From Opium to Bibles: The Transformative Power of the Gospel Among the Akha People

During my visit to the churches among the Akha people of Thailand, I was gifted a unique messenger bag – a colorful cloth bag with a strap to hang on the shoulder. By the end of this journey, my wife and I had received 16 of these bags as gifts.

Different cultures offer various tokens of hospitality to visitors. In parts of Sri Lanka, you are welcomed with a garland of flowers, while in other places, a shawl is placed on your shoulders. However, the gift of this cloth bag was particularly unique.

Our Frontline director explained the bag’s significance. He illustrated how his community of Akha people is dispersed across five nations, facing seven borders. “Our people once gathered poppies grown for the opium trade and collected them into these bags to sell. For decades, that was our means of survival. It only led to our enslavement. When the Gospel came to our people, we were liberated. Now these bags carry Bibles. It’s our new identity as Christians.”

The Akha people no longer grow or sell opium. Instead, they carry Bibles on their shoulders. The bag has become a significant symbol of their changed lifestyle. Reliance on God has replaced reliance on the drug opium.

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