wandering, the Mien people
09:40 have endeavored to maintain their distinct cultural identity
09:44 and preserve their family structure and way of life.
09:48 The small Mien village of Nam Khong, just a few miles
09:52 from the Thai city of Nan, and the even smaller village
09:56 of Bang Korn 120 miles northwest in the mountains near Chiang Rai
10:01 are representative of most Mien settlements today.
10:05 Each family scratches a livelihood from the mountain
10:09 fields during the day, and in the evenings
10:12 they gather to sing the songs of their history.
10:18 But despite their generations of resolve to preserve the old
10:22 ways, to stay cohesive, and to remain separate from the rest
10:26 of the world, the Mien people of northern Thailand
10:29 are at a crossroads.
10:33 By the thousands, young Mien are leaving their peaceful
10:37 mountain villages to answer the siren's song of materialism
10:41 and western lifestyle ideals.
10:44 In pursuing these externals, they are setting aside
10:47 their Mien identity and merging with a society that
10:51 values neither their unique history nor their
10:54 distinctive way of life.
10:57 Modern western values threaten to undo seven centuries
11:01 of Mien cultural identity in one generation.
11:07 For the Mien people of northern Thailand, the world
11:11 has become too small. There is nowhere for them
11:14 to hide from the forces that threaten their identity
11:17 as a people.
11:19 Down through the centuries, with grit and determination,
11:23 they have held tightly to their high past, for it gives them
11:26 pride and a sense of belonging to a time that was kinder to
11:30 them than these new days.
11:33 What will be the fate of the Mien people?
11:39 Their past is slipping through their fingers and the future
11:43 is uncertain.
11:48 It is morning in the villages of Bang Korn and Nam Khong.
11:54 Duang Wilson and Jennifer Dill are preparing breakfast.
11:58 The Wilsons and the Dills are missionaries with
12:01 Adventist Frontier Missions.
12:06 The message these two families bring to the Mien people
12:10 is unique in this day and age. It is a message of hope.
12:14 The God of all creation is offering the Mien something
12:18 even better than a noble past - A glorious future.
12:25 David and Jennifer Dill with their daughters
12:27 Jessica and Juliana moved into the mountain village
12:31 of Bang Korn in May of 1996.
12:35 This village is home to both Mien and Ahka people.
12:41 The road leading to this little village is quite an
12:45 adventure. During very wet times of the year,
12:48 it is completely impassable.
12:53 Before the Dills came to Bang Korn, they heard that the
12:57 village chief, or gamnon, was actively opposed to any type
13:01 of Christian influence in the village.
13:03 Hoping to make peace, the Dills went to visit the gamnon.
13:10 Amazingly, the gamnon took a liking to the Dills and invited
13:13 them to come and live on a piece of his land in the
13:16 middle of the village.
13:17 Their friendship grew. Then one day the gamnon
13:23 did something truly unprecedented. He adopted
13:26 David unofficially as his son and named him Pae Won Hin,
13:32 the gamon's own family name.
13:36 The Dills praised God for the friendship of this very
13:40 influential man.
13:44 The Dills ministry in Bang Korn is very simple.
13:47 They spend each day polishing their Mien language abilities
13:50 and building friendships with their neighbors.
13:54 As AFM missionaries, their goal is to raise up a
13:58 congregation of believers in Bang Korn.
14:02 But first, they must lay the groundwork, a foundation of
14:05 genuine trust and friendship with the Mien people.
14:11 As the Dills learn the heart language of the Mien,
14:15 and absorb Mien culture, they are finding culturally
14:18 relevant ways to touch Mien hearts with the gospel
14:22 of Jesus Christ.
14:25 The Dills invest each day in helping their community.
14:30 This often means taking part in routine maintenance of the
14:33 village water system.
14:36 Water for all the homes in the village comes from a mountain
14:40 stream some distance away.
14:44 Pipes carry the water to the village tanks.
14:48 During the rainy season, floods and landslides
14:52 frequently disrupt the stream and cut off the water supply.
14:56 As a member of the community, David takes his turn hiking out
15:01 to the stream and fixing the small dam to restore the water.
15:07 Jennifer Dill, a registered nurse, uses her medical
15:11 training to reach out to the community.
15:14 She runs an impromptu medical clinic on the front porch.
15:20 In addition to all the other ways the Dills have helped
15:23 the village of Bang Korn, they also have found a way to assist
15:27 the young people with their schooling.
15:30 About two hours from Bang Korn is Chiangmai Adventist Academy.
15:36 The Dills have raised funds to sponsor several children from
15:41 the village to board at this school and study in a
15:44 Christian environment.
15:47 David drives a truckload of students to the academy
15:50 each term and then home again for break.
15:55 The families of these students are amazed at the difference
15:58 this school is making.
16:00 Their parents and friends find them kinder, more
16:05 respectful and more helpful than they ever were before.
16:11 The Dills' next major goal is to develop a complete set
16:14 of Bible studies in the language and cultural context
16:18 of the Mien.
16:19 The Dills pray that these lessons will someday spread
16:23 among the Mien people and with the inworking of the
16:26 Holy Spirit, open their hearts to the God who longs for them
16:30 to know Him and return His love.
16:36 Roughly 120 miles southeast of Bang Korn, in the Mien
16:40 village of Nam Khong, Brian and Duang Wilson are
16:45 praying a similar prayer.
16:48 The Wilsons came to live in Nam Khong in June of 1995.
16:54 Just like the Dills, the Wilsons' work consists mostly
16:57 of friendship evangelism, building relationships with
17:01 their neighbors.
17:04 It is really a very simple formula for ministry.
17:08 They live among the Mien, intertwining their daily lives
17:11 with their neighbors and demonstrating the
17:14 Christian life.
17:17 They keep a watchful eye for anyone showing interest in
17:20 spiritual things, ever prepared to share the gospel
17:23 with them and point them to the truth.
17:28 Women and girls from the village regularly come to the
17:32 house to visit Duang, to play with three-year-old Benya,
17:35 or to hold Baby Eliyja.
17:38 Duang has made her home into quite a ministry.
17:42 She has had many heart to heart conversations about spiritual
17:46 things with her friends.
17:48 The Holy Spirit has blessed their time together.
17:52 With Duang's gentle guidance, several women and girls have
17:57 begun to open their minds and hearts to God's Spirit.
18:02 While Duang ministers at home, Brian walks the streets of
18:06 Nam Khong, visiting with people and keeping up friendships.
18:11 Brian has invested a great deal of time and energy in
18:15 learning the Mien language and culture.
18:17 This preparation allows him to reach the Mien with
18:20 approaches that fit their own culture.
18:23 Brian has developed some key friendships with spirit doctors
18:28 and spirit mediums in the village.
18:31 He has found these men to be some of the most open to
18:34 discussions of spiritual things.
18:37 Because of their beliefs in the deities, it is very
18:41 difficult for the Mien to grasp the Christian concept of a
18:45 single, all powerful God.
18:49 These spirit doctors are interested to hear the
18:52 story of Jesus.
18:54 However, since they misunderstand the state of
18:57 the dead, they ask, "Who will feed my dead parents
19:01 and grandparents if I become a Christian? How can I be
19:04 disloyal to my parents and not feed them by performing
19:07 spirit ceremonies?"
19:09 They also fear that, if they become Christians, they will
19:13 starve in the spirit world after they die.
19:16 Most are unwilling to even listen to Bible truths
19:19 that contradict what they believe to be true about
19:22 life after death.
19:24 In his talks with these influential men, Brian
19:29 claims God's promise that His Word will not return
19:33 to Him without effect.
19:37 The Wilsons are not entirely alone in their ministry. A young
19:41 Mien man named Punn lives in the Wilsons' home.
19:46 Punn's mother died six years ago.
19:50 Several years later, the Wilsons treated Punn's father
19:53 for Opium addiction.
19:55 The Wilsons decided to sponsor Punn to attend Chiangmai
20:00 Adventist Academy. Punn is a bright and very helpful young
20:05 man, who has been a real blessing to the Wilsons
20:08 ministry.
20:11 Dimitry Lossev, a student missionary with Adventist
20:15 Frontier Missions, also lives with the Wilsons.
20:21 Dimitry conducts his own friendship evangelism in
20:24 the village.
20:27 With his outgoing personality and his picture album to break
20:30 the ice, Dimitry has made many Mien friends.
20:37 Brian has put a great deal of thought into how best to
20:41 reach the Mien people with the word of God.
20:44 He has decided on a multifaceted approach
20:47 that goes beyond simple sharing.
20:53 With Punn's help, Brian records audio tapes of scripture in
20:57 the Mien language. Hearing an audio recording in their
21:02 own language is very exciting for the villagers.
21:06 In the future, Brian hopes to create animated Bible stories
21:10 on video which the Mien people could watch on
21:13 their televisions at home.
21:16 One prevalent and insidious ill in Mien society is Opium
21:22 addiction.
21:23 Though it is illegal, Opium is readily available in
21:27 Thailand and has destroyed millions of lives.
21:32 The Wilsons do what they can to educate people about
21:35 the dangers of Opium and help those who wish to break
21:38 their addiction.
21:40 They have opened their home to several opium addicts.
21:44 The Wilsons take care of these people while they go through
21:48 the arduous withdrawal symptoms of the detoxification
21:52 process. Though some of the people have returned to their
21:56 old habits, others have left the Wilsons' home with renewed
21:59 determination to live a better life free of addiction.
22:05 Though neither Brian nor Duang have much medical
22:09 training, they have found ways to bring medical relief
22:12 to the Mien people.
22:13 Their truck frequently serves as the local
22:17 ambulance, taking emergency cases to the hospital in
22:20 Nan. Brian also makes frequent trips to the hospital to fill
22:26 prescriptions for people who are housebound or
22:29 otherwise unable to get medicine on their own.
22:33 He delivers medicines wherever they are needed
22:36 even out to remote villages on difficult roads.
22:40 This young wife and mother was recently paralyzed
22:44 in an automobile accident. Lying on her bed all day,
22:48 she has fallen into a deep depression.
22:51 She told Brian that she wishes she could die.
22:56 Brian and Punn drive many miles to bring her medicine.
23:00 But Brian and Punn bring her more than just
23:04 medicine. They bring word of the great physician
23:07 who longs to be her friend.
23:11 In this woman's bleak existence, this is something
23:15 she can hold on to, something worth living for.
23:21 The Wilsons' medical assistance doesn't all
23:23 happen far from home. A third person lives with them.
23:27 Her name is Faam Sin.
23:29 A few years ago, Faam Sin contracted AIDS.
23:35 Her family was unable to take care of her or
23:38 pay the medical bills, so Brian and Duang took
23:42 her in. Everybody in the Wilsons' household
23:45 took turns caring for Faam Sin and making her
23:48 comfortable. Frequent back massages helped soothe her
23:53 coughing fits. Though Faam Sin was not a Christian,
23:57 over the following months as the Wilsons and their
24:00 student missionaries shared the gospel with her
24:03 she came to accept Christ as her Savior.
24:08 Sometimes I thank God for my disease, she says,
24:12 since it has led me to know Him.
24:17 A few weeks after this video was shot, Faam Sin passed
24:22 to her rest.
24:26 As all Mien before her, Faam Sin died a stranger
24:29 in the land. However, she also died anticipating
24:33 her first glimpse someday of the eternal home Christ
24:37 has prepared for her.
24:44 It is Sabbath in Bang Korn.
24:47 On the Dills' front porch, students and young neighbors
24:51 have gathered for morning Sabbath school.
24:54 The sound of singing brings even more children from
24:58 the nearby homes.
25:02 David and Jennifer speak of the God who is so
25:05 different from the spirits and deities the Mien worship.
25:10 They tell about the life of Jesus and how he
25:13 saved all people from death in sin.
25:18 These young people are excited to be learning
25:21 about Jesus. One girl, named Yien Tzo,
25:25 plans someday to become a preacher.
25:31 Just outside the tight circle, one or two adults sit and
25:36 listen intently.
25:41 At this same moment, Brian Wilsons little four wheel drive
25:45 truck is slipping and sliding its way toward
25:48 a tiny village deep in the mountains, called Huey Fey.
25:54 A small hut in this village is filling with people
25:57 awaiting his arrival.
26:01 Some spots on this road can mire a truck for
26:06 hours. Yet somehow Brian manages to get through
26:10 with a quick prayer and a helpful tug.
26:25 After a simple, tasty lunch, Brian opens God's word
26:29 to the ears of these Mien interests.
26:34 Punn adds his own insights and explanations.
26:41 Both meetings close with prayer.
26:45 The missionaries and their Mien brothers and sisters
26:48 are praying for the Spirit of God to fall
26:50 on the Mien people before their society
26:53 fragments and they melt into anonymity in
26:57 the modern world. They are praying for
27:00 workers to help ignite a spiritual firestorm that
27:04 will jump from village to village all over
27:06 northern Thailand.
27:10 They are praying for the day when all people of the
27:13 world will cease their wandering and say
27:56 Strangers in the Land was produced by
27:58 Adventist Frontier Missions, reaching the unreached by
28:02 establishing vibrant Adventist churches trained to raise
28:05 up new believers and churches among their
28:06 people groups.
28:08 For the latest information on on the Mien mission project
28:11 Adventist Frontier Missions or to order a copy of
28:14 Strangers in the Land, visit amfonline. org
28:17 or call...
28:26 When you call, please be sure to mention where you
28:28 saw this program.


Revised 2014-12-17