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Strategy coordinator’s heart carries burden for lost Tujia


RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–“Eric Jones” (not his real name) and two Southern Baptist volunteers fashion a small cross from two dry sticks tied together with a thin vine and plant it just off this path that winds down the mountain toward a small Tujia village.
“This is ground zero,” declared Jones, an International Mission Board strategy coordinator who, along with his wife, “Lynn,” works with other Great Commission Christians to start a church-planting movement among the Tujia, an unreached people group of more than 6 million.
“We are praying for the day when this village not only has a living church rooted here, but that this church will be the hub of a movement of God that spreads through all these valleys,” he said, waving his hand toward another part of the Wuling mountains.
Jones has stopped along this path before and prayed for the village below.
Today he has brought along two Southern Baptist volunteers from Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas, to pray and videotape an appeal for others to pray for the Tujia and even join Jones’ team in this church-planting effort.
“We have this wonderful vision for the Tujia, but we are very aware of how small we are in all this,” he said. “As a strategy coordinator, I’m in awe that I’m out here, holding God’s hand as he brings the nations to him. I feel that I’m part of a group of the most privileged people in the world.
“We know that God has others out there who will join us. The task is huge, and my wife and I are only two people. It’s impossible for us, but we know God has others coming to join us. We pray all the time to see these people come,” he said.
Prior to China’s revolution in 1949, there were small pockets of Tujia Christians in central China. Some were Protestant Christians and others were Catholic. But today, less than 1 percent (30,000) of the Tujia profess to believe in Jesus.
The vast majority hold to the beliefs of local gods and demons, as well as to the worship of ancestors, according to Christian researchers with the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. There are also those who worship images of a white tiger. For some, the white tiger is a powerful image because it relates to stories of an ancient people called the Ba of Sichuan Province. Many trace the Tujia’s lineage to the Ba people, who were said to have been reborn as white tigers.
Just underneath these colorful stories of ancestors and tigers is a world of spiritual fear and bondage, Jones said. “That’s the key to working in these villages. There is a need to get beyond the fear. And that will happen as the Holy Spirit works through us to touch even complacent hearts.”
The Lake Pointe team completes the videotaping and, while they check the recording, a Tujia man herding a water buffalo and her calf passes by on the path. The man stares at Jones as he walks past. A few steps later he looks at the cross as he and his animals slowly move down the mountain.
“We have this path that God has given us,” Jones said. “At first, it was just the two of us, but that’s already starting to change. And the change is leading to the day when this path will be filled with Tujia Christians worshiping our Lord.
“And you know, most of them won’t even know we were here — just like that man probably doesn’t know what that cross means. It is a good path.”