The San Chay People of Vietnam

Approximately 120 people groups live in Vietnam. One of these groups, the San Chay, immigrated to Vietnam from China in the early 1600s. After learning how to grow wet rice, the San Chay settled in small villages. Today, nearly 150,000 San Chay live in Vietnam and speak a variant of the Thai language.

In addition to rice, the San Chay also raise cattle and poultry for meat and religious sacrifices, gather products from the forests and grow a variety of subsidiary crops. Fish are often raised in the rice paddies.

The San Chay worship a multitude of gods associated with nature and famous ancestors. Most villages have temples for the worship of spirit gods. A basket of bran along with a few sticks of incense can be found at the main entrance of each San Chay household in honor of the buffalo deity, who is regarded as the "protector of cattle."

One Vietnamese ministry supported by Christian Aid estimates that 90 percent of the San Chay have never heard the gospel. This ministry is one of the first ministries to target the San Chay for formal missions work, and the only one currently working among them.

The ministry began working with the San Chay in 1995, and has since planted 100 house churches, with an average of 50 members per church. The remaining estimated 5,000 believers have not yet been organized into churches.

The ministry also distributes Bibles to the San Chay, and is involved in gospel film showings for those who cannot read. Those who possess Bibles do so at great risk. Several San Chay pastors have been arrested by police who found their Bibles. The wives of imprisoned pastors usually do not know where the police are keeping their husbands. Without a means of income, these families are struggling to survive. The ministry has provided some financial help to these families, but is only able to give a small amount.