The Tai Pao of Laos and Vietnam

Under the thatched roof of our home I squat, our 4-month-old daughter at my breast, and remove the charred and empty rice pot from the cooking fire. The embers continue to emit a warm glow and wispy smoke rises. Our three boys sit around the fire on the floor and listen intently to Noi retell the stories of our ancestors and the kingdom of Pra Ruang.

“In the thousandth year of Buddha, Pra’s father, King Ruang, was a great and fearful monarch,” Noi says with visible pride. “His coming and the glories of his reign had been foretold long before by Siddhartha Gautama [Buddha] himself! One day, King Ruang retreated to a quiet mountain for meditation, and while there he met the Queen of the Nakhae [a race dwelling in the underworld]. Her great beauty and wondrous charm won the king’s heart.” I coo and smile, wide-eyed, with my three boys.

“She became his wife and they brought forth a son to be prince. One day, the Queen went to the place where she had met King Ruang and placed the child upon the same spot. She then placed a ring, given to her by her husband, upon the child’s finger and disappeared. A huntsman discovered the child and cared for him. In time, the prince became king under the name Pra Ruang. King Pra Ruang grew in greatness and power, throwing off the yoke of the Khmer (Cambodian) Empire and reducing to submission all the sovereigns in the region.” My boys nod and smile with triumph.

“After many great merits, one day King Pra Ruang proceeded to the river and disappeared to rejoin his mother, the Queen of the Nakhae. There he remains in the realms beneath.” I nod and voice my agreement while Noi pauses before continuing to relate our history – the way we know who we are. 

The Tai Pao people anchor their identity on a mixture of animism and Theravada Buddhism, history, and colorful myth in order to make sense of and find hope in their day-to-day experiences, needs, and the inexplicable events within Laos and Vietnam’s environment of accelerating economic, social and cultural change.

Numbering about 15,000, the Tai Pao are one of the most unreached people groups on the entire globe. There are no known Christians of any sort, no cross-cultural workers, no Scripture, no gospel recordings, no broadcasts nor other media – no witness of any type for Jesus among them.

The Tai Pao live in the beautiful hill country of Laos and Vietnam, surrounded by a wealth of vegetation and water sources, as well as many other Animist/Buddhist people groups. The Tai Pao’s beliefs are integral to their sense of identity. Few have been exposed to the gospel and it appears that all have dismissed it. Becoming a follower of Jesus would be a disgrace against their people, culture, heritage, and identity as Tai Pao.

Please Pray for the Tai Pao

  • Ask God to work in the lives of Tai Pao to instill doubt about their present beliefs and openness toward the powerful, liberating, glorious riches of Christ Jesus.
  • Pray for God to remove such obstacles as neglect, language, location, and government regulations so the Tai Pao may no longer be hidden away from the Good News.
  • Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send workers to the Tai Pao who are enabled to communicate the all-surpassing greatness and supremacy of the God revealed in the Bible, his creation, and King Jesus.
  • Ask God to provide for the establishment of Christ’s body, the Church, among the Tai Pao, so that he will be worshipped, that his people will be in community, and that his message will be extended to other hill tribes in Laos and Vietnam.