Mekong Missions History
The Early Years (1816 -1900)
It’s the year 1813 when Adoniram and Nancy Judson arrive in Myanmar. They are seen as the first (protestant) missionaries in the region. Fifteen years later the first missionaries went to Thailand. But it wasn’t until the 1860’s that they were able to travel up to the North of Thailand and Myanmar. In 1876, somebody crossed from Yunnan (China) into Northern Myanmar, showing that the region was truly open to the gospel. This was also confirmed in the success among the Tai Yuan in what is now North Thailand and the Karen (and later the Kachin) in Myanmar.
The 20th Century
In the first decade of the 20th Century was one of success, because the Wa, Lahu, Hmong, and Lisu all responded to the Gospel in great numbers. New believers became active evangelists and missionaries not only to their own tribes but to other people groups as well.
However, work in Laos and Vietnam was made difficult mostly because of the presence of French imperialists who prevented or hindered most Protestant ministry in Indochina.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells
World War II greatly disrupted Christian work in the Mekong Region. After the War, surveyors in Yunnan and Upper Burma found 100 tribes that needed to be reached with the Gospel. At the same time they found many Christians eager to reach out to others with the Gospel. They concluded that: “The native church, aroused to the new sense of responsibility toward sister tribes, together with the hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart fellowship of the foreign missionary group, is the answer to the present startling need.”
However, the communist takeover of China in 1949 followed by the military coup in Burma in 1962 and then years of wars in Indochina meant that many (foreign) missions stopped outright for several decades. It was not until the 1990’s that much of the Mekong Region became accessible to Christians from other countries once again. They found that local believers had not been sitting still, but had maintained their faith and in many cases spread their faith to others during the years of testing.
From that time until the present, believers from many ethnic backgrounds have been working together to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the region to every people group and every place. And so God’s story at the Mekong region continues.