- Baptist Press - https://www.baptistpress.com -

Spiritual darkness blinds 6 million Tujia people


RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Three Chinese tourists pose for pictures at the base of a huge tower of rock that for generations has drawn admirers and worshipers to this small valley in central China’s Wuling Mountains. The gray and white column of stone, which local Tujia (pronounced Too-JAH) villagers worship, fascinates tourists. From certain angles, an optical illusion makes the giant rock look precariously balanced, as if the playful push of a child could send it toppling into a creek below.
While this may be a “Kodak moment” for visiting tourists, the rock is anything but child’s play for the Tujia, an unreached people group of more than 6 million people. More than 2 billion people in 1,739 ethnic people groups like the Tujia have little or no access to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Tujia believe the rock has special powers, explains “Eric Jones,” (not his real name) who, along with his wife, “Lynn,” are the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s strategy coordinators for the Tujia.
If villagers have a problem, they come to the rock, write a request on its base and then pray to the stone. Their petitions range from requests for help with a child’s discipline to, say, the profitable outcome of a business deal, Jones said.
“This is what Paul was talking about in Romans. ‘They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator,'” Jones said, quoting Romans 1:25.
“Satan has a grip on the Tujia,” he added. “There is so little light here to show people that this thing is just a rock. But the dawn is coming. Satan is working to keep things the way they have been for hundreds of years, but there’s nothing he can do to stop the dawn from coming.”
Among the 6 million Tujia, there are about 30,000 Christians. Most Tujia hold to a mix of shamanism, Taoism and ancestral worship. Briefly, shamanism depends on magic to appease an unseen world of demons and gods; Taoism focuses on both moral teachings and Taoist priests to bring order and prosperity to life; and acts of ancestral worship result from the belief that the eternal happiness of deceased ancestors depends on the spiritual care of living family members.
“The search for hope can be so desperate among the Tujia,” Lynn Jones said. The couple saw the depths of this longing last August in a Tujia village when they visited a young Christian whom they had earlier led to the Lord.
The Joneses had brought with them a small booklet about the life of Christ. They had intended to give it to the new believer, but a younger family member intercepted the booklet.
“He was a 16-year-old cousin of the believer,” recalled Eric Jones. “When we gave the booklet to the family, one of the younger boys took it, but then this 16-year-old yanked it away and went and sat in a corner and guarded it very closely. He just sat there reading intensely, almost as if he were devouring the words.
“He said later that he had once heard about this Jesus but had never been able to find out more. When he was reading, we could sense a hunger that went way beyond mere curiosity,” he said.
Other Christians who are working with the Joneses to plant churches among the Tujia report a similar hunger, Lynn Jones said. One (Han) Chinese Christian who was teaching from the Bible in a Tujia village said it was difficult drawing the village Bible studies to a close.
“Once the meetings began it was hard to stop,” she said. “The meetings continued into the night, sometimes past midnight. The people were begging for more study and prayer.”
Yet most Tujia are far from this kind of spiritual hunger for God, Eric Jones said.
“When we have the chance to speak about Jesus to those willing to give us a hearing, we often see a response and lives are turned toward God,” he said. “But Satan’s deceptions remain strong here. Things like this rock remain the objects of their worship. Scripture has called Satan the deceiver. How sad it is that his lies are the foundation of their hope.”
After a few more poses, the tourists circle the rock and a few seconds later laugh out loud with their change of perspective. From this new view, the stone’s optical illusion vanishes, turning the teetering tower into a solid outcropping.
The Joneses know a similar change of perspective is coming for the Tujia. “Satan’s lies are no match for our Lord’s truth. We know that day is coming.”
How to pray for the Tujia:
— Pray that the gospel message recently presented to several people will take hold of hearts.
— Ask God to call out people to join the Joneses’ team.
— Ask God to strengthen and guide the first new team member who has joined the Joneses in their effort. Pray that she would make a smooth transition into the Tujia culture.
If you would like to be a prayer partner with the team taking the gospel to the Tujia, call 1-800-772-9562.