Central Tibetans of East Asia

He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16b (NIV, emphasis mine)

Walking, walking. Around, around. My feet, the prayer wheels, life itself. I have lost count. I have encircled the temple multiple times, today, yesterday. How many days has it been? Time seems to stand still here. Yet I dare not stop or rest.

Last year my older brother Dorje became sick. I visited many holy sites on his behalf. They are places of good karma and good luck. There are thousands of them in Tibet, too many to count. I put up many prayer flags for the wind to carry good will. We visited the monastery, and for a cost the monks took up our burden. Still, Dorje died. Now my mother is very ill and getting worse. We can see life is ebbing away. My two younger brothers have stopped playing as they used to. Though they do not understand, fear is in their hearts. A heavy darkness is upon our home. My mother’s brother, Uncle Wangchuk, says the spirits are angry with us. Father says they are never happy with us and hate us!

Won’t the spirits take notice that my family has observed the ancient ways with care? Won’t they observe the offerings we have placed daily at their table in our home? Do they not smell the incense burning unendingly at their altars? Do they not take notice that I am fasting? Will they notice my walking the cold pavement and prostrating myself on the ground for them? Will the spirits accept the countless turning of the prayer wheels that I have made here? Or, though I try, do they see my karma is poor and unacceptable?

So, I have again come to this place. I brought news of my mother to the monks in the monastery and paid them to take up our cause. In the darkness, behind closed doors, while in a meditative trance, they will enter the spiritual realms. Perhaps the monks will gain the merit of the spirits and influence death’s postponement.

I am weary of the crowds at the temple. My head spins. Once, I was told by a monk that everything is an illusion. Desire, he said, leads to suffering. If that is so, then my family, my home, my mother in good health – they are a beautiful illusion but can I detach myself from them? Do I want to?

“Sonam!” I am startled to hear the call of my name and look up to see Uncle Wangchuk come toward me, his face tired and somber. After a brief exchange of greetings, I receive the news. The darkness is deep. My heart cries, “I am accursed!”

First Timothy 3:16 is considered by many scholars to be a song of the early Church. God has given us a good example that the heart of the Church was in tune with his heart for the nations: their passion was to see the Good News of Jesus Christ preached among all peoples. Tibetan Buddhists remain one of the most unreached people group clusters in the world. Made up of over 6.4 million people and found in 74 different people groups, most have no recorded believers among them. One of the largest of these people groups are the Central Tibetans. They primarily live in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China – an area about twice the size of the State of Texas: 920,000 people, 98% Buddhist, 0.01% Christian.

Tibetan Buddhists readily accept all the Buddhist religious writings but differ in that they also recognize a huge number of spirits. Tibetans have historically viewed their land as the abode of countless supernatural forces whose actions have direct bearing on their daily lives. Since Buddhist teachers tend to focus on more abstract goals, Tibetans naturally seek more pragmatic ways to engage with good and evil spirits in order to influence their unpredictable world. However, contrary to popular perceptions, most Tibetan Buddhists do not live in a state of peace and enlightenment; instead they live in fear of the presence and power of the spirits around them and a constant awareness that every action influences how his/her soul will be reborn in the numerous cycles of reincarnation.

Pray for the Central Tibetans

  • Ask God to prepare Central Tibetans for Christian witness by bringing them, like Sonam, to question their beliefs or feel disillusionment. May he use dreams, visions and prophecies to open their hearts.
  • Ask the Lord to reveal himself to Central Tibetans as more powerful than their demons and other spirits. May these people be set free, through Jesus Christ, from the bondage of fear and spiritual oppression.
  • Ask the Father to call forth workers and open a way into an otherwise “closed” or isolated region so that Jesus may be proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit among Central Tibetans and other groups in the Tibetan region.
  • Pray for courage, perseverance and growth for the few Christians among the Central Tibetans – and for those we anticipate God will soon bring into his harvest.