The vast plateau region of rural Northeast Thailand, shown in pink on the map to the right, is better known as the Isaan (E-sahn) Region. Isan, i.e., Northeast Thailand, is home to over twenty million village-dwelling Buddhist people, with less than .01% (1 in 10,000) being truly Christian. The vast majority have never heard about Creation or their Creator. Furthermore, they don’t have a clue about who Jesus Christ really is, and very few have ever heard a clear Gospel presentation.
With a strong Lao and Mon-Khmer (pre-Cambodian) heritage, these primitive rice farmers adhere unwaveringly to centuries-old customs, traditions and beliefs, passed down from their ancestors, which distinguish them from their Central Thai cousins. Their standard, every-day, heart language is known as Isaan. The Isaan language is different from Central or Bangkok Thai–the official language of Thailand–of which the greater majority of Isan dwellers only speak very haltingly.
At present, the Isan believers only have the Central Thai Bible, which is often very burdensome to understand correctly, even for the Thai, say nothing about the Isan.
The Isaan people are a large, multi-faceted, conglomerated people-group that remain tenaciously resistant to outside influence or change. This means that they have been highly resistant to the Gospel as well, especially not having the Scriptures in their own language.
Furthermore, they have not been fully assimilated into mainstream Thai society. Consequently, their unique way-of-life remains much in tact yet today, despite on-going rural development programs. The Isan rely on centuries-old healing arts, hold to various superstitions, practice spirit appeasement and ancestor veneration, all mixed in with Buddhism. In a literal hand-to-mouth existence, the Isan depend on a staple diet of glutinous (sticky) rice three times a day, eaten with hot peppers, garden produce, leaves, salt, and pickled fish. This, along with whatever small amount of frogs, lizards, and bugs they can eke out of their rice fields and surrounding forests, or whatever fish and aquatic creatures they manage to catch from nearby muddy streams. The majority of Isan people still use water buffalo to plow and harrow their rice paddies, use oxen and ox carts, live in primitive dwellings built on poles, and sleep on grass mats.”
*This information was taken from Veteran Missionarys Ron and Cheryl Meyer’s web site. Ron and Cheryl have been missionaries for over 35 years and are currently working on translating the New Testament into the Isaan language. They are 75% complete with the project and hope to have it all complete soon. They have also translated Genesis and Exodus.
Ron has been battling prostate cancer which is now in remission and currently lives in San Diego, CA where he pastors a Cambodian congregation and continues to travel to Thailand to work on the translation project as he is able.
I feel that this translation could have far reaching implications for future ministry in this part of the world. May God give them the strength and finances to complete this project and provide the Isaan people with a Bible that will connect with their heart.