Eyewitness reports from within the country have confirmed that a number of house churches are now meeting regularly, and that openness to the gospel and hunger for the Good News appear to be growing.
The broadcasts are providing the gospel message for people who live in otherwise hard to reach places. The use of radio in Bhutan has been very strategic. The country has always been staunchly Buddhist, and still is. Christianity meets with much opposition here. However, it is encouraging to know that there are many dedicated, committed believers who are working hard to spread the gospel.
Programming occurs three days a week with a 15-minute program which includes health topics, music, and a Christian message. Two Dzongkha women have recently joined with the producer as additional staff members. One assists in production of the program; the other records announcements, health segments, and songs. Listener follow up occurs when staff visit within the listening areas; interested persons are directed to associate themselves with those churches that are ready to accept them.
“Please pray for me as I am the only believer from my family. My parents are Buddhist and brothers are Buddhist monks. But we are sharing the gospel to them and hoping that they will believe one day.
Bhutan is a small, poor, mountainous region in the eastern Himalaya Mountains. It is one of the least evangelized nations in the world. There are only a handful of native believers here. Buddhism is the accepted state religion. The nation was closed to any form of Christian witness until 1965. The nation’s stance on Christianity has softened somewhat since then. Their new constitution now provides for some religious freedom; however, construction permits are not granted for non-Buddhist places of worship, so Christians can only meet in their own homes.
Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan, and is closely related to the Tibetan language. The word dzongkha means “the language of the fortress.”
Tshangla, also known as Sharchopka, is the heart language of the Sharchop people in Eastern Bhutan, a region where preaching of the gospel and planting churches is prohibited by law. Tshangla, spoken by 170,000 people, is an unwritten language — it has no alphabet and is not taught in schools. Half of Tshangla speakers are illiterate. The Sharchop people are considered Bhutan’s earliest residents and live along the mountain cliffs of the Himalayas and build their homes on stilts.
The Sharchop often use slash and burn methods for farming, planting rice in cleared sections of land for a period of time before moving on to the next field. The indigenous Sharchop people are marginalized and sometimes even persecuted by others in the community. There is a very small group of Christians in the area, and many more are seeking to know the truth. The only way to reach these seekers is through radio and webcasting. Words of Hope’s Tshangla ministry began in 2016.
The Tawang Monpa language (known as Dakpakha in Bhutan) is spoken by only a few small, isolated communities of indigenous peoples in Bhutan, India, and China. Almost all of these individuals are Buddhists; in Bhutan, there are virtually no Christians in these communities. Christians or seekers in these communities face serious persecution.
“Since this language is never written, it is very challenging to write programs,” shares our Tawang Monpa producer. “Even after writing, reading and recording is even more challenging. People are aware of the programs we produce and even if they know they are not so interested to listen to the gospel programs. They are very strong Buddhists. Please pray that God will prepare the hearts of the listeners.”
- Pray for our Dzongkha producer who works against many odds to take the gospel to the Bhutanese people.
- Pray for the people of Bhutan to know Jesus Christ.